Tag Archives: fiction

The Violet Dark #6

Here is the fifth little part of the hallucinogenic road thriller/horror The Violet Dark, following directly on from Part 5. You can buy the full novella for mere pennies/cents/whatever on Amazon, or as part of the short story collection Faces in the Dark

 

 

He turned, yelling ‘RUN!’ at her, and as he turned like a circus ride the blot in the grass reached up with a scabbed whip and pulled at his ankle. He lurched at the ground like a coffin-body tipped and evicted. It struck his chin and he suddenly, face in grass, felt coddled by a burrow of ant-things, a swarm of nests gathering up the tangles of his facial hair and tying them to posts, them to ensnare him here like some Gulliver.

Pain bruised its way through his chin, carried up the lines of his jaw by a new postal service of ant-things, the old nervous system left hammered and purged. All innocent backs to the wall.

He was spun by a powerful force, and the galaxy of his vision was inflicted by horror, by a famine of good things and a desolation of ugliness laid bare.

He had only come so close to the face – was it their face? Was it one of many? – about seven times. Seven times seen that black grinning, garing maw, that boiled, pustulous sea. Always at night. In the doomy dive-bar depths of the violet dark. Treasury chest of nightmares.

He shoved with all his ancestral might and the stormcloud crouched over him like a lightless wolf alighted, pulled back by the hem of its neck, its soul’s nametag, by a hand from above only ever visible as forceless void.

Its snout vomited some gurlish possessed dribble, then shrunk back into the huddle of features; the draws, cabinets and chairs that sat, circled and silent in the gloom of the gaunt attic-space of the devil. The door open wide, a cold usher to the wordless guests of the dead.

He realised the shadow was crunched, almost doubled. It was hurt.

He looked around, sweeping the treeline over the road with shipdeck vision. He saw her, running off into where his gaze could not follow. The violet dark between the trees.

He followed on foot, as fast as he could. He realised in slow-motion catch-up, an inside runner huffing to the delivery post to give the updated news, that he had left the shotgun.

He turned and saw that right behind him was the shadow, and suddenly the shotgun was in his hand after all, it was part of him all along, and he raised his hand like the fiery finger of God’s wrath and he squeezed the trigger and the head of the thing – was it a head? Was it one of many? – fell off.

 

She loped through the air like a moonwalker, drifting in terror. It was the fastest her body could agree with her on. She could see next to nothing. Clasped in the bosom of the wood. She stopped, a second-guess, a moment’s premeditation. An image of a sawn-off shotgun.

The sound almost raised the graveful bowels of Hell.

 

She crawled through an orchard of thorns. The twisting claws of the undergrowth. She heard thudding all around, and incoherent screams and warcries. Footsteps of the hunter.

The plants bled together, caught up in this passing storm.

Focus

The plants blood blood of the plants my blood

Focus you fucking bitch whore cunt

Your life depends on it. The barrel of thought rolled into her, and things jammered a little clearer.

Quiet now. Remember the cats – move like them.

She stood up and turned right into him.

Him.

 

Her. After a moment of abject panic, the second before the storm, he saw her for who she was. He knew that light in the world.

He gathered her up in his arms.

 

A bear risen out of the swampy darkness and she wrapped in a bear-hug.

Canoes slit through soft, thin bayous on either side of her. In scared, bewildered embrace.

Into the heart of things.

 

‘What was it?’

‘I call them shadows.’

‘You’ve seen one before?!’

‘Oh, yes. All the time.’

 

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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.

The Violet Dark extract

Check out an extract from the hallucinogenic road thriller/horror below. This does not follow on from my previous TVD posts, but is an extract from later on. It can be found in full here.

 

The Second and Third

 

Close Encounters of the Netherkind

 

They were driving slowly along when they saw them. Two shadows coming in from the side, reaching out with clawing hands. Waving in the air like black weeds.

Horror gripped her heart in savage hands. She was frozen by these elongated demons, unable to move, unable to turn her bike or stop or speed past. She proceeded with ghastly inevitability towards their outstretched hunger, and the closer she came the more a sense of terrible decay festered within her.

With the anger of a rising engine he overtook her, and the shadows seemed to shrink, to gabble with sudden uncertainty even as he decelerated. He raised his shotgun and blew through one of them. The other emitted a shriek and contorted, spider-like, ready to spring. The gun span and there was empty space in its chest. The bike growled to a stop.

She stared at him and at the twitching grotesques. Inky clouds seemed to seep from the ground beneath them.

Move,’ he said, revving the bike and taking off, and as her bike rolled past the scene she felt control come back into her body, and with tight fingers she accelerated.

 

Think. Think.

It was no use. Her mind was scattershot and wild. Around her hedgerows and fences were paintings of carnage, of orgiastic horrors gorging themselves on human bones. She saw her face everywhere, plagued and in pain, and she saw her limbs eaten like corn on the cobs. Everything satanic and diseased, everything them, all watching her, ready to jump from the trees, from the sky above; legions of shadows eager to break through the road and pull her down into Hell.

Around bends she sometimes lost him, and then she was a doll of blood-coloured china, petrified and shattered with the smallest push. A minute would feel a lifetime, suspended in perennial shell. She could not even close her eyes, although she knew doing so would only deliver her into a blacker perdition, an abyss of no escape.

When she saw him again, that soft blur streaking through the night air, the relief rained on her in a hot shower. She would tailgate him, bewitched by his presence and his guardianship, and he would look back and through everything she could always see the smile.

