Friday, December 30, 2011

“TARSHISHIM – boxed limited edition” by Ron Weighell

Real-time review continued from HERE

The Voice of the Silence

“Adam Weishaupt’s ultimate secret was that the secret that there was no secret has served to conceal the secret.”

With “Wax candles spread their golden light” and “teachers who have been busy lighting candles”, the ‘Illuminatus!’ of this accretion-cage of meanings grows with both political contraptivity and mystical glowing: here a 19th century scenario hinting at a great female Theosophical thinker who also seems embroiled with this book’s ‘co-spiricy’ of or with Angels and Demons. Despite some false starts in my gathering leitmotifs from this Classical Weird of symphonic proportions towards a gestalt, I am now much more confident about my own abilities to ‘bottom-fish’ fundamentals (as well as trawling any ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’) from the ‘decks’ of the  literary vessel that is the Box. [Any faulty gaps between the book's own seams are taken as read particularly in the light cast by the still ribboned pack of loose-leaf yellow journal notes yet to be investigated after finishing the book. Meanwhile, still no sign of those apparently missing items I mentioned at the beginning of this review.] (30 Dec 11 – another 90 minutes later)

The Law of Unintended Consequences

“In his long experience the unexpected arrival of an expensively dressed, arrogant looking civilian in the heart of a military operation heralds nothing good.”

…like a presumptuous real-time reviewer seeking the heart of a book but trampling – as well as stumbling on – precious vessels and veins as a result like a bull in a china-shop? Meanwhile, this story has a neat equinish conceit involving the Veterinary Surgeon being presented by the civilian to “the unstoppable future of our Nation’s Cavalry.” Causing, end-interpolatively, many real horses to act like lemmings. Sad, yet stirring. Rhys Hughes-ian. The law of averages is not an average law, I say. One wonders whether the Eastern-looking tent or pavilion was more of a ‘contraption’ in keeping with this book’s dutiful thread? (30 Dec 11 – another hour later)

[I quoted "the anatomy of the whale" earlier. I'm sure - in the light of my review techniques - I misread this as "the anatomy of the whole"...] (30 Dec 11 – another 30 minutes later)

The Lion Serpent Begets Gods

“The music, by the way, was superb. I congratulate you, Scriabin.”

If this book previously went into ‘overdrive’, it is now in overdrive’s overdrive! Gorgeous things (both decadent and undecadent depending on your point of view) embodied in sumptuous, Galean prose: depicting a new Bayreuth or Rutland Boughton Glastonbury (my inferences, not the book’s) – while tying up the book’s ’dutiful thread’ with Classical Music and other previous theosophical and “qliphothic” matters, Historical, (here) Russianised, Engravured, Empyrean, Close-Closeted or Universal. [I brought this real-time review to my surrounding 'Classical Horror' website before I realised the book was here to extrapolate on Classical Music at all. My family actually discovered Scriabin for BBC Radio 3 in the 1970s, by requesting his music.] A Panoply of Human Gods. Listed, like buildings. [I wish this book would get its internal hyphens sorted out as in 'frost- etched' and "white - veiled".] Eyes Wide Shut. Kubrickian, too, by inference of wide-eyed deliverance of the Reader to these ‘secret’ scenes (albeit non-sexual, so far). (31 Dec 11)

On the Side of the Angels

“In fifteen sixty six, when Suleiman’s Sorceror called up demons to fight alongside the Ottoman army, an Angelic Host led by the Archangel Gabriel was summoned to oppose them.”

Felicitously, amid the book’s dutifulness towards its own Angelic thread, there is much synergy not only with my own long-term definition of ‘magic fiction’ as a real power in human affairs but also with the use made of it in warfare as described by the masterpiece ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ in the name of Susanna Clarke. Also, arguably, a textual hint here of the internet as part of these processes, which my real-time reviewing also taps into, I suggest. “I take it you are not well read in the works of the master, Edgar Allan Poe? I thought not. It was his belief that if you wish to hide something, the best place is in full view.” This book is fast becoming, in full public view, an important part of my life, retrocausally as well as linearly forward in time. Remarkably, it mentions in this section today “Marston Moor” as one of the battles where “Beings” were sent, i.e. a battle which, synchronously, only yesterday was mentioned independently to me on a semi-public internet forum (here) as being a battle that (with right or wrong on my side, angels or demons?) I am currently fighting on behalf of real books against ebooks. (31 Dec 11 – four hours later)


“…and flickering firelight, full of the smells of old books…”
A scholarly meeting in tune with M.R. James but, refreshingly (with scholars worth their salt), leading not to a plot-sized populist ghost story but to implications of more ‘musical’ interactions of Fine Art (fine as well as foul?) and Philosophy within the book’s Angels & Demons thread / Rationalisation and Magic / Control and Totalitariansim - and how each of us – however firm we are in our beliefs and in our own hard-won goodness – teeters in the grey area between such pairs of ‘similar opposites’, such Ewers-Spider symbioses or host/parasite-uncertainties-of-which-is-which — {Swedenborg or Blake?} [The paragraphing and speech-marks at one point in this section made it difficult to differentiate speakers]. (31 Dec 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Satyrs Gathering

“…the magic that could be wrought by the decoration of books.”

A short telling Coda to the previous story, regarding Chaos Theory (butterfly effect between earthly things and Angels) and much else contained within its Tardis of words. Serendipitously, Blake figures here (Hitler again, too): and the cats and other creatures from the VanderMeers’ massive ‘The WEIRD’, and the London Stone ley-lines from Ackroyd – and the oxymorons within salvation… And it also reminds me that Caruso’s decorations are suffused with Blake’s, in a good original way. Another symbiosis. (31 Dec 11 – another hour later)


Monday, December 26, 2011

Here Comes The Nice

Real-Time Review continued from HERE.

Here Comes The Nice – Jeremy Reed

Here Comes the Nice by Jeremy Reed

Chapter 10

Paul looked out into the street again, confused by the Face’s weird crossover from style completist to gene-hacker, and the putative correlation of the two into a Mod aesthetic.”

Paths cross, tomorrow not necessarily a legacy of today, and, amid the mind- (sometimes glove-neat sex)-resonating page-text, I’ve come to this new review page to stop others googling ’Tony Blair’ or ‘Dominic Sandbrook’ – and a ’2011′ conspiracy to punish the former for war crimes. Meanwhile, SF tropes mingle with the intertwining ley-line audit-trails of Paul and John Stephen (via Max who knew JS in his hey-day of real-time and via the Face who supposedly knows JS today despite JS dying in 2004), of Paul and the Face himself head-to-head, similarly Paul and his ‘Suzie Q’. Apparently, as I infer, TB and JS had one thing in common – committing deliberate crimes to test the alertness of those who should prevent such crimes. Suzie Q, too, in her way. I feel sorry for Alex. This book is now at “full tilt”. Unmissable. (26 Dec 11)

Chapter 11

“…Pete Townshend typically burying his guitar neck in a Marshall speaker, like a Boeing thrusting its nose cone through a mirrored tower,…”

It was ‘full tilt’, in hindsight of this new chapter, just on the point when entropy began within the ‘Mod aesthetic’ and developed (Ready Steady Go!) a submission to an image-veneer. In spite of this (or accentuating such a contrast), The Who now take centre stage; you just have to listen to, as well as read, this book to believe its conjuring-up of this Hoovian anti-destructive vacuuming into tangibility and then out of it, then back to it, time and time again, a strobing that’s always had a place in life despite sometimes being imperceptible. Just try, please, even if you know nothing directly about the Mod and/or Modern worlds this book depicts. Empathise with the Face, even if your Liberation front-to-come or beach-head is not the same as his: give your own slant to the “retrovirus” of this book. When I watched ‘Ready Steady Go!’ on the TV in real monochrome time, I never realised how this ‘programme’ of gene or virus or atom particle could now be brought back into my life in 2011 so meaningfully. Nor the fact that, today, I happen, by chance, to live in Clacton, not Hastings! (27 Dec 11)

Chapter 12

“…his own preferred method of time-travel, writing.”

