Grief in Horror and Weird Fiction

Title from story Green Grows the Grief in the collection TO DROWN IN DARK WATER

Horror is a genre of many themes. Amongst the blood and gore, a vast number of subjects are explored, from consumerism in Dawn of the Dead, to community cohesion in The Wicker Man.

One of the subjects I return to a lot in my own writing is grief. (I’m not subtle about it. One of my stories is called Green Grows the Grief…). This does appear in horror, sometimes explicitly such as in The Monkey’s Paw, and sometimes more subtly.

Grieving a loved one is a horrific country to find oneself in. It’s a place where everything looks normal but is tipped off kilter. It is a strange world to make a home, but it is one we often need to live in for a while until we’re ready to move on. Often, however, we’re not given the time to grieve or the choice of when we leave. Real life intrudes.

In the traditional ensemble horror movie, people watch their friends killed off while not being given time to grieve. They have to run from the chainsaw wielding murderer. The killer (real life) intrudes before they can truly mourn the dead.

One place this forms the core of the story is in Alfred Kubin’s seminal weird fiction novel, The Other Side.

Best known as a printmaker and illustrator, Kubin only wrote the one novel in his life. In The Other Side, the narrator is invited by Patera, an old school friend, to travel to the Dream Kingdom, a realm Patera rules from the city of Pearl. The Dream Kingdom is a place where the citizens live only through their moods, and is a place of strange rites. Other times Pearl changes and reorganises in unpredictable ways. Patera, the creator of this strange land, is always beyond the narrator’s reach. With the arrival of the American Herkules Bell The Dream Kingdom falls apart and Pearl becomes taken over by wildlife.

There are many ways of interpreting The Other Side, but I think one way of approaching this foundational piece of weird fiction is as an exploration of grief. Kubin wrote his only novel following the death of his father, who he had a troubled relationship with. Seen through this lens, The Dream World can be understood as the state of grief where everything is reactive and driven by mood. Herkules Bell is the real world intruding into this dream like state of mourning, disruptive as any killer in a slasher movie. Disruptive as death taxes and probate. Everyday concerns taking attention away from grieving for the dead.

None of this is to say that the portrayal of grief and the intrusion of everyday life and ‘normality’ was in the mind of the creators of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or A Nightmare on Elm Street (though I do think that an argument can be made for The Other Side). This is more an attempt to look at how these stories can be understood in terms of loss and mourning, In horror, and especially in weird horror, death is a constant presence. Possibly, our relationship to grief experienced in the world is there too, if we look close enough.

Cover of book TO DROWN IN DARK WATER

My collection TO DROWN IN DARK WATER, including Green Grows the Grief, is now available to pre-order from Undertow Publications.

Eligibility Post 2020

Related Work

The work I’m most proud of in 2020 is my article for Tor.com about portrayals of homelessness in Science Fiction and Fantasy which I think will be eligible for Related Work nominations.

I hope you can find time to read the piece as it’s a topic close to my heart and a people experiencing homelessness are part of society often overlooked.

www.tor.com/2020/04/15/confronting-the-default-portraying-homelessness-in-science-fiction-and-fantasy/

Short Stories

2020 has been a good year for new short stories with seven published since January.

These are;

Old Fashioned in Lackington’s #21

Old Fashioned is a story about cocktails and cosmic horror. Imagine The Repairer of Reputations with added Orange Bitters and you’re on the right track.

Children of the Rotting Straw in Weird Horror #1

Children of the Rotting Straw was inspired by the image of the sky obscured by wicker hurdles, and grew from there into some strange Jack and the Beanstalk, woollen, scarecrow populated hybrid horror story.

No Sun to Guide the Way upcoming in Speculative City

Schwabylon in Munich no longer exists. With it’s seventies sunburst frontage, Yellow Submarine themed club, and 600,000 litre water tank containing 30 sharks it seems more like something from a Bond villain’s fever dream. Schwabylon was the inspiration for my weird fiction story No Sun to Guide the Way.

