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Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Shaving The Dream

published 'Drift' 1998

I dreamed of dropping into sleep whence it was impossible to wake. However, a boy, whom for a split second I recognised, demonstrated the path back through the wood, but not without warning me about the sheep that nibbled grass in the clearing at the wood’s heart. Their coats of wool were morling-, not shorling-, shaved.

I took my ancient life upon my shoulders and, after shaking hands with the stranger who had sought to assist me, I entered upon the various darknesses that embraced the trees. When I awoke, I was just as disappointed as relieved.

Once I must have been a boy, I suppose, being a young man now, but the boy I had been I never really knew as myself. So, I was delighted, several benighted dreams later, to become the same old man from the previous dream who then met a boy halfway into that same wood. I recognised him from my waking album of dream photographs, those images decked in sepia memory. He squatted in the crook of a Bend-Over.

“Hi!” he said as if he had been waiting more than one generation for this meeting. I approached and pinched his arm to see if he was real. “Ouch!” he squawled.

“Are you really me as I once was?” I asked.

“I don’t know about that, old man, but I sure know I’m the tender of baa-lambs round this neck of the woods.”

I awoke before the dream was complete. This time I tried to force myself back to sleep, eager for its ending. But daytime worries interposed, as they often did, along with the new array of mounted memories.

In the future, probably sooner than I then thought, I shall be an old man in real life, being a young one now. So, when I paid my last visit to that dream (or vice versa, it to me), I began to feel no longer a protagonist within such dream...

The old man has become quite autonomous of myself and accompanies the shepherd boy in the heartwood, both counting the number of times a white ball of wool is thrown back and forth, without either of them dropping it. The boy’s so intent on the game, I wonder what can have happened to his bo-peepery.

Middle-aged eyes squint from behind some Sting-Backs, intrigued to see which of them falters first. Indeed, there’s no way to pull the wool over my eyes nor tug my optic fuse from its bed of sinew, although the curve of sight is skewed by the filtering lens of dream, as well as by the tangled morling¬wool on the nettly Sting-Backs’ stickiness.

Beyond waking’s shore, I eternally count asleep sheep, until the old man drops the ball.

Posted by augusthog at 3:49 AM EDT
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Cross Vertigo


 (published 'Peace & Freedom' 1989)

It was cool on the front. The sluggish tides of the weed-choked sea slid greyly to and fro upon the litter strewn beach. The morning had dawned brightly enough but now, by mid-afternoon, threatening clouds had built up and the Big Wheel, turning slowly at the end of the f ore-shortened pier, was almost lost to the encroaching mist.

A few late departures of the deckchair brigade, their silly hats and striped canvas windbreaks, now looking decidedly lacklustre with fish and chip grease smarming their bodies like sun oil and kiss me quick sandcastle flags in their beehive hairstyles, clambered up the shingle to the promenade, with only a few words between them.

Suddenly, there was a loud ?Halloo!? from one of the beach huts. A shaven yob splattered out, limbs flailing like a wild pair of tenantless stocking suspenders. He slobbered at those who had just evacuated the beach, pointed out at the sea and shouted so loudly his half-kraken croaks seemed to comee in off the waves like a series of echoes.

He ranted on of an enemy fleet that even now was slipping through the mist, its looming dark hulks of landing craft creeping in...

Those on the big wheel could no doubt see them already, hence the screams. The yob ran off towards the town, where he would try to spread further panic and ....... but nobody would pay any attention, if he did not look sensible.

Altin was one of those on the big wheel. He did not know why he had decided to have a ride upon the baskets, for great heights to him were like great depths to Flat-Earthers. Every time someone got on or off at the bottom of the Wheel, it seemed that it was Altin who was left exposed, right at the top, to the soaking underdrag of the towering clouds.

And, then, during one of those inexplicably long stationary periods when he was thus aloft, he spotted the school of whales coming in, with jaws opening and shutting in rhythm to the waves. One was suddenly snorting as it beached itself on the shingle. Another beached itself upon the first one. The pier shook, as yet another lodged itself between the corroded pillars. Altin closed his eyes in disbelief.

Altin was one of those whales, by several reincarnations removed. Except they weren?t whales at all. They were the sea-bed come to life, chunks of it separating from Mother Earth as in some caricature of evolution.

The comedy came to a close, as the pier collapsed with all upon it. It was a happy ending, for the slobbering yobs and deckchair dickheads had at last been pre-empted by, although a much deeper entropy, a far finer evolution.

The whale-like creatures roamed the thinning, flattening, drying, big wheel discus of Earth Comestible... The version that was Altin smiled with jaws that were not meant to smile, for he was as low as junkies get high.

Posted by augusthog at 3:48 AM EDT
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Friday, 25 April 2008
The Welcome Mat
with Chris Pelletiere

Having failed to make contact with the co-author, Weirdmonger has also failed to gain formal permission from him to re-publish this story. However, he feels happy that the co-author would approve - but if he should object at some stage in the future, it will immediately be removed from this website.

First published 'Freudian Variant' 1998

When Alan arrived at the big house he was welcomed by a mat.

A doormat. One with stiff scrubbing-brush bristles for the feet to scrape themselves off on. However, it had patchy sprigs, too - what, on closer scrutiny, looked like synthetic hair amid the bristles (or he certainly hoped they were synthetic), sprigs that spelt out a word that was not even remotely welcome. In fact he had to will his wobbly legs to hold himself up. He looked down at the doormat again. The few beers he’d had before coming hadn’t helped. His mouth had gone dry. A memory was coming up at him as if from the mat. The mouth?...

When he was a baby, his Mother had washed him in his Grandmother’s sink. Two witches washing. Something about his feet coming into contact with the hole in the sink, of his bare toes going into the drain itself made him sick.

Surely they must have washed up the dishes first. They wouldn’t have sat him down near the dirty sink-hole, would they? That’s what these synthetic strands in the otherwise bristly mat strangely became to resemble ... bamboo-shoots, roughage and spaghetti spoiled and leftover in a sewer-mouth.

The old memory (perhaps the oldest) ended and, today, his toes curled and clawed within the airless shoe-leather. Cringing was not even a starter. Squirming came in last place. There was no possible word to describe his growing disgust at the “welcome” mat. Except perhaps the word itself that the sprigs spelt out, a word that was a potential toe-nail sketch of the emotion the word’s actual medium of communication induced.

Alan shook his head. He wasn’t mad enough to dwell on such madness for long. The door that gave the doormat part of its name had by now opened in response to the banging which he had forgotten - in his momentary disgust at the hairy word - ever having made by swinging the knocker.


There stood a woman on the doorstep, noticeably beautiful despite the half-undone curlers in her auburn hair. She was untidily made up. And she had a voice like the one Alan thought her Pekinese dog would make if it could speak. The latter had indeed crawled between the woman’s legs and stared blankly at the visitor.

“I’m a purveyor of tantalising brushes and mops, dear lady,” Alan answered.

His mother (many years before she died from food poisoning) had given him his original supply of such goods from her own under-stairs broom-cupboard. His door-to-door business had progressed from that small beginning.

