Archive for cooper’s fiction

Wording with Thorns

Only the fiction of my horror stories is exaggerated. The supernatural is mostly metaphor and code. The horror is real.

A lot of people—especially people with majority privilege—like to complain about political correctness. Think about this. Think about lying in your loved one’s arms at home at night, sleeping soundly. You wake up because so many arms have grabbed you that you can’t move. You get one more glimpse of your lover—you know instantly that she or he is going to be dead soon. Next, you’re tied to a stake, and bundles of burning sticks are being thrown at your feet just often enough to keep the agony high. These bundles are called “faggots.” You’re called a faggot, too, because your life is worth no more than tinder because of those you love. Watching you die is someone’s entertainment.

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If you think you have a right to complain about political correctness, and you have a shred of decency, you may not realize that there’s no exaggeration in the previous paragraph. More often than not in the name of Jesus Christ, people brutally and LEGALLY murdered their neighbors who expressed same-sex attraction from medieval times through the Holocaust (we wore pink triangles in the concentration camps, lest you forget). In the year 2016, homosexuality is still punishable by death in the Muslim world, not just in Iran (where the method of choice is live burial, like in the Edgar Allan Poe stories), but in nations the U.S. calls allies.

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After the U.S. stopped putting homosexuals in prison, it still locked us up in mental institutions, using electro-shock and other methods to “cure” us that would likely be considered violations of the 8th Amendment and the Geneva Convention (remember American Horror Story: Asylum?). True story: homosexuality was officially considered a mental illness in the U.S. until the 1970s, and a lot of people in the U.S. still act like it is. Read the news about which minorities are a plague this week. When people treat you like you’re an illness, they want to cure you. What do people do with illnesses? Eliminate them. Hitler had a final solution. Do you?

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The world really is that bad. So when you worry about political correctness as a Great Satan, I think you’re missing the forest for the trees. If you want to complain about idiots who try to use political correctness as an excuse to censor art, please be my guest. I gladly say fuck those motherfuckers: I hope their intestines spontaneously explode from their bodies and form a slide for them to ride straight to hell.

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I gladly say inappropriate things and create some of the most incorrect characters imaginable in my fiction. Some people who are fighting against political correctness feel that free speech is under threat, and to the extent that they’re right, I’m with them, but political correctness should be about acknowledging the power of language, which is something every good writer (and, in my opinion, good human being) should reckon with. So, fellow language-users, consider these two critical points:

  • Hate speech is a clear and present danger. If you’re arguing about limits on your free speech, remember that there already is one: you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Why? Because that’s an instance of speech that threatens the safety of a group of people. Dictionary.com defines hate speech as “speech that attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability”. “Faggot” devalues the lives of gay people and encourages murders like that famous murder of Matthew Shepard. Likewise—more on this in a moment—when a group of people on Facebook attacked me by using the words “handicapped” and “bipolar” as insults, it clearly fit the definition of hate speech related to disability and therefore did not qualify for protection under the first amendment.normalboring
  • “Use” and “mention” of words are distinct. I have mentioned the word “faggot” many times here. I have referred to its history of hatred, but I have not used that history or used the word to apply to a specific human being. This distinction is subtle and difficult for many people. So is the distinction between in-group use and out-of-group use. Language is about contexts. Political correctness helps people less familiar with contexts to navigate them. Unless you’ve known me for a good long time, you’re better off not using the word “faggot” in my presence. I’m bipolar and I’m gay. A really close friend might call me a crazy fag, but the probability that you’re that person is close to zero.

So I referred to a recent experience with hate speech related to disability. Despite the persistence of ex-gay camps and such that insist on trying to “cure” homosexuality, the mainstream no longer treats it as an illness, which is good, because it seems like a fine thing to me. I can’t say the same about the other stigmatized category I’m in. So people feel much more justified in treating me like I’m an illness to be eliminated. Take your meds. Wipe yourself into an oblivion where you won’t bother us anymore.

