Friday, 2 November 2012



Frank lumbered down the stairs, dragging the heavy sack behind him. How could he let her get him into this mess?
This was the seventeenth time he’d been coerced into cleaning up one of her catastrophes. Sometimes it was as simple as making an apology or forking out bail, other times it was hiding a dead man; the curse of loving a lunatic.

“Hurry the fuck up.” Samantha shouted from the kitchen and took a final, long drag from her cigarette before stubbing it out.

“I'm moving as fast as I can. He’s a heavy bastard.” Frank heaved the sack across the hallway towards the front door and took a glance back at the stain trailing behind him along the carpet. “And he’s fucking leaking Sam!”

Samantha smirked as she slid on her leather gloves and strutted from the kitchen into the hallway, her blonde hair scrapped back atop her head with military precision and her long legs concealed in a pair of black jeans.

“Stop being such a girl.” She said, stepping over the dark stain on the carpet. “We’ll clean it later.”

Frank sighed, she meant of course that he would clean it later. He pushed his steamed glasses up his nose and his hair from his eyes then heaved the load out the front door. It was best not to complain too much, he thought, she was calm for now but her temper could be a volatile beast.

She skipped ahead and jumped into the driver seat of the truck. She was always the driver on these nights and he, always the passenger.

“Fling him in the back with the spades.” She said, winding down her window to light up another cigarette.

Frank did as he was told and then slid into the passenger seat, making sure to buckle his seatbelt – Samantha’s driving was as terrifying as her temper, perhaps more so. She smiled at him and flicked the smouldering tip between her fingers.

“I love you Frank.” She said.

“I love you too Sammy.” He replied and leaned his head in for her light kiss on his cheek – his payment for his work.

The drive was like any other night, out of the city, past the suburbs and on to the country roads, towards the forest. This was the best hour, a serene quiet would settle in the truck, with only the purr of the engine and the gentle fizzle of Samantha’s cigarette soothing the silence between the pair. It would be enjoyable, were it not for the speed they were hurtling along the road at. It was a wonder they’d never been caught for speeding never mind the body parts rolling around in the back.

Sometimes Frank would spare a thought for the poor bastards, silently of course, to himself. Sometimes he wondered who they were, or what they’d done to wrong the she-devil sitting beside him. He learned quickly that questions weren’t welcome; his job was to help her clean up the mess, not to ask the ‘whys’ and ‘what fors’ of the situation.

After the hour, the truck came to a stop.

“Get out.” Samantha said, opening her door and hopping out into the night.

The forest air was still that night, no scurry of wildlife or hooting owls, not even a slight breeze against the leaves. Frank’s stomach flipped inside him as he got out the truck; something wasn’t right.

“Sam, this doesn’t feel right.” He said, against all better judgement. “I have a bad feeling.”

She laughed from over by one of the trees, her eyes to the ground scouting out the perfect digging spot.

“Shut up you idiot.” She said. “It’s just like any other night. Go get the spades.”

He did as he was told and unloaded the spades and heavy sack from the back of the truck, then dumped the sack on the ground and handed a spade over to Samantha; he clutched his own tightly.

“Here.” She said, pointing down at a spot on the ground by the tree. “Get digging here.”

The next forty minutes, Frank dug the hole, deeper and deeper into the earth. He hated this part, often wondering if she would leave him there in the hole and drive off laughing into the night. She could easily do so and would it really surprise him if she did? It was just her sick sense of humour to do such a thing.
It was as that thought passed his mind, the crashing blow from behind sparked a fire inside his head and his vision seeped to black.

Frank didn’t know how long he was out cold for, it could have been minutes or hours, but when he came to, his mouth tasted of earth and his vision was blurred.

“My glasses.” He said in a daze, raking his fingers through the loose soil.

He could hear Samantha laughing above him and turned to see her standing over him with her hands on her hips and the sack by her side.

“What’s... What’s going on Sammy?” He said, squinting to look at her blurry figure.

“What do you think?” She said and picked up the sack. “You really are a fucking idiot Frank.”

