Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beware of the hand you shake

All final destinations are inevitable, which we each have power to control. There will be many well-defined ciphers and nuances, however vague, along the way and to not heed warning will only bring pain and misery. It has been said that ignorance is bliss. Believe me, it is not.
While I won’t go into specific details and only peruse the surface, with hope you will understand and make the change.
Selfish and egotistical, corrupt was my middle name, something that hadn’t troubled, never failing to maintain consistency and continuing on with what was considered normalcy. The signposts were predictable and never vague. Of course I was aware, simply chose to look away instead. Hindsight, like a film on a screen, was now blatantly projecting all those actions, forcing acceptance for my immoral, sinful and wicked ways. It was far too late. My doom was sealed. Tempting fate, calling its bluff had horrendous repercussions because fate doesn’t bluff, and neither does he. Like I said…it’s too late.
It all started in a dream-like haze, as if awaking groggily from an extended deep sleep. There was no reasoning and my body had no feeling. But, there was one exception, a constant churning nag, deeply embedded and gaining momentum that something was amiss.
Within the thick fog shroud were muffled voices, both high and low, some screaming and crying and some calm, and what they were voicing I couldn’t understand. Regardless, I had the sense that each appeared to be in plight and their impending fear, while complex and not comprehensible, was conveyed well.
A short, decrepit old man, like someone’s grandfather, stepped through the murky vapor and stood before me. His crooked and somewhat odd smile complemented his elongated face, but offered no immediate threat.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“While we may have never physically met…you know me and I’m certainly aware of you,” he replied in a calm voice, never taking his dark eyes from mine.
I tried to recall ever knowing or meeting this man, but was drawing nothing but blanks.
“You’ve known me for a long, long time now, and rest assured I was always nearby, watching and waiting. Of course there is no need to go into such frivolities, but allow me to commend, for your freely committed acts were nothing short of spectacular and I must say that I’m considerably impressed.”
While still unable to place knowing this man, he had an uncanny way of expressing himself and I must admit, his words inflated my pride.
“Obviously you needed no assistance and easily found you way. However, I will never appreciate the gesture since I am not gentle.”
The voices surrounding us cried louder as he reached out with a pointed finger and touched my shoulder.
Suddenly it felt as I was being sucked through a vortex, but abruptly stopped and was looking down on a prone body lying on a gurney. There was a distinct feeling of surrounding chaos as a man’s voice yelled clear before a terribly shocking jolt shot through my chest. A few moments later, while still hovering above, able to see the overall scene, the faces were initially blurred, but grew clearer and clearer and it became obvious that it was I who they frantically cascaded on.
One of them, a woman in a white nurse’s uniform, plunged a syringe with a very long needle deep into my chest and oddly enough, I felt the warm rush as the depressor forced the yellowish liquid into my body. Standing alongside her was a man waiting anxiously with silver paddles in each hand.
The woman withdrew the needle from my body and I felt it slip away. After a quick glance over at a machine, its alarm loud, consistent and even, a grim look overcame into her face and her head shook solemnly from side to side. She stepped backwards allowing the paddle holding man to lean in closer.
The man yelled clear and pressed the paddles to my chest. My body surged, heaving upward, but I didn’t feel that.
Suddenly I was standing in the fog with that little old man again, a sense of trepidation rapidly growing inside.
“Consider yourself fortunate,” his spoke with a grin, “like I said, I am not gentle and it is not often that one gets a very last look. However, this time, mischievous and malicious reared its wonderful head. Call it acerbic if you like and I certainly won’t deny. Nonetheless, welcome to our humble abode.”
He extended a stern, burnt and wrinkled, almost skeletal hand.
And…I probably shouldn’t have shaken it…but I did.

Hiya Ghouls, hope your week was full of fright. Mine certainly was. Besides the weekly Land of Shadow and Substance column at Horror News Net, I submitted the fourth in a series called Interview With a Monster to Suspense Magazine. This time it was the Phantom of the Opera. Next time is...well, you'll just have to wait and see. And, I submitted a tale to The Best of the Horror Society 2013 anthology, a closed Facebook group that it attempting to finance an official website, as well as to William Cook's Fresh Fear anthology. Fingers are crossed.

And, with a vacation coming up, I intend to take full advantage and get to filming this short film I have in mind. All the technicals, lighting and equipment are ready and its simply a matter of fx and shooting the scenes. Easy enough....right?

Creep of the week

Well Fiends, that's about it for the week.Like mentioned, vacation next week and a wedding to attend...1000 miles away. So, I'll  post something when I get back. Vidi well my fine, fellowed little druegies, vidi well! And remember...

