I was eating lunch when a news article I read suddenly popped into my head.
“CANNIBALISMCOULD SOLVE WORLD HUNGER”
And, I started thinking about it and, ya know…it would but how do we as a culture de-stigmatize the idea of eating people for food?
“Well,” I answered myself. “What if we had a very select people and isolated them, kept them well fed, healthy and completely ignorant that they are not so much a country but a herd. And when they are ready to be culled, we just take a few.
“Think about it. We could push diets on certain selections of the population in order to make them taste a certain way. Some meats could be leaner, some fatter. Some more seasoned and some less so. We could even have some conform to an idea that they won’t take certain medications so that they could be our “free range” or “organic” crop.”
And then it hit me. Oh, shit. What if it is already being done? And it’s AMERICA that is the cannibal food herd?
Think about it. All the diet crazes. We have some parts of society who are absolutely fitness crazy and others who are slobs to the point of being stupid. Some who are healthy, vaccinated and full of preservatives and a bunch of those who are unvaccinated.
“But how would they know when we are ready to be culled?”
That’s where Fit Bits come into play. And what about those “biometric” exams we have to take to keep our insurance. Our phones taking count of each footstep and calorie you’ve burned. All of it just another way to keep track of the herd
It all makes sense.
Excuse me but I’m going to unplug before the Farmers find out I’ve figured it out.
I just finished watching the documentary, Curse of the Man Who Sees UFOS and all I can say is, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”
I was around 11 when I first started seeing UFOS.
We had just moved into a shitty shoebox of a house, 800 square feet, no air conditioning, wall heaters that were likely to burn the house down than keep us warm. That winter, we slept in our clothes, wrapped inside sleeping bag, under bedcovers. We kept a plastic cup on by the tub to scoop up cockroaches as they floated up from beneath the bathmat when we took baths. I remember killing a rat the size of a small cat in the kitchen. Our neighbors were a religious family. The oldest brother and sister used to sneak inside the tent my sister and I had in the backyard and make out in it. Further down the road, there were addicts and sex workers. Fights and gunshots were common.
And that was just the chaos outside.
Inside, my family was starting down a very dark road. Mom and Dad started using pot and drinking heavily. They were bankrupt, I later learned. Working 40 hours a week but making barely enough to cover costs of living. There were lots of Hamburger Helper dinners and mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch. Poverty is like cancer, make no doubts about that. It’ll destroy everything.
And then there was me, on the brink of puberty. In the midst of a biological chaos of my own. I started my period, got breasts, all while my parents were smoking pot and fucking in the front room and I tried my best to keep my little sister from watching it.
I was a very lonely kid. Anxious, nervous, constant stomachaches.
And that’s when I started seeing the lights in the skies.
I stole money (that’s another story for another time) and used the stash of quarters to buy UFO magazines from Tradewinds, a convenience store/fish and bait shop down the road. I loved those pulpy pieces of trash. I didn’t just read them. I devoured them. They were my Bible. Back then, I still had a child’s belief that books were sacred. If it were printed, that made it true.
And, God, did I need it to be true.
The Space Brothers. That’s what I called them. They were just lights in the skies. Just lights. I never saw metallic ships or anything like that. Just lights. I remember watching them zig zag across the night sky like Junebugs on a string. I remember once, telling everyone to start acting crazy to see what it would do. The light actually stopped, as if confused to our antics and when I pointed and shouted, “LOOK!” it zoomed away.
Oh, yeah. It wasn’t just me. My sister and my cousin who stayed with us sometimes also saw them. Or at least, they said they did. I don’t know if they remember it the same way. More than likely, they saw them because I saw them.
Then, they bled over to other parts of my life. I started seeing the lights other places.
The school district I was zoned for sucked so we lied and used a family member’s address so I could keep attending school where I had been going before the move. That also meant I had to have a babysitter and catch a bus to go to school.
Every morning, as I would climb onto the bus, I’d look over my left shoulder and look up into the sky. There was a light. It made me feel important, protected, not alone.
As time went on, I would still see the Space Brothers. Usually when I was somewhere and felt out of my element, like on a date that wasn’t going well or out with people that I didn’t really connect with, I could look up and there they’d be. A light in the sky. My own cosmic posse.
