Yeah, Write #390- Death in the Jungle

Death in the Jungle

The corner was busy, always busy.  The same grimy business of survival. Cars passed, girls and not girls on the stroll, bindles and cash got passed. Things are the same forever but, folks’ bodies remember it all. It was business as usual in the jungle.  In the bright of daylight when the shadows hide nothing, shots echo.  

But when they all ducked, nothing was there.

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Call Her- Microprose Practice

Call Her-

Microprose practice for Christine.

by Shannon Barber

How to raise them, stand hand in hand, speak and dream together. Sing the scabrous music of the Outer God. Call Nephren-Ka, Goddess of Bloody Tongues.  

Sing children. 

Fm’latgh. 

Burn. 

 Call her- 

Leviathan.

Yeah Write #373- On Post Coital Sagacity.

 

On Post Coital Sagacity.

by

Shannon Barber

My roommate watched me kiss her goodbye. I grinned at him.

“What’s wrong sugar pie?”

I was fuck drunk and slightly slurry.

“How the fuck?”

He gestured at me, then the door, then my crotch. I let him smell her on my breath.

“Pussy sapience. Nighty-night, booboo.”

“Night, asshole.”

###

Side Hustle Thoughts.

I’m in a mood. Buckle in.

I’ve been (as always) looking at my hustles.

Before I dive in here is my view. I still don’t like freelancing that much. I’m not a fan of wading through new bullshit with usually White editors who mean well but ultimately exhaust me and I wind up doing a lot of emotional labor I don’t get paid for. I also don’t like publications that let their readership go fucking wild on authors and just delete the posts but not the articles.

There are a small group of editors I trust and some opportunities I’ve been extended. Some of the problem with that for me is, I do not have the ability to do what equates to a bit more than a part time job especially when the pay is not commensurate with an actual PT job.

Okay.

The essential going advice is pretty much Field of Dreams- If you build it they will come. Most advice talks about offering the good content, promote it, make it available etc. I do that and unfortunately as I’ve said and experienced for like a decade, it just does not work for me.

Again, recently at the behest of some folks who were super hype, I reopened my Swag Shop.  And again, not ONE of the people who asked shared it, looked at it or purchased anything.

I know my price points tend towards beyond reasonable. At one point I was offering up about 110K words of fiction, non fiction etc for 11$ and only one person bought it. I have a TON of content I offer for free via this blog, medium etc. I am always very specific about how folks can help out. Even if you can’t drop a dollar, I always ask that things are shared.

This does not work for me.

Quite frankly, I get the most support if I’m having a public internet meltdown about not being able to pay for something and frankly doing the I AM POOR AND PANICKING dance is humiliating and exhausting.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and every time I try with the side hustles it comes down to this. I do a thing, write a bunch of shit or whatever and after a few days when there are zero reads, no shares etc, I feel completely devalued.

I am a Black Queer non binary femme person. I have to deal with being undervalued constantly in my life. From my dayjob to engagement with people, to the thousands of hours of emotional labor I’ve put in around meatspace and the internet, it is something that is just a shadow in my life.

For a few years now I have tried really hard to believe that if I provide the good shit, the good shit will flow back in return. I had a come to Odin talk with myself and really examined my pricing and whatnot. On one hand, folks have told me to charge more for stuff, that I am worth so much more than the few bucks I ask for.

Yet, the proof is not in the pudding.

Here is what I have come to believe now. It doesn’t matter what think I am worth. It doesn’t. The thing is, I can’t pay myself. I also can’t keep getting my hopes up. I am a terribly sensitive flower. I want so much to believe that the work I do can help sustain my life and do some good in the world, when there is just zero interest or follow up it just crushes me.

On one hand, having started in short literary fiction I am primed for rejection. When I’m in submission mode, I eat rejection. But, that rejection is not the same. It isn’t the build up and then nothing. That is the thing that is wrecking me over and over again.

The truth is, like a lot of other marginalized folks, the people who have shown that material support, who have bought my echapbook and stories and whatnot are in the same position I am.

