Scribblings

Posted: July 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Fifty Shades of Decay is now complete, and published on this blog. And there is plenty more happening…

Magick is in hand, but with a number of threads coming together, and a visit to the shores of Loch Ness planned to add a sense of place to the writing…

Cauldron is also in progress, with the Roman Britain prequel elements nearly complete and some scribbled notes following a convenient coastal holiday…

Freedom’s Sword is the new title of the second Grace Andrew novel, sequel to By The Sword, and this is inspired by the impending 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, mixing politics, corruption and murder…

I have a number of urban horror short stories that I’m weaving together in a novella with the title Edgetown

Plus a short story underway called Carnival, inspired by a fairground visit, in the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes…. a sinister carnival arrives at a 1930s dustbowl town with slaughter in mind!

Fifty Shades of Decay

Posted: July 8, 2012 in Short Story

Ana gathers her thoughts as the elevator slides up the shaft of the glistening Seattle skyscraper. Christian will be waiting in the Red Room, with his enigmatic eyes and gentle teasing smile. The doors slide seductively open and she steps into the anteroom of the CEO suite, ignoring the appraising eye of the identikit blonde personal assistant. Ana knows that they are well aware of the most important instruction, on pain of instant dismissal: never disturb Mr Grey in the Red Room.

She has her own key for the Red Room, coming and going as she pleases, or as Christian pleases. Usually coming, she thinks, with a half-smile. The room is slightly larger than the boardroom, floored with blood- red mats and padded in thick foam and red leather, with wall-fixings for submission and dominance games, all completely soundproofed. The key slides into the lock, probing deeply to release the electronic mechanism, and the door swings open with a whoosh of air.

The smell hits her first, as she steps through the. She gags on the stench of faeces and urine. Then the horror of the spectacle registers in her mind. Christian Grey hangs there in the reddish half-light, naked, dangling from a knotted rope, his smooth thighs stained by purged bodily fluids.

Ana’s hands fly to her mouth, suppressing a scream. She turns to summon help, but it is too late. The door has closed silently behind her, locking her in a soundproofed dungeon of padded red leather, alone with a corpse.

Her eyes return to Christian’s sleek and lifeless body. The skin appears translucently pale at first, but it is mottled and discoloured where the blood has sunk downwards, and his sex has shrunk into its pubic nest. The ligature has dug deeply into his neck, with a swollen bruise circling above the livid rope-line where blood has gathered. A small step-ladder lies on the floor, kicked aside, lying beside a coil of rope and a torn pulley wrenched from a ragged hole in the ceiling, the rope dangling from a harness on Christian’s back like a monkey’s tail.

The picture forms clearly in Ana’s mind: Christian was hanging himself and whacking off, using a safety harness, but the pulley failed to hold his weight. Tears prick the corners of her eyes, before her thoughts return to her own predicament. The door can only be unlocked by Christian, through a hidden mechanism, his ultimate level of control. She runs her hands along the padded walls, seeking the recess and it slides open, exposing a ten-button keypad. She pushes the buttons frantically but it is no use: the panel glares redly at her. She pulls out her cellphone and screams in anguish as she notices there is no signal.

A thought pops in her mind, like a balloon: Christian did this on purpose. She hammers on the padded door, but the blows sink into plush padded leather and she slides helplessly to the floor, sobbing and crying, panic overwhelming her as she blacks out.

 *

A buzzing noise wakes her. Something is tickling her lip. She brushes it away and the fat bluebottle climbs lazily into the air to join its fellows, circling in an insect halo around Christian’s drooping head. Then, one of them breaks away and disappears up his left nostril. Ana retches, spewing thin bile, convulsing as her stomach empties its meagre contents.  She realises that she has no idea how much time has elapsed. Her cellphone battery has died and the dim light in the room is the same as when she arrived.

Ana’s thoughts spiral in her mind like panicked birds and she fights to regain control of herself. They will check here eventually, she tells herself. All she has to do is survive in a locked room with a dangling body until someone breaks down the door. Then she remembers the most important instruction: Never disturb Mr Grey in the Red Room. Terror rises in her gullet as she picks through the knotty problem and her lips move, giving voice to her frantic thoughts.

“They must think to check here, eventually, they will, they must!” She repeats this over and over again, like a prayer, until her voice dwindles into silence. She looks across to the dangling corpse. Christian’s skin now has a greenish sheen and his once-taut stomach is bloating, black veins spreading forward from his flanks.

