Minor Act of Bio-Terrorism

Friendship

So, this morning I was standing at the station listening to ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Gillian Welch and I was thinking about a romance book I’d just read which said something about passion being important in life, and I was trying to think what passion feels like, but I just kept thinking about the flu.

When the train pulled up, I looked at my reflection in the train doors because I accidentally shaved my whole sideburn off the other day and I can’t stop looking at it, and saw a wasp fly directly into my neck. I was already stepping into the carriage by this point, and I really wasn’t worried because in my heart I was a sad southern woman, and I kind of loosely grabbed the wasp in my hand and flicked it away. I then went down the stairs and sat. In reality, what I’d just done was grab a wasp and throw it directly at a bald guy in the standing section, and for the rest of my trip I just kept hitting ‘repeat’ on Wrecking Ball and watching everyone freak out and run around as this wasp kept landing on people, and every station more people would get on, tired-eyed commuters in suits with running shoes who don’t expect to be in any danger and there was always this moment, where they look at everyone else ducking and screaming and they just stand still, listening to music or playing on their phone and then suddenly they’re like ‘holy fuck, there’s a wasp on me’.

It was pretty great, I felt pretty powerful, I wanted to poke the lady next to me and be like ‘I did that, I threw that wasp’. I think that passion is pretty nice maybe, which is probably the point of all these romance books that I sell, but I think life is all about throwing wasps at things, and seeing if they stick. You’re either a wasp thrower or someone surprised by a wasp. Or maybe you are a wasp. I dunno. What’s a hornet?

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #10: QUITTING

Congratuwatchout!

There are some thoughts that you can only reach when walking through freezing, mist-filled streets at 4am, when a crazy man is screaming monotonously in the distance, when drunk nightclub people are still waiting for taxis to get home. My thought was this: I have made some mistakes. My thought was: Some people are experiencing worst things than this, like leg amputation and pregnancy and medically not being able to eat cheese. My subsequent thought: Those people are not me right now, this is still awful.

As I waited for the first train of the morning to lumber into the station like a long hippo with a stinky moist inside that we all sat in, my final thought was: I am quitting my job this month.

Probably the only thing I truly admire about myself is that once I have made a decision I will pursue it with the tenacity of a brain-damaged terrier chasing a seagull. That day at work, buzzed on the thousand coffees I drank secretly in a toilet stall, I made lists. Lists of potential things I could do, ranked and cross-referenced with pros and cons lists. Lists of all the lists I would make. Colour-coded lists. Secret lists.

A week later, I was enrolled in an Honours degree at university. The problem with my dum-dum dog tenacity is that sometimes it means the ideas I pursue aren’t GOOD ideas, but the fact that I then dropped out of that degree about two weeks in is another story for another time.

If you’ve never had the experience of quitting a job you truly detest, I thoroughly recommend you do so. It’s like walking down a shadowy alley and seeing all the muggers surround you, but unknown to them – you are a ninja robot killing machine. Inside you are only more indestructible steel.

On the day I discovered I’d been accepted into the degree and its subsequent Centrelink payment (which I never received, FYI) I stomped my metallic legs into my boss’s office and told her I was quitting. It’s not so much that I disliked my boss, it’s that I thought she was a terrible person and really bad at her job. Also, I disliked her. Fun things that we’d been through together: the time she threatened to fire me after a customer spat at me, the time she tried to deny me a day off for a funeral, the time she changed all my shifts to the 5am starts.

In my head, I dreamt our showdown would be full of snark and wit. I wanted to be like ‘say goodbye to all of this, you monster, good luck replacing my particular brand of apathy and incompetence’. Instead, I found myself being overly polite and telling her how much I’d enjoyed working in the place that had probably given me a minor drinking problem.
I told her I’d be happy to stay for another two weeks and help train my replacement, and also subtly sabotage things around me and really wallow in my leaving. I wondered if I could somehow take her down with me. But, being my diabolical arch-nemesis, she was like ‘Actually, this can be your last day. Please write a formal letter of resignation and… we can leave it at that.’ She tapped her sharp nails on the table as a dismissal, and I left the office, feeling cheated. This was supposed to be my amazing, drawn out and dramatic leaving, showing that i’d won. Somehow, she’d reversed everything and made me feel dismissed.

