EXCERPTS FROM OUR CONTRIBUTORS BOOKS.
FROM JAMES GAULT, TED BUN, KYRIAN LYNDON.
An extract from KYRIAN LYNDON's novel SHATTERING TRUTHS
Glastonbury, Connecticut, 1987
There was no blood. I was dead inside, but not bleeding.
Zipping my shorts in a daze, I focused on the brown and gold hues of the wall tiles. I washed my hands over the sink, avoiding my reflection. The hexagon-shaped mirror was antique and gilded. I now felt debased in its presence as well as in these familiar surroundings. After turning off the faucet, I stood there for a moment, and then hastened to my room.
The brass bed, dressed in white eyelet sheets and frilly pink bedding, was an update of my choosing. The nativity scene plaque on the wall above it had been there throughout my childhood—Mother Mary in a protective stance over Baby Jesus. I suppose the intention was to comfort and protect me. Still, I lined the bed with stuffed teddy bears and kept a sixteen-inch porcelain doll with golden hair and dark blue eyes on my white dresser. She wore a pink Victorian dress with lace trim and glimmering beads and a hat to match. I picked her up now and held her tightly to my chest. A tear fell as I snuggled her to me for as long as I could. After setting her down, I approached the window.
I could see far from these foothills. A woodlot of mixed forest surrounded our home. In one direction, I saw the Hartford skyline—in another, steep, rolling hills in their divine and blissful glory. My room faced the direction of Old Buckingham, not half a mile away. The ancient cemetery was set back from the road, just beyond a fortress of trees. We heard stories of weeping spirits, distant cries of agony, and diaphanous circles of white light floating above and between the tombstones. I never knew whether people convinced themselves of these things or merely embellished the truth. One thing I knew did happen: Fierce hurricane winds had nearly destroyed the little church on its grounds.
Much as I loved this house, it was an eerie place to grow up. That had little to do with ghost stories. I would lie awake in my bed at night, listening to the sounds of darkness—imagining that the hoarse caw of the crows warned of impending doom. I got this sense of urgency from yapping dogs, yelping coyotes, and the ear-piercing whistles of the woodchucks. Some nights, even the benign chirping of crickets grew louder and more intense with each moment.
I prayed, always.
Watching from the window now, I felt like some reclusive old person who got all the neighbors whispering. I watched for a dusty black Cutlass Supreme, needing to make certain it was nowhere in sight.
The phone rang, and I panicked. My father had mounted it to the wall between my room and the master bedroom, so I had to leave the room to answer it.
“Hello, Danielle,” the voice cooed.
Sickened to my core, I hung up.
It rang again, the innocuous ivory phone that seemed suddenly possessed. I wanted to rip it off the wall.
I lifted the receiver.
“Don’t hang up.” It was the other guy.
“Stop calling here!” I ended the call with a slam.
They had the gall to utter my name! They sounded so casual, so elated—as if the atrocity I had endured earlier that day had been mutually rewarding. Granted, it could have been worse, and yet a part of me had died. More unsettling still, they knew where to find me.
When regimes sponsor prejudice. (The Redemption of Anna Petrovna by James Gault)
Supposedly democratic regimes often exploit popular prejudices to stay in power. Examples are xenophobia disguised as nationalism, or homophobia disguised as religion. The hate crimes which result from this are all too apparent. Here is an example from ‘The Redemption of Anna Petrovna’
In this extract Masha and Ludmila are coming back to their flat after an evening out at a club for gay people.
When the two girls got back to their apartment building and opened the lift at their floor, they were met with a commotion. They had heard these scenes before, but always from the safety of their locked and bolted flat. The guy opposite had come home drunk again, and his wife had locked him out.
“Come on, you bitch, open this fucking door!”
“Bugger off and sleep it off somewhere else, you drunken bastard! You’re not getting near me or any of the kids tonight.”
