Tag Archives: monsters

Thirst

Old tongues whispered, gingerly moving in tomb-dry mouths, dead languages spilling forth in a surrusation. Their absent-eyed – literally absent, just sockets, skeletal, sunk-back in rotten-flesh faces – meanderings begun to take shape, to take form, their feet tracing arcane patterns in the dust, shuffling shoggoth dancing.

Their voices grew stronger – long aeons passed in that cramped corridor, long aeons measured in microseconds, shadow-voiced creatures gaining strength – the skin relatives finding one another in the darkness, cooing and whistling, their voices growing stronger with each breath – that I am forced to take, oh God, trying, trying, desperately not to breath, they can hear me, they can hear me. They can’t.

The walls close in, slick-wet-screaming.

Slick-wet-screaming, voices-whip-and-whisper, shadows stroke the back of my neck.

Bumble bees kiss flower beds, and the wind whispers – flesh-blood-bones-marrow-suck-slurp.

The crooners surround me, violent promises spill out, not-spoken, but still heard.

The fields open around me, and the sun is hot. Too hot. It splits on the horizon, cracking egg-yolk flooding my mind.

I too thirst.

 

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Kingdom Came

She covered my mouth, and pulled me into the darkness.

Her lips touched my ear as she whispered.

“Shhh, it’s coming…”

Her breathing, slow.

My heartbeat, pounding.

The smell came first.

Rank, overpowering, wet-dog and fungus.

Kingdom came. Loping down the corridor, thick ropes of saliva, heavy, grunting breath.

His dead feet shuffled across the sandy flagstones.

I held my breath.

She muttered, unheard.

Kingdom stopped, carving some intricate scrimshaw into the wet wall.

Kingdom left, and she released me, into confusion.


 

Written for this week’s BekindRewrite prompt –

Kingdom Come.

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Spring-heeled Jack

This is the second post in a (currently) short-running series on weird things from history that I want to see in Fantasy/New Weird/Steam Punk stories. Get on that, ok?

Here’s the first: SPANKO!

And here’s the second: Spring-heeled Jack.

We are continuing the theme of weird assailants from London – Spring-heeled Jack sprung up during the Victorian era, rather than the Restoration, but he was much more elusive than the Whipping Toms. He was probably much more invented than those three men though…

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Swift Justice

 

“Define ‘divine’.”

The man scratched at his head, ran his fingers through the stubble on his chin, the downy fluff on his cheeks that passed for sideburns as he searched for an answer that might make sense to someone with no knowledge of six thousand years of mythology, unstained by organised religion.

“Um…” he trailed off, losing steam. “Well…”

She stared back, in naked innocence – he diverted his eyes, taking in the room surrounding them.

It was immaculately clean – a stark contrast to his own dishevelled appearance – the spines of books stared out at him from their shelves, and he could see a murky reflection of himself in the polished stone-mirror floor. She smiled, in gilt-edged guilt, both her and the room showing a taste of her life, ultramoderation.

“You don’t understand it either, do you?”

Her question settled into the fabric of the room, hollowly echoing from the walls, like the call of the tame, forcing its way into his wild life.

She moved slowly toward him, her smile now uncertain, shy.

She was a trap. He understood it now. His uncertainness turned to steeled determination, a call for swift justice rang out inside him.

“Are you human, madame? Or a trap, a temptation sent me by the Devil?” His eyes roved the shelves. Books on computing and engineering. Books of heresy. His hand reached for the Bible, bound to his chest. He touched it, reverentially, as his other hand sought the pistol at his hip.

He delivered her swift justice, and left the smell of cordite gun-smoke and sparking electronics on the floor.

 


 

 

 

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SPANKO!

So, I’ve had an idea – been nursing it for a little while.

The idea is to try and put together a list, of things that I find interesting from history, things that I’d like to see in a New Weird or Steampunk or Fantasy setting. History is an interesting place, one that you can drop in and visit, but one that (fortunately) you cannot live in. For all those people out there who just started thinking about how swell it would be to live in a Steampunk setting, in Victorian London, I’ll just point you in the general direction of some history books, and this article I wrote a little while back about what I like to call Slumpunk. Some of them I’ve already seen in those settings, so, when we come to those, I’ll point you in that direction.


 

To give you an idea of what, exactly, it is I’m talking about, here’s the first in this little series of demi-articles:

Gustav Dore – “Over London”

SPANKO!

The Whipping Toms

Continue reading

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The Department of Divination and Diviner Control

It was a dark matter.

That the subject painted it in rainbow hues didn’t change the tone, which was surprising in itself. Bright green paint entwined with crimson (the world serpent, the blood of its victims), vast swirls of cerulean blue (for the sky, the day before it burned).

