Well I guess I’ve strayed into multimedia.
My friend and housemate Scott Key helped me out by throwing a little voice acting onto Devil’s House. I’m pretty damn pleased with the product, and this may be the mode of distribution from here on out.
The first two chapters are currently being hosted on SoundCloud. I encourage you to give a listen. They aren’t yet available for download- but they will be at a later date.
Please listen! Enjoy!
I like to imagine that I kept to my principles in the end… I mean- I didn’t. But I like to imagine.
First thing to know: I haven’t been single in about 6 years. I have not been single for long. I haven’t tried to meet new people outside of school in a long time- which was why OKCupid and Tinder seemed like a good idea. I ended my last relationship on good (great) terms, and this might be part of the problem
Its great when you can end a relationship on good terms. Like the adults we know we are. But the human brain has a conditioned response to sudden loneliness- it wants to pitch and fit and throw a tantrum and not be lonely anymore. So when your brain wants to do this but you have no reason to, you start to look for an outlet.
It started with Tinder. I mean, it all seemed perfectly normal at first. I swipe right and I swipe left. It even comes with helpful labels. If you swipe right you see “Like” in friendly green, if you swipe left you see “Nope”.
This is when I should have known things could get bad.
If two people both swipe right on each other’s pictures, you get to “Chat”. Not being able to connect with people easily this seemed like a great idea! No need to go through that awkward period of finding out whether someone finds you annoying.
Its a trap.
Not in the beginning- No, Tinder makes you build your own prison. In the beginning you treat the system with respect, you only “Like” the people you’d actually like to talk to. You start to think that the system works. But it doesn’t. And you are why.
The swiping. Oh the Swiping. You start to no look at anything but the first picture, judging everything about a person on first glance. Duck Face? Swipe Left. Bikini Shot? Swipe Right. Every swipe brought me one step closer to hell- turning me into exactly the kind of person I hated. Soon I lost all sense of my principles, and after what seemed like weeks (it was only 2 days) without any matches I just started swiping right every time.
But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t near enough.
Led on by this dark ghost of single life I joined OKCupid.
I could have sworn I heard a thunderclap
It had been almost a week of online dating. I get a few matches: One woman with a boyfriend who told me I looked like Peter Dinklage, another I scared off by asking bluntly what she was looking for.
Then on OKCupid I tried messaging people. Every awkward joke and question was another brick added to my cell in Hades.
What kind of person had I become, Silently judging the attractiveness of strangers. And I grid to be fair to those I didn’t- but only at first. Soon I fell even further. I judged harshly and swiftly.
If I was a super villain with an origin story, this is how I would have turned evil.
And this is where this tragedy takes a turn for the lighthearted. You see, I thought I was evil in the same way that Kite-Man thinks he is evil. Yes he robbed banks and stole money and jewels from museums- but then Kite-man saw The Joker beat Jason Todd to death with a crowbar, and realized that he was just an average man who stole things for a job.
I started to realize that the bar was set so low with men and online dating that I was somehow still considered a good person. I hadn’t sent any unsolicited dick-picks or told a girl how “Hawt” she is. I was middle-of-the-pack evil- Stealing candy from babies evil.
So really, this is the story of how online dating turned me kind of evil.
An Excerpt from the Journal of Elijah.
Summer 1934, Nebraska
Rain-making had become a serious business in the last few years as the dust began to swallow farms and towns alike. It was mean stuff just as like to leave you coughing brown the next few days as to ruin an entire county’s livelihood. And when the rain-maker came, people gathered. No one counted on a rain-maker being bad news. I wouldn’t call them simple folk, but they were naïve.
This town had money, as few enough did at this time. The rain-maker knew this, and it was obvious to anyone who saw him walk into the town like a saint about to cure it from leprosy or blindness. You could’ve mistaken the townsfolk for such the way the rainmaker treated them all.
When the mayor bought him dinner and some cider, he sat, eating noisily and getting drunk. When he was more sober he made talk about how the next town over just harvested their first healthy crop in months, and how in another town he saved a thousand acres from falling to a dust-storm. Two counties over he cured their live-stock of a wasting sickness that had culled most of their herds. But as the drink began invading his speech, making it trip and tumble, he began to talk of the women he had, how all he had to do was get them drunk and they were his. He talked of his sin, and how little the care he had for his unburdened little soul.
Now I am a tolerant man and I have no problem disregarding the dry law of the land in order to get a rain-maker as drunk as he wants, but it stops when a man talks of violating another man’s daughter. Its a pity I wasn’t there to witness the ingress of the rainmaker to Trellby county, but at least I was able to come and clean up after the son-of-a-whore left.
Apparently, this rain-maker woke early the next day and took to the fields, sticking his finger in the roots of corn and eating wheat-grass like a bored farm boy. He then did something that should’ve tipped off anyone as long as they knew anything; He asked for privacy, a barn, and a white bull.
These were uneducated God-fearing folks which blinded them to the peculiarity of this request. Its not their fault. In Leviticus a white bull was considered a worthy sacrifice to God. Oddly enough, this is one of the only circumstances where such a sacrifice is so innocuous. Near cities, we tend to watch whoever buys stock like that because it’s usually a flag towards some upstart cultist who has ideas about having a flock and bestowing dark gifts upon himself.
