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Saturday Shorts: Country Roads

Country Roads

Even with the heater going full blast, Susan could barely feel her fingers for the cold. Her thick mittens did little to take the bone deep chill of the truck cabin away. The snow fell thickly outside, reflecting the headlights of the truck in odd ways, making the road more treacherous than it already was, the wipers working furiously. The snow danced like ghosts across the stretch of abandoned back road.

Susan hated early mornings, when the sun was still hours away from rising, and absolutely loathed the cold. Despite these certainties, she loved the snow, as it was beautiful in its own way. It was part of the reason she had stayed in North Dakota, despite her hatred of winter. The other reason she had stayed for so many years was why she was up at such an ungodly hour in the first place, driving when it was likely that every weather and news station in the county was advising against even going out your front door.

The trailer she was towing behind the truck pulled along, following in the ruts created by the full ton trucks winter tires. For all Susan knew, she wasn’t even driving on the actual road, since the only markers that made the stretch a road in this weather was her ingrained memory from having come this way countless times before. Hell, she almost missed the turn off indicator as she came up to it, though in reality it was not an official demarcation of destination, just an old oak tree, branches now heavy with snow, the indicated she had reached her turn. With a hard jerk on the wheel, she managed to make the cut, the chains on her tires gripping the snow and the gravel below it to keep her from sliding; the trailer bounces along behind. In this storm, the tree was her only indication that she was at the pasture. The snow was so uniformly white and even that it was all muscle memory and reflex at this point, keeping her calm and steady behind the wheel.

Another five minutes of steady travel into the pasture, and she was actually beginning to be able to feel her fingers, though it could just as easily been the beginnings of frostbite, as she had had a brush or two with that in the past. It would have been glorious to be able to sit in the cabin of the truck, as the warmth began to slowly leach away the battering cold, but she was at her destination and there was no time to dawdle. She was not the only thing that was likely feeling cold, as it was  ‘ not fit for man nor beast out there’, as her dad had been want to say when he was alive.

With a deft twist, Susan cut the lights on the truck, and shifted to neutral, letting the truck and trailer roll forward to a slow and steady stop. Reaching up, she made sure her knit cap was pulled down tight over her ears, meeting the edge of the heavy scarf she had wound round and round her neck. Quickly, as if she were removing a band-aid, she threw the truck door open and jumped down, trudging through the near knee-high snow towards the back of the trailer. From inside, these was the distinctive sound of hooves on metal, and puffs of steam rose from the small ventilation windows. The bleating of a handful or tired and upset sheep echoed off the bare trailer walls, as the flock made its protest known. The smell of wet wool and lanolin was just strong enough to cut over the cold and crisp air of the storm, which numbed the nose almost to the point of being useless.

Susan could hardly blame the sheep for being disagreeable, their foul mood was something she could relate to, given the circumstances. Being pulled from warm stocks at herded into a semi warm trailer at 3;00 AM would have that effect on anyone, though some would be able to protest in much more horrendous fashions. Susan lowered her scarf ever so slightly and let loose two short, shrill whistles that cut over the wind, and the sheep settled somewhat in the trailer, letting out a few soft baa’s as back talk.

Despite the thickness of her gloves, the little bit of warmth she had begun to feel was already bleeding away, so Susan made quick work of removing the dual lock and pins that held the back ramp in place. The ramp sank down into the snow, not resting fully level, but angling enough that it would be a short transition of trailer to ground for her charges. The latch that held the rolling door secure was a little bit more tricky, especially as the snow continued to fall and quickly cover every surface it could, but years of repetition made quick work of the obstacle. As the door rolled up the sheep, who had been huddled together near the back of the trailer, began moving forward toward the ramp, more out of habit than from any command, given that this was not their first time being transported. Susan moved away from the back of the trailer, the sheep descending the ramp into the snow one after the other in some bizarre game of follow the leader. Once the last of the flock, seven in total, had founds its way down the ramp and did not look like it would be retreating back into the trailer, Susan made quick work of closing the rolling door and locking the ramp back up, before she slowly worked her way back to the open door of the cabin, making sure none of the sheep tried to follow her. They stayed where the were, huddling together in the snow-covered field, their wool blending in with the snow while their black faces stood in stark contrast, even in the relative darkness.

