Short Shocktober Day 3: Viscera

Content Warning: self-harm, madness.

A New Organ

Tentacles lash in the dark. A blazing figure in yellow slumbers on a throne of shifting darkness. Sharp talons slither over flesh, and blood runs in crimson rivulets down the black steps before the King in Yellow.

*

3rd of October

They say they’ve found a new organ. The interstitium? They say it’s made of the collagen supported, fluid filled spaces between cells. It fills your entire body. It makes lymph. Whether it’s really an organ or not seems to be up for some debate.

               I can feel mine throbbing. Crawling, even. It matches the rhythm of the real Interstitium. I can feel it.

               I found the notes. The ones on the real Interstitium. Had you told me that one day a hobby of collecting medical journals would drive me mad, I would have had you thrown out of my surgery. The notes were buried in the back of the yellowing pages of a medical journal from 1910. It’s so old it smells of vanilla and must. Amid the descriptions of injecting cats with ink to track the movement of their corpuscles, the author, pen scratching and leaking, describes and sketches the space between, the seething gap between our world and theirs. The Interstitium. The twisted, warping landscape, blighted by a hint of their very presence, where their vast, incomprehensible beings leak from their world into ours.

               I wish I’d never read those mad scratchings. Now, when I sleep, I visit this half-place in dreams. It must be the intersitium. The organ, I mean. It connects me to their realm. That must be it.  There must be some combination of drugs that will numb it, or stop me dreaming. There isn’t a problem I’ve met yet, that can’t be solved by pharmacology.

*

A great wall of organic, fluid filled sacs undulate, throbbing. Their contents swirl like oil on water, galaxies and nebula at their heart. The wall splits and peels away. Behind it two putrid yellow eyes peer forth, beneath a blazing golden crown. It beholds me with indifference.

*

13th of October

The dreams have gotten worse and worse.  I’m seven nights without sleep, now. No one lasts longer than ten. I lie awake, dreaming. The veil between our world grows thinner and thinner in my body. The interstitium crawls and undulates throughout my form. When I am awake, I see things shifting in the corners of my eyes, spidery, shadow creatures, that aren’t there when I look. It must be a hallucination brought on by lack of sleep. The alternative is too terrible to countenance.

               The drugs didn’t work. No regimen of chemicals seems to have produced any effect at all. The interstitium must be excised. I’ve sharpened my scalpels and knives. I know what must be done. It will be hard to remain conscious whilst I strip the traitorous organ from my body, I know, but my fate is sealed, my will is steel.

               I know what must be done.


Prompt: Viscera

Word Count: 494

Little bit of cosmic horror for you all. That’s Day Three – Viscera – of Short Shocktober down. It’s very edifying to get pieces finished regularly.

Short Shocktober Day 2: Bones

Content Warning: Bones, gore.

The Lost Parisian Ossuary

‘Don’t you think it’s weird that all records of this place were destroyed, though?’ The questioned echoed in the tunnel’s narrow walls and arched ceiling. Taylor’s torch roved over gaping side tunnels, barely chasing back the black as he hurried along. His broad silhouette cut a manly, roguish figure in the torchlight, and I finally saw in him the Indiana Jones he always saw in himself.

               ‘Of course, someone wanted to hide it; it’s rumoured to hold a stash of gems. What fool would leave directions to their hidden treasure in the public record? Le Chat Noir was wise to scrub it from the plans after the renovations.’ I kicked a pebble and it clattered down the corridor at Taylor’s feet. I  let out a little involuntary squeak at the sound. Taylor sighed.

               ‘Pull yourself together,’ he demanded.  ‘There’s nothing down here but rats and bones. And cave dwelling crabs, apparently.’

               ‘I don’t think those gems exist,’ I confessed, as we hesitated at another cross roads. Taylor stopped to play his light over a yellowing map in his hand. The humid air was thick, faintly mouldy. ‘If this jewel thief existed, why didn’t he go back for his stash?’

