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Showing posts from 2017

The Altered Sky

I was the only one who could see it. It took me a while to realise.
It was noon, a hot and bright Saturday in summer. The sea had been turned lapis by the generous sky. Children were enjoying ice creams; teenage boys with unbuttoned shirts serenaded girls with acoustic guitars; the elderly had taken their places on the deckchairs, sunhats or handkerchiefs shielding them from the molten light. An intrepid few were swimming, though the sea had retained its chill.
I was walking along the clifftops. Every few meters, I would pass a concrete post. Each one came up to just below my chest. Although once they had stood straight and implacable, they now mostly leaned towards the cliff’s edge. I wondered if any had ever become entirely unfastened, plummeting downwards to ruin a day, or a life. Between them were threaded thin, rusting, though sturdy metal wires. I preferred to think of this not as a fence, but rather as a network of pylons, carrying energy or information from sources and to d…

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

The young man had a reputation in Newdean for an undefinable oddness, an aura of peculiarity. He would sometimes be seen walking the streets at night, singing strange songs and making bizarre gestures, as if he were conducting an invisible orchestra. The first, and only, time I saw him, he fascinated me. It was in The Crown, the more pleasant of the two pubs in Newdean, but not by much. He sat alone in a corner, a ring of empty pint glasses sitting on the table before him.
I ventured over, introduced myself.
‘Mind if I join you?’
He shrugged, pushed a stool out with his foot.
He was tall, gangly, pale, dressed entirely in black. I didn’t know what it was about him that drew my attention, but I couldn’t look away from him. He oozed mystery like a palpable substance. He was taciturn; economic and precise with his words.
I asked him what he did.
‘Nothing much. Some music.’
‘That’s interesting. What kind of music?’
‘Music from my dreams.’
‘Your dreams? So, you dream of a tune, and then p…

Blood Songs

It was hot, excruciatingly so. The red light was so intense that, even with sunglasses on, I had to keep my eyes orientated downwards. I was walking home from work, and had taken a different route than usual, for the sake of minor novelty. The road I was on was unfamiliar, and, even though Newdean was only a small town, I experienced some delight in knowing that there were still parts of it I didn’t know, streets I was yet to tread.
The houses were all tall and terraced, red bricks made bloody by the sunlight as evening approached. I slowed my pace and let my eyes glide over the houses, drinking in unkempt gardens, unwashed windows, guttering that sagged from neglect. If I hadn’t done so, I would have missed the box. It was sat on a low garden wall that barely came up to my waist. It was large, cardboard, and filled with books. Curious, I stopped altogether and looked at the titles.
They were strange, unfamiliar, sometimes awkward, sometimes elegant and suggestive. I didn’t recognis…

Skywards

I’m standing in the middle of the bridge. Beneath me, the river. It roars, announcing its presence, its power, its inexhaustible and unending flux. The sky above me is a great slab of slate.
Not slate. Slate has presence. The sky makes itself known in its absence. It is void, vacuum, the howling expanse that envelopes all the world. Pitiless. Blind.
I am suspended over one river and yet immersed in another, an interminable flow of people streaming over the bridge. I stand in the midst of it all, and this human river cleaves about me as if I were a stone splitting the water. I cannot move so the world moves around me.
There is a strong and steady wind, which seems to come from all sides at once. Both ahead of me and behind me there are the towers of the city, reaching ever skyward, straining to blaspheme against the essential nullity of the above with their actuality. The above and the below, incomparable, unalike, having only intransigence in common.
As the towers rush up to fill t…

Secret Starlight Lodge (A Jessica Norton Story)

There’s a man who helps me find strange things. His name is Mark, and he’s very much in love with the image of himself as kind of magick-punk. He dives in among the refuse of occultism and conspiracy-lore, digs his way through it to find the pearls in the filth. He’s useful, doing a great deal of work for only modest payment; I think he’s at least a little in love with me. He helped me find the location of Harrington’s Folly, sold me photographs of its interior. Newdean is a place with a reputation for the unusual, and ever since my trip to the Folly he had been busy mining the town’s history for more uncanny gems.
He called me one night and told me that there had once been a Masonic lodge in Newdean.
‘An irregular lodge,’ he explained. ‘That means that it wasn’t formally recognised by the Grand Lodge. It was rogue.’
‘What, did it let women in or something?’
‘No, still strictly for rich men. But it was never given a charter by Grand Lodge because its teachings were… idiosyncratic. R…

Angel Hair Street

There’s a street in Newdean where no one goes. If Newdean were a city, this wouldn’t be so odd. In a city, there’s plenty of space to get lost in, enough that a single, solitary street can simply fall out of use without the order of things being disrupted. But Newdean is only a small town, barely a town at all. An entire street being shunned… that’s curious. Anyone that has ever lived in a small town and tried to avoid someone will know that, inevitably, one will run across them at the earliest opportunity. It’s difficult to avoid anyone or anything in a small town, and an entire street is no exception.
According to the sign, this street is Sycamore Avenue, which is the name it has on the maps too, though everyone calls it Angel Hair Street. There are about a dozen homes on both sides of the street, all abandoned. Despite its seaside location, property prices in Newdean have never been very high, and yet all these homes stand unoccupied. There is not a single For Sale sign to be see…

This is Newdean (III) – A Séance

It was Walpurgis Night, of course. To be honest with you, I don’t know what the mystical significance of that date is. I just know that serious magickians (please note the special ‘k’, thank you very much) do spooky crap on Walpurgis Night, and not Halloween.
It was cloudless and starry. There was no moon that night, which Gavin, the leader of our little cell of dabblers, assured us was a good sign. ‘We’re after the dark ones tonight’, he told us solemnly, and apparently the reflected solar blaze of lunar light would put off the things that go bump in the night.
Things that bump, and scratch, and crawl.
The fence around the bizarre example of art deco which was once called ‘The Newdean Palace of Self-Betterment’, but which everyone just called ‘the Centre’, was unmaintained and unwatched. Numerous gaps had been cut into it over the years, and people generally came and went as they pleased. Although people didn’t usually hang around that long.
Bump, and scratch, and crawl.
We entered…

Harrington's Folly (A Jessica Norton Story)

My name is Jessica Norton. I collect stories. I'm not a journalist. I collect them for my own purposes, and sometimes I share them. The stories I hunt for are those about things that ought not be. I collect stories about the fissures in the world.

This is the story of Harrington's Folly.

*
I saw Harrington’s Folly in the distance. I’d left Newdean more than two hours ago, and had been walking north. The Folly wasn’t marked on any maps, so I’d had to rely on directions I’d gleaned from people in the town. It had taken me longer than I’d hoped to get here, but I was in sight of my target now, and that revivified me. It took me a further half an hour to navigate my way there, as the environment around the tower was wild and unmaintained. The brambles were thick, and more than once I caught myself on thorns.
The Folly was a squat, round thing, about twenty feet high, made of red bricks. It was severely weathered, with nothing to indicate that anyone had been here in a very long …

The Greenhouse

George Hastings pulled into the driveway, and didn’t get out of the car for five minutes. He gripped the steering wheel, and seriously thought about simply driving away, back home, back to his girlfriend. He remembered what she had said last night, that he didn’t need to go – ‘You don’t owe the old bitch anything.’ He just told her that this would help him sleep at night, and that she shouldn’t come with him.
‘Great, now you’re doing the lonely, independent macho-man thing, who doesn’t need a woman holding his hand.’ Her anger was just a camouflage over her concern, but it stung all the same.
‘That’s not it. You know that’s not it. I just don’t want you to have to see that house.’
‘I’m not some timid little girl, George. I’m a grown woman, for fuck’s sake.’
They’d argued some more, went to bed facing away from each other.
He left in the morning. The drive to Newdean had been unremarkable, though the sight of the town made him feel sick. It looked unhealthy, and the extreme heat that …

This is Newdean (II)

You've guessed, perhaps, that I call Newdean home. I was born here, I suspect I shall die here. Don't dismiss me as provincial -- I've travelled considerably, and seen a great deal of the world. But, always, I felt an urge to return home, and after a while it seemed senseless to resist this. I stopped travelling, and returned to my little family home.

I haven't left the county in nearly five years. Everything I need is in reach here. I don't just mean material amenities, though these are easily acquired by regular visits to larger towns nearby. My job is enough to sustain me, and my frugality means I can provide myself with entertainment and other treats when the mood takes me. There are two pubs in Newdean, and I frequent them both. There's even a struggling cafe near the beach.

But like I said, it isn't only my material needs that are provided for by Newdean. My soul is thirsty, and Newdean gives it much to drink.

I prefer to walk through the streets at n…