Special Feature: “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

On Sunday, March 7, a friend of mine, Tim Stamps, whom I have known since college way back in the dark ages of the 70’s, sent me this link to a truly dark video. I thought it would make an excellent special feature for The Chamber. Here’s what he says about it:

“Hey Phil, check this out —A friend [Samuel Hanon is the name on the video] put this together. Playing the Twilight Zone version of “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” with a Pink Floyd concert CD “Live at the Empire Pool, Wembley Park, London” recorded in November, 1974. Nothing is edited out or changed, except color effects added. All the lyrics and everything synchronistically match on queue. Play here: https://www.facebook.com/samuel.hanon.3/posts/545802596336504

As you will learn with Rod Serling’s narration during the intro, this is not a Twilight Zone production per se. This is a French telling of the classic tale “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce. It was the winner of the 1962 Cannes Film Festival and of several other international prizes as well. The original version is truly haunting, but the additional soundtrack and colorization take it to a whole new, nightmarishly surreal level.

What I find interesting about the story is that, when it was written in 1890, feelings about the Civil War were still very intense. After all, the Civil War had erupted only thirty years earlier in 1860. Many soldiers on both sides were still alive. Many African-Americans were still alive who had been slaves. Bierce had served with the Union Army and had seen combat several times including at Shiloh. He sustained a traumatic brain injury at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, whose effects he felt for the rest of his life. Nonetheless, Bierce penned this story about the hanging of a Confederate soldier told from the rebel’s perspective. Bierce did not see his former enemies as inhuman monsters, which I am sure many former Union soldiers did. He recognized the humanity in them and he brings this out in this story, making his readers, many of whom doubtlessly still had strong feelings about the war, feel sympathy for their suffering as well and made them see the former rebels as human.

In our current atmosphere of political turmoil (which cannot hold a candle to the turmoil before, during, and after the Civil War), there is a lesson for us in this classic work of American literature. It shows us that in spite of our feelings about current political and national issues, no matter how intense they are, we must not lose sight of the fact that our political opponents are as human as we are and feel as deeply and as intensely as we all do. We are people with differing opinions, but we are all still people. We must not lose sight of that fact.

I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did.

Follow this link to the original short story on AmericanLiterature.com.

By the way, I will take submissions of links to dark videos or films so long as they meet the stipulations in The Chamber’s submission guidelines and so long as the person submitting owns the copyright. There are a wide range of formats to which I can link, so please query first and I will let you know if I can link to it.

New Fiction: “Nightmare” by Patricia Martarella

It was the best kind of nightmare, vivid and lucid in its ability to persuade my belief; intoxicating realness. I sat transfixed in my room, identical to the place I’d spent many nights restlessly awake and hopelessly alone and achingly satiated for the last three years of my young adulthood. My window was open, as it always was in the summertime, allowing the citrus breeze of lemon trees to

The Dagger Digital Art  by Phil Slattery

The Dagger
Digital Art
by Phil Slattery

permeate the air.

The familiar hum of my neighbor’s lawnmower meant that it was a Saturday morning and her nephew had almost finished his weekly grooming of her yard, just before the airing of the telenovela Mrs. Garcia never missed would come sounding through the barren hallways of my home. Stacks of bills on my desk were begging to be paid, last night’s dishes remained in the sink, awaiting my meticulous attention, my phone buzzed on the night stand to the left of my bed over and over and over again with my mother’s frustration of not being answered.

My mind had conjured a perfectly mirrored image to that of my regular, mediocre life. It was an inarguably ordinary snapshot of systematic routine and order with but one glaring exception.

And that’s what made it so horrifying.

I sat on the floor, at the foot of the bed, legs sprawled carelessly in front of me as I methodically pressed my fingers into the saturated carpet, allowing dark, crimson pools to envelop the base of my palm as the whirr of the lawnmower hummed on. I released the pressure, then applied it again, admiring the outline of my handprint temporarily imbedded in the once-ivory carpet.

Who knew people were full of so much blood?

My opposing arm was thrown haphazardly over my torso, allowing an incredible amount of red ooze to trickle from the unobstructed hole in my side between my trembling fingers.

Beside my face his foot hung off the bed and I wondered when he would wake up to see what last night’s episode had caused, to see what we’d done to one another this time.

But it was a nightmare and I questioned my ability to wake from it first, before the appalling encounter would have to take place. Surely even dreams could bare consequences of the conscious.

“Wake up,” I heard my raspy voice resound. I’m not sure if I was talking to him or myself as my eyes fixated on distant nothing, noting the dulling throb in my chest as my voice pressed against the silence.

If you die in your dream, do you die in real life?

If someone else dies in your dream, do they die in real life?

Neither of us moved.

“Wake up!” I said louder, my breath wheezing in and out roughly as I twisted, abandoning the hole in my torso to slap his foot beside my head with my bloodied hand.

With much effort I anchored myself to the cedar chest at my left and pushed upward to stand, balancing precariously on the side that wasn’t sending shooting pains through my body.

He was certainly a sight to behold, naked but for the shorts he’d worn home from the gym, his matted strawberry blonde hair cascading over his face, obstructing my view of his glorious jawline and dimple-pitted cheeks. He lay on his stomach, his rippling alabaster back no longer beating up and down against his struggle for breath last night, riddled with punctures from the kitchen knife ceremoniously asleep on the pillow beside his head.

I fell forward then, onto the stiff splay of his body, smearing new stains of crimson along my body as I crawled up towards his face.

“Exactly what we deserved, isn’t it?” I asked.

His cold eyes stared beyond me, glaring at death.

I leaned forward, pressing my lips to the clammy grey of his forehead, tasting the iron of blood from either myself or him, I couldn’t tell.

My own eyes closed against the sight of him, my body loosening to the sound of the telenovela weaving through my brain, disrupted only by the sound of my vibrating phone, summoning me to a conversation I would never have.