Short Shocktober Day 12 – Teeth

Whoops, posting these got away from me a little bit there. A few are unwritten, but I’ve got a couple written that I didn’t get around to posting. Here’s the Short Shocktober prompt from Day 12Teeth. Enjoy!

Content warning: body horror

More Than a Kiss

He didn’t notice until the morning after, when the tall, thin girl had left. She had given him a hickey, just below his right collar bone. Catching sight of it in the mirror in the bathroom made him blush, ever so slightly, and his heart beat quicken, remembering the out of character, anonymous debauchery he’d engaged in the night before.

               Witchy girl, was what he called her. Dorky? Yes, but she’d been pale, in a black dress hemmed with bones, and her long, straight black hair had been topped with a pointed black hat. It fit. She didn’t take the hat off, now he thought about it. Best Halloween ever.

               His minded drifted to her over the next few days. He found himself wondering what she was up to. He was kicking himself they hadn’t swapped numbers. Or names. He wondered if she was wondering what he was up to.

               The hickey, in the meantime, just got bigger. The small, mouth-sized purple blot grew into a red leaf shape, soft, raised and painless.

               After a week he sucked up the courage to call Benson.

               ‘I guess you had fun last week,’ his mate teased.

               ‘I… yeah, I really did,’ he replied with a smile, invisible over the phone.

               ‘It was nice to see, mate, especially after all this time. We all thought you’d be doing your monk routine forever. You seeing her again?’

               ‘Well, that’s what I was ringing about-‘ Benson was a good friend but talking to him was a contact sport.

               ‘Didn’t get her number, huh? She came with Carrie, I think. What’s her name, I’ll ask her about it.’

               ‘We uh…,’ he cleared his throat, ‘we didn’t exactly make much small talk-‘

               ‘Allen Cooper, you sly dog. I didn’t know you had it in you,’ he could see Benson messaging the friend group, in his mind’s eye, grinning gleefully. ‘I’ll ask Carrie about her witchy friend. Don’t you worry about it.’

               A few days later the red leaf shape had grown more distinct. He found himself looking at a red mark beneath the skin shaped exactly like a pair of lips. It looked exactly like a cartoon lipstick kiss, in fact. It wasn’t painful, it didn’t wash off, and it wasn’t on the surface. With the slightly soft raised areas beneath it, it began to look like one of those subdermal body mods of a pair of lips.

               Benson left a message a few days later.

               ‘Sorry, bud, Carrie didn’t know her, but don’t worry! The friend group is on it – we’ll find your dark mistress!’

               He hoped they would. He had questions.

 Beads of sweat stood out all over him, as he stared at the shape on his chest in the mirror. The final slip of skin between the lips split, and they opened with a smile, revealing a row of snow white teeth. Then the teeth opened too, and a slick tongue slipped out to lick the lips seductively.

‘Feed me,’ the mouth purred.


Words: 499

Short Shocktober Day 11 – Slither

Content warning: gore, right from the off.

Slither

Something falls out of the body and lands with a wet slap on the floor, while he’s weighing the liver. He doesn’t pay it too much mind, at first; bodies are full of fluids, and sometimes, leaks happen. Then there’s the gentle, wet susurrus of something slithering away into the shadows by the cabinets and he freezes.

               Carter puts the liver back on the scales gingerly and steps around the pale body, prone on the mortuary table. There’s a swipe of crimson down its side, down the table, across the floor. It slicks across the rough surfaced tile in a curving bands of red, all the way to the metal cabinets in the corner, the formaldehyde storage, where it disappears underneath.

               ‘What the hell…’ he mutters to himself, as he picks up one of his knives. A rat? Something must have dragged an intestine from the body, and there wasn’t anyone in here so it has to be, what, a rat? There’s no way they could survive all the traps down here, though, right? Why would a rat take an intestine?

               And why wasn’t the intestine attached at the other end? He glances back to Mr Hancock on the table, notes the missing small intestine, and tries to find the end to figure out how it was severed.

               He doesn’t notice the wet slithering noise. Something enormous, ruby, glistening with blood, rises up like a snake behind him, poised to strike with alien fangs, shining from its torn orifice.


Prompt: Slithering

Words: 250

Optional Rule: Short and Spooky

Day 11 of Short Shocktober complete. “But where’s day ten?” I hear you cry. Well, I didn’t remember about it until ten thirty last night, and by that point I was already in bed, winding down for the day, so… I owe one, I guess is what I’m saying?

Decided to go shorter on this one because I wanted to test myself, and because I wasn’t sure that I had 500 words for this. It would have just been me trying to fill the space. I think shorter might be better in this instance. What’s going to happen to poor Carter? You get to decide, in your imagination!

Short Shocktober Day 5: Whispers

The Whispers of the Saltmarsh Stone

5th of October, 1891

Yesterday we finally took our little trip to ‘the seaside’. Just a short excursion for the day, along the estuary to the salt marsh. It seems rather preposterous to say that you have taken a trip ‘to the seaside’, when Weatherly Hall overlooks the cliffs and sea, but Arthur has lived here all his life and that is what they have always called it, ‘the seaside’, as though it were the only coast in existence.

