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The Mystery of the Abandoned Farmhouse

This is a true story. It happened yesterday. I feel I should put that out there right away, since this is a fiction blog. But even in real life, interesting things can happen.

This weekend, I went up to the Seoul area with my wife. We went up to find an abandoned mental hospital that’s been closed for about 20 years, which is apparently one of the creepiest places in Korea. We were planning on exploring it at night. However, when we got there, we found the road leading to it blocked with a pretty imposing gate and barbed wire.

I think I can jump that.

I think I can jump that.

However, we had traveled many hours to get there and we decided to try a more lateral approach. A little ways up the road was another road that branched off into a small valley parallel to the one the hospital was in. It had rained heavily and the road was more or less a rushing stream. Our shoes were quickly damp.

We soon came to a farm, which we realized pretty quickly was abandoned. After an abortive attempt at climbing over the ridge to the hospital, we went back and looked around the house.

It was odd, to say the least. It was clearly abandoned–the front door was smashed in–and there was a lot of weather damage inside. Still, it looked as if the people had literally just gotten up and left. There were family photos hanging on the walls, clothes in the closet, dishes still sitting in the drying rack by the sink.

abandoned farmhouse

The house was totally furnished, but totally abandoned at the same time.

I didn't try on any of the clothes.

I didn’t try on any of the clothes.

It would have felt like we had just broken into someone’s house, except that it was clear it had not been used in a long time. The calendar on the wall said January, 2011.

abandoned farmhouse

I took a picture of the mirror to see if a ghost would appear in the photograph. But alas.

I took a picture of the mirror to see if a ghost would appear in the photograph. But alas.

We speculated about why the house had been left like this, although most of my theories were too mundane for my wife’s liking. It seemed to have belonged a retired couple, the husband of which had been a lawyer, based on all the law books around. Of course, why they came out to a farm, I don’t know, especially one with a huge warehouse of old mattresses, couches and chairs in it. And why didn’t they take things that would have had sentimental value, like this huge family photo over the fireplace? Even if they had both died, you would think that their children would have taken care of things.

abandoned farmhouse

It showed a lot of moisture damage. Then there was this long-dead houseplant.

abandoned farmhouse

abandoned farmhouse

In the end, we didn’t touch anything or take anything, just looked around and left. As much as I would like to know what had happened there, that would take a lot more poking into the piles of documents and other things that had been left and that would have seemed strange. The juxtaposition of the almost completely furnished house and the totally abandonment of the place made it seem both like we were in a ruin and in an occupied house. But who knows? If I ever find out the story, I’ll let you know.

abandonded farmhouse

(I also made a video, which I will share tomorrow, if I can get a chance to post it.)

 

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Phaeton Day

This is a story for Alastair’s Photo Fiction challenge. It takes place in a virtual reality world, similar to the one in my story, The Horse Bridge.

copyright Alastair Forbes

copyright Alastair Forbes

Phaeton Day

I woke up in my virtual world of Lex to find a .80 caliber Helios “Sunkiller” rifle propped next to my bed. That meant only one thing: Phaeton Day.

Outside, neighbors were clustered together, looking up at the sun, each holding their rifle. The sun was already quivering around, dancing to and fro. Suddenly, it streaked across the whole arc of the sky from east to west. Shadows skewed crazily.

A few people took shots at it, but most waited. The world moderators had outlawed flying for the day and everyone moved slowly, suddenly ungainly at having to stay on the ground.

The day wore on and as the sun sunk closer to the earth, it began to get hotter. More people were firing now, trying to puncture the sun and unlock their Sunkiller achievement.

By mid-afternoon, everything was broiling. The sun was on high difficulty: it kept dancing everywhere, impossible to hit.

I had one bullet left when the sun zoomed overhead. I felt the intense blast of heat and fired upwards. There was a splash of flames and the disk of the sun fell onto my house.

“Congratulations!” a voice said out of nowhere. “Umm, sorry.”


Good Intentions

image

“This place needs cleaning up,” the Superintendent of Parks said. “This new garbage can will help.”

“Should I take the plastic wrap off?”

The superintendent’s face took on a look of horror. “What, and get it dirty?”


A Stormy Day at the Beach

Although this is a fiction blog, I occasionally do posts about real life: things that happen to me. This is one of those. Today, I went to Daecheon Beach with some friends. It is probably the most famous beach on Korea’s west coast and also hosts a very popular Mud Festival every year, although the beach itself is not muddy.

aka The Festival of the Gray Zombies

aka The Festival of a Million Gray Zombies

However, today we just went to swim. We got there about 11 in the morning, just as the sky was getting very dark.

Daecheon Beach

Daecheon Beach

A minute or so after we arrived, it started to rain. There were people swimming, but soon, as lightning flashed on the horizon and thunder rumbled, the lifeguards started ordering everyone out of the water.

I waited a long time to catch a picture of the lightning, but it was too quick for me.

I waited a long time to catch a picture of the lightning, but it was too quick for me.

At this point, the rain let up a little and I went out of the coffee shop where we were sheltering to find my friends who had come in another car. I had just found them when the storm really hit in earnest.

Daecheon Beach

I had gone down to the beach to find a friend who had gone swimming and was forced to shelter under a pavilion while the wind picked up and the rain poured down in buckets. Emergencies sirens were going off and the lightning began to strike closer and more frequently. About the time when it struck on the beach itself, I realized that it probably wasn’t good we were hiding under a wet metal framework. I could imagine it getting struck at any moment.

The rain decreased for a moment and we made it back to the coffee shop to meet up with the others.

Daecheon Beach

After a while of sitting around, we decided to go to a jjimjilbang nearby to at least do something interesting. The rain had let up a bit at this point, so we started walking. Of course, it was mostly clear before we got there, so in the end, we just went to beach anyway. After that, the weather was perfect. It just goes to show that you can never trust the weather in Korea, especially in the summer.

