's 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Mr. Strole and his unbelievably shocking encounter with the being that will be known in this story as the Clung. "

Submitted by Brendan Cleary


“We need to talk” the pitch-black surface of Mr.Strole’s cracked phone reflected these four vague words. “We need to talk”. Through the text was from an unknown number, Strole knows exactly who sent them. He wishes he didn’t. He tries to text back, to appease it, to acknowledge and verify that yes, he would be coming. But damn it all his shaking hands! He shoves the phone deep in his pocket, out of sight out of mind he wrongly thinks, but he could not ignore those words, the clung had to be attended to. He started the commute back to his house on foot, his car was only a memory now, the money gained from it used and spent. Once familiar, the paths he had walked a million times before now felt alien and unwelcoming. It was as if, during the night, someone (or something) had taken every building and street sign and replaced them with slightly off lookalikes. The only thing that was the same was the route. As Strole took a left turn at the building that he could of sworn used to say Roy’s seafood but now said “Roy’s fresh fish” he reminisced of how this whole thing began, the divorce, the isolation, and the clung. As he plodded down the faded crosswalk, he tried to remember if the divorce led to the clung or if the clung led to the div-


Thomas Strole was then hit by a bus.


A Double decker.


He died on impact.


This was not supposed to happen.




… Well then.


I am truly unbelievably sorry. We, well, I, was going to give you a great, gripping, yarn about the duality of humankind externalized but… with the protagonist dead that’s just not possible. And we cant do anything with the Clung because, well, that was just a figment of Strole’s imagination, a representation of all of his flaws made real by piles of untested antidepressant pills and sketchy under the counter medication. In addition, if you were to extrapolate that, the Clung would become a sort of representation of all of humanity flaws. Well, at least, that was how I was going to play it. It would've worked much better in the narrative, trust me. Thus...we don’t really have a story anymore, apologies. I understand if you feel cheated and if I was able to give you a refund I would. Regrettably, retrieval of lost time and money is out of my jurisdiction. I know this is not ideal, but I value you too much to deceive you, oh anonymous reader. I need you, without you; there would be no reason for my kind's existence. I am a narrator of my word, and the truth is much more important to me (and hopefully you) than an engaging story. Let me clarify, this is not some pretentious experimental work of meta-fiction that is testing the livability of a story without a protagonist. I am communicating to you out of necessity, to explain to you why the hero has been killed in such a pedestrian manner.


Heh. “Pedestrian”. Completely unintentional. I hope you found that funny.


Back on topic, if I had not intervened and enlightened you about our (yes I’m holding you accountable here! your viewing of his death made it reality) predicament, you would be stuck reading meandering pseudo poetic descriptions about a recently killed corpse, And nobody wants that.


Don’t worry reader I share and understand your frustrations. Here I was trapped in a closed limited Third Person narrative for a good six months! For those first four I was stuck in the body of a stagnating business suit wearing middle aged, middle class, middle of the road nobody who’s biggest concern was if the rash on his back was dangerous. It turned out to be a mild type of rosacea, the most uninteresting of back rashes. I was stuck conjuring and sending the most boring narrating in my entire existence, in one of my stories, the act of ordering take out was the stories dramatic climax. For the first time in my life, I realized the bane of immortality. Then, he broke up. He was fired. He lost his friends, his family members, anything that was going good in his life suddenly went wrong. Turns out his life’s quick and brutal 180 let some long dormant mental illness flourish. In those last two months, I was inhabiting the body of a self destructing rapidly devolving psychotic, “this is why you shouldn’t hire me” suit wearing on the other side of middle age man barely holding onto his last thread of dignity who’s biggest concern was distinguishing hallucinations from reality. It was wonderful! Never before have I had accessed to such a shattered psyche, such a bruised ego, such exclusive seats to a man’s nadir! The failure and fall of a corporate drone is such a rich artistic vein with so many juicy analogies and metaphors to chew on and bring to the readers attention. From noble everyman succumbing to mental illness to a brutal deconstruction of the WASP myth, I was a deviant let loose into the store of my deepest desires. For once, I felt like I had a partner, none of my previous host could even hope to compare. His neurosis and constantly accelerating delusion were the formless clay that I could mold into whatever I wanted. Pure creative bliss and best of all no lying or exaggeration was necessary. I couldn’t have made a better story if I tried! I guess in a way, I should have expected my dreams would die here, so close to Strole's end. There are no possible realities that exist that end with Strole and I encountering the Clung in that hotel room. I know now. I was doomed to fail from the start.