Masha could just catch the muffled female voice, and it made her sad and scared at the same time. She looked out of the lift and she could see him, now slumped on the floor, his head in his hands, his legs barring the path to their own entrance. He was a big man, fat and powerful, his face as ugly as his temper. They would have to go past him to get into their flat. She wished they could find somewhere better to live, among people who lived normal, sober lives.
Sooner or later, the alcohol would get to him and he would pass out. She’d lost count of how many mornings they had stepped over his smelly snoring body to get out to work. Should they go on, or go back out and wait until he had dropped off to sleep before coming back? She looked up at Luda. Luda would know what was best.
“Come on; let’s go home, my little one!”
They stepped out of the lift and the sound of their heels on the floor aroused the semi-comatose drunk.
“Who’s ‘at?” he mumbled, shaking his head, and his eyes turned in their direction.
“Ah-ha! It’s the perverts! Coming back to ruin our quiet little paradise with their dirty sordid practices, are you?”
He was lumbering menacingly to his feet. Ludmila squared her shoulders and put a protective arm in front of Masha.
“What you queer bitches need is a real man, and I’m just the fucking one! It’s your lucky night, girls!”
Ludmila placed herself firmly between the drunk and Masha.
“You’re disgusting. Why don’t you do what your wife tells you and slink off somewhere where nobody can see you until you’re in fit state to be part of the respectable world?”
“Don’t think you can tell me what to fucking do, you foreign dyke!”
Then his voice sweetened, and he leered past her at Masha, cowering behind her protector.
“And what a pretty little one you’ve corrupted, you foreign perv! Don’t you worry, dear, I’ll show the real way to do things; I’ll knock all that disgusting stuff she’s been doing out of you.”
“Don’t you lay a hand on her!”
A big fist came out of nowhere and caught Ludmila full in face, knocking her onto the floor in the corner of the landing. Blood streamed from her mouth and the hallway began to spin.
“And now for you, my little beauty!”
He pushed Masha against the wall, one hand grabbing her breast and the other in her groin. His ugly face was right in hers, and the smell of his breath was overpowering. Then he was pushing his knee up against her stomach, and she felt his other hand fumbling at his flies. His smell and her fear were making her gag, and she thought she was going to throw up all over him. His face was nothing but teeth, nicotine-stained fangs of a monster hell-bent on devouring her. She tried to twist her body away, but he was strong, so very strong. The Redemption of Anna Petrovna by James Gault
AN EXTRACT FROM 'OGG' BY JAMES GAULT
Ogg, the time travelling Great Being, is in the s desert with his human friends Antonia (Ant) and Peregrine (Perg). They have been hanging around for days waiting for some aliens whom Perg had predicted will land there in the very near future. Perg thought they may have the answer to the imminent end of the universe.
Ogg has been using his time travelling skills to keep them supplied with food.
They were all getting tired of ice-cream and MacDonald take-aways, and Peregrine Pratt had the bad sense to suggest that some home-cooked food might be welcome, and that Antonia, being a woman, might be well employed in preparing it. Antonia pointed out that this was a sexist male-chauvinist remark and just what she would have expected from him. There was no logical reason whatever to suggest a woman would be a better cook than a man and if he could find one, she would be only too glad to prepare some tasty food for him. Peregrine Pratt agreed that she was indeed right, that in general men and women’s capability in the culinary field may well be equivalent, and that he generously conceded the argument to her. However, on a personal level, if she left him to cook, they would almost certainly be poisoned.. Antonia found herself stooping over a hot barbecue, reflecting on another of those paradoxical situations where, having won the argument, she appeared to have lost it at the same time.
It was about midday on the third day when he appeared. Antonia was lying in the sun, well-oiled for protection, having a rest from reading. She was gazing absent-mindedly into the horizon when his body appeared out of the haze He was alone There was no sign of a spacecraft.
“Someone coming!. Could be you were right after all, Perg,” she said. “No sign of a spaceship, though.”
Peregrine jumped excitedly to his feet. Ogg remained impassive. When you’ve already seen everything already an infinite number of times it’s difficult to get excited.
“Why is he walking? You’d have thought these ultra-clever aliens would have had some slick transport at their disposal.”
