The Intruder

As people who know me can attest, I’m a fan of scary stories.  I don’t know why.  It seems counter intuitive that a story which can illicit the horrible emotion of fear could be entertaining, but there it is.  In fact, the crazy thing about it is that the more a story can bring about that response, the better it is.  Crazy, isn’t it?  There are plenty of theories for why this is.  Some say it’s an adrenaline rush, some say it hearkens back to our primal days when we were constantly on the run from predators, while still others link the response to some dark part of our psyche that desires the emotion of fear to keep us motivated.  I don’t know the answer.  I just know that I like scary stories.  The scarier, the better.

So when I found Ghost Goons a few years ago, I was thrilled.  Apparently, several of the members of the Something Awful forums got together and collected various original stories and put them up online.  They were fantastic.  Unfortunately, the original Ghost Goons site let its domain expire, and now has withered away into nothing.  The good news is, some fine soul kept the stories and is re-posting them on his personal blog.  So, as far as I’m concerned, this is the new Ghost Goons.

One of the most memorable stories on the site, and one that still occasionally keeps me up at night when I think about it, is the story of The Intruder.  You see, many of the entries there were written almost as encyclopedia articles, as if the things contained in them were real and were simply being discussed from a purely academic point of view.  For some reason, this adds to the effect for me.  You lose yourself reading these articles, eventually questioning where the truth ends and the story begins.  Of course, in the end, you know that it’s all made up, but the fun had during scouring their contents can’t be matched.  The Intruder is one of these articles.

Enjoy.  You can thank me tonight when you’re trying to fall asleep.

 

The Intruder is a silhouette and similar in shape to a Siamese cat. When sitting, it is about 7.5 feet tall. It has two overly large, slanted eyes, which glow a bright fluorescent green, and have no pupils. It blinks these eyes occasionally. Other than the eyes, it has no other discernable facial or body features.

Whenever you enter your home after dark, The Intruder is always watching. It sits about 10 feet away from you in plain view. It remains immobile and does not even try to conceal its presence. While outside, it can only be seen by one person at a time. If it were to be within the sight range of two people then the first person who sees The Intruder would remain being able to see it while it would remain completely invisible to others.

It emits no noises of its own. The only time it can be heard is when it is stretching its claws on a tree or your house siding. If you approach it then it will run away very quickly and violently, kicking up dirt and rocks. The sounds of the wind from The Intruder’s movements and flying debris from under The Intruder’s feet can be heard. If you were to throw an object toward it or discharge a firearm at it you would get the same effect. Once you turn back to the door to insert your key you will find that The Intruder has noiselessly returned to its previous position where it continues to watch you.

Some say that The Intruder listens to your key hit the lock. They say that The Intruder can eventually ascertain the shape of your key simply by hearing the pins of your lock moving. It is unknown how many times The Intruder must hear you unlock your door before it can determine the exact shape of your key.

You see, The Intruder wants to kill you, that is, if this creature is even capable of wanting anything. Perhaps it is better to say that it intends to kill you. However, The Intruder can only kill you inside your house, and may not force its way in. Furthermore, it cannot enter an empty house. You must already be at home in order for it to enter. If you were to run outside of your house once The Intruder enters, The Intruder will pursue you, drag you back inside, and then kill you.

If you ever hear a key hitting your door in the dead of night then it may be The Intruder trying out its key that it has made. The Intruder only tries to use its keys when it is close to perfecting them, so if you do hear it trying to unlock your door then you can be certain that it will have a proper working key within a few nights. If you enter your house through another means, for example a garage or screen door, then you may suddenly find it them inoperable from the outside, through both remote or attempted physical operation of the door. If you attempt to leave your door unlocked in order to prevent The Intruder from hearing the shape of your key, then you may be disappointed to find that the door has been locked by the time you arrive at home.

