Tag Archives: fiction

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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Moral Zero extract #3

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.

 

Unidentifiable insects roamed the walls with sneering abandon. This place was theirs first and would be theirs still after the humans and semi-humans and all their creations were long dead. Even the moments when you couldn’t see them you could hear them, tickling the inside of the walls, and in the silent seconds each of their tiny legs resounded like clacking boots.

The last attempt to paint the place must have been in some previous age of humanity, when humans cavorted naked and whooping as nought but shaved apes. As if we had only regressed since then, evidenced in this maggot’s palace. The water ran, just about, and the plumbing worked on occasion, but any upkeep and maintenance more than that was the stuff of fancy. Was the place ever liveable? Perhaps in that previous age. Before whoever owned the place had turned their attention to things of greater import, such as dealing, gambling, prostitution and snuff rackets.

The place was a front, that was clear. But Mr White kept his head down and his eyes blinkered and he made sure he knew nothing. They walked to their room on the ground floor, and any of the rotting wooden doors left open slammed shut as others heard their approach. Red narrowed his brow as they passed one, and evidently he heard something salacious for he smirked and shook his head. Mr White was not listening. He just wanted to sleep.

They entered the room and were surprised to find it no worse than the hotel in District Five. Sure, the curtains were rags that had at no point ever been actual curtains except when defined by their use. Sure, the bed was grubby as muck and painted in a thousand stains, not just the sheets but soaked through into the broken-springed mattress, all those essences of soul and sickness that leaked down into the barrel of the world. But it was a place to sleep, and it was dirt cheap, and that had suited Red, at least, fine.

Mr White looked around the small room, as if expecting something tucked away, as if the room could hold big secrets in its corners. He put his hands on his hips. There’s only one bed. I thought there’d be two.

Shotgun the bed.

What.

You can take the floor. Here man, take the second pillow and the extra sheet.

How thoughtful.

No worries. I’m goin sleep now. You alright?

Yes. Okay.

Guess what we’re doin tomorrow?

 

BAR

 

As soon as they entered the bar Mr White knew something was different. The lighting was the same, and yet the room appeared darker, shrouded and close. It seemed as though the space within was trying to escape the walls, push away from claustrophobia or some dark energy, as though something within was a force without reckoning, something foreboding and fearful that all other matter and empty space shifted imperceptibly away from. The walls showed strain, buckling towards another dimension.

The whole area was a bubble and it swallowed them up. Inside even the air felt sharper, daggered and skeletal. Air colourless as always and yet inexplicably blacker, swaying with dust and decay and creaking soundlessly. It made its place there not as a giver of life but as though it were a saw upon the human soul. The soft lights, still and yet aching under invisible duress, cast shadows upon the wall so dark as to be empty forms in the universe, empty souls and holes in the world. Looking and losing oneself in those small oblivions turned the inconsequential animate and malicious, lengthening such casts to gangling monsters and cage bars.

The bar smelled of whiskey and smoke and death. This was not intangible, a phantasm of the world under the scope of the mind. This was something real to them and they breathed it in as one might breathe in anything that was there.

They found themselves moving towards the epicentre, and that which pushed all around it pulled them in as though they were at the end of a rope.

Rum and mixer. Red was leaning over the bar. Yeah, anythin. No, that orange one. With the pirate. Yeah. No ice. Cool.

Mr White stood by him and shivered though it was not cold. He turned to the man next to him.

Johnny Black’s face was not as conventionally handsome as Red’s, and certainly possessing none of that effeminate prettiness, none of the cleanness or smoothness, the jovial cheek. His face was hard and weathered, as if dashed by sandstorms. His nose was lean and pointed like a weapon. His jaw was tough and grizzled and leant his features a grim mood, as though the grit of it ground his teeth from a life of too much death. His hair and eyebrows were black as the night and his eyes were pits of surging darkness. His was a face of authority and command, of beckoning attraction and obsession. From the feel of it all, from how weak and silly you felt in comparison.

He was sitting at the bar smoking and he turned to look at his witness and Mr White shared a gaze that locked his limbs. It went right to his gut and his heart and the soul of his groin tore like paper.

Um. My name’s Mr White, Mr White said. He was stiff and self-conscious of trying to act normal. Self-conscious of sweating. He curled his toes tight.

You got a first name? The man’s voice was hewn and leathered and edged in Death’s whisper.

Mr White hesitated. We . . . don’t need first names.

Fuck that. The man held out his hand, hot and rough. The name’s Johnny Black.

Kidd Red pushed in front of them, holding his drink sloshing the sides of the glass, and the man whipped his hand back, sheathing the thumb into his belt.

I heard of you.

Well. Ain’t that something.

You murdered three people out in Seven. We were there and I was talkin to some folks and your name kept comin up. They said the cops were raidin places lookin for you.

Wowee, Johnny Black said blankly, his voice low and guttering. Wasn’t me. I distinctly remember not being there. I was out in Nine, killing six. He smiled, and his eyes burned, and he put that fat black cigar of his back twixt his white lion teeth.

You’re joking, right? Mr White said.

Now why would you ask a question like that? His deep southern accent was almost well-spoken beneath the cracks, as though he could belong both at a dinner party and on a ranch. He spoke like a hard-living man well-read.

