“Engineer the future now…Part 2”

Rough First Panel for “The Death of Halpin Frayser – Storyboard”

Today, we’re back to posting about what’s going on in the classroom and for this assignment we’re supposed to discuss what our “dream job” may be or where we see ourselves employed after we graduate from IUPUI.

First, I see my self as self-employed or freelancing. I am attending IUPUI for three reasons only, resources, networking and new skills. For example, as a student at IUPUI I was able to purchase Adobe Design and Web Premium CS6 for $20 and access to lynda.com. Those two resource alone would have cost about $750 (about $375 each, with a one year subscription to Lynda.com). There is also access to video production equipment that I have yet to use, so overall that’s at least worth the cost of one semester. Then there’s the networking.  I’ve recently joined a group of young film-making students. We’re all passionate about film and excited to build our portfolios together. This Friday will be my first opportunity to actually meet with the group in person. Finally, there’s the new skills. While I’m learning a lot from the tutorials on lynda.com, film making is a collaborative medium. There are many things you can by yourself, like writing, storyboards and even animatics but if you into to create video all the tutorials in the world will not make up for actual on the set experience. Therefore, through the resources, networks and new skills at IUPUI I should have not only an impressive portfolio, but the foundation for my career in video production and storytelling.

Upon graduation I will have to complete a capstone project my last semester at IUPUI and my goal is to use the resources, networks and skills to make a feature film. I will have, by the time I graduate, made several short films (I am lining up at least 3 for the upcoming Spring semester alone) and developed a website/production company with my wife, Laura, called FrogFish.com, where Frog Experiments (my videos) and Asterias Media (her written stories) come together to display the projects I’ve developed during my time at IUPUI, promote local authors and entertain audiences. This website and the content created while in school will lead to a long career as an independent producer. FrogFish will use both private investment and crowdsourcing to raise capital to continue production after I have left IUPUI. The portfolio I create at IUPUI, the short films and the feature, will be the base I use to fund new projects. And rather than attempt to compete with the flawed Hollywood distribution model, I will increase the opportunity to repay investors through targeted self distribution using ideas and models from other independent filmmakers like Jon Reiss, and friends  Eric Anderson, Zack Parker and Joshua Hull, because I believe that in order to have a sustainable career as a filmmaker you have to make money for your investors. However, my goal, and what I hope to achieve after graduation, is to develop a strong fan base that enjoys the stories I like to tell and how I like to tell them.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you already know the type of stories I enjoy. You’ve read the original version of the story mentioned in the image, “The Death of Halpin Frayser” and you’ve read my screenplay adaptation. The image is the first panel of the storyboard (which I intend to animate through Photoshop and After Effects…once I get a better handle on them). I am targetting March as the goal for principal photography on the short. I am also still working on the (animated?) graphic novel “The Wet Grave” and have many other projects (like building the website) to complete before graduation. Therefore, while I am blogging today as part of an assignment to discuss what my “dream job” will be when I graduate, I am really trying to remain focused on what I need to accomplish over the next 2-3 months.

And seriously, I do respond to comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything I’ve discussed (particularly if you’ve read Jon Reiss’s book)

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The Death of Halpin Frayser

I realize that I have been rather late with my blog post this week. We’re coming up on midterms in school and I’ve got so many irons in the fire now it’s getting hard to remember which need to be turned. But one of my assignments in Directed Study (Career Management) was to list out my goals. My last blog was about where I am and where I want to be (and I’m still jamming out to Clutch – “Mice and Gods”), but while I was going over exactly what I wanted to do with FrogFish.com, it  has changed a bit.

With that I will say that Laura and I want to create web-based multimedia entertainment that emphasizes strong narrative fiction. FrogFish.com is independent multimedia entertainment that lacks the fear of failure but has the courage to share and succeed. Through open and honest collaboration between artists and audiences we will learn from and entertain one another with scary stories and humor, but most of all just plain good stories!

So without further adieu I would like to present “The Death of Halpin Frayser” in both its original version by Ambrose Bierce and the adaptation written for video by me, Kermet Merl Key. Be sure to let me know what you think of both versions in the comments below and let me know what type of stories you want to us to create OR that YOU want to create.

THE DEATH OF HALPIN FRAYSER

BY AMBROSE BIERCE

(available through the Ambrose Bierce Project)

I

For by death is wrought greater change than hath been shown.  Whereas in general the spirit that removed cometh back upon occasion, and is sometimes seen of those in flesh (appearing in the form of the body it bore) yet it hath happened that the veritable body without the spirit hath walked.  And it is attested of those encountering who have lived to speak thereon that a lich so raised up hath no natural affection, nor remembrance thereof, but only hate.  Also, it is known that some spirits which in life were benign become by death evil altogether. – Hali.

One dark night in midsummer a man waking from a dreamless sleep in a forest lifted his head from the earth, and staring a few moments into the blackness, said: “Catherine Larue.”  He said nothing more; no reason was known to him why he should have said so much.


The man was Halpin Frayser.  He lived in St. Helena, but where he lives now is uncertain, for he is dead.  One who practices sleeping in the woods with nothing under him but the dry leaves and the damp earth, and nothing over him but the branches from which the leaves have fallen and the sky from which the earth has fallen, cannot hope for great longevity, and Frayser had already attained the age of thirty-two.  There are persons in this world, millions of persons, and far and away the best persons, who regard that as a very advanced age.  They are the children.  To those who view the voyage of life from the port of departure the bark that has accomplished any considerable distance appears already in close approach to the farther shore.  However, it is not certain that Halpin Frayser came to his death by exposure.

He had been all day in the hills west of the Napa Valley, looking for doves and such small game as was in season.  Late in the afternoon it had come on to be cloudy, and he had lost his bearings; and although he had only to go always downhill – everywhere the way to safety when one is lost – the absence of trails had so impeded him that he was overtaken by night while still in the forest.  Unable in the darkness to penetrate the thickets of manzanita and other undergrowth, utterly bewildered and overcome with fatigue, he had lain down near the root of a large madroño and fallen into a dreamless sleep.  It was hours later, in the very middle of the night, that one of God’s mysterious messengers, gliding ahead of the incalculable host of his companions sweeping westward with the dawn line, pronounced the awakening word in the ear of the sleeper, who sat upright and spoke, he knew not why, a name, he knew not whose.

