Welcome to the official website of freelance writer Mark Hill, created because I’m not popular enough to have an unofficial fan page. You can find links to my work and my contact information above, or read my personal work below. Enjoy!
This story originally appeared in Stupefying Stories 1.9, which was published in 2012 and is now out of print.
“You want to sell? In this market?”
“I just don’t think this is the house for us,” said my wife. She sat across from me at the kitchen table, nursing a cup of tea.
“You could have mentioned that before we took out a twenty year mortgage.”
“That was before we knew about the… problems.” The kitchen table quivered at the word.
“Yeah, and before we sunk thousands of dollars into repairs. Not to mention all the time I spent renovating. Where was ‘I just don’t think this is the house for us’ when I was installing those fancy European faucets you insisted on having?”
“We can take the faucets with us.” She sipped her tea.
“Can we take the bedroom’s fresh paint with us? Can we take Jimmy’s treehouse with us? Can we take the refurbished basement I slaved away at for hours with us?”
“The basement is what caused this mess!” It rumbled, as if to prove her point.
“Don’t get mad at me. How was I supposed to know it was on top of an ancient Indian burial ground?”
“If you had just been a little more careful—”
“I know, I know, I wouldn’t have enraged the dead.” I rolled my eyes. Like it was my fault—it’s not as if you learn how to avoid disturbing the supernatural in shop class. “If you want to blame someone, blame the real estate agent.”
“Speaking of which, did you talk to him?”
“Yes, and—” I paused to let a bloodcurdling shriek from the attic fade. “And he said that since we already signed the contract there’s nothing he can do to get us out of it.”
“And you just accepted that?” My wife sighed and moved to the chair next to me. She wasn’t trying to smooth over the argument with physical intimacy, it’s just that her old chair had begun to float.
“I was going to argue, but my phone started screeching Satanic prayers so I had to hang up.” I ducked as the chair zoomed over my head.
“See, that kind of inconvenience is exactly why I think we should sell!” She grabbed the chair as it made a second pass. “Do you mind?” she said to it. “We’re trying to have a conversation here.”
“I’d rather put up with a little inconvenience than lose a lot of money.”
“A little? I don’t call being woken up every night by the restless wailing of the dead to be a little inconvenient.” She tried to wrestle the chair to the ground as she spoke.
“You’ll get used to it. Remember when you couldn’t sleep through my snoring?” I stood up to rearrange the letter magnets on the fridge. They were spelling “LEAVE THIS PLACE” again.
“The neighbours won’t! Do you have any idea how many complaints we’ve got?” The chair broke free and flew into the living room.
“So? The Johnsons never mow their lawn, the Browns’ dog digs up every garden on the block, and our house emits the howls of the damned. Nobody’s perfect.” I opened the fridge to grab an apple, but all the fruit rotted beyond recognition before my eyes. I settled for a beer.
“Oh, come on. That isn’t the same and—” There was a crash from the living room. “And that better not have been my grandmother’s china!”
“Or what? Am I the one flying around the living room?” I sat back down and opened the beer. Dozens of worms crawled out of it.
“You’re the reason our furniture is possessed! Look, even if we can tough this out, what about the kids? Jimmy’s too young to be hearing some of the language the undead use.” My wife took another sip of tea, then made a face and spit it out. “Ugh, it turned into goat’s blood again.” She poured it down the sink.
“We can’t shelter Jimmy forever. He’s going to have to learn what those words mean sooner or later.”
“But he doesn’t have to hear them from a vengeful spirit! Last night one told him it was going to ‘suck the marrow from his bones’ before it ‘dragged him into the depths of hell.’ That’s awful!”
“Don’t be melodramatic. I’m sure Jimmy’s heard ‘hell’ before.”
“There were other words I don’t care to repeat. But more importantly, our son was threatened!” She got up to pour a fresh cup of tea, but the water started boiling with such ferocity that she was forced away.
“Well, maybe it will toughen him up. I was bullied when I was a kid, and it helped me in the long run.”
