Pruritus [HALLOWEEN STORY]

https://www.sciencenews.org/sites/default/files/main/blogposts/Itch_free.jpg

It’s just an itch.

I’m back! And just in time for Halloween, because for the first time since 2011, I decided to get something out on the internet in time for the holiday that’s spookier than last-minute emailing a graded college assignment. Yes, Cornell Law School can be a literal and figurative trial, but I’ve kept you all waiting too long for something new to read on this blog, and “you” includes myself, swamped grad student schedule and all.

So without further ado (because even if you read this on Halloween night, I’m sure you’re doing so through an attention deficit haze of Fun Size Snickers bars and/or vodka–not that there’s anything wrong with that!), I give you Pruritus, a short experimental-ish horror story based on little bits of random creepypastas, me finally catching up on The X-Files, one of those lingering “what if?” hooks rattling around in my brain, and an attempt to finally see if meshing law and weird fiction is all my ambivalent John Grisham-topping ambitions have cracked it up to be.

So turn out the lights, keep your attorney’s number close, and don’t worry about that tingling feeling that keeps coming back whenever you scratch beneath your costume–this is

Pruritus

Nightmare Force: DEMON Classes

As promised the other day, here’s a brief list of the “classes” of DEMONs that Aron and company may confront in the Nightmare Force series:

 

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1: Photographers

Denotes a DEMON which takes the form of or “inhabits” a computerized image file. Visual exposure to a Photographer has been known to cause paranoia, sleep disorders (i.e. night terrors), and insanity, sometimes culminating in death by remote means or a manifestation. The image may be of the DEMON’s eventual manifestation, but it may just as easily be of some other disturbing or innocuous subject. In the case of preexisting images uploaded to an electronic network, those of a psychologically disturbing nature are prime targets, as DEMONs across classes primarily feed on the electrochemical energy generated by the human emotions of fear and anxiety.

 

suicidemouse.avi

2: Animators

Animators take the form of nonexistent episodes of animated television programs or films. Variations of preexisting animated footage are possible as well — and all the more dangerous, as the DEMON’s influence may not be readily apparent. The episodes will invariably be a disturbing or surreal deviation from the source material, portraying graphic and tonally perverse events, often via imagery that could not exist within the confines of the source program’s real-world creation. Although Animators are not as dangerous upon visual contact as Photographers, they have been known to change based on who views them — even among multiple simultaneous individuals — and produce unique effects capable of inducing despondency, violent behavior, or catatonia.

 

The Grifter

3: Directors

Essentially identical in characteristics and effects to Animators, with the exception that their footage consists of live-action people and places. However, the “works” of Directors can still take the form of either polished film or crude “found footage.” As with Photographers, some are legitimate recordings of a DEMON which facilitates its propagation by digital means, while others are created wholly by the Director. Differentiation between the two varieties — as well as what is merely legitimately disturbing footage unrelated to DEMONS — is an inherent challenge.

 

Pokemon Black

4: Programmers

Programmers target videogames, computer games, and other programs in general. Like Animators and Photographers, they may infect a preexisting game or create their own (albeit in purely digital form) through which to spread detrimental effects. However, this change can range from a slight modification of key features to — in the case of narrative-driven games — a total overhaul of the plot and characters. The challenge in tracking Programmers is that lesser interferences are often dismissed as “glitches” or “hacks,” while Programmers have been known to transcend their confines and infect other technology.

 

THE KING COME DOWN

5: Authors

Though relatively uncommon, Authors are perhaps the most dangerous of DEMONs. They manifest in the form of text, which can quite literally go viral when distributed over the internet or — if the Author threatens or somehow possesses its victim — surreptitiously left in public on a digital device or storage medium. The “writing” can range from a complex story to a short warning to a jumble of nonsensical characters. In any case, by tracking the ocular movements and brain waves of its victim, an Author is almost guaranteed to manifest or in some way further spread after its victim has completed reading. Authors may manifest immediately or after a set period of times, though performance of a particular ritual may delay the event or transfer it to another victim.

 

Equalizer-Mono-HD-1024x576

6: Singers

The rarest of DEMONs, Singers choose to spread via digital audio files. These “Songs” are generally unnerving atonal pieces or cacophonous snippets of noise, though preexisting recordings of a disturbing nature are naturally a prime target for DEMONs if transferred to a computerized format. Listening to some or all of a Singer has been known to result in flu-like symptoms at the least, and psychotic breakdowns or manifestation (immediate or delayed) at the worst.