Johnny Black puffed on his cigar, and crackling desert smoke broiled out in front of them, making Mr White cough. Johnny twisted on his barstool and beckoned the bar girl over.

Three whiskeys. The one with the holocaust on the bottle.

She swamped and fired the little glasses so the liquid was hot on top like bubbling blood. She banged them down in front of the three of them and each one sounded like a gunshot.

He laid out a note on the bar top without looking, wrapped around a knife. His eyes were intent on the floorboards.

 

Moral Zero cover

The School of Necromancy now available!

The gothic science/gothic horror short story inspired by Harry Potter as much as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and H.P. Lovecraft is now available on Amazon!

Better yet, assuming you read this post fast enough, it’s FREE for the rest of today (4/12/14) and tomorrow. Not to fear if you miss it, as it’s mere pennies/cents afterwards.

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. Reanimation, demonology, experimental necroscience, theoretical homicide… It’s all there for the learning, in a vast underground complex of stone corridors and halls, tunnels and staircases, laboratories and cellars and libraries, crypts, morgues, test chambers, operating theatres and black chapels…
It’s all there, that is, if you can keep your head…

 

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The Violet Dark #4

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

 

More violet, and on they went. Past houses, yards, fields and bushes, past monsters and effigies and voodoo tombs.

All that she had missed. All that had never come. Already she owed violet, owed her escape.

And you owe him.

The land blew past in dreams, just part of the wind.

 

The shades of the violet-cast day grew stronger and deeper as the sun grew tired. They drank water from a stream and the coldness ran through like a frozen orgasm.

The road was silent and solitary but for their bikes and the background roar of the world. They saw nobody, taking the small roads. Sometimes she thought she saw huge shadows chasing each other in the distance, on other roads. When the violet was strong all old detail was gone, replaced by a new kind of detail of what the mind believed.

She thought of the stories she used to write when she was younger, before she gave up. This wasn’t like that, but it felt now like she was writing new stories constantly, her mind scribbling away, telling her what this was and what that was. Rocks made of felt and drifting fields of haunted corn, and a sky painted blue by the same aliens behind the pyramids, behind Stonehenge, behind her birth. That shape a pygmy bear-child, the last of its kind. That shape a living statue down on all knees, grieving for its lost parent.

That shape before her the man who had taken her.

 

Nightmares come and

Nightmares go

Beauty sees

What nightmares show

A nursery rhyme of her own devising. She felt rather proud of herself. That is, until it repeated over and over through her head, not letting go. You came up with me? It seemed to be whining, snarling. And now you want rid of me? You are my creator. You are my stupid repetitive creator. There is nothing in you, it is all in the outside world. I owe my worthless existence to you. I am your Frankenstein and you will feel me. Ride on, bitch.

She rode on, and eventually the rhyme repeated itself less and less often. Each time it did it was angry and loud, overcompensating for its weakness. Breaking through the oceans of formless thought to attack, and then cast adrift, screaming as the mere flotsam it was got swept over the waterfall.

Nightmares come but

You are dumb

You are dumb

To take his cum

 

He looked behind him at the sound of laughter. She was trailing behind, giggling to herself as her bike weaved erratically. Never again would he see her so beautiful, so perfect. She was his missing lung, his missing bladder, his missing stomach. He wanted to breathe her, piss her and eat her.

My angel of darkness.

Her body was his tomb. He would choose to lie and let the worms gnaw him forever, as long as he rotted inside her.

My angel of death.

One day long past, he would have come off violet to see if he felt the same. But such a thing was useless. Even if he hated her sober, even if she was ugly and cruel – though he knew she was neither – as long as he was in love with the violet her, that was enough.

And how does she see me? Which me does she see? I am all forms. I can be ugly and cruel. A day comes I am a saint. A day comes I am a devil. A day comes I am a troglodyte, better served in caves than under another’s gaze. A day comes I would rape myself, such potent narcissism.

 

Life

 

Into the black

 

She looked at him, at this heavy-coated figure rocking slowly by the light of the fire. ‘Where are you from? I know nothing about you. Tell me about yourself.’

He looked at her. ‘The violet is wearing down.’

‘How do you know? It is.’

‘You would not be asking such a question otherwise. The violet distracts. Here, have some more.’ He made to fetch the hipflask but she held up a hand.

‘Later, maybe. I need this clarity.’

He shrugged. ‘I don’t see why.’

‘Where are you from?’ she asked again.

He looked into the fire. ‘Somewhere south, somewhere north. A way to the east, a little to the west. I don’t know. I’m from nowhere and everywhere. I’ve forgotten my home. If ever I had one.’

‘Do you always answer in riddles?’

He grinned. ‘Maybe.’

‘What happened to you?’

‘Life. Life happened.’

‘What about life?’

‘All of it. Everything.’ He shook his head. ‘I gave up explaining a long time ago.’

‘Try me.’

He sighed, and took a small sip from the hipflask. ‘Fine. I never enjoyed it. Life. At least, not that I have any memory of. I wandered, in ceaseless revolutions of depression, apathy and disillusion. Bitterly bewildered by the state of existence. Never knowing, never understanding, and never, ever content. Finding enjoyment in next to nothing, nothing that would last. That was on a good day. I told myself that I always bounced back, over and over and over. After every blackness came the dawn . . . The nights were the worst. Not like now. With violet the night is my friend. But back then . . . I told myself as long as I had oxygen in my lungs I would always surface from the depths.’

