Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Some Bruising May Occur

I'm delighted to announce that the well-respected US publisher Journalstone/Trepidatio will publish my next collection.

Some Bruising May Occur will be released in April 2020.

I'll update regarding details as and when I can.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

White Rabbit Story - July

During 2019, as a kind of literary experiment, I plan to publish a new piece of flash fiction during the first week of every month. These pieces are called The White Rabbit Stories.


Sorry about the delay, but here's July's White Rabbit Story:



Lunch Date

He was waiting for me in the Arrivals enclosure, all bulging muscles and wearing a suit that was at least one size too small. His hair was cut short and his eyes were bright. He put me in mind of an over-eager puppy. I hate people who are too keen to please.
            “Mr Jones?” His voice grated on me; it was too high-pitched for his frame.
            “That’ll be me, I guess.” He smiled because he didn’t know what else to do, what else to say.
            “I assume you’re my driver?”
            He nodded. “I’m Tony. I’m to take you for your lunch and then wherever you’d like to go next.”
            Handing him my suitcase, I walked past him towards the exit. Already, I was bored of him.
            As we drove, he pointed out landmarks and I tried my best to ignore his dull commentary. I fiddled with my phone, re-reading old emails and sending a few texts to people who I’d promised to let know when I landed.
            The air-conditioning in the car was good. It cooled me down, dried the sweat off my brow and my back. Relaxing into the seat, I started to doze.
            “We’re here.” Tony was looking at me from the front seat, all teeth and perkiness. I wanted to shoot him in the face. “Everything has been arranged.”
            The backstreet luncheon club he’d brought me to was renowned for catering to a certain type of clientele. They came here from all over the world to satiate their hideous appetites for underage boys and girls. I got out of the car and approached the heavy steel door at the front of a bland brick building. When I knocked, a small hatch slid open and a woman’s face appeared.
            “My name is Jones. I have a lunch appointment.”
            The face smiled – or tried to. The hatch slid back shut and the door opened. I walked inside.
            Tony waited in the car with the engine running. It seemed he knew the score.
            The woman’s strange smile caved in when I hit her with the hammer. She smelled of greasy burgers. Her pain tasted of cooked meat. To me, it was not an unfamiliar flavour.
            I went through the club like a starving beast. Because it was daytime, there weren’t many customers inside. None of them put up much of a fight. I slit and shot and beat their flesh, smashed their bones, and piled the corpses high, inhaling through my mouth the beautiful energy I had released. It tasted good; my belly was filled. But when it was done, I was still hungry for more.
My own appetites are far stranger than those of the people who came here. Killing was my food and drink; slaughter my sustenance. By dining at places like this one, I could justify the carnage and make a bit of cash on the side.
I let most of the kids from the upstairs rooms out the back way and told them to never stop running until they got somewhere safe. Some of them are probably still running even now. Safety is an allusion, a lie we tell ourselves and each other. I know this: I am an apex predator. Nobody is safe from me.
The little girl I’d come for was in the last room I checked. She was sitting on an unmade bed wearing a white lace party dress. Her face was inexpertly smeared with make-up. I washed her face in the sink and led her downstairs. She didn’t say a word; they rarely did. If she ever spoke again, it would never be of this place and the things she’d been made to do here.
            Back in the car, Tony drove slowly away from the kerb.
            “Did you find what you were looking for, Mr Jones?” He stared at me in the rear-view mirror, no longer smiling.
            “It’ll do for now,” I said. “Until you find me a place that serves bigger portions.”
            Tony nodded. “I’ll see what I can do. This city caters for all tastes and her father is a very powerful man.”
            There was a black courier case on the floor near my feet. I knew it contained my previously-agreed fee. I glanced at the girl. She was staring out of the window, her body stiff and hunched.
            Outside, the sun continued to shine. The people on the streets continued their endless, oblivious dance towards the end of the world. I watched them all, still hungry.
The girl remained silent at my side. After a few moments, she reached out without looking at me and grabbed my hand. For a moment – just the smallest fraction of time – I felt almost human again.


