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The Gone Gods

Gone GodsWhen I was a girl, my granda used to take me and my siblings for long walks in Ashridge Forest. We explored acres of glorious beech and oak woodlands, crunching through the bracken and collecting beechnuts and acorns to use as projectile weapons in the eternal sibling rivalry war. Trees have always fascinated me. The garden of my childhood was filled with hardy tree-climbing inspiration; Pines tall enough to see over the town and across the downs, Horse Chestnuts with perfect nooks and crannies for makeshift tree houses and stashing secret conker supplies. So, I guess it’s not surprising for me to link my love of trees and forests with my love of fantastic fiction.

The Gone Gods is one in a series of stories that feature dryads, nymphs, wood elves and other magical creatures. Writers have handled dryads in different forms for many years. Such stories are as old as the gods themselves. We find dryads represented throughout literature; Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Virginians by William Thackeray, and particularly as symbols of nature in; On the Difficulty of Conjuring up a Dryad and On the Plethora of Dryads by Sylvia Plath.

Dryads can also be found in fantastic fiction; The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and The Belgariad by David Eddings. I am sure that you can come up with many more examples.

This short novelette, The Gone Gods, is three chapters, which explore the juxtaposition between modern urban life and ancient myth; how these wonderful and alien creatures rub up against the modern Londoner. Hope you enjoy it.

 

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Walking The Dog

Chocolate LabradorWalking my chocolate Labrador has long been an excuse for me to see this corner of London from a different perspective. I have an ostensible reason for loitering around patches of grass area and parks, where you might otherwise be considered a bit weird. A pretext for watching the world go by and observing the strange behaviour of others; human or otherwise. Some random observations:

Helping Hands is a second hand shop, which has been there, trading throughout the recession when other high street shops had long since disappeared. It never seems busy and yet, the stock keeps changing and it remains in business. Perhaps it is a smokescreen for a secret surveillance organisation, or it is really being run by drugs barons who only pretend to sell furniture.

Across the road, a shop called Magic Carpets makes me think of Arabian adventures at sea. I wonder if I bought a carpet from there whether it might take me on a fantastical journey.

The local area has been redesigned with new buildings that look more like prison blocks than residential homes. Was that a deliberate reflection on the social capital of the residential majority?

I often walk my dog in the local park and it has long since been a destination to take my boys (when they were young) on a Sunday morning stroll. For many years I had no idea of the significance of its history. But when the area was being re-developed, a poster history of Steve Marriot, singer/songwriter for the Small Faces, who grew up there was displayed. Its nickname, Itchycoo Park, is said to be attributed to stinging nettles that grew there.

We have streets, blocks and a community centre named after our 16-year-old 1st world war hero, who was posthumously, bestowed the Victoria Cross, for staying at his post in the navy when all others had left. He was the third youngest recipient of the VC.

I have an invisible message stamped upon my forehead. I am convinced that I am marked, as every bizarre person seems to want to talk to me as though I am the only person left on Earth who will hear their story. Over the years, I have collected quite a motley crew, who have made debut appearances in my various fiction. I now carry a public warning; talk to me at your peril, lest you be immortalised in hyperbole.

Every day for a number of weeks, there has been a red fox following my dog and me. It has a weird kind of ‘I see you here and know what you are’ kind of attitude. And it is not afraid of human presence. Perhaps it is a werefox.

The banks of the River Roding are rife with rats the size of guinea pigs and the skies are filled with crows; sinister, satin, black – screeching to one another as though we are all enemies of the state.

City of Bones

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The road to nowhere;
a road of indistinct nature
that baffles and bemuses.
A creature of comfort,
a black hole in the middle
of a City of Bones.
The clouds open up
beneath my dogged stride
darting through
sheets of purple rain.
The ground beneath me rumbles
and a great crack sunders the earth.
I ride through the darkened skies
on the creature’s black-winged back.
Ruby eyes illuminate the space,
burning leaves, baking the tarmac.
And oh, how the city groans.

“The Hamadryad” – Slippy Realism – by Frances Gow

How to Brew up a Glass of London Hooch

vladtobehereWelcome 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.)

  1. 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.
  2. The new species is drawn off once the dust is spent and boiled in a vat over an open fire.
  3. Separate new life form from the fire and cool in a blood bag labelled, ‘handle with care’.
  4. Water is then added to convert the life form into something you might not want to take home to meet the parents.
  5. It smells like a chundering traction gurney and spews heat like hell’s fire from the underground that fuels London.
  6. Suck it up quick before you gag and preferably not within sight of anyone in their right mind.
  7. 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.

Postcard from Edgware Road

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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.

Nothing at Camden Town

Camden TownAvailable 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.

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