There were towers of cockeyed proportions springing from the ground at spasmodic intervals. Where the sun caught them sharpest, they glinted like stained glass windows, a most unnatural woodland. They swamped even the once-great mountains as if them just undulations.
Animals had taken advantage of this place, making squalid homes for no other reason than having nowhere else to live. A molehill shone with its tin dome. An owl’s oil drum echoed.
This was the world humanity had gifted them, our legacy to Mother Earth, obscure cathedrals of dumped filth. At least they no longer had us to deal with.
Death was an inelegant solution to an elegant game, an imperfect answer to the most perfect of all solutions. Yet here, Death held no sway.
Memories were never my forte. I remembered in fits and starts, never then till now, nor here to there. I recalled moments, or fragments of moments, nothing more, like a jigsaw turned upside down and with no means of reference to piece it back together. This was how the first conjunction occurred, grey on black, black on grey, always white in-between.
The small, white bird was not a creature of feathers and pumping blood, but of glazed porcelain with a copper beak. It sang, though, trilled its little metal heart out. It sang and sang and sang.
I put the bird in my pocket only to realise many years later, when next I checked, that it had a hole. I panicked then, something to set the heart palpitating. The dull boom, boom, thud of it rang throughout the place, as I searched everywhere except where I ought.
The second alignment came upon discovering the first of two pits. I peered in one, dropped to my knees for a closer look and almost toppled into the other. In a world of insubstantiality, they were flat, almost symmetrical, two discarded black orbs in a land of dusk. Well, until they blinked.
They say life comes in threes. Third time lucky and all that. Not for me.
The sun appeared like a coin from a grandparent’s pocket. You wanted it, needed it, but if you took it too quickly, you might not get another. I had desired the sun since I lost it. She always gleamed.
She was my little bird, pale with sable hair, which added to her ghostlike appearance. Her eyes were black. No other description fit them. Closing them was the hardest thing I ever did.
The sun, now bright and beaming like a lighthouse slicing through a stormy midnight, rose higher. It reached its zenith like a diamond in a jet black ring.
The voice hurt my ears. It rang through my befuddled thoughts like Big Ben’s bells thrust inside my skull. I hated pain. My pain, that was.
I didn’t answer. I never answered. The words were never quite there. Instead, I wrapped my fogged shawl closer, pulled it tight. Anything else might have killed me.
Author’s note: After seeing all the mindless bombs and destruction of late, I have decided to post this story as I can’t bear to send it out for print. As Marvin Gaye once said: ‘Whats’s going on.’
This colossal loss compounds at every turn. There is no hope. We have no hope. There never was hope.
As I sit and stare from my window like a moth bemused by a star, searching without finding, dreaming without knowing what of, the world around me crumples. This rock for a heart weighs heavy. The unending guilt, more.
Today I rouse myself from bed and endeavour to do. The question remains, do what?
A green shoot sprouts from a pot on my kitchen window. I neither placed it there nor remember my wife or daughter having done so either. Still, logic dictates they must have. Perhaps I am tireder than I thought. This newborn holds my attention as though liquid gold. New life, who’d have thought it! The tiny one strives to reach the jaundiced light abstracting the sky. I admire its gumption, if not its sense. Nevertheless, it is to this I turn my unwavering attention.
Three days later, I am sitting in the same chair, wearing the same fierce frown of determination, just from a fuzzier face. The shoot is now a stem. This stem is jade green.
There is a flaw to my latter statement. I have always believed plants a lush emerald until they flower. Grass carpets the world in emerald. Trees umbrella these carpets with protective shade, also emerald green, though their shade is not. Even the languid kelp fields swaying beneath the waves suffuse the deep in emerald green. So why is my shoot jade?
I have a purpose. Mother Nature, life, has granted me a meaning. I am almost complete.
I have shaved and bathed, for I feel today is the day. When I take the long walk from my bedroom to the back of the house and the chair set centrally in my kitchen, the one I have sat upon for three weeks in patient repose, I expect my flower to have bloomed. I race when a measured approach would better suit my condition.
The kitchen is gone, the only room they have exterminated.
It is not the loss of bricks and mortar, not the invasion, nor even the fact my home will soon collapse atop its amputated limb, but losing my little flower which chills. Losing an unanswered question, a hope.
