Aether & Ichor

May 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

A previously unavailable story, A Guest In The House Of Ruin (a much-extended version of this fragment), has been published by Aether & Ichor.

Fitful dreams flickered through the mists of sleep, jumbled up across space and time. Memories floated to the surface of my unconsciousness until they coalesced into one image; Annabella. How she’d laughed with glee at a puppet show in Yellow Park, the jerking dances and squeaking voices making her clap her hands in delight. Her tears, hot and inconsolable, when the news was announced of De Pontellino’s death; days spent locked in her room, playing the master’s cascading etudes on her piano instead of eating; listening over and over to the little music box I had bought her. I saw the day she came to me in my rooms as I was reading my mail. The words she said, having undoubtedly been made to say them by her wretch of a brother. Her face as she turned to leave; her blue eyes, red-rimmed, refusing to meet mine. Her hair tumbling from its amber combs as she fell.

No, she said. Please don’t.

Immense personal thanks to the team at Aether & Ichor for their support and editorial rigour. This wouldn’t exist, certainly not in as complete a form, without them.

The Audient Void #1

May 2, 2017 § Leave a comment

The short story ‘The left hand of Aux-Çevoires‘ has been published in the first issue of The Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy, with an accompanying illustration by Allen K.Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 15.00.34

More details of contents and contact information are below.


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O, the Forests of Bhak’khu

October 22, 2016 § 1 Comment

I heard the song a Traveller sang
Which from his mouth with sadness rang
His words befouled with acrid tang
From the forests of Bhak’khu

He told me first of paths he trod14650165_10153858498955334_9193476899983822235_n
‘Cross singing sands and peat-brown sod
Away from men and dying gods
To the forests of Bhak’khu

He walked on heath and moor and fen
Tramped through valley, creek and glen
Past monuments built before men
Knew the forests of Bhak’khu

One morn upon a mist-cloaked hill
He spied an omen, dark and ill,
A corpse who told him ‘Death waits still
In the forests of Bhak’khu’.

‘You may speak true but my reply
Is everything that’s lived must die.
If Death’s both here and there then why
‘ware the forests of Bhak’khu?

The corpse collapsed back into dust
As time turns iron into rust
The Traveller knew then that he must
Reach the forests Bhak’khu

On sun-scorched pan of glass and salt
A serpent, basking, cried out ‘Halt!’
‘No man of wisdom, nor base dolt
Seeks the forests of Bhak’khu’

‘Return forthwith from whence ye came
Renounce your wealth, renounce your name
Renounce all hope that you might tame
All the forests of Bhak’khu’

‘O snake,’ our Traveller did beseech
‘Beguile me not with fork-tongued speech
For the fastness I shall surely breach
Of the forests of Bhak’khu’

The serpent hissed a venom-curse
‘For good or ill, for all things worse
Your sight will fade, your heart will burst
In the forests of Bhak’khu!’

And with such words it disappeared
As shadows spake that evening neared
The Traveller knew why many feared
Of the forests of Bhak’khu.

One night a slinking, jet-black cat
Whispered softly, slyly that
‘You’ll be as tasty as a rat
In the forests of Bhak’khu’

A girl-child wrapped in blood-stained rags
Flanked by a dozen toothless hags
Said ‘What are kings and all their flags
‘Gainst the forests of Bhak’khu?’

Yet nothing kept him from his road
Not howling shaman daubed with wode
Nor armoured knight of solemn code
From the forests of Bhak’khu

He walked for weeks and months and years
His hair grew long around his ears
His eyes were filled with countless tears
For the forests of Bhak’khu

He saw again the corpse, the knight
The cat that came in dead of night
The girl whose rags were once as bright
As the forests of Bhak’khu

They watched him from beside the trail
The knight stood strong, the girl-child frail
The cat smiled at the corpse’s wail
‘O, the forests of Bhak’khu!’

The serpent and the shaman came
Once each to mock his quest again
‘All you’ll find is loss and pain
In the forests of Bhak’khu’

‘Leave me visions, spirits all!
On my quest I’ll never stall
Even if you raise a wall
Round the forests of Bhak’khu!’

With darkness then the land was crowned
Pale ash rained down, without a sound
The Traveller knew he now was bound
For the forests of Bhak’khu

Yet slowly came into his view
A place he realised he knew
‘What is this place that comes in lieu
Of the forests of Bhak’khu?’

A town, with buildings tumbled down
Ash-stained corpses on the ground
And blackened trees grown all around
‘Like the forests of Bhak’khu…’

Down street and alley he did roam
Past crumbled well, ‘neath shattered dome
He gabbled that ‘This looks like home
Not the forests of Bhak’khu’

He found me huddled not far off
My ravaged body bound with cloth
‘What is this place?’ I spat, then coughed.
‘’tis the forests of Bhak’khu’

The Traveller gasped, fell to his knees
‘It cannot be! Recant ye, please!
My soul, my life! My heart doth freeze!
Curse the forests of Bhak’khu’

He told me then of serpent, child
The knight most stern, the shaman wild
The night-time cat, the corpse reviled
And the forests of Bhak’khu

Loss and pain his prize, they said
I made for him a ragged bed
In moonlight cold he lay there, dead
In the forests of Bhak’khu

I heard the song a Traveller sang
Which from his mouth with sadness rang
His words befouled with acrid tang
From the forests of Bhak’khu.

A Leering Little Voice

August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Within my ear
I hear a leering
Little voice
Who speaks not truth but lie

And now and then
I turn to fearing
Little voice
Speaks not as imp but I?

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…yet, whither, shallt thou arrive?

May 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

I remember how it started, lined up tightly in the alleys and closes across the road. It was early morning. I was cold. Water trickled down from a leaking gutter, splashing onto my jerkin. The Ballivo made some kind of speech. I didn’t understand much of it apart from ‘charge’ and we pushed forward to storm the gates. The old locks splintered easily under the hammers of the leading men and we tumbled through, onto the boulevard.

And that’s when it all went so horribly, horribly wrong.

There was nobody there, nothing but the houses on either side and the leaves dusting the cobbles in front of us, but we fell anyway. The man in front of me doubled up, gasping, like he’d been hit in the stomach. Hit hard. Blood coughed up between his lips as he fell to the ground. His body lay limp. I jumped past him and carried on, my baton raised, more from the lack of other options than duty. Tillea, running beside me, glanced over briefly before her head whipped back with a sickening crack. She grunted weakly. I remember watching her helmet tumble backwards and clang on the cobbling. There was mist curling around our feet.

Distracted, I caught a vague movement on the edge of my vision. I was twisting away before I realised what was happening, raw fear controlling my movements, but even so something solid crunched into my jaw. Light exploded and danced in front of me. I hung suspended in the air somehow until, suddenly, my knees cracked against the ground and I jerked back into thought.

I couldn’t move. I started to panic. I was held, rigid, kneeling on a paving slab by the edge of the boulevard. Cold needles pinned into my shoulders, numbness spreading out through my body. I could see pale blue flowers lining a bed of dark soil. They seemed to glow slightly.

“You…”

It was barely a voice. A rustling of pine needles, the scratch of dust swirling down an empty corridor. It didn’t matter. The sound didn’t need to travel. I felt it in the very bones of my skull.

“You…dare?!”

Anger. Blistering, consuming anger. But not just that. Outrage, indignation and a kind of sadness.

“I’m sorry,” I stammered. It sounded pitiful. My voice cracking like a child’s, slurred out through my broken jaw. “We…,” I gasped as the word stretched my mouth and pain shot through my head, flaring sharp against the icy numbness. Thought was difficult, slow. The flowers. Watch the flowers. Bright. Blue. Rows. Ordered. Think.

“Orders…” I coughed the sound, barely deserving the name of word, through a coating of mucus. “Had…orders.”

The flowers. Dull now, just outlines. Rippling slightly in a breeze. Bending. Nodding.

And I fell, released, into their midst.

Whither, annointed

After that, all is darkness and whispers for what felt like a thousand upon a thousand years until a voice came and asked for me. A soft voice, yet strong and imperious. It cuts through the darkness like moonlight. I am needed. We all are needed.

Night is falling and Whither must awaken.

Whither, thou goest…

October 6, 2013 § 1 Comment

The City stretches boundlessly and there are none who, if not exactly welcomed, are not tolerated under the great munificence of our Lord. From the winding alleyways of the Riddle to the open plazas of the Limbic Quarter, in the huddled camps out by the Sleeping Cliffs to the clamouring throngs of Dyall Square; diversity is victorious.

Yet, even these places are commonplace next to the great City within the City; the eerily glimmering necropolis of Whither.

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Behind black-iron gates, gates that are locked from the inside, lies this rarely mentioned Dark Borough. No tombs or catacombs stand here, no gravel paths lead through weeping yews, for this is not a place of eternal rest. Shadowed boulevards stretch into the gloom whilst glowering townhouses line their routes like stern-eyed pallbearers. Perpetual fog lurks under leafless branches, ignoring the changing seasons as it has for time out of memory.

Occasionally, as dusk falls on some quiet evening, a black hearse will draw up to the Whither Gate and the Master Undertaker, paler and more aged than his calling perhaps demands, will step down onto the cobbles. His assistants will bring out a bundle – sometimes large, sometimes small – and place it on the low, worn stone by the gate. They will pull the black, horsehair cord above and retreat quietly, quickly. There will be no reply, no acknowledgement, and for this they are grateful.

By morning, the bundle will be gone. By morning, a pledge will have been fulfilled. Only one man has remained, on a youthful wager they say, to watch the bundle be accepted. He does not speak of what he saw. He does not speak of anything, any more.

Our Lord’s honoured grandfather, long may he be remembered, saw the Whither’s existence as a snub against his rule, an island of silent independence in a place of otherwise universal dominion. Before dawn on one cool, spring morning he sent the militia to storm the gates and reclaim the Borough in his name. No man who crossed the threshold made it more than a dozen steps before collapsing into the gutters, grasping at their throats in silent torment as eyes bulged and ears bled. Our one-time Lord, many honoured even now, is said to have risen from sleep in his chambers ashen-faced and gaunt with a parchment clutched in his shaking fist. This parchment, written in his own hand but with signed addenda in perfect copperplate of unknown authorship, outlines what has become known as The Agreement; Whither will never again be assailed or otherwise defiled, a seat will be made available at the Conclave for any ambassador that Whither may wish to send according to their whim and there will be a tribute offered to the Lords of Whither by the Lords of the City.

Though a chair sits waiting in the Rose Office even today no ambassador has ever issued from the Borough, much to the relief of all sane men. Yet Whither remains unmolested and the tributes, delivered in bundles on demand, continue

Oh why do you cry, little boy…

October 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Oh why do you cry, little boy, said the wolf
Oh why do you cry, said the wolf

My mother is dead, sir wolf, said the boy
My mother is dead, said the boy

Yet all mothers die, little boy, said the wolf
Yes all mothers die, said the wolf

My father lies dead at my feet, said the boy
My father lies dead, said the boy

All fathers must die in their turn, said the wolf
All fathers must die, said the wolf

And where is your mother, sir wolf, said the boy
And where is your mother, sir wolf

She lies in the snow, little boy, said the wolf
Shot through with an arrow, said the wolf

Shot through with an arrow, little boy, said the wolf
From your father’s bow, little boy

So I ripped out his throat, little boy, said the wolf
And your mother’s heart, said the wolf

For all parents die, little boy, said the wolf
And all children too, little boy.

For all parents die, little boy, said the wolf
And all children too, little boy.

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