Tides Breathe When Words Are Spoken in Not One of Us #63

Tides Breath When Words Are Spoken grew out of work I did for an exhibition in Munich. The story is based around the idea of a lunar language expressed through geology.

On a Bed of Flag Leaves at Unsung Stories

Where I grew up in Harrogate the disused railway track was known as The Airy Mountains (or sometimes The Hairy Mountains) so William Allingham’s poem The Fairies has a special place in my heart. Now I’m a parent, the devastating loss hidden in verse four really resonates with me, and was the inspiration for On a Bed of Flag Leaves.

Green Grows the Grief in Shadows & Tall Trees 8

Grief features a lot in my work, and Green Grows the Grief is one of the stories where I explore loss and how we mourn. The inspiration for the setting was a compendium of abandoned greenhouses put together by Messy Nessy Chic.

The Fugue of Winter in Glass & Gardens: Solarpunk Winters

The Fugue of Winter brought together some technical ideas I put together for a project pitch. These included taking inspiration from penguins for architectural approaches to regulate building temperature. I don’t often write upbeat stories. I wanted to write a story which was about discovering and valuing the beauty of music, enough to risk everything to preserve it.

Flash Fiction Month 2020 Day 6

Today’s story is another inspired by a dream. Is anyone else dreaming more at the moment?

River Stone

“Come down to the river bed.”

Mac grasped my wrist and led me across the worn down limestone, not caring whether I struggled to find footing amongst the weed covered rock. I followed best I could, stepping into the water to save myself from falling. Soon we stood at the centre of the shallow river, a small plateau of smoothed stone surrounded by veins of water.

“What are you showing me?” I asked, trying to ignore the chill in my feet and keep the ice from my voice.

“The foundations,” he said. “The Abbey was here.” His arm curved wide, taking in the whole of the channel surrounding us and returning to point to the expanse between us.

I shook my head until he sighed and knelt.

“Look, here, below the fossils. The Abbey once stood here. The monks came here to worship.”

“That’s not the Franciscan site we’re looking for,” I said.

“I know,” he said. “This is much older. The Twisted Church of the Boiling Sea. The Holy Order of the Gasping Dead. The Congregation of the Eroded Eyes.”

I looked once more at his evidence. Between the fossils all I saw were the scratches of his trowel on the stone.

That night I dreamt of the Abbey. Saw the narthex rammed with gasping worshippers, the nave and cloisters carpeted with those barely alive clawing at the bare bone pillars. The ceilings hung with intestine garlands. In my dream I waded through the bodies, stepping in rib cages as I approached the altar. The black volcanic stone block was pinned with a single cover. Approaching, I recognised several tattoos in the preserved skin and woke with my fingers tracing the ink in my own arms.

The next day I’d agreed to meet Mac at the river once more, but when I arrived I was alone. I searched the banks and the channels for any sign of him, worried in case he lost his footing in his fervour. With no sign of him I walked out to the limestone once more. Stood there alone I shuddered at the memory of that cavernous church and knelt down to settle myself. Amongst the fossil shells beneath my feet I saw the shattered ribs that I so recently stepped over. Kneeling down, I brushed a smear of dirt and rubbed the away at the stone.

Even with an expression of agony, even below the compressed shells, I still recognised Mac’s face pinned down and stretched, and as I stared at his trapped distress in the limestone I felt the temperature drop and knew the Abbey would be rebuilt and once more gather worshippers to its halls.

Flash Fiction Month 2020 Day 5

Morning! How are you today? Today’s flash fiction is about music and voices, and beauty. At the start, anyway.

Silvered Voice

The wings fluttered the silvered surface of the pool. Not both wings at once, but each in turn. Feather tips scraped across the metal, tearing through the crust and letting the molten steam rise through the air. The angel drinks it in, and as the silver cooled to line its throat, the creature began to sing.

We watched from a distance, hidden in the undergrowth, the charms we wore at neck and wrist hiding us from its gaze. The angel raised their head to the sky, and we pressed record as their voice erupted once more. Hidden within the modulations were the notes that would free us from this world.

Back in the recording studio we started the ritual at first light, reinforcing the equipment with incantations and invocations, both demonic and angelic, in hopes our preparations would allow the mixing desk to bear the pressure of the voice within.

With dried toads thorn pinned, and rook’s feathers fanned between speakers and floor, we played the recordings.

The distortion was noticeable straightaway, the crackling and deforming of the purity until it become debased and impure.

After the voice came the angel. Not the one we saw singing silver above the pool, but the one shaped by the song erupting from the shattered notes in the amps. We watched as it dragged itself through the fine mesh of the speakers, lacing together torn strands until it stood before us and slowly, piece by piece, dismantled us. We are now one voice. We are the distortion and the signal decay. We are the fade and the interference. We are the singing angel and we do not sing the world silver any more.

Flash Fiction Month 2020 Day 4

Just a little warning that today’s story is a bit graphic, and fairly heavy on the body horror. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy. (The inspiration for this was a dream, so I had this living in my head…)

Salve

We never expected the dead to start religions.

They stood between us and the way out of the city, thousands of them worshipping under ragged carrier bag banners.

When they finished their devotions, the congregation would come in our direction, so hiding was no option. We watched their rituals and tried to come up with a plan.

The priest stood dead centre of the road, torn arms raised to the sky as her damaged throat wheezed words we didn’t understand. Around her, the dead mimicked her invocations.

Some of the gathering still looked human, just at the beginning of their transformation, others little more than sentient pools of muscle, softened bones erupting from the surface. Windblown grass-seeds and corn husks peppered their rotten flesh. Even from a distance we saw where the wounds were tattooed with road dirt and grit.

But the priest? She had been one of the early infected yet still held her shape, and this is what she offered them. Coherence. Identity. The ability to remain whole, even beyond death.

The prayers stopped and she gazed around her flock. When the infections started we thought the dead lost language, but that too was transformed.

“Our calls will be heard by the Lords of the Third Circle,” she said, staring lovingly at a family melted together into a single wall of meat. “We will be delivered to the next world in our true forms. Our brethren who have already succumbed will be returned to us.”

We were so distracted by the proceedings, we did not notice the working party surround us, grasping our hands to our bodies with gloved hands. They walked us down to the centre of the makeshift church. With gasps of joy, the Priest turned toward us.

“Truly the Soured Lords have answered our prayers.”

The gloves should have been the first clue. We expected them to feast upon us, or leave us to be transformed. Instead they kept us alive and healthy, peeling us apart one by one and applying our fat as salves.

While we still held onto rational thought through the pain, we knew it would do no good. The infection did not work that way, but religion was a powerful drug, even amongst the melting dead. We were medicine and cure. Henbane and Belladonna.

We were hallowed and revered, even as they prised us meat from bone, and boiled us down to smear on their skin. We were the most holy of holy and they showed their reverence with each cut of the knife. 

Flash Fiction Month 2020 Day 3

Meadow Mist

Today’s story was inspired by a photo my friend Lynn Hardaker shared.

Dog in hand, she watched the mist rise from the meadow and confer with the morning sun before transforming into ghosts.

Some were a long time dead, others less than a year lost. She sprinkled desiccated herbs in the air, throwing handfuls into the freezing sky.

The faery scented the hollowed seeds as they fell to the floor, crawling out of the bark and dirt, to gnaw on the boon.

They noticed the woman first, but she had taken precautions, circling her feet with dried mushrooms and blessed bones.

Instead, the faery turned to the ghosts, tasting their confusion and sensing no threat. With twigged hands, they reached up and cradled the fragile tapered dead. Then, with words the woman only vaguely understood, the faery led the lost away until they found a path once more.

Flash Fiction Month 2020 Day 2

Today’s story is inspired by a what3words code. I love using these – finding stories from random words.



crowned.copes.everyone

The day before the King of the Fields was crowned the regent was chosen from the young men of the Dale.

