4.08.2014

5 Quintessential Questions: WRAPPED IN WHITE Edition ~ Solomon Archer, Ph.D

Over the next several days, I will be posting an interview from each author from WRAPPED IN WHITE, the brilliant new ghost story anthology from Sekhmet Press, LLC. These are the same wonderful people behind the vampire collection, WRAPPED IN RED. WHITE book also features my story, "Daddy's Glasses," and you can pick up a copy from all available ebook retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, etc) as well as in paperback through Amazon.
I'm just going to get right down to this. I know "Solomon Archer." I know his real name. I know where he lives. I know what he drinks at the bar. I know he spends an inordinate amount of time arranging his silverware before eating at a restaurant, and that he puts far too much salt on his movie popcorn (the Pacific ocean looks at that bag of greasy kernels and is like, "Seriously, dude? That much salt?"). I also know that I can be bought. If you want to know the true identity of this twisted genius, the payment is Benedict Cumberbatch, on my doorstep, hopefully willingly, although I have no qualms about cutting through duct tape. In the meantime, you can spend more time getting to know the personality who wrote probably the most viscerally disturbing story in WRAPPED IN WHITE, "Inseparable." His answers to the following questions may will shock and awe you like bombs over Baghdad, so snuggle yourself in for the best read you'll probably ever have.

1. You found a surprise ten dollar bill in the dryer. How do you celebrate this magnificent windfall? I would back away very slowly, careful not to touch anything. Especially the ten-dollar bill. Finding money is always a bad sign. I am not a religious person, but I believe that some higher power – call it God, Allah, the Tooth Fairy – leaves money for us to find only to punish us for finding it. I call it the “Economic Equilibrium Hypothesis” and over the years I have seen enough instances of this cruel cosmic joke that it almost certainly qualifies as a natural law by now. Sort of like gravity, only more reliable.

I once got a check for $263 in the mail from a company with whom I had not ever done business. Naturally, I thought it was either a scam or an advertisement, but the check sure looked real to me. I took it to the bank and sheepishly explained to the teller how I had come to be in possession of it and wondered aloud if there was any chance it could be real. I was in my residency program then and I needed the money. The teller looked it over and reassured me that it was indeed a legitimate check. I cashed it, afraid that if I deposited it into my account the company that (obviously) issued it by mistake could easily take it back electronically whereas if I had the cash in hand they would have to send someone to physically assault me to get it back. The next day while watching the Sci-Fi channel (this was before they had to change it to “Syfy” for legal reasons) I heard a repetitive clinging sound coming from the dryer. I thought it was a coin at first, because it didn’t have the pitch of a zipper. Turns out it was a pen. A broken pen to be more precise. A broken pen that had disgorged its full well of black ink like an angry stream of demonic jizz all over my clothes. As I picked out each article of now ruined shirts and pants, I thought of the ill-gotten check and wouldn’t you know it – the value of the clothes that had been ruined was right in the neighborhood of $250. Add to that the cost of cleaning materials, sponges, towels, and personal labor spent cleaning the dryer for the better part of two hours and I’d say the universe got its $263 worth of entertainment from me. There have been countless other times that I have come across money unexpectedly only to have the universe exact that same amount from me in financial, physical, or emotional fees.

Find a quarter in your driveway? Bite down on a raw popcorn kernel and reflexively cough it into your date’s hair. Discover a five-dollar bill in the rear pocket of a pair of jeans you haven’t worn in a year? Yeah, now watch as your cat throws up on your pillow and steps on your pizza. Thrilled at receiving a $500 bonus at work? That feeling will last until a few seconds after you notice that someone has etched “suk it” into the side of your car with a key. So nice try, Universe. You can keep your money. I’m fine just the way I am.

2. You wake up and realize the apocalypse has just happened. What do you have for breakfast?Wow, that sucks. I totally had plans for this weekend. Well, if it’s a global apocalypse, I suppose it’s safe to assume the power grid is down, so there’s no electricity. Which means no television and, worse, no air conditioning. Nothing worse than an apocalypse without air conditioning. But the more immediate concern is that the fridge and freezer will be out and the stove won’t work, which severely limits my breakfast options.