Paul, in our own real-time today, is in “asymmetric warfare” regarding, against or along with ”the quantum weird”: a fashion statement, a physical book to carry around with you like Catcher in The Rye, but now it’s a book called HERE COMES THE NICE. But when it’s just one of a million ebooks on an ipad, you can carry a million books around with you and assassinate a million John Lennons. Each Mata Hari “infatuation” just another of those ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ or “filleted wallets” scattered upon the Barbara Vine trackside. Blair as “viral glue“. I’ve given up logically reviewing this book, but am just enjoying being infatuated with it. The Dead and Living cancelling out each other’s context within a palimpsest of nostalgia and retro-dread. Of “confectionary” and ‘confectionery’. "Writing about the dead was like Pirate Radio..." (27 Dec 11 – three hours later)

Chapter 13

Death to him represented the absence of shopping and music.”

As the potentially ”disempowered” Face fears the loss of, inter alia, “Jacob’s cream crackers, four-finger Kit Kats,..”, his desire to optimise a fashion-eschatology for his own immortality takes on practical possibilities; meanwhile mingling with aircraft imagery, the gayrisk of the still elapsing or entropic 1960s (beyond their ‘full tilt’), and, above all, a SF-surrounded Music Hall (Jeremy Reed as Leonard Sachs?) starring brilliantly evoked and contextualised acts-of-the-day as they take on, in turn, each Face-centred chapter’s centre stage: here The Small Faces with ‘Here Comes the Nice’ parts one and two. (28 Dec 11)

Chapter 14

The Face came back downstairs adroitly, on springy feet, every movement an economic fit with the clean line of Mod ethics.”

Paul, two-timing (in more than one sense!), in our own “real-time“ of Alternate-World-Blair-baiting-and-inner-terrorism-masquerading-cinematically-as-suicide-bombers-while-the-gene-rejigged-Face-as-unsuicide-bomber-in-present-day London, now hits the crux facing him not only by the Face but also by a ‘rejigged’ John Stephen himself fresh from pre-Death. You know, this book, somehow, makes all this feel not only real-time but real. And not only seeming real, but being real. That’s its skill. ‘Magic Fiction’ as I have defined it publicly for several years, and, now, due to this book, a feat managed by a form of hawling. Yes, that’s what the Face is doing: hawling. (My expression not the book’s). The art of the “off-message weird“, too, as co-sponsor. Additionally, I feel, Peter Ackroyd lends weight to to the book’s Magic Fiction by dint of his ley-lines and London Stone, I guess. All hands to the real-wheel. Meanwhile, towards the end of this chapter, the book takes me into its underground toilet. The book‘s underground toilet, not the plot’s underground toilet into which Paul wanders… (28 Dec 11 – another 3 hours later)

Chapter 15

“…but still he knew Mods were essentially over, the corrupted strain diffused into skinhead revivalists with their raw fuckedness quotient of sham.”

1969 and a poignant description of the Stones concert in the heat of Hyde Park following the death of laconic Jones. And an almost unbearable mini-sketch of Marianne Faithful. This chapter is the Face’s ‘dying fall’ within real real-time and it is to this book’s credit that the real Reader cannot yet tell where it’s yet to go and where it’s all going to end, despite there being now only two chapters to read. Marc Bolan taking up the baton…? (28 Dec 11 – another 3 hours later)

Chapter 16

Pages 239 – 250

“…brands sold over the counter like Yacon, Yohimex and Viritab, and wanted to explore its libidinal increase further as part of his own self-regulated programme of sexual gratification.”

Paul’s own ‘dying fall’ now in less real real-time? Amid a Spitting-Image ballooning (I infer) Tony Blair as part of a an economic seedbed culture of decay, diaspora … and fractious guerilla warfare in London as Lebanon. Meanwhile, Paul speculates on his own two-timing! And sexual Zencore-ism (my expression not the book’s). Earth’s Core-ism (ditto). Max provides (tellingly in the context of this book) ”a memory of a memory” concerning John Stephen; as fictional-truth perspectives continue to both lock together and diverge… (29 Dec 11)

Pages 250 – 267

“…then you can join us in the sixties – the orange sunshine decade. You can cross the time-barrier.”

The time barrier? With this world of aircraft imagery and music, I’d say the sound-barrier, myself! — Meanwhile, this is a stunning chapter where the Face and Paul have their Shakespearean face-off (with Olivier playing one of the parts). There is one clincher fact I had not realised before in the emotions lying behind what Paul sees as the Face’s Time-stalking of him – and to reveal anything about it to anyone who has not yet read this far would be a spoiler. But rest assured you will not be disappointed by this book’s ‘dying fall’ of nostalgia and retro-dread, as I put it. Both sad and uplifting, where ‘aloofly’ has become “blankly“, yet a multi-charged two-timing sex / sf romp which creates truths rather than fictionalising them – incredibly so. Truths about the reported facts and sounds and senses of, I’ll say it again, nostalgia and retro-dread. It bears repeating, like a sonic boom or a “dirty bomb” in Canary Wharf or physically / mentally explosive Viagra / Zencore / Bombay Mix. And, here, for the first time (at least for me), ‘The Look’, central to this book’s fashion statement, is in fact an other-worldly literary term about making fiction LOOK as if it is non-fiction or, if not non-fiction, being injected straight into the underground toilets of your veins. This Book is the Look. It all comes home to roost for me. I only hope the protagonists receive their own fair share of credit amid the ‘dying falls’ – not only the author and publisher, although they deserve credit, too. There is more value in being a “deluded Mod impersonator” (the jury is out on that, anyway) than being an ex Prime Minister on the lucrative head-Talks circuit or a real-time reviewer like me (“I’m always one step ahead of my upcoming thought“) or a mere Reader like you with your life’s “weirdly counterintuitive events“. (29 Dec 11 – another 4 hours later)

Chapter 17

” – nobody, he realised, listened to the language of madness.”

A ‘dying fall’ is one thing, a Coda another.This is the perfect Coda. One where you can even hope with some conviction that Looks never blur into each other. Books, neither. Despite a retro-dread that they did, still do and will do. But, for me, the end fire and/or crystal ice in the drugs are provided by the real stiff-to-and-from-soft book in your hands: supplied to the Face, Paul, Alex, Semra, Suzie, John Stephen, Terry, all the Groups from the Ham Yard Scene, then towards BowieBolanRoxymusic and beyond… feeding off the words provided by the Book’s Look at them and, through Magic Fiction rather than Magic Reality, allowing them to exist for real rather than via the fictional drugs they think they put in their veins (dirty bombs and/or clean shafts of orange sunshine). … I recommend this truly stunning book unhesitatingly and I recommend it unconditionally, even if you’ve never heard of Mods in Sixties Britain. Or especially so. (Meanwhile, hoping with some studied aloofness to counter any suspicion of exaggerated enthusiasm.) (29 Dec 11 – another 90 minutes later) END

Monday, December 19, 2011

Encounters with Terror

"There can be no past without a future and, of course, neither without the way station of the present."   Rachel Mildeyes.

The little boy, in short grey flannel trousers, was on all fours upon the Persian carpet, watching a clockwork train that couldn't escape from its rails.  He laughed to himself, trying to imagine a real steam train chasing its own guard's van, with a huge heavy-duty key turning round and round in the side of its boiler.

                A large mother loomed at the door, spoke words that were below the hearing threshold and retreated with a wave of the hand.  The boy squinted along the line of tin soldiers that filed from the velveteen foot-stool towards the glinting rocking-horse in the dim corner.  The fire suddenly spurted, as a coal dropped, causing red sparks to march up the back of the chimney, and he shivered to think how cold this room would become once he had tucked himself into the cot (which already had its barred side down for him).  The fire would cease to be a friend, when the last glow died - but, in sleep, you needed no friends other than those you met in the dream, who would take you by your tiny hand and show you a path between the monstrous shapes that haunted the dream's edges...

The world is full of terror.  It stares from every corner, impends from clear and gloomy skies alike, follows its subject like an invisible shadow, waits in the wings for situations and moods to develop.

