Here are some photos from last year’s Sommerfest at Peppermint Lounge in Munich.
I knew that I wanted to start with the artefacts of the Apollo 11 mission, and found the transcripts of the audio online.
The next stage was to find a way to alter the texts and process them. During my research I saw a tweet about Jeff Noon‘s Cobralingus system for processing text. Cobralingus is an analogue system which uses 17 FILTER GATES to process a SIGNAL (the original text) and arrive at an OUTLET text. Essentially its a way of mutating text using an analogue version of LOGIC gates.
I used the version outlined at www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/20008/cobralingus-1-game-over
I liked this approach for several reasons. It introduced a certain amount of jeopardy into the writing of each section. To keep a certain amount of control I ran the process either until the random number generator gave me a SAVE, or I had gone through seventeen iterations.
Cobralingus also, in my mind, replicated a signal breaking down as it was broadcast over long distances, whether that is from the depths of space, the time separating me from the original broadcasts, or just the process of transference between an idea and the final iteration of a piece of work.
I also liked that it was an analogue approach that replicated structures more familiar from digital networks.
Below is a worked through version used in the installation.
Now, I’m afraid these materials are going to dusty. The surface material powdery. how good your lens is, but if you can smudges on my gloves very much like a very finely powdered carbon, but really pretty looking.
I’m afraid materials are too dusty. The surface powdery. how good your lens, but if you smudges on my gloves much like a finely powdered carbon, really pretty looking.
I’m afraid materia are too dusty. The surf powdery. how god you lens, but I you smudge on my gloes muc like a fin powdered carbon, really petty looking.
I’m afraid. I’m afraid of this place. Of the erosion. That it will infect me. Wear me away to nothing. Substances in my mouth are too dusty, though my suit seals away the world. The surf in the distance is powdered. How we are gods yawning through the lens. With a gloved fist I smudge the glowing muck. A rising fin of powdered carbon, looking small upon the ground beneath our feet.
I’m afraid like sharks grind their skin against my lungs. I’m afraid of this place. Of the erosion. That it will infect me. Wear me away to nothing. Substances in my mouth are too dusty like mould grows on my teeth, though my suit seals away the world. The surf in the distance is powdered. How we are like gods yawning through the lens. With a gloved fist I smudge the glowing muck. A rising fin of powdered carbon, looking small upon the ground beneath our feet.
We see the bones of long dead predators and breathe through sandpaper lungs. I fear this world. This wearing away. I will be forgotten. Taste my own death in my mouth. Rot. My costume hides me from the world. The tsunami of dirt is in the distance, and the gods are bored. I scrape my eyes to see the ground eroding to nothing beneath the worn soles of my boots.
SAMPLE (109:57:53 Armstrong)
We see the bones of long dead predators and breathe through sandpaper lungs. I fear this world. This wearing away. I will be forgotten. Taste my own death in my mouth. Rot. My costume hides me from the world. The tsunami of dirt is in the distance, and the gods are bored. I scrape my eyes to see the ground eroding to nothing beneath the worn soles of my boots. I don’t want to go into the Sun if I can avoid it.
We see the discarded bones of long forgotten predators and heave through sandpaper lungs. I fear this world. This wearing away of everything we knew. I will be forgotten I know that now. If I take a moment I can taste my own demise in my mouth. Mildew. My scratched costume hides me from the unforgiving world. The tsunami of human waste and dirt is in the distance. The blind, unspeaking gods are bored. I scrape out my eyes. Stare at the ground that is eroding to nothing. Beneath the worn soles of my torn boots I watch it break away. I don’t want to go into the Sun.
I don’t want to go into the Sun. If I take a moment I can taste my own demise in my mouth. I scrape out my eyes. The tsunami of human waste and dirt is in the distance. My scratched costume hides me from the unforgiving world. This wearing away of everything we knew. We see the discarded bones of long forgotten predators and heave through sandpaper lungs. I fear this world. I will be forgotten I know that now. Mildew. The blind, unspeaking gods are bored. Stare at the ground that is eroding to nothing. Beneath the worn soles of my torn boots I watch it break away.
I don’t want to go into the Sun. I can taste my own demise in my mouth. I scrape out my eyes. The tsunami of human waste and dirt. My costume hides me from the unforgiving world. This wearing away of everything we knew. We see the discarded bones of long forgotten predators. heave through sandpaper lungs. I fear this world. I will be forgotten I know that now. Mildew. The blind, unspeaking gods are bored. Stare at the ground that is eroding to nothing.