 

[Click through for edit source]

7: Viruses

“Virus” refers to any DEMON which does not fit into the above categories. Because of their unpredictability, Viruses are assumed to be especially dangerous. Viruses may be reclassified at any time, and so the term can actually denote any unidentified DEMON.

[In “A Routine Tune-Up,” though Aron doesn’t explicitly mention it, Graytongue would be considered a Programmer, although its particular use of creepspace and “nesting” in  a separate real-world location was unique enough to consider it a “partial Virus”]

New Story: “A Routine Tune-Up” (+Introducing NIGHTMARE FORCE)

nightmare force banner

Happy almost-summer! Since last posting, I’ve finished my first year of law school at Cornell, and I’m currently gearing up for studying international law at the Sorbonne in Paris starting next week. In the meantime, though, I’ve been tending to a smaller project I started when progress on my novel (There’s Something Wrong with the Neighbor’s Cat) got to feeling too daunting in the short term. That project: a short prequel/interquel to a very different novel: Nightmare Force.

Some background, because this is a vignette/”spec script” of sorts: Nightmare Force is intended to be a horror/sci-fi thriller loosely based on “Binary DNA” (by “K.I. Simpson,” I think) and a handful of other creepypasta. The main characters are a team of six Engineering grad students at the fictional Cardinal University in New England; by day, they are the school’s “NetFixerz” tech support group, but by dark they are the “Nightmare Force,” hunting monsters, ghosts, interdimensional beings, and other entities that interfere with our world via electronic technology. Picture a hi-tech combination of The Brothers Grimm and Inception – with imagery drawn equally from cyberpunk and surrealist artists like Zdzisław Beksiński — and you’re not far off.

The circumstances of where the Nightmare Force obtained their skills — as well as how they first met — are mysteries to be slowly revealed over the course of the series. However, while I always told myself I’d never pull a Richard Kelly and assume everybody understood the elaborate universe I created after only sharing a quarter of it, this story features terms and tools that–for the sake of pacing and chronology with the rest of the planned series–I didn’t feel comfortable providing an exposition dump for. As such, I’ve added brief character bios and a glossary below, as well as links to a few relevant songs I listened to while writing. Feel free to read them first to understand what’s going on (WARNING: SOME SPOILERS), or just jump right in and check it later as the mood suits you!

Either way, put on your gloves, secure all the exits, and make sure your screwdriver is good and sharp, because it’s time for…

A Routine Tune-Up

#NightmareForce

- – -

Character Bios

  • Aron Lovelace: The primary leader. Aron is first in line to issue orders, interact with entities, and communicate with outside sources. He is professional and focused almost to a fault, but still knows how to lift his teammates’ spirits at one second and get down to business the next. Aron is asexual as well as dysamoric.
  • Ripley “Rip” Zeese: The “lifeline” and secondary leader. Although the team’s rotation schedule occasionally puts her “in the field,” Ripley generally operates from the secret Nightmare Force “HQ” with a triple-monitor computer array, lightning fast internet connection, and remote aid. When not in the field, she maintains constant contact with Aron via an earpiece, a responsibility which sometimes conflicts with her unrequited affection for him. For better or worse, her efficiency is owed to being a literal workaholic, as well as a variation of insomnia which allows her to only need three hours of sleep a night.
  • Calvin “Cal” Gutenberg: The data-collection expert. Cal studies for physical traces of an entity’s past or current presence, collecting samples when need be. He is chiefly tasked with using the “neo-vial,” a test tube-like device which produces information concerning the chemical composition of any substance put inside it. Cal is bulimic, but has yet to seek help.
  • Angela Redwall: The survey expert. Angela assess and secures the surroundings — digital and tangible — of the environment before the team “goes to work,” as well as the likely type of entity they face [“Classes” will be explained in a later post]. She has high-functioning autism.
  • Richard “Rich” Logenbach: Hardware expert: Richard is in charge of handling and managing the team’s arsenal and tools. Although Aron is the leader, Richard’s people skills are stronger and so he often helps ease potential clients and provide any relevant alibis. He is also a minimalist, and has a unique neurosis that can best be described as “compulsive charitableness.”
  • Fuller Narson: Co-hardware expert: Fuller works in tandem with Richard, although his knowledge of their hardware is not as extensive. Fuller suffers from an inferiority complex and severe codependency, and it is with awareness of this that Aron makes sure to emphasize the value of his contributions to the team.
  • Rod: Rod is Aron’s tulpa, a “thoughtform” which — as the only child of a broken home — he created to keep himself company. However, Rod slowly morphed from a joyful clone of Aron to a repository for his most perverse dormant emotions, and grew beyond Aron’s control to erase from existence. The two enjoy an uneasy relationship, as while Rod generally appears to humiliate or threaten Aron, it also has a unique insight into interdimensional beings and creepspace which it may impart to Aron — with or without him realizing it.