                Francis first came across terror when he was a new born baby in his mother's arms, gazing up for the first time into her beautiful face and watching her red lips move in tune with some meaningful sounds.  Terror stamps this memory upon his mind like a photograph blown up out of all proportion, since terror knows no boundaries, sometimes reaching into the womb and, at others, into the grave.

                He thus saw terror reflected in his mother's eyes: a baby with birth scars fit to frighten a seasoned surgeon.  It leered at him from her eyes, as if it were the evil changeling he could have become if different circumstances had prevailed.  And so, in her bed of confinement, his  mother cast Francis away to protect him from the creature in her eyes, but his umbilical cord became entangled with her diamante lizard brooch.  For a few seconds, he simply hung there like a lump of dripping butcher's meat.

He did not feel like mounting the rocking-horse.  But there was a long time to pass, almost a lifetime to someone of his age, before the little boy would feel sufficiently tired to crawl into the cot.  The clock on the mantelpiece which he was prevented from reaching (if not by the heat of the fire or the anger of his mother but certainly by the shortcomings of his height) turned over its workings as if it were about to strike - but it never did.

                He was tired of playing with with his toys.  He needed a pee badly, so he wandered out into the long landing, lined with paintings on one side that were too high up for him to make out their faces clearly in the half-darkness.  His little feet padded on the thick pile, before he reached the blue door marked "Necessarium".

                His mother had tried to teach him to unbutton the front of his trousers, but he always used the side of the leg-hole.  If he had only known all boys of his age did this little contortion, it would have made him feel less guilty. 

                The hiss of the stream against the side of the bowl had a temporary calming effect - but he never relished venturing far from his room at this time, when evening was putting on its night clothes.  He frequently feared that a red-hot coal might drop from the fire, in his absence, and burn a hole in the Persian weave - then bore straight through the floorboards, right down into the kitchen, only to kill his favourite servant, Nancy, dead in the top of her head!

Terror can have no diary, since there are no words to describe it.  However extreme and specific the event that engenders this orgasm of the soul, it will remain unwritten and vague, despite the vivid scars it leaves.

                The next time he recalls truly making the acquaintanceship of terror, however, was in his teens, although he knew that it was there all the time, whether seen or unseen.  Parts of wall, insides of wardrobe doors, in most bathrooms: he tried not to look directly at it, but he knew it was there out of the corner of his eye.

                Then, whilst at school, he was snatched from the changing-room shower one day by his sweaty peers, who proceeded to rumble him, frogged him to the cricket-gear cupboard and forced him to look terror in its one eye.

                "Hello, Francis," it droned drearily.

                "Hello," he replied through gritted teeth.

                "I'm glad you've grown up like me, son..."

                He managed to claw himself from his captors: most were helpless with cruel laughter, but some with kind tears.

As the little boy slipped back along the cold landing, he noted it had grown darker even in the short while he had been in the bathroom.  He arrived at the door of his nursery bedroom and listened at the keyhole, a ritual he often enacted, for no evident reason.  Except this time, the breathing was louder, deeper, longer in its rhythm.  He entered, heart in mouth, and saw the horse in the corner rocking in the same rhythm as the breathing.  The cot covers had been moved, he was sure, while he had been away, tucked tighter, neater, with a sheet lip where the silk pillow glistened.  Nancy must have been in already - or it was another servant, the one with the big teeth and and long red tongue whom he always tried to put out of his mind.

                He knew he would keep awake as long as possible, hurting his own tongue with his first childhood teeth to do so - in order that the day could be sealed with a goodnight kiss from his mother.  But he felt tired enough to get into the cot.  So, without clearing up the tin soldiers or retrieving the clockwork train from beside the jack-in-the-box where it had derailed itself, he climbed, with difficulty, between the taut covers that pinioned his body, whilst springs prodded his back.  He stared up at the ceiling, ill-lit by the fire, and discovered a new crack.  There seemed to be a new crack each time he studied its wicklow crazing.  There were worlds up there ... vast continents, warring nations, endless oceans and archipelagos ... where Nancy and he lived happily ever after.

Then comes his third and final encounter with terror.  It was a war that he'd been told needed to be fought, since causes were everything: he was not exactly a mercenary, but more one of those innocently caught up in the onrush of hostilities.  A tri-cornered affair with no causes other than  hate.  The last battle had been fought and he was the only one left alive.

                His own bravery disgusted him: he had fought as man would if possessed by a ravening beast.  He wept cruel tears, as he tried to prize his swollen hands from the blood-grimed rifle.

                The corpse of the soldier Francis had just killed groaned in death as if it were a fitful nightmare he sleeped.  The belly gaped upon wriggling innards as if these were new sexual organs the corpse wanted to be fondled and loved.

                Then Francis dreaded that terror was the sky itself, staring down at him with one searing eye.

                "Our Father up in Heaven..."

                Except he knew it was a mother, not a father.

                Francis muttered a nursery rhyme he had nearly forgotten from his mother's red lips.  And by smearing the changeling soldier's blood and guts over his own life-long ugliness, he prepared himself for healing reunion with the extreme of terror itself: the unsurvivable past.

As the fire began to settle in the grate, the ceiling cracks faded.  Just before sleep took purchase, the little boy managed to turn on his side within the tight covers and was sure he saw another little boy on all fours tidying up his toy soldiers in front of the fire and through whom could still faintly be seen the stunted flickering of the fire's one solitary flame.  The last thing the real Francis ever yearned for was the approach of his long-awaited mother's goodnight kiss, which would further ease him into deepest slumber - but he felt someone's big tongue and, then, the long teeth, instead.

"Terror has no diary, since Terror cannot write."  
Charles Maturin  'Melmoth The Wanderer'

Story Published: Dark Horizons #34 (1993)

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

Notes From A Dream - Foxflesh

Notes From A Dream

He woke with a start, scribbled a few notes from his dream. He had been sitting on a hillside, the climb to which had been through steep woodland, at the bottom of which he had left his children in the park, playing on the witch's hat, in the care of someone he could recall neither in the dream nor now. He watched the gliders taking off and landing on a raised airstrip across the valley. Each soared into the sky like an angel in splints, crested the thermals, as it dropped the winch line and circled above the model town in the valley.

His note. did not attempt to cover the precise nature of the town below him nor the whys and wherefores of the before/after of the precise moment in dream time. But, in writing the notes at all (which he often did after dreams he at least recalled having, if not their actual content), new visions came, ideas for future dreams and undercurrents of old ones that would otherwise have never seen the light of the day.

The sky soon filled with the gliders, the sunlight sparkling off their wings like stars on a clear night. He was horrified to see that two had collided and cartwheeled down.

That's when he woke, or so the notes said, when he read them that night before retiring. He was worried about the children he had apparently left unattended in the park. His own children were too old to be concerned about them in such a way. But he had a sneaking feeling that those in his dream were much younger.

He looked across at his wife who was knitting in front of the gas fire. He was horrified. It was not his wife at all. He looked down at his notes for clarification - for comfort - for some clue as to whether he was now embroiled in a new dream without the prior warning of going to bed and falling asleep.

The woman seemed to be knitting her own brain as it coiled from her revolving ear as if from a spindle. The white glistening wormthread was still clotted with her headblood. The finished product flowed over her lap and became the white grid of the gas fire which glowed ever upward nearer to its source. She smiled and said: "Time for bed, George."

His name, was it George? He could not even remember. The notes he had just been writing were now just marks on the paper in a language too unwieldy for translation.

A paper aeroplane flew past his nose, obviously constructed and launched by the creature with the brain knitting who was now staring imbecilically with a smile on quivering lips.

It flew into the next dream, where he was still sitting on the familiar hillside. He picked it up and read its message: "Your children have broken backs - unless you hurry down." Some gliders still hung in the sky, hovering like humming dragons. They were so close, he could actually see the dream aviators, smiling, waving - at him.

The distant airstrip bore the glistening groundling craft, and men as small as insects darted hither and thither, busy rewinding the various winches. An arc of a new moon rose early above this scene of activity.