“Still this penchant for the exotic, Ant,” Ogg chided her.
They sat in silence watching him come nearer. Would he be friendly, or did he come with extermination on his mind. As he got closer they saw he was wearing a pair of tattered denim shorts and a loud loose shirt which might have been made, Antonia noticed with satisfaction, from old curtain material. He had a small rucksack on his back. With his dark sunglasses and his straw hat, he certainly didn’t look much like a warrior from outer space. When he came within range, he raised his arm to wave and shouted,
‘Thank goodness for that,’ Antonia thought.
“Where you from, stranger?” Ogg asked. Ogg had decked himself out as a cowboy for this trip, so Antonia might have known he would adopt dialogue from old John Wayne movies. For a Great Being he was really quite predictable.
“Everywhere and nowhere.”
“What ya lookin’ for?” Ogg continued.
“Good and Evil. Peace and War Food for the body, food for the soul.”
If she had had the free choice of companions, Antonia wasn’t too sure she would have picked the ones she had been landed with. Ogg, who only asked difficult questions without answering any; Perg, whose ugliness was only matched by his stupidity. And now the mysterious stranger, whose hobby seemed to be talking in riddles. She would almost have been better off in the Maths class. Still, she had been a well brought up child, and the habit of politeness was ingrained deeply.
“Well, I’m just about to cook, so I can offer you some food for the body.”
The stranger joined his hands together as if in prayer, and bowed from his waist.
“May the spirit bless you!”
So polite and charming! And the guy had style But what did he mean.. Did he want something to eat or not? And how to ask him without appearing totally stupid?
“I’m going to barbecue some steaks Will that be all right?”
“Oh, my poor child. Not steaks! You are poisoning yourself. You are what you eat.”
“You are what you think,’ Ogg said quietly, inside Antonia’s head, “What a pratt!’
“I always eat fish, myself Fish and vegetables! Food for the soul and the body!”
They didn’t have any fish. It hadn’t been on any of Ogg’s shopping lists. She looked over at Ogg, who shrugged his shoulders and nodded. She walked over and opened the cool box, and, as she expected, there was a package of freshly frozen salmon lying on the top by the time she got there. She smiled at Ogg and began to prepare the food.
The visitor bore no resemblance to Peregrine Pratt’s preconceived notions of the physical appearance of an alien However, when Perg examined his soul and found that deep down he really had no justifications for these preconceptions. It was entirely possible that the stranger might indeed be a visitor from another planet, however implausible he looked.
“Which planet are you from?” he ventured.
“I’m from a dying planet. We all are. Everywhere, everything is being destroyed. We’re killing our future.”
This last remark caught everyone’s attention. Even Ogg, for whom nothing could really be a surprise, sat up and took notice. Did this overdressed hippy have the answer they were seeking?
“Would you care to expand on that last statement?” Antonia asked.
The stranger only smiled. He had moved a few paces away from the settlement, and was kneeling, his face towards the midday sun. His open rucksack was sitting beside him, and he was taking items from it and placing them on the ground in front of him – a stained yellow fragment of cloth which may have once served as a towel, a broken plastic candlestick in the shape of the Eiffel tower, a piece of pebble painted in psychedelic colours, a tattered paperback copy of a novel by Jack Kerouac. These items were all arranged with ostentatious care. When he had finished, he leaned back on his knees and inspected them. They weren’t quite right. He squinted up at the sun, measured the length and direction of shadows. He made a few adjustments. He re-inspected, readjusted. Eventually he was satisfied. He opened the Kerouac novel He closes his eyes and began to chant in a low melodic voice.
“Because I do not hope to turn again, because I know I shall not know, because I know that time is always time, and place is always and only place, because I cannot hope to turn again,”
“Why is he reciting TS Eliot from a book by Jack Kerouac?” Antonia asked.
“Why is he reciting TS Eliot, anyway?” Peregrine Pratt added.
Ogg was about to open his mouth but Antonia caught him, and said,
“Great Philosophical Questions?”