‘And then one day you stopped?’

‘No. I had never bounced back. I had never surfaced. I rose in little bits, but I sank deeper with every night. I just didn’t see it for what it was.’

‘Depression.’

He laughed mirthlessly. ‘I thought that was all it was too, for a spell. No. Eventually I realised that in my times of blackness I had the truth of it. The fault was not with me, but with the world. Those around me wanted me to change. I did not understand that. It is too easy to tell a person to change. Hard to tell the world to change. But the blame must be laid at the right feet.’

She shifted uncomfortably. She did not want to question this, seeing that this man before her was a different beast entirely and she knew him not.

‘I eventually left the company of others. I felt sick and weary. I tried violet for the first time, and from that there was no turning back. The world was beautiful for the first time, either since childhood, or since forever.’

‘Populated by nightmares.’

‘Perhaps. But the kind of nightmares I can handle. Not the nightmare of a sober world and its expectations.’

She saw the sprites of the fire reflecting the sadness in his eyes, and she moved close to him. He looked at her and his grin was wide and bare.

‘Why don’t -’

‘No advice,’ he interrupted her. ‘I’ve heard it all.’

She said nothing for a minute, then quietly said ‘How do you get money?’

‘I find it.’

She looked into the demons dancing in the fire.

‘I don’t need much.’

‘Mmhmm.’

He picked up the flask and offered it to her. ‘Here, have some more.’

‘I’m okay for now.’

He shook it at her. ‘Go on.’

‘Why?’

He looked a little taken aback, as if such a question was indecipherable to him. Then he waggled it again. ‘You have lived your whole life up to this point seeing the world a certain way. You have done this once. The second time you will feel more in control.’

‘Is that so.’

‘You know you want to.’ He pushed it into her unresisting hand. His thumb touched hers. He looked at her with fierce, indigo eyes, and she felt the strength in the fire and the strength in his weakness. She drank a mouthful and he beamed at her.

‘What happens when this runs out?’

‘There’s a good deal more in my pack. If that goes, then we sober up a little and hook ourselves up with some more. It’s easy.’

‘And buy it with?’

‘I have money. And I told you, I can find more. It’s always lying around someplace.’

She nodded slowly, feeling the violet come on again. The fire reddened. Waving thumbprints and casting its thousand burning angels.

 

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The School of Necromancy opening extract

Hello!

I’ve been busy of late, writing various short stories, some of which you can find by visiting my Amazon author page.

I’ll put up excerpts from these (or the entire story, if short enough) on this site in due course, as some are being entered into writing competitions or being submitted for magazines.

Here is the first draft beginning to a story I am currently writing, that is turning out to be the longest short story yet. It’s called The School of Necromancy, and it is about just that . . . think Harry Potter meets Frankenstein . . . and a lot of morbidity, black humour, and a science/classic sci-fi-horror theme over a straightforward magical one. Lighthearted gothic, and with a perhaps Lovecraftian bent to the approach, what with it being a personal account. I hope you enjoy it.

 

The School of Necromancy

 

I’m here to explain some things to you. A lot of questions have been asked, and a lot of people seem to be pretty concerned, so I have taken it upon myself, when no-one else will, to describe to you the events that led to the six dead bodies found about York last week, which has got the constabulary so vexed. There were, in fact, eight bodies. One was homeless, and the homeless are often forgotten. The other was one of us, and we hold onto our own.

The rules have never said ‘Don’t talk about the School’. They in fact say, ‘We recommend, in your best interests, not to talk about the School, for nobody will take you seriously, and if they do, you are likely to meet an untimely demise.’ And so, given that I am confident in my abilities to resist the poorly-concocted assassination attempts of my fellows, and even more confident that nobody who reads this will take me seriously (or, if someone does, that nobody will take them seriously), I feel like I have nothing to lose by writing this, and I have my own dry amusement to gain, like a serial killer might feel smug upon announcing his morbid deeds to somebody who takes the whole thing as a joke. Doubtless some of my fellows will disagree with me, but they always were a bit fusty and overly serious.

I should point out now that I was not the killer. Just to get that out of your heads. In fact, I wasn’t even there, and the story I have to tell is not my own. But I make it my business to know things that happen here, deep under your feet, and I always enjoy interrogating the other students.

My name is Raiden Black, and this is not my story.

As an addendum, before I continue, I want to say that of course it’s not my real name. We are all given new names when we enter the School. Many years ago pretty much half of all the first years would choose ‘Black’ as their surname, and there was a great deal of names like ‘Night’ and ‘Death’ and it all got a bit tedious. Nowadays the masters choose your name for you, and you get three vetoes before you have to suck it up and accept it. I took receiving the now quite elite surname ‘Black’ as a vote of confidence in me, and have endeavoured to remain deserving of it ever since.

Anyway.

 

Find a sewer grate or manhole somewhere in York, somewhere in the centre preferably. You will, of course, have to do this at night, unless you are exceptionally quick and daring, or you have found a perfectly hidden spot. Different cliques of students have their own entrances, and if you find yourself sharing yours with a member of The Brotherhood, you have my sympathies.