“Were you bullied by ghosts?”
“And what about Susan?”
“What about her?”
As if on cue, Susan shouted down the stairs. “Mom! Dad! One of the wraiths keeps threatening to ‘fill my womb with countless maggots!’ I’m trying to study!”
“Well, you just tell it that you’re in charge of what goes in your body!” To me she said, “a thirteen year old girl has enough to worry about as it is! She shouldn’t have to deal with wraiths, too!”
“Why not? Maybe it will give her a little perspective. Her junior high school drama seems awfully trivial in comparison, right?”
“You’re unbelievable.” The haunting moans of a hundred dying men punctuated her sentence. The dying men moans always took her side.
“Now it’s telling me ‘my body is a fragile vessel that will soon decay, leaving my soul exposed to an eternity of perpetual torment!’ I have an algebra test tomorrow, you know!”
Billy joined the conversation, too. “Mommy, what does ‘eviscerate’ mean?”
“I’ll be right up, you two!” My wife sighed. “Be honest with me. Is this really about the money, or are you just being stubborn?”
“You’re damn right I’m being stubborn. This is our house, we paid good money for it, and I’m not about to abandon it just because a bunch of whiny Indians got their graves desecrated. I’m not going to be that petty when I die.”
“Will you at least look into having an exorcism performed? It might help.” The curtains caught fire in response to the suggestion. My wife doused them.
I didn’t reply until visions of our grisly deaths stopped being projected into our brains. “Forget it! We’re trying to save money here—have you seen how much exorcists charge? Besides, this will all blow over. They’ll get bored of haunting us and go hang out in an abandoned amusement park or something.”
The lights turned blood red, the stove roared with a searing heat, the sink spewed entrails and a swarm of locusts appeared out of thin air.
“BORED?” said a booming, disembodied voice that shook the entire house, “WE SHALL NEVER BORE OF TORMENTING YOU. EVERY DAY OF YOUR PUNY LIVES WILL BE FULL OF AN AGONY SO PURE YOU WILL PRAY FOR A DEATH THAT WILL NEVER BE GRANTED. FOR AS LONG AS YOU INTRUDE ON OUR SACRED LAND YOU WILL KNOW NOTHING BUT SORROW AND THE TRUE MEANING OF PAIN.”
My wife said nothing. She just looked at me with her “I told you so” expression.
“Alright, alright! I’ll call the agent and tell him we want to sell. Are you happy now?”
She nodded. The entrails stopped spewing, and the locusts vanished.
“I hope you understand just how much money we’re going to lose.”
The fridge magnets arranged themselves into a crude taunt. I stood up to scatter them, and got nailed in the back of the head by the flying chair.
I know your type, asshole. You think yoghurt’s for menopausal women who wear nothing but sweaters, college girls who wear nothing but yoga pants, and guys who wear nothing but other guy’s cocks in their mouths. Well guess the fuck what? This yoghurt would literally murder all of those people, bench press their bodies a few times just to prove that they could do it, and then feed their bodies to pigs if they so much as looked at this yoghurt the wrong way. So help them, God, this yoghurt’s fucking crazy!
You know those commercials where the menopausal women gather in completely white houses to talk about how their yoghurt’s helping them shit better? The people who eat this yoghurt gather in abandoned warehouses to compete over who gets the biggest erection from beating homeless people to death. This yoghurt makes you shit better and then it makes other people shit better, because when they look at you they will shit themselves.
This yoghurt comes in an all-black container, but we call it “midnight” because that’s when the yoghurt coven convenes. The container’s made of old artillery shells and the lid doubles as a throwing star. You can’t open it without cutting yourself, and that’s by design. The blood adds flavour. The pain adds commitment. The scar adds flesh memory. When you see someone with the same scar as you, you’ll give each other nods so manly nearby wildlife will die. And then you will initiate battle, because there can be only one.
You want some peach yogurt? How about key lime? Well, fuck you straight back to your mother’s squandered womb. Our flavors are Gunpowder, Patriarchy, Tool Belt and Abortion. If you don’t already know what those taste like, we don’t want your commie bread line money.