I remember hiking out to the barn to see what he did, and then I remember deeply regretting my curiosity. Every part of the cow, save its skin, that could be dismantled had been, and it was all laid out in order, like the rain-maker had just taken apart an engine and was planning on putting it back together later. The smell was horrible, but the flies all stopped short of the meat, refusing to cross a circle of cow’s blood around the entire mess. It wasn’t like they couldn’t pass it, they just didn’t seem to want to, like the meat inside the circle was spoiled. They had a mark more wisdom than I.
I’ll not bother to recount the entirety of what the town suffered as a result of the rain-maker’s sacrifice, as I have put most of it into my report. There is, however, something worth saying, a reason why I am sitting here and writing instead of tracking down the rain-maker.
I guess there is not any other way to put it, so I’ll just say it outright. I found his face, or what I assume to be. It was lying in the mud outside of the barn. I had the local mortician look at the thing to check. It was probably an easy thing to miss in and among the fire, brimstone, and plagues the town had started to suffer as soon as the rain-maker had left. At this point I don’t know whether to call this rain-maker man or monster, I just knew something foul and wretched is coursing its way through nebraska.
I have since surmised that the skin of the cow was probably used to fashion a new mask for this rainmaker, though how he made the thing so lifelike truly confounds me. Even the mortician hesitated before saying it was some sort of leather thing, but of what nature he knew not.
I have the mask right here and it has cracked some in the sun and heat. It sure does look a lot like leather now. It would answer where the cow-skin went, but would raise a whole host of questions more Questions I don’t know if I can answer.
I know where my duty lies and I know what I have to do. The whole of my skin crawls and my bones have a chill like they’ve never felt. I’ll approach the night with bell book and candle if necessary. I’ll fight again if I am called to.
What scares me isn’t the night. What I face isn’t just the things that lurk in the dark places of the world. Last night was the first night in a week it stopped raining fire in Trellby County. Locusts still ravage the fields and a mass grave of firstborn are piled in pine crates on the lawn of the church.
What does God hate with such a passion that he would see a small town of his devoted flock leveled just to rid the earth of it.
It’s an answer that scares me.
A small short story I’ve been tooling around with: A Work in Progress that was abandoned a few years back. I think I am going to try and pick it back up.
The Devil lived lonely on the top floor of the Chrysler Building. In the Devil’s House was the Devil’s Kitchen, the Devil’s Bed, the Devil’s Radio, and sitting lonely and cold atop the Devil’s Cold Fireplace was my lonely Soul. I wanted it back.
Exit Frying Pan
The Devil’s House looked nothing like I imagined. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, maybe a little flair. Brimstone, or Maroon Velvet, or the tortured Souls of the Innocent. I didn’t even know I was in the right place when I dropped down from the roof of the Chrysler and through the window. This place looked like it belonged to a Brownstone family in Brooklyn, not to the Lord of Hell, the Fallen Angel and the Morning Star.
The Devil’s Kitchen had a GE stove and a brand-name ice-box, his bed was an colonial four-poster, his radio was playing something baroque. His fireplace was warm with embers. The only thing I was right about was my small soul swimming in a jar above the Devil’s hearth.
It was quite like a fish, and swam around its jar like a fishbowl. I don’t know if it recognized me, but I recognized it. There was a hole in my chest that needed it back.
I went to grab it, having to stretch a little to put my fingers around the bowl. When I had just started lifting it a Voice behind me said, “That’s not yet yours to take”. It sounded like sulfur jazz.
With that, I was pushed into the devil’s open hearth, catching only a glance of the angel-wing band around his finger and a small whiff of cinnamon aftershave. I fell for far too long.
Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil so that he could play his guitar. At the age of 27 he died alone in his room. The Devil came to collect.
I made my deal the same way he did, alone at a crossroads on midnight in a new moon sky. I wanted to forget my pain. I was 22.
I don’t remember his face, I just remember the Cinnamon and the Voice. A voice that burned the nose and a smell that tasted of chocolate. He told me that 10 years without pain was not a fair price for my soul.
I asked if he needed more
He said it was too much
I said I didn’t care
We made the deal.
I didn’t feel the pain anymore.
I didn’t feel the pain for 10 years.
Then the day came when the Devil would collect. I was ready, I had sold everything I owned and said my goodbyes to everyone left I ever loved. I waited in an empty room for the Devil to come and take me to Hell. He never did. I waited there until they turned my water off and my stomach shriveled to the size of a raisin. Though I wasted away and my lips were cracked and dry I did not die.
The Devil never came.
I went to jump off the roof.
I didn’t die.
So I took matters into my own hands. I found where the Devil lived, I found where he kept my Soul. If I wasn’t going to be collected and if I couldn’t die, I damn well wanted it back.
So I tried to steal it from the Devil.
So this is a thing I discovered via the usual route (being Stumble, of course), and something in it struck me. Zander, herein, talks about Impulses. This is best seen, he says, in young piano players pounding out a sonata or prelude. They hit every single note as an impulse, and the key to exciting and interesting classical music is to take one impulse, one thought, one motion, and use it to carry the entire piece. Some similarities between this and acting intrigued me.
It is increasingly common to have a director tell you that you should know every motivation for every single line you say; each line has to have a motivation. While I don’t doubt the validity of this statement, it leads to what Zander might call “two-cheek” playing.
Think of motivation as Impulse. Having a different impulse, and a different motivation for each line leads to a way of reading lines more befitting a nervous high school student than an actor. Find out where your impulses are, and use them sparingly. The longer you can carry a single thought through a monologue, the better. Big simple thoughts are more easily transmitted through a piece than hundreds of small ones. In an audition monologue, for instance, you should only ever use one impulse, one thought. And that impulse carries from your first words, until you walk off the stage.