Awesome Batman Art #1

And now for something completely different…

To break up this blog from writing and writing about writing, I thought, being a massive Batman fan, as well as loving cool and interesting art as much as anyone, I’d start including posts showcasing some great art of Batman and his family and rogues gallery that I’ve collected (of which there is an infinite amount out there).

Giving artists their credit is important of course, so I’ll only include ones where I know the artist.

(If anyone wants any of these pictures taken down, just ask)

 

Happy-Mutt

by Happy-Mutt

Francis001

macrotus_by_francis001 2

Blule

Batman by Blule

Daniel Scott Gabriel Murray

Mr. Freeze by Daniel Scott Gabriel Murray

Alex Garner

Batgirl-26

Vvernacatola

two_face_by_vvernacatola-d5wpmi4

madness_is_the_emergency_exit_by_vvernacatola-d6a292k

Tyskas

mr__scarecrow_by_tyskas

Vartan Garnikyan

Vartan Garnikyan

Ben6835

ben6835

Nox-dl

through_the_dark_city_by_nox_dl-d7jezc6

 

SLADE extract #1

I’ve been working on the sequel to WULF, called SLADE. It’s been hard to find a suitable extract for this site that won’t spoil anything, especially for those who haven’t read any of WULF (but might do one day), but I think this will be fine…

 

He leaned closer, his back permanently hunched as his fingers skittered across the holographic keyboard, for all the world looking as though he was dancing puppets or playing the piano beyond mastery.

One of his hands reached down and plucked a piece of nojo from the desk, deftly peeling it between two fingers and sticking it to the side of his bald head at the same time as another hand did the same with another piece. His round amber eyes flickered for a moment, as he felt the rush. The drug kept his mind working as fast as his fingers.

Nobody could type as fast as a spider. Not with six long spindle-fingers for each thin and hairy arm. Six arms in full, sprouting from a fat, sunken body as black as pitch. Thirty-six fingers to dance across the huge array of holo-keys of every known alphanumeric character and symbol, thrice replicated. Thirty-six fingers to play with people’s lives.

There was a knock at the door and he paused, his hands arching in mid-air. ‘Come in,’ he said, his high voice like the screech of a child.

A woman walked in, her own hands stiff behind her back. ‘Spider, two of our men have been killed. The culprits are a man and a woman unknown to us. Their dress is strange and barbaric, and the man is covered in extensive tattooing.’

He did not turn from his screens. There was a camera in the room and he looked at the woman on the respective monitor. His vibrant orange eyes blinked slowly inwards from the sides like closing elevator doors.

‘Interesting,’ he said. He paused, letting the silence reign through the room, drinking in the woman’s tension.

‘Get eyes on them,’ he said. ‘And patch me in.’

‘Yes, Spider. Will that be all?’

‘Yes.’

The woman nodded her head sharply and left. Her relief was palpable in her step.

The Spider turned his attention to the rest of the screens that covered every inch of the wall. Zoomed out it might look like a compound eye, like that of a giant fly. In front of him were reams of scrolling data, data that would never pause, never stop.

He leaned in.

 

Blue-Desert-Sunset-iphone-6-wallpaper-ilikewallpaper_com3

 

Tales of Black Pine Falls: The Preacher and the Goat

There is a place called Black Pine Falls.

A place where everything looks like a shadow of something else. The trees like tall, stiff men in the dark. A forest of people, hiding in mist. Huge caves like open mouths. Somewhere the rush of water.

You might go looking for it.

It’ll let you get close. Maybe you’ll hear the faint cries of children. The soft thump of an axe into wood. The smells of life and death and the swampblood. And just when you’re almost on top of it all it’ll be gone in smoke, leaving you with nothing but echoes.

The people in the town wipe holes on fogged windowpanes and stare out, at the distant lights of your torches and lanterns. Eventually the lights retreat and go out.

You can look as hard as you like. It’ll let you get as close as a whisper in your ear, before there’s nothing, nothing but fog and the clustering trees.

It simply isn’t there.

 

TALES OF BLACK PINE FALLS

The Preacher and the Goat

 

Zebediah Williams, Preacher Williams to the folk of Black Pine Falls, walked out of the town booze store holding the bottle up and his head high. He knew they were looking at him. All of them, judging him. They always were. He could hear the whispers. Screw them. He’d see them at church. He knew their secrets. Why add one more? The town had enough already.

Let them see. He was their preacher and he was drinking. He’d been drinking for a while. He knew it was getting worse. So what? They’d still come. If the goddamn crows didn’t keep them away.

He’d started when Rosie left him in the summer. He wasn’t sure of the day. She left him after the thing with the goat. Now she probably had eyes for all the men. Oh, he knew the score. Nobody ever thought he was right for her. There were lots of tough men in Black Pine Falls; Zebediah was not one of them. Big gal Rosie could beat him in an arm wrestle without trying; he’d always act like he let her win but they both knew.

He was smart though, and god-fearing. That should have been enough. He used to be level-headed too; he used to be as down to earth as Rosie herself. Scorning the superstitions of the townsfolk and their wild stories about trees and phantoms and creatures of the forest. Never a week would go by where you wouldn’t hear somebody tell about some strange thing that happened to them, big or small. Zebediah would call them out for their pagan blasphemies and command them to go to church. And most of them did. Not as many now, but enough.

The weirdness hadn’t come all at once; it’d crept up on him. Just little things, hardly worth mentioning to anyone, confusing, almost inexplicable things that quietly addled his mind. A missing thing here, a strange sound there. Often it was just a peculiar feeling inside. Zebediah blamed it all on lack of sleep and stress put upon him by Rosie. Until that one event that everything changed.

It was the end of the first week of October today. Everyone who lived in stone’s throw of the black pines had breathed their usual sigh of relief after September had passed, just like they always did. Not too relieved, though. Winter wasn’t long off, and Hallows Eve was right around the corner.

Caleb and his family lived in a bad spot, perhaps the worst. The man wasn’t talkative though; Zebediah wondered if Caleb had seen anything like he had. If he had, he seemed to be keeping sane enough. On the outside, at least.

Well, Caleb wasn’t as smart as Zebediah and so had less to lose.

Caleb. Zebediah spat, then took a swig from his bottle as he continued up the hill out of town towards the church. He’d never liked the man. He knew he made eyes at Rosie, even when they were together.

Well, he was welcome to her. They all were. All the logging crews. Fuck her. Why should he care? Caleb was welcome to take her just like he was welcome to be taken by the bogeymen that lived among the pines, any day now.

