The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Dusk At The Diner

Posted by BigWords on September 9, 2011

This post is part of the September 2011 Blog Chain at Absolute Write, wherein the challenge is to respond to a picture. In this instance, Edward Hopper’s seminal piece of Americana, the 1942 composition “Nighthawks”. Even if you haven’t seen the original before, you’ve probably seen the image in other media.

It was great fun watching the strands of the narrative come together last month, so this post follows on directly from the first post in the chain, so head over and read that first. I was conscious of the era and setting when putting this together, so some of the references may be more oblique than I would normally throw into something like this.

Acknowledging the historical events of 1941, while writing something which is (hopefully) entertaining to read, was harder than I expected, though weaving in enough for the following participants to play with was quite entertaining. I guess, if anything, you can explain this away as another episode in my Wold Newton obsession.

Dusk At The Diner – Part II

I

Allison tapped her foot nervously as a police car drove slowly past the diner. “Max, another coffee over here.”
“Sure thing, ma’am,” came the reply from behind the counter.
“That’s a mighty fine ring you are wearing,” Charlie remarked, almost offhandedly, as he slid his hat off the counter and clutched it in his lap. “It’s not often you see something like that hereabouts.”
“It was a gift.”
“I’m sure. Looks a lot like the kind Sala and her air pirates wore.”
“How did you-”
“Seems that throwing your lot in with the commies isn’t your worst sin. And what, precisely, is your interest in the book? Don’t tell me you’re another Aristide Torchia obsessive?”
“You seem to be clutching that hat awfully tight. A girl might think you’re using it to hide your interest.”
“And you’re changing the subject.”
Max placed a fresh coffee in front of Allison, nodding to Charlie before moving to the back of the diner.
“The book is important to an old friend.”
“This old friend wouldn’t happen to be named Strack by any chance?” Charlie asked.
“Eddie Valentine, actually.”
“Well, lady, you sure know how to make friends with all the wrong people.”
“Strange times make for strange bedfellows.”

II

Max raised the knife and plunged it into the slab of meat, levering the blade and slicing it in two. Separating the flesh from the bone was not as difficult as he had imagined, and, once he had removed the head and hands, the trembling voice in the back of his head had stopped questioning. He could get away with this if he was careful, and mixed in just enough of the regular meat so as not to affect the taste of the burgers.
“Hiya, Max.”
Spinning on the spot, the knife still held in his hand, Max looked for the speaker.
“You did a nice job there. Probably better than you expected.”
“Who is that? Who’s there?”
“C’mon, you can’t tell me you’ve never read Edgar Allan Poe? The Telltale Heart? Ba-doom, ba-doom, ba-doom.”
“This ain’t funny, whoever you are.”
From the shadows stepped the last man Max expected to see – the man he had spent the last three hours cutting into pieces…

III

Vince stared into the large window of the diner, and paled as he saw his reflection. The last week had been hard, and it was now showing in how gaunt and weary he appeared. From somewhere east of him, the police sirens which intermittently cut through the night began again. Another guy in a gray hat was probably being questioned about the killing two towns over – the only consolation he had was that the eyewitness accounts were so vague. It would be impossible to convict a man on the color of his hat alone.
Jingling the loose change in his pocket, he decided that the safest place to be was off the street. If that meant he had to spend his last remaining money on a warm cup of coffee and a meal, then that was what he had to do.

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
orion_mk3 – (link to this month’s post)
BigWords – you are here.
robeiae (link to this month’s post)
pezie
Ralph Pines
Cath
AbielleRose
Darkshore
dolores haze
Alynza
pyrosama

Posted in Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

AW Blog Chain

Posted by BigWords on August 9, 2011

Participants and posts:
Story beginning
orion_mk3 (link to this month’s post)
BigWords – you are here
AbielleRose (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines (link to this month’s post)
hillaryjacques (link to this month’s post)
Darkshore (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama (link to this month’s post)
Diana_Rajchel (link to this month’s post)
Inkstrokes (link to this month’s post)
soullesshuman (link to this month’s post)
Alyzna (link to this month’s post)
Cath (link to this month’s post)
dolores haze (link to this month’s post)
Alpha Echo (link to this month’s post)
pezie (link to this month’s post)
Finale Part 1
Finale Part 2
Finale Part 3

This month the plan is to feature a song in the story, plus continue each entry on from the last (I cheated somewhat, using two songs for my split story, but I’m guessing most peeps will use one), and it seems to be generating a lot of story ideas thus far. It’s the kind of idea which really amuses me – especially given who is next up in the chain. So, without spending more time waffling, here is the entry…

