The hand strikes A forgettable second Within a minute of infinities A single beat The heart stops Unknowing, silence befell within Maybe yesterday
A bustling room, waiting A bed on a register Ice-cold gel Smiles convert to frowns Twin mask I already know Before the backup arrives The child is gone
Dead inside the fluid of life Everything stops The hand keeps ticking More minutes Other rooms Happier stories
Floating deceased In my belly remained Bodies reluctant to depart Tear apart
Keep her in Maybe life will begin again It was a pause A monitor fault A technical blip Chest tightens Throat clams shut Tears won't cease Beneath the duvet Fort of solitude Alone Grief spreading from belly to bone
One last weekend Of motherhood pretend Viscous connection Umbilical short circuit My belly her deathbed
Many strikes later The hours had fallen away Empty cotton cave Just us No heartbeat still No rush to move I could've held her there forever
Chemical help swallowed Washing away The static infinity
Another day Another dose Grief and planning ahead Terms aired before taking the bed Alter of birth
In that other room Hidden from coos Expectant cries Life to life Mine was the room Of quietus For the mother of death Me As I always knew As I had been before In another place Another time Another father
Here I was now Mother of death again My terms they'd meet Another pain for later Pacification for the morning shift My mourning moon
The contractions Too soon Too late Pregnancy infraction This labour of death Babe's birth unto death Ultimate labour of love Combusting a broken star
Then she was there Stillborn silent The hand struck A mallet to a gong The child is gone
Another moment Rooting time Nothing and everything I know where I was then As is this day
With every score She was no more And evermore My sweet tiny girl Embossed in flesh How I held her after Within my clammy palms Tattooing her existence From one bleary orb to the other weary
Sinking into dark silence The void sucking me in
One night of her Held in mother's hands Eyes burned Taking her in Her translucent skin The curves of her mouth Fine fingers ten My jelly baby star
Won’t keep your distance
Blood on your hands
Won’t wear a face covering
Blood on your hands
Won’t wash your hands again
Blood on your hands
Your exponential deviation from definition of essential
Blood on your hands
It’s just one hug, one kiss
Blood on your hands
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble
Just one day you say
Blood on your hands
It could’ve been anything
Him, her, that other thing
The finger pointed can’t be proven
Asymptomatic, screaming lies of hoax
Blame the media
Systemic stupidity at the helm
Throwing around blame like it’s some game
Voiding yourself of responsibility
BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS!
Even if you can’t see it
Know this is true
It’s not all about you
Except for, that’s right…
The blood on your hands
You think you're asserting your rights
Your right to kill
Dominating social discord
It’s just some cheap thrill
Blood on your hands
Your right to your idea of freedom
Enslaved to conspiracy, half-truths – all lies
Ignorantly, defiant, belligerent, delusional
That blood on your hands
These inconsiderate, selfish acts
Because it’s your right to protest
Catastrophic fires rage
The blood is still on your fucking hands.
Carry on, send your best wishes, your mother fucking prayers—
Until you take actions that count—
Your prayers are a joke
You know what isn’t?
THE BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS!
Their love Demanded a price Obedience Blood Sanity Unspoken (at times) Until she spoke up Raising from a whisper Unnoticed Unheard Unwelcome Pitchforks Faux assurances Platitudes Lies All of which she despised A continuous cycle Only she could break The black sheep The unwanted The failure Witch bitch Her death worth more than her life The life begrudged Cell division Damning their youth Sealing fates She to blame Because someone had to be She tried Talked Filtered Diluted herself Until there was barely anything left Shut up Medicate Put between some miles Time Distance not enough Their disdain plain As long as she exists It’s all Futile The failed investment It’s all too late Consummation sealed fate Abortion option too late You are your faults Your decisions She is not your scapegoat Anymore.
When propositioned to create a story based around an urban legend, I was keen to offer a Scottish framed piece for consideration to this popular anthology theme. With an abundance of folk tales around Scotland and its many isles to inspire, I decided to dip into what I’m more intimately aquatinted — Glasgow. The central belt is brimming with inspiration. Three urban legends immediately sprung to mind. However, when I began drafting a story, I hopped, unfocused between tales and my first attempt got pinned as I had a stronger pull towards another.