The thing that shook his grounded world views forever happened last November. It’d been cold, deathly cold for the month. He was blowing out candles at the altar, his back to the pews. The congregation had long left, but he’d kept the candles lit for a while, just kneeled in front of them. Praying, he told himself, but in truth just eager for the warmth.

He kept the last candle to see himself out through the side door and into his small home that adjoined the church. Ready to cover himself in blankets and shiver away the night. Rosie had been out that night, drinking with her friends.

He’d turned, and past the glow of the candle that blurred the centre of his vision, he saw a man sat down on the front pew, bent forward slightly with his arms over his knees and his hands clasped, as though thinking, or praying.

A lesser man than he would have dropped the candle. Then again, his first assumption was that it was one of the townsfolk come back to see him.

And, in a way, it was.

Zebediah moved closer, lowering the candle. That’s when his heart pulled a frozen one. The man was dead. He was a corpse.

The face was deeply wrinkled and stretched thin; the skin must have been sallow away from the candlelight. The eyes were not there, only black, sunken pits, less like someone had gouged out the man’s eyes and more like two small fists had been thrust all the way into his head. Meteor blasts in his face into which no light penetrated.

Zebediah knew him. It was Old Thomas, and he’d died the previous winter. Lost to the snow.

Zebediah was still a statue, unspeaking, unblinking, when Old Thomas turned his head towards him. The sound was something he’d never forget. It was like the uprooting of a sapling, all knots twisting and popping. Zebediah found himself face to face with that sightless dead man, dead man moving, dead man –

‘Don’t mind me Preacher,’ Old Thomas said, in the most terrible death’s rattle. Oh, it was him. It was him alright. ‘I’m just cleaning my sins away. Getting right with the lord.’

Preacher Zebediah Williams’s heart had kicked into furious overdrive at that point, and he’d run yelling out the church and to the town. He barely remembered anything of that night after the point when Old Thomas had spoken, but he knew the aftermath. Sure, he knew how it would have looked.

If only that had been all.

If that had been all, maybe Zebediah could have recovered. Not enough sleep wasn’t a good enough excuse anymore. It had happened, he knew that, even if nobody else did. But it was just one thing. One big thing. But crazy things had happened to a lot of people here. He was allowed one, right?

The distance from Rosie grew over the following months, as Zebediah lost his scepticism towards all things weird and unnatural. He began listening to other people’s stories. Really listening, quiet and nodding. He started to accept some things, such that there was something deathly wrong with the black pines. That there were many things happening that oughtn’t have happened.

He couldn’t remember when in the summer the goat had showed up. June was it, or early July? He knew it was the final straw, the moment when he lost Rosie for good, but that time was so blurry – he measured it in weirdness, not in days and dates.

Summer was a time when the stranger things of Black Pine Falls weren’t supposed to happen. Summer was a warm, peaceful time when you could walk away from the Timbersea and amongst the black pines without any unease. Providing you stayed out of the forest’s dark hearts of course, where the earth itself was black and cold and strewn with bogs that sucked you down. Swampblood, they called it. There must be gasses underneath, for the mud bubbled and burped at you. Even when Zebediah was at his most rational, there was nothing comforting in those places.

So, the goat had come. Nobody knew from where. It didn’t belong to anybody. Fact was nobody could remember there being goats in Black Pine Falls, but he guessed there must have been. Far as he knew the goat just stepped out from the woods and next thing you knew was grazing around the church, ready to meet Rosie.

When they were sure nobody owned it (and they hadn’t reckoned so; everyone knew everyone pretty much, and nobody could keep something like a goat secret for long) Rosie had quickly decided to keep it as a pet. Against Zebediah’s wishes, of course.

He’d lasted longer than he should have – three or four weeks – before he’d made up his mind. Finding goat shit in the aisles was when Zebediah knew the farce had to end. He’d taken the goat out into the woods. Holding the string in one hand, shotgun in the other.

He took him away from the Timbersea and stopped only when they met the stream. Zebediah didn’t know the place; he wasn’t sure he’d ever gone this far out. But a shotgun blast could carry a long way sometimes, and he wanted to be absolutely sure he wouldn’t be heard. He’d tell Rosie the goat escaped.

There’d been something strange about the water this far upstream. There was a silvery quality to it. A kind of dancing light. The sun, of course. Just the sun.

He’d raised the gun and the goat had looked at him. Everything seemed to fall silent. The birds, the breeze, even the sound of the stream.

His finger paused on the trigger.

The goat kept on looking, right in his eyes.

The world had stopped. It was just the two of them, him and the bastard goat, alone in the blackness, with nothing but the silver glint from the stream. Nothing but the –

The goat opened its mouth. ‘What is it you think you’re doing Preacher?’ it said.

Well, yeah, that was it. He’d run back raving, right into Rosie’s bewildered arms. In his madness he let slip his intent. He could have lied if he’d been in his right mind; after all, he’d dropped the shotgun back at the stream.

Rosie had packed her stuff the same day. It made no sense, it was just a goat! Just a fucking goat. At least that’s what he used to think. Didn’t she owe him any loyalty? She got so attached to things. All but him.

You can let a man be as mad as a jackrabbit, but you can’t ever let him kill your pet.

He should have shot the goat. Why didn’t he shoot it? He knew it was still out there, deep in the forest. Or maybe close by, watching him. He’d lost count of the number of nights he’d wake up sweating, the low croak of the goat’s words still ringing in his ears. What is it you think you’re doing Preacher?

What in the hell is it you think you’re doing.

Zebediah took another drink of his bottle, closing in on the church. He could already see the cluster of crows, and he grimaced. One day he’d get another shotgun and blow the whole lot up, bad luck or not. What more bad luck could he have?

His feet struck a rock and he winced, almost tripping over. Truth was that Rosie would have left him anyway. Everyone knew it.

Well, good luck to her. She’d chewed him out too many times. She’d never respected him. Far as he was concerned the bitch could have them all. All at the same time, why the fuck not?

Zebediah wiped his eyes and gripped the bottle tight. He shoved the church door open.

Old Thomas was in his regular spot, sitting hunched forward in the first pew, his pitted sockets staring into Zebediah.

‘What is it you think you’re doing, Preacher?’ he said.

Zebediah threw the bottle, smashing it a foot away from the corpse. What was left dripped down into the floorboards.

‘You shut the hell up Thomas! I ain’t got time for your shit!’

