Writing Switch: Horrors from Hyman Avenue
Passing Away … Almost
Ben: I don’t talk to God until I need him. Nobody talks to Death until they’re avoiding him.
I curse them both as my wheels say f— it and skid through October snow and fishtail over the edge of the asphalt.
“Nobody dies on Independence Pass,” I reassure myself in slow motion, as tires shred and windshields shatter, recalling five years’ worth of newspaper reports of miraculous #survivors.
My last moments upon me, I try to concentrate on the people I love as my possessions fly from the trunk into the passenger seat.
I draw a blank.
The last thing I’ll ever see is the giant S for Suzuki on the steering wheel as I wait for the airbag to fatally deploy (does Suzuki still make cars or are TVs good enough by now?) .
At what point do I just unbuckle and bail? Or should I trust the suspension and seatbelt as I plummet into the Devil’s Punchbowl?
Come on, Ben, concentrate! Stay limp, like before you were seduced by unyielding ads for Roman!
Oil pans rapture. The undercarriage takes a nick (dudes you feel me?). OnStar has been unsubscribed since 2012. I hit some debris and slam to a halt, like Sean trying to snowboard down the Cone Dumps after a couple of ski patrol avalanche detonations.
Like a phoenix aroused from the ashes, I crawl through the window and fall onto the ice and slush accumulated underneath. There’s something surreal about smoke billowing from the hood and “Mr. Blue Sky” still playing through the unhinged door and tinnitus.
I jolt awake at Bruno’s, the hockey bullhorn giving me flashbacks from when my domepiece slammed against the steering wheel 10 hours before. I used to think PTSD was made up, but as one who has been on Saint Peter’s doorstep, stuffing guts back inside me while trying to hitch a ride into town, let me assure you that it is not.
Well, honestly, I only had a couple of bruises and the tow truck driver was probably more traumatized than me, trying to extract my vehicle while precipitously parked on a slick, tight, blind curve, but whatever.
Only the good die young, so I’m pretty much guaranteed to be here for a while.
The Night of the Skiing Dead
Sean: “Why are we here?” John asked.
“Because if you want to do a hut trip, you have to know how to skin. Do you want to do a hut trip?” Glenn replied.
It was a cold, blustery Friday evening in Aspen — the kind of night normally reserved for a glass of whiskey and a B-action movie. However, tonight was a special night as a full moon was out to shine the way up Tiehack for a lunar-lit uphill. Glenn and John — known for their love of all things downhill and hatred of cardio — were not prepared: a couple paltry layers, a half-charged vape pen, borrowed headlamps and a flask of brown.
Peeved that the clouds held off, they began their ascent with 15 to 20 skinning enthusiasts. Intent on this climb sucking as little as possible, Glenn and John put their heads down and earbuds in and set off at the end of the single-file line.
About halfway through the trek, a sudden wind picked up and almost blew Glenn and John over. As they steadied themselves against the bitter breeze, something seemed amiss. In all the fuss to concentrate on learning, the pair realized they were now leading the group. Confused, both men took out their headphones and waited for the uphillers to catch up.
During the quick break and safety meeting, the wind started swirling snow around the two men. And once the snow died down, the headlamps of their crew were gone.
A little freaked out, they decided to ski down in search of the lost members.
After 20 turns in two minutes and a resurgence of wind, John came to violent stop near the edge of some aspen glades. His periphery picked up faint lights bobbing in the trees. The foliage sheltered them from the heavy winds, making it quiet enough to communicate.
“I think that’s Dirk,” Glenn said.
He unclicked from his skis and started to trudge toward the headlamps. Relieved that he found the missing group of skiers, Glenn rapidly approached and put his arm around his friend Dirk. As Dirk reacted to Glenn’s touch, Glenn looked down to see what the group was surrounding.
Nobody responded to his question, but to be fair he didn’t finish the query.
“Hey, what are you guys doi — OH MY GOD!” The uphillers, once adorned in bright Patagonia and North Face puffys, were now splattered in blood, ripping at the flesh of a snowboarder. As he tried to pull away from Dirk, the man lunged at him, knocking him to the ground. Before he could scream for John to run, Dirk bit down on his throat. The last thing that went through Glenn’s mind before “Endorphins!” was “F— uphilling.”
John, refusing to posthole to “rescue” the skiers and waiting for Glenn, noticed the ruckus and saw his friend thrashing, headlamp wildly shaking back and forth.
John turned up the brightness on his headlamp and focused it on the group. As Dirk lifted his head to see where the light was coming from, John could faintly make out the figure, now sporting a red headlamp. After a second the light slowly changed back to white and John noticed it wasn’t a different setting, it was blood funneling off Dirk’s lamp.
As fear shot up his spine, the other heads turned their focus to the bright light. Not waiting for the rabid skiers to make their move, John took off. He tucked and straightlined but the lights kept closing in.
“ARRRRGHH!” “UPHILL!” “TELI SKIS!” “GRAINS!” “EARN YOUR TURNS!”
Taken off guard by the screams of the quickly approaching uphillers, John lost his focus and caught an edge. Before he could get to his feet, they were on him, tearing at his off-brand coat, borrowed skins and secondhand skis. Then everything went dark.
The next morning, John woke up in his bed, adorned with brand new gear. Wondering what the hell happened, he phoned Glenn. After a couple of rings, Glenn picked up.
“Hey man, what’s up?”
“Not much. Just eating this parfait.”
“Yeah, John, a parfait. You know granola, yogurt, fruit.”
“But you hate yogurt.”
“I know but I had a yearning for it. Anyway what do you want to get into today?”
“I was thinking of maybe skinning up Ajax.”
Hardy Boys Don’t Get Soft
Ben: Chet had never been scared by anything. And he’s spent a lot of time chilling in back of the Hardy Boys’ jalopy (whatever the hell that is, probably a Suzuki XL7S), so he’s seen some shit.
But as Chet, Frank, Joe and Nancy waited in line at the commercial haunted house under a projector playing “IT’3 the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown,” a shiver ran through his very colon, like when 9:30 a.m. hits and so does the morning coffee cleanse. IDK why you people do that, but also I sleep til noon so ¯_(‘. ‘ )_/¯
“Ruh-roh,” whimpered Fred, or whoever is in this stupid, made-up story of which the instances and characters are completely fictional and all likenesses living or *VIOLIN SCREECHING* dead are entirely coincidental.
Chet’s stomach curled inside him when he spotted the cold-hearted witch ushering him into the living room. Chet had seen her before, in a nightmare, involving pancake batter and a cuckolded boyfriend with a quivering lip. Strange that he could remember such details from a dream. “Thank goodness I’m asleep and all depictions past and present are fictitious,” Chet reiterated.
Upon ascending the stairs at this creepy, totally made-up attraction, Chet was astounded to find he was completely alone, except for a lunch lady from Fort Collins behind the counter flicking pizza crumbs into the trash bin and picking scabs off his face and then licking his fingers.
“It’s as quiet as a ghost,” Chet whispered, combining idioms that don’t make sense but not caring regardless since he fancies himself the star of a Travel Channel docudrama.
Rattled at this point, Chet darted for the exit.
But from out of the corner, a quaking voice mustered “Hey!”
A manifestation appeared and held her hands out. Her arms passed through Chet, like Marie Calendar’s knife thinly slicing peas for a microwaveable pot pie. In a daze, he reached to embrace the spectre one last time.
But instead he was brought back to reality by the chilling embrace of an old friend.
“Chet … you were dead the whole time, dude,” whispered a voice above the strong, hirsute arms that cradled his head.
He looked up, and smirked at the handsome face of his buddy.
“I’m too sexy, right?” said Fred.