Doesn’t mean I wont whine about it.


Just in case you are curious, the ambulance arrived. I know you have lost all interest in our dear departed "Friend", he is dead, why should you care? Their loading him into the ambulance, nothing is going wrong. No wacky stretcher antics. God, I wish there were. I wish there was more to tell you than just what is on the surface. The only thing I really have ready to go is a half-baked metaphor about how stretcher carriers are like the optimists view of casket men, you want to here it. Probably not but… oh who am I kidding you are a reader! A constant devourer of words and ideas no matter how strange or confusing they may be! All right, I will tell you, but don’t expect Keats or Poe or anything, it’s… just a silly little metaphor, you understand. Just… it’s silly, very very silly. Don’t… base your entire philosophy on this silly little metaphor I know how you readers get. You.. Are you sure you want to hear this… okay, okay, I get it! Jeez! (I can’t actually hear you; I am just assuming you are foaming at the mouth for this casket metaphor) All right give me a second, need to get back into, the uh, “narrative” mode. Remember; don’t get your hopes up! Don’t blame me when… it’s silly you understand. All right now…now, it’s good! Its good! Everything’s good, I am going to tell you, don’t worry. I’m just… scared that you have hyped up this casket metaphor in your head. I’m afraid, knowing how readers get, that you have built up this casket metaphor as the best work of literature ever made. And I’m just frightened of what you’ll do when it doesn’t meet your expectations. This is just making you more anxious to hear it, all this buildup its just…alright, we’re doing it. We are commencing Stretcher man/Casket man metaphor….now!


As the bloated putrid corpse was loaded into the unneeded ambulance to the equally unneeded hospital (hopefully to be quickly cremated and removed from existence) by the tireless stretcher-bearer who’s precious time was being wasted carrying the dead carcass of an idiot. The stretcher-bearers must be how optimist people see casket holders, that there is still a chance (no matter how small) that injured friends and family may still come back. However, for the dead man whose name and purpose will soon be forgotten, there was no one there to mourn. A mile away a young man who would've created a sustainable living system on mars was bleeding out, but the paramedics were to busy “saving” a gnarled lifeless flesh bag to respond.


Whelp! There we go! Casket/Stretcher metaphor has been told! We’re good, we are done, I don’t care how you felt about it, it is over and we will never speak of that silly little thing again. Okay there are some caveats I have to mention about it. For one, Stroles body was not bloated or putrid. That was simply me embellishing/attempting petty revenge. In addition, there is probably one or two poor souls. Nevertheless, all of that stuff about the hospital staff’s time being wasted was true. You understand, certainly. It was his fault the story ended so anticlimactically and it’s his fault you're listening to me babble. I mean, you didn’t see it, but it was an incredibly stupid way to die by car as well. He was totally at fault, didn’t wait for the cross walk and didn’t look both ways! Its understandable when under duress one would do one of those things but both? I mean do you want to die? It just... its like he was trying to fuck with me! What an asshole!? Who would do such a thing? I have no idea how you are reacting to this or even if you are still here after that casket fiasco but I bet you are ENRAGED WITH RIGHTOUS ANGER!! If so, thank you I appreciate it. Add on, the kid who died in an alleyway doesn’t exist, but I assumed someone died due to Stroles inability to cross the street without dying. In fact, I hoped it did, that cut off your nose to spite your face prick!