Halpin Frayser was not much of a philosopher, nor a scientist.  The circumstance that, waking from a deep sleep at night in the midst of a forest, he had spoken aloud a name that he had not in memory and hardly had in mind did not arouse an enlightened curiosity to investigate the phenomenon.  He thought it odd, and with a little perfunctory shiver, as if in deference to a seasonal presumption that the night was chill, he lay down again and went to sleep.  But his sleep was no longer dreamless.

He thought he was walking along a dusty road that showed white in the gathering darkness of a summer night.  Whence and whither it led, and why he traveled it, he did not know, though all seemed simple and natural, as is the way in dreams; for in the Land Beyond the Bed surprises cease from troubling and the judgment is at rest.  Soon he came to a parting of the ways; leading from the highway was a road less traveled, having the appearance, indeed, of having been long abandoned, because, he thought, it led to something evil; yet he turned into it without hesitation, impelled by some imperious necessity.

As he pressed forward he became conscious that his way was haunted by invisible existences whom he could not definitely figure to his mind.  From among the trees on either side he caught broken and incoherent whispers in a strange tongue which yet he partly understood.  They seemed to him fragmentary utterances of a monstrous conspiracy against his body and soul.

It was now long after nightfall, yet the interminable forest through which he journeyed was lit with a wan glimmer having no point of diffusion, for in its mysterious lumination nothing cast a shadow.  A shallow pool in the guttered depression of an old wheel rut, as from a recent rain, met his eye with a crimson gleam.  He stooped and plunged his hand into it.  It stained his fingers; it was blood!  Blood, he then observed, was about him everywhere.  The weeds growing rankly by the roadside showed it in blots and splashes on their big, broad leaves.  Patches of dry dust between the wheelways were pitted and spattered as with a red rain.  Defiling the trunks of the trees were broad maculations of crimson, and blood dripped like dew from their foliage.

All this he observed with a terror which seemed not incompatible with the fulfillment of a natural expectation.  It seemed to him that it was all in expiation of some crime which, though conscious of his guilt, he could not rightly remember.  To the menaces and mysteries of his surroundings the consciousness was an added horror.  Vainly he sought by tracing life backward in memory, to reproduce the moment of his sin; scenes and incidents came crowding tumultuously into his mind, one picture effacing another, or commingling with it in confusion and obscurity, but nowhere could he catch a glimpse of what he sought.  The failure augmented his terror; he felt as one who has murdered in the dark, not knowing whom nor why.  So frightful was the situation – the mysterious light burned with so silent and awful a menace; the noxious plants, the trees that by common consent are invested with a melancholy or baleful character, so openly in his sight conspired against his peace; from overhead and all about came so audible and startling whispers and the sighs of creatures so obviously not of earth – that he could endure it no longer, and with a great effort to break some malign spell that bound his faculties to silence and inaction, he shouted with the full strength of his lungs!  His voice broken, it seemed, into an infinite multitude of unfamiliar sounds, went babbling and stammering away into the distant reaches of the forest, died into silence, and all was as before.  But he had made a beginning at resistance and was encouraged.  He said:

“I will not submit unheard.  There may be powers that are not malignant traveling this accursed road.  I shall leave them a record and an appeal.  I shall relate my wrongs, the persecutions that I endure – I, a helpless mortal, a penitent, an unoffending poet!”  Halpin Frayser was a poet only as he was a penitent: in his dream.

Taking from his clothing a small red-leather pocketbook, one-half of which was leaved for memoranda, he discovered that he was without a pencil.  He broke a twig from a bush, dipped it into a pool of blood and wrote rapidly.  He had hardly touched the paper with the point of his twig when a low, wild peal of laughter broke out at a measureless distance away, and growing ever louder, seemed approaching ever nearer; a soulless, heartless, and unjoyous laugh, like that of the loon, solitary by the lakeside at midnight; a laugh which culminated in an unearthly shout close at hand, then died away by slow gradations, as if the accursed being that uttered it had withdrawn over the verge of the world whence it had come.  But the man felt that this was not so – that it was near by and had not moved.

A strange sensation began slowly to take possession of his body and his mind.  He could not have said which, if any, of his senses was affected; he felt it rather as a consciousness – a mysterious mental assurance of some overpowering presence – some supernatural malevolence different in kind from the invisible existences that swarmed about him, and superior to them in power.  He knew that it had uttered that hideous laugh.  And now it seemed to be approaching him; from what direction he did not know – dared not conjecture.  All his former fears were forgotten or merged in the gigantic terror that now held him in thrall.  Apart from that, he had but one thought: to complete his written appeal to the benign powers who, traversing the haunted wood, might some time rescue him if he should be denied the blessing of annihilation.  He wrote with terrible rapidity, the twig in his fingers rilling blood without renewal; but in the middle of a sentence his hands denied their service to his will, his arms fell to his sides, the book to the earth; and powerless to move or cry out, he found himself staring into the sharply drawn face and blank, dead eyes of his own mother, standing white and silent in the garments of the grave!

II

In his youth Halpin Frayser had lived with his parents in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Fraysers were well-to-do, having a good position in such society as had survived the wreck wrought by civil war.  Their children had the social and educational opportunities of their time and place, and had responded to good associations and instruction with agreeable manners and cultivated minds.  Halpin being the youngest and not over robust was perhaps a trifle “spoiled.”  He had the double disadvantage of a mother’s assiduity and a father’s neglect.  Frayser père was what no Southern man of means is not – a politician.  His country, or rather his section and State, made demands upon his time and attention so exacting that to those of his family he was compelled to turn an ear partly deafened by the thunder of the political captains and the shouting, his own included.