 

black-pine-falls-smaller

The Self-Loathing Left and the Blame for the Alt-Right

I’ve flip flopped a lot on this whole idea in the wake of Brexit and Trump. At first it seemed all too easy to blame the left’s poor communication and reliance on identity politics. That “they” (all of them, apparently, if reactionaries are any judge) took too much time calling others who disagreed with them racist and privileged.  Maybe you’ve already seen the post-election Jonathan Pie video that went viral. But is there really enough evidence to say that this is a prime causal factor, and not just one dredged up by Captain Hindsight as a retroactive self-justifying attack tool of the right, and clasped to like a lifebelt by the drowning, self-loathing left?

What about the idea that these attitudes and people were always there, but that they were less galvanised to make themselves truly heard until now; the time has come when they can freely speak out, safe with their brethren at their backs, now that they have a platform with apparent political viability, and are too strong and numerous to be shut down. Or perhaps they were always shouting about it, but now we’ve given them the spotlight and chased away the shadows. Now they (once more) have figureheads in prominent political positions. They have emerged from the cracks in the world and are standing up. Events like the election of Trump, and the alt-right movements following or running in tandem elsewhere, are taken as a complete validation of their opinions, both those previously declared and those previously hidden deep down in obscurity.

And the left sits down and whines and licks itself and looks up with sad, protesting eyes and blames itself.

Do we really think that most of these small town people were – before the initial rise of Trump – really that up do date and widespread on Tumblr and Twitter and the various online frontline progressive echo chambers? Sure, the left called them racist a lot – and upset their precious, fragile pride at the very idea that they might *gasp* hold racist atttidues – but to take such umbrage surely meant that they already held the views they had, before they were called out on them. It was not that the these views did not exist, and were wormed into being by the faults of the left, but simply that they might have been exaggerated and galvanised under the toxic, populist breath of Trump and Brexit and so forth.

It’s like with the movie Borat. People will open up about the nastier things they think when they’re with someone they think agrees with them. Maybe that’s the unpleasant prime reason – that white nationalism and a desperate need for ‘Othering’ was there all along, fermenting just under the public eye (unless you were looking in the right places and didn’t have your head in the clouds/echo chambers). It just needed a spearhead, a public, visible sense of unity with the likeminded.

The Tumblrism and occasional much-derided liberal arts college campus culture isn’t all there is to the left, just like bigotry isn’t all there is to the right, but that’s how the media (on both sides) has framed it, as though it really plays a significant part. Sure, it helped to incite the alt-right counterculture – but I’d argue that counterculture was looking to be incited, and that giving them their fodder was just an unfortunate price of progress (not progress in all respects, but in the sense of sidelining the white male in order to support underprivileged minority groups – yes).

But while the alt-right helped Trump win, and he wouldn’t have existed as a candidate at all without them at the beginning – that didn’t mean he won the election from them. America is too vast and varied, and most voters I really doubt would have a clue about most of the things alt-righters meme about and circle jerk to in their own online safe spaces. An America where Trump succeeded entirely or almost entirely on the alt-reich vote is not one where Obama could ever have won two terms.

You want to know the biggest reason Trump won? Not his beginning, not his rise, but why he won? I wouldn’t say the left’s identity politics or its poor communication, I wouldn’t say safe spaces or “SJW agendas”, or any of that. I think if you wanted a single core cause, it could be summed up in one easy word.

Hillary.

(Bernie would have won!)

Enough said on that score, it’s been done to death and I’m sure I don’t need to go into it. Suffice to say, I’m certainly not “With Her”, nor ever was.

I agree that the left need better communication – but so does every side. The left is more varied than the right, and certainly far more at war with itself. The infighting is constant. But it’s still just a vast group of individuals after all (this might be hard for some to believe but the left isn’t a hive mind), and as individuals, as common, deeply flawed human beings, they are just as susceptible to easy insults online rather than calm debate, and to anger, trolling, arrogance, patronisation and frustration just as right-wingers are. They’re still just people; they don’t suddenly have a different fundamental way of acting and responding because they’re left-wing.

The left and right are, after all, both entirely reactionary. If people among the left try to debate and discuss pleasantly, rationally and logically (and even empathetically) online, and it does miraculously still happen, do you really think they will continue with that ad finitum when responded to with constant disparagement, verbal shutdowns, all the fallacies in the book, and the same buzzword insults used over and over (‘triggered’, ‘cuck’, ‘snowflake’, ‘libtard’, ‘typical tolerant leftie’, ‘liberal tears’, ‘safe space’ etc.)?  Sometimes it seems immediately responding with these aforementioned buzzwords are literally all that’s required of the alt-right when engaging in any capacity – even worse than the left’s reliance on words like “racist”.

Yes, it does indeed go both ways. Neither side should ever pretend a great deal of its supporters don’t shut down arguments and turn to insults as a first resort. Everything is reactionary. I have deep respect for those who continue to engage in as polite and reasoned discourse as they can, but can you truly blame those who fall to frustration and cynicism, and just plain give up on ever trying to take the high road?

The left wing has its hypocrisies of course – we all do – but in my opinion nothing compares to the alt-right. It annoys me that people expect the left wing to be weak, pacifist and to bow down under pressure, and yet when they are confrontational and fight suddenly it’s “ooh, see the so-called tolerance of the left! They’re the real thugs.” Non-violence only works because it is the velvet glove covering the iron fist.

Or people on the right will accuse the left of being the real racists (because of a fear-mongering and pride-sensitive concept of an anti-white agenda that is almost farcical if it wasn’t clung to by so many), or of being foul mouthed (witness the irony of all those comments attacking Madonna’s “degenerate” and “disgusting” speech at the Women’s March, whilst lauding the “straight-talking” of Trump).

The ultimate double standards come to communication. That the left wing actually accuses ITSELF, agreeing with the right, of not talking nicely and politely and limply enough, whilst giving the alt-right a free reign to be as horrible as they like, because hey, it’s the right, they don’t know any better right? They can be as nasty as they like to whoever they like (well, apart from good white Christian men of course), whereas it’s the left who has to bend the knee and not hurt the alt-right’s fragile snowflake super-easily-offended feelings (yep, there’s the final irony). Apparently a leftie showing some fight in them is more objectionable than a neo-nazi whose belief system is based on state violence and ethnic cleansing (“soft” or otherwise).

The most important quality for every member of every political persuasion is self-awareness. I feel members of every side supremely lack that. As I’ve already stated, everything is reactionary, and people need to recognise that more. Someone will take one particularly aggressive left/rightwinger and use that to then fuel their own future verbal assaults, because all left/rightwingers are the same, right? And because it’s easier to rise to anger and insults than to discuss and debate, it just creates a shitstorm that never, ever dies down. And when someone does offer an olive branch and try and debate rationally (which I do happen to see much more often on the left, but then again I am biased) it’s too late, the waters are already thoroughly muddied – all I see in reply to those honest posters are endless insults and ad hominems.

