Please visit his website HERE, and his Youtube channel, HERE!
This was a treat for me. The fabulously dictioned reader of books, Greg Wagland, graciously consented to read one of my Edwin Treacher stories. Though not as gruesome as the rest of the series, it is amusingly vile; Mr. Wagland grabbed up that vileness in both hands, making a gleeful dash for the madhouse with it. Luverly. His voice is basically what ran through my head while I wrote these stories, though I'd not actually heard him. There's a flair of Sherlock Holmes reciting MacBeth while hinting at David Warner and Alan Rickman in a delightfully spicy way! He's the best current reader of Sherlock Holmes, in my humble op...you should check him out!
Please visit his website HERE, and his Youtube channel, HERE!
A dream of mine has been to sneak off away from society and to live in the wilderness in a particular way; while I realise now that it will never happen, I think about it quite often. A tip of the hat to Francis Rufus Bellamy and Lindsay Gutteridge.
Do you ever think about mushrooms? I never used to. Other than sliced on pizza, or sauteed with onions and served with steak, mushrooms were barely a blip on my internal radar. Now, as I stare at the Brobdingnagian monstrosity in front of me, I laugh at those images. While the mushroom is still a source of food to me, the relative change in our status is amusingly clear.
I suppose I should explain.
In May, 1992, I and a team of other scientists were investigating the 1951 disappearance of an Englishman named Scott Crewe. You may know his story; it was in the papers somewhat at the time, and was later adapted into a film titled “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (in which he was inexplicably renamed Scott Carey). He had been on a boating trip off the coast of North Carolina with his wife and three children, when they passed through what was described in the media as a “cloud of radioactive insecticide”. Whether of not that unlikely description is credible, it was an unprecedented experience, which somehow made him physically shrink beyond the limits human perception. It caused quite a stir at the time. It was at the request of President Truman that it not be released to the public that Crewe's children died almost immediately, and though Crewe himself remained healthy, his wife died almost a year later from an as-yet-unidentified form of cancer.
Decades later, a colleague stumbled on the story in an old newspaper, gathered a few other curious scientists, and together we arranged for funding to research the phenomenon. We followed his navigational course for weeks, extrapolating from his interviews and journal entries the possible location of that cloud. Based on various computer models, there were three possible locations pinpointed. We were determined to find it. The shrinking of matter is impossible by the current understanding of physics, and we couldn't comprehend why the government hadn't yet tried to investigate. It was revealed to me later, after the rest of my team were dead, that they had not only searched for, but had actually found this mysterious mist. All but two of that expedition had died. Of the remaining three, one had followed Crewe into sub-microscopic oblivion, and the other two shrank to about a centimeter tall...spending the remainder of their lives in a laboratory.
We did eventually find the cloud. It was white and gaseous, and had a seeming awareness; each time we approached it, it moved away from us at an angle best for evasion. We were all fascinated. After a number of attempts to escape, it turned on our boat and aggressively overwhelmed us. We were completely enveloped by it. It was difficult to breathe, and we were coated in a sticky, burning film; I watched as all of my companions slowly collapsed to the deck, before I eventually succumbed myself.
When I came to, I was in a government hospital facility. I asked about my fellow scientists, and was told that they had suffered the same fate as Crewe's children. I was the only survivor. A barrage of tests were run, and my fate was sealed; I was to shrink. The single piece of good news was that, in the forty-one years since Crewe encountered the gaseous entity, the genetic markers which determined the outcome of each individual's exposure had been identified. I was to decrease in size to somewhere near a centimeter.
I spent a few days in a kind of mourning, but then I began to plan for my future.
I stealthily left the hospital during the night, retrieved a good sum of cash from my bank and flew to Seattle. Once there, I bought a small package of rock salt, cubes of sugar, protein powders, vitamins and various medicines. I then went to a hobby store and bought the most expensive and fantastically detailed, ship-in-a-bottle that I could find. Thus supplied, I spent a couple of days writing and posting letters to friends and family. As perhaps my final normal interactions with society, I ate at restaurants, saw a Reggae band, and even went to a movie. I then rented a car and drove into the mountains. The air had an amazing smell. I left the rental at a trail-head and hiked as far into the wilderness as far as I could, gradually shrinking as I went. After a couple of days, I found a spot next to a lovely stream, on the edge a tiny waterfall. It had a sandy pool at it's base. I planted my ship-bottle in a peaceful spot near a cluster of mushrooms under a large fern, and just under the mouth of my new glass-surrounded home, I buried a large, flat rock.