Putting one foot back into the cabin and hoisting herself up with the door, Susan let loose another shrill series of whistles, which set the sheep into a nervous stomping. Taking a deep breath, the cold cutting her lungs like knives, she raised her voice over the storm, shouting into the darkness;

“Come out and get them, they’re all yours!”

With a quick pull and a dive across the seats, her  head down with her arms over it, Susan slammed the door behind her, just as the whoosh of something larger and heavier than a jet engine overtook the pasture, hidden by the snow. Susan did not dare look up, did not dare even breath, until there was nothing left but silence.

-Megan

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Poetry Tuesday: Champion

Trying a little something different this week for Poetry Tuesday. This is a piece that i elaborated from a fragment that I found a few weeks ago when I was going through my old notebooks. As such, it does not totally fit the themes I have been going after, but I still kind of like what came out of the revisit the initial verse.

The Champion

 

“Come closer to my ear,”
The tortoise-shell cat grinned wide.
“I will tell you of things you cannot see,
Those that hide from plain sight.
In both the darkness and in light.”

His tail swept wide upon the floor,
To his nose he touched his brown boot paw.
“A mouse is what your fool eyes see,
All soft fur and sharp knowing teeth.”
His breath puffed out, he purrs beneath the hand.
“To me a mighty beast appears,
Strong tail lashing, bright scales clashing;
Fire brimming in its fearing eyes.
You see not as I.”

Imperiously he flares his tail,
Paws clasping at the carpet ground.
“And on a branch a bird you spy;
Look all fluff and feather.
But keener eyes than yours discern
The talons clutching desperately for flesh;
Its body twisting in a dive for food.
This mighty Griffen is my prey,
To keep my mistress safe.”

Mist green eyes follow all, his coat clean and smooth as silk.
“So call me beast when at your feet
I lay my hard-won conquest down.
But as Champion, forever at your call will my service be.”

-Megan

 

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Publication news!

So, it has been a considerable amount of time since my last post. Life has been a little busy, and I have let a few things fall by the wayside. However, there is exciting news. Quite some time ago I answered a call for entries for a new encyclopedia, focused wholly on amassing information and entries pertaining to Japanese horror cinema. The process was both educational and quite fun, considering it was absolutely right up my alley.

The initial research was a bit painstaking, as it took some time to find the various films and individuals who I chose for my entries (of course, these all came from a pre-established list set forth by the volume editor). With the media in hand, I set out to do my research, watching the films and doing my best to capture the themes, plot, and vital information that would be important to crafting my entries.

As with these things, there was a lot of down time between submission and review, but as of August 15th, 2016 (tomorrow, very exciting), this collection will be released.

In others words, I have been published alongside some of the more known names in the area of  Japanese popular culture and film studies (Like Jay McRoy, Jim Harper, Jeffrey Bullins, Joanne Bernardi, etc.)

It is really a remarkable collection of information. My particular entries focused on Actor, director, and icon Izumiya Shigeru, The Guinea Pig CollectionNoroi (2005), and Death Powder (1986).

9781442261662

The Encyclopedia of Japanese Horror Films

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On Inevitable endings and those cautious first steps

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, excitement, and nerves. First and foremost, I received both of my thesis hard copies back from my internal committee, and with minor revisions both say it is a sound piece of work ready to move to defence. So here it is, the one year and nine months of my life I have devoted to studying and writing a single topic and paper are coming to an end. I am both excited and nervous: excited because I did it, as the only remaining MA student in my year, I have managed to make it through to see the light at the end of the tunnel; nervous because it leaves a huge hole in my ‘things to do’ list. I have been job searching relentlessly, writing cover letters and tweaking my resume to fit the needs of each particular job. My goal is to do that for a year while I gear up to challenge my JLPT and while I apply to all the doctoral programs I overlooked in January in favour of UVic and Queen’s. This whole experience is a bit overwhelming really.

Second, I attended my first fan convention (Fan Expo), exactly a week ago. I have, quite literally, never been so happy. You could have told me I was about to die and I would have still been smiling like an idiot. I met some of my role models, or at least those individuals who played my role models, saw and spoke with comic book artists and authors that I have been reading for ages, and generally just had a blast for a full two days. I also had the opportunity to volunteer for one of my favourite author’s, Peter S. Beagle. This whole experience will get its own post in the near future, once I am ready to really put words to the amazing experience.

Finally, I became an “auntie”; none of this formal ‘aunt’ shit, I insist on auntie. So all in all it has been a hectic and exciting few weeks, and it is looking to be more of the same in the coming weeks. I hope to finish up a few side writing projects and get them slapped up here, as well as some sketches, as I have decided that I might as well get into costuming if I plan to attend more conventions, and for the fact that I will need something aside from reading and writing to fill my time once my thesis goes through to defence.

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Read it; Watch it; Listen to it: Recommendations from the Darkness

So, I’m in the final leg of thesis work on my MA, working on last revisions and all that rigmarole. However, I do have some recommendations for those out there looking for something to watch, read, or listen to that they might had missed the first time around. Nothing ground breaking, but these are some of the series and songs that I have been really taken in by lately. Now, some of these are available on Netflix or iTunes, others require a bit of creativity to get, and yet others you will have to purchase, because that’s what the artistic teams and artists deserve. Check it out, and if there is something that had really caught your attention or imagination in the past while that you think needs more attention, leave a comment.

Continue reading

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Quick Words and Information (be mindful of that fourth step)

Only one week left before my writing prompt experiment closes. Since posting it, I have broken the 50 follower mark, which is pretty exciting for me.

I have not been writing much lately, as I have been working on a final set of thesis revisions I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we have started talking about which external examiner we should be looking for. So excited! Additionally, I have been getting back to my interest In Japanese culture yet again, and have been watching NHK World in the background of all my work for about 3 days straight, and it has really helped me think out my lecture, scheduled for next Thursday in front of the class, as a presentation of information not unlike one of NHK’s amazing mini-documentary segments. If I can relay the information with even half as much fluidity, I think it will be a great success.

Prepping this lecture has also drawn my attention out of the immediate Post-war years and given me an amazing understanding of the current situation between Japan, South Korea, and China. Anyone else riveted by the trilateral summit  this past weekend? (I never knew the real life could feel so much like a political K/J-drama.) Since putting his foot in his mouth during his first time as prime Minister, he has a lot of ground to regain. He has begun by issuing a statement to the effect that he will neither water-down nor revise the 1993 statement issued by Yohei Kono or in 1995 PM Tomiichi Murayama, but will stick with them (though the re-examination of evidence and testimonies given by Comfort Women is a step backwards, as there is no denying that there was institutionalized sexual slavery in the occupied Asian territories.

BEGIN HARSH REALITY

Hell, following surrender in 1945, there were similar ‘comfort stations’ set up in Japan for the American soldiers, where women became prostitutes, modern-day Okichi’s they were called, and serviced between 15 to 60 G.I.s in a given day. These women and girls are not to be confused with the panpan or street prostitutes; these were set up by the RAA (Recreation and Amusement Association) in Tokyo. For more information, check out Embracing Defeat: Japan in the wake of World War II by John W. Dower (1999), specially Chapter 4 “Cultures of Defeat.”

END HARSH REALITY

Now, if Abe’s wife will accept the invitation to the shelter for Comfort Women when they are in South Korea, I think it will do a fair bit to start easing the path to more normalized relations on subjects other than North Korea.

Best of wishes for the weekend,

M.

P.S. If you love Japanese culture, or puppets/theatre, check out the videos about Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Bunraku adaptations. He is doing some very interesting stuff.

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Visit Japan’s ancient past in urban Kyushu | The Japan Times

Being a historian with a major focus on Japanese history, who also happens to love museums, I could not pass up sharing this article. I think it would be a really interesting visit. I’ve seen the homestead, Aboriginal, and voyageur outdoor museums in the prairies, and I think this one would be amazingly interesting.

Visit Japan’s ancient past in urban Kyushu | The Japan Times.

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Writing Prompt Experiment

Good afternoon Netizens, bloggers, followers, and non-followers!

So, as I look at my inbox, I’ve come to realize that I am approaching 50 followers! Not much by some standards, but that is pretty big if you ask me, since I started this little endeavour without any real thought as to who would end up following it. So, as a sort of celebration I have decided to do a little something.

Here is what I ask of you: Whether you have followed my blog for a year, or just for a day, or not all at, I open up a prompting challenge. Simply prompt me in the comments with a word, a scenario, a picture, a bit of music, an emotion. ANYTHING! With what you give me I will then write something, a story or a poem, from 50-200 words, inspired by what you have given me and post it in reply to your prompting comment.

