This Old Town

This is the fourth in a series of short stories written to music. This Old Town was written while listening to The Flying Burrito Brothers’ album The Gilded Palace of Sin.

“Jill…this town is freaking killing me.”

Jill sighed through the phone.

“You don’t have to stay,” she said.

“But I’m so close to a discovery,” said Sarah. “Like one that actually might mean something.”

“I’m just saying,” said Jill. “You know I’d come down if it wasn’t for work.”

“I know.”

Now it was Sarah’s turn to sigh.

“Hey I watched that episode of Louie last night with the fat girl.”

“Oh yeah?”

Sarah leaned back and reached for her glass of wine.

“Yeah that actress really like. Really made it… I don’t know.”

“Yeah, I got you. They got it right.”

“Yeah that’s definitely one of the best episodes ever,” said Jill.

“Oh oooh. Just wait till you get to the rest of the season.”

“Fuck me. God dammnit. I wanna go watch those right now.”

Sarah drank deeply.

“How’s the weather over there,” said Sarah.

“Its, uh. Cold. Why?”

“Sounds nice.”

“Just hurry up with that dig, OK?”

Jill hung up first. Sarah stared at Jill’s contact picture on her phone before it blinked away.

She put the phone away and moved to the cardboard box sitting on her floor. Dirt was rubbed into the carpet around it. She hoped the landlord wouldn’t mind. He was a weird one.

She opened the box, and pulled out a bubble wrapped rock. She stared at it, turning it over and over in her hand. There was something to this rock. On the surface it wasn’t anything special, but this rock was older than human civilization. And it had writing on it. Not english or any other language Sarah knew about, but it was definitely writing. If there hadn’t been repeating characters Sarah might have discounted it as some lucky scratches, but they weren’t. Someone had put them there.

The box was full of them, all alike and all different. She wanted to find all she could before someone else found out about her dig site.

The etchings were feint. She dragged her finger across the indentations. She looked at the clock. Unsurprisingly, two hours had passed since she’d opened the box. It had only felt like four minutes. Exactly four minutes.

Sarah careful wrapped the rock back up and it in it’s container. She fell back into her bed. It was stiff, and springy. She hated it. And the blankets were that weird shinny smooth fabric that always felt a little cold. She wanted something soft and fuzzy.

She had trouble falling asleep, again.



Sarah’s jeep bumped along the canyon landscape to her dig site. It was four in the morning.

The horizon here was endless. If there was one thing about this place that was nice it was the horizon. Golden cascades of rock. It made you believe anything was possible. Plus you could always see someone coming.

This early in the morning there was no one else out. Not in town. Not out here.

She’d started leaving this early for two reasons. One, it was nice and cool out, and the light was still good. Two, there were no people out. That was the main reason. If she left at any reasonable time, she was accosted by locals at every turn. Gerry was always asking her to come to bingo night. Sarah didn’t know how many ways she could say no.

There was one boy, named Alex who walked around barefoot in a speedo, and she had been the first person to tell him that he was weird. And now she got crap for it everywhere she went. It was like Alex was some sort of local hero for being a complete freak bag.

And the dogs. God dammit those dogs. They were everywhere. Everywhere. On top of houses, in the gas station, in the gas station bathroom, in and around the post office and how could she forget the dog that came out of the dry cleaner in a smart looking suit. Someone laughed and said Ol’ Gerry’s dog was doing it again. Seriously. What the fuck.

She parked above the pit and went around to the trunk to find her things. She pulled out her toolbox, and the big hammer that wouldn’t fit in said toolbox. She couldn’t risk any more dynamite blasts, so she had to go old fashioned.

She stopped at the crest of the pit. She heard herself squeak in response to what her eyes saw. It wasn’t possible.

Soot covered a good portion of the previously rock red pit. Disgusting, awful, jagged, black holes dotted her dig site like pimples. It had been pristine last night when she left. As pristine as a dig site can be anyway.

I hate this place, thought Sarah. She almost turned back there. She almost went home, but that same rage compelled her to stay. Obviously there was something here. Someone didn’t want her to find it.

