Sunday, January 22, 2023

White Rabbit Story: January

 

The Beetle and the Stones


It had been a hard day: dull meetings with clients and contractors, reams of paperwork; a long afternoon spent debating the pros and cons of switching the current IT support contract to a new company. Paul was tired. All he wanted was a large whisky, a small sandwich, and a long film in the Blu-ray player.

            He parked the car, traipsed along the drive, unlocked the door to his house, and almost collapsed into the cramped hallway. Hung his coat on the hook, ran a hand through his greasy hair, and headed into the small living room.

            Something was different. Something was wrong. He didn’t fully correlate the information at first, but then his brain caught up with the situation and he registered it.

            “Oh,” he said.

            There was a huge black beetle sitting on the sofa. It had six legs; two of them were propped up on the coffee table. Its shiny antennae twitched.

            “Oh,” he said again.

            The beetle just sat there, its black compound eyes catching the light and glittering like jewels.

            It didn’t look like any insect he’d ever seen before. Apart from its sheer size, the thing didn’t resemble anything he’d seen on television or photographs. It was more like someone’s idea of a beetle than an actual beetle: clearly an invertebrate, three pairs of segmented legs, a three-part body (head, thorax, abdomen), a set of mandibles, a pair of antennae, and those strange, dead compound eyes. As it shifted on the sofa, he saw that it also possessed folded chitin wing cases but no wings.

            “Hello,” said the beetle, taking him off-guard.

            “Erm…hi.”

            “I’m sorry for the intrusion.” It had a nice voice: soft, well spoken, middle-class English but of an indeterminate gender. “I seem to have found myself stuck here for a little while, but I’m not sure why.”

            Paul cleared his throat. “Is this a dream? I mean, am I asleep?”

            “No,” the beetle waved one of its forelegs. “I thought the same at first, but this is real. I’m real. I suppose that means you are too. But, if you don’t mind me saying, you’re awfully small.”

            “And you’re awfully large.” Paul blinked a few times, then became very aware that he was blinking, and began to feel self-conscious about it; but he found that he couldn’t stop blinking, no matter how hard he tried.

            “You blink a lot,” said the beetle.

            “I’m sorry,” said Paul. “I’m not sure why I’m doing that. Nervous, I guess.”

            A thought struck him: “Just to backtrack a little…do insects dream?”

            “Good question. I’m not sure. I suppose we must, mustn’t we? I mean, if I thought this was a dream initially, dreaming must be something I do.”

            The beetle’s jaw twitched; its mouth shifted. “That’s a smile,” it said. “Just to be clear.”

            “To be clear?”

            “Yes, clear. I’d hate for you to be afraid. To think I was going to…eat you, or something.”

            “Eat me?” said Paul.

            “Eat you,” said the beetle. “I’d never do that.”

            “I need a drink.” Paul moved slowly to the cabinet where he kept the whisky, took out a bottle and a glass, and poured a hefty shot of double malt. He downed the drink in one and then poured another.

            “Would you like one?” he said without turning around.

            “No thanks,” said the beetle. “I’m teetotal. At least, I think I am.”

            Paul fought the urge to laugh. If he started, he might never be able to stop.

            “I hope I won’t be here long,” said the beetle. “I think I’m waiting for someone.”

            Paul turned, sipped his whisky, and tried not to stare too hard at his unwelcome visitor. “Any idea how long? I mean, will you be leaving soon? I find you…I find your presence…well, unnerving.”

            “I know. I’m sorry. One minute, there I was scuttling about on a rubbish tip eating rotten fruit, and then – bang! – all of a sudden, I’m here. In your home. I have no idea what’s going on.”

            “I see,” said Paul, not seeing at all. “So, you could be here for quite some time?”

            “I suppose,” said the beetle. “There’s no way of knowing, not really. Until whoever it is I think I’m waiting for turns up.”

            Paul set down his glass on the window sill and looked out into the front garden. “Waiting…there’s a thing.”

            “Indeed,” said the beetle. “I feel like I’m waiting, so I must be.”

