Friday, 6 June 2008

From 'The Ballad of Sir Ravenscroft'

I'm away for a few days so thought I'd post this strange little horror/fantasy tale. A group of friends and I were taking turns to write the next part of a story. The scene set is of a knight returning home to see his castle beset by strange creatures. It's silly, but offers a little escapism, anyway...

From a distance of perhaps 100 yards the gallant knight watched as his loved ones were thrown to the death giving ground below them. In a fraction of a second he witnessed a pair of leathery wings flop across the infernal scene and snatch a falling carcass, which was borne away over the encroaching forest and soon into the cloudscape. The other figure hit the inner bank below the castle wall and rolled slowly into the slim black moat.
Sir Ravenscroft sped on foot towards the base of the east tower. In the oily, fetid stream he spied thick black hair, growing heavy and sinking fast. He reached in, aware that his arms could be ripped from his body by some demoniac mouth beneath the surface. But it was little relief to drag from the stinking mire the broken body of his lady fair.
He traced her purple lips with his gauntleded finger. They seem burned and lacerated by a blasphemous kiss. Her clothing was torn and her body showed infinite signs of torment and torture at the sport of damnation. Blood dripped thickly down her legs and he fell hard on her chest in untold agonies, anguish his soul had not known could exist, despite witnessing the full horrors of Moorish battle.
The impact of his weight drew a sudden, sharp, agonising breath from the body of his wife. "John," she spoke in gurgled guttural tones, "Leopald, I tried to save Leopald. He lives yet." Sir Ravenscroft longed to look into the beautiful eyes of his wife once more before her life ebbed to a close. He expected to see horror and fear there and wished to insist they saw only peace before she met God. Yet as he brushed back her bloodied hair he gazed only upon two blistered sockets, scolded and torn with worms burrowing holes into the softest fleshes within.
The last thing his poor wife would have heard was the sound of her husband retching and heaving in paroxysms of revulsion.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A feeling for falling

Gum
On the street.
Looking down from windows
At aerial photographs,
New roads seem cobbled;
Victorian retro
Smoothed by feet.

Tom was pottering in his flat. His windows were open in the summer sunshine and light was pouring through as small clouds passed.
It was like in some cheap advert for washing powder; the freshness really was coming in, injecting his entire room with the scent of pollen and wild grasses.
He allowed himself a moment to enjoy this, to be infected by the season, before looking at the images he’d set in front of him.
Scattered scenes, in a square format, these nine prints were laid out in even rows of three on the table. Each photograph measured six by six inches and their arrangement, on the floor, became a pleasing square of squares.
Each colour image represented a different view, a window on the world, captured by Tom, of a view of the ground directly below, taken from a variety of heights.
The overall appearance of these various bird’s eye views, when seen together on the floor, was of falling through several spaces at once, towards a multiple of floors.
The first time Tom had stood over this strange world of gravity and seen all these different ways to fall, all these different grounds to rush forward and catch a brittle body, he was quite shocked and had to sit down.
A little later he viewed it with awe, later still and he was pleased with the work he had done. Vistas, opened up with snapshots.
He had sucked these images from the world over the past year of his life by taking a vintage camera with him, virtually everywhere he went, and looking out for interesting windows.
Once one was spotted, an estimated reading for distance and light had to be made and then, quite carefully, Tom would reach a slender arm out of the window, point the camera’s lens directly at the earth below and open the shutter.
The process was a little ‘hit and miss’! Without the luxuries of auto-focus, a light-meter or range-finder, the shots would often appear out of focus or incorrectly exposed. And there was always the wind to contend with.
Still, nine pretty decent images were the result. Interesting individually, Tom felt they created a powerful whole. Jennifer was coming over soon, to view the finished article, and Tom was quite excited at the prospect.
They were now ready for framing. He’d spent hours deliberating over their order, their suitability in place of about four discarded others, and the effect of the ‘overall’. Now, he felt it was almost finished.
Slowly, Tom picked them up, print by print and slid them into a frame he’d had specially made with nine perfectly spaced and separated mounts fitted.
As he sealed the frame, placed the completed artwork on the wall of his flat and stepped back to look at it, he was not struck by it as he first had been. In fact, he was not struck by it at all.
There was no feeling of falling, there was little in the way of synchronicity, flow or a majestic whole; there were just nine disparate images staring back at him. Nine snaps of broken concrete slabs, black bobs of hair and thin spikes of wire and cable criss-crossing it all.
Tom looked at the frame, and then his watch in a dazed panic. Rushing to the window, Jennifer’s bobbing head blurred into view, sliced by myriad railings. Time stopped moving for Tom until a buzzer sounded on his door and awaited his usual reaction.
Defeated again, Tom plodded towards the door. As the latch clicked open, somewhere a vintage camera slipped from a hand and was obliterated, smashing to a hundred tiny pieces on a hard and greedy street below.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

A quiet

I love it when the night melts away,
Silently seeping into dawn.

Those serene still hours that fade like a dream.
Moments when nothing happens
That are some of the best of our lives,
Some of the most memorable.

Those times when one no longer knows what time it is…
The watch face fades and the ticking joins the calm
Of the warm still night air.

To float with those lost hours -
The soul quiet, the body so relaxed -
Heightens all that we need not force:
laughter,
sleep,
tears,
and love.

At these times we lie unmoving and understand;
The closest we will be to peace on Earth.

In this state of bliss, its very concepts are challenged,
Channelled through the dim light of lamp or candle.
Its slow spark, electric, eclectic,
Travels short distances… which is enough.

