How to Live Forever


I used to think that some of my stories would pervert the minds of young women. I suppose any writer goes through this, feeling shame and embarrassment at what sometimes “comes out” when he sets fingers to keypad.

Lately, I had an insight into what horror and dark fantasy is. What it’s trying to accomplish and, you know, I began to see the mission. It’s not how disturbing one can be, or how disgusting things can be described. It’s not how many buckets of blood come crashing in or how many dead bodies pile up. It’s not the number of zombies or the secret societies of vampires. It’s not any one of those things and yet, its all of them.

From Killer Clowns to Exorcist, Jason to Freddie to Joe Black, horror is on a mission.

In my youth I would never have admitted to liking horror and back then, I think it scared me away. When I grew up and became a responsible man, I developed a taste for it. It all started when big Lance showed me the movie Interview with the Vampire. From there I went to the  books and from there, well, down the rabbit hole.

I wouldn’t have been able to tell you why I loved it. I didn’t really know. Oh, I knew I loved the blood, the damnation, the darkness. In later forays into the night, I knew I liked the sometimes oozy, gooey, dripping messes, the unconscionable situations, the eternal dark. I knew I liked contemplating how far down it could all go and still…well, keep going.

I found a way to explain the attraction. I found the mission of horror, at least from one authors perspective. I believe horror can be described thusly: the way we survive death. Or rather, all the ways we live forever no matter our condition.

It may come across as a bit odd to say “survive” the one event none of us are supposed to, yet, isn’t that what horror is telling us? You see, you can survive death by…becoming a vampire, a zombie, a demon, a ghost. It might make you crazy, it might make you beautiful, it might make you mindless and then again, it might make you infinitely wise. It might take your body from you, or give it to you, forever. And if none of that works, perhaps a necromancer will raise you up or remake you into a demon. Your spirit might inhabit a crow, a tree, a dream, some other medium. And even if you don’t catch the virus, curse, spell, you defeat it and there again, survive death, even if it leaves you broken, learned, lost, sad, relieved.

It’s all the ways we live through the end. We must love that idea because we sure seem to tell each other a lot of stories about it.

It brings something else to mind too. It’s a simple idea, but a powerful one. If we have invented all these ways to survive death. If we tell ourselves there are literally hundreds of ways to live forever. Might it not be, that we do?



The Death of Modern Spiritualism? Nah.



You have to appreciate that the beginning of Modern Spiritualism is credited to three young ladies from New York. Actually two really young girls and one older sister. I stumbled across this story the other day, but here’s the tale in 500 words or less. Hopefully. 

Maggie and Katie fox began pretending ghosts in the house at ages 7 and 9 by dropping apples on the floor of their attic bedroom. They learned to hoist these apples on strings connected to their toes while laying in bed pretending to sleep. The apples would bob and thump in the night for a dramatic and ghastly effect.

Their mother, much to their impish delight, began reporting in tones of mild hysteria of the strange goings on.

Time passed and Maggie and her little sister Katie found a new trick. At their young ages the joints in their bodies were not so set as adults and they found with a little practice that they could manipulate the joints in their toes, thereby making little audible thumps. They needed not move any other part of their bodies to effect the trick. So, by touching the sides of their toes to, say, a table leg–any good sound conducter, like wood–they could send a series of little whaps that could be felt as well as heard.

This caused quite a stir and didn’t take long before Mother Fox invited the neighbors over. And from there it spread to the whole of New York and then the world. You see, because Maggie and Katie had a sister, 23 years older, who saw one thing in all of this: money. 

Leah Fox did not for one second believe this nonsense about spirits communicating with thumps, twice for “yes,” once for “no” and the like. She took those two little girls and began taking apart their clothes saying, “How do you do it? Show me just exactly how you do it!”

And on the road they went. 

Well, the story can only end one way, of course. Maggie and Katie took to the drink at a young and tender age because defrauding millions played havoc on their conscience and it was Maggie who finally announced she and her two sisters were frauds, explaining every detail of how they did it. 

One might imagine that the whole of Spiritualism might fold up when the icon announces it all a con job.

No way.

Folks wrote in by the mail bag trying to ascertain if the newspaper announcement had indeed come from Maggie herself. Many felt betrayed and still others felt relief that finally their suspicions and fears could be laid to rest along with the memory of their loved one. You see it wasn’t just talking to “random dead” that these Fox girls pretended, it was deceased husbands, wives and children. The kind of thing you wouldn’t want to get someone’s “hopes up” about. 

But the whole of Spiritualism, mediums and the like denied any such notion that the cracking of a toe joint could create such a spectacle and went on about their business. 

The eldest, Leah, never did admit to it, Instead she wrote a book expounding on her life with spirits.

Sadly, the three died alone and bereft and broke. Yet, their memory lives on and we admire the courage of Maggie coming forward and saying how it was. And we can appreciate this too: despite the world’s foremost spiritualist declaiming it all a fraud, the subject lives on. It would seem Man has no notion, any time soon, of doing away with his belief in life after death.    




Andrew Michael Schwarz is a speculative fiction writer working in the genres of fantasy and horror. He describes his work as Narnia for Grown Ups and uses themes of horror and fantasy to examine deeper philosophical underpinnings about the nature of the universe and the human experience.