Head down into the sewers, and head east. Follow the rats. They always seem to congregate around the School, and we never did quite know why they are drawn here so, but we don’t complain, not when there are so many post-mortem opportunities at hand.

Eventually you won’t need the rats at all, and you can follow your nose. Take the turns where the air is stalest, closest . . . You feel that certain something in the air? You don’t know what it is, but you feel it, just like the rats. Seek out the source, for that is us.

Assuming you have a good sense of direction, and have not become irretrievably lost, nor have you been bitten by a rat carrying one of the new experimental strains of plague we have developed, then you should, eventually, come to a door.

It is of heavy wood, and looks ancient, and no amount of battering force will break it open. Here you must knock a certain number of times, to a certain rhythm. And that is one thing I will not tell you.

You can however, assuming you finished reading this before you set out, go to the gloomiest pubs in York and, on suitable dark, grim nights, find a sallow youth all in black drinking by himself, looking terribly preoccupied with something, and perhaps a trifle jittery. He will have bags under his eyes from lack of sleep and excess of obsession.

He will at first want nothing to do with you, and will be sullen and uncooperative, but ply him with drinks. At the opportune moment, ask him about the secret knock, and he may tell you.

He will of course be lying. That’s one thing we are very good at.

Let’s assume, though, that you now know the secret knock, by fair means or foul, and have rapped sharply on the door in this very particular rhythm. The door opens, slowly, with the groan of a thousand years. There is nobody behind it. You may think it black magic, and I wouldn’t dare ruin it for you.

You’re not at the School yet. Down a spiral staircase of stone steps you go, and as it levels out you find yourself in a series of twisting, crossing corridors. These are the catacombs of York. Our catacombs.

Set into the walls, lit by burning torches, are all manner of artefacts. You may be surprised to see Egyptian sarcophagi and urns, so far away from their origins, along with Greek burial shrouds, and the beaks of plague doctors from the time of the Black Death.

You will see small cairns, caskets, tools of morticians and torturers, stones and pieces of hard wood with strange carvings, pagan statues, death masks, old coins to lay on eyes, cotton to wrap and minerals to sprinkle on the departed. What you will not see, however, no matter what you will most fearfully open, are bodies, not even skeletons. We have claimed them all, for we do not allow waste.

Navigate the catacombs (a clue: follow the eyes), and you will find another staircase, which will lead to one final door, requiring a key to unlock. You don’t have such a key, you say? That is a shame.

Beyond this door lies the School of Necromancy.

There is also a perfectly serviceable lift that cuts out all this, but let’s keep things traditional.

 

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The Violet Dark now available on Amazon!

It’s my pleasure to announce that the short novella and hallucinogenic road horror The Violet Dark is now available on Amazon!

The direct link to the US Amazon page (as now appearing on the sidebar of this  blog) is here.

The direct link to the UK Amazon page is here.

Keep an eye out, because starting from tomorrow (20/11/14) the book will be completely free to download for five days!

 

Blurb

When you leave the paths of light, you fall and you fall forever.

A man finds a woman crouched over the body of her murdered father. The man is hallucinating on a liquid drug called violet, and offers it as a promise of escape. The woman, numb with shock and grief, takes it and soon finds herself in a ‘beautiful nightmare’, the shadowy world of the violet dark. They ride the endless roads on motorbikes, lost in the drug and almost lost to reality…
Terrible, grotesque things are hunting them. If only she could convince herself that the danger was all in her head…

– The Violet Dark is a short novella by the author of the twisted dystopian thriller Moral Zero. You don’t want to miss this hallucinogenic road horror. A toxic love song to darkness itself, this book is guaranteed to make you see things that aren’t there – or perhaps they are…

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Dead Streets

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

This story is more of the sad and haunted kind of darkness rather than the grotesque kind of horror. I hope you like it!

 

Dead Streets

 

It was between Hallowe’en and the advent of Christmas, that half-haunted and melancholic time of year when spirits and ghasts one by one went to their slumber in the hidden places. I had spent the night drinking and smoking with a friend, and now in the small hours I set off on the pale roads to home.

From the first steps, as the chill night closed its web around me, I knew this was no ordinary walk. I was there for a snapshot of rare world, a world in undress that was intended for no human eyes. The ground crunched under my feet as I turned out of the estate and onto a main road.

Cars lined the street in an endless procession of tombstones. Each appearing to me some frozen sentinel cold and implacable. The roads and the land betrayed no movement. Each grave of a car standing as testimony to the desertion or extinction of the human race. I would say that never before had I felt so alone, and yet this was not true, for I was shepherded by the world, and roused those spirits not yet asleep, or woken by my heavy footfall. Unseen eyes opened in slits to see my passing.

There was an almost unbearable, and yet beautiful, sadness throughout. Here was the world stripped bare, skeletal in form, and I privy to these emotions that were at all other times impossibly guarded. I could feel them leaking, the last few leaves on the branches dripping like tears, the railings shivering in quiet failure, desperate to cease their never-ending point to the heavens, waiting to leave my sight so they could collapse.in solitude.

My own tears sprang to my eyes as I beheld all that had been hidden, and at such longstanding pains. I ran a gloved hand over the window of one of the dead cars, preparing myself for something terrible within; a rotting ghoul perhaps, or a bristling werewolf. As the ice swept away I only saw a hollow, an emptiness like deep space that echoed that within my chest, and I sank away and continued on.