I guess I could cook something in the fireplace with the unused stack of Duraflames I’ve amassed over the years in the hopes the whole global warming thing was a hoax and I’d have at least a few cold winter nights to use them. Okay, so I’ve got fire to cook with, now I just need some non-perishable food items. Eggs don’t go bad when the power goes out, right? I seem to recall that chickens tend to live on farms, which are in warmer climates and they don’t have opposable thumbs so they probably don’t store their own eggs in the fridge for breakfast. So we’ve got eggs. I wouldn’t want to have to worry about the structural integrity of making them poached or over-easy, so I’d most likely eat them scrambled. And I could toast some bread on a skewer I’d fashion out of a wire hanger. I wouldn’t worry about the toxins from the Duraflame poisoning me – hell, it might even taste good. I’ll certainly have to get used to the taste and smell of burning, what with the apocalypse and all.

I’ll need extra protein if I’m going to get through this day. But all the meat has gone bad and I stopped eating peanut butter when Proctor and Gamble began importing their peanuts from Indonesia. Come on, Archer, think! If you want to stay alive you have to start thinking outside the box. You need to get out of your comfort zone if you’re to have any chance of survival. What about . . . that? Why don’t you try eating that? Oh no. Not that. I can’t eat that. Anything but that! Get a hold of yourself, man! I know this is a hard decision, but it’s for the greater good. Domestic house cats simply aren’t designed for the harsh environment of the end times. He’d want you to eat him.

That’s it, scratch him behind the ears and under the chin. Lull him into complacency. Now carefully, quietly, move your hands down to his neck. That’s it. Now squeeze ever so slowly. OW! Goddammit! Fucker bit me! Grab him – he’s getting away. Ah hell, he’s under the bed. I’m not ever gonna get him out from under there. Ah shit. The eggs fell into the fire and the toast is on the carpet all covered in cat hair. Oh dear, I’m getting weak from the lack of food. I don’t know if I’ll make it. As consciousness slips away, I dream of the breakfast that might have been: scrambled eggs with tarragon and green tabasco sauce, warm toast with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spread liberally over it, and fresh cat meat. Yes, I slip into oblivion thinking of the best meal on the last day of my life. That’s what I would have had for breakfast on the day of the apocalypse.

Unless it was the zombie apocalypse. If that were the case, I’d have had Cheerios.

3. It's 3am and you hear a knock at the door. When you open it, you see a penguin standing here. He's wearing a bandolier, a cowboy hat, and a fake mustache. He seems to know you. Why is he there? Is there a snow cone truck parked diagonally across the handicapped space across the street? With a walrus tusk hood ornament a vanity plate that reads “COLDBLUDED”? If so, then it’s probably Randall. Goddammit. I was hoping I wouldn’t ever see him again.

You see, back when I finished writing PsyKu, I didn’t have much luck getting anyone interested in reading it, let alone publishing it. I was told that the market for forensic haikus was just too narrow and no one thought it would sell. I started taking copies with me whenever I would go on trips. I’d leave them in cabs, on buses, in hotel rooms on top of the complimentary bible. Anywhere and everywhere. Once on the way back from Sydney, I left a copy in the lavatory of a Qantas Airlines flight that ended up continuing on to Dumont d'Urville, Antarctica. Not long afterward, I received a cryptic message on my voicemail that consisted of pecking and squawking. A cryptographer friend of mine said it sounded like morse code and within a few days she sent me an email with the following translation: “Book book – CAW! Must have – KOO AAAHHH!!! Advance on way – send PDF CaCAAAAWWW!!!”  Only they didn’t give me an email address so I couldn’t send them an electronic file. I think maybe they expected me to put the file in the bathroom of the airplane again? I’m not sure.

At any rate, I couldn’t send them anything and I wrote the matter off as a prank. But then one night, I’m awakened at four in the morning by this insistent rapping at the door and when I open it, there’s this penguin standing there. He’s got a name tag taped to his chest that says “Hello, my name is Randall” and there’s a package between his feet. It was roughly the shape of a brick, wrapped in butcher paper, and leaking through dozens of beak-sized holes all over the doorstep. Through one of the holes I could see the empty rotting eye socket of a fish. The penguin danced around the package for a few seconds and then waddled over to a snow cone truck he had left idling in a handicapped space across the street. I heard him squawking and thrashing and fluttering around in the cab for a minute or two before he was able to get it started. I have no idea how he got it in gear but he did, and after hitting a few mailboxes and doing doughnuts on the neighbor’s lawn, he headed down the street and out of sight.

