Return to Murderess Lane

“May you live in interesting times.”

That’s the saying, isn’t it?

Boy, are my times interesting.

As I mentioned before, the Other Half and I sold our house and moved out just over a week ago.

There were a couple of delays in the purchase we were making, an old barn which needed renovating and converting, and while these were causing a bit of a headache they were no major problem: we’d rent somewhere for a couple of weeks, and it’d be fine.

Until the whole thing fell through.

Like I said, interesting times.

So for now, we’re holed up in a little flat on the edge of the City of London, not even a hundred yards from our old stomping ground of the Barbican. The deli I worked in after college is round the corner, as is the church where we were married. But more peculiar, for me, is living an offal-fling from Smithfield market again.

This is, hands down, my favourite part of London (and I’ve lived all over it in the last 12 or so years). Smithfield being a trade market specialising in meat, it’s nocturnal; the market itself locked-up and dead in the day. Despite the office workers buzzing round (and they do: we’re still in the City, just) and the traffic stampeding in and out of St Bartholomew’s Hospital (possibly my favourite saint: he’s the one who carries his own flayed skin over his arm. Lovely.) there’s still a hulking great behemoth in the midst of it all, silent until the sun goes down.

I wrote a story about Smithfield a while back. It’s one of my favourites, although sometimes I wonder whether I wrote it, or whether I uncovered it and that it’s about something that was always there and just needed the words lining up on the page.

When people think about the City, they think of banks and bonuses, skyscrapers and steel. They forget what’s underneath, and has been for a very, very long time. That was where “Murderess Lane” came from: the things that are hidden, and the things that should stay hidden—because the oldest cities are built of more than bricks and glass.

In a funny way, walking around these same places a decade after I last lived here, I feel like a ghost. Not quite connected to them as they are, but not seeing them as they were. Some things change; some things stay the same—but some parts of the City never do either. They adapt, and what was once above is pushed below, where it hides in the darkness; waiting to snatch at your ankles or whisper in your ear when you least expect it.

“Murderess Lane” was published in Hub Fiction #127. It’s still available online and free to read (if you like it—and are a BFS or Fantasycon member—I’d be thrilled if you considered recommending it in the “Short Story” category for this year’s British Fantasy Awards).

As for me? I’ve got plans. Well, a plan. Which you’ll agree is better than no plan at all. I might be a bit sporadic, but I’m still here. And in the meantime, I’ll be making sure I don’t go wandering into any dark alleys. Who knows what I might find…

 

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