With that, she tipped the contents of the sack, and the parts tumbled into the hole. Not man parts – animal parts. Squirrels, some rabbits, two cats, and the neighbour’s dog, each of them with throat slit and stomach open. Frank let out a cry as the stinking heap of death came down on top of him.
Still, she continued to laugh.

“Is this a fucking joke Sam?” He shouted up at her and her cackling stopped.

“No Frank.” She said, reaching down to take something Frank couldn’t see out from the rim of her boot.

He opened his mouth to speak but the words were halted on his tongue as two shots rang out, breaking the silence of the night, and again his vision faded to black.

Samantha stood for a while, smoking a cigarette and admiring her work, before tossing the gun into the hole, along with a confessional suicide note signed ‘Frank’. She smiled to herself as she skipped back to the truck and drove off into the night.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Testimony of Morton Anderson (1942)

The Testimony of Morton Anderson (1942)

I stood with my torch light quivering in the thick evening air. I was exhausted; we’d been out in the jungle since the early morning you see, searching for the tomb.
It was said the tomb of Zian is located deep within the centre of the Amazon jungle and is, according to our sources, filled with treasures no man could ever imagine, thus the cause for our laboured efforts.
No one believed we’d find it, they told us back in Cambridge that we were insane for even trying. They were wrong of course, they always are, but my god do I wish we’d listened to them.
That night we found the tomb, at the base of a small unnatural-looking hill, just where Reynolds said it would be.

“Morton, hold the torch up high.” He said to me as he wiped the sweat from his brow with his shirt and continued hacking at the layer of vines criss-crossing over the stone slab that was, he assured me, the entrance to the damned place.

I did as he said and held the torch up. In its light I could see the slab sat raised from the ground and did appear to be a doorway. But there was no temple, no temple above ground at least. This doorway led beneath the earth.

“Morton! Light!” Reynolds shouted at me over his shoulder when my attention faltered and I snapped to attention, raising the torch again.

There was something about this door you see, something hypnotic. I can’t quite place the sensation that came over me, as though it lulled me into a trance. Or perhaps it was just the heat getting under my skin. Either way, Reynolds seemed unaffected by the sensation and continued slashing through the undergrowth until the slab was revealed in its entirety.

We both stood back in awe of the thing. It was made of fine marble and intricately carved with swirls and knots of the very vines which had concealed it, with the fabled deity himself, Zian, sat amidst the jumble, his body wrapped in the vines and his face wide eyed with mouth open in a silent ‘O’. It was unsettling to say the least.

“We did it lad!” Reynolds slapped me hard across the back and his teeth flashed a pearly grin. “Grab your spade boy, help me lift the stone.”

“Are you certain this is a good idea?” I replied, aware that the hypnotic effect now felt stronger than before. “We don’t know what we’ll find down there.”

He snorted in response, ignored my hesitations, and wedged the end of his spade against the side of the slab. I slapped a mosquito from my arm (they seemed to multiply thrice for each one I killed) and reached to grab my spade. But before I could lean to help, Reynolds had already shifted the stone with ease, as though it willed itself into movement for him.

“Well, that was easy.” He beamed and lowered onto his haunches to take a look in the dark hole in the ground. “Morton, shine the torch in will you lad?”

In the light we could see the sheer depth of the entrance, a long tunnel which seemed to extend through the hill and down into the core of the earth. The dusty air tickled my nose and I stifled a sneeze, fearing disturbing the quiet which seemed to descend on us from the moment we uncovered the stone.

“Right,” Reynolds stood back up and dusted the loose soil from his palms and knees. “On you go then lad.”

“Excuse me?” I said with, I’m sure, my jaw at my ankles. “You want me to go inside?”

“Of course. What do you think I’m paying you for?” He replied with a frown.

I couldn’t argue with the man, not in that heat and with fatigue hanging over me, so I did as he said and crouched to crawl into the hole.

“Take this.” Reynolds handed me an end of rope and tied the other end round the nearest tree. “I’ll keep the torch here and shine it in after you. When you get to the tomb, call out to me.”

I nodded and began my crawl into the dark, rope held tightly in one hand. I don’t know what possessed me to agree to this insanity in the first place, perhaps adventure, perhaps the promise of riches, but I can tell you, in that moment there was no good reason in my mind to be crawling into that place. It stank of damp earth and the musky decay of rotting vegetation.