 – – -

Glossary

  • DEMON: In the world of Nightmare Force, all the ghosts, monsters, curses, and “haunted videos” you’ve heard about are real–though not as you’d expect. Rather, these phenomena are the result of quasi-parasitic beings from other dimensions which, for scientific reasons even the Nightmare Force has yet to fully understand, find the most efficient way to enter our world is through the electrical activity in computers, televisions, videogames, and other forms of modern technology. The origin of these beings can still vary, though, and hence the catch-all term “DEMONs”: Digitally-Embodied Malevolence and Organized Neuroses.
  • Gloves: The Nightmare Force wears gloves for the same reason construction workers or exterminators do: to prevent injury or “infection.” A specialized electric current running through the gloves prevents any DEMONs from harming, possessing, or otherwise interfering with the team while they manipulate technology with their hands.
  • //skeletonkey:  A codeword developed by the Nightmare Force to bypass extensive coding and alter a computer’s settings more efficiently. Although all of the team’s members have extensive coding experience, time is often of the essence, and a failed skeletonkey bypass is a quick sign that something is seriously wrong. The codeword’s usefulness is limited in that it will only work with computers that have been programmed to accept it (such as Cardinal’s school network).
  • Scrubbing: Although DEMONs can generally only move via a wire or direct signal, wireless cross-platform transmission (such as from a phone to a computer) is not impossible. As such, when security is a risk, Rip may remotely “scrub” sensitive connections to the team, shutting out DEMONs before they can enter. The process consumes enormous amounts of computing power and electricity, so it can only be performed for short bursts of time.
  • Code Omega: In the Nightmare Force’s line of work, frauds and mistakes are not uncommon, and even a legitimate threat may bide its time before displaying explicitly supernatural properties. “Code Omega” signifies that the team is unmistakably dealing with a DEMON, and must take appropriate actions.
  • Manny: Short for “manifestation” — refers to the form which a DEMON takes if it enters the “real world.”
  • Biotrackers: Minuscule tracking chips implanted in each member of the Nightmare Force, impenetrable and undetectable by any known devices except their own.
  • Creepspace: The nickname for a “transpsychological paradimension,” in which a DEMON may — through some form of sensory contact, such as touch or sight — abduct a person into a pocket dimension bound to its mind, like a spider dragging prey to its nest. Conventional laws of time and space will not necessarily apply in creepspace, and those trapped within may die or go insane before they can manage to escape. Voluntary entry into and exit from creepspace is possible but extremely risky, and no two pocket dimensions are alike.
  • Gun: The Nightmare Force’s guns fire tinted bullets which also carry a compressed electrical charge. For security’s sake, they will only function if handled while wearing charged gloves as well.

- – -

And finally, here’s some songs I like that capture the mood and themes of Nightmare Force:

“Metapocalypse” (*What if Bad Pop Fiction Doomed the World?*)

Anybody else remember "Reading is Fundamental"?

Anybody else remember “Reading is Fundamental”?

No, not Metalocalypse! Although the style’s not too far off, now that I think of it…

Anyway, this is a story I first conceived of some time in the middle of college, but I didn’t start (and finish) writing it until 2013, a few months into my first semester of law school at Cornell. It was the first short story that I was set to get serious about submitting to magazines… but hardcore studying got the best of me, and seeing a lot of “no simultaneous submission” requests from the top scifi/fantasy publications, I decided to put it on the back burner after the first rejection letter (not that I was discouraged!).

In any case, I had fun constructing the “world” of this one, and gleefully indulging in dystopian fiction tropes as I went. Basically, I wanted to express some of my legitimate concerns about the oversaturation of certain trends in contemporary (YA) fiction, but do so in an over-the-top, darkly comedic fashion: what if a Divergent/Hunger Games-esque ripoff got so popular that it brought about its own apocalypse? Well, lock your windows tight, grab a well-worn notebook and pen–and whatever you do, don’t listen to the faceless voices just outside, begging you to come and listen to their fan fiction. It’s time to enter the…

METAPOCALYPSE

The events may be absurd, but as anybody who frequents Tumbr can attest, Fandoms are a force to be reckoned with. Whatever your favorite book is, are you prepared to join the Literesistance?

