⁃ every day handprints appear in the same spots on the doors. You wipe them off. You turn away for a moment and when you look back, there are twice as many.
⁃ You’re stocking. You’re always stocking. There is never enough product. Where does it keep going? A customer asks for something you just stocked. The shelf is empty and you begin to cry.
⁃ Someone asks you to check the back. You tremble. You know that it’s not there. It’s never there. There is nothing in the back. The back doesn’t exist. You check anyway.
⁃ A customer has been in the dressing room for four days. You see their feet under the door. No one asks to use that dressing room anymore, and you avoid it.
⁃ The last bathroom stall is always locked. You don’t know if anyone is using it. It’s locked.
⁃ A customer has a coupon. It expired in 1203. When you look up to tell them there is no one there.
⁃ There’s a buggy sitting threateningly at the edge of the parking lot. Anyone who goes to retrieve it never returns.
- “I want to speak to the manager” multiple, horrifying voices escape the furious soccer mom in front of you. You begin to tremble as you nod, terrified. Your manager speaks to her in a language you don’t understand. She ends up getting a refund.
you stop by the side of the road to buy fruit at a stand, watermelon and peaches. “watermelon’s in season,” the old woman says, smiles with far too many teeth. watermelon is always in season. you take a bite of a peach, and the juice stains your mouth red.
the kudzu climbs over the trees, the old cars in your neighbor’s front yard, towards your driveway. it crawls over the statues in your garden and up your brick walls. it crawls over your windows until you can no longer see outside, but you’re not even sure you want to.
you visit saint simons. the sand is almost as white as the residents’ faces when you ask about fishing. “don’t go onto the beach at night,” a lifeguard whispers to you, glancing around to make sure nothing is near. you notice there are no crabs, no birds, only the noise of the waves against the shore.
your grandmother keeps putting food out for the neighborhood’s stray cats. you don’t want to tell her the cats haven’t shown up in a long time. the things eating the food are not cats.
it’s football season. you must choose a side. your street is lined with red and black flags, bulldog statues. you start to notice dark shapes roaming the sidewalks when they think you can’t see them. your mother takes down the black and yellow banner, but it’s too late. there are dogs on the street. too many dogs. you chose wrong.
turn left onto peachtree avenue in half a mile, your gps says. you have passed four peachtrees in the past seven minutes. they all look the same. you are on peachtree. turn left onto peachtree avenue in half a mile.
there is a church just over the hill from your house. they are spaced exactly in one and a half mile increments. you have never dared to ask why.
“bless your heart,” an old woman says to your friend as you leave the restaurant. your friend pales, and you immediately move away from her and say goodbye. you know you will not see her again.
in a diner, a tourist asks for unsweet tea. the waitress screams and backs away. the others join in. you turn away, not wanting to see what happens next. not again.
it is thanksgiving, and the men over 25 in your family are going out to the woods to hunt. they cover themselves in camouflage and take their largest guns, and will not answer when you ask what they are hunting.
it’s spring. the pollen starts to appear. it covers the buildings, the cars, the roads. it has been three days since you could last leave your house. outside, the screaming starts. you do not know if the pollen traps you inside or protects you from the thing out there. you do not want to find out.
you’re on the porch alone, a glass of iced tea next to you. the air is still and heavy, and the mosquitos and gnats buzz. at least, that’s what you tell yourself is making that noise. the wind whispers through the trees. you are not alone. you are never alone.
BFboy 11.15.16 This is it. This is the picture I have been most excited to upload. It’s like that one post with the Waffle House behind the classical looking fountain statue. Something about it is just not right but also very appropriate and fitting. It tickles the right brain spots.
I’d say it has like… an American Gothic Aesthetic. Pre-Apocalypse but only by 15 minutes.
Your house was built in 1920. It has been marked historic. It will now stand here untouched until the end of time. The bridge has been marked historic. It was built in 1930. No one is allowed to drive on it. Your neighbor’s fence has been marked historic. He built it three years ago. You go to church. The church falls down. It was built in 2005. No one will clear the rubble to save you. It has been marked historic.
You get in your dinghy. You motor to town. You tie up your dinghy at the docks. You buy your government mandated industrial carton of Old Bay and Old Bay seasoned UTZ chips at the Royal Farms. You can’t remember the taste of water. You don’t remember sunlight. There is only Old Bay.
You are on a mountain. The fog is too thick to see the road in front of you. You wait for it to clear. You drive until you reach a town below sea level. The fog is still here. It has followed you.
Your friend from out of state asks if you want to go swimming in the Bay. You say no. You’ll be too busy contacting their next of kin.
You are driving. The DC NPR station signal is growing weaker. You are not yet in range of the Baltimore NPR station. The signal is growing fainter. Fainter. Fainter. You flip between the static of both stations. Nothing. You are trapped. You pass a road sign that reads: New Market. Your flesh melts from your bones as Rush Limbaugh comes in loud and clear.
You sailed your preposterously large yacht into Ego Alley. All eyes are upon you. You approach the dead end docks. The tourists look on in confusion. The dockside bar patrons begin to take bets. It is time to turn around and motor your way out. There is no space left. You cannot turn. You are stuck. The harbor patrol calls the Tugboat Of Shame. In the end, your body is strung up with the others.