               And what a sea it is! Grey as slate and almost always miserable. I long so dearly to be back in Monaco with its sparkling blue sea, but Arthur, with his fussy old ways, will leave Britain on his death bed, I fancy. No matter.

               At the saltmarsh, Arthur and I disembarked and asked Jenkins to wait for us. We strolled then, I matching Arthurs arthritic gait as much as I could, though the slowness of his pace made my step feel as though I were hobbled.

               Through the skinny trees of the saltmarsh we walked, along the planks set out for that purpose. The path led to a small black sand cove, and this was where Arthur presumed that we were going, but I had other ideas for our walk, and my ‘beloved’.

               ‘What’s down there, darling?’ I asked as we came to a split in the path. He peered between the thicker trees and up the path that sloped up to drier land.

               ‘Oh, just some old standing stone, dear, nothing interesting.’

               ‘Oh, an ancient monument? I should like to see it, if we may.’ It didn’t take much cajoling. Strong though he once was, and admittedly, in his upper body, still is, a short walk with a rest at a monument was more appealing than a traipse to the black sand shore.

               Our little stroll was pleasant enough. As the trees grew thicker and the brackish smell of the marsh receded, the smell of loam and deep woods grew. The thin sun was bright enough to light the leaves from above, so we walked beneath a canopy off translucent green. My anticipation grew as we neared the spot I had discovered and hatched my design.

               In the centre of the clearing stood a moss covered stone. It came to my chest, and I dragged Arthur over, arm in arm, to stand before it and inspect the strange designs carved into the slanted surface. With a deftness that I didn’t know I had, I withdrew the sewing needle I had hidden in the hem of my sleeve, and jabbed him with it.

               ‘Great heavens!’ he exclaimed and jerked away. I dropped the needle.

               ‘Oh my darling, what’s wrong? Is it an insect bite? Let me see.’

               He swiftly acceded to my ministrations. I held his hand over the ancient surface of the stone, and told him that we had best ensure the sting didn’t remain, and under those pretences, squeezed out a single ruby drop of his blood, which dripped on to the stone.

               It was absorbed into the dark surface instantly.

               The curse began to take effect just as swiftly. We returned to the carriage, Arthur’s mood soured, and by the time that we were home, he was complaining loudly about the whispers.

               ‘That damn whispering! Is it you?’ he accused me, ‘are you playing some sort of jape? I demand you stop it at once.’ Soon after, he took to his bed, and this morning I have sent for a doctor to tend his rapidly emaciated frame. He’s barely sane now, you see, having had to listen to their whispers all night long. It worked perfectly – he’ll be no longer able to manage his estate, but he isn’t dead yet, and it will be a simple enough thing for me to remain here and live the life I desire at Weatherly Hall, effectively by myself. A rousing success, I think.

               To other matters. My hand is a little sore; I seem to have given myself a splinter somehow. Perhaps I caught it on a thorn on our little trip yesterday. No matter, it will heal swiftly enough.

               The servants will have to go, of course. They don’t like me very much. Even now, I’m certain I can hear them whispering in the hallway, probably accusing me of poisoning their poor master. Damn them.

               It’s the strangest thing; I went to confront them, and there wasn’t a soul there. I must be hearing thi-

               No, there it is again! Where on earth is that whispering coming from?


Prompt: Whispers

Word Count: 761

That’s Day 5! I should have posted this yesterday, but forgot, so here it is this morning, instead. This one’s much longer than it should be, over the target by over half, but I was enjoying this one so much that I decided to make it a little longer. Enjoy!

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”

Still here

It’s been a while, huh? Yet another long period without posts. I’m back for as long as life lets me. I want to start blogging more regularly. The plan is:- posts like this, sharing things I’m working on, finding interesting, or useful, with occasionally longer posts when something warrants a bit of research or I have a lot to say. Any how, anonymous readers, are you well? Say hi.

I regularly get distracted online – it’s too easy to type the first few letters of a social media site into the address bar and zoom off, when the browser autocompletes the address. It’s barely conscious at this point – open new tab, type ‘tu’, hit enter and bam, I’m on Tumblr, before I really register what I’m doing. I installed LeechBlock for Firefox a few days ago, created a list of all the sites I was going to impulsively and losing time on, and set it to block them between 0900 and 1800. I highly recommend it – it’s very effective, and keeps me on track. It’s easy to subvert, but to do that I have to actively do it, and I become aware that I’m deliberately procrastinating. LeechBlock’s ‘you’re blocked here, lad’, is like a little Rinzai slap during mediation, keeping you on task, keeping you focused.

