The Riddle

March 7, 2013 § 1 Comment

In the Riddle, no elektrycks light the alleyways. Drenched torches brood in their sconces like blinded beggars and only pallid starlight, tinged even here with the unearthly arclight, shines from the rain-wet cobbles. On nights like these, rats and humans are brothers; huddled in their homes, fearful of outsiders.

Oil the window. Latched. Point 7 jack-lever. Softly, softly…

On Pynchpenny Lane, the sign of the Fourteenth Rose creaks in the gusting wind. Rusted hinges squeak a feeble protest into the damp air. Water gurgles in the gutter and swirls down sluice pipes to the street below.

Push and through. Sweep the floor. Boarded. Third from window creaks, must remember.

A black beetle, dislodged from some scurry-hole in the rafters, rattles down the slating. A shiny pebble rolled in the breakers. Legs flail weakly as it hurtles over the brink and drops into the blackness between the buildings.

Mark. Ingress secure. Stifle and cut. Ten count. Exeunt.

A window rattles faintly against the sill. In a sparse room a cooling body lies on a pallet bed. Bright blood stains the sheets, leaking from an opened throat, and another corpse will join the Riddle’s Bed, buried in the morning’s yellowing light. No questions asked. No tears shed.

The Riddle

You don’t solve the Riddle, they say. The Riddle solves you.


The Floodsman’s Tale

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Youse gotta keep yer lights bright, down low-side. There’s hobs what’ll come fer ye, quick as quick. Ghasties and Whispers a-floatin’ right up fae ‘oles an’ cracks, chokin’ out yer breff. Least it’s quick, like. Seen a boy drop without a peep one time, din’t know nuthin’ ‘bart it. Still. Them ol’ bones is t’worst, I reckons. Creepin’ alon’, they is, an’ you ‘ears ’em waitin’ in t’shadders. Clacker-men they calls ’em an’ it’s a daft ol’ soak ‘oo dun’t feart t’Clacker-man, dun’t care ‘ow long you been a-walking the floods. Thinks they owns it, I reckons, an’ mebbes they does. Don’t like no folks a-vistin’, they don’t.

This one time, see, I was down t’wester drop. Blockage or summat, they sez. Bungin’ up the whole mess o’ pipin’ down there. So I goes alon’. Young I was. Young an’ daft. Jus’ me anna lamp anna big ol stick fer pokin’. The ol’ guv’nor then, wassisname, sent me down but ‘e got ‘is in the end so we’s even. ‘E sends me down an’ I goes a-whistlin’ on me way. Daft begger. Even then I knows t’place like me own face so I gets there pretty sharp an’ starts on a gander. I’m down t’bottom of t’drop an’ I see some kinda lump up on t’top edge. Up I goes, easier than you might fink ‘cos of this lump blockin’ off the watter and even then I was a good floodsman, y’see. Knew me footin’s. So I gets up there and this ol’ lump turns out to be nuffin but some bloomin’ tick ‘oo got issel’ all bladdered and fell down an ‘ole, no doubt. Not a pretty sight. So I checks ‘im over but ‘ee ain’t addin’ to the scent o’ the place, if’n you know my meanin’, an’ I starts finkin’ about ‘ow to shift ‘im.

Then I ‘ears it. There’s drippin’ but there’s always t’drippin’, Ol’ Weeper we calls t’place sometimes, but there’s summat else. Like Jonesy playin’ his bones but all low, like, and reg’lar. Low, I sez, but getting’ louder quicker’n I likes an’ I starts gettin’ a shiv’rin’. But I turns round anyway, ain’t no way around it. An there ‘e ‘is, stood in t’catch up to ‘is knee-bones. Bold as owt. An’ ‘e looks at me, I swears it. That ol’ Clacker-man stands there an’ ‘e looks right at me. They calls ’em a skellington, y’see. Animalated skellington, they sez. But they ain’t, not really. I seen a skellington when we emptied out the nor’wester sump an’ it were dead as dead is. Even these boxer fings they got now. Nuffink in ’em, y’see. Jus’ cogs an’ that. A Clacker-man, now, ‘e knows yer there an’ ‘e dun’t like it not a bit. Dun’t say nuffink, ‘e don’t, jus’ sorta slaps ‘is jawbone all up an’ down. Clacks it, I guess. Hah!

The Floodsman's Tale

But I weren’t laffin’ then, see. I clocks this cleaver in ‘is ‘and and I straight does a runner. Tries to, see, but I trips over that ol’ tick still lying’ there and goes a-tumblin’ down t’drop. Nearly drowns but I come up on t’grader and I thank Ol’ Weeper for that bit o’ mercy. Better’n a Clacker-man’s sticker through y’belly. Been in t’flood nigh on three dozen yar now an’ I never seen one o’ ’em fellers again but I dun’t go lookin’, don’t mind to say. An’ we never done seen that tick again, neither. Reckon that Clacker-man took ‘im off. Pressed ‘im into their crew, y’might say. Ain’t a right business but I dun’t reckon the Clacker-man gives two hoots for me ‘pinion on it all.

Gor’! Pass us that fiery jack will ya, mate? Why’d you gotta go arksin’ ’bout it, eh? Gives us the right bloomin’ willies, it does!

Phototype of the so-called ‘Clacker-Man’
Reproduced by the kind courtesy of Ms C Irving
Resident Curator, Department of Anatomical Curiosities, Constant University

Just a shade short of black

March 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

The city broods under darkening storm clouds as oily rain cascades down from the heavens, running like ichor along the streets’ arterial gutters. Shadows stalk the alleyways, only briefly banished by the hanging elektryck globes which flicker and spit like vipers. Steam rises from gratings and coalesces into vaguely human forms, dancing and whirling, before collapsing into wisps of near-nothingness. Water leaks and drips through ancient wood, swelling and distending the beams of houses that shudder and moan like dying grandfathers.

A haze of colour, just a shade short of black, hangs over the Limbic Quarter. Looking at it hurts the eyes, burning writhing images on the retina. Spires and chimneys below the cloud glow violet as invisible and nameless energies smear through the sky to ground themselves in the cold, rain-slicked buildings.

A thaumarc, a mage mist. Emanations of spent power flaying the skin off reality.

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