I don’t remember when I stopped seeing them. Perhaps, when I stopped needing them. Or, more likely, these invisible compadres took on other forms, other obsessions that tried to fill the lonely hole inside of me.
I don’t know.
But, what I do know is that, for the grace of God, I am not a middle aged, beer bellied, cackling, white haired man, on a documentary, screaming at the sky, looking for friends.
I was at dinner with some friends last weekend in Alabama. We were all decompressing from our first day of busting our butts selling books at the Huntsville Comic con.
Bobby Nash told a story about how he was approached by a woman who went on and on about a book she had just read. She wanted to know what his influences were, what did he mean by certain passages. He had to confess to the woman that he didn’t remember the story. “I’d written that ten years ago!”
James Neathery, a leather worker and cosplayer, was aghast. “What do you mean? You don’t remember your stories?”
So, I thought I’d do this public service announcement.
Hello. My name is Nikki and when I’m done with a story, I am DONE WITH IT. After it is finally out there, published, cemented to paper, bound between covers, I rarely think another thing about it.
2018….2018….where did the time go? What did I do this year?
Chrissakes, I can barely remember what I did yesterday.
I really did get a planner. It’s a really fancy one. Leather cover and all kinds of really, really intimidating pages.
And I was really, really good at keeping at it until February when I got depressed and then got a dog.
OH YEAH! I got a dog. Freya, my support dog. She’s my black dog to fight the Black Dog.
I released a lot of stories this year.
Pretty proud of them I learned that my brand is Cheap, Quick and Weird.
Shirts are coming soon!
I had a booth at the Southern Festival of Books which is something I can now check off my Bucket List.
A film I wrote, ANGEL BAR, won Best of Genre at the 48 Hour Film Project awards.
Look at these beautiful people!
Brian and I got matching tattoos.
We’re THAT couple.
I got a haircut.
And I’m letting it gray naturally. #cronepower
The only real stain on 2018 was that I lost my friend, Richard Emerson. He was always in my corner and believed in my writing aspirations. I miss you, Richard. I hope you’re whole, happy and in peace wherever you are.
You dapper old boy!
And now onto 2019. I have so many things I want to work on. So many stories I want to tell and, hopefully, if the stars align, there will be a VERY MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT before the new year ends.
I’ve been blocked lately. I need to get back to work. I want to get back to work.
When I crack open a new journal, click my pen and declare, “Okay! Let’s write a story!”, I feel deep inside me a great exhalation, as if this inner, bored muse is saying, “Yes! Finally!”and is so grateful that I’m finally getting back on track.
And that’s good, right?
But then there is another, thicker voice that lazily counters, “Ugh….. but why? Which story is worth the effort? Sure, you’ve got ideas. Kudos but, face it, you know it’s not going to go anywhere. Have you checked your Amazon numbers lately? When was the last time you received a royalty check? All that time invested in something and for what? What’s the term? Diminished returns. That’s it. Think about it. All the time and energy you put into it and what do you get back? Isn’t it more fun to pour a drink, kick back and watch Netflix? Hey, there are lots of shows you need to catch up on. OH! and your DVR. All that stuff you’ve been socking away to watch later. And podcasts. Have you checked your podcasts lately? Anything new? Or all those library books you still have checked out. Maybe you should read them. You really should do more reading. And researching it. Have you done enough research lately? You need to see what is hot on the market. What is selling. You should write that. But, first you need to do research. Not that it really matters. Face it. . Past your prime. You don’t connect to the people anymore. What do you know? What can you actually say? You had potential but wasted it chasing invisible ink dreams. You’re too old. Seriously, have you looked at yourself lately? You should go to the gym. That’s a good idea. Go to the gym. Doesn’t exercise revive brain stuff? Or is that alcohol. Yeah. Have a drink. All writers drink. It’ll loosen you up so you can do more research or read or something. But, first a snack. And a drink.”
You get the picture.
So, how to fight the shadow troll inside my head that echoes every vile doubt that I’ve ever heard from others or, worst of all, conjured up myself?
Remember that first voice? The one that sighed, happily, FINALLY!
I focus on her.
And I remember the flush of excitement when the words are rushing through me.
When the story takes on its own life and I feel like a passenger, a scribe, clacking on my keyboard, just a witness to it all.
And then that finishing stroke. When the story is done and I know it’s done. That ending crescendo that leaves a lingering note of music on the page.