Stay Scared,


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Interview with a Monster - The Frankenstein File

My Interview with a Monster series is currently running in Suspense Magazine. It is a rather unorthodox fictional series in which I take the time to sit down and discuss with some of horrordom's finest, as if they are actual people.This was the very first and was in the March 2013 issue. April 2013 saw the Dracula interview and I suspect Wolfman will be included in May's issue. Of course, it won't stop there. So many monsters' - So little time. 

Interview With A Monster - The Frankenstein File
by Thomas Scopel

When first learning of the opportunity to interview Frankenstein, rather Frankenstein’s monster, I probably needn’t tell you that I was a bit hesitant. After all, it’s not every day one has the chance to actually sit down with arguably, the king of horror films. Of course, having seen his work, I expected an aggressive and wholly unpredictable, yet bumbling, mumbling and stumbling untrained mind, constantly reaching for answers to my questions and moaning angrily when unable to reach them. And, I also might add, had he chose to threaten and pursue, I was fully prepared to run the perpetual country mile, if that’s what it took to escape.

However, in hindsight, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Imagine my surprise in finding not a monster at all, but a completely rational, intelligent, sensitive individual, smartly dressed in a white shirt and a blue sport blazer, and looking rather dapper as he took the seat across from me and ordered a double espresso, as if it was the most natural thing. As we made small talk prior to the official interview, I was surprised by his candidness and especially the extensive vocabulary he utilized through a deep, monotonous toned voice. However pleasant, I still held apprehension, but also welcomed the challenge of being forced to abruptly change both tactic and questions. The concept made me force myself to consciously attempt to relax. And, while it was rather difficult, considering the fearsome and frightening character sitting across from me staring and anticipating, I would like to also mention, in hindsight, it was a complete privilege.

Thomas Scopel (T.S.): Mr. Frankenstein…

Frankenstein (Frank): Please, call me Frank…

T.S.: Okay Frank. Speaking bluntly, considering you are patched together from many parts, how do you feel?

Frank: I get that question all the time, and my answer is always the same, that I’m fine. That is unless it’s raining, which gets my knee to aching, and as long as no large open flames are involved, heh heh (he chuckled a deep, echoing laugh). That’s a joke…movie thing mind you. No, in all honesty, a stitch here and a stitch there is sometimes required in order to correct the doc’s hasty actions. Can’t say that I blame him though. Have you looked closely at what he was working with? Darkness, an impending majestic electrical storm crackling in the distant, and medical tools that left a lot to be desired. No siree, wasn’t much micro-surgery in those days. Get it? Another joke, (he chuckled again, this time with a touch of enthusiasm). Of course, if you’re wondering whether I’m able to reach over and snatch the life right out of you (his face took on a fearsome, mean appearance complete with ruthless staring eyes not shown in the film), I certainly could. And that somewhat short race you’re anticipating or feeling compelled to attempt won’t do much good either. I’m considerably quicker now, (his head lowered and his eyes pierced deadly into mine and I was suddenly more terrified than I had ever been) a product of many microsurgery's. (After holding the glare for what felt like eternity, but was a mere few seconds, he burst into a hearty, if not bellowing, humorous laugh). That’s another joke…I still have it! No seriously, how do I feel? I feel fine.

T.S.: How old are you?

Frank: Well, like most women, I prefer to not discuss age. I was created when Ms. Shelly wrote that first word. However, I like to think I was born with that lightning strike. You do the math.

T.S.: You were originally labeled a monster, Frankenstein’s monster. But, somewhere along the way you began being referred to simply as Frankenstein. What do you have to say about that?

Frank: Personally, it doesn’t trouble me. However, while the doc hasn’t conveyed it, I know the concept troubles him. I mean, how would you feel if someone took your name and was reaped with all the rewards, leaving you out in the cold? Regardless, I take horror very seriously. After all, it’s been my bread and butter for a generation or two now. And, let’s be blunt, I personify monsterism, especially with this evergreen colored skin and these somewhat idiotic bolts sticking out of my neck. Nonetheless, I suppose I see it all as a badge of honor. Without the label, and to be perfectly honest, without the doc, I would have been nothing. Obviously, I enjoy scaring people, as you’ve already seen, but I really tend to lean toward viewing myself as that Herman guy, lovable, laughable and sometimes, for lack of a better word, rather uneducated.

T.S.: You are rather intimidating. Maybe it’s just your size which implies extensive capabilities. Speaking of that comedy sitcom knock off, how do you feel about their conception of your character?

Frank: When I first saw it, it really made me mad. Horror is horror and comedy is comedy and it was very hard for me to accept the fine line between both. However, after viewing a few episodes and realizing the popularity involved, I simmered a bit and change perspectives, realizing and even appreciating that they were at least keeping my character in the spotlight, regardless whether it was comedic. And, I have to admit to developing a bit of a crush on Lilly. Boy! is she a hot vixen. She can bite me any day. Not like the Lancaster chick. And, as most everyone knows, I have no children. So both Marilyn and Eddie would be simply perfect in personifying my delusions of grandeur. Something a father-want-to-be would be proud of. 

T.S.: We’ve never seen you eat anything, what are some of your favorite foods?

Frank: Well, I like most everything, but my taste buds never fully developed and so I am unable to fully enjoy standard cuisine as most folks and I primarily seek out texture. Somehow, that seems to make up for the flavor loss. Strong flavors I can partially detect, and I tend to pursue those. And, there are a number of items that I avoid too; not because I dislike them, but because they dislike me and cause a terrible case of indigestion. My body doesn’t digest well and so I typically stick to fruits and vegetables, only for nutrition sake. On occasion I’ll tempt fates and have a thick, juicy cheeseburger loaded with onions and eventually end up wishing I hadn’t. But, it never stops me from a repeat performance from time to time. And, speaking of onions, they’re one of those strong flavors, same with garlic. Of course, after ingesting them, I do have a tendency to reek.

T.S.: With your well known fear of fire, do you barbecue?

Frank: Yes, but it’s always with a gas type grill. None of that charcoal and lighter fluid for me. Too much opportunity for mishap.

T.S.: While I think I may detect a slight smell emulating from you, it’s not all that strong or repulsive, sort of a new car smell. Do you harbor a death odor and if so, how do you combat it?

Frank: Like I mentioned earlier, the parts seem to be working fine. But, they were all dead at one time and due to that aspect, with it comes the never-ending aroma. Not much I can do about it. Lord knows I’ve tried. I have learned to somewhat mask it and make being around me more palatable. The onions and garlic help tremendously. And, I’m pretty well known at a number of higher end department stores’ fragrance sections. I’m the seven foot tall green guy at the counter asking for a few of those little samples of the latest colognes. Usually, after the sales girl’s initial fright, she reaps me with them. Of course, I always have to sample the open bottles too. Oh, and the magazines too. You know, the ones with the fold over sheet that harbors the scent. Those work well too. However, there is never enough to mask and I usually resort to tearing out the sheets and tucking them inconspicuously in various pockets. A lot of times that does the trick. Today I’ve loaded up on car air fresheners, so (hearty chuckle) your nose doesn’t undermine with the new car scent.

T.S.: While we’re on the subject of fear, do you have any nightmares?

Frank: Sometimes, but they’re not typical. You would think I dream of fire, considering my track record, but I don’t. Never do. I dream about how I frightened that little girl, even though when we were filming she wasn’t all that scared. Maybe, and hindsight is always twenty-twenty, if I hadn’t seen the finished product, this wouldn’t have occurred. I’ll let you in on a little secret. That scene scared me way more than the fire did. Maybe I am more like that Herman guy than I’d like to admit.

T.S.: Why haven’t you ever made a sequel to your blockbuster flick?

Frank: Funny you should ask. As everyone knows, I was supposedly destroyed in the fire. There were discussions about bringing my character back, but it was too tough finding a good storyline that didn’t appear vague and believable about my escaping the clutches of a fiery death. Let’s face it, my death was needed in order to both, stay true to the book, as well as properly close the film. That much I understand and whole-heartedly agree with. However, I would have liked to continue on with a film career. But, it’s for the better since I would have wanted my character to have progressed from the obtuse originally projected to having a speaking role. Nonetheless, I was stereotyped and therefore, that wasn’t going to occur. For years I wrestled with this concept, eventually coming to the conclusion that, like the studios, my best work had already been completed. Of course, that didn’t deter the studios from attempting to capitalize on the success and my fame and they pursued that bride thing. To me, that seemed a bit moronic. Too much like an Adam and Eve type thing I suppose. Of course, that’s only my personal opinion and I’m probably more than a little biased with the animosity involved.

T.S.: Well, we’ve covered the aroma, what about clothing and shoes? You must have a rough time hunting down a size that fits?

