Tag Archives: darkness

My Life’s Dream

dreams

(This is true.)

Not to sound too much like Donald Trump, but I have the best dreams. They’re fantastic, really. No one has dreams like me. Absolutely no one. Sad, really.

The problem is, I can rarely remember them when I wake up. I wake up knowing that I just had a fantastic dream, no idea what it was about.

However, there is one dream that I have had over and over again. For decades. It is one of the defining features of my life, although almost no one knows about it. Until now, of course. You are really privileged, dear reader. I just hope you realize that.

It’s more of a location than a specific dream, but I keep coming back to it and referencing it in dreams so often that it’s as real to me as, say, New York City. Actually, I’ve been to this place more often than I’ve been to New York City.

It’s a large warehouse or industrial complex, up on a hill with trees around it and reached by a long winding road. Sometimes it’s abandoned, sometimes not, but there are almost never any people there.

I first dreamed of this place when I was a teenager, I think. It was abandoned then, and I sneaked in and started digging in the floor. What I found was a large open space and then more space under that. There were man-made tunnels going out in all directions and further down and further down, it went, maybe forever.

Every dream is slightly different, but it’s always the same kind of place with empty tunnels and dark spaces going down and down out of knowledge. Just a few weeks ago, I dreamed that I was camping with my family and we drove past that place. I saw it up on the hill and knew it was the same place I’d been dreaming about for half my life. I wanted to bring them all up to show them the place, but we didn’t because dreams frustrate you just as much as they enthrall you.

Anyone who has read my (still unpublished) novels will be able to see this love of vast, dark spaces pretty easily. It is a theme that excites and fascinates me and make me feel that heartache longing, redolent of nostalgia and homesickness for a home I’ve never seen. I’m not sure why, but that’s me.

It’s why I love the work of H.P. Lovecraft or House of Leaves or Empire of the Ants. It’s why one of my favorite parts of Lord of the Rings is when they are in the mines of Moria. I am at home in huge, dark spaces. It’s what I dream about when my conscious mind takes a break and I let my subconscious out of its box, to play and plot. To dream.

The-House-house-of-leaves-692472_800_600

The House, from House of Leaves (Source)


Salt Flats Terror – Friday Fictioneers

This is by far the longest Friday Fictioneers story I’ve ever written, although don’t worry: it’s still 100 words exactly. It’s experimental, as many of mine are. I think it’s pretty clear, but please ask if you don’t understand it.

copyright Dawn Landau

copyright Dawn Landau

Salt Flats Terror

Salt flat


Memory Flames – Friday Fictioneers

I can definitely say that this is the latest I’ve ever posted a Friday Fictioneers story. I’ve been the first one before, so now I guess I’m trying to be the last. I started a new job today as an ESL Instructor at a university in Iowa and also moved into a new place this weekend, so I’m hoping after this to finally settle down to a routine. This summer has been quite crazy in many ways. I apologize that I have not been able to read many stories in the last few months. I will try to be better about that from now on.

I would say that this story is weird, but that describes most of mine. I’d say it’s different, but . . . again. Read it and tell me what you think.

Copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Memory Flames

When I first saw it, it terrified me. I had emerged from subterranean haunts far below and saw it dancing a hypnotic, alien gyration on the edge of my vision.

It was the Other and as much as it repelled me, I drew closer because of a ghost of a memory long ago. It reminded me of her, before we were sundered; before she ascended and I sunk down to personify the Underworld.

*        *        *

Frank came back from gathering wood and froze. A shadow, like an incorporeal old man was bending over his campfire, warming non-existent hands over its cheery flames.


The Butcher of Ipswich

After a long, long time, Aftermath is back! For those who don’t know what it is, Aftermath is a post-apocalyptic world set in England. The original stories were centered around a character name Edward “the Squid” Morrison, who was a pretty bad guy but who was on a quest to find music and other artifacts from the former world. On his journey he found an unconscious boy whom he named Sean. Even when the boy awoke, he didn’t speak, although in the last story that I wrote, he found out that the boy’s name was Damian. This is Damian’s backstory.

Aftermath

The city of Ipswich was dark and it stank. The whole world stank now, but the city had a concentrated stench of years of piled and rotting waste. During the summer days, the unforgiving sun baked the waste to a hard crust that only the fat, evil flies could find any nourishment from, but still it reeked. Damian was used to it all by now. He had been born into that den of villains and pirates and raised on its merciless streets. He knew where to hide during the day and where to find food each night, away from the slavers and pimps and meatmen.

He was sitting in his nest of rags and scraps between the two steam pipes. Nikolai had not returned yet. Nikolai was his—friend? What that the right word? They didn’t talk or hunt for food together, but they didn’t fight either. They spend the long days together, sleeping with their backs pressed together, but then, when the blistering orb of fire sunk below the horizon, they went their separates ways and hunted their own food. Maybe that meant they were friends.

The night had been productive. He had grabbed a handful of b-meat off a truck and ducked down into a drain before the driver could chase him. All meat was separated into three categories. A-meat, the kind that came from cows and pigs and other legendary animals, was unheard of these days. If there were still such animals left in the world, they could not live in the blighted wasteland around Ipswich. B-meat was mostly seafood, with some bird thrown in when someone got lucky. C-meat was the rest: rats, snakes, irradiated mutants from the darkness beyond the city, and worse. It was sold ground up and mixed together so the customer never knew what, or who, it came from. There was high demand for all types of meat, but Damian never touched c-meat. Beggars couldn’t be choosers, but thieves who were good at their trade could be as selective as they wished.

Damian heard running footsteps approaching. He peered into the darkness, trying to pick out if it was Nikolai. Suddenly, Nikolai’s running form was backlit by a powerful spotlight. He was almost to the entrance to the steampipes when something like a metallic whip wrapped around him and dragged him away, screaming. Damian pulled himself back into the shadows behind the pipes. There were many groups that routinely hunted down street children, and the difference between them was only like the varying levels of Hell.

The spotlight was gone now, Nikolai’s screams were muffled and then suddenly cut off. He was dead, probably, beyond Damian’s help or anyone else’s but still, Damian found himself creeping out of his hole and tiptoeing to the head of the alley. It was still hours until dawn but from the dim lights of neighboring buildings, Damian could see a handcart being pulled away by two men. He followed silently. There was nowhere good they could be going but still, his heart sank when they turned into the reeking, fetid alley behind the meat market.

Just go back, his mind screamed at him. Nikolai was dead anyway, or soon would be. But he was a friend, or the closest Damian had ever had to one.
The cart stopped outside a shop and he saw the men carry Nikolai through the door and then leave. A pair of men wearing blood-stained aprons and swinging cleavers walked past and Damian shrank down into the shadows. When they had passed, he went to the door. It was bolted with a latch on the inside, but he slipped his homemade knife through the crack in the door and a moment later it opened.

There was Nikolai, lying motionless on a table. There was no one else around, but he could hear voices coming from an adjacent room. He stepped inside. Nikolai was still breathing but blood was coming from a gash on the side of his head. The blood was warm and sticky and seeped through Damian’s fingers as he pressed his hand to his friend’s head. Nikolai moaned a little and his eyes flickered open. “Come on, we gotta scurry,” Damian whispered. “Can you stand?” He put his hands behind Nikolai’s back and helped him sit up.

“Put him back, boy.” Damian looked up to see a tall man wearing a butcher’s apron standing in the inner door. “Put him back and I’ll let you go, but I already paid for him.”

“He’s my friend,” Damian said. There was no way out. Nikolai’s eyes had closed again as he sat. “I’ll get you someone else.”

The butcher sighed. “It’s not worth it to me, plus I don’t believe you.”

“I’ll find you a hundred more. Please, please.”

“I’ll give you five seconds to get out of here before I take you too.” The butcher picked up a cleaver to punctuate his words.

Damian could feel the rage and the fear coursing through him, urging him to act. It was a feeling he had felt before in dangerous situations and the raw, wild feel of it had always scared him and he froze. The butcher gave a little shrug and moved towards him. The feeling building in Damian reached a fever-pitch and suddenly pain exploded in his head, so severe that he cried out. It felt like his head was going to burst. And then, just as suddenly, it ended and the world descended into silence. The butcher continued towards him in slow motion. Damian took a step towards him and hit him in the chest and the huge man flew back and crashed silently through the wall.

It was like a dream. Damian picked up Nikolai and walked outside. He started running, still carrying his unconscious friend. He weaved his way between people, all of whom seemed to be moving in molasses. Now he was just running, with no thought to where he was going. He saw the outer gate of the city, open to its normal night traffic. Two guards stepped into his path, but they went flying as he barreled effortlessly through them. Then he was outside the city, where he had never been before, running heedlessly into the cursed wasteland. Behind him, there may have been shouts or sirens or sounds of pursuit, but he did not hear them and he did not care.


Private Darkness

Private Darkness

Felicity prided herself on her unflappability, and yet she was still shocked, one night, to see the moon being eaten away slowly, as if a gargantuan turtle were nibbling on the lettuce leaf that was the lunar disc.

“The moon is disappearing!” she screamed.

“It looks the same to me,” a passerby said, glancing up. “Full moon tonight.”

No one else say it. They insisted the moon was full even as Felicity watched the last silver sliver disappear from view. She watched the stars go dark as God’s spilled inkbottle continued gobbling up the sky.

The next day, the sun did not rise. The streetlights went off at their normal time and Felicity groped her way to work, using her phone as a flashlight. People eyed her strangely as they strode by.

From then on, she lived in a world of darkness and time became only a number on her watch. She began only going out at night, when artificial lights were lit. One evening, she was walking to the store when she heard someone scream, “The moon! It’s disappearing!”

Felicity smiled. It may be the end of the world, but at least she wasn’t crazy.

“Anything is bearable, when one does not have to endure it alone.”   – R.W. Guy


Master of Darkness – William Hope Hodgson

I’m sure every reader and writer has authors who fire their imagination, who make them see the world in a different way–and for writers–those who help shape their writing’s themes and style. For me, there is a small group that really stands out in my mind: writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, William Hope Hodgson, H.P. Lovecraft, and H.R. Haggard, to name a few. Interestingly, they all did most of their writing in the first half of the 20th century, although I’m not sure if that’s significant.

Today, I want to tell you about William Hope Hodgson. He was an English author who lived from 1877 to 1918 [1].  Actually, he died in battle in Ypres, in World War I.

This is the cover of the book I first bought. Notice the Volume 1 (argh)

This is the cover of the book I first bought. Notice the Volume 1 (argh)

I would not be surprised if you haven’t heard of Hodgson before. I first came across a book of his in a rummage sale in 2001. It was The Night Land, Volume 1. Volume 1, mind you, and since the book was out of print, I had to wait about 10 years before I could find the whole story online and see how the story ended. But it was worth it.

Hodgson wrote a lot of books, but the one that influenced me the most was the Night Land. It is a weird book, to be sure, but that’s part of why I like it. It takes place millions of years in the future, when the sun has gone out (hence the title). The remnant of humanity lives in a huge pyramid, over seven miles tall. Outside in the dark, there are hordes of terrible monsters, some of which are on a cosmic, Lovecraftian level of evil. The hero has to go out into the dark to rescue his beloved from another area far away (how does he know her? It’s . . . complicated. You’d better read it.)

It’s not a perfect story. For one thing, it is all written in an archaic, Shakespeare-esque language. There is a reason for it, but I can understand how some people might find it hard to get through. Also, the main character, while very brave and gallant, is also incredibly chauvinistic at times towards his beloved. (Since the book is public doman, James Stoddard has a new version of it where he has modernized the language and hopefully taken care of some of the other small problems.) There is plenty to like about it and plenty that inspires me. Such as:

1. The scale is epic. There is not much that inspires me as much as vast, vast spaces, and that is something this book has a lot of. Besides the pyramid that houses 1320 individual cities, the hero travels huge distances alone in the dark, up and down mountains, and past huge and horrible monsters. All the themes are big. It’s like a sci-fi/cosmic horror retelling of a fairy tale, but more.

2. It’s dark. You’ve probably picked up the fact that I like darkness; not, as the Bible says, because my deeds are evil, but because…I don’t really know why. I find it inspiring. I’ve written eight novels and five of them have darkness as an importaThe Last Redoubtnt theme (five also involved learning a foreign language in one way or another).

3. It’s triumphant. It’d easy to imagine how a story about a world where the sun has gone out and the last remnants of humanity are confined and surrounded by soul-eating monsters could be a little bleak. However, this book isn’t. In the story, the humans (i.e. good guys) are a shining light in the literal darkness and they overcome, or at least stand firm against it. It’s not an easy world to live in, but they keep on and keep defying the darkness. And that’s what I want in my writing too.

I realize that a lot of this has been about the book, The Night Land and not about William Hope Hodgson, but I chose that as his representative book, at least in terms of inspiring me. I would recommend this book to you. If you’re interested, you can download the e-book free here.

 

Post-Script: And now for something completely different.

I’d like to introduce the artwork of my blogging friend, Sorina at Chosen Voice. I found her blog about two months ago and really love her artwork. She said I could print out one of her pictures, if I took a picture of myself with it. Well, that my hand and computer, at least. Here’s her original post of it.

My copy of Colorful Soul, by Sorina M.

My copy of Colorful Soul, by Sorina M.


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