The blue lights came up on them from behind. That same colour blue that had flickered through the trees while they were naked and bestial. A supernatural blue, a blue of Reykjavik ice caves, a blue of Roswell experiments on beings with tennis ball eyes.

Whatever was coming drove the lights before them, and when she turned her head to see she could see nothing but the sheen of abduction blue.

Something new. Is there no end? But her thoughts lost themselves to the cerulean haze, as though it were an occult fog designed to bend her mind to dumb wonder. Space. Ocean. I am theirs. Up, up and away. Neptune. Perhaps I am the alien here. Vivisection. Ice. A cold flood. The blue cheeks of death. I must. I must see. I must see the sea.

‘Don’t let them bewitch you. They’re not good.’ Her half-closed eyes opened to see him riding alongside her. She blinked and turned to look at it hard, and saw beyond the lights.

A great cat? Was her first thought, but she couldn’t be sure. Slowed down this seemed something different, though perhaps of the same dimension. Through the fuzz and watercolours and casts of fog she made out the heads and tentacle arms of shadows inside.

So, they have their tricks. They have those that would carry them, those that would shine the beacons.

She clasped the throttle just before he did, and as they raced through the muddy world the shadows and their lights chased them. She did not look back again.

Fear kept her in control, as everything about her turned to a smear. She was leading now, and they crossed onto new roads.

She turned onto a smaller road, then a track, then off the track and through woods. She rode off a bank – her heart was in her mouth – and landed with a thump that tottered the bike and she fell off as the bike curled itself onto the ground.

He came soon after, making the jump and swerving to a stop just before he hit a tree. They pulled the bikes to the rim of the bank and crouched there, knees pulled up, listening.

‘Why are they after us?’ she whispered. If not for the violet’s effect on her night vision she would have been nearly blind.

‘They know we’re a threat.’

‘But why are we? Is it because we killed some of them?’

‘They came after us first.’

‘Then why?’ she pressed.

He sighed. ‘Because we’re not like them. We don’t live in their world.’

‘What world is that?’

But he wouldn’t answer.

 

Light flashed through the wood briefly, and they heard grunts and sunken hoots like netherworld gibbons, but after that no more lights came, no seeking shadows nor the roadbeasts that carried them. They stayed to make sure, and soon their eyelids blinked heavier and heavier, and the abyss clawed up to them and dragged them down with hungry arms.

 

Airborne Dreams

 

Too high to fall

 

She dreamt she was high up, looking down on a rug of white mould. Level with her passed a procession of spirits. They ignored her as any ethereal might do to a mortal.

Leviathans of snow and cold cotton came and went. She heard him, but the murmuring words were indistinct.

She drifted lower and passed through the carpet. Beneath it was the night. A black sea in all directions. The endless, sucking void.

Spider webs of amber lights defied the empty. Breathtaking mosaics spaced as far as the eye could see. Civilisation. The world of man was nought but a Halloween decoration. Man and woman, she corrected herself. This was hers too, and all must be held accountable.

Connecting these lonely outposts were trickles of moving lights that snaked through the ink, fighting through the black swamp that threatened to engulf them from all directions. She knew the trails must also be bridges without supports, balanced or hovering by some magic across the void.

Stay away from the dark, she heard him say. Love it with fear and stay away. When you leave the paths of light you fall and you fall forever.

 

He dreamt of monsters with human faces and the shuffling dead. Of cold blue prisons, and a mantra, murmured through unconscious lips.

The hour is black, I do not sleep. Shadows they are watching me.

Do not answer the door.

He dreamt of a boy traumatised, not by the actions of others but by his own; struck dumb with all that he had seen, with all that had come and not come from his being in the world.

This torture of innocence excited the man he was, and while he dreamt of darker things and his head swam giddy, the boy in the locked cage cried and cried and cried.

 

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The Gauntlet of Gore #2

The Gauntlet of Gore is a strange and bloody short story/novella about a competitive school sport where players punch opposing players in the stomach with a powered gauntlet, which makes the person explode.

There is also a pervading supernatural horror element –  and some of the creepiest team captains you may ever encounter…

You can find it on Amazon here.

Here is a second extract to read. This extract does not follow on from the prior one.

 

Extract #2:

 

She ran.

She ran from the battle.

She ran from her team mates.

She ran from Mike.

‘Sarah!’ she heard the cry behind her, but she didn’t look around; she was too busy jumping fallen branches, ducking and dodging, and putting her screaming legs to the limit as she sprinted through the darkness.

Gotta stay alive, she repeated to herself, and even the disembodied voice in her head was panting the words. Can’t win if I’m dead, it shifted to, and she began to convince herself that this was strategy, and not a cowardly, selfish flight.

The trees clustered in closer, and she slowed, eventually coming to a halt when she could no longer hear any signs of pursuit. She walked among the bones of black trees, feeling sick and empty. She snapped off some broad leaves from a plant and tried to wipe some of the muck off her face.

She had lost all sense of direction. She didn’t know if she was heading back to the field, or deeper into the woods.

It was starting to get cold. While it might be daylight outside, in here it might as well be night. She inspected the trees closely, but she couldn’t see a single camera, and she had a chilling feeling that nobody knew where she was, that she was entirely alone.

The noise was like the creak of a door, or a slowly falling tree, except it wasn’t natural, but came from a mouth. It rose in volume, a harpy screech that seemed to come from every nook and pore of the forest.

‘Who’s there?’ Sarah called out, not caring anymore about revealing her position to another player. She wanted to surrender. She wanted to put her arms up, take her gauntlet off and give herself up.