George felt he must really hurry down to the park - he had ignored the message on the paper dart for at least half an hour.

But he woke before he could start off on the wooded slope - which he was suddenly desperate to scale down; for he feared that those he most loved in the real world were in the direst danger.

The utter frustration of waking from a dream too early...

The sky was below, the ground was above and he soared speedily towards two small children being weighed on a see-saw by a strange woman in a red felt hat.

Published 'Skeleton Crew' 1988



I must tell you of the time that I first came to the Clockhouse Mount - a year last Spring, I think it was, friend. Do you know the place? Yes, it's in the outer South London suberbs, in Surrey really, but you have to climb along a very long hill out of Cullesdon and when you get there, you see the Green, fronting a run-down parade of shops and, further over, the "Pail of Water". Mrs. Dobb, the landlady of the Pail, she knows all the gossip of the Mount. About the Sawdusts of Number 4 Rich Land: Jackie Sawdust once blew his nose, you know, in public view, he blew it so hard that he just stared into his handkerchief not knowing it was his brain wriggling there, he stared just a few moments, yep, before he dropped down dead. About the Clerkes of Long Land: their younger son was levanted by the Surrey press gangs for labour in far off spice fields. About the losers and the winners of the terrible family feuds. About this and about that...

There is a golf-course on one side, some other cul-de-sacs leading to small-holdings and desolate fields of staring horses, tangled woods and deadfalls, overgrown bomb-holes and the rusty discards of shortly forgotten squabbles. You know, they say that the clouds swag and belly heavier over the council roofs of Clockhouse Mount... and, as I plodded up, that day, in the hope of my first homely tankard at the Pail, large drops spattered from a previously clear sky. Even at noon, dusk was gathering itself and some laggard golfers were standing along the side of the road holding their clubs like spears, making funny faces beneath their tartan berets and wriggling their chequered trousers as if in some crazy fashion show. They would soon be off, no doubt, before the light had finally disappeared.

I looked across at the downbeat parade and saw that the shops had shut, not for lunch as I had thought, but because I, a stranger, had loomed up from Cullesdon and they feared what they considered to be my unwholesome custom. I shivered for had the Pail, too, locked its lounge and saloon doors? The locals were inside, apparently persuading Mrs. Dobb to let them have further illicit flagons of the home-made brew, as I forced an entry through an unoiled latch-door. The bobbled heads looked up, scowls muttering across their faces, and one signalled for me to sheer off.

"Dear Sackalive!" cried Mrs. Dobb, from behind the bar, a friendlier aspect indeed appearing to fleet across her countenance. "I didn't think you'd make it".

"By Cock!" I replied, banging my feet on the floor, "That was a long walk up from the town."

Meantime the locals gathered closer to me and one even fingered my turn-ups in some strange rite of inspection. I looked at the posters and the customary wall-scrawl, to see if this was indeed the day of the darts match that I had been promised. But, no - imagine my despondency, when I saw incomprehensible messages pertaining to a Wicca Meet, destined for that very night ... and further bills bearing such things I cannot now spell - Cuthloo, Shib-Shubbing in the snug, Yogger-Nogging in the saloon and, what was it, an outing at the weekend to the Goat of a Thousand Young for a turdle-eating competition.

I skipped pretty niftily from the pub, for, as they say, you shouldn't turn a heavy stone if something's moving it from underneath.

I ran ... but it was difficult, for what I had thought originally to be rain was in fact now great bulbs of bursting liquid cascading from, not clouds, but shifting, floating monsters in the sky. They extended and retracted, in turn, long arms of blackness, from several interlocked central bodies and, if I were religious, the nearest I could get to describing them would be a hell's brood, an overnourished confluxion of sky and foxflesh betokening the fall of old disgraced gods ... and several smaller versions were creeping over the brims of council roofs...

I ran ... but golfers and pub locals surrounded me. One, of the name Tokkmaster Clerke, as he later told me, wielded a massive rutted file, its frightful crenellations glinting in the flashing of the wings in the sky. I was held fast by one whose nose dripped as Tokkmaster moved the file across my skull. At first, my hair fell away in lumps and dropped to the ground, followed by my skin. He grated it up and down, scratched, sawed, and ground. I could feel the hideous vibrations, reverberations stunning and splitting my head. My skull scrunched. My teeth were on edge, as the grating continued, as he honed my bone. The file stropped and serrated my pure white skull. It ground and rasped. Against the grain. Gashed and scored. Etched and furrowed. Rutted. Fretted and chafed. Scrubbed and gnawed. Eroded and Kneaded.......

* * * *

I ill recall must of that but I live now with the Sawdusts of Clockhouse Mount, and they call me Jackie... They make me worship the great old gods of the Surrey Badlands and the Southern Mysteries... The top of my head is like the skin of cold stew, so I now always have to wear a hat: Mrs. Dobb made it, kindly, out of vinegar & brown paper... and the filing Clerke, he says he's my pal now.

Published 'Dagon' 1987

Jack the Cutter - It Must Have Been Toddington

Jack The Cutter

As Therm thumbed his way towards the meanderable lanes of deepest Surrey, he maintained a picture in his mind's iritic eye of his old stamping-ground: the lamentable one-way gutters and blind alleys around St. Paul's Cathedral. He knew a dosser had to do what a dosser had to do - and that was probably die as soon as possible, both to rid himself of the world and vice versa. But death was never the easiest way out.

Of course, he could've used the services of another dosser called Jack who wielded knives in the dark like shooting stars just for the hell of it - but Therm decided he could think of better deaths than at the business end of one of those. Furthermore, he rather resented popping his cork beside some damnable City Bank. He wanted to taste sweet countryside, not only upon the pan-handle of his tongue but also with the very ends of his teeth. Only the twittering birds would suffice, he deemed, to attend his swansong, those in the beck-dripping woods further south. Not that he thought with such poetical turns of phrase and there was some doubt whether his mind generated such ill-cut gems of English prose, in any event, since he felt a larger than life force acting upon his mind - one that not only controlled his destiny like a Christian god so out of control it had forgotten about the free will of its flock, but one that also loved and hated him, in equal measures, more than any god of any religion ever could.

The lorry driver chuckled. She glanced at the hitch-hiker who was a mass of melted mutter in the passenger seat. She had never given lifts to thumbers like Therm before, so she couldn't comprehend why this old toothy toper of a tramp had managed to halt a reluctant juggernaut on the hard shoulder and wheedle his way into the cab for a lift to Ruffet Wood (where its route didn't lie, anyway). So, all she could do was chuckle: humour being the only cure for life's absurdity that humankind could ever find. The tall lights gradually faded from the sides of the road, whilst she steered between them, Therm thought, as if she were on a fairground ride. Gradually, humps of indistinct trees blackened the night around - leaving only hazy fleets of stars in the narrow inky channel above.

"Where do you want putting off, exactly?"

Therm thought her voice to be saying something quite different, since he replied: "Yes, I love you, too". And the lorry plummetted headlong into a massive tree which seemed to be planted smack in the middle of the carriageway, causing the trailer to jack-knife violently - rattling the bodies inside the cab, floppy dice in the game of Fate - and then tinning them like pig spam within a blood sump. Evidently, the Christian god hated one of them more than he loved the other. And there was very little poetry in that, other than the fact that the two iron-clad corpses of Therm and the lorry driver were discovered hand in hand by the cutting crew.

In a fleeting after-life, Therm was a woman, one without his teeth. The end of the world came suddenly, as the sun fell from the sky (faster than gravity could dictate) becoming smaller all the time, crunching towns in the near distance as it finally came to rest.

Once an undead always an undead - and Therm quickly regained his body's pigsweat. The most disturbing part was an after-life where he was female. The teeth didn't matter so much. He clutched at himself below the bedcovers in a sudden irrational fear which the resumption of reality had brought with it. Somewhat relieved, but further disturbed by the fact that he had actually seemed to need such relief, he turned over on his side to find his wife staring at him, with Jack the Cutter's luminous eyes. Her two hands each had a knife that looked like an elephant tusk.