Thirst burns her mouth. Ana knows there are recessed cabinets which contain a sink and faucet, and other accessories in addition to the whips and objects hanging from the walls. She runs her hands along the walls, finding the recess. She slides the catch which opens the panel and drinks greedily from the faucet, scooping the water into her mouth with both hands. Hunger pangs grip her stomach and she searches through the drawers beneath the sink unit. She smiles briefly as she finds a tube of chocolate body-paint, an erotic device they have not tried, and now never will. She bursts the top open and squeezes the tube between her lips, gulping down the thick chocolate semi-fluid.

She slumps in exhaustion for a moment, closing her eyes. She opens them again and her gaze fixes on the dangling corpse. She can’t bear to look at it any more, and it hangs in the corner of her vision no matter where she looks. The eyes, those enigmatic grey eyes, are now shrunken in hollowed sockets, bruises spreading beneath the green-tinged flesh. A fly crawls from the right nostril and then she decides she can’t bear the sight of the hanging body any longer.

Ana erects the stepladder and climbs up, level with Christian’s head. She tries not to look as she reaches up and pulls at the knot, but a meaty smell creeps into her nostrils. Sweat stings her eyes as her fingernails pull at the knotted rope, looped through an eyelet in the ceiling, and just as she thinks she can’t take any more, the final strand slips free. The corpse slips to the floor with a hollow thud, gases bursting from the rectum in an explosion of dull flatulence.

She pushes Christian’s body into a far corner of the room, shoving it with her foot time and time again, the reluctant limbs dragging on the floor as the head lolls with every push. She crawls into the opposite corner and sits down, wrapping her arms around her head, calming herself with self-help breathing exercises. But her panicked thoughts take flight once more and her mind teeters on the brink of a mental precipice, on the edge of falling and shattering into a million pieces.

“I must hang on, I must hang on…” she whispers to herself in prayer. “Help will come, help will come….”

An idea sparks in her mind. She darts across to the cabinet and rummages in the drawer, pulling out an unlabelled box. She knows what it contains: non-prescription amyl nitrite, known as poppers to recreational users. She tears open the packet and pulls out a small brown bottle. She crawls back to her corner and turns the safety-cap with slippery hands. She breathes deeply, quickly replacing the top as the rush floods her body and mind. Her heart races as blood surges into her brain, sweeping away the panicked thoughts of earlier. Then darkness floods her mind and the last thing she hears is the bottle falling softly to the floor.

 *

Ana wakes with a start, clinging to the remnants of a dream in which she was stretched out in her own bed. Hunger pangs grip her stomach in a fierce vice, but these flutter away as she looks across at Christian, shoved into the corner like a discarded mannequin. His skin is darker now, mottled, purple-black where the blood has pooled close to the floor. Ana’s eyes slide up his naked body until she realises that his head is facing towards her, the features now puffy with corruption, with purging fluids trickling from nose and mouth. His coppery hair is greasy and his eyes are squeezed shut by swollen flesh, as if in horror. One arm is pointed outwards, rigid, as if in salute, which she realises is rigor mortis.

She drags her glance away from the sight, thoughts flooding back into her mind: what is happening, are people looking for us, how long has it been? Her mouth is dry, so she drinks from the faucet again, trying to ignore the odour of meat that hangs in the air. Her stomach is clenched in a starving knot, and she pulls open all the recessed cabinets in the room, rummaging through the bondage equipment in search of anything edible. She holds her breath as she pulls open the cabinet closest to the corpse, but something surprising lies inside.

“His clothes!” Hope flutters in her heart as she drags the jacket, shirt and trousers out of the recess. The grey-patterned tie falls across the body and she lets it lie there as she shakes out the suit-jacket. Something thuds to the floor: a cell-phone. She picks it up and flips it open, grinning insanely as the display bursts brightly into life. The battery life bar is two-thirds full and there is a date and time: 1845, 14 July. She punches 9-1-1 but the phone does not respond and it takes her a few moments to realise that it is asking for a key-code.

“Fuck!” She just manages to stop herself from throwing the phone down in frustration in case it breaks. She types in numbers:

1-1-1-1,

1-2-3-4,

2-2…

 Ana is halfway through her third guess as the phone unlocks.

“Yes! Yes!” she roars. “One two three four!” She types in 9-1-1 again, and holds the phone to her ear, waiting patiently on it ringing before she is connected to the reassuring voice of an operator.

 But nothing happens.

She checks the display. The signal bar is at zero, without even a flicker of life.

“No!” she screams, throwing the phone to the floor, bursting into tears as the back of the handset breaks away. A thought flashes in her mind: Christian refused to be disturbed when in the Red Room. Ever. Never. Not even by phone.

Another idea flares in her mind and she scrabbles for the battery, searching for her own phone, yelling again in anguish as she tries again and again to vainly force it into the battery slot.

