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Unless you work in Hollywood, it’s unlikely you give much thought to which production studio produces the movies you most enjoy, and if I asked you to name a handful of them, chances are your answers would be limited to the big guys: Universal, Paramount, Sony, et al. If I asked you to name an independent studio, however, things get a little more difficult. Maybe you’d say Blumhouse, but while they certainly started as an independent studio, the level of their success ever since Paranormal Activity became a runaway hit the likes of which hadn’t been since The Blair Witch Project, makes it difficult to think of them as anything other than a major player now. Which brings us to A24...

The first thing you need to know is this: She lies. They're pretty lies, tasting of raspberries and kaleidoscopes and promise, and she smiles when she spins her tales as if that makes it more acceptable. Others will tell you you're a fool for paying, for listening, for daring to believe a fortune teller, but you know in your heart of hearts that they're the fools because lies are often just another variation of the truth.

The truth is, her lies have nothing to do with you.

The Star: Hope, confidence

"And this card symbolizes a choice you have to make." Marina pauses to look across the table.

The woman's eyes hold tiny specks of storm. "A difficult choice," Marina adds.

The woman nods slowly. "Does it tell you what I should do?"

Stephen King's "The Woman in the Room" is a masterpiece. This is arguably King's first short story in which resonant and serious subject matter is presented with consummate literary skill: a perfect balance.

As Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard write in their introduction to You've Got to Read This: Contemporary American Writers Introduce Stories That Held Them in Awe, "...great short stories...hold you spellbound, make your hair stand on end...you finish with the feeling of being wrung out, transported, and far better off than you were when you began reading."

The tip of the quill scratches its way across the parchment, a sound that sets my teeth on edge.

One might think I’d be used to it by now. The black marks it leaves in its wake make no sense to me—indeed the entire book makes no sense—then again, I am a mere copyist and mine’s not to question why. Although I do.

Frequently.

Much to my father’s despair.

The cottage where Darcy lived was set within the peaceful district of the Ryburn Valley.  It stood on high grounds where heather, crowberry and cotton grass dressed the Yorkshire moorland in shades of green, purple and white. The limestone walls were cinereous in colour, becoming more charcoal when the sun settled behind the hills. The rapport between the snap and spit of burning logs, and cinder trails on the carpet from embers which had jumped from the open fireplace, were commonplace to Darcy. The autumn wind with its tortured voice baying upon every window pane had become her lullaby before bedtime and her birdsong when she awoke. Fear never exploited Darcy’s mind, for as her father contested on many occasions, all things can be explained. The low thundering rumble that tore a hole in the night was not that of a monster pushing its way from one world to the next, but the nightly groans from the heifers keeping warm in the farmer’s barn across the field. The unexpected squeak of a floorboard was not the heels of a ghost, but instead the yawning of wood as it waned under the heat of water pipes. The illusory evil that supposedly cowered in shadows, or became the cold breath of night that followed her from room to room, was only a mischievous current of air that fussed its way around the dank old cottage. All could be explained. Everything that is, except the dollhouse. 

my days are like this: my toddler takes a steaming hot shit on top of my head and before I can process the horror one of the dogs has the turd in its mouth and we are all screaming and there are tears. this particular scene hasn't happened, there has been hot shit on my head and the dogs have had turds in their mouths, but not both at the same time. ~yet~

(Originally published in PANK.)

There's a certain kind of man who goes for damaged girls. He does the double take when he spots me from across the room. He spies the filtered grey that clouds my gaze and he doesn't look away. A man like that is a travel magazine in a hospital waiting room. You could go anywhere, see anything, but you'd never want to waste the money. Still, he stares. He smiles lightly. My chest tingles and I want to breathe in deep.

The things I'd do if I could, but I know better.

I always run.

[hotel]

1. an establishment that provides lodging and usually meals, entertainment, and various personal services for the public

 

[auditor]

1. a person appointed and authorized to examine accounts and accounting records

2. a hearer; listener

 

Friday:

While in the middle of haggling prices, the potential guest steps forward and says, “Look, do you know who I am?”

It’s a common question from stereotypical douchebags, but he doesn’t sound smug when he asks it, he sounds desperate, like nobody has ever recognized him and he’s one day away from suicide.

So I shrug and tell him no, I have no clue who he is.

He sighs and says, “Let me ask you something. Do you watch reality TV?”

The laugh that escapes me is unintentional but impossible to hold back. “No. That stuff is trash, man.”

The suicidal expression returns. He slumps over, arm resting on the front desk. “What if I told you that I’m one of the hosts of [some fucking car mechanic show that we aren’t going to publicly name because we’re not idiots] on the [reality TV network]? Would that ring any bells?”

“I don’t have a TV.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry.”

“You’ve never seen my show?”

“I’ve never even heard of it.”

“Oh.”

Defeated, he pays for his room and leaves the lobby. Later, someone in the room next to his calls and complains about a man crying loudly.

•••

Hex

Trouble came and trouble
brought greasy, ungenerous things:
poke root and bladderwrack,
chalklines in bloody bedrooms
and black reptilian bags
smelling of acetylene.

My day starts at 5:14 am.

My body’s clock is synced with my six-month-old daughter’s, so I know I have around forty-five minutes before she’s awake and sitting up in her crib babbling. In those forty-five minutes of freedom, I do the usual just awake shuffle: piss, turn on the coffee pot, take out the dog, smoke, take my middle-aged man medicine, pour coffee, and sit down and read.

Typically, I read the news on my phone because once the baby is up, I’ll have to stash all of my devices because the kid is absolutely bugshit for them. So no Facebooking or Twittering while she’s up (Which, by the way, is ALL day. The kid does not nap. Although, she does sleep all night, which happens to be the trade off, and personally, I’d rather have a full night’s sleep than a couple of hours during the day to write and read.), and I’m more or less cut off from the world (It’s really not that bad. I kind of like not having access to traditional and social media during the day. Before you ask, no, we don’t have cable, we stream only and don’t have an antenna. Seriously, it’s a blessing and you should try it sometime).

The lab director called Maddy in right before lunch.

“It’s too soon,” he told her. “You need time to grieve.”

“Maddy blinked and studied a statuette on the second shelf behind him. It was a bowling trophy. She had never suspected Dr. Corinth of bowling. This meeting was a revelation.

“Is there a formula?” she asked, still watching that bowler. “If Taylor had been older, say, even a year old, if he’d made it to his first birthday, would I then need more time to grieve, as presumably, I would have had more time to become attached? More than two months, I mean.”

Dr. Corinth leaned back in his high-backed hair to study Maddy.

She kept her face pleasant, her hands still.

Like the bowler, watching his ball hurtle down that slick lane.

“Maddy,” Dr. Corinth finally said—a playful, fatherly scold to his voice.

“I need to work,” Maddy said. “The experiment is in a crucial phase.”

“And you’re sure you can—”

“I’m fine. Thank you for your concern.”

It was a lie, of course, but everything had been a lie for the past two weeks. Why should work be any different?

•••