Monday 31 December 2012

Dark Fiction - Resolution

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By Casey Douglass

The bulging net bounced along angrily behind him as he stomped along the cobbles; low guttural snarls and murmurings punctuating the thuds. He blew the air from his lungs and heaved his burden up the stark stone steps, the hard grey surface twinkling with late evening frost.
‘Careful!’ a grating voice slinked through the holes in the net. ‘You might slip and break your neck!’ The thing laughed like a chain-smoker, rasping and struggling for air.
The net was dragged into an open courtyard area, the stars of the night sky gazing down on the tableau. The tall figure let go of the ropes and left the quivering net, his quiet footsteps walking around and around.
‘Let me out Gillespie! You don’t want to do this!’
‘Do I not?’ Gillespie walked up to the net and crouched down, his dark coat tales fanning out behind him.
‘No! I can make a deal, there’s no reason why we can’t be friends!’ A splotchy hand pushed its way through the rope fibers, its long black talons greasy with dark liquid.
‘What did you have in mind?’
Gillespie watched as the skin on the hand rippled and shifted, the talons retracting, the skin turning a more healthy colour. A dainty hand waved at him, red nail polish and a scent of perfume completing the change.
‘How about it?’ a husky female voice said, the sound caressing his ears, the tone promising unthought of pleasures.
‘Put it away before I cut it off. You lot are always the same.’
The hand shot back into the darkness of the net with a booming snarl. ‘Should it have been a man’s hand?’
Gillespie stood slowly and stretched his arms over his head, his back arching. The first fireworks of the evening were bursting into the sky already. He walked to the parapet, making sure to tread on the net as he passed over. An angry yelp brought a slight lift to the sides of his mouth. This was a good place, the lad had done well. He placed his hands on the frigid stone and looked down across the city, the castle wall below him illuminated in the shifting colours of numerous spotlights. Cheers and laughter floated up on the night breeze, the chill air losing its battle to keep people inside. New Years eve. It was always the same up here. He wasn’t one for celebrating, but it was certainly useful.
Gillespie turned and eyed the large rocket on its launch station. It was the height of a man and deep red with a cone shaped top. He smirked; it looked just like something Wylie coyote would strap himself to when chasing the road runner. He made a note to ask his assistant where he had procured it. He hoped to himself that for his sake, it wasn’t A.C.M.E.
He ran a hand over his grey stubble, the lines on his face nestling against his fingers as they traced their way up to his brow and, as usual, to run along the still angry looking scar. It was an occupational hazard.
He produced his pocket watch and flipped it open. Snapping it shut angrily he strode over to the now motionless net. He stooped and wrenched it up and over his shoulder.
‘Wait! Wait!’ his captive cried.
He moved to the large rocket and pinned his struggling charge to it with his hand, the other feeling for the dangling ropes and coiling them around and around. A warm stench blowing into his face caused his eyes to prickle; it was rank and smelled charnal. With a satisfied grunt he knotted the ropes securely and stood back, his breath coming in small gasps.
‘You are ill Gillespie! How about I heal you?’
‘I’m not ill. It’s just your foul breath.’
‘No, its not. I can hear your breathing. You have something brewing in there Gillespie, something nasty.’
‘We all have our time.’
‘Hogwash! You take what you can get, allotted or not!’
‘Like you?’
‘Yes like me! I got into the sanctum and lifted the hourglass, and see what I have achieved!’
‘Yes but your time is up.’
A firework fizzed up from the darkness below, sputtering out in the sky with a small flower of white sparks.
‘It doesn’t have to be.’
‘Oh it does.’
‘Why? Because you say so?’
‘Because you broke the rules.’
‘Rules! Rules are created by the people in charge so that they are the only ones allowed to break them.’
‘Maybe. Maybe not. It has taken many days to put right your dabbling. Thankfully most people will never know how close the world came to it.’
‘To what? Empowerment? Justice? You think this will get you into Heaven?’
‘Won’t “He” reward you?’
‘Yes “He” will. You just have the wrong “He.”’
‘No never!’
‘Yes. All I needed was your admission of guilt Larnax,’ Gillespie’s voice was deeper and stronger now, his breathing deepening and slowing to an unearthly degree.
‘Checks and balances.’
‘That’s all?’
A clock in the distance began to chime the first stroke of midnight. A cacophony of cheers and fireworks burst into the night air, the odd stray note of music accompanying it.
‘That’s all.’
Gillespie raised a finger and flicked it towards the short fuse. It sputtered into life, showering the ground with hot yellow sparks. The net began to struggle and writhe as the line of fuse fell away, the rocket rumbling and vibrating. Seconds passed and it looked like it would not lift, but finally with a shuddering whistle it rose, the high pitched noise masking the screaming of the thing tied to it. It shot up into the sky, the air left in its wake hot and shimmering and smelling of gunpowder. Other fireworks bloomed around it like electric fountains as it reached its apex and exploded with a rumbling boom. A sickly green miasma seeped into the sky like a pestilent cloud, the reflected light of the explosion reflecting from its particles like tiny crystalline pebbles.
Gillespie stood and watched as the night winds began to disperse it, pulling his high collar up around his ears. It was always too cold up here. He listened to the sound of running feet in the courtyard below and squeaky iron gates being opened and clattering closed again. The footfalls grew nearer, on the frosty steps now. A gaggle of revellers rushed onto the open courtyard, staring around them, their faces falling as they struggled to find anything worth looking at. The courtyard was empty. No rocket stand, no footprints and no Gillespie.

The End

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Happy New year to everyone. Hope it brings you everything you are hoping for. 

Thursday 6 December 2012

Dark Fiction - Naughty

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By Casey Douglass

for #fridayflash

The kosh fizzed through the air, the speed making it look like it was made of rubber. The white haired skull met it with a small crack, like a child poking a finger into a Kinder egg. The sturdy body teetered for a moment before falling forward, the whiskered face welcoming the hard wooden floor with a crimson kiss.
‘No no no! You idiot Mike!’
‘What? You made the signal to brain ’im John!’
‘That wasn’t the signal. I did the signal to edge away!’
‘Bollocks! I know what I saw!’
The two balacalvered figures stared at each other; their eyes shining in the weak firelight. The one nearest the body nudged it with his toe.
‘I think he’s dead.’
‘Oh shit! That’s all we need.’
‘Fill up ya bag and lets go!’
‘We can’t leave him.’
‘’Course we can! What else we goin’ to do? Wait for the old bill? Screw that!’
The larger man turned away and brandished his bin bag. With surprising speed he stripped the mantel piece, the area under the tree and the biscuits on the plate nearby. He turned to the other who stood motionless looking down at the body.
‘Move!’ he shouted.
Flinching, John produced his own bag and made a show of scouring the room for any valuables.
‘Forget upstairs! No point chancin’ our luck here too long!’
The John nodded and continued his searching.
‘Right I’m full! You?’
‘I got some stuff.’
‘Good, lets go!’
‘Where’s he gone?’ the voice quivered.
‘The body.’
Mike turned and looked down at the floor; at the space that should have been occupied by the old man. There was nothing, not even the sticky pool of blood remained. He looked at his partner and shrugged. John’s eyes began to bulge and he pointed. Mike thumbed his kosh and began to turn.

Before he had twisted even partly around, a great darkness enveloped him, a rustling hot silence that pressed into his body in odd ways. He screamed but the blackness snatched his words away as if he was shouting into an abyss. Pricks and prods jabbed into him, piercing his skin. Blood tricked down from a deep gash in his forehead and made his eye sting. He yelled for help, for mercy, but everything seemed to close in around him, the space compressing him into an unnatural position. With a series of loud clicks, he succumbed to the pain, the last noise he heard was a high squeaky voice that said, “I love you!”

John watched the fur lined boot lift slowly from the red velvet sack, a sickening squelching noise slithering into his ears. He looked up the red trousered leg, past the black belt which struggled to contain the large girth of the belly, up past the golden buckles and into the red capilaried sneer that filtered through the white beard, the eyes sparkling like gimlets. John’s lip trembled.
‘Now then!’ boomed the man. ‘Who has been a naughty boy!’
John fell to his knees, tears running down his cheeks. ‘Me,’ he said meekly.
‘And what do you think I should do about it?’ Footsteps thudded nearer, the floor almost buckling.
‘I’m sorry! It wasn’t me! I told him not to. I know it’s wrong to do what we do but I never hit noone.’
‘Hmmm, Santa sees the truth in what you say. You have been very naughty though. One of the houses you robbed last year? There was a little girl who woke up and found that all of her presents were gone.’
‘I’m sorry, really I am!’
‘Her father killed himself two weeks later!’
‘Yes, oh! This year she wrote me a letter asking me to catch the bastards that did it. Her words too! You see what you have done?’
‘Yes! I see I see!’
‘Very well then, you will perform a community service rather than a disservice for once.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You will come with me and I will put you to work in my workshop, to right the wrongs and make amends for your misdeeds. I think...a hundred years should suffice.’
John’s head lolled forward as he tried to suppress a sob. ‘Thank you.’
‘Oh it won’t be a walk in the park, far from it. The work is hard and fiddly, have you ever tried to make an iPad?’
‘You will learn. Although I should warn you, the elves are...shall we say, a bit randy. I have to regularly let them sate their desires or they begin to produce strangely shaped toys. Most unsuitable for children. Your task will be to ease the pressure, so to speak.’
John looked up and pulled his balaclava off. His face was ghostly white and tear streaked. ‘Female?’ he asked quickly.
The figure looked down at him and smiled. ‘Not on the production line.’
John leapt up and sprang for the window. With a swoosh his world fell into darkness. Moments later he felt like he was flying and felt terribly cold. He trembled amongst the toys and games, cursing the choices he had made and the life he had led. For a brief moment, a spark of defiance arose in him as he psyched himself up. He would show them that they must fear him. Yes! That would make things much easier! The thought soon slipped away into the dark mire of fear however. He cried quietly, when he realised that his finger had poked into something wet and sticky, and vaguely spherical. It definitely wasn’t a Kinder egg.

The End

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Saturday 1 December 2012

Dark Review - The Ninth Gate

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The Ninth Gate Review

By Casey Douglass

The Ninth Gate stars Johnny Depp in the role of rare book dealer Dean Corso, who is commissioned by wealthy book collector Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to track down two books, presumed identical to the one he has recently purchased, "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows." There is some concern that only one of them is the genuine article, and Mr. Balkan is very anxious to make sure that his is the legitimate one. Balkan charges Corso with the task of investigating this state of affairs, and when Corso has second thoughts, Balkan plays hard-ball.

At this point, the story unfolds, with strange happenings and ruthless murders as people associated with the books are "silenced" by two seemingly warring agencies, and Corso is trapped right in the middle. It is the classic "back-stabbing" type film which encourages the audience to wonder who will turn on who next. This lends the film the aspect of a long riddle at times, but it isn't in the least bit tedious. It is more like a teasing wordsearch that you cannot help but keep coming back to.

The threads of duplicity and satanic influence meandering through the film grow in intensity as it progresses, all quite masterfully shot and directed by Roman Polanski. There is a scene about half way through, where a car almost runs over Corso on a quiet country lane. It misses and the driver gets out and slowly approaches the stricken man. A motorbike roars up and stops a short distance back. The driver turns on his heel and races off, the motorbike following shortly after the car has vanished from view. A simple scene but the combination of the music and the expression on Depp's face elevated it to a highly tense one, but over in less than thirty seconds. There are similarly powerful scenes scattered liberally throughout the film. Another is a walk along a deserted Spanish street. Shadow half covers the narrow alleyway surrounded by sandy sun-bleached buildings. Nothing is happening, but it has an oppresive quality that really makes you feel on edge, and that seems to be a rare thing in many dark movies these days.

I am impressed with Johnny Depp in this film. I am not one of his greatest fans, but I do recognise his acting ability. He plays the grey morality of Corso very convincingly, and even though he is roguish and unbelieving, the conflicts that arise in his nature as the film progress just seem "correct" as far as anything like that can be. He certainly isn't a loveable character, but by the end of the film you might feel a little more affectionate towards him.

Films with this kind of subject matter always appeal to me, having quite a liking for H.P Lovecraft's fascination with the placing of mythical old tomes of forbidden knowledge, like the fabled Necronomicon and Brian Lumley's Cthäat Aquadingen to name but two. The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows is another that seems to fill this role perfectly, and I think it would be very fitting if it was seen on the shelves of some infernal library, in the company of these other prodigious tomes.

Rating : 5/5