Penny Dreadful: The Visitor

Gazing into the mirror, Meg powdered her face. ‘Not too pale, my love,’ she remembered the Madam had told her. ‘You have beautiful skin.’

Her foot tapped-tapped with nerves: awaiting her first client, her first victim. Setting the powder brush down, she glanced at the reflection of the vial nestled between two goblets. The routine was simple: poison. Seduce. And if the poison takes too long, slit his throat.

A nightmare had kept her up most of the night. She felt the spray of warm blood on her body. A knock at the door distracted her from remembering the taste.

‘Come in’. She calls out lightly. She walks to the foot of the bed and shifts the gown off of her shoulders.

‘Hello Miss. I’m Master Thomas. It’s very lovely meeting you.’

Oh no he’s so innocent, but he’s caught in her web all the same. She beckons him to her, gently removing his outer wear.

‘Good evening Master Thomas. You may call me whatever you like’. She positions them by the side of the bed. ‘Here, take a deep drink to calm your nerves. It’ll be better’. She smiles prettily as she lounges on the bed. Thomas smiled at her, politely declining the drink.

‘No thank you,’ he spoke softly. ‘I want to be fresh for this.’ Meg smirked; she would have to do this the hard way.

‘Whatever you please,’ she breathed sweetly. Lying upon the bed and rolling down her stockings. Thomas looked decidedly nervous. ‘Just relax,’ she smiled, letting the sheer lace stockings flutter through the air towards him. Thomas lay his coat upon the bed. Finally, thought Meg. Pausing, he took a breath and thrust his hand in to the pocket of his coat. When he drew back up, he glared at Meg with venom in his eyes. In his outstretched hand, he held a gun.

She laughed a blood-curdling cackle of a laugh that from such young angelic lips was made even more hellish and uncanny. ‘Foolish, foolish boy’. She grinned, her serpentine teeth glinting in the candlelight.

‘I cannot die. You cannot harm me. I shall have you, devour you, consume you, and you shall wish that you had never drank my poison. Now, I shall not spare you even a moment’s pain’. Nonetheless, the young man did not falter, and held the barrel to her tainted flesh.

‘I know about you,’ he stuttered, flushed with nerves and anticipation. His grip on his gun clenched and unclenched- obviously an amateur who has done nothing of this sort before. ‘You can’t scare me, I just want to talk-‘

‘Oh, is that why you decided to point a gun to my face?’ She said, reaching underneath the bed for the knife. She hadn’t had to use this in a while, and a pity too. She had looked forward to an easy night.

‘Don’t- stop moving!’

He fired the gun and she flew backwards, crashing into the mirror and crumbling to the floor. He moved slowly towards her, the gun still pointed at her.

‘I’m sorry’, he said, his voice shaking. ‘I didn’t want to do that’. In a flash, she flung herself up and thrust her knife into his chest. He fell to the ground, his blood seeping into the carpet. His veins ran cold as he saw the bullet wound in her eye completely healed of its own accord.

‘What are you?’ he said. She closed her eyelids and opened them to reveal yellow snake-like eyes. Opening her mouth, she revealed row upon row of sharp inhuman fangs. Her skin by her mouth parted into a Glasgow smile, and a metallic screech pierced his eardrums.

 

By  James Reynolds (& friends)

Penny Dreadful: The Surgeon’s Child

The scalpel dug in jaggedly to the lady’s cold flesh. It didn’t glide as it usually did with the live ones. She was a model subject, so demure in her nakedness. Her glazed eyes did not flash with wanton thoughts; she was pale, voluptuous and perfect. The surgeon drew another implement from the steel tray at his side. This one was encrusted with blood from his previous guest. His last guest was more vocal, she had been warm and fidgeting. Oh but she was complicit… they all were. A bulbous buzzing fly floated past his face landing on the work table next to his Madonna. He smashed it mercilessly with his cold steel saw before wiping the blade on his smeared apron.

“This won’t hurt a bit,” he whispered, gently caressing the angelic woman’s swollen belly. He dug the saw in with an uncomfortable crunching sound. The greying skin peeled back and a few black droplets of congealed blood flecked upon his forearms. Still he persisted. Such a pity to spoil such a perfect woman. Still the treasure lay within and he edged ever closer.