And a wonderful, tired, sunburnt time was had by all.

And a wonderful, tired, sunburnt time was had by all.


Much Ado About Kudzu – Visual Fiction

Kudzu.

The Scourge of the South and an emerald-green kraken that spreads its leafy tentacles out to overwhelm everything.

It is unstoppable.

Much Ado about Kudzu

*         *         *

“I think I have a way to stop it,” Dr. Freddie Combs said. He was sitting with a group of scientists at the Kudzu Fight Council. It was, somewhat ironically, located in Alaska. The feeling was that kudzu was so dangerous it was best for the Council to employ scientists who were deathly afraid of it. There was no chance of them sympathizing with the enemy that way.

“What’s your idea?” the Director asked.

“Special giant rats,” Dr. Combs said. “All they eat is kudzu. We set them loose in Kentucky and Virginia and soon all the kudzu will be gone.”

“Giant rats? Are you crazy? No one wants giant rats running around. And how do you know they only eat kudzu?”

“That’s all they’ve eaten in our lab tests.”

“What else have you offered them?”

“Nothing, but—”

“Next!” the Director said.

Much Ado about Kudzu

“I saw we just give the affected area up for lost,” another scientist said. “Let’s build a wall around the area, let the people inside deal with it.”

“Kudzu grows over walls.”

“Well, maybe we could put the giant rats on top of the wall . . .”

Another scientist stood up. “I’ve developed a new strain of kudzu that bursts into flames in hot sunlight. We just need to cross-breed it with the kudzu and the problem will solve itself.”

“These are all terrible ideas,” the Director said. “Do any of you have a half-decent idea?”

Much Ado about Kudzu

“I have one that is fool-proof,” a tall, dark scientist named Dr. Brawn said. He had a crazy look in his eye, which in scientific circles is referred at “that Nobel look”. The rest of the room hushed.

“Super kudzu,” Dr. Brawn said. “It is twice as strong as normal kudzu and as smart a brilliant dog, or perhaps a slightly dim 5-year-old. It is also fiercely territorial, so it will easily wipe out the normal kudzu for us.”

“But then what do we do with all this super kudzu?” the Director asked. “The problem will be worse than before.”

“No, because it is be intelligent,” Dr. Brawn said. “We can negotiate with it, then send it to go fight our enemies. We can turn it into an ally.”

“Does . . . it grow as fast as normal kudzu?” the Director asked in a shocked voice.

“Three times faster. However, it does have a critical weakness. It is vulnerable to bullets. One shot will kill 100’ of super kudzu.”

“That is a good feature,” the Director admitted. “Fine, we’ll try it. I can’t think of anything better at least.

“Excellent,” Dr. Brawn said. He patted the place on his chest where his Nobel Prize would soon hang. “This can’t fail. Trust me.”

Much Ado about Kudzu

*         *         *

Four months later, the continental United States was abandoned. Mexico was considering building a huge fence to keep out the super kudzu scourge. Canada had nothing but its cold weather and even that wasn’t an effective barrier anymore, thank you very much global warming. People tried to shoot at the rampaging super kudzu, but after it began to mimic a whimpering puppy, they found they just didn’t have the heart.

Finally, all the survivors who could afford it gathered in a huge underground bunker on the island of Newfoundland and waited, hoping that the kudzu would die out or simply go away. They waited for years. Their phone and Internet went out because no one wanted to go outside to maintain them.

After three years, the debate began: to go outside or not. Some argued that the super kudzu must have killed itself off by now. In any case, it couldn’t have made it over the water to the island. Some questioned why they were in a bunker at all, but more pessimistic individuals shushed them, reminding them of how quickly North America had fallen.

“It’s probably crossed the Atlantic Ocean by now,” some said.

One boy, though, had had enough. “I’m going outside,” he said. He ran for the hatch and began to spin the wheel to open it.

Outside the sun shone brightly and a single tendril of kudzu crept slowly up the stonework towards the soon-to-be-opened hatch . . .

Much Ado About Kudzu

(You can find more information about kudzu here)


Cloud Chronicles

For the last month or so it has been monsoon season in Korea. However, until recently the southern part of the country got almost no rain, while the northern part, around Seoul, got heavy rains every day and flooding. What we did get down here was an amazing display of white billowy clouds on the backdrop of a pure blue sky. There is not much that I like better than beautiful clouds. Here is a sampling.

20130630_162405

 

Cloud Chronicles

 

Cloud Chronicles

 

Cloud Chronicles

 

Cloud Chronicles

 

Cloud Chronicles

 

Cloud Chronicles

 

Cloud Chronicles

 

Cloud Chronicles

 

Cloud Chronicles

 

Cloud Chronicles


Is Water Chess Nuts? – Visual Fiction

taken in Jeonju, South Korea

taken in Jeonju, South Korea

Is Water Chess Nuts?

Two men sat on the bench in the park, a controller between them that changed the water jets streaming out of the stone chess board.

“Knight to E4. Check.”

“E4? How is that check?”

“Your king is on F6.”

“No, that’s your piece, and it’s a rook.”

“But the rook is only supposed to be 1.6 meters high, not 1.9 meters high like the king.”

“That is only 1.6 meters. And see? It’s a straight stream like all the black pieces. The white pieces are more of a misty stream.”

“It looks misty from here.”

“It’s not. See only those three pieces aren’t misty: your king, your rook and that knight.”

“I have more than three pieces. Don’t I?”

“No, I captured the rest. Don’t you remember?”

“Are you positive?”

“Are you calling me a liar?”

At that moment, a group of squealing kids ran onto the chessboard and jumped into the jets of water. In an instant, the game was over and the men’s friendship was saved.


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