NOMICON BRIGHT-EASIES was the sign on his suit-case, a suit-case which he had by now positioned on the mat to hide the sight as well as the meaning of the word ill-planted amid the healthier bristles. Words, after all, had shape as well as innuendo.

The woman seemed to swing inside the house with one smooth motion, the little dog still between her legs, as if they both were attached to the door. He was reminded of a little wooden German house that hung on the wall in his Grandmother’s ancient abode, one that forecast the weather. The children would swing out through one door with the sun or the witch through the door alongside with the rain.

Well, the woman had entered and so must he. And, taking a step inside, he felt as if his feet were pushing through jungle growth, so thick was the doormat. As his eyes became adjusted to the darkness, he actually believed that the jungle existed around him. The hallway was humid. The carpet seemed an extension of the mat outside and, upon gazing down upon it, the pattern seemed to twine in tangled vines. He felt that, with simply one more step, he would drop into it and need to cut swathes through new-grown straw with a machete.

His eyes quickly plucked themselves from the carpet as a bird’s cry sounded somewhere in the hallway accompanied by smell of spicy fruit gums. Indeed, there was a bowl of such gums - which he firstly took to be tropical fish - on a circular table in the centre of a living-space, the latter being a room which he was gradually discerning around himself.

At least he’d managed to inveigle entry into this house but, as normal, it was always hard at first for him to pitch his product - and he sought reassurance in his case of bright-easies at his feet ... but the woman (and her yappy dog) had vanished.

He surveyed the room and decided to station himself on the long sofa. But where was the prospect? He was beginning to feel himself to be a stick of furniture, the longer he waited. Or a piece in some strange game that had just kicked in - and, whatever the next move, he felt he was in place for it.

What he assumed was the sound of tinkling wind chimes in air began to settle like the rattle of chains or ring of keys upon the sofa’s territorial share of carpet. His clammy hand in his lap reminded him that he was fighting down panic. The crackling noise of dried-out vines betokened the prospect’s re-approach, clutching, as she did, a cup of tea and a plate of one biscuit, items which she fetched as a reminder that the mat outside was not the only welcomer hereabouts. The slit-eyed pup was nowhere to be seen.

“It’s got its own saucer,” the woman said (with an inaudible slimy aside to the floating fruit gums). She evidently had read Alan’s mind.

He heard a squeaky slurping from the nearby kitchenette.

“As I said, before, Madam,” he said, as he simultaneously thumbed open the suitcase’s catch and balanced the provender she had offered him on his knee, “I am the proud purveyor of these Nomicons of Newness. Just with one touch of this feather-duster the whatever-it-is becomes not only clean but as good as new...”

He brandished a stick that he had extracted with some care from an elastic holder within the lid of the suitcase. There were at least two stiff quills as one end.

“That’ll scratch more than it’ll burnish,” she complained, taking the implement from Alan’s outstretched arm-signal of welcome-and-try.

Ignoring her comment, he tugged from his item of soft luggage a steel rod which had what looked like a jaw of teeth at one end.

“This plunger’ll eat germs as good as any sink can incubate...”

The woman pointed at the ceiling to where the darkness had settled and asked: “Have you got anything that can hoover that away?”

Alan smiled. At last! A bite of his best available cherry. Surely, if nothing else, Nomicon Bright-Easies were suckers for God’s darknesses and for gloomy corners that any amount of unnatural light couldn’t budge.

Squinting up at the dark ceiling, he tried to judge which attachment to use and how long an extension needed to suck down whatever was up there. To impress the woman he decided to deploy the Nomicon Bright-Easy Power Head. Meanwhile, all the plastic attachments were now out of his case and spread all over the carpet.

He felt like an artist choosing the right brush. Now that he was in the pitch, actually demonstratinf what he’d come to do, he was no longer anxious. He was in control. Should he part her window drapes himself or ask her to do it? It certainly would be easier to see where to aim that way. She seemed to guess what he was thinking because she crossed the room, took hold of the drapes and pulled them aside. There was a brittle breaking sound as she did this. There would be something to clean up now, by God he thought, a little uneasily but, instead of thinking too long what this might be, he thought instead of what attachment would do the trick.

“What?” Alan said to the woman who was trying to tell him something over the noise the vacuum was making. “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never harm me,” he thought, turning off the machine and facing towards the woman. Why did he think that? She wasn’t calling him names... She was telling him that it was dark outside now and, even with the drapes pulled aside, the one lamp in the room couldn’t illuminate the ceiling.

It was true. There was no use squinting up into the darkening ceiling which seemed to mirror the shadowy current in the carpet below. The pattern in the carpet appeared to move as if in a stream. Whether Alan looked up at the ceiling or down at the carpet, the whole room began to flow together. He felt he were standing on a horizon line of sea and sky and that line had suddenly vanished leaving him merged and teetering in between.

He felt dizzy and backed up for the safety of the sofa. The carpet was on the move again and out to trip him up. It wasn’t the vines this time but the wires of the Nomicon Bright-Easy machine that made him stumble.

The woman’s arm shot out in one quick darting movement like the tongue of a lizard to catch a lazy fly, drunk in the hot sun. The hand that held him from falling was hard, like bound sticks and missing, it seemed, some of its fingers. Was this the hand that drew the drapes aside with a snapping sound? He felt her other hand grip him and heard the dry rustling sound of Easter palms as she lowered him to the sofa. She smiled down at him and said “Welcome” with the voice of a mother soothing a son. Then she smoothed his brow and stroked his hands leaving behind a stigmata of tiny splinters.

“What is your name, Madam?” Words he managed to slide out through his chapped lips. Names will never hurt me.

“My name is Mrs Poppy. Zena Poppy.” Except these words did.

The one embedded in the doormat came flooding back to him. But he did not remember the word itself, not its shape, not its form, not its sculptural phonemes, but merely its essential meaning, a sense and tone that hung about like druggy, vine-like fish-creatures. Indeed, the flooding back was constituted of dry waves, like upon the surface of a sea on the moon. And this creature was an inhabitant of such a sea, scraping its parchment scales along a scabrous bed.

All mixed in with other names. His mother’s, his grandmother’s, and the German heritage in his family: the paintings of murderers that lined the walls of his childhood home. The tiny weather house. Mingling in with the doormat word that could not be shaken off...

But he did shake it off.

“You must have fainted,” said the woman.

Alan sat with his head in his head.

“It’s Ok, Mrs Poppy. I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s the weather, I’d say. So unseasonable.”

Unreasonable, too, thought Alan. Would the drought never end? It was as if global warming had taken the earth in a grip so tight, all the water was being squeezed down some cosmic sinkhole, never to be seen again.

Wormholes, black holes, wormcasts...

He still felt faint. He’d forgotten, till now, how hot the day had been. No wonder he was getting hallucinations. Tramping around town with his case. Too dry even to sweat properly. He was stirred into permanent recovery from malaise by the yapping of the slit-eyed pug, who was snaffling around with the Power Head’s wires, as if it thought it were fighting a monster of some kind. Alan couldn’t help laughing.

“Wilbur! Wilbur! Leave the gentleman’s things alone!”
“Don’t worry, Mrs Poppy. There’s nothing he can really harm.”