If you hear a key hit your lock it is advised that you turn off all of your lights and attempt to push on the door to try and prevent The Intruder from entering, although it likely outweighs you. Once The Intruder enters your house all light sources above that of a candle become blinding to all inhabitants other that The Intruder. If you have time to light a candle then it is suggested, as this will still allow you to see the silhouette without becoming blinded. A very small advantage that you may have is that, once inside a home, all inhabitants are able to see The Intruder simultaneously.

The Intruder will kill every human inside of the house. It will only attack pets if the animal chooses to engage The Intruder. Most animals choose not to engage The Intruder. The only time that the Intruder will make any noise of its own is during a kill strike. The Intruder will make a quick hissing sound during this strike, and will not make this noise again until it claims its next victim. The Intruder has never been known to kill anyone without hissing during the kill strike. It will usually try to completely disable its prey to the point where it cannot move before it makes the kill strike. It is thought that The Intruder prefers to disable its prey before a kill strike because the act of hissing may be the only time that it is vulnerable to damage. This is purely speculation however.

 

For more scary stories of a longer variety, hit up my links section at the top of this page and scroll down to the end.  The story of Ted the Caver is particularly chilling.

Tweedious

I’ve noticed quite an annoying trend on Twitter lately.  Yes, even more annoying than the usual brain-dumbing drivel you typically see on Twitter.  See, I follow a lot of writers and literary magazines.  It’s nice to see what others writers are talking about and stay up to date on the latest news.  However, it seems lately like these writers only tweet what they’re currently writing about, at that very second.  Tweets like:

Just finished writing another 200 words, yay me!

or

This character I’m writing is making me so mad!

or

Please come smash my laptop to pieces because I’m a brainless tool that can’t keep a single thought to myself!

Okay, that last one is just wishful thinking, but you know what I mean.  It’s hard to explain why this bothers me so much, but it really does.  The thing is, I know for a fact that many of these people have yet to publish a single book or short story in any major literary magazine.  Of course, neither have I, but you don’t see my tweeting about my latest creation 500 times a day either.  There’s a difference between updating a blog a few times a week and chronicling every insipid moment of your life.

Look, I don’t mind people talking about what they’re working on, but there’s only so much of that I can take.  When you become a NYT Best Seller, then I’ll be happy to listen to your creative process in real time.  Until then, I implore you, please shut your virtual trap.

Literal Daze

Today marks the inauguration of a new recurring segment here at The Wilderness, fondly titled “Literal Daze“.  In it, I’ll discuss the most recent book, movie, and/or audio book that I’ve consumed.  It’s not a review, as I have no desire to place some kind of subjective value on how good or bad a piece of work might be.  Instead, it will simply serve as a discussion about what I liked and didn’t like, and that’s basically it.  At the end, I’ll also preview upcoming stuff.  Now, let’s do this!

 

Book:

The Terror (Dan Simmons)

The Terror Book CoverThis kind of felt like reading two different books at the same time. On the one hand, it was a historical portrayal of the British Navy’s search for the Northwest Passage, and all of the trials and tribulations that had to be endured in doing so. On the other hand, it was a straightforward horror read, where characters are picked off one-by-one by some unspeakable horror lurking in the frozen arctic.

Both succeeded on some level, but also failed on another. The historical part of it (which was actually an account of the real Sir John Franklin’s voyage) portrayed the brutality of exploring the northern arctic. It’s quite fascinating seeing how they were able to manage such expeditions. Under those conditions, where temperatures could reach 100 below zero, it’s amazing anyone was able to survive in the first place, much less keep going back time and again. Finding the northwest passage was a pretty big deal it seems. The only issue here was that it sort of read like a history textbook at times, which can certainly be quite interesting, but doesn’t always work in novel form. Long lists of supplies don’t exactly make for a page-turning read. On the plus side though, the writing itself was quite good. The author shifts between several different points of view, from omniscient third-person to first person, to limited third-person and even a little present tense. It doesn’t change things dramatically, but it does mix things up a bit, which is nice.