Frank: I used to, before it became so easy to shop from home. I had such a terribly tough time hunting things down. After all, Rodeo Drive is all about trendy and they certainly don’t cater to the big and tall, nor do they stock anything over a size five. Even had a tough time at Walmart and they usually have everything. I typically found myself browsing secondhand stores. Sometimes I’d get lucky and sometimes I didn’t. Now, with the Internet age and online shopping, that has all drastically changed and there are a number of websites I have stumbled across and since stored in my favorites; everything from hats to shoes and the sizes are usually spot on.

T.S.: So what’s next for the big green monster?

Frank: Well, as you would probably suspect, there hasn’t been a flood of scripts flowing my way. Let’s face it. I’m not the romantic comedy leading man material. But, I remain hopeful and check the mailbox every day.

Author’s note: I couldn’t help but feel melancholic at how abruptly I ended the interview. Somehow throughout the interview I had begun to feel sorry for the big lug. But, it wasn’t strong enough to override the fact that had he wanted to, he could have easily reached over the table and snapped my neck like a twig. That intrepidation was what forced the issue, and with each step I took away from him, the fear and stress lifted, dissipating completely only after the hearing diner’s door hiss closed behind me. That was until I recalled the Dracula interview I had scheduled for next month and realizing that darkness would not be a negotiation, but a certainty, and simply wearing a turtleneck sweater probably won’t suffice. Maybe I’ll take Frank’s lead and wear a garlic necklace, not for scent coverage, but for security. Hopefully Drac won’t be offended.

And, creep on by my Twilight Zone Land of Shadow and Substance column at Horror News Net where a new episode is reviewed each week. 

Creep of the Week

Until next time Ghouls, remember...

Stay Scared,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Every proper zombie family picnic basket should always include fingers.

Don't Forget the Fingers: A Guide to the Perfect Zombie Family Picnic
by Thomas Scopel.
(first published in Suspense Magazine - May 2011)

Just like most families in this current fast-paced, rat of a race day and age, quality time is a highly sought after, yet rare occurrence. However, all hope is not lost. With summer on the horizon, better and warmer weather is certain to allow the opportunity to tackle this dilemma head on with various outdoor activities. Picnic’s are one such activity that the living find to be relatively inexpensive and most rewarding. But, why should it be limited to the living? Zombie families have needs, desires, and wants too. And, there is no reason why a zombie family can’t also enjoy this activity.
However, unlike the living, there are certain considerations that must be addressed. And, with simply a little extra planning, it can be a most enjoyable experience for all. This guide, although not absolutely complete and subject to variation, is to be treated as an aid in that planning, and covers most aspects. Of course, be sure to use what little brain you have left to explore specific family orientations.

* Location, location, location. This cannot be stressed enough. Choosing the right spot is the most crucial aspect for an enjoyable family outing. Most often, the best location is one of seclusion, ensuring that living, and often fright-filled, observers, do not damper the family atmosphere with their typical “HELP” cries. If or when this occurs, gather all family members and retreat immediately.

* Spots surrounded and covered by thick trees are ideal. Space matters and make every attempt to leave a considerable distance between you and the living. With any luck, they won’t even notice your family’s physical appearance differences, and leave well enough alone.

* Avoid shelters and picnic tables. Selecting a spot under or at one of these is simply asking for trouble. Granted, they are comfortable and nice, but they are also prime noticeable locations. It is a quick route to a ruined family adventure.

* While bright, sun shiny days may be ideal for the living; they are typically detrimental to non-living flesh. Sunlight, especially bright, hot, and glaring sunlight, not only warms, fast increasing decay and rot, but also runs the risk of sizzling your lighter shaded flesh. Kids are especially vulnerable and usually unaware of this hazard, primarily concerned with excitedly stumbling around, until it’s too late. A couple of alternatives would be to coat the exposed part with the highest sun block available, or keeping the tattered clothing covering it completely. The latter is probably the most recommended considering that sun-block works in conjunction with embalming fluid and will usually and typically cause a speed increase in the decay process. Coincidently, sunlight is also hard on the deceased eye since the pupil was frozen upon death and does not allow screening. And, it may very well cause blindness. Therefore, for the living dead family, overcast skies will most assuredly be the wiser choice.

* Rainy days are another good choice since the living typically avoids these weather conditions when picnics are concerned. And, the opportunity for the family to utilize an open picnic table is optimized on these days. However, continue to observe the “no shelter” rule just in case a living family happens to be caught up in the rain and decides to seek a dryer location. 