But it doesn’t fit and she screams again, hammering her fists on the matted floor.

After a few moments of sobbing, she fumbles for the batter and jams it back into Grey’s cellphone. She checks the date and time again.

1851, 14 July.

Her mind works backwards and her lips move in calculation: “I’ve been stuck in here for thirty hours. They must be looking for us by now…they must be!” Her finger slides across the display, flicking through the applications, before settling on Grey’s calendar icon. She pops it open and a fortnight’s appointments appear.

14 July: Packing

15 July to 22 July: Surprise Vacation with A, Seychelles, HOLD ALL CALLS

23 July: Board Meeting

24 July: Saudi contract meeting

25 July: Golf with V-P

 The implications flash instantly in her brain. A surprise trip, I never knew about it, they won’t look for him as it’ll be in the calendar, my family don’t know about Christian, I have no friends…

Panic overwhelms her again and she convulses in a sobbing heap, burrowing into the dark refuge of her corner. As the tears subside, she reaches for the brown bottle, in search of the head-rush followed by blessed oblivion.

 *

Ana’s bladder is full. She needs to go to the toilet, and she hates getting up in the middle of the night, almost as much as lying in bed, unable to sleep, needing to urinate. She stirs and stretches and the cold reality hits her as the stench drifts across the room and she feels the dull gnawing of hunger in her belly. She is trapped in a dungeon with a corpse.

Indecision grips her as she looks around the room. Her corner is opposite Christian’s corner and there are two other corners. She decides to squat two-thirds of the way down one of the facing walls, close to the corpse but not too close.  The water takes a while to come, and her eyes are drawn inexorably to Christian’s body. For some reason the sight is more bearable when she is pissing. Her urine burns as it leaves her body, pungent with uric acid, a symptom of dehydration.

The body is dull-green all over, skin shining as it stretches with bloating. There is seepage from the ears and a sticky puddle under the body.

Something wriggles in Christian’s ear, something small and white, barely noticeable other than the movement. It is a maggot, its blind head writing in the dim half-light, and another glistening shape pushes eagerly past it. Revulsion grips Ana’s stomach and she collapses in her own urine, retching but bringing up nothing but bile and bloody coffee-grounds.

She crawls back to her corner. She hammers the walls until her fists are numb and bruised, screaming and screaming until she passes out.

 *

Ana wakes again, shaking with hunger, instantly alert. She casts a panic-stricken glance in the direction of Christian Grey, in expectation of a swarm of white forms writhing towards her. But there is nothing except the foul stench hanging in the air. She thinks she can see wriggling beneath the thick coppery locks of hair and she runs her fingers through her own greasy and tangled hair. Again, there is nothing.

A pang of hunger grips her stomach and a wave of shivering seizes her body. She fumbles for the phone and checks the display.

1443, 15 July.

Fifty hours.

Her mind feels fuzzy with starvation. She glances across at the body, now in full bloat, the line of the ligature obscured by swollen green flesh. Thoughts and images flash in her mind. The taste of wriggling maggots, slithering down her gullet. The sheen of Christian’s upper arm, the darkened skin containing glossy meat, a few mouthfuls to calm the surging pangs consuming her stomach. Saliva floods her mouth and she swallows the sticky fluid which momentarily soothes the raging hunger. Then she vomits again, at the thought of rancid fluid-dripping flesh and the white meat of writhing maggots.

She crawls across to the corpse, shivering with hunger. The smell of putrefying tissue coats her mouth, but her body is too exhausted and depleted to vomit. Christian’s skin is puffy green, dark veins livid against the skin. Maggots are crawling in the bloody fluid that has thickened under the body, in the shadowy places unreached by the light. His ears are full of maggots and bloody tears have crusted in streaks from his squeezed-shut eyelids. His mouth is curled in a half-snarl, bruised lips dragged back by rigor and bloating, a thickened slug of a tongue lolling out like yet another feasting creature.

Tears prick her eyes as she crouches over the body she has tasted so often, and she places her cracked lips against the skin once again. She can taste nothing beyond the thick smell of decay as her teeth dig into the cool skin. There is a slight hint of a salty taste as her mouth encloses the flesh and she bites deeply, but fat and muscle simply slide away under the skin as if avoiding her bite. She pulls away from the teeth-bitten flesh, thinking of other possibilities, the looser flesh on fingers and toes, the soft white maggots like prawns, even the meagre meat of the shrivelled penis, just enough to calm the all-consuming starvation and get her through another sleep, until rescue comes. And then another sleep, and another, and maybe another….

