– “Archer 57” – Fight Like a Girl (Kristen Ink, 2016)
– “Oak”, Legends II: Stories in Honour of David Gemmell (Newcon Press, August 2015)
… Her eyes adjusted to the light and the smoke hanging in swags through the room, swirling in the movement from the falcon’s wings as it flew from its master’s shoulder to a perch on the far side of the cottage. Gwen’s eyes followed the bird as it landed and shook out its feathers, settling down to preen.
“It’s… a tree.”
Because it was. There was, in the corner of the cottage, a tree growing, the trunk knotted and gnarled. Branches spread through the beams – some of them were the beams. And despite the winter, despite the cold and the frosts, it was in full leaf. Gwen had never seen the like.
“I needed somewhere to put the bird.” He looked thoughtfully at the tree. There was a frying pan hanging from one of the lower branches. “And somewhere to hang the skillet.”
– “Oliver Cromwell’s Other Head”, Fox Pockets: Missing Monarchs (Fox Spirit, December 2014)
… For forty years the two Professors had competed to find the most valuable relics: not, of course, from a financial point of view – although it had certainly required a substantial investment on both their parts – but from an historical one. For more than half their lives, Connell and Kruger had competed to find the most unlikely remnants of history; the things which should not exist (and more than once did not – both of them had, in their turn, fallen prey to forgers… but not this time) and the more outlandish the better. It was a battle of wits and resources; a war of attrition lasting a lifetime… and with this salvo, Kruger was convinced that he had won.
– “Diary Entry #4”, Zombie Apocalypse: Endgame (Constable & Robinson, November 2014)
… I found a dress in a shop
Windows all broken
Thought I heard a sound I was hungry so hungry
Others had been there before dirty footprints all over the floor
Broken glass broken lights broken broken all broken
But in the corner a plastic bag
Forgotten or left behind or
There was blood on the bag old blood bad blood
Inside a dress made of flowers roses
Sylvie likes roses George likes Sylvie George likes roses
My head hurts…
– “Death and the Weaver”, Urban Mythic 2 (Alchemy Press, September 2014)
… The smell wrapped around her when she opened the door. Old stone and dust and pockets of damp. And wood and wool, because there was the loom, waiting for her. The light from the streetlamp outside, the only light, poured in through the open door and cast long shadows behind the wooden beams of the frame. There was still cloth on it, still thread in the shut;e which rested on the side as though it had only been set down for a moment.
– “Her Heartbeat, An Echo”, The Book of the Dead (Jurassic London, October 2013)
… Was that all she was? A show? Was that what she had become? Whoever had wrapped her, tightened those bandages, set the mask over her face… they hadn’t thought that, had they? It didn’t seem right, somehow, to make her the same as the coins and the broken pots and the old arrowheads dug up in some muddy field and which now filled gallery after gallery in the museum. She wasn’t the same – not the same at all. She’d been a person, hadn’t she? She had a name – even if he couldn’t quite remember what that name was.
… he was the only one who would touch me when I got out and I can still remember the look on his face when I asked him for a job. He was sitting at the counter, stringing cards onto wire for the window display. He put the wire down, and he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Donnie, Of all the places in the world, with your history, why in God’s name would you want to work in a magic shop?”
He had a point. You don’t send an alcoholic to work in a distillery, do you? But that’s just it. There’s magic and there’s magic. There’s tricks and illusions and sleight of hand… and there’s what I do. What I did.
– “Face of the Circus”, A Carnivale of Horror (PS Publishing, September 2012)
The man with his tattered red coat (which some will tell you isn’t red, but “pink” – although it makes you think of fire and roses and blood, and if that’s not red, you ask, then what is?) and his top hat of shining black silk, he drums his fingers on the table in front of him; tapping out the rhythm of the wheels. His face is hidden by the shadow of the brim, but the coat has seen better days and his fingernails are ragged and torn. Only the hat has kept its lustre.
– “At the Sign of the Black Dove”, Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse (Pandemonium, November 2011)
Jude wasn’t quite sure when it happened.
He remembered the barman ringing the bell, his voice carrying across the bar. “That’s it, boys and girls. Last call.”
He remembered Charley’s face swimming in and out of focus; Hope suddenly lurching forwards, slumping over the table.
He remembered the world tipping. Maya leaning over him, her eyes larger than the moon and shining like all the stars in the sky together. “Jude? Jude…? Can you hear…?”
And then he heard nothing more.
It was dark when he opened his eyes, and Jude had no idea where he was. He was lying on something rough and slightly sticky. It smelled of stale beer and old sweat and other, worse things. Everything was quiet, and his first clear thought was to wonder exactly how much he’d had to drink.
And there was the answer. He was still in the Black Dove. The floor of the Black Dove.
That was not good.