Then he glimpsed a real after-life one which would eventually become his wife's. A Christian heaven was meant to be a home from home, wasn't it? How many times did they want telling? Her son had spilled all the cornflakes over the formica table. *And* her husband had done his favourite trick of making only one cup of tea - for himself.

"I didn't think you were getting up yet," he claimed.

"You could've brought one up, then," Therm replied in the shrill voice of his wife.

"Good job I didn't, as you're already up."

There was no winning of arguments with a pig, especially a man's man such as Therm's husband who had become a fire-officer by means of countless acts of bravery. Therm shrugged and turned her attention back to her son the piglet whose rummaging in his satchel finally gave birth to yesterday's sandwiches which he said he couldn't eat because they had too much blood inside. She was halfway through spreading a thin plasma extract on a new set, as if she were priming the surface for another generous smoothed-out dollop of fresh blood, in turn reminding her of the skidmarks on the underpants with which she was presented every other day by husband and son alike. She could not help thinking she was mad - because a mind in after-life automatically imported its own disbelief.

The house was dead quiet. Therm's husband and son had both gone. There was staccato twiddling with the wireless. Housewives' Choice was announced this week by one of her particular favourite disc-jockeys. What was his name? She couldn't get the station. The dial she twirled fine-tuned nothing but high-pitched whistles or a voice that called itself Jack. She wound herself up into a frenzy. Tying a scarf around her head in that pixied way most women did in the fifties and sixties, Therm released the heavy overcoat from the broom cupboard and bustled with it into the street. The sky was pink like the underbelly of a pig, with an aureole of teats around a faint white splodge where the moon had once been.

Organic spaceships. Unidentified Fixed Objects in the sky, sprinkler systems for a world about to catch fire. The words buzzed in Therm's head as if her bee brain had broken loose. She was Queen for a day. Nobody else about. She wandered the empty streets, weaving between the ill-parked cars, feeling herself undeserving of the senile dementia to which she had been abandoned by the head-lease dreamer. She was the tenant in a fleshy bivouac which could be sub-let no further down the scale of reality. She almost wished her two menfolk could return. At least, they presented some form of sanity, even if in the shape of teeth-tusks. The pink in the sky turned slowly black...

Therm woke from every conceivable after-life, including the one where he actually had a wife with his own name. Dressed in a cardboard suit, he levered himself over beneath the cold dark dripping arches. In the near distance sat the hunched silhouette of St Paul's Cathedral. He was alone in the whole world, neither demented nor sane. That was the worst thing of all. He tried to get back to sleep and retrieve some of the feminine wherewithal that he seemed to have in the after-life. There had been a Charles Lamb story about how civilisation invented roast pork. Such stories were almost sufficient to warm the cockles of his heart, like memories of his sandwich-making mother. He once loved the cold waking he had of it. The songs on the wireless still buzzing in his head. Would sleep never return? Could flesh be made palatable by freezing? Existence was like being encased in sheet iron which moved with the body, unfelt for most of the time. He poisefd his two protruding teeth upon the engorged arteries in his wrist. The yellow street-light flickered out, making it easier to sleep - and to welcome the cutting crew that rescued the undead from life itself.

Blacked up ready for the night, the Devil sat in his dressing-room, staring mindlessly into the mirror. His pointed face was ringed with flickering coloured light bulbs, so he could not fail to fathom his own eyes. They were staring so hard it seemed as if he were playing a make-or-break game with himself: the last to blink would explode.

Then, he plumbed such a long way, he saw a thought, an idea, a concept, a caprice, one which he did *not* want to see. Deep deep down in the dungeons of his soul where the funnel of his sight ended - deeper indeed than Hell itself - was a doubt. And never had the Devil doubted before. This doubt gnawed at his vitals and tempted him to believe that he was not the Devil at all, but a dosser called Therm: nothing but a wine-bibbing tosspot who spoke to himself in nonsensical rhyming couplets, to blot out the nagging loneliness in his heart....

There came a sharp rapping at the door: "Five minutes!" The voice was deep but heavenly sweet.

The Devil fled back up towards his sight, tussling through the blubbery membranes and red threadworms which surrounded the eyeballs. He would soon be on - if "on" is a word sufficiently weighty to convey the performance he was about to undergo, with no rehearsal, no other actors, no props, no stage to speak of, no audience....

Therm woke briefly from an undead's unnatural sleep. He sat up straight in the darkness, startling the other cardboard-suited dossers who had been lightly dozing nearby under the midnight moon. But now the moon was nothing more than an artist's careless smudge. This was because, upon the blackdrop of the sky, a circle of flashing fairy lights slowly revolved as they grew bigger or came closer.

"Blimey, they're piggin' spaceships!" muttered Therm who proceeded to squeeze his eyes shut tight like a child making pretend he was sleeping. Perhaps dreaming of tin-openers again. Or an after-life in Hell.

There was a raucous orchestra tuning up in the pit. Tap-dancing with cloven hooves was a deafening act to under-perform. So, he tip-clodded in, flowing mane coiffured by Hell's finest stylists, skewed antler-horn painted out against the scenery, forked tongue being tasted by its own guardian teeth. His mascara eyes were blinded by the searing twirling spotlights from above the seats in the gods. His innards felt like lolloping eels still alive, but he jabbed away desultorily with his furry hind-limbs. As the spots faded, he spied a spare pair of sparkles in the audience - like eyes on spikes. And Therm the vampire, thankfully, was consumed by a sleep like delicious death - too numb even to feel Jack the Cutter's preparing hands ... except from inside such hands like fingers in gloves.

Published 'Stygian Articles' 1996


It Must Have Been Toddington

The sky hung in warm wet blankets. Tim Overdale wiped threads at sweat from his hair-line, as he turned off the car's engine. He had gratuitously steered into a lay-by off the A426, not to get his bearings so much but to assure himself that the air pressure had not dropped - he had an obsession with the tyres: a deep dread of blow-out or unexpected seepage of their firmness.

Tim turned over the cassette and pushed it back into the slot on the dashboard. He began to listen as the static hiss became music, a Stabat Mater by a composer he had forgotten. Fumbling for the case, he forced himself to read his own untidy handwriting., finding that it was by Dvorak.

"Four-Jack," he whispered to himself.

Time enough to test the wheels later; he was early for his appointment anyway.

He grabbed hold of the Guardian purchased earlier in a motorway service station. Watford Gap, he seemed to remember: or had it been Toddington? Probably neither.

There was some news in the paper that the American president made all his decisions in the light (or rather, thought Tim, the dark) of Astrology. Something. to do with the alignment of planets determining whether he should venture out of the White House or not. Wonder what the man on the other side of the world thought of that, having summit meetings dependent on the cusp of Uranus!

Bored, Tim let his eyes wander: he looked out of the car window at a blurred factory chimney reaching. up into the sticky grey of the sky. Smoke started to belch from it, as if it knew it was being watched...

A sharp tap on the rear window made Tim jump - he swivelled around in his seat to see a woman staring in at him. She was smiling at him, but there was more than a hint of sadness in her eyes. He got out.

"Yes? Can I help you?"

She was in her mid to late twenties, dressed in a uniform of white blouse and navy-blue pleated shirt that came to just below the knees. Her hair was windswept, or perhaps just untidy, in view of the lack of' wind, thought Tim.

A flicker of recognition lit a dim memory in his mind - only to be snuffed out as she replied.

"I wanted to tell you that one of' your tyres is flat." Her voice was husky, as if she was suffering from a sore throat, or perhaps from trying to reach him over the loud music. She pointed to the rear nearside wheel.

Tim cursed. His immediate thought was to the spare in the boot, would that be flat too? He had not checked it for at least two days. "Thank you..."

He did not question the arrival of the woman, next to the middle of nowhere as they were. The only sign of life nearby was the factory beyond the roadside field that was speckled unnaturally bright. yellow in the gloom.

"You have a spare, don't you?"

"Yes, I think so... Don't let me keep you, I can manage. Thanks again, I might have done some damage If I'd driven off with that thing...." He pointed to the ugly rupture, the flesh of the tread splayed out on each side of the hub. Cringing, he knelt to examine the damage, inserting his finger into the various holes. This was no ordinary puncture - the whole thing had been flayed.