I then sat and waited.
Since then, I've learned a lot about mushrooms. They're actually quite beautiful. On top of that, they're a tasty food source, and in a pinch, they make a great shelter from car-sized raindrops.
I'm a practicing Muslim, and I have found much to write from in my own experience. I also sometimes imagine fictional scenarios involving Muslim people, and I have a catalogue of ideas that I need to write down. Here's the first, inshaAllah, of many.
Imran Qureshi sat perched on the edge of the roof of the mosque, his eyes focused on the horizon, an M-16 rifle cradled under his armpit. Since the coming of the zombies, most of his previously non-religious friends had started praying the daily five times, but he was non-plussed. He hadn't actually abandoned Islam, but most of his practice was fasting on Ramadan and using the occasional Arabic or Urdu word. His brother Azad felt the same way; that old-country stuff, they felt, was for old people and better people than them. Neither of them felt much of a drive to be righteous.
In contrast, mounted on the roof of an apartment building across the square, was the excellent and pious brother Abu Hamza. He was was the kind of Muslim that everybody, religious or not, Muslim or not, looked up to. His readings of the Quran were legendary. Also, having been in the U.S. Marines for most of a decade, his training had kept most of them alive; without him, much of the congregation would have been dead. Thus far, in spite of his excellent example, the Qureshi brothers remained unmoved.
Imran signaled the hourly “all clear”, and Abu Hamza waved back. He was alone on that side of the square, watching the parking area to the side of the mosque that was obscured by trees. He was the only person skilled enough to be in such a dangerous position alone, while most of the others, men and women, were in the heavily-fortified main hall, getting ready for the evening prayer. Only Imran and Azad remained on the roof. It had been days since the last zombie sighting, and they were starting to feel hopeful.
Imran watched as Abu Hamza put down his rifle and prepared to pray. Deep inside, he envied that belief; his childhood was a religious one, and those memories were good ones. He glanced over at his brother, who was chewing dates and spitting out the seeds, and he mused at the difference between the two. It stung a little, that difference. From across the square, he heard the call to prayer, loud and clear, and he turned to watch. Even Azad had enough respect to go silent for the moment. Abu Hamza was blessed with a beautiful voice. Once the call was completed, Abu Hamza lay down his prayer mat and began to pray. The brothers could clearly hear his recitations, and they stood and stared, as if it was their first time hearing him.
A scrabbling sound snapped them out of their trance. Nearly three dozen bent, shuffling figures flowed out of the alley next to the apartment building. They had heard the call to prayer, and they followed the resonant sound of Abu Hamza's recitations. Azad started to spray bullets across the square, and Imran started screaming warnings to the apartment rooftop. He also began to fire, almost wildly, as the zombies ripped through the formidable barricade and swarmed into the building, guided by the sound of Abu Hamza's amazing voice.
Abu Hamza was oblivious to the danger. His concentration was so deep, his love for Allah was so strong, that even as the creatures flooded the roof around him, he continued on with his prayer. Even as they set upon him and began to tear him apart, he continued his recitation; his last words were, in Arabic, “you prefer the life of this world, while the hereafter is more satisfying.” The two brothers watched in silent agony as their friend died, stinging tears running down their cheeks. They stood for minutes in dumbfounded silence. As the grizzly scene before them concluded, they turned to each other, and without a word, placed their guns at their feet.
They turned to the northeast, toward Mecca, and stood next to each other; Imran said “Allahu akbar”, and they began to pray.
Lately I've been writing one-page fiction for the fun of it, while getting a bit of much-needed writing workout. They call it "flash fiction" these days, but I don't care for that label; one-page fiction suits me fine. The following is an anecdote-made-story related to me by a time traveler, while working together at a bakery in the Madison park section of Seattle, Washington.
I discounted most of these tales at the time, but as I look at my notes, I'm starting to believe them.