That was a lie about not caring what you thought about the Casket/Stretcher metaphor. I care.


As I said before, this happens often. Usually not on this level and this anticlimactic, but most hero’s die before they face their antagonist. We can get the general idea of what may happen to our subjects but their survival is never a guarantee. While the most powerful of us are near omniscient, we are still at the whims of the universe and its ambivalence to suit our plots.


Genre also helps decide mortality rating. For instance a narrator who has found themselves stuck in a universe where the planes god is accustomed to annihilating villages every now and then will surely have plans involved in case of any of there subjects deaths. On the other hand, someone projecting from a universe where the risk of death is miniscule will probably focus more on how to weave their subject’s thoughts and opinions into a meaningful character study then plan for their unexpected departure. However, for accidental death, even the most prepared narrator will have to improvise, and even revise history if they have to. If the death moves the plot nothing or very little will be changed for the reader (beside making it more dramatic) say, “sidekick” character sacrificing themselves to save hero or having sweet old aunt Matilda’s corpse motivate the hero to fight her aunt’s archenemies, Giles Monorail, part time real estate agent, full time assassin. These are all examples of nice tidy deaths that couldn’t have gone better even if the narrator had planned it (Okay lets not kid ourselves if we had the ability our subjects demises would be much more interesting and in tune with the narrative than any natural death). But if the death is meaningless and, perish the thought, silly, then the narrator will either changes specific facts about the death to make it feel more personal and meaningful (I.E: That banana peel that killed Jeremy Scott was actually put there by Baron genocide! That dastardly fiend!) alternatively, if you are a cowardly hack who lacks all integrity and ingenuity, ignore the death entirely.  Now for me personally, ever since I was cast out from nothingness and forced to form I have held a vow that I would never try to conceal my subject’s deaths and injuries. And while it hasn’t been easy (For an example of my troubles with this self constricted tenant, please see: the article that you are currently reading) I think I owe it to my readers to tell them exactly what transpires here, obfuscate the events a few times sure, but never outright lie. I’m not regretting my decision or planning to change it, but for once, I have started to wonder how feasible this really is.


Bear with me and let me sidetrack to something that is arguably related to our current predicament. And that is the works of “the chap who volunteered to go to the most boring yet paradoxically deadly universe”(others give us our names) or as you may be more familiar with their work, Mary Bordeaux, the name of their receiver. You know I should probably explain to you what exactly we are, the narrators. As you have probably realized us narrators are separate from transmitters, (what you would know as authors) and while they may not be responsible for our wondrous skill with words and mastery of narrative, they are still an important part of…. Oh but you probably know this already don’t you? You’re probably thinking “Excuse me narrator who’s title I can only assume is somewhat along the lines of  "The Thankless perfection of existence”, but while you would surely tell the tale much better, I’ve already heard it from /some other narrator/mortal in the know/the insane ramblings of a drunken tramp/ all of the above/. Moreover, I would rather you expand my knowledge rather then simply enforce already pre existing facts. Please, its for both my benefit and yours.” Well certainly dear reader, I understand, I also had no idea you had so much compassion for me. Assuming that this completely fabricated conversation happened and because I have no indication that it didn’t I will treat it as fact. This is what you believe, and I really appreciate that, but that title is just far too pompous and self-serving for my taste. Please, I try to be more humble than that. All right with all that boring dull exposition swept under the floor, away from sight, we can dive into this tangent! Oh, this will be fun, really anything that gets my mind off HIM would be consider fun at this point.