"Nasty business." The voice was above him.

Tim looked up. She was a peculiarly attractive woman; the outline of her bra showed vaguely through the sheeny blouse in the steel light. Her face was round, a bit puddingy perhaps, but the well-defined curves of' the lips and the spearmint eyes...

Tim wondered why he was studying her to such a degree. He had more than enough trouble on his hands now to be spending time sizing up a potential pick-up. Years ago, he was always on the look-out for female hitch-hikers. But now, what with aids... He was older too, more mature, less over-sexed, less eager. Still, his hands flexed involuntarily.

"You sure I can't help?" The words seemed to breathe into his ear.

"No - no, thanks all the same. It's a simple matter these days. Jacks are much easier to handle..."

Hearing the faint strains of music still coming from inside the car, he stood up to go and switch it off.

"I'll do it." As if reading his mind, she opened the driver's door and disengaged the cassette.

It was strange how quiet it was out here. The sky had even started to brighten up, the drizzle relenting just before he had climbed out of the car. The heat was still oppressive, damping down any sound, including the footsteps as they negotiated around each other. She was, he thought, trying to get in the way.

"You know we were meant to meet here today."

Squatting by the blow-out, Tim stared up at her, at a loss for words. What could you say to a statement like that. So he ignored it.

He went to find the jack in the boot.

The afternoon was far brighter, for the sun had burnt off the morning mists. Tim's white car was still in the lay-by. The yellow field, despite the sunshine, was no brighter, it seemed, than it had been in the morning. The colour was true. You no longer needed to study the sky to see the factory chimney - it was just plain there and not worth the notice. The odd cars that pounded along the road were merely reminders of other human beings.

Tim had the driver's seat leaning right back. A gluey heat seeped down his face, so that he could hardly see through the sticky eyelids or breathe out of the bubbling nostrils. A twitching lizard's tail peeped from between his lips.

Music played. He had not put it on, he was sure, for he did not like jazz: a husky, bluesy voice, a mix of Elkie Brooks, Ella Fitzgerald and Janis Joplin. He could not easily decipher the words, for his ears were fast waxing up with yellowing brain...

His lower parts stank: he could not smell them, of course.

Tim suddenly realised something he had known all along - he had seen that woman before today: she had once been a hitch-hiker, unlucky enough to get the younger Tim Overdale as a lift.

The car slowly sank to its chassis.

Yes, it must have been Toddington...

Published 'Flickers 'n Frames' 1990

House Trained - Culture Vultures

House Trained

My name is Matthew Shakewell and I nearly died yesterday.

I shall try to relate as closely as I can my experience, but please keep your hand on your heart and read this story in the clear light of day...for you may die of fright, as I so very nearly did. Please take care, make sure my words are not those of a mad man or one who wants to frighten you gratuitously; make sure you do not put too much credit in their meaning as appreciation of their truth could have damnable effect on the mild-mannered or the nervous...but, as I write this, I genuinely believe each word I am about to devote to paper.

So much for the warning, now for the facts.


I snuggled into the warmth of the carriage as the train churned through acre upon acre of English countryside. It was impossible to view the trees and village stations we must have passed through, for the night enshrined everything; so the most sensible thing to do was to try and sleep until the time for arrival at my destination, where my uncle would be waiting to greet me.

I slept for how long and with what vague dreams? Nebulous vistas of strange dimensional cities intruded, warped visages staring and tentacles clutching, wet lips and things sucking near. I awoke to the carriage, the formless darkness sliding away past me and an old man snoring in the corner. I was quite shaken by my dreams as the memory of them lingered incoherently. But I soon realized on looking at my timepiece that I should have arrived at my destination about an hour before!

It was then that I comprehended I had not seen one thing from the carriage window. True, I was travelling through a comparatively uninhabited part of England, but this was decidedly peculiar; even though there were no stars nor moon, I should have seen the distant glow of some big town or the lonesome light of a spinster's cottage. But absolutely nothing could I see, presumably on acoount of the unusual blackness of the night through which I was speeding in a corridorless train. Might it be fog?

I relaxed back into the seat and viewed my sleeping companion. The fog would explain the lateness of the train, but what about its apparent speed?

I was convinced the train was traveling at a phenomenal speed, but it was now two hours overdue--without precedence on that line. I resolved to wake my companion and I stepped over to shake him. What curled from the hood of the duffel coat was an evilly scarred face and, on unwinding, gave me an imbecilic smile: a moon-face topped by a schoolboy's cap, giggling in the depth of its rasping throat.

"Mutation" is a word too medical, too clinical, as what I saw was essentially unwholesome; nothing created by a mother on this world, but fashioned far away in dim lands beyond the galaxy we know. The transfiguration took me completely by surprise as, before my eyes, the monstrosity literally dissolved and dripping from the brown duffel coat was a green, sticky slime, forming a viscid puddle on the swaying floor.

It held all the smells which disgust man throughout the world and others completely new to his nose, recalling my dream vistas and certain other things I could not quite place.

My first thought was to pull the communication cord, but I felt the train was slowing down--presumably my destination had been reached. My mind was a maelstrom as the train drew to a halt. On jumping to the platform, I realized it was not my intended destination, but a strange station ... and the nightmare train was drawing out, leaving me bewildered and valiseless. Amid the chaos of my mind, I knew I had to find a porter and share the horror I with him.

Empty tins and scraps of paper scuttled along the deserted platform, driven by the night wind. So, no fog! Visibility was excellent, but it still puzzled me why I could not see the moon nor the stars. I shouted for assistance, but none came: a forsaken station, forgotten by all who used to work there, those who, under a happy sun, waved green flags and blew whistles, carted parcels and drank tea. Dazed, I shuffled along the cluttered platform towards the station-house, sithouetted against the ceiling of the sky, ominous and spectral.

I came to a turnstile and, not surprisingly, it was enlaced with choking cobwebs, twining through the bars. The only exit I could see was through there, and so I pulled myself together to cut a path through its creeping entropy. As I entered, an over-nourished spider skittered to its lair. I wish to God I had not looked to the left into the ticket-collector's cab, for here was not a deserted seat, but the ticket collector himself sitting, not as he used to be, but a decaying skeleton-creature with a puncher in the bones of a hand. A plump worm coiled through his skewered ribs ... and I screamed ... ran from that blasphemous railway station...

...into avenues of ill-lit horror, through lines of trees, black and twisted against the blacker sky, along country roads twining between untended hedgerows ... until exhaustion put paid to my progress ... I saw the House; it rose out of the darkness, looming forbodingly. It was more of a castle than a house, and had two towering wings, pointing and mocking at the sky.

I should not fear its occupants, I told myself--they would probably disperse my fears and show my position on the map - so I plucked up enough courage to walk to the main door. Its massive oaken surface and golden knocker filled me with awe, but I grasped the knocker, pulled it heavily from the wood, and let it drop with a crash echoing throughout the whole house. It was such a loud noise that it startled me and put the fear back. There, I waited for what Fate would bring to the door, waiting, eternally waiting. But no one came. No one deigned to answer my call for help, so I decided to force my way in for shelter, but the door looked too mighty for entrance there. But I was mistaken as a single trial caused the door to swing open with a splitting creak revealing ... only darkness. I coughed as the atmosphere tightened in my chest and I felt for a suitable position to sleep the night out.

It was then that I heard something which I can hear even now inside my head, a funeral moan, harmonically illogical, resonant, deep but also shrill, coming from up above me, approaching down a rickety staircase, a moan carrying at one and the same time the horror of the graveyard, the scream of delight as ghouls ecstatically lift a prutrescible corpse from its resting place, the terror of a lunatic's laugh as he carves his own flesh, and all the pain and panic of the Pit where shapeless elementals vaguely swim in fire, chewing off the heads of the human damned.

