Monthly Archives: January 2014

Sick Mouse, Pt. 4

The sick mouse is on his hands and knees in a shack assembled piecemeal from planks of wood, pieces of corrugated metal, moth-eaten bedsheets. The figure is with him as well, and they are both animated in such a way as to suggest insubstantiality as before. The figure ignores the mouse’s pain and instead points at a dog-like character sleeping in a bed. The bedsheets roll towards the character’s feet and back up towards its face as it snores.

This is, of course, [REDACTED]. As with the duck, [REDACTED] had nothing to do with the dog’s conception and no longer worked with [REDACTED] when the character debuted in 1932.

The mouse crawls towards the dog in the bed, visibly struggling to do so. The figure stays behind. The focus shifts to a close up of the mouse’s face, and we can see thin lines of the black fluid at the corners of his mouth and dripping from his nose. His eyes are bloodshot and sunken. It’s worth noting that attention to these kinds of details are entirely inconsistent with [REDACTED]’s personal style, not to mention highly unusual for the time period. Given the usually lighthearted nature of animation from the era, such intense focus on the mouse’s agony, already mildly shocking and unpleasant by today’s standards, would have been doubly so in 1927.

The mouse reaches the edge of the dog’s bed and pulls himself to his feet. His eyes are wide and wet, his jaw and hands unsteady. He reaches towards the dog, hands close together, fingers grasping stretched out and grasping. But then his muscles go slack, his hands drop to his side. The mouse shakes his head,

“I can’t. I can’t.”

The figure stiffens. It has no face or eyes, but its anger is unmistakeable. The expression passes as quickly as it appeared, and the figure quickly returns to its posture of cold indifference. “As you wish, little mouse.” It swells to darken the entire room again, and when its darkness recedes, we are in the sick mouse’s bedroom once more.


Sick Mouse, Pt. 3

“I don’t understand you, mister…”
“We will show you.”
The figure’s darkness expands, filling the whole screen until only the sick mouse’s confused white face remains. The darkness recedes, and the background has changed. The figure and the mouse are now standing in a completely different location, a bathroom. Their forms are hazy and not completely filled in, ghostly, as if to suggest that they were not wholly physically present in their current location. A duck in a period appropriate sailor’s uniform enters, identical to the earliest appearances of [REDACTED].
It should be noted that [REDACTED] was not even conceived of as a character until the 1930s, with his first appearance being in 1934. His presence in this short predates that debut in [REDACTED] by seven years. It should also be noted that [REDACTED] was not the creator of [REDACTED] as he was with [REDACTED]. In fact, both [REDACTED]’s personal and professional relationships with [REDACTED] were strained by 1929 and severed completely by 1930. The presence of a character so closely resembling [REDACTED] in this short, animated in the style of a man who never worked on the character, is in some ways an even greater anomaly than the existence of the short itself.
The sick mouse hold his stomach and bends over groaning. The figure ignores him and raises a featureless arm to indicate the duck, who is busy examining his appearance in the bathroom mirror. “Would you have him suffer in your stead, little mouse?”
“No! He’s my friend! I would never–”
The mouse vomits black fluid. The figure pays him no mind, and the duck is oblivious. Before the mouse can pull himself together, the figure’s form once again expands to fill the room. When the figure returns to normal, we are in a third location.


Sick Mouse, Pt. 2

The short begins with the sick mouse standing in his bedroom, one hand on his stomach and the other on the wall. A title card says, “Golly, my stomach hurts! I must have eaten something bad.” The mouse then vomits a black fluid for fifteen seconds. He finishes, then collapses facedown in the vomit, eyes closed and panting with exhaustion. Meanwhile, a humanoid figure rises out from the fluid. The figure is all black with long thin limbs. It stands nearly as tall as the room, much taller than the mouse. It wears no clothes, it has no identifying marks of any kind, and it has no features upon its head. It is simply dark all the way through.

It stands still for a few moments before it looks down and regards the sick mouse carefully (and it must be stressed at this point that the figure has no eyes with which to look at the mouse. It can only be said to be regarding the mouse because its back hunches slightly, its head tilts down.) A title card appears: “You do not look well, little mouse.”

The mouse looks up, exhausted and pained but not in the least surprised by the sudden appearance of the figure before him. “I sure don’t feel well, mister!”

“Would you feel better?”

