Road Lore: Bridges and Hungry, Old Gods

Not all of the roadside gods are kindly or helpful.  Some are, at best, indifferent to humans, while others…others have little but malice in them, and it’s best to continue down the road away from them and their domains as quickly as you can.

In a quiet New England town, small and forgotten long before the mills shut down and the trees grew through the abandoned factory floors, there sleeps an ancient, blood-stained god.  Its temple and altar stand at the place where two roads meet, over the river that doesn’t quite hide the stains of Its sacrificial tithings.

I came across this god and Its temple many years ago, when an unfortunate detour on my road led me to Its courtyard and I found myself out of gas with a busted engine and no money for repairs, stuck until I could find a way to get back on the road.  I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t realize, at first, that I was in the presence of an old god, nor that I was at the entrance of Its House.  In my defense, it was in the process of being rebuilt; the previous structure having been left to rot for too long, the townsfolk having forgotten that an old, mad god slept in their town until It had started to awaken, and so it was obscured by the banality of construction.

I had accepted shelter at a house nearby while I tried to get up and running again, and so I was able to watch as the new temple rose by the day.  

After a while, I began to notice the strange way the townspeople talked about what I had assumed was just a replica of an historical site; the exacting attention paid to the way each stone was laid, each board nailed in; the way it was referenced in even the smallest things -images of it in it’s completed state on coffee mugs at the local diner, the name of the small antique shop – but no effort was being made to draw tourists in, which was odd, given the reverent way they spoke of the structure.

The day it was finished, they held a great ceremony at the site, with prayers and speeches and a parade.  It seemed a bit overdone to me at the time, but I gathered that it had taken a near-Herculean effort and some years longer to complete than it should have, so it did make an amount of sense.  I’d be excited, too, if I’d lived through several years of constant construction and inconvenience, instead of the few months I’d been in town.

As the weeks passed, however, I noticed a strange trend taking shape, where every. single. time. a car would pass beneath the roof of the temple, they would honk their horns.  It didn’t matter what time of day it was, either.  This would happen even in the small, silent hours of the night, which changed from annoying to unnerving.  The first day or so, sure. A bit weird, maybe, but nothing notably unusual.  Months later, however, is disturbingly obsessive.

The thing with this god is that during the day, Its temple appears harmless to the casual observer.  Cheerful, even. The river it rests over is pleasant and one can often see herons and other water birds wandering the banks in search of frogs and small fish, and the whole thing is almost postcard-perfect.

And then the sun sets, and night descends.  Oh, then.  Then, does its true nature show.  Then, as the shadows writhe and dance in the mist, bathed in the sickly orange glow of the single street-lamp, while the river gibbers and cackles maniacally to itself, do you realize that you are in the presence of something More.  The reeds whisper and giggle and tell tales of the eldritch thing that lurk in the darkness below the bridge’s shadowed peak, and clings, wetly, to the beams that lie so close beneath the road, and only then do you realize that you are standing before the home of a hungry god.

That is when you remember the odd reddish-brown tingeing that stains the stones and discolors the pools, and how the sounds echo strangely in places where there shouldn’t be echoes at all.  When you realize that the vehicles that you’ve seen pass through that failed to sound their horn in supplication are never seen again, and while yes, it could be coincidence, it’s too frequent to be able to fully convince yourself that.

Eventually I was able to break free of the town and get back on the road, away from the god.  Every now and then, though, I return to the temple out of some strange compulsion that even I don’t fully understand.  Maybe I slept too long beside It and It is trying to lure me back.  I don’t know.  

Yesterday was one of those times, and I noted how the new temple, barely more than a decade old, is already showing signs of decay, and I wonder if the townsfolk waited too long, and if the god is more awake than any of us realize…

I sounded the truck’s horn as I drove beneath the temple’s roof.  I’m not ready to find out what happens to those who fail to offer a prayer to this particular god just yet.

Fiscal Responsibility Is The WOOOORST

Also, I hate accounting and book-keeping. I hate it like Gollum hates Bagginses. Like a lima bean and liver casserole.

Sadly, it’s a fact of life, and having officially reached a point with Patreon where I actually need to deal with that sort of thing in a more formal manner, I now have the dubious honor of shelling out part of my income for book-keeping software. I looked at a bunch of things and in the end, decided to say fuck it, and went with Quickbooks Self-Employed. They’re all more or less variations of the same basic thing, and at least I’m already familiar with Quickbooks.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours bashing my head against getting things set up, because it would have been SUPER EASY TO SET UP, except for the fact that my bank, in its infinite wisdom, doesn’t think that someone might want to, I dunno, BE ABLE TO DOWNLOAD THEIR RECORDS IN A CSV FOR MORE THAN 2 STATEMENT CYCLES, and converting a bank statement from a pdf to a csv is basically impossible, so I have to manually create the damned cvs to import into the damned thing, so GO ME I GET TO DO A YEAR’S WORTH OF DATA ENTRY BEFORE I CAN DO THE NORMAL SET UP PROTOCOLS.