Much can spiral from classroom whispers and the imagination and zest of children. The inspiring legend of The Gorbals Vampire (or Ir’n Jenni), which spawned hysteria, climaxing in September 1954, and Alexander Anderson’s poem, Jenny wi’ the Airn Teeth, led the way for my creation. The Gorbals Vampire incident brought much debate about censorship of literary material (from poetry in the classroom to imported American comics) to impressionable children, and the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 was passed through the House of Commons. Censorship is an area that is still very much debated today through the arts, worldwide — and not just with children in mind — this deepened my draw to this particular event.
My story, City of the Dead, was created as a nod to the notorious child vampire hunt of 1954 in Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis and Alexander Anderson’s poem from 1870. I love a good cemetery setting (typical goth, I know), so taking on The Southern Necropolis — which is home to over 250,000 buried souls was a lot of fun. I enjoyed writing this one. It’s always satisfying to weave regional dialect through a piece — bringing authenticity to the characters and reverence to the urban legend’s roots.
I won’t share spoilers beyond the base inspiration for my own story, as City of the Dead was submitted and subsequently accepted by Crimson Pinnacle Press for their Twisted Legends anthology!
Having been published in Crimson Pinnacle Press’ (invite only) inaugural anthology, Fairy Tale Horrorshow, I am ecstatic to be accepted into their pages once again! The duo who run the press, RJ Roles and Jason Myers, certainly have the eye for unique, quality indie horror, I promise you that! You’ll have to pick that up to read my take on this urban legend from Scotland and the 12 other twisted legends, launching October 25th. The eBook pre-order is live.
Thanks for reading!
In addition, if you’d like to listen to me reading Anderson’s poem the video is below.
Strolling through the city of ghosts
Mine and others
Life lessening; remnants many
The only commodities exponentially growing
The less-ness and the dead
Faces curl by, mighty and mellow
Smooth and lined
Chiselling the face of ages
Charcoal sketches in a dusty book
My neck cranes from the tarmac
To sandstone stretching skyward
Behind blacked shades I hasten a look
Faces carved into stone statues
Corrosion of time changes their masks
And I see you there
Dancing among the gargoyles
Faces I’ve known
Faces I’ve kissed
Faces long dismissed
Echoes of ancient conversations
Undertows hidden behind music
Soothing ears and fears with every pluck and stroke
Muffling hyper consternation
Rapid beats in the throat
Lost words imprint the atmosphere
Bare toes curl into the black cracked pavement
They keep remaking it
Covering the splits
The old tracks; spectre paths
Undertows ripple underfoot
Soon only remnants shall remain
I’m one of them; a mere echo
In this Undertow City.
Pressing, softly through the cracks Fragments of consciousness Piston hissing speckled the dead-night
Moving electricity aside She slips in like butter Melting and reforming to what I once knew
She was melancholy like my heart Sullen of soul My scion mirror
The tunnel formed Attuning the station Between pre and post mortem A hollow in this verse A meeting place
We spoke about mortality Not with words It was all there, though Moths fluttering in the air It’s been a while…
Since we shared space Since we shared time She keeps reminding me, though Those are figments...
Of faux comfort Fool’s restraints Flimsy, weak cortex It’s not everything Not even close
The cat’s body is in the next room Upon the pink bedspread His marbled fur of coppers and black Still as the void I can look if I want, she tells me He won’t stir yet But I can’t leave Paralysed in the serenity Permeating from her form
There’s so much more to that cat
The sun seeps in Glimmers strain against the sides Dagger sharp Fragments tear the space asunder
There’s been some writing and lots of editing on the go this month — one in which my home life has also hiked up the demands. Though that could be the cumulative effect of this year of, well, you know, it’s been mental for many of us! To say a balance has been tricky would be playing down how much of a riot things feel. The execution, thankfully not so much, but certainly my panster and parent brain are on the juggle, with at least one child jumping on top of it incessantly ringing the jester bells on the cap feels out of whack. Who am I kidding — it’s a shambles in there!
Moving on from that shambles ramble…
I was delighted to be enlisted by Kevin J Kennedy to edit his debut solo novella, Halloween Land. For which I also created some supporting promotional graphics and synopsis for the release.