In the chalet closest to the beach, Allison was waving her hand back and forth in the water slowly filling her bathtub. She glanced halfheartedly at the clock on the wall, noting that it was only six, before rising and moving to her bed. This had been in the planning stages for months, and now that she was so close to carrying out her plan, the ragged edges of doubt were beginning to wear on her – things were not meant to be so easy. There should have been something to fight against, but the universe seemed to be folding around her, urging her onwards…

Allison lifted each item out of her bag and placed it on a towel on her bed in turn – iPod, speaker dock, scissors… She looked at the scissors with apprehension for the first time. Is this going to hurt? Am I going to go to hell? She quickly placed the iPod into the speaker dock and selected the first song, before picking up the scissors and making her way back into the bathroom. As Allison slipped into the bath, brandishing the scissors tightly in her hands, her mind raced to thoughts of the time before the resort had sprawled to its’ current size and scope. Here she would find out – once and for all time – what lay on the other side.

On the beach, a six year old girl stared blankly into the sea as she felt the soft sand squelch through her toes.
At the bar, Mr. Garretson was knocking back his eighth pint, bemoaning the lack of “pretty skirt” to amuse his sensibilities.
In the manager’s office, an envelope sat on Eddie’s desk – bulging in the middle; its’ nightmarish contents intended to frighten him off the island. The owner of the finger in the package was, at that moment, nowhere to be seen.
Chris was steadying himself with a drink in his room, anticipating his rendezvous, as the clock struck five past the hour.

Life goes on in a large resort no matter what happens, but there were forces at work which did not care a jot for the tick-tock regularity; intent, as they were, on as much disruption as possible in the shortest span of time. Shadows shifting across the walls of life, seeking fulfillment amongst the crowds of faceless, nameless people. They needed to feel what they had once felt in the time before the resort… They longed for the weightlessness, the freedom they once had…

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 18 Comments »

AW Blog Chain – Mini Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Posted by BigWords on July 9, 2011

This month’s AW Blog Chain is entitled “The Mini Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest” and, in the spirit of the great man (no laughing, please) we are obliged to provide the most overwrought, turgid, purple or just plain bad writing. Don’t worry, this is merely one of those “first line” challenges, so it won’t take up too much of your time. I went into this imagining that it would be a relatively quick bit of business to churn out something awful (hell, I write awful prose all the time), and as you’re probably wondering just how hard it it to write something deliberately badly…

In the early Tyburn evening, and under her light muslin veil, Mme. Vendredi – honored envoy of the court of von Bismarck – could almost have passed for beautiful, were it not for the pallor of the grave which hung around her.

Man, this is harder than it looks… Okay, so cod-Victoriana was probably the wrong choice to try, given that overblown hyperbole was practically invented for Victorian writers to play with. How about hokey space opera?

The Celestial Wanderer, flagship of the Covenant Of Worlds, had cowered in the Newt Nebula for three solar days before Captain Washington laid down the order to emerge, the cosmic war cannons readied for engagement.

Dammit. Still not hokey enough for the requirements of this challenge. Onto hard boiled, methinks…

The dame with the dirty blonde hair leaned forward and exhaled a mouthful of smoke in coiling whisps as tangled as the case,  her cigarette hanging limply on her lower lip.

Bad enough yet? Sigh. Probably not. The others playing in this months AW chain are as below; go give them some love. Maybe they’ll be better at manipulating their first sentences into a more suitable form for the sake of this (friendly) competition.

orion_mk3
AuburnAssassin
dolores haze
xcomplex
Proach
Ralph Pines
BigWords
jkellerford
Euclid
Diana Rajchel

Posted in Misc., writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Mini-Fiction

Posted by BigWords on March 10, 2011

I know that the purpose of word wars (and the like) is to keep going until the time is up, but this came out “just right” before the time was up that I couldn’t add anything to it. It’s very short, but I found it hilarious as a first draft.

Okay, so I may have a very weird sense of humor…

Killing the man in the gorilla costume was a bad way to start the day, but it couldn’t be helped. Bobby made his way across the room, carefully stepping over the growing pool of blood and grabbed the baseball bat he had used, remembering that – at some point – he would need to wipe it down and dispose of the evidence carefully. The matted fur, where he had bashed in the man’s head, clung to the bat in clumps of brown and red – an intricate pattern not entirely unlike the viruses he studied through magnification all day long. Brilliant purples nestled in those stains, and blues of such purity that it was hard to remember that light once glimmered off the sleek aluminum. Placing it in a black bag, he moved over to the body and sighed – it had to be a fat guy… Killing a wiry little runt would have made this too easy. Biting the inside of his cheek, he hefted the man onto his side, so he could expose the zipper of the costume.