Young Halpin was of a dreamy, indolent and rather romantic turn, somewhat more addicted to literature than law, the profession to which he was bred.  Among those of his relations who professed the modern faith of heredity it was well understood that in him the character of the late Myron Bayne, a maternal great-grandfather, had revisited the glimpses of the moon – by which orb Bayne had in his lifetime been sufficiently affected to be a poet of no small Colonial distinction.  If not specially observed, it was observable that while a Frayser who was not the proud possessor of a sumptuous copy of the ancestral “poetical works” (printed at the family expense, and long ago withdrawn from an inhospitable market) was a rare Frayser indeed, there was an illogical indisposition to honor the great deceased in the person of his spiritual successor.  Halpin was pretty generally deprecated as an intellectual black sheep who was likely at any moment to disgrace the flock by bleating in meter.  The Tennessee Fraysers were a practical folk – not practical in the popular sense of devotion to sordid pursuits, but having a robust contempt for any qualities unfitting a man for the wholesome vocation of politics.

In justice to young Halpin it should be said that while in him were pretty faithfully reproduced most of the mental and moral characteristics ascribed by history and family tradition to the famous Colonial bard, his succession to the gift and faculty divine was purely inferential.  Not only had he never been known to court the muse, but in truth he could not have written correctly a line of verse to save himself from the Killer of the Wise.  Still, there was no knowing when the dormant faculty might wake and smite the lyre.

In the meantime the young man was rather a loose fish, anyhow.  Between him and his mother was the most perfect sympathy, for secretly the lady was herself a devout disciple of the late and great Myron Bayne, though with the tact so generally and justly admired in her sex (despite the hardy calumniators who insist that it is essentially the same thing as cunning) she had always taken care to conceal her weakness from all eyes but those of him who shared it.  Their common guilt in respect of that was an added tie between them.  If in Halpin’s youth his mother had “spoiled” him, he had assuredly done his part toward being spoiled.  As he grew to such manhood as is attainable by a Southerner who does not care which way elections go the attachment between him and his beautiful mother – whom from early childhood he had called Katy – became yearly stronger and more tender.  In these two romantic natures was manifest in a signal way that neglected phenomenon, the dominance of the sexual element in all the relations of life, strengthening, softening, and beautifying even those of consanguinity.  The two were nearly inseparable, and by strangers observing their manner were not infrequently mistaken for lovers.

Entering his mother’s boudoir one day Halpin Frayser kissed her upon the forehead, toyed for a moment with a lock of her dark hair which had escaped from its confining pins, and said, with an obvious effort at calmness:

“Would you greatly mind, Katy, if I were called away to California for a few weeks?”

It was hardly needful for Katy to answer with her lips a question to which her telltale cheeks had made instant reply.  Evidently she would greatly mind; and the tears, too, sprang into her large brown eyes as corroborative testimony.

“Ah, my son,” she said, looking up into his face with infinite tenderness, “I should have known that this was coming.  Did I not lie awake a half of the night weeping because, during the other half, Grandfather Bayne had come to me in a dream, and standing by his portrait – young, too, and handsome as that – pointed to yours on the same wall?  And when I looked it seemed that I could not see the features; you had been painted with a face cloth, such as we put upon the dead.  Your father has laughed at me, but you and I, dear, know that such things are not for nothing.  And I saw below the edge of the cloth the marks of hands on your throat – forgive me, but we have not been used to keep such things from each other.  Perhaps you have another interpretation.  Perhaps it does not mean that you will go to California.  Or maybe you will take me with you?”

It must be confessed that this ingenious interpretation of the dream in the light of newly discovered evidence did not wholly commend itself to the son’s more logical mind; he had, for the moment at least, a conviction that it foreshadowed a more simple and immediate, if less tragic, disaster than a visit to the Pacific Coast.  It was Halpin Frayser’s impression that he was to be garroted on his native heath.

“Are there not medicinal springs in California?” Mrs. Frayser resumed before he had time to give her the true reading of the dream – “places where one recovers from rheumatism and neuralgia?  Look – my fingers feel so stiff; and I am almost sure they have been giving me great pain while I slept.”

She held out her hands for his inspection.  What diagnosis of her case the young man may have thought it best to conceal with a smile the historian is unable to state, but for himself he feels bound to say that fingers looking less stiff, and showing fewer evidences of even insensible pain, have seldom been submitted for medical inspection by even the fairest patient desiring a prescription of unfamiliar scenes.

The outcome of it was that of these two odd persons having equally odd notions of duty, the one went to California, as the interest of his client required, and the other remained at home in compliance with a wish that her husband was scarcely conscious of entertaining.

While in San Francisco Halpin Frayser was walking one dark night along the water front of the city, when, with a suddenness that surprised and disconcerted him, he became a sailor.  He was in fact “shanghaied” aboard a gallant, gallant ship, and sailed for a far countree.  Nor did his misfortunes end with the voyage; for the ship was cast ashore on an island of the South Pacific, and it was six years afterward when the survivors were taken off by a venturesome trading schooner and brought back to San Francisco.

Though poor in purse, Frayser was no less proud in spirit than he had been in the years that seemed ages and ages ago.  He would accept no assistance from strangers, and it was while living with a fellow survivor near the town of St. Helena, awaiting news and remittances from home, that he had gone gunning and dreaming.

III

The apparition confronting the dreamer in the haunted wood – the thing so like, yet so unlike his mother – was horrible!  It stirred no love nor longing in his heart; it came unattended with pleasant memories of a golden past – inspired no sentiment of any kind; all the finer emotions were swallowed up in fear.  He tried to turn and run from before it, but his legs were as lead; he was unable to lift his feet from the ground.  His arms hung helpless at his sides; of his eyes only he retained control, and these he dared not remove from the lusterless orbs of the apparition, which he knew was not a soul without a body, but that most dreadful of all existences infesting that haunted wood – a body without a soul!  In its blank stare was neither love, nor pity, nor intelligence – nothing to which to address an appeal for mercy.  “An appeal will not lie,” he thought, with an absurd reversion to professional slang, making the situation more horrible, as the fire of a cigar might light up a tomb.