Everyone gathered in the lowest field, crowding around the riverbank. Cans were past between people, and lighters were shared as cigarettes were lit, the glittering coals barely visible in the morning mist.

A large circle was formed in the meadow, the unmarried men stepping forward to wait for the choosing. They all knew each other of course, all went to school together and played computer games together, but on that morning no-one spoke.

A chair was dragged into the centre and, with the help of his assistants, the local priest climbed up. his back to the waiting boys.

“Today is the day of choosing. The day of selection. The day when we crown the royalty of the land for another year.”

Someone passed him the crown of flowers, the petals weighted with the preservative that kept them from rotting year upon year. Eyes closed, the priest threw the crown into the morning air, and the gathered crowds watched it arc to land amongst their clustered children.

None of the boys moved, not wanting to change their position in relation to the ancient flowers. Over the next fifteen minutes the priest and his assistants busied themselves measuring the distance from the various teenagers to the crown, until a decision was made.

Taking his hand, the priest led the boy forward and helped him up onto the chair, the assistants fastening the copes around the boy’s shoulders, the garment made from the cured skin of the last king of the fields. As the sun rose high above the Dale the gathered crowds began to sing.

Flash Fiction Month 2020 Day 1

Hi!

Welcome to Flash Fiction Month. For the past few years I’ve spent the month up to 21st December posting a flash fiction story a day.

With everything going on I thought about giving 2020 a miss. Then I had some ideas and those ideas become stories, and I had enough of them to make it worth doing.

Here’s the first story. Visit every day for a new piece of writing. Some will be unsettling, some will be beautiful. Hopefully you will find something you like.

Room 1

Room 13 is the Dracula of hotel rooms. The demon safe to discuss in public. No one ever talks about Room 1.

In Room 1 of Hotels a corner is always left uncleaned, a hidden altar to several half forgotten deities who feast on dead skin.

In Room 1 the bed leg in the northeast corner is always slightly raised to guide dead residents from the building.

In Room 1 of every hotel a portion of the window is always smudged to capture a minuscule portion of your reflection. While you sleep a transparent child crouches in the bathroom and stitches them into a new face.

The bricks lining Room 1 are stuffed with moss to trap any moorland spirits who wander too far from their sodden home. After a period of time trapped within the walls, the spirits are pressed into service as kitchen hands. Their skin is always green tinged and the whites of their eyes scratched by thousand year old twigs.

The window of Room 1 never opens fully. The enchantment along the gap is weak and will shatter if stretched.

Under the entrance to Room 1 is buried an emptied bleach bottle containing a baby bird, a single hawthorn, a sliver of safety glass, and a rusted ring pull.

In Room 1 every dream contains a crying railway porter, his hands shattered and stained with red paint from an empty fire extinguisher. His eyes are the same coloured red.

Never fall asleep on the bathroom floor of Room 1. Whether the Savoy or the Skid Row Motel. What wears your skin when your body leaves will not be you.

Do not turn to channel 37 in Room 1. This completes an ancient incantation and the Static will arrive at clarity for you.

Short Story Collection On Its Way January 2021

EYI09qjWsAIKr_z

I’m very happy to announce that my first short story collection ‘To Drown In Dark Water’ will be published by Undertow Publications in early 2021.

Undertow are a fantastic publisher, who are responsible for collections by Priya Sharma, Laura Mauro, Georgina Bruce amongst other wonderful writers.

I can also share the amazing cover for my collection. The artwork is by Austrian artist Stefan Koidl, with design work by Vince Haig.

Michael Kelly has done a wonderful job arranging the cover, and I’m so proud that this will be on the front of my book.

While I’d like to keep this blog updated far more than I do, you can keep up to date about my work by signing up for my newsletter at tinyletter.com/stevetoase. Coming out once a month, it includes bits of news about my work, some art related chatter, a bit on archaeology, and a free flash fiction story.

Flash Fiction Month 2019 Week 4 (and a smidgen)

Here are the final stories of my flash fiction month. As with the previous three weeks each is linked to a location which you can visit via the hyperlink. Hope you enjoy them.