There was no zipper. Fumbling, he searched the man’s back for whatever device was used to keep the costume together – Buttons? Nope. Velcro? Again, the answer that came to him was a negative. Bobby’s mind reeled. How did the fat guy get into the costume in the first place? It was possible that he had been sewn into it, but everyone needs to take a piss every now and again, so why would a person go to such lengths… Letting the body drop back onto the floor, he moved to the kitchen. If he couldn’t get the guy out of the dumb costume the easy way, he would have to do it the hard way. Fingers playing a half-forgotten tune on the counter, he finally selected the right knife – not too long, and sharp enough to cut through the costume and the flesh.

As he turned, thinking of the zipper again, he realized that there might be another explanation for the lack of a way out of the costume. Heart racing, he looked to where he had left the body…

Growling, so tall in the confines of the apartment, the thing was making ready to lunge. Holding the knife in front of himself, Bobby said a quiet prayer under his breath and closed his eyes. This, he thought, is why people get away with wearing these dumb costumes. No-one ever wants to fuck with a real monster.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

Corrections

Posted by BigWords on March 3, 2011

“While the Deparment of Corrections are correcting the corrections from the last round of corrections, on the corrected corrections rather than the previously corrected corrections, it is becoming clear that correcting the misconceptions about the corrections carried out by the Department of Corrections is rather tellingly required.” Bob paused for breath, mentally noting the chain of words (and thought) necessary to get his point across, “In addition to correcting the misconceptions regarding the Department of Corrections, a correction about the Department of Biographies should be included in the departmental notifications, notifying everyone of the correct manner in which to correct inaccuracies in biographies. Such inaccuracies in biographies should be corrected for the Department of Biographies, and correct corrections passed on to the Department of Corrections to add to the history of Biographies for the Department of Histories.”
Straightening his tie, Bob was acutely aware that assembled heads of department were in attendance, “In addition, the corrected corrected corrections forwarded to the Department of Corrections will be notarized by the heads of both the Department of Corrections and the Department of History, for the benefit of the Department of Notarization. I note that the Department of Notarization has not needed notarized notifications of the corrections in the past, thus a correction of the notarization process in order to notify the Department of Notarization of corrections carried out by the Department of Corrections will be made forthwith.”
“And citations?” A shrill voice echoed through the hall.
“The Department of Citations will be allocated, by the Department of Allocation, a stipend from the Department of Payments to ensure that citations used in corrections of biographies at the Department of Corrections for the Department of Biographies, will – once copies have been made available to the Department of Notarization – be forwarded to the Department of Citations.” Bob smiled at his deft handling of the situation, “I do hope that clears up any misunderstandings regarding the corrected corrections being handled by the Department of Corrections. I wouldn’t want there to be any problems for the Department of Clarifications to become involved in. Now that the correct manner in which the corrected corrections being dealt with by the Department of Corrections has been dealt with, it is time to look at some efficiency ideas the Department of Efficiency has for us.”

As I tumble down the rabbit hole, I wonder – Is the wordplay getting out of hand?

Posted in Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

AW Cross-Genres POV Blog Chain

Posted by BigWords on February 12, 2011

I know I am meant to provide a complete and nourishing intellectual meal for this particular challenge, but the rigors of writing in omniscient seems to be getting the better of me. Go have a look at the last post to see the ways in which even a Word War could not bring forth the Muse, then read on…

Quite a time ago, though not so long as to be lost in the murk of human memory, and in a land which isn’t as far as some would have you believe, a small group of men set forth on an adventure which I shall regale you with. The reasons for their excursion into the strange hills and valleys of Ossuary isn’t important, nor is it entirely true, so I will merely state that their mission was of great importance to them, but of little importance to anyone else. Such is the way with ventures as theirs, many curious and over-eager tongues set about telling tales almost immediately upon news of their departure. These tales tend to arise around men of singular purpose, and retelling them here would be of disservice to those men.

Oh, delicious fate weaved upon Lachesis’ thread, the tale which I will tell should be told in more decadent a setting, and with drinks for all. Such a setting cannot be hastily arranged, so this, I am sorry to say, will have to suffice.