“Not great, Ant, but interesting enough in their own way! Let’s watch and see what happens.”
The stranger’s eyes were now open, but glazed. He was rocking back and forward between his knees and his heels. And all the time they could hear the quiet snatches of Eliot’s verses.
“Because I know I shall not know, because I know that time is always time.”
“He must be on something,” Peregrine Pratt suggested.
“Not at all, my friend,” the stranger answered in a perfectly normal voice. “This is a well understood and practiced ritual which will liberate my soul for a few moments of tranquillity from the oppressive hubbub of modern city life.” And he returned to his chant.
“Hubbub of modern city life... We’re in the middle of the flaming desert!” Peregrine remarked. This elicited no response other than a continuation of
“Because I do not hope to turn again…”
The others watched him intently. At least Ogg and Peregrine Pratt did. Antonia was struggling over the cooking. She wasn’t all that good at it. Why had she let Pratt trick her into it? She was intensely interested in the stranger’s ceremony, but could only afford the occasional quick glance in his direction.
Her attention was wrenched from her cooking by a loud thump. The stranger had rolled back on his heels and right over onto his back, and was sprawling on the hot red earth. He had stopped intoning his mantra, and was lying silent and beaming, in a state of blissful oblivion.
“Are you OK?” Peregrine Pratt asked.
“Leave him!” Ogg said “He’s no longer with us. He’ll be OK later.”
They went back to their tasks. Antonia wiped her brow with her dishtowel and began to chop up some onions. Peregrine Pratt took out his computer, and began keying in a description of the stranger and trying to correlate it with other information in his database of alien sightings. Ogg returned to his frantic wanderings in search of information, and Antonia took advantage of his travels to get him to stop off somewhere and pick up a bottle of good white wine
“Grub’s up!” Antonia shouted, a few minutes later. Ogg instantaneously arranged a beautiful table set with silver cutlery, candlesticks, white linen tablecloth and crystal wine glasses. Great Beings can always pull out all the stops whenever they have guests. Antonia was a bit concerned about the guest in question, who was still comatose beside his home-made alter, but she needn’t have worried. The mention of food brought him back to life instantaneously.
They settled down to sample Antonia’s uninspired but adequate cooking. The stranger proffered suitably polite praise for her modest efforts. Peregrine Pratt, not wishing to be left out, concurred. Ogg, believing himself a true friend, didn’t feel the need for such hypocrisy.
“I’ve been wanting to talk to you, Mr….” Antonia began.
“You can call me Ogg,” the stranger replied.
What was he saying? Who did he think he was. She wasn’t having that.
“Indeed I could not. I already know an Ogg, it would be too confusing.” She looked over at her own Ogg, who hadn’t appeared to notice and was stuffing himself with over-grilled fish. “Don’t you have another name?”
“Well, my parents called me James T Wishbone, but I don’t use it much these days. Maybe you could call me ‘JT’?”
“I was interested in what you were doing earlier, JT. You couldn’t tell me a bit more about it, could you?”
“Ah, you mean the meditation?”
“I suppose so. What was it all about?”
“It’s impossible to explain. I have to show you”
‘You mean that it’s something which defies logic?”
“It certainly does!”
“Can there be anything which defies logic?” Ant asked, and looked at Ogg That just had to be one of her best and most important Great Philosophical Questions and there was bound to be some reaction from the Great Being. So why was he sitting there picking his teeth with a cocktail stick and pretending – she was certain he was pretending – that his mind was elsewhere?
“Faith defies logic,” JT informed her. She turned to Ogg for confirmation but he shrugged his shoulders and helped himself to another glassful of wine
“With faith and meditation you can transcend the mundane to the heavenly, you can pass from black and white into fully fledged Technicolor, you can cross over from silence to symphonic music.”
This was an attractive concept for Antonia. Ogg was great, but black and white seemed to describe him exactly. What this guy said had some promise. She wanted to know more. .
“What’s it like? What’s it like when you cross over?”