Our yoghurt’s more nutritious than ripping an elk’s beating heart out of its chest and devouring it in full view of the eyes of a creature that’s suddenly gained sentience but can’t do anything with its newfound knowledge except regret it. It gives you vitamins, minerals, protein, probiotics and the power of lesser men. If you eat our yoghurt in front of a doctor he’ll quit his job safe in the knowledge that his services are no longer required. If you feed our yoghurt to a corpse it will come back to an unholy non-life, the only purpose of which is to do your bidding. Nine out of 10 nutritionists recommend our yoghurt, and they also say it goes great with the unworthy body of the tenth.
We’d tell you the name of our yoghurt, but we can’t communicate an hour of Mongolian throat singing through text. We’d tell you how much it costs, but only it chooses the payment it will take from you. We’d tell you where to buy it, but first we need to tell you where to buy the spelunking equipment and arcane weaponry. We’d tell you it’s going to change your life, but it already has.
If you’re pregnant, a minor, have a heart condition or are a pussy then you won’t even be able to lift the Lead Spoon of the Night Razors. If you’re capable, then you already know. Every muscle in your body is straining to tell you. Every neuron in your brain is listening to our yoghurt demand your presence. You will consume it and inspire poets to kill themselves because not even a lifetime of work would allow them to capture your magnificence. You will gaze upon people who eat other brands of yoghurt the way a lion gazes upon a gazelle. You will taste infinity and skull fuck the stars. This is manly yoghurt, motherfuckers, and it will bring ruin to the very concept of civilisation if it does not get its goddamn way.
Aspiring writers looking for tips online often come across contradictory and confusing advice. I hope to cut through this morass of information by offering simple, common sense ideas that no one will ever contradict, declare useless or consider pretentious. I hope these help, and remember—always keep writing!
Write precisely 1,287 words every day between 7:23 am and 9:41 am.
Never use adverbs. Use adjectives sparingly. Nouns should only appear once every 4.8 sentences. Semi-colons are mythical.
A character should only say, ask or expunge dialogue.
No character should be named Steven. If you’re writing a work of non-fiction about a real person named Steven, change their name to Bartholomew.
Keep your computer on but your monitor off.
It’s key to have a keyboard. It’s only nice to have mice.
Eat spiders to gain their cunning.
Don’t do anything Jonathan Franzen says, even if he’s telling you to take cover. That little fuck isn’t the boss of you.
If you’re having trouble finding motivation, get cancer.
Always listen to whale sounds, unless you’re writing about whales. Then listen to jazz.
Maybe write a mystery? Those seem to be selling alright lately.
Remember to tell yourself that writing is a window into your soul as you spend 15 minutes deciding whether or not to italicise a word that will inevitably be cut later.
Never eat tapioca.
I stayed up all night wondering where the sun went. I also wondered what happened to the man who would stay up all night just because he could, because he wasn’t weighed down by responsibilities and obligations and because dammit, he was alive. Then it dawned on me. I’m growing old, and there’s no getting around that fact. But maybe I’ll chase the dawn tonight, put aside my duties just for a little while and remind myself that, even if you strip away my career and family, I’m still a man. Will this reminder give me the vigor I need to accept the early nights to come, or will it make me loathe them even more? There’s only one way to find out. Guess I better make some coffee.
What’s the difference between a piano and a tuna? Not much to me. I certainly can’t play the piano or catch a fish anymore either, not with these arthritic hands. When I was your age I could spend a weekend in the wilderness and come back with enough food to feed the family for a week. Now there are days where I struggle to make toast. Will you come make meals for me, when it gets worse? Or will you abandon me to the ravages of time, unable to confront your inevitable fate and the fate of a father you once thought stronger than 10 men? As you ponder that, just remember that no matter how old you get, you can tune a piano… but you can’t tuna fish.