For reasons which will become clear, I will refrain from stating outright the location of this fabulous fable, and the identities of those involved will be obfuscated somewhat. Such authorial intrusion will be minimal, and for the benefit of all who peruse this account. Apologies must be made in advance to the students of Abdul Alhazred, for there are elements herein which bastardize his works. Others, of lesser reading, may notice elements drawn from folklore and myth, though such commonalities can be attributed to the nature of the land in which my tale takes place, and not to laziness nor queer humor.

There are ways to begin which would explain the motives of those involves, and which would amuse the more puerile interests of my audience, though I will start with the dying words of the man I shall be calling Waldemar –

Here There Be Dragons

It should be noted that the esteemed Spaniard was not noted for hyperbole. I state this fact in the hope you will not think ill of him for such a statement, but indulge the notion – for a while, at least – that there are places where the laws governing biology are rather less stringent than elsewhere. This isle of the dead, the land to which he sailed, was of a lost archipelago rediscovered through equal parts luck and misfortune. A few people have suggested, in their fictions grafted around the bones of his venture, that old Waldemar was a legendary hero who slayed great beasts and led his men into the heart of darkness. Lies. All of them. The truth about Waldemar is much more mundane, but is no less amazing for such a fact.

Whispering grass, of which songs have been sung, grows here in wild abandon. Stretching along the coast, it is the siren song which drew the attention of those aboard The Bastion Of Hope. In mentioning this fine vessel it becomes clear that there is something of a necessity in pointing out that it was originally a great deal smaller than people would have you believe. Built by common means, and of necessity, it was hardly to be considered the leviathan of subsequent telling. There is a painting of the ship which hangs in the basement of the British Library now, a sheet hung over it to quash the curse it is reputed to have. The frame is was carved from the carcass of the ship, cut from Yggdrasil more splendid than any other wood…

It is said that, there on the shore, the sight of the faraway hills incited the men to rush headstrong into the interior of the island, but it was far from the mad dash of legend. A firm and capable leader, Waldemar had planned every step of the journey as best he could under the circumstances, and for the unknown region had prepared several contingencies for the group to adhere to. Yes, there were flaws in his plan, but no great adventure is without uncertainty. It isn’t for me to point out where he went wrong just yet, for these things will become apparent in the full course of time.

Where was I? Ah, yes. The grasslands. Setting forth through the waist-high barrier was no easy matter, and on more than one occasion the men were rooted to the spot in fear as the hushed intonations of doom tugged at their mind. A distance of no more nor less than three rods took the better part of the day. You might wonder at how such experienced men were so swayed that their progress was made difficult, but if you have not experienced firsthand the terrors of the whispering grass, you ought not cast remark on men brave enough to traverse a field of the damnable stuff. I once had a salad where it was served in a side-dish – even cut from their roots, they refuse to be silenced.

I have no idea why this isn’t working for me, but I hope you aren’t too disappointed with such an abysmal failure on my part this month. Two days work is above, and if I spend any longer on one piece I am sure to end up in a padded cell, banging my head against the wall and muttering about “the coming of the master.” You really don’t want that to happen, do you?

Posted in Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Word Wars Don’t Help Me In Writing Omni… The Proof:

Posted by BigWords on February 10, 2011

So I suck at first drafts. That is a given. There’s a little bloggish thing going on, and I’m meant to write in omni. This was the result of a Word War to help me warm up my writing muscles. Consider it a prevew of the even bigger mess which is to come…

The rain beats down in a tattoo of unearthly noise, ricocheting off leaves and men alike in the vast wasteland. This place has many names, though those who currently traverse the expanse call it by names which no cartographer would consider immortalizing. It is far from safe, and ancient structures pock mark the flatness in their absence, or remain – decaying tombstones upon the skyline – as warning to any who would consider the vastness an appropriate dwelling. Eight men walk the land. Their weapons held in front of them, they trudge through the thick water and swat away the insects whose habitat they interrupt with their inconvenient war. It is getting dark, and neither relentless rain nor gloomy skies can halt their progress.

Night. Night is the worst. They all think that the marshland is bad when they arrive, but few truly realize how bad until they live through their first night there. That is, if they survive. It has been said that such places are haunted, though military training and the cold necessities of war demand a more restrained view of the spiritual realm. I wouldn’t want to sway you, but there are things, however well hidden here, which defy explanation. But I am meant to be telling of those who ventured forth into the expanse in the hopes of military victory.

Who are they fighting? Why, that would be themselves, for mankind has always managed to set after itself in constant rivalries. To say more would require background, and I have little time to dwell at length on so trivial a matter. Regardless, the men continue their march, and their persistent chatter to a faraway command – a bodiless voice willing to order forth the assault though not willing enough to step into the fray with the others. And the butterflies… A remark on the butterflies here would draw your attention, no? Well, I can’t give away everything straight away. The riddle of the butterflies should be cleared up later.

So. Butterflies and military expansion. It’s another story which goes back to the dawn of mankind in this place, for the marshlands have been here since the epoch of great beasts which strode across the landscape utterly unaware of anything beneath them. They were the gods of their time, but are all gone now. Save for those which stick to the night. The things which you see out of the corner of your eye, then question what, precisely, you have seen. This is a place where the things in the corner of your eye exist. Don’t ask how, but know that I know.

This place is a riddle which has no answer, and a very difficult question to ask. It asks – of all who dare defile the landscape – if mankind is sturdy enough to survive the extremes it presents. It also asks, in a quiet voice which permeates the air – ARE YOU AFRAID?

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AW Musical Chairs Blogfest

Posted by BigWords on January 7, 2011

Week One (January 7th)

Regan Leigh’s blog, and her entry: Untitled (Horror)
Gary (you’re here), and my entry: The Lake Of Hope And Sorrow (Romance)
Claire Gillian’s blog, and her entry: Call Of Duty — Mom Ops (Comedy)
Amanda’s blog
Grady Hendrix’s blog, and his entry: The Three Cases Of Almanac Jones

Week Two (January 14th)

Diane (Dolores) Dooley’s blog. and her entry: The Morrigan (Urban Fantasy)
Ben Bradley’s blog
J. (Agnyl78) Elyzabeth’s blog, and her entry: One Night (Erotica)
[there are two blogs linked, so click through to both of her blogs]
Jamie’s blog, and her entry: The Bully (YA Fiction)
Cole’s blog, and his entry: The Bunker (erotica)
Scarlett’s blog
Hillary’s blog, and her entry: Winter Wool (Contemporary Lit)

Week Three (January 21st)

Julia (IdiotsRUs) Knight’s blog
Janine’s blog
Aheila’s blog
Jhuk’s blog [not participating this month, but check out her blog regardless]
Mike’s blog; and his entry: High Scaler (Historical Fiction)
C. Scott Morris’s blog, and his entry: Untitled (Children’s Lit)

Week Four (January 28th)

Sianshan’s blog
Ralph Pines’ blog
Rob (rmgil04) G’s blog
Proach’s blog
Regypsy’s blog
LadyCat’s blog

The Lake Of Hope And Sorrow
by Gary James

I

Kerilyn brushed an errant strand of russet hair from her brow as she attempted (valiantly, though with decreasing chance of success) to ignore the man strolling towards her. Taking her time, she nudged her sunglasses up to cover her eyes, hoping that he would walk on with neither comment nor attention paid to her. Ten minutes was all she asked for. Ten minutes of peace and quiet, where she could immerse herself in thoughts of nothing but the ripples expanding across the surface of the lake, watching as they spread out to touch the shore from the smallest of touches. Such precious moments of tranquility had to be taken full advantage of, for their rare beneficial properties eased complex torments which she barely understood. Pulling her jacket tighter around her, despite the heat, Kerilyn could sense the man moving closer. His steady gait, his confidence, splashed jagged waves through the peace she so craved.

“Hi there.”
She turned to face him, letting him stare at his own reflection in her mirrored glasses. Opening her mouth to respond to him, she caught herself. The lake. She turned from his gaze, sighing. “I come here for peace and quiet, not so that I can be chatted up.” Saying more to him would only encourage further dialog.
“Sorry, it’s just-” he paused. The sounds of water splashing against the pathway engrossed Kerilyn’s attention, and he flustered a word twice before he could continue. “I saw you here. The other day, I mean. You looked so lonely that I thought you might want someone to talk to. Perhaps..”
Kerilyn counted her breaths from the fading of his words, and, when it seemed he would refrain from his attentiveness, breathed deeply in the smell of freshly cut grass. As sunlight tingled on her skin, she reflected on the fading embers of his concern for her.
Without speaking, he nodded and walked on.

Kerilyn stood for a moment, caught in the ever-changing lightshow dancing across the surface of the lake, then turned to see if the man had gone. Hands thrust into the pockets of her jacket, she began to make her way out of the park.

