Amaranthine and Other Stories (5 page)

BOOK: Amaranthine and Other Stories
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The shift ended and Mike yawned, feeling extremely tired. It seemed the factory's recent tragic event had stripped him of vitality. He bumped into Andy outside, smoking and leaning against a wall.

“Can I bum one?”

Andy removed a pack of smokes from his pocket and passed it to Mike.

“That was one shitty shift,” Andy said, the fumes exploding from his nostrils.

A spotless black Mercedes rolled out of the car park, stopping beside the two men. The electric window slid down.

“Ya got a second, friend?” Imamu said, but his features remained hidden in shadow.

Mike glanced at Andy and approached the car, reluctant. He levelled with the window and found Imamu's murky eyes.

“Just to make ya guys aware, da overtime will be available from tomorrow night. Ya know, if ya or Andy are interested?”

Mike listened, his eyes touring the interior and resting on the swinging doll. His pupils dilated and the black man chuckled.

“Give John ma best wishes, eh? Hope to see him real soon!” With that, he stepped on the accelerator and shot off—knocking Mike off balance.

Transfixed, Mike gazed at the fast disappearing automobile. Andy stubbed out the fag, burning his fingers on the falling ash. He joined Mike and slapped his shoulder.

“Oh! I almost forgot to tell you! I visited John in the hospital this morning, questioning the letter. Well, he claimed he never wrote one. Typical John, huh?”

Still puzzled, Mike blinked—his mind vacant.

“What did Imamu want?”

“The doll had a pin in its left arm…” Mike whispered to himself.

Andy bit into his knuckle, a vain attempt to calm the fury that raged within. “That son of a bitch.”

“You know what this means, don't you?”

“Yeah, you were right—that coon was behind it all along. Poor John! We gotta avenge him! Hey, fancy a game of cricket tonight?” Andy said.

“You bet.”

The cherry red bonnet of Mike's Nissan reflected the luminous satellite. In the reflection, it almost looked stained, as if fused with blood. They arrived early, hoping to ambush Imamu in the car park like silent assassins, lurking in the shadows. Speed was essential. A swarm of ample blows, that's all. In and out.

Andy leaned against the door, lighting a cigarette. Mike tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, eying up the cricket bat on the seat next to him. Perspiration trickled down his armpits.

“Hey! Turn off the fucking lights! I think that's him!” Andy hissed, crouching and exhaling smoke.

The shiny Mercedes pulled into a bay, two rows in front. They waited, hearts pumping with adrenaline. The door swung open and Imamu stepped out, stashing something into the pockets of his raincoat.

“Ready?” Mike whispered.

Andy nodded, retrieving his bat from the Nissan. Mike glanced around the car park one last time. No one in sight. They creeped towards the dark figure.

“Is this ya plan then? A few blows widda wooden stick? Iz that all ya friend is worth to ya?” Imamu chuckled, his back not yet turned.

They froze. How did he see them? How did he

Andy gathered his wits. “That's right, coon. You gonna pay for what you did to John with your mumbo-jumbo.”

“Careful, boy! What I did to ya friend waz just a beginning!” Imamu said, pulling out another doll from his pocket.

Mike whimpered at the sight of it. It resembled Andy.

“Ya think ya little stick can harm me?” Imamu continued.

Andy clenched his jaw. “We'll find out, won't we?”

He swiped at Imamu, but the bat never reached its target. Andy yelled in pain and crumbled to the ground, cradling his broken leg.

The weapon slipped from Mike's clammy grasp. His eyes rested on the doll and its twisted leg. How it connected to Andy's body he did not know.

“You goddamn ape! You'll pay for this!” Andy cried.

Imamu stared in silence. Then he snapped the doll's neck and Andy spoke no more.

A warm sensation alerted Mike. He glanced down at his urine stained trousers.

“Please, don't hurt me!” he begged.

Imamu reached into his other pocket, pulling out another humanoid figurine.