My costume hides me from the unforgiving world. I scrape out my eyes. The blind, unspeaking gods are bored. I don’t want to go into the Sun. I can taste my own demise in my mouth. The tsunami of human waste and dirt. Heave through sandpaper lungs. I fear this world. I will be forgotten I know that now. Mildew. Stare at the ground that is eroding to nothing. We see the discarded bones of long forgotten predators. This wearing away of everything we knew.
Costume hides from the unforgiving world. I scrape out eyes. The blind, unspeaking gods bored. I want to go to the Sun. I taste my own demise in my mouth. The tsunami of human waste and dirt. Heave sandpaper lungs. I fear this world. I will forgotten I know now. Mildew. Stare at ground that is eroding to nothing. We see discarded bones of long forgotten predators. Wearing away of everything we knew.
SAMPLE (109:27:13 Armstrong)
Costume hides from the unforgiving world. I scrape out eyes. The blind, unspeaking gods bored. I want to go to the Sun. It’s quite dark here in the shadow and a little hard for me to see that I have good footing. I taste my own demise in my mouth. The tsunami of human waste and dirt. Heave sandpaper lungs. I fear this world. I will forgotten I know now. Mildew. Stare at ground that is eroding to nothing. We see discarded bones of long forgotten predators. Wearing away of everything we knew.
Tattered silk billowing costumes provide sanctuary from the dripping cruelty of an unforgiving world. With dirty cracked nails I scrape out eyes, one after the other. The blind, unspeaking gods are bored, yawning as they swing around perfumes of larval bees. I want to go to the Sun, let the fires scorch new words into me. It’s too dark here in the shadow of the gods and a hard for me to see if I have good feet, or even anything below my ribcage. With rusted spoons they force-feed me my own demise. The towering tsunami of human shit and sweat and distressed waste skin. Heave sandpaper lungs that send up clouds of white fibres. I cower in the corner from the world. I will be forgotten. I know that now. The mutating mildew. I stare at the ground from empty sockets. Even the land is eroding to nothing. We see discarded bones of long forgotten predators whose names we do not know, but his jaws carry death in every tooth.
I chose sections from the transcripts at random to use, mainly looking for phrases that interested me or I thought would develop along interesting vectors. Each one was put through the Cobralingus process, then they were put back into chronological order, replicating the order the original sections appeared in the Apollo 11 transcripts.
This gave each piece a structure, creating new relationships between the different sections. Essentially building transcripts from a shadow world where the mission was off kilter. In total I created three new short transcripts.
Once the created transcripts were finished, I recorded them. This introduced another dimension to the process. Firstly, my source material was a textual rendering of speech, so to return it to speech made sense. Secondly, I was able to use my voice to create intent, emphasis, enhancement and texture to bring another dimension to the words.
At the following link you can listen to one of the final transcript recordings.
This was something very different from my usual work which tends to be focused around storytelling, normally in a flash fiction format. I was pleased with how the work came together, creating dissonance and distortion using an analogue approach.
(Thanks to Alexandra Lukaschewitz and Mario Klingemann for their help, and Jeff Noon for putting Cobralingus out into the world.)
(I originally wrote this for my monthly newsletter. If you’d like to sign up to get free flash fiction and occasional diversions into archaeology, follow this link https://tinyletter.com/stevetoase)
Authenticity is a slippery word. Often it’s used to disparage (Cat Vincent reposted the excellent rant about Authenticity from Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez’s Doktor Sleepless here. I’d highly recommend you read it. http://www.cunningcatvincent.com/2015/09/19/doktor-sleepless-5-the-authenticity-rant/).
I encountered authenticity as an idea being used a lot in subcultures, where authenticity is often a way to put someone down for not living up to a specific stereotype.
Authenticity is also, unsurprisingly, a big topic in re-enactment circles. Used badly, authenticity is a stick to beat people with, and feel superior. Used well it helps to develop more accurate portrayals of how people lived in past communities. There are always holes due to the scarcity of evidence, but re-enactment authenticity should always be a developing beast. However, it’s not this type of authenticity I want to look at for the moment. I want to talk about monuments.
There is a perception that there is an untouched authenticity to sites like Stonehenge and Avebury, and it is this authenticity that creates a specific connection with place. Yet these places have been very specifically managed and reconstructed to create the monuments we see today.
For example, Stonehenge saw the restoration of the stones start in 1901 with the re-erection of a lintel and sarsen stone which had both fallen the previous year. Over the next few years more stones were erected and consolidated, with some stones being set in concrete to stop them toppling.
Similarly, in the 1930s the marmalade magnate Alexander Keiller was responsible for the excavation and restoration of Avebury, particularly the stunning West Kennet Avenue. Here the stones were raised (some had been buried a metre under the ground), set into their original sockets, and fixed in place with concrete.
Both Newgrange and Wayland’s Smithy (see below) saw similar restoration projects.
Does this make these places less authentic? If authenticity of place is subject to a purity test, then probably. That leaves us with another problem. When is the moment of purity? When we look at a vast multiphase monument like Stonehenge, which point in its history is the moment of purity? Is it when the first iteration was created, or is it upon abandonment? While it is very easy to condemn modern interventions, I don’t think it should be done on the basis of authenticity.
I think in England this striving for authenticity in heritage is one of the reasons that new developments neighbouring conservation areas are full of houses that are faux constructions of the style they’re supposed to respect, and this can stifle innovation without actually adding anything to the character of the place. That’s not to say conservation areas shouldn’t be defended, but that how that manifests in new housing estates can be restrictive (particularly when there have been cases of developers letting genuine treasures such as grade II listed cinemas degrade until they were no longer a good example of that architectural style, but that’s a rant for another time.)
So what is authentic? Our experiences of these places. The emotions they evoke. Their stories, but the entirety of their stories rather than a single moment. Somewhere like the Devil’s Arrows in Boroughbridge existed in the landscape for several millennia. It was part of the landscape when Iron Age communities were living at Stanwick and it was part of the landscape when the Romans established Isurium Brigantum at what is now Aldborough. (For a more in depth discussion on the past in the past I’d recommend Richard Bradley’s book called The Past In Prehistoric Societies)
We should absolutely care for our heritage, but we should not see it as fixed at one particular moment. Rather these places have passed through contact with many different communities, whether that is the several who were involved in their construction, or those who interacted with them over the last couple of millennia.
Authenticity is as slippery when it comes to the landscape as it is with pop culture, so maybe we need to frame our archaeology in a different way.
Guest Post : So Leben Sie Noch Heute by Steve Toase
— Read on priyasharmafiction.wordpress.com/2019/05/17/guest-post-so-leben-sie-noch-heute-by-steve-toase/
This week I had some fantastic news, finding out that Ellen Datlow has accepted not one, but two of my stories for Best Horror of the Year 11.
The Jaws of Ouroboros first appeared in the Nosetouch Press anthology ‘The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror’, and Split Chain Stitch was published in Mystery Weekly Magazine November. To have two stories selected hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Best Horror of the Year 11 will be published by Night Shade Books in September.
The full TOC is below:
I Remember Nothing by Anne Billson
Monkeys on the Beach by Ralph Robert Moore
Painted Wolves by Ray Cluley
Shit Happens by Michael Marshall Smith
You Know How the Story Goes by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Back Along the Old Track by Sam Hicks
Masks by Peter Sutton
The Donner Party by Dale Bailey
Milkteeth by Kristi DeMeester
Haak by John Langan
Thin Cold Hands by Gemma Files
A Tiny Mirror by Eloise C. C. Shepherd
I Love You Mary-Grace by Amelia Mangan
The Jaws of Ouroboros by Steve Toase
A Brief Moment of Rage by Bill Davidson
Golden Sun by Kristi DeMeester, Richard Thomas, Damien Angelica Walters, and Michael Wehunt
White Mare by Thana Niveau
Girls Without Their Faces On by Laird Barron
Thumbsucker by Robert Shearman
You Are Released by Joe Hill
Red Rain by Adam-Troy Castro
Split Chain Stitch by Steve Toase
No Exit by Orrin Grey
Haunt by Siobhan Carroll
Sleep by Carly Holmes
(Artwork by Audrey Benjaminsen. Designed by Claudia Noble.)
I’ve also recently found out that Mystery Weekly Magazine will be publishing my story Tangerines and Wild Garlic.
SYNTH is a new dark SciFi anthology series from C.M. Muller, the editor behind Nightscript. My story Flow to the Sea will be in SYNTH 1, out on 15th March, and From My Rotting Body, Flowers Shall Bloom will be in SYNTH 4 out toward the end of the year.
To finish, Gorgon: Stories of Emergence (DE/UK/US) is now available to buy, including my story Discarded Skins. This fantastic anthology from Pantheon Magazine contains over forty stories from authors such as; Gwendolyn Kiste, Richard Thomas, Maria Haskins, Julia Day, C.M. Muller, Carina Bissett and Beth Cato (and just look at that stunning Daniele Serra cover art). You can pick up a copy from the usual places.
I’m a bit behind on this, because holidays happened, and Christmas, and birthdays.
Here are the last ten stories of my flash fiction month. Thirty one days and thirty one stories. I hope you enjoy this last collection.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 22
On Wings of Fire
Lanterns lined the path through the snow, each glittering with a different colour.
She walked along the lane, bathing in the glow of each one. The multicoloured chrome of Goose Fair on a late autumnal night. Shades of a complete rainbow seen from a Canadian mountain. Sparse sunlight dancing through rain showers high in Nidderdale. The shudder of reflections on bicycle spokes. A single candle in a silent room, hiding wooden elves with its shadows.
Soon she reached an unlit lantern, balanced in a snowdrift, waiting for her to pick it up.
With no matches she ignited her memories. Castles at the meeting of three rivers, and labyrinths low in the grass. Wild boar hunting acorns in the mud, and snowmen with mohicans of sticks. The pride of Einschulung and the joy of poems read in a six year old’s voice. Kirsch Eis in the height of summer, and tiffin in the depths of winter. The clack of needles in the warmth of the night, and the sound of guitars in the dark of a wooden floored hall.
Using her memories she drew flames from last year’s lantern. Danced them through the sky on wings of fire. Sparked the candlewick to life. The final lantern lit, she raised it in the air and used the light of all her past joys to guide her into the coming twelve months.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 23
Sarah baked gingerbread hearts, each with a centre of jam covered in thick dark chocolate. In some the filling was the rich crimson of raspberries, though no raspberries were used. In others the dark blue of blackcurrants, though Sarah never harvested the canes outside her window.
Only on special occasions did she serve the soft baked confectionary, and only ever one type at a time.
For some the gift brought them to a new path, leading out of a darkness. To the sun until then only glimpsed through a forest of knives.
For others, who ate the hearts containing something as shadowed as that lurking in their own chest, the treat only led them to a future of dark water and thorns. The clasp of mud and of the choke of silt.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 24
The men drowned though they were nowhere near the depths of the sea.Their chests filled with salt heavy water. Bloated with ebbing seaweed that swelled in their throats.
The women tried to clear the lungs of the choking. Turned the men on their sides. The recovery position remembered from school. On their fronts. Ribs splintered against cobbles and kerbs.
Still the water came. Torrented past shattered teeth. In desperation the women clogged mouths with towels and torn shirts. Closed them with cotton wool and stitches. They no longer cared to bring the men to breathing. They were past saving. Now they just wanted to stem the flood they knew was coming.
The pressure was too great. Split the skin of the men’s gullets. Overwhelmed the gutters and backed up drains. Rose up the walls of shops and homes alike. Took breath from sleeping children and the women who could not escape until they floated above bones smoothed and polished by seawater far from the sea.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 25
Sun and Moon
The two showmen stood in the middle of the square. Backs to each other, faces turned out to the crowd. One wore makeup to disguise himself as the sun, the other the moon.
The crowds stood at a respectful distance, no barrier needed as the wolves circling the two performers kept them back, the fragrance of their pelts overpowering every other scent.
The people did not know what the entertainment would be, but the excitement was in the air. No shows ever visited their little town.
Once the magic tricks and tumbling were finished the crowd did not want the performance to end. When the two smiling men asked for the children to be sent forward parents pushed their precious quilted bundles toward the middle of the square.
The wolves parted and the two showmen stood aside to reveal a cloth booth that was not there before, the fabric embroidered with pear trees and snow drifts.
One by one the children walked forward, scrabbling past each other to pass between the billowing curtains.
The parents did not forget as soon as the showmen packed away the fragile tent, nor when the two strangers wiped the sun and moon makeup from their faces with cloths soaked in vodka, but once the showmen rode the wolves out of the town all the parents remembered was the sun and moon shining in the marketplace at the same time.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 26
In case you’re wondering, by this point in my annual challenge I have no idea what I’m doing. This was inspired by finding a feather under the radiator.
The owls living in Paul’s radiators made their nests from rust. He only found them by the fall of feathers on the tiles. Bleeding the valve, the birds flew out and perched on top of the pipes. Every day he brought them mice and they brought up pellets of bones.
