Friday, July 3, 2015

Beware...the Jaws That Bite, the Claws That Catch

Have you ever had a run-in with a honey locust tree? Lord knows, these arboreal beasts are the work of Satan. So lush and green, so innocuous-looking, rather resembling the mild-mannered crabapple tree. Now and again, though, I find a geocache stashed in a honey locust, clearly placed there by some cacher in a misanthropic mood. Until you get up close to one of these cruel and devious monsters, you probably won't realize that they are bristling with two-inch-long, very pointy thorns that don't just lounge around in passive self-defense mode; they reach out, grab your ass, and stab you repeatedly until blood is gushing from your wounds like so many little geysers. I found a cache — which, for the benefit of future cachers, I shall not identify here — in such a host this morning. The cache was not named "Jabberwocky," but from here on, that is the name by which it shall be known to me. That's it there, in the above-left photo; you can see it peeking out from behind a branch. However, you might not immediately notice that the container is ringed by a crown of thorns. In my zeal to make the find, neither did I until it was too late. I got my signature on that log, all right, but there were utterances.

A few years back, my friend Bridget (a.k.a. Suntigres) and I found a geocache in a honey locust tree. It was a fun one. My online cache log read as follows: "When I reached to grab the cache, I realized what kind of tree I was facing. I might have spoken a dirty word or two." Bridget's log read thus: "When I heard Mark repeatedly crying for his mother, I knew he had found the cache."

There's just meanness in this world.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
—Lewis Carroll
It appears so pretty, green, and harmless — until you take a closer look.
Yep. They'll bite you.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

None But the Brave

Most of the movies I review here are of the horrific persuasion, but I'm breaking tradition because I've recently been on a western and war movie binge — mostly stuff from the 1960s. None But the Brave is a 1965 American-Japanese co-production directed by and starring Frank Sinatra, and featuring a few recognizable names in both the American and Japanese casts. Sinatra himself plays a supporting role as a booze-swilling medic, with Clint Walker (The Dirty Dozen, Cheyenne, Killdozer, Scream of the Wolf, et. al.), Tommy Sands (Babes in Toyland, The Longest Day, Ensign Pulver, et. al.), and Tatsuya Mihashi (The Bad Sleep Well, Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Human Vapor, et. al.) taking the lead roles. The film does have a clear connection with my favorite monster movies in that the Japanese part of the production comes courtesy of Toho Studios, featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya and starring several Toho "regulars," including Mihashi himself; Kenji Sahara, veteran of numerous Godzilla and other daikaiju films; and Susumu Kurobe, best known for his portrayal of Hayata in the original Ultraman series. A young John ("Johnny") Williams provides the musical score.

The movie tells the parallel stories of two platoons, one Japanese Imperial Army and the other US Marine, both stranded on the same remote island in the Solomons, the former simply left behind as the Japanese military retreats farther and farther north, the latter the survivors of a US Navy R4D transport shot down by a Japanese Zero. The two ranking American officers, Captain Dennis Bourke (Walker) and Lieutenant Blair (Sands) initially clash over command of the unit, with the more seasoned Bourke advising a strong defense and the use of guerrilla tactics and Blair advocating a full-on frontal assault against the enemy, which Bourke claims will end in their own defeat. Eventually, Bourke's toughness and no-nonsense approach earn him full command. The two enemy forces engage each other, each inflicting a few casualties on the other. During a reconnaissance mission, the Marines discover that the Japanese are building a boat in order to escape the island. The Marines attempt to capture it, but rather than have it fall into their enemy's hands, the Japanese destroy it.

During the fighting, a Japanese soldier named Hirano (Homare Suguro) suffers a leg wound that turns gangrenous. Japanese commander Kuroki (Mihashi) meets with Bourke and offers a truce between them if the Americans will send their medic, Maloney (Sinatra), to perform surgery. Bourke agrees to the terms, and Maloney — in reality, only a pharmacist's mate — is forced to amputate Hirano's leg in order to save his life. While the Americans and Japanese maintain their uneasy truce, which is to last as long as the war continues to pass them by, the monsoon season begins, and the two adversaries discover they must work together and build a dam to prevent the spring that supplies their fresh water from being submerged beneath the rising ocean waters.

The endeavor is successful, but the Americans have managed to repair their radio transmitter and contact their HQ, which sends a destroyer to rescue them. With the war now returning to their little island, Bourke offers to accept the Japanese's honorable surrender, but Kuroki refuses, stating that he and his men would rather die than become prisoners of war. And as the Americans prepare to evacuate the island, Kuroki's men attack and kill many of the Marines, though, in the end, it is they who are, to the last man, wiped out.

In the 2000s, director Clint Eastwood received critical acclaim for his war films, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, which told the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the American and Japanese points of view respectively. To some extent, those movies mirror the themes from None But the Brave, which portrays individuals on both sides as sympathetic, exhibiting both dignity and weakness, their focus on personal honor and duty. Sinatra's movie articulates a distinct anti-war sentiment, which comes off as both heavy-handed and occasionally cheesy, though there's no question of its sincerity. The character of Kuroki narrates the movie — by way of personal journal entries — portraying himself as a soldier by duty but a noble romantic at heart. As his American counterpart, Bourke is a man haunted by having lost the love of his life in a Japanese attack just before proposing marriage to her. He proves himself a capable leader and fierce fighter, but as he gets to know Kuroki, a long-repressed compassion for his fellow man begins to surface.

At the climax, as the Americans are preparing to evacuate and the Japanese refuse their terms for surrender, Lt. Blair tells Kuroki, "We wouldn’t attack you, Lieutenant." Kuroki replies, "I would! The truce is ended. I belong to the Imperial Japanese Army. Until my country advises otherwise, I remain at war." These lines seal the fates of both sides, and the deaths of both the Japanese and the American soldiers — men who had worked together for their mutual survival — hit pretty hard, despite the rather static staging of the battle scenes. Heavy-handed though it may be, it's an effective, moving statement that these men's sense of duty — their nationalism — supersedes their basic humanity.