I have to admit, it was weird. As I stared at the literary legend, Arthur Conan Doyle, I couldn't get over the sound of his voice. He stood in front of what looked to be a solicitor's office, regaling two nicely dressed men with some sort of story, which, by their reactions, must have been pretty hilarious. He was still quite young at this stage, probably a few stories shy of killing off Sherlock Holmes, and he was surprisingly sturdy and fit. As most of the photos I had seen of him were later in his life (I went through a spiritualism phase in college), I found his appearance striking. Seeing historical figures in what I call their “verb” state is always so different than the word-conjured images of their lives, but after dozens of trips to the past, for some inexplicable reason, his reality most differed from my mental image of him.
Fascinated, I leaned against a lamp-post, just staring at him. Quite rudely, in fact. I wasn't close enough to actually hear the details of his conversation, but that Scottish burr was oddly unexpected. Decades of Basil Rathbone films had somehow transferred the voice of Nigel Bruce, the Watson figure, onto the great writer himself. I'm not usually taken off guard like that, especially by a basic detail, but this was the creator of the worlds greatest detective, so I'll give myself a pass, this one time.
I waited for his companions to walk away, and I took my chance. I quickly strode up to him and made eye contact.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said, barely able to contain my excitement, “can you direct me to Baker street?” There was an amazingly long moment of silence, during which I almost cracked a grin.
Doyle looked at me with heavy-browed disgust, and without a word, walked away.
I could have died laughing.
This wee beastie of a tale came to me after reading too much Victwardian (Victorian + Edwardian = Victwardian) lit in one week; the Dickens in me crossed swords with the inner psychopath, producing this (hopefully) fun-if-grim monstrosity. I would like to think that Professor Moriarty, or perhaps our legendary Ripper, having read it, might approve. There are grammar issues, style issues, and a few too many autobiographical moments, but it's a personal favourite of my stories.
I hope that you enjoy it.
As a child of seven years, I gleefully performed my first murder; the delight of it warms my bones to this day. I was just beginning to perceive my surroundings at that age, and London was, in 1862, quite something to absorb for any person, especially so for a small child. My mother would often take me about the town as she did her errands; to the fishmonger, the butcher, the baker, and occasionally to the small bookshop near the Police station on the Thames.
Even at that age I considered mother over-fond of the bookseller, a drab, delicate man topped with a mop of hair, face squeezed by the presence of too-small spectacles. This lonely man was captivated by her womanhood, and she enjoyed his hungry attentions. Although my father was a cold and distant figure in my life, I took exception to the man's return of my mother's sexual energies, and of his feeble reachings for her hands.
I never saw my mother purchase even a single volume at that place.
On the day of my awakening, my mother had forsaken many of her routine stops, and had chosen instead to go directly to the bookshop. I remember bawling like an angry kitten on that day, batting at her and tossing about the various treats that she had acquired to pacify me.
Of course, this was merely theatre on my part; I have never shed a true tear in all my days, nor have I been privy to the emotional indulgences enjoyed by most. These behaviours I undertook were merely the unsophisticated canard of a merciless killer in his first blossom. I intended manipulate my mother into to sending me into the side parlour of the bookshop, where my revenging of the bookseller's indiscretions would take place.
Mother clutched my hand aggressively and drew me through the door of the shop. We stood inside for a moment, adapting to the odour of ancient book-paper, adjusting our eyes to the slightly dim entryway. She put on a forced smile to disguise her irritation and jerked me forward as one would a petulant puppy. We were greeted by the effeminate shop owner from behind a book-piled desk.
"Hello, Mrs. Treacher," he lilted, as he lifted his spare frame from the chair, "so delightful to see you here once again."
In an awkward display of courtesy, he took my mother's outstretched hand in his, and brushed it lightly with his slender moustache. Mother turned a light shade of pink and made no attempt to disguise her amorous intentions. There was an obvious and unsavory history between them, the exact nature of which was not entirely clear to me at that time.
"Mr. Stewart, you certainly know how to greet a woman," she chirped.
"As any gentleman should," he replied, taking a jaunty stance, "In my opinion, the wise man studies such things with great care."
They both laughed like drunkards and went about their thinly-veiled romantic pukings with unsightly enthusiasm. I was thoroughly disgusted by this absurd show; pure Grand Guignol. I tugged against her control and thrust my feet at the floor with all the strength my small legs could muster. I felt her grip intensify.