I spent the next few hours trying to work out a way to one-up her. I plotted stealing things, or leaving fruit somewhere. I schemed leaving a series of cryptic notes hidden around the store to mess with her mind and maybe even drive her insane. And then, when it was my lunch break, I realised… I could just leave. I could just walk out of there, and let all the anger and spite leak from the back of my head like baby drool.

So I gathered my stuff, said goodbye surreptitiously to the people I liked, left my resignation note on my bench and strode into the future, an uncontrollable smile pasted across my smarmy face.

But also because I am in no way above absurd spiteful gestures, my letter of resignation was a penguin holding a sign that says ‘I quit.’

 

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This was the LAST in my #curriculumworstae series. Thanks so much for coming along on the ride. I’ll be starting a new series on Facebook soon, which will also be published on this blog. The support for these stupid stories was amazing! YOU GUYS ROCK SO MUCH.

Urgh, Writing: How To FOCUS on Writing

97VP

I was reading this post by my colleague Craig called ‘How Not To Write a Novel’ and was nodding along with his points, before realising that actually my problems are entirely different to the ones he has laid out, and are maybe unique to me. But then I thought I was probably overestimating how special I am and underestimating how ridiculous other people’s lives are. So here are my pointers on how not to write a novel, with an added moral at the end:

1. Don’t Write Theatre

One of the easiest ways not to write a novel is to spend years writing theatre. While it may sometimes look like you’re writing a novel due to all the words you are putting on a page, don’t be confused – this is a script, and not a novel.

2. Don’t Write Films

Hey, films are cool. How do they get the words you wrote up on that big screen and expressed through shiny pictures? We’ll never know. But doing that film writing course is not writing a novel. You are often sitting down, but once again, still not writing a novel.

3. Don’t Write Satirical Poetry

Even though you got a shiny purple suit and an 8-foot banner of yourself, you are still not writing a novel. You are in a poetry boyband.

4. Don’t Write Miscellaneous Shit for Everyone Who Asks

Still not a novel. Mostly these are lists about 90s TV shows.

5. Don’t Get A Job You Love

Because you have to go there every day, and not write a novel. They’re pretty strict on that point.

I am definitely guilty of all these, and because of the last point, I’ve had to look at all the things in my life and decide what my goals are. I am now dedicated to getting some books out there – starting with a collection of short fiction, then a creative non-fiction novel and then potentially a fiction novel. These are my goals. Because I am now focused on my goals, my writing has become a clear and defined thing. The microfiction a day plan that I talked about in a previous Urgh, Writing has been working fantastically, and I am reliably pumping out a few stories a week. Furthermore, I’m enjoying my actual writing. It doesn’t feel like a chore. Accompanying this is STILL a bunch of side projects – things which I’ve looked at and said ‘this will help my eventual goals in terms of promotion and exposure’, or smaller projects which I really believe in, such as a top secret thing I am working on with Seizure. But I am also learning how to say ‘no’. Over the past two weeks, I keep seeing fantastic writing opportunities – comedy writing positions, webseries, residencies, etc etc etc. Things that would have suited past me a lot, or things that I think I would enjoy. And it’s super hard staying focused and saying no to them. But I’m getting better.

And now for bonus moral point:

6. ACTUALLY DO ALL THOSE THINGS I SAID NOT TO DO

Why? Because maybe I don’t have a novel, but each of those points has led me to becoming a better writer. Theatre for example – something I love, something I love writing, and something I will write again, but I KNOW my dialogue skills in prose have enhanced because of it. My film course? Taught me I don’t want to write for Hollywood, but also how to pitch ANY project. Focus is good, but I think I’ve needed this time being a little bit adrift to pick up some skills, and now I can focus them into a deathlaser or whatever.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #4: JARED PADALECKI

The Heat

 

When I am old, handsome old, like George Clooney or a big majestic tree, that one story I’ll tell to my grandchildren and old war buddies over and over again will be the time I met Jared Padalecki. ‘BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHO THAT IS?’ my grandchildren will scream ‘WE HAVE EVOLVED INTO BEINGS OF PURE THOUGHT AND NOW RIDE ON MOONBEAMS, WE CARE NOT FOR YOUR ANTIQUATED ACTORS’. And I’ll chuckle, and start peeling a mango with only my blunt thumb nails.

You see, I was working in the specialty wine store at the airport when it happened. I thought that the lights overhead had failed perhaps, but it was actually because someone immensely tall was standing over me. I am 6’2 myself, so the sensation of being loomed over is a really strange one, but there it was. I immediately recognised Jared Padalecki, or as I thought of him ‘Dean’ from Gilmore Girls. He was smiling politely, and his shoulders were enormous, as wide as I am tall. I wanted a piggy back from him, a sexy, sexy piggy back.