            “Okay. Wait here,” said Paul. “I have something to show you.”

            The beetle did not respond.

            Paul went through into the kitchen, opened the back door, and walked out into the little back garden he’d been trying to get into shape since last summer. He grabbed the wheelbarrow and pushed it to where he’d demolished the old stone shed. Rolling up his sleeves, he set to work picking up rocks from the rubble pile. It didn’t take him long to fill the wheelbarrow; in a matter of minutes it was piled high with rocks of assorted shapes and sizes.

            Straining, he hefted the weight and pushed the wheelbarrow into the house, through the kitchen, and into the living room.

            “What do you have there?” said the beetle, crossing its lower legs. They made a whispering sound. Paul thought it was creepy.

            “You’ll see,” said Paul, bending to pick up a rock, a nice heavy one with sharp edges.

            “Oh,” said the beetle, just before the first of the jagged projectiles hit and cracked its shell.

            “No,” it said, folding its limbs and trying to curl up into a ball on the sofa.

            The beetle didn’t say anything more, not in terms of actual words, but it did make a lot of high-pitched squeaking sounds. Then there was squelching. After a while, the beetle went quiet and still.

            When he was done, Paul was sweating. His arms ached. There was a pile of yellowy mush on the sofa that was beginning to stink. There were crisp black pieces of shell mixed in with the pungent gunge. He backed away, as if suddenly realising what he had done and what it might mean about him that he’d gone to such extremes. He went to the cabinet and poured another drink. It tasted odd. Something had changed.

            There was a noise from upstairs: a kind of slithering sound from the master bedroom followed by a series of short bumping noises that came to a halt at the top of the stairs. He put down his drink and went out into the hallway, stood at the bottom of the stairs. He was blinking again. He couldn’t stop blinking.

            A smaller beetle was standing on the top step, looking down. This one was roughly half the size of the one he’d just killed, but resembled it in every other way. Its mandibles slid sideways as it spoke:

            “Mummy,” said the beetle. “Where’s my mummy?”

            Paul turned away in disgust. He walked through the living room, not even glancing at the wheelbarrow; moving quickly past the soft wreckage on the sofa, and stumbling into the kitchen. He sat down on the floor and put his head in his hands. Still blinking.

He wasn’t sure if he was going to laugh or cry until the tears came. Then the sobs; long, wet and heaving. He sat like that for a very long time, weeping uncontrollably, like a lost child.

Then something touched him softly on the arm and sat down next to him. It moved in close, hugging him with its jointed limbs and chittering to him mournfully in a language that he knew he might eventually come to understand.

 

 

 

© Gary McMahon, 2022

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

White Rabbit Story: December

This Winter Heart


Snow falling like a thick white duvet, tucking-in the world before it goes to sleep.

We sneak out of the house in the dark, as quiet as mice. Jane is cold but I’m wrapped up warm and snug. My sister never goes anywhere unless she’s under-dressed or wearing the wrong kind of shoes for the weather.

               We vault the low fence at the edge of our parents’ property, cross the open field, and scramble down the side of the snow-banked ravine, where we find him huddled against the trunk of a dead tree.

               A carrot as a nose. Two pieces of coal for eyes. A battered bowler hat perched on his big old snowball head. One of father’s old pipes stuck into his face where a mouth might be. A thin red scarf wrapped around his non-existent neck. We built him seven years ago, when I was four and Jane was five. He has returned here every year since, whenever the annual snowfall begins. We never question his presence, just accept it as part of the grand mystery of life.

               Jane is grinning. Her breath turns powdery and white in the air in front of her face.

 

-        Let’s leave him this time.

 

-        But we always destroy him. To see if he comes back next year.

 

-        Not this time.

 

-        But why?

 

-        Just to see what happens.

 

I’m not convinced but I’ve always kowtowed to my sister’s demands. She’s a year older and a lifetime wiser than me. It’s the natural order that she takes the lead and I follow; it has never occurred to me to ever question the chain of command.

