Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 2

Subway Train

#Novel365 2018 Week One

The negative backlash for B.U.L.L.’s pirate broadcast video in addition to the spam and flame wars for the initial subway video had filled YouTube to the point where a denial of service (DDoS) attack had been launched out of protest. The American video-sharing website suffered an outage in the United States and most of Europe and remained offline in excess of two hours. As a result, Google suspended the “Ya Can’t Unsee S#!t Like This” account but by then it was too late. The moment YouTubers received the error message: “500 Internal Server Error. Sorry, something went wrong. A team of highly trained monkeys has been dispatched to deal with this situation” the subway video began appearing on Vimeo, DailyMotion, Metacafe, flickr, and Veoh.

Then it multiplied. At first, it started popping up on accounts attempting to confirm or disprove the video’s authenticity, then it was examined by film students, video editors and special effects artists and then by bandwagon jumpers who wanted a spike in their account’s view count. In less than a month, the subway video had been analyzed and broken down as much or more so than the Zapruder film.

The attention paid to the video would have subsided and been forgotten, replaced by some new fad or other, if not for the other videos. New cell phone footage from various sources sprang up from subway riders who encountered what had come to be known as the shroud, the tall, almost column-like, objectless shadow that appeared and disappeared when it moved as if short-distance-teleportation was its mode of transportation.

Some speculated the shroud wasn’t teleporting at all, that it was a two-dimensional entity, having length and breadth but no depth, that rotated as it moved which gave it the appearance of momentarily vanishing. This theory was quickly dispatched when an eagle-eyed viewer noticed the trash on the subway cars, food wrappers, empty paper coffee cups and plastic water bottles, being pushed away from the shroud when it appeared and being drawn into the void left by the shroud’s absence.

The next big question tackled: Was the shroud a life form, a cosmic event or some supernatural occurrence such as an apparition?

Someone online pointed out for something to be considered organic it required traits shared with all the living things that exist on Earth. Of the six traits, the shroud only checked one box: Movement, but even that was a source of controversy as people debated whether teleportation of a stationary object counted as true ambulation. But was the shroud truly stationary? In the brief video clips, it never appeared to bend, wiggle, expand or contract. Perhaps there were slight movements imperceptible to the human eye or it moved at such a snail’s pace that it gained the ability to leap short distances faster than the eye could follow. The five remaining traits:

  1. Living things being made up of cells
  2. Organisms using energy and receiving energy from a source
  3. Growth and development
  4. The ability to reproduce and respond and adapt to their environment

could not be verified without a sample or test subject.

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, physicist Brian Cox, and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, as well as several other noted professionals, were invited to weigh in on the matter of whether the shroud was truly a cosmic event. Each, in their own way, expressed the notion to be unlikely as cosmic events better known as astronomical events typically occurred off-world and though the planet may experience the effects of certain events, none of the recent eclipses, comet encounters, close planetary pairings, or other celestial wonders could have been reasonably connected with the subway shadow. They would not comment on the notion of the shroud being some form of extraterrestrial communication without examining the evidence further but appeared to think it was highly unlikely.

Now, when it came to the paranormal aspects of the shroud, so-called experts were crawling out of the woodwork with explanations as to what it was and how it came into existence. No one exposition matched or supported another so they were easy to dismiss. A popular one that garnered more attention than it should have was that the constant rumbling of New York City subway trains over the years had worn down the barrier that separated us from the underworld and eventually created a vibrational rift that led straight to Hell.

On October 14th, 2017, an MTA worker on a refuse train running on the J local line that operated from Jamaica Center in Queens to Broad Street in Manhattan, claimed to encounter the shroud between the Alabama Avenue and Broadway Junction station stops. Refuse trains, as the name suggested, bagged garbage collected from each station’s trash receptacles and stored them on six flatbed-like cars between engineer car and the caboose. The worker, who wished to remain unidentified, thought at first one of the black garbage bags had burst open and was flapping in the wind and as he prepared to make his way to the bag to secure it, he saw that it was no bag. He described it as a mysterious object that was there one time and gone the next, just to appear somewhere else and it was moving in his direction. Bags of garbage exploded when it appeared and the trash was sucked into nothingness when the object disappeared. Trash bags erupted like geysers and the refuse inside vanishing a moment later as the object drew nearer and nearer. Then it was close enough for the worker to feel the blast of air when the object appeared, pelting him with garbage and having the breath temporarily sucked from his lungs as it disappeared. He scrabbled back and fell over trash bags as the object advanced so close he could almost touch it. He kicked out with his feet and threw his arms up to protect himself and then… nothing. The mysterious object was gone. The worker later tested positive for alcohol, even though he admitted to having one drink after the incident to help calm his nerves, and was placed on suspension.