The other part of it, the horror part (which was obviously the more fictionalized part, since no one really knows what happened to Franklin’s expedition), got off to a fantastic start. With these two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror frozen in place out in open sea ice, the crews have to deal with what appears to be an unusually large polar bear regularly attacking them that they eventually also dub as The Terror. However, it’s unlike any bear they’ve ever come across, as it’s 12 foot tall and tends to return body parts of its victims back to the scene of the crime. As things get worse and worse, and the ice refuses to thaw, the crews have to make some tough decisions about what they need to do in order to survive. The main issue I had with this part of the book is that the main climax seems to come about halfway through the book, and the last half we’re left basically trudging through with them as they struggle to survive. The urgency and horror of the first half completely falters, and we’re left with a sort of meandering plot until it reaches its fairly obvious conclusion.

I will say this – I would have liked this book much better if not for the completely mystical, stupid ending that came out of left field. One section, which basically describes the nature of the monster and all of the mythology surrounding it, read like a badly edited wikipedia article. I was expecting a “citation needed” after every other sentence. And it was basically shoved in an awkward place right in between two narrative chapters. Very strange. I can’t talk about the ending too much without giving it away, just let it be known that it bugged me. We’ll leave it at that.

Overall, if you’re into historical fiction, I’d say it’s worth a read. I’m usually not that much into this kind of thing, but I enjoyed it for the most part.

 

Audiobook:

Blindness (José Saramago)

Blindness Book CoverThings I learned while listening to this book:

(1) Blind people are apparently less-then-human.

(2) This applies double to blind women.

(3) Names for some reason become unimportant when you’re blind, I guess?

(4)Writing a book using nothing but understatement and sarcasm is the way to win a Nobel Prize.

Okay, so as you can guess, I wasn’t a big fan of this book. The premise is interesting, and I think the author did a great job showing what would likely realistically happen if the entire world were plunged into blindness. That said, many of the things that happen in the story, and the way the characters react to them, are baffling to me. Most of all, the Doctor’s wife who can see throughout their entire internment at the asylum. I understand her hesitation in telling everyone this fact, but… she can see! Why not actually use that ability to some extent? Instead, she practically leads them all willingly into the most horrible and vile situations they can imagine, when all the while she could have easily put a stop to much of it. There are many more, but I just don’t have the energy to get into them.

Also, the writing style made me want to scoop my brain out through my ears. Saramago writes in the style that I probably would have used in my 8th Grade English class if I thought I was trying to be clever.  I guess I should be thankful I listened to this one on Audio Book too, because apparently old José is not much of a fan of good grammar and punctuation.  Small blessings.  But then again, the voice actor that did this audio book had a terrible voice, so I guess it’s a wash.

 

Movie:

Rio

Rio ArtworkYes, I went to see this with my daughter.  Beforehand, I was expecting the worst.  I’d seen the commercials.  It looked to be yet another Computer Animated kid’s movie, with special voices like Jamie Foxx, George Lopez,  Tracy Morgan, and Will.I.Am.

Yeah.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  The plot, about a rare blue macaw that is taken down to Rio de Janeiro to mate with a female (necessary because they are the last two of their kind), is more original and moving than I thought it would be.  I especially liked the little sub-plot about his owner meeting the scientist who brought them to Brazil, and how they slowly come to fall for each other.  Cliche maybe, but they pulled it off well.

And of course, the best endorsement I can give is that Claire loved it.  What else could you want?

 

Next Time:

That’s it for this episode, but be sure to come back next time as I brave the digital frontier of William Gibson’s Neuromancer and try to stay grounded with Patrick Rothfuss’ heroic fantasy novel, The Name of the Wind.

By the Moon and the Stars in the Sky

One day, Timmy was sitting in his bedroom playing Army Men with his little brother Kyle.  After pulling off a particularly devastating massacre of his brother’s battalion, he spoke up out of the blue.

“Kyle,” he said, “I think it’s about time we started swearing.”  Kyle looked up at his brother, noting the look of determination on his face.  There was no point in arguing, so he decided to go along with it and voiced his approval.

Timmy grinned.  “Okay, here’s the plan.  When we go down for lunch, I’ll say ‘hell’ and you say ‘ass’.  Got it?”  Kyle hesitantly nodded his head, then followed his older brother downstairs.  As they crawled up into their seat at the kitchen bar, their mother walked in from the living room.

“Hey there, you two look hungry.  What do you want for lunch?” she asked.

“Aww hell Mom, just make me a sandwic-”

Before he could finish his sentence, his mother smacked him across the top of his head so hard that he fell off of his stool and onto the ground.  Stunned, he looked up at his mother who now turned her wide, angry eyes toward his brother.

“How about you, Kyle?” she asked, her gaze steely and unflinching.

“I don’t know,” he answered, “but you can bet your ass I don’t want a sandwich.”

 

***

 

Soap

 

As you may have guessed, the topic for today is (dunn dunn dunnnn) swearing.  This is a delicate subject for me, so understand that I do not approach this lightly.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last several years.

You see, I am a man of faith.  I’m not going to get into the specifics of that here, but it should be understood that swearing is something that is particularly frowned upon by those who hold the same beliefs as me.  Unsurprisingly, I totally agree.  I make it a point in my life not to swear if I can at all help it, regardless of whether I am around my family or friends or anyone else.  It’s just not something I feel the need to do, personally.  And, well, that’s pretty much it.  I don’t plan on changing this aspect of my life any time soon, so let’s move on.

The dilemma I’m running into is that I find it very difficult to write a story that has realistic characters without some of them swearing.  Let’s be honest here.  Swearing is something that lots and lots and lots of people do.  For better or worse, whether you agree with it or not, people like to say naughty words.  It’s a fact of life.

For a very long time, I tried to pretend that this isn’t the case.  In any story I wrote, it never mattered how vile and despicable a character might be;  he or she always had a mouth like a nun, never allowing even the tiniest inkling of a curse to slip past their lips.  It didn’t work.  It took me a long time to figure out why it didn’t work, but I knew intuitively that these characters just weren’t believable.  It was like watching Die Hard on network television.  When Bruce Willis looks at the camera and utters his infamous line, “Yippee-Kie-Yay, fart-lover,” you can’t help but laugh.  Even if you aren’t fond of the language he used in the real version, you can’t help but feel like you just got cheated.

 

Snakes

Get these <gosh darn> snakes off of this <dad gum> plane!

This isn’t to say that every character in my stories needed to curse like a sailor, because that can be just as unrealistic as having no one swear at all.  I can’t stand it when books and movies think they are more edgy and cool just because the main character drops the f-bomb every other word.  Not only is it distracting, it’s also just plain lazy.  No, I needed to find that happy medium, but I had no idea how.  And then, the answer came to me, a realization so simple that most people figure it out by their freshman english lit class.

Just have your characters talk like normal people.

The question is, how do you define “normal”?  The truth is, there is no such thing as normal.  Everyone is different.  We all come from different backgrounds, we all have different experiences, and we all express ourselves in different ways.  By making everyone’s speech pure as the wind-driven snow, I made them all sound the same, not at all like what you hear on a day-to-day basis.  When I’m at work, some people drop a few bad words in now and then, while others find it as unprofessional as I do.  Still others curse like four-letter words are going out of style.  You find the same story at every workplace, every grocery store, every baseball game, almost anywhere you can possibly end up.  So the bottom line is, if I wanted to write interesting characters that actually sounded realistic, some of them would need to curse now and then.  Some of them would need to curse a lot.

