Category: fiction

A distinct lack of comments…

I wondered why so few people had responded to my last post, as it got quite a bit of traffic.

Then someone mentioned in passing that they tried commenting twice, but got error messages each time. I checked the site, and my own test comments on multiple devices had the same result. Turns out Bad Behavior, a plug-in I use to combat spam bots and brute force log-in attempts, was doing its job a little too effectively!

I think I’ve fixed it, and the test I tried seems to work, so if you did have a comment then please do try again!

It was sleep he feared the most

It was sleep he feared the most. Those last few moments in the twilight between consciousness and slumber were dreadful. The dying embers of his thoughts tried desperately to glow brighter, to inflame his mind with the horrors of what was to come, to warn him. But of what?

The terror he felt had no cause he could think of, the horror no obvious source. Only that sleep would once again prove no respite. Come the morning, he would again be listless and wracked with pain.

The doctors spoke of insomnia, yet he slept. Indeed, his mind fought hard to elude sleep, but sleep would not be deterred. He slept, deeply (he presumed), but sleep did not bring rest.

The psychiatrists asked about his dreams, but there were no dreams. When he thought of this (when the terror of sleep and the agonies of the morning allowed) it troubled him. Surely he must dream? He had no recollection of any dream. He could remember drifting off to sleep, remember the inexorable surge of fear as sleep approached – but morning would be his next memory. The time from falling asleep to waking up was no more than an instant to him; no sensation of the passage of time, no dreams to punctuate his nocturnal woe.

In the morning his legs would be hot and sore. The soles of his feet, tender and swollen. Sleepwalking the doctors declared, they were sure of it. A careful watch of his chamber each night was swiftly arranged, and just as swiftly proved useless. The watchmen saw nothing, heard nothing. And in the morning? Pain. Exhaustion. The lingering feelings of terror, and foreboding that tonight would bring more of the same.

He slept in different rooms, different homes, but with no different results. Once he was strapped to the bed, as though living in Bedlam. Still, the morning was welcomed with agonies.

“Restless legs” the finest minds declared, “and I’m afraid there is no more we can do for you.”

“I must live then” he thought, “with this curse. To be a stranger to restful slumber, and in the morning to be drained of life and weak in limb.”

He still fears sleep. In the penumbra of sleep, in those vanishing moments of lucidity, the terror still rises in him. An icy dread fills his heart, for tonight he will sleep, without benefit or memory. The morning will bring no relief.

The last of his conscious thoughts begin to fade, just as the soft tinkling of bells begin, aethereal music envelopes him, and his legs begin to twitch and jig.

Once again he would dance with Mab by the banks of the Lethe.

A random post of random thoughts

It’s late at night, or early in the morning depending on your point of view, at any rate 1am is not the best of times to be writing blog posts. Still, at least it is something I am writing, and feel an actual compulsion to write, and given the paucity of my output in terms of both blogging and writing of late, any writing is better than none.

Term is over, I’m on the summer vacation, and I have a stack of books to read for my classes next year. As I still don’t know yet whether I’m teaching GCSE English Literature, GCSE English Language, new specification A Level English Literature, legacy A2 English Literature, new specification A Level English Language and Literature, legacy A2 English Language and Literature, and in what combination, I need to basically read ALL THE BOOKS in order to plan. You can see my reading list on the right there (current reads and what I’ve read this year), and as it stands right now below (since the list on the right gets updated frequently).

(l-r) Frankenstein, The Four Chinese Classics, Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, The Road Less Travelled, Mindfulness
(l-r) Frankenstein, The Four Chinese Classics, Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, The Road Less Travelled, Mindfulness

Frankenstein (which I’ve read before) is for teaching, the other four are (annoyingly) all personal development.

As to the books I’ve read already this year…
Books I've read

…well over one-third (14 of them!) are for work. And I’ve got another six books to get through for work by the time teaching starts again.

What, if anything, has this to do with writing? Well, as well as teaching them literature, we are being asked to put on enrichment classes, and I’ve asked to do a creative writing class, since the odds of us ever doing A Level Creative Writing seem slim to none.

So in and around all this reading, I guess I need to remember how to write again. And it’s not like I don’t have ideas. I have folders of ideas. What I lack is the time/motivation/focus/will to work on them (delete as applicable, depending on the mood you’re in…). I can teach language and literature because I understand them. Can I say the same about writing? If I’m not doing writing, can I claim to be able to teach it?

I’m not sure, but I’m indebted to a paper I read recently (Mc Dermott, K. (2015). Towards a Pedagogy of Short Story Writing. English in Education, 49(2), pp.130-149, DOI: 10.1111/eie.12062) which has informed my approach to it, and how I plan to run the class (assuming, that is, that it gets the go ahead!).

