The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘short stories’

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?

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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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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
The Literary Gothic

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

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