II

As she approached the park the next day, one hand idly brushing against the railings, she reflected upon the encounter. Hoping that the man would not be there, Kerilyn swung open the gate and entered. The trees crowding the side of the footpath provided some shade, allowing sunlight to dapper through in streaks of light before her, guiding her to the place where she could lose herself in contemplation. For a moment, as leaves rustled in the wake of birds taking flight, she felt the burning intrusion again. Angered at her response, when silence was all she should have offered, she determined that she would not speak to him again. Closing on the water – her space – she saw him. Sitting halfway around the circumference of the lake, cross-legged with one arm draped along the back of the bench, he watched her as she walked.

Biting the inside of her cheek, Kerilyn took to her usual spot at the edge of the lake, resisting the temptation to look over to her unwanted companion. Water lapped against the banks in soothing waves. Controlling her breathing, concentrating on the serene center of her being, she glanced at the bench to see if he was still there. He wasn’t. His approach, as before, was one which was as measured and relaxed as she had ever seen. Too flustered to deal with another round of his attentions, she moved to leave, though the call of the water held her in place long enough for him to arrive, unbidden. Almost without effort, he seemed to bring out in her something near anger.

“Hi there, mysterious lady.”
She glared at him from above the rim of her sunglasses, unamused. “I thought I made it clear that I was in no need of company.”
“It doesn’t hurt to try my luck.”
He remained silent for a moment, hoping, perhaps, for witty repartee. Kerilyn did her best to disappoint him in all regards.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then. Take care.” With a nod of the head he departed.

III

Stepping into the park, aware that the man would likely be there for the third day in a row, Kerilyn tried to push thoughts of his disruptions into her routine from her thoughts. Almost immediately as she passed the threshold from the city to the greenery, with footsteps muffled by the grass underfoot, he announced his presence.
“Well, fancy bumping into you out here.”
Kerilyn took off her sunglasses and faced him. “There’s such a thing as stalking, y’know.”
“Me? I’m hardly a stalker. We just happen to frequent the same location at roughly the same time. I didn’t even know you took this path into the park.”
No, Kerilyn thought. I don’t usually come this way, but I did so today specifically to avoid you. As she began walking again, she made a mental note to avoid the park for a few days. Just long enough for the lovesick puppy to find a new playmate.
“Don’t you ever get lonely, standing out at the lake by yourself?” He matched her pace, slipping into his well-worn nice guy routine once more.

Kerilyn sighed, lowering her gaze. “What do you want?”
“I see a pretty woman standing by the edge of a lake, all on her lonesome, I get to wondering why she is all alone.” He let out a small, though warm, laugh. “You looked so sad, out here by yourself. I thought that a friendly face, and someone willing to listen, would be good for you.”
Staring at him from behind her protective lenses, aware that her shield of indifference had been dented, Kerilyn replaced her sunglasses. “If you must know, I go to the lake to remember.”
“Must be an awful good memory for you to spend so much time here.”
“Someone-” She thought for a moment how best to phrase the thoughts drifting through her mind. “Someone I know died on- died in the lake.”

IV

Standing at the main entrance to the park, Keri pondered how two weeks of brief companionship had changed her expectations of the park, and how it had ceased to loom so large on her mind. There were still nights where she would awaken in a cold sweat, but the darkness had lifted. As Lucas wandered up to her smiling – always smiling, she thought – it felt natural to smile.
“And we meet again.” He gazed into her eyes, “Brown. Your eyes are brown. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without your sunglasses.”
Her hand reached up to her face. “I must have left them at work.”
“Other things on your mind, huh?”
Keri smiled. “Don’t you go getting the wrong impression.”
“And a smile as well. Today is bringing all kinds of firsts.”

Lucas raised a hand to Keri’s cheek, and she could feel a blush blooming under his touch. “I have a surprise for you, but you’re going to have to trust me.”
“Trust you? I barely know you.”
“Well, there’s plenty of people around, and it’s not as if you don’t know me.”
“And what is it that I have to trust you about?”
“You’ll see. First though…” He reached into his pocket, removing a long piece of cloth, “You’re going to have to wear this?”
“A blindfold? Seriously? You haven’t gone and bought me a pony have you? I made that wish when I was eight, and I’ve since learned that they aren’t the delightful, sweet-smelling creatures I once imagined them to be.”
“Not a pony. Put on the blindfold, and you’ll find out soon enough.”