He explained that he wanted to bring wine as gifts for his family, and he wanted something ‘Australian’ but not touristy. I managed to help him in what I believe was an adequate manner, also managing to keep a surprising degree of calm. I probably came across as fairly humourless, focused on not blurting something ridiculous like ‘NICE SEX PANTS, BIG FACE.’

I even acknowledged his celebrity status, casually asking if he’d been filming here in Aus, only to learn they were using the Australian desert for some episodes in Supernatural, which I didn’t watch.

Finally, at the counter as I packed all his wine for him, listening to him speak fondly of spending Christmas with his parents, he went to leave, thanking me for helping him. I almost left it at that, almost let him walk away, before I softly said ‘You were my favourite.’

‘Sorry?’ he asked.

‘You were my favourite of Rory’s boyfriends’ I stated, before blushing furiously. He nodded and thanked me vaguely and walked off, and I realised that I was blushing because I’d lied. At that point, Logan had been my favourite Rory boyfriend. But now Dean is. Shoulders as wide as I am tall.

Slaughterhouse Party of Five – The best book/TV show mashups

It all started fairly tamely – I was writing an article on Slaughterhouse-Five for Writers Bloc, and I thought about that show, Party of Five and I posted it on Facebook.

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And it just kept going:

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At this point, I had people messaging me saying that they were having fun but they really should get some work done. But they kept posting them:

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By this point, I literally couldn’t watch things anymore as I had WORK. But who needs me?

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WILL IT NEVER END

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OH GOD COME ON

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HAHAHAHAHAHA

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No, but we had to stop before we start bringing movies into this. That can be next week.

Lessons in Native Fauna

I read this story at a Penguin Plays Rough storytelling event held in The Rocks by Word Travels. Old Yeller was beaming down with his big face, trying to kill us all, but it was grand.

Intellectually I think we all know that Australia is trying to kill us.  People overseas know Australia as the place where crocodiles fight sharks in the water, and if you manage to escape them, there’s a horde of spiders waiting on the shore, weaving webs of silk and lies. People overseas get the danger – it’s why they liked Steve Irwin so much. They saw him as a perfectly rational response to our death-trap of a nation. They think that kangaroos hop down George Street with an unholy cocktail of crocodiles and Taipan’s hiding in their pouches, and only Steve Irwin had the guts to wrestle them into submission and send them back out into the desert.

Us locals know that the kangaroo death brigade is hyperbole. In fact the majority of Australian’s are fairly lax about the ever-present spectre of painful death that hangs over us. Every summer the news is filled with stories about the aggressive Funnel Webs living in our kitchen, or the Redbacks in our toilets, or the sharks in our paddling pools – but it’s always something that happens to a friend of a friend. We are careless. Australia is deadly, but Australia is also patient. It waits for your guard to be down, before it strikes, like a Cassowary going for your eyes.

 

sharkpool

My story begins at a time when my guard was down so far, that people who are clinically dead have been known to have more peripheral awareness. It was the perfect time for Australia to punish me. I was in that magical state of half-being known as university break. I was minding my parents house and by extension, looking after their pets. A glorious month where my responsibilities were so few, that watching a documentary on sloths could fill me with anxiety. I was so lazy, that instead of making a sandwich, I would sit in front of the fridge and eat all the component parts separately. My bar job had recently cut my shifts to four hours a week, for the ultra-legal reason of ‘not wanting to work with a fag’. I had to feed my cat twice a day. This was my life.

On this particular day I was doing season six of my epic Buffy re-watching marathon. It was around midday and I’d been watching since breakfast the previous day. I was naked, curled in a nest of junk food and wine bottles. At some drunken point the previous night, I’d put on a cape made from a bed sheet and hooked my sword on to a belt that hung from my bare waist. I was borderline psychotic, not really able to understand that I wasn’t some kind of terribly plotted character from the Buffy universe.

As I watched and stewed in my own awfulness, I heard a strange bumping sound coming from up the stairs. I paused the DVD, and listened as it continued. My first thought: it’s my parents, coming home from their holiday early. I, their 22-year-old son is naked, wearing a cape and has a sword strapped to him.  Why couldn’t they just catch me injecting heroin like normal kids? But that thought was thankfully dismissed, when I realised my mum probably wasn’t yowling and hissing. The sound of struggle continued, and I had an inkling of what it could be. My cat, Lily, was rescued from the local graveyard, where she probably survived by killing vampires. As a sign of her affection to me, she loved to leave headless birds or defenestrated rats on my pillow. Maybe she had some poor native creature in her talons and was dragging it up the stairs for me.