Sinatra may not be the world's finest film director, and a certain amateurishness to some degree undermines the story's solemnity, but the movie is colorful, with fair pacing and more than competent acting, especially from the Japanese cast members. The special effects by master Tsuburaya often shine, exhibiting the distinctive and appealing visual style of the best of his tokusatsu films. The aerial dogfight early in the film is very clearly done with models, but these are beautiful models, the flying scenes realistic enough to be visually exciting. The raging monsoon, which floods the island and finishes off the Marines' R4D transport, brings to mind the brilliant storm footage at the beginning of Mothra vs. Godzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla vs. the Thing). Unfortunately, John Williams's score — like most of his early film work — comes off as nondescript, ultimately forgettable. It is fortunate that over the course of his scoring career he matured with style.

I admit to having more than a soft spot for None But the Brave, for purely nostalgic reasons. Back in the summer of 1970, the movie aired on television on a Friday night — a most memorable Friday night, a night that I spent over at my friend David Hare's house. It was the night before the Saturday that we went to see the daikaiju double-feature War of the Gargantuas and Monster Zero, and, in my lifetime, rarely has there been an event more indelible in my mind. A World War II film featuring Toho regulars and special effects by Tsuburaya made for the perfect appetizer for the upcoming main course.

None But the Brave may be far from a great film, but it's a strong film, with good performances, some fine visuals, and a moving theme.

"Nobody ever wins."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Other Gods

If you're one of those unfortunate (or perhaps very fortunate) souls who have never made the acquaintance of Other Gods, then permit me to introduce you.

Other Gods is my biggest and — in my thoroughly objective, non-biased, reasonably informed, and ultimately irrelevant opinion — probably best collection of short fiction. It contains sixteen of my horror tales written between 1986 and 2008, there or about, some linked by common characters and settings, most dealing with dark, deadly, unknown forces — hence the "Other Gods" of the title. Dark Regions published the collection in 2008, with beautiful cover art by M. Wayne Miller, whose work graces the covers of several of my books (not to mention a number of issues of Deathrealm back in the day).

I wanted highlight a particular story here, as people sometimes ask me what I consider my scariest story. For me, that's a difficult determination to make, but based on feedback from readers over the years, I'm inclined to say that story is "Silhouette," which was originally published in Cemetery Dance #24 (Summer 1996). “Silhouette” draws on some old, old personal fears, going back to when I was a kid and dreamed of a faceless, stick-like creature that came bouncing up our basement stairs to pursue me. Also included in the imagery is the silhouette of the title, based on a rather disturbing visual I spied in an old brownstone apartment window when I visited Chicago in the late 1970s. Another scene is drawn from one of the only true night horrors I ever had, which occurred early in my college years and kept me awake for an entire night.

The event that actually brought the story into being, however, was something of an academic exercise. In the early 1990s, my friend and fellow scrivener William R. Trotter gave me a tape of some creepy music, which included “Hidden Voices” by minimalist composer Ingram Marshall. I found it among the eeriest stuff I had ever heard. Danielle d’Attilio, who helped me edit Deathrealm, and I decided to sit down and play the music in absolute darkness, then write about whatever came to mind as we listened. Her story was actually called “Hidden Voices.” For me, “Silhouette” was the result. And from the many comments I've received from readers who were unnerved by the story, I'd have to say it rates at the top of my "scariest story" list.

Other Gods includes "Silhouette" and fifteen other creepy little critter tales. The book is available in trade paperback from Dark Regions — for $9.95, marked down from $19.95. There's never been a better time to check it out. Give it a look:

"I finished Other Gods feeling as if I had been processed through the kaleidoscopic imagination of a born storyteller. Other Gods is a superb example of what this sort of long-term collection is good for: It plainly highlights the author's long-running thematic obsessions and shows him circling back to revisit and reshape the concepts, tropes, and emotions that inspire him."
—Matt Cardin, Dead Reckonings #4

Sunday, June 14, 2015

All Alone in Goblintown

It's been a somewhat slower year for geocaching than others since I took it up in 2008, mainly because I've claimed most of the caches within reasonable proximity and have to travel farther and farther afield to find appreciable concentrations of hides. For a while now, I've been slowly but steadily creeping up on find number 8,000, and for that milestone, I've been hoping to go after something a little out of the ordinary. I finally settled on a cache called "All Alone in Goblintown" (GC1EAWF) at Philpott Lake, near my old hometown of Martinsville, VA. It's out on an island a good couple of miles from the nearest marinas, and it's been sitting out there unfound for the past six years. Since I do not own a boat, I'm reliant on others for water transportation, but happily, a few members of the redoubtable Team Old Fart are aficionados of paddle caches and have kayaks to spare. This weekend looked good for making the attempt, so I got together with Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) and Rtmlee (a.k.a. Robbin a.k.a. Yoda Rob) to paddle out after this lonely, lonely cache.

There was no telling whether the cache might still be out there after all this time, and, if so, what condition we might find it in. All part of the challenge, of course, and most of the fun of geocaching is the journey. And this one proved quite the journey: a seven-plus mile round trip, counting a detour to go after a couple of other, considerably less lonely caches. Outbound, it wasn't too hot and we had a constant breeze, which made for a pleasant morning of it. Once we landed at Goblintown, we made our way to ground zero, and there we found the cache, quite readily and in remarkably good condition. (That's the container you see in the photo above.) We all scribbled our monikers on the log, snapped a few photos, and took a break to chow on some beef jerky and re-hydrate ourselves. Then it was back on the water to paddle over to Turkey Island for a couple of caches there. Now the wind stopped and the sun became oppressively hot — thank ye gods for sunscreen. But for us, mission accomplished.

Once back at Goosepoint marina, we hit the road and, never one to rest on our laurels, Diefenbaker and I stopped to find a few more on our way back to Greensboro. Best part of the trip back — dinner at The Celtic Fringe in Reidsville, which is one of my favorite dining spots anywhere. And lucky for me, while I was gone, a number of new caches have been placed around Greensboro, so I'll at least have a few more in the area to hunt.

Next stop: working on a new short story for an upcoming anthology. Never a dull moment.
Old Rodan on the way to "All Alone in Goblintown"
Rtmlee, a.k.a. Robbin, a.k.a. Yoda Rob
Old man getting a workout
Old man taking a much-needed breather
It's not too far now.
Mission accomplished. Checking out the contents of the cache.
Our route

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Deer Damage

One deer: dead (R.I.P., deer). One Mazda 3: a bit cracked up.

Helluva scare for Ms. B. late last night — or rather, in the wee hours this morning. Kimberly and I wanted to hit the Eden Drive-In this weekend, and as I've been in Martinsville helping look after Mum, we decided just to meet in Eden. Poltergeist and Mad Max: Fury Road were showing, which looked like a fun enough double bill. The former movie — hardly unexpectedly — was in dire need of a writer, a director, some actors... you know, movie stuff and all, and Mad Max was pretty decent, much on par with The Road Warrior. The burgers at the Eden Drive-In are to die for, by the way. (I know, I know; under the circumstances, that might not be the best use of hyperbole, but there it is.) Afterward, we departed in our respective vehicles, but it was only a few minutes later that I received a call from an understandably rattled Kimberly. Something — she knew not what — had slammed into her car and shattered the windshield. As I hurried back to meet her, some distance shy of where she was pulled off the road, I encountered a good-size dead deer: clearly, the cause of the upset. By the time I reached her, only a couple of minutes later, a pair of officers were already on the scene.

Now we got to take a good look at her vehicle, and the damage was far more extensive than it initially appeared. Shattered windshield. Broken rear-view mirror. Dented side panel. And crunched rear door. Thankfully, apart from her nerves, Kimberly was fine. The car is going to need some serious medical attention, but I reckon that's better than one of us needing it. Almost ironically, on our way to the theater, we had seen a deer bounding across the highway at top speed and remarked on it — at almost exactly the same location of her accident. Not out on a country road, mind you, but on the main highway through Eden.

As an aside, it was very refreshing, after seeing so much negative about the police lately, that the law enforcement officers who responded — the local sheriff and a deputy — were prompt, sympathetic, cordial as can be, and quick to provide an official report in case it's needed for Kimberly's insurance. My hat's off to those folks.

On my drive back to Martinsville, which did involve some lonely back roads, deer were everywhere, and no less than three darted out in front of my car. All of this is a stern reminder how fast the unexpected can happen, and how severe the damage can be from a single deer strike. It could have been much worse, too. The critters are out there, you know, and they might just have your number. Beware!

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Forgotten Door and Others

I've been geocaching in Danville, VA, countless times; in fact, I've cached out the town more times than I can remember, only to have a wealth of new caches pop up, bringing me back again and again. Whereas I once took Danville to be a rather drab, uninviting place, I've taken quite a shine to the place — all thanks to caching, which has introduced me to countless locations I would never have otherwise experienced.

Like all too many southwestern and south central Virginia towns, the industries that were Danville's lifeblood for at least a century — textiles, tobacco, and railroads — in the 1980s and 90s, packed up and left, thanks in large part to NAFTA. Though it hasn't completely bounced back from its hardest times, based on everything I've seen over the past few years, the city is well on its way to becoming a thriving center of commerce again. To me personally, above and beyond all things, Danville has an appealing, multidimensional character. There are several great parks with lots of hiking and biking trails; the beautiful Riverwalk along the Dan River, which extends from Anglers Park, east of town, into the heart of the city; a sizable, picturesque old warehouse district that is in the process of being redeveloped, with cobblestone streets, scenic river views, shops, bistros, offices, and historic sites; and — only minutes outside the city limits — countless miles of beautiful countryside that embody Piedmont Virginia's classic rural charm. Danville does have quite a rich history. It was, briefly, the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. If you listen to The Band's original recording of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (not Joan Baez's inexplicably reworded version), you'll hear a reference to General Stoneman's cavalry destroying the rail line that was the main supply line between Danville and General Robert E. Lee's forces in Petersburg. You may also have heard the song "The Wreck of the Old 97," about a hellish train wreck that happened in Danville in 1903. (There is also a geocache commemorating this event.)
There's someone at the door....

Today, I had to head to Martinsville to offer my mom some physical assistance, and I did so by way of Danville, where several new caches awaited me. I'm happy to report that today's haul pretty much exemplified what caching is all about. There was a challenging tree climb; a hike in pouring rain through some mighty rugged woodland terrain — which I ended up making more rugged than it should have been, thanks to my GPS getting ornery and leading me all over the hills and hollers before settling on a stable ground zero; and a little trek through the old warehouse district, where I found a cache called "Forgotten Door" (GC5PKJ2) because, well...see the photos for yourself. It's pretty much an old, forgotten door in a secluded, all-but-unseen alcove in an section of warehouses along the riverfront. I don't know whether this particular building is fated for total refurbishing or what, but I have a feeling no one ought to mess with it. From the noises I heard on the other side of the door, I started looking for a sign reading "Abandon all hope, ye who enter," but I couldn't find one. I'm guessing it must be around there somewhere.

To end my all-too-brief run through Danville today, I stopped at Tokyo Grill for lunch, where I've often had some pretty decent sushi. Today's was absolutely awesome and though the place was jam-packed for lunch, the service was impeccable. Then it was on to Martinsville. I will say this — there are a number of highly skilled, enthusiastic geocachers in Danville who have done bang-up jobs on their wares. I hope there's plenty more to come from them.

Bless you.
Do you see the cache? I wish I could have had a photo taken of me up in this tree. I would look pretty small.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Lebo Coven — Now an Audio Book

The good folks at Crossroad Press, who have previously released my novels Balak, The Nightmare Frontier, and The Monarchs as audio books, have now released my 2004 novel, The Lebo Coven, as an audio book as well. Read by Chris Andrew Ciulla, The Lebo Coven is the story of two brothers who have chosen very different paths in life but are drawn together — with traumatic results — in the shadow of dark supernatural force. There's murder, mayhem, romance, witchcraft, Satanic rituals, cattle mutilations, and beer.

"...Rainey gives his horrors an original cosmic twist...A few twists and a well-executed climax raise The Lebo Coven above more routine horror fare."
Publishers Weekly

Here's a little more detailed information:

"After a ten-year absence, Barry Riggs returns to his hometown of Aiken Mill, Virginia, in search of his brother, Matt, who has mysteriously disappeared. Not only is the younger Riggs missing, but his house has been ransacked and branded with the strange word Lebo — painted in blood on the master bedroom wall. Faced with a local sheriff whose efforts to solve the crime are anything but devoted, Barry sets out on his own to discover the truth. He meets a number of locals he had known in his youth, including a young woman named Jennifer Brand, whom he had once treated with contempt because she suffered from a repulsive, crippling affliction. After some awkward moments, the two become friends, and together they attempt to unravel the mystery of Matt’s disappearance. Certain locals suggest that the name Lebo holds ominous significance, but no one will so much as whisper its meaning. Barry eventually encounters a mysterious character who goes by the name of Ren — a reputed worshiper of Satan. As Barry and Jennifer unravel the clues, they learn that all is far from what it appears — and that dark, inhuman forces truly are at work."

Here is the Audible site link, from which you can download the audio file: The Lebo Coven by Stephen Mark Rainey at

You can order the ebook from Crossroad Press at The Lebo Coven by Stephen Mark Rainey

Saturday, May 30, 2015


I do a lot of geocaching in the woods — I hid a new cache on one of Greensboro watershed trails just this morning — and especially at this time of year, I run into lots and lots of poison ivy. It's North Carolina's de facto state plant, as it grows more profusely here than anywhere else I've ever been. Certainly, in this part of the state, you can't step into a wooded area without being surrounded by it, and the fact I am deathly allergic to the stuff does me no favors. Years ago, I had such a bad outbreak of it — when I say I had a rash everywhere, I mean everywhere — the only relief I could get from the itching was to scrape my skin with a razor blade to break up all little blisters and then bathe in alcohol. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, it was agony, but compared to the endless, maddening, driving-me-to-the-brink-of-insanity itching, it was a little slice of heaven. The outbreak was so bad that I eventually had to see a doctor, who had me take steroids and regularly apply some kind of ointment, which did, in fact, dry up the poison ivy; the ointment was so potent, however, it also dried up any unaffected skin until it withered and flaked off.

Since then, I have taken desperate measures to avoid a repeat of such an affliction. Abandoning or postponing geocaching is not an option, so prevention and treatment have been very high on my agenda. I've read and heard all kinds of anecdotes and recommendations; tried quite a few; and, happily, found an effective, very inexpensive solution that I will pass onto you here. Consider it a little public service announcement.

Rather than spend bunches of money on Tecnu and other poison-plant-specific products — which, by the way, for me have been essentially ineffective — I carry around a little bottle of Purell hand sanitizer with me. It's good for general hand-cleaning as well as breaking up urushiol oil, which is the nasty substance that causes the rash. While geocaching, I find myself frequently wading through vast gardens of poison ivy, climbing trees laced with its vines (mind those big fuzzy ones, by the way, as touching them will also result in some serious grief), and occasionally grabbing bunches of the plants while making my way through some challenging woodland corridor. If I can apply a generous amount of hand sanitizer to any exposed skin within about an hour of contact, the urushiol oil won't bond and cause the rash. Just as a matter of course, I always scrub up with some sanitizer after a deep woods outing. Then, once I get back home, I scrub even more thoroughly with dishwashing liquid, which is also good for breaking up oil on the skin, and cold water (not warm, since it will open your pores and make your skin more likely to absorb any urushiol). Plain soap and water is better than nothing, but it isn't anywhere near as effective as an alcohol-based product or what is essentially a degreaser.

For about the past five years, I have conscientiously used the hand sanitizer and dishwashing liquid treatment, and I've been all but poison-ivy free ever since. The only times I have suffered an outbreak at all, and these very minor, are when I've failed to scrub up after handling the clothes or shoes I was wearing while out in the woods. The urushiol oil will stick to your apparel and remain potent for some time. It pays to be careful on that count.

Everyone reacts differently to poison ivy exposure, but even people who believe themselves immune can occasionally receive a nasty shock. I've passed this technique along to numerous folks of my acquaintance, with highly positive results. Now, forearmed with this information, you may feel free to get out there and hunt my new cache when it's published — it's a Twin Peaks-inspired hide called "Let's Rock" and requires that you overcome a little challenge to secure the coordinates before you hit the woods. I can assure you, you'll want to do some serious scrubbing up after you've visited this one.

And beware of Bob, by the way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I've gotta tell you, I'm a sucker for movies about Bigfoot and other cryptozoological beasties. During my teenage years, it was a rich time for all things Bigfoot, with movies such as... wait for it... Bigfoot, with John Carradine (surely one of the world's worst movies, yet such an all-fired hoot I can't help but love it); The Legend of Boggy Creek; The Creature From Black Lake; Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot; et. al. Exists hearkens back to just that kind of movie — both hokey and creepy as all get-out. It's directed by Eduardo Sánchez, who brought us The Blair Witch Project and others some years back. Not unlike Blair Witch, this one is largely seen through the eyes of various cameras — Go-Pros, cell phones, and such — though it isn't found-footage per se. The camera's eye views are not as erratic and shaky as Blair Witch or Cloverfield (the latter of which I refuse to watch again because the shaky-cam footage isn't just overdone, it's stupidly overdone). Exists, fortunately, is largely shown through a more traditional camera lens and features an honest-to-god score, composed by Nima Fakhrara.

The story is classic drive-in movie fare: five young adults — brothers Matt (Samuel Davis) and Brian (Chris Osborn), Dora (Dora Madison Burge), Todd (Roger Edwards), and Elizabeth (Denise Williamson) — take a weekend trip to a remote cabin, located somewhere in the wilds of eastern Texas. On the way, they run over some critter, which they take to be a deer until they discover some odd hair stuck in the radiator grill. It isn't long before something begins making scary squalling sounds out in the woods and then comes prowling around the cabin. Next thing you know, said something has smashed the youngsters' car, leaving them stranded and all but helpless. Matt decides to try fleeing on a bicycle so he can bring help. Alas, he never reaches his destination. And the remaining four young people become subject to a relentless assault by the thing — or things — out in the woods. There is much destruction, screaming, hollering, and even some blood. These young 'uns at last realize that their chances of getting out of the woods alive are mighty slim.

The wooded setting and cabin couldn't be more conducive to frightening things happening; happily, it's all filmed on location, without any dopey-looking sets or crappy CGI. There's an atmosphere of both serenity and strangeness about the woods that couldn't be more genuine. (As a matter of fact, the woods closely resemble those around what I call the Bigfoot Trail, just a few miles up the road, where I've done quite a bit of geocaching over the years.) Until just about the end of the film, the critters are shown only in silhouette or in quick cuts, and one scene, in which the monster is seen as a black shadow racing through the woods alongside a trail in pursuit of Matt on his bicycle, is actually pretty hair-raising. When, at the end, we have the big reveal, it's not disappointing. It's pretty damned good. I'd go so far as to say Exists offers a few of the best-staged Bigfoot scenes, well, maybe ever.

What Exists also offers... unfortunately... is a great big nasty-tasting, nausea-inducing, brick shit house full of stupid. Oh, my lord. The characters, to the last, are obnoxious, ever-swearing, hyper-screaming, pot-smoking, stereotypical boneheads who can't formulate a rational thought even when they're not panicking, and there's more than enough panic going on here for about four movies. Yes, it may bloody well be true that in highly stressful, likely deadly situations, many people will, in fact, lose their shit. But I think that segment of the population has been more than adequately represented in horror movies over the years, and I am weary beyond weary of them. (And even most of them would have a fair idea of when to actually get rid of the Go-Pro.) Why not make a movie with the same scenario but with characters who, between them, have more than a single functioning brain cell? Or at least make them colorful. Ever see Creature From Black Lake, with Jack Elam, Dub Taylor, Dennis Fimple, and John David Carson? Talk about enjoyable characters. Dopey, maybe, but what hoots! In The Legend of Boggy Creek, we have plenty of not-necessarily-bright characters, but the audience never looks down on them. They're kind of charming in their way. Hey, Travis Crabtree even had his own ballad written about him. It doesn't get much more charming than that. I tell you, the world is dumbed down aplenty as it is, and Exists, despite so many wonderful aspects that work, is insulting to an even marginally thinking audience. Mr. Sánchez, is it really, really true that your film won't make a buck unless your characters are idiots?

I believe you're wrong. Really, really fucking wrong.

That doesn't even begin to cover some of the contrivances, the hackneyed plot devices, and the almost note-by-note reproducing of scenes from The Blair Witch Project. Even these would be somewhat more palatable if it were possible to give a hoot about the people on the menu.

Four and a half Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetinis for the atmosphere and the Bigfoot scenes. One Damned Rodan's Dirty Firetini for the overall movie.

Shame on you, Eduardo. Shame on you for taunting me with all kinds of goodies and then throwing a rancid pie in my face.
A rare moment of non-panic, and not a bad one at that. (For this, you need to watch the deleted scenes.)
Nincompooper! Is upside down!
You'd think that with this beast in hand, Todd might not panic quite so badly. You would be wrong.
"If you say 'Where's my Go-Pro?' one more time, I'm gonna drown you."
That ain't Harry out there.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Face Your Phobia

I like snakes. They're neat creatures, and it really distresses me when people say things like "The only good snake is a dead snake," and other such nonsense. Without snakes, you personally would probably have to deal with all kinds of unpleasant pestilence you never even think about, and I'm betting that since you probably don't really have to deal with snakes all that often, you're better off leaving the snakes be than suffering the pestilence. I bring this up mainly because of a couple of Facebook posts from the past few days that included photos of snakes, and the sheer venom of some of the comments really showcased the irrationality of people's fears.

The photos above are from two or three years ago when I ran across this very friendly, six-foot-long black racer at Cedarock Park in Alamance County, NC. When I'm out geocaching, I'm often in their environment, and over the years, I've encountered just about every variety of slithering serpent that North Carolina has to offer. Make no mistake: even the venomous ones — around here, primarily Copperheads — would rather do their own things than mess with you, and most often, they'll make every effort to avoid dealing with you and your phobia. A while back, I was crossing a creek and inadvertently stepped on a Copperhead, and the fellow had the decency to vacate the premises with all due haste when he could have, had he been so inclined, just as easily given me a chomp on the leg. (Note that I call the snake "he" only because he had very masculine shoulders; nothing against the female of the species.)

I'll tell you something. Up until I started geocaching and found myself, not only in snakes' environments, but in spiders', I had a damn near debilitating case of arachnophobia. I was always fascinated but truly, deeply terrified by spiders of all types and sizes (of course, the bigger the more horrifying). Any spider I encountered was a dead spider, no ifs, ands, or buts. Awful, awful creatures; predators; alien-looking. Then I did a cache called Greensboro Underground, and the name says it all. To claim this cache, I had to go considerable distances through underground pipes, and at one stage, I was forced to confront my gravest imaginary dread.
Northern Black Widow (Lactrodectus variolus).
Don't mess with it, and it won't mess with you.

It went like this:

I was with a couple of gentlemen (who, I might add, are not wimps, in the technical sense of the word) that I will call Tom and Ethan. (To answer your question: yes.) To reach stage 1, we had to enter a very tight culvert, and Ethan had the good grace to go first. It wasn't moments before he was screaming in a panicked, high-pitched voice that led Tom and me to believe he must have been gravely injured. We're hollering, "What is it? What's wrong?" And he cries back, "This is the biggest spider I've ever seen! Wait — there's another one. And another one. Oh, Christ, the place is full of them!"

Tom and I debated a moment. There were spiders, and there was the geocache. All right, then; we do have our priorities, you know. The two of us wormed our way into the pipe, and — oh, my Christ — the confined space was absolutely crawling with big honking spiders, the smallest of which probably had a four-inch leg span. Our destination lay through a specific pipe, above which a huge wolf spider was resting on its laurels. Ethan put his foot down and declared that he was not going into the pipe with that spider hanging right there. Well, feigning the air of the undaunted, I took my hiking stick and knocked the spider off the wall — at which point it angrily began to scurry straight toward Ethan.

At this point, Ethan screamed a piercing scream and began a dance routine that would have shamed Gene Kelly. Tom and I took to chuckling, and since said spider had vacated its perch, I decided to take advantage of the moment, and go into the next pipe.

Oh, shit, did I really do that?

At this point, I did question my wisdom, for this pipe was also full of spiders. They were all just hanging around on the walls and ceiling, and not really bothering me. However, as I ducked to go in, something fell onto my shoulder with a distinctive plop.

"Tom, my dear friend," I said. "Please tell me that was a not a big spider."

"Nope, just a hunk of grass and mud from the drain up there."

"You wouldn't lie to me, would you?"

"Not about that."

All right then. On I went, past veritable walls of spiders that sat contentedly watching me. They didn't really do diddly but scare the living crap out of me. Yet, after Ethan's little dance there, it was hard for me not to go through that pipe overtaken by paroxysms of laughter.

