Not a blog exactly
This is not going to be a blog. Not as such. For which I apologise. I always like to try and serve up a decent sized portion of my brain to you each week. However, this week, I don’t have it in me. It has been a truly strange week. My gran died and it has left me feeling totally and utterly devastated. Since then, I’ve been living in slow motion world, surrounded by small talk and sulking away for quiet moments. I’ve been feeling numb and it turns out numb is no way to write. You would think writing would offer some escape, but first you need to get past the fog in your head and I’m not there yet.
I did once hear Terry Pratchett talk about how writers process their pain. He suggested that we both face it and also record it. We suffer and we also see ourselves suffering. We secretly record how it feels. He called it grist for the black mill. Well, I’ve felt myself doing it and it’s not an easy thing to live with. Some part of myself is deciding to keep a log of pain for reference material and it’s hard to be okay with that.
I had intended to try and write about all this. I’d made a few notes, thought about the best way to do it, but I can’t face it. It’s still too raw. So, here’s the plan; I’m chickening out. I know I set up a section of this website for stories and parts of stories, but we’ve technically already had a story posted here, disguised as a blog. Well, I’m going to exploit that loophole again. I’m going put up a piece of what would’ve been the second novel. I hope you like it.
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Especially now. I’m all too aware that everyone here is feeling a bit more vulnerable after what happened in Manchester. Yet another act of blind, childish, pointless terror which has left me speechless.
(I should point out that this is basically the second of three opening chapters that were set within a nightmare. The first chapter dealt with a man walking out of a reflection and heading through a small town towards a grave in the woods. At the end of the previous chapter, he had just reached the grave and something had begun to stir…)
Here, the nightmare changes. It uncoils and moves closer to your exposed skin. The world it painted turns back to abstraction. The birdsong and cold night air drift away as easily as unfurling forgeries cast in dissipating smoke. They leave nothing behind in their absence. A palpable nothing. Just as there is nothing in his grave at all. If it could even be called his grave. He has been absent from it for so long. There is only his truancy there now. Only his remains left behind, discarded like a coat dropped to the floor or loose change scattered over a table after the meal. His bones and that silent shadow which lingers so persistently around all our buried dead.
The soul that had once been Arthur Parry was somewhere else entirely. A place beyond. A place where there was no escaping the brutal, lingering kiss of punishment without mercy. An impossible place, created by the death rattle of hundred, million guilty human senses. It was born of misplaced faith and ignored consequences and had become a gloom swollen, pain gorged, blood embellished tapestry of agony.
There was no time there. No sunlight. Nothing that could be used to try and find some slither of hope. Hope died here without ever having the chance to take a breath. It was stillborn. Curled up and rotten, left to die on bloodstained cobblestones. After all, this was a world of only stony ground.
The air was always stale here. Despair hung in the air like the curtains of some bleak theatre. This was the home of the broken, bloody smile and it was lit by the blackest fires. Arthur Parry, or what was left of him, was lost here. He had walked for what felt like a lifetime through this windowless maze, tasting the sulphur and ash on the air. You could hear the lash of the honed edge on flesh always close by. The slap of sliced offerings falling onto stone. The screams rose and fell like they were being shaped into a discordant choir, singing their pleas for mercy that were ignored by the wet, busy hands which worked the grim tortures of this place.
Arthur could feel himself breaking as he began to see that this was a place written in another language. A language of mists and myths. Torture and teaching. Blood, sinew and surgery. It was a palace built as tribute to the ideals of endless pain and judgement. The only commandment was simple. Break, rebuild and break again. Although there was a hidden way of evolving, if such a term could ever be applied in a place like this. There was a crooked path which led towards something not unlike enlightenment. Or maybe the opposite to enlightenment. An orchestrated, grand and glorious masterpiece of true corruption.
The hideous figures that worked the torture chambers could change a soul forever, if the soul was willing. Their skilled labours could consume it, digest it, twist it into a new shape. A shape that served their own, singular purpose. Another drone set to work amongst the black pits. To tend the fires and skitter through the abject hallways of the torture farms that lay on the bleakest shores of Oblivion.
Arthur Parry, if that name truly meant anything here, was starting to consider falling under the poisonous spell when he was ripped away of this world. He was impossibly freed by words that echoed in his soul until the echo resonated him clear of the hold of these dark walls of shadow. Cast into limbo, something too long lost called to him. It called and he obeyed.
That was when the nothing in the grave began to change. It started slowly at first, but it soon gathered momentum. The absence of him withdrawing like night driven back by the rising sun. Breathless and unbound, he found himself stranded in a darkness that came briefly without pain. He found himself within his old walls. Or in the place where they had once stood. He felt neglected and too loose to be safe. Unanchored, until the old prison pulled him close, started to embrace him. It slithered over him and held him where he belonged. He was knitted into a form he had known so well before. It rushed to rebuild around him. A new suit of nails, hair and skin; made to follow the old pattern
Bones pulled their scraps up from the dust and realigned themselves like a map of a long forgotten roads. They reformed joints. They strengthened themselves and held together in place as tendons, sinews and veins rose and rewrote their old places. Muscles and tissues wove themselves as one. Skin blossomed. It regrew like scabs and cobwebs; like silk from warm worms. A flood of flesh, rising up, re-clothing his bones in sweaty, burning layers. Sedimentary suburbs of nerve endings bloomed and capitulated. They knotted under that fresh, tender surface. Pores pocked themselves back into place.
He felt it all so keenly. Every painstaking moment of his rebirth. Every fragment of himself building back upon the last reassembled layer. Regrouped and regrown from the scraps he’d left behind. He was a fossil remembering what it had once been. A fossil that began to try and scream as the pain grew too much for it to bear. Not that he could scream. Not at first. Not until he was granted a tongue. Until he had been given lungs, teeth and lips. A throat. As the muscles gathered strength, the flailing corpse clawed at the sides of its own coffin.
He was blind until he grew eyes. He was deaf to the sounds of his scrabbling until his ears drove fresh canals down to the twitching and heaving mass that was his new brain. There memories, the self and the senses were reacquainted. Once they felt stable enough, they began to steer. They began to redecorate his twice born heart as it started to beat again.
The dead man took a stuttering breath and tasted the ghost of his own decay before the nightmare moved on again.