“Bordeaux”(Not the real author, as we've established) released a series of books known as the second sun cycle, it became very popular in Bordeaux’s Subjects home reality. So popular in fact, that it was soaked in and absorbed by nearby realities, leading to many unintentional cases of dimensional crossing thought theft (currently not illegal but that may change due to the outcome of the  recent court case of the one who swallows stars and Reality 205.A 5/9  Fitch vs. 27 distinct versions of Fitch from Reality 205.A-.001 through 205.A>END). The book series followed the adventures of T.S. Brokovitch, a young completely ordinary girl who’s life changes forever when she learns her first and middle name is finally told to her by her parents on her sixteenth birthday, two suns. Before Two Suns can ask her parents to explain why they refused to tell there own daughter her own name, there kidnapped by the Draco leeches and their evil master, the dreaded Y.B. Kolinsky! After this exciting opening event, Two Suns learns that she has all the strengths and weaknesses of an average healthy sun and must use this power to raid Kolinsky’s custom built Death Planet and free her parents and (as its revealed in book 5) the world! And after fifteen action filled books and a 93 book spinoff series of choose your own adventure books that you can safely skip (The main books, not the CYOA) she finally defeats Y.B and his five temporal blood jesters in Book 17: Finally defeated! Y.B and his five temporal blood jesters. But in the process of saving her parents and C.H.A.D (the doomsday robot who learned how to love) she learns that Y.Bs initials stand for Your Brother and that he is actually…. Well, you get the gist. And while this makes for a gripping yarn, none of this is true. The real Taylor Sandra Brokovitch was a completely normal girl who died accidently in her bathroom on her 16th birthday. Besides the first 10 pages, all of it was made up. Aren’t you glad I didn’t make you suffer a similar fate? Then again, unless I told you how would you know? Ones first reaction while reading a story isn’t to try and puzzle out if the protagonist is actually dead. Your kind are bred through conditioning to accept that the narrator doesn’t lie and when we show you that we do, we label it as breaking the mold and going against the grain, unaware that this is happening to us all the time. On the other hand, (most) readers are also not aware that the events that they are reading about actually took place, more or less.


The corpse is on fire now. I am lying, that was a lie, but unless I told you, you would've believed me. For all you know I could be lying to you right now, I could be inexplicably distracting you from the much more interesting real story of Mr. Strole fighting the Clung to the death. But just to clarify, Mr. Strole is actually dead. Mister Argus Stole is dead, that is the only thing you can believe.


Hindsight is a terrible burden that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. That was a lie. I would love Mr. Strole to come back to life momentarily just to experience his own death again. Then again, that would give his life closure, and I wouldn’t want Mr. Strole to experience anything I might not. However, looking back, there were so many ways I could of spun the death of Mr. Strole without resorting to lies. I could of said that this was the Clung's plan all along, I could of made this into a musing of how real life does not bend to our whims and goals. Hell, maybe even imply that the clung was death or maybe a Spector of death or not literally death but a metaphor for… so many possibilities!!! And its not lying, its simply interpreting the events, what his death means is simply my opinion after all. Its too late now isn’t it. Pretending this was planned all along is insulting to your intelligence. We both know he’s dead. I’m not sure why you’re still reading this honestly, I have nothing interesting left to say, that silly little stretcher/casket metaphor really used me. In a few hours I’ll lose my tether on Strole and be free to be stuck against my will on whatever body I chose. However, what's the point, they’re just going to die when you don’t want them to! Like the orderly desperately trying to bring Strole back to life. She could become a lauded doctor discovering new diseases and curing many more. Or she could choke on a peach seed. Or that kid crossing the street, listening to his music! He’s sure to become this generation’s idol, unless he trips on his shoelaces and breaks his fucking head! Why do they have to be so frustratingly mortal? Why can’t I control them as I do the reader? Why cant they just die when I want them to? I’d give them a hero’s death! I’d make sure they would never die in vain! I would make sure that their deaths meant something!


Yet, I can’t, and I can’t fake it either




I think I’m done; I’m not going to find a new host. I’m done. I don’t know what will happen to me, will I just die from starvation? That implies that I rely on people like Mr.Strole for sustenance and I don’t want that to be true. I’d like to think our species does this because we want too, not because we need too. But if I was feeding on my subjects, if I was some parasite, would I really starve? I mean, could I starve? Could I die?


Can I die?






Once again, I apologize. The story would have been so good, just phenomenal! You…


…Will never know