December 19, 2013 § 1 Comment
Whilst many Citizens never leave their Borough, let alone pass beyond the common environment of stone and brick, a not insignificant number gird themselves and press out into the oft-unknown lands of the Suburbs. It is to these doughty adventurers that we dedicate this meagre work – nought more than a collection of their experiences – and to whom we offer thanks in the name of those brothers of Science; Knowledge and Exploration.
Many Citizens will be aware of the area known by most as the Fen and its reputation as a mist-shrouded place of sickness and isolation is not unfounded; the creatures known as Fen Dogs stalk this land and even more fantastical entities – various species of carnivorous tree, bloated King Leeches and the ghastly, howling Katterjack – are said to lurk in the furthest reaches of the Far Fen. Yet, for all its reputation, The Fen has been travelled and, to a degree, mapped. The few landmarks that exist on the undulating moorland serve to direct those wise in its ways and it is these that we will discuss in this work. The silent lake of Glassmere, looming Pinstack, the stone pillars of the Fat Man and his Son; these and many more are elucidated, often with fine prints, in the opening section of this compendium.
The latter part of the work concerns itself with those far less visited areas beyond the hinterland of the Fen; the Sleeping Cliffs, the Scatter, Aden’s Height and the Glimmersee. Whilst far less information exists for these places, some no more than names, their peculiar features make even the most vague impression of great importance. The Author notes that this section also contains a number of fictional works that relate to the locations in question. Some readers may bemoan this recourse to tall tales and hearsay but it is the Author’s most humble opinion that the greatest works of fiction can, in hindsight, be proven to contain grains of a higher truth.
N.B: The Author and Publisher, in this Second & Re-Authorised Edition, are bound by both Honour and Law to make warning to any Dear Reader who may take this work as an exhortation to transgress the boundaries of the City and adventure into the realms beyond. Paying only a small amount of attention to the tales of those who return from these places, let alone the lingering silence of those who do not, should prove sufficient to dissuade any neophyte wanderer and restrict them to the less perilous environs of the City Library.
An excerpt from the introduction to ‘Without Within: Journeys Beyond The Four Walls‘ by Leonora DeVere
There lies, far East, a nameless fen/didst Man last tread I know not when/but beasts there are/and worse by far/things that yearn for foreign stars/things as shy from mortal ken/but dance and howl on the nameless fen…
H. Devlin Weard (attrib.)
(Fen vista by kind courtesy of edgeplorer and occasional oculist, Capt. Oaklaw)
March 28, 2013 § 2 Comments
There’s somebody else in here, in this house. I can hear them. I hear footsteps in hallways, doors clicking closed in distant rooms. I’ll walk into a room where smoke rises from a just-snuffed candle. Creaking sounds, rhythmic and repetitive, lead me to a bedroom on the second floor where I find a rocking horse, cantering back and forth on dusty runners. I watch it slow to a halt.
Clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop.
Not that I should be here, either. It was a bad night, rain sluicing down, and the door was ajar. I saw a candle flickering in a first-floor window and thought that I might be able to shelter for a while. I called out a greeting in the hallway. Not even echoes in response. I walked from room to deserted room until I found a bedroom and, without meaning to, I slept.
I woke after what could’ve been an hour or a day with the room muffled by a half-light gloom and my body stiff from sleeping in damp clothes. Dust and cobwebs caked the windows and I could see only dim shapes outside. I turned and, for the first time, noticed that a suit of clothes had been laid out on the dresser. Had they been there before I slept? Even now, I’m unsure. I found a jug of water beside the clothes and drank the brackish, stale liquid inside. Then I undressed, changed and left my own tattered garments on the bed. I’ve not seen them since. I’ve never found that room again.
Out in the hallway, lights shone dimly from glass globes lining the walls. Rain battered the grimy windows and filled the landing with its clatter but, on the edge of sound, I could hear a piano played haltingly in a room on the lower floor. Scales, repeating. I padded downstairs, cautiously, following the sound to a pair of double doors. They opened into a drawing room and the piano stopped, the last note damped off abruptly. It stood there, a grand, with its keys facing towards me like teeth. Like a smile. I turned, looking around the room, and started in fright as my eye caught movement. My own reflection in a gilt-edged mirror. I smiled ruefully and, as I did so, a jarring crash behind me made my heart leap. I spun around. The piano’s fallboard had slammed shut. Had been slammed shut. As I watched, chest heaving, the key turned slowly in the lock.
I fled, I admit. Out through the double doors and down the hall, past the stairs I’d recently descended, until I caught my foot on a runner and collapsed into a window seat. I sat for a while, with my head in clammy hands, until my breathing slowed to normal. A branch, blown by the wind outside, tapped the leaded glass. tap tap. I raised my head and looked down the hallway. tap tap. It seemed shorter than the distance I’d run, the drawing room’s double doors only a few paces away. tap tap. Something nagged at me. tap tap. Something wrong. tap tap. I suddenly realised. tap tap. Despite the rain, the wind had died away long since.
Since then I have explored this house, this set of interlinked and seemingly endless rooms. I still hear other inhabitants in distant rooms. In the first few days I called out to them, pleaded with them, cursed them. For a while I tried to catch one, even to the extent of laying traps made from rugs and curtain cords. All to no avail. I’ve found fire-grates still warm to the touch, baskets lined with fresh breadcrumbs. I’ve found water gurgling down sinks, showerheads still dripping and wreathed in steam. I’ve found music boxes skipping a single line of music, tin monkeys shaking tin cups as their clockwork slowly winds down. Once, in what looked like an under-stair storage, I found an old upright piano and let my fingers walk out a few scales. I gasped as the shrill notes cut through me and filled my body with a half-remembered terror. I slammed the fallboard down and locked the wretched thing before I scurried on towards new horrors.
I wonder, sometimes, how far away I now am from the City. The windows are still grime-smeared and only just translucent but the dim light coming through them is tinged at the edges with flickering green. The paintings on the walls are strange. The walls themselves are strange, in ways I can’t express.
I feel unwelcome, watched and barely tolerated. I should leave. I would leave.
If I could find my way out.