But she knew that you couldn’t surrender. Not in this game. If you put your arms up, you were dead.

Then someone, something came out from behind a tree, a tree so thin it seemed impossible it could have hidden her, it. The woman was completely naked, pale as death and almost skeletal. Her bones gleamed slightly, with an almost sickly wet pallor. There was nearly no light, but the woman’s popping, owl-ish eyes shone black and white, like polished snooker balls.

The creature was the Stonewaters captain, and she was smiling, impossibly wide and stretched, her rubbery lips coming almost up to her eyeballs. The teeth had come out from the gums, and were now as long as fingers, as thin as twigs and as sharp as stakes.

Sarah couldn’t breathe. Her feet were stuck to the ground. She saw the pale monster reach out her spindly arms, holding them outstretched before her. The fingers, like the teeth, were longer than before, and were growing before her eyes. The fingers came out like a network of roots blossoming in fast forward through the earth. They crept through the air towards her, multiplying in crooked joints with every few inches gained. As they grew, they creaked and rasped.

Sarah screamed then, trailing off in a whimper when she saw the huge eyes light up, as though inner delight fed the torch that burned behind those black-white bulbs.

The creature licked its lips with a slimy black tongue.

‘We took care of the cameras, dearie,’ said the creature in a voice like a saw. ‘Nobody sees when we don’t want them to.’

The two other captains appeared from behind poles of bark to either side of the woman, both as naked, like sharp white stick figures animated out from black line trees.

They were smiling too.

Sarah heard the drone, the sound that had replayed in her head since yesterday, since listening to the captains stood tall and grinning on that stage. That flat buzzing sound that now came from everywhere, came from inside her, trembling like worms in her veins and flies in her guts.

She put her hands over her ears, but the droning, the creaking, the screech of the captains was not muffled. The woman’s fingers had reached her now, tickling her chest and neck. The fingertips curled and tried to hook her, to snag her flesh.

The droning was increasing in volume, and Sarah imagined a brush in her mind, a hard thin broom with fingers for bristles, sweeping away the clutter of her thoughts, sweeping away her horror, slowly leaving her mind’s corridors and halls polished and empty, with only the scrape of fingernails to mark them.

The terror faded, and numbness washed through her. The woman’s groaning fingers tickled her mouth, trying to pry her lips open so they could come inside.

The finger-broom in her mind opened the doors to her memories, and advanced.

 

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Moral Zero extract #4

Moral Zero is a dystopian thriller with post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, existential and horror themes. Contains visceral and potentially disturbing sexuality and violence and is not for everyone, certainly not the faint of heart and stomach.

It is currently self-published as an ebook and can be found on Amazon for Kindle here.

Disclaimer: The lack of speech marks and other idiosyncrasies are deliberate.

Here is another extract from it.

 

THE BLACK DREAM

 

Smoke and darkness. Little lights like glowing insects popped into existence and he saw that they were beetles, their carapaces embedded in the walls and their antennae feeling out to brush against him like the hairs of a carpet. They were alive. The feelers tickled his skin as if judging his merit.

It was a tunnel and he moved down it, moving like a phantom, something not really there, perhaps a hallucination or a memory. There was dark at the end of the tunnel and it was this that he was shifting towards. It was this where the smoke was coming from. It billowed like a plume, caught up in the dull beetle light and shining in patches, coming reflective in wisps – and then just a thick, lifeless fog. He could feel the hissing from the end of the tunnel and yet he could not hear it. The tunnel seemed without air and he was not breathing and the smoke as it rolled and writhed seemed at moments as though some creature winding out the netherworlds, and then other moments was a mirror to him, a mirror almost fully gaps and broken shards and the spider-thin fingers of smoke reflected his eyes and nothing more and at one instance a thousand eyes stared at him and then it was just smoke.

He reached the end. The vacuum trembled with the hissing and still all was silent and now he was in darkness.

There was a stretch of time alien and unknowable as he shifted and hovered and drifted as though smoke himself. He felt pulled back and forth as though on currents not his own. His legs remained useless and dangling and his body was pained by the pressures of larger forces upon it. He wanted to speak, to say that he was under his control and his alone, but that which controlled him would not permit this and his mouth stayed shut and sewn.

After the alien time and alien movement there was a flicker of light and he fell to the floor. His legs buckled and jarred and he had to recall the methods of their use. The flicker was growing and the first sound came, that of sizzling meat.

His eyes blinked and there was fire all around him and he was choking. But not from the smoke, which infested him as though part of his being. He choked at the sight of the lumps of meat in the fire, sizzling away, and then great sobs found their way through him and his body racked and heaved and he vomited and drooled and trembled impotently as the flesh bubbled and he traced the contours of the body parts with his fingers as if sketching in the air. The noises of the cooking and blistering meat were now accompanied by screams, even though there was nothing alive to make them and the screams were more like a chorus of echoes.

The stitching around his mouth was gone and he whimpered like a pup and was on all fours as he put his hands over his ears but the screams of the burning woman were still there, now louder and fierce as though the desperation to be saved had reached its point of crescendo and yet any hope of salvation was a lifetime ago and all that resounded within his head was a spirit, accusatory in his not being there and shrill in her anguish.

I couldn’t stop them, he said, all cracked and pathetic like a broken thing. The fires burned brighter and the smoke clogged and almost mercifully began to blind him from the detail.

She wailed as though a banshee and his tears fell so strong that they seemed that they could hold back the fires, and if they did it was only for him, or perhaps the fire just refused itself to touch him, but no amount of tears or buckets or oceans of water could quell its hold on her body.

