Tag Archives: old woman

It Appears I Have a Zombie Car

Upon my word, I’m not sure how to say this but I believe I am the owner of a zombie car.

Braaaaaaaaaakes...braaaaaaakes.

Braaaaaaakesss…braaaaaaaakesss. [Source]

Don’t ask me how such a thing is possible; my mechanic Gregory had no idea what the matter was and I had to rely on the expertise of young Michael who runs the comic store and indie movie theater. He seemed to know all about it. At least he pretended to.

It all started a week ago with the accident. I was coming up Route 43, just north of Springersville. It was foggy and you know how the road curves left just over the river? Well, straight ahead is the gate for Granger’s scrap yard and I just missed the turn completely in the fog and plowed right into that chain-link gate with my 2002 Corolla. It was an honest mistake, I can assure you; no drink was involved. You can take an old woman’s word on that point.

Well, I ran through the gate and before I could even touch the brakes, I ran smack into the rusted hulk of some big, old truck. I was lucky not to set the airbag off. I was so shook up, I just reversed and drove on up the road. It wasn’t like there was much I could do there at that time of night.

It really hit me when I got home and I just started shaking. I checked the front of the car. It was a bit banged up and had rust all over it. I left it and went in for a nice strong cup of tea.

The next morning, the rust had spread all over it. I brought it into the shop and they got the rust off and repainted it, but the next day it was the same as before. And, when I went to put my groceries in the trunk, there was part of an engine block sitting in there. Imagine that! That really steamed my vegetables. I went and gave Gregory a piece of my mind. He gave it right back, with change, but while we were arguing, I saw Michael listening in and checking the car.

“I know what’s wrong,” he said. “You got a zombie car.”

“What’s that?” I snapped. I was not in the mood for foolishness.

“It’s just like a zombie person,” Michael said. “You have a lot of decay and it’s eating brains, or engines in this case.”

I was about to whack him over the head for being an idiot, but he was giving me more than Gregory had, so I didn’t. “How do you fix it then, if you’re so smart?” I asked.

“With zombies, you can’t fix it at all. Usually, you just shoot them in the head.”

“And what’s that with a car, the head gasket?” I asked, about to whack him anyway. “Good luck explaining that to the insurance company. ‘My car turned into a zombie so I shot it in the head gasket. Give me money.’ They’d laugh themselves silly.”

He shrugged. “Just saying.”

I drove home in my zombie car. Kids these days.

The problem was that it kept disappearing at night, sometimes coming home at dawn and sometimes not. I followed it once. It wasn’t hard, since it just sort of shambled along in first gear. I watched it pop its hood and eat the engine out of Dr. Patel’s Ferrari down the road. I would have stopped him but I didn’t know how and Dr. Patel always lets his dog crap in my yard anyway.

Finally I had enough. Not sure what to do, I drove it out to Thompson Road and parked it on the train tracks as the train was coming.

“Good bye, old boy,” I said. It seemed more effective than shooting it in the head gasket.

The train was almost on it and blowing its horn like an angry elephant, when suddenly my car put itself in reverse and backed off the tracks. The last I heard of it was a low, grumbling blast of its horn before it disappeared down the road.

I told the insurance company that it was stolen. It’s not technically a lie and even if it were, what was an old woman supposed to do?


The World of Darkness and Dragons – Fantastic Travelogue #9

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. She came there to eat a certain fruit called gaan-shi and also kidnapped all the men she found, which was why the men hid when she came. The brother and sister tried to help me escape but Hengfel’s guards overtook us in the woods and captured us. I tried to escape, but the guards seemed to be insanely fast, and recaptured me. At night, Hengfel stood on the stone circle and when she held up a medallion, light gathered around her. Then she was gone. The guards pushed us onto the stone circle too, and the light surrounded us.

World of Darkness and Dragons

I think I’m dead, I thought.