               ‘Here,’ Taylor pointed, and plunged off to the right. ‘I told you; he dropped dead in the street. It was only the gendarme’s search of his apartment that revealed that he was La Chat Noir. It was only my little stroke of luck – and a dose of genius –‘ he said this bit under his breath, barely audible over the march of our feet, ‘that led to my  discovery.’

               ‘I think someone destroyed those records to stop people finding this place,’ I said, bumping into Taylor. Our tunnel had stopped as abruptly as Taylor, opening into a circular room.

               The walls were lined with bones, a regular repeating pattern of tibias alternating with skulls. Their empty eye sockets stared at us in surprise, as Taylor washed the room in the torch’s sterile light.

               ‘I can’t believe I found it,’ he whispered.

               He stepped into the room and a chill wind blew out of it. I could have sworn I heard someone whisper something in French, but I couldn’t make it out.

               ‘Come out of there,’ I told him quietly, but he just glanced back, rolled his eyes and took another step.

               There was a cracking noise, and Taylor jerked, frozen on the spot. The wind blew again. I definitely heard a whisper this time, but not loud enough to discern. He staggered forward one last step, and there was the crack once more, and the spectral voice. I finally understood it.

               ‘Join us.’

               Taylor jerked in agony. His torch clattered to the floor. He held up his hands in wretched horror, the bones exposed as the flesh peeled itself away. His eyes grew wide, his face of agony growing into a rictus as the flesh shrank and sloughed away, a soundless scream trapped between his skeletal jaws.

               I ran.


Prompt: Bones

Word Count: 498

Shocktober Day Two down! I think this one’s better. I did some brain storming and research and got some good non-fiction details, with some fascinating history. The Paris Catacombs are a real place! There’s probably not any curses or hidden treasure or anything down there, tho’. Probably….

Short Shocktober Day 1: Dark

Content warning: Mention/implied blood, stalking, death, dismemberment.

Prowler

Look at him, strolling carelessly through the barely overlapping pools of streetlight. When his dress shoes tap the damp pavement in the shadows between the yellow cones, he’s close. Close enough to my realm that I can ruffle his wet hair with my talons. Close enough that I can smell the new shampoo. Not his. Too fragrant.

               He’s nervous. I slink along, invisible, in the murk under the parked cars, sniffing the iron tang of blood on his wrist. He missed it. I click a pebble as I pass and his head flicks around, cat like, twitching at unseen assailants. Does he fear the dark or discovery?

               Silly man. His little smile in the half dark says he’s laughing at himself. There’s nothing there! Nothing more scary than he. He thinks his midnight sojourn to the land of death and dismemberment has been an easy one. Now he’ll slither home in his patent leather and tailored trousers and await the circus on the news, revel in his hand made mayhem.

               Foolish man. Nothing scary out here but the nosy eyes of neighbours and cameras, right? So long as he can make it to his apartment without the long arm of the law tapping him on the shoulder, ‘bit late for a stroll, isn’t it, sir?’, he’s won his part of the game. Until next time, until the urge for blood sport and struggle rises deep within him, and compels him once again to the hunt. Until he ‘picks’ and ‘stalks’ and ‘hunts’ his victim; a pale imitation, an amateur at best.

               I can feel his heart beat. Heightened, but steady. It beats the delicious blood around his frame. His smile is constant now; a little upturn at the corner of his thin lips. Does his heart beat faster from fear or a predatory high? He pulls back his suit jacket slightly as he slides his hands into his pockets, his walk nonchalant.

               Watch him watch the shadows. Under the direct light burning overhead, there are almost none, and it occurs to him that someone might be sneak up on him and he wouldn’t be able to tell. His heart runs, but his façade doesn’t flicker, his pace steady, a model of control.

               Arrogant man. There’s nothing to fear in the night. Fear of the dark is the realm of children. Nothing lives in the shadows, teeth slick with anticipation, soft paws padding silently through the fresh night, watching him. He is the night. He is the thing that lurks in the shadows.

               He reaches the end of the street, the last streetlight above him, the short walk across the industrial ground, unlit as the grave before him. All that separates him from home and security.  I coil my steely muscles, my haunches taught.