Kennedy’s solo project has been a long time coming! Given how hard he works as an anthologist, engaging and gathering horror voices to present to eager horror fans – this solo piece is eagerly anticipated by fans of his writing. The super cool cover art was created by François Vaillancourt, internal artwork by Mar Garcia and a closing poem written by James Matthew Byers.
He kindly asked me to write the foreword introducing the book, which I was taken aback by. To introduce such an important work in a writer’s career is a tremendous honour, I was delighted to oblige.
Halloween Land is out now and is available to download worldwide from Amazon, and the paperback will be available in the coming days. If you pick up a copy, please do leave a review! Kennedy loves engaging with readers and fans of the genre — you can reach out to him directly via Facebook, Goodreads or Instagram.
Writing — I have two short stories I’m working on with deadlines looming, which I can’t share much about yet. Both horror, one is extreme, which I am at the idea outline stage — this one will be sleazy and gore-filled. The other is further underway and is an adult-horror spin on a children’s classic. Though the inspiring story, I would debate whether it’s ‘children’s’ at all. Certainly, lots of coming of age issues addressed, particularly the challenges of girlhood and adolescence. The original story is heavy in bizarro / fantasy. If anything, there’s too much inspiration to play with for creating a new short piece. So I am keeping my distance and tipping my mad hat to this beloved literary classic only.
Being invite only opportunities, it’s imperative that they each fit their retrospective bills, which adds a little bit more pressure to the creative process. That time has been more of a challenge than I anticipated this month. It’s getting into the flow with it when batting different characters and plots around. All that being said, I shall get there with them; the engine is revving, I just need a clear stretch to slam down on.
Time being so restricted for longer pieces, I have ended up playing with another writer, David Owain Hughes, this month and co-writing some drabbles, as well as throwing a few solos down. March procrastinating at its finest! Productive down another road, at least. So there’s a bunch of these little bad boys being published with Black Ink Fiction this summer.
I’ve also shared a few free quick-fic pieces right here for those who fancy a gander! That’s it for now. The sirens are wailing, I better skedaddle!
From this tomb I look at the massacre I’ve made of myself Taking in every ripple of depression The marches of its succession Binging and fasting like waves sloshing Overwhelming loose skin Drinking in the scars Grooves deeper than can be seen Slashes from the blade Tracks worn into this sick façade Embedded in the tomb For me, there’s no room Depression’s refusal to be released Sagging waves of torment Dropping into the scalding water Reddening surface and silver deep Lie back Just lie back let it sink in Conquer the concave slave Drench black-eyed face under Revell in the nearing thunder I can see through my corpse to the decomposition My life’s mission Taking in their rot I’m rotting alive No need to be a giver They keep taking Clawing at the veins Sucking my blood with straws Lie back further Steer across the landscape It ain’t too horrifying from this angle The sags tighten Silver streaks lighten Red fades to blush Embrace the incoming hush I’ll lie here Lie to myself for a while Let the silver lining twinkle A perspective shift A momentary lift.
Gnashing and gnawing at my innards Viscera shredded; trauma tombs embedded Stitch in bells, weigh down the nauseating flapping Jangle a euphonious jingle Steady placement of chinked shield Conceal agonies.
U-bend blocked There my guilt brims Shame for wishing away rapid cell division Liquor and voluntary scalding Natures way away Life folding poured out Out of Order; terror of disorder
For two, a freshly dug hole The morning after Mourning follows Nipping at heals with the snow A hollow in another garden There, a piece of my heart lays A depression for my first’s succession
She wants to see my torment on display To harvest in morbid grief games Pretend she’s just the same Catfish loss-mother Conspiring tiring Yearning to reap from the suffering leaks of my soul Observe my lamentations trapped in a fishbowl To don a cape, be in control Prodding my wounds, infecting
Imitation empath storing stories Catalogued, indexed, held hostage Latching of grief vampires Sucking ephemeral life’s marrow Chipping stones off my bones
An archaeologist scraping the shovel No delicate brushing of bristles Attention desperation Desecrating my pain Self-appointed steward on my cradle’s grave.