And therein lies the problem.  How can I, as someone who doesn’t believe in using foul language, justify my use of writing it into my fictional works?  Isn’t it hypocritical of me to do such a thing?  After all, I’m the one writing the narration, I’m the one making up these characters and stories, so it’s really my voice there on the page.  Isn’t it?  Well, yes and no.  While it’s true that the characters are of my creation, they are not me.  They have their own voice, their own cadence, and their own use of language.  If every character truly was my voice, then it would make for one very boring story.  That’s fine for me, because I don’t mind being a boring guy.  I like boring.  Being bored is one of my favorite past times.  But if I force that onto my characters instead of letting them be who they are, then I am not creating anything of any real value.  And if that’s the case, then what is the point of it all?

So, all of that is to say, indeed, some of my stories will have swearing in them.  Some people aren’t going to like this, I already know.  All I can say to them is that I’m sorry, but it can’t be helped.  I’m going to write, and what comes out is what comes out.  My stories aren’t a reflection of who I am.  I know who I am.  I don’t have to write stories to convince myself of that, and I certainly don’t need anyone else to tell me otherwise.

It’s Ragtime!

Nope, I’m not dead yet, but after four days of National Electrical Code training, I’m starting to feel like it.  I’m definitely too tired to put much effort into a post right now.  So, in the meantime, enjoy this awesome video of some dude playing Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag on a double-necked guitar.

That was totally rad and you know it.

Sliced

Greetings from sunny San Antonio!

 

20110509-075319.jpg

 

So I didn’t mention this yesterday, but I spent a decent portion if Mother’s Day weekend moving dirt around. I got to drive my Dad’s tractor around (and in the process somehow punctured one of its tires, a seemingly impossible feat… sorry Dad). It was pretty awesome.

 

20110509-075649.jpg

 

Unfortunately, at one point when the two of us were moving some dead wood out of the way, a log accidentally scraped against my leg and gave me a pretty good gash.

 

20110509-080009.jpg

 

Fun! So now I’m sitting in my room instead of checking out the riverwalk. Ah well, it probably wouldn’t be much fun without Jennifer and Claire here anyway. Looks like I’ll be turning in early tonight.

Winter is Coming

Just got into San Antonio for a week of training.  I arrived here just in time to catch the latest episode of “Game of Thrones”.  I have to say, the show keeps getting better and better every episode.  Maybe sometime I’ll dedicate a whole post to it or something, but for now, I just wanted to link to this bad boy:

 

House of Stark Stein

Sigil of House Stark

 

Apparently they have stein’s for all the major houses in Westeros, including those for Houses Lannister, Tully, Arryn, Baratheon, Greyjoy, and Targaryen.  Awesome.

Hack it like you stole it!

For all you internet denizens out there not “in-the-know” (this would be me most of the time), there was a pretty huge security breach of Sony’s Playstation Network last week.  At first, Sony didn’t really seem to want to give any information about what happened, but as the days went on, they gradually let it out that the hackers had gained access to quite a lot of information.  This includes names, phone numbers, addresses, emails, usernames and passwords… and maybe they even got Credit Card information.  That’s how Sony said it, not me.  Then, a couple of days after the initial announcement, they admitted that yes, they probably did get access to CC information as well.  Great.

Hackers!

Foreground: Hackers. Background: Playstation Network in smoldering ruins.

Now for me personally, this wasn’t a huge deal since I don’t have a Playstation 3 and don’t use the Playstation Network.  You can imagine my surprise, then, when yesterday I received an email telling me that my private information with Sony may have been compromised in the attack.  Say whaaaat?  Turns out, there was another cyber-attack a few days after the initial one, and this time they hit Sony’s Online Entertainment division, essentially the PC counterpart to the Playstation Network.  I’m assuming that this is where my info was compromised, as I have no doubt that at some point in the past I’ve used SOE to play games online.  However, I am at least fairly confident that it’s been so long since I did, none of the information they may have gotten from me will be current anyway.  I’ll take whatever steps they recommend to help curb information theft, but at this point, the cat’s pretty much out of the bag.  My info done been theft’d.