Over time the birds grew and so did the pellets, the ribs syruped together far larger than any rodent Paul laid by the bathroom door. He noticed the window smashed by the owls’ vast wings, letting them out to hunt the skies.
One morning leaving for work he saw the owls returning. Each carried a prone body, talons digging in between hip and spine. He watched them drop into the bathroom, turned down faces of the people scraping on the shattered window.
Going back into the house Paul stood by the closed door, listening to the vast birds chewing their food. Soon there would be more owl pellets and less neighbours. Each room of his house was now filled with undigested bone. The only person in the street not swallowed for food was him.
He did not know why the owls ignored him, and did not know if it was luckier to survive, or better to wish for a quick death at the point of the talon and beak. Going back downstairs he shut the door and walked through the silent town, smashed glass and giant soft feathers underfoot, and when he reached the entrance to his work he kept on walking.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 27
Today’s story was inspired by a photo artist Becca Thorne shared.
Instructions to Summon the Ancient Dead
1 Sprinkle powdered skull pansies into water collected upon the oldest stone in the circle.
2 Ask your familiar to breathe on the water until the surface cools to the temperature of Judecca. You will know when the right temperature is reached when you can hear souls screech as the ice scrapes the rock.
3 Lacerate the ice with a flint blade. The charms will form where the lines cross without any intent from you.
4 When the skull manifests from the trapped water, count the bubbles. If there are an even number, smash the ice and walk away. Do not return to the place until thirteen months have passed.
5 If there are an odd number take a single length of mildewed straw, ask your question, then pierce the ice allowing the trapped air to sigh out.
6 Listen to the answer. Do not let your bare skin touch the stone or your skull will be below the water and your brain will be encased in ice until the heat of your blood turns it to meltwater.
7 Leave one bubble untouched and one question unanswered.
8 Place your familiar on the ice and let it lap up the ghosts trapped under the surface.
9 Feed your familiar well. If it craves meat bring it the finest cuts. If it wishes for wine, open your finest bottle. If it returns in the early hours with things once living stuck between its teeth, do not question it about its night-time hunts. It may just tell you the truth.
10 Do not return to the site of the ancient dead until thirteen months have passed.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 28
The planet’s atmosphere pressed down like an old sodden blanket smothering everything green and living, the air thin and only caught in gasps.
Spoken words fell to the ground, heavy and unheard. To hold conversations people caught sentences in tree leaves. Held them out like gifts. Gossip collected against kerbs, windblown and rotted. Composted. Dense and pinned under that sodden alien air.
When all the trees were gone, the people wrote their messages on stones. They carried pockets of arguments and small talk down to the marketplace, piling them in cairns against the cross.
Searching for the words of loved ones, broken ribs became as common as reading. Mothers sat around tracing chiselled words with crushed fingers. Workers carried sonnets and proposals from home in shattered hands.
Finally, even the faintest trace of air was gone, their lungs scarred and heavy as if filled with gravel, and there was nothing left to mark their conversations except stone and silence and the splinters of bones.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 29
Melted snow marks the place the landers came to rest, rock below smoothed to mirrors by the heat.
The vehicles are long gone now, trundling through the town, searching in the wooden buildings for any survivors. Families crouching in basements and behind locked doors.
In the twilight sky the transporter waits for the landing party to return. Monitoring their progress. The crew are hungry. Tonight they will feast.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 30
The Coat of Waves
When Muirreann stripped off her sealskin to walk on land, she wore a coat of waves. Vast teal curls that fell over her shoulder to drape on the pavement and leave seawater pools between with each cautious step.
The coat was vast, wrapping around her, knitted together with fine skeins of coral and krill. Each fibre pitted with shimmering algae that danced in the day and glowed blue at night.
When the cold winds came, because she did feel the cold winds without her sealskin, Muirreann fastened the coat of waves shut with buttons of sailor’s bones, and when she slept the waves within the coat rocked her to sleep in a way no blanket ever could.
Once she tired of walking the land on her unfamiliar feet she returned to the coast, and cast the coat of waves back into the tide. As the fibres fell apart they whispered stories of bright lights and cliffs of clay embedded with sheets of vitrified sands. Stories carried on currents through the oceans, far further than Muirreann would ever swim.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 31
Here’s a cheery* story to celebrate the Solstice.
At the winter solstice the surface of the sun was cool enough for the dead to enter. They scraped out of the dirt, shuddering free from mats of white roots. Ate worms to sustain them on the journey through the atmosphere.
