One wall full of knives, another full of guns; Sam tentatively reached out to a silver pistol, that had took his interest, and-
Sam swung round to greet the figure who had, obviously, opened the study’s door very, very quietly.
‘I’m Sam, the reporter who… you must be Mr… Dean?’
Sam scrambled for words for which he felt more confident about, when writing them on paper or keying them into a lap-top.
‘I’m Dean, yes.’ He smiled. ‘You’re a gun fan?’
‘God, no. Hate them, hate them. I mean…’ Now, in Sam’s head the story was fucked and there was no way back. Grab Lydia from the front room and get gone, and try to keep the mouth almighty shut in the meantime.
Dean stared at the speech mangling journo.
‘Don’t worry. Many people don’t like guns. Probably have good reason too- in the wrong hands… and all that.’
Dean backed up to the open door and placed his arm out to invite Sam into the other room.
‘Shall we start the interview?’
Sam uttered not and took Dean’s offer as a fresh start.
Lydia was eyeing up a series of Rorschach inkblots upon the front room’s wall. ‘These are fascinating, but is it me, do they all look like…?’
‘Lydia,’ Sam almost panted, ‘shall we get to it.’
Dean made himself comfortable in an Edwardian-era chair.
‘Well then…fire away.’ Dean winked at Sam.
Sam started to feel calmer, this was his second story for ‘Enquiring @The Edge’ Magazine, but this one was the biggie and he was beginning to feel the pressure. Silly really but Sam’s nerves always kicked in at the wrong time. And the right time. Actually, any time.
‘So, Mr Dean you are a collector of urban legends, modern myths as it were, when did this interest start?’ Sam’s confidence was building incrementally, and his damp brow started to feel less so.
‘Well, first I’m actually a doctor of science. I have doctorates and PhD’s in many fields including ontology, cryptozoology and demonology.’
Lydia turned away and smirked.
Sam tried to show no reaction but he heard someone say ‘oh!’ and then he realised it was him.
‘Does that shock?
Sam shook his head in a state of confusion, nether agreeing nor disagreeing. ‘Well it’s just that our story is about your work as a story-teller and collector of tales, not the fact they could be…’
Sam turned to Lydia, who had got up and started to wander; she took in the ink blots on the wall again, so Dean couldn’t see the smile plastered on her face that she just couldn’t shake off.
‘So- what if I had proof, proof of things that are ‘other’, things that can’t be explained? In my den, my collection is not just of aesthetic value, but also evidentially.’
Sam stared at his notes, and then ignored what he’d prepared, working on instinct. ‘So in the back room-there are many weapons can you tell me- is that another collection or are they actually used?’
‘Why do you ask? You know the answer.’
Lydia was checking the room for the best angle for a photo, a view to get the whole gothic ambience in, when Dean’s question peeked her curiosity.
‘What? What does that mean?’
Sam blinked feverishly at Lydia.
‘Sam? Are you..?’ She winced.
Sam breathed in heavily for luck. ‘Because there is no dust upon the guns, unlike the rest of the room; so… You either polish them obsessively or…’
‘Or..?’ Dean’s eyes widened.
‘They are in constant use.’
And with that he brought a pistol up from his dressing gown pocket and pulled back the hammer.
‘What is going on here?’ Now Lydia joined in with Sam’s nerves.
Mr Dean’s eyes deadlocked on Lydia’s. ‘Sam’s not here to report on my collection, he’s here to finish it.’
And with these words, Dean got up from his chair and stood by the blood red curtains opposite him.
‘Yes, Sam, time to show your friend, partner, lover who you really are!’
Lydia grabbed her head in confusion and panic- ‘How the hell do you know all about us?’
Dean opened a single curtain with one quick, dramatic flourish, like a Phantom at an Opera, to show a perfectly round, glowing full moon.
‘Your sweating and strange disposition has nothing to do with nerves but what you are inside- what’s trying to get out!’
‘What are you talking about?’ screamed Sam, as the backs of his hands started to blister till they bled and his lips went into spasm.
Dean cocked his head to the side, in great curiosity. ‘Oh- don’t tell me you don’t know? You don’t know what you are? Oh, how delicious, you must wake in the most ludicrous situations with nothing but blood and guilt.’
Sam stood from his chair and begged at Dean, ‘What do you know about me? Can you help?’ His neck started to incrementally lengthen and he opened his mouth to let out an unholy scream but instead a wolf’s snout came through, not stopping until Sam’s flesh ripped in two and the remnants of his skin- like an abandoned suit- hit the floor.
Without a thought Dean aimed at the beast and shot through its heart with an easy aim. He moved swiftly to it, as it slumped, twitching upon his expensively carpeted floor. From beneath his a gown he uncovered a pure silver blade- crescent shaped- and with a swift cleave he took off the creature’s head.
Lydia stood in silence, mouth a gape, almost fearful to make any kind of noise or speak. Dean stood up, triumphant, holding the wolf’s head in one hand and the gun in the other.
‘What did I say,’ Dean snorted with laughter, ‘these things exist, but no-one would believe me. That’s why my den’s collection stays a private one… for now.’
‘C-c-c-ollection? What….?’ All Lydia could manage was a stammer and half a question- not much for a person’s final words.
He dismissively shot Lydia dead, and walked to the back of the room. In front of him lay a wall of books, he pulled out a tome named ‘The Urban Dead: Myths, Legends and their Reality,’ and the wall opened inwards, like a huge door. Lights ahead lit up, one by one, like an airport runway coming to life. The room was the length of two garages, and as he walked along admiring his life’s work, the wall panels were aesthetically busy with bizarre and peculiar objet d’art.
-A bloodied hook for a hand.
-Gleaming white fangs beneath a German film poster.
-A foetus in a jar, its cyclopean eye glaring out at nothing in particular.
– A leather-bound manuscript with the word ‘Franken’ scrawled upon it.
– Photos of a thin, slender-man in a children’s playground.
-A green haired clown’s mask encrusted in blood.
– A doll- like figure with fairy wings pinned up like a collected butterfly.
And then space for his latest acquisition. He placed the hairy head on a nearby table and rubbed his hands together, enjoying the oily feel of the blood that covered them. With his fingers in V’s, he spread ruby red camouflage beneath his eyes, never taking his sight off the severed creature.
He winked at it, almost expecting a response.
‘I’ll huff and I’ll puff… and I’ll blow your house down.’ He let the words echo, and then linger for a moment, before confidently stating to his room of dead freaks:
‘And so continues the hunt.’
It was so dark, so very dark and the carriage could do nothing, but push against the storm, as it lugged its way up the deserted, country road…
‘Shit, shit, shit, I’m over describing, over compensating-’ Stephen squeezed his eyes together before the outburst ‘- because I have no fuckin’ idea where I’m going with this story!’
Tick, tick, tick- two days till deadline.
Meet Stephen Fulcher, Horror Impresario, creator of the ‘The Rattling Bones’ series of books, that have been made into a billion dollar movie franchise, action figures, comics, jewellery, toiletries. At the time he signed the contract he whimsically pronounced: ’Who’d want to wipe their arse on a disembodied corpse?’ but here he is a millionaire writer; or more specifically a burn out millionaire writer, in his penthouse suite, in front of one and a half thousand pounds of technology with absolutely no ideas for a three page short story.
‘It was so very dark? What is this shit? Where am I going with it? And why am I banging my head on my desk? Will that help with the blood flow? Maybe give me an idea or two?’
Remembering his agent’s words “it has to be violent, gory and offensive- pure Stephen Fulcher,” he stood up in temper as if he was going to a running jump out of the window.
‘What does that even mean? Pure… me? Can I not write about love, laying in fields of buttercups, young sexual folly and what it means to be alive, instead of… well…. dead?’
Stephen smirked at such a story being submitted to an anthology titled- Wake The Dead and Kill Them Again.
‘Faye, my already rather pissed off agent, wouldn’t see the funny side at all.’ Then a knock at the door- firm and repetitive- broke his concentration.
Stephen looked at his watch- 12:01 a.m.
Tick, tick, tick- one day till deadline.
‘What the- must be one of the other residents wanting some such nonsense.’
He opened the door to a tall, thin man dressed all in black, finished ever so smartly with a top hat and cane.
‘Hello? Can I help you,’ Stephen croaked. (Damn Marlboro-gotta quit, gotta quit.)
The man smiled. It was warm, trustworthy, that of a favourite uncle from your childhood. Stephen didn’t like it, or him, one little bit.
‘Howdy-doo? My name is Mr Aloysius Smart and I’ve heard you’re having a bit of a problem.’
‘I’m sorry? Are you the building’s handy man or something?’
‘No, no- although I am handy to have around, y’see, I’m an ideas man and I’ve heard you’re in need of my help.’ The way Mr Smart spoke was rhythmic; the words seemed to dance upon his tongue, and he let them out with great relish.
‘Oh,’ a bemused Stephen replied.
And with that the stranger sauntered into the apartment.
Stephen threw his hands in the air. ‘Excuse me but what the f—‘
‘Mr Fulcher-I know you’re trying to get a story finished and you now have one day to do it in. So I’m here to help you complete the task. It’s all quite simple and straightforward.’
Stephen clicked the fingers on both of his hands in a playful rhythm.
‘Ah! Faye sent you. I spoke to her earlier but she didn’t mention- fuck- who am I to question some help.’
Mr Smart placed his hat and cane upon the sofa, grabbed a stool from the open kitchen and sat himself next to Stephen’s old wooden chair at the computer.
‘C’mon, Mr Fulcher, you only have my services till dusk, so shall we…?’
Stephen stared at the blank, whiteness of the open document.
‘I came not a moment too soon then.’
Without looking at anything but his own nimble fingers on the keyboard, Mr Aloysius Smart tapped with delicate speed as if he was reciting a concerto beamed from another place, and he was a mere lightning rod there to channel what had already been divinely decided on. When he finished he let out a short gasp like he had surprised himself with the speed or content of the document.
‘There Mr Fulcher, I’m sure that will suffice.’
Stephen sat and read Smart’s words. At first he smiled, then grimaced, then his eyes fell into thin slits as if he was having trouble with the size of the typeface. Then he turned his head slowly to the window overlooking the city. He did so with a kind of hesitation- no- like he was having trouble with his neck muscles working correctly and…
‘What’s the matter?’ asked Mr Smart calmly and, softly to the ear, but with an insincere kindness that hid trouble.
‘I…’ Stephen began.
Then a trickle of blood, like a black tear, started from his left eye taking a quick path down his face and dropping onto the clean, sheer white collar of his shirt. This seemed- if anyone was to view this situation in retrospect- like a warning of what was to come, as the floodgates (as it were) were now open and blood rushed unrelentingly from his eye sockets. The blood, with its force, pushed out his eyes and they made a literal POP POP sound , and that was when Stephen decided on his inevitable outburst.
‘Agghh! For God’s sake, no, no what have you written?’
Mr Aloysius Smart picked up his cane and hat, put the former under his arm and the latter upon his head and tutted.
‘Oh Mr Fulcher, what did I tell you? I’m an ideas man; so, what you get from me are ideas, but I didn’t say they were always going to be good ideas.’
Stephen went into spasm and fell off his chair clutching his stomach. He heaved and black bile started to leave his mouth.
‘Oh dear, it seems you have also soiled yourself. That just will not do.’
Smart looked around the room with nothing but a slight curiosity.
‘Oh, I nearly forgot.’
He made himself comfortable before the computer and typed up another storm, with five minutes he was done and hit the final key with a theatrical flourish to celebrate.
‘There we go-Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,’ he slyly grinned, ‘I’m not letting one lousy critic, like you Mr Fulcher, be the only one to judge my work- let’s see what everyone else thinks of it.’
He switched the screen off and breathed out in triumph, as if he had shut a rather good book on a final fulfilling denouement.
The dead body of Stephen lay curled up like a dry, old twig upon his bloodied carpet.
‘Toodle-pip, Mr Fulcher. I’ll show myself out.’
Mr Smart slipped out of the front door and made his way down the hallway. As he walked, in grotesque stereo and with gruesome synchronicity: screams, hollers and animal-like yelps emanated from behind the many closed doors. As he hit the elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor, he bumped his cane repeatedly with excitement, upon the lift floor.
‘Well if everyone liked that, wait till they see my next idea.’
The doors closed slowly, as did Mr Smart’s eyes as he smiled wistfully to himself.
—————————————————————————————————————————————————————JJ Breech is the Curator/ Editor/ OversEEr of bizarrEEye Creative Community. He writes @ the UNSEEN & the OBSCENE blog (amongst other places) and has had an interest in Horror and the Fantastique from an early age, when he saw An American Werewolf In London, and realised that’s exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up!
Udo sat at the counter in Samovar, making his liquorice tea last just that bit longer. No sign of jobs on the sites he’d been scoping, and his positivity was wearing thin. Which was another reason Samovar was his favourite hangout. The music was chosen by an algorithm that selected tunes for their upbeat elements. Karl was sniffy about that, but he was sniffy about a lot of stuff.
And yes, Udo knew Karl was paying more than half the rent for the fourth month in a row, but Karl had always earned more. Sometimes Udo felt Karl treated him like a servant, expecting things to be just so when he came home.
Actually, if he was a servant, Udo would probably be bringing in as much as Karl. With bots increasingly visible, there’d been a revival in personal service roles for humans supporting quality of life for the truly wealthy.
Jan called. “Got you an interview for a hotel receptionist job at two. Finish your tea, have a shave, shine your shoes. I’ve sent you the route. You’ll need to leave by one fifteen. Good luck.” His sister had positivity enough for them both, no need for algorithms.
Coming back from the hotel, Udo pondered what he was going to do next. He didn’t look his age, but when he was calibrated by HR his responses were found to be on the downward slope of the bell curve. Never mind the appreciative references he’d received from nearly a dozen employers – what counted was neural responsiveness.
Udo dwelt on this for a while more as he walked through the city, in the process nearly walking in front of a taxi. That only confirmed the problem, and pointed to the solution.
“We prefer not to think of it as a loan. It’s more – an investment in your future.”
“Which entitles you to 10% of my future earnings.”
“People opting for Axiom wafers boost their income by an average of 17 % in the first 12 months after insertion. Think of it as a way of paying in instalments.”
“For the rest of my life.”
“Your working life.”
“Whatever,” Udo’s mouth was dry. ”The…procedure?”
“The wafer can be fitted in about 90 minutes.”
“It says there’s an overnight stay.”
“Matching your neurology takes a while. Think of it like wearing contact lenses for the first time.”
“A lot less easy to lose, sewn into my head.”
The consultant’s smile was glassy.
Like Karl said people with a wafer looked.
Less like contact lenses, not that Udo ever used them, than…what, exactly? As soon as he considered it, three analogies popped into Udo’s mind:
Like wearing new shoes.
Like driving a new car.
Like getting an upgrade.
Would that have happened before, or was he being too self-conscious?
He recalled no dreams from the sleep that he woke from next morning.
As long as he had all the steaks printing by 5, giving them time to settle before cooking, Udo was confident that he could get through a shift. Restaurant management was a new role, but it drew on all the other work Udo had done, and he guessed the wafer had something to do with it, if only getting him through the door for an interview in the first place.
The way Udo figured it, the wafer was a placebo. It made other people look at him in a new light, for evidence of his enhanced capabilities. And that could only help him feel better about himself, in turn.
Karl had been an ass about it at first, but even he had been won round, saying Udo was taking better care of himself and the apartment now.
Udo woke around 3am, a happy tune running through his mind. So why was his mouth dry, his heart racing?
There was a kind of whirring in his head. And a soothing voice, urging him to get back to sleep.
When Udo awoke properly, he launched out of bed and into the bathroom with a vigour that surprised him.
“In six months, I increased turnover by nearly a quarter by paying attention to what competitors were doing, promotional campaigns with local businesses, and doing targeted offers for existing diners.”
“You’ve got no history of entrepreneurial ventures.”
Udo smiled. “I’ve been biding my time. Learning my lessons in different sectors, putting together what I’ve learned now that I’ve got a concept that consolidates what I’ve learned running the restaurant, in combination with the other service jobs I’ve done. You’ll find all the figures add up, and I’ve identified the key team members I need.”
“It’s an impressive proposition. And historically, some of our strongest investments have come from people who’ve started later in life.”
“One of the reasons I came to you,” said Udo. That smile again.
“I hardly see you any more,” said Karl.
“Why not be happy for me?”
“I’m happy you’ve got something of your own.”
“You don’t look happy,” said Udo.
“I don’t know how much is you, and how much is the wafer.”
“So I’m just the hardware for the wafer to work in.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“It’s not like it was.”
“I’m paying my bills, I have something to focus on. Something for both of us.”
“Both of us meaning you and me, or you and the Axiom Corporation?”
So that, thought Udo, was what the end of a relationship sounded like.
He felt desolate, but a picture in his mind presented a better, pixelated, future.
There’d be another time for remorse, if he wanted to bother with it.
Time now to have a look at the first month’s figures, plan marketing for the next quarter. And there it was, just steps away: Caffarsis. His favourite hangout. The bell rang as he opened the door, and ordered a latte.
Adrian Reynolds is a scriptwriter who loves working on genre projects. His short sf film White Lily is in post-production, and online sf comic Dadtown is set to launch in July. To find out more, see about.me/adrianreynolds
It lay on the floor, in thousands of pieces, a shattered symbol of people’s faith in me. And I watched it, staring for hours, hoping the drugs wouldn’t distract my attention, or cause my mind to dream up blurred visions that would confuse me. As I watched the clay pot, staring intently for hours, a lump of guilt built inside of me, as piece by piece, the pot reassembled itself, and inch by inch, drop by drop, I was filled with the faith others have shown in me.
Being a creator is scary. One can’t comprehend how it’s done, as one doesn’t want to become aware of the process, of all the tiny wheels and cogs, their alignment and relationship with one another, or see the blueprint of the mind; because once someone sees the blueprint of the mind, it crumbles away, your awareness of the part of the universe least discovered by yourself will kill you. It’s like fumbling in a darkened garage for a screwdriver, but realising that the whole point is not to find the screwdriver, it’s to fumble around, discover other objects, put them down, rearrange everything, and then one day you might find the screwdriver – but that’s not the point. Whatever you do, don’t turn the light on.
I had no idea how I came to be like this, in an old, weathered terrace, red bricked and tired, housing my creations in it. The lives of those next to me seemed so crushingly plain and unexciting, and frightening, but most of all, alluring. I knew I needed normality, some mundane responsibility to ground me, but it never seemed to come. How old am I? I have no fucking idea, absolutely no idea whatsoever. Maybe forty, fifty, or even twenty. I can’t remember. Nothing in this shell bears any mark of time, no comparisons can be made, no calculations carried out to determine how old this bag of bones is. But that’s not the point. But what was the point? I needed to reach a level, find a place whereby I was unaffected by the world around me, find a place in which I could create my masterpiece, the one that would let me go, the one which I could sell to an art collector for millions, retire and rejoin the real world after so many years. I needed to find a place in which nothing touched me. Nothing at all.
The creating happened when it needed to happen, and it came in every form. I am a painter, a sculptor, and a writer – although I haven’t written for a while. The problem with my painting and sculpting is the fact that with such acts of creation, came the need for my inner self to balance the world I was living in. In the heightened ecstasy of creation, came the desire to destroy, to undo and to reset everything so the process could be started over again. I have no idea how many paintings I’ve painted, but there aren’t many left to show now. Most of them have been destroyed, by myself, in fits of the most violent temper. Burnt, on a fire, whilst I wept sorrowfully beside them, wishing I could undo what I had done, but realising, that by this very process, I was undoing what I had already done. The world didn’t deserve my creations, and with my temper, came a worldly responsibility which compelled me to relieve us all of my hideous creations.
But there was something which stood out, something I had never destroyed, and never could. It wasn’t made by me, but it was affected by me. My son made it, years ago, the son I never saw anymore, and fleeting reminders raced through my mind: blurred pictures, muffled voices, echoing and drowning each other out, making it impossible to manifest a figure or a voice in my head, to remember what he looked like. That was my guilt. It was something I could never destroy, because my son made it because he had faith in me. Why? Again, like with most things, I had no idea.
The gift was a small clay pot. It wasn’t atheistically beautiful, or particularly well made, it wouldn’t have ticked the boxes those retards who call themselves art critics. It did its job, like all art should – it moved me. It made me feel something different, an emotion which dripped bright sky blues into the inky reddy-brown of my world, drop by drop, the colours would change and everything would become lighter and more beautiful. It made me feel like nothing touched me.
I can’t remember the last time I ate, or the last time I drank or the last time I slept.
The fury came over me again. It came from the back of my head and rushed forwards, drowning my consciousness with rage. I tried to fight it, I tried to reason with it, but it made me feel so furious. It came all because when I picked up my cup of tea the glass coaster was stuck to the underneath, and before I could catch it, it peeled off, crashed down and shattered on my perfectly clean floor. It fucking shattered everywhere. I could have remained calm, and brushed the pieces up, but I didn’t. I threw everything near me at the walls, I grabbed the side table and turned it over, I frisbeed my only remaining glass coaster into the television, spiking the glass and sending a delightful spiders web across the screen. I tried to fight it but I couldn’t. Next, I found my hammer. And then it all really started happening. My latest sculpture, the bust of Orwell, something I had been working on for months, my greatest work to date, met my hammer and blow by blow, it was reduced to crumbles of marble on my carpet. A nose lay here, an ear there. It was horrific. The tears welled, and I crashed to my knees. Exhausted, I crawled through the splinters of glass and marble, cracks of the TV glass delicately filling the air. I gasped for breath, for some sort of explanation; it took me five minutes to breathe. It wasn’t long before the comprehension of my actions hit me, and sure enough, as it always happened, the rage filled me in seconds again.
I found it and held it, for the last few seconds, this old, clay pot with it’s badly carved inscription, “I believe in you”, and I savoured it, knowing I wouldn’t be able to resist. And then I hurled it against the wall.
The next morning, I left the house for the first time in months. It was windy and there was a chance of rain, but the cobwebs, thick and sticky, couldn’t cling to the rafters of my mind. I didn’t need to comprehend what I saw, for I knew it already. I savoured every moment of it, as I watched that small clay pot reassemble itself, magically knowing how to piece itself back together, and leaving no traces, no marks, nothing other than another blurred memory thrown into the depth of that haunted mind of mine. I knew that other’s faith in me would always outlast my own, that without others I was nothing, and that was something, that with a gentleness and a subtleness I always dreamed of, pushed me out, into that dreamland, that state of mind I always fantasised about – and now I could create my masterpiece, the thing people would remember me for.
The end was in sight.
But had I been here before? How many times had that old clay pot reassembled itself before my eyes? How many more miracles would need to take place before the message sunk in? I still had no idea, because as I walked out in the light, I thought to myself,
Richard David Lawman is the chief Writer/ Director/ Producer of ‘The Putty In Your Hands’ production company. He can be found and contacted at http://richarddavidlawman.com/ and http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/richard-lawman/24/966/182