August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
“When wakens the serpent?”
The old man asks
No word returns
From he who basks.
“When wakens the serpent?”
A whisper, low
“I woke within you
March 13, 2016 § Leave a comment
Not long ago, in a village not far away, a little girl was born to a farmer and his wife. She was the finest product of their meagre farm and grew unlike any crop of theirs had done before. The sun and moon themselves counted out her years, as she ran through field and forest and furrow. The farmer used to chase her, a mock-crown of ivy on his head and laughter in his throat, but always she would dart away from his outstretched arms. The farmer’s wife looked up from her tasks, sharpening tools or mending a cloak, and smiled to see them silhouetted in the evening’s light.
Yet one day, as crisp and bright as could be hoped for, the farmer stopped chasing his daughter and she looked back to see that a man much thinner than she remembered was waiting for her. “Father,” she called. “What is wrong? Why do you not chase me as you used to?” The farmer smiled quietly before replying in a voice like dust. “I am old now, daughter, and I have chased you as far as I can. My breath is spent. Go home to your mother, dear child, and I will rest here a while.” With that he rested and moved no more.
So the girl left her father and ran back to their little cottage, where a woman much thinner than she remembered was waiting for her. “Mother,” the girl called. “What is wrong? Why do you not sharpen our tools as you used to?” The farmer’s wife smiled quietly before replying in a voice like smoke. “I am old now, daughter, and I have sharpened as much as I can. My strength is spent. Go out into the wide world, dear child, and I will rest here a while.” With that she rested and moved no more.
So the girl left her mother and ran to the nearest town, her legs strong from years of running with her father, and she worked hard, her hands nimble from years of working with her mother. One day she had a husband, and later a daughter, and she gave life as it had been given to her. One day, a day as crisp and bright as could be hoped for, she found that she had given as much life as she could and she smiled quietly to herself. With that she rested and moved no more.
Death is not a skeleton, not a withered body lying in the cold ground. Death is not the cough of lungs grown dry or the creak of bones grown stiff. These are the products of Life, because Life is always giving and gives until the very end. Death is a miser who takes everything, gives nothing.
Death is a miser and misers are to be pitied, not feared.
“I shall take the very breath from thine breast,” sayeth Death. “Thou canst not take what hast been freely given,” sayeth Life.
October 29, 2015 § Leave a comment
There is a book, or so they say, that sits upon a lonely shelf.
Neither large nor small it goes all but unnoticed next to more important volumes as its cloth cover fades slowly from brown to green. Or maybe from green to brown. Maybe not fading at all. The ghost of silver embossment lingers on its spine, indecipherable. A commonplace book in a common place of books, with nothing to mark it out beyond a slight smell of damp.
Occasionally, curious fingers will pick the book up and absently ruffle the yellowing pages that fall open at random to reveal their contents; mediocre poetry or tedious inventories of belongings, rambling short stories or blocks of impenetrable legal text, descriptions of rain-streaked foreign shores or the simple musings of lifeless repetition. Each browser sees something different, yet equally banal, and each will sigh with disappointment before replacing the book and moving to the next. The book’s cover fades slightly more from brown to green. Or maybe from green to brown. The faint lettering on the spine is perhaps less clear than it used to be. Perhaps not.
More rarely, the book is plucked from its resting place by an inquisitive reader and opened eagerly at the first page. They read the publishing details, curiously blurred, and then the typesetting information (“Set in New Lethean, 11pt”). Their eyes settle on the opening lines and from then on their fate is sealed. As they read, they become thinner and the story of their life unwritten becomes yet another fragment of the book. The frustrated novelist, the list-maker, the writer of unheard songs. All of them stretch into lonely silence until they become so thin they disappear, another tale of the everyday added to the pages of the book’s collection. A tutting librarian finds the book days later, dropped on the floor, and dusts it down before replacing it on the shelf. Nobody notices that the spine’s lettering is now perhaps less faint, perhaps a brighter silver.
Of the book itself we know little more, beyond its existence. It is where books are, where books gather, but where that is could be anywhere. All we really know is that hook, the opening words that snare the curious or the unlucky. And those words are these:
“There is a book, or so they say, that sits upon a lonely shelf.”
October 8, 2015 § 2 Comments
They came down from the woods that night
those of frost, not firelight.
They snuffed out flame, snuffed out as well
the lives of those who quietly dwell
in towns and hamlets, farms and inns.
The places where mankind begins.
We’ve heard their whisperings in streams,
their faces only found in dreams.
Where masters older than our own
sit upon their oaken thrones.
Everyone they found, they slew
except a pair of children who
hiding underneath their bed
heard the woodfolk laugh. They said;
“Tremble not, we’ll leave you be.