Despite having many wonderful books for my birthday this year, and for Christmas last year, I’ve read barely any of them. It’s a trend continued from last year, and I fully blame the pandemic. I’ve broken that streak by reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon (his blog is pretty great, too, by the way), in April and then last weekend I started reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. I first heard about it in Tim Ferris’s incredibly vulnerable interview with Debbie Millman, disclosing his abuse, and was immediately intrigued by the title. I used to suffer with terrible IBS that seemed intractably linked with anxiety, and a book about the links between the body and trauma sounded very interesting. To be clear; the book is talking about capital T Trauma, and focuses on research about patients with PTSD, or complex PTSD. It can be intense in places; trigger warning for descriptions of pretty much the biggest traumas humans can encounters, including sexual assault, war, violence, natural disasters. This isn’t something I’ve ever been through, but it’s really interesting to see the links between your brain and body that perform in similar ways in anxiety and depression, if on a much more severe scale. I really recommend it if you’ve got any interest in psychology or biology or the links between the two. Van der Kolk is an easy to follow writer and makes the neurology of the mechanisms of psychological trauma easy to follow, and is meticulous in his rigour. He points out and addresses the arguments of detractors and notes where research has yet to be completed that provides empirical explanations for his observations. Well worth a read.

My WIP, Halo of Flies, is going swimmingly. There are only a handful of scenes left to write and then I need to do a fair amount of editing. I’ve written parts of this book an uncountable number of times, and ‘editing’ is going to involve stitching the first draft together from the new stuff and the dismembered parts of the previous drafts. Franken-novel, here I come! Once that’s done, I’ll have a finished first draft, and I can start giving it to close friends and family to read. I’m quite excited, (understatement). It’s been sitting in my head, taking up space for five or six years now, and I really would like to see it finished so I can use that psychic energy for other projects I’m desperate to pursue. I already know what I want to write next.

For years I’ve been searching for the perfect personal knowledge management system/ task management system combination that turns my personal life from a raging whirlwind of chaos into a highly functioning machine, and I think I’ve finally found it; a combination of using Obsidian.md and… a bullet journal. The combination of quite niche, techy solution and a notebook and pen is hilarious to me, but it works.

Obsidian.md is great for storing information and making links between it. The interface is nice and simple, as well as allowing you to open multiple notes at once, in separate adjacent panes. The graph overview shows links between notes – which I love – allows you to include or eliminate tags, and colour code projects based on keyword phrases. Great stuff. A note: it uses Markdown for text formatting; I’m not a Markdown convert, but I don’t hate it as vehemently as I used to. I just don’t think it actually adds anything for the average user. I believe a WYSIWYG editor is on the way for Obsidian, and I’m looking forward to it.

As for the Bullet Journal, I’ve used one on and off for years. I think the first time was around 2015/16, but I’ve never really made it stick. Unlike other management systems, however, it’s the one I always come back to. I have an undying love of notebooks and writing things down (I blame almost all of my education being analogue), and I think that simple fact, that I enjoy doing it, keeps me coming back to it, over and over. This time I’ve just decided not to quit – my pitfall is always that I have a failing somewhere (human beings, failing? My god, how novel), and end up blaming the system, instead of blaming… human nature? The fallibility of man? And begin looking for alternatives. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bad note book, this time, I’ve resolved to work out a BuJo solution to it. I might do separate posts on how I’m using BuJo and Obsidian another time.

Much love from what feels like the rainiest May in years.

In which I make a reading list

I haven’t been thinking about much today; I’ve been pedal to the metal writing, (3000 words before lunch! All junk, but eh, who cares;  some of it was good, and it felt great to make something). 

I have been thinking about the books that I want to read, however. I think this has something to do with the fact that I’m not enjoying my current read. It’s teaching me a lot; about what I value in books, about my aesthetic tastes vs Murakami’s, so I’m going to continue for now. I won’t be re-reading it like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – it’s just too big.

Continue reading “In which I make a reading list”

In which I write a letter

Dear Reader,

I hope this finds you well. I hope you’re living a pleasant life under quarantine, and that your biscuit tin is never empty.

Since your last letter, I completed another scene of Halo of Flies. It’s going fairly well, I’m building up a nice momentum that doesn’t feel too strenuous to maintain, and I’m enjoying the writing itself. I’ve always loved coming up with worlds for people to inhabit; I think that’s why fantasy has always appealed so strongly. I’ve been thinking about this world for so long that it’s good to have people to finally inhabit it. If I can maintain my current pace, I should have the first draft completed by the 22nd of June. Mark the date on your calendar and if I haven’t completed it by then, you’ve my permission to give me a good ticking off.

Continue reading “In which I write a letter”

In which I hesitate to write about politics

I hesitate to write about politics. It makes people (including me), fairly angry, a lot of the time, and when you have strong opinions about something, it doesn’t necessarily engender good thinking or good writing. You have to be much more careful to reign yourself  in and examine your assumptions. In the first draft of this I referred to a certain political appointee as a professional asshole, and while I think that’s true, I recognise that it’s an opinion. Opinions are like professionals assholes, in that politics is already rife with them. See? I did it again. I just can’t help myself.

Continue reading “In which I hesitate to write about politics”