After, came a slithering and bumping above me: a thing was moving across the floor and, then, it was squelching down the stairs emitting the long drawn-out moan. The alternate slithering and bumping rode the creaking, teetering stairs, inexorably drawing closer, nearer, faster, down, down, down... seemed as if I were in another world, sucked in by intangible forces to a revelation of the cosmos, a panorama of all time; stars and streaks of light reaching to infinitudes of chaos and cult, ethereal glows and fresh, unmathematical lands. I saw a city with dome-like, square buildings on plains of kaleidoscopic bubbles and, in each bubble, a grotesque gargantuan gargoyle leering at the citizens in the buildings. Those citizens themselves were immaterial, covered by jellified green slime and motivated by an ectoplasm of orange exactly in the middle of its soul-light.

I saw vague ski-runs of blue effulgence stretching for aeons from

the mamnoth, bubbly planet past the barrier of time and space, almost an interpenetration of two universes. I saw an enormous sled skim down the runnels, carrying those unfathomably huge monstrosities of green slime, and it looked as if they were waving and laughing, gobs of jelly forming into limb-strands and mouth-holes where the orange ectoplasm turned into a flickering tongue.

They laughed! They waved! They grew even larger! And on their interuniverse journey, they bred more and more of themselves as they neared a familiar planet...

The vision changed: I was looking at the cities of earth--London, Paris, New York, all empty except for ill-twisted skeletons littering the streets, doing exactly what they were doing when they died. Until the visions faded...

I was still in the House blanketed in darkness. The slithering and bumping grew yet nearer until I could see it!

It was a luminous blob of green pus - looking as if it had plucked itself unceremoniously from the incubating slime of its huge host monster following arrival on Earth. By turns it materialized and dematerialized as it squirmed and hobbled towards me... and I imagined I saw a crease of a wicked smile where the green fat folded and twitched. I screamed and screamed. It touched my foot. It actually touched my foot! My blood curdled as I felt it gradually creep up my body. The breathing gunge greened me over, covering my face like slobbering clay. I was then a gibbering, juddering puppet, insane with disgust, but tittering in ecstasy. I felt it enter my mouth, ooze into my throat, a seething, thickening mess of spitting, burping stew.

I found myself back in the train, watching an old man in a brown duffel coat sleep opposite me ... and out of the window the distant glow of a city.

It must have been a nightmare.


The train was three hours late when it arrived at my destination. I feel an impending doom on our world. Nothing to be done. As I lie here in a hospital, the doctors are amazed and disturbed by my body, which is dyed a hideous green in and out.

(Previously e-published)

Culture Vultures

The bookshelves were stacked with cassette tapes. Earfuls of them.

The body must have been left lying there for ages, since the high stench had literally sprayed from the letter-box into a kid's prying face, one who was delivering a free newspaper, despite the sign on the garden gate expressly forbidding such delivery.

When I was finally alerted, as head of paupers' funerals in the local authority, the police work had been carried out. They had decided that the dead body had been left lying for some weeks, if a successful suicide could be blamed for such dilatoriness - which I doubted. Still, a dead body has got broad shoulders, in more senses than one - bones tending to spread out with the grain of decay. There was a desultory investigation by the autopsy man, where, on peering over his shoulder, I saw that there was very little differentiation between the congealed blood and the flesh proper.

There being no family to pick over the bones, as it were, I had my beady eye on the cassette tapes. From a cursory glance of the scrawled labels on the narrow side of each unpliable cuboid, the dead body had been a great lover of classical music. He and I had at least that in common. Even, the autopsy man, a philistine at the best of times, whistled with some bemused amazement, claiming that he didn't mind "a bit of that philharmonic stuff like that big fat geezer who sung the World Cup theme tune and, yes, of course, Mantovani".

"Mantovani?" I pretended I was not old enough to remember.

"Yes, Mantovani. Haven't you heard his 'Charmaine'? And, who else? Semprini. He played nice stuff on the piano. Geraldo. I reckon a lot of that dance music is even better than some philharmonic stuff."

The autopsy man did a mock jig round the dead body's living-room, as if reliving a romance of his youth when he danced the night away with his loved one to the sounds of some godawful Max Jaffa palm court rave or a Victor Sylvester jamming session!

With him thus preoccupied, I was further scrutinising the cassettes. A lot of classy sounds. Ranging from Monteverdi to Boulez. All the Bartok string quartets (my favourite). Tippett. Mahler. Schoenberg. And some composers even I had never encountered before. Hugh Wood. Ruders. Glass. Steve Reich. Havergal Brian. The Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead?

They weren't particularly classical. Weren't they a flower power pop group from the late sixties? I seemed to remember a friend of mine (in his forties, now) saying they were the best thing since sliced bread. And why sliced bread was such a good thing to be the best thing since ... well, I had never, till today, questioned.

Meanwhile, the autopsy man was acting turvy.

He had grabbed a cushion and was waltzing it around the room.

No, I was wrong, because I couldn't believe my eyes.

The cushion was not a cushion at all. It only looked like a cushion. In truth, it was a part of the dead body's body, lace-trimmed with a tripe-like fatty gristle, tinged pink. Goodness knows what he would have done if he had real music to jab his legs to. Most of it was in his head. Yet, I suddenly heard the imperceptible 'it is, it is, it is' sound that one often hears from others' personal hi-fi sets: an irritating habit of live bodies when they travel on trains these days. But, no, the autopsy man's ears did not wield such a spider-headclamp...

Unnoticed by both of us (and presumably likewise by the policemen), the dead body's head possessed a sprung device consisting of a shiny black half-hoop embedded in the white skull bone like a cinemascopic rodent ulcer trying, not to escape, but to enter a sinking ship - each extension of the hoop bearing a sanitary lug-pad stained with yellow wax. The interminable it-is emanated thence.

We then heard the sound of something coming through the letter box. No doubt this month's 'Good Music Guide', but we had scrammed through the back way, without bothering to investigate. Paupers' funeral arrangements are not always such avant garde affairs, I hasten to add. Yet, sometimes, paupers kindly end up burying themselves, as eventually turned out to be the case with today's stiff. Saves on council money. A lot to be said for it. Anyway, my friend the autopsy-turvy man - I've managed to get him into Stockhausen and Frank Zappa, but only after I promised to accompany him to a Richard Clayderman gig next week. He'll be doing our packed lunch.

Published 'Sivullinen' 1994

Conjugal Spice - The Imprimatur of the Monster

Conjugal Spice

The bedroom was quiet, with the thunderstorm abating. No rain rushing along the gutters. No wind whining through the chinks in floor and roof.

Time to catch up on sleep. Husband and wife snored soundly, giving a wide berth to each other's shape, which was easy because the old-fashioned bed was possibly big enough for three.

Then, unlike the erstwhile weather, came a pinpoint of noise. Quiet at first, like the gentle nose-nose of mice or, at the most, rats, coming from under the floorboards.

Maude sat bolt upright, her every faculty primed. "Wake up, George," she whispered loudly.

George grunted. .

"Wake up, I said," she softly squealed.

The noise was now free-flowing rather than the initial separate sound of tentative snuffling. George eventually sat up and said: "What's up, Gorgeous?"

"Listen to that noise - whatever is it?"

His ears pricked. The moonlight, filtering through the slight gap in the print curtains, picked out the tiny glistening beads of sweat on his upper lip. "Nope - can't hear a damn thing, Gorgeous."

"You must be deaf, George. Just be quiet for once..."

The quietness was fast filling with another sound as if bare bones were rattling inside the chimney breast.

By now, Maude had switched on the bedside lamp with a click that always seemed louder at this time of night (especially with the moon on the wane.) "Look!" she screeched from underbreaths.

And they immediately clicked the light off, since what they thought they saw noodling from the cracks between floorborads were bloated worms, fangs denoting where snouts should have been if they did not simultaneously liquefy.

Maude and George long continued to sit bolt upright, fearful that a resumption light would attract further incursions.

"Gorgeous..." "Yes, George?" "The noise has gone, if I'm not too much mistaken." "Oh, George, I'm shaking fit to break and my titties are freezing, and I've got a splitting headache. Rub my feet for me, George." "Okky Doke, Duchess."