 

He prized apart the layers of skin, he could not help but remark upon the exquisite delicacy of it all, the mesh of tissues that had once teemed with life. Now the time had come for the more tender implements. He put down the saw and took up a glinting little silver blade, so small and keen… It was the sharpest in his copious collection. He had found the seat of the jewel, the filmy sac, purple and stiff with the vigour of death. He pulled the blade across its length and out poured the stagnant liquid. The womb had been the only home this little creature had ever known, but soon…soon it would become so much more.

 

He could almost hear what could have been, the sound of a new life wailing. This was not the first time he had to operate on a pregnant patient but it was certainly the first time he could still feel the faintest, the slowest pulse of a heartbeat as he dug his gloved hands in to the belly of the woman.

As his plastic mitts emerged from her stomach, soaked in a foul crimson liquid, he could see the remnants of a deformed creature. Oh what life this poor thing could have grown up to be. He could have been a teacher, a priest, a soldier. Then again he could have been another homeless tramp that litters the streets. As he put the fleshy mess onto the tray, he could hear a horde of crashing and banging from along the hall.

He flinched but didn’t panic. This couldn’t be rushed. He carefully lifted a syringe, filled with an ominous dark reddish brown liquid, and pulled the tiny deformed child towards him. His eyes gleamed, “This however,” he said wickedly “…this will hurt.” As he pushed the needle in to the child, pressing the plunger all the way down, the infant let out a terrible blood-curling scream. He dropped the syringe and stepped back, smiling serenely as the baby writhed and cried. The footsteps were louder now, faster, running towards him, but he didn’t care. And as several burly men burst in to the room, he simply laughed. And as his own knife sliced his throat there was a perverse happiness in his eyes. “It’s too late.” He gurgled, and the life left him.

The child was taken away, after being soothed and silenced. It was placed in the loving arms of a doctor and his wife, who for many years had been in want of a child. There were none who knew of the vile chemicals that had been forced inside the infant’s veins. None who knew the change they had brought to the fragile little body. The surgeon was dead and the records buried. The baby was safe and loved.

*******

Months passed. Red and golden leaves fell, then ghostly snow before the crocuses broke free and spring came at last. The child had reached his first year, unbeknownst of course to his adoptive parents who hadn’t taken up his care until the tendrils of summer had curled itself around the rosy blossom. So there were no gifts and no special tea prepared, as far as the child’s parents were concerned those arrangements were not needed for weeks. Yet the child felt it within himself, somehow within his tiny body he felt the advent of the cyclical date of his nativity. With only the first few teeth protruding and annals of communication not yet available to him, he was unable to make his feeling known.

That night the old grandfather clock in the hallway struck midnight and the child howled. The most bloodcurdling screech that rattled the windows of the old manor. The doctor’s wife sprung from her bed and ran to the child’s crib. As she reached her arms in to cradle her beloved son she felt a sharp sting on her forearm and fell to the ground lifeless. The child’s jaw trickled with blood. The surgeon’s final masterpiece was complete…

 

By Hayley Rutherford (& the homies)

Penny Dreadful: Storm the Castle

It wasn’t the waiting that she hated, as much as the silence. Standing in this deserted clearing, back against a tree, the bark digging into her skin through her clothes, she longed for a sound, any sound. Her hand gripped the handle of her sword, still sheathed at her hip, and the weight of her various other concealed weapons was a comfort. A bead of sweat rolled down her upper lip, but she didn’t dare move. The silence was unbearable, almost a physical weight on her, and then…
There it was, the signal, and she tensed, coiled like a spring, and then out of the corner of her eye she saw a movement, and she leapt into action.
She had sliced through the first man’s neck before he knew she was there, his head flying in an arc through the air, and she killed two more before they had time to make any move for their weapons, her sword making a sickening squelch in their flesh before they fell lifeless to the ground.  She easily floored one more, whose fumbling fingers had barely found her sword and hadn’t even been able to unsheathe it in time.
There were three more, she saw, armed and ready and wary, and she smirked and raised her sword.

The largest of the three bared rotten teeth in a perverse smile.
“So, the little kitten thinks she can fight.”
His comrades laughed in mirthless mockery.
“Tell you what, darling, Drop that sword and we might go easy on you.” I did. And as I did, I slid a knife from its sheath and flicked it into the first bastard’s eye. He dropped his sword and staggered back.

With both hands, he ripped the knife from his eye, leaving nothing but a hole in his face like a burst sore.
The brute clearly doesn’t know when to die, I thought. Picking up my sword, I sliced his legs from under him. He lay on the ground, groaning with pain. The night was silent once more as I shoved my sword through his throat. The way was clear. As I began to edge towards the door, its portcullis closed over it like bared teeth.

I smile at the artful way I had disposed of these men. My swordsmanship hadn’t dulled but it could use some sharpening if I’m to stay on top. I step carefully through the hallway, aware of my surroundings, always. Making a mistake will kill you here.
A knife hurtles through the air and sings as it passes my ear. “You always were a lousy shot,” I tease the man standing behind me.

Edgar pulls me into an embrace. His soft lips caress mine.
“Now, now is the time, my love, he whispers with passionate glee. “Your exile has been too long, far too long my love,” he whispers, sliding his hands over my hips. I unfurled myself from his grasp and hushed him.
“To the task at hand,” I uttered defiantly. “Once that old king has breathed his last pathetic breath then we can rejoice.”
“And I will take you as my wife and we can rule together,” Edgar burst, his fevered lips finding mine in a frenzy.
I stepped back, drawing my sword. “Never forget, Edgar, that I am more of an heir to this throne than you are. After all, I am your elder sister…”

We began to dance. Not the dance of lovers, or even brother and sister, but a deadly dance, knives flashing. He pulls my hair, leaves my throat bare and ready for his knife, but I am too quick. His blade meets nothing but air. He slashes at me again, and I dance out of reach.
“Sister, dear- why must we fight?” he gasps. “We are blood are we not? And do I not love you more than anyone, or anything, in this bleak world?”
“You do, dear Edgar, I’m sure that you do. But if ever anything less thick than blood, it would be gold. It is mine, all mine. Share it I cannot. But my love, if you will give it to me, all to me, and take only my loving caresses in return… why then, we shall be so very happy, my dear.”
Edgar’s arm went slack, and he ceased brandishing the knife.
“That is all I ever wanted,” he replied.
“Then come to me, my dearest one.” We embraced, kissing so passionately that all else around us fell away. But then, a knife… a knife sunk in, and one sibling was no more…

She stepped back, shuddering in disgust. “Thank you,” she said, bowing deeply, and a figure stepped into the light, over the dead body, stepping on the corpse without a care.
“My pleasure,” the figure said softly, returning the vow.
“Let’s dispense with these pleasantries, Serena, my dear,” the girl said, smiling. “We have much to do, after all,” and the figure removed their hood, revealing a scarred but still beautiful face, with long dark hair plaited out of the way. She smiled.
“Of course, your Majesty,” Serena said mockingly, and the other girl laughed.
“Not yet,” she said, and they sobered, thinking of the task ahead.
“First, though,” the girl said, “we have to get rid of this scum.” She prodded the body with her foot, and expression of utmost loathing etched onto her tired features. “I want to rinse my mouth out with bleach after that kiss, urgh,” she shuddered again, “but I had to keep him distracted.”
“You saw me coming, then, Ella?” Serena asked, a note of disappointment in her voice.
Ella chuckled, bending down and roughly grabbing one of the body’s limp arms. “Help me with this piece of shit, will you,” she said, and Serena grabbed the other arm. With a grunt, they hauled it upright, the head lolling sickeningly, eyes still open.
Serena grimaced. “I don’t know how you could ever pretend to love him,” she said, as they staggered back to the entrance of the castle, cautious and careful despite the casual conversation. “He was despicable even when he wasn’t dead.”
“Let’s not talk about it,” Ella sighed, as they heaved the body into a thicket of bushes, scurrying quickly back into the castle. “And yes, I did hear you coming,” she said smugly.
Serena groaned. “One day I’ll sneak up on you,” she promised, and then they quieted, huddling in a dark corner, carefully checking their weapons.
“You ready?” Serena said, hand resting on Ella’s arm, the challenge in her voice at odds to the comforting touch.
Ella smiled, sword drawn, and her face in the semi-darkness looked positively evil. “To kill the king? I’ve only been waiting for five years,” and then, with a brisk hug, the two crept deeper into the dark, eerie castle.