So we leave him there, in the snow, in the shallow dip in the earth, and we go back home to bed. Jane glances back at me as she walks along the hallway to her bedroom, her eyes wide and excited in her cold white face. She smiles at me but I don’t smile back. She’s spoilt my fun; she has taken from me the joy of destruction.

My dreams are uneasy but by morning they are forgotten; vanished like melted snow. Sunshine streams through the windows. A cold white glare outside. When I hear my mother’s screams, I run straight to Jane’s room.

The open door. Mother and father weeping by the wardrobe. They look soft and empty, like deflating rubber dolls. A soft haze hangs in the air. The smell of damp is lodged in my nostrils; the slightly metallic taste of water on my tongue.

On the bed, a large mound of snow lies in state: a person-shaped drift on top of the soaked mattress. Twisted carrot nose. A couple of black coal eyes. A crumpled bowler hat, its brim creased and bent. Pipe crudely set at an angle. The scarf, red as blood against all the mute, dead white of her absence.

I walk to the window and look out at the snow, wishing that I could see her there, dancing through the drifts in her thin dress and her inappropriate shoes.

I still look for her every year, hoping that she will come back. But neither of them does – not her or the snow effigy we once created. Nobody comes; nothing happens. Just the snow and the cold and the wind gusting through the empty chambers of this frozen winter heart.

 

 

 

© Gary McMahon, 2022

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

White Rabbit Story: November

 

This is Where I Live

 

 I’d not lived in this neighbourhood for long, just a few weeks, so I decided one fine Sunday morning to take a walk and familiarise myself with the local street layout. It was early. Not many people were out and about. My neighbours were possibly enjoying a lie-in, or having a nice family breakfast.

               It all looked the same: identikit houses with identical lawns and gardens, variations on the same family car parked on the mostly block-paved drives. The sun was a tiny disc in a big, clear sky, shedding plenty of light but not much heat. There were hardly any clouds. The sound of birdsong. The smells of petrol and cooking fat. Just a normal suburban street.

               “Hi,” said a quiet, amiable voice behind me.

Turning, I flashed what I thought was a friendly smile. “Hello.”

There was a small boy sitting on the kerb at the side of the road. He was wearing a curiously dusty school uniform with frayed cuffs and several small rips in the material of the blazer. The trousers were too short for his stumpy legs. He was not wearing any shoes but his feet were white and clean, even the soles.

When he smiled, I finally realised what disturbed me so much about his appearance. The child had the face and head of a fully-grown adult. This caused in me an odd, discombobulated effect: he resembled some weird disproportional puppet there on the path, and I was entirely unsure how to react.

“I’m Ben,” he said, still smiling. In fact, I could hardly see his mouth moving because of the expansive grin.

“Oh…” I didn’t know what else to say.

“My father’s over there.” His choice of the word “father” rather than “dad” seemed deliberate somehow but I wasn’t certain what it implied. In a jerky, restrained motion, he lifted a narrow hand and pointed in the direction of the nearest unremarkable house. He did not turn his head; I had the impression that he couldn’t. His neck was completely immobile, his shoulders stiff.

A tall, broad-shouldered man was mowing the lawn with an old-fashioned rotary mower. He was wearing a pair of cut-off denim shorts that looked to be a size too small and no shirt. His torso was lean and hard; even at this distance, I could make out his straining muscles. The man’s head was too small for his body. It was, in fact, the head of a child.

I glanced at Ben. His horrible empty smile. His male pattern baldness. The five o’clock shadow on his cheeks. Then I looked back at his father, and the contrast of the man’s cherubic, grimacing features was vaguely horrific.

Stumbling backwards. I raised my hands in a ridiculous defensive gesture. I almost tripped and fell as I inched away from the boy at the kerb.

“Why don’t you join us for brunch?” said Ben, cordially, starting to stand but losing his balance slightly because of the weight of his oversized head on his little body. He tried again, supporting himself with an outstretched arm.

I turned and ran; sprinting all the way back to my unsecure home, where the locks now seemed so flimsy and the glass in the windows looked too brittle to offer any form of protection from the outside world. Where I locked the door and squatted down on the floor, out of anyone’s eye-line.

I waited, hoping that I would not hear slow footsteps walking calmly up the drive, or the sound of a polite knock on the front door.

I waited, knowing that I could do nothing to change this.

I live here now. There is nowhere else for me to go.


                                                                                                        


                                                           © Gary McMahon, 2022

Sunday, October 16, 2022

White Rabbit Story: October.

Damp Rooms in Empty Houses

 

 

 

“So that’s it. Finally.”

               Maxwell nodded. He was smiling but he looked nervous.

               “Yes, this is it. The skull of Andrei Rubikov.”

               I paused in the doorway. “It looks…fake.”

               “Everybody says that. I think it’s the size, the shape. They make it seem like a film prop. Please, do have a closer look.”

               I walked over to the open display case to inspect its contents. The skull was huge; twice the size of a normal human head and sitting on a bed of yellow silk. The eye sockets were elongated, the jawbone distorted.

               “They say it was the visions he had. The knowledge he crammed into his brain. Such dark secrets…they transformed his cranium, gave it outlandish proportions.”

               I glanced at Maxwell. He was old, out of shape. Far from the formidable presence he’d once been. “And you believe that?”

               He smiled. “I’m not sure. I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my life, and I try to keep an open mind. This thing, though. I’m really not sure. I do, however believe in hell, and I think everyone sees their own personal version of it.”

               “I’m assuming you’ve had this tested.”

               “Yes. It’s definitely a human skull.”

               “Authentication documents?”

               “All as one might expect. For all intents and purposes, this is the real thing. I have no reason to doubt its authenticity.”

               I walked slowly around the skull, unable to keep my eyes from it for more than a few seconds. Its surface was rough, blackened as if by fire. There were cracks and fissures in the bone, and everywhere upon it there were carved symbols. Some of them might have been ancient occult runes, others were nothing more than crude graffiti – Anarchy signs and peace symbols; the childish likenesses of cocks and tits and gurning faces.

               “The rest of the skeleton is long gone, I’m afraid. There’s always been a strong trade in saintly relics…especially the darker saints, if you’ll excuse the phrasing. By that, of course, I mean the saints of the occult rather than those of the Christian faith.”

               I didn’t respond to his chatter. I was fascinated by the skull.

               “You have the money, I hope.”

               Pulling my gaze from the display case, I lifted the briefcase to chest level. “My client has instructed me to pay you if I’m happy with the item.”

               “And are you? Are you happy?”

               I looked at him again, his greedy face and hungry eyes. “Never. But I’ll take it.”

               The transaction didn’t take long. I was out of there within fifteen minutes, carrying this fabled 16th Century artefact, the skull of Adrei Rubikov, in an oversized sports bag. It was unexpectedly heavy; felt like I was carrying a sack full of bowling balls. My arms ached; my back complained.

               Deep down, I think I knew what I was going to do even before the idea came to me, as if it had been placed inside my head by an external source.

               Try it on, said a voice deep inside me. What harm could it do? Try it and see if it does what it’s meant to.

                I put the bag on the passenger seat and drove a few blocks, turned down an alley, and parked up outside an abandoned warehouse. It was dark. The stars were weak and the moon seemed to be hiding.

               I reached over and opened the bag, taking out the skull. It felt cold. Iced bone. The tips of my fingers traced the lines of the carvings.

               I’d heard all the stories, read the books. I knew what to do. Gently, I lifted the skull and placed it over my own head, like a helmet. It slid on easily, as if it belonged there. That’s what all the accounts said: if you put it on, it feels like it’s always been yours, as if it was designed to fit only you.

               I stared out through the eye sockets and I waited.

               Nothing seemed to be happening.

               Inside the skull, it smelled of damp rooms in empty houses: the aroma of lonely despair.

               I’d heard that for some people things changed immediately, but others had to wait a while. It all depended upon how susceptible you were. Perhaps I’d seen so much strangeness over the years that I’d become hardened to such sights.