I didn’t want to leave the package sitting on the porch so I put it in the trash, went back to bed, and mostly forgot about the whole incident. Then a few days later I got another voice mail that sounded a lot like the first. My cryptographer friend said she could only make out three words: “DEAD MAN – CAW! DEAAAAADDD MAN! CAWW! DEAAAAAD MAAAAA-CAWWWWW!!!” and then something that maybe sounded like “Randall.”

My guess is he is here to get his fish-brick back, which obviously isn’t gonna happen. I’ll need to find something he might take instead. I hope penguins like Lean Cuisine, because there’s no way he’s getting those shrimp tacos from Long John Silver’s. I was planning on having those for dinner.

4. Which super villain are you most like? I’d have to say I’m most like Scarecrow. We’ve got quite a lot in common, as indicated by the following table:

Scarecrow
Solomon Archer
He’s a professor.
I’m a professor.
He’s a psychologist.
I’m a psychologist.
He has a scary mask.
I have a scary mask.


I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of human pathology, and if I were a super villain I think I’d have a grand ol’ time preying on people’s fears. Now there are a few areas in which Scarecrow and I differ. For instance, I don’t own a pitchfork, but I do have a pair of retractable hiking poles. Also, Scarecrow is something of a mad scientist and all mad scientists are independently wealthy. As a result, he can afford to maintain a really cool scientific laboratory stocked with all manner of exotic chemicals, potions, and gadgets whereas I am a government employee who lives with two cats in an urban one-bedroom residence. As a result, my “laboratory” shares space with my bathroom and kitchen. Regardless, I have managed to come up with a number of super-cool potions and elixirs with common everyday ingredients that are readily available in my spice cabinet, under the sink, and in the medicine cabinet. Here is just a partial list of the weapons in my arsenal:

Sleep Potion – This concoction can be surreptitiously poured into a subject’s drink to render them unconscious for up to 20 hours – more than enough time to engage in all manner of nefarious deeds. Ingredients: four cups of NyQuil mixed into a base of warm 2% milk, a handful of crushed melatonin supplements, and four Vicodin. Stir vigorously for ten minutes before serving.

Truth Serum – This little beauty is particularly useful when trying to exact information about super hero plans from a resistant or highly trained subjects. Although I don’t have access to scopolamine, chloroform, or morphine, I have managed to mix together a pretty close approximation based on what I recall from my high school chemistry class. In my signature serum, Instead of morphine, I use a mixture of Robitussin Cough Formula and Anbesol Toothache Gel, and I replace chloroform with ammonia since they pretty much smell the same. And if memory serves me, scopolamine is chemically identical to nutmeg and NoDoz, so I’ve got that covered. I find that if I mix this particular cocktail in front of them, most victims will tell me whatever they think I want to hear before I even administer the first dose.

Resurrection Elixir – Death need not be the end for the allies of fear who would be willing to join my army. For those occasions when I need to increase the number of villains in my fear arsenal, I bust out my “Lazurus Formula.” Although it is a bit tricky to get the dead to ingest anything reliably, I have created a combination of heated vodka, TheraFlu, battery acid, and priest sweat that will have the even the rankest corpse sitting up and begging for another cup. [Note: may take several years or more to notice appreciable effects.]

Fear Inducing Spray – This is probably my greatest invention. I call it “Fearasol” and it’s a combination of gasoline, turpentine, Bacardi 151, and a dash of lemon juice. I keep it in a plant sprayer and when I want to draw out a person’s worst fear, I spray a hefty dose of it in their face and toss a match on them. This has the effect of rendering the victim unutterably terrified as it recreates within them their worst fear imaginable. Interestingly, it turns out most people’s worst fear is being burned alive.

I have countless other frightening tools at my disposal, but of course I won’t be telling you what they are. I can see that you’re immobilized with fright with only the mere glimpse I have given you of my madness. Your deepest, darkest fears are my playground. Cross me and you’ll find yourself opposite me on a see-saw of terror with my dead button eyes looking right back at you. Tremble in anticipation of the unfathomable horrors that await you should you stand in my way!

