David Stevens

Archive for November, 2017|Monthly archive page

A wonderful bucket in the face

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2017 at 11:35 am

Too often I just settle, but now I wanted more. I find it easy to commit, I’m prepared to put in the hard yards once the initial blush has worn off, but it occurred to me, why am I doing this even when there was no fist blush. Back in university days, a friend studying accounting used to rattle on about sunk costs, and not throwing good after bad, and his words returned to me.

I thought I was doing everything right – both broadening my horizons, and returning to old favourites, but my heart just was not in it. Perhaps I was searching too often online, and I needed to get out into the real world.

Rave reviews, prize winners – nothing was doing it for me. A few pages in and I would shrug my shoulders – surely, there has to be more to it than just this. I even began to doubt myself. The problem can’t be – me ? Can it?

Then, dear reader, I found it. “The North Water”, by Ian McGuire. From the first line, “Behold the man,” as we meet Drax. Immediately into the physicality of “the complex air,” and we perceive him: snorting, crotch adjusting, finger sucking. Ever alert to his appetites, antenna adjusted to determine which need should be attended. “… the fucking, the killing, the shitting, the eating. They could come in any order at all. No one is prior to or superior to the rest.”

Great writing, great story, superb characters, I am loving this so far. Perhaps after all, I was just searching for … The One.

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Among the Dead

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2017 at 8:11 pm

My grandfather sits in the ruin of his house. It is always night when I am here. The sky is my skull, a low dome seen from the inside. His jaw is strong and held hard, grinding the fossils of his teeth. (Even if he still smoked, he could not. His pipe stem could not be forced between those lips. It would be snapped by those teeth. The end of it would stay in that mouth a hundred years, preserved.)

Wind sweeps the ash. I do not feel the cold. I stare at the strength of that head. I remember bending and kissing that head, like a child’s, as it lay on a pillow. The man I never kissed, who always shook hands. The skull beneath the skin.

That he came back to sit here, among the ruins. He does not decay, instead the house does. Each time I come, it has deteriorated further, taking his place in the grave. The elements do not bother him. If the wind wears him, if water drips him away, leaching away the minerals of him a drop at a time, perhaps it is for the best. Perhaps it is what he desires. As he weathers, mountains are ground down, oceans rise, seas fall. Forests grow and are consumed. The constellations shift, all sped up for him. He is the Time Traveller, he is Rod Taylor in his chair, encased in stone, then freed again. In my visits, I am a shadow. I am the flickering ghost. It is I who am death, I am mortality. We are worn down around him.

He gulps sometimes. The throat works, the jaw moves and clenches. He is biting deeper, getting a better grip on the world. Once or twice he has looked towards me. I stand close. He does not stop me. I am calm in his presence, calm with the nostalgia of grief. The longing for those other worlds I can never visit. Childhood. The past. The lives of others. The drowsy warmth of everything will be alright. The knowledge of grief to come.

That he has returned, and so far, not the others. Preserved in his pride, his inflexible ideas of proper behaviour. The feuds that burned silently within, in his room as he read, as he listened to talk back radio.

It is monochrome here. It suits the grey hair, slicked back along his scalp.

My aunt, white gowned against the window, arms raised and pressing the glass. Could only I see her? Were the adults pretending it was otherwise? My other grandmother, from the other side of my family, smiling, her lips uncertain, her eyes betraying an unease. She knew. We mourned when my aunt left, why did no one tell me she was back? Kept inside, a secret.

All the dead are kept inside, a secret that no one else wants to know. We are all haunted, and sometimes they stare out from the windows of our eyes. They come back, but they are not the same.

My grandfather sits amongst the exposed beams, the drooping wallpaper having outlasted the plasterboard beneath. He has made himself comfortable in the chair that was thrown away long ago. Its return is as great a miracle as his. He is silent. Why do we protest? Why do we bother to rage? The brave new world was always coming, and there was nothing we could do about it. We shall consume the whole world, we shall eat our young, the forests will die, the skies will burn.

There is no moon, no stars, no electricity, no peasant mob brandishing torches, but I see him clear in this night. I cannot think how I first found him here. I think I just knew. He cannot be in this house. It was sold years ago, and rebuilt, and another family lives here. Still, it is where I found him. Perhaps we are in one of those other twenty four dimensions of folded string. I do not know. I just gaze upon him and sit in his quiet presence.

The dead stare. What vision is imprinted on their eyes? We fear what they have seen.

His wife is not there. Will she come? Nobody told me my grandmother was in hospital. I could not answer the phone. I was freezing in a bath of ice, sitting with a child who refused to be comforted unless someone was in there with him, trying to bring his fever down. Later, when I finally was told, in emergency as she, unconscious, clawed at the air, as though prematurely buried and scraping at the coffin lid, I prayed and prayed into her ear, a hundred Hail Mary’s to calm her down, and then those arms rested, they allowed themselves to stop. Thank you God for that.

The dead are all inside. How many skeleton arms drag torsos forward through the mud of my mind, skulls drooping, exposed spines drifting away to nothing? How many more bony arms are yet to come? When shall I join them? What shall I see?

Or will death be banished forever, and we infested us with nanobots that work constantly to keep us fit, keep us happy in our jobs, content in the hell we have made?

These are thoughts I think, when I awake after my visits.

Crop Rotation

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Pretty chuffed to see my story ‘Crop Rotation’,  included by Ellen Datlow in her long list of honourable mentions of horror stories for 2016, associated with volume 9 of The Best Horror of the Year. I was very happy that ‘Crop Rotation’ was published in the anthology ‘At the Edge‘, edited by Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts. Quick, be like all the cool kids and run out and buy it now.

Arts maritaux

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Everybody was kung-fu fighting

But I was kung-fu loving

Drunken Master

Mantis Style

Long Fist

Eight Extremes

White Lotus

Ah!

Paper Lace, 1974

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2017 at 7:28 pm

I.

Billy

Be a hero

The rest of us will creep out the back

Our wives were happy

Our kids were happy

They didn’t care about Billy

After all, their Dads came back.

 

II.

The night Chicago died

There was nothing good on TV

I went to bed early

and missed it all.

Dammit!

The Partridge Family

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2017 at 9:50 pm

The Partridge Family

I think I love you

But what am I so afraid of?

Cancer.

Drunk drivers.

Faces at the window.

Child abductors.

Prison.

Public speaking.

Rectal bleeding.

All the usual stuff.

Coming in December …

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2017 at 7:21 pm

Hanging out with HP Lovecraft and Ramsey Campbell, amongst others …