She hopped into the pit and opened her toolkit. She started brushing at one of the damaged areas. The black soot was charred into the rock itself. She went around and checked each sabotaged spot. Nothing too bad seemed to have happened. Then again, the blasts could have destroyed any number of priceless artifacts revealing the history of mankind and she’d have no real way of knowing.

She suddenly doubted whether or not she’d remembered to lock her door. Alvin, the man who’s guest room she’d rented was the only other one with a key, but he wasn’t the mischievous type. But if someone had done this, that meant someone was gunning for her, and was watching her.

“Hey there, Miss.”

Sarah jumped, and turned. A man in a cowboy hat stood ten feet above her at the top of the hole. The sun was directly behind him, making him nothing more than a dark outline of a body.

“Hello?” she called.


“Yes?” It was five in the morning. What the hell was anyone doing out here?

“Just came to check up on ya, out here.”

She recognized his voice now. It was Sherif Sparks. That would explain the hat too.

“Hey, do you know who would have done this? I mean someone just came and vandalized my dig site.”

“Boy, well I know I sure am sorry to hear that.” He said it like a game show host. “Boy I don’t even know what I would do if something like that happened to me.”

“That’s because you’re not an archeologist.”

“That I am not. That I am not!”

“So. Do you have any ideas?”

“Not a one! Well. I do have one idea, since you asked.”

Sarah waited, but it appeared he needed some prompting.

“Such as?”

“I recommend you going to Gerry’s bingo night! Best damn time you’ll find round these parts.”

Sarah laughed and waited for the Sherif to laugh along. After a few moments it became clear that he wasn’t going.

“Wait,” said Sarah, the smile dropping from her face. “That’s your idea?”

“Yes sir, and if you think me telling you about bingo night is a hoot just wait till you get there. Boy almighty some of the things I see there aught to send people to the penitentiary. And I should know!”

This time he chuckled. Sarah shook her head. Whatever. She didn’t need these people. She could do this herself.

“I’m going to go back to digging,” said Sarah.

“Have a good day,” said the dark figure.

She moved back to the ground and started removing her tools. When she looked back up he was still there, watching her. She stared back. It was starting to creep her out, the absolute motionlessness of his stance. And of course she couldn’t get over the fact that she couldn’t make out his face. It was like a staring contest except she couldn’t see his eyes. Eventually she figured it would be better to just ignore him.

She went about her work and at some point he left. She didn’t hear him go, and to think of it she hadn’t heard him come either.

Continue reading

I Wonder

This is the third in a series of short stories written to music. I Wonder was written while listening to Doldrums’ album Lesser Evil.

“I wonder.”

“Who was that?”

“Jeff. He’s worried about Lizzy.”

“I’ve got it under control… I saw someone get picked up today… Only it looked like he was trying to get out.”

“And this was today too?”

“Yeah. Today.”

“Why the rush?”

“It just came to me. It was like… I don’t know, a lightning bolt or whatever.”

“So… you want me to look at it right now?”


“OK. But I don’t get why you want me.”


She watched as the two girls disappeared into the woods. The tall one was wearing pink booty shorts. They were both wearing designer wear. Not the kind of stuff you wear on a hike. The one with brown hair lead the way. They were going off the path. She was sure they knew what they were doing.

She smirked as she considered what they might be up to. The woods aren’t a bad spot. She kept walking. She had thick legs. It was steep. She had one of those backpacks with a straw so she could always keep sucking when she got thirsty.

She wasn’t too thirsty. She wanted to get to the top. That’s why she was here. Smoke something with that view? Why not. It was a good thing this was a long drive from the city. Guppies would be here otherwise. Took something special to get out here. And she wanted peace.

She rounded the corner. There were some pretty big rocks up at the top. She hopped up on one, and pulled out her stash.

The trees fell all the way down to the water. It was like a painting, but big enough to make life feel right. Plus it was alive. It was breathing. With her. Some bird was circling overhead. It was big enough She could feel it’s shadow over her every now and then.

Typical clouds crowded in. It was a party by the river. A party of clouds ready to throw their guts up after a long night. Somehow they still found the urge to party. She knew that feeling.