I did not really want to see such horrible phantasms, to fright myself to death on this eerie walk. But, somehow, the nothingness was always worse.

I crossed a bridge and looked out on the black glass of the canal. Willow trees hung over the banks, their ends wilfully drowning. I pictured huge crocodiles under that still surface, and then Lovecraftian monstrosities. At any moment their heads and tentacles could break the waters and rear up to me, gnashing and flailing . . . but the moment passed, and all other moments, and the water remained as it was, all such secrets kept too deep for mortal knowledge.

The bridge and canal was lost to the turns of my route. Houses passed on the side, every one lightless, each street a cemetery. Humanity’s gaze had ceased to rest on this town, perhaps everywhere, and there were not even other animals to make sound or sight. If there was life anywhere it was only in the drift of ghosts and their haunts, coming to rest now that humanity and its noisy wildlife had been finally scared to death. I knew then, as my footsteps echoed in the silence and my breath fogged out like bonedust, what it would be like to be the last person alive.

It was while I was thinking thus that a figure came upon me, and we both kept our faces to the ground, saying not a word in greeting or parting. For nights as this belong to each of us alone, and it must be alone, for on such nights nobody is entirely human. The thoughts and moods in the air are not to be shared, except from the earth’s whisperings to our individual soul.

The figure left, and it was as though it had never appeared; and perhaps it never had, and I had imagined it as I imagine so much else.

I looked up as I walked. In the ghost-black, almost translucent sky was a pinhole moon, something stabbed through from beyond. I peered at it and through it I sensed a bright hospital room, crowded with doctors unnaturally long of limb and face, who called out to me for my birth.

Push through, they said. Come on through.

I will, I replied.

Come on.

Soon.

I came upon the road leading up to my flat, passing the glow of traffic lights that changed for no-one. On the path was a telephone box, and I wondered how many years had come and gone without its use. It emanated a wispy, amber light, that gathered as if in currents, and I wanted to believe that it was a hostel for travelling spirits, readying for the next fly-through in the cold, and yet as I passed it seemed occult with melancholy, and I almost heard the plaintive calls that were sirens to my heart.

On the last stretch to my home I felt the rising and familiar urge to stop dead. I knew if I did so I would not move again. But no matter the strength of the feeling, my body would keep on even while my mind rebelled, for my body was as much on autopilot as it has been since my beginning. I would take the same route, the same steps, think the same thoughts in the same order and say the same words to every person I met no matter if I’d turned back time a hundred times.

If I stopped then the sun would rise on my statue. People would try to talk to me, and there would be no answer. The police would try to move me, and they would fail. Days, weeks, and eventually years would crawl by, and people would become long used to this immovable form, as though I were a lamppost or a park bench. Kids would throw things, and drunk men would piss on my feet.

A little girl, on a day trip, would tug at her mother’s sleeve and whisper, curious and biting her lip. ‘Why is he standing there?’

The mother would look up and say, as the residents bustling around them smiled and shook their heads, ‘Why don’t you ask him?’

The little girl would hesitantly come up to me, and ask me the same question.

‘I don’t know,’ I’d reply, out of the corner of my mouth, so nobody else could see, and so quietly only the girl could hear. ‘Why don’t you join me?’

The girl looked confused. ‘There must be some reason.’

‘I think, perhaps, if I stay completely still, then maybe things won’t carry on without me. Or at least as far as I’m concerned. I can put a stop to it by putting a stop to myself. Don’t you want to join me? If you stop too, then maybe other people will stop, and one day everyone can be completely still, and nothing bad or difficult or tiresome will ever happen again.’

The child would bite her lip again and then shake her head, and her mother would call her back and they’d both walk away. And neither of them would stop for me, just like all the other times. And in the end I would always be the only one.

 

I let myself in the front door and climbed the stairs to the flat. I entered the warmth and turned the lights on. I took off my gloves and scarf and coat and unlaced my boots. I poured myself a drink and sipped it, and in the lounge I closed the curtains, dissolving the night into a mere fancy of the imagination. Something that could never be truly explained to anyone, never accurately described, for it was a night that may have happened and may not have happened, but whether it did or it didn’t it happened to me, and I cherished it’s rarity, now gone.

This was not a story about zombies and vampires, about things going bump in the night, about unbridled terror and nightmares realised. This was a story about the things that don’t happen, the nothingness out there, and that hollow emptiness in the car’s window. My nightmare is not monstrous or disfigured, it does not have tentacles or fangs or the form of a beast, it does not drip goo or blood and it does not shuffle and it does not snarl.

I drank my drink and I looked at my television and my computer, at my large collection of DVDs and books and videogames, and at the pictures on my walls, and I sat down, my thoughts once again returning to suicide.

But for one more night like this.

 

winterstreet

Moral Zero extract #2

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: http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Zero-Set-Sytes-ebook/dp/B00LDWTQC2/ 

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

Here is another extract from it.

 

The streets slid on all sides as if they were on rails. Theatre backdrops turned on some hidden winch, a scenery on repeat, re-using buildings, trash, people.