I remember the times someone had told me that my story brightened up their day, gave them a life or just took them on an adventure.
Because when I take my ego out of the equation (and it is my ego that is focused on the bottom line rather than the finishing one), magick can flow through when I left myself open and be a conduit for story.
That’s when I know I’m ok. I’m not a waste. I’m doing EXACTLY what I’m supposed to be doing and if the story sinks to the bottom, never makes a goddamn dime, and is only read by a handful of people, that’s is ok.
Perhaps they were the only ones meant to read it in the first place.
There’s been a lot of changes in my life recently.
Not so much changes in my life but in the lives around me. Coworkers I’ve been sharing the misery at the day job for the past 15 years retiring, friends moving away, and all the usual stuff that makes one start thinking about where they are and if they want to still be in that place during the next solar cycle.
So I decided to do something and look around for a new gig. I wanted something more in tune with me and what I wanted for my future.
And I thought I had found it. It was small publishing house in Nashville. NOT RELIGIOUS, which is a miracle (no pun intended) and they had posted a job that I would be perfect for so I joined up on this online job site, filled out a freaking resume and sent it off into the cyber ether.
I’m not going to lie. It felt a buzz of excitement I hadn’t felt in ages. I started fantasizing about getting the job and how great it would feel to be doing something I love and making new, interesting friends and how my world would just blossom and everything would just start coming up Nik.
The next day, I waited for an email. It was the caffeine that kept my hopes up. I kept replaying the fantasy, over and over again. Getting a new cool job. Quitting this shitshow. Oh, man, I was gonna love quitting.
But the email never came. What I did get was a fuckton of spam phonecalls.
And the job?
Yeah. Suddenly, that job wasn’t on the website.
But the spam? That shit kept on coming.
So, I got got. Just another victim of Hope laid out by the Internet.
Meh. C’est la guerre.
My day job is soul sucking, lonely and has absolutely no future but, what the fuck. It pays the bills.
There’s always the Great American Novel dream, right?
Damien Echols came to town to push his new book, High Magick.
For anyone not familiar with Damien Echols, here is the backstory in a quick pinch: in 1994, he was sentenced to death for the satanic ritual murder of three 8 year old boys. The evidence used to convict him was his reading habits (Stephen King), the weird obsession of Jerry Driver, the local juvenile officer who was convinced that Echols was the kingpin of a Satanic cult, and the confession (multiple ones since he kept changing his story) of a teenage gas huffer who had the IQ of a child.
He and two other young men who were also convicted but given life sentences were finally allowed to leave prison in 2011 if they all agreed to an Alford plea which said that although they still professed innocence, the State had evidence that could convict so…..yay? Basically, it was a way the state of Arkansas could say, “My bad.” without really shouldering any blame.
All in all, it was a travesty and the more I read about it, I end up gnashing my teeth and wanting to renounce humanity to the dumpster.
Seriously. How fucking stupid?
Worst of all, the murderer(s) of those little boys went scott free. Even if the motherfucker popped up today and said, “Hey! I did it! Yep, it was me!”, Arkansas couldn’t touch him or her because of the Alford plea deal.
It just ….oooooh….my head spins.
Anyway, back to what I wanted to talk about.
So, Damien Echols came to town to push his book, High Magick, A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row. He is a professed ritualistic magician and, I can tell you after listening to him speak, he is utterly void of bullshit. Whether or not you believe in Magick, he does. Wholeheartedly. And, most importantly, he truly believes it can help you as much as it helped him.
I’m not a newcomer to the idea of Magick. I’ve done a few Sabbats and spellworkings. I don’t think I’m bragging when say that I can throw a mean Tarot spread.
But I have to admit, my head spun when Echols claimed that he spends 7-8 hours a day meditating and doing Magick.
7-8 HOURS. A day?
Riddle me this, Batman: Who cleans your toilets? Who buys your groceries, sweeps the floor, walks the dog, work a day shift and come home to make dinner?
I don’t want to sound like Martha giving Jesus a hard time about not helping out with the housework but, damn!
How do you take care of the nuts and bolts of earthly existence when you spent 1/3 of it converting with the Machine Elves that run the Universe?
Do magicians have a staff?
Because, I can tell you all this right now, THIS witch does her own damn shit.
Or maybe I should get those freaking elves to lend a hand.
“Are you ever afraid about writing horror stories since you live in the Bible Belt? Are you afraid of what people might think about you?”
I answered, “Hmmm, no. Although I have been called out as a witch many, many times, I’m not afraid. What I am amazed by is how many of these very same people will come to me privately and ask me to hex people. They never want me to heal or bless. I think that says more about them than me.”
At my last physical, my doctor called me his most boring patient because, other than hypertension and cholesterol, I was healthy for a 53 year old.
A week later, I get a chirpy little message from someone in the doctor’s office, “Hey, your blood tests say you have hypothyroidism. You need to come in and see about treatment. Okay, bye!”
So, a little backstory: 8 years ago, I was really, really sick. My heart was beating like a hummingbird. I couldn’t sleep. My bones felt like they were vibrating inside my skin. I just felt crazy. After a week or two of testing, turns out I had hashitoxicosis. In a nutshell, my body was attacking my thyroid and it was fighting back. In doing so, it was shooting out T-3 and T-4 hormones like a Gatling gun and causing me to become hyperthyroid.
I was put on beta blockers and a few months and blood tests later, I was deemed Thyroid Healthy.
But I wasn’t. Not really. The damage had been done.
The trauma from that past sickness had taken its toll and now it wasn’t playing the game anymore. Give it props; it had chugged along on three cylinders for 8 years before throwing up the white flag.
And looking back, it makes a lot of sense. The depression, crushing fatigue and weight gain that I’d been blaming on menopause or faulty brain wiring was really caused by a fucked up thyroid.
What does that mean for me?
A lifetime of synthetic hormones to replace the ones my Bad Butterfly refuses to give up.
So, I’m going to use this space not only as a soapbox to shill out my books but also as a place to plot my journey dealing with this new turn in my life.
Maybe I can shed some light into someone else’s life.
Recently a friend on Facebook posted a challenge: Name something dumb you believed as a kid.
Oh, gurl. Let’s start with Kindergarten.
I was asked to play an Indian in the Thanksgiving Day play. I freaked out because I thought that feathers grew out of Indian’s heads and, ergo, I would have to grow feathers out of my head. I became so hysterical about the idea of growing feathers out of my head that my mother had to take me out of Kindergarten. Yeah. I was a Kindergarten drop out. Something my mother never let me forget.
I also thought that when a person died on television, they used terminally ill patients so they could have a shot at stardom or people on death row as part of their sentence.
I was told that if you sang at the dinner table, Satan would drag you down to Hell. This idea plagued me. I worried what would happen if I accidentally started humming a tune at the table? Did that count? I could envision the linoleum of the kitchen floor bubbling from the heat as the hellfire cracked through, opening a hole so that Satan could drag me down to Hell. Someone also told me that if you heard someone calling your name three times, and if you answered it, Satan would drag you down to Hell.
Satan turned out not to be the great threat I imagined he’d be.
I believed that bats turned into people. I had seen it in an old black and white movie and that made it real as far as I cared. I was 7 and tried to check out a book from the school library about bats to further research the phenomenon. The librarian said the book was too hard for me and challenged me to read it. I did and that got me slapped in gifted classes and my road to Nerdom was solidified.
When I was 9, a babysitter told me that according to Ancient Tennessee Law, if you found a horse in the field and it had no saddle, you could take it home. Well, we happened to live in a stone cottage that was surrounded by fields. And, I knew where there was a horse. My cousin, Mandy and I went out today, put a rope around the horse’s neck and took it home. My mom and aunt came home from a beer run to find a horse in the garage. I remember her screaming, “THEY HANG HORSE THIEVES, NIKKI!”
She made me take the horse back, Ancient Tennessee Laws not withstanding.
My grandmother, a backwoods country woman so don’t judge her too harshly, once told me that if you took a sponge, you could “wash the color off a black person and they’d be snowy white underneath” because it was the ‘mark of Cain’. As a kid, that idea fascinated me. I desperately wanted to sneak into a funeral home and test it. Ya know. For science.
As I got older, I was a diehard believer in all things weird. UFOs. Aliens. Loch Ness Monster. Ghosts. Bigfoot.
When I was in elementary school, I started up a Monster Hunters Club. We entered a Cryptozoology exhibit in the yearly science fair. We won an Honorable Mention. My teacher, Mrs. Tarkington, even allowed the club to perform a play where Trent Ridley put on a furry parka, we hunted him down and then autopsied him, throwing guts and bones into the classroom.
This is the dedication in my latest story, Rumble.
I thought that this dedication needed a bit more explanation.
So, sit back and listen to why she was the best teacher an eleven-year-old little weirdo could hope for.
I remember the first day of sixth grade. 1977. Mrs.
Tarkington, a tall, strikingly beautiful woman with skin the color of mocha and
large, dark eyes, said to her class, “I want to let you in on a little secret.
Last night, you went to bed on the planet Earth but, this morning, you woke up
Now, this was a mind shattering revelation to 11-year-old
Nik. You must understand that I put teachers, like books, on pedestals. They
were ALWAYS true. Everything that came out of their mouths was gospel.
It didn’t help matters that that previous summer, I
devoured UFO magazines. I spent that hot summer doing chores or just outright
stealing money (I had a very lucrative side grift but that’s for another post)
to fund this new obsession of mine. And those UFO magazines, pulpy pieces that
Adult Nik sees as outright lies and complete conspiracy drivel, to Kid Nik were
So, when she said that we had been mysteriously
whisked away from Earth to Mars, I thought, “Huh. Okay. Wow. Really? Wow. How?”
And then my brain started concocting all sorts of scenarios ranging from
Government conspiracies to Alien abduction.
So, the idea that we went to bed on Earth and woke up
on Mars? All right. Cool. What’s next?
After much back and forth between the more skeptical
of the class that turned into outright arguments between the Earthers and the
Martians, Mrs. Tarkington clapped her hands and said, “GOOD! That’s what I
want. My goal this year, class, is to teach you all how to think critically.
NEVER accept anything that comes out of my mouth as truth. Always ask for
This was life changing. While I was still very much a
Mulder (my Sculley days were still years in the future), I loved her too much
to be angry at being tricked for very long.
As the year went on, her classroom became a sanctuary
for me. My homelife at that time was not good. I don’t want to go into it here
but…it was the beginning of a very dark period of my childhood. So, having 8
hours in Mrs. Tarkington’s class was a bright point.
And, man, that year…Jesus….looking back, it really was
the last year of my childhood.
I was eleven. Puberty had yet to take hold on me and
most of the kids. There were a few girls that had boobs and we all looked at
them with a mixture of envy and anger. Yeah, anger. I remember feeling betrayed
by these girls. It’s crazy but that’s the truth.
As for me, ha! Puberty was still a year and change
away. I had both of my feet fast in being a kid and, dammit, I wasn’t going
until the hormone Gestapo came to get me, kicking and screaming.
I was a weird kid. I’ve said that a thousand times and
I’ll say it a few times more. I’m thankful I was weird in the 70’s; two decades
later and I would’ve been drugged up to my gills.
And I was blessed to have a teacher like Mrs. Tarkington
that gloried in my weirdness.
She let me start up a Monster Hunter Club. She
sponsored us for the school’s Science Fair when we entered a Cryptozoology
display. We had a floating Giant Squid in an aquarium, a Bigfoot diorama with a
homemade plaster foot, a papier-mache Himalayan mountain for the Yeti.
We won Honorable Mention. This was validation in my
Mrs. Tarkington gave me carte blanche to put on a
play, Hunting Bigfoot. Trent Ridley wore a parka and three of us hunted him all
over the classroom, following his footprints we had cut out of construction
paper. Once captured, we pulled up a bedsheet and then performed an autopsy. We
tossed construction paper guts and limbs out into the audience which was well
received by the sixth graders.
And, best of all, she was the first person to light up
the writing bug in Yours Truly. She published a poem I wrote about autumn (I
remember it had something to do with squirrels and nuts) in a class journal.
She also pushed me into public speaking by submitting an essay I did to a
contest. I came in second place but it was my first experience at seeing my
words actually make an impact.
My biggest regret is that at the end of the year, when
we all lined up to say goodbye before leaving for summer break, I did not hug
her. I’m not a hugger by nature; I’ve gotten better but, when I was a kid, it
was absolutely out of the question. I can still feel how my stomach flipped at
the idea of being pulled into someone else’s body. The suffocation of the hug.
Their heat. Their smell. No…no…I couldn’t do it.