V

Walking hand-in hand, Keri felt increasingly self-conscious at the heat of Lucas’ grasp. “I can hear the water. Are we near the lake?”
“We’re nearly there. Just a few more steps.” Lucas moved behind her, moving Keri into position with his hands on her waist. “Are you ready?”
The blindfold slipped from her face, and Keri found herself staring at a small wooden rowboat, two oars laid across the stern. Her gasp of shock at a reminder of the worst day of her life did not seem to register with Lucas.
“I can’t.” She pulled from Lucas, “I can’t go back on the water.”
“No. Maybe not today. But when you are ready, and whenever you want, this will be here. For you.”
Kero looked into Lucas’ eyes, only barely aware she was speaking. “Thank you.”
She knew that one day, maybe not soon, but eventually, she would go with Lucas to the center of the lake in that vessel.

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A Little Halloween Reading…

Posted by BigWords on October 28, 2010

The best part of Halloween, for me, is rediscovering the tales I remember reading from dusty old collections and cheap paperbacks (mostly the Pan Horror collections, but the more recent Peter Haining books could count here as well), and it is one of the benefits of the digital age that most have been preserved online. There are still the odd gap here and there, and a few of the more obscure and hysterical tomes are still missing, but having the mainstays of the horror genre accounted for is enough for now. It’s not unsurprising that the effect of those Pan books especially, replete with skulls glaring out from the covers, have had a lasting impression. When I sat down to do my Halloween post (which will be the report of a week spent immersed in modern horror) I needed to pay some respect to the more traditional and – in my opinion – more lasting horror. The horror neither immediately visceral nor blatant.

I chose fourteen tales, which – by some coincidence not intended – is a fine enough number for a paperback like those I read as a child. These may represent very different styles of horror, but they are connected through a tradition of campfire and torchlit oral tradition… These are the storytellers whose work crawls into your brain, and whose ideas go beyond the mundane and everyday terrors to elicit something grander. You may argue on the inclusion of one or two of my choices (Campbell seems to be a contentious inclusion, though I have my reasons), but you cannot deny the overall strength of the horror story in short form. This is, beyond the excitement of the new, where the restless and uneasy dreams are forged.

Reading through the lists of works now committed to the grand digital libraries is like being a kid again, wide eyed and overjoyed at the way mere words on paper (or, in this case, on the screen) can hold such power. There’s really nothing like a scary story, told in the dark of night, to keep you wondering about the shadows which fall as flickering light fades away and we are left with the ghost of the day.

An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street by Sheridan Le Fanu
The Altar of the Dead by Henry James
The Call Of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
The Gulf Between by Tom Godwin
The Judge’s House by Bram Stoker
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You My Lad’ by Montague Rhodes James
The Picture Of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
The Screaming Skull by F. Marion Crawford
There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury
Transformation by Mary Shelley
Who Goes There? by John W Campbell
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Further reading:

Baen Free Library
Buzzle.com
Horrormasters
The Literary Gothic

“Sleep, those little slices of death, how I loathe them.” Edgar Allen Poe

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Refugees Of The Lost Kingdom

Posted by BigWords on August 3, 2010

by Gary James

In the torrid dreams filled with flickering embers came the vision, unfocused at first – as if seen through a heat haze – soon clearing to reveal the indescribable, unmentionable terror which burned eternally far beyond knowing. Mensinus woke each morning drenched in sweat and fear, and – following his carefully set routine – tried as best he could to shake off the feeling that something terrible was soon to occur. Awakening from such dreams day after day was beginning to take its’ toll on the academic. The tumbling, turned-around and swept away reality he had comfortably accepted was a horrifying thought, but as a tangible and all too real nightmare it was unbearable – for ten thousand years the splendor and opulence of the city had been a magnet for the brightest lights in the sciences from across the globe. Representatives of the council had been sent out across the globe to bring together peoples of all cultures to the heart of humanity, but if the flickering sparks of destruction portended in fitful sleep were accurate, then all would be for naught.

In his alcove, Mensinus tried valiantly to concentrate on the scrolls of texts laid out before him. Maps and descriptions of foreign lands spread across the table pointed at the existence of so much he had yet to experience for himself – strange beasts and exotic vistas, wondrous plateaus and beautiful oases… So many experiences to be had, and yet the awful dreams encroached on even his fancies of travel. The flames of destruction were always present out of the corner of his eye, a constant source of perspiration to his brow. The Great Hall which had seemed so cavernous to him as a boy now felt unbearably close, and from his vantage point on the second floor appeared no less than a massive kiln from which an awful smoldering terror would creep, catch and engulf all. His hand swept at the maps, billowing dust into the air from the ancient works. “And here be dragons,” he sighed softly, aware of the implications his words held.