The truth is, I’m not the beloved type of Black person with opinions so the people in the position to do the most, don’t.

They don’t.

And I’m not even necessarily talking about strangers. I’m thinking about people in my immediate circles who I’ve seen elevate other people, triple funded vacations, therapy everything and I can’t get a share of a link?

Y’all.

Real talk?

It fucks me up. It hurts my heart, it hurts my wallet it makes doing the shit I’m good at harder. And to have the idea reinforced that if I provide, others will provide so jammed down my throat, it hurts because obviously that is not for me.

I have to make a commitment to myself that is loving and preservative of my sanity and feelings.

I cannot give space to the whole woowoo idea that the universe (or my community) will do shit for me unless I am doing my poverty dance. I can’t.

I’m not sure what that means in terms of my work and how I offer things. I may just go to submitting only and freelancing a little and trying other avenues of revenue that aren’t writing.

I dunno. All I know is that I can’t keep working so hard and trying to hard and winding up with a deficit of both coins and good feelings.

That’s it for now.

First draft funsies. CW VIOLENCE. SERIOUSLY.

No really. Violence, allusions to sexual violence. Murder.

This is some srs business.

If you’ve known me for a long time, you know I love a good Dark Violent Femme revenge crime story. The first one I ever wrote way back in 2011 is here at The Flash Fiction offensive. Yes, for real content warning. That shit is violent.

What I’ve put below is a pure first draft. I was noodling and wanted to play.

I had some very specific aims here but, to find out about it you’ll have to wait until Saturday where I will do a follow up and deconstruct what I was doing, how I might edit it, etc.

SO AGAIN

LAST CHANCE BRO.

THAR BE VIOLENCE AHEAD.

About 1600 words, unedited. Right from my brainpan.

#

Two things. Had he been smarter, there would be no story. Second thing, the wrath of a woman with ideas about behavior modification is truly a beautiful thing. Let’s set the scene, shall we? 

Our players: 

She: Brown. Braids. Lip-gloss. Booty shorts. Books. Cigarettes and a mysterious coffee cup. 

He: Brown. Bald. Tragically unaware. Lacking game. Doomed. 

Setting: Quiet street in the hood, around 3 AM. High summer.  

~ 

She always sits on her stoop late at night in the summer, a book in one hand, coffee cup at her elbow and a steady chain of cigarettes until she’s done or tired or whatever she does. She knows He prowls. He’s new, not one of the hood dudes. Not one of her neighbors or somebody’s cousin. Not the him she waits for at night. 

He skulks. 

He creeps. 

She knows. 

She ready. 

He makes his approach She sitting in her usual spot, in her usual cute booty shorts, her Timbs unlaced, cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth, lookin’ like a whole ass snack.  

“Hey, how you doin’-“ 

She shakes her head, not bothering to look up from the book in her hand. 

“Nah man. Go on.” 

And so, He is curved and salty about it but, like any apex predator he’s patient. He can wait. He’ll shoot his shot another time. 

Days and nights pass.  

He is swift enough to understand that She is a night owl. He can see that his opportunity will come.  

He skulks. 

He creeps. 

She knows. 

She ready. 

He knows from asking around that she ain’t strapped. A few men give him vague warnings about her being crazy but, it doesn’t matter. He knows how to handle a woman.  

Tonight she’s posted up, no Timbs this time, pajama shorty shorts on and flip flops. She reaches to her left and her long fingers grope, then flutter on a soft pack of cigarettes. That drags her attention away from her book and she looks down at the empty pack like it insulted her Mama. 

“Fuck.” 

He smiles. 

He waits. 

He is ready. 

She rises, leaves her coffee cup and book. He watches her walk, her booty almost claps and he wants her right now. He waits. Nobody is around, the bar is closed, the baseheads are all off having basehead dreams. The only light around the corner is the little bodega, the mouth to the alley is ready.  

He is ready. 

The thing about not being from the neighborhood is that, you don’t know shit. Not where the drop pieces are, not where the head stash is, not who might be up and who might not be.  