Do you file your nails? Really? I just throw mine away, into the trash with everything else I’ve thrown away in life. My ambition, my health, my passion for the little things. Not all at once, mind you. An old friend’s phone number because I’m convinced he wouldn’t want to get in touch after all this time here, a novel outline I’ve stared at for years before convincing myself that it will never be as good as I see it in my head there. The fingernail clippings of life, piling up one by one. Unnoticeable at first, little white flecks against the white plastic bag I use to line the trash can. But they pile up, one by one, until there comes a day when they’re overflowing. Nail clippings can be vacuumed up, and the bag taken out to the garbage. But there’s no vacuum for regrets, and no garbage either. Not unless you count the grave.
I got a haircut. I got a shave too, and as the razor passed my throat I thought about lunging forward and sparing myself the parade of indignities that comes with old age. Better to go out a man than a senile old coot yammering misremembered stories to a pitying audience like my father. But by the time the thought came to me the blade was already gone, and maybe that’s for the best. Now’s not the time. I still have too much to accomplish. There’s still too much… I got all my other hairs cut, too. Getting one cut would just be silly.
I told my wife she drew her eyebrows too high. She cried, and through her tears she said “The first thing you’ve said about my appearance in months, and it’s an insult?” I sat down next to her on the faded couch we bought when we first moved into this house all those years ago and hovered my hand over her shoulder, uncertain if she would pull away if I tried to draw her in. I wondered if I should tell her that I still find her beautiful, and that I wish I could tell her that every day, but that ever since I discovered the affair the words turn to ash in my throat. I want to kiss you, Maryanne, but how can I when every time your lips draw near I imagine Albert’s rough mouth on them? How can I, when those same lips moved to tell me that you haven’t spoken to your old friend Albert in over a year when I asked how he’s doing? I know it’s as much my fault as yours. The long nights, the emotional distance, the little things around the house… but dammit, Maryanne, if you had only said something I would have changed. That’s what really hurts, that you didn’t even ask. If I had tried and failed, I could live with your infidelity. But to not even be given the chance to try… The words pour out of me before I can stop myself, more intimacy between us in this moment than there’s been in God knows how long. She looked surprised. And I surprised myself.
People Take One Look At Him And Assume He’s From Planetary Settlement Alpha Romeo 27-X-9. But He’s Actually From Lunar Settlement Hotel Zulu 19-Q-4.
17 Heart-Warming Cybernetic Body Implants That Will Restore Your Faith In Transhumanity.
His Brain Is Made Of Plastic. But His Heart Is Made Of Gold.
33 Stuffed Animals Simulating Positions Historians Say “Pet Owners” Of The 21st Century Found Adorable.
These People Dismissed Beth As A “Mere” Artificial Intelligence. Then They Heard Her Play The Violin, While Also Playing The Piano And Theremin And Writing A Mystery Novel And Analysing The Galactic Economy And Scanning Observers For Any Medical Abnormalities Or Criminal Backgrounds That Should Be Reported To The Overseers.
He Was Built To Terminate Life. What He’s Terminating Is Prejudice.
18 Spaceships We Can’t Believe They Terraformed And Colonised Venus With.
Ranking The 2 Female Presidents Of The United States.
Thoughts My Teenage Self Assumed I Would Be Having
Should I save time by having the help polish my Booker Prize, or would doing it myself allow me precious moments to reflect on both my past and my future?
When I emerge from my mysterious period of reclusiveness, which publication should I give an exclusive interview to?
Do I want to die tragically young at the height of great success, or become an elderly and respected national treasure?
How impressive is my video game collection?
Would it be more dramatic if I cheated on my supermodel wife in a scandalous public affair or kept it private to reveal in a memoir decades later?
Thoughts I Am Actually Having
At what point does it become sad that I only know like six recipes?
Is my nose hair getting longer, or am I just growing more of it?
Why, as a professional writer, does it still take me three tries to spell “necessary”?
Oh God, how impressive is my video game collection?
When I die alone will my cats eat me, or will animal protection services already have taken them away?