From the vantage point of adulthood, I fully understand why men paid her attention. She was a voluptuous creature, full-breasted and fair of skin, entirely unable to restrain her potent sexuality. In spite of this, my mother was a purely utilitarian commodity to my father. Her dull wits and spiteful nature had become an anathema to his highly intellectual sensibilities, and had gradually counterbalanced her profound erotic vitality. Over time, this drew aspects out of him which were simultaneously cold and fierce. I suspect this to be the reason she sought out men who desired her so desperately as did the bookseller.
During their lurid display I continued my childish assault upon mother's patience. I struggled against her control using alternating methods, and if memory serves, I bit at her fingers more than once. Mr. Stewart regarded me coolly when he regarded me at all, and seemed prepared to rid himself of my presence by any means. He raised an eyebrow and gestured to the side room of the shop.
"Perhaps we could give young Mr. Treacher a place in the parlour?" He suggested. Mother gave a relieved sigh.
"That would be delightful, Mr. Stewart, how considerate of you."
"Not at all," he replied, "I would be privileged to have the young sir as a guest; my parlour rarely entertains such a distinguished client."
My interior self roared with laughter. Of course, I knew that when Mr. Stewart said 'guest', he meant 'prisoner', and by 'distinguished client', he actually meant, 'horrid monster'.
Mother shared this desire to eliminate me from their tryst. If it were possible to suffocate me, and then, undetected, to hide away my minuscule corpse, I believe she would have relished it. I almost feel a touch of pride at the thought. The image of mother's hands tearing at my flesh, the gore from my throat staining her pale, white, skin certainly has a macabre appeal to my senses. My mother, however, was not a killer. She was nothing so forceful or notable. She was merely a selfish and desperate woman, whoring herself to satisfy an addiction to masculine affection. A pitiful creature, by any measure.
Mr. Stewart bent over to me.
"Perhaps you would come with me, young sir?" He asked. What I truly wanted was to stab him in his eye, but I contented myself with my charade for the moment. I stomped my foot and squeezed my face into a gargoyle-like grimace. I could see a barely perceptible expression of irritation cross his countenance.
"Go on with Mr. Stewart, Edwin," Mother commanded.
Inside I felt a warm feeling; how weak and stupid these people were, to be manipulated by one so recently out of his infancy. I was led into the parlour, a dull affair of red velvet upholstered chairs, oak bookshelves and a very large tea table coated with a light layer of dust. The main object of interest to me, and the focus of my revenge strategy, was perched in a tarnished brass cage in a corner.
It was a small, yellow bird.
On our various visits to this horrid place, the bookseller referred to this frenetic wad of feathers with some emotion. He spoke of it in nearly every dull conversation he shared with my mother. I fixed my eyes on it immediately, ending my outbursts and intently observing its staccato seed peckings and sudden movements. I could feel the relief wash over my mother and her repulsive lover.
"You seem to enjoy my pet, young sir," he said, "it shows you to be a young man of taste and character. I raised this bird myself, having found it fallen from it's mother's nest."
I had heard this pitiful story many times before. I'm certain that the bird possessed the position in this man's life that a child normally would…a small thing upon which to lavish his meager affections. This sort of sentimentality served only to increase my desire to punish this foul adulterer; I nodded my head and turned to him.
“I will be quite content in here, sir.” I said.
Mother gave a light laugh and put her hand gently upon the bookseller's forearm. Her gaze had a hard quality, and her nails dug lightly into the fabric of his jacket.
"Edwin has a keen interest in all manner of creature," she said.
"Indeed," replied Mr. Stewart in a somewhat lowered tone, "he is a fine young man."
I continued my quiet contemplation of the feathered creature, which seemed to suit them both very much. I could peripherally detect the laughable attempts at subtlety between them. At any moment they would recede into the main floor of the shop, where I am certain the bookseller would lock the door and they would continue their repugnant exchanges. Mother gestured to a red cushion.
"Edwin, sit here and watch the bird", she said, "I have business to discuss with Mr. Stewart in his office."
I nodded, not taking my gaze from the thing. Mother and the bookseller gave each other a meaningful glance and moved into the other room. A moment later, the parlour door closed, and I heard the lock click shut. I waited a moment, and after a glance over my shoulder, I stepped near the cage.