I finally got off the couch, ready to rescue a cute lorikeet or possum baby or something, only to be confronted by the sight of my cat dragging a fully grown brown snake behind it. Brown Snakes are only the SECOND most venomous land snake, so at least there’s that. The snake was writhing furiously, trying to escape from my cat’s jaws. Lily looked wide eyed and panicked, as if she had literally bitten off more than she could chew, or as the other popular saying goes, ‘had a live brown snake in her mouth’. She struggled for a few more moments, and then looked me in the eyes and let it go.

The Brown Snake reared up and started lunging at Lily with horrifying speed. This was it – this was my moment of testing, the instance where Australia throws something horrible at you and decides whether you deserve to live or die. My reaction, I believe, can only be put down to the 40 straight hours of Buffy I’d been watching, the sleeplessness and also, let’s not forget the fairly considerable level of inebriation. Because as that huge fucking snake bared its fangs and struck at my cat, I unsheathed my sword, and chopped its goddamn head off.

Well – I tried to. Due to ‘the law’ my sword, an authentic Omani cavalry blade, was blunted. So when I hit the snake, with my best, two-handed blow, it kind of just launched it across the room into the kitchen, where it hit the wall with a splat. I might not have beheaded it, but I did cut fairly deep, and it proceeded to lie there and slowly bleed out in a huge puddle.

Now, let’s all move past the fact that this is my one moment of heroism and despite looking ludicrous, wang flopping obscenely beneath my cape and all, this was probably the greatest thing I’ve ever done, or ever will, in my life. Let’s move past it, because what I did after it is really fucking weird.

I was suddenly hit by a giant wave of adrenalin. Despite the snake being really dead, the adrenalin also bought a bunch of fear. I became obscurely terrified that someone would know what I had done. I had to hide the body! So I scooped up the still bleeding reptile, stuffed it into an empty Oreo box and chucked it into the next-door neighbours yard. I then attempted to clean up snake blood using windex and paper towel, a practice I don’t recommend to anybody. If any of you are thinking of committing a murder, you probably don’t want someone with this degree of poise helping you dispose of the body. But after the fear died down, and the pigs were unable to track the notorious ‘snake-in-a-box’ case back to me, I realised something marvellous.  Australia tested me, and in the face of danger I proved that I could be mildly effective. I could survive whatever this enormous danger-island sent my way, survive and then panic absurdly afterwards. Thanks, Australia.

Captions: No more!

A collection of my top 20 weird captions from my time in the business.

As some of you may know, I’ve just been hired by Allen and Unwin publishers, much to my infernal delight! Fucking hoo-rah! I really am over excited.

And today I am currently doing my last EVER Sunday shift at captions. I’ve been captioning at the ABC for three years now, and I’ve had a pretty decent time. Very excited to be leaving shift work. Very excited never to have to caption Giggle and Hoot again. In my time here, I’ve collected shots of weird captions and supers that I’ve seen on the TV’s around here. Some of these are genuine mistakes that have gone to air, often by our company. Most are what’s known as ‘hanging captions’ where a misplaced sentence stays on a TV screen for no good reason. It’s a technical mishap, and is often paired with hilarious images. Unfortunately I couldn’t take a photo of the best mistake I ever made, which was accidentally sending to air for South Australia’s news a sentence which should have read: ‘Penny Wong’s lesbian partner’ but which I misspelled as ‘Penny Wong’s lesbian panther’.

1.

This isn't even a mistake, this is literally just the best caption I ever got to write.

This isn’t even a mistake, this is literally just the best caption I ever got to write.

2.

Well, how do you?

Well, how do you?

3.

Umm, I think you mean 'gaze', Waleed.

Umm, I think you mean ‘gaze’, Waleed.

4.

111

Good?

5.
333

6.
444

7.
555

666

Accurate caption is accurate.

8.

888

Some really great sports reporting from one of the state news updates.

9.

999

Like optic blasts, probably.

10.

1111

Next week on ‘Leigh Sales, PI’

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12.
101010

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121212

14. 151515

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171717

16.
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14141414

18.
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This is just a creepy jacket flung over a chair, not actually death come to take me.