They said nothing, but sometimes the wind howled through their rot hollowed throats and the crowds gathered below heard words in those sounds. Words that comforted or horrified. The dead did not care. They turned their gnawed eyes to the rising sun and continued to float toward the destination.
All flights were cancelled to allow them to make their journey. The corpses climbed through the sky, though never in columns. Each one took their own path, as they had done in life. As they rose they got smaller and smaller, folding in on themselves until they became like apples of marrow. Compact and hollow.
Of course some of the bereaved tried to stop their lost ones leaving the earth. Chained down their burial plots, or covered them with old ghosts nets. The dead did not care. What compelled them to rise could not be stopped by rusted iron or hemp rope. Minced and diced by the obstructions, the dead floated up toward the sun, the memory of who they were holding them together. The mourning below shattered by the spectacle.
And when the pale sun set on the night of the solstice it absorbed its new congregation into its heart, their thoughts, memories, skin and muscle fuel to brighten the world in the coming year. A sacrifice to bring light and heat to the world once more.
*I lied about the cheery bit.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but I’m still on course with my flash fiction challenge. Here are the next seven stories.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 15
(Nearly halfway through!)
Two paths led from the lake back to the house, and Rachel knew almost straight away that she had chosen the wrong one.
Concentrating on placing her feet upon the riverbank’s wet grass, she ignored the teeth glistening in the water until there were only rocks and jaws.
Kneeling, she tugged out a lock of hair, draped it across the mud choked shallows and watched the dead grasp at the strands. Become tangled up in the follicles that knotted into rotted gums.
With the other end wrapped around the fingers of her left hand, she dragged their corpses from the water. Scraped them along the path back toward her apartment, ready to render them to paste. There were some advantages to taking the wrong route home.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 16
This was inspired by a place name I recently spotted on a map.
The glitteringstone floated six feet off the ground. Each time geologists approached with their hammers and curiosity it rose further out of reach. With every attempt to rise higher (chair, step ladder, cherry picker), the glitteringstone responded staying beyond human hands.
Feldspar and quartz, caught the sun, reflecting the shine across the marketplace. When someone in a flat let the radio play a bit too loud the glitteringstone began to spin, keeping time with the music.
The parish council turned spotlights on the glitteringstone, and as the light danced so did the people. Local DJs took turns playing tunes, the whole marketplace becoming a dancefloor. They danced until the day faded and until it began once again. They did not stop to eat or drink,
And though the dancer’s legs weakened they could not stop.
Feet swelled and bruised with exhaustion, until one by one the dancers slumped to the floor, legs still twitching.
Then the glitteringstone stopped spinning and descended from the sky.
Hovering along the floor it absorbed each broken dancer one by one, expanding with the addition, faces picked out in feldspar and quartz. Once no more bodies lay on the floor the glitteringstone rose into the sky, the last of the music playing on to an empty town.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 17
The boat was river wrecked, timber rust-stained from the steel of his staples and sutures. We dragged it up the bank and shattered the planks with blunted axes, building a fire that sent smoke up through the damp trees above us.
He found us. Sat down on the edge of the circle. Sparks shadowed his skin so we could not see where it slid off in strips.
Greyed flesh underneath came alive in its own way with the twist and flex of those who make their home in the already dead.
He did not eat, though the meat on the spits was fresh.
“I have more in common with them than you,” he said, pointing to the roasting rabbits dripping fat into the glowing ash.
By morning he had left us, the timbers nothing more than charcoal and the rabbits nothing more than bones.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 18
A single filament of glass draped from the moon, kept soft and pliable by it’s constant movement through the atmosphere . At night it would filter the reflected light from the cratered surface down toward the Earth, sliding across mountains and forests. Each place the filament touched it left a trace of glass.
Simon knew the locations it brushed the land were not random and he set out on an Autumnal night to chase the filament as it marked its orbit upon the ground.
Seeing it approaching he steadied himself. As the narrow thread of slightly molten glass passed by Simon reached out with gloved hands and grasped it in two tight fists.
First the filament slowed, then stretched, and as Simon held on longer it cooled. He tried to let go. Too much lay in his hands. The moon hauled across the night sky, and the filament paused. Stretched. Shattered. Coated Simon in shards of glass.
The filament no longer draped from the moon to leave traces of molten glass upon the earth, and the world was less beautiful for its loss.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 19
Branches from the willows clattered the water, spreading ripples and leaves downstream.