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When people make fun of us, I really just want to point out to you normals that you’re literally incapable of fathoming how un-fun it is. Unless you have my mental condition, your brain is not equipped to handle what mine processes. I am THAT different from you. But if I say that, people will think it’s some sort of arrogance or exaggeration. But it’s biochemical certainty. Part of what I try to do with my horror fiction is give you people glimpses. Edgar Allan Poe did that, too. Word is he was bipolar, and having read all of his work, I feel fairly confident his diagnoses would have had much in common with mine (never been an alcoholic, though). Lots of you have some hero-worship for him… mine’s a little different. I think he was in my club. Chances are, you’re not. Bipolar pride. Woo-hoo. Now turn down the fucking lights and remember we’re all going to die.

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For the last few election cycles, gay people were the favorite category to pick on. This time it’s the mentally ill, as we’re clearly the cause of all the shootings and such (nevermind that all the stats show we’re far more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violent crimes, thanks in part due to asshole horror writers who don’t do research). Seems I can’t get a break. Like it or not, the zeitgeist is with me, and I am with you. My recent bouts with illness have left me feeling too in touch with contemporary psych, but a little bit of Freud stands strong: the repressed shall always return…

Which reminds me, when you call something “exemplary,” you mean it stands as an example of your highest values. The person who led the mob that used hate speech against me was called “exemplary” by an organization specifically for his behavior on Facebook, I put myself in reach of this bigot because of his high standing in the organization, yet the organization (which has a sordid history with alleged racists and rapists) refuses to act at all. I suppose I AM crazy to think “sane” people would see that “political correctness” is about decency, and, to quote a popular writer, “We endorse things by our participation in them.” People in the organization are hypocritical enough to dismiss me as too touchy and therefore not worth considering as yet another crazy “victim” of their membership’s hate.

Perhaps decency is just too damned rare. My mania is quixotic.

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UPDATE: The “organization” referred to in this blog post is the Horror Writers’ Association. When the recipient of the HWA’s President’s Award, given for his “exemplary” achievement not in literature but in the FACEBOOK COMMUNITY, encouraged a mob to attack me with hate speech on Facebook, I reported the incident to the President and Vice-President of the HWA. I was informed that the HWA “would never tell any member or any of our volunteers what they can say on their own page.” This echo of the HWA’s doomed position in an earlier incident chilled me. I’ll borrow from Brian Keene. In a “statement regarding their decision to allow an avowed white supremacist and fascist serve as a Bram Stoker Award Juror” they tried to defend themselves by citing a “principle of supporting and practicing freedom of expression.” Of course they backpedaled when they realized that being a horror writer isn’t an excuse for lacking human decency… but I’m concerned that Keene is right about history repeating itself, and although I may not be one of the HWA’s greatest victims, they’re standing fast by a bigot who’s proud of hate speech against people with mental disabilities. They stand by calling him “exemplary.”

TOP RESPONSES FROM HWA

“I would never tell any member or any of our volunteers what they can say on their own page.” (The HWA President, Lisa Morton, who gave the President’s Award to Patrick Freivald for his “exemplary” standing in the horror community due to his work on Facebook–she is therefore the person most directly responsible for representing the HWA in endorsing his Facebook values, which demonstrably include supporting hate speech against the disabled)

“You’re not a special snowflake. Sorry. [You are] Using Bipolar disorder for excusing passive aggressive behavior.” (The Vice President, on why HWA won’t act in response to my complaints about hate speech–he later berated me aggressively, all on record)

Several other HWA “luminaries” have read the hate on Freivald’s page and assented to the party line that I “overreacted to something that never happened in the first place.” Lisa Morton angrily severed contact–as if she had been wronged–when I alluded to a film about rape, but whether she likes it or not, her methods are tried and true for squashing rape victims. Nope, I’m not as bad off as such victims in this case, not by a long shot, but I’m sick of HWA grabbing at any excuse to shut down dialogue that points out what everyone knows: they’ve got deep, deep problems.

Inside the Peritoneum: A Brain in the Gut

Peritoneum, Horrors by L. Andrew Cooper
(Coming mid-May, 2016)

 

Back Cover Info:

Snaking through history—from the early-1900s cannibal axe-murderer of “Blood and Feathers,” to the monster hunting on the 1943 Pacific front in “Year of the Wolf,” through the files of J. Edgar Hoover for an “Interview with ‘Oscar,’” and into “The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies” for a finale in the year 2050—Peritoneum winds up your guts to assault your brain. Hallucinatory experiences redefine nightmare in “Patrick’s Luck” and “Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion.” Strange visions of colors and insects spill through the basements of hospitals and houses, especially the basement that provides the title for “TR4B,” which causes visitors to suffer from “Door Poison.” Settings, characters, and details recur not only in these tales but throughout Peritoneum, connecting all its stories in oblique but organic ways. Freud, borrowing from Virgil, promised to unlock dreams not by bending higher powers but by moving infernal regions. Welcome to a vivisection. Come dream with the insides.

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Contents

  1. Prologue, The Family Pet: Steven Marks awakes one morning to find his older brother Gordon in the back yard doing terrible things.
  2. Blood and Feathers: Dr. Allen V. Fincher recruits Elijah Eagleton from Harvard through a show of unnatural power, so Eli must show power of his own to prove his worth. Slaughter abounds.
  3. Leer Reel: Obsessed with Dr. Fincher, Louis Jardin describes life at the Whispering River mental hospital, especially the ritual murders and his ability to spy on people who read his writing.
  4. Year of the Wolf: Matilda Roan sends Louis Jardin, who becomes a wolf-like creature, into the World War 2 Battle of Tarawa, where he hunts soldiers on both sides before being destroyed.
  5. Interview with ‘Oscar,’ circa 1962: During an interview with an FBI agent, Oscar describes the fate of a small town known for harboring sinful lawbreakers in 1862 Kentucky.
  6. Patrick’s Luck: A family receives “help” at the Whispering River mental hospital, only to find they have become part of colorful and deadly experiments that evoke hallucinatory violence.
  7. Juicy the Liar: Matilda Roan inducts her new friend Melia into the Fincher circle, exploring cunnilingus, battle strategy, and a flying car.
  8. DNA: A survivalist’s well-trained son awakes in a giant aquarium filled with office cubicle dividers. Armed with a clipboard, he must face absurd monstrosities and find a way out.
  9. Lizard Chrome: An army of lizards that drain colors from what they touch invades a trendy city gathering place.
  10. David Langley and the Burglar: A burglar-philosopher, who wants to graduate to murder, breaks into a man’s house and discovers the man stuck to his ceiling.
  11. The Long Flight of Charlotte Radcliffe: A woman attempts reconciliation despite her traumatic past with her Uncle Henry, but he is once again trying to entrap her.
  12. The Road Thief: A boy loses his mother when a spectral man-shape menaces them on the highway. Years later, the man-shape reappears when strange people invade his workplace.
  13. Rudy Haskill’s Plan: Rudy performs an experiment involving the internet, a man, a woman, and mismatched fantasies.
  14. Jar of Evil: A jar of pure evil gets out of the lab and could infect the city!
  15. Bubble Girl: A group of kids discovers a little girl floating in a protected bubble on the playground. Is she a ghost? What mysteries does she hold?
  16. Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion: A young woman goes to a notorious suburban house (TR4B) for an unusual medical procedure and ends up on a nightmarish journey.
  17. TR4B: The “Horror Mother” revisits the basement where her sons Steven and Gordon committed atrocities and faces supernatural tortures.
  18. Door Poison: A young couple visits notorious TR4B and enters a colorful but deadly video-game-like experience involving a floating head and a giant syringe.
  19. The Birds of St. Francis: Oscar meets with the Fincher circle (Elijah, Melia, and Jake) and causes history-changing disturbances involving the birds in Central Park, New York.
  20. The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies: Young Tim hunts the giant albino penguins from Poe/Lovecraft until Elijah recruits him—then his parents seem like better targets.

PeritoneumDiagram

In Peritoneum, mass murder becomes a backdrop while cannibalism is a matter for casual conversation. Stories take place at different historical moments, but since some characters see the distant past as well as the future, anachronism permeates their thoughts. Characters can often hear each other’s thoughts, too, so perspectives become… cluttered. Endings do not flow from beginnings but erupt from nightmarish hints of possibility; cause and effect have lost explanatory power. Natural order—the order you would expect to find in a story—churns and dissolves. Peritoneum is such an unnatural book that I think I can fairly call it, as a whole, insane.

Surrender to insanity. The book wants to disturb you, to strike at your brain through your guts, to make you feel and think in unnatural ways. Peritoneum experiments with your insides by doing things you think it shouldn’t. Most horror at least gestures toward the forbidden, usually taboos related to sex and violence, and my stories do not hesitate to mention the unmentionable, both in passing and in graphic detail. The language is harsh; the imagery is harsher. Whether you prefer the fairly realistic narration of “Prologue: The Family Pet,” the reserved dialogue of “Interview with ‘Oscar,’” or the hallucinatory assault of “Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion,” you will encounter an array of people—dead, dying, suffering, enjoying—and situations that refuse the types of answers you expect while providing other, darker answers.

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Answers don’t always appear where you expect, either. While Peritoneum refuses many of storytelling’s natural orders, it develops its own systems, connecting its stories to one another in ways that make them interdependent. “Eternal Recurrence” and “TR4B” pick up on the characters and setting from “The Family Pet” and weave in and out of one another; “Door Poison” and “The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies” share a setting with “TR4B,” while “The Broom Closet” also connects to “DNA” and to “Blood and Feathers,” which shares characters with “Leer Reel,” “Year of the Wolf,” and especially “The Birds of St. Francis,” and so on. Fitting the stories together doesn’t create anything like a linear narrative or complete picture, but just as the type of bubble that appears briefly in “Blood and Feathers” seems finally, and inexplicably, to get its due in “Bubble Girl,” mysteries get bigger according to their own internal logics, threatening to explode.

The explosion and dissolution of bodies, minds, and relationships—family losses lead to madness and slaughter in “David Langley and the Burglar” and “The Road Thief”—make most of the stories pretty grim, but you’re allowed to laugh, too. The line between funny-weird and funny-ha-ha tends to vanish along with rationality. I hope you don’t take “Jar of Evil” or “Juicy the Liar” too seriously, although they may be too sick, infuriating, or off-key for actual laughter. When I put my arch-evil characters in a flying car, I am not wearing a straight face. Likewise, I giggle at the mayhem in “Lizard Chrome” and the machinations in “Rudy Haskill’s Plan.” I find the video-game inspired levels of “Patrick’s Luck” and “Door Poison” amusing, although I feel guilty admitting it (sick, sick, sick). Although the ending is ambiguous at best, I even feel some triumph in “The Long Flight of Charlotte Radcliffe,” for the eruption of insanity on that airplane is at least a pretty solution to one of the heroine’s problems. Absurd, irrational styles of narration have their outlets. Insanity isn’t all tragedy, all the time.

While Peritoneum has many ties to my other work, especially the conspiracies of Dr. Allen V. Fincher (and his friends Eli, Jake, Tildy, Louis, Melia, and Oscar), it is a universe unto itself, held together by a membrane of concepts and themes. The universe is like our own, I believe, in lacking coherent sense and values, but it fills the void with nightmares, an example I encourage you NOT to follow. Do not take anything in this book as advice. Do not emulate the characters or seek to replicate the impossible events. Instead, digest the nightmares as you will, making the experiences of insanity parts of yourself, and then lift your brain from the sewage into whatever light remains for you to imagine.

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Sierra Exif JPEG

This house makes strange noises

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This house makes strange noises when I’m alone,

And when the wind blows it chills skin and bone.

I may be six-one with Y chromosome;

That won’t stop murder from haunting my home.

Big men, too, are easy prey when they’re prone.

 

An old foundation will happen to groan

But not with such purpose, not at a drone,

Not as if counting by some metronome:

This house makes strange noises.

 

I can’t escape the dark, nor the unknown,

Nor the ways loneliness the senses hone

As through my memory harsh spirits comb

Brandishing sins with hot vengeful aplomb,

Calling to me with my flesh to atone—

This house makes strange noises.

Fractured Brain Bogey Boogie

ImpofthePerversePoeMy personal Imp of the Perverse likes to make me a liar when I talk about writing. For instance, in a recent interview, I mentioned that I almost never write about real people, at least not people I’m on good terms with, because my fiction mostly focuses on bad, horrific things. Naturally, within weeks of the interview, a project I was working on decided to include some of the people I care about most. Nothing bad happens to them, I promise! Well, nothing permanent. In fact, the project, The Great Sonnet Plot of Anton Tick, combines nostalgia and good feelings with horror and depression in ways I’ve never explored before… but I think one of the reasons it uses both me and people I know, by name, no less, is because the Imp likes making me a big fat liar. So note: I do write about people I know, and quite directly, and sometimes to express love and praise as well as to spew vitriol. Go figure. The Imp did not ask me first.

A tick. Not Anton Tick, but a tick, all the same

A tick. Not Anton Tick, but a tick, all the same.

 

The Imp also did not ask before landing me in my current predicament. I’ve always been a One-Man-One-Book kind of writer, which is to say, I might have a story or an article on the side, little flings, but I’ve kept myself steady with one major project at a time. That way, when a block of hours for writing presents itself, I always know where my mind is going, be it into fact or into fiction. When I was writing my non-fiction book Dario Argento, I got out my notes on Dario’s wonderful movies and went into analysis mode. When I was writing my novel Descending Lines, I thought about doomed couple Megan and Carter Anderson and charted the next step downward on their descent. Having a stable place for the mind to go keeps the project focused, keeps it going, and keeps me sane, as I can always escape into it when I need something to think about other than whatever annoying thing is present to my consciousness at any given time. Annoyed by tax forms? Think about the zany bugs in Argento’s Phenomena. Annoyed by self-sustaining interpersonal conflicts? Think about the next scene of slaughter that will ruin Megan Anderson’s day. Simple psychological shelters!

Jennifer Connelly isn’t the only one who loves Argento’s zany bugs.

Jennifer Connelly isn’t the only one who loves Argento’s zany bugs.

 

Having a home base for the brain keeps it whole, in a way, which is why—one reason why, at least—right now Writer Me feels like a box of Mini-Wheats, lots of little squares, each with two sides arguing about the virtues of frosting.

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Don’t get me wrong. I lurve aspects of my fractured brain-home predicament, which began, I dunno, six months ago, when I up and started the strangest book I’ve yet written, Manufacturing Miracles, the novel that picks up where my novel Burning the Middle Ground left off. Faster plotting, more characters, and more settings than my previous work, with the bizarreness quotient ratcheted up considerably—great good fun, but also difficult. Work on that got waylaid, however, when I made the fantastic deal with Seventh Star Press for new editions of Reel Dark and Leaping at Thorns as well as my next collection of short stories, Peritoneum, all of which are slated for release in April/May 2016. Naturally, work on these three books needed (and continues to need) to intrude on Manufacturing Miracles for awhile. NOT complaining—good, lurvable stuff—but factors in the fracturing of my brain home. I should also mention that during all of this action another factor, also exciting and good, in the form of a book called The Blue Jacket Conspiracy—a dark mainstream thriller—has been going through the process of settling in with an agent, going to market, and hunting a home. So instead of one book on home base, that’s… five, at various states from just-started to almost-published.

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Then the Imp gets really crazed and has me start writing poetry, which I haven’t taken seriously, at least not with myself as author, since college. I start counting the syllables in everything and rhyming accidentally. I write a few sonnets, and next thing you know, I’m working on the aforementioned 100-poem cycle The Great Sonnet Plot, followed by “Villanelles of Villainy” and “Rondeaux of Indifference,” as I am a junkie for difficult, exacting forms and, contrary to the dominant fads of the last century, really like meter and rhyme. So as of this month, I have a book of poetry to polish and try to publish.

Manufacturing Miracles, still in the first third of its daunting outline, is jealous.

So today, when sitting down to write, I tinkered with a poem, tinkered with a novel, and was then reminded by Facebook that I haven’t posted on my author page in—gasp!—NINE DAYS. I love you all, I really do, so my Imp, my fractured brain, and I aren’t doing anything about any of the six books I’m worrying about and are instead writing this piece. Of. Reflection on writing.

Lies? Blogs about writing are supposed to contain bulleted advice. Somewhat clueless, I offer the following for when you find your brain facing the bogey of fragmentation:

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  • Drink espresso. After a trip to Italy, I returned to the States still fond of American coffee but somewhat ruined for it. What better way to Power Through than a little high-test, eh? It may not help with that fractured feeling—it may increase it, in fact—but if I need to flit like a mosquito from this to that, molto bene!
  • Triage. I say “triage” rather than “prioritize.” In emergency rooms as on the battlefield, aid workers must assess not only who has the greatest need for care, but who will benefit most from care, as some people are goners, and he who howls the most (Manufacturing Miracles is a howler) is not always in the greatest need. Deadlines (get it? “dead” “lines”) are useful triage guides, but so are supplies. I had a sudden, inexplicable supply of meter and rhyme, so The Great Sonnet Plot was going to benefit most from available care. Others, without immediate deadlines, weren’t going to die from waiting for better supplies to arrive… so they waited.
  • Connect. This one is tricky because it gets really confusing really fast, but all six of the projects I’m working on right now have relationships with and references to one another. Heck, The Great Sonnet Plot even refers to Argento. At times, these connections create an illusion of wholeness—I’m really working on one great big project!—and at other times, I just forget what I’m doing, and I step back, like The Stepfather, and ask, “Who am I here?” Still, an illusion of wholeness can redouble a sense of purpose, and that’s, uh, good.

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  • Visualize. If you learned from The Classics first, think Cicero and Quintilian, or if you’re like me, think Hannibal Lecter: either way, think of the Memory Palace, the idea that your mind is a big ol’ house full of many rooms, and each room contains one of your projects. If you’re stuck on Connect, put all the rooms in the same wing of the house, connected by the same hallway, maybe painted the same color. Anyway, in each room, the project’s characters (or, in the case of something like Dario Argento, I’d say the movies, or in another type of non-fiction, I’d say the major events I was writing about, or whatever) are waiting. They may or may not be patient, but they’re waiting every time you go into the room. Enter, talk to them, get them going, and while you’re there, write. When you’re done, you can leave, and you go to another room that day or any other day, and you can come back whenever you want. This method will help you keep the projects sorted and On Call in your brain, which, thanks to your architectural maneuvering, is more partitioned than fragged.
  • Drink. Face it. The people in all those rooms are not patient. There’s a reason why writers and bottles, historically, get along well. I am not advising you to violate your belief system. But I believe you got to shut those people up somehow, sometime, ’cuz otherwise, that whole damned house is gonna burn, and you ain’t saving none of those patients.

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The Vum

VumBefore

She waits in her office, hair pulled back tight,

Her face dour, shriveled—vomitous sight!

A lad comes to see her, papers in hand,

Called after class to fulfill her demand.

He doesn’t want to but bends to her will;

She uses the role of teacher to kill.

He sits before her; she closes the door.

He rises to flee but falls to the floor

When her cigarette fingers rise and loom

High above, creeping, booming, she—the Vum.

Her head splits in pieces, neatly in two,

Squirting and pulsing and oozing with goo.

Her empty-bag titties open and gape

Flapping beneath the head-halves like a cape.

The wrinkles that wreathe, above and below,

Sprout razors that run split top to cleft toe.

The middle is naught but tentacle mass;

No stomach is left, no ’gina, no ass.

Each wriggling thing coils toward the prone lad

With pointy knob ends to pierce where he’s bad.

Screeching desire inside the goo pieces

She emits the fell odor of feces,

Which makes the lad tremble when she draws near:

Each Vummy detail arouses his fear.

Her feast begins when the tentacles strike,

Gripping and licking, they go where they like.

Stabbing the boy who needs tenderest touch—

Even one of her knobs would be too much!

Again, again, she violates and takes,

Stripping and sucking and eating lad cakes.

(Seeing her eat, stuffing boys in her hole,

Is stunning to see, no mouth to behold.)

Before he can scream, the boy’s fight is done,

The Vum zips her head up, hair in a bun.

Her door reopens, calls invitation

To the next fool who’ll bow to her station.

Her walls hang with prizes given herself

Declaring her teaching top of top shelf.

No one will dare ever challenge the Vum

Until you deal slayage, hand her just doom!

Spray her with acid, dissolve foulest flesh,

Turn wrinkles and bags to meaningless mesh.

When she’s a puddle she’ll then do no harm

And you’ll be a hero: don’t wait, aux armes!

 

MORAL: The only good Vum is dead, smushed mushy-mushy, fell foot to whore head. Don’t delay. Kill a Vum today.