© Gary McMahon 2019

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Fifty

This April I turned 50. Not a big event in the great scheme of things. Hardly even a great age these days, when we have a populace that is healthier than ever and expected to live longer. But, to me, it felt momentous.

But since my birthday I've been trying to make small positive changes in my life. Drinking less alcohol, working on my flexibility and my karate kata, meditating, reading more, attempting to write more...small things, little changes that, when I add them all up, should improve the quality of my life.

I'm currently working on a novelette titled A House With No Windows, and a novella called The Noble Rot. I've made a lot of hand-written notes, mostly with a fountain pen. It's nice to be working on paper again rather than directly onto a screen. It feels like I'm trying to connect with my younger self, the kid who wrote frantically, like a maniac, and never seemed to run short of ideas.

I've started sketching. I used to draw a lot when I was a child but once the writing took over I abandoned it. My father was an artist - a pretty good one, too - but a frustrated one. That frustration formed part of his problems. My own sketches are, in truth, a bit crap. But I don't care. That isn't the point. The point is that it makes me happy, and I'm slowly beginning to see an improvement in my technique. It seems to be helping my writing, too, the creativity fueling more creativity, which will hopefully help me power through the two above-mentioned projects.

This April I turned 50. Nothing much changed. Everything changed. I'm trying to change all the time; trying to improve in all the ways I can. I think that's a good thing. And in this life, we need to grab all the good things that come our way.



Wednesday, June 5, 2019

White Rabbit Story - June

During 2019, as a kind of literary experiment, I plan to publish a new piece of flash fiction during the first week of every month. These pieces are called The White Rabbit Stories.


Here's June's White Rabbit Story:


Saviour



It has happened before and it will happen again, many times, an endless number of times and in an endless number of variations. It has always happened, and it always will.
            This time, it’s in a forest.
            This time, she is small and blonde.
            This time, it is the same as every other time, apart from a few minor details.
She’s running. Running away from a killer, a man with a big knife who wants to murder her for some vague, or even unspecified reason. It’s a plot point, a narrative device. We’ve seen it all before.
            She’s running away.
            The masked killer gains on her but not quite enough to catch her, even when she stumbles over a tree root or falls on the hard ground. She always gets back up again. She keeps running. He keeps chasing. An infinite chase, one without end – the characters may change but the chase remains the same.
            Leaping over a shallow stream, she twists her ankle. She doesn’t fall; she carries on, limping. The masked killer gains more ground. She can hear him breathing hard. She can feel him, the dry heat of him, not far behind her as she runs.
            A dilapidated barn appears up ahead. She hobbles inside, slams the door and moves something heavy – a wardrobe, a bed, a cupboard; it isn’t important – in front of it to keep him out, if only for a length of time specified by the mechanics of the plot.
            She’s the Last Girl. The only difference between her and countless others is that she knows what she is: she recognises her role.
            All she must do is wait this out. Sit patiently until the cavalry arrives. The cavalry being a man: a police officer or just some passing firm-jawed hero, who will come along and save her. He will be tall and handsome, and he will kill the killer.
            Sitting in a corner of the room, knees drawn up to her chest and arms draped around her legs, she closes her eyes and remembers when she was a real person. A young child, playing in the park. A young girl, learning at school and then studying so hard at University. A young woman, getting her first job and trying to make her mark on the world.
            Back then, she wasn’t the Last Girl.
Back then, she was a Real Girl. She was a person, not a cipher. Whatever happened to that girl, what strange turn of events occurred so she’d end up here, at this moment?
            But there’s no further time for introspection: the masked killer has arrived at the barn door. He’s banging on the door, punching and kicking and using his knife to carve chunks out of the wood. She can hear him singing; it’s a sad song, a childhood verse. Before long, he’ll get inside. She’ll have to fight him until some man arrives.
            She knows the rules.
            She knows how it always goes.
            But rules were meant to be broken.
            Calmly, she stands and walks to the centre of the room. She kneels and pries up a loose floorboard – the one she somehow knows will lift if the right amount of pressure is applied at the correct point. She removes the floorboard and reaches down into the narrow crawlspace below. Lifting out the pump-action shotgun, she hefts it and enjoys the weight of it in her hands. She doesn’t know how she knew it would be there. But she knew anyway.
            She stands, sliding the gun’s forend back and forth, priming the weapon for action.
            The door bursts open and the killer steps inside. He stands in the doorway, knife in hand, waiting for her to scream.
            “Not this time,” she says, and pulls the trigger.
            The mask explodes into a shredded, bloody rag. The killer drops to the floor twitching for a little while and then going still.
            She steps over to him and kicks him with her good foot – the one that isn’t injured. He doesn’t move. She shoots him again, smiling at the bloody mess, and then pumps another round into the chamber. She looks at the splintered doorframe and the black mosaic of the forest beyond, awestruck by its sudden beauty.
            This girl doesn’t need anyone to save her.
            The darkness outside floods inside, a peaceful, calming river of night.
            No more masked killer.
No more Last Girl.
“Not this time,” she says again.
            Smiling, she limps back to her original position and sits down on the dirty floor, facing the doorway. Cradling the shotgun in her arms as if it were a baby, she waits patiently for her saviour to arrive.