For a time, which seemed so long that the world grew gray with age and sin, and the haunted forest, having fulfilled its purpose in this monstrous culmination of its terrors, vanished out of his consciousness with all its sights and sounds, the apparition stood within a pace, regarding him with the mindless malevolence of a wild brute; then thrust its hands forward and sprang upon him with appalling ferocity!  The act released his physical energies without unfettering his will; his mind was still spellbound, but his powerful body and agile limbs, endowed with a blind, insensate life of their own, resisted stoutly and well.  For an instant he seemed to see this unnatural contest between a dead intelligence and a breathing mechanism only as a spectator – such fancies are in dreams; then he regained his identity almost as if by a leap forward into his body, and the straining automaton had a directing will as alert and fierce as that of its hideous antagonist.

But what mortal can cope with a creature of his dream?  The imagination creating the enemy is already vanquished; the combat’s result is the combat’s cause.  Despite his struggles – despite his strength and activity, which seemed wasted in a void, he felt the cold fingers close upon his throat.  Borne backward to the earth, he saw above him the dead and drawn face within a hand’s breadth of his own, and then all was black.  A sound as of the beating of distant drums – a murmur of swarming voices, a sharp, far cry signing all to silence, and Halpin Frayser dreamed that he was dead.

IV

A warm, clear night had been followed by a morning of drenching fog.  At about the middle of the afternoon of the preceding day a little whiff of light vapor – a mere thickening of the atmosphere, the ghost of a cloud – had been observed clinging to the western side of Mount St. Helena, away up along the barren altitudes near the summit.  It was so thin, so diaphanous, so like a fancy made visible, that one would have said: “Look quickly! in a moment it will be gone.”

In a moment it was visibly larger and denser.  While with one edge it clung to the mountain, with the other it reached farther and farther out into the air above the lower slopes.  At the same time it extended itself to north and south, joining small patches of mist that appeared to come out of the mountainside on exactly the same level, with an intelligent design to be absorbed.  And so it grew and grew until the summit was shut out of view from the valley, and over the valley itself was an ever-extending canopy, opaque and gray.  At Calistoga, which lies near the head of the valley and the foot of the mountain, there were a starless night and a sunless morning.  The fog, sinking into the valley, had reached southward, swallowing up ranch after ranch, until it had blotted out the town of St. Helena, nine miles away.  The dust in the road was laid; trees were adrip with moisture; birds sat silent in their coverts; the morning light was wan and ghastly, with neither color nor fire.

Two men left the town of St. Helena at the first glimmer of dawn, and walked along the road northward up the valley toward Calistoga.  They carried guns on their shoulders, yet no one having knowledge of such matters could have mistaken them for hunters of bird or beast.  They were a deputy sheriff from Napa and a detective from San Francisco – Holker and Jaralson, respectively.  Their business was man-hunting.

“How far is it?” inquired Holker, as they strode along, their feet stirring white the dust beneath the damp surface of the road.

“The White Church?  Only a half mile farther,” the other answered.  “By the way,” he added, “it is neither white nor a church; it is an abandoned schoolhouse, gray with age and neglect.  Religious services were once held in it – when it was white, and there is a graveyard that would delight a poet.  Can you guess why I sent for you, and told you to come heeled?”

“Oh, I never have bothered you about things of that kind.  I’ve always found you communicative when the time came.  But if I may hazard a guess, you want me to help you arrest one of the corpses in the graveyard.”

“You remember Branscom?” said Jaralson, treating his companion’s wit with the inattention that it deserved.

“The chap who cut his wife’s throat?  I ought; I wasted a week’s work on him and had my expenses for my trouble.  There is a reward of five hundred dollars, but none of us ever got a sight of him.  You don’t mean to say – ”

“Yes, I do.  He has been under the noses of you fellows all the time.  He comes by night to the old graveyard at the White Church.”

“The devil!  That’s where they buried his wife.”

“Well, you fellows might have had sense enough to suspect that he would return to her grave some time.”

“The very last place that anyone would have expected him to return to.”

“But you had exhausted all the other places.  Learning your failure at them, I ‘laid for him’ there.”

“And you found him?”

“Damn it! he found me.  The rascal got the drop on me – regularly held me up and made me travel.  It’s God’s mercy that he didn’t go through me.  Oh, he’s a good one, and I fancy the half of that reward is enough for me if you’re needy.”

Holker laughed good humoredly, and explained that his creditors were never more importunate.

“I wanted merely to show you the ground, and arrange a plan with you,” the detective explained.  “I thought it as well for us to be heeled, even in daylight.”

“The man must be insane,” said the deputy sheriff.  “The reward is for his capture and conviction.  If he’s mad he won’t be convicted.”

Mr. Holker was so profoundly affected by that possible failure of justice that he involuntarily stopped in the middle of the road, then resumed his walk with abated zeal.

“Well, he looks it,” assented Jaralson.  “I’m bound to admit that a more unshaven, unshorn, unkempt, and uneverything wretch I never saw outside the ancient and honorable order of tramps.  But I’ve gone in for him, and can’t make up my mind to let go.  There’s glory in it for us, anyhow.  Not another soul knows that he is this side of the Mountains of the Moon.”

“All right,” Holker said; “we will go and view the ground,” and he added, in the words of a once favorite inscription for tombstones: “‘where you must shortly lie’ – I mean, if old Branscom ever gets tired of you and your impertinent intrusion.  By the way, I heard the other day that ‘Branscom’ was not his real name.”

“What is?”

“I can’t recall it.  I had lost all interest in the wretch, and it did not fix itself in my memory – something like Pardee.  The woman whose throat he had the bad taste to cut was a widow when he met her.  She had come to California to look up some relatives – there are persons who will do that sometimes.  But you know all that.”

“Naturally.”

“But not knowing the right name, by what happy inspiration did you find the right grave?  The man who told me what the name was said it had been cut on the headboard.”

“I don’t know the right grave.”  Jaralson was apparently a trifle reluctant to admit his ignorance of so important a point of his plan.  “I have been watching about the place generally.  A part of our work this morning will be to identify that grave.  Here is the White Church.”