“Get moving!” Reynolds shouted from behind me. “We don’t have much time.”

I grumbled to myself and continued my shuffle through the tunnel until I hit a block in my way; a thick veil of moss or a spider’s web or some other sticky substance that clung to my face and clogged my nostrils. I let out a yell but there was no response from behind. I presumed I was too far into the earth at this point for Reynolds to hear me and continued forward.

As I crawled the tunnel appeared to narrow and shrink in around me the further I went. I kept my breathing steady and quickened my pace but the faster I moved the tighter the earth seemed to close in and the wetter the soil felt under my palms.
I could feel the panic of claustrophobia flutter in my chest (I’ve never been comfortable with confined spaces), let out a gasp and struggled to contort myself into a position that would allow me to retreat. But as I turned myself round in this small space, the earth shook and suddenly collapsed around me in a haze of soil and vines. A blast of air gushed by, not from the outside but from behind, from the core of the tomb. The air seemed to moan, and I swear now, I am certain I heard a voice boom from the depths.

I began crawling back to the point I had entered but the further back I went, the tighter the tunnel closed, until I was scrambling through on my stomach with grit scrapping at the skin on my face and arms.  Vines twisted and wrapped round my ankles and legs, pulling me back into the dark but I fought against them, gripping my rope against their tug. I could see the light of the torch ahead of me and called out to Reynolds but he didn’t reply.

My heart thudded in my chest and the air continued to howl through the narrow passageway as I scrambled towards freedom, each movement more sluggish than the last. Until eventually, I laid a hand out into the open air, pushing through a final thick knot of vine to haul myself from the tunnel.
I lay gasping on the jungle floor for some time before I found the energy to sit up. And when I looked to see the passageway I had escaped from, it was entirely covered in vines, branches and leaves of all kinds, right the way through. I shuddered at what could have been my own tomb and stood up.
It was then I saw Reynolds - what was left of Reynolds.

The air was so still around the pieces as they hung suspended by vines, twisting in the dark air like dripping ornaments for all to admire. I couldn't tear my eyes from the sight, until a rustle from the howling tunnel behind snapped me from my stare and at last sent my feet into motion through the jungle. I ran for some distance until I reached the edge of a nearby village. Only then did I stop to vomit.

The villagers found me a few hours later, or so I am told, slick with blood across my face and hands and all down my front. When I explained what happened they said we were fools, that we broke an ancient curse and freed the deity from his prison. I brushed off their tales at first, but soon came to realise the truth. It was several days later those villagers began to disappear. And each one who disappeared was discovered as Reynolds had been, hanging in pieces by the vines of the jungle.

Being arrested and brought back to England, came as a blessing to me in that nightmare. I dread to think how many have died since I left.
Perhaps I am responsible in my own way for these crimes, but I tell you now, I am no murderer. What I saw in the jungle is what I know to be the truth. We unleashed something into the world that night, something we could never have imagined, and now there is no way for me to stop it. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Prince

So I guess a good place to start with my blogging would be with a little story.
This one has been inspired by this week's Flash Fiction Challenge over at Terrible Minds.
(You can see the challenge and try it yourself here.)

I decided to have some fun with this and go all-out on the melodrama. So I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The Prince

Annabelle looked down across the green below her. What a wonderful day to be young and carefree, she thought. With the sun on her back and nothing but sweet country air and wisps of summer breeze tickling at her bare neck and arms, there wasn’t a single niggling anxiety in her usually troubled mind. If only Dr. Breen could see her now.
She closed her eyes and lay back against the grass. Yes, this was heaven, or at least as close as she could ever get, considering everything that had happened these past months. Delusional, suicidal, slit and cut in all manner of ways. They said she’d never be happy, that she’d never find peace from her own mind. But they were wrong, she was proving that now.

She listened as the breeze rustled in the branches above her and water trickled across pebbles in the stream down the grassy knoll. A bird chirped, a bee buzzed and a small toad croaked gently by her side. She opened an eye to look at the creature. 

“You’re a strange looking one.” She said softly to the toad, a bloated thing, about twice the size of any other toad she’d seen and several shades brighter.

