July 29, 2004

Qwx: Ghouls.

I'm now a level 3 Zydeco Rogue. Jason, will you please play my Clifton Chenier album a few times in honor of my exalted status, since I'm not able to do so at the moment? Thank you.

Roommate Andrew and The Slightly Nicer Cat moved out last night. I saw their new apartment. It's quite lovely. It also contains the Hell Window, with which I'm morbidly fascinated. It's a small slice of evil which was not included in the apartment's excellent remodeling job, a dingy screened and slatted window compartment built for storing meat and other perishables in the cool outside air in the days before refrigeration. I can't quite do this justice. You open a latched panel on the inside and an ordinary white kitchen wall opens to reveal a dark, dirty, rusty 12-inch-deep prison where food can be isolated from the warmth and light of your home to stare gloomily through the bars and contemplate its miserable captivity, shivering in the howling winds and shrinking back from the grime accumulating in the corners.

Katie and Jacob and I spent the car ride home from the apartment speculating on whether the ghouls in the Hell Window will be able to escape and venture into the brightly lit kitchen. The panel latches on the kitchen side, but there is a small gap where they might just be able to stick a claw through to pull the latch open. If they have claws, that is. If there are ghouls, that is. But the Hell Window just speaks of ghouls in the same way that attics speak of spiders. If they're not there now, they will come. They might not initially have claws, but I can't help but imagine that anything that spends any time in the Hell Window will suffer a Gollum-like transition and grow fangs, scraggly hair, and, yes, claws.

Perhaps initially they'll merely be mournful and lost. They'll rattle the panel hinges hopefully, run their fingers along the wood looking for a knob, and cry softly for help. They'll find that there is no knob. They'll find that the hinges are sturdy and the latch is closed. They'll find that no one answers their crying. They'll be afraid, and hurt. They'll moan, they'll scratch at the latches, they'll pound on the wood. Their fingers will become callused. Their voices will become hoarse. Their limbs will become twisted from trying to squeeze out through the cracks in the panel. Their fear at being locked in will turn to vengeful anger. They'll chew on the wood with their fangs and wrench at the hinges with their long, raggedy nails. They'll howl and rage in the middle of the night. The panel will bulge outward under the force of their pushing and warp with their pulling and clawing.

Stronger latches will be required. Nail up plywood to reinforce the panel, bolt the hinges down, add chain locks and deadbolts. Worry that that won't quite be enough. Hang oak beams in brackets across the entire opening. Brick up that corner of the kitchen; wish you'd used reinforced concrete instead. Hear the scratching and scuffling while you make coffee in the morning. Lay in bed listening to the rattling against the backdrop of the nighttime stillness. Envy your neighbors in their peaceful sleep. Wonder why you didn't take the panel off its hinges, clean out the corners and banish the gloom before it was too late. You could have had flowers in there, violets, daffodils. The cat could have curled up there in the sunlight and fresh air, watching the hummingbirds flitting around the neighbor's morning glories: the very picture of a happy home. Shame, really.

Posted by dianna at July 29, 2004 11:54 AM

Ok. I'm terrified. And I still have several hours of being increasingly alone on the increasingly dark and mysterious JPL campus.


Posted by: Erik at July 29, 2004 05:15 PM

Sorry about that. It was that second-to-last paragraph, wasn't it? That was the one that had me shivering at my desk this morning while I was writing it.

Posted by: Dianna at July 29, 2004 07:05 PM

Yes. That's the one. The less-public buildings of JPL are all of that patched-until-there's-more-patch-than-wall school of architecture, and so I can now easily imagine any of these patched sections, or the many power access panels, or the 'doors to nowhere' bulging from the efforts of the ghouls encased within. Again, thanks!

Posted by: Erik at July 29, 2004 07:24 PM

You're weird.

And I like you for it.

Posted by: Arianna at July 29, 2004 08:02 PM

Thank you, I think. Was that directed at me or at Erik?

Posted by: Dianna at July 29, 2004 09:01 PM

dood! how did i miss this post this morning? shame on me!

brilliant work. i am pleased 10 hours later.

Posted by: michele at July 29, 2004 09:48 PM

Dianna- I'm thinking you're the weird one in this instance, so I'm guessing that it was directed towards you.

Posted by: Erik at July 29, 2004 10:09 PM

Yeah, that and Arianna couldn't possibly like Erik... What were you thinking?

Posted by: Thomas at July 29, 2004 11:39 PM

Hey. Hey! Who's weirder here, the person who writes about ghouls or the person who is terrified of finding them in his high-tech workplace but stays anyway?