Return this dawn to moss and tree.
Another night you’ll hear our song.
Years for you, for us not long.
As long as mankind bustles, thrives,
we’ll come to take your children’s lives.”
Prophecy-poem of the Northern Marches
March 15, 2014 § 1 Comment
Bone charms rattle as she lifts her gnarled paw and silences the muttering of those rag-wrapped figures huddled around her. Her eyes glimmer despite the pearlescent sheen of aged decrepitude that blinds them and she spits once, twice into the sputtering fire before her.
“Ghrek hehg hehhg! Ghrek hahlg harrakh! Ghrek, ghrek heeehhhgg!“
That last, awful syllable stretches out, rising, and is picked up by the mewling group at her feet in splintered disharmony. Smoke puffs up from the flames, lingering briefly in the shallow cave until the cold wind rips it to tatters. She brings silence with a low growl and claw-show. She spits again and smoke rises once again, more persistent than before.
“Ghrek hehg harrakh! Ghrek hahlg hehg hehhg! Ghrek hehg hehhg Ghrek harrakh harrakhiin!“
And there it is. She read the moon well, the wind, the soft ripples in the earth and the grey-white lines of the sky. Smoke, more smoke than could be expected from such a meagre fire, billows up to the roof then slows, stiffens and slides back down the cave’s sweat-slicked sides. Grey smoke black now, black even against the jittering flame-cast shadows of the gloaming cave. She smiles, in her own way, as her brood are engulfed by the solidifying fumes and start to howl, deep and somehow slowed beyond any earthly voice. She hears the Pale Warders, the skull-stick totems out on the foothills, start their wail-song rolling out across the Fen. It sounds distant, fog-dulled. The smoke-mass touches her, flows around her, passes through her and for a moment she is a young leugha again, disobeying her mistress to skulk in the cavern-holes where she first found Him.
And there it is. In the slow-time drag of failing thought, a binding of consciousness given up to the voids and that ur-stuff between the voids. Some willing, some not. No division. A roiling mass of beingness borne forth.
And there it is. The Bubbling Foment. Moulder. The One Beneath. Well Dweller. Ghrek Harrakhiin, Shadow-Behind-Shadows.
And there it is. The Sleeping Cliffs sleep no more.
January 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
Picture Yourself on a chair, feeling drowsy. The fire crackles slowly as Your head fills with cloud. And Your eyes start to buckle, start to falter and darken. And You’re floating off softly into Space, into Time, into past-felt adventurers of a child. Of a You.
Of a You that was once and was once not long ago now. When Your eyes were much clearer and You saw what was there. And You stood in the garden, saw the things past the hedges. And You stood on the doorstep, saw the thing in the hall.
But they told You that You shouldn’t and You mustn’t so You didn’t and You wouldn’t until You couldn’t and You can’t anymore. And that’s when they lost You. Down the gaps and through the doorways. Out the windows that are open and the wind blows in cold.
Out the window, out the window. Is there something out the window? Always something out the window but it means nothing now. There’s a You by a doll’s house looking in through the window. Looking in at the doll’s room and the doll’s lying there.
And a You feeling drowsy is feeling drowsy no longer because a You feeling drowsy is awakened, with a small sigh. And You’re looking at the window, at the window that is open. When You look up at the window there’s an eye looking in.
There’s a river round the doll’s house and a garden and a mountain but the garden’s full of stones now and the mountain’s hollowed out. And the stones sometimes are moving, sometimes weeping, sometimes moving. And the stones have hollow voices and the mountain leads the song.
There’s a wind-vane on the rooftop, always creaking as the wind blows. With its wings stretched and its claws out and it sits there, watching still. And a man lies in a bedroom, in a cellar, by the cold stones. And they lie there and were lied to and in lying, Truth’s found.
What it is now, what it was then, there’s no difference. Nothing changes. When You’re stood there in the doll’s house, as the wind blows round about. And the old man on the doorstep isn’t leaving ’til you’ve paid him. And You pay him, like they all do, with the first-minted coin.
Hear an organ playing music, playing softly. Never-changing. But You’re changing. Growing dimmer, getting lost in the fog. In the fog made out of cobwebs, music boxes and of old news. Out of whispers, out of soldiers, out of children, out of stares.
So the dust motes start to gather but You can’t even see them with Your dew-slick eyes blinkered by old, wrinkled skin. And the breaths come but sharply. Longer pauses, little wonder. Little hands clutching here-there with their nails black and long.
Until it doesn’t any longer and you couldn’t if You wanted but now it feels like You don’t want it so it doesn’t and it’s fine. For a moment, just a moment, there is sunlight for the first time in a long time and You’re flying through the window and