© Gary McMahon 2019

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

White Rabbit Story - May

During 2019, as a kind of literary experiment, I plan to publish a new piece of flash fiction during the first week of every month. These pieces are called The White Rabbit Stories.


Here's May's White Rabbit Story:



In Our Town


Somewhere in our town – I won’t say where – there is a small, abandoned one-storey house. The windows are boarded. The doors are sealed shut. At the back of the house there is a tree, and beneath that tree there is a pit covered by a sheet of corrugated steel.
            Lift the steel sheet and lower yourself into the pit, and you will find a stairway carved out of the hard earth. That stairway leads down and around, under the foundations of the house.
            Follow the passage and you will end up directly beneath the house, in a large, hollow chamber with a low roof though which the bottom side of the concrete foundations of the house protrude. The chamber is lit by torches set in shallow alcoves around the walls. Those torches never go out, but nobody ever lights them.
            In this chamber, right at the centre in fact, there is a large black box. The box is made of timber, painted and lacquered. It glistens in the gloom. A master craftsman constructed the box; he carved it by hand from the oldest tree in the forest on the outskirts of our town.
We are very proud of our craftsmen.
            Inside the box there is a key. The key opens a lock that will only appear when the key is taken out of the box.
            The lock is in a door. The door was carved from the same wood as the box; it is painted and lacquered in the same way as the box. It glistens in the same way in the light of those undying torches.
            Behind the door there is a child. Nobody can remember if the child is a boy or a girl. The child has been there too long for anyone to remember, and over time its appearance has altered so much that gender is impossible to assign.
            The child is silent. It is blind and mute and deaf; its eyes, mouth, ears have fused shut.
            The child must eat once a year, but it is always hungry.
            The child feeds in its own strange way.
            We, the town councillors, provide what is needed.
            We, the lawmakers, send people like you to the house, to the pit, to the chamber, and, finally, into the room.
            You are the food that the child needs so that our town will continue to thrive.
            You are the food. The drink. The sustenance.
            You, or someone just like you.
A lone traveller lost on the road outside our town.
A camper who wandered off the path in the hills or in the deep, dark woods that border our town.
A salesman whose products we didn’t want or need.
A teenage runaway.
A rough-sleeper looking for a quiet little town like this one to lay his head.
Here, take this map – the route is drawn upon it in blood.
It will show you the way. 