The very same day at very nearly the same time, on the very same subway line but on the track going the opposite direction between the Gates Avenue and Halsey Street station stops, a commuter captured the shroud on a video which showed trash being spat into the air when it appeared. Trash that wasn’t there a moment before. Connecting the two sightings gave light to the possibility that the shroud wasn’t simply teleporting itself in short distances but teleporting back and forth between two (or perhaps even more) locations. This revelation opened several scientific threads online, which reexamined older shroud videos to see if there were simultaneous time coordinations linking any of them, and calculating the distance of the two most recent trains and the speed they were traveling in order to map out a teleportation range.

Apart from the theory and amateurishly fake sighting videos, some done for comedic effect, the shroud became the topic of fan fiction, appearing in Reddit threads and on Creepy Pasta. DeviantArt was also plagued by shroud drawings, from pencil sketches to manga pin-ups to full-blown CG portraits. It then became a meme with Hollywood stars like Harrison Ford from his 1993 film The Fugitive running from the approaching shroud. There was even a first-person video game in which the player entered an abandoned subway. Once inside, the entrance collapsed and the player had to investigate a derelict J train, car by car, to collect seven pieces of a device that when assembled created a teleportation device to transport the player to safety. All this while avoiding the deadly shroud which always appeared out of nowhere.

When the memes had run their course, interest in the shroud had waned and the subway shroud joined the ranks of Slenderman, NoEnd House, Polybius and The Smiling Man.

To be continued…

What the hell is this, you may be asking yourself. It’s none other than my personal 2018 writing challenge to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive. This story is an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outline or plot in mind, just a year’s worth of whatever-pops-into-my-fragile-little-mind tweets without edits or the fancy flourishes that will come in the rewrite. I have absolutely no idea who any of the characters are, or how many there will be, what the story will ultimately be about or how it will end, and that terrifies and thrills me at the same time. And you get to watch me either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air or fall flat on my writerly face.

So, if you can spare a moment, I invite you to either cheer me on or tell me what a colossal mistake I’m making. I’m good either way.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 1

cult

You may ask, “Why this project?” and my simple response is, “Why not?” A new year calls for a new writing challenge and the one I set for myself is to turn my daily tweeting habit into something productive. I have many unfinished works in progress that I could chop up into tweet-sized bits to give myself a head start but where’s the fun in that?

So this story, that does not as yet have a title, is not only brand new, it is also an experiment to write a stream of consciousness book with no outline or plot in mind, just a year’s worth of whatever-pops-into-my-fragile-little-mind tweets. I have absolutely no idea who any of the characters are, or how many there will be, what the story will ultimately be about or how it will end, and that terrifies and thrills me at the same time. And you get to watch me either create something (hopefully coherent and good) from thin air or fall flat on my writerly face.

So, if you can spare a moment, I invite you to either cheer me on or tell me what a colossal mistake I’m making. I’m good either way.

And so it begins…

PART ONE

CHAPTER I

As the countdown heralded the arrival of 2018, my personal new year was marked by a mysterious phenomenon that would inevitably alter the course of my life and brought into question whether I would survive to see 2019. But before I delve further into my involvement with the phenomenon, perhaps I should explain the phenomenon itself or at least share the rumors I stumbled upon from online social media sites and less than reputable news outlets. To provide background, if nothing else.

It all began, as a great many viral things do, with a YouTube video. The initial cell phone-captured video, posted to the Ya Can’t Unsee S#!t Like This account, ran exactly one minute and fifty-four seconds, the average length of a movie trailer. Within twenty-four hours it reached nearly four billion views, making it the second most viewed item on YouTube, just under the Despacito music video. Needless to say, the post divided viewers instantly, with comments ranging from WTF did I just watch? to Is this real life??? to #FakeAF! Even celebrities and politicians were not immune and weighed in with their thoughts and opinions, igniting a slew of new flame wars and insane speculations. So what was in this web video that excited the global public mind and made anyone who watched it deeply interested in the matter, you ask?

The shaky vertical video begins with the cell phone’s owner capturing a female performer on a crowded New York City subway car singing a song I am not familiar with so I cannot say whether it was a rendition of another artist’s song or an original composition but she was definitely talented. She was not the reason for massive internet interest, though. Fifty-three seconds into the song, something appeared in the background. Something as tall as the car itself. Something shadowy and out of focus though the passengers behind the shadow were in crisply visible. The shadow appeared to blink in and out of existence in the middle of the car and when passengers noticed it, they shrieked and scrambled over one another to get out of its way, some even ignoring the “Riding or moving between cars is prohibited” notices on the sliding doors at either end as they risked safety by rushing into the adjacent subway cars. The shadow then began advancing toward the singer, increasing speed and then… the video ended.