It’s fascinating (in a profoundly irritating way) to see the left painted as a weak target (both by its opponents and by itself). The right is so, so, SO easy to attack. Especially the alt-right. They fail on so many counts – science being one of them (the left has it’s science problems too, but not as many). And yet the right keep winning. That’s because the majority of people are naturally, innately drawn to right-wing concepts like the xenophobia of Othering, traditional values, deep faith and national identity/pride. The alt-right just exaggerates them all, and plays up to the idea of the wounded and victimised white man left behind.

It’s up to the left to pry people away from these tendencies, and that’s why they have the much harder fight. The alt-right could literally just sit there and trot out buzzwords and make a million offensive gaffes and piss off whoever they like, and lie and lie and lie more than any other, and act like total fools, absurdist caricatures, and they’d still have a good chance of winning, simply because they play on age-old fears and miseries and bitterness of a changing new world, simply because they tell people what they want to hear. Really, just about all you need to do is shout “BAH, IMMIGRATION!” and you’ll be applauded. The bar is set very low for right-wing populists.

Because they did win. They won because of establishment politicians like Hillary, who left them behind in the ensuing march of globalisation. They won because everybody confused the modern strain of liberal with the left wing, and they needed a real alternative. They won because the left was weak and divided, and because the siren calls of the right were attractive. A desire to be Great Again (when were they great exactly? Nobody seems to be pointing out exact time periods here).

They won. For now.

The real question for those lefties blaming themselves is: do we then open up leftleaning doors and deliberately give greater free reign and tolerance to attitudes that we were trying to stamp out or block, just so we get their vote? Which attitudes? A great many people want validation and acceptance of white pride and for Christianity to be free of persecution (i.e. keep privilege), for groups like BLM to be shut down, for the feminist movement to end, and for transexualism and other LGBT issues to be laughed out the room.  Others want state-sanctioned violence against minorities and protesters, and worse besides. And they want the freedom to discuss these things as viable alternatives-certain-to-become-mainstream-once-more. What lines are drawn? How much lenience do you give regression? How wide do you open the door to fascism? And that’s not even getting started on climate change denialism, which affects us all and is the single biggest issue of them all.

Space to debate is good, of course it is, but it is also surely naive if you don’t realise that confronting certain deeply held (perhaps crossing generations) issues and trying to get these people to acknowledge them as deeply problematic is to them the very same as being victimised and having their free speech infringed upon. Go on, try and debate a staunch white nationalist. See where it gets you. See where validating these attitudes in the name of fairness get you. I don’t know, maybe you’d like things to return to a 1930s Germany state of… expectation.

The biggest priority of a racist is that nobody should be allowed to call them racist. Apparently not honouring this will always be something the left has to answer for.

Certainly, the left (that cyclopean hive mind…) needs to do better at appealing to what people “do” like, rather than simply what is wrong with them. Not that that should be entirely left out the picture, but it should be tempered with “yes, I understand where you’re coming from, but [here’s something you like and is good for you]”.  Oh, and people on the left should strive to be more self-aware and careful before throwing out complicated, layered terms like ‘privilege’ (especially when white middle-class students do it), and to better explain accusations of racism.

That said, they’re all just individuals, barking at each other online.

It’s good to be self-critical, of course (it is after all a necessary effect and component of good self-awareness), but not if you only do that at the expense of combatting your opponents, especially when your opponents have zero interest in their own self-criticism. It’s simply become popular, both individually and in a wider narrative, to hate the left, because they’re perpetually seen as the victim (even when they’re winning), probably because they victimise themselves. They need to start standing up. They need to be careful that using certain words too much could trivialise them in the eyes of others, and they need to focus on pushing a stronger, more unifying narrative. They need to stop giving so much attention to its most farcical and sensationalist fringe elements and individuals. They need to start representing the people and stop relying on corporate establishment politicians to provide ugly echoes of what the left is really about. They need to offer hope.

And in particular, we need to settle down with this perverse pleasure in identifying the left as left’s worst enemy. We’re like some abused domestic partner with Stockholm syndrome at times – “oh, it must be my fault” – it’s no wonder we get identified as handwringers. Less pacifistic conciliation and infighting, more fighting the right (but in a more effective manner), for god’s sake!

Rise the Alt-Left!

 

P.S. As a finisher, here’s a quote from a friend-of-a-friend, lifted from a Facebook discussion that inspired this piece:

“What I do know is that our failure doesn’t come from our echo chambers or our sneering. If echo chambers and sneering were enough to lose a referendum/election, the right wouldn’t stand a chance. The difference between the left and the right is that the right seems able to create numerous smaller, independent echo chambers. The right manages to play the middle class, working class and unemployed off against each other. Meanwhile, the left seems obsessed with making sure everyone is on the same page, so you wind up with intersectionality, identity politics, third-wave feminism and so forth.

This also ties in with sneering. The right is able to create closed communities and conversations so that it can sneer at whatever person or group it wants to, create strawmen and bogeymen alike. This doesn’t work so well on the left. The reason the left is prone to squabbling and in-fighting is that our echo chambers aren’t soundproofed. If someone on the left starts acting like an idiot, we draw battle lines to attack or defend them. If someone on the right starts acting like an idiot, they elect him to the highest office in the land.

That’s not to say the left doesn’t have problems with self-righteous arseholes. But it just feels weird that we’re so quick to blame ourselves for a fascist demagogue getting into power when we weren’t the ones supporting him. We seem to want to twist the facts to paint ourselves as the problem. We don’t listen to the right? Must be our fault for sequestering ourselves away in our echo chambers. The right doesn’t listen to us? Must be our fault for coming across as sneering tossers. I’m just saying the reasoning seems a little suspect.

All that said, I will agree with you that key influential elements of the left have no interest in dialogue or debate. What you miss out, however, is that their lack of interest in debate is exactly why they’re influential. Left or right, people seem drawn to those who are loud, obnoxious and uncompromising. For some time now, I’ve felt that the most controversial thing you can say about an issue is that it’s complicated or multifaceted.

Speaking of things being more complicated than they appear, the rise of the alt-right and everything associated with it. Yeah, some of it was the left acting like pricks. But another, not insignificant part of it, was caused by the right being fearmongering cunts. Painting these politically correct, gay agenda-pushing, feminazi SJWs as a large, faceless, all-controlling, sinister force. Getting people to close their hearts and minds to anything that seems a bit too progressive; to lash out at anything too left wing.