His head hammered as he sat up.
That was even less good.
The room was almost entirely dark, heavy curtains pulled across the windows. One dim shaft of light had found its way through, and dust motes danced in it, spiraling towards the ceiling. Jude listened, his ears straining to hear whether anyone else was in the room with him.
More details here.
– “And the Northmen Brought Their Gods”, Hub Fiction #133
“When the first ships were sighted, there were rumours of another boat which accompanied them. Not a longship, as is the wont of the Northmen, but a strange craft unlike any seen on these shores. It was of a dark-stained wood and though its sail was unfurled, it travelled quite without the need for wind or oars. Its passengers – or crew, for no-one could say for certain who or what they might be – all were hooded in cloaks of black stuff darker than the night-sea. Those on the shore who were close enough to see them pass told of a great chill which settled over the land, a cold and hard despair which overswept them where they stood, and they were afraid.”
Download & read the full issue here.
This story is also available in audio format, read by Danny Davies, on the Dark Fiction Magazine site. Listen online, or download as a podcast…
– “Murderess Lane”, Hub Fiction #127
“I met him in a pub in west Smithfield, where he was slowly but steadily working his way through the row of bottles behind the bar: he wasn’t especially pleased to see me, but I sat down beside him anyway and began by asking if he was the man who had found the Hall of Corpses. The question didn’t surprise him, and instead he squinted across at me, then laughed. “So you know about that one, do you?” “
You can now read this story in the Old Library section of the website.
– ‘Three-Dollar Oracle’, SideShow Fables 2.
“At first, it had been deaths which were coming up quickly. A week ahead, perhaps. A month. Then gradually, it became years, decades. By the time she was twelve, she could tell straight away how almost anyone she met would meet their own end. She started avoiding her grandparents and their friends, elderly neighbours–until it dawned on her that everyone dies sooner or later. It wasn’t especially comforting.”
You can now read this story in the Old Library section of the website.
– ‘Moving Parts’, Morpheus Tales 7.
“It was when the downstairs cupboard went missing a month later that I started to suspect there was something unusual about this place. I was planning on taking a walk down to the old barn at the bottom of the garden, and went to fetch my boots from the cupboard. Which wasn’t there. Not even the door. I walked up and down the hallway for a good ten minutes, wondering if I was going mad. Most likely I would have walked for longer, had the door not suddenly reappeared as I passed. It opened normally, and there was the cupboard.”
– ‘A Game for Distinguished Gentlemen’, Encounters Vol 1.1
“The next man at the table was the man he had called Greenfingers. And improbable a name as it might be, it was the only one he had. While Mr Glass was a hulk of a man, and Moth little more than a shadow, Greenfingers was in all things somewhere between the two. Neither tall nor short, not fat nor thin, not pale nor ruddy–everything about him was distinctly indistinct. Those who passed him in the street would most likely not even notice he was there; he was by nature an inconspicuous type, average in all aspects of his appearance. Average height, average weight, average colouring. Everything about him was unmemorable; something he had long known and used to his advantage.”
The full story is available to read, here.
– ‘The Catastrophist’, The Nautilus Engine Vol 3.1
“They say no-one survives a disaster. Not really. Not even the people who walk away from it. The people they were before are gone; lost forever. They come through it as new souls–or not at all. And you can never predict who’ll go to the good or bad. It’s usually not the ones you imagined who turn survivalist, and it’s the ones you least expect to lead who become the heroes.”
– ‘The Guardians of Ophelia‘, Sand: a Journal of Strange Tales 4
“She has flowers in her hair, in my dream. Always flowers. Not roses or daisies–nothing so pedestrian as that. Instead, tangled in her curls she wears bloodied orchids. I stand on the riverbank and watch her float away from me on the current.”
– ‘The Cloth of Heaven’, New Horizons 2 (British Fantasy Society)
“It was a Thursday when the Actress called: a grey and drizzly Thursday much like any other, sometime around noon. She had heard great things, the Actress said, about Ana’s dresses. Not of the drape of the cloth, nor of the neatness of the stitching–nor even the lay of the lining, but of the way her dresses spun and glittered in the pop of the flashbulbs. She wanted, she said, a dress like no other. She wanted a dress made of the night sky.”
‘Once Bitten…’ – a commentary on The Lost Boys & Near Dark.
‘The Cullen Paradox’ – or why Twilight‘s Edward Cullen has no bed.
(Both of the above were written as part of Mark Deniz & Peter Bell’s “Vampire Awareness Month” which was great fun. I’d recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in vampires.)
‘Designed by the Devil & Powered by the Dead: the World of Thir13en Ghosts‘ – an article looking at the characters and design of the remake of William Castle’s ‘Thirteen Ghosts’ (part of Beyond Fiction‘s Ghost Awareness Month)