Guest post for Wordsworth Editions... During a visit in the winter of 1918, Rider Haggard – who believed in reincarnation – asked Rudyard Kipling if he thought the earth was one of the hells. His old friend replied that he did not think this, he was certain of it (qtd. in Wilson: 1994, 306). And… Continue reading Looking into Hell: Kipling and the Great War
The Final Entry in the Journal of the Late Leviticus Lovecraft October 31, 18— My reason fails me this night. Already, I have seen the shadows moving in the darkness beyond the glass. And yet, they tell me that I am ill. Ill I am, but I know that I be not mad. 0 curs’d… Continue reading A Short Story for Halloween
Despite several theories to the contrary, the priapic spirit that has in the last few years been seen at Stone Henge during the winter solstice is not, in fact, a druid. Accounts of the apparition vary, but common features suggest a tall, emaciated male figure, naked from the waist down and usually described as somewhat… Continue reading Blue Christmas – A Winter Solstice Ghost Story
Many years ago, the wife of an honourable counsellor took great pride in the completion of a lavish family vault in a fashionable cemetery. It was important to enjoy one’s monuments before occupation, and here, she felt, was a burial chamber in which the couple and their descendants could be laid to rest in a… Continue reading The Wife of an Honourable Counsellor
Guest post for Wordsworth Editions... Oliver Onions did not believe in ghosts. Nonetheless, as a prolific author of popular fiction across genres in the first half of the twentieth century, if he is remembered at all these days, it is as a writer of startling and original ghost stories. Historically, these were not easy to… Continue reading The Strange Fiction of Oliver Onions
I do not believe in anything. My dear wife was always more religious than I. That is to say she was more open-minded when it came to matters spiritual and incorporeal, tending towards a polite agnosticism over my own intractable atheism, and general scepticism towards the supernatural beyond the pages of my own fiction.
There were at least five ways home from The Saracen’s Head, and Stan couldn’t think of any of them. He adjusted to the sharp shock of the winter darkness instead, lit a fag, and smoked it savagely as if it had in some way done him greatly wrong. Behind himself, the lights of the pub shut off one by one. Loneliness bit down. Stan Metcalf stoically lit another off the butt of the first. It was late, he was in trouble. Ruby would be waiting.
So this is how the big project first began, as an interior monologue that came to me quite spontaneously while I was still living in Japan, just over ten years ago. This was the voice of a soldier in the water after the Birkenhead went down on February 26, 1852, off Danger Point, a Victorian naval disaster that had fascinated me since I’d first come across the story as a student in the late-90s. It’s rough, but you can see the premise quite clearly. After writing two incomplete versions of the manuscript with the protagonist a soldier from the ranks, the first Irish, the second English, I realised he needed to be a journalist instead…
I didn’t really know what I was doing and I never managed to sell it. I blew the dust off the manuscript a few years later when I was supposed to be writing my doctoral thesis, changing the point-of-view character to a mixed-race girl, and keeping the hippy elements of the original but losing the magic realism. I let it slide when my academic career took off, subsequently publishing a couple of reworked scenes as short stories. This is one of them, which was originally published in Birdsuit 11 edited by Christopher Reid and Andrea Holland in 2002, shortly before I moved to Japan. It’s a far cry from the stuff I write now, but I still have a bit of a soft spot for this one…