“Actually that’s my secret — I can’t even talk about you to anybody because I don’t want any more people to know that our first date was at a club and you threw up on my shirt, and then when I took it off you started masturbating.”
Cloaked by the erotic darkness she exhausted the future quickly, with all the eventualities that might lead up to a kiss, but the bitch didn’t blow him even after he paid for drinks and pumped his sick guns.
Her love had reached a point where now at last she was beginning to be unhappy, to be desperate. So he dumped her and swiped a few girl who are way hotter anyway, and I mean just look at this one, bro, you know a chick who poses like that will let you do anal.
Dick tried to plunge over the Alpine crevasse between the sexes. Heh.
He used to think that he wanted to be good, he wanted to be kind, he wanted to be brave and wise, but it was all pretty difficult. He wanted to score some tight pussy, too, if he could fit it in between hitting the gym with his bros.
There is something awe-inspiring in one who has lost all inhibitions, who will do anything. If you know what I mean.
They talked aimlessly back and forth, each speaking for the other. That’s what happens after you do a shitton of Jagerbombs in a row.
“Think how you love me,” she whispered. “I don’t ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there’ll always be the person I am to-night.”
“Yeah, and somewhere inside you to-night there’ll be my dick. Whoo!”
“Someday I’m going to find somebody and love him and love him and never let him go.”
“Yeesh,” thought Dick. “I’m not swiping that stalker. Dick Diver never sticks it in crazy, that’s what my father taught me.”
He desired her and, so far as her virginal emotions went, she contemplated a surrender with equanimity. Yet she knew she would forget him half an hour after she left him – like an actor kissed in a picture. She had been texting another boy who was way cuter and claimed to own a yacht, which was pretty cool, even if ‘owned’ probably meant it belonged to his wealthy uncle and he could borrow it once every few months.
He was in love with every pretty woman he saw now, their forms at a distance, their shadows on the walls. But none of them swiped him, so he had to content himself with nights spent on PornHub.
She was about twenty-four – her face could have been described in terms of conventional prettiness, but the effect was that it had been made first on the heroic scale with strong structure and marking, as if the features and vividness of brow and coloring, everything we associate with temperament and character had been molded with a Rodinesque intention, and uggggh, just tap her ugly ass and move on already, man.
Like so many men he had found that he had only one or two moves – that his little collection of compliments and dance moves contained the germ of all he would ever think or know about dating.
Her hair, drawn back off her ears, brushed her shoulders in such a way that the face seemed to have just emerged from it, as if this were the exact moment when she was coming from a wood into clear moonlight. The unknown yielded her up; Dick wished she had no background, that she was just a girl lost with no address save the night from which she had come. Because that’s where he was going to send her back to once he got some.
“You once liked me, didn’t you?” he asked.
“Liked you – I loved you. Everybody loved you. You could’ve had anybody you wanted for the asking. But now you’ve stopped exercising and you got that weird shoulder tattoo, so it’s like eh, I think I could do better.”
The voice fell low, sank into her breast and stretched the tight bodice over her heart as she came up close. He felt the young lips, her body sighing in relief against the arm growing stronger to hold her. There were now no more plans than if Dick had arbitrarily made some indissoluble mixture, with atoms joined and inseparable; you could throw it all out but never again could they fit back into atomic scale. As he held her and tasted her, and as she curved in further and further toward him, with her own lips, new to herself, drowned and engulfed in love, yet solaced and triumphant, he was thankful to have an existence at all, if only as a reflection in her wet eyes. He texted her a couple days later, but she had met some guy named Chet.
“You’re the only girl I’ve seen for a long time that actually did look like something blooming.”
“lol r u gay?”
The call is coming from inside the house! It’s your mother, and she’s disappointed in your life decisions.
After a long and tortuous battle, the villain is vanquished. You go to bed, thinking you’re safe at last. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, regrets about your last relationship hit you.
The perpetrator was the twin you never knew you had. They’re happily married, own a nice house and keep asking when you’ll settle down.