She knows. 

She ready. 

He sees as she exits the bodega, she throws a peace sign over her shoulder and calls back. 

“No fuck you Gordo. You still owe me ten from the last time. Man, don’t make me tell your Mama.” 

The whisper of profane Spanish and Gordo’s laughter trails her as she walks back up the block. He waits in the mouth of the alley, rubbing his fingertips together. He can smell her, cocoa butter, smoke, coffee, Black girl deliciousness.  

He is fast, not basehead fast but fast enough to grab a handful of her braids just as she passes by. He holds the knot of hair at the back of her neck like a guide and turns her into the alley. 

“Don’t be so rough.” 

Her voice is raspy tonight, husky. Her breath is warm, she likes her coffee sweet and it makes him feel good.  

~ 

Two things. Had he been smarter, there would be no story. Second thing, the wrath of a woman with ideas about behavior modification is truly a beautiful thing. Let’s set the scene, shall we? 

SETTING: Alley. The witching hour. She is looking up at Him. If he were a smart man, or a film man he would recognize the look. The villain emerges through a downturned chin, upturned eyes and the prettiest wet pink flicker of plump tongue. 

He sees the wet on secret wet and thinks, yes. He turns her loose and she walks further into the alley. 

She doesn’t turn around while she tucks her cigarettes into the waistband of her shorts and peels off her tank top. She lets him admire her back as she walks deeper into the shadows.  

He is hard. 

He ain’t ready. 

He is too busy following the idea of a tramp stamp riding her lower back to see what she’s doing when she bends over and reaches under a pallet.  

She moves like a shark. This is her night, her hood and the bat in her hands feels like home. She is Queen Bitch and she plants her feet and swings from her wide hips.  

By the time he registers the low arc of the bat, his right knee explodes and he folds like a paper bag. The pain is enormous, it radiates from his knee to his hip to his balls and he howls.  

No one comes.  

She ready. 

She smile. 

“Listen baby.” 

She licks her lips and lines up for another swing. He swears he can hear the bat whistle as it goes over her head and crashes down onto his hip. He can see her bounce of her pert, chubby little titties and the titanic jiggle of her thighs as she hits him.  

When the pain registers, it is a raging ball of fury that takes his breath and makes him cry for the devil. The pain obscures her fine titties and the idea he started with. The pain rolls through his pelvis like lava, dripping into his balls and making his bowels loose and his asshole clench. His teeth chatter and he can hear sound coming out of him but can’t identify it. 

He is watching her watch him, her head tilted, glossy lips screwed up. 

“You an old head, you know what they say.” 

She swings again and his ribs, dear Jesus his ribs. The breath runs out of him as if fleeing the pain. He can’t breathe, he can’t speak and all he wants is for someone, anyone to save him. 

We could have saved him, had he been a wiser man. 

“Don’t start none.” 

Another blow, she breaks his arm.  

“There won’t be none.” 

She steps back and her pretty face is lit from within. Glee and malice give her a glow under the fuzzy dim light. He sees her teeth, she’s smiling. Everything is going to be fine. 

For her. 

While he writhes he manages to get through his pain and tears to speak. 

“Please, I got money.” 

He paws at his pocket, he’s got a roll. He had planned on treating himself to a bottle after they were done, maybe breakfast later. A little for rent and a few other necessities. She nudges him onto his back and he wails, she squats with her thighs wide open. 

Her shorts pull tight into her crotch and the plump outline of her pussy is clear and close.  

“Go ahead and look. That’s what you wanted.” 

He looks, even in his state of extremis he has to look. 

“Listen, I ain’t gonna kill you.” 

His relief is shaky and he starts to cry.  

“Thank you, I ain’t mean nothin, I was only playin.” 

She laughs, sweet and high and joyful. 

“Oh I know. But, I still don’t like it.” 

She straightens up, drops the bat and pulls her shirt back on. Grimacing she rolls her left shoulder, lip curled. 

“Softball injury. Well, bye boo.” 