The creature stared up at her with its goggle-eyes and croaked again, turning on the spot to face away from her and display the shining blue and red hues across its back, before hopping forward through the grass.
She watched as it progressed into the open green and her curiosity piqued. Such a beautiful thing and surely not native to rural England, she thought, perhaps it was poisonous or an escaped pet? The only decent thing to do would be to capture it.

As she got up, dusted the loose blades of grass from her jeans and walked towards the toad, a small brown rabbit skipped into her path. She stopped, waiting for the animal to flee, but instead it stayed and regarded her with quivering eyes.
She stared back at it, aware that her toad was now some way into the distance.

“Shoo.” She waved her hands at the rabbit “Go about your business.”

With a twitch of its nose it was off, but not far, remaining several hops closer than was natural for such a timid creature. Such a strange situation, she thought to herself, to be stalked by a rabbit while chasing a toad. Perhaps the countryside wouldn't bring her the peace she was searching for after all.
She let the thought pass, her life wasn't welcome here. This place seemed to drip with enchantment, and her life was anything but enchanted.
She continued walking, keeping her eyes to the ground for any sign of the toad, when her foot came up against a block in her way, something wooden. She glanced up, expecting to see a tree stump or fallen branch but instead was greeted by the most impossible sight – a door.
A sigh escaped her lips and she closed her eyes tight. Another hallucination, how stupid she was to presume she could escape her own mind. Dr. Breen was right, running wasn’t the answer to her problems. But when she opened her eyes, the door remained in front of her. She reached out a hand and felt the grain of the oak beneath her fingers – no, this was no trick of the mind, this was real.

She examined the door carefully; a brass handle, an oak frame, yet nothing behind. It was merely a door, standing in the middle of the open grass without purpose.  A door begging to be opened, and who knew what opportunities or worlds or distant dreams lay beyond?
She laid her fingertips on the handle and hesitated a moment, turning back to the rabbit. It sat in the grass a few paces behind her, a natural look of fear pinned across its face. It twitched its nose and blinked, shuffling its feet in the grass.

“Should I open it?” Annabelle asked, but the rabbit continued to stare.

Foolish, she scolded herself, who asks permission from a rabbit anyway?

With excitement bubbling in her chest, she took a breath, gripped the handle tightly, and flung the door open.
The sight that lay beyond seized the breath in her throat and froze the blood in her veins. No English countryside, no new worlds, no dreams, no light; nothing.
She stared into the black emptiness in front of her and felt her heart sink deep into her bowels.

“What is this?” She said, as she tore her vision away from the darkness back to the sunlight, and back to the rabbit.
“What the hell is going on here?” She demanded of the small creature, but as she did so, a sound echoed from the empty hole behind her – a croak.

She spun back round, and peered into the darkness; there, at the brink, just beyond the door-frame,  sat the toad, gazing up at her with forlorn eyes and pulsing throat.
Without a thought, she reached to grab the amphibian, lest it be lost into the abyss. But as she reached out, the toad hopped away from her.

“No!” She said, surprised by the concern in her own tone.

She took a step forward, edging into the dark, and reached again. But again the toad eluded her grasp.

“God damn you.” She said, and took several strides forward, before all trace of light disappeared from behind her with a soft click.
Too far.

She spun round, her eyes darting in the emptiness but the doorway was gone, and the toad well out of sight. She sat down on the spot, wrapping her arms around her knees.

“They always warned you’d lose yourself in your own mind.” She said into the dark, without expecting response.

But here you are anyway.” The reply came from every corner of the emptiness.

She buried her head in her knees as she drew them closer to her chest.

“You’re not real.” She said “None of this is real. I’m having another black out, and when I wake up, I’m going home.”

You’re already home.” The voice responded.

She buried her head further and waited. That was all she had to do in these situations - wait. And when she had waited long enough the real world would return and she’d find herself strapped to a bed or with a needle in her arm. She shuddered at the thought, perhaps reality wasn't any better than this.

As she sat clutching her knees, a faint sound laced through the shadows, a tinkle, music, (if it could be called music at all) a strange combination of keys and tones, none of which blended to form any sort of recognisable tune. She raised her head to listen.
Yes; it was definitely music, but far out of tune, as though someone were playing on a broken harp or a faulty keyboard.