               It was said that during his time in the Russian wilderness, the adventurer Adrei Rubikov had opened a portal to hell. That he’d journeyed between the realms many times. The things he saw, the horrors he was party to, transformed him into a being that belonged neither here nor there, but could slip between worlds whenever he wanted.

               I stared into the darkness, watching as it began to boil.

               Rubikov was, at various times, a holy man, an artist, a scholar, a master of arts so dark that they tattooed his skin black. In certain regions, people had called him The Shadow That Walks. Others had called him simply пепел, which translates as Ash.

               The darkness beyond the windscreen fractured, nothing more than a slight judder in my eyeline.

               Nothing changed. Everything stayed the same.

               It took a little time before I saw the first one darting out of the shadows, but once I’d seen it, the rest of them came into view. And they were dancing.

               Their exact shapes were tricky to pin down. It was like watching oil on water. Shadow on shadow. No form; all substance.

               I kept as still as I could. Tried not to breathe too loudly. This was a dangerous game, a deadly dance.

               The real trick was, I knew, to make sure I took off the skull before they noticed me, and do it quickly enough that they couldn’t make up the ground between us.

               A minute more. Just a minute…

               There was a sound behind me. The subtle shifting of weight on the back seat as something moved its position.

               I closed my eyes but I could still see them dancing.

               Something soft and heavy gripped my shoulder with far too many fingers. Once again, I caught the waft of empty rooms in abandoned houses, but this time because I was there. I knew I would remain there forever, a prisoner of my own stupidity.

               The soft hand and bloated fingers drifted to my neck, tenderly stroking the jugular.

               Within the skull, I didn’t want open my eyes. I’ve kept them shut ever since.

 

© Gary McMahon, 2022

 


Saturday, September 3, 2022

White Rabbit Story: September.

 

Not A Place I Recognise

 

 I’m driving at night because it’s the best time to catch them. They like to stay in the shadows, the dark little sanctuaries that form after the sun goes down.

Several miles out of town, I finally find myself on a road I do not recognise. It’s more like a neglected track than a road: the pitted Tarmac is uneven; the verges are overgrown with weeds; the drainage channels behind the cracked kerbs are dried out and useless. This is exactly the kind of place I’ve been looking for.

I sense him before I see him, so I’m prepared for the sight of him walking in the middle of the road, shoulders hunched, feet dragging. He’s small, not much over five foot tall. He’s wearing a long coat, dark trousers, and big boots.

I slow down the car. I know he must be able to hear me but he doesn’t react, just keeps on walking. Finally, as I draw closer, he shifts at a diagonal to the side of the road, still walking at the same pace.

I slow right down as I come alongside him, sliding down the driver’s side window. The side of his face is pale and drawn. He looks young but tired.

“Need a lift?”

He doesn’t respond.

“I can take you a few miles up the road. There’s another town. You could probably find a ride with a trucker or a farmer there.”

He turns his face towards me. It’s a beautiful face, I can see that now. Like that of a Michelangelo sculpture. White and pristine and filled with a longing that is impossible to put into words.

“Yeah. Thanks.” His voice is normal. No accent. Nothing to make it distinct from any other voice one might hear.

I stop the car and wait as he walks round to the passenger side and opens the door. His clothing rustles softly against the upholstery as he slides onto the seat.

“I’m not going far,” he says, staring straight ahead. “Just looking for somewhere to stay.”

I push the accelerator and let the clutch pedal rise, moving slowly away.

“I have a place. I can offer you a bed for the night. No strings. Just one stranger helping another.”

“Thank you,” he says, his voice soft and quiet. “That would be good. It’s been a long time since I slept in a proper bed.”

I knew he would accept my offer. They always do. They think they’re the hunter and I’m the prey. They’re wrong, so very wrong, but they only find that out when it’s much too late to matter.

We don’t speak as I turn around and drive back to the cabin. It takes me a while to find the right road, but once I’m in a familiar spot I start to feel calm. Serene. I keep glancing at him but he doesn’t move, just keeps staring through the windscreen, at the dark and the road and whatever lies ahead. Making a good show of ignoring the small silver crucifix dangling from the rear-view mirror.