All are close at this time.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The works of Stranger Tom

Stopping at the blistered door,
The dwarf explained what lay in store:
‘A stranger man than I’, says him,
‘Called ‘Stranger Tom’, resides within.
With mouth of claw and hand of tongue
A statue, made by gods gone wrong,
Then given damned life,
Abomination, scales and strife…’

Tom had taken to writing poems about himself.
In these he would always manifest as some type of ghoulish creation, a grave robber’s nightmare come to life.
He couldn’t say what had brought out this new found affection for the romantic poet in him, nor why he saw fit to so distort himself within the verse. But, as he scribbled away on the page, he would find himself contented; and when he would read them back to himself later, he would be smiling. ‘This can only be a good thing,’ he thought.
Earlier that day, Jennifer had taken her place at Tom’s side in the canteen for lunch. Tom was enjoying a rather fine salad of gruyere and cherry tomatoes with avocado and wild rice. It was a strange combination of his own dreaming and he thought the flavours complemented one another, perfectly.
Jennifer baulked, as usual, when he peeled back the blue plastic lid of the Tupperware container. She’d say things like, “oh my”, or “quite ghastly”, in a manner, so clich├ęd, Tom believed she must have borrowed it straight from Austen. Of course, that was a prime reason why he was so fond of her.
Jennifer stroked her long brown hair with affectation. Bending her neck back as she did so, Tom realised he was supposed to notice something: “I see, you have a new necklace - very fetching, Jennifer.”
“Oh this? Do you like it, Tom? Do you, really? Oh, why, it’s nothing really. My little Arnold bought it for me, actually. Brought it back from the East recently. It’s jade.”
The mention of Arnold’s name frustrated Tom, always, but he always let it pass without showing a flicker of emotion. If Jennifer had worked out how much it annoyed Tom then she was certainly a cunning psychologist and a keen manipulator of men.
Tom stared at Jennifer’s beautiful neck and sighed. His eyes flickered and held there, not daring to look lower in case she might be watching, daring him to embarrass himself with a brief inspection of her cleavage. The temptation burned him for many seconds until she mercifully relaxed and let her hair pour back down around her shoulders.
“So, how are things between you two then?” asked Tom, as uninterestedly as he could muster. He picked up his pen before continuing, “Is the ground still a little shaky?”
“Oh no, not at all Tom, dear. Well, at least not any more,” she replied.
“Well, I mean, I know we don’t talk that much - like you and I do - but there’s something about him that still drives me wild,” she went on.
“I mean, you’re such a pretty and handsome thing, poor Tom; but he’s a brute, raw and animal. Drives me quite delirious, sometimes, I can tell you.”
Tom’s teeth ground and his face wrinkled, ever so slightly, but his eyes remained stoic. He started scribbling in his notebook.
“Ah now, Tom, what on earth are you writing there?” she asked. “It’s nothing,” he replied, “just some verse.”
“Oh gosh, poetry? Let me read it Tom, please won’t you let me?”
Tom hunched over his work, as if trying to hide it, but he left a corner of the paper exposed and didn’t stir when she grabbed and pulled it from under him.
Her eyes opened wide and she devoured the lines, hungrily. Tom gripped hard his pen and watched as her entire head seemed to roll along and then spill over each of his syllables like they were the crests of waves.
“Oh dear, how frightful!” she exclaimed, grinning.

This marks a welcome return to the blog for Stranger Tom - I'd almost forgotten about him... Here's his first appearance.

Monday, 2 June 2008

The taste of chicory

Chicory hit his tongue and warm tingles of happiness touched his spine, delighting the fibrous links of his shell-like neck with hot electrical current, coursing up and down his nervous system.
It smelt strangely of death to him. He reached out again, daring to touch and to taste the frazzled mess that had been dropped before him by Lillian, earlier that gruesome day.
He loved to eat; even more, he loved to eat what she had made, no matter how burnt it was.
“Oh baby,” cried Lillian from the stove where she worked, “Won’t you eat some more food for momma?”
The man looked about him, slightly bewildered at where the sound was coming from. Lillian turned around. Her cold old face was tired, sagging like the bough of an oak. She lived now, only to satisfy her man.
Through a hole in the screen door of the kitchen, someone was looking at the domestic scene. He was at a fair distance but he focused now upon the man sitting at the wooden kitchen table, picking at a charred carcass.
It was difficult for the viewer to pin-point the sitting man's age. All he could say was that he was between twenty-five and fifty years old. For a man who liked to be accurate, this anomaly gnawed at him.
He’d seen this creature before, knew his name was Timothy, but even though he’d once walked right up to him and shaken his hand, he’d left none the wiser as to his true age. His only impression of Timothy - with his raggedy checked shirt, wild eyes and always sweating brow - was that this was a wretched man, an idiot, a worthless soul. Every breath he tasted was a waste of another’s last gasp of oxygen.
Now, this man stood in the long grasses of the field outside Timothy’s house and viewed him through the crosshairs of a magnified hunting scope. He squinted in the bright sunlight and was able to make out a fresh wound upon Timothy’s balding pate. He reasoned that this was concurrent with a wound that might be sustained during a car accident.
This man knew that Timothy’s car was still running on the lane near his farm. There was blood, fur and feathers smeared across the dirt track and covering the bumper of Timothy’s car. The car’s engine was puttering helplessly, its protective bonnet embedded in a tree. Tracks and blood led towards Timothy and Lillian’s house.
“Now you finish that off now, Timothy,” cried Lillian to him, “And I’ll get to cooking up the rest of it.”
Timothy was over the strange flavour of the chicory and had set to ripping apart the burnt flesh with his fingers, then sucking on the tender parts, extracting juice and rich flavours, before tearing chunks off with his teeth and swallowing greedily. Lillian looked on, nodding.
A single gunshot rang out across the fields and no-one stirred much. The wound on Timothy’s head bled anew. It gushed out onto the grey lifeless meat before him and Lillian cried for her Timothy then and tried to put the blood back in his head.