The tie is lying there across the body, its light and dark grey patterns a brief reminder of normality. She seizes it and scrabbles back to her own corner on all fours. There is a gleaming ring-bolt fixed to the nearby wall, about a metre in height above the floor, and she slides the tie through the ring, pulling it tight in a firm knot, with most of the length dangling downwards. She squats underneath the ring and ties a noose with fumbling fingers. She takes a deep breath, slipping the noose around her throat and sliding the knot tight towards the back of her neck.

The brown bottle of amyl nitrite is within arm’s reach. She grabs it and struggles to unscrews the top with a shaking hand. She touches the bottleneck to her cracked lips and inhales the fluid, her head rushing from the fumes, and then she knocks back the pungent liquid, which sears her gullet as it burns its way towards her stomach.  Then, she lets her legs slide forward, gagging as the tie digs into her throat, cutting off the flow of air from her lungs and blood from her brain.

Ana’s feet scrabble frantically on the floormats as her body fights for life. She closes her eyes in a half-haze of sparks flashing in her vision, which fades to grey. Her desperate kicking slows and stops, as life slips from her body, just as the firefighters smash though the doorway and light and air flood in to the chamber…

It was a perfect day. The boys sat on the grass, outside the ivy-clad walls of the chapel, basking in the sunshine.

“Looking forward to Oxford, old boy?” Boris scratched his mop of hair.

“I certainly am,” said David. He was only seventeen but already as bland as a salesman. “How about you?”

“I can’t wait to scuttle those students,” said Boris. “You know, scholarship girls, barmaids, that sort of thing. Not people like us, just for a change. I reckon they’re dirtier.

“Plenty of that sort of stuff in the Bully,” said David.

A bell chimed in the distance, heralding the end of the lunch hour.

“You know what today is?”

“Absolutely,” grinned Boris.

“Swing, swing, together!” they cried in unison. “Floreat!”

The minibus had crawled through the streets of Victoria and Kings Cross for an hour, canvassing likely candidates, but mostly caught in traffic.

“Looking for some dope?” The question sounded strange, coming from an oily-haired and educated man in his thirties, sat behind the wheel of the minbus. “How about some booze? A wee swallae?” He laid on the Scotch accent thick at Kings Cross, which was where he understood they congregated.

Most of the homeless looked suspiciously at the minibus, guided by a sense of self-preservation. But, at the taxi-rank of Kings Cross, one fellow stepped forward. He had an impressively-matted beard and a novelty tartan hat with a shock of fake ginger hair.

“Aye, Sur, dinnae mind if ah dae,” slurred the gentleman.

The passenger door popped open and the driver waved his hand.

“Hop in, old chap. Have a look in the glove compartment.”

The man glared suspiciously at the driver. “Whit dae ye want, likes? Yer cock sucked? Ah’ll tug ye oaf but ah dinnae suck!”

“Just a chat,” said the driver, “and a little drive.”

The vagrant opened the glove compartment as directed. Four cans of Special Brew nestled inside, alongside a bag of dark-green weed and a vial.

“Ya wee beauty!” grinned the passenger, popping open a can.

“I’m George, by the way,” said the driver. What’s your name, chum?”

The vagrant muttered something incomprehensible, as if he had forgotten.

“Why don’t I just call you ‘Jock’?”

The newly-christened Jock grinned beneath his matted beard and popped open a can of super-strength lager.

The minibus made its way from the grimy streets ofLondon, heading for the verdant countryside upstream on the shores of theThames. By the time they got to their destination, the four cans had vanished and the passenger had emptied his bladder on the side of the road between courses.

“Whaur the fuck is this?”

Jock looked around in confusion as the minbus passed through an elaborate set of gates. The walls and buildings were ancient, from an era well beyond Jock’s reckoning, surrounded by manicured lawns and groves of trees.

“Whit’s aw this Robin Hood shite?” He gazed in wonder at the magnificent chapel, weathered stone and glinting stained-glass, shrouded in ivy.

“There’s more beer for you,” said George. “In a little while”

Animal suspicion glinted in Jock’s eyes. “Whit dae ye want?” he growled, in a gravelly voice.

“Just an hour of your time.”

The minibus came to a halt in a gravel yard, in front of a flint-faced wall.

“Here we are.”

George unlocked a heavy wooden door and pushed it open. Inside was a quadrangle, overlooked by upper-floor windows on two sides, open on the other two. He ushered Jock inside.

“Just wait there for a moment,” said George.

Jock glanced around the yard. It was dusty and empty, except for a pile of stakes in the corner overshadowed by the building. Footsteps crunched outside and a row of boys, or rather young men, filed in. They were dressed in long tails and white tie, formal uniform beyond parody. They grinned as they caught sight of Jock in his tartan hat and grimy overcoat. He looked up at the windows. White faces pressed eagerly against the glass.

