Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sittin' In: "Sun-shy" by Samuel Snoek-Brown, as based on the song "Potted Plant" by Cast Spells

Sam's back again this week with a song based on "Potted Plant" by Cast Spells. I had originally planned on writing a story based on this song myself, but I just couldn't come up with anything that worked. So, I pawned it off on Sam, who did a fairly admirable job (though I don't know how he came up with something so much darker than such a happy song). He passed the Zappa song, because he couldn't think of any way to do it that wasn't obvious and/or an insult to Zappa. ("He rules too hard to fuck up.") He says he really dug the Integrity tune, too, but the video got in his head and wouldn't let go enough for him to come up with his own story. Just as well, we get a neat little story here that reminds me, in some ways, of a distorted Barry Hannah story--"Eating Wife and Friends" from Airships, to be exact.

On my own literary front, I made a small amount of progress since the last post: a 545 word story named "Jests At Scars" based on "Hard-core Troubadour" by Steve Earle and a 985 word story named "Ritual" based on "The Druid" by Sleep. I've got nine stories left to write, and if my yet-to-fail writing process of 400 words of fiction a day leads me in the right path, I'll be done in about three weeks. I also took some time this past week to speak to a few high school classes about creative writing, in addition to the normal schedule of band practices and full-time employment. Plus I got to catch a few killer shows, most notably the post-metal band Northless from Milwaukee, WI and funky fuzz-piano killer James Leg from Port Arthur, TX. Read Sam's story and then check out both of those great, great bands.



No one knew the cult existed until their bodies were found. When we first opened the house, two of our crew vomited immediately, and that’s when they brought in the rubber suits and gas masks. We suited up and each took a spotlight, prowling the area as if it were the surface of the moon, our legs slow and heavy, the sound of our breathing loud in our ears.

At the time, we thought it strange that they’d starved to death, since we discovered the whole back half of the house had been turned into a giant grow room. They’d walled in the back porch and hung the room in black plastic; they’d boarded up the windows in the kitchen and dining room in addition to hanging heavy black drapes over them. A utility closet, a mudroom, and a bathroom were all wrapped in black and all the windows in each of these rooms were sealed off, no sun allowed.

The fluorescents swinging from the ceiling or leaning on poles near the plants gave off plenty of light. There were tomatoes growing in overturned barstools, cucumbers climbing the walls, bean sprouts in the sink and potatoes in the top-loading washing machine.

We stared at it all for a long while, moving among the rows and caressing the food through our gloves, careful of our boots among the strawberries and mint.

There were six men, four women, and seven children, we think. They’d all shrunk so much it was hard to tell the adults from the teenagers. The youngest was maybe six. Later, we’d talk about how it would have been possible to fit one of our gloved hands clear around the abdomen.

People think that was the hardest part, but then I tell them about what happened when we pulled them outside, the skin flaking and blackening in the sunlight, the hair evaporating in wisps like incense. Scared the hell out of all of us when the first one went, and by the third all of us were getting superstitious. Around the sixth or seventh body, we started experimenting: one bare foot out the front door and it turned black. The rest of the body was fine. Up to the knee, the same. And so on.

Someone cut a hole in the black draping and made a kind of sun-spotlight on the floor, and we covered and uncovered it until one of the bodies was spotted like a Dalmatian.

We had no idea at the time what important things we were discovering, though we might have guessed once we got back into the kitchen and dining room and porch, started pulling down the plastic from the windows and saw the green corn flare up like tiki torches, the mint go blue in flame, the tomatoes burst and the strawberries shrivel and blacken.

We salvaged what we could, covered everything again and spent hours picking the last good fruits, sifting the ashes and the muck for viable seeds. All part of the research. Everything into cold storage, a morgue for the food as well as the cult.

So this is how it started, how we first learned what the sun was preparing to do to all of us. How our own fields would burn half the year, how the rain would stop and our skin would dry and burnish. Umbrellas sold out, laws against window tinting disappeared, and soon we all lived indoors.

The sun-shy food would not take to sunlit soil. We began to starve.

To honor those people we found, who first hid themselves from the dangerous sun, we withdrew the seventeen corpses from the morgue and buried them in the indoor fields, in a special plot at the back, away from the food. And those bodies have sprouted. Zucchini, cabbage, wild onions, even an apple tree. They are flourishing in the warehouse field, and already they are beginning to spread, root systems and new sprouts shooting up past the cemetery fence, becoming the harvest they never had.



Cast Spells is the newest project of David Davison of Maps & Atlases (and Hey!Tonal, who don't get talked about nearly as much, but are awesome as fuck). I had the pleasure of seeing him in a coffee shop in town, and I was taken with the conciseness of the songs, the way he was able to pack so much--melody, smart lyrics, hooks--into a two-minute song without making it sound like it was stuffed too full or, even worse, just an empty bundle of melody, smart lyrics, and hooks. Also, when I met him, we talked about David Lynch and Daryl Hannah movies, so he's a pretty cool dude outside of music, too.

Samuel Snoek-Brown constructs, but more often deconstructs, a bunch of stuff that exists mostly in his head. He has a website, including a blog, Beginner's Mind, where this all goes down.

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Next week: More from Sam, as he chooses between some songs I haven't decided on yet.

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