For a long distance the road had been bordered by fields on both sides, but now on the left there was a forest of oaks, madroños, and gigantic spruces whose lower parts only could be seen, dim and ghostly in the fog.  The undergrowth was, in places, thick, but nowhere impenetrable.  For some moments Holker saw nothing of the building, but as they turned into the woods it revealed itself in faint gray outline through the fog, looking huge and far away.  A few steps more, and it was within an arm’s length, distinct, dark with moisture, and insignificant in size.  It had the usual country-schoolhouse form – belonged to the packing-box order of architecture; had an underpinning of stones, a moss-grown roof, and blank window spaces, whence both glass and sash had long departed.  It was ruined, but not a ruin – a typical Californian substitute for what are known to guide-bookers abroad as “monuments of the past.”  With scarcely a glance at this uninteresting structure Jaralson moved on into the dripping undergrowth beyond.

“I will show you where he held me up,” he said.  “This is the graveyard.”

Here and there among the bushes were small inclosures containing graves, sometimes no more than one.  They were recognized as graves by the discolored stones or rotting boards at head and foot, leaning at all angles, some prostrate; by the ruined picket fences surrounding them; or, infrequently, by the mound itself showing its gravel through the fallen leaves.  In many instances nothing marked the spot where lay the vestiges of some poor mortal – who, leaving “a large circle of sorrowing friends,” had been left by them in turn – except a depression in the earth, more lasting than that in the spirits of the mourners.  The paths, if any paths had been, were long obliterated; trees of a considerable size had been permitted to grow up from the graves and thrust aside with root or branch the inclosing fences.  Over all was that air of abandonment and decay which seems nowhere so fit and significant as in a village of the forgotten dead.

As the two men, Jaralson leading, pushed their way through the growth of young trees, that enterprising man suddenly stopped and brought up his shotgun to the height of his breast, uttered a low note of warning, and stood motionless, his eyes fixed upon something ahead.  As well as he could, obstructed by brush, his companion, though seeing nothing, imitated the posture and so stood, prepared for what might ensue.  A moment later Jaralson moved cautiously forward, the other following.

Under the branches of an enormous spruce lay the dead body of a man.  Standing silent above it they noted such particulars as first strike the attention – the face, the attitude, the clothing; whatever most promptly and plainly answers the unspoken question of a sympathetic curiosity.

The body lay upon its back, the legs wide apart.  One arm was thrust upward, the other outward; but the latter was bent acutely, and the hand was near the throat.  Both hands were tightly clenched.  The whole attitude was that of desperate but ineffectual resistance to – what?

Near by lay a shotgun and a game bag through the meshes of which was seen the plumage of shot birds.  All about were evidences of a furious struggle; small sprouts of poison-oak were bent and denuded of leaf and bark; dead and rotting leaves had been pushed into heaps and ridges on both sides of the legs by the action of other feet than theirs; alongside the hips were unmistakable impressions of human knees.

The nature of the struggle was made clear by a glance at the dead man’s throat and face.  While breast and hands were white, those were purple – almost black.  The shoulders lay upon a low mound, and the head was turned back at an angle otherwise impossible, the expanded eyes staring blankly backward in a direction opposite to that of the feet.  From the froth filling the open mouth the tongue protruded, black and swollen.  The throat showed horrible contusions; not mere finger-marks, but bruises and lacerations wrought by two strong hands that must have buried themselves in the yielding flesh, maintaining their terrible grasp until long after death.  Breast, throat, face, were wet; the clothing was saturated; drops of water, condensed from the fog, studded the hair and mustache.

All this the two men observed without speaking – almost at a glance.  Then Holker said:

“Poor devil! he had a rough deal.”

Jaralson was making a vigilant circumspection of the forest, his shotgun held in both hands and at full cock, his finger upon the trigger.

“The work of a maniac,” he said, without withdrawing his eyes from the inclosing wood.  “It was done by Branscom – Pardee.”

Something half hidden by the disturbed leaves on the earth caught Holker’s attention.  It was a red-leather pocketbook.  He picked it up and opened it.  It contained leaves of white paper for memoranda, and upon the first leaf was the name “Halpin Frayser.”  Written in red on several succeeding leaves – scrawled as if in haste and barely legible – were the following lines, which Holker read aloud, while his companion continued scanning the dim gray confines of their narrow world and hearing matter of apprehension in the drip of water from every burdened branch:

“Enthralled by some mysterious spell, I stood
In the lit gloom of an enchanted wood.
The cypress there and myrtle twined their boughs,
Significant, in baleful brotherhood.

“The brooding willow whispered to the yew;
Beneath, the deadly nightshade and the rue,
With immortelles self-woven into strange
Funereal shapes, and horrid nettles grew.

“No song of bird nor any drone of bees,
Nor light leaf lifted by the wholesome breeze:
The air was stagnant all, and Silence was
A living thing that breathed among the trees.

“Conspiring spirits whispered in the gloom,
Half-heard, the stilly secrets of the tomb.
With blood the trees were all adrip; the leaves
Shone in the witch-light with a ruddy bloom.

“I cried aloud! – the spell, unbroken still,
Rested upon my spirit and my will.
Unsouled, unhearted, hopeless and forlorn,
I strove with monstrous presages of ill!

“At last the viewless – ”

Holker ceased reading; there was no more to read.  The manuscript broke off in the middle of a line.

“That sounds like Bayne,” said Jaralson, who was something of a scholar in his way.  He had abated his vigilance and stood looking down at the body.

“Who’s Bayne?” Holker asked rather incuriously.

“Myron Bayne, a chap who flourished in the early years of the nation – more than a century ago.  Wrote mighty dismal stuff; I have his collected works.  That poem is not among them, but it must have been omitted by mistake.”

“It is cold,” said Holker; “let us leave here; we must have up the coroner from Napa.”

Jaralson said nothing, but made a movement in compliance.  Passing the end of the slight elevation of earth upon which the dead man’s head and shoulders lay, his foot struck some hard substance under the rotting forest leaves, and he took the trouble to kick it into view.  It was a fallen headboard, and painted on it were the hardly decipherable words, “Catharine Larue.”

“Larue, Larue!” exclaimed Holker, with sudden animation.  “Why, that is the real name of Branscom – not Pardee.  And – bless my soul! how it all comes to me – the murdered woman’s name had been Frayser!”

“There is some rascally mystery here,” said Detective Jaralson.  “I hate anything of that kind.”

There came to them out of the fog – seemingly from a great distance – the sound of a laugh, a low, deliberate, soulless laugh, which had no more of joy than that of a hyena night-prowling in the desert; a laugh that rose by slow gradation, louder and louder, clearer, more distinct and terrible, until it seemed barely outside the narrow circle of their vision; a laugh so unnatural, so unhuman, so devilish, that it filled those hardy man-hunters with a sense of dread unspeakable!  They did not move their weapons nor think of them; the menace of that horrible sound was not of the kind to be met with arms.  As it had grown out of silence, so now it died away; from a culminating shout which had seemed almost in their ears, it drew itself away into the distance, until its failing notes, joyless and mechanical to the last, sank to silence at a measureless remove.

THE DEATH OF HALPIN FRAYSER

ADAPTED BY KERMET MERL KEY

(all rights reserved)

SUPER: “THE DEATH OF HALPIN FRAYSER”

FADE IN:

EXT. WOODS – DAY

HALPIN FRAYSER wanders alone in the woods with his journal of poetry, a small red pocketbook.  He pauses to scribble here and there.

The day fades as he stumbles through the brush.

DISSOLVE TO:

CLEARING – NIGHT

He discovers a clearing of softer earth and an overgrown stump to lie against.  He rests then goes to sleep.

EXT. WOODS (HALPIN’S DREAM) – NIGHT

Halpin walks along a dusty moonlit road.

He comes to a fork and an overgrown trail. He takes the overgrown trail without hesitation.

HAUNTED ROAD

Halpin HEARS incoherent WHISPERS on every side and seems to understand, in part, that they mean to harm him.  He pauses.

ECU on A LEAF SATURATED IN BLOOD. Rack-focus to Halpin.

He looks down at his feet.

HALPIN’S POV

He has stepped in a shallow pool of an old wheel rut.

He stoops and plunges his fingers into the pool.

HIS FINGERS ARE STAINED WITH BLOOD.

He rises and realizes that BLOOD is everywhere.

SERIES OF SHOTS

Weeds growing rankly by the roadside show it in blots and splashes on their big, broad leaves.

Patches of dry dust between the wheel ways are pitted and spattered as with a red rain.

Defiling the trunks of trees are broad maculations of crimson.

Blood drips like dew from the foliage.

BACK TO SCENE

It all seems familiar to Halpin, but he can’t remember how.

OVERHEAD

All about, WHISPERS and SIGHS of creatures so obviously not of earth that he can endure it no longer.

BACK TO SCENE

With great effort he SHOUTS!  His voice breaks into unfamiliar sounds, and goes babbling and stammering away into the distant reaches of the forest to die in silence.

HALPIN

(sotto)

Someone will hear me. There may be  good spirits traveling this accursed road.

(shouts)

I am a helpless mortal, a penitent, an unoffending poet!

He clutches his small red-leather pocketbook.

He discovers he is without pencil. He breaks a twig, dips it into the pool of blood and writes rapidly.

A low, wild peal of LAUGHTER breaks out at a distance away, and grows ever louder, approaches ever nearer; a soulless, heartless, and un-joyous laugh. It culminates in an unearthly SHOUT close at hand, then dies away by slow gradations.

Halpin seems to feel a presence nearby.

ECU ON HALPIN’S HAND

He writes with terrible rapidity, the twig in his fingers rill blood without renewal; but in the mid sentence he freezes.

BACK TO SCENE

His arms fall to his sides.

The book to the earth.

He rises. A figure behind him. He turns.

Powerless to move or cry out, he stares into the dead eyes of a WOMAN, standing white and silent in the garments of the grave.

His arms hang helpless at his side.

HIS EYES HE DARE NOT REMOVEÖ

Öfrom the lusterless orbs of the apparition. In its blank stare is neither love, nor pity, nor intelligence nothing to which to address an appeal for mercy.

BACK TO SCENE

For a time the apparition stands within a pace, regarding him with the mindless malevolence of a wild brute; then thrusts its hands forward and springs upon him with ferocity!

The cold fingers close upon his throat.

Halpin is borne backward to the earth.

HALPIN’S POV

Above him the dead and drawn face within a hand’s breadth of his own, and then all is black.

CUT TO BLACK:

A SOUND of the beating distant drums  a murmur of swarming voices, a sharp, far CRY signing all to silence.

FADE IN:

EXT. ROAD – DAY

HOLKER and JARLSON, two experienced hunters, walk along the road carrying guns on their shoulders.

HOLKER

How far is it?

Their feet stir the dust of the road.

JARLSON

A half mile.  There’s a graveyard next to it; the kind some moody poetic type would love.

They walk beside the forest.  Then enter…

EXT. WOODS – MORNING

For some moments Holker sees nothing of the cemetery, but as they walk it reveals itself in faint gray outline through the fog.

CEMETERY

Here and there are small enclosures containing graves, sometimes more than one.  Discolored stones or rotting boards at head and foot, leaning at all angles, some prostrate.

As Jaralson leads the way, he stops and brings up his shotgun.

JARALSON

Wait.

Holker imitates. A moment later Jaralson moves cautiously forward, the other following.

Under the branches of an enormous spruce lays Halpin.

The body lays legs wide apart. One arm thrust upward, the other outward; but the latter bent acutely, and the hand near the throat. Both hands tightly clenched.

Dead and rotting leaves are pushed into heaps and ridges on both sides of the legs by the action of other feet than theirs. Alongside the hips are unmistakable impressions of human knees.

While breast and hands are white, Halpin’s throat and face are purple almost black. The shoulder lays upon a low mound, and the head turns back at an angle otherwise impossible, the expanded eyes stare backward in a direction opposite that of the feet.

From the froth filing the open mouth the tongue protrudes, black and swollen.

The throat shows horrible contusions; not mere finger-marks, but bruises and lacerations wrought by two strong hands that must have buried themselves in the yielding flesh.

Breast, throat, face, are wet; the clothing saturated; drops of water, condensed from the fog, studded the hair and mustache.

JARALSON (O.S.) (CONT’D)

Poor devil! He had a rough deal.

Holker notices something half hidden by the disturbed leaves.

It is a red-leather pocketbook.  He picks it up and opens it.

INSERT POCKETBOOK

Upon the first leaf is the name “HALPIN FRAYSER.”

Written in red on several succeeding leaves scrawled as if in haste and barely legible are the following lines.

BACK TO SCENE

Holker reads aloud as Jaralson scans the dim gray confines of their narrow world and HEARS the drip of water from burdened branch:

HOLKER

(reading)

Enthralled by some mysterious spell, I stood in the lit gloom of an enchanted wood.  The cypress there and myrtle twined their bough significant, in baleful brotherhood. The brooding willow whispered to the yew; Beneath, the deadly nightshade and the rue, with immortals self-woven into strange funereal shapes, and horrid nettles grew. No song of bird nor any drone of bees, nor light leaf lifted by the wholesome breeze: The air was stagnant all, and silence was a living thing that breathed among the trees. Conspiring spirits whispered in the gloom – Half-heard, the stilly secrets of the tomb. With blood the trees were all adrip;  the leaves shone in witch-light with a ruddy bloom.  I cried aloud!  the spell, unbroken still – Rested upon my spirit and my will. Unsouled, unhearted, hopeless and forlorn, I strove with monstrous presages of ill! At last the viewless.

JARALSON

There is a devilish mystery here. I don’t like it.

Out of the fog seemingly from a great distance comes the SOUND of a laugh, a low, deliberate, soulless laugh that freezes their blood. Slowly it dies away and sinks to silence.

FADE OUT:

If you’re familiar with screenwriting format you should know that I did not correct the format when copying the document from an .rtf  copy of a .mmsw . If you’re not familiar with screenwriting format then…don’t worry about it. 😀

“Engineer the future now. Damn tomorrow, future now! Throw the switches. Prime the charge. Yesterday’s for mice and gods.”

English: The new Informatics Building on the c...

English: The new Informatics Building on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) at the corner of West and Michigan Streets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The suck-thing about being a student is you’re constantly looking to the future when you need to be focused on the here and now (save it, Yoda).

For example, today I met with one of my professors to discuss my resume. We discussed how it would be best to focus on my education, computer skills, work/projects, work experience…and so on. The good news is that we realized I have developed quite a few marketable skills, but the bad news is that there is still quite a ways to go yet.

So today I thought I’d tell you about where I am and where I plan on going in the next 12 months.

Family Life

Michael is our new babysitter

We approve of Michael’s tactics

 

I’m less than 21 days away from marrying the greatest woman on the planet, Laura Ann Fisher. We’ve been living together for almost 8 months and it almost seems like we’re already married, but I still cannot wait to make it official. We have two great kids, Cameron and Tommy, who I hope to adopt soon after. We have six children if you count Chance “McPants” and Stephen King (our German Shepherds, two guesses on who named the latter) and Oscar & Moose Kitten. And there’s eight if you include Chester Rabbit and the fish(es?), but I don’t. Fish aren’t really family members. F@#$ you if you’re a fish (I know you slimy bastards can read, it’s just no one will turn the page or scroll for you, so if someone is doing that for you now then they should be ashamed of  themselves. Human traitors! Close the page!).

FrogFish is about family. My family. Me, Laura and the kids.  We are a unique bunch with strong opinions, likes and dislikes, but we’re very compassionate and easy-going as well. We love everyone on principle alone, but we realize not everyone feels the same way about us and, for the most part, we don’t lie awake at night crying over that (Stephen King is a bit of a neurotic). FrogFish will not be for everyone. It’s not that we don’t want everyone to like us, it’s just that there are way more of you than there are of us and no matter how friendly we try to be, some of you are going to take offense. We can’t waste our time worrying about that. We want to tell stories. Scary stories. Funny stories. Stories that entertain first, and cause conversation later (“You mean like how George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ was really about consumerism, but I was too busy trippin’ out on the zombies to realize that the first time I saw it?” Yes, observant reader. Just like that).  Stories for you to take and do with as you like. Like using as an excuse to hate us.

I’m cool with that (but seriously, don’t make stupid threats. I don’t respond well to stupid).

School

I am currently in my first semester at Indiana University – Indianapolis (IUPUI) as an undergrad in the Media Arts & Science program. Because of my previous BA in Liberal Arts (English), I do not have to take a single course outside of my program, but I still have to take some seemingly meaningless prerequisite courses like:

  • N100 – Foundations of New Media: It’s the marijuana to the school of Informatics’ hardcore drugs of Media Arts and Science. It gives the student just a little taste of what to expect should they pursue the degree, specializing in areas like Storytelling Fundamentals, Gaming, Web Design and Development, Programming, Audio/Video or 3D graphics. This blog post, right here, is actually part of my assignment for this class. It’s free too. But the next one will cost you.
  • N101 – Multimedia Authoring Tools: This class is all about Adobe Dreamweaver CS6. There is a lecture/lab component of the course and I enjoy both. This is the class that will help me develop the website for FrogFish.com (the end-zone to this hail-mary pass of a career).  I also use Lynda.com to support my lab work. It’s free to Indiana University students and I will be using it the entire time I am a student. The entire time. I’m using it now. And always.
  • N102 – Digital Media Imagery: Adobe Photoshop CS6. Same as N101 just different software. IU and their campuses love to let the students know that this software is free to them. I love them for that.
  • N199 and N299 – Directed Study I & II: How to use your education to find a job. It’s very helpful to freshman straight out of high school. It’s a good aid to those entering the job market. It’s a good tool for those starting their own company while using a school program as their main resource (do we know anyone like that?).

Next semester I hope to take N202 – Digital Storytelling, N256 – Digital Composition, N261 – Storyboarding for Multimedia, and N300 – Digital Media Production. Some of those may change. One of the biggest obstacles in having a set goal and a clear path is that there are other drivers on the road, and sometimes construction, and things do not work out as planned (which is why you will often hear me say, “God willing”). By the end of the semester I should have a stronger portfolio and, God willing, I will have not only my own projects to work on, but some friends who need a strongly opinionated, intelligently compassionate writer/production assistant/storyboard artist/cinematographer

Projects

While in school I have had several projects completed thus far. Here is one of them:

Student work with lots of room for improvement, but I’m proud of it.