No-one paid them any attention. Didn’t notice the way the buds slicked under the surface, soaked and hungry. Children still swam nearby. Families and dogs.
Each fragment that the trees absorbed was too small for the victim to notice, but over time the swimmers were lessened and the willow grew broad on the souls it sipped.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 20
Carol-Ann sat in her front room and watched the rain rivulet down the window. Erode in channels and deltas. Testimonials of mistakes made a generation earlier.
The glass bubbled and slid down the outside walls, pooling into the gutter. Three days more and the walls would be gone again.
She picked up the phone and rang the repair company once more as rain-drop by rain-drop the house dissolved around her.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 21
I took the photo this morning, and it inspired today’s story.
Campbell was stood by the window when the ice shifted, giving a glimpse of the world outside. Distant trees were cracks in the sky. Other houses erased by the weather.
The snow had fallen for thirty eight weeks straight, pausing only occasionally as if catching its breath. Coating the house in a silken coat so vast that the world outside was a forgotten shimmer.
Campbell glanced out again. The trees seemed closer now. Each one larger, though it could have been a trick of the light. Perspective. He hadn’t seen anything further away than the other side of the room for months.
Going to the kitchen, he made tea from stale water, then went back to gaze on the outside world once more. One last time before snowfall encased the house and sealed him off.
Whether through weight or pressure, the tap root smashed the window, covering Campbell in splinters of glass, and ice just as sharp. Finding purchase on his legs and arms the tree dragged him out of the house and lay him on the snow. Roots rasped away skin scalded to blisters by spilt tea.
It took time for the trees to force their roots into his arms and legs. Find the minerals hidden in his bones.
By the time they were finished he was powder and skin and covered by the next snowfall.
They still felt the gnawing emptiness the never-winter had brought them, the weakness in their branches, but they were not done for yet. There were still many houses hidden under the snow, and many minerals hidden in the bones of those within.
Every year Rhonda Parrish organises a blog tour to raise funds for the Edmonton Food Bank in Canada, and this year I was asked to participate as one of a happy band of writers creating a story advent calendar. Each writer hosts a story on their blog, and readers can contribute to the fundraising via this Canada Helps link.
Every $1 raised goes straight to the food bank, and every $1 can buy three meals for those who need help. If you’re in Canada you can receive a tax receipt for your donation, and due to the exchange rate between American and Canadian dollars, US donors will get fantastic value for money.
This type of cause is very close to my heart. As most of my readers know I spent three years after I was kicked out of home at sixteen either homeless, no fixed abode, or vulnerably housed. At times I relied on food banks to have enough to eat. Food banks provide a safety net for vulnerable families, to make sure they can get food. The goal for 2018 is to raise $750, which translates into 2250 meals.
None of the money goes through any intermediate account. Every cent goes straight to the Food Bank. You can donate at the link below;
In conjunction with the blog tour, Rhonda has also set up a Rafflecopter with some fantastic prizes, including your name in a Beth Cato novel, free critiques, magazine subscriptions, signed copies of books, and free audiobooks. You don’t need to donate to enter, but it would be great if you could signal boost the fundraising.
Donate, share, signal boost, and I hope you enjoy my story Seeing With Pollen.
Seeing With Pollen
Throughout summer the eyes of the boy and the girl bloomed. Petals of red and azure edged hidden pupils. They walked in walled gardens and glasshouses of humid air, skin scented with honeysuckle and brushed with pollen. Faces tickled by the kiss of bees and the whisper of butterflies.
Autumn came. Petals curled and fell to the ground to be trampled into the lawn. Food for worms. Upon the frosted grass irises shattered like glass in the cold.
Winter clawed across the fields, dragging itself on broken plough furrows.
Stumbling through the woods the boy and girl leant upon each other. Neither had eyes. Just brittle stems and rose thorns that lay upon their cheeks and scratched their skin.
In the darkness of tree trunks they held each other close and curled away from the world. Away from the breath of wolves and the shout of snow.
Winter was long and spring came slowly. When the ice melted, the boy and girl bloomed flower buds from their eye sockets. They saw each other as if for the first time, and as the bees returned to skim across their lips they fell in love once again.
Seeing with Pollen was originally inspired by the artwork of Canadian artist Hazel Ang.
Fourteen days and fourteen stories down. Nearly halfway through.