I will leave this prompting open for TWO WEEKS and a day, so it will close FRIDAY APRIL 4, 2014 and 11.59.59 PM. I will then take those prompts, and within 14 days respond to them. If I get more prompts then I can complete in those days, I will continue to write until I have filled all those which come in before that April 4th deadline. I may get none, or I may get a bunch, we’ll just have to see. This is also to get people engaged, thinking in their own creative way, about what inspires them.

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From the Ashes

Hello all, including the spam bots who no doubt dwell in the vastness of the web. It has been quite some time since my last check it. I am alive and well, just trapped in the continual cycle of editing and revising my thesis prior to submission for the defence of my Masters. Rest assured, I still have many words to share, and I have been building up bits and pieces that I want to explore here, and to put out there. I simply have not had the time to sit and commit to them in a way which would make them ready for an audience. Hopefully that will change shortly, as it would seem I have reached the final round of revisions to this year and a half long project that if my MA History thesis.

I apologize for vanishing, but I had to fully dedicate myself to my work, as both a student and a teaching assistant.

Stay tuned, the wait will not be long. I hope to explore with you more themes of horror, poetry, history, fiction, and reviews.

M

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Veil of Shadows (A work in progress)

I have been researching and writing academically rather exclusively, yet I felt that it would set a bad precedent for dedication to my blog if I did not create a post of some substance. What I present in the following short paragraphs is a work-in-progress, something that I wrote on an urge and the beginnings of an idea. As such, it is not fully realized yet, and the idea and plot are still in their infancy. If a story could have an explanatory preamble to shape it, this would be it. I encourage feedback, as this is a little bit different then my previous posts, as it is not a fully thought story nor an analytical reflection or insight. Likely, until I am finished the current research paper I am writing, I will post snippets of my writing in progress or poetry. In addition,

 Veil of Shadows

There are things in the dark. It is generally laughed at past childhood, but it is still true. In the corners filled with shadows everything exists simultaneously; from the smallest sigh to the largest nightmare, here they can be found. Even those things which we are no longer afraid of. I was eight when I stopped believing in the things that go bump in the night. I was fifteen when I went to New Orleans and left my mark on the Tomb of the Bayou Queen, as a joke. When I was twenty-one I started to believe in those moving shadows once more. Those shadows have more physical presence than any other being in reality.

The first time I began to question the existence of ghosts and the supernatural was after I had turned nineteen; this was also the time that my father died of lymphoma. Sitting there, in the hospital room next to the shell of a man who I hardly recognized, I began to see the shadows of the world again. Maybe it was punishment for so foolishly calling on the Bayou Queen; after all, what woman, even one long dead, would want to inflict such suffering on a child? That night, as my fathers breathing grew shallow, and the pall of death overshadowed the room, I saw them.

At first I was convinced that they were just hallucinations, brought on by the stress and grief I was experiencing for the first time in my life; but as the hours passed, they grew more solid. My mother didn’t notice them, climbing over his body, their long fingers running over his smooth scalp, pulling at the paper-thin skin covering nothing more than bone. I could only sit and watch as they shifted from wisps of shadow to full formed beings, sitting on his chest and making it more difficult for him to breathe. They paid the rest of us no attention, probably because we were not the reason for their foray into the physical realm. The more solid they grew the more my father’s vitals faded, until he was nothing but a lifeless shadow and they were finished with their task.

From that point on, I saw the world differently. The Bayou Queen has rewarded my foolish wish, giving me the ability to see those things that would rather keep themselves hidden. I could see perfectly, without need of the glasses I had detested as a child, but sometimes I saw far too much. In every shadow there were hands, in each secretive face a sinister shifting of skin. I could see everyone for who they truly were.

After my father’s funeral I moved away from home; my mother was inconsolable, and I couldn’t take it on top of learning to deal with this new, unwanted facet of my life. So I packed my bags and transferred out-of-state, out of country even. But even then, the shadows followed me. They sought me out, in acknowledging my own ability to see them, they began to see me in turn. Sometimes I was only there to be an ear to the voices in the night, to hear what held them to the coils of the human realm, what they had desired, or how they had come to be. Other times, well those could get to be much less pleasant than hearing about the fires of creation and the monsters that one only thinks of as being part of children’s fantasy.

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