Do you hear my song?” The whispered voice echoed.

“It’s no song.” Annabelle replied “It’s just noise.”

She stood up and wandered in the dark, her eyes had begun adjusting to the new surrounding, and she could see that she was not in fact suspended in a state of nothingness, but was in a dark room with wooden floor and low wooden ceiling but without walls that she could see. It was mostly dark at least; but for a small glimmer of light several paces from her.

“What is that?” She asked the voice but received no reply.

She continued towards the ball of light and source of the flat song the voice had proudly claimed as its own. And as she neared, the light sparkled like a thousand tiny diamonds, beckoning her, calling her towards it. The noise which had seemed so garish now appeared to take form and voice of its own, singing her name in its flat chords.
She reached down to pick up the glimmering ball and turned it over in her hands.
It was a small round box, which rotated in her hand as she held it, the two halves of the sphere turning in opposite directions, glittering all the while.

“A music box!” She said in an almost childish glee.
In all of this darkness and uncertainty, it was as though she had found some hidden treasure never before seen by human eyes.

Yes.” The whispered voice said from behind her.

She turned quickly to try and catch a glimpse of its owner, and was unsurprised to look down at her feet and see her old friend, the toad.

“What are you?” She said.

Trapped.” The toad replied in its raspy tone without moving its lips.

“Trapped by what?”

The ancient curse. The only curse.”

Annabelle looked at the glittering ball in her hand and back down at the toad.

“Is this cursed?” She asked holding the orb out in front of her.

It traps my soul, and tortures my mind with its song.” The toad said with a whine. “It is my curse to remain trapped in this place.”

Annabelle looked at the little creature and felt a heartbreaking sadness wash through her. Perhaps this is a fairytale, perhaps she is a princess destined to save a prince from his exile in this dark place.

“How can I help you?” She asked.

Break it.” The toad replied quickly. “Smash it to the ground and end its song.”

Annabelle looked once more at the shimmering ball in her palm.

Do it.” The toad said, excitement bubbling in its raspy throat. “Save me from my torture. Restore me.”

Without another thought, Annabelle threw the sphere to her feet and watched as it exploded in a silent puff of tiny crystals in the air. The glittering dust whirled around her feet and legs and up into the air around her, catching her throat and fizzing up her nostrils as tremors erupted all around the dark expanse.

“What’s happening?” She said, trying to steady herself in the whirl of sparkling air as the ground beneath her feet quaked.

The toad didn't reply, and the dust whipped into a sudden storm of wild air and shards of crystal blasting against her face.

“What’s happening!” Annabelle shouted above the growing din.

Freedom.” A voice spoke out in front of her, but it was not the voice of the toad, or at least, it was not the the voice of the toad now.

She shielded her eyes against the gale and peered into the chaos, to see a shadow, large and looming in front of her. Her eyes widened despite the grit, and a scream fled her lungs and danced about the swirling air as the shadow set its glowing stare on her.
This was no prince, no prince of any world she could ever conjure up inside her own mind, no prince that belonged in any world other than this dark place of emptiness.

“Please...” She uttered, before the shadow engulfed her in the gaping chasm of its jaws, and the darkness was left to silence.

A few paces from the spot where the impossible door once stood, an impossible door which leads to an impossible place no passer-by ever returns from, a small brown rabbit sat and blinked in the sunlight. It flicked a fly from its ear and a tiny sigh passed its twitching nose, as it returned to its vigil atop the grassy knoll and awaited the next lost soul. 

Hello and Welcome

Hi there, and welcome to my dark little corner of the internet. Don't mind the tumbleweeds.

I created this space as a sort of e-scrapbook to jot down any musings, stories, and general thoughts I have as I journey along the weathered road of novel writing, story telling and general penmonkeying around.
(See the masterful Chuck Wendig should you have any questions on being a penmonkey.)

I can't promise everything in this blog will be worth reading,or that I'll even post with any great frequency, but if you've somehow managed to end up here, I offer you a welcome and hope you enjoy my ramblings.