He tunnelled inside the bed, but there was a fleshy jelly with a spicy stench which slightly reminded him of Maude's night soil in the old days, before she had taken to wearing stiff underwear designed for those little incontinent moments.

Moonlight later saw fit to well back from the darkest hour before dawn. Still, nothing could be seen except the outer margins of varying consistencies of shadow moving about across the ancient king-sized bed. There were belching snorts as body rubbed against body, the air being sucked from between the red raspberries of skin.

And so much later in the night, it must have been morning. Something seeped into the print curtains like light, bleeding through rose-weft filters and willowy patterns of melting rhubarb.

Laid out across the huge bed were the flesh-sucked husks of two identical human bodies that had, at long last, shared the conjugal bed with a third party. And another storm could be heard grumbling in the distance amid jagged moonlight.

(Published 'The Night Side' 1991)

The Imprimatur Of The Monster

I forget whether my memory is as good as it used to be.

I once knew how it all ended, but now I despair of remembering it. All I can do is make various attempts at retracking - rat-tracking through the sewers of the past.

I decided to pay another visit to the house where, all those years before, events transpired which mythology has all but subsumed. It is said that the past is a monster waiting to return from the direction of the future, with green-flecked lips and accusing eyes. But, I vowed to ignore such fears and to face out any residual shame from such ill-reported times.


Could the house be in the mind, thus not just a simple train journey away? I sat in the shuddering carriage watching the leather window-strap swing from side to side. I itched to tug the red-painted alarm chain in the slot above the warning to passengers not to lean out. The tunnels seemed to be prolific - dark interludes in an otherwise straightforward succession of events. From all available evidence, there was no other passenger in the long corridorless train. But how was I to know for certain either its length or population? Only by disembarking.

I pulled down the arm-rest from its niche in the carriage's uphostlery and leaned my greasy head of hair upon the lightly engraved antimacassar. I desperately wanted to dream, in case reality had played me false and would land me in an incomplete scenario of trackless trains heading for infernal countries of night.

I did dream, I think. I saw visions of others who had dreamed before me - lands where history had come clean and laid bare the bones of its villainous participants - scores of skeletons clacking above the sleepers, like the tail-to-tail bony carapaces of unfreighted flesh - cities of scientists who went mad with religion - plain upon plain of inverted mountains....

I woke with a start. I had not been dreaming at all, only dreaming that I had. The train was pulling into a station, since I saw white boards flashing by with its name written up in clearer and clearer, and yet unattainable, definition.

I had embarked at Paddington, since the house I sought I knew to be in Wales. This principality had not yet been affected by the changing disguise of Europe, unlike the more malleable souls in London such as myself. During my last days in the hospital, I had ranted, it seemed, in my sleep, about the Black Mountains, where Creature Beings perched and spoke in the same Celtic lilt as I, the dreamer. Such Beings, through me, spoke goldenly of a Race older even than themselves which represented the most important group of Beings which Time and Space could ever encompass. And that Older Race, in turn, spoke of even greater Beings who managed to exist, in spite of their intrinsic untenability.

Now, as the train drew to a juddering halt, I, in a moment of misplaced logic, wondered if there were yet other Beings immeasurably greater than even those. And so on, ad infinitum and, perhaps, absurdum, until...

"Until you come to Man himself." A porter, or one I took to be such, had opened the carriage door for me and spoken as if continuing a conversation. In the dim flickering lights of the wind-swept platform, I saw his face possessed an imbecilic cast, topped off with a purple schoolboy's cap far too small for the head. Snot bubbled at one enlarged nostril. After he took my luggage, I saw he had a graveyard lurch, as he headed towards the station house and its waiting-room.

As I followed him, I heard the train shunting behind me, steaming up for the rest of its journey and, fleetingly, I turned to see faces pressed up against the grimy windows of that hissing beast. They were yearning with their eyes and I do not know whom I pitied most, me or them, as they sashed up and down upon the surface of the glass in a strange indulgent rhythm of farewell.

The thing in the cap motioned me towards a gas-fire which warmed one corner of the waiting-room. I rubbed my hands slowly above its glowing grid of orange bone, my mind inevitably drifting from the more natural courses of my thought-patterns. I had come to revisit the house, where I believed I had once been granted a vision of the future - when mankind would amount to nothing in the scheme of things. But now I suspected that the monster of green squelch I had faced then, had traversed the interlocking entropies of unimaginable existence from hyper-spiritual worlds, not as a precursor of Earthly colonisation, but as an emblem of the truth that had prevailed prior to the onset of reality itself. Or, at best, tangential to it.


One can learn to grow less afraid of any monster, if it is believed it is real, rather than a concoction of one's own terrified mind. Such is the crux of the matter, since I now realised (in the true sense of that word) I had come to this spot to lay the ghost which I myself once created, and I would achieve this by proving beyond reasonable doubt that it was truly *real*. And still is. Hence this rite of passage across the neat meadows of England...

To staunch the onward tread of worse and worse nightmares that are not nightmares at all, I needed to ascertain that the house contained a true monster of flesh and blood in its own terms, a monster that I could rationalise, encapsulate and even believe explicity when it spoke of forthcoming human doom in its characteristic voice of slimy conviction. Only by believing the truth of its message, could I exorcise and, consequently, nullify its effect.


I left the station behind me, as I trudged the once familiar country lane. There was the house. But, no, not yet, just a head of woods, grown together to present a common front to the hurricanes now so prevalent in this part of the world. A seat of green amid the swirling greys.

I was grateful for the warm-up in the waiting-room. How long I had been there listening to the ludicrous tales of the overgrown schoolboy, I could only measure by the growth of beard. He told me that the house was no longer in situ, since it had contracted a teetering, cancerous stairwell and collapsed in upon itself, even before the seasonal hurricanes had become endemic. I could not believe him, of course, because he also told me that I was a different person to the one who had come here all those years ago - not the one who had been frightened by the skeleton of a railway ticket-collector in his platform booth. He looked bemused when I countered by saying that I had not been afraid of the skeleton as such but by the plump worm for which its bones acted as home.

My dismay was great when he said he wanted to come with me to find the house. However, he spotted another train steaming towards the station and he went off to categorise it, number it and wave it through.

I left the woods behind me and, just as one of those lilty Creature Beings cut a screaming wedge of yellow light in the sky's blanket of night, I spotted the house itself, just as I think I remembered it.

But, incredibly, it was careering towards me out of the past, with steam churning from every chimney-stack.

Lights were being flashed on and off in every window, greenness slicking down the glass like net curtains of foullest slime. The monster had actually become the house, rather than remained an inhabitant of it. I put my fists to my ears to dull its pained bellowing - it had originally come to destroy the whole of mankind, but had merely managed to get up a sufficient head of steam to destroy only myself.

I realised I had, since my earliest times, absorbed the vile imaginings that this monster had created. Its metagalactic imprimatur was to mythologise the only tenable beings in existence who happened to be Earth's humans - and I now knew I had rescued the future for humanity. By fixing the monster under the impenetrable varnish of my creativity, I also fixed its dreams of us and made them real. As I sucked its Hell into my brain, the better was our chance to become angel-eyed and paramount - shimmering creatures in our own right with grains of honest phantasy - happily wandering among the gildenspires of the Heavenly City.


I am that house, I am that train, I am that ghoulish schoolboy, I am that ideologue weirdmonger...

I made myself actually become that monster. And, without me, you would never have been you, with desires and dreams and fancies and loves, all fit for gods and goddesses. You would have been mere puppet-jerks of Older and Younger Races, with a blood-engorged worm in the night-hutch of the head to replace that human brain of infinite possibilities.

To stop my own head from exploding into a thousand bone-shards, I ask you, please, I beg you, to hold me close - let me nuzzle in your cosy lap, so that such love and care will enable me to bear man's worst nightmares on your behalf.


But I look up and see that awful schoolboy's moon-face leering at me imbecilically, the maggot-riddled flesh slowly drooling from the sicker bones within - and my despair at forgetting how it all ended is never-ending.

Published 'Crypt of Cthulhu' 1994