               His foot leaves the yellow circle at the pavement edge and never meets the ground. There’s a short shriek, and he’s gone, never to be seen again.

               In the dark, I lick my lips.


Prompt: Dark

Word Count: 497

Day one of Short Shocktober done. Needs more polishing, but getting things finished to a short deadline was what this was about, not polishing them to a mirror shine.

Check out the Shocktober link above for the rest of the prompts, if you need some creative sparks for October.

Short Shocktober – 31 horror flash fiction prompts for October ’21

Every year in October, artists gather on the ephemeral planes of the internet to collectively participate in a dark ritual. During that ritual they spill oceans of ink. Besmirch sheet after sheet of snow-white paper. Stab hard at the heart of creativity, to pierce it with pens and pencils and have its black ichor flow forth. An eldritch ritual, known only in the fearful whispers as… Inktober…

Anyway, I love spook-month, and Inktober has always appealed to me, but I’m not much of an artist, so I decided to do my own thing with prose. One of the things that I’m struggling with lately is getting things finished. My current projects are quite long, and I could do with the boost that finishing something regularly gives you. So for that reason, I’m going to use the thirty-one daily prompts, below, to write 500 words of horror flash fiction each day, and post them here. I’m posting the prompts and rules (“more like guidelines than actual rules”, he said, making an ancient reference), because I hope that other people will be interested and join me!

Continue reading “Short Shocktober – 31 horror flash fiction prompts for October ’21”

Panacea >Build 1.0

A dear friend’s book launched today. It’s a young adult, cyberpunk fugitive thriller set in the near future, featuring ground-breaking AI, cybernetic enhancements and band of resilient teenagers with a rebellious spirit.

It’s well worth your time, and I’m not just saying that because I know Charli well; I genuinely enjoyed reading it the first time I got to, and I’ve enjoyed reading it since. Charli’s great at making the characters the centre of the story, making big political themes all about the people that they impact. It’s a diverse story, too, with a multiplicity of viewpoints, including queer and BAME characters.

You can read the first chapter on Charli’s website, and buy the ebook on Amazon. There’s a physical book coming soon, too. I’ve popped the blurb below.

The first in the Panacea Series, the story begins in Panacea >Build 1.0 where, during an arrest over electricity curfew violations, former party animal Taiye’s life is changed forever when she uses violence to prevent an act of police brutality.

Felicity, a rich girl with rebellious ambitions; Russ, a hapless boy with robotic enhancement to his body; Persephone, a ground-breaking artificial intelligence; and Alex, a hotheaded girl who just wants the whole fucking world to burn, all join in to help Taiye escape London to the free-land of Scotland.

Together they all have a role to play in the introduction of The Panacea – a cure for all injury and disease – to the world.

Stolen Found Poetry

We’ve been committing poetry at the Patchwork Mind compound, this Friday morning. I wrote out the first two English verses of The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and the entirety of Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, cut them into individual words and put them in a hat. A baseball cap, to be precise. Then I pulled out words at random, and wrote them down until a story began to emerge. Then I tweaked and shifted and swapped lines around, until the following emerged, ‘The Rage Song of J. Alfred’, or ‘That Gentle Question…’

I was inspired by my interest in collage; I’ve been trying to ask myself lately how I can apply techniques in one area of my creative activities to other areas. This mention of Tristan Tarza doing similar with newspapers was what gave me the idea.

The bits that are highlighted are ‘straight out of the hat’ – they’re phrases that I pulled out of the hat as-is, unaltered. The others I tweaked, changing a tense or adding a word here or there. I was genuinely surprised by how many of the lines I got I actually liked. I thought they would be far less coherent. There was still loads that I ended up not using, too.

To my mind it tells a distinctive story, but I’m interested if it comes out that way to other poeple.

Maps of Mars

I recently started working on a self-pubbed graphic novel tentatively called Paradise Now. Set long into our future, the story takes place on a Mars terraformed by corporations in order to become an industrial hub. For someone who was obsessed with science fiction when I was a kid, I’m crudely ill informed about our actual solar system, and as a result, I’m in the throes of research and discovery right now. Mars, to my surprise, has been pretty well mapped already, with advances coming quicker and quicker.

It’s going to be a long time before I’m anywhere near publishing Paradise Now, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t share the Mars maps and images that I’ve found with you. Maybe they’ll inspire you, too.

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Turning eleven years of notebooks into a second brain

“A good idea is not of any use if you can’t find it.” – Logan Heftel, (via Austin Kleon)

That’s such a good quote. I’ve taken a leaf out of Austin Kleon’s book (recommended), and stolen it to head this post about finding ideas you’ve already had.

It’s the same quote that Kleon uses to lead his post on ‘Indexing, filing systems, and the art of finding what you have‘ It seems we’ve both got a similar problem; I have a box of notebooks on top of my wardrobe. Eleven years of scribbling and journaling and note taking. Austin Kleon’s got a similar crate, but with about twice as many notebooks for a much shorter period. I’d say ‘poor guy’, but honestly, I can’t imagine he’s that cut up about having such a gold claim, even if he does have to sift it all for nuggets.

Kleon goes on to write about the systems that others have used to corral their unruly ideas, with several great examples from comedians.

Earlier in May, Cory Doctorow wrote an article dealing with the same ideas, from a different perspective. Doctorow has been blogging daily, as well as keeping his notes digitally since before I was born, and it’s created a second brain, generating new ideas through connections. The second brain idea is having a bit of a moment, with the advent of software like Obsidian and Roam Research, and the popularisation of the Zettlekasten method and books like Sonke Ahren’s How to Take Smart Notes, but Doctorow provides some great examples of digital second brains that have been around for years in the form of blogs. Nothing new under the sun etc etc.

Continue reading “Turning eleven years of notebooks into a second brain”

Attempting collage

As you might have guessed from the title, I’ve been attempting collage. It’s not exactly gallery worthy*, but it was a lot of fun, and I thought I would show my work, as well as write about a few things that I would do differently.

The image is made of a few different magazines – mainly health and lifestyle, believe it or not, with a bit of National Geographic thrown in. I think there’s about three or four magazines in there all together. The people climbing over the rocks and the demonic/buddha masks were from the same health/lifestyle magazine; they were what gave me the idea of someone being helped into hell.

Continue reading “Attempting collage”

Ghoulish financial practices

In Cory Doctorow’s Pluralistic post from Wednesday morning, I read about Molly McGhee’s surreal experiences with her mother’s creditors, after her mother’s death. Both posts are worth reading. Doctorow presents an analysis of the power structures that work to keep debtors debtors and creditors thriving, despite the human and social cost. McGhee’s post presents the surreal, disempowering feeling of dealing with a horde of relentless creditors, and the ‘double-barreled future of doom and despair’, suddenly trained on her.

In another life, I worked for a charity that dealt with a host of issues, including debt, and McGhee’s experience reminded me of the powerlessness that being a debtor entailed. Part of the role that my colleagues who were debt advisors fulfilled was advocating on behalf of clients because creditors were inherently unwilling to believe their self advocacy. Bailiffs and debt collectors especially, took the basic position that any claim that tried to avoid, delay, or negate their claim was a lie. It’s ghastly that not only is the credit/debt relationship a contract of responsibility, it also primarily seems to be one in which one side of the contract gives up their power to affect the contract in any way, after the initial agreement is made. Despite some advances that are being made for consumer rights, it’s a contract that seems to create responsibilities for the debtors and dissolve their rights, until they can access help from an advocate. This was true for McGhee, too; 90% of the debt was wiped out, after she had to open her own line of credit to pay a lawyer to act on her behalf. Horrible. Ghoulish.

I’m not sure what the laws are like in the US, but generally speaking in England and Wales (I think they’re different in Scotland), a debt is paid from the estate of the deceased. If it was solely in their name and they left no estate, or not enough to cover the debt, the debt doesn’t transfer to their descendants. There are exceptions, but it’s something worth remembering.

Much love from the protest outside the debtor’s prison.