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’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.
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.
For the past few years I’ve spent the time between November 21st and December 21st scrabbling for story ideas to post a flash fiction piece every day. Thirty one pieces in thirty one days. This year is no different. Every year I wonder why I do this to myself. This year is no different.
There are a couple of reasons why I keep up this tradition. Firstly, it’s a great way to lock in the writing each day discipline. Daily writing doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m very much a creature of habit, and I’d rather those were good ones like writing. Secondly, over the years Flash Fiction Month has developed a small but loyal audience who come back each year to read the daily stories, and for that I’m very grateful. Thirdly, it’s a way of playing with ideas that may develop into a short story or more. In effect it becomes an incubator for all those ideas I jot down on my phone and never do anything with.
If you’d like to read the stories as they go up, you can follow the link to my Facebook writer page
Here’s the first week of stories. I hope you enjoy them.
After they chopped down the movie prop, they left wooden stumps to rot in the coastal fret. Splinter and split in the salt air.
Magic isn’t always intentional and the wood remembered what was amputated. The curl and flex of osiers. The friction of willow hurdles against each other. The scent of smoke and charring wool.
Slowly, over a generation, the timber unfurled, knitting itself together out of memory, and when the first people came to wonder at its reincarnation it clasped its door open, ready to welcome them in.
Keeping Up Appearances
Pasted on grins were the latest thing. The season’s gimmick. Held in place by a new organic glue, they let Simon get through the holidays, joyful expression intact.
Feasting finished and relatives returned home, he stood in front of the bathroom mirror. Peering at the packet, he followed the instructions to remove the paper thin smile. First he used water, then soap, and finally a mixture of white wine vinegar and salt. Nothing worked.
Late that night he woke to a sensation of creeping across his cheeks. Half asleep he groped around for his phone and used the camera as mirror.
Fibres at the edge of the pasted on smile stretched out, knitting to his skin as if ridged with a thousand tiny needles. Running to the bathroom he tried to wrench the mask free. Ragged paper enveloped his fingers, sewing through the bone and holding his hands in place.
The only way left for Simon to express himself was via his eyes, and they were doing anything but smiling.
1024 cocoons waited upon the console. Once the upload was complete 1024 butterflies emerged, the data stored in copper designs etched into their wings.
With a shudder of verdigris they took flight, brushing against others to transfer the code along the network.
Some fell, caught by gusts of wind or battered by rain. Others were netted by hackers transfixed by the intricacies of their wings, not noticing the other colours the butterflies still wore. Colours that warned of the brush of hairs still covering the insects abdomens. Hairs that burnt skin and flourished visions of personal hells.
Most of the butterflies made it to their destination. Sipping nectar from the upturned blossoms, they delivered the data to its destination and rested before death, their life’s work done.
Gnaw (with apologies to Ray Harryhausen)
Measuring the length of a person, the ancient teeth were too large to lift from the dig. The excavators left them in the trench, smeared with silt and plaster.
Overnight, the rain came down, seeping through the dirt and flooding the vast canines. Found its way through cracks in the dentine.
From inside the teeth, skeletons shattered through the enamel. Birthed to a new world. Rainwater filling empty eye sockets hidden for so long.
In skinless hands the skeletons grasped splinters of tooth. Tore aside the metal fencing. Clattered down the Tarmac.
Reaching the first house the vast figures smashed their way in, finding the sleeping family within. Down the street the pattern was repeated as they opened each building, one by one.
The skeletons lacked stomachs to feast on those they captured, but they still had teeth, teeth that could gnaw and grind, and soon their bare ribs were smeared with a fine paste of skin and bone. Skin and bone that was not their own.
Velvet and Wood
In the corner of the courtyard stood an empty chair, across the stone flags three mattresses just as vacant. Carol stood in the doorway for a few moments longer than normal. She knew they were there, watching her. Invisible. Could smell the perfume of coffins on them. Mould stained velvet and wood rotting even through the varnish.
“There’s nothing here,” Mark said wiping his forehead, and she knew that he would not tolerate her “ways” for much longer. She shrugged, let him take her fingers in both hands, and lead her back into the streets of people and cardamom and coriander.
In the courtyard the chair juddered away from the wall then fell back. On the mattresses the sheets lifted a touch, then dropped once more. Many years had passed since anyone had sensed the dead of the city. Now someone knew they waited, they needed to wait no longer.
One by one the sleepless fell in step behind Carol. Their path away from the scent of mould stained velvet and rotten wood. With broken fingernails and shattered bone they traced their names in Carol’s skin so that she would remember them and their lives would be spoken once more.
Drowned men sing no songs. They cannot recall the melodies in the salt scoured grasp of the sea.
Instead they grind out the air trapped in their bones and whisper the names of their loved ones. Push the bubbles of words into seaweed to float up to the surface where it might pop upon the waves for the mourning to hear.
The sodden strands of bladderwrack wash up on the beach to be ground against rocks and under the feet of children, where all words are lost in the crush of sand.