He fell to the ground and curled up, twisted and unformed, more corpse than babe, some thing almost all dead inside, and even his raging hatred of mankind for its evil deed was at the moment stoppered and empty, ready to fill back up to overflowing whenever some idea of life returned to his body and mind, whatever its guise and whatever black road such an idea might lead him down.

 

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The Gauntlet of Gore

The Gauntlet of Gore is one of my longer short stories – a similar length to The School of Necromancy, if you read that. It is also, perhaps, my bloodiest, and one of my strangest.

It is about a competitive school sport where players punch opposing players in the stomach with a powered gauntlet, which makes the person explode.

There is also a pervading supernatural horror element –  and some of the creepiest team captains you may ever encounter…

You can find it on Amazon here.

An extract:

 

The grass were iron blades burnished under the heat of the midday sun. Millions upon millions of little knives, all thirsting, ready to whet their whistles on the redness of humans.

The grounds for play covered the field, the central mud banks where lives were often lost, and the sparse yet dark forests around the fringes, where each team would begin. That’s where they waited, so tense you could cut yourself on their muscles. Some shivering, some breathing deep, some with eyes closed and praying to the gods of slaughter.

In no time at all, each of them would look a horror, team colours almost indistinguishable under slopping coats of mud and blood. Fighting, frenzied and frothing, lost in the berserker hazes of battle lust and battle terror. The tactics drilled into them could never last forever, could never be present when you were staring into the rolling whites of enemy eyes. Then, it was just you and them, and your death hung on a seesaw.

The woods were thin, but most of the trunks were wide. In the later stages of the game, sometimes called the hunt, sometimes called clean-up, they would hide players, players shivering and scared, putting off the inevitable, and players silent in their concealment, waiting to assassinate their hunters. Overhead the canopy was thick and heavy from these trees, filling in the gaps and shutting out the sun. The experienced players stood and crouched like panthers in the darkness, feeling the dirt under them and stroking the bark of the trees with their free hand.

You couldn’t see the cameras unless you were looking for them, but they were there. They had their places. In the field the cameras were long-range, pointing in at the action from the sidelines, but here they sneaked in among the trees, flicking on and off with night vision to the rapt, hungry attention of their audience.

The spectators sat in their stands on the only side of the field not bordered by woods, munching their processed meats and gurgling beer, keeping eyes on the huge screens that showed the choice views from the cameras, field and forest. The audience who watched at home slunk lower in their fat armchairs, or indulged drunken bloodlusts perched on barstools with their chattering, gasping brethren.

No spectators would cross the boundaries and come onto the pitch. There would be no streakers, no attention-seekers. If you passed the boundaries, your life was forfeit. Neither the Organisers or any player were held responsible if you were hurt, or if you died.

The audience stayed put.

This wasn’t as polished a set-up as the Nationals, or the World Titles, but a lot of people preferred the Locals, the inter-school matches. They were amateurs, technically, but the orgy of violence suited them, suited the dirt and roughness of the grounds. There were only a handful of pro stadiums – called Coliseums these days – out there. The players didn’t play on fields and in forests and sliding up and down mud banks, but on laminate flooring. Obstacles were varied, with new ones introduced in each game, keeping a novelty element for the audience and a surprise element for the teams. Regular obstacles included a simulated forest made of branchless, leafless poles to dodge, a waxen floor to slip and slide on, and a crowd favourite, an area of connected trampolines. You hadn’t seen anything until you’d seen two players jumping towards each other, fists connecting in each other’s stomachs, and exploding in mid-air.

Sarah checked her gauntlet for what seemed to be the twentieth time. There was no such thing as over-checking, not when your life depended on it working and staying strapped tight around your hand. She opened the small protective casing, flicked the switch and felt the familiar thrum, the vibrations coursing through her fingers and up her arm. When it hit the spot, a stomach, the vibrations, tuned to the perfect frequency, would multiply over and over, rumbling their way through the gauntlet and rippling the enemy’s (you better hope they were an enemy) stomach. And then they exploded.

She moved to switch it back off, when a siren sounded, sharp and angry, emitting from every camera. Now she could see them, blinking black and sullen in the trees.

‘Switch ‘em on!’ she shouted, and those players that needed telling did so.

She looked over at Mike, who nodded at her, his face hard. She turned to see Joseph, who had his eyes closed and was muttering fast to himself. She was relieved to see his gauntlet was on and working.

A couple of steps before her, Freddy was stretching. You better be good, she thought.

A second noise, higher than the last, and ending faster.

‘Everybody!’ Sarah shouted. ‘You’re here now! If you want to turn back, it’s too late, you’ll just have to fight your way out! Remember your training! Remember your teammates! Fight for your team, fight for your life, fight for William Howard! Give ‘em Hell!’

A cheer, desperate and aggressive, was echoed by some, and was quickly swallowed by the darkness. Some of them were gulping repeatedly and some were shaking their heads, as though wishing the dream away.

The third call.

They ran.

 

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The Violet Dark #5

Here is the fifth little part of the hallucinogenic road thriller/horror The Violet Dark. You can buy the full novella for mere pennies/cents/whatever on Amazon.

 

No Ordinary Man

 

You cannot share a voice

 

He put his hand on her bare arm, and she shuddered as if struck with some kind of charge. Her flesh seemed to give way before him, and she tried to stiffen, but her body was relaxing, pooling itself. Her skin spongelike as it bathed in darkness.