They passed little cracked bulbs nestled in grating coming out brick walls with the bricks crumbling and broken. Some buildings looked as if they had suffered some air raid or street bombing and if anything they passed looked repaired it was work without effort or hope, as if the builders could not summon any care for anything in these streets. Everything was covered in graffiti. Most of it was people just making their mark, leaving a name and a guess at a date for who knew what day was what in Rule. Much of the graffiti was obscene and sordid and some of it was anti-authority and some of it was dark and cruel.

They passed steel bins left empty while rubbish and refuse of every kind was scattered everywhere, as if the bins themselves signalled some command to order that the people shunned. They passed the homeless or what seemed to be the homeless, though in this city they could be anybody. They sat or lay forlorn in clothes or bundled rags or naked and grimy. Some shivered and some sweated and many writhed on drugs or swayed on drink as if conducting some voodoo incantation to rid the street of its evils. Some of those sat were junkies and one or two were well-clothed and clean-shaven and this did not seem to matter. Some begged and were ignored, some didn’t beg and were ignored. By all except pushers and pimps, thieves and worse. Mr White saw them sidle up and sit down as if friends, to young women and men, to kids, to those well-dressed and those naked, to any and all, for even the ugly and old could be exploited, and perhaps in their desperation they were perfect for it. Mr White awkwardly gave a man with his hands out a few coins, and received a strange look from Red. The man looked at the coins in his hand as if they were foreign to him. He bit into one with what was left of his teeth and a tooth broke and his mouth bled over the coins. Another man came out of the shadows and they saw the glint of a blade and they left quickly while he kneeled down and close to the broke-tooth man.

Mr White followed Red close as he half-strut his stride and both their faces glowed in the light of the neon signs that hung crackling from anywhere they could be seen. Their faces were ultramarine in the hazy light of a peepshow theatre, and scarlet and bloody in the outside embrace of a porn shop. Their features flicked green with envy and yellow with sickness and every colour of the rainbow in a dozen different tints and bleeds. They passed drug dens and brothels and gun-shops and run-down emporiums selling things behind fortified counters to any customer with the money and neither would ask questions nor demand answers. They passed a bright pink lit window and above it was a pink sign of a pizza with red neon meatballs. They entered and bought pizza for that was all the food there was and it came cold and crusty and the meat on it was nothing they could recognise. Red bought them both some kind of liqueur which he glugged and Mr White sipped slowly. Red told Mr White not to make any eye contact with any of the other patrons of the takeaway, to not even look at them, and Mr White replied that he would not even consider it.

They left and continued on to the border between District Seven and Ten. Only once did they pass a cop and it did not harass them nor harass anybody else. They could not see its face hidden as it was behind its helmet but its manner of walking and how it stayed in the light and how its head moved from side to side but too quick to examine anything gave the impression of nervousness, as if it knew its continued solitary existence in these streets had even more tentative a future than those prostitutes and homeless addicts. They did see a number of drones, and heard even more, to the point that the buzzing cat-purrs that crept up on them and then past or were hidden behind walls or flying above them along rooftops or down in the sewers beneath their feet became no more an event than their own breathing.

Nearly there hombre, said Red, as they passed though the darkness under a small dilapidated bridge that leaked some dark fluid from its bones. Mr White thought a few drops hit his shoes but he did not stop to check. The lights were less now and as he flicked his eyes quickly at the people in the street they seemed full of cruelty. He did not dare look at their faces and this gave them an absence of humanity, if there was even any there. He saw Red look at some of the bodies of the girls but he was looking less and less and whether this was due to a dropping quality or apprehension or weariness on Red’s part was unknown. Mr White saw a woman in leather straps and netting and something that looked like barbed wire around her crotch lean out of a doorway at their approach. She had a huge exposed cleavage and her lips were bulbous and sticky red, pumped so fat that they seemed to command her whole face. He looked at Red and Red must have seen her first because without turning his head he shook his head emphatically and they walked on.

Mr White shivered and he finished the last of his liqueur which tasted of rotten fruit but all synthetic and shook full of sugar. He wondered aloud where the next bin was for he had not seen one in some time. Red told him to drop it on the street and after a hesitation Mr White placed it down as near the side of the street as he dared go and then hurried back. They passed a middle-aged woman in furs being sick onto the side of a grey-brick building without windows or doors. Her face was pale and blue and Mr White looked for the light but it was not blue but white.

Should we help her? Mr White whispered as they drew level.

I think you know the answer to that one man, said Red, and Mr White already did.

On both sides of his vision were alleyways and small side streets shrouded in the thickest blackness, both full and empty, like beckoning voids, each one seeming a shortcut to oblivion. As though if he ventured down any he would never be seen again. He heard a gunshot from one and then silence and from another a scream and then silence. Both seemed to come from some other world hidden from his eyes, as though the blackness did not contain such dangers but was merely the gateway, and once you passed through you ceased to be part of this world and would be forever lost. His mind seemed to draw him closer to these shadows, shifting his perspective from side to side, but his body stayed on track out of fear and automation and so it seemed like his mind was struggling to escape its bonds while the body stayed firm and the mind lurched out on its own like some drunken phantasm of the night. It splayed out left and right and tried to fly to the voids and the tether caught and it was pulled back, secretly glad, springing back to safety and full of the rush of terror avoided.

We’re here, announced Red abruptly.