Hahahahahaaaa!!!!

5. Someone offers you a million dollars to write the greatest slash fiction story of all time. Give me your elevator pitch.
John Rambo meets Jar Jar Binks – Following the death of his friend and mentor Colonel Samuel Trautman (2003), John Rambo finds himself alone again in a world that has largely forgotten about him. Lacking the structure of a covert operation in the jungles of Vietnam or the purpose of a counter-insurgency mission in the unforgiving mountains of Afghanistan, he slips into a deep depression and hitchhikes across the U.S., taking on intermittent jobs as a day laborer in any job that will have him as he tries to regain some sense of identity.

After nearly losing his life in a Kentucky shale mine following a catastrophic hydraulic fracking explosion, Rambo heads south toward the Gulf of Mexico in hopes of getting part-time work on a shrimp boat. However, as he crosses through the vast expanse of swampland in the Atchafalaya Basin in south central Louisiana, he is struck by overwhelming flashbacks of his time in the dismal rainforest-like conditions of the Pacific Northwest that he had endured nearly three decades earlier. For the ninth time in his life, he snaps.

Reverting once again to a primitive fight-or-flight mode, Rambo relies on his ingrained survival skills to weather the harsh conditions of the Louisiana swamps. From albino alligators that have grown to unprecedented size in the absence of any natural predators, to previously undiscovered snake species capable of paralyzing a full-grown lowland black bear with a single drop of toxic venom, to tribes of indigenous inbred rednecks roaming the mossy shallows in modified Panther airboats in search of the legendary “Swamp Thing.” Rambo has defeated or eluded all of them and more. After a year of this existence, he has grown accustomed to the creatures of the swamp and they to him.

One day while hunting in the predawn hours, Rambo hears a plaintive wailing – not unlike the sound of someone with Down Syndrome attempting to yodel. Fearing that a local Deliverance extra has wandered into one of his makeshift coil-spring beaver traps, he rushes to the scene, ready to make a quick, silent kill before the banjo-slinging savant can alert other members of its clan.

However, as he approaches the source of the commotion, he is taken aback at what he sees. Suspended fifteen feet above the ground in the vice-like grip of a counterweight snare is a creature Rambo has not ever encountered before. It has the head of a donkey with a bad case of Rosacea and the body of an oversized hairless tree squirrel. Two grotesque eyes protruding from stalks above a breathing hole on its face knock against each other like sentient scrotal sacs as they search for escape in the ground above. The beast is wearing an open leather vest four sizes too small for its massive frame and tight boot-cut brown leather pants that cling to its knobby legs like spent condoms.

“Ooooeeeeyyy. Dis crazy place all upside down down. Oooooeeeyyyy!!!” Its incessant caterwauling silences the cicadas in the surrounding thicket and threatens to drive all wildlife into hiding.

With one deft swipe of his bolo machete, Rambo cuts the vine holding the beast aloft and it falls headfirst to the ground, landing in a pile of feces it had apparently been eating prior to its entrapment. One of its eye stalks peers through the fetid muck and blinks at Rambo.

“Doooooeeeeyyy!! Sexy Jedi save Jar Jar!! BOOOOOOEEEEE!!” it honks, leaping to its clubbed feet and racing with spindly arms outstretched toward the traumatized veteran. Rambo has no time to think. He thrusts the machete into the beast’s chest but it has no effect – the seven-foot tall pre-op transgender iguana keeps running forward. Rambo nimbly steps aside and the creature smashes headlong into the base of a hundred-year-old Cypress tree. Taking advantage of its momentary disorientation, Rambo tackles and subdues the bipedal abomination, binding its limbs with vines and bark cord. He throws a gunny sack over its head and drags it back to his makeshift cabin where he binds the horse-faced alien marsupial to a chair.

Jar Jar urinates on himself out of fear and begins a low-pitched melancholic moaning that grows louder by the second. Worried that the sound will give away his location, he tears the sack off Jar Jar’s head. But as he is lunging forward for a killing blow with his all-purpose survival knife, a tear falls from Jar Jar’s eye (the one not still covered in shit) and Rambo’s heart stops as he remembers the same look on one of the Vietcong children he had butchered back in Da Nang. Jar Jar notices the change in Rambo’s demeanor and his face breaks into a smile full of teeth resembling broken straw. Rambo doesn’t realize it but he is smiling in return. Or as much of a smile as he can manage given the congenitally limited bone structure of his face.