I weep, as I have since the war began. I will never know what jade might have bloomed, or if it might have replaced the real jade, my Jade. This world has taken another step towards monochrome.
Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to a new UK Fantasy Magazine named Noctivagant Press. Here’s a little of what they’re about.
Noctivagant (adj) That wanders or roams about at night.
Oxford English Dictionary
Noctivagant Press is a quarterly online fantasy magazine dedicated to the world of the fantastical. We want to escape the ‘real’ and go into the dark to travel beyond the veil, landing in your imaginary worlds. You can take us there with your prose, poetry and visual art.
Themes we love, but not limited to: trees, magic – both dark and light, portals, dragons, fairies, monsters, hidden worlds, colours, stone circles, myths, legends, enchanted woodlands, mountains, magical plants, the sky and the stars, horror (with fantasy), will-o’-the-wisp, barrows, curses and re-imagined folklore/tales.
As a writer of speculative fiction, I don’t often get the opportunity to have work published in my own country, so Noctivagant is a breath of fresh air. My short story ‘Ancient in Ultramarine‘ is included in their premier issue.
I hope anyone with an interest in the above gets the opportunity to read some of the great work – I’ve seen it and it is – because every story deserves to be read. Please help spread the word.
Thank you for reading and see the link below for more information.
Disasters happen, my grandfather claimed. This was in the years long before his own. He’d wag his finger and frown like a grumpy goat, and I’d laugh and giggle regardless. Take it seriously, he’d mutter. You’ll thank me one day, he’d say. Of course, I didn’t, couldn’t, not when everything seemed so far away.
Now, as disaster looms and I struggle to raise my head, my own grandchildren filtering around me like ground coffee a percolator, I wish I had. It’s not so I’d know, but so I’d know what to say.
She went unseen for the longest time like a black hole traversing the night. A girl with twinkling, fibrous hair so delicate as to rival the stars, she crept in through my window and sat cross-legged on the carpet. There she remained just staring at my bedside table, as I, in turn, stared back.
If she meant me harm, I did not sense it. If she meant to pry, her eyes betrayed her. She wept, you see, like a little lost kitten, and I shared her sorrow completely.
The celestial girl stayed for hours. Not until the moon dipped below the windowsill and the stars popped out of existence, stolen away by the incoming dawn, did she climb from my window. One brief glance back was all she left and a trembling, translucent hand.
I removed our family photograph after that. I hid it in a box on an unused shelf in the least used part of the garage. Celestia, the lonely stranger, never returned, and it would have broken my heart to go looking.
I’m a lucky fella when it comes to having work published and rarely say anything about it, but this magazine deserves recognition. For anybody interested in Gothic Fiction, Love Letters to Poe is a beautifully constructed online magazine dedicated to its titular writer. With stories to read and a podcast to listen to (Yes, I’m on it reading my story, though I’m not quite sure how that happened) and even merchandise to purchase, it really is a sensory treat.
We mere mortals may only put our own twists on Poe’s particular stylings, but I like to think the results are good. Sara Crocoll Smith, the magazine’s editor, has an eye for a story and there’s plenty to choose from. I’m thrilled to appear in the latest issue fresh out for Christmas and am leading the magazine off. I hope you enjoy.
My story, The Human in Me – By Richard M. Ankers, concerns a fellow who having replaced his dead wife with something else realises he may have got more than he bargained for.
Please find below a link to the Love Letters to Poe Podcast. Here you’ll find a selection of stories read by their writers and available for saving/subscribing in most good Podcast apps etcetera.
PS. To one and all if I don’t see you before, please have a lovely and safe Christmas. This year’s going to be very different to normal but I hope you can still enjoy it.
A giant of gold, ochre and sunburst orange, interspersed by flickering, cerulean sky, it almost touched heaven. Almost, but not quite. There were no shouts of timber, nor any of concern. It fell in silence, birthing a tempest the same. More an angry calm than a gentle storm, its discarded mantle made russet oceans of the city streets and obliterated the meadows in deathly hues. Like Autumn in July, I shivered. I tugged up my collar and gritted my teeth. I wept as I watched. The tears hissed off my skin. My last thought? Just why we’d killed it? The Earth, that was. Didn’t we all?