19.

20.

"Totes"

“Totes”

Stark Raving Mad? Some thoughts on Sansa Stark.

An article where I point out that Sansa Stark might just be the hero we don’t want, but the hero we need. Or something. Spoilers if you haven’t read the books/caught up with the show.

Sansa-Stark-women-of-westeros-30785217-400-610
A while ago, I posted this silly article on Junkee. In it, I refer to Sansa Stark dying from a never ending menstrual cycle, because my referential comedy is of the highest standard. There was one comment which I haven’t been able to stop thinking about as I (finally) got enough time to watch the new season. It was this:

“Funny but i gotta say, the hatred and dismissal of sansa stark is really grating. Out of all the awful humans in GOT people hate sansa, because shes a teenage girl with *ew* periods and stuff.”

To begin with, at no point did I mean for that to be an attack on Sansa – if I had to look for some kind of source for my lame jokes, I’d say I was particularly tickled by Cersei’s constant need to remind Sansa she was bleeding from the crotch, particularly in that battle scene. I mean, c’mon, it’s the girls first period, do you really need the Queen bringing it up in public situations constantly? And personally I find Sansa one of the more fascinating characters – in the books there is this very much the tension of discovering if she really has renounced her Stark background. She’s lost her wolf – has she lost her honour too?

In the show however, things are a bit more cut and dry. Yes, she was a brat at the beginning of the show, but you know, also preteen. Did people on the internet really still carry the hate for her? Turns out that yes, Sansa is widely hated, and another comment on the article pointed out, it’s because she’s ‘so insipid’. What got me is that a lot of the people keeping the Sansa hatred flame alive aren’t your run of the mill sexist wankmaesters, but actually some intelligent, well informed types. I mean, there’s a bunch of that too. You don’t see nearly as much venom towards Samwell Tarly, who is actually a character who does insipid things. He is cowardly. But he’ll find his courage and save the day, blah blah blah, classic trope. People expect that, and wait for it to happen. Why don’t they let Sansa have that chance too?

Where does this supposed insipidity in Sansa Stark come from? Because from my point of view, it simply doesn’t exist. Let’s have a look at some of the POV characters which Sansa has to measure up against: Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth and Daenerys Stormborn. One of the things I love about this show is that there are these kickass female characters. That scene where Brienne roundly thumps Jamie Lannister? Actually had me pumping the air. Daenerys begins the show sold as a sweetener for her brothers imperial ambitions – but is so kickass she ends up leading an army and melting said brothers face off. But we have to remember that in this world, this is not the norm. Women do not hold the same power as men.  Cersei is perhaps the most stunning treatise on this – she constantly questions the fact that her power must be authenticated by her attachment to powerful men. She may not be a particularly likable person, but in reality she deserves the throne just as much as those other rich psychopaths, who had the luck of being born as penis wielders. Instead she can only hold the throne  for her husband or her son.

Sansa is barely more than a child, held hostage in the camp of the people who murdered her father. Ostensibly, in this show she has the least power of all. Even Jamie Lannister, in manacles, is in less constant danger than her. Every day that she manages to stay alive and not raped and murdered by the tiny evil king on the throne or any of the hundreds of powerful men around her is a victory for her. So is she insipid?

In my opinion, I think we hate seeing her in this position. I think it is seat-squirmingly uncomfortable to see an intelligent woman being as powerless as she is, not even having the liberty to speak her mind, let alone go where she wants to. I hope we find it abhorrent the amount she is beaten up by Joffrey and his knights. I think on some level we don’t want to have a powerless woman character. Do we wish she could draw a sword like Arya or Brienne? Yes. But she’s not a warrior. Or plot her way out? Perhaps. Or give birth to some dragons. But that  isn’t her. She has no skills or bargaining tools. She’s powerless, but not insipid. She’s naive. She may not even be particularly brave yet – but maybe that’s what’s in store for her. I know some of the things that lie in wait for her from the books, but even those aren’t finished. Sansa is a character nowhere near finished.

So while ethically I’d love for Sansa to stand up to Joffrey, maybe in a knife fight on a bridge, I also respect the internal realism of the show. She doesn’t have that opportunity. She didn’t get the chance to escape like Arya. She has to stay in the castle of sociopaths and be brave in different ways. So hate her situation, but don’t hate her.

Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards – Written Word

Hi folks, so I know I spend a lot of time spruiking various things, like my plays and publications – but I have another thing. I’ve entered SOYA in the written word capacity. If I win, I get $5000 in Qantas flights. This is actually amazing timing, because lately I’ve been planning on writing a novel, which is very much in the style of this blog, and it requires a whole bunch of travel for research. Hence this award would be spectacular. And if you’ve ever wanted to read a whole novel worth of crap by me, this would help you too!

It would be pretty much balls-out fantastic if could you go to my profile: http://www.soya.com.au/entrant/patricklenton/ and like some stuff and share it around. It apparently helps if you do that? Thank you so much.

Your fellow motorist.

 

It would mean so much to me my heart would burst out of my chest and spray you in gratitude.

It would mean so much to me my heart would burst out of my chest and spray you in gratitude.

To the Frighthouse

This is  story I read at Penguin Plays Rough at the State Library earlier in the year. PPR do the most innovative and fun events in the literary world. You should give them your first borns.

To the Frighthouse

The lighthouse squatted over steep cliffs like a drunk woman in high-heels peeing in a gutter. Years of high winds and crashing waves had shattered the once proud architecture, until it looked like nothing more than an old cupcake. Thick mist curled around the grounds, obscuring the horizon and seeping into the lawn. Walking through the fog was like being licked by a giant ethereal tongue. Somewhere in the distance echoed the call of ravens suddenly taking flight.

A lesser man might sprout goosebumps like a fertile box of cress. A weaker man might feel that squirming sensation deep in his gut, like a tiny cat was trying to get comfortable in his stomach, but which was actually fear. But not I – for if there’s one thing a writer of the genre of horror can withstand, it is the puny emotion known as fear. If fear was fire, then I would be a fireman, able to stride through the roaring flames, chuckling madly and rescuing fistfuls of babies, completely immune to the burning heat. As a horror writer, I would routinely face terror unfathomable to others, and also knew enough to identify the tropes and cliches with ease.

Which is why I have chosen to write my next book – ‘Night of the Living Sled’ about an innocent sled ride which swiftly becomes less innocent – in an abandoned lighthouse in Maine, USA. I’ve found myself able to save bucketloads of money by taking my writing vacations in places that others, who are not lords of the chill, would go mad simply to behold. So as the storm clouds roll in over the foreboding architecture, and lightning flashes illuminate the tracks of giant dogs and velociraptors, I only laugh. Because it’s nothing that I don’t automatically expect. I even think I see, for a split second, a pale woman’s face staring out of one of the top windows. Amateurs.

Later that night, I am writing by the light of the open fire. ‘“There’s no such thing as a cursed sled” screamed Molly, the chambermaid, blood streaming from her eyes and pooling in her frilly little apron and staining her feather duster.’ I dipped my quill into my inkpot, and finished the line. “Oh really” rasped Grandpa Jonathan, the racist ex-banker. “Have you ever seen a little film called… Citizen Kane?”’ I am interrupted by  a rapping at the window. I open the door to discover a dripping wet elderly gentleman, covered in a large raincloak. Thunder cracks and in the distance a wolf howls.

‘Boy, ye must leave this place, for ye are in grave danger.’

I sigh, and identify him. ‘You must be the caretaker.’

‘Nay, boy. I am the caretaker, and let me tell ye, this place is host to a spirit malevolent and      spiteful, that has plagued humanity since -’

‘The dawn of time’ I suggest, cleaning my glasses with my cravat.

‘Nay, the 1970′s.’

I fixed the caretaker with a stare, and packed my pipe with more tobacco. The old man had skin like an unfashionable leather purse, and stringy grey hair like the pubic thatch of Beelzebub himself. He lifted a shaky arm and scratched at his neck with his hook for a hand.

‘The old hook for a hand’ I chuckled. ‘Classic caretaker.’

‘I’ve got two!’ the man exclaimed, brandishing his other hook wildly.

‘Tis why I don’t use an umbrella.’

‘So what’s the story. Indian burial ground, terrible murders? Are you a ghost? You’re the ghost, aren’t you.’ I started prodding him in the face, his skin as dry as the inner sole of a shoe.

‘I am not a ghost’ the caretaker said, somewhat sullenly.

‘Well, prod me then.’ I told him.

‘What?’ he answered, slowly.

‘Prod me, and then we’ll know that neither of us are ghosts. It’s called the Shyamalan Protocol.’

