Saturday, 24 June 2017

Infernal Flash Competition - Third Place

Welcome back to our Infernal Countdown. The hands crawl across the face of time, the slightest movement, always in one direction, never to go back. And why would you want to go back when we have such stories for you? Stay a while and read our Third Place winner who is ...

Oh, but not yet. First we must hear what our judge Shakes has to say:

"I like the idea that the Helter Skelter is a dwelling here, an abandoned fairground the perfect stomping ground for the mysterious wand maker. There are shades of Doctor Who in our aging magician, including his ‘bigger on the inside’ display room – although his method for longevity is a little more diabolical than the Doctor’s regeneration.

Love is, indeed, an infernal business. I liked the playful twist in the once only spell and the careful description of how the wand always comes to work upon its wielder.

The delicious moment the recipient of Arthur’s affections prevents him from breaking the spell had me grinning from ear to ear.

The story is dotted with nice phrasing and detail and its lighter tone helped to distinguish it from the darker entries.

Well done to the author."


And the name of our Third Place winner and the author of The Wand Maker is ...

... Chris Stanley. Congratulations, Chris.

Enjoy his story.

The Wand Maker

For two hundred years, they’ve been knocking on his door. From Cape Town to Cardiff he’s listened to stories of lecherous bosses and lacklustre wives. His customers all want the same thing, a chance of happiness. But finding or fashioning a suitable wand is a tricky business. It’s why he keeps moving.

“I thought you’d come down the slide,” says the boy at his front door. He has the narrow shoulders and bowl cut of a lonely twelve-year-old. The corner of his schoolbag reads “Arthur” in a mother’s hurried scrawl.

“Why would I do that?” asks the old man. “You never know which way you’re facing and the only way is down.”

He’s lived in the Helter Skelter since the fairground was abandoned. It suits him perfectly. The peeling paintwork and rickety slide make visitors uncomfortable. People see the word “Condemned” and stay away.

But not this boy.

The old man leads Arthur through a short hallway to a storeroom, where the walls are lined with rows of wands, hung by hoops of leather. One spell per wand, one casting per spell. The room is impossibly large given the exterior dimensions of the ride. Between the wands, a grandfather clock ticks backwards. It’s eight in the morning but the clock says half six. Arthur fidgets in the doorway.

“What are you after?” asks the old man.

“There’s a girl.”

The old man rolls his eyes. Love is an infernal business.

“You know the price?”

“One year per wand.”

The old man climbs a stepladder and selects a mahogany “Fairy Finger” gilded with gold-leaf lettering.

“And no refunds.”

He gives the wand to Arthur and a spark of electricity passes between them. The clock hands unwind to half-past seven.

#

The old man follows Arthur at a distance. Wands are impatient things, demanding to be used immediately. As expected, the boy heads straight to school and waits in the playground. The old man remains outside, watching the other children as they arrive. He studies them all, his eyes asking questions of every girl who passes. And then he sees her and knows everything.

Hand shaking, Arthur points the wand and reads the inscription on its shaft. There’s a flash and he doubles over, falling forwards and landing hard on his shoulder. His body contorts as he transforms.

Over the years, the old man’s learned it’s safer to change his customers than the world around them. Breaking the wand breaks the spell, so they can always undo what they’ve done. His careful design means no one ever asks which end of the wand to point.

Arthur pulls himself up using a window ledge and studies his reflection in the glass. His delicate chin and long, blonde hair. His newly acquired breasts. He reaches for the wand to break it but the girl stops him, smiling shyly. She touches his arm and asks if he’s okay.

The old man returns to the Helter Skelter and awaits his next customer.

Bio:

Christopher Stanley lives on a hill in England with three sons who share a birthday but aren't triplets. In the past year, his stories have won prizes and been published by Raging Aardvark, Retreat West, ZeroFlash, Corvus Review and The Molotov Cocktail, as well as being included in the 2015 and 2016 National Flash Fiction Day anthologies. Follow him on Twitter @allthosestrings and check him out at https://whenonlywordsareleft.wordpress.com/

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Infernal Flash Competition - Fourth Place

So here we have it, the first of our final placings for our inaugural Infernal Flash Competition and I would like to say, on behalf of my infernal partner, David Shakes and myself, how delighted and humbled we are that in these ever-busy days, people would take the time to write and submit to our contest. Thank you to everyone who entered and if you didn't make the podium this time, then perhaps another. The Clock, after all, never stops ticking.

Note: all identification was stripped from the manuscripts to ensure fair judging.

And now without further ado and amid much procrastination (he really did have a tough time judging, you know), here are the comments from HIM Mr Shakes:



'In 4th place is The Infernal Clock - I am Twitter friends with Jennifer Handorf who produced 'The Borderlands' - the movie reminiscent of the end of this dark tale. The personfication of the ride, its horrific, organic nature is what swung it. I liked the amibiguity coupled with the sense of urgency. My good friend Dom D thought it could be the most atmospheric of the submissions. We both liked the claustrophobia that builds - and the tight narrative. Well done.'


And the name of our Fourth Place and the author of the Infernal Clock is 

... Mark Morris. Congratulations. 

Enjoy his story ...



Infernal Clock


The dark-mannered child took his hand, leading him forward. A series of steps appeared, painted gaily and fashioned from wood. Each of the risers was emblazoned with a word written in a thick black copperplate. ‘Fun!’ proclaimed the first. ‘Enjoy!’ exclaimed the second. The third and the fourth ones were obscured by gloom but Dean knew already they’d be labelled in the same elaborate script.
His companion urged him on, his bare feet shuffling on the first step. His face turned upward. ‘Come,’ he mouthed, the word a silent cloud that hung between them. “Come.” The boy’s hand was icy-cold as it closed onto his own, immediately tugging at it, the child insistent that they move. 
The steps soon began to narrow. They’d only climbed a half a dozen more before the walls drew in closer, the wine-dark canvas cold and damp against their shoulders. The child had surged up and ahead, towing him now, his hand gripping onto his more tightly, his back and shoulders pale and now in line with Dean’s face. His other hand snaked further forward into the dark, gripping onto the spiral of the handrail, its knuckles white as he towed them upward. Dean hesitated, stumbling for a moment, his toe catching against the overhanging lip of one of the treads. The boy looked quickly back, his face a dim white oval.
“Come,” he urged once more. “Come. We must hurry.”
Dean’s feet stuttered as he recovered his balance, his other hand weighted by the slide-sack he was carrying. They were moving at speed now, his toes alternatively scuffling and skipping over the edges of the steps as they raced toward the top. The walls began to quiver, now an infernal ox-blood red, both sides dragging across their bodies as they slid between them. He turned his head about to see back the way they’d been but there was nothing; no steps, no light, just a slick mahogany darkness and a low ululating moan. Their pace increased yet further and he snapped his head back to face the boy, his form now glowing a pale gem-like turquoise.
“No,” Dean said, trying to hook his feet between the steps. “Enough now.”
The child looked back, shaking his head, his clasp becoming vice-like, his small fingerbones grinding sharply against Dean’s. “No,” he replied, looking severe. “There can be no ‘no’. Only forward.”
Then the walls closed in on them and everything went black.

Bio:

Mark Morris is a mature born-again writer who discovered his Muse the second time around. In previous incarnations, he's been a star student, a minor athlete and an obsessive hobbyist but he's lately begun to find a modicum of writing ability and now specialises in writing flash fiction. He's currently working on a handful of novels but is striving to limit this to no more than two or three at once. One of these is a Noir-styled dieselpunk thriller which he hopes will be snapped up by a literary agent next year and then immediately become a worldwide genre bestseller.




Check back next week to discover our Third Place winner.

Monday, 22 May 2017

HorrorAddicts.net Press presents ... Clockwork Wonderland

Today, The Infernal Clock hosts HorrorAddicts.net and their latest release Clockwork Wonderland, an anthology in which I am very lucky to appear. This is not your childhood Wonderland, this is somewhere much darker. Diving down this particular rabbit hole will take you places you never thought imaginable, including the dungeons where my own tale is set; you will find a short extract from my story, Hands of Time, at the end of this post. Want to read more? The book is available at amazon, link below.



Clockwork Wonderland contains stories from authors that see Wonderland as a place of horror where anything can happen and time runs amok. In this book you’ll find tales of murderous clockworks, insane creations, serial killers, zombies, and a blood thirsty Jabberclocky. Prepare to see Wonderland as a place where all your worst nightmares come true. You may never look at classic children’s literature the same way again.



Edited by Emerian Rich
Cover by Carmen Masloski
Featuring authors:
Trinity Adler
Ezra Barany
Jaap Boekestein
Dustin Coffman
Stephanie Ellis
Jonathan Fortin
Laurel Anne Hill
N. McGuire
Jeremy Megargee
James Pyne
Michele Roger
H.E. Roulo
Sumiko Saulson
K.L. Wallis
With Foreword by David Watson





Excerpt from

by Stephanie Ellis

The Apprentices stood up, fixing their eyes on the opposite wall, refusing to look at each other. On the long table in front of them, blade and razor, steel and skewer, cleaver and needle shone brightly, like an earth-bound heaven of fallen stars twinkling viciously. The Executioner approached, scanning the tools of his trade and then those who served him. Even down in the gloom of the dungeons, he wore his Death Mask, a leathern covering, roughly stitched with mere gashes for eyes and mouth. His huge frame towered over them.
“Hands,” he barked.
The five young men raised their arms toward him, hands extended over the savage blades that claimed their reflections. The Executioner examined each arm carefully, holding their too-soft flesh between his own heavy leather gloves.
Rab had never seen the man’s hands in the two months he had lived beneath the Castle nor an inch of skin to indicate he was a mortal like them. The Executioner’s hands held his own and he could feel the power and strength that lay within emphasizing how puny, how feeble, he was in comparison. He felt ashamed, a feeling made even worse by the strange tinge visibly creeping across his palms and knuckles, something he attributed to the metal which he had to burnish day and night—a never-ending supply of blood-stained steel.
One look at his handiwork returned a smile to Rab’s face. He enjoyed the ritual cleansing, felt in it a sense of purification. He knew his work was better than the others, their distaste obvious as they scraped off the congealed blood and gore. They did as much as they had to, but no more.
The Executioner stepped back and surveyed his small team. Behind him the fire spat and crackled merrily in the old fireplace. Above it hung the clock, their clock, a clock they avoided looking at if they could help it.
“Tonight, gentlemen,” said the Executioner, “the TimeKeeper will be visiting us.”
“Never heard of him,” muttered one of the apprentices.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” said the Executioner. “Not up there at least.” He jerked his head up, indicating their old world. “He’s a little secret we keep all to ourselves.”
“And why is that?” asked the Apprentice who had just spoken.
The Executioner winked and tapped the side of his nose. “You’ll find out,” he said and continued his inspection, slowly, methodically, silently.
Movement at the far end of the room caught the Apprentices’ attention and turned their thoughts away from the monster before them. All watched in fascination as a single flame drifted through the dimly-lit chamber, closing in on them as a spider to a fly. Hypnotized by the orb’s movement, they failed to notice the creature who carried it in his hand until the man, for want of a better word, stood right in front of them. A solid pulse throbbed beneath his feet, a steady rhythm, ticking and tocking making the air shimmer and sway. Rab could not look away as pendulum eyes held him prisoner.
“Good evening, TimeKeeper,” said the Executioner. “I take it you need new hands?”
“Always.” The TimeKeeper laughed. “The Queen of Hearts wants the clocks changed and the hands moved. Or the clocks moved and the hands changed. I forget which.”
“Forward or back?” asked the Executioner.
“Back again,” said the TimeKeeper. “But the old hands are worn out from this constant tinkering and I need new ones. I heard you had a few to spare.”
“Be my guest,” said the Executioner. They shared a laugh.
At mention of the TimeKeeper’s task, Rab turned his gaze to their clock, noticing for the first time the ivory trelliswork, how it had been crafted from bone. Limbs interwoven in a manner as masterful in its construction as any Carollian carving, perfect slivers of finger interlocked to hold the clock in place. And the hands…they brought back memories of his father’s textbooks with their pen and ink drawings of the human skeleton. He recognized what those hands contorted to track time really were, what he had avoided seeing ever since he’d arrived. Carpal bones and fingers twisted horrifically together, culminated in the deathly point dancing to the TimeKeeper’s tune. How anyone could see beauty in such a monstrosity was beyond him. He averted his eyes, unable to bear the sight of it any longer.
“That is my original clock,” the TimeKeeper said as he came up behind Rab. “The one on which all others are modeled. The Queen is very taken with this design. Now, show me your hands.”
Rab offered his greying hands for inspection. The TimeKeeper said nothing. He moved on and examined the hands of the others.
“We are in agreement?” the TimeKeeper asked.
The Executioner nodded.
“You four,” the TimeKeeper said to Rab’s companions, “swore the apprentice’s oath giving your hands to your Master, for him to do with as he would. And now that time has come. I will take them…” He turned to the Executioner. “You will prepare this young man for the task. No time like the present, eh?”
The ticking rhythm grew loud in Rab’s ears and his mind dulled. He could focus on nothing except the movement of the clock, the march of time. When he roused from his stupor, he was alone with the Executioner.
“Where have they gone?” Rab asked.
“The TimeKeeper will make better use of them than I ever can. You will be taken to them shortly, though. There is a job for you to do.”

To read the full story and more Clock-inspired, Alice Horror, check out Clockwork Wonderland.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Infernal Flash Fiction Competition

The past month has seen The Infernal Clock performing strongly on Amazon, sharing shelf space with some amazing authors, and has had some wonderful reviews. To celebrate this, we are offering you the chance to win a print copy of the book AND have your story published on this site. In addition we will publish those stories placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th on this website over successive weeks in our countdown to announce the winner. The 2nd place runner up will also receive an ebook version of The Infernal Clock.

All we ask is that you use the following photo prompt for your horror story and include the word ‘infernal’.



Maximum word length: 500 words
  

Closing date: 03/06/2017


Announcement Schedule 
17th June 2017: 4th place story published on The Infernal Clock blog
24th June 2017: 3rd place published
1st July 2017:    2nd place published

8th July: Winner published.

 Please send your entries (as a .doc or .docx attachment) to theinfernalclock@gmail.com and include a short 100 word bio together with any twitter or website links in the body of your email.

Judges: Steph Ellis, David Shakes


Good luck, we look forward to reading your entries.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Ticking Along

Well it seems as though The Infernal Clock is a brand that is here to stay. It has a twitter account @infernal_clock, an email address theinfernalclock@gmail.com and of course this blog spot. There have been tweets aplenty posted by its talented contributors, although arguably @TheShakes72 is out there in the lead and some very pleasing early reviews which can be read here at amazon. 

We even had a number one position in the Kindle chart for a few heady hours.

What was an even bigger kick however, was checking to see who was on the bookshelf with us, I mean Shirley Jackson AND Stephen King.



So what next?

The focus is still at present on The Infernal Clock. We are working behind the scenes to gather more reviews, today we sent a copy of the book to the British Fantasy Society and will be approaching others. These sites and organisations have said they have quite a pile of material to review so it may be some time before they get to ours – there are no guarantees. But if we don’t ask we don’t get and that is something we are having to learn fast, to put ourselves ‘out there’ even if it means a knockback. It may even be that the reviews are not what were hoped for but that is the nature of the industry, a world based on the subjectivity of the reader.

We are looking at different platforms and different methods of presenting The Infernal Clock but this will take time. There is also a competition in the pipeline, again to draw traffic to this site and the book. And if that isn’t enough, yes there will be another anthology.

This is a long game, so if things look as though they have gone quiet the Clock hasn’t stopped, it’s just ticking along nicely (and @theShakes72 is probably in the pub, except on a school night).



Thursday, 20 April 2017

Quality Time by David Shakes

Steph and I are in discussions about an Infernal Clock competition of some sort. Writing to tie in to the whole IC theme. Going back through my own archives, I thought this piece was a nice example of something that may exist in the IC world:


The clock on the mantle wheezes each interminable second.

The kitchen tap drips infrequently.

There's no rhythm here.

Everything's shrouded, not just you – the familiar coverings of dust and doilies.

Echoes of my last visit, only it's me who’s now sat motionless in the armchair.

Across the room your sightless stare takes in the patterns on the nicotine stained ceiling.

Outside, in the first rays of dawn, I hear the clink of milk bottles on the doorstep.

Such a small sound, yet there's been no milk round here for years.

You whisper, 'Go home now.' 

I can't go yet.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Infernal Art

We've a few hashtags on Twitter, including #InfernalArt - here's a selection













Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Infernal Exit Interview



David Shakes talks to co-curator and esteemed horror writer Stephanie 'Steph' Ellis about how she wound up involved in the project.








1)  So, Stephanie, you went from having to enter a competition to get a timeslot in the book,  to becoming co-curator and linchpin of the project. How the hell did that happen?
Right, first it’s Steph in conversation, not Stephanie. I’ve reserved my ‘proper’ name for written author bylines only. When I was small, the only time my Dad would use my proper name was when I was in trouble (otherwise they called me Stevie but that’s parents/sisters & their children only, although twitter seems to have got in on the act) – to everyone else it’s Steph.
Now back to the book. Fate? Not in my right mind? Sod’s Law? Haven’t the faintest, it just sort of crept up on me.  I had heard ideas for the anthology being mooted but not necessarily being on twitter at the right time I managed to miss the boat. I was a bit miffed at that. However I knew how much my co-curator Shakes and the successful contributors wanted to get this done so I offered my services to help pull it together. Things went a bit quiet but I kept an eye on the messages about The Infernal Clock and saw a slot had opened up subject to competition so I thought I’d give that a go. Thing was, nobody else entered – to this day I’m convinced everyone felt sorry for me and ‘let’ me have 3 a.m. Then again, things went quiet, until a message from Shakes asking if I’d help pull it together and if I had another story; his own work pressures had pretty much delayed things. But life does have an unfortunate habit of getting in the way so no one should ever feel guilty about that.


2) Your horror writing has won many admirers, me included, why do you think your work appeals to so many readers?

Truly, I really don’t know. I never, ever thought I’d end up writing what I do, and believe me I still don’t know how I do it. It may be the imagery I develop – I love that, trying to build pictures that just hint at something until the whole scene is suddenly there in your head and you’ve creeped yourself out in the process. I wrote a short flash piece recently for The Angry Hourglass in which a character initially appears as some sort of mad murderer (explicit) but reading between the lines you discover he actually mutilates humans and keeps them as ‘pets’. I also like to catch people out when I add an element of what I call matter-of-factness to my writing which contrasts and then heightens any madness in the characters.  So perhaps that’s it, show don’t tell – with a dash of psychosis.


3) Once a book is in the wild, the 'business' of marketing it begins - what do you make of the whole thing?

Scarier than writing and very much a learning curve. There are things I’m looking at via this self-publishing course I won a while back which focuses on marketing and selling. I just haven’t had a chance to look at it all properly yet; there’s audiobooks, translations, book trailers and have you seen the world of book vloggers? I asked my daughter to send me links to her favourite vloggers recently so I could check them out, it’s a whole different world out there. And there’s conventions, going on a panel, the thought frightens the life out of me but if I really had to do it, I would. Once upon a time you could write something and leave it to the publishers to push the final product. Now it’s the poor old author who has to put on a very public face and sell themselves in a very saturated market.
I also believe that it’s a long haul process so there will be peaks and troughs and you just have to accept it.
Can I go back to writing now please?


4) Which book, horror or otherwise, do you wish you'd written yourself and why?

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. One of my favourite novels and one which I return to every so often. What stays with me from this book is the whole sense of atmosphere. Right from the start you know something dark and evil is approaching, eventually to be revealed in the shape of the nightmare Carnival. Even when I can’t remember a character’s name or a bit of the plot, the book with its oppressive and dark imagery continues to haunt me. To be able to haunt someone with imagery drawn from your words is a skill indeed.


5) If you were character from the world of horror and the fantastique, who would you be and why?

Me? I’m a nice person. Actually it’s not really horror but I wouldn’t mind being Terry Pratchett’s DEATH. He has some wonderful one-liners and he’s quite fond of humans, plus he has a horse called Binky.
“DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.” 


6) Fancy doing this again?

Of course, always a glutton for punishment and as the genius that was Terry Pratchett says “Insanity is catching.” 

The Infernal Beginning...

The beginning of April saw the birth of a new horror anthology, The Infernal Clock.  Here we speak to one of the co-curators and evil mastermind behind the whole project, David Shakes.

What triggered the idea for the Infernal Clock?

I spend an inordinate amount of time on Twitter and was tweeting about the resurgence of genre TV and my nostalgia for shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’. I mused that a horror ‘24’ would make a good show. I also thought it would make a pretty good theme for an anthology book…
 
How did you go about selecting the stories?

That’s a pretty scary story! I didn’t. I tweeted something along the lines of: ‘Who wants to be in a book? Pick your timeslot between 12am and 11pm.’ Within an hour, 24 people had! I then had to worry for 5 months if they were going to write anything or, in some cases, had written anything before. To get such high quality in the end product has been more by luck than judgement.

What was the most difficult part of this project?

Trying to wrangle 24 individual people, who’s only commitment is a throwaway tweet. By the time I’d finalised the line-up and realised the initial time allocations had gone wrong it was getting quite fraught. When another couple of writers had to pull out, I knew it was time to call on the FlashDogs crew. They came through with last minute stories, changes of timeslots and, in the case of my fabulous co-curator Steph Ellis, the time and space to pull together a hefty master document.

How did you feel when you finally saw the finished product?

1)  Proud as punch! I know that I am biased, but it’s superb. It’s not just me saying that either – independent reviews of both Kindle and print versions have noted Tamara Rogers’ top artwork, the perfection behind Steph Ellis’ lead in quotes and of course Emily June Street’s faultless production values. A fairly big genre publisher I sent a print version to recently shared how impressed they were with the final product.
2)  Relieved. I was floundering towards the end, I missed my own Halloween deadline for the launch and my day job was getting tougher and tougher. I owe it to a lot of other people that we got such a polished anthology out there.

Would you do this again and if so, is there anything you would do differently?

Right after we’d done it, I said ‘never again.’ Now – it’s a maybe. I’d organise things a bit better and involve the right production people from the start. I’m great at the big ideas but need other people to concentrate on the details. I would also get more of my own work in there next time. The Infernal Clock ended up being produced at a time when I wasn’t writing much and what I was producing wasn’t my best. I’ve also learned a lot about marketing and would set aside time and money to promote the work effectively too. It’s a saturated market and you need ways of getting your book noticed.
We were musing about Infernal Clock Publishing the other day…
You contributed a story to the Prologue which seamlessly introduced the rest of the book. If you could've chosen an hour, which one would it have been and why?

Like some of the other writers have said in their own upcoming interviews at The Infernal Clock, I’d choose an unassuming hour – early morning or mid-afternoon. It would be more open to interpretation. Demons by Daylight as the amazing Ramsey Campbell once wrote.

On Writing:

You've show you can write consistently to a high standard - your flash stories online and contributions to the FlashDog anthologies have shown that. Why don't we see more?

Firstly, thanks for the compliment. Secondly, and without irony, it’s all about time. I started writing when I turned 40 and one of my favourite authors, James Herbert, passed away. I even wrote down 3 aims:

1)      See if people will read you and like what they’ve read2)      Win a competition and get into a real book
3)      Write a novel by the time (I’m) 45

I was really disillusioned with my job at the time and threw myself into writing and photography. Flash, poetry and short stories were a perfect medium for me. The first two aims are complete - FlashDogs became a thing, I’ve an Amazon author's page and have featured in half a dozen books and was once uncynically called ‘the author, David Shakes’!
In the meantime, my day job (a primary school headteacher) has grown tougher and tougher as I take on greater challenges. I write a lot, but for the job – policies and letters and web content and reports and agendas and minutes and emails…it hasn’t left a lot of time anything else.
In my down time I try to prioritise family and then my broader social circle. I currently have 8 months to get that novel sorted!

Do you have a favourite story of yours we can read here as a sample?

As good an example as any:

Ferryman

They'll tell you that the Mersey is clean, teeming with life, but poison takes on many forms. The dead clog the estuaries, their unclaimed bodies shifting on the tides. They pollute the river with anguish and regret. Their anger swirls amidst the grey waves. Their imploded egos become black holes of emotion, sucking life into the oily mud of its banks. The lost and the wicked. The damned and deranged. They all sink the same.
You can't ordinarily see them, but there are times when the veil is lifted. Thin times.
Rare, stormy nights when the promenades fill with spectres and the river is clogged with sodden souls. On these nights the river may offer up a body, release a soul to move on to whatever may come next.
That's what happened for us; why I'm here on this ferry able to see her this one, final time.
The early morning commuters look right through her. They may glimpse the urn on the salt bleached deck and turn their thoughts to brighter things. They may sense the tragedy and close their minds to it; incongruous as it is to their steaming lattes and Facebook updates.
She stays by the urn.
It's been months since the suicide.
We'd been at a low ebb. Debts were mounting. She'd said she couldn't cope. The pressure grew with every final demand. She'd become withdrawn, secretive. We'd barely spoken, even when I knew she was waking in the night to be sick.
That's been the worst part since it happened. Not being able to talk to her, but now she's here, as hauntingly beautiful as I remember her. I want to hold her so badly but know I can't. The dead have no corporeal being. The tear that makes its silent way down her pale cheek says it all. It's almost time to let go.
As the ferry hits the halfway mark the wind rises in anticipation. There's an offering in the urn; a conclusion. A release.
The body had washed up at New Brighton. Once identified and the coroner's report complete, it had been a short wait for a slot at the crematorium. There were a few friends at the service. Small comfort.
This part was always going to be private. We'd discussed spreading ashes on the Mersey the way the immortal young do, secretly knowing their own death will never come.
Oh, for that time again - before mortgages and redundancies; before drunken rows and suicidal thoughts.
I'm almost standing beside her now. Her eyes gaze out across the water. My hand hovers over the swell of her belly. The heat of the life within too intense for my cold, dead spirit.
I'd been so lost in our money worries, so lost in myself that I hadn't even seen the signs of early pregnancy.
It's a boy. Does she know it's a boy?
I am saddened by the thought of her having to raise my child alone. How could I have been so selfish?
She looks at me - really looks. She speaks, a low whisper:
"It's okay. I forgive you." She puts her hand on her stomach and smiles sadly. "We forgive you."
If it wasn't ashes in the urn my heart would break. Now I know I'm no longer lost.
Maybe the best part of me will live on in my unborn son.
The ageing sound system cranks up and Gerry starts singing 'Ferry Cross The Mersey.'
She takes the lid from the urn and scatters me to the wind.
My soul soars as Gerry sings:
"We don't care what your name is boy, we'll never turn you away."


What genre do you tend to write in and what is about that genre which appeals to you?

Horror of course. I think the fascination began as a child – it was thrilling to be scared and I devoured all the Hammer films and BBC2 creature features. My first adult horror book was Carrie I think. There was no YA genre but that book opened me up to a world beyond The Hobbit. Writers like Clive Barker made the genre an art-form and I realised that the best of the genre had as great a depth as the books I was studying in school and later at university.


Who are your darkest influences?

Writers? King, Campbell, Barker, Herbert, Straub, McCammon, Morris, Hutson (not to everyone’s taste but he knows what works!) More recently, Adam Neville and C.J. Lines.

How do you come up with your ideas?

Beginning my writing life as a flash-fictioneer, I’ve become accustomed to prompts and criteria. Most of the rest of the time it’s from daydreaming or following a stream of consciousness. I get visual images in my head or sometimes a phrase or snippet of dialogue. I read a lot of non-fiction too which can spark ideas.

What next for the Shakes?

I am going to attempt that novel. I have procrastinated long enough and it’s time to nail something exclusively Shakes to the world.
I hope to contribute to the newest FlashDogs project which will be an online magazine.
 I once threatened to do some rewrites of Enid Blyton tales for David Southwell who is busy mapping Hookland for the masses right now.
The novel comes first.

666

6 Who do you think are the 6 most evil humans in history?

Hitler, although he’s on a continuum any other leader that would devalue another human being or commit atrocities in the name of something ridiculous.
Elizabeth Bathory who managed to kill almost 666 girls in the mistaken belief that she’d preserve her youth.
I actually believe the most evil people are the ones we don’t know about – the ones who are manipulating from behind the curtains, and there are more than 4 of them…

6 Who do you regard as the 6 most evil villains in literature or film? 

Evil is about intent and awareness – so I’m going to say Pennywise / IT (let’s hope the new movie gets it right), Flagg from The Stand and The Dark Tower series, General Woundwort in Watership Down, Damien in The Omen, The demon Pazuzu in The Exorcist and The Trunchbull in Matilda.

6 What do you think are the 6 most disgusting meals or food products ever created?

Wotsits, sheep brains, durian fruit, microwave chips, jellied eels, Wotsits again.

And finally ...

The Devil walks up to you in the bar. What drink would you buy him?
Whisky, single malt – aged, dark and peaty. No ice, no water. A double. The Devil doesn’t dick about with cocktails.

Grab a copy of the book itself here ... with some excellent reviews you will not be disappointed.


11am with Marie McKay: THE LAYERS WITHIN


11 am



Tick, tock, the hour has struck and time has been called for:



Marie McKay


There are 24 hours in the day. Why did you choose this hour for your story?

My writing usually involves exploring the darker side of domestic settings. A spot leading up to lunchtime seemed perfect for that.


What is your story about?

It involves two, maybe, three characters depending on how you read it. It is set in Glasgow. A young professional has moved into an executive apartment. He appears to want to make a new friend. A live one. But his obsession with repetition takes the story to a darker place.


Who are your darkest influences?

Bram Stoker. I loved all things Vampire as a kid.


How would you encourage a non-horror fan to read your story?


I'd tell them it was no more disturbing than some episodes of  'Dinner Date.'


Do you write in other genres?

I write very short flash fiction that tends to be dark, but not necessarily in the horror genre.


What is your favourite time of day?

When the kids are tucked up in bed. (Is that really awful?)


Do you have any other publications or work you would like to tell us about?

I have flash fiction published in various places online and in various anthologies including the flashdog anthologies.


What are you working on now?

I have a piece I really like, called 'Retro', but it's been rejected a few times now. Going to give it another bash before giving up on it entirely.


Where can we find you online?

@elaine173marie


666


6 Who do you think are the 6 most evil humans in history?

Three I can't leave out:
Pol Pot
Stalin
Hitler

And three people whose actions really haunt me:
Josef Fritzl
Marc Dutroux
Delphine Lalaurie


6 Who do you regard as the 6 most evil villains in literature or film?

Count Dracula            Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'
Iago                            'Othello'
Fred                            'The Handmaid's Tale'
Edmund                      'King Lear'
Pinkie                         'Brighton Rock'
Margaret Thatcher     'The Downing Street Years'

6 What do you think are the 6 most disgusting meals or food products ever created?


Mussels
Cheese strings
Sugar-coated doughnuts (chocolate ones are fine.)
Marzipan
Anything with lemon in it
Gin (I know it's a drink, but I hate it even more than all 5 foods I've just listed.)


Tick, tock, time’s up

Infernal Flash Competition - Third Place

Welcome back to our Infernal Countdown. The hands crawl across the face of time, the slightest movement, always in one direction, never to g...