The Cryptozoologist

The Cryptozoologist

“You found what?” Andy Eckhoff froze, just halfway out of his leather jacket.

“A deer – a teal deer. All mushed up and rotten like last week’s loaf o’ bread. And that’s the least ‘o it.”

“Hold on. The professor said this was an urgent research matter.”

“It is, Mr. Eckhoff! Come, have a seat.”

Andy eyed the man. He was fat and grizzled and look more like a biker than an academic in his crusty denim jacket. But Andy had looked him up and found a few reputable publications… from the 70’s.

“Doctor Fizzbarrow, is that right?”

The man spread his arms. “The one and only.”

“Look doctor, I’m sorry, but I only drove down here because the boss said there was some catastrophe brewing off the coast.”

“Aye, I know, lad. Sarah, bring ‘im a pint already! And a whiskey for me.” Doctor Fizzbarrow swung his arm in the get on with it motion, then pulled out a chair for Andy in front of a sticky barroom table. The place was rustic to say the least: a fisherman’s pub, complete with rusty lanterns and a marlin mountain above the bar. At least the bartender was cute, in a middle-aged sort of way.

Andy looked at the set of keys in his hand, then slid them into his jacket pocket and took a seat.

“OK. I’ll stay for a beer, but come one man. You don’t expect me to use the submersible to investigate dead wildlife, do you?”

“It’s not just wildlife, Mr. Eckhoff. There was the cat last week, and then the dog on Monday. And now…” Fizzbarrow shook his hairy jowls.

Meanwhile, the bartender gave Andy a sympathetic look and set down his pint. He took a gul of the pale, bitter ale and closed his eyes. He could have been at colloquium, or grading exams, or banging his head on his office wall… there were so many better options and grad students had so little time.

“Doctor, this hardly merits a dive off the coast.”

“And the missing girl?”

“Missing girl!?”

Fizzbarrow conjured a newspaper and slammed it onto the table. A grainy photo of a high schooler lay beneath the headline, Girl’s Mother Pleads for Help!

Andy fingertips pried the paper from the sticky wood. “Why’d you bring up the deer, first?”

“I’d assumed you’d heard. She’s been gone near two days.”

Andy grimaced at the paper. It was The Yachats Shopper and only a few pages thick, with a tagline that boasted of the dozens of coupons hidden inside. He massaged his forehead, then gulped more of his beer.

“Look, I’m no expert, man, but what if she’s run away?”

“The sea here is a dangerous thing, Mr. Eckhoff. They say the shadows beneath the waves consume man and beast alike.”

Andy’s narrowed his eyes. “You’re saying she’s drowned?”

“Drowned? Hah!” He downed his whiskey in one shot and pounded his fist on the table. “Not young Emily. A strong swimmer she was, by all accounts. And the animals know how to swim. No Mr. Eckhoff, I don’t think they’ve drowned.”

Andy took another glance at the goth-looking girl on the Shopper’s front page. He had his own doubts.

“Look, I understand where you’re coming from. This is a small town and people are scared. But if Emily is lost, there’s nothing a submarine can do to help.”

“Wrong again, lad.” Fizzbarrow grinned and his yellow teeth glistened in the lantern light. “Folk here have long told tales of an ominous presence by the sea.”

The bartender replaced Fizzbarrow’s empty whiskey glass with a full one and turned to go, but Fizzbarrow caught her sleeve.

“Tell him of Yachats, Sarah.”

She shot Andy a look that said see what I suffer though. “They think it’s a monster.”

“It is a monster, Mr. Eckhoff! A monster most foul.”

Sarah groaned. “For Pete’s sake, Doc. Can’t you leave well enough alone? Nobody really believes in…”

“Believes in what?”

The wind gusted outside and the lanterns flickered.

“Since ancient times, folks here ‘ve known of the dark one.”

Andy massaged his brow with one hand and held up another to stop the man , but Fizzbarrow went on.

“Do you know what Yachats means, Mr. Eckhoff? ”

“No, but you’re about to tell me.”

“In the Siletz Language it means ‘dark water at the foot of the mountain.’”

“OK. Suppose it is some sort of… kraken.”

“Worse than that, lad.”

“Look, how can I possibly help? And what good is our tiny submersible?”

“We’ll finally have proof, Mr. Eckhoff. Proof of what the government’s denied for near two hundred and fifty years! There will be a paper for you in this, to be sure.”

“Oh yes, a paper about missing cats and a runaway girl. And all it’s cost me is a day of driving and–” he checked his watch, “– a Friday evening in the nearest motel.”

“Aye, take some time to sleep on it. You’ll come around.” The old doctor patted him on the side, than stood up abruptly.

“What’s that PhD of yours in, Doctor?”

“Cryptozoology, from Pale Mountain College.” He gave a bow. “Used to mean somethin’, years ago. Anyways, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow, sure as day.” He lifted Andy’s jacket and handed it to him.

Andy sighed and glanced over his shoulder. “How long you open?”

“Till 10,” Sarah called.


Fizzbarrow sauntered out the door and Andy heard an engine start as he took a seat at the bar.

“The Pines Motel is just down the road,” Sarah said. “Don’t worry, it’s not too musty.”

Andy nodded. “School will cover it, at least.”

“You’re not the first he’s lured out here, you know.” She smirked.

“And not the last, I suspect.”

“You know, last time…” a shadow came across her face.


“Was that a car I heard?”

Andy’s eyes went wide as his hand shot into his jacket pocket. He ran to the door, but the truck and the submersible were already gone.

© RW 2020

Check out my new short story in “Nope” from TL;DR Press!

I did a thing! It’s called “Conspiracy Theory Weekly Issue #289” and it’s out in eBook and print on amazon. This story is about an investigator tasked with convicting the publisher or a conspiracy magazine. At first, it seems like an open and shut case, but something about it doesn’t quite add up, and he takes to the streets to find out more. Grab some coffee, smoke a spliff, and read along!

‘Spacesuits Won’t Help You Here’ has been published in the Reddit Writers Anthology!

Reddit is usually where I go when I want to kill time and brain cells. Usually. Back in the Summer, a group of writers came together from their /r/writing forum to join our powers together and help promote each other on twitter. There are virtual meetups, writeins, novel reading groups, kittens photos, and other shenanigans going on.

We also decided to put our skills to good use for Doctors Without Borders and gather stories for the first anthology of writing from redditors! You might guess it’s all stories about cats, weed, computers, and video games, but we also have sci-fi, fantasy, crime, and, more weirdly – a psychedelic adventure story about Burning Man written by me!

I love the way it turned out and I’m especially grateful to the editors and organizers, including Joe Butler (@writelikeashark) who put the whole thing together, @AlexHareland, and my editor @AizelleRaine. Hopefully they’ll be another anthology down the road!

Check out our group on Twitter – #redditwriters – we’re always welcoming new people!

Silent City, my novel, is now live on Amazon!

After year of writing, editing, cover changes, submissions, suggestions from friends, interruptions due to grad school, and other obstacles, it finally exists!

I started writing this novel years ago for NaNoWriMo. It wasn’t my first attempt at NaNoWriMo, but it was the first one that I thought might turn into something readable. The basic idea was to create a ‘Spirited Away’ or ‘Alice in Wonderland’ set in Baltimore, but with a more realistic feel and autumn vibe. Initially, a young girl named Anne got lost in the city and her imagination transformed the fast food restaurants and dirty panhandlers into an fantasy adventure as she searched for her mom. This concept ended up being pretty hard, basically because it’s a crazy challenge to actually describe things from a 5 year-old’s perspective. Like, can they reach the door knob, or read, or handle locks or money or other concepts? Do they know how street signs work or how the city is laid out? Probably not.

So it evolved into a story about an 11 or 12 year old girl who wakes to find the city completely abandoned. She meets her neighbor’s cat (who seems to be able to talk, now) and leaves Mt. Vernon to explore and figure out what happened. They encounter ghosts and monsters and other creatures along the way, and end up getting lost among some of Baltimore’s more well known monuments and locations as well as meeting a few of its ignoble celebrities.

Today it’s available on Amazon for free and later it will be $2.99. Soon it will be in print as well. I’m super excited and can’t wait to finally hold a copy in my hand, which will be a super surreal feeling after all these years.