The single lamp was now struggling with the full-bodied onset of night and Alan decided to switch on the full-beam of his Power Head vacuum, a facility he had actually forgotten, till now, it possessed. Taking an apologetic glance at Zena Poppy’s face - and she now looked decidedly attractive despite the dis-spiriting gloom (or perhaps because of it) - he threw the large trigger and a shaft of light, constituted of several intertwining beams, cannoned through the darkness towards the ceiling proper. He could now discern several cobwebs and thicker clusters of fibres amid the porphyry of the upper surface’s ornamentation, wherein, as the shaft cut deeper swathes into the various consistencies, were seen flickers and shadowy shifting things that actually must have lived and breathed up there. Darkness made dust. No other way to describe it.

“Oops!” said Mrs Poppy, with evident embarrassment at the hidden corners where her house-pride hadn’t reached.

“Don’t worry, Mrs Poppy. Some of the best housewives in the world have been shocked at what my Power Head can find!”


Things are looking up thought Alan as he swept the darkened room with the Power Head illuminating orange slices of it in strobes ... and things are looking down, too, he noted, watching slit-eyed Wilbur's frantic attempts to catch whatever was dropping from the ceiling. Indeed, the mutt's eyes were opened now to the size of saucers -flying ones, it would seem, judging from the way he was running around and barking berserkly. Alan, of course, could see nothing. Wasn't this always the way with animals?

The beam of light from the Power Head was like that from a movie projector and Alan imagined a World War Two documentary unreeling before his eyes. The powerful searchlight scanned the night sky as the Power Head gave the signal, with air raid sirens beginning to wail. Wilbur was beside himself on the floor, now scuttling in foaming circles. The fine line between land and sky was once again vanishing for Alan, as he saw, in his mind's eye, Luftwaffe Condor legions overhead.
His mission - to look up and Hoover down Hitler's huge Henkel bombers. His dilemma - that he himself (with his German blood, scars and decorations) was looking down from one of the cockpits.

He was abruptly brought down to earth by Wilbur who, having caught something from the ceiling, was busy worrying it to death in the carpet's tangled pile.

"Wilbur! Wilbur!" screeched Mrs Poppy, in wild remonstration.

The word in the Welcome Mat came back, with its full force of meaning, if not its actual configuration as a word, while Alan became faced with the goriest, yet most cosmically nirvanic, scene to which it had ever been mankind's misfortune to bear witness. Even the wisest writers of literature and philosophy would have been at a loss for words, real words, words that possessed textual substance as well as semantic evocation. The few beers Alan had supped before coming hadn't helped. Memories mixed with meanings, two witches at the sink, a suitcase that contained more than its size, a Pekinese mongrel with abject carpet-manners, fruit congealed like gum mastic, frog-throated alcoves masquerading as empty ceiling-corners, Nomicons of Nothingness where age was older even than the need to clean things (primeval sludge being a devil to budge from prehistoric drains), amphibious aircraft threading the cobweb-runners (how else could they fly when heavier than air?), murky monsters with extraneous tentacles, feeler-fairies in dark-skinned tights, opiate blooms enlacing the hardened tendrils extruded by spider-gaunts ...

Opiate brooms. Alan was confused slightly by the misspelling. He quickly fastened his suitcase, after re-stowing the Power Head therein. Took one last glimpse at the grue-strutter that called itself Zena Poppy. Gave an irritable kick towards the miniature manky man-chewer called Wilbur. And dashed from the house into the welcome freshness of a cloud-burst.

Either the cheeks were rain-strewn or they were real tears, as Alan dwelled upon the memories which he hoped were the only real memories: his Mother's hands as she bathed him and his Grandmother's affectionate liking for clean plumbing. But then he looked. This time, he looked not up nor down. He looked back. No, not back, but black. On the Welcome Mat stood a likeness of Alan himself, evidently stuck - through his own shoe-leather - to the bristly word he couldn't ever forget amongst even the stickiest sicknesses that could possibly be conveyed by mere meaning: the blade-straight lines, deadly slope and enticingly deceptive scimitar-curve which Wilbur's jaws had been tussling into shape.

Posted by augusthog at 4:01 AM EDT
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Monday, 21 April 2008
a collaboration with my father, Gordon Lewis (1922-2007)

Throughout my life I have been led into some bizarre situations — but none so bizarre as the one I recently experienced… not led this time, but into an extraordinary situation that seemed to materialise all on its very own.

It all began with a dream, a nightmarish dream from which I wakened, sweating so profusely, one could have supposed I had actually been running my heart out to get away from an angry mob that were yelling blue murder as they chased after me.

But why ‘blue murder’? There seemed some key to the mystery in these words. There was once a horse I had a flutter on — called Blue Murder — a horse which had, in the end, been destroyed, after breaking a leg during the very race in question. I won’t go into details, I’d spare you at least that.

Funny, it was only recently I realised Red Rum spelt ‘murder’ backwards. Did you know that? Anyway this is not getting us very far, is it?

The ‘bizarre experience’ syndrome did not really start with my dream. I’ve had some peculiar dreams, on and off, for most of my life (as we all do)... waking events closely following (by a short head) such dreams with uncanny logic... until I took it, more or less for granted that certain coincidences were inevitable. So, why had this recent dream of a pursuing angry crowd affected me so unduly?

I suppose I’d better start at the beginning. I struck up a relationship with Rachel Mildeyes. (Well, you’re right, that wasn’t her real name, but I guess it suited her). My name, you ask? Well, it is John Bello... and I shall make no secret of it, I am one of those blokes who mix and match various jobs, most of which are unmentionable, because Clink would beckon otherwise. Often barely on the wrong side of the law, I have to watch my back. You never know who you are talking to. And you may be someone I can trust. But maybe not.

Rachel Mildeyes, though, I trusted one hundred per cent. She was the first one to tell me of the recurring dream — one of an angry crowd. She had suffered it from childhood, in various guises. I wonder whether I’d been infected by knowing about it first. I shall never know.

It was not really a pursuit. More a race. I was not fleeing the crowd but rather competing with it. The race never seemed to finish — but was continuous from dream to dream.

There are those who make a hobby of interpreting dreams, even a profession writing reference books and forecasting the future. I thought about visiting the local library to check up on my dreams. But were they really my dreams? I suppose they had been imprinted on my sub-conscious mind by the oft repeated tales of Rachel’s own recurrent dreams. It should be her that ought to consult books about dreams and their meanings. But they didn’t seem to bother her overmuch, so why should I be bothered? In my dreams I had become one of her pursuers... and Rachel was certainly worth pursuing!

I shook off my meandering thoughts, and, on checking the time, I busied myself in getting ready for the day ahead. It happened to be the day for viewing the articles for auction (in the local auctioneers) that would be disposed of the next day. It was more than a hobby of mine, being the source of most of my income, selling my purchases on. I had become quite expert at spotting a bargain, even if some were not genuine antiques. They could be made to look genuine enough to sel1 on to the unwary.

Later in the day I had to pay a visit to the reference library to check up on a particular item I had become interested in. Whilst there I thought again about the pursuing dreams of Rachel. There was a section on running away and being chased. Being pursued was explained as the dreamer being unsure of oneself, running away from reality. But there was some comfort for Rachel... it went on to say: ‘if pursued without being caught, it meant quite the opposite.’