He relaxes. He knows once a little bit of shock sets in he can crawl to the bodega and maybe get some help. That is not to be. 

We know what her whistle brings. 

It is late, but not late enough for all of the night creatures to be in bed. We know that the worst of the worst of night dwelling. She knows him, everyone knows him. He is fucked up, a walking burn mouth corpse but, he is from their neighborhood and knows his place. He eases out from behind the dumpster, jiggling foot to foot. 

“Hooo boy you fucked with the wrong bitch boy, I tell you what.” 

He whimpers, confused and uneasy. She looks at the stranger. 

“I was nice once. You got this?” 

The man, the new man, the scabrous oily creature with the perverse gleam in his eye nods.  

“For real?” 

“For real.” 

They smile at each other.  

We see that the man with the evil smile, is the thin burnt version of her. Her smile is not quite that evil, hers has an edge of fun. Mischief. Prettiness. 

“Yeah. I can keep the money?” 

“Course. Get rid of this shit and I’ll see you at home. Come home today. I’ll make you chicken and waffles.” 

She opens her cigarettes and they smoke together while he begins to understand. Let’s watch him, he knows he has met his death. He should have stayed home. What we know, he is learning. Too late, of course.  

She walks away, her booty almost clapping. Holding her dirty hands away from her still clean tank top. The man on the ground looks up at the Grim Reaper. 

“I-“ 

The Grim Reaper shakes his head, we shake our heads, around the corner Gordo shakes his head and she walks into her house smiling. 

“That’s my fuckin’ sister man. My. Sister.” 

His eyes close.  

Our eyes are open. 

What he should have known, we know. 

~ 

Two things. Had he been smarter, there would be no story. Second thing, the wrath of a woman with ideas about behavior modification is truly a beautiful thing. Let’s set the scene, shall we? 

Our players: 

She: Brown. Braids. Lip-gloss. Booty shorts. Books. Cigarettes and a mysterious coffee cup. 

He: Brown. Bald. Tragically unaware. Lacking game. Doomed. 

Grim Reaper: The one she waits for at night. 

Setting: Quiet street in the hood, around 4 AM. High summer.  

Happy Women in Horror Month- Post 1.

Some meandering thinky thoughts.

Hi homies. I’m having a day and y’all know that means I’m just gonna dump my brain until I can focus.

Sooooooooooo horror.

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it but, I’ve been working on some new horror stories. As I’ve mentioned before, my fiction work has become the slow deliberate I have a fucking mission type work that my non-fiction used to be.

My new shit is different than what I’ve done before. If you’ve been here a while you may know that my first professional level sale was yonks ago and I made my bones writing a lot of erotic horror. Not sparkly vampire twinks but rough trade I want to rip off your head and fuck your neck monsters. I wasn’t into more classic horror at the time and found that my personal aesthetic was very at home in the porny horror.

Fast forward and I’ve been writing/working on some more classic type horror. Ghost stories, demons, etc. However, these are without a doubt Black stories.

Now I have to confess some things.

I don’t read a lot of horror anymore except very specifically because, frankly I am disinterested. A lot of my disinterest is in a vein of conservatism in horror. For me it started with horror mags for a few years having very eh, narrow ideas of what is acceptable. I don’t know how many guidelines I read that prohibited sex of any sort, naughty words, etc.

At the time, it felt kind of silly to me. I mean, some supposedly scary shit is going down and nobody says fuck? Okay. Upon rear-view, I realize what made me uncomfortable was that we couldn’t have anything too sexy, too cursebirdy but, the anti Blackness and anti womanness and anti non white dude was fine. Totally fine.

We could have booboo ass scary witch doctors and have storylines with suburban white kids going into the scary ghetto and gross outs because zomfg periods!! FAT WOMEN but, don’t have sexytimes or say fuck. I hated it and hate it now.

This is not a new feeling. Here is an excerpt from an essay I put at Medium about being a horror nerd. (Also peep the awesome photo of me screaming)

As an adult I think about some more of those stories and realize I was trying to see myself in those very White worlds. I didn’t have the language to express my hunger to see Black people populating the fictional towns or saving the day.