 

Moral Zero cover

The Violet Dark #3

Firstly, apologies for the website being down for so long. Blame my behind the scenes fiddling.

Anyhow, here is the third part to the hallucinogenic road thriller/horror The Violet Dark. Again, first draft, work in progress! The second part has also been updated. My aim is for you to follow me along my own road; that of crafting a new novel from scratch. If you find any mistakes I have missed please don’t hesitate to point them out.

 

The rain stopped first. The clouds hung around, waiting for something that didn’t come. One by one they slunk off, freeing the sky, the lightning and thunder gone to their beds in other lands. The orchestra over. Time, gentlemen.

She got up, so sodden and heavy and filthy with the mud that the rain had not washed away. Not a mermaid or a fish, just a fat, slow woman, creaking the ground with her ponderous weight.

She followed him back to the bikes. She didn’t know how he remembered their location so well, but then again every tree was different, as was every bush and every blade of grass. After a time she noticed that the trees were pointing the way, and ushering them along. Their impatience was evident when a branch whipped her backside, and they hurried their pace, leaving a leaking trail as they went.

Perhaps it was the time dilation, but it seemed to take a lot longer to find the bikes than she’d have thought. How far had I run? The walk got easier as it went on, as the water fell from their clothes and hair, and after another sip of violet her body lightened even more. The air blew fresh and clear around the amaranthine trees, curling and singing sweetly as it sought them out and kissed them dry.

They sensed the silence of the road before they came upon it, and their bikes lay there like sleeping metal tyrants.

He walked past them to the road, and laid himself down.

‘Are we not riding?’

‘Not yet,’ he said.

She lay next to him and blew invisible smoke rings into the firmament.

 

The Moon

 

Watching as you sleep

 

She looked up into the sky, that lonely chasm. Each star a little slice of heaven, some sharp, needle holes poking through the blanket to something better, to the paradise of whiteness beyond.

And the moon. Fat and bulging, it dominated the sky, a bulbous eye watching, ever watching. It grew whenever she looked away, whenever she blinked, whenever her gaze unfocused.

Not grew – came closer. Everything did it – the trees, the rocks – creeping closer behind your vision.

It reminded her of a TV programme she had seen as a child. There was a bunch of standing stones near a house, and they kept coming closer, and closer, but you never saw them move, not an inch. Eventually they were right outside the windows, right outside the front door. You turned your back and they were right there.

The show had terrified her. The terror of the inanimate, the unknown mysteries – worse than undead, never meant to be alive, never seen to be alive, and yet –

It was like spiders, one of her fears. The horror, the real horror wasn’t in the movement, but in the non-movement, the waiting for movement, the dreadful anticipation, wound up like high tensile wire. The lock of the legs. They crouched, and did nothing. When they moved, as quick and horrible as it was, it was never as bad as how it had been in your mind. Horror always truly lay with what you didn’t see, with what you made up, with the imagination giving graveyard life to the shadowed objects around you.

The moon seemed to fill the sky now. It was no mere eye of the night but a pale Sauron, a single staring eye for the cyclopean Anti-God. The eye of Death’s negative.

The black pits on its face seemed to wink at her, and it grinned.

‘The moon scares me,’ she said, and it did not sound ridiculous at that moment but rather the words consolidated her fear.

‘I know,’ he replied. ‘It’s always watching. It watches everything. It wants you to be scared of it.’

 

He gave her his blanket and she wrapped herself in it, while he lay out on the grass in nothing. Sleep came on her like a coma. She moved through the bellies of demons and angels with diamond eyes fucked her softly.

 

He watched her for a long time before closing his eyes.

 

The Wayside

 

Stepping through mouldy sunshine

 

She tried to blink away the sun, but it would not go. Her head swam and when she tried to sit up everything was too sharp, too bright and painful. Everything newly angled, even the grass was carved with a knife.

He was at her side stroking her hair and she wondered how long he had been there.

‘I’m thirsty,’ she said.

He had the flask already in his hand, ready to touch her lips.

‘Do you have water?’

‘This will keep you hydrated.’

‘Hair of the dog, huh.’ She took a tiny sip of the drink. Anything to make the land soften.

‘You’ll need a bit more than that.’

She rolled her eyes, but that made her skull ache. ‘Get me a proper drink first.’

‘This is a proper drink.’

‘I want a fucking coke.’

He stood up and looked down at her, then walked off to find their bikes. A few minutes later they had steered them back onto the road and were on their way.

She’s forgotten what the day had looked like. There was something pale and harsh and sad about it. She kept her eyes half-closed. The violet had taken a small effect, had taken the edges out of the world. She could feel them pushing to come back though. An artist’s hand waiting to re-sketch, to draw every line harder with thicker, meaner pencils.

She watched him from behind, watched his hair run with the wind. When she drew up closer she sometimes saw his eyes closed as he drove, and then as if he could feel her eyes he opened them slowly and smiled at her.

Who was this man? Why had she shacked up with him? Was he dangerous?

She thought of the farm and the big house, now empty and loveless. She thought of the thing in the mirror and she suddenly realised she had not taken her father’s body out of the road.

The thought was so awful that she drew a sword against it and cut it out of her mind.

Some tombs are best left undisturbed. Sometimes suns die and yet they never leave the sky. Just don’t look at it. Don’t let it hurt you.