The brilliant light coming from the stone circle had enveloped me and for a timeless moment, I felt suspended in a world of empty light that seemed to burn out the inside of my head. Then I found that there was something solid under my feet and the utter brilliance faded to a blackness filled with the kind of flashing colors you get if you look at the sun for too long.

I don’t know how long it took me to recover, but slowly I began to hear voices around me. They had an echoing quality, as if we were in a cathedral. I realized that I had fallen to my knees when someone grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. I opened my eyes and looked around.

Even under the circumstances, I was blown away by what I saw. We were standing in a huge round room a few hundred feet in diameter and at least that tall. The floor was carved like the stone circle in the forest clearing, only much, much bigger. Around the outside was a trench or chasm, so that the only way to get to the outer wall was by three bridges that spanned. Strips of light around the walls and on the floor lit up the fantastic scene.

The strangest thing were the creatures that were moving around in the open air above us. They were about fifteen feet long and looked like thick, hairy snakes with clawed legs and horses’ heads. In fact, they looked a lot like the Chinese version of a dragon.

Ain-Mai and Sing-ga were both standing next to me, staring around them with a disbelieving expression that was probably very similar to what was on my face. Now that we were here, amazement temporarily drowned out our fear.

The world of darkness and dragons

Then I saw Hengfel, the old witch herself, and all my fear and apprehension came flooding back. She was on the back of a large red dragon and flew straight out one of the three large doors. That made me feel better, for the moment. The further away she was, the happier I was.

A procession of little creatures was moving slowly towards us from the opposite direction. They were dark gray and very short and broad—about a foot tall and about as wide—with flattened heads, four legs and two long arms. They each took one of the baskets of fruit and moved slowly back. It was a weird sight.

The guards herded me, Ain-Mai and Sing-ga towards the third door. As we went over the bridge, I looked down into utter blackness. The bridge was about twenty feet wide, but had no railing. Beyond the bridge were two doors that opened to each side as we approached.

Everything in that place seemed to be huge. As we walked through the towering gate, I saw we were on a stone path fifty feet wide and hundreds of feet high. Everything was lit by strips of pale-yellow light along the walls. Next to the path was another trench that went down out of sight. It was lit up and I tried to go to the edge to see how far down it went, but I was pushed back into place.

We probably walked half a mile along that path and then through smaller corridors until we came to a large door with windows on either side. Inside, I could see a well-lit room filled with men sitting around or standing. The guards opened the door and pushed me and Sing-ga inside. I heard Ain-Mai’s anguished cry just before the doors shut. We ran to the windows and watched as they led her away.

Even today the thought of that room makes me shudder a little. It was well lit and nicely decorated in green and gold. There were probably forty males in it, just sitting listlessly or wandering around slowly. I say they were all male, although they weren’t all human. You know how you can tell if someone is male or female in a glance, but you might not be able to articulate why you know that? It was like that. I could tell they were male, even though I wasn’t sure why I knew.

They were all dressed very nice, but the way they were moving reminded me of a movie scene of a mental institution, where everyone is drugged up or catatonic. Still, the overall effect of the room brought a very uncomfortable word to mind: harem. If the guys were all replaced with nubile women, I wouldn’t have doubted it at all.

Sing-ga started running through the room, looking at all the men and calling something out over and over again. None of the men said anything to him and very few even looked at him. They were almost like zombies, although less interested in the world around them.

He finally stopped and sat down on a bench by the wall. I went and sat by him.

“You are looking for someone?” I wrote—or tried to—with my finger on the cushion of the bench. Still, he understood.

“Father,” he wrote. “He was taken when I was small. I thought he was here.”

I wanted to say I was sorry, but I didn’t know how to write it, so I just nodded.

Then he pointed to himself, and then drew out the Chinese character for woman.

He’s a woman? I thought. However, he kept going, drawing earnestly with his finger again and again until I understood. He had a wife, back in Dwengshink. And two children. My heart sank more and more as he kept going. He had risked himself—both he and Ain-Mai—just to help me. Now we were all paying for it.