When I wrote my first novel in high school, it was a vampire epic in a very Anne Rice style, my vampires weren’t pale and smooth as marble. They were dark and smooth as my Mom’s living room table. They didn’t come from France they came from Egypt, not movie everyone is White Egypt, they came from the Haitian Revolution and from Zululand. Their history was my history told and learned through the lens of the vampire mythos.

This is what drove me/drives me out of horror. I feel like I’m disinterested because any bit of Blackness is King style magical negro or white kids triumph or or or…it is just so fucking boring.

So what AM I doing?

First thing is I’ve bit the bullet and changed how I write genre fiction visually. For a few years, because of how I like to space things, I just couldn’t stomach trying to re-format to manuscript format. Aesthetically, I tend to use line breaks etc as part of how I’m telling the story. That has been rough for me. I’m trying because so many places that publish genre fiction in print or online still use it.

Second thing, I’m being very deliberate in what I’m making up. Being that it is women in horror month, my stories (I’ll give you a taste soon) are women heavy.

Black women specifically.

Here is a taste of a ghost story I’m working on. Central to this is to understand this is happening in The Hood. This is a Black Ghost Story. For reference, somebody in this passage is dead:

At home my wife and I sat with our horde of cats and dogs going over the events. “I guess we should probably tell him.” I knew she was right but, we’d only just started working with the guy. “I know but I don’t want to. You remember what happened with the last two. I mean, he was crying babe.” She turned her big dark gaze on me, I bravely resisted the urge to cower. “Don’t start with that super masculine shit Pablo. The first time something reached out and touched you, you couldn’t speak English for an hour and you cried. Don’t.” 

She was right. I didn’t want her to be, not that I wanted to keep secrets but some things are just too much to explain. Something walloped me on the back of the head and two of the dogs looked behind me, tails wagging. The voice was loud and clear as always. “I heard you was talkin shit.” My sister Letiticia was the most irritating and amazing dead person. She had the uncanniest timing, she made herself comfortable on the floor with the big dogs and I sighed. “Hi Letty, so nice to see you. Oh, what no come in. No bother, it’s not like I was trying to get some alone time with my wife.” 

What I want to point you to here is that we are not using the Black body as the vehicle of fear. Blackness is not the mysterious scary other. It just is. This is the intimate vernacular the way (something I LOVE about Daniel Jose Older y’all know) folks talk to each other. These are people I know, if you are also a POC you probably know them too. I’m taking the haunted house trope away from the burbs and the seemingly always Victorian or whatever ghosts and bringing it into my community.

In terms of how I’m writing the women. In a lot of horror, the women are either fat ugly and scary (unfuckable and therefor support “the scare”) or they are super fuckable. She’s pale as milk with a long graceful neck and sweet brown eyes with a narrow waist and hefty titties and OH she speaks forty languages and is innocent and horny and shrieks with terror when a thing goes bump in the night.

Y’all know.

And if you are the writer, suddenly the question is are U FUCKABLE? EW NO U R NOT SO UR STORY IS UNREALISTIC.

We’ll talk about that shit more later.

My women are the heroines. As the maker of this myth, I’m giving them the power that women tend not to get in these stories. And yet, they aren’t ass kicker barbies.

I want to say more but I don’t want to spoil it also I’m not done yet.

This story is Black y’all. It is Blackity Black Black Black. It is a love note to my fellow Black fen. And to women.

Ahem.

I’ve babbled a lot.

I’ll do more through the month.

For now how about some of my other woman centric, WOC centric horror?

From my Yeah Write Archives a few favorites from my experimental horror series.

Beautiful Pit Vipers.

Black Pharaoh in the Morning. 

Down home.

Starveling.

I Dream of Doormen. 

AND

How about my Wifey’s fave?

I can be funny bros.

Puppy.

Next time we’ll talk about things I want to see more of in  horror and how race and gender can be included in how we view what is or isn’t horror as a thing.