‘You are not like ordinary men,’ she murmured, and as she saw the crescent grin of bone she thought of men, men in herds, trampling the jungle and raising barrels of dust on old tracks. Men with their trunks and horns of all sizes waving and cutting through the air. And then, her eyes deeply closed, she saw their sight, their destination, and as if some cabaret parody of the reverse she saw the women, the lithe vulpines, twitching their tails and swaying serpentine, ballooned calling cards on their chests and lower backs, and the herds of men and women raised up their voices in song and shouts and screaming and roaring, all notes of chaos, pleasure and pain.

And then her eyes snapped open, the herds of the sexes snapped out of existence, and she knew how wrong it all was.

‘You see that it is wrong,’ he said, as if courtesy to her visions. ‘I am not like ordinary men because there are no ordinary men. There are no men and women. There is just a man. And there is a woman. And another man, another woman. Do you see? We belong no more to these groups than a cast rock belongs to the hillside. Society feels the need to categorise, and especially for the biggest groups of all, splitting the world into a mere two. But nobody is alike. There is nobody, no individuals or committees who can speak for these groups, because they are chaos. The wall of sound gibberish of billions speaking is the same as having no voice at all. There will be no agreement. Never.’

He paused to smoke. ‘I do not understand these gender wars. You look at me and say no ordinary man. I say no ordinary woman and I could say that to any woman anywhere. There is nothing in gender. You have the animal sex of your body. Beyond that two possibilities. No gender at all. Or every gender, an individual gender for every person that ever walked the earth. Either way it is meaningless. Your gender is your personality. You hold no membership cards to these sprawling groups. They are not your team. You cannot win, you cannot lose.

‘These women and men are shapeless, allowed to become a brick in a living, pulsating wall. They defend “their own”’ – he danced his fingers in the air – ‘by attacking the other side. Us and Them . . . the most primitive of human behaviours, so regressive as to be embarrassing. There are no sides! No sides but every side for every one. Too many sides. You are on your own, do not permit someone to speak for you. You are an individual. You are never a group. Anything more put on you is a direct insult.’

Alright, calm down, she thought. Barely talk and then it all at once. Didn’t ask for an essay. And you’re still no ordinary man.

 

He touched the skin of her arm, and felt it ripple. He closed his eyes and saw the throbbing wetness between her thighs. Under her flesh, the pump of hot blood.

He moved his face closer, and she turned her head, shaking.

‘What?’ he said.

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘I’m struggling to keep hold . . . after what’s happened . . . I don’t know you, I don’t understand what’s changing . . .’

‘I don’t know you either.’ He spoke softly, purring the words. ‘You do not need to struggle. Let life wash you away. Nothing has happened. The past has no existence.’

He took her by the face. ‘Look. Look around at the serenity violet gives you. This gothic theatre. A lurid opulence. This is where you are needed.’

‘Needed by who?’

‘By yourself . . . By me.’

She tried to smile and yet turned her head away again. ‘I need time.’

He inclined his head. ‘Of course. I know that. Time to develop, time to grow, to fall away . . . Time to love again. It took me long, too long.’

He moved away from her, closing an imaginary door behind him. He sighed, reaching for a cigarette, and stood smoking in the cool dark. Clad in a shroud of deep sea blues and the side of his vision bleeding garishly from the bright spectre of the moon.

‘Need,’ he whispered. ‘There’s all the time about us, she won’t be needing that. She’ll be needing a lot more soon. She will be needing me.’

The thought didn’t make him smile.

 

The First

 

What is left when all things are empty

 

They saw the first one when they were on their backs. Lying on a quilt of grass in the hole of the night, loomed over by the skulls of houses.

The air was brittle, and from time to time he would reach out with piano hands and snap it. Fingers ivory keys in the blackness. Palms of the dumb. He’d grope up blindly, eyes tweaking like a pink mole rat rising from the earth. Fat raw limpdick. Loin maggot. Wait till you’re out of your infancy. Snuffling round holes laid in the dewy dawn.

His silverback hands rustling the tins hidden in the sheets of the wind, which hugged and poked them relentlessly, attention-seeking. His fingers curling, crab-like, scrabbling at the elements above. Finding a purchase among the nooks.

She felt it snap. A bone of air. She could hear it, like the click of fingers in her earlobe.

She shuddered, as he did it for the fourth time. ‘Please stop.’

He turned his head on daggers of grass, and looked at her, holding a grin. Werewolf-in-tow. ‘Am I breaking it?’

That’s when it came. Slipping from the edge of a wall.

She shot up, the rush of new perspective disorientating her and she staggered. He took her arm.

 

There’s one there looking at us. No sudden movements. Don’t want her to –

He saw her rise to her feet like a pillar birthed from the soil. His eyes hooded and he climbed to his feet slowly, carefully, just in time to catch her stumble.

The shadow listed closer to them, hugging the wall. It was making sounds. Submarine sounds of the unconscious. They had always sounded so far off, incoherent. Drowned whale songs.

‘I’ve got a gun,’ he said.

 

The thing in front of them, a cut-out of the paper maps of the world and all its inanimates. Only oily space beyond.

The thing moved as if it was falling and melting through the landscape. A handpainted nightmare tripping between the pages of a comic book. Moving in slides. Falling apart and gathering in patches in a Rorschach mime.

She shivered in disgust. There was something deathly about it. Something corpuscular and yet without body – an un-thing, a gap in things. Negation in shape.

When she started registering the sounds she took a step back and gave a little helpless cry of fear. The sounds of dull rotting pines banging together in an empty forest. The foghorns of old animals crawling and crashing out the mountain. Booming and braying at the pus of the moon.

‘Stay back,’ he said. She didn’t know if he was talking to her or it.

‘What is it?’ she whispered, and she noticed he was pointing at it with a twisted metal stick, some set-eyed guru shaman holding the demon back with voodoo.

She blinked and looked between them and saw a shotgun aimed at a quivering, crumbling blur. The noises gibbering and sullen.

‘Don’t shoot,’ she said instinctively. He glanced at her, eyebrows furrowed, and his arms lowered.

In an instant so vacuous, so robbed of living moment, the shadow jumped at them. It was a window pane of time that smashed them in the face, the flesh of the world in the shutter frames of a strobelight. It touched her; some greasy black flap waved over her bare skin. Its huge and hideous face garish in ugliness, in its spits of soot, its streaking lines of black blood. A face amorphous. Porcine and canine and that same naked mole rat twitching its eyes.

She fell back and her spine cracked the grass.

All eyes, mouth eyes. All mouth, eyes mouth.

A second had passed, and yet the scene moved in waves, slow laps at the shores of consciousness. The shape was wrestling with the gun, and her man – person, beautiful real person! Her man! – was roaring angry and wretched. He kicked, and the demon fell. Its shifting coal features once more a smudge. No-face, no-body.

 

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The Hallucinogenic Power of Words

I have a very visual approach to writing. No, not just a visual, a sensory approach to writing. Something, or more likely many, many things, appear in my head, and I must capture them. I am always trying to not just paint a picture, but to paint sound, movement, and atmosphere.

This, to my eternal frustration, is impossible. A picture paints a thousand words, but a thousand words do not make a picture. No matter how much I – or any other in my place – try, I will not be able to accurately communicate what I see in my head.

This could be well seen as a criticism against my writing, perhaps even a fault of my character as a writer. Not that I fail in this regard (for it is impossible), but that I am so focused on trying. I am, perhaps, more interested in these efforts at communication, than I am in the stories themselves. My approach is often cinematic in intent, and when I’m trying to illustrate sounds, sights, movements and cinematic atmosphere in words I feel like I’m trying to draw blood from a collapsed vein.

Not that writing doesn’t have atmosphere of its own. The atmosphere of the cinema is the sensory atmosphere, while the atmosphere of the book is a cerebral atmosphere, crafted, received and understood in an entirely different way.

You may ask, if I am trying so hard to replicate a movie, why I do not go into making movies, or if I am so interested in painting a particular picture, why I am not a painter. Partly because I (think I) know how to write, and am better at it than I am at anything else. I do not know how to make movies, or paint pictures – and both these talents require quite a lot more expenditure and set-up than just putting pen to paper/fingers to keys. Another reason is that I have simply more interest in writing than these other fields; I can imagine myself as a writer, but not really as the others, nor am I much inclined to try.

There is one more reason, a reason why, if I was to turn to these fields and, against all odds, excel at them, why I would still be in eternal frustration. The pictures, sounds, feelings, atmospheres, textures and all other ideas in my head are transient, flickering and completely elusive; they last less than a second. They are never concrete, not in the slightest, but merely vague concepts and shadows. I’ll understand them, sometime a little, sometimes completely – but I could never define them, I could never capture them, not to canvas nor film. Apart from anything else, there is simply not enough time – like trying to catch the fastest and smartest of butterflies in a broken net.

These are not the only reasons. For all us authors’ failures to replicate the magic, pathos, dynamics, drama, and sensory thrill of movies, our writing has its own strengths that movies cannot replicate.

Movies are the kings of crafting experiences born of the senses, of the outside world, but they are slaves to these things. For what about the inner world? Bar using narration – likely stolen from the book-before-the-film – what can a film tell us of what’s going on inside someone’s heads, of their actionless intentions, their dreams, their thoughts? How are these characters perceiving the world, perceiving conversations, perceiving the people they interact with?

It is this where the written word reigns king. Novels are the inside world. They are the behind-the-scenes of the movies (or, conversely, movies are the eyes and ears of novels). And it is this, this inner voice that has its way with everything, with every spoken word, every person, every animal, every rock, tree, blade of glass, every knife and drop of blood – it is this that I can control, that I can send out like a dog to war.

A movie can show you what a tree looks like, but it can never tell you how to perceive it. It cannot tell you that this tree looks like a cluster of crooked fingers, stabbing the sky. That the tree looks angry, and broken, old not in time but in weariness. That the tree is sick, not by disease but by bitterness. It cannot tell you that the few green leaves of the coming spring are its last plaintive calls of hope.

This is where I come to the title of this essay/speech/post/observation/whatever.  For, you see, cinema has always failed at attempting to replicate the experience of hallucinogenics. It will, perhaps, show you a new, absurd land, of melting walls, snakes in the carpet, talking lizards, giant purple mushrooms, pink elephants, cavorting spirals and dodecahedrons, and everything quite madcap, like a fairytale, a fantastical nightmare, or a Dali painting.  Out of all these, perhaps only the melting and the abstract geometry (fractals is the key word) have much of a truth to them. You can watch as many things attempting to describe the hallucinogenic experience to you, and you will never understand, because the key component, your brain, has stayed the same.

For, as I have said, movies show you things. They deliver their goods unto your eyes and ears, and they can give these goods in whatever package they desire. But they cannot give you anything direct to your brain; your brain will remain entirely yours, always rational (assuming you are already rational), and never screwed with.

