New Year’s Resolutions

Gaargh, normally I refuse to partake in absurdity of hoping for improvements in the comin’ year. However, last year took it’s toll in crewmates and less plunder than I’m happy with. So, here be me ten resolutions for 2012. With luck I’ll not fail ’em all.

  1. Lose no further appendages or sensory organs. I’m runnin’ low on both.
  2. Reduce monster-related fatalities ‘mongst the crew by at least one per beastie.
  3. Seek romance twixt sky and sea.
  4. Discover ye cheese thief on board the Grim Bastard.
  5. Invest in the odd experiments o’ Gunther Garment (me sawbones) in hopes of revitalisin’ me leg, perhaps in a frogsome manner.
  6. Eat more pickled limes and stave off scurvy for another twelve-month. Yarr, they’re so vile yet nutritious.
  7. Construct a stronger liquor cabinet, mayhap in the guise of a dragon.
  8. Find a way to see me mermaid love child without resortin’ to drowning.
  9. Stop chasin’ rainbows.
  10. Get a decent unicorn hat. I feels I’ve earned one.

Alex Trepan in Midnight Shopping – 1 of 3 – Shopping and Shouting

Alex slammed his front door behind him and stormed into the street, his mind full of other peoples’ anger. Fucking terraced houses. Great for saving a few quid on gas by absorbing the heat of your neighbours but the walls were paper thin and it made everyone’s life your own. Tonight, both sets of couples had enjoyed blazing rows. From the left (25) Alex had endured hours of shouting; the booming tones of the guy and the screechy wailing of his harpy. They had followed that up by throwing stuff. In the right corner (21), Elaine and her current man Kevin (they were all on nodding terms for hedge trimming) had gone from spitting vitriol at the tops of their voices to angry, bitter sex with no noticeable change in tone. You can only turn the television up so far.

Finally, unable to contain the four-pack of anger, anguish, bitterness and bile Alex had simply left the house. The psychic backwash trailed behind him as he walked down the street, clinging to him and irritating cats who prowled through the stream. There were a few benefits to being highly empathic, all negated by living near other people. When Alex was much younger and the voices started he’d thought he was going mad. Eventually he realised that everyone else was mad and he was just listening in. That was after he’d put holes in his skull though.

Ideally Alex would find a lovely chalet on a hilltop, or near a stream. In the middle of nowhere. One day he’d be able to flee all that pointless mental jabbering. Sure, he’d learned a few mantras which helped to block it out, but meditating with mantras blocks everything out and sleeping tablets do that just as well. But Alex didn’t like the next day fuzziness of pills, like walking through a squeaky polystyrene landscape. So instead he put up and made quite a lot of noise to himself about it. Occasionally his talents were actually helpful, though in order to focus on anything other than the general vibe of another person they had to be getting really passionate. Alex was good at winding people up to that point; it’s why he often had a black eye. What he excelled at was recklessness; Alex was unsure whether trepanning himself had preceded or succeeded his ability to do stupid things.

The cold night air helped to shift the useless load of their minds and the headache that had swollen all evening was dissipating. Alex had no desire to return home where the lovebirds were likely fucking each other to death and number 25 were onto the power tools. Deep inner sigh. Deep outer sigh. The roads were dead so he took the opportunity to amble down the dashed white line like a teenager with an iPod. He was startled out of his reverie by a rust speckled white van that came out of nowhere, honked like a bastard goose and swerved across the road and off up into town. The sudden adrenaline boost got him to the pavement in an accelerated heart beat. Great, now Alex was even more awake. In his newly hyper-alert state he briefly noticed the slick of water left in the van’s wake and the faint scent of brine: “hope the dick drowns in it”. He grumbled further about how terrible white van men were, mainly spouting old clichés since he’d little experience in dealing with anyone who performed a useful trade in society.

In theory he could wander the streets like a lost stalker or go a bit further and fall over in a field. All night Tesco was his only hope. When you need to shift someone else’s bullshit only retail therapy will do the trick. Initially Alex had scorned the rise of the twenty-four hour supermarket as further evidence of how depressing humanity had become. The very idea that someone would choose to shop at two in the morning. Absurd. Alex dropped in at least once a week. It was a boon for the insomniac driven insane by twenty-four hour news. It had become a private nocturnal playground for Alex.