In the meantime, I need to get back into the habit of writing. As with my training for the Tough Mudder, best to start small and build from there. H.P Lovecraft used to keep a “Commonplace book” where he kept short notes of ideas for possible future stories. Inspired by that, I started to do the same. Perhaps it’s time to raid some of those and see where the muse takes me…

Writing from the past

I was looking through my emails last night, and came across something I wrote several years ago. I think it holds up well, and has a nice Lovecraftian vibe to it.

To put it into context, on a forum I used to frequent, BBC Property Watch had posted looking for stories from people; I’m not sure what they had requested exactly, but what I sent was likely not it!

Dear Sirs

I saw your advert, and wanted to share my experience.

I inherited my home from a deceased great-uncle. He had long been the black sheep of the family, an adventurer and privateer, so they say, but everyone seemed loathe to discuss him.

He had died whilst living in Haiti, where he had become involved with some Vodun sect, and apparently before he died he willed his house, Old Wraith Manor, to me.

Why he selected me I can never tell – it has been remarked since that there is a passing familial resemblance, but there must be more to it.

At any rate, I soon moved into the place once the legal formalities had been taken care of, and soon set myself to the task of clearing out the accumulated objets d’art and curios my great-uncle had acquired (by regular, and sometimes dubious means) over the decades.

It was then that I discovered “the box”. Hidden in an obscure corner of the attic, padlocked on four sides, hidden under an old rug. Ebony, or so it appeared, and most disturbingly (for I had discovered it on a bitterly cold night in December), it was warm to the touch.

I picked it up, and the instant I did so, every light in the house was extinguished, and there began a tumultuous clamouring from the rooms below me – the room where my uncle used to plan his excursions.

And yet, what could be causing this disturbance?

For I was alone in the house, so no human could be making such a noise…

Summoning up as much courage as I could muster, and grabbing an old blunderbuss that my deceased great-uncle kept in the attic, I crept downstairs. The lower levels of the house were in complete disarray. Doors had been torn off their hinges. Carpets shredded. Every picture turned inwards to face the wall. A dank, dread smell pervaded the air, and what was worse was the creeping stain that stole across the walls. I touched it – damp and warm. On pulling my hand away, I realised to my horror that the stain was blood. Fresh blood.

Ghastly wailing noises and knocks could be heard, coming from within the walls. Such events occurred not just once, but every night for these past several weeks. And so I am left with only one question, that perhaps you can help me resolve…

If I knock through a dividing wall from the crypt to the laboratory of doom, do you think unleashing the hideous demons contained within would increase the value of the property? Or would I need planning permission?

I’m still running…

Paul mile 26
Just after 26 miles, looking surprisingly relaxed!

Two weeks after completing the London Marathon and I think my body has recovered, more or less. The blisters on my feet have turned into peeling skin, the raw rubbing on my arms has faded, and my knees and hips are on speaking terms with me once again.

And so my thoughts turn to my next run…

Way back in 2012 I set myself a target of running a 5k, 10k, half-marathon and full marathon within the period 1 May 2012 to 30 April 2013. Starting with the BUPA 10,000 on 27 May 2012, then the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon on 7 October 2012 and culminating in the Virgin London Marathon 2013 on 21 April 2013. Along the way I neglected to run an officially timed 5k race, but knocked off several 5k runs as part of my training, so I’m allowing that as part of the target.

Somewhere in and around all that I forgot that I’m running the BUPA 10,000 again this year, and have an urge to go for the Royal Parks Half again, though I suspect I may not get an entry for that. I have however entered the ballot again for next year’s marathon. That particular course and I have some unfinished business to attend to, particularly mile markers 8, 13 and 17…

Crossing the finish line!

Back to the point. Although I am not officially running for Mind this time round, my fundraising page Barefoot and blistered across London will remain open for several other months, including the time I’m running the BUPA 10,000. So anyone who hasn’t donated, my 10k run might be a little nudge in the right direction to send some cash my way. For those who have donated already, well you could always treat this as another charity run…

I am £1002 short of my fundraising target for the London Marathon. So I need to find 100 generous people to give £10.02. Maybe you can donate. And you know two other people who can donate. And they know two people. I’m raising money for Mind, England’s leading mental health charity. One in four people will suffer from mental health problems, so 25 out of those 100 people I’m looking for are directly affected by the cause I’m fundraising for. And the other 75? You know someone in the 25, so you’re indirectly affected.

So please, give generously. And me? I’ll be back out on the streets in all conditions, barefoot and blistered…

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