 

By Maura Kenny (& co-conspirators)

Reminder for POVEMBER

So November may be over but there’s still time to send us your poems! Anyone can enter, whether you attend our meetings or not :)

Feel free to go back over any of the prompts from previous days on the POVEMBER page, or else try out the ones from the 30th: ‘contemplate, press, end’. There’s a submission form on the POVEMBER page or else you can email your work along with your name and a title to gucreativewritingsociety@gmail.com

 

— Thanks to everyone who has submitted already, it’s been really fun reading all your work!

x

NEW! : Workshop Submissions Page

We have just added a page on the blog where you can submit any work you and/or your group came up with in the workshops. There’s a link in the menu at the top of the page, or just click here.

Please do submit, as not everyone gets to hear what other groups have come up with, and it’s really nice to preserve the work rather than it getting lost amid revision flashcards and lecture note scrawls! Don’t worry if the work is unpolished or unfinished. These are not meant to be finished works but rather a starting off point to inspire your writing. So please submit absolutely anything you’ve come up with!

On the other hand, if you do have finished work from a workshop or something that you’ve finished at home, send it in via the form, with a title, and we’ll post it up as a finished piece.

If you have taken a photo of your work instead of typing it up, just e-mail of Facebook message it to us.

Can’t wait to see some of your submissions! :)

Black Opal Arts – Exhibition and Submission Opportunity

So we thought everyone would be interested in an exhibition being put on by some of the GU Creative Writing MLitt students, called ‘NOCTIS’, which is run through ‘Black Opal Arts’, a ‘platform for writers and artists to express the darker side of their craft’ – which sounds very intriguing.

If you submit your work and get accepted for the exhibition, you will get the chance to read your work to an audience and also talk about it. I know this can be a scary thing but a great step forward in your writing career and confidence!

More info can be found here:
This is our Facebook page where you can find more details about the event itself.  https://www.facebook.com/blackopalarts

And here’s the website with submission guidelines and a bit more about what we’re doing.  https://blackopalarts.wordpress.com/

Since we have often delved into the dark, strange, mysterious or terrifying in our workshops, I’m sure that many of you will be well-suited to the theme of this exhibition, so I really hope some of you give it a go!

Maria

x

Poems by Gabriele Misgirdaite

House in Wilderness 

There’s blood on my hands
Splash water on my face
I don’t care how it ends
I need some space.

We’re better as strangers
Avoiding the dangers
Nothing left to show
I don’t want to know.
Sister, who stole my soul?

Walk the earth with the hollow
Heart.
Please don’t follow.
(This is not your)
Part.

Can I borrow
This feeling that gives strength to make wilderness your home?
My body is sallow
I do not fear spending my days completely alone.

Leave me in the valley.
No telly,
Half-empty belly.
Dancing with the crows
All murder of them
And rows and rows
Of drying herbs on my skirt’s hem.

Building my house from clay
Every corner’s blessed.
No one’s alive enough to sway
Me or be my test.

I ran away for a reason
Not for a season.
Why do you think it’s treason?

I cursed the world
So I could say
(When I was told
“No girl should be so bold”)
“Your soul never learned how to play,
Or to leave the taking out of giving,
Living without killing.”

Come over one day
To hear my heart pray
To see blisters on my hands;
Nevermind, if the love didn’t last.

But you want to leave so soon
Before the rising of the moon.
It’s the same as the past!
Hope burned up so fast.

Alone,
I’ll watch the growth of plants
In my dear lands.
Heart carved from stone.

Till one afternoon
(I’ll think it too soon)
Resentment will die.
I’ll be a fool
In my mind’s eye.

So when death takes over me
The clouds will lay low.
Please let go
Of your routine for one day, love.

Run to the hills.
(Remember?) The most perfect of thrills.
My soul will follow,
To fill your heart with wind,
And endless sorrow.

Your gaze will spread over the land
The sands of time have fallen
You never heard my calling.
A lonesome man.

***

“Sand and Stone”

I was created from sand
And you – from stone.
Your light always shone
In my land.

I always gave way
But could not be restrained.
I used to escape
Those who caused me dismay.

