I met him on the tube in the tunnel between Kentish Town and Archway.
The lights dimmed with their flawless flickering,
illuminating the ghost of his smile, in yellow lamplight.
A figure in the window, the dreamer wanders.
The smell of fetid fruit hung ripe in the air as the other passengers sat,
slack-backed with telescopic hearts, dull eyes of slithering killers.
A snorkel splutter splintered the silence, and my heart slammed into my ribcage.
Was it fearlessness or foolishness that made me say,
‘What the fuck are you doing here?’
He smiled all the while, eyes boring a hole through my soul.
The train jerked into motion, lights exploded into being and the passengers stared at me;
the eccentric lone woman, talking to an empty space outside the window.
Welcome to the Bloodletter’s Arms for our annual seasonal celebrations. Tonight I’d like to introduce you to our speciality house tipple, which has been fermented in oak coffins for the discerning taste of our gothic clientele. It’s red, bubbly and bursting with the taste of iron girders. We call this one, ‘Vlad to be here’. I propose a toast to you all, to an eternity of indifference and alternate reality. Here is my secret recipe.
(WARNING: This is not for the faint-hearted; children should not try this at home without adult supervision.)
- Take partially germinated human blood and mix with eggs to make a frothy mush. This process converts the human form into dust, which is used to re-group into a new species.
- The new species is drawn off once the dust is spent and boiled in a vat over an open fire.
- Separate new life form from the fire and cool in a blood bag labelled, ‘handle with care’.
- Water is then added to convert the life form into something you might not want to take home to meet the parents.
- It smells like a chundering traction gurney and spews heat like hell’s fire from the underground that fuels London.
- Suck it up quick before you gag and preferably not within sight of anyone in their right mind.
- Twelve hours later, your skull splits open and peels you from the inside out.
Some people feel slightly nauseous, but once this process is complete you’ll feel perfectly normal.
Edgware Road is long like a leverleech
and has chilly feet and jelly wellies.
They do this thing called shopping where
they barter for exchangeables like trappings.
My food is a short stubby cyber plug
which tastes of smorgbord.
They have exploding drinks here, so you
have to be quick lest you end up wet and thirsty.
My bed has air-conditioning and foldaway
flaps that don’t cover my strattlebean.
Sometimes we eat in the big yellow ‘M’,
but not before sundown.
They scrape the dirt from their eaters with mint,
but when I tried, my human ran away.
I followed, but a big red ship tried to run me down.
Good thing I had my warblers on.
You might have guessed by now, my curious reader, that I am ever so slightly obsessed by the London Underground and in particular, stops on the Northern Line. This is a little bit of a cheat and a play on words, as was my previous story, Angel. Another departure from my usual SF/Fantasy, but one that explores family, loss and the hidden fire inside us all. One of the scenes in Burnt Oak is taken from a real story told to me second hand and another is lifted from my past and re-told in all its fiery glory. I’m not going to tell you which scenes they are. After all, where would be the fun in that?
This one’s for my brothers; Happy Birthday, Martin – I miss you. x
Many thanks to the Writers’ Hub, an interactive web portal from the Writing Programme at Birkbeck, University of London, for publishing my story.
Silence. Whispers. Echoes in his head.
An abandoned kindergarten at Dalston Junction. All Hallows Eve. How apt.
Frederick, former teacher, now turned vampire hunter,
snapped the rusted chain with his bolt cutters and the gate screeched open.
Had to find her. Had to stop the menace, the cat-calling, for her mother’s sake, at least.
And there she was, small, shy, sly and bitten by evil itself.
Her gaunt, hollow cheeks sucked in at the sight of him
and her marbled veins pulsed with hunger. She smiled,
revealing a neat row of pointed teeth.
Unblinking eyes looked him up and down with dispassion.
Her puff-sleeved pinafore and high heeled boots belied her tender years,
but not the speed with which she shot out to meet Frederick,
leaving a trail of vapour in her wake.
Her touch was stone cold and froze his skin on point of contact,
‘till he screamed like he was set on fire.
With a gentle touch she leaned in to rest her teeth on his neck.
Her breath was like polo mints with a hint of ginger and a sub-layer of decay.
She buzzed like a humming bird; did she have wings now?
Or was that the venom taking effect on his consciousness?
Lulled to a sinking sleep, he slipped into her arms and fell,
drowning in her steely embrace.
When my boys were young they wanted to play with guns. Being a conscientious mother, I steered them away from those plastic battle toys and harnessed their interest in puzzle solving, bubble blowing and Duplo bricks. One afternoon, I left them building towers in their room and returned some time later to discover they had built a veritable weapons store out of the Duplo and were in the middle of a game of shoot-em-up. It was then I realised that I was fighting the very forces of nature itself. Read the rest of this entry
Available this week in the WiFiles, my story ‘Nothing at Camden Town’, explores the idea of ‘nothing’ and paradoxically, how the absence of something creates a space in our lives. We all have a very human response to empty spaces; we want to fill them. Whether it is a space in the conversation, an urban space or the empty spaces in our hearts. This particular story was in fact inspired by a joke told by Eddie Izzard in one of his stand up routines. I’m not going to tell you what the joke was or where the story refers to it. If you are fans of Izzard, you can tell me. That’s your challenge, my curious reader. Oh… and if you like your stories a little bit weird and surreal, then you might like this one.