“You Won’t Read This” (Poem)

Wait... is that a baseball diamond back there?

Wait… is that a baseball diamond back there?

Well, it’s been a time since I shared some poetry on here — what with law school and all — but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing it. It took gradual progress and drafting, but I started and finished this one after only a month or so into the winter semester! It sat on my hard drive for a while, passed around among friends, but I decided I should share it on here.

It’s about college, and part-time jobs, and literary journals. It’s about paranoia, and privilege, and not being totally sure who or what you want to spend life doing. It’s about girls — a million, or three, or maybe just one. It’s about videogames, the internet, and wishing you could talk with music and intense colors instead of text messaging and social cues.

Ironically, the poem “functions” best the fewer people read it — and yet, of course, I love to share my work and get feedback. So I hope you don’t take the title to heart too strongly when I say…

You Won’t Read This

- – -

This particular piece felt like a leap for me at first, but in retrospect it was a pretty logical progression. During and after writing a “literary self-portrait” in English last year, “An Easier Way to Get Out of Our Little Heads,” I realized how natural, cathartic, and yet… well, artistic it felt to write in a prose-poetry style–flitting between ideas and images, figures of speech and cultural references, yet wrapping it all back around around a core of feelings and thoughts that read as personal and yet relatable.

Looking back, I started letting poetry take over keeping a journal around the end of high school — a few stray verses or a whole poem every few months (admittedly, of varying objective quality) as a way of condensing my hopes, frustrations, and a handful of powerful memories into a structured yet sincere whole. So with this one, I decided to take everything I’d learned — and experienced — in the past few year, and try it again. It may be too early to self-declare a niche for my poetry, but I feel like I really found it with this one (is “love and philosophy for Millenials” too long a moniker?).

I’m Not Dead! (+A RAP VIDEO THAT’S RIGHT)

Couldn't think of a picture, so here's my "quotepic" of "The Beat Goes On" by Beady Eye!

Couldn’t think of a picture, so here’s my “quotepic” of “The Beat Goes On” by Beady Eye!

Good grief, how long’s it been? One, two, three, four, five… six months? I couldn’t blame you if you jumped ship on this blog after that long–in this fast-paced age, I probably would’ve moved on to greener pastures of soft-focus nature photography and motivational fitness posts myself. Shoot, Tumblr really did get the better of me!

Well, that and law school — because yes, I am still clinging on for dear professional life at Cornell Law! Since last September, I’ve celebrated my first birthday without a proper family party, cleared the first semester with a 4.9 GPA, loved, lost, hovered somewhere uncomfortably in-between, and got on the fast track to study international law at the Sorbonne in Paris this summer. Regrettably, my writing’s slowed to a crawl since then, but (often, I fear, to my detriment) I never stop thinking and consequently taking notes on ideas for plots, quotes, general philosophical musings, and the occasional rap lyric. Also, Tumblr’s fun, but I owe it to myself to have a dedicated site for my writing work, how few and far apart it may appear — if only so y’all who bought my book don’t feel shortchanged for abiding by my advice to “stay updated” at Notes & Sketches!

- – -

So on that note, I’d like to present a candid–albeit regrettably slightly truncated–video of me performing my slam/rap poem “Dour Number One” (link to the old PDF post) at Cornell Law’s 2014 “Cabaret,” a miniature festival of art, auctions, and alcohol put on annually by the school’s Public Interest Law Union. I’d performed it before, but never with a crowd this big — even knowing it by heart with some new tweaks, I got pretty shaky up there, so I apologize for losing the mic a few times!

Dour Number One – LIVE

Rumbl in the Tumbl (FOR THOSE UNAWARES)

I just Googled "Tumblr" and grabbed something that came up... I don't know, I got studying to do.

I just Googled “Tumblr” and grabbed something that came up… I don’t know, I got studying to do.

I have a Tumblr now! You’re probably already aware of this if you follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend, but I thought I would just make a formal announcement for those who still favor my blog, or wondered whether I had anything interesting to say for the last half-month again. While WordPress has been convenient and enjoyable to share writing through in the past, I’m planning on slowly shifting to and/or redundantly posting my shorter poetry and prose on Tumblr as well, as the more openly social nature of the site will hopefully allow my work to reach a wider audience more quickly–as well as introduce me to amazing projects that others are hoping to publicize, too!

So just follow that link right down there. I promise I’ll go easy on the washed-out nature pictures and HBO gifs!

http://trevorneilwhite.tumblr.com/

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