A week following the video posting, when the video’s comment thread took a turn from negative to downright abusive to positively frightening, eighteen users of the online bulletin board, 1nt3rFich3, met in an IRC channel and formed the Bureau Uncovering Ludicrous Lies and hacked Ya Can’t Unsee S#!t Like This’ YouTube account and made the video private. The group then uploaded a new video featuring a puppet that bore a striking resemblance to Billy from the Saw franchise films. The puppet explained fake videos that incensed viewers and incited negative interactions, bullying and even death threats should never be created or posted online. The internet has to become a safe place for all to visit. By the end of the video, the puppet disclosed the account holder’s personal information so he could experience first hand the fear that many commenters felt when expressing an unpopular opinion on the video’s thread.

Needless to say, neither the puppet nor the video were well received.

To be continued…

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Saturday Hashtag Story Tweets

#SlapDashSat:

Mandy smells of rain when she cries. Teardrops fall from sky blue eyes and I splash in their puddles as I rush to comfort her. I have ruined many a pair of shoes this way, but I don’t care. She is not mine, though I wish she were and I am not the cause of her sorrow.

#SlapDashSat:

A voice calls me by a name I have not heard in centuries. As I turn I am hit by a wave of pure magic that blows me off my feet and sends me hurling backward. Normally, I am immune to the effects of magic but my assailant somehow knows my birth name.

I am powerless.

#SlapDashSat:

When had love become an abstract concept for me? I mean, I knew it was an actual thing, not just some bizarre notion conjured from my irritatingly overactive imagination, but I could not for the life of me remember how it was achieved or how it even felt.

#SlapDashSat:

They visit in the afternoon between three and four o’clock, carefully avoiding adults by making themselves visible only to toddlers. They whisper secrets into tiny ears and press their lips to baby foreheads for it is a blessing to be kissed by a guardian angel.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Thursday Hashtag Story Tweets

WriteThurs:

“Of course you don’t feel the same way about him right now. It’s a balance you’ll get used to. It’s when ooey-gooey love begins to metamorph into annoyance and sometimes even hate. Whether you muddle through the rough patch or cut and run is entirely up to you.”

Thurds:

I was a teenage girl who refused to remain silent when my uncle touched me and threatened to hurt my little sister if I ever told anyone. My father flew into a rage and fought him and died in the process. I know it was the right thing to do but I hold onto a bit of guilt.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Wednesday Hashtag Story Tweets

WineWords:

How long had it been since the Beginning? Maddox wondered as he watched the spool of space an time uncoil all the way. He could see the end of everything. It was so very sharp and clear. And as the expansion halted, entropy began its descension.

WFWed:

As his fever grew worse, Karl’s imaginary friends gathered around his bed in mock sympathy and support. They were actually waiting for his soul to depart his frail body so that one of them could wear his flesh and take their turn in life as a real human boy.

1LineWed:

I was 14 years old when the authorities and my parents stopped looking for me, or so my captor told me. He would bring me the daily paper and let me watch the news to confirm the search was over. And I wept all day long, knowing I was only two houses down from my home.

TalesNoir:

“We must save my precious Anna before it is too late!”

“Do not be a fool, Vladamir, that is not your daughter! It is the abyss in the shape of a little girl and its soul is the grimoire detailing all the evil workings in the history of mankind and beyond!”

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Tuesday Hashtag Story Tweet

TuesLine:

To be someone’s other half? And what happens to the half her supposed partner had no interest in? Karen’s goals had always been so much grander than that. She wanted to be a full person, complete within herself and she refused to have half herself wither from neglect.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Open Mic Nite

Staten Island is easily my least favorite of New York’s five boroughs and there ain’t a damned thing I miss about it. Okay, there is one thing. A pub. A tiny mom and pop tavern with that everybody knows your name ambiance that I didn’t discover until the final two of my nine-year stint on the isle. Bored, I popped in for a quick pint and stumbled upon Thursday karaoke night. It made my stay in hell a little more tolerable.

Shortly after leaving Staten Island, I found myself in Los Angeles (that move is a story in itself, believe me) and I’d been casually searching for a neighborhood tavern with a similar vibe. A drinking hole that was non-touristy and non-themed, frequented by locals that had the benefit of being divey without being stabby. And one weekend when I wasn’t even looking for it, I found a contender.

I was on my way home from a day of sightseeing and decided to wet my whistle before hopping on the bus. I used the scientifically proven picking rhyme method of ip, dip, dog shit to select from the three bars within my line of sight.

I chose the smallest of the three and when I opened the door, a guy was suddenly in my face, “Hey, cabrón, you didn’t even say what’s up, cabrón, da fuck’s up with that, cabrón?” Before I could respond, he got in a good look and followed up with, “Oh, sorry, bro, thought you was some other dude.” Less than ten seconds in and no stab wounds to speak of. I knew that I had chosen wisely.