Warning: It’s very possible that there will be the living closely nearby. DO NOT risk ruining the family outing and atmosphere by eating them. Resist the urge. You have your own basket. There will be plenty of days ahead to forage for living flesh.
There are many ideal foods that the zombie family can enjoy together. Think ahead. On prior prowling, capturing and eating adventures, try to save a few parts for the big day. Fingers, toes, ears, and maybe even a few innard strips are ideal for a quick grab and go, tide over snack that will hold the kids before the main course is served. 

* Even if the food basket may be overflowing with various tasty, blood filled fleshy pieces and parts, there are still many opportunities to add to it. On the way, be on the look out for road kill. Various animals have different flavors, and the older, more decayed ones are usually the best, already having added parasites and juicy little white crawling flavorful tidbits. The kids will thank you!

* While at the site, be sure to explore any nearby wooded areas’. They are superb locations for additions such as mice and insects. Be meticulous with your search. Dead rotted stumps, logs, and woodpiles, can offer a bevy and virtual treasure trove of crawling meal additions, from large moist grubs to beetles of all sorts, and possibly even a snake or two. Get off the beaten path and venture deeper into the foliage. Try digging (being fully aware to not lose any fingers’ in the process) underneath, around, and partially into the soil. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

* Vultures can provide a wonderful opportunity for an added meal addition too. With they’re tendency to linger around dead flesh, they are easily caught when one knows a simple technique. Using yourself as bait, lie perfectly still until one takes notice. The wait usually isn’t all that long and they will typically flock to you, thinking of nothing but a tasty meal. When they begin to peck, reach out and latch hold of it and wring it’s neck. It’s as easy as that. Imagine how proud and excited the family will be when you come lumbering up holding a freshly killed Buzzard carcass. (Side Note: Be sure to let the children taste the rot filled stomach. It’s the best part.) 

Although many typical picnic activities generally revolve around, entailing, and requiring varying degrees of quickness, don’t be discouraged with the living dead speed handicap. There are many slower activities that the family can partake in and share together.

* A leisurely family hike can be very rewarding. From scourging to teaching the kids the proper hiding techniques to how to distinguish the most direct and least resistive path to a potential victim, the list is virtually endless. Hide and seek can be rather fun too.

* Swimming, although not recommended, can also be an option. Of course, keep in mind that there are certain hazards to be aware of when doing so. For example, dead flesh does not harbor oxygen. Therefore, attempts at swimming will generally result in nothing more than a quick sink to the bottom. Hungry fish will most likely take delicious notice and begin pecking and eating at you. When this occurs, don’t fret. After all, it is too late now anyway. Saunter, as fast as possible, across the lakebed, up the slope at the waters’ edge, and make your way out and away from them reserving yourself to the fact that a part of you will now be missing.

* A friendly game of tag is not only a fun way to experience togetherness, but it will also be a learning experience for the children too. It inadvertently teaches them chasing and grasping skills that they will use throughout their deathtime. The old adage, lead a zombie to a dead body and you will feed them for a day; but, teach a zombie to catch the living flesh and you will feed them for a deathtime certainly applies.

Potential hazards & what to avoid:
* Keeping the speed element in mind, most sporting activities are probably best reserved for the considerably faster, living folks. Volleyball, badminton, and softball are just a few to avoid. They require a substantial amount of physical excursion, from running to jumping, and the living dead condition simply cannot take the required forces. Partaking in these types of activities, although enjoyable, is risky at best and will usually result in broken parts that will hamper future endeavors. As a parent, pay close attention to the children as they are the most apt to explore these types of things, obviously unaware of their limitations. A broken leg and subsequently being forced to walk on a stump for the rest of their death will certainly be the source of a zombie parent’s regret.

* The living should be avoided at all times when on these family outings. Be chronically aware and constantly use your keen sense of living flesh smell. Smell them before they see you is a good motto to follow.
* Pests come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and annoyances. The common housefly, unlike mosquitoes who seek out living blood, is probably the most concerning. It is automatically drawn to your “death” aroma, and whole-heartedly wants to deposit its future generations onto and into you. They are viciously aggressive and basically won’t stop no matter how much shooing you do. Various sprays and candles on the market today will greatly assist in keeping them, as well as many other dead flesh seeking insects, at bay. Therefore, be sure to add this item to the top of your master picnic item list.
As previously mentioned, this aid is simply a basic guideline covering some of the most common living dead family picnic outing aspects that should be considered and adhered to. Although it may not address and dictate all the endless possibilities and/or potentials, it is a wonderful start. By adhering to them, the odds of that family picnic becoming a memory of a deathtime will be greatly increased.


Until next time Boils and Ghouls....Stay Scared!