“So…what, exactly, is this?”

His partner gave him an blank stare, before turning her gaze back to the walls, covered in thick paint and thin finger-marks.

“Ok…dumb question. But where is it?”

That was another dumb question. But it was an excusable one.

They were an odd pair, but that was a given. The Department of Divination and Diviner Control tended to attract the peculiar. He was short, and some might describe him as ‘swarthy’. She was tall, ‘willowy’. Her powerful, him diminutive. They didn’t attract as much attention as you’d expect.

The little boy had been in their care for some time – it took a while before little ones made helpful predictions; it could take a while before they were even noticed to be prophets. After all, to a toddler, the fact that the sun was going to rise tomorrow is pretty big news.

The sun would come up tomorrow.

But the Department would have to work hard to ensure it came up the day after that.

 


 

Written for this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: Fingerpaint Prophecy, Dark Matter, Blank Stare and Odd Pair. Let me know what you think! 

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Hugs

Sunday Sketch - Terry Whidborne

Sunday Sketch – Terry Whidborne

Mother was right – their fur was so soft, and the creatures just seemed so trusting…like they’d never seen a human before.

Well, Mother always has been a crafty hunter – they’d never seen her before, hidden. The shot rang out. Blood-stains marked the russet fur. But it would wash out.

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Angel Watch

“Why do they call them Angels, then?”

The old man spat, a lump of phlegm quivering on the dirt beside him – he turned his attention back to the gun he was cleaning, eyeing down the barrel.

“It’s the look of the beast, boy – great white wings, you see?”

Of course, it wasn’t just wings. Their language sounded like heavenly choirs, and their faces glowed with beautific, serene smiles as they slaughtered.

“Well, we’ll be ready for them,” the boy said, sighting along the muzzle of his pistol, winking at the sky, “won’t we, Uncle?”

The old man grimaced, and turned his head – he couldn’t look the boy in the eyes.

He knew the bullets weren’t for the angels.

 


 

 

Written for one of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: Angel Watch

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Strange News From Another Star

The waves break on the black-stone beach.

The pebbles rattle as the water pulls back, gargling.

The dead sun overhead is slowly stripping the atmosphere away from this rock; it’s been forty-six days. There is nothing new to report.

#

Day forty-nine, by the Terran calendar. The concepts of ‘day’ and ‘night’ have no meaning, beneath the technicolour consumption going on upstairs. Day and night have no meaning, shadows are stretched, muted, changed – there is more than one shade of black. Black has no meaning, anymore, as subtle purples and blues and reds seem to erupt from the pebbles on the shoreline like flowers. Is this something I should report? It feels more like an isolation experiment than an exploration – maybe it’s both.

#

Where is Terra? Maybe I should ask the computer. The purple-blue-black-red-green sky is holding back the stars – in its death-throes the star has captured this planet, it’s now tidally locked, one side ever facing the monster in the sky that is peeling away the atmosphere in vast swathes. I sped over the dark side coming in to land, a featureless mass that suddenly gave way a twisted sun-line. New flowers open up daily on the beach; I’ve moved the rover away from the shore. They shine like gemstones, in the multi-coloured rain, but disappear when I stretch out my hand. The computer cannot tell me how long we have before the atmosphere is gone. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions.

#

Further from the landing site now. The pebbles are gone, replaced by a fine, grey sand that clogs the rover’s ventilation system and lays a soft silt on my instruments. Vacuum-sealed my arse. The flowers don’t seem to grow here in the highlands. I’ve lost track of the days that have passed, and the computer doesn’t seem to want to contribute to the conversation. The baleful, dying eye of this system is finally starting to sink beneath the horizon. I can still see no stars. When sleep overcomes me, the rover drifts to a stop; when I wake, it begins again. Or I hope it does. There is no ‘day’, no ‘night’. I sleep when I must, that is my night. When I awaken the sun sits lower on the horizon. Are we moving in the night? There is no night.

#

We have been moving at night. When I woke we were still moving. The computer won’t tell me why. It just hums, idiotically. I want to turn back. The sun has sunk even further, barely poking above the edge of the world. Fuck, what day is it? How long have I been here? The dust is everywhere. The computer would know how long it has been since we landed. It was never supposed to keep moving at night. I want to turn back, back to the sun.

#

It’s so dark here, so cold. The stars shine like solid points in the sky, like stones. Sometimes the dust whips by, thrown up into the sky by the wind, by the rover’s tires. Strange shapes form in the clouds. I want to see the sun. I’ve taken to leaving the lights blazing, even though there is nothing to see but dust. The lights burn only to illuminate the depth of the darkness. I want to turn back to the sun. The internal lights only illuminate the dust that’s settled inside the cabin. The computer won’t let me get out, no matter how much I beg. I don’t care what day it is. There is only night, now. Turn back, turn back. Let me out.