Oh, and then I have to figure out how to deal with the Patreon/PayPal issue, and get all that entered without triple-entering a shitload of duplicate data that’s all the same data, from each step on it’s little way…

This would have been so much easier last spring, or if my bank wasn’t technologically brainless. The temptation to borrow money from somewhere to pay someone else to deal with this is a likely more efficient manner than I have the knowledge set for is strong, to be honest. Sadly, my $68 a month isn’t enough for that option, so here I am, bashing my head against it, hoping to manage enough in time for getting our taxes done, and uuuuuuuuugh.

Yes. I’m whining about this, because while it’s a “good” problem to have, it’s also one that I’ve got a smidge of PTSD around (thanks, Hell Job!) and the fact that I’m having no luck finding the information I need online isn’t helping. I suspect the answer is, in fact, going to be “figure out how to come up with money to hire an accountant to get this set up properly so I can maintain it from there”.

/rant

Monster Movie Blatherings: The Blair Witch Project

Ever watch a movie and realize, days later, that you still have Opinions about it?  Yeah, that happened, and so here we are, because I had to write about it.

(Note: If you’re like me, and hadn’t watched this before, there’s going to be spoilers, so read at your own risk, I guess?)

The other day I decided to watch “The Blair Witch Project” for the first time.  I hadn’t seen it when it came out, due to a combination of my annoyance at the existence of “Shaky Cam” filming and an aggressive dislike of hype.  At a certain point, something or someone becomes so popular that I get sick of hearing about it so much that I refuse to engage with them at all, and this movie had a serious case of both problems going for it for a long time.

Also, I am REALLY picky about horror movies.  I *love* them, but I consider a lot of the staples (excessive gore, jump-scares, gratuitous sexual assault) to be pretty much the pinnacle of lazy, boring writing and, sadly, this is usually the content of most horror movies, and just… *zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*.  Gore is gross, not scary.  Jump-scares are relying on the nervous system’s reflexes, not actual fear.  Sexual assault as a shitty plot device is an entire rant on it’s own.  Mostly, though?  I am highly critical of monsters.  I love nothing more than a good monster, but I very much insist that monsters be not only actually scary and also make logical sense.  “Because it’s a monster” as a reason for why it’s doing something is #1 of my Top 5 Worst Excuses For Bad Monster Writing. Finding a horror movie that doesn’t fall into these traps is depressingly difficult.  Everything I’d heard over the years about BWP led me to believe that the “monster” (witch) was going to be the kind that I despise, and so between that, the excessive hype, and the filming style, I just didn’t want to waste my time on that.  Recently, though, it was brought up in several unconnected places and something about what people were saying made me curious enough to check it out finally.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was wrong. In my defense, it had, much like the original Stargate movie, been positioned as something else, and I can only work with what info I have available.  I still don’t think it’s that great of a movie, and that it was very much overhyped, but I enjoyed it.

One of my favorite things is, weirdly, that it’s a monster movie that has no actual monster.  There is no witch.  There is only the creeping horror of watching three people literally drive themselves to madness through the power of their own imaginations, fueled by sleep deprivation and probably mild hypothermia, in an environment that they had no solid experience being in.  The penultimate scene, the guy standing in the corner, is viscerally horrifying not because of any supernatural influences, but because it’s such a brutally, painfully, stark display of just how far his psyche had broken in such a short amount of time.  It’s terrifying as a statement on the fragility of the human mind and how easily it can be destroyed.

As someone who has spent much of her life in woods far deeper and wilder than the ones the characters found themselves in, I know how sounds can carry strangely, and how animals going about their day are louder than one would expect.  Squirrels and rabbits make as much noise as you might think a deer should.  A deer sounds like something the size of a moose, especially at night.  I’ve seen suburban folks cowering in their vehicles, terrified, because they saw eyeshine peering at them from the undergrowth and were convinced it was something far more sinister than a family of raccoons eyeing their improperly secured cooler.  The characters in BWP were suburban folks who had already primed themselves to be looking for supernatural dangers and expecting witches and ghosts, before they ever set foot beyond the treelines, and were not thinking that maybe the screaming they heard were more likely the sounds of foxes dining on rabbits, and less the ghosts of dead children.  They lost their map and didn’t know how to navigate without it.  They were walking around in wet clothing, in the cold, for days, and hypothermia fucks with your ability to think clearly.  This is a dangerous combination even when one isn’t already primed to look for supernatural reasons for everything.

The fact that this movie could only have existed in that specific time in history, due to the way that technology works currently (it was the early days of the internet, and it was a much different place than it is now), makes it all the more delicious.  I’m not sorry that I didn’t get to see it when it came out, because I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate a lot of it then (I was only a couple of years younger than the actors, being all of 19), but I’m so glad I decided to check it out this week.

Still not ruling out one of them being crazier than the others and going on a killing spree, though…