Book Review: “Another Roadside Attraction” by Tom Robbins

I picked up my copy of this book from the ‘free table’ in Kalalau Valley, Kauai, and I can think of no place it more belongs. My copy was old, perhaps one of the original printings, bound together with black duck tape, moldy, and scented with lavender. It felt as much a part of the valley as anything else in that awesome place, and it’s quite a place:

Having spent four spring breaks there, I’ve met quite a few of the bohemians who live in the valley, sometimes partied with them, and partaken of their local *ahem* cuisine, beverages, and entertainments. It’s a fun place, sometimes controversial with the locals in Kauai, but also rugged and challenging. So it makes sense that the people there would like this book (though not that they gave it away). Another Roadside Attraction is basically Kalalau incarnate… er, Kalalau inlibris?

The story is a sort of hippie bible. The main characters are part of a band of American gypsies, or beatniks, or some other disparaging term from the 50’s. Amanda, the protagonist, is a young mom, cook, and animal lover who marries John Paul, the son of missionaries from The Congo. Together, they decide to set up a roadside attraction and, of all things, settle on a museum / hotdog stand, even though Amanda is a vegetarian. They complete the place with a flea circus and some other kitschy odds and ends, and end up attracting some other friends and cohorts from across the country. The story sees them tangled up in a conspiracy with the Catholic Church, haunted by government agents, and on the verge of bringing about the apocalypse. Pretty much normal drama for the hippies in Kalalau.

As with some of his other books, Tom Robbins writing here is dense and incredibly vibrant, full of colorful metaphors and similes but a bit of a mystic swamp to slog through. I was slow to get through it, but it picked up and had an awesome ending. If someone was newly moving to the states, I would recommend this to them the same way I would recommend ‘Kafka on the Shore’ to someone moving to Japan.

Difficulty: 7/10

Weirdness Level: 10/10.

Did I like it? It’s definitely a book for a particular time and place – and that place is somewhere in California in the 70’s, but Hawaii is still catching up so it sorta works.

What now? I hold onto the book until I can return it to the valley where it belongs.

Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore was the first book I read after moving to Japan. Since then, my memories have blended with images of shrines hidden in dense cities, truck drivers at lonely coffee shops, and talking cats roaming the weeds. Then again, who’s to say I never actually experienced those things? Living in Japan was a surreal, dreamlike experience with lots of drinking – kind of like this book.

After a rereading, the thing I really liked about the Kafka was how much it felt like Japan. If you haven’t been there but want to know what it’s like, it’s perfect. It’s also just a really cool story, and the author does a great job blending in boring details of every day life with bizarre happenings, while still having things make sense. Even so, I’m not sure if I completely figured out the whole story, but I think that’s OK.

Here are some other random ratings in no particular order:

Difficulty: Medium. It’s a bit long and there are some references that might not make sense to casual readers, but I enjoyed it all the way through so no complaints.

Weirdness Level: 9/10. It has UFOs, Colonel Sanders, and some Oedipus stuff, let’s put it that way.

Was it fun? There’s definitely some gloomy stuff going on (anyone who has taught Japanese teenagers will understand that this is unavoidable. Well, maybe that’s true of all teenagers).

Reread? The next time I feel like I need to escape from our American reality.

Stretched thin and Stressed!

Fasting, meditation, and yoga have helped me with the stress of the Physics lifestyle over the years (and especially the past few months), but things are starting to get frenzied again. Our boss John is pushing us to hit some landmarks in our thesis and to aim for graduation next year. In a way, this is good. Getting start early is key when you’re working on a 200 page monster. The next deadline is next week and I probably need about 10-20 new pages written between now and then.

On the other hand, I’m heading to Virginia Tech early next month and I need to prepare a suite of readout electronics for our demonstrator detector. My colleague Kurtis is in town and he’s the perfect guy to approach for help on this – but I’ve only got a week. Yikes! Two deadlines at the end of one week. O_O

Fasting sounds crazy, but it’s not

Have you ever been hungry for an entire day? Or missed eating entirely for over 24 hours? I thought about this question while reading “Ender’s Shadow,” one of the sequels to Ender’s game. The main character is a scrawny orphan kid who struggles to survive on the streets but eventually gets recruited to help fight off an alien invasion. You know, pretty much every orphan’s story. The book was good, but for 23 year-old me it was also an insight into the lives of homeless.

Of course, I know I’ll never experience what it’s like to be a hungry kid in the Favelas (where Orson Scott Card was a missionary and likely got his inspiration), but I decided to try fasting to see what it was like. A high school teacher of mine, said he would fast on Fridays in solidarity with the poor. If he could do it once a week every week, surely I could try it at least once or twice.