And you might say that this reaction (along with people voting for Trump or Brexit) is understandable, given what divisive bastards the left have been acting like. But then couldn’t you say the way the left has been behaving is understandable, given the way the right has behaved? I’m sure I’ve spoken at length about the cyclical nature of political hostility before, so I guess I’ll cut this short by saying that paying dismissiveness unto dismissiveness is not the answer. Although, I guess it is understandable.”

 

2017-01-25-The-Free-Exchange-Of-Ideas

Favourite quotations #7

“An artist who in all he undertakes exceeds his powers will nonetheless at last draw the crowd along with him through the spectacle of a mighty struggle he affords: for success is accorded not only to victory but sometimes to the desire for victory too.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“Active, successful natures act, not according to the dictum ‘know thyself’, but as if there hovered before them the commandment: WILL a self and thou shalt BECOME a self. – Fate seems to have left the choice still up to them; whereas the inactive and contemplative cogitate on what they have already chosen, on one occasion, when they entered into life.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“It’s a fiction, not a moral treatise.” – Marquis de Sade, Quills

“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”  – Edgar Allan Poe

“Depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and the rottenness of your life in particular. But the realism is merely a mask for depression’s actual essence, which is an overwhelming estrangement from humanity. The more persuaded you are of your unique access to the rottenness, the more afraid you become of engaging with the world; and the less you engage with the world, the more perfidiously happy-faced the rest of humanity seems for continuing to engage with it.”
― Jonathan Franzen

“He: What’s the matter with you?
Me: Nothing.
Nothing was slowly clotting my arteries. Nothing slowly numbing my soul. Caught by nothing, saying nothing, nothingness becomes me. When I am nothing they will say surprised in the way that they are forever surprised, “but there was nothing the matter with her.”
– Jeanette Winterson – Gut Symmetries

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”  – Ray Bradbury

“One should absorb the colour of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.” – Oscar Wilde

“A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” – Stephen King

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” – Neil Gaiman

“Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.” – Terry Pratchett

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.” – Anais Nin

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.” – William Butler Yeats

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G.T. Shedd

“True rebels hate their own rebellion. They know by experience that it is not a cool and glamorous lifestyle; it takes a courageous fool to say things that have not been said and to do things that have not been done.” – Criss Jami

“And thus I clothe my naked villany
With odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ,
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.” – Shakespeare, King Richard III

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.” – Anne Lamott

“A man writes because he is tormented, because he doubts. He needs to constantly prove to himself and the others that he’s worth something. And if I know for sure that I’m a genius? Why write then? What the hell for?” – Stalker

“We’re lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We’re trapped in a world
That’s troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly

Deep in my heart there’s a trembling question
Still I am sure that the answer gonna come somehow
Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle
And while I can think, while I can talk
While I can stand, while I can walk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true, right now
Let it come true right now” – Elvis, ‘If I Can Dream’

 

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Tales of Black Pine Falls: The Timbersea

There is a place called Black Pine Falls.

A place where everything looks like a shadow of something else. The trees like tall, stiff men in the dark. A forest of people, hiding in mist. Huge caves like open mouths. Somewhere the rush of water.

You might go looking for it.

It’ll let you get close. Maybe you’ll hear the faint cries of children. The soft thump of an axe into wood. The smells of life and death and the swampblood. And just when you’re almost on top of it all it’ll be gone in smoke, leaving you with nothing but echoes.

The people in the town wipe holes on fogged windowpanes and stare out, at the distant lights of your torches and lanterns. Eventually the lights retreat and go out.

You can look as hard as you like. It’ll let you get as close as a whisper in your ear, before there’s nothing, nothing but fog and the clustering trees.

It simply isn’t there.

 

TALES OF BLACK PINE FALLS

The Timbersea

 

They called it the Timbersea. They talked of it like it was a single, definitive place, and not the sprawling, stretched out and patchwork area of woods that curved like a horseshoe around the town. It was home to half a dozen logging camps, but they were always sprouting up and dissolving. Sometimes, as the black pines crept in, the Timbersea was connected only by threads. In winter the black could cut it up entirely, turning it into mere pockets, islands of dark green and brown fighting the darkness. Last November workers swore that they were marooned in a single day. Few believed them; tree-blindness, they called it. Caleb was one of those that believed.

The Timbersea was the only place the forest would let them cut.

They’d fell an area, and the trunks and roots would loosen and come up, as though eager for their own annihilation, happy to be done with it and cleanse the land of their gelded forms. Two of the men would turn the grinder and chew the roots and the branches and all that detritus into chips. When they’d moved on to a new area, they’d replant the previous. The trees grew fast, unnaturally fast. Nowhere stayed clear here for long, nowhere but the White Circle.

Caleb crunched his way to the logging camp. He crested a rise, and stopped to take a breath at the usual spot. Through the trees and at a little distance you could see the church, standing on its own in the light morning fog. It was small and old, and short of visitors. It was partly the season; Preacher Williams held the services earlier, so everybody had time to get back long before sundown, but that wasn’t always good enough. Williams had taken a fancy to blaming the large red-eyed crows that perched above the doorway and around the spire. They were there now; their number seemed to grow every day. Was that a raven leading them?

Truth was the biggest reason for the church’s emptiness wasn’t the crows or the season. It was the holes in the roof that Williams never got around to mending. The mists poured through them and drifted around the aisles, making the seats damp. Nobody wanted a wet ass.

Caleb hefted his axe back on his shoulder and continued. It was just him and Foreman Miller Jones for a spell, sharpening and moving things about; the others arrived soon after. There were nine men in all on their shift, and one woman, Rosie. Rosie was too tough to take shit from any of them. She’d been married to Preacher Williams before the thing with the goat. Ever since (and maybe before), Caleb reckoned that she had a thing for him. Sometimes he wondered if the others reckoned the same thing for themselves.

They began to cut.

You always cut in the Timbersea. You never strayed further, no matter how much the black pines beckoned you. And beckon you they did. There was a siren call, whispers carried on the wind. If you didn’t keep your head strong and focused on your work, they could talk to you, in their wordless way. They wanted to lure you, tempt you into cutting into their oil-dark wood and hear them moan.

Caleb had heard them moan, sure enough. He’d been there. He’d seen it.

He’d nearly been there. He’d almost seen it. Almost in time.

The legend of the Man of the Woods was birthed twenty-one years ago. The name was Paul Bunyan. Caleb and Foreman Miller Jones were the only ones still logging who remembered him (Jones remembered others lost to the black too, men before Caleb’s time). Paul was a big feller, bigger than Caleb, a seven-footer with a chest like a barrel. One day he’d gone for a piss and not returned.