“We’re here,” I say as I pull up on the gravel outside the cabin. “My humble home.”

I get out of the car and walk towards the door, getting the keys out of my pocket. Behind me, the car door opens and then slams shut. Footsteps on the gravel. His presence at my back. For a moment, I almost flinch, expecting an attack, but then I remind myself that he doesn’t know anything and he’s biding his time, waiting until my guard has completely dropped before making his move. It’s how they operate: hit you when you least expect it.

I open the door and walk inside. He follows.

The door closes; I spin around, pulling the pistol from my inside coat pocket. I see him register momentary alarm, and then I move in, hitting him across the side of the face with the weapon. I think his cheekbone breaks. He stumbles, reaching out to grab the door frame, but I kick him in the knee and he goes down hard, face to the floor.

He’s still conscious as I strip him but he’s in too much pain to resist. Once he’s naked, I check his back, the curve of his spine. There are no signs there. His tailbone looks a little lumpen, the coccyx more pronounced than normal, but it’s still not what I expect to see. He’s hiding it well; this skinsuit is a good fit.

He struggles a little as I tie him to the wooden kitchen chair, but I’m easily strong enough to subdue him. His face is starting to bruise. His eyes are fogged. Once he’s securely tied, arms and legs bound against the chair, I walk across the room to the old chest of draws and take out the clippers.

“Please,” he says, but it’s barely audible, as if he realises it’s pointless to beg. Part of the act.

I return to his passive form and switch on the clippers. Rechargeable. No lead. Professional quality.

“Don’t move. It’ll be easier if you keep still.”

I start to shave the hair off his head. Blinking, he mumbles something, but I don’t listen.

Before long, his scalp is almost bare; just a fine layer of dark stubble remains. It’s enough for me to see, to find what I’ve been looking for.

They’re small, but they’re visible if you know what you’re looking for. Small nubs, sticking out barely an inch from the surface of his skull. It looks like at some point he might have tried to shave the horns down, or remove them entirely, but he couldn’t quite manage that last little bit of hard bone.

“I knew you were one of them.”

He stares at me. The expression on his face could be a smile or a grimace, I’m not sure which.

“Let me go,” he whispers. “I won’t tell anyone about this. You can trust me.”

I pause a moment before I speak. “De profundis clamo ad te domine.”

He begins to laugh, a low, deep chuckle; the sound of mocking. It’s all the proof I need.

It doesn’t take long. I use the short sword I keep in the bottom drawer of the dresser – the gun is only ever for show; it isn’t even loaded. The sword is a holy relic, meant for this task. When I found it buried in a field on the other side of town, it was rusty and worn yet still held the glow of something touched by grace. I cleaned it up and sharpened its edge.

Unlike some, he doesn’t make much of a fuss when the end comes. Just a whimper.

After cleaning up the blood and burying the body in the forest at the back of the cabin, I sit down on the tiny porch and drink a cold beer. It tastes good. It tastes…holy, somehow, like wine from His table.

The moon is full and bright, the stars are small and insignificant, punctuation points in the black sheet of sky. It’s still early. There’s time enough left for me to go out again. To see if I can get lucky twice in one night.

I know where they are, the places they like to wander. I hunt them on the lonely roads and byways, in the empty plots and forgotten edgelands.

All the lost and blighted places.

I’m the last thing they expect to encounter on a cool, dark night. The final thing they see as I end their bloody reign upon this earth.

I am the Good Shepherd, doing God’s dirty work. His servants – just like his enemies – must never sleep.

I am the road less travelled. I am the sword in His hand.

From out of the depths, I cry unto thee…

I finish my beer and lock the cabin door. Climb into the car and pick a route at random. I’m driving at night again, because it’s the best time to catch them. I plan to keep driving until this is no longer a place I recognise.