A deep rumble echoed through the hall, followed swiftly by a tremendous shake of the ground. Vases toppled, people fell, and sprawled against the marble floor lay still – expecting, hoping and praying to their gods. Time seemed to crawl interminably slowly as the quake held tight its’ grip on Mensinus. The maps he was studying had flown across the floor into small groups. More chaos beyond the grand doors, those outside (caught, he supposed, in a more serious predicament) were screaming and wailing their torment to any who would listen. The doors to the Hall swung open and an excitable youth brushed past the scholars on the corridor, papers flying in all directions. “Flee. The city is burning, all is lost.” Mensinus raised himself carefully, steadying himself on the table, his heart pounding a tattoo of fear through his entire body. His dream was fulfilling itself.

A sound not unlike thunder took hold in the distance, and the building around him shook more violently than before, great cracks appearing in the granite where faults lay hidden deep within the stonework. It took all his composure to descend the stairs to the ground level, eyes blinking through the sweat of fear – Mensinus’ nightmare enveloping him once more, the horror of untold fears now weighty on the soul. His hands shaking, grasping at the walls as he made his way, one foot unsteadily placed in front of the other, to the reassuring firmness of the street. The sight which greeted him was one of complete disarray. Houses had toppled in on themselves, caged animals had broken free and scattered to the reaches, the elements of civilization had been thrown into tumult.

“Save us. Oh great ones…” Mensinus sank to his knees, “Save us.”

A great cacophony drew his attention to the far shore. The city’s merchant fleet, believed by the to be the greatest and most advanced in the world, had been dashed against rocks as if nothing more than the playthings of children. The scattered timbers looked so small from such a distance that Mensinus couldn’t tell if the sailors had been able to flee for their lives in the disaster. On land also, the tragedy had entangled citizenry in the hitherto unbelievable – the end of all that was. Flames licked the skyline in long, flickering trails, its’ errant embers falling from the inferno to engulf more in the chaos.

As if through a blanket of heat, Mensinus could see someone approaching. Not running, nor perturbed by the encircling flames, but calm and composed – striding forth through the madness as if unconnected to it all, the thin golden-bearded figure remained a focus of intensity. Mensinus held his hands out, “Can you save us, I beg of you?”
“From the fires of hell there is no salvation. But this I speak – there is time enough to flee, for the seas remain open, and far we must spread.” The stranger held out a hand. “Come with me and we will voyage forth.”
“My maps. I must retrieve my maps, for the entirety of lands are documented within them. The world has been charted and is known. They must be saved”
The stranger nodded.

With maps tucked under each arm Mensinus rushed to the shore, through the falling, burning logs and scattered masonry of dashed buildings, to find vessels spared the earlier destruction. The stranger stood proudly upon the bow of the elegant craft, unfazed by the movement of so many peoples from their homes.
He turned as Mensinus boarded. “We must depart quickly, for our time on these shores has come to an end. The heavens will soon shift against our favor.”
Mensinus nodded, “We will make haste for the pillars of Heracles, and on to Athens.”
“Very well.” The bearded man spoke softly, carefully, his eyes focused on things not readily apparent.
The ship broke free of its ropes, and the scattering of the remaining peoples took place. Some by fishing vessels, others by grand sloughs, and a handful of hearty souls dared all in one-man canoes better suited to the inner rivers.

A full day passed on the open sea, and an eerie quietness had overtaken the ship. Mensinus felt the dream heavily upon his heart again, the burnt red skies on the farthest skies – his homeland gone. The stars above him the only constant. The skies… Staring at the firmament he was possessed of the belief that he had witnessed the heavens move in sympathy with his predicament. Then sure enough, again. A prayer fell from his lips as night slipped dramatically and suddenly into day, the sea beneath him wrought with fury, and he knew – deep within his heart – that the city would never burn again. It would be forever frozen as is, eternally held in its’ final moments.
________________________________________________

Sometimes the ideas which come to me are slow in forming, taking shape only after extensive thought has been expended on nurturing the concept to fruition, though at other times I am compelled by some strange force and manage to wade through the normally difficult elements of story craft. This particular piece is of the latter description, and is something of an accompaniment to the numerous fire-based flash pieces which AWers have been posting…

There’s a couple of healthy genius bonuses if you are at all familiar with the alternative history books of recent years.

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