The hillbilly family that you thought were harmless eccentrics turned out to be cannibals. Also, despite how much you mock and shun their simple lifestyle, they are clearly much happier than you.
The imaginary monster you feared as a child becomes real and hunts you down as an adult. It’s massively underwhelming compared to your current fears.
The dead rise from the grave to inform you that you’re squandering the wealth and resources they left you.
After an unspecified apocalypse reduces humanity to scattered groups of desperate survivors clinging together both for survival and to fulfill the simple emotional need of human contact, you discover that people still don’t want to hang out with you.
“That casserole was delicious, dear. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Whatever shall we do now? We have the house to ourselves…”
“This sounds like the perfect opportunity for me to re-caulk the bathtub.”
“Wonderful. I’ll go fall asleep in front of Law and Order.”
“Would you like me to wake you up and take you to bed?”
“No, the couch is comfortable.”
“Well, good night then.”
“See you in the morning!”
“My back is so sore. I think I’ll take a nice, hot shower to relax. Would you care to join me?”
“No, thank you. I need to finish filing our taxes.”
“I appreciate your dedication to our family’s fiscal responsibilities.”
“It’s how I express my love for you.”
“Sweetie, come check out my new lingerie.”
“Is that full body flannel? Nice.”
“Wal-Mart had it on sale. It’s so comfortable I think I could spend all day in bed.”
“Oh? Maybe I’ll join you…”
“Don’t have you to aerate the lawn?”
“Oh, that’s right. Thank you for reminding me.”
“Come back to the bedroom when you’re all hot and sweaty from working, and maybe I’ll have a surprise for you.”
“The new slippers you’re knitting for me?”
“Shh! Don’t ruin it!”
“Would you like a glass of wine with your dinner?”
“No, thank you. Wine lowers my inhibitions and mental capability, which I’ll need for my Sudoku puzzles.”
“I suppose I shouldn’t partake either, since I plan to watch a documentary about Erwin Rommel and don’t want to miss any details.”
“Warm glasses of milk for the both of us, then?”
“This reminds me of our third date.”
“When our parents dropped us off at church?”
“Yes. The pastor watched over our prayers, and after we were done we shook hands and agreed that it wouldn’t be objectionable if we continued to spend time in each other’s presence.”
“Those were the days.”
“Let’s spend an hour in the bedroom.”
“That sounds wonderful. You can change the sheets and dust while I oil the squeaky wardrobe door.”
“Don’t forget to wear especially unattractive clothes, so you won’t have to take them off and launder them if you spill.”
“Good idea, thank you.”
“And maybe I’ll wear my French maid costume from last Halloween.”
“That’s silly. Why would you do that?”
“I have no idea. Never mind, I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“Well, don’t worry about it.”
“Honey, when’s the last time you had an erection?”
“I don’t even know what that is.”
“Nor do I. I overheard Jim and his friends talking about them. It must be some new teenage fad.”
“Well, as middle-aged adults there’s no sense in us getting involved in that malarkey.”
“Agreed. Let’s do a jigsaw puzzle.”
Lydia had a problem. The problem was that she was dead.
Imagine that you’re standing in a vast desert, with no sign of civilisation for miles. Imagine that there are dinosaurs behind you. Imagine that they’re hungry. That’s the situation Bill found himself in. Except he wasn’t imagining.
He was a goblin. She was a robot. Need I say more?
James never thought that he’d live such an extraordinary life. But then he’d never thought that he was the ancestor of a secret tryst between Mary Todd and John Wilkes Booth, either.
Alex didn’t like explosions. But explosions sure liked him!
Janie never wanted to fall in love with a vampire. So she didn’t.
Nancy was the best race car driver the world had ever seen. But she wasn’t on the world anymore.
Please just buy my book, it’s amazing I swear and I have kids to feed and oh God I’m desperate please look into your heart and find a little mercy for a staving, struggling writer, it’s a teen dystopia those are so hot right now so you can’t go wrong, it has the love triangle and everything it will sell itself just give it a chance and you won’t regret it I swear
Zombies! Holy shit, so many zombies!