Day 22

marriage.geology.like

The couple decided to hold their wedding outside. Begin their marriage between sky and stone, not wrapped in brick and plumbing. Feel the geology underneath them, the hawthorn wearing the wind like rags.

Every word they said to each other was stitched with love, and time, the time behind them and the time to come. Hands bound with cloth, they sipped honey wine and made honeyed promises, oaths as sweet as anything the bees feasted upon.

Like shimmers from another world they stood upon the outcrop of rock and reached into the future; one year, ten years, twenty and many more.

With hands enwrapped with promises they spoke words that enwrapped them with memories to come and stepped upon their own bonny road toward a world of their own.

 

Day 23

shattered.swimmers.cuts

The swimmers stand on the glittered shore, feet coated in sand sharp as razors. When they swam out to the island, before the sun went down and chilled the land, the sea was soft and warm.

They watch waves erupt to swallow themselves. Soon the ground where they wait will gnaw upon itself. They can already feel it waking to taste the soil beneath them. The sea swirls and shifts, and with arms bare and lungs filled, they dive.

The sea is no longer soft and warm. Now it is brittle and murderous. They try to make progress, but are overwhelmed. The sea of shattered knives cuts the swimmers to the bone and continues slicing, smearing crests of waves with blood and severed tendons. There is no drowning, just muscle trimmed with a thousand cuts until the swimmers are carried beneath the sharpened tide.

Day 24

worksheet.renamed.obstruct

They renamed her in the hope it would rob her of her power. Take the magic from her hair and bones.

Whenever they pinned her identity to a worksheet or receipt, they changed the letters of her name. Misspoke it when gossipping on the street, and whispering before sleeping.

She did not care. While they shuddered at having the syllables of her slide over their lips or brush their tongue, she went to the overgrown ponds and dressed in lilies, swam in reed choked waters, and sat in meadows where the grasses scratched all the names they called her into her back.

Some days, when she lay in her bed as the summer sun scorched the streets, she heard them talk about her. Call her Joanie, or Helena, or bitch (if they were feeling brave), but none of them had the nerve to obstruct her while she knelt in the street collecting gutter herbs or road ash.

None of them had the bravado to misname her when she bought calf hearts from the butchers, and collected blackthorns on the way home. None of them had the guts to criticise her to her face when she fed the stray cats gathered in her garden, that did not quite look like cats.

While they shuddered at her shadow and stayed silent, she spoke kindness to all those who showed it to her, and any chance she got whispered her own name to herself, and smiled.

Day 25

lowest.whiten.comedy

Since starting her comedy career JoJo had bombed many times, but tonight was bad. Really bad. Tonight JoJo had hit her lowest point.

She stood on the stage, staring beyond the dust covered lights to the bored audience. That was the worst. Not the jeering or heckling, but the sheer boredom pressing back from their passive faces, stifling her attempts at jokes. Killing them before they were even born. The corpses of her humour lay around her feet.

She did not need to do anything else. The sacrifice had been made. From the side of the stage the compere tried to get her attention by glances, then sighs, then hands. She shrugged off his interruptions and refocused. Looked for the micro signals amongst those watching. A hand tapping a rhythm here, and an eye twitching in spasm there. Angles made by skin and the cloth of sweat stained shirts. Her words changed from attempts at humour to calls so quiet she barely heard herself speak.

The first portal opened up in the tear duct of a drunk stag sitting by the front of the stage. What came through was dressed in thorns and each one grazed sigils into the dying man’s eyes. The last thing he saw were the words that powdered his muscles, turning him to bone and dust. The second portal started as a single point in the chest of the compere. JoJo watched it grow and whiten, until it was pure light, though that was just the herald for the corruption that followed. What followed that light was tainted with infection and wounds. It paused before JoJo and recognised the names chiseled into her bones, then moved on through the crowd, defusing them cell by cell until they were little more than scrapings of dust on the cheap plastic chairs.