Well, it turned out to be pretty hard! Shocking, right? Still, I managed to succeed that  first time, but didn’t end up doing it much over the intervening years. Occasionally I would do a day of fasting in Japan, but there were new challenges there: being tired and hungry in a classroom of sneezing 8 year-olds is a guaranteed way to get sick. So it’s been on the back-burner until relatively recently. Catnip treats are just too good

Over the holidays Amanda and I went home to Baltimore to visit friends and family. I wasn’t biking to school anymore, hiking, hitting the gym, or doing much of anything beyond drinking beer, reading books, playing games, and eating. It was relaxing, but my belly got way bigger (so did Beaker’s). Back in Hawaii, I already have an exercise routine down, but I wondered what I could do to help me shed some fat a little faster. Fasting? Why not.

So, how is it? So far, I’ve tried it every other Wednesday and it’s generally gone OK. My rules: no food, no calories outside of vitamins in the morning, and no fluids other than water, green tea, or black coffee (a recent addition). Here’s a breakdown of how it’s felt the past couple of times:

  • ‘Man, I miss my morning coffee. But that’s OK, I’m not so hungry yet.’
  • ‘Those vitamin’s kinda made me less hungry.’
  • ‘OK, biking up this hill to school seems more tiring than usual.’
  • ‘Man, I could go for a latte. I should go to Starbucks. Oh…”
  • ‘OK, it’s lunchtime and everyone is eating. What do I do now?’
  • ‘2 o’clock. That’s half a day. Not bad, right? I could eat when I get home and call it an ‘intermittent fast.’
  • ‘3:30. I’m gonna make it the whole day for sure!’
  • ‘4:30. My stomach is rumbling and my head is starting to hurt.’
  • ‘Wow, biking home was even harder than usual.’
  • ‘OK, I’m home and Elan and Amanda’s food smells amazing. Like, way more amazing than usual. Must… resist…’
  • ‘My head still kinda hurts.’
  • ‘Why does this book keep talking about food? Damn you novelists!!!’
  • ‘Zzzzz…. I’m too sleepy and tired to get out of bed and eat.’

Then the next day:

  • ‘Wow, I’m extra tired this morning, but my head feels really clear.’
  • ‘Hmmm, I feel pretty good!’
  • ‘Wow, everything smells amazing today.’
  • ‘Biking is a little tiring, but otherwise I feel better than yesterday.’
  • ‘Mmmm, delicious salad. These raw cucumbers are the most delicious thing ever.’

Is it worth it? So far I’ve experienced four major benefits:

  1. Losing a little weight / fat
  2. Feeling absolutely amazing the day after (even if I haven’t eaten yet)
  3. Less headaches, even after crazy yoga poses
  4. Shoulder injury feels way better

Overall, I’d say it’s been really beneficial. So far, I’ve succeeded in doing two 36 hour fasts  since January and a couple of half-day fasts. My go-to day is Wednesday and I’m aiming for twice a month. Even though it tough at the beginning, I know I will feel awesome afterward, so I’m planning to try again next week and see how it goes.

More Regular Updates on the Way

I’ve made a few resolutions for the new year, including working on my physical and mental health, focusing more on my work in physics, and spending more time on writing. Last year, I decided to attempt to write a short story per month. I didn’t reach my goal, but I did manage to write six or seven stories, so not bad.

I know I’ll be busy this year, especially with my dissertation, but I think writing one page per day is absolutely doable, whether it’s creative writing, journaling, or scientific work. The lack of a digital journal has also been bothering me. For many, many years – an embarrassing number, really – I kept a journal on I started when I was 16 and kept it up to date into grad school. It had stories from my time in drama club in high school, my journey out west and hiking in Montana, my blundering through early relationships and dating, my successes and failures at UMBC, and the drunken shenanigans I encountered while teaching in Japan.

Opendiary closed several years ago. In the meantime, I’ve been keeping paper journals. These are a lot of fun, and in some ways better – If I’m ever old and have kids or grandkids, I can pass them on. They’re also generally more *ahem* private.

That said, I think it’s good, and more practical, to keep an online writing practice going. So I’m going to get back at, right here, on this blog I set up here on my website. Why not? At least the robots that visit will be happy. Hello, fellow robots! Err, uh. I swear I’m not a robot. Just a scientist.