Last year I wrote stories based on images from the 17th century book, A Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne by George Wither. (You can see those, and the stories from previous years, by following this link https://stevetoase.wordpress.com/tag/flash-fiction-challenge/ This year I decided to give myself a bit more flexibility and go back to writing about anything that inspired a story.
Here are the next seven.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 8
One by One
Each bee in the hive needed to be exorcised individually. Smoking the colony to drowsing, the priest took worker and drone out one by one. Passed them through the steam of holy water. Placed them to one side and moved onto the next. Minuscule and cold, the 60,000 homeless demons searched for new lodgings.
The priest was so caught up in the half remembered ritual he did not notice the demons crawl through the pores of his skin. Did not feel them scrape out hovels in his marrow. Did not hear all 60,000 screaming obscenities inside his chest, until he could hear nothing else.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 10
My fellow writer Premee Mohamed gave me a title of ‘The Mars Portal’ on Twitter. Here’s the story I wrote in response.
The Mars Portal
Marked with blood and the rust of swords, the door to the Son of Juno was closed with wax the colour of torn muscle. Lighting the lambswool wick Castonadi melted the seal, watching the impressed woodpecker pattern drip to collect on the floor and harden once more.
The door crumbled and Castonadi stepped across the threshold of shattered stone, into the room beyond.
The god sat alone, surrounded by sheaves of corn, his helmet by his side, spear across his lap. Castonadi knew he had to walk slow. Place each foot with care. Above him the woodpeckers circled with no tree to alight in, and somewhere in the distance a wolf shuddered the crop with its howl.
Castonadi had to stop himself from reaching out to touch the god’s face, streaked with corrosion from his rotted armour. Instead he took the spear and held it to the sky. The god raised his gaze.
“I need that.” he said. “In case they arrive with ill intent.”
“No-one’s coming here,” Castonadi said, and drove the spearpoint into the plough furrows. The wood fell away and erupted into a bushel of corn. “Tend your crops and mend your fences. This place is forgotten and the better for it.”
The god nodded, and Castonadi walked toward the door, turning his back on the bringer of war.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 11
Gaunt and gauze-like, ghosts do not have the purchase to cling to their places of death. Instead they tangle themselves in the breath of those who mourn them the most. Allow themselves to be inhaled by those who loved them, nestling in damp, moist lungs. Until they are exhaled and flutter like pennants of forgetfulness, singing torn memories to those who can no longer hear.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 12
After the Last Song
The King of the City’s Night wore strands of frozen beer in his hair. Shattered bottle glass for fingernails. The glamour of mirrors wedged into cracked eye sockets. When he spoke his voice was not heard but felt in his ribs and lungs.
After the nightclub lights came on and the cloakrooms emptied, he walked the city streets. Ran fingernails of shattered bottle glass down the necks of those sheened with the sweat of others. Sipped memories and love and joy. Took something the revellers didn’t know they had but they would forever miss.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 13
A Charm for the Lost
If you have lost your way home, follow these instructions.
- Take from your pocket a single stone with a chalk line running through its heart. Always carry such a stone with you for this purpose, but only one.
- Place the stone upon the road in front of you.
- Sprinkle the stone with;
One pinch of salt
Two crushed flowers from Lane-Wort, found alongside
corpse-roads. Make sure any stems are completely
discarded and not used in error.
A single eyelash plucked from your left eye, while the
stone is in place.
Three splinters from a crossroad gallows.
- Once this has been carried out cover the stone with moss and ignite. The smoke will bias in the direction you are seeking.
Beware, that this method is fraught with risks.
If the stone used has many veins of chalk then you will become lost on the county’s green lanes until your own bones become dust.
If you drop many stones upon the road, by the end of the year your body will be quartered and displayed on the entrance to four royal towns across the nation.
If the stalk of the Lane-Wort grazes the surface of the stone, the dead of one year and a day will find you wherever you may journey, and scratch their crimes into your skin.
There are many ways to be lost in the world and sometimes it is better to walk further and find the road home than exchange one lost for another.
Flash Fiction Month 2018 Day 14
Stood in her white cotton dress the girl sang the cattle call across the valley.
The living cows did not know the notes, but the dead heard, and recognised the tune. Shivered themselves from the soil. Stamped their clay marked hoofs across the fields.
When they reached the girl the cattle from the graves and middens tried to get her attention, but they were like so much dust in the air.
Turning her back she walked away, leaving the herd alone in the mist drenched field.
To read the stories each day, you can visit my writer page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stevetoase1/ or come back in week to read the next seven stories.