From that moment on, I never again suffered a fear of spiders. They didn't want to bother me. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure they were all laughing at Ethan too.

For what it's worth, if you come upon a snake — or a spider, or some other basically innocuous creature — that for reasons anything other than rational make you want to kill it, try instead picturing its in its underwear or maybe a big old dude like Ethan break dancing inside a culvert filled with spiders. Really, it's funny as all hell.

You don't need to kill or otherwise antagonize the critters. Just give it some thought. Face your phobia. Fuck your phobia.

It worked for me.
A fun little black rat snake that was meandering about in the heat of winter, a couple of Decembers ago.
I'm sure he would rather have had cool weather and been taking a nap.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gravely Park Haunts

There are several geocaches in Gravely Park, in Henry County, VA, including three I hid myself some years ago. A few new ones have recently given me opportunity to return to the trail system, which I've enjoyed because it's a beautiful area with a quite a few scenic views of the Smith River, several historical structures, and an old graveyard. Despite having hiked all around there any number of times, I had never previously come upon what is surely the most haunted location in these woods. I've got to say, it was agreeably creepy back in there today, so I'm grateful to the cache owner for enticing us to come back here.

The Gravely Nature Trail greeter today was, sadly, a dead bat hanging on the fence at the trail head. The poor little guy appeared to have gotten hung in one of the barbs on the fence. From there, Ms. B. and I went on into the woods, where we found the cache readily enough — and from which I happened to notice several crumbling structures some distance away through the trees. Being that such old relics are among my favorites things to discover in the woods, we decided to do a bit of exploring. Most pleasantly, we were the only ones in the woods today, and the afternoon was growing a little dark and breezy, with rain clouds beginning to gather. (At least the bottom was considerate enough not to drop out until after we got out of the woods.) At one of the old barns, we found another of my favorite things: a dead baby — okay, actually a rather ancient doll — tucked into the hollow of a near-collapsing support post. (I have a cache in the woods in Greensboro, called "No Dead Baby Jokes, Please," with a similar such doll at ground zero. Hey, it's a nice theme.)

Ms. B. talked me out of worming my way down into one of the old structures, which I suppose is just as well, as I'd have gotten filthy dirty, and I wasn't wearing my best clothes for getting filthy dirty. Still, it was all a nice bit of Halloween-style fun in the middle of spring, and that just can't be bad.

It wasn't all just skulking around in old haunted places, since we took Mum out for lunch after church, where she had been honored for fifty-plus years of singing in the church choir, from which she recently retired. That was all nice and everything too. Sometimes you just have to do that kind of thing.
An unfortunate bat hung in the barbed wire greeted us as we set out on the trail.
Ms. B. at one of the old collapsing barns. Take note of the base of the support post on the right.
A slightly more intact structure. The barn, I mean; not sure about the old geocacher.
Not quite so haunted — a nice Mother's Day lunch with Mum at the Dutch Inn in Collinsville.
That's one lucky son right there.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Beyond the Mountains of Madness

"The umbrella has collapsed. The portal is open."

This one was sure a beast getting onto the street, but — finally, at long last — here it comes. Some years back, editor Robert M. Price approached me wondering whether I might be interested in writing a story for an anthology based on H. P. Lovecraft's short novel, At the Mountains of Madness, which is one of his better known — and one of my personal favorite — works of fiction. Of course I was, so I wrote a story, titled "The Danforth Project," which takes place in contemporary times. In it, a phenomenon in Antarctica reveals a mountain range that has never been seen — except by a number of individuals, specifically, those from Lovecraft's tale plus a handful of others over a long span of years. An air reconnaissance mission is hurriedly launched to investigate, and most of my story is an account of the pilot's experiences on his long excursions over the mysterious Antarctic continent. Solidly based on Lovecraft's epic work, I've also woven in a bit of lore from some of his other tales, "Dreams in the Witch House" being the most prominent of them.

Dark Quest Books was initially slated to produce the book, but over time, problems with the publisher began to mount. Some authors were paid, some were not. A few copies of the book were printed, but it was never put into official release, and for all intents and purposes, as a product, it died a cold, ignominious death — at least until Celaeno Press, which had recently come onto the scene with In the Court of the Yellow King (which includes my story, "Masque of the Queen"). Publisher Edward Lipsett and editor Price worked to get the book repackaged, using the same cover art and most of the same content, with two additional tales. At long last, the deal was done, and now the book is available for purchase. I can safely say this one is a winner, and my hat is off to all parties who worked hard to make this happen. There couldn't have been a more deserving volume to be rescued from the pit into which it had been shamefully discarded.

Besides myself, contributors to Beyond the Mountains of Madness include Ken Asamatsu, Glynn Owen Barrass, Pierre Comtois, Laurence J. Cornford, Cody Goodfellow, C.J. Henderson, Willie Meikle, Edward Morris, William Patrick Murray, Joe Pulver, Peter Rawlik, and Brian M. Sammons, with a special guest appearance by Weird Tales legend John Martin Leahy and an introduction by Robert M. Price.

Here's a link to the Amazon page: Beyond the Mountains of Madness

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The City Built on the Dead

My birthday was Saturday, and to help me cope with the number of candles on the cake*, Ms. Brugger and I made a long weekend of it in Savannah, GA. I'd visited that town a couple of times in years past, first during in my college days (where I had my introduction to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, an experience I'm not likely to ever forget), and then again in 2009, which was the last trip Mrs. Death and I took before our permanent parting of the ways. Ms. B. had never been, and I've enjoyed my experiences there, so we settled on Savannah for a brief but invigorating Spring trip together. We headed down on Friday morning, naturally laying claim to a few interesting geocaches on the drive, and rolled into town early in the evening. We had made a reservation for a fairly late birthday dinner at Alligator Soul in the historic district, so we trucked down there from our hotel in Pooler, making a first stop at the nearby Jazz'd tapas and wine bar for a couple of glasses of vino. Both locations proved satisfying and then some. Alligator Soul is anything but inexpensive, but that is why we have really nice girlfriends. (Heavens, though — mine has an upcoming birthday too, so there will be fair turnabout.) When I saw that Alligator Soul had bison hanger steak on their menu, that pretty much sewed up my choice. The steak was perfectly prepared and presented, our server first-rate, and I don't think I could have been happier with a birthday dinner. Ms. B. was equally taken with the vegetarian fare she ordered (I don't even know). We spent the rest of the evening wandering about the historic district and grabbing a few caches. This part of Savannah is gorgeous at any time of day, but it is especially appealing by night. It's the ghosts, don't you know. More on that shortly.