Reluctantly the old man prodded me, and I gave him a satisfied nod. None of us were ghosts. Although, I was now bleeding, thanks to being prodded by a hook-handed monstrosity.

‘If ye really want to learn the truth, ye must follow me into the basement. But I warn ye, everyone else who has even gone into the basement has…’

I finished his sentence. ‘Died horribly? Gone mad?’

‘Gotten wet shoes. The plumbing is none too sturdy. You tool.’ he mumbled the last part, and I asked him to repeat what he had said.

‘Uhh, I simply said – you fool!’ and chuckled malevolently as we descended into the bowels of the lighthouse.

The basement was indeed uncomfortably wet, and apart from hosting a mixed family of raccoons and cats, there was nothing strange about it. That is until the caretaker opened up yet another set of stairs.

‘Another basement?’

‘Yes, this basement has a basement!’ and cackled wildly. ‘Spooky’ I said glumly, starting to recognise there was a little more to this place than the same old tropes and idioms that I was used to.

Holding up a flickering lantern which barely illuminated the mould covered walls, the caretaker began speaking in a long monotone.

‘They say that one night the devil came here and gave birth to a dog, aye, but not just any dog, a devil dog from Hades with glowing eyes and a preternatural ability to do sudoku puzzles. Did he do them well? Nay, but better than most dogs. And others say that something, something unknowable crawled from out of the ocean and nested in the roots of this lighthouse, and now it’s working on Mitt Romney’s campaign staff, and yet others claim that this is the lighthouse where Virginia Woolf wrote her story ‘To the Lighthouse’, yet the original title was ‘To the Frighthouse’ and in the end of that manuscript someone got stabbed all up in the vagina, but then the editors changed it.  Oh aye, they say a lot about this place. They have a lot of opinions.’

In the third basement of the basement, we ran smack into a group of teenagers and a dog.

‘Let me guess, you guys are here solving mysteries?’

The youths, a lot skinnier, tattooed and pierced than the Original Scooby-Doo gang, gave each other shifty looks, until one said.

‘Umm, yeah.’

The caretaker was trying to pat the dog, a mangy German Shepherd with bloodshot eyes and tattered ears.

‘Old man – I probably wouldn’t pat Scooby over there, he looks fairly rabid.’

‘Not to worry’ said the old man, through a locked, frothing jaw. ‘I’ve got me own rabies to worry about.’

‘So, kids, what’s your verdict. Is there really a ghost, or is it just old Mr Jenkins in a monster mask?’ I asked.

‘Umm, dude, have you got any meth?’

I was starting to think they weren’t mystery solvers at all, unless the mystery was how much meth they could take. And I was also starting to feel… uneasy. There was something about this entire situation that didn’t quite add up. Was there mystery and suspense? Yes. But the clues were more baffling than illuminating. Sometimes I regretted this foray into the realm of horror – my first book had actually been some Australian Literature, a novel called ‘Secret Rural Family Town’. It was a prize winning tale about a young man who seeks to understand the meaninglessness of it all but instead finds out a series of secrets about his family and the small town that he finds so suffocating. But then I was drummed out of the lucrative Aust. Lit market by Peter Carey in a violent fistfight in a small Melbourne pub. David Malouf gambled on the fight and won fifty dollars as a result. Ever since then i’d been forced to earn my coin in the world of spooky thrills.

‘Through this door, master, lies the answers that you seek. The dark shadow that lies over this lighthouse.’

I hesitated, mind racing furiously like an angry horse. Now was the climax, the twist at the heart of every ghost story. What could possibly be beyond the door that I wouldn’t be prepared for in some way. The ghost of a tiny girl, banging her fathers dismembered head against the door of a car. Or something more literary, perhaps, like the ghost of my own humility, which takes the form of Jim Belushi from either Ghost Busters or Blues Brothers, or a strange mashup film called ‘Ghost Brothers.’

I pushed open the door, and discovered a tableau that I will never forget until my dying day. At a table, playing a robust game of Dungeons and Dragons, was Stephen King. He was rolling a handful of dice and staring down a forlorn looking George R.R. Martin. Terry Pratchett was making margarita’s. Stephen King looked surprised at my entrance, and then shamed. He scuffed his foot against the floor, looked me in the eye and said ‘Happy Halloween.’

'Wooooooooo' - Stephen King

‘Wooooooooo’ – Stephen King

I looked back at him and said ‘It’s not Halloween, Stephen King. Halloween was last week.’