I told him I had a wife too and we silently commiserated with each other, drawing out characters with our fingers on the cushioned bench where we sat.

The guards interrupted us a few minutes later to hand us new clothes to wear: green satin overalls that belted around the chest, waist and legs. I was wearing jeans, an increasingly dirty T-shirt, and a hoodie, and I had no intention of changing into anything else. So I spit on the guard: a big loogie right in the chest. She didn’t do anything, except pull out two small metal vials and hand them to us, making motions to drink. I poured mine on the ground.

Yeah . . . that apparently wasn’t a good idea. A minute later, I had bruises forming all over me, a slight concussion, and I had two guards holding me down while another poured another vial of liquid down my throat. I tried to struggle but they held me like a vise. I saw two more doing something similar to Sing-ga.

The liquid they poured down my throat tasted slightly sweet, with a bitter aftertaste. As soon as I had drunk it, they let me up, pointed to the clothes, and then left.

Sing-ga started to get drowsy right away. I could see it in his face and the sudden unsteadiness of his movements. He looked at the clothes, gave a little shrug and started to put them on, until I stopped him. I didn’t feel any difference at first, but then I started to feel really good, as if I had all the energy in the world. I almost felt like I could fly. The ceiling of the room was about fifteen feet up and when I jumped, I almost touched it. I punched the bench where we were sitting and my fist smashed right through it. It didn’t hurt at all. Whatever they had given me, I loved it.

And now I couldn’t wait for the guards to come back.


The Great, Terrible Stone Circle – Fantastic Travelogue #8

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here. From now on, I’m going to include a short synopsis at the beginning for those who haven’t read the previous episodes and don’t have the time. Skip it if you know the story.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I met a young woman sweeping a stone circle. She was friendly but then she and some other women locked me in a room; for my safety, I found out later. That night I heard weird sounds and noises coming from the woods. I escaped into the forest and saw a creepy woman standing on the stone circle. She mesmerized me and I went over to her. She couldn’t speak my language, but brought me to a building with a golden dome and showed me a map of the area, which wasn’t Korea. That scared me and I managed to get away. I met up with the young woman I had first met and through Chinese characters, we were able to communicate. Her name was Ain-Mai and her brother was Sing-ga. The creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. She came there to eat a certain fruit called gaan-shi and also kidnapped all the men she found, which was why they hid when she came. The brother and sister tried to help me escape but Hengfel’s guards overtook us in the woods and captured us.

Great Terrible Stone Circle

The woman known as Hengfel walked towards me, smiling in triumph. She ignored Ain-Mai and Sing-ga and came right up to me. She said something to me, very slowly and deliberately, enunciating every word. Of course, I didn’t understand any of it, but I replied, very slowly, “You’re a hideous old crone, who walks like an arthritic baboon.” It was childish and it wasn’t true, but I also knew she couldn’t understand me. I was about to keep going when she slapped me and walked away. I guess my tone was clear enough.

They sat us down together at the edge of the clearing, surrounded by four guards. The other two—Ain-Mai and Sing-ga—looked dull and defeated, but I wasn’t going to give up yet. If I could get away into the woods—even with restraints on my hands—I could still make it up the valley by nightfall. I hadn’t really looked at the guards closely before. The night before, it had been dark and when they grabbed us, I didn’t really have time, but now that I looked at them, I saw they were different from the other women I had seen. They were definitely female, but muscular and very serious. They weren’t paying attention to me; just staring straight ahead.

I inched my way backwards, and then in a moment of breathless apprehension, stood up slowly. Still, they didn’t notice me. I looked down to see Ain-Mai looking up at me, a tragic expression on her face. I motioned with my head for them to come with me, but she just looked back at the ground.

Well, I was going. I took two steps before my foot cracked a dead twig on the ground. Then I was off, running for all I was worth, not looking back. As long as I could lose them in the woods, I could make my way back up to the ridge.

I had gone about 200 feet when a guard appeared among the trees just ahead of me.