*Hell no, there was no cake, and thus no actual candles.
On a nighttime walkabout in Savannah's historical district — near one of the caches I hunted.
Yesterday, the actual day of the dreaded birthday event, we left the hotel early and booked over to Bonaventure Cemetery, which is huge, a lot older than I am, and quite picturesque. We spent a good hour and half exploring its graves, crypts, and haunted corners, then headed back to the historical district, where we found a fair lunch at The Flying Monk Noodle Bar. I had a dish of spicy red noodles and calamari, while Ms. B. opted for spicy noodles with tofu. Service was a little spotty here, but the food was satisfactory. Then we wandered and cached, cached and wandered, and wandered yet some more. Our friends Terry and Beth from Winston-Salem had been on a Caribbean cruise and were heading through Savannah on their way back, so, early in the evening, we met them for drinks and dinner. Since Kimberly and I had enjoyed the atmosphere at Jazz'd and also found their tapas menu rather alluring, we decided to go back and give them a go for dinner. What a great choice this turned out to be. We had several different small plates, including shrimp spring rolls, chicken lettuce rolls, fried mushrooms, lasagne with goat cheese, and asparagus & prosciutto flatbread. Good food, good service, and good friends made for an unexpectedly fine second birthday dinner. From there, we headed over to In Vino Veritas wine bar, which offered an excellent selection of wines — all with a smile from our congenial server who than took better-than-good care of of us. Another Savannah winner, this. I'd go back just to get the grenache they served straight from the keg. Lovely stuff.

Finally, though the evening was wearing down, part of it was really just beginning. Ms. B. had booked us a late-night ghost tour of the historical district, and though we were starting to feel the effects of walking many miles over the course of the day, we perked up and trekked over to Colonial Park Cemetery, the oldest in Savannah — interestingly, also where Nathanael Greene, for whom Greensboro is named, is buried. Colonial Park is also filled with corpses of victims of Yellow Fever, which plagued Savannah just after the War Between the States. Back then, it was not common knowledge, as it is today, that malaria is carried by mosquitoes, and lying amid the marshes as it does, Savannah has more than its fair share (not to mention stinging sand gnats, which assailed us mercilessly over the weekend). With countless casualties of both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars also buried in areas that are now part of the historical district, Savannah truly is a city built atop the bodies of the dead — a fact that, according to our ghost tour guide — accounts for its plentiful hauntings. No, I'm not a believer in such things, but I do find the history and many of the decidedly grim stories of life and death from the past most intriguing.

One thing I did miss from my past trips to Savannah was the giant spider invasion, which occurs in late summer and early fall. Massive numbers of huge nephilim spiders invade the city and spin webs amid the buildings and trees, sometimes three or more stories high. I recall in 2009 seeing entire building facades covered by webs and these huge red and gold spiders, with leg spans up to five inches, hanging in their midst. I also recall, in no uncertain terms, hunting for a cache on the ground, standing upright, and finding myself face to face with one of the spiders, hanging just inches away. Now, I'm nowhere near as arachnophobic as I was in my younger days, but while these huge creatures are fascinating, they can also be a tad unnerving. Next time we go back, it's gotta be in the fall.

This morning, I made an intriguing discovery at our hotel. As I was returning to my room from the lobby area with a cup of fresh coffee, I heard a demonic child caterwauling. I know it was a demonic child because it had a really gruff, deep voice — gah-wooh-gah-wooh-oooh — and it was coming from behind a hotel room door that was padlocked from the outside. Really, honestly, I don't know what gives here, but given the town's character, this just seemed so Savannah. I'm sure there was a perfectly rational explanation for it; maybe the kid I heard was actually out in the courtyard beyond that room's window so it only sounded like the crying was coming from inside. Whatever, I don't know. Agreeably unnerving, that's what it was.

Finally, after a brief stop at the National Museum of the Mighty 8th Air Force, both to get a cache and to satisfy this old military aviation fanatic, we hit the road again for Greensboro. It seemed a very long return trip; I did stop for a handful of caches, as usual, but our forward progress was twice impeded by very long, very slow funeral processions, which dragged on no end. I gotta tell you... it's one thing to show respect for the dead, but it's a whole 'nuther to stop the world so they can parade on by. Me, I want no such thing. When I go, get me cremated, put my ashes in a travel bug so I can see the world by way of geocaches, and fuck the funeral procession. I won't have it.

Despite it being just another day in the forward progress toward that funeral procession I refuse, it was a damned fine birthday. A bit different, I think, than what Kimberly and I had expected — whatever we might have expected — but I reckon that's just one of the great things about living, don't you think?
Beth, Terry, Ms. B., and old dude at In Vino Veritas
Old Rodan with F4C Phantom at the National Museum of the Mighty 8th Air Force

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Young Blood: Evil Intentions — "Snack Attack!"

The Kickstarter campaign for the Young Blood: The Novel I wrote a while back has just over a week to go. Our illustrious producers, Mat and Myron Smith, have posted a sample chapter as a teaser, which gives you a fair taste of our lovely little tale. Myron Smith has done a series of wonderful illustrations to accompany the text, a few of which you see here. The perks for supporting the project include an autographed copy of the printed novel, a DVD of the movie, autographed pages of the actual novel manuscript, a signed copy of my novel, The Monarchs, and much more.

Here's a link to the sample chapter: "Snack Attack"

Please give it a look and feel free to comment. Hope you enjoy it — and, if you haven't already, do consider supporting the the project through one of the various pre-order options.