Rachel and I worked as a team at the auction rooms and we were quite successful in our collaboration which seemed to prove she was very sure of herself. We often posed as man and wife when we travelled around the area on the look out for profitable deals, not averse to cheating the uninformed, and making large profits on numerous occasions.

You would not have guessed that Rachel — with her sweet doe eyes — could even attempt to deceive another party. No doubt that was her strength. Nobody did manage to catch her. She would show her pretty little heels — and then gone! On to the next victim...

I was never her victim, though. In fact, I rather think she had great respect for me... saw that I was one of her kind. Fed at the same trough. Inscrutable. Undemanding people with latent powers. She pursued me … until she got me. And here we were again in yet another auction room, chasing that elusive cut price treasure which would eventually bring us our fortune. We were partners in ‘crime’. Never more than that… although I did harbour a deeper attachment… a hare I had sprung to tempt the sleek greyhounds of romance. But that, sadly was all in my head. As they say, the chase is far more pleasurable than the actual kill.

The most recent Auction we both attended was in Essex. It was run by someone who used to hold point-to-point meetings in Marks Tey but now, down on his luck, he needed to resort to the fast and loose games of quick bucks in seedy back rooms where literally everything was up for grabs. You of all people, must get the scene.

Rachel, despite her slight feminine form — lugged in our boxes of ill-gotten goods. As for myself, I ambled free-handed, with Rachel in my wake: I acted as her shield and spokesman. That was my excuse, anyway. So now let me introduce you to Bert — the erstwhile point-to-pointer — a man who spoke with a gruffness only those schooled in the hard knocks could muster.

“Hey I Let me see what all this is!”

I offered to lift the lid of one of the boxes — but Rachel only had to bat her eyelids and mew a plaintive couplet for Bert to become putty in her hands.

“Ok, Ok, Ok,! he muttered, the point-to-pointer indeed pointing towards the platform where various henges of bric-a-brac had been left. “Put ‘em up there with that little lot — I’ll give them the hammer when the best stuff has gone.”

Well, needless to say , Rachel and I made a mint from Bert’s gavel, that day. Followed by a chaser or two at an inn down Eld Lane. But, slowly, it dawned on me that Bert’s face seemed familiar — one I’d picked out from the recurring dream’s pursuing crowd; I then began to wonder if all the faces in that dream were people I knew, or more incredibly, people I was yet to meet.

I always called in to the ‘Half Moon Inn’ down Eld lane, a 17th century building that had some modernisation in the Lounge and Smoke room bars. But the owners had had the sense to leave the, public bar as near as possible to what it was years before. I felt that I was stepping back in time whenever I entered the old world atmosphere enhanced by the log fire in the ingle-nook. There was some particulary good grub there too, my favourite being their steak and kidney pies with brown gravy. Another reason for my choice of pub was the type of person that frequented the old inn. They were the salt of the earth, providing local colour with their North Essex accents mixed with a bit of the Suffolk dialect, we being but a mile or so from that county’s border.

It was a new experience for Rachel who normally frequented the better class of hotel, but she was much taken by the quaintness of the Half Moon’s public bar. We sat on a bar stool for our first drink and ordered the food. When it turned up we sat at a small corner table for two. There was an old fellow seated in the opposite corner with an inch or so of beer in a pint glass, which he seemed reluctant to finish. Thinking he might have been short of the money for his next pint, I looked at him and smiled — not that I was feeling benevolent, but in my trade it was sometimes beneficial to make friends with the very old who had some antiques just sitting at home waiting for the likes of me to buy at ‘ridiculous prices. But my purpose that day was the ‘Albert’ chain and medallion sitting on his waistcoated fat stomach. Usually there would be an old watch on one end of the chain that could prove to be something he might sell if he lived in straightened circumstances.

“Same again old chap? Have the next beer with us,” I said with one of my best smiles.

“Thank ‘ee Zur,” he replied in a really thick accent. “Don.t mind if I do... Half and half be my drink, if you be so kind, Georgie at the bar knows as how I likes it.”

I ordered his drink and carried it to the old boy, who said another ‘thank ee Zur.’ Wishing us good health, he took a long draught of his beer, smacking his lips, as though he hadn’t had a drink for days.

Our food was waiting, so Rachel and I tucked into our pies with relish. By the time we finished the old man was once again sitting there with just an inch or so of his beer in front of him, but this time he refused the offer of another drink.

“That be me ration for today, got to get home for a bite to eat, or me Missus will have me guts for garters.”

We chatted a little and looking at my watch I asked our new acquaintance what time it was, having lied about my watch being stopped.

With that he withdrew a ‘turnip’ of a watch from his waistcoat pocket.

I restrained myself from gasping with surprise as I looked at the watch. I thought I recognised what looked like a very valuable old chronometer he held in his gnarled hand.

“It be a quarter after one o’clock,” he said, and before he had time to re-pocket the watch, I asked if I could just hold it for a moment.

“Twas my old granddad’s watch, it must be a hunnered years old, I reckons.”

My heart skipped a beat as I thought about the value of the watch; it must fetch thousands of pounds at the right kind of auction sales. Returning it to his pocket, he swallowed the last of his beer. Bidding us goodbye with another thank you, he waved farewell to George the barman, who answered by saying: “Cheerio Matthew, see you tomorrow.”

“If God be willing,” said the old chap as he left the bar.

I hustled Rachel saying we needed to be off, and, thanking the friendly barman, I paid the bill.

“That old man seemed a bit of a character... Matthew you called him? I seemed to have seen him before, do you know what his surname is?”

“His full name is Matthew Oxley, Sir, always comes in here early and gone long before this time, perhaps you might have seen him here before, he lives, just a couple of streets away.”

We left the pub hurriedly and I just caught sight of the shambling figure of Matthew Oxley as he neared the end of the road. I told Rachel I would meet her at the car park as I hared away to see where the old chap lived. Who knows? Perhaps he had some other antiquities in his home, but it was that watch I was after; anything else would be a bonus.

Abruptly, I stopped in the middle of Priory Street — my thoughts turning

turtle — Matthew Oxley? The name meant nothing. The name meant everything. It was if I had known the owner of that name all my life, without realising it. Races were timed by timepeices, weren’t they? In the old days, with the punch of a finger on a stop-watch were races determined. Now by the computer — exact to the microsecond — as necks craned forward to cross some frontier first. Matthew Oxley’s watch was the one that had me stopped — heart in mouth — and I gazed at the remains of a Roman wall (near the car—park where I was due to reunite with Rachel). I could imagine faces in the cracks and crevices of the ancient stonework, some staring out with a quirk of light and shadow, others more difficult to fix as I tried to fathom form from chaos.

Rachel, herself, suddenly emerged from these very shifting patterns and, before I was able to establish her identity, she grabbed my hand. Cold fingers clutching others that were mine.

We struggled through the rain-sodden dusk, passing turnings before inevitably, reaching East Hill.

“It probably wasn’t worth much,” she announced with no preamble.

I assumed she meant Matthew’s watch.

“I only wish he had not given me the slip.” I yawned, as I spoke. I looked at her face — the eyes so dim they sank back beyond her very soul. I shrugged. There was nothing… nobody.

