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Curiouser and Curiouser!

Curious Fictions is a new venture founded by Tanya Breshears where authors can post fiction, and readers can subscribe to follow them, leave tips for stories they like, or simply read and enjoy. I posted my first story over there recently, Final Girl Theory, which is appropriately enough story 666 on the site!

Everyone knows the opening sequence of Kaleidoscope. Even if they’ve never seen any other part of the movie (and they have, even if they won’t admit it), they know the opening scene. No matter what anyone tells you, it is the most famous two and a half minutes ever put on film.

Final Girl Theory originally appeared at the late lamented ChiZine as part of their anniversary celebration, and was subsequently reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror Volume 4. It’s a personal favorite of mine, so hopefully you’ll like it too! If you do, you can do the aforementioned subscription thing, and receive a notification whenever I post a new story. There are tons of other great authors to follow on the site as well, like A.M. Dellamonica, Premee Mohamed, Syliva Spruck Wrigley, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Carlie St. George, Aimee Ogden, and many more. Stories cover a wide variety of genres – humor, horror, romance, historical, fantasy, and sci-fi to name a few – and there’s a handy time estimate at the top of each story, so you can match the piece with your bus commute, or while you wait for your kettle to boil.

I look forward to watching the site evolve, and exploring the other stories posted there. There’s even an adorable dog named Nutmeg on the staff. I mean, how can you go wrong? Head on over to the site and poke around. You’re bound to find something you love!

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Bucklin Mills, Bury Me

The following is an excerpt from the un-aired documentary, Searching for Carrie Linden: The Jackson Mortar Story. This segment, an interview between documentarian Sid Nein, and self-proclaimed Kaleidoscope scholar Lorn Ellis, was filmed, but purportedly cut from the final version of the documentary. All existing copies of the documentary, originally scheduled for limited theater release, have vanished. Transcripts of the interviews have been recovered, but it is unclear whether the collected documents represent every interview filmed, or whether some of the transcripts have been lost, or altered, as well.

Sid Nein: I want to talk about an aspect of Kaleidoscope lore you haven’t touched on yet, the Bucklin Mills case.

Lorn Ellis:
It’s really tangential…

SN: In what way?

LE: The connection to the film is so tenuous, y’know? Most people think it doesn’t even exist. It’s almost an urban legend. It would be like including the story of the woman who bought a rat, thinking it was a Chihuahua in travel guide for Mexico.

[Nervous laughter.]

SN: Except the Bucklin Mills case is real, and there are verifiable police records.

LE: Right…

SN: For the viewers who may not be familiar with the case, would you care to outline it?

[Long pause. Ellis appears reluctant to answer the question, and sighs audibly.]

LE: It was in all the papers. Summer, quite a few years back now. Some kids found a dead body – a woman – in an abandoned parking lot. It was one of those dirt and gravel jobs, with a chain link fence. Of course, you know kids…they’ll climb anything. They went there to drink, smoke, fuck around…whatever.

[Another pause, shorter this time.]

LE: After the kids found the body, the lot was condemned. The city boarded it up completely, but people still got in, of course. Everyone wanted to see the site where, well…you know. And of course there were the stories…

SN: Why did people connect the dead woman with Kaleidoscope?

LE: They shouldn’t have. But…okay, I’m not saying there is a connection, let’s just get that straight but, the woman…her body, and the things they found with her made people think…

SN: What things?

LE: In the dirt, beside the body, there was a driver’s license, and a page from a notebook. There was a card in her hand.

SN: And you mentioned something about her body itself?

[Ellis grows visible uncomfortable again, shifting in his seat, looking away from the camera. When he first speaks again, it’s barely audible.]

LE: Yeah…. There was writing on her skin. On the back of both hands, and the soles of her feet. Two words, one word for each foot and hand.

SN: And those were?

Bury. Me.

SN: The children who found the body – is it possible they wrote the words?

No. I don’t… From everything I learned in my research, the police believed the body to be in its original condition when they arrived. Her…the woman’s hands were over her eyes. Bury. Me.

[Ellis is visibly shaken. He passes a hand over his face, and for a moment, he looks to be on the verge of tears before he takes a deep breath and composes himself.]

There were words on her stomach, too, written above and below her belly button, forming a circle. Bucklin Mills.

The name of the town where she was found?

LE: Yes.

SN: And…?

LE: And, it’s one of the locations where they supposedly filmed part of Kaleidoscope. Look. For a while, every small town in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere claimed part of the movie had been filmed there. Bucklin Mills…it’s supposed to be where the carnival scene was filmed, outside the funhouse.

SN: As you said, tenuous as connections go, but there’s more, isn’t there? The dead woman’s name…

Alleged name. It was on the driver’s license they found with the body, but they never proved it was hers. The picture, it was hard to tell. The license was out of date by several years.

SN: The name on the driver’s license was Mary Short, correct?

LE: It’s not an uncommon name.

SN: Mary Short is the name of one of the characters in Kaleidoscope, is it not? Character, and actor?

[There is a long pause.]

Yes… Mary Short disappears partway through the film. It’s never explained. Some people….

SN: Some people made the connection between the character and the dead woman?

Some people are fucking idiots.

But there is a resemblance?

LE: A lot of women are five-one with blue eyes and long brown hair.

What about the notebook page. Can you tell us about that?

LE: Mostly it was nonsense. Scribbling.

But the handwriting matches?

LE: Yes, but… Look, a pen isn’t the same as a marker. Writing on paper isn’t the same as writing on skin.

SN: Indeed. In your upcoming book, you include quotes from the page – can you paraphrase any of it for us now?

[Nein leans forward. Ellis slumps, takes a deep breath, and quotes from memory.]

LE:  Bucklin Mills. Bury me. Hide me deep. Hide me where the sky can’t see me. Where they can’t see me in the sky. I…

[Ellis’ tone changes.]

She wrote can’t, and crossed it out, and wrote won’t be the Standing Woman. She capitalized that part, underlined it. Bury me deep where they can’t hear my dreams. Where they can’t hear me. Inside, they can always hear. Inside, I got lost. Lost. They told me the future. I never found my way out. I can’t be her. Won’t. Won’t. But she is always me, and I am. It ends there.

Thank you.

[Nein takes in a deep breath, closes his eyes for a moment, and exhales.]

SN: Now. I want to ask you about the card found in Mary Short’s hand.

LE: It was…

[Off camera, something is knocked over.]

LE: Fucking….

[Visibly trembling, Ellis starts again, gripping the arms of his chair.]

LE: The card. It was one of the fucking tarot cards, okay?

SN: That would be the fabled Kaleidoscope deck?

Yes. The fucking cards that correspond to the film. Movie stills. Pictures of pictures. Reproductions. Fan art. Group think. It’s all fucking there. Carrie, Mary, Lance, they’re all in the Major Arcana. The Wheel…

In an article for Fangoria some years ago, you explicitly denied the existence of the Kaleidoscope Deck.

[Here, the film jumps as if damaged, or cut. This transcript picks up where the film does.]

LE: …police were never fucking able to make a determination regarding the corpse’s identity.

The body disappeared during the course of the investigation, correct?

LE: Yes. Fuck. Yes. The Bucklin Mills body was in police custody for three days, then it vanished.

[The recording skips again, another portion of the interview is lost.]

…a body at the Bucklin Mills site buried standing up. I… People who’ve gone there since, I mean, there are accounts of a hole. It’s just an urban legend, y’know? But people say there’s a hole straight down, about four and half feet. The body is standing in it, slumped, but also stiff, like rigor mortis has set in, or…like a mummy. Sometimes her eyes are open, and sometimes they’re closed. Sometimes her hands are covering her eyes. Even standing up. Even dead. It’s impossible…

The legend of the Standing Woman…

Yes, but…

SN: It’s referenced in the notebook pages found with the body…

LE: It’s all bullshit! Urban legends. Pattern matching. People want to make sense of the world, so they make connections, they draw invisible lines and the real world gets tangled up in them. Someone makes a film, thirty, forty, years ago. An actress disappears. Some kids find a body twenty years later, and the woman has the same name as the girl in the film. The body disappears. So it must be connected, right?

[Ellis wipes his mouth. His hand is shaking.]

LE: Look, the Kaleidoscope deck, it shouldn’t… The cards tell you when you’re going to die. Like saying Bloody Mary three times in a mirror. People say you can cheat, change the rules. But you can’t. In the end it’s always the same. People, real people, people you love die. And Carrie Fucking Linden always survives.

SN: Carrie Linden is a real person, too.

EL: That’s what I’m saying. No one asks for the role they’re assigned. People want to make it into a fucking myth, but it isn’t. It’s…

[Ellis stands.]

LE: You know what? Fuck this. I’m done.

[The segment ends with Ellis’ hand approaching the camera. The camera tilts, falls, and the feed cuts out in a static blur.]

–Transcript Ends–

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The Third Reel

There’s a third reel to Kaleidoscope.

No one has ever seen it (but everyone knows a guy who has). It doesn’t exist. But what part of Kaleidoscope does? It’s as real as the rest of the film (the reel deal.)

Depending on who you ask, it’s meant to be played between the first and second reels, or after the second one. Some people claim it should be played first, before either of the others. All three are equally problematic.

The third reel is only five minutes long (most of the time.) In it, Carrie Linden walks out of the funhouse alone. (But is it the Carrie who stepped through the mirror, or the real one?)

If you play the reel first, there’s no context. Or is there? Does Carrie become the prime mover of the film? After all, she was there before every one else. (And she’s still there at the end.)

If you play the third reel last, after the other two, what does that mean? Why would Carrie go back to the carnival alone, after everything is said and done? (Or did she ever leave?) Does she exist here, in this moment, outside the funhouse? Or does she exist in the final frames of the movie (the ending everyone knows, don’t let them tell you otherwise), running, always running?

And if you play the third reel between the first and second reels, where it’s supposed to go (depending on who you believe), is it any better? Carrie Linden steps out of the funhouse alone. (She has always been alone.) But is it really her? Maybe it’s the ghost of Carrie Linden, following herself out into the night, made up of all the pieces she tried to leave behind when she stepped through the mirror. Maybe it’s her evil twin. Maybe it’s an imposter. Everyone has a theory. (They’re all right. They’re all wrong.)

In the end, there is only this – a reel that doesn’t exist, in a film that isn’t real. No one filmed it; it manifested itself, a ghost haunting the edges of the cinema of the mind. Like the opening sequence, (the most famous three and half minutes ever put on film) there’s no sound. Carrie Linden walks out of the funhouse alone. She stands on the gravel, cutting-sharp, and looks everywhere but at the camera. She takes a step. (Does it make a sound?) Some people think they hear a whisper as Carrie walks toward the camera (still not looking).

She’s unsteady, as if drunk. She stumbles once, but she never falls. The third reel is just this: Carrie steps out of the funhouse, walks toward the camera without seeing it, and disappears from the frame. (If you’re really paying attention, you’ll notice it’s the same way she entered the movie, but in reverse. In the party scene, Carrie walks away from the camera to straddle the lap of a man twice her age, and never once looks back at camera, as if it isn’t there.)

The third reel of Kaleidoscope is the least famous five minutes ever put on film. It doesn’t exist. Nobody has seen it, but everyone knows someone who has. And they all know, deep down in the dark, if they wait long enough, one day, they’ll see it, too.


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Award Eligible Work

There’s really no subtle, or non-awkward way to do this, at least not if you’re me. I’m not, as they say, smooth or debonair. So here’s the deal. I wrote a bunch of stuff, which was published in 2011. In fact, if you scroll down a bit, you’ll find a post detailing said stuff. Being that it was published in 2011, it’s eligible for various and sundry awards, and most of it you can currently find in print or online. Except for Final Girl Theory (and isn’t that just the way Jackson Mortar would want it?). A one-man quest to erase Kaleidoscope can only go so far, though. Final Girl Theory will be reprinted in The Best Horror of the Year Volume Four later this year, and podcast at Pseudopod in June (and can’t you just imagine how Jackson will squirm?).

But the point is, it’s not available now, and I’ve noticed a fair number of search hits landing here, presumably looking for it. Furthermore, the story has gone and got itself on the 2011 Locus Recommended Reading List, which means one could theoretically vote for it for the Locus Awards. It’s hard to vote for something that isn’t currently accessible (as hard as building a cult following for a non-existent movie). So, the non-debonair-and-smooth bottom line is, if you’re interested in obtaining a copy of Final Girl Theory for award consideration, I’m happy to make one available. Drop me a line at a.c.wise at hotmail.com, and I’ll send one your way.

(Passed from hand to hand, person to person, whispered in the dark, the way it should be.)

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Going Viral

The first time anyone saw Kaleidoscope, the idea of a movie ‘going viral’ didn’t even exist. There were cult films, sure (and who ever really thought about what they were naming the phenomenon after), but movies, ads, home-made videos, didn’t ‘go viral’. There were midnight screenings, and whispers in the dark. There were theories and conjectures about what was real and what wasn’t. Devotees found each other, as they always do, and a following formed. That was it.

But Kaleidoscope did go viral – in the most basic and true-to-life definition of the term. Because it isn’t a movie, not really. It’s an infection. (Kaleidophiles will tell you as much, in their most honest moments.) It gets in the blood; it changes you. It passes from person to person, from lip to ear. It goes deep. And there’s no known cure.

Jackson Mortar tried to kill it. He tried his damndest, once he understood (he had no idea) what he’d devoted his life to. He tried to bury it alive. Carrie Linden could have told him, if he’d bothered to ask (but he had no idea about that, either).

There are some things you can’t kill. There are some things that spread, even when popular terminology hasn’t been invented to encompass what they are. If you ask Carrie Linden (but you never will), she’d tell you. It isn’t a cult movie. It isn’t a viral video. It’s something else. And it never ends.

It never ends.

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Final Girl Theory

Everyone knows the opening sequence of Kaleidoscope. It’s the most famous two and a half minutes ever put on film. But what about the rest of the movie? You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite scene. What’s yours? It’s been a couple of years since Jackson Mortar tried to scrub every mention of Kaleidoscope from the web, but nobody’s heard from him in quite a while, so, come on, you can tell me. You won’t be opening yourself up to a “Mortar Attack”. If Jackson is still around, he’s gone way underground. It’s safe. So tell me…. What’s your favorite scene? How many times have you seen Kaleidoscope? Do you remember your first time? (They say everyone remembers their first time.) What are your favorite rumors? What do you think about the final girl theory? What would you say if you ever got the chance to meet Carrie Linden? Share your favorite Kaleidoscope stories, memories, and theories – let’s give the movie the attention it deserves!


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