Mike trembled, retreating. Imamu snapped an arm and Mike dropped to his knees—screaming.

“Why? Why did you do this to us?”

Imamu levelled with Mike, gazing into his soul—wallowing in his pain.

He shrugged his shoulders. “Ya kind has oppressed ma people for centuries. So why not?” he said, tearing the doll's head off.

Story Notes
The Birthing Tub

This is the most recent (and fun!) story in the collection. We all have parasites living, feeding and multiplying inside of our bodies. I don't know about you, but just imagining that appetizing scenario scares the shit out of me (pardon the pun, I assume you read the story so you'll know what I'm talking about). It frightens me far more than your ghosts, vampires, werewolves etc. Why, you ask? I'll tell you why. Because it's
. It can actually happen. To any one of us, including you or me. These tapeworms can grow to monstrous lengths, we're talking 20, 30 metres. I wouldn't want that coming out of my asshole, would you? No. It's disgusting but more importantly—it's
. Perhaps not in a traditional sense of the word, but scary nonetheless. If you're familiar with my previous work, you'll know that I favour realistic horror. Human suffering. The torment of everyday life. And writing a story about an intestinal parasite just seemed like a logical step in the right direction (well, I was drunk and it seemed like a good idea at the time!). So there you have it. A story about a tapeworm. But that wasn't enough. Even I knew that a tapeworm wouldn't make much of a relatable protagonist. So I outlined a concept of a heartbroken man, attempting to adjust to his newfound loneliness by creating a special…friend. We all reach a point in our lives when we feel alone in the world and we all react differently. But we all want to be loved. You might reach out to your parents, siblings, sons or daughters, cats or dogs, but what if you had absolutely no one to reach out to? What then? Perhaps Eli would become your only friend, too.

Tristan's Equation

When I was a kid, I sucked at maths. And I still suck at it to this day. I guess the cool thing about being a writer is that you can create characters who will overcome any obstacles you throw at them, whilst you observe from the comforts of your sofa or a chair. So I decided to create the opposite of my childhood self. A kid who's not only good at maths, but is a fucking mathematical genius! Ah, the joys of writing! Conjuring characters that excel at everything you never did. Loser. And that's how Tristan was born. But again, to inject that little bit of human trauma into it—he doesn't remember any of it! Due to an accident, he lost the ability to create new memories so he's stuck in this limbo, not knowing why or where he is. Again, I personally find that kind of realistic horror very frightening! The Millennium Prize Problems is a real thing, by the way. The Clay Mathematics Institute is truly offering a $1 million prize to whoever provides the correct solution. Fancy having a go?


A few years back, I read an article (and you might remember this because it's not that long ago) where books bound in human skin were discovered at Harvard University. For some odd reason, my mind immediately sprang to
Necronomicon Ex-Mortis
(Book of the Dead from the
Evil Dead
franchise, but originally a story by Lovecraft). As a huge fan of the original trilogy, I decided to pay homage with my own little tale! My story wouldn't invoke any demons, roaming around the woods. Instead it would focus on the disturbing factor of binding books in human skin—pure and simple. So I started researching anthropodermic bibliopegy. I was shocked to learn that this thing was actually pretty popular back in the day (waaaaay back in the day!). I created another loner, who inherits an antique bookshop from his father. Struggling to keep the business alive (and also yearning for an everlasting token that he could touch and
) he decides to revive the ancient trend. It follows a similar theme as the other stories in this collection. This “art” existed. Perhaps it still does. Realistic horror, remember? As morbid as it sounds, I thought the idea was worth exploring. I'm telling you, there are plenty of weirdoes out there (why you looking at me?) who would jump at the opportunity! Forget cremation. Forget ashes. Forget urns. When the time comes, I'm planning on using my dad's skin to bind my own books. He just doesn't know it yet.

