Thursday, March 22, 2012

9 Days of Madness Presents: Recording, by R.S. Bohn

R.S. Bohn is another writer I “met” during Erin Cole’s 13 Days of Horror awhile back. (That is actually one of the main reasons I started this series – I selfishly wanted to meet new writers and read great stories.)

What immediately impressed me about Ms Bohn’s writing was the confidence with which her characters are imbued. She writes fearless women and devious bastards alike. Having become more familiar with her body of work, I can say that she brings the same gutsy tone to any genre she chooses to work in, be it romance, oh-my-erotica, and straight up fantasy.

If that doesn’t impress you, she likes Boston Crème donuts and is a dog person, to boot.

And she writes a hell of a story.  Here is “Recording”


In the first dream, a belt with a padlock. The back of a man's skull, crushed. 21L-3R-34L.

He forgot the numbers, sketched a belt, the padlock tied at one end like a hipster's belt buckle.

Another dream: a tire iron smashing a window, clearing the glass so a man can climb through and use the iron to beat the little dog inside to death. White fur. White fur. White teeth.

He draws a barking dog. Like a cartoon.

The fifth dream, he goes to the police. The station isn't far: two bus stops, no changeovers. The cameras on every corner of the building coolly catch a man in a red hoodie, notebook in his front pocket. It takes him an hour before someone sees him, and he's aware instantly that the cop is just there to placate him.

"You dreamed it? So you didn't actually witness these events?"

He can't explain. He's not psychic, doesn't believe in such things. The cop is nice, but his patience wears thin quickly. If the cop thought he was homeless, he'd have given him some coffee, but as it is, he gets a polite, rushed goodbye: "Thanks for coming by."

The cameras watch him leave. There are no dreams for six weeks. And then:

The mirrored door to a bathroom cabinet, removed with a screwdriver. Taken off its hinges. It comes down on her face when she comes home. Again. She's shorter by almost a foot, but doesn't fall until the third blow. The mirror shatters.

When he draws the broken mirror, there is a face. It's not hers. He doesn't know who the man is, but he carefully draws it again, without the shards of mirror. A puzzle. He brings both drawings to the police station. While he's on the bus, a young woman stands and pees herself. Others look away, embarrassed. He looks at her dreamy face, imagines it crushed under a brick.

He doesn't tell this to the officer – young, this time, and pissed off because he's on desk duty instead of out on the street – but simply repeats his dreams, shows the drawings, including the new one.

The young cop doesn't hide his suspicion. Asks how long he's had these dreams. And does he like having them.

He replies that someone, or maybe many someones, are out there, doing these things. Can't they stop them?

They hold him for a while, in a room. There is a camera he tries to ignore on the ceiling. But at last he looks up at it. Its curved lens shows him in miniature: red hoodie, clean-shaven, bald.

When he leaves, at last, he feels oddly empty.

No dreams for almost three months. He enjoys his job, reading the mail, and cooking bacon. His apartment is tidy, blandly furnished. The requisite milk crates standing in for: ottoman, t.v. stand, bedside table, and cd holder. Eau de divorce clings to everything. He'd bring a woman here if he had the energy. Women take a lot of energy.

He's getting tired again. When the dreams return, they're of  two-by-fours, cracking across the side of a man's face. There is a rifle, turned around, its butt crushing the larynx of a young man. Two ballpoint pens are emptied, sharpened, taped together. They are perfect for puncturing a woman's neck. She has a tattoo of a name. Brandy. The twin pens obliterate the name.

He draws. He's a terrible artist.

When it gets too much, when the notebook starts to fill, he rides the bus again. But he doesn't go inside. The cameras swivel, and he basks in their blankness. At last, he turns around and goes home.

He sets his shoddy digital camera to record. Buys a Flip. It's cheap, and it stands on its own. He keeps them plugged in to charge. Sometimes takes them with him at work, until a supervisor gets uncomfortable. Through a process of trial and error, he finds that just twenty minutes a day of recording is enough to keep the dreams at bay.

Here is what he records himself doing: watching rented movies, waiting for coffee to brew, putting up a new smoke detector. Other things. He doesn't play them back; doesn't need to.

