Sunday, December 11, 2011

Born From Night - Talkback - Ogthrod Ai'f Geb'l

Born From Night

"Nothing to suck."

The voice filled the room, despite being no more than an infant's - or so it seemed. The darkness hid the true identity. In fact, he imagined he was dreaming. Maybe he dreamed he was imagining. Whatever the case, he slapped his head back into the pillow as if that were the secret of sleep.

"I can't suck straight."

This time, a mistake was impossible. He sat propped against the headboard, listening with more than half an ear. In fact, even his heart had heard - beating twenty to the dozen, as it was. Yet the lungs were quiet, daring not to disrupt any possibility of silence - for which their owner yearned - with the faux pas of breath.

If only an untimely dawn would now soak the curtains in a spillage of orange light. He might have excused this mistake in the course of nature, in order to camouflage an even greater and more frightful hitch such as the voice which spoke of sucking as well as sounding as if the words themselves were syphonned up from a sump that had sucking as its second nature.

He could have felt for the light switch as second best. But manmade illumination was far from dependable. He did not know that. There was little else, however, in the midst of night. Even if the lamp broke into that yellow incontinence which was its shade's habit of casting after the dull click of the switch, it owed him nothing and, furthermore, felt no need to have truck with a ghost. He had sensed many such facts following the arrival in his new home. In any case, the ghost (or whatever it was) might be a chameleon and only the changing hues of daylight could throw up any figment of its presence...

He had no purchase on such considerations. He dabbed at the switch in his side and recognised the dull pin-click with a sigh.

"And now my teeth are cast crooked."

There, etched against the wallpaper, were two swelling tusks of black light, snagged one upon the other.

Silence was deeper than the empty space that quickly filled with a crumpled edge of cot-blanket.

Only with a blotted moon, of course, and the least tenable permutation of nature's secondary quirks, could vampires strut and stalk - freshly born from teething babies such as him.

Published 'Roisin Dubh' 1994



He stored up words for future use. Relished insults aimed at himself. Nurtured slips of the tongue. Incubated resentments in the actual shape of glib sound-bites.

And then, at the optimum moment, he would tighten the key and take careful aim at the unsuspecting victim, a victim who, more often than not, had earlier acted as the very source of the barb's power.

Until, one day, there was a ricochet.

And the poisoned dart he had himself blowpiped did pierce his vocal screen-bytes with a bit of his own viral medicine.

Published 'Braquemard' 1996


Ogthrod Ai'f Geb'l

(Dedicated to Rachel Mildeyes who stayed in the ladies only carriage forever.)

Each morning, Michael had to change at Clapham Junction for Victoria.

It was well known that Victoria had been the last station to welcome steam trains into their platforms, when all the other terminals worth their salt had banned them, following the influx of diesel and electric. But Michael knew that there was still a station at least somewhere which allowed in steam trains at the dead of night, so that they could shunt quietly to their heart's content . . . as long as they kept their funnel-smoke to a minimum, gagged their hissing, deepened their whistles and coupled on tiptoes.

Day-dreaming can be a disease. Michael tried to shake it off as he crossed from platform to platform. But, then, the tannoys would take up their cries, in a language far beyond the comprehension of the common-or-garden commuter.

It often sounded like:


Or worse.

Michael seemed to be the only one to understand the messages; the others, clasping their cases and umbrellas for grim life, followed him across the foot-bridge so that they could catch the correct train. And it always came in disguise: bearing the strange Network South logo and, of all things, sliding doors, as if it were an underground train! Where were the leather tongues on the windows? The corridors? The third class carriages? The green sticker denoting the ladies only carriage? And where was the steam billowing into his face like curdling mists of coal-dust becoming forgotten fulsome night?

Day-dreaming again? He shrugged, stepped off the platform and settled into the smoking section. Except the train was only just arriving, and his bones would soon crunch upon the long teeth of the silver runners and upon the brown gums of the sleepers, his flesh to bed red between.

He heard the tannoy:

"This is Clapham Junction, This is Clapham Junction, Gateway to the North, This train is for Victoria own-le..." And so on, interminably, becoming shriller and shriller.

Pity none of the words made sense to him. So, having abandoned day-dreaming for good (or ill), he shrugged with a shudder and travelled on to his office job further north.

Published 'Crypt of Cthulhu' 1992

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