Caleb had gone looking for him, and he’d heard the moan. It came from the invisible, ever-shifting line where the Timbersea met the black. The black pines. The sound was like a great woman in cold pained ecstasy, a ten-layered breath that trembled through the ground under his boots.

Caleb had hesitated, then stormed forward, roaring Paul’s name. He found the man’s hat, strewn with black needles at the foot of a tree. It held a fresh cut in its trunk, and the sap that was pouring out was thick and bubbling and congealing fast. Soon the cut would disappear.

Of the axe and of Paul Bunyan there was no sign.

The hat blew with the wind as Caleb stooped to grab it. It danced further and further away, always just out of reach, and like a fool he chased it. He’d wised up in time enough, thank god, letting it go and racing back to the safety of the Timbersea.

To this day, whenever they stopped for their lunch break or there was a lull in the work, you might think you hear the far-off sound of one man walking through the woods. A large man, a huge man by the sounds of it. Or a faint noise on the wind of an axe thudding, sinking into oil-dark wood.

The day’s work as done as it could be, Miller Jones let them go with enough time to get back before dark. Caleb stomped his tired way back through the forest. There was a knot of black pines that separated him from his cabin, and he would always grit his teeth and stop himself from quickening his pace.

Something that sounded like a whippoorwill called from behind him, but it could have been anything at all. The kids better be shut in tight, he thought, not looking round.

After all, it was September. And the dark belonged to them.

 

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Science fantasy western WULF now available!

Apologies for the delay, I’ve been waiting on the cover (which you can see below – well worth the wait!), but now I’m happy to say the science fantasy western WULF, the first book in The Fifth Place series, is now available as an ebook on Amazon.

You can find it here.

It’s also FREE for today  (19/12/2016) and tomorrow!

 

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All stories free for 3 days! Adult horror, fantasy, dystopian

In advance of WULF imminently becoming an ebook to buy (just waiting on the cover), for 3 days (starting on 13/12/2016) all of my previously published work is free! Click the pictures of the covers below to be taken to the Amazon page to check them out and read samples.

This includes:

Born to be Weird

 

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A short collection of weird, twisted stories, featuring the gothic science story The School of Necromancy (like Harry Potter meets Frankenstein and Lovecraft!) and the very bloody horror The Gauntlet of Gore, which is like nothing else.

Included are the short stories (also available separately):

The School of Necromancy – Deep below the city of York, below the sewers, below the catacombs, lies the School. It is here, if you are privileged to be selected, that you can study the art of raising the dead.

Keep it Clean – Have you ever been swallowed by a public toilet? No? This man has. A truly grotesque and odious tale.

There’s Only One King – Elvis Shadow walks the world, caught between this life and the next. A world containing other half-creatures, other myths and legends.

The Half-School – A dream-like account of a return to an old school.

The Gauntlet of Gore – “When playing the Gauntlet, there are two options. Either you win, or the whole team dies.
Either you die, or you see every other opposing team member blown to bits. There are no corpses, only giblets.”

January 5th – “It was January the 5th, and everywhere things were dead or dying.”

Faces in the Dark

 

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A short collection of strange, paranoid horror stories. Featuring the novella The Violet Dark – a hallucinogenic road horror. Read this toxic lovesong to darkness itself, and see what is meant by ‘a beautiful nightmare’.

Also included are the short stories (also available separately):

Her Parents’ Masks: She has never seen her parents’ real faces. They have worn terrifying buffalo masks from the moment she was born . . .

The Watcher – The air is black, and I do not sleep. The hours tick by. I do not sleep because someone is watching me.

Anamia – Assorted entries from the Anamia Diary, found among possesions. Care is advised before reading, especially for those who have or have had an eating disorder.

The Gremlins – Humanity’s days on this earth are numbered. How do you fight an enemy too small to see?

Dead Streets – A sad and haunted tale.

Moral Zero

 

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This is rock n roll writing. Its energy reminds me of early Amis, its articulation reminiscent of a Tarantino screenplay… Brilliantly sleazy, scum and filth visibly oozes from between the words on the page. Each paragraph leaves you breathless, each moving with such runaway-train speed you almost expect one to crash into the next. And it’s very funny.” – Paul Davenport, author of Not Like The Other Boys

I read this sitting next to my wife and after the first three paragraphs I said, ‘This guy can write’… In a word, this is uncompromising, brutal and pulls no punches.” – Joe Carter, author of The Corruption of Michael Blake

The voyeur. The pervert. The sadist. Three tormented souls in the grotesquely twisted city of Rule treat morality like a plaything in this dystopian thriller.
The voyeur: Knowledge is lust.
The pervert: The fantasy is everything.
The sadist: The answer to all things lies in death.

Mr White. Kidd Red. Johnny Black. Three deviants in a violent, sickly dystopia where completely opposing laws and moral codes are just a short walk away. Guided by a corrupt sense of moral subjectivism, they form an uneasy friendship. Each tormented by his own grotesque existence. But the greatest danger is making sure they don’t lose track of what is real…

Enter the city of Rule and the world of the moral zeroes.

 

You can also find the individual short stories, also free for 3 days,  if you browse my Amazon author page.

Ianthine Interviews: Isaac Thorne

It was my pleasure to interview the comic horror author and goggled ghoul Isaac Thorne.  You can find him at his website,  where you can check out his works, or by following him on Twitter.

 

You say you write tales of “dark comic horror”. Is this your favourite genre to write in? What do you like most about the genre? Why do you think these  seemingly opposing genres – comedy and horror – go so well together, and are so popular?

Interesting question. Right now, it’s really the only genre I write in. I don’t think comedy and horror are entirely opposites. Comedy is one way people  have learned to cope with real life horror. I grew up in the 1980s, so one of the examples I often cite of how horror and comedy can dovetail as a coping  mechanism is from 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. It was a horribly tragic event. All the same, when I arrived at school the next day my  classmates were already cracking crude jokes about it.  Is that insensitive? Yes. It’s also an extreme example. I suppose there are limits to how horror and  comedy entwine. Even so, I do generally agree with that old Jimmy Buffett line: “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

What do you find inspires you most for writing horror? Do you find the real world has more inspiration to offer than your own imagination?

I think real-world experiences inform the imagination. Without life experience, you don’t have a frame of reference for telling a story because you don’t  have a true grasp of how the circumstances you’re imagining would realistically unfold.

What piece of writing of yours are you most proud of? What can you tell us about it?

Right now that would be my newest one: DIGGUM. It’s probably the darkest piece I’ve turned out so far. Most of my earlier work was designed with an  approximately equal amount of horror and funny. DIGGUM still has some of my dark humor in it, but the character himself is probably the darkest and least  buffoonish of any I’ve written so far.

Following on from the last question, are there any stories of yours that you are displeased with, that you would like to one day rewrite?

There are some pieces of stories that I would rewrite if I felt okay about rewriting something after release. However, I believe rewrites should be  considered complete once a work is out the door and in the reader’s hands. Unless you’re fixing a punctuation error or misspelling somewhere, changing the  way the story is told after that point is unfair to the audience because you are ultimately changing the original experience.

There are exceptions, of course. I read and loved both versions of Stephen King’s THE STAND. But I was not happy when he went back and rewrote portions of  THE GUNSLINGER to force-fit plot points that occurred much later in THE DARK TOWER series. Not that I want to identify with King’s Annie Wilkes, but to me  that felt like cheating.

Do you most enjoy books and films similar to the genre you write, or do you have a favourite genre that has little to do with horror?

I watch a little of everything, but I primarily read horror. It’s the priority for me in terms of my own personal entertainment. I also like sci-fi,  action, and some westerns on film. I’ll read some fantasy, but a lot of that genre is much too epic for my personal tastes.

What are your favourite movies? Favourite director?

I have many favorites. Among horror movies, that includes FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) and HALLOWEEN (1978). Coincidentally, my favorite directors for many years  were Tom Holland and John Carpenter. I’m also a big fan of Richard Donner’s directorial work. I have tremendous respect for the way Mary Lambert handled PET  SEMATARY (1989) as well. There’s also Stephen Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and John Landis from that decade, of course. Looking back over that list, it looks  like I’m kind of stuck in the late 70s and 80s. There are modern works and directors I like as well, but the ones I just listed usually end up at the top of  my mind. Rob Zombie’s own original stuff is awesome. Also, Gadi Harel’s DEADGIRL disturbed the hell out of me.

What are your favourite ever books (of any genre)? Favourite author?

I’m a huge Stephen King fan, naturally. I think my favorite Stephen King novel is PET SEMATARY. I also really enjoyed the first three books in Anne Rice’s  VAMPIRE CHRONICLES, although that entire series tends to veer more toward fantasy than horror after INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Other than those, I tend to  enjoy tight, really well choreographed work, like the stuff John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow write. I adored the hell out of SPORE.

A friend is choosing a horror film for you to watch. What’s your preference: slasher, b-movie, comedy-horror, supernatural thriller, gothic horror, classic  black-and-white, gorefest or just utterly weird? Or no horror at all!

In order: B-movie, slasher, comedy-horror, just utterly weird, classic black-and-white, gothic horror. The primary reason I rank them that way is that I’ve  seen most of the classic black-and-white a thousand times over. I also think gothic horror is really difficult to create effectively. I’m not sure I would  trust a friend to reliably pick anything for me except a B-movie or a slasher flick.

Your last published story was Diggum, about a graveyard caretaker. What can you tell us about it, and who should be excited to read it?

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I can tell you that Mr. Diggum is a man who has a grudge. I think it would appeal to anyone who likes to see a person who thinks they’ve been wronged try to  get justice. Diggum is angry at God for allowing his wife and son to burn to death. In his mind and faith, that accidental cremation means that they can’t  be resurrected when judgement arrives. So he decides to get back at God by ensuring that every dead person he can get his hands on is burned up as well.  It’s a bit of a “if I can’t have them, you can’t have them either” tale.

I see you made Diggum into a short movie! That’s brilliant. What was your experience creating this?

The dramatic version of DIGGUM is right now an audio piece in which I play the title character. What I originally wanted to do with that was get an animator  to take that narration and create a black-and-white line-drawn animation as the visual component. While I was recording the audio, I discussed the visual  component with some talented people I know. It turned out that there was a lot standing in the way of getting the visuals done at the time. So I just  decided to go ahead and put the audio for it out there by itself. I don’t know if the visuals will come to fruition, but I’d love to see it happen.

On a more recent note, I was approached a few weeks back by My Little Rascal Film Productions about doing three short films based on other stories. We’re  looking at 2017 for short film adaptations of NOBODY WAS HERE, BECAUSE REASONS, and a work called THE ROAD, which is based on HOPPERS. I’m excited to be  collaborating with them on these projects. They seem to have a real passion for it.

What would you say is the biggest struggle with being a self-published author?

Getting noticed. For good or ill, the self-published market is flooded with authors screaming at readers and other authors to read and review their work. The awesome thing about that is the variety of voices and choices for people who like to read for entertainment. The down side is that those same choices  are overwhelming in volume and readers have financial resource limits. That makes readers more likely to look for big names they recognize than take a  chance on a self-published author they might or might not enjoy. I should point out that I’ll be publishing these stories as long as I can continue writing  them and have the platform to put them out there, even if they aren’t noticed or picked up by hordes of readers.

What is a passion of yours that has absolutely nothing to do with horror?

Running. I love my cardio.

What do you think the most important thing to remember is when making comic writing actually funny?

The visual. For me, a line of words on a page can only be funny if it conjures a funny image in my head. You can tell me that a man slips and falls down a  set of stairs, but that by itself isn’t going to make me laugh. Describe the process in a funny way. Have him slip on a roller skate at the top of two  flights of stairs and pinwheel his arms down to the mid-landing. Have him stand up, dust himself off, breath a sigh of relief about not actually being hurt,  and then slip on the skate again as he tries to navigate the next flight. Done properly, I’d laugh at that.

Do you think horror can ever go ‘too far’? Whether in movies or books. Do you try and push against boundaries yourself? And have you ever held back?

I think pushing boundaries is part of what horror is supposed to be about. I keep that in mind while I’m writing. There’s always some point in a story  that I’ll hover over and think “am I going too far?” I kind of like pushing myself beyond my own comfort zone, though.

That said, yes, anything can go too far. In movies, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is probably the most famous example of that. They actually slaughtered animals for  that one. When your efforts at bloody realism do not stop with what you are able to do with your special effects, you’ve probably gone too far.

I think it’s a bit more difficult to go too far in literature. I should make clear that by “going too far” I do not mean just offending someone or some particular community standard. Going too far in literature would have to be something you write that actually creates a moral black hole, like the gentleman  in Stephen King’s short story WORD PROCESSOR OF THE GODS. He finds he is capable of erasing his wife and kid and changing his own life circumstances by just  writing about it.

If you had to be one of the classic Universal monsters for the rest of your life – The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf-Man, the Creature from the Black  Lagoon etc. – which would you be?