You got to be kidding me! She has guards out this far? I thought.

I changed direction , but another one appeared in front of me there as well, pointing her spear at me. I tried another direction, but the same thing happened. I stopped and the guard stepped back into the trees. A moment later, I felt a spear point in my back. It was the same guard and with an impassive expression, she led me back to the clearing. Sure enough, there were only three guards there now. But how could they be so fast? Unless it was just an illusion. We got back to the tree where the other two were and the guard suddenly hit the back of my legs with her spear, knocking me flat on my back.

I wasn’t ready to give up, but the hopelessness of the situation began to dawn on me. Two of the four guards remained facing us with their spears leveled. So instead, I watched the activity in the clearing. Women from the fortress village were bringing baskets of the yellow gaan-shi fruit and putting them next to the stone circle. Hengfel wasn’t in sight, but she appeared as the sun was setting.

The guards got us on our feet and moved us closer. I started to get a feeling of apprehension deep in my stomach and all I could think of was what Ain-Mai had said about them taking men and them not coming back. I was getting frantic to get back home. I thought of my wife back in Jeonju, not even knowing that there was a problem yet. My plan had been to go for six days and although I usually called every day, she would just assume I was out of range or that my battery had died. I had left my phone back with my backpack and I wondered if she had called.

Strange Meeting

Hengfel stepped onto the stone circle. The clearing had darkened and I could barely see her, until a glow started to form around her. It grew stronger until it lit up the whole clearing and cast strong shadows. A pillar of white light formed around her and she held her hand straight up. I saw that she was holding a medallion, with a complicated, snaky pattern on it. Ball lightning formed on the medallion and shot out into the forest. A sound like a scream began to build to an ear-splitting pitch. My hands were bound in the front and I put my fingers in my ears. I saw that the women from the town were doing the same. The guards and Hengfel herself seemed unaffected.

The scream built into a high, shuddering roar. The light seemed to thicken, however that’s possible, until it enveloped Hengfel. Then she was just gone, just like that.

The guards nudged us forward.

As I looked at the column of pure light and felt the sound reverberate inside my body, I felt like I was approaching a guillotine. Sing-ga finally found his spirit. He sprinted to one side, but it was far too late for that. A spear shaft caught him on the side of the head and he crashed to the ground. One of the guards stooped and picked him up with one arm and motioned for us to follow. Watching a woman carry a stunned man in one arm like a rag-doll gave me a very strange feeling inside. I looked over at Ain-Mai and saw that she looked terrified.

A spear jabbed me in the back, going through my fleece and breaking the skin. I lurched forward, staying just in front of the spear until I climbed slowly onto the stone platform. Light surrounded us, taking us into itself, until the rest of the world disappeared.


A Long, Disjointed, Enlightening Chat – Fantastic Travelogue #7

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

I woke up with a jolt and an incoherent exclamation, which is about the least dignified way a person can wake up. I had been dreaming about that horrible woman and her weird stare and creepy smile. In the dream, she had been searching for me everywhere, until I had nowhere to run. Waking up was not much better, since I realized that it was mostly true.

I was still in the small room by the secret gate in the fortress. The young woman was not there and what I could tell, from the light coming in from under the door, it was full daylight outside. I was just wondering what I should do when the door opened and the young woman stepped inside, followed by a man.

A man! It was the first one I had seen in the last two days. Not that I minded being around women all the time, but it was nice to know men existed here. The man seemed pretty surprised to see me too and he and the woman had an intense conversation back and forth. Finally, I got up and with my finger, I wrote “Who are you?” in the dirt, the best I could (誰是你). It was a mixture of Japanese and Chinese characters and I didn’t know the right syntax, but at least it got their attention.