JoJo watched the things clasp together their rewards; the squirming souls of those shattered and eroded. They would not get all the cultural references in her routine, the dwellers from behind the meniscus of the world, but at least they would listen, and wait until she had finished before passing judgement upon her performance.

Day 26

harps.cook.bunny

Constanza sat upon the stage surrounded by instruments with no-one to play them. Even with no other musicians in the room the strings and skins resonated just below hearing as if the ghosts of all those past performances could not stay silent. As if they needed to find a new home in the polished wood and brass that littered the stage.

She tipped her chair back until only balanced on two legs and then back forward, letting her bow find the tune in the cello. Call back all the performances lost over the years in that ancient hall.

Across the room the harps resonated an answer, finding their own voice in the tune she danced from memory.

The animals started to come in as if the tune she played was food. As if it could give them nourishment that they could not find in the desolate world beyond the building. She watched them skitter down the aisles; deer and wild boar. A bunny leading its family over the red velvet chairs.

They came closer as if she was not there at all. As if there was only the music and the music alone would fill their bellies. She knew this was not true, or she would not be near starving herself. Soon her own stomach would be full. There would be plenty to cook tonight.

Day 27

recited.excavated.basecamp

Basecamp was deserted when Sally returned from the trench.
The rest of the team hadn’t had time to become unsettled by the most recent find. She cradled the artefact in her hands, the cuts and cracks in her skin full of clay and grit.

Now excavated, the object was smaller than she expected. She turned it over, watching as the last of the day’s sun caught each facet in turn, glittering with the dust of many deaths.

All the site huts were empty, traces of recent activity everywhere. A cup of tea cooled on top of a pile of paperwork. In another office a cigarette smouldered in a full ashtray.

She caught sight of herself in a murky hut window, just able to see her lips moving, saying the same thing over and over again. The invocation had already been recited, every step from site, like a penitent on pilgrimage. The world had already been changed. She glanced down at the artefact. Now she saw the faces. Now she saw the others. Now she saw the end of the world, and it came from muttered words that she could not stop from repeating over and over and over.

Day 28

amends.dart.frozen

Bill would not make amends for what happened on that night two weeks ago. That walk back from the club at three in the morning.

Seline shuddered at the memory and carried on arranging icewort flowers on the kitchen table. The evening had gone smoothly; good music, good dancing, the floor not too crowded, then it was time to leave. Outside was warm and the moon was high, so rather than get a bus or call a cab they decided to take their time and go on foot.

From the bag by her feet she took out the blood soaked grit and piled it in the middle of the circle of blossoms.

The cat wasn’t doing anything, just being a bit loud. Trying to get some affection. Bill didn’t touch the animal, didn’t even pretend to hit it. Instead he stepped around the other side, cutting off its escape and giving it nowhere else to go when he shouted. The cat shot out in the only direction left, toward the road.

Seline didn’t blame the car driver. He had no time to stop. She had knelt by the side of the cat, but there was nothing she could do except take the collar and hope to track down the owners.

“It’s not my fault. Stupid creature,” Bill had said, showing no remorse. There had been a coldness in his voice. A disregard for death. If he could be so dismissive over that casualty?

From her pocket she took out the five small half moons of fingernails and dropped them on top of the pile of grit.
The words were easy to remember as all good magic was. She felt her mouth go cold and spat into the centre of the circle.

The dart was barely bigger than her hand, frozen, solid and sharp. She picked it up and whispered Bill’s name, his full name, not that it was strictly necessary. The fragments of him would guide the point to its destination, but ritual was ritual.

Opening the window, she watched the ice dart shimmer for a moment then take off in search of a heart to stop. Sat at her kitchen table, Seline remembered a cat no-one else had a chance to mourn.

Day 29

salon.snow.lasts

Cathryn walked into the salon, feeling the blast of heat from above the door. She shook off her coat and let the assistant take it from her shoulders to hang it in the corner with those of the other customers.

“Morning, madam,” the stylist said as Cathryn lowered herself into the chair. The seat was difficult to settle in, but that was her, not anything she could blame on the establishment.
“What would you like today?” The stylist fastened the cape around her neck, smoothing it down.

