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Some of the FlashDogs have been getting nostalgic in recent times - and there is nothing wrong with nostalgia. They have been harking back to the times of Flash! Friday, Micro Bookends and Three Line Thursday ... competitions which were the focal point of the pack and which are still sorely missed. As I started to compile flash written during those years of continual and ongoing competition, I came across this poem I wrote as an homage to them all:
On Friday everything changed
But you wouldn’t have noticed
Despite Thursday’s silence
The portent proclaiming
The beginning of the end
With no painted words
Or multiple triplets birthed
From brush-stroked lives
And as that picture vanished
Lines went missing elsewhere
Stolen from criminal bookends
Whose grip handcuffed thought
Robbed some of more
Than a little a reason
Once upon a time
Until sentence was served
Even as I write, Friday fades,
Becomes a freeze-frame moment
Of stories gone in a flash
While the remorseless clock
Counts down the minutes
To when we must say goodbye
And turn the page together
*** Many, many thanks to Flash! Friday, MicroBookends and Three Line Thursday
This story first appeared on the FlashMobWrites site back in 2016. It was my last entry there and that particular round was not judged as the competition folded. The prompt I had to include was the phrase: 'there's an old man'.
Beneath the bridge there’s an old man. He sits there every day on the broken bench staring into the murky depths of the polluted canal, not saying anything, never looking at anyone.
Those who pass him do not give him money, even though his clothes are grubby and tattered. He does not beg and he avoids their eyes. They shuffle by, pleased at not having to deal with their guilt.
Youths stride past, seeking those who walk this path alone, searching for the foolish victim. They do not bother the man. With his straight back and Versace suit, he is sure of himself. They increase their pace as they pass, each secretly pleased at avoiding the risk of being beaten to a pulp by his sledgehammer hands, of exposing their own weakness. Their voices carry back to him, bragging of what they would have done to him – if they had felt like it. His business is not with them.
Only sometimes does he turn his head.
And now is one of those times.
Today it is a woman. He has never seen her before but he knows her, has been waiting for her as he waits for all the others.
Their eyes meet.
She sits beside him on the bench and places her handbag between them. He reminds her of her late husband, with his Fair Isle sweater and weather-beaten face, the same ready smile.
She lets a crumpled photograph flutter out of her grasp, weeps as it falls into the water. When the sobs subside she turns to the man and gives him her hand, she knows he will help her.
The man lifts her fingers to his lips, kisses them softly. Then they stand and he leads his bride to the water’s edge where she gives herself in marriage, sinking down into his congregation of the lost and discarded, the despairing and the weak.
He returns to his seat, watches as the ripples slow and vanish.
And he waits.
Today I took a step that I've dithered over for far too long. As a published writer, most of my work has been part of anthologies and magazines, ie appeared side-by-side with other authors. In a way that has been a comfort blanket, the presence of others giving me something to hide behind. But, if I'm ever going to get anywhere, I'm going to have to go it alone and so in a few days time, this little lovely will appear up on amazon.
It contains poetry, both published and unpublished, that's been lurking in my folders for far too long. In particular the section of twisted rhymes takes me right back to when I first started posting work online (at a now defunct site called ReadWave). I took a few traditional rhymes, eg Jack and Jill and gave them a dark twist. If I just say my new version is now called Jill, you may get an idea of what happened. Anyway, they were well received and I wrote a number of other versions of Mother Goose's traditional verses - but I never did anything with them. That has changed and they form part of this collection.
It's only available on Kindle at the moment. I might sort out a print version at some point down the line but just getting it out there was my main challenge.
Look out for it and let me know what you think.
NB. Anybody living in Southampton might recognise the place in the cover (Weston Shore). I was going to buy a 'proper' cover but certain expenses came up to throw a spanner in the proverbial works and so went DIY. The fonts were advised by my youngest daughter, Rhonwen. For as long as I can remember she's had a thing about fonts, it's very noticeable on the bus ride into town when she heaps criticism on various shop front graphics! All my kids actually are vocal in their approval or not of fonts. I think it must be a generational thing ...
Oh dear, I have neglected this of late. But I have good reason. Life has been very busy lately, although now with the onset of the school holidays releasing me from my day job, I can be a writer 'full time' ... sort of. So, what has been taking up my time?
1. Horror Tree's Trembling With Fear online magazine. As you know this is my weekly editorial stint but involves me checking in almost every evening to look for new submissions, respond and read and also deal with any admin stuff. This takes several hours a week ... and sometimes more. Please note this is a voluntary role, done to support a very worthwhile cause, ie The Horror Tree!
2. DeadCades. The soon-to-be published anthology from The Infernal Clock. I am currently in editing mode with a couple of authors and awaiting three outstanding submissions. At present, I have formatted the book and it is pretty much ready to go on to the next proof-reading stage with David Shakes, once I have those last stories in. Publication Date: 1st October.
3. My Playground. Some time ago I started twisting nursery rhymes to show their darker side. I have now compiled these with a selection of my darker verse and hope to publish that within the week. Subject to me getting to grips with amazon and Kindle!
4. WIP, The Five Turns of the Wheel. My folk horror novel which needs a little rebalancing but which has become a world I love to visit. A spin-off short story, The Way of the Mother, will feature in Nosetouch Press's anthology Fiends in the Furrows, published September 2018.
5. What else? My industrial horror, Live, is currently at the start of that horrible process of trying to get an agent. I have had a few extremely positive rejections for short story submissions lately so am also looking at finding alternative homes for the stories concerned. There is beta reading to be done for Horror Addicts' Emerian Rich's Quillz group as well as reducing my own TBR pile. I am also hoping to create a more 'professional' website this summer.
So, who said holidays were a time to kickback and relax?
Haven't posted one of these in a while, partly due to lack of time preventing me from taking part in Microcosms' weekly competition but I managed a return recently with my story, Goat.
Elements to include were: Vet, Nazareth, Horror
Mount Precipice loomed over him. Khalid wiped his brow and stared at its steep slope. Abba was up there somewhere with his injured sheep. From this point, he would have to leave his car behind and go the rest of the way on foot. Hoisting his bag onto his shoulder, Khalid started to climb, wondering why Abba continued to keep sheep instead of goats. Goats didn’t get stuck on mountains. Goats jumped. He had herded many goats up here as boy and man.
A distressed bleat reached his ears and Khalid increased his pace, regretting not having passed the call to his partner but the young vet had his own goats to herd.
Khalid was almost at the top and the bleating grew louder. He knew the area well. Also known as the Mount of the Leap of the Lord, many misguided fanatics—like Abba’s brother—had attempted their own literal leaps of faith from here. Khalid had often walked with them, helped them on their way, his own cloven hooves keeping him surefooted.
A goat trotted up beside him, nudged at his hand, then butted him sharply.
“Hey,” he said. “You could send me over.”
At these words, another goat appeared, its horns hard and painful as they too rammed at him, made him stumble.
“Abba,” he called, seeing the man appear at last. “Goats, not sheep? Why didn’t you say when you called.”
The creatures bleated noisily and began to shepherd Khalid to the edge.
“Thought it was about time I saw how my brother died. Watched a goat jump. You never know, I might enjoy it.”
“How did you…”
“Said a prayer. But it wasn’t God who answered.”
Khalid looked down and saw Abba walked with Devil’s feet. The mountain had a new goatherd.
Welcome to the Show – edited by Matt Hayward and Doug Murano (Crystal Lake Publishing)
Seventeen stories fill these pages, all linked together by their common setting – The Shantyman, a bar and club, cursed, home to demons and vampires, aliens and madmen across the decades. Each story brings its own visitors to The Shantyman - customers, staff and performers – none of them leave in the same way, if at all.
This is a strong selection and a collection in which all clamour for the title of ‘favourite’. Some though did exert a slightly stronger pull, including What Sort of Rube – a good choice for an opener and one which paints The Shantyman immediately in dark tones. A crippled victim of misfortune and cannibalism attempts to dissuade a musician from performing at the club by telling him how the venue came to be cursed in the first place. The musician heeds the warning and leaves, he survives. Many in the following stories do not. After this, you know something will always go wrong at The Shantyman. Night and Day and in Between is a tale of vampiric love, romance dining on an opened vein, In the Winter of No Love takes you on a trip of disintegration and oblivion, whilst murder is played out to the music in Wolf with Diamond Eyes. Pilgrimage brings you the most unfortunate time-traveller ever, picked up by members of the Manson Family to become ‘practise’ material whilst A Tongue Like Fire feeds a story of grief and suicide. From the attempted demonic takeover in Master of Beyond, the poisoned chalice of a cure to all ills in Dark Stage and the curse of a contract with the devil in Open Mic Night, The Shantyman shows how time fails to dull the impact of its cursed nature. True Starmen with its cult ending, the desperate ‘wannabe’ in Parody, the nightmare of discovering the reality of a previously online relationship in Ascending, the death throes of a relationship in Beat on This, the madness and obsession of Just to be Seen all continue the dark influences which touch the lives of the club’s patrons. The anthology finishes strongly with The Southern Thing and Running Free, but my own personal overall favourite must be We Sang in Darkness, a very dark story which plays with your mind. Do you believe in the alien creature or is that being simply the image the main character created to reflect his own descent into madness and cannibalism? Having re-read it, I’m still not certain and I don’t mind that at all.
An excellent collection of original stories and refreshing twists on traditional tropes. Sometimes a curse can deliver good things …
A few years back, I submitted a short story, Lips, to Fringeworks for their Dead Men's Tales anthology. The anthology submission call explained what contributors could get in terms of royalties. My story was accepted and I was over the moon as this was right back at the start of my 'proper' writing career, ie when I took those first hesitant steps to get published. Then I waited, and waited and waited. No contract, nothing ever happened. Eventually I chased up the editor and was told it would be published. Silence. Then I discovered it for sale on amazon and not one of the contributors had been informed or sent a contract. Today I ordered a copy of the book, purely for my 'shelf' and also to serve as a reminder of the pitfalls of a writer's life. However, I do resent the fact someone else has effectively stolen my work. I know other contributors were not happy ... but what can you do in the world of the small presses? Another contributor, K R Smith, has outlined the fiasco here www.theworldofkrsmith.com/2015/09/and-yet-another-update-on-my.html, if you want to know more.
I still like my little story (despite my experience now showing me where I should edit it a little more!) and almost put it in my collection which is currently in progress but it didn't fit with those I had chosen so I am publishing it here for you to read gratis.
Lips smile, lips kiss, lips laugh. Lips curl, lips sneer, lips kill. What other use can lips be put to? Perhaps I might think of something and let you know, for the moment though I am busy. I have company and I must not neglect my guest.
Already the sweat is running in rivulets down his face. His eyes are full of anger and … something more. Yes, there is definitely more there … aah, I see it flitting about, a glimmer, a sliver, a shiver of fear.
He sits alone, the terrible Captain Ned Lowe, abandoned by his crew and left to the fate that I, judge, jury and probably executioner, decide. But … I forget my manners. It is only polite to introduce oneself. I know enough of society to know that. My name is Captain Luis Alvares. My ship is, or rather was, the Nostra Signoria de Victoria, one of the finest schooners in the Portuguese fleet. Her captaincy has been my reward for the many successful voyages that I had made. Whether for trade, transport or exploration, I performed my duties diligently and efficiently. Until I ran into the path of Ned Lowe I had never had much of a problem with pirates either.
Of course I had heard the stories, how he tortured his prisoners on a whim; decapitation, disembowelment, you name it, he did it. A particularly nasty trick of his was to bind a prisoner’s hands and weave the rope between the fingers. The rope would then be lit and allowed to burn through the skin, eating away at the flesh until it reached bone. Their screams, it was said, drove Lowe into an even greater frenzy. By the time it was my misfortune to cross his path even his crew had begun to doubt his sanity.
The events of that day have been seared into my memory, literally. You’re probably thinking that I too had my hands bound and burned but my suffering was to be more extreme, only a few of my crew lost their hands. Should I take pride in that? I don’t know.
It had been such a good voyage up to that point. The skies were clear, we had a fair wind and we were on our way home with 11,000 gold moidores in my safe. The hands were in high spirits, eagerly looking forward to their wages and the women and grog that that would buy on reaching port. Their dreams were of a safe harbour and a warm bed. Then came the cry from above.
I was not too concerned at that point, not until my first mate Rodrigues came running up to me; even beneath the tan of his weather-beaten face I could see his face had paled alarmingly. I frowned, he was not a man to scare easily and that worried me.
“Captain. The flag sir!” he said.
“You’ve identified her?”
“Aye. She’s a buccaneer sir. Red skeleton on black.”
He didn’t say any more. He didn’t need to. I could see the word had spread amongst the men; already they were making preparations to outrun the ship. I lifted my telescope to my eye and fixed on our would-be assailant. I was under no illusion as to our fate should we be caught.
It was The Fancy without a doubt. Two men stood on the quarter-deck, one of whom I immediately recognised as the infamous Lowe. Whilst I had never seen the man before, his description had been widely circulated. One look at his face, at the mockery of a mouth scarred by some accident and I knew it was him. If we could outrun him we would be safe.
Our luck, which had held for so long, chose that moment to fail us. The wind dropped and we became sitting ducks. The devil himself must have been steering his ship for still it came on, bearing down on us with terrifying speed. It was then I decided that whilst Lowe might take my ship, he would not get my gold.
“Mister Lopes!” I called.
“With me to my cabin.”
We made our way below decks to my cabin where I had stored the gold in my safe. Lopes found a canvas bag, sturdy enough to hold the coins. Together we filled the bag and then Lopes tied it to a rope so that it was able to hang safely outside my cabin window. Should need arise I would be able to cut the rope and send it down into the deeps; should we be successful, I would be able to haul it back in.
The battle, which I will not describe here, for the memory is too painful to a man of such pride as myself, was soon over. The decks were slick with blood and my men, what remained of them were crammed into the hold. I had been taken to what had previously been my cabin to await his pleasure. It was with some satisfaction, even at that time when I thought my death was imminent, to see the frayed rope that dangled from an open window.
When he looked up from my desk, the extent of his disfigurement shocked me. I do not think I remember the exact moment that the pirate discovered my subterfuge. One of his men had approached him, somewhat hesitantly I felt and said something in a low voice.
Lowe initially said nothing but it was as if the atmosphere in the room had suddenly become charged, just like before a storm you could sense that something was building. The crew avoided looking at each other, avoided looking at their captain. Then he exploded. His fist sent the poor messenger flying across the room and then he turned his blazing eyes on me, glowering with a rage that only confirmed my growing dread.
“You denied me my prize,” he roared. “The gold is mine by right of conquest!”
Terrified I somehow managed to look him in the eye. Whatever I said would not change what I knew was to come. If I had known how he intended to finish me perhaps I would have kept quiet.
“There you are wrong sir” I replied. “That gold was the result of honest trade, of the toil and sweat of my men. I will not allow it to be soiled by your hands. Better it be sent to Davey Jones.”
It was then my turn to feel his fist and I was sent sprawling to the ground. I did not remain there for very long as rough hands seized my person. I was somewhat dazed as they dragged me back up on deck to be paraded in front of the rest of his men.
But just as swiftly as the storm had come so did it pass. Lowe was surveying me, calm once more, much as one gentleman does another when introduced for the first time. I did not see the nervous glances of those of his crew who now stood by him, nor did I notice how those on the edges of my vision had surreptitiously moved themselves a bit further into the background. The small time I had been allowed to observe him had given me a chance to recognise that that sudden calmness was the first sign of the madness that followed.
Yet still I felt merely apprehensive when in fact I should have been terrified.
“So Captain, you will not hand over the gold,” he said, amiably enough I thought. “Sometimes I find that good food, good wine, can be more persuasive to bringing about a certain meeting of minds – don’t you think?”
Still that smile but I had my standards. “That depends on the circumstances sir. Amongst gentlemen such an outcome can be envisaged; however, I do not believe that I am amongst honourable men therefore I am afraid I must decline your offer.”
Lowe’s smile remained, fixed into that terrible rictus grin of his, a smile that did not reach his eyes. “Oh, but I insist that you dine Captain. The law of hospitality demands it. In fact I take great pleasure in offering you the choicest cuts; I doubt you will find that you have ever tasted better.”
He called his cook forward, a burly sweaty man who did not seem to care for the niceties of personal cleanliness.
“Your knife,” Lowe demanded of the man. Reluctantly the implement was handed over.
The pirate approached me, still smiling, the knife gleaming in his hand. A chair had been brought into which I was rudely forced. A small table was placed in front of me. Another order was given to the cook and a small makeshift stove was prepared. A greasy looking broth was soon simmering nearby. By now I was somewhat bewildered. Lowe towered over me.
“You will not allow your lips to talk,” he said. “Lips that do not talk are useless. I think a little food for thought may encourage you.”
The knife gleamed in front of me. Then came the pain, such pain as I have never experienced. He took his time, cutting slowly, carefully, the agony becoming even more unbearable with each incision. My vision had blurred and I could feel the warm rivers of blood flowing freely from my mouth. My screams seemed to come from some place far away. Through the film that misted my eyes I watched in horror as the pirate threw my flesh into the pot, wishing that unconsciousness would claim me. My face burnt with pain as I waited for whatever other torture he had in store for me.
By now I was expecting to be carved up, a feast for his men; there had been rumours of cannibalism in some of the stories that had reached my ears. Instead he took a bowl and ladled the disgusting concoction into it, slamming it down in front of me so that its greasy droplets sprayed my face. He filled a spoon and thrust it into my hand.
“Eat,” he ordered.
I stared down at what had once been a part of me. Those lips of mine which had once commanded, had tasted, had kissed and finally, had defied, swam in front of me.
“Eat” ordered Lowe again, this time holding the point of a dagger to my throat.
My hand trembled violently as I guided the spoon towards the remnants of my poor mouth. The bile was rising in my throat and I had to fight to prevent myself from gagging.
“Eat,” roared Lowe, losing all patience and forcing the spoon between my jaws. He clamped my mouth shut to prevent me spitting out its contents.
I could not chew. This was unclean, ungodly. I began to choke. Struggling and gasping I found another mouthful was being forced on me. And another, and another. I could not breathe, I could not see. I prayed that my ordeal would soon be over and that death would claim me. And so the darkness came, took me to another world where spirits walked, seeking their revenge.
Now the Captain is my guest, at my table. A table for one. I have kept the broth simmering for a long time. I have seasoned it with the suffering that he has inflicted, the pain he has caused. The salt comes from the tears of the innocent, spiced with the anger of the murdered, peppered with cries for justice. The stock that is the blood of his victims now boils with their anger.
“Cook,” he bellows into the darkness, furious that his meal is late. He does not know that I have driven the servants from his house although I think that he senses that he is – almost – alone.
I conjure up a fire in the hearth, its light explodes across the rooms, fiery tendrils writhing around Lowe’s seated figure. He turns towards the source of the heat, its intensity making him sweat. I watch as he notices the cauldron. Still he sits, he does not run.
I pick up the knife, its movement hypnotizing him as it floats ever nearer, its sharpness reflected tenfold by the fire. Still he sits, he does not run.
Then he speaks. “They say I am mad and so I must be if I see a knife before me but no hand to hold it. If I am mad then this is not real, just pretty illusion – that is all.” He smiles.
I pour him a cup of wine which he drinks without comment. The knife I move closer, closer, until it is kissing his lips. Now it is I who smile as I carve his flesh, laugh as I toss the extra ingredient into the pot. He is screaming now.
I put a bowl beneath him to catch the blood that drips down, the fear he sweats out. All this I will add to the pot. Now he tries to run but I do not let him. I? I should say we, all those he has wronged in life now place their hands on him, forcing him down. So still he sits, he cannot run.
I fill a bowl, a generous portion, and place it in front of him. Solicitously I select one of the choicest cuts and spear it with a fork. I let him savour the aroma, that heady smell of revenge … of death. Then I invite him to taste, ignore his aversion, push the meat between his teeth. He chokes. Other ghostly hands join in.
We feed him forkful after forkful, spoonful after spoonful, until even the bitter dregs have been swallowed and the pot lies empty. He sits quietly now, no breath, no movement. He has eaten his last meal and dined well. We clear the table, as all good hosts do and leave our guest, appetites sated.
Lips smile, lips kiss … lips kill.
Reblogged from https://infernalclock.blogspot.co.uk/:
Here it is, everybody, the last of our time-themed anthologies at The Infernal Clock. Until now, you have only had hours and days but this time we give you DeadCades. This book weaves its dark stories from the 1880s through the Swinging Sixties and desolate Seventies, and then sprints into the future, finishing at 2020.
From across the globe, Australia, the USA and Europe and from the Bram Stoker nominated to newer contributors to the world of dark fiction, you will find a wealth of talent in this latest anthology. We are pleased to announce our author line-up as follows:
1880s Deborah Sheldon
1890s Martin Fuller
1900s R. J. Meldrum
1910s Sian Brighal
1920s Alyson Faye
1930s Chris Milam
1940s Sal Page
1960s Robert Lupton
1990s David Shakes
2000s Ruschelle Dillon
2010s Marie McKay
2020s AJ Walker
In addition, we are inviting all our flash friends to contribute a drabble for each decade. If you would like to be included in this anthology, send your drabble (100 words exactly, excluding title) in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As these slots are filled, we will update the Infernal Clock website so you can see where the gaps remain.
Deadline – June 30th 2018
Expected publication date - October 1st 2018
Content: nothing extreme or gratuitous please.
This anthology is non-paying (our future intention is to pay writers) but each contributor will receive a copy of the ebook and will retain all rights to their story.
Steph and Shakes
This is last week's entry for Microcosms which earned an Honorable Mention. I avoided horror, although it's still dark and does has the element of the horror of a drug-addicted life, but there is also romance - although not in the conventional sense being an affair of a different kind.
Elements included were: Drug addict; Victorian London; Romance
Edward slicked back his hair and pulled on his frayed jacket. Beyond his lodgings, the streets were crowded with those eager to escape the drudgery of their lives. Closing the door behind him, he too joined in their flight from reality, merging with the shifting shadows distorted by the dirty orange glow of streetlamps, becoming a ghost as the fog cloaked the poor of Stepney.
He walked quickly, eagerly, had money in his pocket, thought of nothing but his love. Her slender curves, her smooth perfection, would be waiting for him on that low bed where behind hanging curtains they could pass the time in pleasurable indulgence. But he wanted more of her, wanted her for himself, did not want others to share in his love. Tonight, he decided, she would be his and his alone. She was his one and only.
Mother Flanagan let him in, followed him through to the small low room where his love’s pleasant scent drifted towards him. She lay there, waiting. His and his alone. Behind him, Mother started to say something. She was the gatekeeper who allowed admittance. Get rid of the gatekeeper and all would be his. Still with a smile on his face, he swung round, pulling out a knife in one smooth movement. She barely registered what had happened before the life fled her eyes. Edward stepped over her body and firmly barred the door to the street. No one else would pass tonight.
Now it was just the two of them. Always they joined in silence, he cupping her in his hand with reverence before taking the sacrament of the pipe, inhaling her essence. In the bottle at his side, the rest of her waited … as she did in opium dens across the city. Poppy had other lovers.
Apparition Lit hold a monthly flash fiction competition, each on a different theme. Only the winner gets published. I enjoyed writing for February's contest which was based on Margaret Atwood's Marrying the Hangman and the idea that a woman condemned to death could be saved if she married the hangman or persuades someone to become a hangman and then marries them. Although I didn't win (as usual), here it is:
The Wedding Dance
He is the wall. I am the mirror. We stand opposite each other in the darkness, speaking in death’s competition, our voices, disembodied, seeking each other out. We are disturbed by the ritual of the prison day.
“Morning, Susan,” says the gaoler. “How’s the courtin’ goin? Wedding bells yet?” He smirks and leaves me a bowl of watery gruel.
I kick the dish over and watch it seep into the filth-crusted straw. I might lick it up later if I get hungry. I return to my wall, my rock, and murmur into the crack through which we communicate.
“You can save me,” I whisper. “Become the hangman and marry me. I will live.”
“I am a servant of God,” he says. “I sinned and must now pay, but I will not, I cannot kill.”
He is a sanctimonious prig, has defiled his flock and still claims the moral high ground.
“Why?” I ask, “Because of the collar at your neck? The words in your Bible? Do they not exhort you to save the fallen? Redeem yourself and save me.”
She pictures the man of God on the gallows platform, noose in hand. Sees him slip the canvas hood over the head of the condemned, pull the lever, hear the snap of bone … She smiles as she recalls that sound, so clear and pure followed by the percussion of the dance.
“You like women,” she continues. “With me at your side, you would no longer need to look elsewhere, your virtue would be restored … think of the nights … of young flesh. I am young you know, and many call me beautiful.”
“The gaoler has described you to me,” says my intended.
I detect desire in his voice. My turnkey has served me well and one night with him was a small price to pay.
“I can be yours,” I murmur. I hear him groan and I know he is mine.
The next day the cell is empty.
“Seems we’ve got ourselves a new hangman,” the gaoler says. “He’s a good ‘un, certainly knows how to fix a noose. Three drops today already.”
I eat my wedding breakfast and smile. The turnkey will take me to my husband. He offers me his arm and we walk together, leaving cell and prison behind. In the carriage sits the vicar whispering prayers which I ignore.
Up the steps I walk and I face my hangman. He wears a mask and starts to take it off. I stop him. It is the perfect outfit for my groom. Confusion clouds his eyes as the priest prays for my soul.
“Good morning, husband,” I say in a wifely voice. “It is a beautiful day for our union, is it not?”
“There has been no wedding …” His voice is muffled by the cloth but it does not hide his anxiety, his desire.
“No wedding? Of course there was. We exchanged vows when you took to the gallows. We consummated our union when you slipped the rope around your first victim’s neck. Did you not enjoy the fragility beneath your hand, the sweat of fear, the climax of the drop. When you killed—for me—we became one. We have no need of words from that book of the damned.”
I knock the Bible from the priest’s hands. He is furious.
“Deliver us from this abomination,” the minister cries, pushing me into the hangman’s arms in his fury.
At first my new husband doesn’t move and then he forces the hood over my face, thrusts the noose around my neck, pushes me to the trapdoor. “Bitch,” curses the hangman, “Devil’s whore …”
He sees the truth of me at last, almost, for I am not the Devil’s whore … I am his daughter. I do not fear the drop. I have fallen so many times and will do so again and always it is with the gift of a soul for my father.
The bells begin to toll. It is time for the Wedding Dance.
A writer - I think that says it all.