The car park was almost empty, save for a handful of staff cars and that bloody van. Hopefully it was just a seafood delivery and the store’s karma wouldn’t be upset. He pushed through the sea of trolleys into the glaring capitalist wasteland. The land was covered in its comforting blandness of produce, populated by desperate brands begging for his notice. He felt like the Snow Queen of Narnia, roving the aisles of excess in search of something new, something special to turn into stone. Ooh, Turkish Delight. He relished wandering the forest alone, finding peace in the gentle buzz of the lights and hum of the refrigerators.

From a distant part of the store came the sound of breaking glass. Alex chuckled to himself at the thought of Mr Beaver being told off by Mrs Beaver over some Dolmio-related mishap. He fought the sudden urge to cheer – this wasn’t a bar. Or if it was, it was the kind with no customers, and no staff either. There was always a skeleton crew lurking somewhere, smoking outside the fire escapes and avoiding the harsh fluorescent glare that robbed them of their diurnal rhythm. But not tonight. Perhaps it was spirits re-stocking time at the far end. Alex didn’t really care though; he’d had his fill of people.

He moseyed past the frozen foodstuffs, marvelling at the life-bestowing properties of Omega-3 in fish fingers and how delightful the lives of chicken breasts must have been before they became chicken breasts. He could never quite avoid the image of the bucket of chicken heads and spines being pounded into nuggets. He was so intent that he missed the next few breakages and the first flicker of the lights. There was an astonishing selection of party foods which thoroughly distracted him, so vile did they seem. He was half tempted to buy some and burn off the adrenaline shakes with grease.

He noticed the next crash of glass though. The vertical freezer rammed tightly with prawn rings bounced up in the air next to him before smashing back down, scattering glass and tiny crustaceans everywhere.  This was not just bad shelf stacking, this was sackably poor shelf stacking. It had frightened the living crap out of him, along with his headache. So that was good. The human head that bounced over the top of the freezer wasn’t.

Short Fiction and Writing Length

Down there in the bullets are my super-tiny Twitter short stories from last year for @shortstoryday. Apparently it’s every December 22nd, so I guess now you’ve got lots of notice… I only found out about it several days afterwards and tossed a few in anyway. They retweeted one of ’em which was nice of them. It was fun, and tough.

  • A man came to my door. I killed him. Shame.
  • Time bent, and it was yesterday again.
  • The moon wavered above. Their eyes wide, it fell.
  • Surrounded by mermaids I sighed. I could handle perhaps five.
  • Night fell, and with it our hopes. Dawn never came.
  • Her dress was even shorter than her vows.

I usually write Pigheart stories at about 1,000 words. That’s something like 7 and 1/2 minutes when read out loud. It’s a fun length to scribble for and has me brutally editing the entirely unfunny bits. Good discipline I reckon. But I’ve found I want to write longer stories now, but I feel like I need permission. I’m not sure from who. Me I suppose. Granted. The new Galaxy Team and Alex Trepan stuff which has infested my mind of late is tending to be much longer – Goodbye Mister Bimbolino was nearly 6,500! Big stuff for me. We’ll see how it goes. The new Trepan is going to be half that length (I think).

I’ve also found fun in much shorter stories (not Twitter short though!) with the website theshortestfiction.com which I found on Facebook. They’re encouraging stories of <=300 words. It’s a nice length for creating, though I’m not yet convinced you can really do a story in it. They give you a selection of pictures to inspire you and then it’s up to you. There’s a nice mix of stuff on the site and it’s easy to interact with. I’ll probably keep posting them here as well so I can make pretty pictures of my own. (I reposted the first one here, with a Cthulu-ish beast shot and a few more words.) Warning – the 300 word counter is weirdly buggy and it won’t let me have more than 292. It’s a nice way of provoking stories.

You can find my stories here: http://theshortestfiction.com/users/nick .