The mouse vomits black fluid again. It stains the corners of his mouth, spots his gloves and his pants. “Yes, mister! I’d do anything to feel better!”

The figure stands up straight. “The suffering in the world is constant, little mouse. Do you know what that means?”

The mouse opens his mouth to answer, but more of the fluid issues forth. The figure does not react or comment to this, but instead continues speaking. “It means that for one to feel well, another must suffer. If you would abandon your pain, another must take your place.”


Sick Mouse, Pt. 1

The cartoon starts without the studio’s title card. Instead of copyrights and credits, logos and trademarks, there’s a simple black screen with white type, as mandated by the agency.

#WD-678
Uncredited Silent Animated Short
Recovered 1992
Estimated Release Date: N/A
Estimated Production Date: Early 1927
Running time: 7:06 minutes
“Sick Mouse”

After a few seconds the film transitions into the cartoon proper. The animation style is consistent with [REDACTED]’s work from the same period. In particular, the titular sick mouse’s design is so similar to [REDACTED] as to merit immediate comparison. Thorough examination of records from the period preclude the possibility of [REDACTED] being the creator of the short, however. All evidence proves that the character of [REDACTED] did not officially debut until November of 1928, The earliest test screenings of the character were in May of 1928, and even the earliest concept art sketches can be conclusively dated to early 1928. The origin of the short remains a subject of research and debate within the agency.


Typos

Jane’s phone went off, the vibrating motor inside its plastic body sending it skittering across her nightstand like a startled insect. She groaned, rolled over in bed, and groped at it clumsily, trying to get it to shut up, willing it to shut up, praying it would shut up. Finally she grasped it and turned it over in her hands, its glowing screen casting shadows all across her bedroom. She noticed two things at the same moment, each making her angry on its own and angrier when she considered them in tandem.
It was three in the goddamn morning.
Goddamn Kevin was calling her.
Of course he was. There was an hour difference between their time zones, which meant he was just stumbling out of a bar, drunk and calling his exes, either to scream at them or to cry or to try and find a quick fuck. Maybe all three.
Jane was awake now, the intensity of her irritation burning off the grogginess she felt like it was nothing more than morning fog. She answered. “What the fuck do you want, Kevin?”
There was silence on the other end of the line, a gasp of surprise. He spoke, his voice as thick as syrup, his words slurred. “Oh, shit. Hey, sorry, Janie Baby. I didn’t mean to call you.”
“I want you to delete my number, Kevin. I’ve already asked you not to call me.”
“I wasn’t going to!” he said, his voice rising in a high-pitched whine. Jane winced. Talking to him left a bad taste in her mouth. Love gone sour then rotten. Why had she ever dated him, a skinny, pasty man dressed all in black with unkempt long hair and a fascination with the morbid and the strange. “I was going to text you.”
“Don’t do that either, please. Delete me from your phone.” She hung up, set her phone back down on the nightstand, and rolled over to sleep.
It beeped and buzzed once. A text. Then another. And a third. She grunted in exasperation and picked the damn thing up to silence it. Might as well see what the freak was saying.
Jane nglui fweh Kevin ia lo gath.
“Christ almighty,” Jane muttered. How drunk could he be? She’d seen text messages before that were garbled nonsense, but they could at least be deciphered if you imagined a keyboard in your head and you were feeling generous. This was like a made-up language.
Balgak fweh Jane fweh Kevin ia lo mak.
He was such a loser.
Ia lo gath.
He was pathetic, really.
Trin xant glar mak.
He had had his moments, but not many.
Jane qas glar mek.
He could be charming, though.
Queltha fie fhtagn ia lo gath.
Maybe she was being too hard on him.
Jane fie fhtagn.
She smiled. It was kind of cute, in a way, hearing from him like this.
Kevin fie fhtagn.
She shouldn’t have been so cold and distant. He was a good guy who deserved a second chance.
Fhtagn.
She’d call him in the morning.


Z is for Zeitgeist

You know, if there is a more perfect symbol of the times than this, I can’t imagine what it is,” Bob said. Tim grunted inquisitively, his mouth too full of meat to form a coherent response. “What I mean is, here we are. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, it’s warm without being hot, and we’re eating lunch under the shade of a… a…” Bob stopped and looked up and over his shoulder, carefully regarding the tree. “I don’t know. A willow. But the point is, there was a time not too long ago, when you were just a baby, that your average person would have killed for a day like this.”

