Friday, 17 February 2017

"Everyone agrees that you are the world authority on Ugarite cuneiform script, Dr. Soureid."

Dr Lilah el Soureid studied the tablet with knotted brows, her right hand moving aimlessly about inn search of a pen or cigarette. "Good grief" she muttered, "will you look at that thing."

"We believe it represents Dagon, who was patron god of the city."

"It's certainly Dagon. Text looks like a pretty standard devotional. I'll go through it, of course. But you have to wonder, don't you? Half human, holding ears of corn, half fish."

"My own theory is that it represents the food supply, over which Dagon had total control."

"And the severed heads?"

"He also granted victory in war, Dr. Soureid."

"He's sure a cheery-looking fellow."

"Of course, no interpretation we make today can really tell us what the ancient people believed."

"Of course." Dr. Soureid's eyes lingered over the script. "Never fear, Mr. Feldham," she said at last, "I'll have the world's most authoritative translation for you in the morning."

Once Feldham was gone, she got up off the uncomfortable stool and wandered round until she found some coffee. Guy gave her the creeps. Then again, anyone with that mind of money who'd use it to sponsor a dig into the backwoods of Syria and fly in experts like her would have to be just a little creepy.

Like all really ancient things, the tablet seemed somehow incredibly real to her. It had lain deep in the earth for three millennia. We can't even make buildings that hold together for more than a decade, she thought. The tablet lay against the white laminated surface, surrounded by all of the accouterments of modern archeology. Truth be told, it was the face that disturbed her. Eyes, mouth and nose distorted into a grimace that seemed so... miserable, yet glad at the same time. Glad that he could share his suffering. It was a superb piece of craftsmanship.

But the little chisel marks below the sculpture held the real story.

"Dagon, creator of life and bringer of death," she read, "Spare us that we may serve thee." Yeah, pretty standard for the whole region pre-Christianity. They believed human beings had been created as slaves for the gods. "We bow to you and cut our hands to you and bring unto you our parents and children, the old and the young, and - who's there?"

She spun around, nearly tipping herself over, but the room was empty. She had been absolutely certain that Feldham was behind her, repeating her words in the faintest whisper. But the door was closed, the room empty. After an uneasy couple of moments, she turned back to the idol.

"You who salt the water, making it... undrinkable, you who salt the fields, making them barren-"

She was hearing something. Maybe a whisper of air through the ducting, or the rasp of her clothes because it seemed close. If it had been Feldham, he'd have to be pressed against her, whispering as he leaned over her shoulder staring at the hideous idol, whispering.

Dagon, who -

A chill raced down her spine. She could hear the voice in her head. For the first time in three thousand years, a mortal was hearing one of the lost tongues of Mesopotamia and she somehow understood each and every word.

Lord of thy life and thy death. Bow to me and cut thy hands to me and bleed to me -

Without thinking, she reached a trembling hand for her coffee mug, but her fingers, directed by a will not her own, closed on the diamond saw instead.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A turbo-boosted start to 2017!

Things have been quiet on this front for a while, so let's share some exciting news.

2017 is shaping up to be off to a strong start! Let's have a run-down of what's going on!

In January, I lead a workshop on "Symbolism in writing - recognising the social constructionism in contemporary fiction and its origins in mythology", which was a truly massive success. We had a huge turnout, and after a presentation our attendees put together some fantastic examples of short fiction!

February (specifically next week) brings our Valentine's Day event. Last year's was a complete treat, and this year looks to be raising the bar even higher. I'll be presenting "Broken Glass", my short LGBT love story presented on my last post, so feel free to grab that as a sneak peek!

March is going to be fantastic. I've been invited to take part in a satire event, In this politically active time, satire becomes especially sharp. I'll be presenting my own piece which I'm working hard on at the moment, called "Internet Radicals - pwnage, fragile masculinity and small penises", which explores the manner in which young white men are indoctrinated into extremism by online culture. Sure to be a great event!

May is going to be a fun one. I'll be renewing the contract for publication of my LGBT coming of age comedy "Diary of a Gay Teenage Zombie", and what better way to do so than releasing a special edition? With more content, additional subplots, new characters, this is going to be the definitive volume. Pre-orders coming soon, so stick around! (Remember, you heard it here first)

This isn't the only book to get a new format. The comedy erotica series "Tales of Monsterotica" are hitting a new publisher this year as well. With enough sexy fun to make the Carry On cast blush, books one and two are due out in July and October respectively!

And no date on this one, so it's strictly Coming Soon at this point - "Scrolls of Etheria", the fantasy epic set inside the digital world of an MMORPG, is due to finish its lengthy editing process. This one's been a right chore to manage, being a huge brute of a book with a page count that rivals any doorstop fantasy novel. Once completed, each copy sold will raise money for charity.

That's a hell of a lot for this year, and it's fantastic to see all the hard work that I've been pushing now really paying off. Stick around for even more in the future!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Broken Glass

Angela limped unsteadily into the living room, a thick splatter of blood trailing the carpet as she did so. Trying to keep pace with Angela’s loping strides, Carol struggled to keep her upright, holding all of the older woman’s weight across her slender shoulders.
“Fuck fuck fuck” repeated Angela, the same dedicatedly bitter chanting that she had intoned every step of their way home. She held her right foot several wavering inches above the ground, hopping as best she could over to the sofa. Collapsing with a wincing sigh onto the pillows, Carol slid down beside her.
“Let me have a look” said Carol.
Begrudgingly, Angela consented. What had she been thinking, she wondered. Sprinting with Carol across the beach, running with loose sand kicking up behind their footfalls, laughing like two schoolchildren. Two bloody stupid children, Angela corrected. She bit back a wince, her instincts pulling her foot back as Carol’s fingers probed at the wound. “Just leave it” she said. “It’ll be fine.”
Carol shook her head. “I don’t see any more broken glass in it. But it’s deep. You should get a tetanus jab.”
“No” said Angela. The thought of waiting in a hospital room, being bustled around by underpaid and over-stressed nurses, leaving her feeling less like a person and more like a processed piece of meat in a factory, didn’t appeal to her. “There’s some stick-on stitches in the first aid kit.”
A glimmer of surprise in Carol’s face. “You have a first aid kit?”
Nodding, Angela motioned to the kitchen. Of course she had a first aid kit. Her mother would have insisted on it. She always had one, a little metal tin smelling of TCP liquid and cloth bandages. Always be ready, her mother’s voice said in her mind, just in case. Her mother would certainly not have approved of her running barefoot along the beach. Goodness knows what could be hiding in the sand. Sharp rocks, or broken bottles. Angela could have jabbed herself with a druggie’s used needle, and that could have been the end of her.
She shut her eyes for a moment, as Carol stood and hurried to the kitchen.
Good girls, thought Angela, didn’t listen to their mothers. Not until they got older – old enough to know better than to run around playing silly games and hurting themselves.
Angela watched Carol through the gap in the kitchen door for a few moments, wondering just what her mother would have thought of the woman that she was certain that she’d be spending the rest of her life with. Doubtless, her mother would have smiled. Gently smiled, gently nodded, gently said in that faux, not entirely sincere way of hers, “You’re my daughter, and I love you.”
It was those exact words – “You’re my daughter, and I love you” – that her mother had spoken when Angela had first come out. Her mother, who had survived the sixties and seventies with a collection of Fleetwood Mac albums and always voted for Labour, had never been able to move beyond those few words. Of course, her mother would never have committed the ultimate sin, never have actually admitted that she disapproved of her daughter’s homosexuality. She was too open-minded for that. And each year at Christmas, she would ask Angela if she was still happy; and Angela would not, and her mother would say “That’s good dear” and smile with a grin that screamed that she wished that her daughter would find a nice man.
Reaching down, Angela pulled two tissues from a box on the table and pressed it to her bleeding foot, making sure not to get any blood on the upholstery.  “I found the stitches” came Carol’s disembodied voice from the kitchen, “but the bottle of that stuff, what’s it called…”
“TCP” said Angela.
“Yeah. It’s empty.”
Carol hurried in, a roll of bandages trailing a bit behind her. She had opened them already, and Angela was gripped with an urge to take them, roll them up so that they didn’t unwind and cause them to spend the next half hour trying to coil them back into shape. It was funny, Angela thought, that she was worried about trying to coil something back up into its perfect, factory-sealed position. Taking her heel, Carol started to fasten the stitches in place.
It had been seven years since Angela had seen her mother. And yet here she was, being nursed by Carol, someone who was almost five years younger than Angela was. It occurred to Angela that surely she, as the older of the pair, should be the more motherly. But people didn’t work like that.
She did feel older, though. Far too old to be running on the beach. She was now more than half her mother’s age when she had passed away. If that was any indication to Angela, it means that she had lived almost half her natural life.
And what had that half a lifetime earned her? She didn’t own her own home, the housing market had seen to that. Her job offered little chances of ever reaching her full management potential, and that story that she had in her mind, about the detective who solved a crime and then something happened that made people think that he was a murderer or something, was most certainly destined never to see print. No, she had spent half her life learning not to run over broken glass.  What a waste, she thought.
Her friends, one by one, had started to have their own families. Most of them had children, and Angela – she was still undecided. Did she even want children? She hadn’t wanted them ten years ago. But then, ten years ago seemed a lifetime away. She had wanted the right to have children, though. She had signed enough petitions insisting that gay couples should have the right to adopt – the right to marry – the right to be treated with the same recognitions as anyone else. But that was when she was young, and she could have told someone that she wanted to protect her rights for the future. Now that she was living in that future, she wasn’t so sure.
A deep swimming sensation absorbed Angela, one not altogether unfamiliar. In her mind, she stood alone in a desert. Sun baking overhead, and the future that she had protested for, petitioned for and campaigned for, stretched on around her, uncharted and without roads. Without trails. Without anything around her but shortening horizons, growing gradually closer to her with each passing year, and an uncounted number of broken shards of glass hidden in the sand.
Angela let out a sigh. Carol looked up, releasing her grip on the bandage. “Too tight?” asked Carol.
“No” said Angela, “not too tight.”
The younger woman looked down. For a moment, Angela thought if it had been wise to even become involved with someone who was younger than herself – almost half a decade younger, almost an entirely different generation, surely. Carol reminded her of the youngsters that surrounded them the last time they went to a nightclub, dancing and drunk and without any worries, never having lived through an age when being gay surely equated to aids. For a moment, she thought that her feelings towards Carol were selfish – so damn selfish.
“Guess it wasn’t the best Valentine ’s Day” replied Carol.
Angela tried to smile.
“Do you want your present now?”
She wasn’t sure what to say. What present could Carol give her? Perhaps Carol had, sensing Angela’s growing fear, adopted a Syrian orphan for them to raise as their own child? “I’m sure you’d be a lovely parent” said her mother’s voice, “I mean, you people can adopt these days. Although, do make sure that you adopt someone who’s older. It wouldn’t be fair on one too young, getting bullied for having two mommies. Maybe you’ll be able to find a nice man to help raise him too. That would be nice.”
Carol reached back, picking up a brightly wrapped box from behind the sofa. “Want to guess what it is?” she challenged. “I think you’ll really like it.”
“An end to brexit and the sudden abdication of Donald Trump?” suggested Angela.
Carol rolled her eyes, thrusting out the box. “Here. It won’t make the world a better place, I’m afraid. But it might help your foot feel better.”
Slowly, Angela removed the shining gold wrapper. Inside was a small cuddly toy. Holding it up, she saw that it was a kitten.
“Press the button on the back” said Carol.
Tilting it this way and that, Angela pressed the button. The kitten made a growling sound, masking a small whir of animatronics inside it. Its eyebrows curled into a snarl, and its mouth opened to show pointed fangs.
“It’s a Scare Bear” explained Carol, eagerly. “I had it sent over from America. Do you like it?”

Angela started to laugh, and didn’t feel quite so much like broken glass any more.