The Wandering Pilgrim

Rasputin. I've been fascinated by this mystical figure for many years, especially his renown influence over Alexandra Feodorovna (wife of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia). I originally wrote this piece for
Flash Masters 2
—a flash fiction contest organised by
Grey Matter Press
. The rules dictated a length of 250 words. I gave it a shot and the story won a Reader's Choice category. Not bad, eh? Still, I thought it would benefit from a little expansion. Obviously, this isn't quite horror. Rasputin's reputation included an insatiable lust for power and debauchery. So I rolled with that. Again (and you'll be sick of hearing this by now) I attempted to keep the “realistic” horror element present by having a character, who sexually exploits a woman under hypnosis. Losing control of our own mind and body is a frightening prospect. As with the other stories, hypnosis is
. Now look into my eyes…

The Deep End

I have very little recollection of this tale and the inspiration behind it. It's my least favourite story in the collection.
Manor House Show
bought it and recorded an audio version that did surprisingly well. I suppose if I plunge into the deepest depths of my memory (see what I did there?) it was inspired by a Slovakian au pair my friend once dated. Apparently, she was full of entertaining stories that included washing her employer's shit-stained boxers. How we laughed. So I created an au pair named Eva, who moans about the British culture and the family she works for. Then I threw a spoiled, jealous child into the mix. I sidestepped the realistic horror approach on this one (boo!) and included a mythological creature called
. It was loosely based on the Welsh/Arthurian legends. The
(similar to
from the Greek mythos) lure men to their deaths with their beauty and visions of underwater gardens, built from gold and silver. Granted, you probably won't find one of them in a pool in your local leisure centre—but I thought it would be fun to try anyway! My intention was not to give too much away, therefore the appearance of
remains obscure (all the reader “sees” are strands of hair, floating in the drain at the bottom of the pool). The story has a speculative ending. Make of that what you will.

Eucalyptus Grove

This is an odd one. It's loosely based on the Elyse Pahler murder. Three teenage boys lured their friend to eucalyptus grove, to hang out and smoke weed. Then they wrapped a belt around the 15-year-old girl's neck and stabbed her to death. Why did they commit such an atrocity? Because they were devotees of the heavy metal band
and believed that they needed to offer a “sacrifice” to the Devil—to give their own garage band the craziness to go professional. With this particular story, I had to tread very carefully for many reasons. After weeks of writing and re-writing, I decided to scrap it. I just couldn't find the right angle. Months later, I had a conversation with Lisa Knight (editor of my first collection,
Moribund Tales
). She asked to read the story and encouraged me to revive it. I wanted to make it clear that the two boys killed her for the music, but this third guy developed a thirst for blood (no, not like a vampire—you douche) and couldn't stop thinking about killing again. In the end, he overpowers the detective and mutters: “We must cleanse the earth.” Then a gunshot. Did he shoot the detective or himself? Ah, that would be telling! As a fan of
, I found this story incredibly tragic and gruesome. It got me speculating about how influential music can be. Scary, when you think about it.


is the middle name of my partner. I know what you're thinking, what kind of a twisted idiot names a baby after his girlfriend and then lets a giant anaconda eat it? Yeah, that's me. I sold this one to
The Literary Hatchet
for a very reasonable fee (considering the puny length). Here comes the realistic horror speech again. Anacondas. Fascinating and monstrous creatures, right? Very real. An average sized anaconda could easily kill an adult person (so tiny infants are like popcorn to them). My girl visited Costa Rica and explained all about the fabulous creatures she encountered on her trip. I listened with enthusiasm but personally, I wouldn't fly anywhere near South America (my mindset is similar to Karl Pilkington). I changed the setting of the story from Costa Rica to Peru, but it's all the same climate really. When people ask me whether I like children (not in that way) I always point them to this story. These snakes simply scare the living crap out of me (maybe because I was far too young when I watched
with J.Lo). So yeah, there you have it. I dedicate this story to all the anacondas out there (and no, I'm not talking about giant dicks—sorry, ladies).

BOOK: Amaranthine and Other Stories
12.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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