Hallucinogenics, on the other hand, leave your eyes and ears alone. You will still see the same lamp, the same desk, the same ceiling and walls, and the very same people around you. Your eyes and ears are fine; they do the job as they have always done, and they give their reports to the brain, and then they get the fuck out of there, washing their hands and saying ‘what happens next is none of my business’.

Yes, your senses are still working perfectly, and that lamp will never change to a demon, that ceiling will never drip tentacles, and that desk will never start talking to you.

However.

What is happening is inside you. Your perspective is what changes. The changing perspectives of the mind is something movies cannot meddle with; it is quite impossible, no matter what tricks they have up their sleeve to make you think they are succeeding.

But words! All those abstract passages, sentences, and mere standalone metaphors and similies that you have no doubt read many of, to greater or lesser degrees, in your life – they are all illustrations of perspective. That tree is not really a hand; you are, of course, still seeing a tree, but doesn’t it make you think . . . perhaps enough to be completely convinced . . .

The brain can be very convincing at these times. Not just with drug-induced hallucinations, but in ‘ordinary’ hallucinations, in the fleeting phantasms of the night, of the corners of our eyes, of those quick, frightening things that scurry in and out of this world just long enough for us to hear something and imagine something else.

Writing can tell you what’s going on in the inside, but not the outside. And so while it cannot show you the real colour of the leaves, or the real sound of the cough right behind you, right now, it can tell you, as best it can, better than anything really can, what’s going on in your head, in my head, and in the heads of my characters.

And that is why I write.

 

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The School of Necromancy #2

Good eve to you.

As a further taster, here is the second little part to the short gothic story The School of Necromancy. It seems to be a mite more popular than my other stuff, so thought I’d give it another push. This part is more of a brief background/explanation of the school and its subjects.

You can find it for Kindle here (or, as usual, on your local Amazon, if you are not American).

 

The School of Necromancy

 

The S.O.N. functions as a school and university both. It teaches students aged, with exceptions of mature students and gifted young prodigies, fifteen to twenty-one or twenty-two; a degree, to those staying on past the age of eighteen, being either a three year or four year course.

The subjects we teach are many, but you will, perhaps, sense a common theme. The first couple of years are chiefly theoretical, apart from groundswork, which is, when you rub away the bullshit, gravedigging. Like most schools and universities, nobody takes first years seriously, no matter how lofty their ambitions. You do the work, and you do it well, without complaining, and you just might rise in estimation.

Apart from groundswork, you will study necrochemistry and necrobiology (nec-chem and nec-bio for short), anatomy, mortuary science, embalming, dissection, cremation, history, gothic art, forensic pathology, elementary reanimation, elementary occultism, and so on. Fairly basic stuff, looking back, and some of us, myself included, felt pretty held back. But of course a lot of us had our wild ideas, and without a solid framework to base them on we may have failed later on.

For every year, including the degree years, you will study and take notes from the many-volumed Necronomicon. Not Abdul Alhazred’s book, of course, but the Necronomicon textbook, 7th edition. In its weighty pages contains just about everything, up to a professional level, to do with treating, understanding, raising, and controlling the dead.

If you choose to do a degree (and some of the less gifted or less ambitious students don’t, instead becoming our laboratory assistants or gravediggers), you have a range of subjects to undertake, including: History of the Dead (fusty), History of Necromancy (almost as fusty), Toxicology (poisons), Theoretical Homicide (not strictly theoretical), Demonology (a farce), Black Tarot (don’t get me started), Mortuary Surgery, Reanimation, Experimental Necroscience, Vampiric Studies, the ever-popular Necromancy, and Necromonology (my chosen degree, which involves the study of and establishing control over the dead, the latter being, in my opinion, an ingredient much missing from my peers’ experiments).

The School itself is like an underground castle, or rather network of dungeons, seeing as it is without a top. All work is engaged in underground, with many layers of soil and stone pressing down upon us. Many first years, and some second years, experience what we refer to as ‘the underlows’, as in ‘he can’t come to class, he’s got a bad case of the underlows’. Eventually almost everyone gets used to it, and you get enough night-time fieldwork (mainly in cemeteries) to give you some fresh air. I never had much problem myself – some of the halls are so huge that you may as well be outside, and I never did miss the sunlight.

Allowing for our various racial skin colour differences, we are by and large a pasty bunch, as you might expect. We get what we need from various tonics and pills, but as the food we acquire (don’t ask – you’d be surprised how many associates and graduates of our school are among you) is so excellent, and our scholarly and personal pursuits are so involving (some would say obsessive, and they’d be right), we don’t want for much, beyond what we need for our work.

Roam the stone corridors and halls, the tunnels and staircases, the laboratories and cellars and libraries, the crypts, morgues, test chambers, operating theatres and black chapels, and you will cross many paths with the School’s prowling cats. There are three of them, or three named ones at least, each as dark as the night. The fat, sluggish one with the unfortunate limp, squashed face and mismatched eyes is affectionately named Igor (and I will happily poison any student who picks on him). Then there are the siblings, Minas and Morgul. Minas is the female, quick and sleek; she sees all, hears all, and every intrepid risk-taking student (the majority of them) who wants to last the course should learn who she’s loyal to.

Morgul is the male, and he is really quite huge, more like a panther than a cat, and if you try to kick him you are likely to end up on a dissecting table within the hour.

The students themselves are a mixed bunch. Most of them have black hair, but not as many as used to. In my day it was various shades of black, grey, silver or white, or perhaps, in the case of eccentrics, a very dark brown. These days you’ll often see a student with purple, red, green, blue hair and so on, or only streaks of these colours. Some are undyed, and come as blondes and brunettes. I’m not wholly prejudiced, so don’t treat them too differently, but I will say if you rock up to a forensic pathology class with bright pink hair, don’t be surprised if old Master Scrimpot directs all his most difficult questions to you.