“Just a trim please,” Cathryn said.

The stylist ran a manicured finger over Cathryn’s antlers, lingering for a moment at the branch of two tines.

“Are you sure? I have some new styles I’d really like to try out on you.”

Cathryn thought about it. She really did only want a trim, but maybe.

“I can do you a discount,” the stylist said quickly. “As long as I can take some photos.”

She had never been tempted by such delicate work before. Maybe a geometric pattern for a special occasion. Her friends who did spend their money on scrimshaw always managed to damage it during rutting of both types.

“Does it last?” She asked, still not certain.

“It lasts,” the stylist said. “I use a special technique that hardens the antler as I work. Am I okay to start?”

Cathryn nodded, the tip of one of her antlers touching the mirror. Beside her a faun laid back in his chair, eyes closed as the junior stylist carefully sculpted his horns, working away with a small saw.

From a small black table the stylist picked up a craft drill and changed the blade. Settling Cathryn’s head in place, she started to work.

The air filled with the smell of burnt hair as the stylist began to sculpt and carve. While she worked it was very hard for Cathryn to see what minuscule changes the stylist made with each cut. Up on the wall were photos of previous work; minotaurs with religious scenes carved into their horns, and minor woodland gods with bonsai forests of their own shaped into their horns.

After several hours the stylist put down their tools and stepped back, moving Cathryn’s head a touch to one side, then holding up a mirror so she could see the entirety of the sculpture; the delicate bridges with willow trees above, a glistening of snow on the branches, below that the figures sat around the campfire that seemed to move as the light caught them, brewing tea in precise teapots balanced in the flames. Further away, a small boat docked against a jetty while two more floated out into the middle of the river.

“Is it OK?” The stylist said, clasping their hands together.

Cathryn couldn’t speak, but as she nodded, the boats seemed to rock upon the carved water, shimmering through the tears in her eyes.

Day 30

after.unburied.magnificence

The trees tasted the power on the air and one by one uprooted themselves from the forest floor.

Unburied taproots became tendrils to drag them down hillsides and across tarmac, onward toward the cities that glistened in the distance. At first no-one noticed, though the ground itself trembled with the magnificence of that shift, that movement of pine and firs down toward where the people still went about their jobs and hobbies as if nothing had changed. After everything was finished, we realised that was the moment we should have paid attention.

The trees arrived at just the right time of year, clustering in toppled piles by the side of the roads, waiting for families to load them into cars and trailers. Waiting for families to take them home.

Once in living rooms the trees were decorated, covered in tinsel and glass baubles in the shape of fruit they would never grow. None of these interested them. Not the red and white candy-canes or the jagged snowmen made by tiny hands. The trees only cared about one thing; the lights and the energy they carried within them.

While the households slept the trees used their branches to cleave the bulbs to their trunks, shattered the fine glass casings, pressed the prongs against their bark, and as the electricity sparked through them they drank the energy directly into their timber, feeling it change them. Outside the streetlights flickered with the drain.

Pine needles smouldering, the trees left their living room perches, and found their way through darkened houses, lighting their own way to silent bedrooms. Twirling in the dark they unfurled the broken strings of lanterns onto the silent figures and watched without remorse as the families twitched and smouldered in their beds. The world had once belonged to the trees and once more the world would be nothing but forests.

Day 31

 yelled.magic.tornado

The stones themselves yelled to cover the screams of the grass and the soil and the earth beneath them. From one side to the other, the circle was crammed with people, their heads turned in worship, no matter what they were worshipping.

Each person carried a little magic, a spark of a spell or curse buried deep in their heart. Not a lot, but enough.

The stones tasted the magic on the air, felt it dragged out of worshippers by the rising sun, held in the sky between the cold and the heat to come.

As the stones screamed and chorused so loud that no one could hear, they spiralled the enchantment into a tornado of devotion that enveloped the sky and the sun and the land and every single shimmer of life between.