Okay but surrealism aside all of these Southern Gothic posts are literally how the South is and I’m cackling.
We’ve got creepy ass 24/7 diners that say open but you can’t find the staff for half an hour.
There’s a haunted house and a murder/ghost story in every town.
There’s always a fishing hole no one goes to because of a tragedy living in the waters.
The woods are dark and hunting season is the only time you enter them. So many ghost stories. Haunted everything.
The mountains are alive with the sound of screaming.
Devil’s tramping grounds, hollers, woods, stones, you name it, we got it.
The old people may be racist and bigoted, but they have skin-crawling tales of caution and they’re all true.
Everyone knows someone who’s drowned.
We’ve all got a weird cousin who left the family and never came back. No one knows the circumstances of their disappearance but they were always an “odd duck.”
Community is a foreign concept to many until autumn. People come in droves from the mountain valleys and hollers bearing crafts and baked goods for sale. Apple butter can be smelled from half a mile away and the sound of fiddles fill the air. You will not see these people again until next autumn.
There are cemeteries everywhere, but the ones unloved are left for a reason.
Do not step on the graves, but behind them. If you step on them, apologize to avoid haunting.
the ice tea is Different here. you try to remember the various regionalisms — is there sugar? lemon? caffeine? — but you’re right on the border between two zones. (you are always right on the border between two zones.) the beverage that finally comes is acrid and smoky, and you drink it while actively trying not to examine it any more closely
the burgers, on the other hand, are exactly the same. this diner calls it something different, something special, something unique, but it is the same burger you had last night, which was also called something different, something special, something unique. not the same as that burger, but exactly the same burger. you have eaten this burger every night of your life. you look around at the other diners and wonder if each of you has your own burger, or if you are all, every single one of you, biting down perpetually into one eternal, ever-recycled meal
the speed limit is dropping, as tho you are coming to a town. you would like to find a town. you are tired, your car needs gas, and you could use a break. the speed limit drops from 70 to 55, 45, 30, 25. you have not passed a welcome sign. the speed limit is 10. the road stretches ahead, shimmering under the sun, the landscape around it barren and desolate. the speed limit is 5
you are on a meandering back road between two nowheres. inexplicably, there is a heavy truck in front of you. there is nowhere to pass for miles and miles, until at last you reach a long flat stretch and zip around, zoom ahead. you turn the next corner, and find another truck in your way. it is the same truck
the highway you are traveling along somehow carries routes going in all four cardinal directions at once. you try to remember whether you were aiming for the state route or the interstate, but all the signs seem to be for county roads. did you need to go west or north across Nebraska anyway? you try to gauge your direction from the angle of the sun, but it is shrouded in impenetrable clouds
there are police cars studded every ten miles along this road, crudely hidden behind foliage, around bends. as you pass one — slowly — you look inside and notice there is no one. it is a shell, a malevolent carapace, a scarecrow designed to slow down rather than speed up flight. the husks increase in density until there are vast, glittering piles on either side of the roadway, blocking out any view of the landscape beyond. the drivers with local plates are doing 90 in a 65
you see a sign giving the distance to the next town. it’s an hour away. you drive on, and twenty minutes later, you see another sign giving the distance to that town. it is still an hour away. it has been an hour away for as long as you can remember
it is day seven of your trip. it is not actually day seven of your trip, but every morning you tell yourself it is, because seven seems like a nice number. you’ve still got a few days to go on day seven, but by day seven, surely the bulk of the driving is behind you. surely, you tell yourself. the bulk of the driving. behind you. that’s what it means to be on day seven, which is the day you are on. if you are cheerful enough in your morning humming, you sometimes forget that you told yourself this yesterday as well, and that you are already planning to tell it to yourself again tomorrow
everybody knows you should never get to close to the corn but no one knows why. but you know the real danger is in the soy beans. never underestimate them. never turn your back.
you saw someone new in town today, which is odd because there’s never been anyone new. nobody moves in and no body moves out.
your dog has been staring at the same spot in the woods for an hour. even from this far you can see the eyes glowing. he hasn’t moved a muscle. you’re not sure if it would be better if he did.
the frequency of tornado drills is increasing. the coyotes have been acting strange. it seems you’re being prepared for something far worse than a tornado. you don’t question it and put your head down.