I woke, panting for breath. Sleep is usually an ever engine of snores — but here I was literally hyperventilating. Gradually, my chest eased with diminishing traumas. I recalled a new crowd, a new chasing pack, Rachel among them. Dreams within dreams. Or was I suffering dreams that had no dreamer to dream them? Thankfully she was beside me in the bed, I turned to kiss her...

Once shaved, shaken, fed and watered, I listened to Rachel telling me that dreams were indeed chasing us both. Bert’s auction, the Eld lane pub, Matthew Oxley’s watch were all examples of some intrepid force that was trying to suck us back into a pursuing nightmare, a vast mouth with tablets of stone as teeth upon which were etched ancient faces, faces that had outgrown even time itself.

Today, though, she told me, we would find the all important watch in some shop or emporium or mart. Its fragile balanced jewelled movement... a delicate key or clue towards defeating those who chased us. Or something that acted as their magnet….?

“How about the pawnbrokers?” I asked. That’s an obvious place for some to have rid themselves of such a curse.”

She nodded in agreement. And I followed.

As we were walking away from our car, we retraced our footsteps until we could see the three gold balls of the pawnbrokers office. However, for security reasons, one had to ring a door bell for access to the broker’s department. As we had nothing to pawn, we had to go into an adjoining shop that disposed of unredeemed articles. First we looked in the windows of the shop to see if there were any watches for sale. There were none and I supposed there would not be one as rare as Matthew’s watch in the shop either. Entering the retailer’s I was immediately approached by an assistant — obviously not the pawnbroker but a rather threatening lady who asked if she could help.

“I am interested in old watches,” I replied, “particulary gold or silver Hunters or even the rarest chronometers.”

“All we have at present is a Silver half Hunter, and I have never seen a chronometer, they are very rare indeed, not things that are pawned for they would fetch many thousands ot pounds in up-market auctioneers such as the world best, Christies of London for instance. I doubt if you would ever. see one at the local auctioneers. She spoke as if she had learned this spiel by rote. Her eyes were semi-glazed, looking as if she was dreaming about me.

Pretending to be interested in the watch she produced, I said...

“It looks an interesting piece but not one that I would like to buy. Thank you for showing it to me.” I handed it back and thanked her once more, and made to leave the shop. Then, as if I had a sudden thought, I asked if she was local, to which she replied in the affirmative.

“Do you know an old gentleman by the name of Matthew Oxley? I did have his address which I have mislaid, all I know is that he lived very near the car park and actually, he told me his home was near a pawnbrokers shop. He seemed to me he was some kind of local character.”

“I have heard the name before,” she replied. “I don’t know where he lives but I think I know a man who does, I’ll go and ask the manager.”

She returned quite soon, and with a smile she said: “He lives in James street, the road that runs parallel with this one, but Mr Grimes doesn’t know the number, but if you knock at any door in that street they will be bound to know where Mr Oxley lives.” Her eyes by now, had returned to some semblance of normality.

I thanked the lady again and, as we closed the shop door behind us, Rachel was the first to speak, saying exactly what I expected her to say.

“I thought you were on a wild goose chase, and anyway, you’ll never buy such an expensive watch from a legitimate source, you’re more likely to cheat someone who doesn’t know the real value of such antiquIties.”

I frowned. Why was she bringing our dubious deeds to the fore? Was she getting cold feet about our ventures together? Of course she was right and we both eventually agreed that old Matthew’s watch was something we ought to try and wheedle out of the old chap. Perhaps we would meet him again in the ‘Half Moon’ pub… or perhaps there was another way of relieving him of his treasure if we tried to find the house he lived in.

It was only gradually that events took on a pace that reminded me of a race, a human race... a rat race! It was not really that I believed in the whole of life being a dream — only to be woken at some godforsaken hour to face another existence (for better or worse). No, it was none of this. The unspoken love that John Bello and Rachel Mildeyes had for each other was all-important. You (of all people) must have realised that there was more to our wayward relationship than simply ripping off people in two-bit car boot sales or auctions.

In any event, you will understand when I tell you that the day we met up with Matthew Oxley again was an even rainier one than that memorable occasion round and about the Roman wall. We were nearer the Old Heath Road part of town where a huge expanse of grass — strangely — a ‘Recreation’ ground gave well-needed scope for exercising young town-bound limbs…

Why we had ventured there remains a mystery but Matthew led us down Port Lane towards Scarletts, pointing out the peculiar carved faces on some of the roofs thereabouts. (I’m sure if we returned there another day, they’d be merely the years that the house had been built etched as numbers in stone plaques). But, then, that dark day it was a veritable rite of passage which both Rachel and I would remember for the rest of our time on this spinning planet. And the kindness in Matthew’s eyes as he donated to us (gratuitously, it seemed) the priceless chronometer... Well, what can I say?

We waved farewell as the increasing rain sent us speeding for the nearest shelter. The lugubrious Recreation ground seemed simply an empty space where nothing (not even dreams) could vender. Needless to say, we did not sell the chronometer. We kept it as a… memento?… symbol?… anchor...? We did have it valued, however, at the pawnbrokers who said it was worth far less than we imagined. The lady (the one, I guess, we’d met there before) had eyes, though, that were agog: I suspect she really knew its true worth... at least to Rachel and I.

* * *

We still often sup in the Half Moon, but the Oxley chap never turns up. Bert, now and again, pops in with a tip for the gee-gees. Indeed, Rachel and I nigh made a small fortune on a ‘Fourfold Accumulator’ as a result of — not a tip, as such — but more of an instinct. The four horses that galloped in for us (streets ahead of the field in each of their races at extremely good odds) were called Blue Murder, Bric-a-Brac, Brown Gravy and Lover’s Hare. This spot of luck compensated for our — what shall I call it? — new¬found honesty. Any dreams we had, we could merely side step — allowing them to career off into some empty space neither of us intended to follow. You will understand.

Posted by augusthog at 5:13 PM EDT
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Friday, 4 April 2008

Published 'Sivullinen' 1995




The streets were blurred with rain.  Sebastian Kite was wandering the backwaters of a town he thought he knew like the palm of his hand.  But, as the forthcoming night brought the skies closer to ground-level, he found himself in quarters impenetrable - which, in warmer, less foggy days, were speedy with the hard-limned faces of the Undergones.


            He had been employed as agent provocateur by forces unfathomable.


            "Go and find those who need sympathies to latch on to."


            "I'm not the sort to have followers."


            "Just smile, Sebastian, because we've replasticked your image into a likeness they're bound to have drooled over in the walkin-walkouts."


            Sebastian looked askance.  He could not recall his own childhood, as if he had always been a VR junkie, with no home or mother to speak of.  His brain turned over with tolerances and margins-of-error that had been built into the flesh-corroded metal of his skull - whilst the resultant tunnel-vision cranked hard to keep pace with moving targets.  He was not perfect, but if he had been, he'd've been even less so.


            Heavy drizzle was easy.  Though when the shoreless slanting skies opened up later, Sebastian closed his eyes and took heed of the gyre-needle within his shell hat.  They had said that if all else failed, he could try that particular reality-gizmo, tipped towards winning within its loose-oiled gambleworks.  The needle, indeed, would be necessary when beyond the end-scenarios of the city in vicinages that neo-teens and sub-fogeys roamed in whatever weathers.