Do you have a ‘natural’ story length? Do you write at random? Does it all just come to life perfectly for you? Well that’s nice. No seriously, I’m curious…

Alex Trepan in Midnight Shopping – Chapter 2 Prawn Ring

Dave. It was Dave. The head was Dave. It was Dave’s head. His eyes were still moving. Alex could feel Dave looking at him, with a sharp but fading burst of fear. And the words “brain jam”. Dave’s face settled into a frown of confusion and a small pool of blood and prawns. Dave was the nicest security guard Alex had ever met. After his third visit they’d had a quiet chat to establish that Alex definitely wasn’t here to creep around Alice (almost certainly her name), the check out girl who always took the night shifts; he just had trouble sleeping. After that potentially difficult conversation Alex had bought some weed off him. And now here he was, Dave’s vital juices mixing with a product Alex would forever associate with Kerry Katona.

Cautiously Alex stood up and looked over to where Dave’s head had come from. (He’d assumed the traditional cringing posture when the fridge jumped.) The lights flared for a moment and then slipped inevitably into an unnerving horror film slow-strobe. Alex’ eyes kept being drawn to irrelevancies in the stuttering light – Aunt Bessie’s face beaming creepily over her Yorkshire puddings, Captain Birdseye smirking before being hidden in the thick blackness again. Alex heard a weird clattering noise circle him steadily up and down the adjacent aisles, like wooden cutlery falling down a spiral staircase. Now Alex wasn’t stupid, but he’d cheerfully admit that he wasn’t that bright either. Not bright enough to just walk away. Besides, Dave had always sold at a reasonable price and Alex figured he owed him something. In the flashes of darkness Alex heard a snarl and the clattering receded into the store.

The thing (Alex was trying really hard to persuade his brain that calling it ‘The Decapitator’ would not be in their best interests) sounded like it had headed for the bakery and spreadables section. And so that’s where Alex would be heading. Damn. Anything capable of tearing a man’s head off was bad news. Dave was a big chap too, in the mould of failed police applicant or ex-bouncer looking for an easier life in the store security game. Quieter than coppering, but it kept the kind of action you see around sports discount shops. Dave had certainly enjoyed taking chav shoplifters down. So this probably wasn’t a shellsuit-clad illiterate. And what was the deal with ‘brain jam’? Maybe that’s just how it feels when your mind is dying and all those half finished thoughts and sensations are jammed up with nowhere to go. Alex didn’t know how to feel about sharing Dave’s dying thoughts, but the fear felt like sound advice.

With that in mind Alex took precautions. He debated taking Dave’s head with him, and wondered why it had even occurred to him. He picked up his basket again and chose a circuitous route. Following the typical logic of supermarket layout, between frozen foods and sandwich spreads he was able to pick up a pack of disposable lighters, liquid barbecue lighter fluid, a garden fork and a torch, but no batteries. The fork was really hard to fit into the shopping basket but he managed to wedge the tines (surely they’re still tines even if they are a foot long) through the mesh. He also found sewing kits, recordable DVDs and shitake mushrooms in oil; they were less useful for now, but he noted their locations for future shopping trips. Carefully he crept around the croissants and the fresh crêpes.

The first thing he noticed were the feet. They were two feet (which is usual), but they were two feet, two feet off the ground. The intermittent gloom hesitantly revealed the rest of the body. Alex knew it was Dave from the faux-police epaulettes. And his missing head. Something was holding him up. The lights chose that moment to return; Alex craved the darkness. The, well – there were lots of things that leaped into Alex’ mind but he felt a sudden kinship with H.P. Lovecraft’s apparent inability to describe the nameless horrors in his stories. Alex went with ‘thing’. It took a while to resolve what he saw into sense. The ‘thing’ was a writhing mass of tiny crayfish swarming over each other in fountains of pincered shells, the flow creating a continuously tumbling and rising man. It manipulated the headless corpse like a ghastly toy.

As he snuck (snook? sneaked?) closer, crouching behind a stand filled with cookies and tiny muffins he realised that the collected crayfish thing was talking quietly to itself. It sounded like shells spilling down a slide. In the rattle and scrape he picked out a grinding spech.

“Oh Davey, oh poor Davey, couldn’t help us-selves could we Dave? Mmm, trusted Dave helping yourself to our jam. Oh dear, poor Dave. Lovely jam.”

Okay. Tesco; two in the morning; just Alex and a sack of mental crayfish. He reflected that his life had gone very badly wrong somewhere. The crayfish thing was still burbling to itself while puppeteering Dave’s body.

“Our brain jam. Not for the thieving. Just had to put it in the boxes and let it go. But no… you had to get a taste. Greedy Dave. Bad Dave. Selling our brain jam.” The crayfish waggled Dave’s body back and forth violently, like a child that wouldn’t stop crying. “Stupid Dave. We knew you took it. Shouldn’t have tried it. The jam’s ours. Could have worked out for you but no… Too greedy. No jam now. We’ll take it all back.”

Abruptly the heap of crayfish roared to itself and burst into a flood of scuttling which ran over and under shelving into the next aisle, taking just a moment to rip clawfuls of flesh off Dave’s body as it fell to the ground. They stuffed the clots into their mandibles without breaking stride. They were heading for the preserves. Jam. An almighty crash of glass followed. Alex stepped away from the tattered corpse of Dave. He was slightly glad the man’s head had already been removed. Hard to believe a drug dealing security guard was mixed up with a dodgy jam ring. Do drug dealers get their drugs from crustaceans? He’d never worried much about the chain before.

Alex peered round the corner at the sticky, glassy mess of jars and jam. It looked the tide had gone out and trapped the crayfish in glutinous heaps where they gorged on the goop. Clean up in aisle three.

The Captain at Nottingham Live!

Ahoy music-loving mateys, I’ll be appearing at Nottingham Live’s music event at the Maze on Friday 20th January! Look – me name’s on ye poster!

Aye, pirate stories’ll be spattered amidst the cream o’ Nottingham’s musical talent. It be prodigious. We’re also addin’ a spot o’ improv comedy to kick off ye proceedings in the upper room.

Tis but three of ye modern pounds which is mockingly cheap.

19:30 – 1.00 Friday 20/01/12
The Maze: 257, Mansfield Road, NG1 3FT Nottingham, United Kingdom
Here’s some of ye musical talent:
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/32424850″]
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/32327021″]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z64iaAh1F8E
And of course… MissImp

Pub Pirate

Pub Poetry - Open Mic Comic Lit

Ahoy me land-lubberised pals! Tis time for poetry and yarn-spinning of a comical nature while firmly ensconced in the embrace of a tavern. Aye – tis time once more for Pub Poetry and for ye residents of Burton on Trent and Nottingham tis a boon time for the soul.

First – Pub Poetry in Burton – this Friday 13th January at the Old Cottage Tavern in Burton on Trent. This is possibly me favourite event of the year. Twas some moons ago when I first read one o’ me tales to a drinking audience at one o’ these shindigs that I got a real love for reading them, and subsequently created Pub Poetry in Nottingham.

Second – Pub Poetry in Nottingham – next Monday 16th January at the Canalhouse in Nottingham. This is the one I compere in me host role from MissImp. I’ll also be sharing the odd tale for ye pleasure while mediating the ambitions of others. Looks like a fine turnout on the Facebook page so far.

They’re both wonderful events praising the funny and silly in poetry and prose. I’m as ever torn between what to read. I’m thinking: A Cold, Cold Night Adventure. It’s probably too late for the Santa’s Elf Adventure but you never know… I might even read some Shankanalia, though it seems a bit harsh for a nice event. Still, there’ll be fabulous ales on both occasions, since the Old Cottage Tavern has the fabulous Halcyon Daze and the Canalhouse the enviable Elsie Mo…

If you’re about it’d be grand to see you there, at either or both. Gaargh!

Alex Trepan in Midnight Shopping – Chapter 3 of 3 Jam and the Maiden

The gloom in the supermarket was broken only by light of the emergency exit signs. The soft green glow reflected off the shards of glass and shells that writhed in the ooze of jams. The crayfish seemed utterly absorbed in their gluttony and Alex figured he’d just watch for a bit and see if a plan presented itself to him. Clearly the shellfish wanted their jam back and were prepared to kill for it.