#

I can feel it growing inside of me. Fuck, did I say that aloud?

#

It’s still, here, at the outer edge of the blackness. So quiet, now. The sun has begun to peer over the horizon, blessed, beautiful.  I shoved a screwdriver into the computer – can you still hear me, you bastard? Are you still recording everything I say? I hope so, you fucker. I can feel it growing inside me. I am not ashamed, anymore, not a pinch of guilt. I can feel it  growing, I can feel its tendrils plucking their way through my veins and arteries, gently fingering my nervous system, ossifying and crystallizing my bones. I am waiting, little one.

#

A bloom pokes through my eye – it hurt, at first. It doesn’t now. The sun is here, and the beach. There is less water, or whatever it is. It looks like water. The sun is here – brilliant, purple-blue-black. I am a seed, or a meadow, and I am waiting for the flowers to grow.


Written for this week’s TerribleMinds flash fiction challenge: the Random Song Title Challenge. The song I got was Blur’s Strange News from Another Star. I also managed to squeeze in some of this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts: pinch of guilt and multi-coloured rain. Let me know what you think! 

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Review: Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a really good read. This classic ghost story is gothic, both Southern and European, and quite modern. Judas Coyne is a retired rock star, who has fallen into the habit of collecting the macabre, which for an ex-metal star seems just “…like wearing leather pants, just part of the costume.” He owns a genuine snuff tape, a collection of Medieval with-hunters’ guides and a cannibal’s cookbook, and so when he’s contacted across the internet about a ghost for sale (“…not eBay but one of the wannabes…”) it seems quite natural for it to fall into his collection.

The suit arrives in a heart-shaped box, and the haunting begins…

“The mad sometimes drilled holes in their own heads to let the demons out. To relieve the pressure of thoughts they could no longer bear. Jude understood the impulse. Each beat of his heart was a fresh and staggering blow felt in the nerves behind his eyes and in his temples. Punishing evidence of life.”

I really enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box, which is odd for me as I’m not a huge fan of horror, but this story keeps the gore in check and is packed with great writing (“…a rotund family in promotional T-Shirts, their ample bellies doing double duty as billboards.”), a fantastic twist or two and some damn compelling characters. I love the way violence is introduced into the plot, as well as how the ghost speaks, cryptic and threatening through the radio (“…the dead drag the living down…”) It was great (especially as it was his debut novel), and on the strength of this novel I’m going to buy some more of Joe Hill’s books.

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A Shadow in the Blackness

The smoke rose. Flames licked at houses stacked like kindling – such beautiful colours – and screams rang out, cut off by the sudden, jolting

………………………………….crash

……………………………………………………of falling timber and collapsed masonry. The heat pushes gently at the membranes of my wings, granting me flight, and the once-cold iron that bound my ankles warms and warps, bending as I pull my legs free. I rake at the cobblestones beneath my feet, gouging loose the stones, and bellow into the night – my guards are busy, struggling to douse the orange tongues I cast about myself, my shield – and I let the warmth take me, carrying me upward into the night.

 

I am a shadow in the blackness, a scar on the night sky.

 

They flock to the church, scared little birds, watching their village burn.

 

I swoop, wings folded back.

 

I am death, I am destruction.

 

I am vengeance.

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Claws Red, Fangs Snapping

Terry Whidborne's latest sketch

Terry Whidborne’s latest sketch

She drew her cloak tighter around the ragged edges of her breath, trying to disguise the rapid rise-and-fall of her chest. She pulled her face-mask closed, to hide her lolling tongue and to cover the sound of her panting. To conceal the spatters of blood and the tracing lines of intestines on her skin-suit.

 

Voices rose up  behind her, shrill and panicked, reaching a crescendo as she turned the corner.

 

She had to convince herself to slow down, to control her footsteps. The wet cobblestones shone, and seemed to guide her along her path. She caught her breath, crouching down against a rough-scaled wall – she left a patch of crimson on the stone as she moved. Her tongue arrowed out from between razor-sharp teeth, picking loose scraps of gristle and fat, tasting the flavour of him on her lips. She smiled, a withering smile, and was disappointed that she had no-one to direct it toward. No matter. She let her mind replay the gory scene from which she had so recently fled, and the smile returned.

 

She saw the signal, the twin spirals in the sky, clouds-where-there-should-be-no-clouds.

 

Claws red, fangs snapping. 

 

The memory was not quite as delicious as the act.

 

The spirals, the disguise, the soon-to-be-dead.

Continue reading

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Skin

The bugs flow, green-blue, scratching beneath his skin.