Posted by: Dianna at July 30, 2004 09:13 AM

FFRDC JPL = new FFRDC("Jet Propulsion Laboratory");
JPL.setTechLevel(1 / HIGH_TECH);

Posted by: Erik at July 30, 2004 09:37 AM

this post makes me sad because the ghouls initially sound like puppies. and why is your page still pink? what are you, a gay?

Posted by: didofoot at July 30, 2004 11:42 AM

Erik: what the hell?

Kristen: yes, actually, I'm a big gay sissy. I'm even wearing a pink shirt today. Snicker.

Posted by: Dianna at July 30, 2004 11:46 AM

speaking of gay, does anyone know what the fuck a "queerbo" is? i keep seeing people use that word on their friendster profiles, b/c i've been looking at everyone else'e profile since i can't edit my own, let alone look at it. fucking friendster. but anyway, any word on the queerbo's? it's such a great word, i want to know how to use it. the end.

Posted by: erica at July 30, 2004 11:53 AM

urbandictionary.com lists three definitions. i assume your friendster people are using it in the first sense.

a person who acts gayer than gay gayerson but, who isn't always gay.

A term that was thought to be fictitious and was used during a flame war at vintage TTF by datadyne sniper200.

An hermaphrodite with an incredibly faggy face.

Posted by: holohan at July 30, 2004 12:31 PM

thanks. i actually think it's something along the lines of the third one. i always forget about that urban dictionary genius.

Posted by: erica at July 30, 2004 03:13 PM

i appreciate that they use the traditional british "an hermaphrodite" rather than the vulgar american "a hermaphrodite."

Posted by: holohan at July 30, 2004 03:41 PM

Dianna: JPL is the inverse of high tech in all but its products. Most of the facility looks like an old factory, complete with stacks spewing likely carcinogenic fumes, grey, unadorned architecture, and grey, unadorned employees wandering about to their tasks, eyes downcast.

I really don't know why I wrote that code (though an FFRDC is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, which is JPL's official designation).

Posted by: Erik at July 30, 2004 07:12 PM

I will play clifton chenier for you, but it seems inappropriate to your spooky "queerbos in the attic" story.

Posted by: jason s at July 30, 2004 08:28 PM

Gollum has neither fangs nor claws, LotR n00b.

Posted by: Chris at July 30, 2004 10:30 PM

You sure about that? He totally had pointy teeth in the movie. He hissed and showed them.

Posted by: Dianna at July 31, 2004 01:49 PM

He got those at Hot Topic.

Posted by: jason s at July 31, 2004 05:22 PM

A mouthful of pointy teeth do not fangs make. Fangs are canines. Made for meat, baby*.

*That was not intended as a jab at the vegetarian/vegan, merely a lighthearted poke.

Posted by: Chris at July 31, 2004 07:00 PM

Oh fine.

My vision of the ghouls works equally well whether they have pointy teeth or out-and-out fangs. Pointy teeth it is.

Nitpick: Gollum ate little fish and things raw. Fangs would be good for that. I maintain that he could have had fangs.

Posted by: Dianna at July 31, 2004 08:05 PM

But he began as a hobbit, and from what I recall in LOTR3 (the movie anyway,) the sharpish, decayed, ugly teeth were a byproduct of the physical decay that accompanies prolonged possession of the Ring- a reflection of the spiritual corruption of the owner. So they wouldn't be mutations or augmentations, just the remaining bits of what was already there, also shaped in part by a changing diet. And by Peter Jackson.

You should totally post this issue in a LOTR forum. You could be responsible for a civil war. And that would be super-neat.

Posted by: poot at August 1, 2004 12:03 AM

Here is my official position: what I meant was long scraggly sharp things on the ends of fingers, and scraggly sharp things in mouths. That does not necessarily fit the definition of claws and fangs. Claws and fangs are items evolved for specific survival purposes such as climbing trees and tearing meat. What I had in mind was the general equipment for being scary and ghoulish. Creepy things don't have to be well-adapted for eating your flesh in order to be creepy; the effect I was going for would actually be better served by grimy, broken, decaying appendages of uncertain purpose than by gleaming sharp choppers.

Thus, I offer no apology for the comparison to Gollum. I originally offered no apology for using the terms "fangs" and "claws" either, but in the interest of sending my customers home happy, I'll state my deepest remorse for my anatomical inaccuracy and promise to do better in the future.

Now lay off.

Posted by: Dianna at August 2, 2004 09:43 AM

Also, I'm likely to close comments on posts like this in the future. That's not so that people won't nitpick them (since my standard nitpickers all have other ways to contact me with their grievances), but because I hate seeing them with long strings of comments that don't really respond to what I spent so much time writing. It's worse than having no comments and feeling like I'm writing into a void.

Posted by: Dianna at August 2, 2004 09:48 AM

oh the irony, ye of 'longest discussion thread' fame!

Posted by: Erik at August 2, 2004 01:20 PM