Alex was growing accustomed to the weird factor, until he leaned on the edge of the shelf and a hand slid on to his arm. That made him jump, but it only got worse when he followed the arm up into the staring dead eyes of the cashier girl, Maybe Alice. A yelp escaped his throat. Not too loud – he managed to suppress it by clamping his hand across his mouth. Not the one under Maybe Alice’s hand, but his right hand: the one holding the shopping basket. Now that was loud.

The sticky crusty mass snapped alert and roiled forwards – they advanced in a strawberry scented wave of tar. Alex fell back, struggling to keep his eyes off Maybe Alice and on the sluggish crawl. Abruptly, the crayfish seemed to give up the chase and coagulated into a dripping mound which rose into the shape of a man. It hissed and clacked at him, its arms made of chains of creatures reaching for him.

“More jam-filled man to eat? Ooh, such sweet meat,” the creature made a horrible gobbling sound and one of the smaller crayfish ran down its throat theatrically, “come to The Crayfish.”

Alex just knew it was capitalising itself. He felt obscurely grateful to have a name for the beast. As one of his mentors in South America had said: “name it, know it, kill it”. Excellent advice. Alex could feel strange tendrils of thought reaching for his mind. It was unlike any connection he’d ever had with another person. It was sharp, clicky and distinctly unpleasant. Its voice crooned into his head as the sound rolled into his ears like seashells being shaken in a bucket.

“Jam, jam, jammy jam-filled man. Come for my jam? Sweet sweety sweetened man make you soft softened edible mandible chew. Take you thoughts and send you out to get more. Have some jam.” It reached for him with its claws and mind, stretching out as more crayfish ran along its arms.

“Sorry mate, I’m more of a Marmite person.” A shriek of rage assaulted Alex’ mind so hard that he stumbled backwards. The mound of shell shuddered and spat angrily, ejecting a pair of jam-smeared crayfish at him. Alex snatched up the fork he’d stuffed into the basket and smashed them out of the air. While pretty damn slick, that may not have been the best possible plan: now he’d really annoyed the chitinous aggregation. It was hissing and moaning to itself, drawing in the two shattered projectiles.

With a garden fork in one hand and a basket full of firelighters in the other Alex felt like he’d been separated from an angry mob. Time to up the ante. He struggled with the child-proof cap of the barbecue lighter fluid – it spun endlessly under his sweaty palms. The Crayfish slid towards him with its gelatinous crawl. Alex gripped the bottle top in his teeth, bit and twisted; splashing lighter fluid down his t-shirt. Alex shook the fluid wildly at the encroaching molasses mass of crustacean. Half full, he threw the bottle at the beast. It stuck to the assemblage’s face. It didn’t seem to notice, but it paid more attention when he ripped open the packet of firelighters and tossed them into the jammy pile, followed by most of the lighters.

It continued to burble about jam in its own hideous way, trying to persuade him to have some too. Alex didn’t fancy that. Dave had had some jam, he didn’t turn out too well. And what about Maybe Alice? Had she been in on the jam ring too? It was getting worryingly close, though it had thankfully not tried flinging its composite crayfish at him. Alex flicked the wheel on one of the lovely transparent green lighters, twisted down the wheel to keep the flame on and turned it up to a huge ribbon of fire. Then he tossed it gently into the stream of fluid between him and The Crayfish.

The aisle went up beautifully. The lighter fluid had trickled into all the crannies of the crustaceaous monster and its every orifice was agape with flame. That distracted the crayfish. Alex dashed off for more bottles of lighter fluid, intent on burning the fucker out before the sprinklers kicked in. As in any good supermarket, the section he wanted had disappeared. Shit. He ran back with handfuls of match boxes and candles instead.

He tossed the match boxes half-open, spilling their igniting tips into the blaze. The candles were more disappointing – they tended to just stick to things and drip. But the lighters were melting and spraying fire, the firelighters were taking hold and the jam that saturated the aisle was bubbling and burning. In that horrid mess The Crayfish had collapsed and were desperately trying to escape their mire of fire. But the gummy filth clung to them like the mud of the Somme. They clawed their way on, as the fire licked at the shelves, tonguing the cardboard and plastic with flame. The flames were reaching Maybe Alice and Alex felt bad about leaving her there to burn with the freaky sea food. He seized her by the arm and heaved her still warm (re-warming?) body from the shelf, to find that there was only her top half left. Oh well, less to carry.