“Whit the fuck is going oan?”

David and Boris stood in line with the other students, queuing along the wall, grinning at the spectacle of the tramp in the courtyard. Eventually it was their turn and they each picked up a length of wood, with friction tape wrapped round the handle. The wood was splintered, chipped and stained. It would have cost nothing to replace them, but school venerated tradition above all else.

They formed a semi-circle around Jock, sticks in hand. Horror dawned in Jock’s bleary eyes as he sensed the danger.

“Jock here is waiting to oblige you,” said George. “You know what to do, gentlemen.”

Boris raised his stick first, but David was quicker. The blow caught Jock on the side of his astonished face, clawing a spray of blood and teeth in its wake. Boris glanced at David with momentary irritation, just before his own stick smashed into Jock’s shoulder, sending him sprawling to the ground.

“Floreat!” they both cried, nearly in unison.

A foul smell rose from beneath them. Jock had soiled himself. That triggered some sort of primitive urge in the attackers, and a polished shoe lashed out, kicking Jock in the face. Blood splashed over the white spats.

“No kicking,” shouted George. “Remember the rules!”

The sticks flashed in the sunlight as they rose and fell, the cries echoing in the courtyard as the sixth formers waded in with their weapons. The roars of “Floreat!” drowned out Jock’s fading pleas as the repeated blows smashed into his body and skull.

Jock fell onto his back as one swing caught him under his nostrils, tearing away the cartilage of the nose, leaving two gaping holes bubbling beneath a flap of skin. His leg twitched and his shattered mouth frothed for a moment, blood soaking into his bear, then he lay still.

“Floreat!” Boris brought his stick down with all his strength, smashing it into the side of Jock’s blood-matted skull. It cracked like an egg, slumping inward, releasing a flow of blood from his mouth and ears.

David held his stick in both hands, like a spear. “Floreat!” He jabbed the end with a wicked flourish, forcing it onto the eye-socket and, with a couple of wrenches, further into the skull. The leg jerked once more and he pulled the stick free, inspecting the gore and white globules clinging to the end. A further rain of blows broke open the skull, then the sixth-formers poked the shattered body with their sticks, but there was no evidence of life.

George pushed through into the middle of the courtyard, holding a red canister. He poured the contents over the body, the pungent smell of gasoline floating on the summer air.  He put the canister down by the gate and returned to the body, striking a match. Jock flared into life one last time, the whump echoing in the courtyard. Then he turned away, purposefully, to avoid witnessing what had become an unofficial encore.

Boris and David went first, the unspoken leaders of the group. They unbuttoned their trousers and pissed all over the flaming body.

“Floreat!” they cried as their urine steamed in the flames. “Floreat!”

Up above, behind glass, the younger boys watched eagerly. It would be their turn in a few years, carrying on the tradition, the torch passing on. They mouthed the word silently.

“Floreat…”

A Change Is As Good As A Rest

Posted: June 17, 2012 in Horror, Novels
Tags: ,

I found that Magick  ran into the buffers after 20,000 words, when the story started to get ahead of itself.

Another idea has popped up: an ancient cauldron, gateway to the Celtic Otherworld, which wreaks havoc on the Welsh coast. Cauldron is getting on for 5,000 words, mainly the “backstory” of the artefact, set around the time of AD60. This involved quite a bit of research of Roman and Celtic history and legend and this part of the novel will be split up and interweaved with the main narrative, with links between past and present.

As well as Cauldron, I’ve knocked up a short story called “Jolly Beating Weather” about two public schoolboys called Boris and David beating a tramp to death during the last term at School, as part of an organised ritual event. That was good fun to write.

Now it’s back to Magick. I started to piece together the intervening chronology of the ritual, which will sit within the main narrative (perhaps with a nudge from Cauldron, doing the same thing for that). This has involved quite a bit of reading, including Crowley’s book on “Magick in Theory and Practice”. The highlight has been discovering the analysis of some nursery rhymes in terms of their ritual meaning! I’ll post these up some other time as they deserve a closer look.

So, as they say, a change is as good as a rest.

Cauldron

Posted: June 9, 2012 in Horror, Novels
Tags: , ,

Okay, a story idea popped into my head. Here is the blurb:

AD75… the Romans are ready to crush the Druids at Ynys Mon in Wales. Led by Agricola, they are tasked with the search for a mysterious object, the Cauldron of Annwn, the mythical gateway to the Underworld. The cauldron is later lost at sea, as a vessel founders in the crashing waves.