I’ve worked on a few other projects since my first school stint. You can find them through my imdb.com page. I give lots of credit to the Indiana Filmmakers Network and cool people like Zack Parker, Veronica Diaz, Brian Pearce, Joshua Hull and Jim Dougherty for those opportunities (my first “thank-you-speech” and I’m sure there are those who feel left out…damn!).  I look forward to working more with IFN and a new group I just met called Quadrivium Media; fellow Media Arts & Science students focusing on Video/Audio.

Some of the projects I am currently working on are…

  • Short Films – Next semester I will begin adapting several short stories into films. My first three our adaptations of Ambrose Bierce’s short stories: “The Death of Halpin Frayser”, “A Watcher by the Dead”, and “The Suitable Surroundings”. I’d also like to take a crack at Arthur Machen’s “The Gread God Pan”, M.R. James’ “The Mezzotint” and H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Tomb”. I think there are a lot of stories that audiences today don’t even know exist or the version they know is far from the original author’s intent. Whether my adaptations are faithful page-by-page renderings (and they’re not) or completely new imaginings (and they’re not that either) I hope they lead audiences to the source material that I fell in love with.
  • Graphic Novels – I use the term graphic novel here because I am not writing an ongoing series comic (yet) and the project has a limited run. The story is called The Wet Grave and is an action, horror story that explores what we are willing to do for safety, security and freedom. It’s set in 1750 New Orleans between the clash of the French, African and Native American cultures and is about a young slave girl who reanimates her murdered lover to seek revenge on her oppressors. I have found a talented new artist to bring the webcomic to life (she’s working on the FrogFish logo as we speak…I said, “She’s working on the FrogFish logo as we speak!”…so, I’ll be premiering that soon). I am writing the second issue right now (literally, I have four hands typing).  I will reveal more soon, but this is something to look for next summer.
  • Feature Film Screenplay – I am working with my good friend and sometimes reluctant witness, Eric Anderson on a horror comedy. The only thing I can say about it right now is that it is actually a two-parter, so the sequel is already built into the original. At this time, we intend to market the project to other producers when it is finished (thus “Screenplay”), but you never know. It could be the first Corn Bred/FrogFish collaborative production.
  • Others – Far too many to name here, and most are in the synopsis/outline stage (come on people, I’m a full time student, part-time employee, part-time SAHD, I can only give so much), but there has been a recent leaning toward 2D animation. A series in fact. I love animated horror. And this Halloween animatic at Horror-Movies.ca (one of the BestF@#$ingWebsitesEver that I will be talking about next week) got my heart racing like it did when I took Shakespeare a few years ago and decided creative performance was my true passion (and politics, yeah…you might want to avoid me on Facebook).  There is also a lot of Feature Films (God willing, my senior capstone will be a feature film project), more comics, more shorts…and that’s just the stuff I’m working on. Laura has got stuff for AsteriasMedia (the Fish side of FrogFish).  We’ll be publishing new, talented horror writers on our site. In fact…there should be a call for submissions coming up soon. Yeah…soon.

So there you have it. An eye on the future and a leg in the present with thoughts in the past and limbs in an alternate universe and…damn this was a long blog. What was I talking about? Hit me up on the comments to let me know. Follow me on Twitter. Find me on Facebook. Visit me in Indiana. Stalk me from the other side of the fence (remember, two German Shepherds. They’re sweethearts…when I have their leash). Until next week.

“Please allow me to introduce myself, I am a man of wealth and taste.”

Okay, I’m not wealthy.

And that is why I am starting FrogFish with my soon-to-be wife, Laura Fisher. You see, I am tired of waiting on other people to make the movies, cartoons, TV shows, comic books, novels, games, and apps and…media in general…that I want. But I’m not a rich man (closer to poor) and I live in the middle of Indiana (i.e. no connections to Hollywood), so my options are limited.

That’s why, in 2006 I began a degree in Creative Writing (particular interest in Screenwriting) so that I could create the foundation for all those media products – story.

Only one problem.

I’m not a writer (but you’re blogging, shut up inner-critic).

My “I’m an author on the back of a book cover” pose.

I CAN write. That was the whole purpose for my education, to prove to myself that I had a talent for story and I could write if needed. A small award and respect of my peers proved that I can and I did. But my real passion is the whole collaborative process behind creating media. Like most writers I want to direct. And like most directors I want to produce.

But again…I’m not wealthy.

So what to do?

Go back to school!

I am entering a new degree program called: Media Arts & Science. I call it the “Independent Filmmakers Program.”  Here’s why:

  • Courses in Multimedia Authoring tools (Flash, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator, HTML5, Java Script) that allow you to make, what every independent filmmaker needs, a website.
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Storyboarding
  • 2D & 3D Animation
  • Digital Video Production
  • Digital Sound
  • Lighting and Field Produciton
  • Digital Effects
  • Technology and the Law

And several other courses that will a) allow me to develop my skills in a teaching environment and b) be most cost effective (i.e. cheaper to use school equipment than DIY “trial and error” methods). In fact, this blog, this very post, is one of my assignments! Yeah, it’s an introductory course. So why not make an introduction, right?

What can you expect over the next few months from me, Laura and FrogFish? Did you notice the FrogFish DOT-COM part of this blog? Did you look for FrogFish.com? It’s not out there, is it (if it is, then it’s not me and it looks like someone just registered the domain)? So the first thing to expect is a website. When can you expect the website? I’d say about the same time I finish the classes in Multimedia Authoring Tools – the ones that teach me how to create a website. That should be sometime around the end of this  year, start of next year.

What are we to do until then, you ask?

I guess I’m going to have to start blogging on the regular now. I’ve got some things I’d like to talk about; my evolving education for starts, I would assume something to do with media (hint: a lot to do with media), the other half of FrogFish – Olaf the Terrible, horror (I love scary things), Indiana, politics…oh, yeah I should warn you – I’m strong-willed and opinionated so if you follow this blog and take offense to my views then comment and we can waste a good chunk of the day discussing why you’re wrong 😉

So, did I introduce myself to you? Let me know what you want to know by leaving a comment down below.