A Sea As Pale As A Dead Child’s Eyes

The boy, Robert, my nephew, had been missing two hours now when I saw him in the harbour, his head bobbing up and down in the water between two fishing boats, as if caught in the ropes that tethered them in place and now calling for help in between the slow swell of the incoming waves.

The breathe caught in my throat, tears welled in my eyes, the shock of it, the surprise, the suddenness of the sight. I didn’t even think, no worries for my own wellbeing, no attempts to call for help. I didn’t even kick off my shoes, simply ran into the water, wading through the waves, clambering across the pontoons floating in the shallows, climbing into and out of boats before diving from a small wooden raft down into the depths of the sea.

A single vision then, clear as a painting, as staged as some devastating tableau. Robert floating in glass, the scene bisected by ropes fringed with weeds, his billowing hair lit by a single shaft of light from above, a bubble of air almost lazily forming between his lips, his eyes a piercing blue sharp enough to cut apart my soul.

I surfaced, coughing, choking, panic and horror and shame, of failure, loss. Clinging to the side of the boat I called his name, “Robert! Robert!”, then dived back down. Dived back under to try again, again, again.

There was nothing there, of course. Oh the water was in turmoil, sand swirling in the maelstrom, shapes redolent of ghosts in the tumult. But in those lifeless waters of the harbour there was nothing more.

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Notes:

1. Written on the 8th July, 2022
2. An attempt at a ghost story
3. And based upon a dream

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Aaaaaaaargh! (a game)

This was made using the Pulp game editor for Playdate. You can download the game below, to play either through the Pulp app emulator or the playdate itself (maybe – I have no idea when they’re released or how they work).

Download: aaaargh (zip file)

To install it you’ll need to extract and import either the json file (which I think is the source code) into the pulp app, or load the .pdx folder onto your playdate (if anyone actually has a Playdate). You might need to make an account first to use the Pulp editor, and there’s import buttons on the main page that should hopefully work with these files.

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Notes:

1. Made in March 2022
2. The sounds/soundtrack are terrible, for which I apologise
3. But they were the best I could do.
4. It is supposed to be intentionally irritating.
5. But the sound on this video is somehow broken even more.
6. I have no idea how to capture system sounds using quicktime, so had to record the audio through the internal microphone, the noise cancelling algorithms of which seem to have eaten half of the static and most of the beeps.
7. Sorry about that.

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Patreon subscribers get not just early access to content and also the occasional gift, but also my eternal gratitude. Which I'm not sure is very useful, but is certainly very real.

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Thank you!


Horror Story Construction Kit

#1: Provocative Opening Paragraph With Nothing To Support It

As a child, they cut away my face.

This wasn’t done maliciously, but out of necessity: a necrotising infection was threatening to eat me away from within.

Yet still, as a child, they cut away my face, left only gristle and bone.

#2: An Attempt At Psychological Justification Of The Premise

I did not understand the reasons for it, did not appreciate the nuances of their decision. There was, from my view, simply a fever, delirium, darkness. Then confinement, confusion. Bandages, anaesthetics, salves, saline. Itchiness, discomfort, pain, boredom.

And finally, that inevitable revelation, that shock before the mirror, the face gone, my face, gone, replaced by this horror, this void, this grotesque mask that was not, I knew, a mask at all. Rather, it was the foundation on which the mask of myself had been built.

I turned away. I would not look.

#3: Finale Of Extended Outrages, For Which No Prior Justifications Will Suffice

[Forty five pages of faces being slowly and painfully removed by the protagonist in some sort of ironic vengeance or poetic revenge or karmic retribution, I don’t know, I can’t remember now. It doesn’t really matter.]

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Notes:

1. Written in September 2020

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Human Heads Replaced By Television Sets

They’re everywhere now. You see them more and more. Humans with their heads replaced by television sets. It was disconcerting once but now it’s not. You get used to anything eventually.

They’re always old cumbersome CRT TVs for some reason. I don’t know why. Perhaps to maintain the illusion that there might still be a human head in there. A costume, some post-modern joke. Rather than an invasion.

On the bus they talk to me. At least in public I can walk away, but not here. It is impossible to escape. Snippets of television news cut up into sentences. Messages of despair and hopelessness delivered via nice suits, tone-neutralised voices, neatly brushed hair, wry smiles.

I think they’re trying to wear us down until we give up.

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Notes:

1. Written on 23rd September, 2021
2. Mostly I wrote this because recently I was reading this book where the cover illustration has a man with a tv for a head on the cover.
3. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it but my nephew was slightly freaked out by it and kept saying how weird and scary it was.
4. While all I could think about was that I’m surprised there’s never been Doctor Who baddies who’re just people with television sets for heads.
5. Though there probably actually is anyway and I’ve just forgotten.

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Tales From The Town #7: The Most Disgusting Thing In The World

“The most disgusting thing in the world,” Claire said confidently. “Is swimming in the sea and a great big jellyfish comes along and it goes over your head like a plastic bag!”

“The most disgusting thing in the world,” Tina said. “Is having your eyeballs pulled out and turned round and pushed back in again so you can see your own brain!”

“The most disgusting thing in the world,” Ethel said. “Is waking up and finding maggots in your bed and you’ve been sleeping in your bed all night and you’re a maggot too and you’re made of maggots and you don’t even know you are a maggot you just think you’re normal but you’re not you’re a maggot!”

The most disgusting thing in the world,” Daniel said. “Is bananas.”

“‘Are’ bananas,” Ethel told her brother.

“Or ‘is’ banana,” suggested Claire.

“Is ‘a’ banana,” Tina said.

“Anyway,” said Claire, looking at both Tina and Daniel with a glare so intense it knocked over the ketchup. “Bananas aren’t disgusting at all.”

“They are,” Daniel said with a shudder, as he thought about bananas for a second too long. “They’re horrible.”

“They can’t be that disgusting,” Ethel said. “Mum eats bananas sandwiches.”

“I eat banana sandwiches,” Claire said.

“They’re still disgusting,” said Daniel. “They make me feel sick.”

“They don’t make me feel sick,” Claire said. “And even if they did, they wouldn’t be disgusting as sick!”

“Or maggots.”

“Or sick with maggots in it!”

“What about a banana with maggots in it?” Daniel asked. “And the maggots are being sick in the banana?”

“And the banana’s in a sandwich!”

“And mum’s eating the sandwich!”

“And I’m eating the sandwich!”

“And then someone shoves the sandwich right through your eye and into your brain!”

“And then your brain EXPLODES!”

“And then some pigeons come along and start eating your brains!”

“And then the pigeons explode!”

“And then we have to eat the pigeons!”

“And then we explode!”

“And then we have to eat ourselves!”

“And then we explode AGAIN!”

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Notes:

1. Written between the 1st and the 4th of May, 2021

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Patreon subscribers get not just early access to content and also the occasional gift, but also my eternal gratitude. Which I'm not sure is very useful, but is certainly very real.

(Ko-fi contributors probably only get the gratitude I'm afraid, but please get in touch if you want more).

Thank you!