“It’s like an exotic journey. Light, sound, music, smells, sensations like you’ve never felt before. You are yourself and you see yourself at the same time. You know everything, suddenly, without having to learn it. It’s fantastic!”
It sounded good to Antonia. And it would certainly be a help with the history revision.
“Tell me more!”
‘Fireworks explode. Rockets roar into the sky. Cities, continents, planets, galaxies whizz by as you fly through the universe. You swim in magic rivers of unknown fluids you have never seen or smelt before. You taste exotic fruits with unexpected juices of almost unbearable sweetness. You shiver painlessly in intense cold, you melt in searing heat without feeling uncomfortable. You voyage, you travel, you journey, to the depths of your imagination and beyond. And it’s all free!”
This was how journeys with Great Beings should be. Why didn’t Ogg realize this? Antonia was convinced. She could hardly wait to get started.
“How do I get a ticket?”
“First of all you must renounce rationality.”
“Oh! Do you mean……I have to abandon all attempts at correct thinking?”
“I have to stop trying to answer Great Philosophical Questions?”
“Even to stop asking them!”
Ogg had to be in a state of extreme agitation by now. She knew how he hated the idea of anyone thinking in an incorrect fashion. Yet there he was, his elbows on the table and his chin resting in his cupped hands, his head cocked a little to the side and a silly contented grin on his face. He was looking at her in a curious and seemingly disinterested manner. It had to be an act He must be boiling inside.
“And I have to stop seeking the solution to every problem?”
“To give up thinking and theorising?”
“Replace thought with belief!”
“And if I do all this, I get all these transcendental benefits.”
“That’s the deal. Take it or leave it!”
“I hope this doesn’t upset you too much, Mr. JT, but I think I’m going to have to leave it.” Antonia heard a laugh which she could have sworn was Ogg, but when she turned her head,his face was impassive.
A FREE EXCERPT FROM 'THE UNCOVERED POLICEMAN' BY TED BUN
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“Charlie 1 5, Charlie 1 5.”
“Here we go,” muttered PC “Addy” Adiscombe to nobody in particular, as he lifted the radio mike off the dash in his patrol car. Addy was nearing the end of his second year in the police force. It was a job he had taken after deciding that seasickness made his life in the Navy impossible. He had enjoyed the service life. The Training Ship and his shore-based posting at Portsmouth had been great fun. His second posting to a small fisheries protection vessel had been much less so. He was seasick, horribly and continually seasick. Every time the sea got rougher than dead flat calm, Addy was hanging over the side of the ship-saying goodbye to everything he had ever eaten. In fact, after 6 months he had asked to be transferred on medical grounds. Once off the ship he discovered he was going to be made redundant, ‘Defence Cuts’.
Out of the Navy, with no pension and no plan for the future. He had not been expecting to leave the Navy for another 10 years; he did not know what to do next. Living on his dwindling redundancy money, he was aimless and bored. Addy had enjoyed the disciplined life in the Navy and found Civvy Street without a job an uncomfortable place.
One evening, heading home from the pub slightly the worse for wear, he was stopped and spoken to by a Police Constable. The PC suggested to Addy that singing about his time as ‘a wild rover’, at the top of his voice, on a residential street, at half past midnight (where had the evening gone??) was not in the public interest. That it might be best for all if Addy was to tip toe off home before singing the second verse, when a Police Sargent walked up. He took the PC to one side and requested the PC wrapped up dealing with the D and D. He had a more important job that he wanted him to help with.
“Yes, Sarg, right away Sarg.” Turning to Addy, “Ok you. Home. Quietly. Now!”
Next morning, as he sipped a strong black coffee in the kitchen of his small flat, Addy reflected on the conversation. Not what had been said to him so much as what passed between the Sargent and the Constable. The Constable was about his age, he had a responsible job, a smart uniform and was part of an organised team. He reminded Addy of Seaman Adiscombe RN in many ways. There it was. The discipline and structure he was looking for. This was going to be his new career. He was going to become a policeman! Thanking goodness that he hadn’t been arrested last night. He went to the library to look up how to apply to the police force.