there is a chicken in your math class. the teacher does nothing to remove it. it receives a higher grade than you.
the rain hasn’t stopped for a week. everything is fine, the officials say. this is normal, they say. someone is swimming in the soccer field. everything is fine. you park your canoe by the bike racks. this is normal.
there are rumors of a big city a days north of you but no matter which direction you go you always end up back in town. every few years someone attempts the trip and is never seen again. it is unclear if they escaped or were caught
you’ve never met your neighbors. the closest one lives 10 miles away. none of them even know where you lived. then one night very late, there is a knock at the door
A wind blows across the parking lot. It smells of the sea. You are nowhere near the sea. A seagull calls overhead.
In the lobby, a small dog walks forwards, then backwards, then forwards again - never progressing, always squeaking. You have heard this sound every time you’ve entered the mall. It is never the same dog.
A furniture store’s display begs you to enter, promising the softest cushions, the coziest chairs. You step forward, but the man behind the counter locks eyes with you, abject misery in his expression. You know that if you go inside, you will never be able to leave.
Music plays everywhere. Songs overlap into an unearthly cacophony. But whenever you enter a store, you can only hear one song. It was not playing outside the entrance.
An enticing smell wafts from the tea store. It is sweet, almost sickening, but you are helpless to resist. You drink from the samples at the front, and it is not enough. Your nose is so saturated with the scent that you can’t remember ever smelling anything else. Is it still blood that runs through your veins, or is it tea?
When you walk back to your car, it is gone, replaced by one of the same make and model. It is identical except for the hubcaps. You look across the parking lot, searching, but all you can see is a sea of gray SUVs that stretches from horizon to horizon. A seagull calls overhead.
One day you get lost and stumble into a store you’ve never seen before. Everyone inside is friendly, the prices are incredible, the atmosphere is perfect. You leave feeling high, elated, at peace. When you come back, you can’t find it, and no one you ask knows what you’re talking about.
A store you admired as a child closed as soon as you were big enough to fit their clothes. Now that you are an adult, too big for their merchandise, it has returned. You wonder if your adolescence was a dream. Mocking laughter follows you as you walk past.
“Buy 3 get 3 free!” proclaims the red and yellow sign in the window of Claire’s (there is always a Claire’s, and it always has that sign). As you leave the store with a bag full of jewelry, you realize that you do not remember what you bought. You do not remember entering the store.
As you retrace your steps, you pass the dog. It is still moving. It is still squeaking. Does it ever stop? You look into the creature’s wide, dead eyes, and the question becomes, rather, can it?
A server asks if you’d like some chicken. You take it and move on. Another server asks you the same question, and then another, and another. Their faces begin to blur. How many pieces of chicken have you eaten? “Free sample?” you hear, over and over again. Capitalism is collapsing before your eyes. A seagull calls overhead.
Everyone is kind. Everyone smiles. “Welcome, y’all.” The smiles stretch until there is only teeth in various numbers distracting you from the deadness in the eyes. “We are so glad you are here.”
There is banjo music playing. It is catchy. You search and search for the source. The music gets faster, pitch sharpening. At some point, a fiddle joins in. You are lost in the trees and there is only the music and the faint sound of someone stamping their feet.
“Rock me mama like a wagon wheel,” you sing. A woman appears. It is not your mama, but it is a mama. There is another and another. You are surrounded by mamas. “Bless your heart,” they chime.
You are hiking the mountains and there is a bear. It stares at you and you freeze, terrified to move. A bump at your feet distracts you. You are surrounded by opossums. Their black eyes shimmer and their pink noses smell your fear. You look back up. The bear is gone.
It is autumn and the color is everywhere. The tourists are here. The air smells like pumpkin and decay and you emerge from your home to forage. It is a thirty minute drive to food. You arrive in town two hours later. You are not sure where the lapsed time has vanished except that there is a whirl of cameras in every direction. Even the leaves will grow tired and flee in less than a month.
You buy sweet tea from five restaurants. Every cup tastes different. You go home and pour a glass. This cup is just right.
Nearby, a tourist attempts to speak the name of the mountain range. “Appa-” they start. They are still making “a” sounds. They have never left.