She finally broke her gaze. There was someone else here. There had been for a while. He was sitting up on a rock too. He had on one of those safari hats that cover your neck. Why. It’s Oregon. Cargo shorts and a black t-shirt with some indie band’s bad logo completed the man. She wrote it all down in her notebook. It was a good detail.

She met his eyes. He drank from his water bottle. He came over. Why. Oh. He wants some.

There was enough room on the rock for two. And the view. It was triangles on his shirt. He touched her hand when She passed the torch along. Something about it shocked her. The length. The warmth of his skin maybe. She didn’t want anything. He asked if She was sure.

When he kissed her it was sudden. There was something rough on his tongue that melded into her and became a part of her. She wanted to push away. She didn’t want to be rude. She didn’t want anything. This time she was sure, and her mouth tasted funny.

She told him to keep it, and hopped off the rock. He didn’t protest. Free is free. She didn’t feel like saying goodbye, so she didn’t. She didn’t know him. That would be it. He watched her as She left. She could feel his eyes. Like hot bullets.

She walked on down the mountain. By now the clouds were getting darker. She picked up the pace when they turned red. The mountain is not a place to be when it rains blood.

She broke the tree line, and the parking lot was small. Her car was somehow far away. Like her legs forgot was space was. They found it underneath her of all places. It was paved.

She opened her car door and watched:

A man slid back into the passengers side of a blue Hundai. She saw the locks go down, synchronized to some hidden beat, through the windows. The car slid backwards at an alarming rate while it’s passengers stared forwards. The driver’s head twitched in a small, winding pattern.

She looked down at her arm. The sweat was running up her arm. It was coming for her.


Lizzy climbed up the rock wall hand over hand. Her ponytail swung behind her in the breeze. She clenched her muscles and hauled herself up. She should have clipped her nails before she left this morning, shouldn’t she have?

She sat up on the ledge, and snacked on an energy bar. Her butt was warm on this soft dirt that padded the ground up there. She lay down and looked up at the blue sky above her. Motherfucker didn’t know what he were missing.

No homework was worth missing this. Carlos. Carlos needed to get his priorities straight. This was nature. This was the world. Didn’t he want to spend time with her? If he was too busy to go on a hike, where would he be when one of their kids needed to be picked up from day care?

Fuck don’t think about kids. Definitely don’t do that. That’s not good for anybody.

Lizzy watched as a couple of hikers, neckbeards probably, made their way up the slow way. The boring way. Her way was awesome! She stood up and tried to get excited.

Lizzy sighed. That idiot, Carlos. He shoulda been here.

Lizzy turned away from the ledge and peered into the forest. It was mysterious up here. She had no idea where the hiking trail was. She could probably do anything she wanted up here, and no one would bother her. Her mind drifted.

This was one of the most beautiful spots in the world and all she could think about was Carlos. This. This right here sucked.

She wandered into the woods. The sound of water compelled her forwards. There was a stream bubbling low to the ground. A small bank let her stand by the water. She could feel that the ground, the air, everything was cooler here. She dipped her hand in the water to get a drink, but something snapped across the bank.

She looked up in time to see a boar charging from across the river bank. Lizzy screamed and fell backwards into mud. The mud sucked at her body, reaching around her neck. Her eyes were wide. There was no one around. Neckbeards wouldn’t save her. She had no idea where the trail was. And now the mud was sucking her in.

The beasts feet dug into Lizzy’s legs, and she wished she would have worn pants. The boar reared up and bit her in the arm. Two fangs sunk into Lizzy’s skin and through her flesh meeting bone. Blood bubbled to meet the air, turning it a dark red. She felt the rough tongue of the beast as it lapped up the red paint of her life.

No one would find her. No one knew she was gone except for Carlos. No one knew where to look. No one would care to. The beast on her chest breathed heavily. It was already on to other things.

The mud ate Lizzy up.


“I don’t get it.”

“Uh huh.”

“Yeah, like what’s it about.”

“Um. I don’t know. Regret, I guess?”


“But that’s the end.”

“I could always go somewhere else with it.”

“I just mean, like there’s nothing more.”

“There’s always more.”


She woke up and her arm was caked in the stuff. Red, dried on blood. Just one arm. Just the right one.