That was three eventful years ago. He had been through the application process, the Assessment Centre and the Fitness Test. He had worked through the college courses and impressed during his probation period. That was now behind him and promotion, or maybe a move to CID, ahead if he worked hard and followed the rules.
“1 5, receiving. What is your message? Over.”
“1 5, we have a report of a burglary on licensed premises, can you attend?”
“1 5, mark me as attending. What is the address?”
“1 5, you are going to love this,” replied the dispatcher, breaking RT protocol. “The Club House at Eden Gardens Naturist Resort.”
“This will be fun… NOT!” Addy thought to himself. “I can see the stick I am going to get from the lads over this one.”
“1 5, Attending.” He sighed.
Eden Gardens Naturist Resort is situated on the outskirts of the urban sprawl of the once compact market town. On three sides, the houses were now very close to the fence that had been put up to screen the Resort from prying eyes.
Back in the 1950s, when it had opened as Eden Gardens Sun Club, it had been on 4 acres of largely barren wilderness surrounded by farmland. The enterprising Brigadier Weston – Hyde had retired after a career in the army that had seen him through the war and safely into peacetime. In his various postings during the war years he had served in many places, mainly in the Pacific, where he had been in charge of the Air Defence of what is now Samoa. Where he had enjoyed the freedom of swimming and sunbathing naked on the tropical beaches. On returning to the UK, he had been involved in the decommissioning of temporary headquarters and Special Services buildings that had been taken over by the War Department. Most of them were returned, in a very battered state, to their owners with hardly a word of thanks.
Measham Hall was not as lucky as some, it was in very poor condition, having been the temporary home for 4 different regiments from 3 different continents in the months leading up to D-Day. The family that had been the owners had been all but destroyed by the War. The father had been killed in the battle at Calais, defending the Dunkirk evacuation. His son was shot down and presumed killed over Hamburg in 1943; his daughter was caught in a blast from a V2 in the dying days of the war in Europe. The Mother of the family, distraught at her losses and burdened with death duties was unable to cope with the restoration of the Hall. When the damp and aged wiring finally gave up the ghost and the fire started, it was the end.
When his services were no longer required by Her Majesty, the Brigadier took his gratuity, pension and a small inheritance from his family and went in search of something new. He wasn’t sure what, but there had to be something.
Waiting for the train at Marylebone Station, he chose to idle away a few minutes looking at an estate agent’s advertisement, when a description of a derelict country house caught his eye. It was a place he had helped decommission. Beautiful surroundings, as he recalled. Later that afternoon he was back wandering around what remained of Measham Hall. The House was gone, most of the land had been rented out, but the gardens and some of the outbuildings remained.
As he wandered around, he could see that the old chauffeur’s cottage was repairable and the gardens, lawns and the formal orchards could be restored. The day was warm and as he meandered he had removed his tie, jacket and unbuttoned his shirt. As he came around the corner, into what had once been a walled garden, he discovered the disused swimming pool. The pool, along with what he had already seen, started to crystallise an idea in his mind. He sat down on his jacket and thought.
It got warmer … soon he was getting uncomfortable, so he removed the rest of his clothes and sat naked in the sun trying to make the sums work.
Slowly he did the calculations in his mind, he could afford to buy the place and his pension would cover the costs of the refurbishment of the cottage and still have enough left to live on, frugally, but enough. It was getting the grounds restored and the pool sorted out that would need more money and more help. Not a lot, but still more than he alone could afford. As the sun dropped below the trees, he dressed and started to walk back towards the station. On his way there, he passed a copse and a sudden noise made him look over the hedgerow.
What he saw filled in the missing pieces for him.
He watched as four youngsters scrambled for their towels, or the safety of their tent, as an angry farmer stormed across the field demanding they vacate his land immediately. The four young people were as naked as he himself had been just a few minutes earlier.
All he now needed was to convince his wife.
Six months later, in April 1955, the first Eden Gardens Sun Club members working party started clearing the old walled garden.
Contributed nov 2017 by Ted Bun