            Sebastian had been told that grown-ups, in the old sense, had realised that it had gone on all along, but, in rebellion against the inevitable bid-and-offer gaps of the various generations, they had constructed histories which only they could control ... until, too late, they died out, leaving exactly nobody in control.  Their youngsters had discarded all feasible histories, even the false ones.  Mutant gangs of these ill-grafted souls ranged the now leafless suburbs.  Mind-spinning less than their forebears for fear of religious rust, holding on to their identities along with their dreams, thus the trouser-head culture was spurned.  Sebastian found one such, crouching in the gutter's flow.  He then prised the microbone from the dry area of his ribcage and thrust it under the nose of his first target.


            "Those at home will be interested to know what made you come here?"


            "Where's thy spunkin' camera?"


            Sebastian pointed to the helicopteroid the churning blades of which raised the spray.  He then thrust a finger up his left nostril to take control as the huge hosepipe that had lurched from his spinal column thrashed to and fro as it docked with the pulsing belly of the helicopteroid.  It was a live programme of which Sebastian Kite was the celebrity of ceremonies.  His mind had once belonged to a craze-crossed youth, so he knew, or thought he knew, what made their innards tick.  That was why the adult breed had employed him: they needed someone who straddled the cultures.  Sebastian had taken on the job, for he wanted to be in the mainstream of the media, to strut his stuff under timechecks, quickflash captions and transverse-screen news-futures.


            Sometimes, the interviewees failed to behave, as they would have done in real time recordings.  Today was one such occasion.  Sebastian was only a little older that those who stalked for the benefit of the armchair brigade - those couch potatoes and sofa sausages that had square souls.  But nothing seemed to tongue up this particular guttersnipe.


            "Hey moosh, git that spunkin' makeen outta the air, clattrin and splattrin like a spider biggus a nigger's igloo."


            "Hold on, hold on, there are millions watching from that thing up there, wanting to know, to understand the culture you represent.  You see, you are a derelict, an underclass, and they want to learn about you before Sunday Dinner."


            "Underclass?  Undieclass.  Spinning-glass.  Yep, I'm a grunthead, but more flesh and bone than ever the likes of you, Kite-shite.  The rain fogs me bones, but rather that than be like you, O TV Man!"


            Sebastian carried the gaze of millions upon his back, which he now tried to shake off like a dog fresh from dunking.  He watched the young refusenik crawling away along the gutter and he signalled desultorily for the helispider to hang lower.  He took the mouthpiece between his gritted teeth and tried to sound off between the ratchetting of the carapace rotors, as if he were commenting live upon the needle match of his own existence.   Meat versus metal.  The rain clouded his face like interference on an old recording.







Posted by augusthog at 7:58 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 4 April 2008 7:59 AM EDT
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Sunday, 23 March 2008
Time to Shrug and Go



Published 'Eulogy' 1995


time to shrug and go




A packet of pain.  That seemed to be the most understated description possible for what was delivered to me that otherwise sunny day last June. 

            "Hello, Mr Gardner." 

            I stared at the mailwoman's spriggy face, guessed she must be a holiday stand-in for postman Dan and I accepted the sticky-taped wad that she proffered with a sweet surreptitious smile.  I unaccountably resented it, because Dan was the regular feeder of my letter-box with all manner of orange envelopes containing rejections or contracts, jiffy-bagged packages with returned manuscripts or contributor's copies of magazines, adverts, fan mail , bills and, more infrequently, billets-doux from potential sweethearts.

            "Thank you," I said, wondering how she knew my real name—until I looked at the label on the missive's bubbly wrapping.  Gardner wasn't my  pseudonym.  Yet nobody in the publishing world could possibly have known I was called Gardner, especially as I hadn't called myself that for many years: a closely guarded secret, between self and a certain certificate I kept in a casket along with other private papers—simply waiting for the bio-riflers at some indeterminate point in the future.  Although death was the most certain thing about life, it also remained the most uncertain.        

Yet why was she loitering on my doorstep following the delivery of that snap-pod packet, too big for the door-slit?  She seemed to await a reply for taking back to whomsoever had instigated the parcel's path through the mail maze.  Her peaked cap suited her complexion, however—as did the bristly uniform, navy blue pleated skirt above even bluer stockings and shiny high-heels.  Must have been a sore job tramping the post round in those patent leather teeters.  The hair was as colourless as human hair possibly could be, and in endearing clumps.  The mouth kissable but, in the context that day, decidedly unwelcoming, despite the half-smile.

            I started to shut my door.  A thank-you was the most she was getting from me.  I hardly passed the time of day with postman Dan, at the best of times.  So, she'd had her ration of pleasantries already, especially for a new face in the neighbourhood.  I was eager to open the packet, in any event: to see who had the nous and, yes, effrontery, to address it to a Mr Gardner: felt like a book inside, a paperback.  My work had never appeared in a pukka book: mostly magazines to date, albeit, in some case, posh ones. 

So, I was quite excited to see my work printed in something that somebody might pick up at an airport and read on a journey ... which was not usually the case with the magazines I had previously frequented: frequented like an unshakeable demon.

            I was intensely angered when the young miss had the bare-faced cheek to lodge one of her high-heels in such a position that the door jammed open, upon my trying to slam it shut.  I felt the woodframe judder up my bad arm—the one with twinges of tennis-elbow—a snagging that made my teeth on edge, as if the heavy-duty doormat had sufficiently swollen to jar the hinges loose.  I was crazy enough to look down to check it out—to see if my beaver-hair welcome mat was engorged with something other than boot-muck or, even, to gauge its capacity to incubate a bristly soul.  No, the effect was purely due to the positioning of the post-lady's left ankle-joint, heel-drumming, impatiently sole-scraping.

            "Would you mind..." I began.

            This time the smile was broad—in the open.  She doffed her cap, in a moment of mock politeness.  The mouth's kissability was tangible, tasteable in sheer anticipation.  The eyes spoke volumes or, rather, simple stories of fate and fatality.  Here was stirring stuff to startle the most seasoned fiction writer.  The words almost spoke for themselves.  A bestseller before I'd bought off the worst.  I had never been in a story in real life before.  Everything, to date, had been from the inner workings of imagination, if thinly sown with nuggets of experience.  And, like history, there was no arguing with it.

            Mesmerised by her actual ability to exist outside the story which I was about to write, I invited her into my sanctuary with the merest tilt of the head.  Since I had no better judgment left, I could not even act against it.  She knew how to behave; after all, I was the one making her do what she did.  I only had myself to blame.  I wished postman Dan wasn't on holiday.  I would've chinwagged with Dan for ages, simply to keep Dan on duty.  All was forgiven, Dan.  Come in for a cup of coffee, Dan.  Have a freshly baked scone, Dan.  How's Dan's wife?  We should have a chat like this more often, Dan. 