Definitely Dracula. The Universal version of him is pretty much the James Bond of the classic monsters, forever young and suave. Really, the only down side to being Dracula is that you sunburn too easily and your food source might try to kill you by damaging your heart. Is that much different from sitting on  the beach without sunscreen and living an all-bacon lifestyle?

Why do you think people like scaring themselves? Guillermo del Toro described horror movies as “roller coasters of the soul”. Would you agree with this when  it comes down to scary stories (in whatever medium )?

I think it’s an apt description. For me it’s always been a bit of a test. How much can I take? How long can I stand against this without backing down?  Perhaps it’s part of some evolutionary survival mechanism. You won’t fight and defeat the tiger unless you properly fear the tiger.

Zombie survival situation. You get a ranged weapon and a melee weapon – what do you choose?

Are grenades range weapons or melee weapons? Grenades. More grenades.

Thanks for the interview Isaac!

Thanks for the opportunity.

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Isaac Thorne is a nice man who has, over the course of his life, developed a modest ability to spin a good yarn. Really. He promises. He also avoids public men’s restrooms at all costs. He considers himself a lover of books, music, movies, and other forms of pop culture phenomenon. His philosophy on his life is that it’s all one giant experiment.

Website: https://www.isaacthorne.com
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Isaac-Thorne/e/B00CF4B3UU/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/isaacrthorne
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/isaacrthorne

Tales of Black Pine Falls: The Bogeymen

There is a place called Black Pine Falls.

A place where everything looks like a shadow of something else. The trees like tall, stiff men in the dark. A forest of people, hiding in mist. Huge caves like open mouths. Somewhere the rush of water.

You might go looking for it.

It’ll let you get close. Maybe you’ll hear the faint cries of children. The soft thump of an axe into wood. The smells of life and death and the swampblood. And just when you’re almost on top of it all it’ll be gone in smoke, leaving you with nothing but echoes.

The people in the town wipe holes on fogged windowpanes and stare out, at the distant lights of your torches and lanterns. Eventually the lights retreat and go out.

You can look as hard as you like. It’ll let you get as close as a whisper in your ear, before there’s nothing, nothing but fog and the clustering trees.

It simply isn’t there.

 

TALES OF BLACK PINE FALLS

The Bogeymen

 

‘Get away from that window!’ She heard her father bark from behind her. She didn’t react at first; she was intent on the treeline, the line that crept so close to their cabin, closer every day it seemed. Tendrils of mist snuck forward as though to grab at the porch light, wreathing around it. The lamp only glowed brighter in the coming dark, turning the mist to an orange haze and revealing those million dancing, falling things that lived in the air.

Her father didn’t ask twice. His hand grabbed her dress and she was yanked backwards. She would have hit the floor if his huge arms hadn’t been there to fall into.

‘What did I tell you?’ Her father said, and she hung her head and looked at her shoes. ‘You only just got in before dark when I told you to come home earlier. And now you’re at the window again. I don’t want you having nothing to do with the outside come evening times. Especially not now it’s September. Alright?’

‘I’m sorry, father,’ she said.

He pulled the curtains closed. ‘Go and play with your brother.’

Mabel nodded and sat down opposite her brother, who was doing weird things with his hands. He stopped and stared at her, and she opened her eyes as wide as they could go – which was very wide indeed – and stared back. This was a game they played often: whoever blinked first lost. It didn’t matter that she always lost, as she did again. Cain never did blink all that much even outside of the game. I blink when you blink, he told her once. That’s why you don’t see me do it.

Mabel picked up her brush and began to brush her black hair in front of the mirror. She heard her father grunt and walk off with his heavy tread on the floorboards, and she knew he was heading to the back of the cabin, to the adjoining woodshed where he did his wood carvings.

She looked at her reflection. Some people said that with her perfectly round face and perfectly straight hair and her large round eyes she looked like one of her father’s wood carvings. A painted doll, but not perfectly painted. There was a black spot underneath her right eye, like a stray drop of paint had flicked off the end of the brush and onto her cheek.

She didn’t think she was a wood carving, not anymore. She had believed when she was younger, though, and her father had been slow to dismiss her of the idea. She wasn’t allowed in the woodshed, but she’d peeked inside once when he was out felling trees; it was where he kept his creations, all his unpainted dolls and statues, his carved bears and miniature trees and his monsters. She’d seen them looking at her, even though most of them didn’t even have any eyes, and she’d quickly run back into her room. She didn’t want to be like them at all.

‘It’s getting late.’ Her Uncle Samson stretched out his legs in the rocking chair by the fire. He’d been quiet for a long time and she’d thought him asleep. ‘Let me tell you both a story while Caleb’s busy.’

Mabel and Cain sat down at his feet in front of the log fire that kept the outside chill almost at bay. Samson opened a book by Atticus, the writer who lived in the town and wrote almost all the books. Most of them were not very long and seemed very improbable, but Mabel understood that was just how books were.

They sat, clutching their knees while their uncle told them the story about a magic device that some people had that could let you talk from one side of the forest to another, all the way across Black Pine Falls. You spoke into it and it sent the words sailing out, and they bounced off every tree, entirely invisible until they reached the other person’s device, where they became sounds again.

‘What about in the White Circle, where there are no trees?’ Mabel asked.

‘That’s when the words fly up and hit the moon,’ her uncle answered. ‘Then they fall back down to the other person.’

‘I don’t believe in magic like that,’ Mabel said.

‘You don’t need to believe in a story,’ her uncle said, closing the book. ‘Stories just are.’

Their father returned then, wiping his brow, and sent them off to bed. He was tucking Cain in when he realised that the curtains to their room had not been drawn. He stiffened and quickly grabbed the sides, but hesitated. He was staring out, out into the darkness. The lamp outside had gone out.

‘Are they out there, father?’ Mabel asked.

‘They’re out there,’ her father replied.

‘Are they still hiding?’

‘No, they’re not hiding anymore.’ He wrenched the curtains closed.

Mabel stared into the candlelight next to her as her father sat down heavily on her bed. He put a hand on her leg.

‘Sleep tight, sleep true,’ he said, in the same low monotone he did every night. Mabel always thought it sounded strange, like some kind of chant. ‘Don’t let the bogeymen get you.’

‘They won’t get me, will they father?’

‘Not if you’re a good girl,’ he said, and left, closing the door behind him.

Mabel watched the guttering candle. Outside she thought she could hear something, a very faint rustling. But it was probably just the wind and the trees.

 

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Author and purveyor of all things dark and weird