© Gary McMahon 2019

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

White Rabbit Story - April

During 2019, as a kind of literary experiment, I plan to publish a new piece of flash fiction during the first week of every month. These pieces are called The White Rabbit Stories.

Here's Aprils White Rabbit Story:






Hands On


We were standing in the drizzle at the corner of Tallow Street and Grand when she casually put her hand on my leg. Gently, she touched my right thigh. It was an intimate gesture, but she was like that. A little bit touchy-feely.
            I smiled and carried on talking – I don’t remember what the conversation was about, only that it was about something. Small talk at the end of a long day.
            As we parted company, she leaned in close and whispered something in my ear that I couldn’t quite make out. The noise from passing traffic drowned it out, and I’m pretty sure she spoke the words in a foreign language anyway, one I’d never encountered before.
            For a moment, I watched her as she faded into the light rain.
            I was in no rush to get home, so I called into a local pub and ordered a beer. People stared at me as I stood at the bar. Nobody spoke to me. I felt excluded from a joke whose punchline had been delivered badly and caused an uncomfortable atmosphere.
            I finished my drink and left the place, heading back to my small apartment by the canal. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until I got inside and took off my coat.
            It was still there. Her hand. Still resting on my thigh, holding on gently but firmly enough not to lose its grip with her long, pale fingers.
            The hand had not been severed; the wrist ended in a neat, smooth nub of flesh, like that of a healed amputee. I’m pretty sure she’d been in possession of both her hands when she’d walked away from me at the junction. I’m certain she’d waved at me with the hand that was now attached to my leg – the left one, if that made any difference.
            When I touched the hand, it twitched. The fingers tensed. The stubby wrist jiggled slightly.
            I had to cut off my jeans to get undressed. By now I could barely feel the hand gripping me, but it was holding on so tightly that I was unable to pull it away, no matter how hard I tried.
            I took a shower. I even washed the hand. Shock must have set in by then because I don’t remember feeling any emotions. I simply accepted what was happening to me. What the hell else was I supposed to do?
            That night, I slept on my back and tried not to disturb the hand. I wasn’t sure if it was asleep or awake – or even if it recognised such notions – but I didn’t want to take any chances. It was like a huge spider clinging to my flesh.
            The next day, I went looking for her, but nobody knew where she was. She’d ghosted out of my life and left me with a permanent reminder of her presence. I barely even knew her; she was just someone I often spoke to on my way home from work, passing a few pleasant, if forgettable, minutes at the end of the working day. I didn’t even know her name.
            After that, I stayed home a lot. I started wearing baggy trousers and jogging bottoms as I slouched in defeat through the lonely rooms of my apartment. I avoided all human contact. Had my food delivered and only ever talked online. The only touch I experienced was one I’d never asked for. It didn’t seem fair: I was being singled out for no reason.
            I never saw her again. But I feel her through that phantom limb. I feel her every day.



© Gary McMahon 2019

Home

At Home in the Shadows is officially released on the 11th of this month - that's twelve days before my 50th birthday. It's my first book release for a while, so I thought I'd do a blog entry about the stories in this "mini-collection" to help publicise it.


Text Found on a Defunct Webpage story is a short ditty; a tongue-in-cheek warning about the games estate agent's often play.

The next two stories - The Chair and The Table - are linked by the main character, a young man afflicted with psychological problems and a troubled family life - and haunted by a darkness that somehow finds ways to express itself through seemingly innocuous items of furniture.

The last two stories are brand new, and have never been published before.

On the Walls links to The Chair and The Table by virtue of a connection with the protagonist of those two tales. It's a very personal piece about mental breakdown, family secrets, and the way that houses can sometimes store bad energy from the past and turn it into something even more harmful. I think it's one of the best things I've ever written.

Open House was written after my wife and I went through the interminable process of viewing houses before we finally bought our current (and hopefully forever) home.



Order now direct from the publisher via this link: Black Shuck Books

Or through Amazon