It was a beer joint, not a wine glass in sight, narrow with an alcove for a pool table and video poker machine. The bartender was dive bar attractive (if you’ve ever spent time in a dive bar, you know exactly what I mean), and

  • was on the back end of her forties
  • used to own a restaurant in Santa Clarita
  • had to find a job after her boyfriend dumped her
  • her friend taught her the ropes behind the bar
  • dropped $500 at bartending school
  • went on a dating site that rhymes with No Way Stupid and met a guy
  • on their second date, he took her to Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) and he promptly turned into a dick, so she dumped him and enjoyed her free 10-day India vacation

I knew all this because as the bartender was draping a vinyl cover over the pool table, she was being bombarded by questions from a woman who hailed from Kew Gardens, New York, and was only in town a few days visiting her parents.

So caught up in this conversation, and patiently awaiting the bartender to take my drink order, I failed to notice the graying, horseshoe bald, rail thin near double for Malcolm McLaren setting up equipment. He wore a faded Led Zeppelin tee, skinny jeans and weathered suede cowboy boots and I hadn’t become aware of his presence until he tuned his guitar and interrupted Sade singing Hallelujah with a “check one, check one, check one.

In Staten Island I had stumbled upon karaoke night, here, according to the handwritten poster behind McLaren’s head, it was Open Mic Nite.

A guy in camouflage walked in, lugging an oversized backpack like he just returned from a tour of duty and placed his name on the sign-up sheet. He was a twitchy fella and at first, I thought it was drugs but he asked the bartender if this was a smoking bar.

She replied, “Dude, this is California. You ain’t gonna find a smoking bar anywhere near here,” which forced Twitchy Backpack to feed his addiction out back in the parking lot.

McLaren took the mic and set the ground rules:

  1. Every artist on the list gets two songs the first round and one song each round after until closing time or everybody runs out of songs.
  2. Originals or covers, all songs were welcomed.

A woman popped her head in, attempting to bum ciggie butts but was promptly told to kick rocks as she was in violation of the No Cigarette Bumming sign plastered on a nearby wall.

McLaren, as the official host, was first up and opened with the joke, “Cherokee, reservation for a thousand. Your land is ready now,” before launching into his folk set.

It’s amazing how the bar cleared out as soon as the open mic went underway. No more than ten people remained and every last one of them was accompanied by a guitar… except for me and Twitchy Backpack.

I’m pretty hazy on all the performers and most of the songs were original but what I can remember is

  • An older gentleman who performed lyrical impressions that all seemed to sound exactly like him.
  • A Russian guy who brought a little R&B to the joint. Not only was his broken English jokes kinda/sorta amusing, but he wasn’t half bad (a compliment coming from me).
  • Twitchy Backpack, who stripped out of his camo jacket down to a filthy white tee with what I assumed was fake blood stains to add a little character. At least I hoped they were fake. He plugged his smartphone in and played a beatbox track that he recorded for his Eminem wannabe set.
  • An African American gym rat who was on a serious John Legend love tip. The three female performers in the remaining crowd loved him.
  • A wet-haired model-type who looked like he just swam there via Dawson’s Creek. He rocked a banjo and stomped on a tambourine as he improvised his way through original songs that he had forgotten the words to.
  • A lyrical comedian who broke out a little ditty rallying against songs about tits and ass and lamented the loss of songs about sweet, juicy pussy (don’t look at me, I didn’t write it).
  • And the all girl, all blonde, all guitar rock band. That’s right, three acoustics. More guitar bang for your buck. Their aim was to resurrect Ska but when their set was done, I still couldn’t detect a pulse.

There were others but as I’ve mentioned before, my memory downgraded to working a part-time job. Anyhoo, all the performers that remained (most departed after the second round) had gone through their material and McLaren tried to squeeze one last song out of the performers but had no takers. He looked my way and asked, “What about you?”

I shook my head. “Not a performer, don’t play an instrument and I sound shitty a cappella.”

Without missing a beat, Dawson’s Creek pulled his banjo out of the zippered bag and chirped, “What are you singing? I’ve got you.”

I’m normally not susceptible to peer pressure, but I’d knocked a few back so I was a little loosey-goosey and the clapping that accompanied the chant, “One song. One song. One song.” was kinda heady.

Know any Billy Idol?” I asked. Dawson’s Creek nodded and I wound up scream-singing White Wedding. to patronizing applause, hooting and hollering.

Although it was closing time and everybody was ready to go home before I took the mic, I preferred to see it as I officially closed the joint. All the other performers were my opening acts and I was the headliner. One song and done. How fucking rock and roll was that?

Shhh. Lemme have this one.

A happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to you few, you brave few, you band of bloggers who take the time to read, like and comment on my stories and random musings.

Catch the lot of you in 2018!

-Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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