They knew Chinese characters, and began writing some in the dirt as well. What followed took several hours and a lot of miscommunication. They knew characters that I didn’t and I knew ones they didn’t and dirt isn’t the best medium for making lots of tiny strokes. There were a lot of dead-ends and a lot of good-natured frustration, but here is the gist of our conversation. I’m going to present it as if we spoke it all, just to make it easier to read.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I am Ain-Mai,” the woman said (she wrote it as 安美). “This is my brother, Sing-ga (石鋼)”. (I only learned later that they were brother and sister. At the time, I had no idea what she wrote and the whole thing was very confusing.)

“I am David. I live in Korea. What is this place called?”

“This is Dwengshink (東山). How did you get here?” Sing-ga asked. He kept staring at me in curiosity, especially my beard.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I was walking in the mountains and I lost my way and came here. Who was that woman?”

When they understood who I meant, it sparked a lot of what seemed like angry cursing from them. “She is like a queen,” Ain-Mai said finally. “She has magic and lives in another world. Whenever she finds a man here that she likes, she takes him back with her and they don’t come back. So when she comes, all the men hide in the mountains.”

I asked them more, but they did not know anything about where she came from or who she really was, at least not that they could express through writing in the dirt. They called her Hengfel, although I didn’t recognize the characters they wrote. As far as they knew, she had always come, since the time of their parents, at least. The golden dome was her residence in Dwengshink and no one else used it.

“She comes every six months or so,” Sing-ga said, “and stays about two days.”

“But why does she come here?” I asked. “Is she the queen of Dwengshink?”

“No, she is not our queen,” they said. “She only comes to this valley. She comes to eat gaan-shi.” That was how they pronounced it. They didn’t know how to write it, but I gathered that it was a kind of fruit.

“I want to go back to Korea,” I said. This sparked a lot of discussion between the two of them, presumably about how.

“Hengfel goes back tonight,” Sing-ga said eventually, “and I think it would be good if you went before then.”

I couldn’t agree more. I never wanted to see that Hengfel woman again and I could only imagine what was happening back at the sanjang where my backpack was. I had been gone almost two whole days and they probably thought I was dead.

Ain-Mai left for an hour or so, while Sing-ga sat there with me in mostly awkward silence. He tried to talk a bit, but gave up when I clearly didn’t understand. Now that Ain-Mai wasn’t there, he did not seem to have any interest in writing in the dirt.

Ain-Mai came back with a basket of food, mostly fruit and flatbread. There were grapes, apples and things that looked like really long persimmons and finally one thickly wrinkled yellow fruit the size of a baseball that Ain-Mai said was a gaan-shi. They let me eat most of it. It was sweet and tart at the same time; really good, although I don’t think I’d travel across worlds to get it.

After we had eaten, Sing-ga said we should be going and they led the way out, on the inside of the fortress. It was mid-afternoon and the sky was blue. Ain-Mai led the way along a small path through the woods, while Sing-ga kept us fifty feet behind her, presumably in case she met anyone.

We gave the clearing with the stone circle a wide berth and kept climbing up the slope. The trees were mostly evergreens and the smell in the warm air was wonderful.

After another ten minutes, Ain-Mai stopped and motioned for us to come closer. I saw that we had reached the main path, which I had taken the day before. The old woman’s cottage, where I had gotten a drink, was right in front of us. We were approaching the house when the woman appeared at her gate. She looked scared and when she saw us, she started making motions with her hands, warding us away.

Old woman's house

I got a sick feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach and turned to to run. Ain-Mai and Sing-ga were doing the same. I saw two female guards appear on the path, up the valley ahead of us. We turned to flee, but more appeared out of the trees below as well. There was nothing to be done. I could tell that Ain-Mai and Sing-ga had both given up; I could see the defeat on their faces. As for myself, my upbringing hadn’t involved fighting multiple spearmen (or women) unarmed, so I didn’t try to be a hero. One of them clipped metal restraints around our wrists and marched us back down the valley. I heard Ain-Mai crying behind me but when I turned, I saw that it was actually Sing-ga who was crying. That freaked me out more than being handcuffed and escorted at spear point. What on earth does this woman do to men?