We wear a lot of black, true, but there are also a lot of white lab coats worn out of class (some bloodstained), and brown tweed isn’t out of the question among some of the more mature students and masters. There are coats and cloaks, robes, three piece suits, shirts and jackets, skirts and dresses, corsets and bodices, lace and leather, soft velvet and jangling chains, and even some bare chests here and there, particularly among groundworkers. Styles are all over the place, though usually on the more gothic, formal, or macabre (if you’re trying to be edgy) end of the spectrum. Victorian and Edwardian fashions clash with new pagan which clash with shinobi which clash with new romantic which clash with seventies librarian which clash with thirties suits. And some of us just look like your average Joe/plain Jane. Those are often the ones to watch.

We are generally old-fashioned and semi-traditional, so some of the more radical newer styles are frowned on, and while the dress code is very relaxed, it is there. Cybergoggles will be taken off you in class. All in all though, we all look the same in a lab coat and gloves, up to our elbows in body parts.

 

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The Watcher

Here is a complete short story, which will feature in the upcoming compilation Faces in the Dark: A Short Compilation of Paranoid Horror.

It is also available as a standalone for Kindle.

I wrote this quite a long time ago now. It’s inspired entirely by not being able to sleep. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The Watcher

 

The air is black, and I do not sleep. The hours tick by. I do not sleep because someone is watching me. The hours toll by and my eyes are open.

In the dark, clouding my vision, I sense his presence. Like a reflection in a mirror he just watches me, hovering, or crouched, at times only inches from my face. He waits for me to look at him, but I never do, and so I never sleep. I fear him in the night, but in the light, when I am brave enough to look, he is never there. He is gone.

I know my surroundings out of the day, but through my imagination they have changed in the night. There are the walls, cracked and bleeding plaster, and the floor, rough, thick and scarred. The pictures around my room leer down at me, faces twisted like demented effigies. The room is no longer the semblance of order and right; it has spiralled down through waves of unease into a macabre cage, a prison of the dark.

My imagination runs further, deep into aberrant horror, and I see above me large black spiders crawling over the ceiling, the size of children’s hands. Their legs are permanently crouched and bent, as if ready to spring down onto me. They are shadows and nothing. They are the focal point of my hallucinations. He can control them, make them spring, with a word, but for now he says nothing.

I never look at him, I never know his name, but I always feel it is on the tip of my tongue. He makes no sound, but I can imagine it, should he ever open his mouth, as an ethereal moan, or a throaty racking groan. They would be at turns sadistic and pathetic. I pity him. He is a ghost. There is no corporeal body; he never truly belongs to this world.

The air is black, and still do I not sleep. There is no promise of a dawn; perhaps it may never come. Perhaps I will remain stricken to this bed forever, my eyes always open, and someone always watching me and my fear. I long for an end, for some burning light and sanity to sear me into reality.

I think I know what he looks like. He is clad in ragged cloth, which in the day would shine lurid white, but which in the night is merely images and shapes, fleeting and cowardly. His hair is dank and matted, strewn over his ragged face, and his eyes are worn and tired, the eyes of someone who never sleeps. Behind his eyes can be seen worry, and some semblance of neglect, and also evil, and anger, and hate. He is angry at me, for I never look at him, and for this he hates me; yet he must also love me, for he never leaves while the night still reigns. He knows nothing of the goodness of love.

The black air starts to scare me now, and I want him to go away. Terror is like a rolling wave washing over me and sending me shivers and cold clarity of the threatening silence that tries to engulf. I switch on the light by my bed, and the soft glow throws shadows around like paper. I dare a quick glance around my room to see if he is gone.

He is still here, but he is hiding in the shadows. I think he is close. I breathe in dryly and then I cannot resist as he climbs in my mouth and into my body, where he whispers to me, so quietly I cannot hear any words, just morbid intentions and whining pleas.

He cries out deep in the abscesses of my mind; he calls for rebellion and misanthropy, for anger and disgust, for guilt and the ending of all things that are good. I try to push him out but he has set up throne; he is reigning in demons and ghouls. He is everybody now. I have never known anything else.

Eventually he leaves, to wriggle into a gap under my bed, into the welcoming gloom. I can still feel him boring into me, puncturing my life. An hour creeps slowly and agonisingly past, and then another, with every second like a dead weight on my chest, until dawn finally seems to come, the thin sun slowly burning its way through my curtains. I crawl out of bed and open them, to flood the room with a dreary grey fire, to chase the shadows and the darkness away. Simple and natural illumination to destroy the phantasms of the night.

My room looks normal by day. The pictures are all blank on the clean walls. The floor is simple carpet. The ceiling is bare. There is nothing frightening anymore. There is nothing to fear anymore. He is gone.

I hear, or think I hear, a knock on my door, as the birds chirp their dawn chorus. I open it but there is no-one there. I look around the corridor but it is empty and barren.

Perturbed, I step away from the door, which quietly closes before me. I shrink back further into my room, feeling a slight chill, and a small sense of unease creeping up my back. Too many nights without sleep, I think.

There is another knock. I open the door again.

He is there, in the day. He has taken control now. It has taken time, but he has broken me. He is there, in the day, clad in white rags, with his arm outstretched. Maybe he has come to shake my hand. Maybe he has come to kill me.

 

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