 

© Gary McMahon, 2022

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Handmaids and Glory Holes

Not a lot of writing activity to report this week, I'm afraid. I'm still working on the new novella but at the minute it's all about the thinking and note-taking phase rather than the actual writing. But, as we know, that's still classed as writing because it's part of the process - and my process almost always involves a hell of a lot of thinking and prodding ideas with a stick before I get much of anything down on the page.

Over the past few days I've binge-watched the last few episodes of The Handmaid's Tale Season 4. As always, it was brilliant - powerful, heart-wrenching, and incredibly bleak. I found this season so downbeat, in fact, that it affected my mood all week. If you can take it, this remains the most powerful show on television. I think it's a masterpiece.

I also caught a great little indie horror flick on Shudder. It's called Glorious, and despite the limitations of a low budget, it's a very ambitious piece of work. Set in a public toilet, it's about a man who meets a god and what happens when the god asks him for a favour...

There's a good mix of black humour and cosmic horror, tied together by a tight script and some great performances. Highly recommended.

The trailer can be viewed on YouTube: 




Saturday, August 20, 2022

Peking Men & Pallbearers

This is the first of what I hope will be a weekly update, just to get me blogging again. 


  • Writing

As usual, I'm up and down with the writing. The sense of urgency that used to grip me is simply no longer there, and I've come to terms with that. So instead of writing obsessively, as if my life depended upon it, I've begun to write only if and when the mood takes me. Writing isn't my job; I no longer want to treat it like one. Instead, I'm using it as an outlet for my anxieties - which it always was, anyway.

This week I made some notes and got down a few hundred words on a new project, initially titled Smackmouth. It's a proposed novella about a young man returning to his childhood home to confront his personal demons. I know this is a common (and even cliched) theme in horror - it's also been a common theme in my own work ever since I first started writing seriously - but I really don't give a fuck. I'm just going to write it and see what kind of darkness is dredged up from my depths.

This project - if I complete it -  will feature some elements of northern folk horror, a little home-made magic, and some body horror. I feel positive about it but I'm also aware that over the past few months I've started several projects only to see them wither on the vine. We'll see. We'll see.

  • Viewing

I've been unwell this week so haven't been to karate classes so my evenings have been spent watching films and TV shows. 

Earlier this week I binge-watched The Sandman on Netflix. I've not read the comics so I came to this cold. I thought it was rather hit and miss but overall I enjoyed it - with some reservations. It was a bit "Dr Who-ish" for my tastes, and parts of it were downright cringey (as my teenage son would say). I also felt that it was trying too hard to not offend anyone and kept falling over itself to appeal to all-comers, so, to me, it felt far too safe...or perhaps safe isn't the right word: virtuous, maybe, or reverent? I imagine the comics are much more grungy and irreverent.

Midweek I re-watched an old favourite, John Cassavetes' Gloria. Gene Rowlands is glorious in this, and the film is a love letter to New York in the early 80s. Wonderful.

I'm slowly working my way through the brilliant Arrow bluray box set, ShawScope Volume 1. It's a sheer joy. Last night I watched The Mighty Peking Man, a film I'd wanted to see since I was a kid. It was a delight. An unparalleled work of mediocrity. One of the best worst films I've ever seen, up there with Food of the Gods, The Giant Spider Invasion, and Empire of the Ants

ShawScope Volume 2 has just been announced. I put in my pre-order two days ago.


  • Reading

I'm still working my way through Paul Tremblay's The Pallbearer's Club. I'm enjoying it immensely and looking forward to seeing where the story takes me. 

I'm also still working through Steve Toase's short story collection, To Drown in Dark Water. So far, it's a solid read.

  • General

For some reason. my mind is currently drawn to cold things. Endless stretches of barren tundra, looming white mountains of ice, the stirring of something desolate, tired giants moving slowly through the black depths beneath the ice cap. I have an urge to re-read At the Mountains of Madness. Icebergs gather in the ocean of my dreams. Part of me feels as if there's a story idea building. For many years now, I've wanted to write a horror story set in the icy Arctic wastes. Maybe it's coming.