 

They stopped off at a big store by the wayside. Both somewhat sobered; he was taking another as she pushed open the screen door.

‘It doesn’t belong here,’ he was saying. ‘It doesn’t fit. Where’s it gonna go? No place at all.’

There was only a couple of people in the store but they peered at her strangely and she felt uncomfortable. Well fuck you too. She wandered the aisles, feeling as out of place in this man-made artifice as the store itself was in the country around it. The man at the till coughed loudly and it echoed down the aisles. She concentrated on what she needed. All these names, brands, bullshit. She remembered when she would come to a place like this and how she had always wanted more than she could afford. Now little took her interest.

She bought a sleeping bag. She bought biscuits and bread. She bought vodka and coke.

They drank the coke, squinting in the muddy glaze of sunshine. They crouched under the jutting roof of the store. Less aggressive. A cool hand in service of the night. Helping the strangers who go all hours by the wayside.

‘I feel like I’m growing horns,’ he said.

‘What?’

He laughed at her with hard eyes. ‘We need to move on.’

            Leave life behind and follow him, came the unshakeable thought. It’s easy. Just follow. Follow until you are ready to lead.

‘Where are we going?’

‘There is no where. There is nowhere to go. We just go.’

‘Until?’

‘The dark will come soon. Then we go again.’

‘Forever?’

‘For as long as time takes us.’

 

TVD_01

Moral Zero extract #1

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: http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Zero-Set-Sytes-ebook/dp/B00LDWTQC2/ 

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

Here is an extract from it.

 

On the lowest flight was a grand artistic rendition of some seemingly apocalyptic scene, but it was smeared and sooted from some past fire, and whether the work was of a great battle, a religious revival or a ferocious orgy was unknown. Mr White peered at it as he dropped step to step, and he could just make out in the very centre of the piece some black shape, a human figure perhaps, but it could as well be a curious blot, a burned scar forming nothing but the centre of everything.

Mr White came out of the fire escape into the sun and met Red with his back to the wall, one foot up. Red was wearing shades and pendants on chains and was staring down the sun.

Hola.

How long have you been out here?

Red shrugged. He had a cigarette in his fingers dropping ash and his other hand thumbed his belt. You ready.

Mr White looked up at the sun, still blinking as his eyes adjusted to the light. It wasn’t joyous and rich, it was thin, artificial, as though the sun was an imposter. Perhaps nought but a bright moon shone on them that day, as every day. Cutting through the skim of the city’s milk. As though it were a bubble, and nothing could pass through and keep its lustre, its original power and integrity. Mr White waved a hand through the air and he could feel it. The cloy of the city, the milk, the soul. Sour and pungent.

You ready?

I’m ready. Mr White took a deep breath and the air was neither fresh nor clean.

Red looked at Mr White and grinned. Old habits die hard, don’t they.

Mr White smiled and stretched a little. Yeah.

They moved off, Red leading, Mr White just a step behind. Red walked with his customary jaunt as if he thought he was a rockstar or a drug dealer or a pirate. He could have been all three and it wouldn’t have mattered.

Mr White felt a dull, snapping breeze on his neck as though someone was clicking fingers on his skin. He reached up and found a button undone on his shirt, and he hastily rebuttoned and held his coat tighter to him.

Red glanced at him. It ain’t cold.

I don’t like it.

Red chuckled and kept on.

They walked through trash and bottles span and splintered as Red’s boots kicked them away.  Beside them cruel looking taxis vibrated back and forth along the road. They looked like they were battered out from sheet iron. The windows were frosted to obscure both driver and passengers, but the appearance was more of glass punched and cracked over and over, utterly smashed and held together with invisible tape. Like some crude icing rink after years of use without repair. The wheels were crags that crunched refuse and dead things under their merciless tread.

On their left buildings and shop windows were passed without comment or notice, all the same, all hopeless and blank. White lights shone into the day, advertising, always advertising, but without vigour, as if even the perpetrators of such had fallen to resignation, a disbelief in their products. Once in a while a tree was passed, but they looked plastic and they stood like statues, the leaves as still as iron claws. Beside every one were two benches, one on either side, blue paintwork scabbing away to show a brown leprous heart. On some sat people, and they all stared forward, even those in halting conversation. Talking as if ghosts in a foreign land.

You oughtn’t have done that. An old man stared ahead and he blinked so slow and heavy that it was a wonder if he knew whether he was awake or asleep, or alive or dead.

I know it. His companion was emaciated, looking like something just dug up. You know how it is.

No I don’t.

The man from the grave sighed, and the world seemed to fall off his bones. Every man wants to be seen as dangerous some point or another. Capable of such things. No man can go a whole life otherwise. Every man wants to know he’s a danger. To be thought of such a way. For one moment or two.

You oughtn’t have done it.

I know it. It is how it is.

Red and White walked on out of earshot and at length they came to a checkpoint cutting off the street. It clustered with police, in their black uniforms and black mirrored helmets.

You done this before?

Mr White shook his head.

It’s easy. They got nothin.

They were looked at like robots handling objects but they gave their names in the booth and they were let through without further consideration. There were no niceties. They were ushered in and out and they walked away from the faceless stares, those expressionless things that seemed so alien and hostile, void of feeling. They walked away with their necks prickling into District Seven.

Moral Zero cover