The tree grew dogs. All breeds. Some sprouted from amongst the roots with stiff ears of bracket fungus. Others curled upon themselves amongst petals, wet stamen noses pushing out into the world.
One had tangled fur that snagged on low hanging branches, others long backs that unfurled as they grew from puppy to dog.
Soon they reached the time to loosen from their stalks and run through the woodland on coppiced legs.
These dogs were made of timber and thorn, and when they yawned the tree rings that ran through them were visible in the back of their throats.
No matter whether they were filled with oak galls, or shuddered with blossom when they walked, all the dogs knew one thing, and that one thing was this. They all knew that they were very very good boys.
Hello, (taps mic). Is this thing on?
Well, that summer was long and hot and yet over too quickly. (Time is weird like that).
I’ll be honest I’ve neglected this place a bit. Between settling into life in Munich, writing as much as I can, and writing my fortnightly newsletter (sign up here www.tinyletter.com/stevetoase) I’ve not really given this blog much love. I’m hoping to change that.
So here’s a quick catch up.
It’s been a good year for publications. Since June (when I last posted here), I’ve had stories accepted for;
A couple of publications have happened since I last posted.
(Artwork by William Cunningham)
My story The Flick of the Wyvern’s Tale has now published by Cameron Callaghan from ACDP in BUILT FROM HUMAN PARTS
I’ve also recently had an article in British magazine 100% Biker about the Rustic Racer Ride, a café racer show here in Bavaria.
Last year British Fantasy Society published several of my flash fiction stories in Horizon. Recently I found out Mask made Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year 10 Honourable Mentions Longlist, and was also given a shout out in the summation.
I’m busy behind the scenes with several articles, and have just finished the first draft of a novella. More on that later.
I’m heading back to the UK for Fantasycon and will be appearing on a couple of panels. Again, more on that later.
The big news is that I have a collection out with longtime collaborator Hazel Ang.
Ruby Red and Snowflake Cold: tales to warm the heart, is a distillation of my fiction and Hazel’s art into a beautiful booklet that gives a really good overview of the work we’ve done together. If you’re in Munich this weekend we’ll have some copies at Munich Comic Con, and I’m hoping to bring some to Fantasycon.
I think that’s everything for now. Have a good weekend and see you soon.
May is a busy month.
My new article for Folklore Thursday is now up and available to read. #folklorethursday is a hugely popular hashtag, covering the vast scope of folklore. The website collates articles about various subjects that fall into the subject. This article is about the Maibaum and Kindsbaum throughout Bavaria.
You can read the article here. May Day, Weddings and Births: Folklore Trees and Traditions
I’ve also just signed the contract on my first pro fiction story sale. Third Flatiron Anthologies will be publishing my story The Kromlau Gambit in their upcoming Galileo’s Theme Park.
To finish the publication news for the moment, check out this fantastic cover for the Lackington’s Gothics issue. If you glance at the left of Richard Wagner’s illustration you might be able to spy a vase of flowers. That’s important. Remember that.
One of the aspects of living in a city like Munich is the opportunity to visit shows and exhibitions. Currently there is a major festival ongoing about Goethe’s Faust. After a visit to two of the museums involved (Kunsthalle and the Deutsches Theatermuseum) I was inspired to write an article about the changing appearance of Mephistopheles from Goethe’s famous play in the 19th and 20th century.
I’m very happy to say that the article was published in the latest Fortean Times, FT366, out today.
The contrast between the three articles I’ve written for Fortean Times so far shows one of the reasons I have so much affection for the magazine. The sheer range of subjects and viewpoints presented is breathtaking. I would highly recommend picking up a copy, but especially this one. It’s a good deal. Just sign here…
2017 was an excellent year. One of my best to be honest. I had at least one new piece published every month, as well as an article in Fortean Times, and a piece accepted by Folklore Thursday. If I can keep up the momentum in 2018 I’ll be very happy.
January The Broken Nail in Theme of Absence (Link)
February A Summation of Starlings in The Singularity (FB Page)
March Hyter and the House That Stands in Aurealis #98 (Link)
April Dial 0 for an Outside Line in JJ Outré Review (Link)
May Not All The Coal That Is Dug Warms The World at Tales to Terrify (podcast) (Link)
June Haunting Harrogate The Author (Link)
July Der Heilige Antonius von Padua Klinik von Geisterbefestigung in Mad Scientist Journal (Link)
Cars, Coins and Cursed Colours at Folklore Thursday (Link)
August Schneestern in Pantheon Magazine (UK/US)
Several flash fiction stories in British Fantasy Society Horizons (Link)
September The Forgetting Wall in Mad Scientist Journal (UK/US)
Hell On Wheels, Cover Story of Fortean Times 358 (Link)
October The Enamelled Crown in Hinnom Magazine (UK/US)
November Why the Sea Tastes of Salt and Why the Moon is Always Turned Toward Us in Typhon: A Monster Anthology Vol 2 (Pantheon Magazine) (UK/US)
December Fluted Bone in Tincture Journal 20 (Link)