I recently published a collection of some of my dark speculative short stories. Here’s a closer look at the content of that collection…
Falling Apart in the Match-Lit Dark
Victor wasn’t born. He simply fell together. In the depths of a toxic junkyard, split pipes, busted toasters and keyless typewriters connected together, forming Victor’s child-sized body. With a marble for one eye and a cog for another, he blinked in the darkness. He flexed his coat-hanger fingers on his clock-face hands and dragged himself up to the world above. It took him all day to reach the surface, not because he was weak, but because an empty net dragged behind him, catching on bolts and wing-mirrors.
The opening short story is about a little mechanical creature that falls into existence. With the naivety of a child, he wanders the city streets collecting the emotions of its inhabitants. Scared and confused, he eventually falls into the care of a kindly old man and glimpses a brighter human emotion. But the city has other ideas, and pulls him back…
The Carved Woman
Dante had walked the world to find the Living Forest. For fifteen years he had followed hearsay and local legend. And now, as he made his way through the undergrowth, he saw the trees shudder at the touch of his machete. The branches swept with panicked whispers. Just as Dante knew of the forest, the forest also knew of Dante from the voices carried on the wind.
Dante is a haunted, lonely man. He spends his days carving the wood of the Living Forest into human form, trying to regain a sense of his lost love. The deformed, imperfect bodies pile up, until the forest decides it has had enough.
The morning light is trapped by the London smog so that it hangs lifelessly in the thick air. Down a narrow alley, Gretel runs from the confines of a crowded rented room, the slam of the door ricocheting off the bricks. The city opens up around her as she makes her way through its capillary streets; people bustle on foot or on horseback, hackneys and omnibuses clatter down cobbled roads. The stench of condensed life burns the back of her throat and, as she passes a grated vent, she thinks about the sewers that weave below the surface of the city like the veins of a dying thing. Ships chug through the brown waters of the river; ropes tinker against the hollow steel masts of the swell of moored boats at the jetties while seagulls scream overhead.
Gretel works in a Victorian cotton mill. She’s plagued by a nightmare she can never remember, and is sick of being so exhausted while she works that the strappers whip her for every mistake. So she runs into the countryside to escape the suffocation of the city, if only for a while. But she becomes lost and stumbles upon a strange-looking cottage formed of rusted metal and broken rivets, and her nightmare suddenly becomes all too real as the metal screeches to life…
The Fallen Safat
The Safat live in the sky. Unlike other birds, they never set foot on land and never rest; they spend their lives soaring above the clouds, riding high thermals and feasting on stars. Every year, the females lay their eggs in flight. As the eggs plummet towards earth, they hatch and tiny birds dart into the air before the shells smash to pieces on the ground.
But one little Safat never broke free of his egg, and fell to the earth. Wounded, he finds himself lost and alone in an Arctic wasteland. Against all odds, he tries to climb the mountain to reach the stars but is hunted by a terrifying Wendigo.
The Atheist’s Soul
I look down at the gulls and the jackdaws. They glide through the mist, fading and reappearing as they ride the thermals, lamenting to no one with their sad cries. The clouds roll over the cliff edge. Behind me, scattered leafless trees grow sideways in submission to the endless wind. In the distance, I can hear the lighthouse’s apathetic warning.
A man stands on the edge of cliff, contemplating the end of his life. But a strange figure appears and leads him into a concealed hotel buried in the rock of the cliff. It all seems too perfect, too unreal.
Denton had been awake most of the night, as usual, but his body clock was tuned enough to know that it was well past morning. And yet, everything was still dark. Every day for the past fourteen years the slam of metal and the flicker of harsh synthetic light had been his wake-up call, the smell of burnt coffee penetrating the constant musk of sweat and stale cigarettes as the guards changed shift. But not today.
Two cell-mates awaken to a dark and silent prison, instantly aware that something isn’t right. As the inmates wake around them, creatures stir in the darkness. Something has gone horrifically wrong, but who would come to the aid of a group of convicts?
Bump in the Night
Cynthia poured the imaginary tea from the plastic teapot. First for Mister Spears, then for Grobble, then Lucy-Loo. Baby Bub was too little to drink tea. Mister Spears sat stiff-backed, waiting for Cynthia to add the milk for him.
‘Not too much, girl!’ he snapped. The thin line of his mouth did not move as he spoke. He polished his monocle on his white cotton handkerchief before picking up the teacup and sipping, sticking out his little finger.
Cynthia is a strange little girl. She plays on her own, in her locked room, with her imaginary friends. But her imaginary friends are frightening and violent – so she decides to get rid of them once and for all.
Four snarling dogs snapped at my heels, their chains taught, as the officers threw me into the cell. ‘So, you’re all they’ve got? Pathetic,’ they laughed. The cell door clanked shut, the lock clicking. I saw them leave through the haze of red dust, their scarlet uniforms fading as they walked away.
On a far away desolate planet, a man with no memory is thrown into a prison cell. His skin is scarred all over, as though he has been ripped apart and put back together. He looks out of the window and sees thousands of enslaved people, mining rocks in the desert. A swarm of gigantic, metal-plated worm-like creatures attacks the settlement, and something unexpected stirs inside the man, and he fights for the survival of his species.
I was someone’s bad thought.
I wish my skin would heal, so I wouldn’t have to wear these rough stitches. My shoulders and arms are scratched and scarred – surely this means it was alive, once. Dead skin doesn’t mend. A thick thread extrudes from the centre of my stomach and I probe it with my finger. Dried blood flakes out of the closed wound. I place my hand on my chest and feel for a heartbeat. Nothing.
A creature is thought into existence, into a nightmare world. He watches an artist paint him onto a canvas and contemplates the evils of the human imagination.
If you’re interested in reading the collection in full, you can download it from the following outlets for less than £2/$3: