Tales of the Supernatural

 

Iruin-2

My serious writing commitment is to poetry (book out soon with Angella Horner’s pictures). But I enjoy taking part in writing groups, particularly the one in Chelmsford named “Write said Fred” and led by Mad Tom (well, he’s a psychiatrist). I’m beginning to think I could collect the stories I wrote for this. There are themes of a sort – confusion of identity, misunderstandings, no-one being quite sure where the border of reality is. Oh, and humour: I love writing dialogue.

Three of the stories could be described as ghostly or supernatural. Now outside writing, I just view the supernatural as an unknown country as real in its way as Australia (never having been there, Australia I mean). The ghostly or supernatural story, though, is when something outside our understanding invades the world of our understanding.

On such story features Viking traders forced by a storm to camp on a small Hebridean island which is now uninhabited and what happens overnight (not scary: this is a feelgood story). Another has a couple taking over a long-closed pub called “The Resolution” (that was the title for the Freds), finding out it had been named after a Napoleonic warship in honour of its stand-in captain who’d become a regular in the pub and then finding the past has a way of coming back. Again, not scary, though the story does include sadness.

I’ve just written one that has gone way beyond the one thousand word guideline for Write said Fred, so I’ll have to do it in episodes. 4600 words when I set out to write 1000! It has just three characters of any substance – a damaged ex-copper (Tim Ward) who has left his home and old work area and set up a new life running  a computer services business from his new home in the Yorkshire Dales; a mid-nineteenth-century vicar in the same place (Rev Somerton Warley)  who investigates the scary tradition of the ghostly Kempsdale Riders and writes a book which Tim gets hold of; and a mysterious young woman (Talia McQueen) who appears when Tim is checking out a ruin involved in the story and encourages him to repeat the Reverend Warley’s experiment into the truth of the legend.

Writing it has been huge fun – getting the tone and language and thought processes of a fairly broad-minded 19th century Anglican clergyman just right; making Talia hopefully just mysterious enough, so that Tim senses something odd but still sees her as a beautiful woman who seems to be interested in him and might act on that; and especially inventing a load of credible Yorkshire names like Skegsgill Cottage, Stainford-in-Kempsdale, Brant Hagg, Grimsbar Knoll, the Blood Beck and Hammerthorpe.

Is this story scary? I hope so. But the theme is strangeness rather than horror and panic.

 

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Not a poem

That ought to make a lot of people read it.

Well, I haven’t been writing much poetry lately, though this is something written for a small, friendly writers’ group that could easily be poetry.

I thought it best not to use a picture with this since it’d push people’s understandings in particular directions. Make your own mind up what’s happening.

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Somewhere

Consciousness: a kind of moving light. Aware of the light moving in the darkness. I am the light. Am I?

I am. I’m conscious. I’m somewhere. I’m aware of my body, a dull, vague casing round the bits that see, the bits that hear, the bits that think, the bits that clasp.

I move my arm.

I’m lying on something. Lying face down. Not so dark when I move my head. My arm aches. I hear a regular sound, soft, rasping, reassuring. Cat purring, mother breathing. Waves. The sea. I smell salt tang. I’m lying on a beach. There’s sand stuck to my face.

What’s that? Something blurry. A building? It has meaning. I should get to it.

I don’t want to move.

I’m seeing clearer. I push myself to rise on my elbows and move forward. My elbows sink in damp sand. A pebble pokes at my thigh. I reach the thing. It has a message

EXTRA KRACHT BLEEKMIDDEL

Should I carry the message somewhere? Where, then? I was going somewhere.

Sand is sticking to my shirt. I’m wet.

Who am I? Stupid question, boy. I am me. I am that I am. I am the monarch of all I survey. Sand, pebbles, lost seaweed, a plastic bottle, a flip-flop rising out of the sand like a sinking ship.

The sand around it is smooth, then rough.

Something is angry. That’s a gull. More gulls. Raucous cackles and shrieks.

Something is pushing me into the sand.

I know that. It’s my heart beating. It beats much faster than the sea.

I can see a bit further now. This is a beach. But no girls in bikinis, no fat men, no yelling kids, no barking dogs. What time of year was it?

I’m not wearing shoes. Or socks. Sand rasps and tickles my feet. Why didn’t I notice that before? Sensations returning slowly, top to bottom. Front to back. East to west.

There is a big, dead animal on the beach, its stiff arms outstretched.

It’s a long way off. Can I stand up? Nothing broken, just this huge sensation of weakness, of everything I try to concentrate on slipping away.

Kneel.

That wasn’t so hard. I can see trees now, higher ground. Alternate universe. Alternative?

STAND. I’m standing. Careful. To walk, put one foot forward. Shift weight to that leg. Move other foot beyond first one. That’s the way to do it. Who said that? Edwards. Who was Edwards? Do I have to tell Edwards? I can repeat it: EXTRA KRACHT BLEEKMIDDEL. Good boy.

I can walk. The soft sand tries to stop me. My feet sink in. What I push against shifts. But I move. The dead animal is closer.

I can feel wind. It’s cold. It’s in my face.

It isn’t a dead animal after all. I know this: it’s a tree trunk. A tree that fell into the sea and drowned, its trunk picked clean of bark, its leaves fallen away. The pale grey wood is smooth, very smooth. I can hear the secret hiss of my fingers running along it.

Can anyone else hear it? I must be quiet. I must be invisible. If I sink in the sand I can disappear. The sand tickles. The sea is salt.