“Dooooo Doooooeeeeyyyy!” Jar Jar exclaims, a noticeable bulge growing in his soiled pants. “Pretty soldier save Jar Jar twice! Whooop whooooooop!! Me love you long time!”

Overcome with a long buried primal need, Rambo cuts his captive free from his bonds. Jar Jar leaps atop Rambo and the two wrestle across the floor in a sweaty tangled heap of human and extraterrestrial limbs struggling, grasping, and groping. Rambo’s primitive grunts mingle with Jar Jar’s alien nasal honking as they each explore every orifice the other has to offer. Rambo’s massive member penetrates deep into Jar Jar’s nasal blowhole while the reptilian Rastafarian attempts to figure out which of its own appendages is meant for sexual contact. Having the IQ of a roach motel, Jar Jar sticks one of his eye stalks into his lover’s rectum. Blinking in delighted wonder at the welcoming darkness of Rambo’s intestinal tract, Jar Jar squeals with joy and pushes in further. Rambo bellows in unexpected agony as the sex-crazed amphibious simpleton shoves his entire head up Rambo’s ass, tearing off the Special Forces penis still stuck in his own blowhole. As Jar Jar continues to probe further and further inside him, Rambo’s survival instincts kick into overdrive and he reaches skyward toward the rafters. He grabs hold of a wooden crossbeam and, using every ounce of strength he can muster, he raises himself up and begins swinging his hips in a wide circle. Like a human ceiling fan, Rambo twists and spins wildly, desperate to dislodge the scaly Dionne Warwick-looking shit gecko from his poop shoot.

With an ear-shattering howl of “Adriaaaaaaannnne!” he finally expels Jar Jar from his body. The feeble-minded space wombat flies across the cabin at fifty miles an hour and slams into a decorative display of antlers mounted on the wall. Punctured in a hundred places, Jar Jar struggles feebly to free himself from his impalement. Rambo staggers to his feet and stumbles drunkenly to the creature honking pitifully on the wall. Instantly, he regrets having harmed the poor stupid beast. The last four and a half minutes had been the closest to intimacy he had experienced in ages and now he has to watch helplessly as the life drains out of the one thing he ever truly loved in the Basin. He tries desperately to find the right words to express his newly discovered emotions, but he is too overcome with grief and loss to say them. Instead, he simply sits against the wall caressing Jar Jar’s elephant-like foot as his cacophonous sobs drowning out Jar Jar’s death bleating. The cabin grows dark as the sun sets and the night creatures begin to stir.

In the distance, a loon cries out.

The End.

Roll credits.

**********

I have nothing that can appropriately cap off this interview the way it deserves. But here's a fun project! After reading this blog in its entirety, particularly the love scene between Jar-Jar and Rambo, please report back here with any nightmares it might have generated for you. Personally, I'm most afraid of my brain cobbling together a second encounter between these two, but adding Randall the Penguin to the mix. I think I'd rather risk a dose of Fearasol and then stay dead.

Meanwhile, here is a little more about Dr. Archer and where you can find him on social media. Also, be on the lookout for PsyKu this fall! If this blog has taught you anything, it's that you should eagerly seek out or anticipate anything this man writes. 

Bio: Solomon Archer is a Pseudonym. The author of PsyKu is a criminal psychologist. He received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin with a focus on behavior pathology. He completed his forensic internship in Ohio, where he specialized in working with low-functioning sex offenders and treatment with probationed and paroled offenders.

He continued his work with the mentally ill criminal population through his forensic post-doctoral fellowship in North Carolina with a focus on competency and sanity evaluations.

His career path subsequently branched out to the prison system, where he has worked for well over a decade. The author is currently the Chief Psychologist of the [REDACTED] State Department of Corrections. He spends much of his time working with serious and dangerously mentally ill offenders, some of whom are not so disorganized that they couldn’t figure out a way to free themselves from their restraints and stab him in the head with an altered food tray. (Incidentally, the going rate for shanking a psychologist is two pounds of coffee and three bags of Top tobacco. You know, just in case you were curious).