I looked up at this bird, and saw my plan near fruition. I moved to the chair closest to the cage, and gave it a push. It was too heavy for my small frame to move easily, but with effort, I managed to maneuver it to the required position beneath my intended target.
Oh, I felt such a delightfully devilish sense of anticipation!
I gripped the arms of the chair and raised myself onto the seat, at an angle ideal for my intentions. I steadied myself and opened the cage door. The little bird stayed where it was, turning its tiny head to the side to fully perceive me. Its yellow form bobbed to and fro, yet it made no move from where it was perched. It had grown to trust the human presence, and sadly, it would not live to regret that trust. I thrust my tiny hand into the cage and clutched at the bird. My fingers curled around its slender skeleton, and I tightened my grip.
The creature began its struggle for life.
I pulled it from the cage and took its head into my other hand; it attempted to peck at my fingers, but I was too quick for its feeble defences. I drew it to my chest and grasped it as firmly as I could. Though my fingers were of small size, I could feel the creature's tiny bones breaking. I held it tightly for another few moments, until it went limp in my grip.
It was done.
With an energetic burst, I leapt from the chair. I raised my hands and gazed at the dead thing. It was far more beautiful in death than in life, to be sure. I felt something akin to sexual release. An eruption of pleasure raced through my child's body, and my seven year old mind was overwhelmed by the majesty of this potent new sensation. It intensified when I considered the likely reactions of my mother and her ghastly lover.
It was upon this delectable thought that I composed myself. I placed the broken corpse of the bird onto the center of the tea table, and I pressed the chair to its former position. Returning to the table, I plucked a tail-feather and hid it away in a pocket. It was like pocketing a piece of gold. Taking a moment to arrange the limbs of the thing into the most repulsive configuration possible, I took a seat on the smooth velvet of the sofa. I sat there in wicked anticipation, relishing the warm, fiendish sensation that coursed though my veins.
What occurred afterward is of such a predictable nature I shall not write it here. It is enough to say that the uproar my actions caused gave a fiery vigour to me. It fueled dark impulses ensconced deep within my soul (if one such as myself could possess or deserve such a very human thing; according to the so-called facts of my protestant upbringing, Hell would be a most unwelcome certainty).
If mother ever saw the bookseller again, it was unlikely to have been very amorous or even cordial. I am only aware of the fact that they, in the end, were finished. Perhaps he was frightened by a woman that could birth such a ghoulish child, or was unable to forget his beloved dead pet when considering future coital exchanges. Alas, one cannot know such private things.
It should suffice to say that mother never brought me on her errands again.
In any case, I'm told that his life went poorly for him after that event, which says much about the frailty of his constitution. So entirely pathetic. The delight that I still feel when I recall his misery warms me as it did on that day. Of course, mother eventually sought other arms to abuse with her misdirected affections. This behaviour continued for many years. When my father finally found her out, he crushed her skull with a stone bust of Vercingetorix, tribal king of the ancient Gauls. After a failed attempt at suicide (in spite of everything, the stern old bugger actually felt remorse), he was imprisoned, and shortly thereafter was sodomised and brutally murdered on the anniversary of his marriage to my mother.
A colourful cycle of events, to be sure.
Perhaps, if I had any capacity for human feeling, I might have attended either of their funerals, but I confess that I do not and that I did not. I certainly do think about them from time to time. It amuses me to suppose that mother regretted her actions, or that father at least felt some modicum of delight in the killing of her. Though I know neither of these things to be factual, I prefer to believe them to be so; the thought brings a kind of joy to me.
I still have the feather that I took from that little bird. Although I have progressed to other, more challenging prey, I look upon that feather from time to time with nostalgia. It was the moment that I became the truest kind of monster; one that both causes and savours the death of his fellows.
To this day, the bookshop remains a shrine to me. I have passed it on occasion and have peered through it's windows into that parlour. It is my Mecca, my Sistine chapel, a sacred place at which I can bask in the source of me. It instills a sense of darkness and pleasure into my corrupt soul. Incidentally, I have heard from diverse sources that the bookseller was found murdered some years ago, bones broken, neck crushed. His body was placed on a tea table, and I'm told he was laid out in the most repulsive configuration possible.
The Bookshop Killing, or Birth of the madman
©2011 Clayton Walter
All stories copyright Clayton K. Walter