In the time of no-dreams, he finds a woman whose energy is so minimal, it's a hum. Almost background noise. She's wary of the Flip in the living room when she enters, but he shows her that it's off, and tells her he won't take it into the bedroom. They end up fucking on his futon. Halfway through, he notices the light. The Flip is on. It's recording. He looks down at her, her face drowsy, dreamy, like the girl on the bus.

He reaches for a milk crate. She opens her eyes too late; the milk crate is on her head, he's pressing it down with all his strength. It crushes her throat, reduces her screams to a burble. He presses and presses and finally comes.

He doesn't need to draw anymore. The Flip is there.

The Flip is there. It's always on.

When he looks at the notebook later, he recognizes the face in the mirror shards.

He starts at the beginning. 21L-3R-34L.

He puts the Flip in the front pocket of his hoodie, stroking it as he walks. While he rides the bus. Four stops later, he gets off.

A man passes him on the sidewalk, hunched over, the back of his head bristly and slick with sweat.

He follows him.

~~ 9DOM ~~

 RS Bohn has perfected staring into space for indefinite amounts of time, a crucial quality for a writer. Her heart belongs to the fantastic, the Bradbury and Bradbury-esqe, and you can find more of her work at Look especially for her in the upcoming volume of Cast Macabre's best from season one, with new work on the horizon, including a book, to be finished in the next half decade. Approximately.


  1. That was a really good story. And unsettling...very much so. Tremendous, powerfull ending. The matter-of-fact narration, eerie vibe, and underlying violence all contributed to my enjoyment. Thanks for the entertainement.

    1. Sean, I endeavor to entertain. Like a court jester with bloody hat and broken teeth.

      Seriously, thank you so much.

  2. What's best about Becky's writing is that she's not afraid to go THERE. This story is bleak and dark and hellish and she just walks right in there, like filming a documentary of a serial killer, and yells action.

  3. Watchful, subversive, cold, detached. All the hallmarks of a narrative that enjoys unsettling the reader, you've caught the alienation of your protagonist brilliantly Becky, the otherness he inhabits, great write.

  4. Quite chilling, and it's definitely in the narration, the almost documentary take on the violent protagonist and his dreams, drawings, and physical world.
    It's a great kaleidoscope of perspective, Rebecca. Really enjoyed it.

  5. Details like the pens taped together, obliterating a neck tattoo, delivered in the same tone as "he draws a barking dog," is what makes this so frighteningly effective. Fearless prose here, Becky.

    Also - "eau de divorce" = great line.

  6. Blogger's being a bitch again. Pardon if I don't reply as the new feature was intended to function. Instead...

    Chris: I do love the small details. Thank you so much for allowing me entry; the Days of Madness are on their way to becoming a much looked forward to event.

    Erin: A kaleidoscope of perspsective--thank you very much!

    Richard: "Otherness" is fascinating, isn't it? What is strange to us is often second-skin to another. It's difficult for me to fathom and then flesh out, so it's good to hear that I've succeeded in some fashion here.

    Christopher: You know, you do the same thing yourself, often, in your writing. A journalist at the edge of the bizarre and unreal. I love it.

  7. The cameras, the dreams, the notebook, the violence. This story is in itself voyeuristic, remote viewing.

    Dark and unsettling work by a talented writer.

  8. This has some great contrasts, such violence so calmly described, and all that oblivious madness against everyday life details -- unsettling indeed!

    The way he tries to help solve the crimes, thinking they´ve got nothing to do with him -- terribly, horribly unsettling too! This, more than anything scares me.

    And I really like the ending.

  9. This will be the LAST time I read one of your stories before bed. The detachment of the narrator from any sort of normalcy - or even humanity - left an impression that kept my brain churning long after I slipped into sleep.

  10. I loved it when he unscrewed the mirror, shattered it on the girl's face, lifted it and found a man's, and then he thought, "A puzzle." Which for him, the violence, the cameras, the reality & dreams-- that's what it all was. Entertaining & sharp.

  11. First one of these Nine Days of Madness I've read. What a great lead in!