She sat up. She was in her bed and everything. Where was the rest of the blood? Where was the wound? She ran her fingers over the bloody area. There was no pain. No cuts. Nothing.

She got up and washed her hand off in the sink. Her hair looked nice. She admired it’s sheen. The red paint formed up with the water. Good pals.

It had to be paint. She must have painted something. Sometimes you forget what happens when it’s late. She got dressed and went to live in the living room. One of her chairs was broken. Last night?

One message on her phone.

Hey. Sorry I couldn’t make it out yesterday. You went without me, anyway, huh? Well I’m sure you made a time of it…I’ll…talk with you later I guess, it said.

Whatever, Jeff.

She turned on her computer. She made a cup of tea while she waited for it to load. She bobbed the bag up. Plastic boats in bathtubs were as pretty. She lost track of time.

She opened up her word processor. No one else used it. It was hers. She was going to start writing. She realized she hadn’t checked twitter.

When the fuck is Starbucks going to quit with this shit. @Gatorteen844

I still can’t believe about Richard Simmons.” @Simmons_Ralf

Fuck. @tinkerballer

The. @tinkerballer

In. @tinkerballer

Mini Album Review. The Doldrums – Lesser Evil. Three stars.

Definitely worth a listen. @CannonballMusix

What. @tinkerballer

Actually never mind that pizza place is really good. @Scubamans

That was a first. @Gatorteen844

Two teen girls found dead in the Gorge this morning. @Oregonian

Are you shitting me! @Gatorteen844

Anyone ever notice how the musics relly good in Scoot Pilgrim? @tinkerballer

She stopped her hand. Hovered over that link. B had retweeted that. What in the fuck was right. She glanced down at her arm and for a second she thought the blood. The paint. Was it back? It wasn’t. She clicked on the link after two more minutes of motionless denial and fear. It was irrational. She couldn’t. They couldn’t. It wasn’t.

It was. Some guy drew a black three. He wanted a red king. Flushes and such. Shitty draw. He found two dead girls in the woods up by Angel’s Rest. There was a picture of the two girls. Sure enough. Tall one. Brown haired one.

She stood up and stepped away from the computer. It was bright out. She thought she might start crying. Why. You didn’t know them.

The blood. The sky.

A dog barked loudly up in her brain. It told her to eat flesh and slithering worms crawled out of it’s eyes. They cried and reached for the sky.

It was pure white up in the sky now. Her fingers were shaking. She saw the blood dripping from them. Her phone was in her hand.

There was something big in her mouth. It wanted out. It was pushing her.



“…Jesus. What is it.” Janice chuckled harmlessly.

“I think I did it,” She said.

She was still laughing.

“Is this like a thing? Did I forget about something?”

“No! I killed them. I killed those girls. It was their blood. It was their blood Janice. I should have fucking tasted it. That’s the only way to know.”

Laughter on the other side. Different this time.

Still. This wasn’t going anywhere.

“Hello, Portland Police department what can I help you with.”

“I fucking did it. I fucking killed those fucking cute little girls. I shoved it down their gut.”

“…Please stay on the line.”

They were scared. Not nearly scared enough. Not to understand her. Not to get it. This was a thing. Janice was right.

“Please stop screaming. A squad car is on their way. You’re going to be OK.”

“I killed them! I killed them! Send someone.”

“Someone is on their way. I’d like you to stay on the line for me.”

“I don’t remember it. I just know I did it. The sky was red.”

“Just hold one youre ok. Just remain calm.”

Fuck. Fuck. It’s real. It happened.

She ran to the sink and slammed her fists against the drain. Bring it back. Bring it back. I want it. I want it.

Her fingernails dug into the stopper.

A roar started in the floor and erupted through her body. The great cat vibrated next to her body while she blinked. It’s skin fell off into a heap. She was standing on it. She fell to her knees.

The hair dryer was on the ground with her. Hair dryers have cords.


“Since you asked, it needs more work.”


“Well I mean it’s not.”

“No… I got it.”

“Come on. Just come back to it. You look tired. You just need a good nights sleep.”

“I wonder.”