            Nobody had been in my parlour since ... when?  I could hardly remember.  I saw my word-processor on the desk, just waiting for the imprint of my fingers: keyed up for the words to be delivered in description of the events now being physically reflected upon its black screen.  Me and the thickly tweeded mail-woman.  Dan's stand-in.  Coming closer.  Tongue speaking to tongue with spittly gutturals.  My mouth wedged wide with a thicker, tougher wad than a simple human tongue.  The front-door could go hang.  I imagined the missive's bubbly prophylactic wrapping popping as the pods ruptured against the teeth.  Tantalising the soft palate with snapped air-pockets.

            I felt my mind's words slime down the gullet full of so much meaning they would burst that mind soon as they got back there.  Slither words.  Burst blood-blister words.  Sex words.  Reaching to the very backscreen of the brain, by-passing the eyes and, even, all the other senses.  Yet I knew I was the perpetrator of the evil done to that poor lady who was postman Dan's substitute for someone else.  Now her front door was to be lodged open by the porkiest pink parcel she'd ever likely to receive... 

            But, instead, the engorged gland bent back into his own rear-end, impregnating his tiny unsphinctered precinct to the point of lateral blow-out: bearing a sticky-label addressed to a man too mean to be me.


When postman Dan arrived with the same day's delivery, he discovered corpse fingertips straining through the letter-box, as if trying to escape the house.  The fingers led to a man dressed in a navy-blue skirt and peaked cap, as if he had been playing at something to do with trains or airports, perhaps role-playing for real.  A toy post-office set was discovered on the kitchen table, its rubber date-stamp dated with a date past the death-by date.  Also sheaves of scrawl, evidently in some act of self-perpetuation or was it map-making?  All gobbledy-gook.  The man often received a lot of post—in really tiny pink perfumey envelopes from a strange woman (or so Dan naturally inferred, judging by the recipient).  But, as Dan gradually became to suspect, they were all self-addressed and sealed with a loving kiss.  Dan shrugged and went home to his wife who was interested to hear what had happened.  Dan kept the grisly details secret from her and, in time, even from himself.  Certainly a suicide, or as certain as one could be without the corroboration of a primary source.  Suicides were, in any event, more unmemorable than murders: fewer participants.  

            And Mr Gardner had always been out of his arse, even at the best of times, hadn't he?  Time to shrug and go. 



Posted by augusthog at 8:45 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 24 March 2008 7:31 AM EDT
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Sunday, 9 March 2008
Bottom Line

Published 'Glimpses' 1994 


Matthew occupied the garden, accompanied by a half empty bottle of Muscadet on the white table.  He had the world's horrors on his shoulders knowing deep down that if he didn't visualise the downside, somebody far more evil would take up the mantle and dole out even nastier helpings from the dregs of man's barrel.  Matthew's duty was almost like setting the bottom line.  So, his thoughts had pain and sorrow as their marker.  Furthermore, the monstrous hauntings that filled his mind had all the gore left in - mulchy corpses lying in wait with few shreds of flesh in place, then the mincing, the putrifying, living cadaver-swamps.


            He was just visualising such a fate for his wife Amelia.  Yet, she looks with a wan face into the garden, her dress picked out by an artist's palette, greens, blues and gorgeous reds.  She stands at the kitchen door, empty wine glass aloft, as if intent on her share from Matthew's bottle.  He tries to ignore her.  Real people had this knack of creeping up on one and masquerading as ghosts.  He'll have no truck with it.


            She walks towards him, forcing a smile against his efforts.


            He cringes.  A small item has fallen from the sky into his wine, one with insect legs.  He fishes it out but does not throw away the mouthful he is about to take.  No such insignificant member of God's creatures will make Matthew lose out on any wine.  Amelia pours herself a glassful and sits down in the other folding garden chair.


            "There are dark places that I dare not clean," Amelia said.


            Was she the woman Matthew had hired to keep house for him?  Not a wife, but an employee?  He could not be sure.


            "I know the landing is dark, Amelia.  I understand your fears."  He does not understand his own, however.


            "Not only the landing, the broom cupboard, too.  And the main bedroom at the front of the house."


            He seethed.  He had told her not to venture into the master bedroom.  There was nothing that could be cleaned properly in there, after all  -  and she might see the thing in the bed with which he slept.


            Tom now stood at the kitchen door, another empty wine glass aloft.  All Matthew's visualisations had now reverted to type.  Tom used to be Matthew's son, before he grew too old to have him as a father and left home to be a teacher.  Amelia beckoned Tom to join them in the garden.  The grass needed cutting (still does), but Matthew had ensured that nowhere was there available anything that could cut it: to be on the safe side of the bottom line. 


            Tom helped himself to the wine and sat in another garden chair which had unfolded like a yawning stick insect before their very eyes.  Tom's long legs took stretch and splay as if they yearned to escape the body they were tired of toting.


            "Hiya, Dad, lounging around again, thinking up those thoughts of yours?"


            "My thoughts, son, are more real than you'll ever be!"


            Amelia, by now, had taken stock of the grass and urged someone, preferably not her, to cut it.


The people had returned to the house, leaving Matthew to think away to his heart's content.  Where was his daughter?  She was probably visiting one of those dark places from where no children ever returned.  Better than watching soaps on TV.  She had yearned to marry a fruit-stoner, but Matthew had said that a tinker, tailor, teacher or suchlike were beneath her.  But she'd gone off to find the beggarman or thief, no doubt, to fulfil ideas she kept like ants' eggs in her head.


            For all Matthew knew, his real thoughts are even now being acted out inside the house, whilst their alibi sits out here.


            He puts the wine to his lips and is slightly amazed to find it treacly red, ripe for a midnight feast at noon. 


            He'd soon discover that the bottom line had been snatched away.


Posted by augusthog at 10:58 AM EST
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Monday, 25 February 2008

Published 'Onyx' 1994


The wheels jammed.  The car seemed to possess a volition of its own or, rather, positively lacked such a volition – since no amount of throttle, pumping the clutch, squeezing-unsqueezing the foot-brake, tussling with the hand-lever, twirling the steering-wheel and, finally, thumping my head gently on the windscreen could budge the damn machine.  I cursed the traffic lights which had stopped us in the first place: the red-eyed God of our stopped civilisation.  You see, I was quite maddened with rage, and would have blamed, given half the chance.


I suddenly realised that the car was growing smaller.  Otherwise, I was enlarging, which did not seem at all likely.  I felt each hand with the other and the bone shapes were just as I recalled them.  How could bones grow?  A child suddenly skipped in front of the car, because, after all, the halt was  intended to cater for the need of pedestrians.  Not walking since beeing a child myself, I retained very little sympathy for this particular breed of humanity.  On top of that, the child made a face at me as it reached the opposite pavement.  And this face was not its own!


The light has been green for so long it readily resumes its red state, via the amber mode.  The car growled.  I turned off at the ignition, in the hope that restarting would cure the gremlins.  But the engine still turned over, with an even gruffer undertone.  I switched on the radio in order to outblast it, but I could only find cheap chat on some phone-in, where the participants whispered together, in view of the nature of the subject-matter.  I opened the car door, but couldn’t unclunk the safety-belt.  Safety belt! I managed to run the toes of my boot along the gutter, in some desperate attempt to join up with the earth in some life-giving short-cut circuit, whereby the car...