You are in Severna park. A woman approaches you. In one hand she holds a field hockey stick. In her other hand, a lacrosse stick. You must chose. You do not know how to play lacrosse. You do not know how to play field hockey. With a heavy heart, you say, “I don’t play sports.” The woman smiles. She brandishes the lacrosse stick. You close your eyes. You feel your nose break. You see your own blood staining your Sperrys. You do not resist. It is your own fault for entering Severna Park without the proper training.
The stink bugs are here. The stink bugs are here. The stink bugs are here. Ț̠̠̻̤́̍̅͊̑ͧ̊h̍̏͊ͤe̻ͬ͋̽ͤ ͖̦̼̣̰̝͙s̮̬̦̜͌ͭ̍͋͒̔ť̫̲̞͖̈́̅ȉ͉̓͌̈͌n̤̩̭̲ͣ̔ͧ̿k̲̝͓̠͓̥̙ͥͤ ̣̺̤̻ͩ̊̅̍̄ͯb̠̈́́͊̈́͗u̜̭̔͑̚g̘͎̼̪̳͌̍̅ͥ̋ͅsͨ́ ̒͛͌̂ͫ̾ă̬̣̹̲̠̠̘̋̇͊̋r͈͈͓͆͊ͯͧ̎ͯ̈́ě̯̒̓ͩͥ̽ͥ ̠ͭͦ̉h̬̘͓̉͆̋ͤ̚ë̻̟͉̊r̤͙̱̠̝̮͇ͬ́̋̿̄e͕̯̯͔͈.ͫͩ
so we've talked about southern gothic but what about northern gothic? is that a thing?
There wasn’t so we invented one!
Southern gothic is a conventional literary genre, but northern gothic fiction would just get encapsulated in the overall Gothic genre. BUT.Tumblr made a meme. Because of course we did. It’s here: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/regional-gothic.
you are invited to a party in a wealthy town. everyone there is from the north. yankees live in packs and groups. you do not trust them. they must be planning something.
the deer are in the garden again. the deer are eating something. it is winter, and nothing is growing right now.
cheerwine is listed as a beverage option at a restaurant. you must order cheerwine. no one has turned down cheerwine since 1963. coincidentally, that was the same month people said the cheerwine looked redder.
you make the mistake of ordering iced tea on a trip out to the western US. you go into anaphylactic shock when you taste that it is not sweet.
there are forecasts of snow. all the milk and bread is gone. when the snow hits everything stops. everything. stops.
march rolls around. you know what is coming. they know what is coming. the moisture suffocates the weak and drowns the strong. no one is truly safe.
you smell something terrible. it smells like death. “it’s just the bradford pears”, you whisper. you say it again. you still don’t believe it.
you are choking. you are not surprised. you do nothing. you can not fight pollen. you can do nothing. you are still choking.
- you’re on a lonely stretch of the freeway and running out of gas. you come up on a small town and exit. you spend an hour looking for a gas station. there are homes, a grocery store, a dentist, but no gas station.
- you’re ten miles out of a sizable town. you drive around a bend in the mountain and come upon a row of stalls. you walk up to one. behind a table covered in intricate beaded jewelry and beautiful stones sits a smiling Navajo woman. you comment on her work. she nods but doesn’t speak.
- you’re hiking. the sun is baking the back of your neck, and the ground beneath your feet slowly changes from brown to yellow to red and back again. you feel thirsty constantly, and every thirty or so feet a tower of perfectly stacked sandstone rocks tells you you’re going in the right direction.
- it’s night, and you’ve been dragged by your friends to a place the locals call “the narrows”, a slit in a canyon barely wide enough to walk through, horizontally. there’s a rock wall pressed to your back, sandstone beneath your cheek, and air leaving your lungs.
you look up at the sliver of black speckled sky and breath.
- you’ve been driving for three hours and have three to go. you don’t expect to see anything for miles, but you come up over a hill and out of nowhere a town appears. you pass old rusty trucks, a church with a crumbling marque, stores with broken windows, and houses with doors that move with the wind. a ghost town is being born.
- the air is hot, the skies are a stormy gray, and rain would feel cleansing to the dry ground beneath your feet. but it’s not going to rain. you know it’s not. To your west the mountain flickers red and orange, clouds rising from the wreckage into the swirling sky.
- you’re standing just in the shadow of a cliff, eyes glued to the structure in front of you. it’s a building, moulded like pottery from clay clinging to the cliff face. they’ve been her for centuries, weathering the desert, abandoned, and they still don’t know why.
- someone needs to pee. you all pile out of the car, and move the the edge of the road. you stare nervously at the sparse but paradoxically thick grass. Anything could be in there. gophers, lizards, crickets, rattlesnakes… you watch your friend anxiously as they step into the brush, then glance at your feet, praying you don’t learn what’s out there.
- it’s late, you’ve got fast food wrappers in your lap and the air outside is finally cooling. you’re driving out of the city, prepared for the next leg of your journey. you see a motel, the vacancy sign flickering, the song hotel california playing on the radio. you speed away.
- the air is different. you can feel the change in pressure. you watch the skies anxious, ready to smell the rain, and the desert when it rains. clouds roll in. the sky is black. but something is wrong. the air is too tense, charged, not rain you realize. lightning crashes on the mountains, thunder seconds behind, and the around you crackles.
- they call it goblin valley. hundreds of “hoodoos” cover the valley floor in different shapes and sizes. during the day it’s like a playground. but you came at night. it has one of the darkest night skies in the world. you stare up at hundreds of thousands of stars, but it always feels like there is someone watching you.