 Two thousand years later… a father and son travel to the Welsh coastal village of Little Harbour in search of tranquillity after a family breakup. They stumble upon an unfolding disaster, with a series of deaths and unsettling events as the fog-bank creeps closer to the shoreline.

 What happens when the Cauldron is disturbed and the dead rise from the sea?

This is interesting for a number of reasons.

The setting is inspired by holidays in Wales and a longstanding desire to write something based on Celtic myth, set by the sea, in the picturesque village of Little Haven in Pembrokeshire.

There are a number of inspirations for the story… the 2000AD “Slaine” strip, which is a thoroughly-researched and lavishly illustrated graphic novel; the Arthurian trilogy (starting with “The Winter King”)  written by Bernard Cornwell; a visit to the awesome Macha’s Fort near Armagh; my own story “King for A Day” inspired by the Wicker Man.

I looked upon the characters as a creative writing exercise. I chose the protagonists and supporting characters using lists of “who” and “what” and “why”. The antagonists have to be defined in terms of “who” but the “why” is – at this moment – a desire to obtain the Cauldron.

PROTAGONISTS

Who: Father and Son

What: The two principal characters, told through their POVs

Why: Coincidence: holiday retreat, relationship bonding, outdoors sports

SUPPORTING

Who: Daughter, Mother, Grandmother

What: Owner and staff of the Schooner pub, with an associated mystery

Why: (SPOILER) Watchers of the Cauldron, guardians, Triple Goddess manifestation

ANTAGONISTS

Who: ???

What: Treasure-hunters, rich patron

Why: seeking powerful artefacts, specific knowledge of Cauldron (?)

I might change the antagonists’ motivation. At the moment I prefer the idea of the antagonist knowing the risks involved. However, it may be better to have an unwitting antagonist – perhaps a developer looking to install an energy-generating wave barrage, a ruthless and unpleasant character. This is a back-pocket option as I prefer the greater scope for ruthlessness that a treasure-hunter offers.

There is also the all-important category of “red jumpers” – called after the Star Trek characters who always end up dead! The expert of this must be James Herbert, who lavishes great attention on the supporting characters who end up dead in a half-dozen pages.

Then there is the plot. This is a fairly simple conflict: an ancient phenomenon is disturbed, releasing danger, and the balance must be restored. This will involve an element of back-story set in AD75. The plot’s conflict will be resolved by restoring the cauldron to Angelsey, through the resolution of a series of sub-conflicts, relating in some way to the back-story. There are thirty-six dramatic situations to choose from, according to Georges Polti and Carlo Gozzi.

Now it’s getting a bit boring and technical! I’ll have a bash at this, try and get to 10,000 or 20,000 words. This sits alongside “MAGICK” which is still very much in hand, but which really needs a Loch Ness visit to allow a first rewrite of the first section and development of the second section. Plus all the other ideas that need some work, rather than springing magically from brain to page.

This is a bit of an engine-room post for writery types and horror fans.

Fuelled with enthusiasm, at reaching 20,000 words and Night 2 in the House, I knocked out 1,000 words.

However, I hit a brick wall. Not “writers block” (which does not exist, in my opinion, just go and write something else) but one of those holes in the wrong place, in which you need to stop digging.

I’ve jumped forward a night. To cut a long(ish) story short, the nervous friends have decided to share a bedroom on Night 2. They doze off and two of them have erotic dreams, waking to find themselves naked with each other. After recovering from the shock, the trio decide to take turns at staying awake.

However, the shadow of a piglike creature appears outside, legs silhouetted through the gap at the bottom of the door, scraping the floor, grunting, growing bigger, smashing itself against the door. The three friends escape through the window, just as the beast breaks through. They are chased by a hellish hound and witness the spectacle of Leviathan rising from Loch Ness, encountering their decaying lost friend as they ponder escaping through the woods. They creep around the hillside, but see the shape of Baphomet atop the crest of the hill. So they decide to creep back down the hillside, avoiding dog and walking corpse, ending up… err… back at the house they ran away from. I chucked in a cheap plot device about the door hanging open with the pig-demon clearly absent, but it just does not work in my head.

I like it, but it does not work! It is Night 3 stuff. On Night 2, the horrors are still veiled or possible brief hallucinations. They need to stay in the house, and other stuff needs to happen.

So, it is time to step back from the page, and look at this in different ways. I think I need to reorder the chapters again, using the degrees (1=10 etc) for the present day happenings and working in the historical elements slightly differently. They need a trip to the graveyard to liven up the first bit of the story. I need to re-read Jake Arnott’s “The Devil’s Paintbrush” to renew my sense of Crowley’s character and turn-of-the-century Paris. I need to start working in the four elements of the ritual. Time to put the Night 3 stuff to one side, at least for the moment.