The signs that swung merrily from the ceiling were starting to catch fire and the sprinklers were ineffectually pissing on the conflagration. He headed for the fire exit. With a snap, crackle and pop, a length of crustacean chain flung itself up out of the flames. It scrabbled along the ceiling leaving sticky black stains on the alabaster tiles.

In genuine action man style, Alex kicked at the fire exit bars (it really hurt) and they gave way with surprising speed so that he fell through them and jarred his ankle on the ground. He dropped Maybe Alice and turned to close the doors. They’re really hard to close from outside – apparently it’s good form to leave them open – so Alex was trying to slam them shut when the tangle of blackened crayfish leaped from the ceiling into the gap between the doors. The lead crayfish was massive and gnarly, snapping its pincers at the Alex’ face. Alex smashed the doors together, kicking and slamming them over and over again, a pulp of chitinous ruin oozing out of the emergency crack.

A series of minor explosions inside made him step away from the gooey murder pile into the car park. The fire alarms had been going off for a while now, Alex realised, joined by rising sirens in the distance. He felt no desire to hang around and explain himself, or why there was half a woman outside the fire exit. Absently he checked her supermarket ID badge: Mary. Bollocks. The flames were reaching out of the windows now. Alex was hopeful that any evidence of his entirely justifiable but unbelievable arson would be destroyed. He walked out of the car park, brushing soot off his jacket and failing to notice that the rusty white van was gone. It was now 3 am so at least the ASDA down the road would still be open.

Shankilium – the Alloy of Angry Verse

Ah happy, the New Year has slunk over the edge of the calendar. It’s actually been a good start to the year. I missed Blue Monday entirely and it seems only fitting to catch up with some more bitter verse. Work has that effect. And frankly, if I weren’t writing this stuff down I’d be etching it on people’s foreheads with a sharpened bulldog clip. So yeah, enjoy!

If you fancy you can follow @shankanalia on Twitter too, or just wait for the ‘collected works’ to turn up here.

 

Tactile
Touch me,
Touch me.
I’ll kill you:
I’ll take your hands
And place them round your throat.
Not so light now,
Your feather touch
Fat hands.
Touch me.

 

Striving
Oh, it’s all about you
You’re the best you can be.
Too bad
That’s so far
Below the worst
That everyone else
Can be arsed to be.
Oh you…

 

Heart-Shaped Hole
If I cut out your heart
Don’t think
It’s because I don’t like you.
Let’s be clear:
I cut out your heart
So it wouldn’t beat.
It’s more than dislike.

 

Equal
Rude, rude and abrupt,
Condescending
Demanding.
You expect respect,
You don’t command it,
You don’t deserve it,
Rude, stupid and abrupt.

 

Arrogant Twat
Don’t stop believing that you’re right.
Deny the evidence.
Your reason is subservient
To your ego train.
You’ll never know whether
You’re right or wrong.

 

Hand Icing
There’s something in your face.
It looks quite amiss,
Physiognomy out of place.
Oh, that’s just my fist.
Glazed with my knuckle,
Makes me chuckle.

 

Two Plus Two Equals You
That sound,
(That you’re ignoring)
Is the sound
Of me informing you
That you,
Are erroneous.
Your premise,
And your conclusions,
Are false.

 

Team Work
You don’t listen
Because you’re talking.
You don’t understand
That what you’re saying
Is what I said,
Because your mouth is not an ear.
Oralear.

 

Pirate Pictures (from Nottingham Live)

Ahoy me splendid and not  at all scurvy hearties!

I had a grand time reading at Nottingham Live at The Maze last Friday. I was spinning my tales between acoustic sets upstairs (who were all marvellous) and got the opportunity to read one in ye big room downstairs (All Washed Up – a light tale of merkins and amputation).

While there me dear chap Mr Ralph Barklam captured me likeness in his magic picture box – I presents ’em here in the manner o’ a gallery:

Ye can find Ralph on Facebook and many of his photographs (witchcraft!) through the wonders of Google… he documents pretty much all exciting things in Nottingham.

Other stories enjoyed by ye crowd: