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Brisk Worlds by Brian S. Creek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For the past few years, I have been a member of an online Flash Fiction community the FlashDogs. Week in, week out we would compete against each other in competitions like Flash Friday, The Angry Hourglass and MicroBookends. These competitions have since ended but the community has remained, albeit in a slightly looser form, and it has been wonderful to see its members bringing their work to a wider audience. One of these long-time writers is Brian Creek, author of Brisk Worlds. I remember always enjoying his stories so as soon as I heard he’d released a collection of this work I purchased it immediately.
Reading those flashes was a walk down memory lane, wonderful snippets of Sci-Fi, little nuggets of emotion, the crazy adventures of Chris and Mike as they try to save the world, all were there. Flash as a writing form requires real skill and Brian Creek has shown how it can be done, how so much can be said or conveyed with so little and I would urge anyone who is a fan of this art form to dip in and take a look. Personal favourites for me include Tanks For The Help, Meeting Of New Killers and Only Way Out.
Time is precious these days and it can be hard to fit in the time to read. Brisk Worlds solves this problem. Dip in.
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Quiet Places: A Novella of Cosmic Folk Horror by Jasper Bark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This novella was received free from Crystal Lake Publishing in return for an honest review.
Yet again, Crystal Lake Publishing has not failed to deliver. This is my first reading of a Jasper Bark book, and I must admit that being of a squeamish nature I had avoided his work having heard rumours of a certain tendency towards gore. I prefer my horror dark, atmospheric, sinister—possibly a touch more subtle than what I expected from this author. I was therefore pleasantly surprised that Quiet Places ticked all the right boxes for me. A story very much in the folk horror tradition, it tells of a young woman, Sally, lured to a remote part of Scotland by her husband to share his sudden inheritance. There, she finds herself not only isolated from the rest of the country but also from her husband as his behaviour and secrecy mark a growing distance between them. Eventually she discovers he, and subsequently she, have been summoned back to Scotland to mitigate the effects of an age-old curse hanging over his family and the people of the town of Dunballan, a curse which turns people into mindless and helpless beings. Sally’s researches into the curse encourage her to try and put an end to it, to free her husband from his suffering; unfortunately, her well-meaning attempts have disastrous consequences. From the disembodied voice of Hettie of the Hedgerows, the appearance of the supernatural Beast of Dunballan, and the almost Lovecraftian city and otherworldly plane of existence, this book has it all. I read it in a day, always a good sign.
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Two pieces for you from recent times, a drabble from Janet Reid's competition and my latest Microcosms entry, Dead to the World. Whilst the latter did not get placed, my week was made by getting a comment from Janet for the drabble - something a lot of us aim for and I rarely achieve. I've managed it only once before and successfully 'creeped her out'. This time her comment was 'Not quite a story but egad, what great imagery' (I hope you feel the same!). Responses like these make me happy and keep me writing.
Requirement: incorporate snap, gator, tie, ask, iron.
Helen picked up the iron. Steam hissed satisfyingly from its base. Normally she disliked this particular task but sometimes life gave you wrinkles which needed to be smoothed out.
The offending item, the instigator of her current mood, lay tied up in front of her. He eyed the iron anxiously. “When you said you wouldn’t mind a bit of experimentation, this wasn’t what I had in mind.”
“You mean like this?” She held the Snapchat image in front of him. He looked away.
So wrinkled, so … shrivelled, so much to iron out. Time was pressing - and so was she.
Dead to the World
Elements included: Flat/Apartment; Horror
The bed had refused to move. So it had been left behind, stained mattress, corroded metalwork and all.
“Ugh,” said Diane. “It can’t stay here. God knows what’s living inside it.”
Gregg sighed. It would be up to him to start shifting the thing. But he couldn’t moan too much: the flat had been a bargain, despite the junk left by the previous tenants.
“Just vanished,” said the landlord, with a shrug. “Not even behind with the rent.”
Their neighbour hovered in the doorway. “I give you a month,” he said, as they moved in. “Then you’ll disappear, just like everyone else.”
Gregg ignored him. The flat was a dream come true … apart from the bed. He looked at it and yawned.
“No,” said Diane. But her tone was uncertain, her eyelids fighting to stay open.
The couple stared at the mattress, becoming oblivious to its filth, seeing only its invitation. Without further argument, they threw a blanket on the bed and lay down, not feeling the bones rattling beneath them.
The children were awake.
“They seem nice. Can we keep them, Bobby? I’d like to have a mummy and daddy again. I always sleep better with someone to cuddle.”
“Okay, Tilly. But don’t get too attached. You know they don’t last long.”
The blanket rippled in the moonlight as small arms pushed up through the mattress, wrapped themselves tightly around the bodies.
“It’s going to be different this time,” said Tilly, pulling them down through the foam, the coils snaring their flesh as she did so. “I’m never going to let go. Little children should never be left on their own.”
Steel pierced skin and new stains formed on the mattress. It had been a long day and both Gregg and Diane were dead to the world.
A writer - I think that says it all.