This got me thinking about the information that we all store online.  How many of us these days don’t have some sort of account online, whether it be with Amazon, iTunes, eBay, PayPal, or any other number of companies who save all of our information on their servers.  We freely give our information out – sensitive information that we normally wouldn’t trust anyone in the world with – and we sit back and hope nothing happens.  When something does happen, we act shocked about it.

There’s a great article on Kotaku about this very topic.  Bruce Shneier, a pretty well-known security guru, sums it all up quite effectively:

“Unfortunately, the moral here is that you give your information to a third-party, blindly trusting them, a bank, a credit card company, a phone company, Amazon, J. Crew, or Sony. You are blinding trusting that they will use the information wisely and secure it. And you have no say how they do that and you have no recourse if they **** up.”

Really, that’s about it right there.  When a company like Sony screws up and lets your information get stolen, what can you do?  You can monitor your credit, sign up for identity protection services, and watch your accounts like a hawk, but in the end there’s nothing that’s 100% effective.  If someone wants your information badly enough and they have the skills to get it, you may as well just hand it over to them.  This is just a symptom of the age we live in.  We give up security for convenience wherever we can.

In the end, I’m not going to sweat it.  Just like everything else, when bad things happen, you pick up the pieces and move on.  Shneier, in the same article, adds this:

“Even with all of that, most people are really safe all of the time.  You’re doing OK, I’m doing OK. I buy stuff online all of the time. I bank online. And what other option is there?”

There’s always Antarctica, I suppose.

The Monster

Indeed, the monster is dead.  The most wanted and most hated man in the western world was killed last week in Pakistan, and his body was buried at sea.  This man that caused the death of thousands in the United States, and cost us many more lives in the wars afterward, has finally been wiped from the face of the Earth.

So why am I not happy about it?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly a good thing that we finally got him.  His presence has been a thorn in the side of the civilized world for over a decade now, and the very fact that he remained alive despite all attempts to the contrary has done immeasurable damage over the years.  Of course, we all know that his death doesn’t mean the end of Al-Qaeda or Islamic Fundamentalism in a larger sense.  Someone will rise up and take his place, and the struggle will go on.  It always does.  Even so, the death of such a prominent figure among their ranks will no doubt deal a massive blow to their cause.  That’s something I can absolutely get behind.

All that said, then, what is my problem?  If Facebook, Twitter, and Cable news are any indication, this should be the happiest day of my life.  Why am I not cheering in the streets, roasting effigies and screaming death to Osama?  I mean, these guys certainly seem to be getting into the spirit of things…

 

Protest

 

Oh, wait a second, that’s not right.  Hang on, let’s try this again…

 

Protest

 

No, that’s not right either.  Okay okay, I’ve got it.

 

Celebration

 

There we go.  See the little American Flag?  That means it’s all good.

Maybe it’s just me, but I guess I find something very off-kilter about celebrating a person’s death.  No matter how bad that person was, he still was a human being.  Even Osama Bin Laden was a little boy once, with brothers and sisters, with parents, with hopes and dreams.  The influences in his life made him into the larger-than-life villain as we view him today, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s still a soul underneath all that.

What is my point, you ask?  I guess I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our life experiences turn us into the people we eventually become.  If I’d been born in Bin Laden’s place, can I say that I would have turned out differently?  I’d like to say yes, but I honestly don’t know.  I still would have been the same person, just pulled in a different direction through circumstances beyond my control.  And then I would have been the monster, and people around the world would be celebrating my death today.

So no, I’m not happy.  I have no desire to pump my fist and mindlessly shout “USA! USA!”  I’m grateful that this chapter of our history is over, and I’m relieved that in the very least, this man specifically can do no more damage to our country.  At the same time, I’m saddened that yet another human life was taken, that the potential inherent in all of us developed into something so hideous and disgusting that we had no choice but to put it down.

I do not mourn for this man.  I mourn for what he should have become, as I do for all who are ripped away from their own humanity as he was.  Before we throw the confetti and release the balloons, let us first remember that old adage.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.