Tim reached forward, more interested in the meat sizzling over the fire than in Bob’s musings. “Really?”

“Well, figuratively. Your average person probably wouldn’t have killed for a day like this.” He gestured for Tim to tear free another piece of meat and held out his hand expectantly. “And if we consider the population of the world as a whole, I don’t know what your average person would really look like that. Although I suspect that someone in, say, India would still be able to appreciate leisurely eating a hot meal under the shade of a tree.”

“What’s India?”

Bob chewed, considered. “It’s another place, across the ocean. If you were on a boat and you floated across the ocean, it would take you months to reach Africa. Or Europe. And then you would have to walk for many more months, and maybe sail across another ocean to reach India.”

“Is it nice there?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never been.”

“What were the people like?”

“People are pretty much the same everywhere you go.”

Tim considered this. He chewed his meat in silence. “Why did you kill those people back at camp?”

Bob didn’t answer for a long time. Tim didn’t press him, still focused on separating bits of meat from gristle, but finally he spoke. “Hundreds of years ago, philosophers came up with this idea called the social contract. A contract is like an agreement, but more serious. So the social contract is the idea that people who live together have an agreement not to be terrible to each other.”

“What’s a philosopher?”

“Someone who does nothing but think about the way things are and the way things should be.” Bob grinned. “I used to be a philosopher once. I went to school for it.”

“What’s school?”

“Do you want me to hit you with a rock and take your food?”

Tim’s eyes flashed angry. “Don’t you dare.”

“Exactly. And I won’t, because that’d be breaking the contract. We don’t take food from each other. We share it.”

“We don’t share with other people.”

“We don’t have a contract with them. Or we do, but it’s different from the one you and I have. You and I share. You and me and somebody else don’t share, but we don’t take from each other, either. If we did, we’d be violating the contract. And if they did, they would be.”

“But what if we’ve never met them before?”

“It’s a philosophical concept, not an actual physical contract.”

Tim stared at Bob blankly. Bob sighed. “The social contract’s like the rules to a game that everyone’s playing all the time no matter what. Nobody tells you the rules, but everyone just kind of knows them, and you don’t want to get caught breaking them.”

“So what happens to people who break them?”

Bob threw a piece of meat into his mouth, chewed it, swallowed it. “Have you ever heard the expression, ‘dog-eat-dog world?’”

And Z makes an alphabet! As always, thank you for reading. I’ll be traveling the next few days for family stuff, and due to the way I work, I don’t have a buffer built up. I’ll try to update as usual, but there may be some late posts (as opposed to virtually late, last minute, at the buzzer, etc. posts.)


Y is for Yellow

Hey! This is my 250th post! How ’bout that?

I hate this wallpaper,” April announced. Really, she hated the house, but the wallpaper was emblematic of the thing whole thing. Old and decaying, crumbling and cracked. Withered. Graying.

Yellowed.

Clark hugged her from behind, wrapped his arms around her, put his hands over his elbows, and locked them tight. “We can change the wallpaper. We can change everything.”

“We could just not buy the house.”

Clark looked wounded. He’d been raised on cartoons, had done stand-up at college open mike nights when others were reading poetry, so he was no stranger to a comical overreaction, but his hurt look didn’t vanish behind his usual goofy grin. “What are you talking about? This place is perfect!”

“It’s old and falling apart.”

“It’s got so much character! Look at this!” Clark pointed at the decoration on the stairway’s handrail, a grotesque thing of dark wood with fangs and fur and wild eyes that would have been more appropriate as a gargoyle on a cathedral than decorating the inside of a house, even if it were a creepy old building. If it were a painting, it would have had that optical illusion that made it look like it was watching you as you moved across the room. Instead, it had its eyes placed on the opposite sides of its head, like a fish. They couldn’t follow you, but no matter where you were in the room, they could see you.

And of course Clark loved it. He’d moved on to the grandfather clock in the entryway, was extolling the virtues of how the place was cheap, it was furnished, it was big enough that their family could grow into it. But she didn’t hear him. She was too focused on the abandoned neighborhood, the crumbling wallpaper that probably hid great colonies of dark mold, the outdated wiring. They looked at the same empty rooms, but he didn’t see the endless work that would have to be done, the inconveniences they would have to live with.

He didn’t see the yellow.


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