Ours was a work of friction.
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.
I’m so preoccupied, I forget to say goodbye.
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.
All the very best
All Images courtesy of Love Letters to Poe.
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?
They said I was. And I was. They say I am. And I am. My decision, not theirs. It rankles and has for the longest time.
I am mired in melancholy. This ennui is as endless as the non-existent dawn. Now even the twilight fades and dusk remains anonymous. Like a mourning widow, I am bereft of all joy.
I remember colours. I remember them all. Now, here, in this place where stars twinkle and the moon blazes an unashamed diamond, their memory is all I own. Better to have loved and lost, someone said. Who said it remains moot. They are not me, and I am not them.
That blazing ball of nuclear reactions termed the Sun once warmed these bones. Now, I am unsure if I have any. I flap and flail, cobweb along in a sparkling silver masked only by this obsidian cowl and cloak. I desire a revealing. But how can hollow eyes be sure? Do I trust myself? No. Have I ever? I’ve forgotten.
They said I was. And I was. They say I am. And I am. I have spanned eternity, my essence one of infinite misadventures. My one constant, my name, is all I have. Not much to show for my work.
I am Death to you who’ll meet me. I am life to those who have.
Photo by Leonardo Yip on Unsplash
I once watched an artist paint the sky. His brush caressed the canvas like a lover’s kiss. His every fluent movement, poetry in motion. At least, I thought so. The painter did not.
Whether it frustration, or a lack of imagination, who knew? But the fellow grew so incensed, he snatched each sheet from his easel and tossed them into the wind. There they drifted like enormous snowflakes off to decorate unfamiliar landscapes.
The trees provided shade and anonymity. These I used for hours. The painter remained unaware of my presence throughout. And although I couldn’t see what he painted, I took a certain satisfaction in knowing I would.
As the sun evaporated into the river in tangerine bursts, things changed. The poor fellow’s inability to capture what he wished gained momentum until in one shrieking outburst he threw his palette away. It landed upside down in the water.
I expected to see a brief flash of vermillion, perhaps a touch of violet, cerulean or emerald green; there was only black. The paint bled into the river like a cut midnight vein. Spilled ink might have described it, but ink had a purpose and this did not. What a waste. What a terrible waste.
I clasped a hand to my mouth, but too late. The cough echoed into infinity.
The painter turned. He wept. Tears streamed from his old eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I spluttered.
The painter looked right through me, right into my soul. His eyes took in my colours, my personal palette. He refused to stop, swamping me in his sorrows. I feared we’d both drown.
When the sun disappeared below the horizon with a pfft of extinguished flame, only then did he look away. To heaven, actually.
“Ah,” he crooned. “Now I remember.”
“Remember what?” The words left my lips without permission.
“Raven. Her hair was raven. If only I’d not tossed my paints away. Ah, well!”
Head drooped and feet shuffling, the painter packed up his belongings and made to leave. He paused as the moon came out in mercury silvers, turned back. “Never forget what she looks like, young man.”
“I won’t,” I promised.
With that, he departed. I never saw him again.
I often looked back and mulled over his words. He’d seemed so genuine. But only as I too regarded her bone white features and robes of liquid obsidian, did I know who he meant. I couldn’t have captured her raven hair either. Her ebony eyes already had me.
Thank you for reading.
There once was a boy who lived in a hole. There in the warm, musty darkness where roots embraced him, he hid from the bright world outside. He hid from the loud, the violent and crude. He hid from the harm they’d done.
They found him cringing that meekest of creatures, pushed in a corner like old fruit in a shopping bag. He mouldered. It was their duty to save him. Everyone wanted saving, didn’t they?
The men with their silver badges glittering, their colleagues in white all wide smiles and soft words, tore the boy from the roots he clung to; he screamed for them to stop. They carted him away like a stray dog to a pound and placed him in the knowledgable care of strangers. But they had no knowledge of him, this child from deeper regions.
He woke to crimson, some his, most theirs. Its stickiness reminded him of tree sap back when there were trees to weep. And he remembered. And he wept. The memory of those lost forests stung like the syringes thrown in his hole. His nice safe hole. He ran. They ran, too, those who still could.
Out in the savage daylight, he made a decision. The little lost boy with pain in his eyes made a promise. He’d dig deeper. He’d burrow like a mole. No one would find him again. Once upon a time was one once too many, his mother used to say. Before they took her and all that was green and blue, too.
A Writer’s Dream
Is it wrong to wish to write for writing’s sake? Is it wrong to feel the need to write a disclaimer only I’ll ever see?
I sometimes think I was born to the wrong era, that before computers and watches knew your name, I might have been happy. I’d have sat in my room as others scampered about living their lives and smiled at the view beyond the window, written down what I saw without forethought or fear. The clouds would’ve drifted across cerulean fields like mythical beasts and birds would’ve tweeted the minutes. With a quill for a sword and a wooden chair for a colt, I’d have lived out my days as a warrior of words and others would’ve been happy I did. But it isn’t days of yore, and there’s no time for idealism in today’s world of exactitudes and uncompromising rapport. We are. We will. We do as we’re told.
I sometimes wish the curtains to close and never open. Here wrapped in my private night, I’ll live in peace with these hundreds of thousands of words scattered all around; most long forgotten and stashed away in burrows of rabbited nonsenses. The songs I love will play in endless loops through ears with no wish to hear the spouted obscenities and harsh realities — or so they claim — of this, that and the other. Darkness will fold around me like a lover’s kiss, all-encompassing, and I won’t even know if I’m dead, nor care. But then the words will come, white on black, and I’ll feel more alive than ever.
Sometimes a voice calls from deep within that I presume my own but still doubt. This — let’s call it soul — knows my name, my home, my life, wife and circumstance, but even this supposed virgin self is dubious to my needs. What are my needs?
I have absolutely no wish for anyone to read what I write. I have absolutely no desire to be famous. If people happen upon these reams of written words and enjoy them, feel them, I’ll smile and thank them, and expect no thanks in return. If a child picks up one of my books and their eyes light up with wonder, I shouldn’t care if their parent commands them to put it back — not if the spark’s already lit. If? Such a little word. Such a pertinent package. But the cold hard reality, is something has to pay for a coffin and good intentions won’t.
Sometimes I think I’m free. Sometimes, but not often.
Thank you for reading