Tag Archives: winter

Set’s Guide to the British Seasons

Winter: Winter is for masochists. The snow looks nice, assuming you ever get any, but it lasts for 2 days before it’s cold muddy slush, which doesn’t stop people from putting it down your neck. Everything is grim, the trees are all skeletons, and it goes dark about a minute after you get up. Most of the time it’s just rain, wind and freezing cold. Unless you want extortionate heating bills your home may as well be an igloo.

Spring: Spring is an awkward middle child, it doesn’t know if it wants to be winter or summer, so it tries to be both, which of course fails. Generally expect lots of clouds, rain, cold and wind, together with the kind of weather I call ‘nothing’. Once every few weeks you might think you see a flash of what might be the sun, but don’t be fooled – it’s just a trick.

Summer: The favourite among most, especially the young, active and annoying. Summer might be alright (assuming you don’t have to work, and you have a group of friends you want to go outside and do things with every single day, and they with you), if it wasn’t for the inexcusable fact that it continues to be present at nighttime when you’re trying to sleep. The nights are actually hotter than the days, what’s all that about?

Summer is like that friend who you only meet on nights out, and is “fun”, but at a certain point enough is enough, you’re tired and you certainly don’t want them to come home with you and keep you up all night.

Summer never knows when to arrive or when to leave. If you’re lucky you’ll get up to two weeks of dry, baking heat and sleepless nights before summer sacks the whole thing off early and delivers you into –

Autumn: Autumn desperately wants to be winter so much it’s embarassing. It’s always trying to impress winter, but it just doesn’t quite have the sociopathic chops to pull it off. Expect lots of try-hard attempts, chiefly lots of rain and cold, and omnipresent wind that will blow you into the road to be hit by a bus given half the chance.

Essentially, there is no such thing as a good season, at least not in Britain. The worst thing about them is that each of them is supposed to last for 3 months. The best thing about each of them is looking forward to the next one. If it was up to me each one would be a week long, so they didn’t outstay their welcome.

Actually, I don’t think I could handle a week of sleepless summer nights, so let’s put the four seasons over a week. Winter gets Monday and Tuesday, giving just enough time for the snow to melt before spring, which has Wednesday and Thursday. Summer gets Friday and Saturday, of course. Autumn only gets Sunday because it doesn’t deserve any more. It’s needed simply so you can have a decent night’s sleep before the awfulness of Monday.

 

people-walking-in-rain

I Wish You A Merry Christmas

I’m dreaming…

 

The father of Christmas, December’s paternal watcher, glides through the night. Blooded in green and red, driven by horned beasts that pedal the air with cloven hoofs. If you listen right, you may hear the bells on the wind.

Outside ghouls ice the windows. The wind chases itself through the skeleton trees. On high the moon hangs huge and fat in a nest of ink. Perhaps we will be gifted with the white rug coming down, perhaps not, but all truths of Christmas remain in our heart and our memories, and we can bring these forth in nostalgia, in movies and music, in simple sights and inventions, and in possessions by those Yule spirits that infest even common wood and stone with mulled fireside haunt.

Think of A Christmas Carol, and think of It’s A Wonderful Life. Think of Dickensian London, with snow on every day, feathering down onto black top hats and bonnets, feathering into the mass quilt. Drifts of Yuletide carols pass around gloomlit corners, hang under streetlamps and tip-toe the cobbles.

Think of good things in your life, things that have happened long ago and were good then and will always be good, and good things that will yet come to pass.

If you do not celebrate or officially recognise Christmas, enjoy your own festivities whenever they occur in the year, and leave others to theirs. Do not seek to ruin things that bring others joy or meaning.

Do not focus too much on semantics, or past meanings. The origins of things are never clear cut, nor are they often what they seem. Now, you make your own meaning. Christmas can be as religious as you like, but it need not be so necessary for others. Things change. Things are always changing. Whether your celebration be Christian, pagan, or secular, it is at its heart a festival about sharing.

Yes, you can never hear it enough: Christmas is about sharing; company, food, drink, gifts, cards, love, laughter, and life.

Do not think too much on the commercialisation of Christmas. Where there are gifts to be bought there is always money to be made. Think instead on those receiving such gifts. And remember, the thought is what counts.

To give is to receive.

November is old age, and December is the death of the year. Christmas is the year’s deathbed. A deathbed is no place for grievance, for old hate, for worry, for hubris. It is a place to forgive, to make amends, to make the most of what is left to you.

Hold candles to keep the darkness at bay, or embrace it as an old friend.

Take the time to be thankful for the good things.

If you have a home, be it costly, dirty, and broken, on this day be thankful.
If you have food, be it cheap, tasteless and out of date, on this day be thankful.
If you have a friend, be them unreliable, stubborn and offensive, on this day be thankful.
If you have family, be them difficult, irritating, and stuck in their ways, on this day be thankful.
If you have health, be your nose running, your body exhausted and your head aching, on this day be thankful.

Baubles and tinsel, multi-coloured jewels that glow on green needles. Presents wrapped in bows and glitter huddle together for comfort, gifts awful and brilliant, asked for and unwanted. The December Father looks in at the windows, nods his head. He pulls away the sprites with big eyes and sharp teeth, who remain outside under the knives of winter. You’re under his protection now, just for now, before he retires to his polar battlements, sailing long over seas where blue tentacles of northern Cthulhus whip the waves.

Drink, eat, and be merry.

Do not be an island among islands – calm usual angers and encourage good feeling, good sentiment. Remember the unspoken charities: charity to family, to friends, to strangers and to enemies. Charity can be in mere words.

Reach out. Make effort where you did not before. Think about the lives of others, even those you do not know so well. Think that, at our core, we all share the same experiences: those of life, love, strife, hurt, loss, and confusion. Give a present or card to someone you never gave a present or card to before. A gift does not have to be big or expensive; it could be homemade, and it need not even be a material thing at all.

People want, and need to be thought of, especially at this time of year. Tell someone you love them, you like them, that they are a good person, that they deserve happiness and if you had it in your hand you would give it to them first.

I am a misanthrope most days of the year, and regularly filled with pessimism, cynicism and frustration, and I do not really know what non-romantic love is, and yet on this day I love you all dearly.

If you are with others on Christmas, treat them as well as you are able. Pass over your differences. When a tongue should be held, hold it. When laughter should flow freely, free it.

If you are alone on Christmas, remember that not even in the darkest and most silent of times is there such a thing as true loneliness.
Put your ears to the floor, and listen. Listen carefully.
Do you hear it? Do you feel it?

They are awake, and they are listening back.

Merry f. Christmas,
S.S.

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