And here is the Kickstarter link itself: Project Young Blood: The Novel. Give 'er a go, friends.
Lloyd Kaufman as newscaster Lloyd Kaufman, enthusiastically reporting the latest startling news on the
hordes of vampire children that are taking over the town of Martindale. Illustration by Myron Smith

The infamous Count Smokula performing his original tune "Young Blood," as seen in the movie.
Illustration by Myron Smith

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Coming Soon: Black Wings IV

In the wake of an awful lot of sadness this month, I'm thankful to have a few nice things going on to help keep the balance. One of those nice things is that I received my contributor copy of Black Wings IV from PS Publishing in the UK — easily among the finest-looking books in which my work has been included, not to mention I get to share the contents page with some of the most illustrious names in the field. This one features a story I co-wrote with John Pelan called "Contact," which is one of my relatively rare forays into science fiction, with a deep, dark, decidedly Lovecraftian premise. This fourth installment of S. T. Joshi’s acclaimed Black Wings series features seventeen stories that "continue to elaborate upon the conceptions, motifs, and imagery of H. P. Lovecraft." The antho is available as a beautifully produced hardback, 339 pages, with cover art by Jason Van Hollander; the signed, limited edition (200 copies) comes with a slipcase.

Editor S. T. Joshi is the author of The Weird Tale, The Modern Weird Tale, and Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction. He is a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and has also won the Bram Stoker Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the International Horror Guild Award.

Black Wings IV Contents:
"Half Lost in Shadow" by W. H. Pugmire
"The Rasping Absence" by Richard Gavin
"Black Ships Seen South of Heaven" by Caitlín R. Kiernan
"The Dark Sea Within" by Jason V. Brock
"Sealed by the Moon" by Gary Fry
"Broken Sleep" by Cody Goodfellow
"A Prism of Darkness" by Darrell Schweitzer
"Night of the Piper" by Ann K. Schwader
"We Are Made of Stars" by Jonathan Thomas
"Trophy" by Melanie Tem
"Contact" by John Pelan and Stephen Mark Rainey
"Cult of the Dead" by Lois H. Gresh
"Dark Redeemer" by Will Murray
"In the Event of Death" by Simon Strantzas
"Revival" by Stephen Woodworth
"The Wall of Asshur-sin" by Donald Tyson
"Fear Lurks Atop Tempest Mount" by Charles Lovecraft

Check out Black Wings IV at PS Publishing.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

R.I.P. Taco "Bell" Rainey

What an unbelievably horrible month for the loss of life April has become. My mom's little dog, Taco, had to be put down — on April 16, the eighth anniversary of my cat Charcoal's death — due to complications from Lyme disease. Mom only had him for eight months, but he was sweet, smart, and all around good for Mom's mental and physical health. Apparently, he began having nonstop, uncontrollable seizures, and he was clearly suffering, at which point Mom opted to see that he got relief.

I met Taco numerous times, and I was quite taken with him. A friendlier, more affectionate dog I don't think I've ever seen. He loved to be rubbed, and if you stopped, he'd boop you with his paw to remind you that it was not your job to stop rubbing him.

Taco had previous owner, who had given him his name, but when she passed on, he went to the local animal shelter. Mom adopted him in August of last year, and even though I don't think Taco is the name she would have preferred, she opted to let him keep it. She nicknamed him Taco Bell, and that just stuck.

With April apparently being the month for passing on — my dad, my cat Charcoal, my friend Lew Hartman, and my cat Chester — it sure has been a sad time for me. Fortunately, there have been plenty of positive things going on as well; but every death takes a little something out of me, and that is sad, as well as difficult. It's also just part of our journey toward our light being extinguished.

We deal. Don't have much choice but to deal.

R.I.P., little fellow.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Farewell, Chester: ~2000–2015

April continues to be the roughest month of the year. Today, I had to send my precious little Siamese, Chester, over the Rainbow Bridge. His health had declined somewhat over the past couple of months, but most acutely just within the past few days, to the point that I knew what had to be done.

Here's his story, more for me than anything else, but please feel free to read along, especially if you ever made his acquaintance.

Chester wandered out of the woods to our house in early 2002 and told us he was moving in, no ifs, ands, or buts. He was already a couple of years old at the time and needed some veterinary care, but before we knew it, he was healthier than a horse and ruling the roost. I recall having a hard time coming up with a name for him; for a good while, he was known just as The Siamese (or "The 'Mese"). But he could move faster than a cheetah, so "Chester Cheetah" came to mind, and the name stuck.

Chester was always smarter than a whip, talkative, and very possibly the most demonstrably loving cat I have ever seen. I don't think he ever missed a morning waking up in bed with me, and on weekends, when I'd customarily sleep in a bit later, he would make sure I didn't sleep too late by pulling the covers off me with his paws and singing the song of his people. He could maneuver just about anything with his little front feet; I'm pretty sure he thought he had thumbs, and that was sufficient for him to be quite dexterous. Our regular morning routine consisted of him accompanying me to the bathroom, and while I was in the shower, he would wait patiently on top of the toilet tank, occasionally peeking in to meow if I was taking a particularly long shower. Then, while I was drying off, he'd stand up on his hind legs and try to boop me in the nose with his front paws. Sometimes he got me.

Back in the early 2000s, our little black cat, Charcoal — who passed away in April 2007 — loved her buddy Chester, and she snuggled with him every chance she got. At first he merely tolerated it, but over time, he seemed to actually enjoy having another kitty to smush up with. Later, when Frazier came round, the two of them ended up becoming good buds, and especially during the cold months, they'd be smushed up tight as well.

The other night, when he first appeared to be in his most serious decline, both Frazier and Droolie came and sat beside him for hours, as if to hold vigil. Now that he's gone, they do seem to know the house is somehow emptier. And it is. A lot emptier. I expect it'll be a good deal quieter around here, since neither Frazier nor Droolie are anywhere as talkative as he was.

Chester was a very special buddy to me, and while his last few days were very hard, I expect he had about the most spoiled life any cat could have had. I'm no believer in reincarnation, but if I were to be reincarnated, I think I'd want to come back as one of my cats, because I know I'd have it mighty good.

Below, I have assembled a few pics — out of hundreds I have — that kind of tell his story.

Goodbye, my beautiful little buddy. I will miss you so much, always.
Chester in 2002, when he first arrived at our house
Charcoal and Chester in one of their favorite hangouts — my suitcase
He'd always be into one thing or another.
There was never any mistaking when it was time to eat.
He loved his buddy Frazier, who is ridiculous.
For 13 years, this was my typical morning wake-up view.
The dreaded Siamese Cottonhead, lying in wait
Farewell, my little guy, from your daddy.