What did I believe? In any event, the child had returned.


"What you doing, mate?  The light's gone green ten times since you been here."  The diminutive figure indicated the line of traffic that had grown behind me.  They had been remarkably patient.  I had peeeds quizzically several times into my rearview mirror to discern the next in line - with large staring eyes and the closest possible resemblance to a woman I knew without really knowing her.


"I can't move the blighter - please fetch someone to help push."


"I'll push if you like."


By this time, the car had taken to rehearsing tiny jolts backwards.  My neck was gradually suffering a pain that felt remarkably as if I had undergone whiplash injuries, from a sudden jolting motorway shunt.  I could turn my head neither way - nor drag my leg back from its feeble clawing at the tarmac outside the car.  By now, the child was heaving itself against the front of the car.


"No! The other way!"


"I'm not blinking well going to get all that muck in my face." 



Yes, I had not been able to turn her head left or right, but I now found I could pivot it upwards as if my neck was hinged.  With my chin pointing towards the backseat (where I could see I now had passengers with ugly-looking scars) I established the child's meaning.  Black smoke belched into view at each articulated judder of the faltering engine.  However, what shocked me more than anything as the evident absence of my original passenger - my daughter in her safety harness whom in the process I was taking to school: the whole purpose of the current journey from A to B, in fact. I always hated wasted journeys.


Several ingredients of humanity should have fitted into the slowly evolving jigsaw of this particular experience.  It all could be explained, everything, that was, except my inability actually to solve the very puzzle which I knew was so very easily solvable.


"Hey, mate, I'm getting my dress  filthy doing this malarkey."



I scowled at the child, then growled.  The lights changed to a combination of red, green and amber I had never seen before.  And the onset of an incessant nagging hooter from behind sent me quite mad with irritation.  I put my hand down my throat as far as it would go without it ceasing to be consistent as a hand - and began to trawl around with webbed fingers.  At last – phew! – I got it started, having unapplied the liver-pads from the heart-stop and unclogged the lung filters for the red octanes to flow through some back-double arteries and rat-run intestines, pushing unwanted silt towards the exhaust, via the bilge sump and the ovaries. I unsteamed my two-faced windscreen and swept off, through the blood-fest of the child, who has done so little to assist.  On second thoughts, I hope it avoided me. Cars’ hearts, you see, are in the right place – they don’t really like leaving human droppings jammed on the tarmac, nor can they even abide cruelty to squashed hedgehogs.




Posted by augusthog at 10:56 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008 11:02 AM EST
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Tuesday, 15 January 2008
Private Patient

Published 'Fresh Blood' 1993


He entered her throat with his teeth.

His teeth were so long they easily by-passed her own teeth and, after gouging the inevitable divots in her tongue and via careless abrasions upon tonsils and the throat’s soft lining, their jagged tips soon found even softer, more blubbery obstacles, beyond which they could not possibly reach, despite the wide-yawning creak of both pairs of jaws. This was the only method for him to suck a body’s juices without doing permanent damage to it. Otherwise, the punctures would have been wall-to-wall.

This had been a particularly heavy feed, resulting from his own uncommon hunger together with the woman having recently been bloated by unnecessary blood transfusions from over-zealous doctors with too many donors on their hands. The vampire sat back on his haunches, formed a bubbly red smile, retracted his sharpened jawbone (along with the teeth) and licked his lips with the rough flannel of a tongue.

The woman returned the smile. Her body felt far less tight, her clothes hanging as if she wasn’t really inside them. The vampire was sliding on all fours towards the exit, casting desultory comments behind him about the weather, the general election, late night TV and so forth. She did not answer. Small talk was never her bag. In any event, she was too exhausted to speak, having, as it were, given birth to a large bouncing baby of blood.

The ever attentive doctors would no doubt return with their donors and hangers-on before the night was out, so her relief was only temporary. It was a pity you couldn’t get vampires on the National Health Service these days. She supposed it was because they themselves needed to pay exorbitant prices for cosmetic bone extensions, with the present Government in power. But if the fees were high, the fangs should be exquisitely long and stake-sharp...

Her smile became an empty sigh.

Posted by augusthog at 10:30 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2008 10:33 AM EST
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Saturday, 5 January 2008
Strangling a Snowman

Strangling A Snowman

She had a jar by her bed – to catch the dreams, she said.

I was a neutral scanner. I was once her sinner, but now her sin-eater. I did not know her name, although I seemed to know everything else about her. Her scanty future. Her even scantier past. Her childhood. Her shadowy parents and those other shadowy figures and less shadowy figures that populated her life. Some were friends, some enemies. Many were neither. 


I never guessed that I was one of her dreams - a dream that the  jar could never catch, because the emptiness it held and used as bait to catch her dreams did not entice me as much as other dreams.


The others were caught by the jar.


And their punishment? To form the emptiness again … become no more.


Dreams were nightmares. Every dream, even nice ones, became nightmares in the end. The jar caught them and neutralised them. Except me. I was already neutral – that's why the emptiness could not entice me.

The figures were white – and she knew she was right.

The shadowy figures that populated her real life I – as her scanner - left her side to follow.


I took advantage of the time she was in deep dreamless slumber to leave off guarding her and followed shadowy figures that had populated her waking hours. These were her many exes. Those who had loved and left and broken her heart. These shadowy figures were white, a fact that was disguised by the shadows that covered them like religious veils.


The shadows themselves were white. Therefore I had to recognise them as real shadows from their aura.

When I was gone – she snored along.

Despite hating them all, there was one among the shadowy figures who really tried to dig deep beneath my veneer of ordinary hate to turn it into extraordinary hate. He was a cheat. A cad. A blackguard. Worse than I'd ever been. His wispy drapes were more like embedded china clay than shattered shadow.


He hid himself beneath a white frozen mould of misshapen humanity, a pipe stuck in his mouth as a disguise, and eyes that had once been spent as shillings. I followed him in earnest. I wanted to spend my misspent youth in stealing his age or experience (once filtered of its evil) to give myself back some semblance of life or of provenance. Then I could truly love her as she deserved to be loved, once woken into the snowlit world that surrounded the house she slept within. She would then refill the jar with emptiness and sleep again, a peaceful sleep of the innocent, with me inside her bed, instead of out. That was an innocent ambition with which even one like me beset by the diversion of extraordinary hate could foster.

She stirred – what she heard?

I had lost track of my prey amid the other shadowy figures that innocently acted as subterfuge or decoy for that dire cad's own re-tracking to the room where she slept, without me knowing. The forest of night was cliffed with sheer wastes of frosty smoothness. I drifted amid the wide white beacons of shadow, seeking the one I wished to strangle with my own bare and frozen hands to rescue my heroine.

The jar was not just empty, it was no jar at all but Cone Zero.

She had awoken out of it – herself  become her own special hero.


I crept away from him, not wishing to interfere with a bad love poem – especially with my extraordinary hate recognised as motiveless madness too late.


I had not even been a good scanner, judging by the forced half-rhyme with sinner. Not even an excuse for alexandrine or assonance. No-man, snowman.  Even I couldn’t strangle sense from nonsense.




Posted by augusthog at 9:18 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 5 January 2008 9:25 AM EST
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