Somewhere deep underground, with the Chase tower overhead, there is a cultish demon. Yes, a demon-monster-thing. And it's using the spires at the top as a giant tuning fork in its master plan to summon bad energy.
To be fair this only exists in the Mythic Indy book, written by 33 local authors who have taken small bits of truth and weaved them into Indianapolis' own series of myths. The idea was birthed by Corey Dalton.
For Dalton the project started when he was being held captive; not literally but he did volunteer to sleep in the window of the Vonnegut Memorial Library for Banned Books Week. His presence garnered some national attention and when reporters asked about Indy he eventually wanted to switch up his answers.
"I started to get bored and thought it would be funny to make up stories," laughs Dalton.
While he didn't make up a bunch of false facts about Indy at the time, it gave him an idea for an anthology of short stories. He put out a call for submission through the literary journal Puchnels and received about 100 word docs filled with mythical tales in his inbox. He then whittled it down to 33, removing ones that focused on the same icon or the same neighborhoods.
"I think Indianapolis can sometimes be a little boring to outsiders, and even people who live here, so I think adding this intrigue, mystery and myth on top of the city stirs people's imaginations," says Dalton. "I also think that people like to support Second Story because it's doing good work in Indianapolis."
The profits from the book have been going to Second Story, a non-profit that hosts writing camps and encourages students to not fear the written word. Dalton helps run a program in the early spring where for six weeks students meet with mentors on Saturday mornings to help them get ready for the writing on ISTEP.
"I don't have a kid, but it's interesting to sit down with kids that are that young and tell them 'oh wow you are a good writer' when they have never heard anything like that before," says Dalton.
He hopes that the collection is also something that not many have heard of before.
"I read some other anthologies where they're trying to be very literary or appeal to just writers," says Dalton. "It's not something I want to sit down and read.
"I think just in general Indy doesn't do a very good job of celebrating its literary heritage or the current stuff that we are doing in the arts as far as literature goes," says Dalton. "I think anytime the community can come together and show ... that there are good writers and good stuff happening, I think that the writing community [benefits] from that."
The book boasts bylines like Ben H. Winters, Jason de Koff, Maria Cook, Maurice Broaddus, Sarah Layden and Clint Smith.
Local arts writer Hugh Vandivier had a piece published in the hardback after he read the callout on Punchnels.
"With all of the involvement I have had in visual arts in Indianapolis I haven't really had the opportunity to work on my own art and my own craft, which is writing," says Vandivier.
His story focused on the the idea of the "zero point" (where the north, south, east and west streets meet) in Indy is not at Monument Circle like one would expect. It's actually one block south on Washington and Meridian. Vandivier set his piece at the Red Key Tavern and used it as a tribute to his friend Matt Elliott, one of the owners of the old Northside News Cafe, who passed away. The narrative follows Elliott and Vandivier sitting at the bar with High Lifes and glasses of Makers in hand, discussing the story of how the "zero point" came to be.
For Vandivier what makes this collection stand out is its place as a cultural bookmark as the city is rapidly growing.
"As the city is changing — I am looking out the window right now in a building that was built by Clemons Vonnegut, a school, I am looking at new construction along Mass Ave at a big old crane — as the city keeps changing it's kind of nice to be able to create more culture around Indianapolis," says Vandivier. "I think we have really great culture here, but I love the premise of coming up with some new myths so to speak and really tapping into the creativity and imagination of our residents."
The Man on the Monon (If You Believe)
There are 33 stories in the Mythic Indy book. Here are our top 13 favorites. Descriptions are by Corey Dalton
by Ben H. Winters: An old man haunts the Monon Trail, waiting for his long-lost love.
A Delicate Endeavor
by Maria Cook: The relationship between a widower and his son takes a startling turn thanks to an alien at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Heart of the City
by Alex Mattingly: Indianapolis' newly elected mayor learns about the city's true power — an ancient creature gestating beneath Chase Tower.
Be Safe: Please Repost
by Robin Beery: Former Governor Mitch Daniels and his wife fight crime while riding motorcycles. Or do they?
The Fall of Tomlinson Hall; or The Ballad of the Butcher's Cart
by Clint Smith: Republicans and cannibals and infernos — oh, my!
Indianapolis: Normalcy as Veil
by John Beeler: Time travelers postulate that Indianapolis is much more interesting than it appears.
by Annie Sullivan: Could the fountain in the Square actually be the fabled fountain of youth?
by Sarah Layden: A woman searches for her missing husband in a drowned, post-collapse Indianapolis.
by Corey Michael Dalton: The completely fabricated story of how the neighborhood got its name.
The House of Blue Lights
by Jim Thompson: Three boys investigate the mysterious house — and find more than they bargained for.
by Carrie Gaffney: Unsurprisingly, booze and vermin played important roles in the founding of Irvington.
The Devil and James Whitcomb Riley
by Jason Roscoe: Once a year, the poet's spirit tells a dark visitor a tall tale. Or else.
The Zero Point
by Hugh Vandivier: A patron of the Red Key explains how the center of the city was really chosen.
(Editor's Note: This article was graciously boosted on social media by Broad Ripple Art Fair. Broad Ripple Art Fair had no input on the content in this article or the decision to create it.)