We went around a bend in the path and came out into the stone circle clearing. There she was, the woman they called Hengfel, standing in the middle of the clearing, with her animal skins and purple veil and her creepy, creepy smile.


Fantastic Travelogue #1 – Just a Cup of Water

This is the first part of the travelogue I introduced in my post, Always Always Bring a Camera. Because I didn’t have a camera at the time, I am going to attempt to draw all the pictures in this series. I apologize in advance for my lack of artistic skill.

I was nearly faint with thirst. I had been wandering all night along mountain paths and my throat was swollen and raw. There was a rough track that went down into the valley in front of me and I took it immediately, thinking only of finding a house or a temple where I could beg some water before turning back. At this point, I did not think anything was out of the ordinary. It was true that I had never seen a golden dome like that in Korea, but I simply thought it was part of a Buddhist temple, even though Korean temples don’t have domes. It looked to be a few kilometers down the valley, so I thought I might go back and get my gear and come back for a better look.

Valley view

About fifteen minutes down the trail, I came to a house with a low, earthen wall around it. The house was the first surprise I had. It had a thatched roof and rose to a high point in the middle, unlike anything I had seen before. The walls were made of reddish earth. I went through the narrow gate and saw an older woman in a light gray dress and cloak loading wood in her arms from a woodpile. She stopped and looked at me warily.

“May I have some water?” I asked in Korean. She didn’t respond and so I repeated it—the Korean word for “water” is a little hard to say correctly. When she still did not react, I resorted to miming drinking from a glass.

At last she said something to me, but I did not understand a word of it. Mountain dialects, I thought. She said it again and it sounded like a question, so I nodded slowly. After living abroad, I’ve gotten good at making assumptions about meaning based on the situation, or at least bluffing it.

Old woman's house

The woman looked a little annoyed as she carried the wood into the house. The floor was raised as in traditional Korean houses and there were stone steps that led up to the door. I followed her to the door but did not go inside. She came out a moment later with an expensive-looking porcelain bottle in her hand, sealed with wax. She sat down and started to cut the wax off with a knife.

Oh no. It was probably alcohol and she was opening it for me, supposedly at my request. I understood now why she was annoyed. That’s why bluffing doesn’t always work. I moved to stop her and she started yelling at me, pointing to the bottle and the knife.

At that point, I just wanted to get away, but I hung on, looking around desperately for a well or some water I could show her. Finding none, I wrote the Korean word for water (물) in the dirt and then, because that had no effect, the Chinese character for it (水). She stopped then and pointed to it. I nodded and she got up and led me around to the back where there was a series of bamboo stalks tied together, all different heights, and with their tops open. It was for collecting rainwater, I saw and they had pieces of wood at the top to catch more water. The shortest one had a spigot sticking out of it, with a plug of something stuck in the end. The woman mimed taking out the plug and putting the spigot in my mouth and when when I hesitated in embarrassment, she stood next to it and bending almost double, with her head at the level of her knees, she twisted her head and put the spigot in her mouth.

Bamboo cistern

I couldn’t physically do that, but I hunkered down and pulled out the stopper, which was made of some sort of hardened tree gum. Water gushed out immediately and soaked my pant leg before I could get my mouth in front of the stream. Even so, it was coming out so fast that a lot of it overflowed my mouth and splashed on the ground. The woman gave a short, unbelieving laugh, like you might make at someone who accidentally tied their own shoelaces together.

I didn’t care—the water was delicious. It was cool and had a wonderful taste that I can only describe as “light green”. After a nice long drink, I put the stopper back and stood up. I bowed in thanks, but the woman just waved it off and went back to the wood pile.

I had been planning on trying to find my way back to the sanjang where I had left my stuff, but now that I was much more refreshed, I thought I might just walk down and see what the golden dome was right away. And so I set off, going down along the forest track with birds chirping around me in the morning light and the faint smell of woodsmoke wafting through the air from the woman’s fire. I felt pretty good right about then. It was a feeling that was only going to last about six hours.


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