Magick – 20,000 words.

Posted: May 28, 2012 in Horror, Novels
Tags: , ,

Plenty is going on at the moment, and I’ve broken the 20,000 mark. That’s getting towards novel territory (50,000 plus, more like 80,000).

The book has been reorganised into eleven chapters. These follow the typical magical order grades, 0=0 , 1=10, 2=9, etc.

0=0: we have the foreshadowing of what is to come, with a death in a Hastings nursing home in 1947, and an unwise student prank in the 1990s.

1=10: In 1745, Redcoats burn down a church… two hundred and fifty years later, four friends travel to the same location, Boleskine, for a reunion weekend, effectively isolated for three nights until the bus service resumes on the Monday. Strange things begin to happen… a costume with a mind of its own, a stag’s head that takes the form of a freshly decapitated pig’s head, and an oven full of skulls and bones.

2=9: In 1899, one Aleister Crowley makes the owner of Boleskine an offer he can’t refuse, helped by a mysterious death and a severed head. In the present, one of the party has had enough of the mysterious manifestations and departs, to meet a gory end on the shores of Loch Ness. He turns up later, knocking at the bedroom window with sodden and sloughing knuckles as his friend cowers in bed with a pillow over his head. Strange dreams follow but, other than that, the three friends have an undisturbed first night.

3=8: In 1961, a conman builds a piggery at Boleskine, as part of a bigger scam aimed at the Board of Trade. It goes horribly wrong. In the present, the three remaining friends take a trip up the mist-shrouded hillside. They come across a herd of goats and flee from a sinister horned figure. Shaken (and one of them bitten) they walk down to the village and have another terrifying encounter when they think they see their friend near Loch Ness. Tensions grow between the friends as they try and make sense of their situation.

4=7: In 1950, a haunted Army officer shoots himself. His spirit remains in the present day, along with the ghosts that drove him to his doom. The three friends decide to spend the second night in the same room for safety and comfort, with only one further night to go until the bus service resumes. Bizarre dreams force two of them from sleep and a strange creatures snuffles at the door, growing to bestial size, breaking through the door in a blast of heat as the three friends clamber out through a window.

5=6: In 1900, the butcher’s boy calls at Boleskine. Diverted from the Ritual of Abramelin,  the Laird of Boleskine (Crowley) scribbles his order on a torn scrap of paper, which also bears the name of Beel’zebub, an insect manifestation of Belial. The butcher reads the order and is distracted by creeping shadows and swarming flies… his cleaver slips as the side of pork twitches on the block and he cuts off his hand, bleeding to death. The present day events are yet to unfold…

Effectively, this is five chapters out of eleven (the butcher section is quite short). The second night of terror is about to begin… then there will be the climactic third night. It’s proving surprisingly easy to weave in horrors at most points of the story. I think the challenge will be balancing the horror element with other aspects of the story, and ensuring an escalation of tension rather than a series of scary events. I know how it ends and I know roughly how the third night unfolds. The events of 1900 also become clearer, with four episodes of Crowley’s invocations (he invoked demons to gain power over them via his guardian angel) and also the disastrous interruption of the ritual.

So, it’s getting there! I reckon 50,000 words for a first rough draft. Then it’s back to the start, to colour in the bits I’ve missed. A field trip to Boleskine will be essential (I’ve only ever seen it from the other side of the loch) but it must be stressed that “normal people” live there now.

There is another element, a celebrity element, that I’ve been asked about. The Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page bought the place in the early 70s, apparently restoring it to the way it was in Crowley’s era. Does this feature in the novel? The answer is “no” for a number of reasons: it would unbalance what is a work of horror fiction, and I think this element is largely overblown anyway. Page never really lived there (a friend of his lived there and looked after the place) and his interest in the occult tends to be sensationalised… by comparison, both WB Yeats and Bram Stoker (among other literary names) were active members of the Order of the Golden Dawn, somewhat more than an acknowledged interest, which passes largely without comment.

Incidentally, Yeats’s ritual books are online, thanks to the National Library of Ireland: http://www.nli.ie/yeats/main.html

I think mysticism and the occult was a bit more “innocent” in those days, and it became notorious through Crowley’s lifestyle and enjoyment of notoriety. This led in turn to the Dennis Wheatley black magic novels, the Hammer Horror films and the rock music of bands like Black Sabbath and successors, all in a tradition which stretches back many centuries in art and folklore. People love being scared, and the occult is one of the scariest things.

This has gone on a bit longer than I intended, but the wider issue of the occult in the arts and society is quite interesting.

Magick – 14,000 words

Posted: May 23, 2012 in Horror, Novels
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The novel is now 14,000 words. To celebrate, I’ve designed another image.

In the latest developments, Redcoats burn down a church in 1745, a piggery scam goes wrong in 1961, a haunted Army officer shoots himself in 1950 and Mr Crowley makes a property purchase offer that simply cannot be refused in 1899. The same Mr Crowley attempts to summon his guardian angel a few years afterwards, in a demonic ritual that goes horribly wrong.

Some students burn a Bible in front of a pig’s head in 1992, and this all comes together in the present day, when the same friends gather for a reunion at Boleskine House.

Now, what about the gory bits?

A severed head, thumping to the floor in the middle of the night. A goat’s head, spraying blood as it tries to speak. A Leviathan rising from Loch Ness and a hidden pyramid-city. A man dragged to his watery death by the dead who hide beneath the waters.  An Aga filled with scorched skulls and bones. A ritual mask chokes the person who foolishly tries it on. A hike up a hillside that turns into a fogbound encounter with a herd of goats and a shadowy horned figure looming out of the mist. A man shoots himself in the head with a shotgun and his pet dog picks up one of the morsels. Mercenary Redcoats set fire to a church full of screaming people. Dead knuckles knock on a bedroom window in the middle of the night, leaving streaks of loch-water and sloughing flesh. Pigs run amok in a mad frenzy, chanting gibberish as they savage a policeman and a vet.

I’m trying to make this the most terrifying horror novel ever! Only 20% of the way there, as well… there’s a lot more to come yet, two more nights of terror. I’ll aim for 20,000 words by Monday 28th May, which is getting to the critical mass point of a viable novel-in-progress.

Magick – 10,000 words

Posted: May 21, 2012 in Horror, Novels

Magick is now at 3 chapters and 10,000 words.

The book is coming together as a story, or rather as three stories:

– the story of Boleskine House, which has a sinister history dating from the Jacobite Rebellions

– the story of occultist Aleister Crowley and his Abramelin Ritual, interrupted with dire consequences

– the story of four friends who arrange a weekend in Boleskine House, tempted by its macabre reputation

This is a work of fiction, but much of it is drawn from what we would now call “stuff on the internet”. There are many biographies of Crowley and most of these focus on either his notoriety or the idea that he was a misunderstood genius. The truth is undoubtedly somewhere between these two extremes and, although a free-spirited, artistic and charismatic intellectual, he did revel in his diabolical reputation and indulge a sexual appetite probably unparalleled in history.

Those studies which take his occult interests seriously tend to conclude that something went horribly wrong at Boleskine, following a well-intentioned attempt to summon a guardian angel, which summoned things far worse and tainted his life thereafter.  This is the perspective that it suits this novel to take.

The history of Boleskine is dark and compelling – a church burning down with its congregation, Highland feuds dating from the Jacobite Risings, ghostly severed heads, gruesome suicides and accidents. The place has become a character in this book, rather than simply a setting.

However, one part of Boleskine’s history this book doesn’t really touch upon is its ownership by legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. He bought the place in 1971 and restored it (in Crowleyesque style) but didn’t seem to spend much time there, leaving it in the hands of a friend.  Since Page sold the place in the early 90s, normal people apparently live there, and this story leaves them (hopefully) untroubled.

Having said that, I’m intrigued by a rumour  that some criminals tried to raid the place in the 1980s, attracted by its world-famous owner… they were never seen again. Or so it says, on the internet, which is good enough for me.

Magick – Chapter Three

Posted: May 19, 2012 in Horror, Novels
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Chapter Three is taking shape very quickly. This is when the true horror becomes apparent.. we’ve been seeing events mainly through the eyes of Matthew, one of the friends, who doubts what he is seeing.

The backstory of Boleskine House is woven into the book from now on, beginning with its purchase in 1899… basically, an offer the owner couldn’t refuse! There are interesting stories surrounding the place, apparently pre-dating the Crowley purchase, dating back to the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745 and Highland feuding. Another story involves a butcher losing his fingers, and there is the infamous Floating Head… coincidentally, a member of the Lovat family, the local clan, was the last person executed by beheading in the Tower of London, a place rife with ghostly myth.

I’m inserting a fake newspaper article at the start with the headline “three men missing” to set the context… I’m interested in feedback: is this foreshadowing, adding authenticity, or giving too much away?

I may need a short break from this novel in a week or so. It’s either back to Edgetown, an urban horror novella, or a few short stories… I have one in hand about a ventriloquist’s dummy which goes berserk.  Still very keen on the Japan Hokusai story, plus a literary novel looking at the manipulative nature of modern society, but you have to go with what you have in your mind at the time!