(The feeling of your features,
Cast from stone
I want to be the only one to know.)

If we run out of time,
I’ll replenish it with myself
Pouring heaps of sand so fine
Into the hourglass
Made of patience and seashells

That you collected when we began
This journey together.
One woman, one man
Praying for fair weather.

As our hearts sail the oceans
To fulfill each other’s emotions
Remember one thing:
We never viewed it as a fling.

It was the deepest desire
To know what could transpire
From the union so odd and unknown;
Crafted from wind, and sand, and stone.

Perpetuate

Perpetuate
It was against the clear, pristine white of the walls that Page realised his own visibility; in his crisp black suit, he was the standout element in the hallway; the foreground of the canvas; completely unhidden. Standing still was deeply unsettling as he could feel the slightly increasing tremors in his legs and it made him aware of his cold sweat. Page had stood outside the door long enough. It was ajar, that could only mean that he’d followed the right lead. In fact, Page actually wanted to have found the wrong apartment. After all, that would mean he could exhale refreshingly and go home, chalk it up to a bad day and try again later. But it was not the case, the door was ajar and the address was incontrovertibly the correct one; he’d paused outside the door several seconds too long and made himself vulnerable, it had to be now.

There was no time for thought, to think was to hesitate, and to hesitate was to render himself weak. Plunging as much of himself as possible into the deepest recesses of his mind, Page embraced pure instinct, blurred whatever morality he’d chosen for the day, and kicked the door wide open. “No! Wait!” cried out the desperate, panicked voice of the man across the room by the desk. Undeterred, Page fired once, a clean shot right to the solar plexus; the man across the room flew backwards into the desk, before tumbling into a chair slightly left of it. Blood had sprayed forward onto the smooth wooden floor and the bright bed-sheets. The whole room was white, just like the hall. It was not a large room, but it looked very comfortable and compact; it would have been quite homely if not for the eerie fog-like tone of the plain white wallpaper.

Page stood rooted to the spot, his breathing heavy and his wide eyes still staring at the desk where the man had stood. His gun was still aimed precisely where he’d fired. ‘It’s ok’ Page told himself ‘Move now, you’ve done it, get moving.’ For a moment Page continued to try and uproot himself to move again, his heart was racing and his head swam as that humane side of himself – which he’d repressed for the purpose of the kill – began to re-emerge. Just then, the victim moved, his body twitched and the beginnings of a word floated from his dying lips into the room. Page, with a shout that could have reduced a bustling crowd to silence, jolted back and then fired two more shots into the body of this assailant. No more noise, no more paranoia – this time he was definitely dead. Page closed his eyes and, wiping the sweat slowly from his forehead, breathed with deep relief.
Observing the blood stains which had flecked themselves in stretched patterns across the pristine surfaces of the room, Page felt a sense of saturation in his body, a complete sense of being marked by what he had just done: an act which would slither its memory and raw brutality into every area of his life hereafter. He knew all this, but right now Page simply felt relief, and a numbing of all feelings which would threaten the serenity of knowing he had carried out what he’d been compelled to do. The task aside, Page began to walk slowly around the room; there was no immediate desire to leave, for whatever reason, he wanted to investigate this hauntingly calm room.

A small basin stood opposite him and in the centre of the far wall, directly across from the double bed was an open wardrobe which had lots of mundane clothing, with only a dark suit, remarkably similar to the one Page was wearing, standing out. Page decided to walk to the right side of the room and look out the large window. Outside it was a very ordinary day to contrast mockingly against the extraordinary event which had just taken place. Cars drove, people walked and talked, the shop doors took in and spat out their consumers – there was nothing which Page hadn’t seen a million times before. Yet now, in a peculiar way, Page felt as though he had no common existence with that organic, ever-growing banality, as though the people out there were impossibly distant visions which would shudder and evaporate if he reached out to touch them. With a deep sigh, Page turned to face the body of the man he’d shot dead and fell backwards in shock when he saw it. The body had floated into a rigid upright stance and was beginning to disintegrate, the eyes of its face rolled back but still parallel with Page’s. The dust particles swiftly swirled in front of Page before floating out of the slightly open window and into the world beyond. Page’s heart was racing again, without even registering he had fired a shot at the corpse as it re-animated and faced him with those freshly dead features. The pockmark in the wall in front of him, from where the bullet had passed through the spectre, was an incredibly agitating indenture into an otherwise blank, bright wall. It made his body twinge with discomfort to look at it.

In order to distract himself, Page looked for anything of value on the man’s desk, which was a glass desk completely untainted with any of the blood. The blue HP laptop, the same type as his coincidentally, was precariously perched on the edge of the desk. Thinking back to the shooting, Page had been certain that all the items on the desk had been knocked off when the man he’d shot had fallen against it, but here they were, all in place, all intact. Page shook his increasingly sore head and took note of what else he saw. There was a note in the centre of the desk which was blank and assorted stationery was neatly laid out. A docking station played some low guitar and piano music at a background volume; Page had only noticed it after the panic of seeing the corpse float away had left him. The music was very relaxing and immersive, almost making Page forget the room; he did not really bother with the fact that it had not been playing before.

There was a crisp coolness about the air. Page felt revived from his stupor as the music ended and a great feeling of trepidation suddenly overcame him. It occurred to him only now that he had, in reality, shot a man dead, not just in his own mind or in this claustrophobic room, but in the outside world there was a man missing because Page had killed him; surely someone would be coming for him. Then, heightening the sudden fear, Page noticed that the bullet hole in the wall had now inexplicably grown wider, obscuring a sizeable section of the wall that had faced him before. Page checked his gun to make sure he had enough bullets and then kept a steady aim at the slightly ajar door. Page wanted to make a run for it, but he felt rooted to the spot, it felt like he was in a familiar place, doing a similar thing, and was desperate to break this pattern of life, but felt unable to change anything; he could only stand in the same place. Out of the corner of his eye, Page noticed the picture of a purple rose against a black marble background – the exact same painting which hung above his own bed. Now greatly disturbed by his eerie familiarity with this room, Page walked back to the desk and turned over the note, it read: ‘Note to self, leave the apartment as soon as the job is done, don’t hang around’ and it was written in his handwriting, written by him. The room turned black for a split second, all the white was replaced by a deathly darkness that clouded his vision, before the room reappeared. All the bloodstains were gone now, and Page, to his dread, heard the door being kicked open behind him. Page swivelled round “No! Wait!” he cried out. Too late. The man in the suit across the room fired and Page went flying into the desk, knocking over the contents on it before falling against a chair to the left of it. His blood sprayed onto the wooden floor and the bed sheets. The stranger stood there for a moment, his breathing heavy and his wide eyes still staring at the desk. Page could see the stranger in the crisp black suit compose himself and begin to examine the room. Page could do nothing now, it had all perpetuated, just as it always seemed to with him, he let out a stifled attempt to call out, the man in the suit fired at him twice more, and everything went dark.

by John Anderson

Christmas Trees

A line of us, proud, tall as trees
we stand, while they arrive
and make their rounds
with prying, critical, discerning eyes
they test the softness of our hides,
caress our spikes, assess our size.

Our necks stretch up,
up to the stars, we garner
looks and spread our charms,
and in these moments
the glory is ours.

We are a beauty pageant;
a band of nature’s stolen children,
pretty little victims, slaves
to consumerist desires. There is a man
that sells us, gestures with his hands,
gets them to touch us,
and we are violated
as they pull and poke our every branch.

One of us will be chosen,
netted-up, chucked,
into a car so frozen,
driven home in rattling suffocation

To a life of gradual death, destruction:
with twelve days of Christmas
breathing toxins down our necks,
while they weigh us down, heavy
with dripping decorations and
a snow-fairy, on our heads,
to top off the humiliation.

But humans, they have
No sympathy for the aged;
Like spirits of winter we do decay;
From starved skin our needles eventually shed
upon carpets where our veins
have bled and bled. And humans
they give us
no medicine. New Year,
New Life, they all have said.

Unceremoniously
we are stripped of our ornamentation
and once again, dragged out
from what has become our home;
as January’s victims
we are left out in the cold, lonely
as misshaped snowflakes
in the soulless snow.

No longer are we loveliness,
because a Christmas Tree
is doomed to abandonment –
use us and we are left.

So in your wintery hearts
spare some soul, spare some thought
for the spirits that are dead.

by Maria Sledmere