Not hallucinating.

Each new egg bursts, exquisite agony, life-from-death.

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World’s End

There are so many ways

to destroy a world.

But in the end

his native violence took hold,

and he tore it apart,

to the screams

of millions.

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The Boys are Back in Town (Part 2/4)

Victims of the Great Famine, India, 1876-78

Distended, swollen bellies, meandering flies.

Scrape your plate clean. Throw it all away.

Thigh gaps and size 0’s.

You are not good enough.

You are not good enough.

You are not good enough.

Eat less. Waste more.

You are too fat.

Eat less. Consume more.

Forget about those hungry children.

They live so far away.

You are not good enough.

They don’t have enough.

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Speculative Fiction is World Literature

300px-War-of-the-worlds-tripod

Or at least that’s what I’m arguing over on Gate 37. Click the link, the more people that read it, the more I get paid! Tell your friends!

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Interesting Spec Fic Markets for August and Beyond!

Toy Shop (Sirens) – Simon Cottee, for The Lane of Unusual Traders

Just some interesting speculative fiction markets I’ve come across this month, with a deadline sometime this month – I thought it’d be nice to share. All of these markets are pro-paying, by the way, unless I mention otherwise:

 

The Lane of Unusual Traders (Short Story component 1500 – 3000 words) – Tiny Owl Workshop, 31st August

The Lane of Unusual Traders is a world building project. The aim is to write or otherwise bring the Lane, the City of Lind and the world of Midlfell into existence through stories, illustrations, comics and, well, through whatever other creative means present themselves as the story grows.

The story begins in a lane known only as The Lane of Unusual Traders.

The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography (less than 5000 words) – Unlikely Story, November 1

 Genre isn’t particularly important to us—speculative, mainstream, slipstream, and the unclassifiable tales in between—we’ll read anything; all we ask is that the stories feature Information Technology as a prominent element of the tale. The focus of the magazine is Cryptography, so we’ll give preference to stories that involve cryptography (of course), ciphers, data privacy, surveillance, hacking/cracking, and so on. We’re interested in stories that demonstrate an understanding of the real technology, rather than pseudo-magical uses of information technologies which substitute “hacker” for “mage” and “source code” for “incantation.” We’re also interested in the wildly fantastical and surrealistic.

This Patchwork Flesh (under 7500) – Exile Editions, 31 August

This Patchwork Flesh is meant to be a wider lens on underrepresented stories, and on underrepresented voices. A chance for readers who identity as one of the many facets of QUILTBAG, or pansexual, fluid, and so on, to see narratives where they are not sidelined, where they are not depicted as secondary characters, always foils, aids, or victims of, or to, “normative” figures.

The Lost Worlds (up to 17,500 words) – Eldritch Press, December 30

“The Lost Worlds” will be a anthology in the Steampunk Horror Genre devoted to the post-apocalyptic theme. Send us worlds rebuilt by steam powered engines and mechanical marvels. Send us characters we can root for as they fight the good fight

 

Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide (3000-6000) – dreaming robot press, August 31

We’re looking for stories that: Have a main character a middle grade reader (ages 9-12) can identify with; Show a diverse set of real characters; Are well written, fun to read and encourage a love of reading science fiction; Tell of adventure, space, science. Give us rockets, robots and alien encounters, and we’re pretty happy. Steampunk, time travel, weird west and alternate history are all fine. We’re especially looking for stories: Where the main character is of a population that has traditionally been under-represented in science fiction, e.g. girls, people of color, differently abled people; Where the main character has agency, exercises it, and isn’t just along for the ride.

 

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Contagion

Noratus Cemetery, Armenia – Arantz

Contagion leaps out,

Carried

Invisible

On every breath.

 

The shadows

Of serpents whisper,

Promising death

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Pink

Alien Jungle – Alex Haas, via io9

It was everywhere. The sky, the trees, the broken outlines of the shadows that he saw flicking through the magenta leaves. The scabs on his arms – he scratched them through – pink, pink, pink again. He sucked at the wounds, tasted the festering, stained his teeth pink; but he could not see it, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter.

He knew that it did, no matter how often he told himself it didn’t.

His damn teeth were pink now too, inside the cave of his mouth.

He heard their chirruping – they had yet to close in. Yet they were coming closer.

He dragged his knife along standing-stones and tree trunks, through beds of flowers and dug it deep into weird, twisting lichens. They all bled pink. He wiped the blade – pink – on his pants. Damn this place, damn this pink jungle.

He stumbled again across his scratch marks on the stones.

The gibbering came closer.

He dropped the knife.

Fell to his knees.

The bird-like voices came closer again.

He gave himself to them.

His purple-pink innards spilled onto the forest floor.

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