The Lapping Waves

I stand at the prow of a once-proud ship, the sea-salt winds whispering in my ears and the ocean’s fine spray in my face. The rain patters on my head and shoulders, and my jacket does its best to dissuade the cold waters from seeping into my skin.

Far off I hear the gulls crying shrieks. I hear the ringing of the dock master’s bells and the cries from the dock wishing us fair journeys across dark waters. I remember the elation of being back on the water. I remember smiling and waving my hat towards the shore and opening, that night, a bottle of champagne and toasting to the sea, and to the waters and to the winds, toasting to a good journey ahead. I can see the bright beam from Taren’s Watch Lighthouse, a beam that sweeps left to right and warns the sailors of the rocks that lurk below. I can see the flittering pieces of colourful confetti they threw at us when we set out. But that was long ago.

All that is gone now. The sea, and its waves and mighty tempests consumes my waking hours, and haunts the dark recesses of my dreams. I sleep, and I feel the waters rising all around me, the cold biting into my skin and sucking me of heat and warmth and leaving nothing. Nothing but emptiness, and callouses, and regrets. All gone now.

Now I cannot remember when the ground beneath my feet did not rock or sway. I cannot remember when last I could walk without having to worry about falling into the water. I cannot remember when I could stand upright in a room. I cannot remember when last I could put down a pen on a table, and not have it roll away.

Silence scares me. I cannot sleep without the sounds of the lapping waves at the hull, or the whistle of the ocean breeze, or the sound of spray upon the deck.

I did not come back in time. The sickness had taken them both while I wrestled my ship through a storm a hundred miles across. They said that there was nothing I could’ve done, had I been there. The doctor shook his head and patted my shoulder, as if that could bring them back to me, or his touch would somehow make up for the loss.

Gone. The light of my life, the guiding star that brought me back to safe waters, extinguished like a candle in the rain. A lighthouse gone dark.

I couldn’t stay. The land held nothing for me. I had lost my anchor that tied me to the earth, and I set adrift on the roaring storm. I let go of the wheel and watch as the waves batter the hull and the howling winds tear at the sails and the cold clutches of the sea grip my ship.

All I have now is the cold, unfeeling sea. And the sea-salt winds howling in my ears and the fine ocean’s spray in my face. The rain patters on my head and shoulders. The icy water begins to lap at my boots. The ship shudders as it takes on water.


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Thanks!

S.

First Milestone!

After months of hard work, I’ve finally reached the first milestone in my latest story, The World Undone.

And I wanted to talk a little bit about the process of writing my newest book.

I’ve found the first twenty thousand are the hardest, for me at least. Until this point, I’m not entirely sure where I want the story to go, what I want the characters to do or how they evolve. I have to write a beginning that is both intriguing, but also not too vague. I have to build up a believable world without giving away too much too quickly.

Some authors might love the beginning, but that’s what I dread.

This is usually the part that gets changed the most. It’s the first twenty or so thousand where I keep adding and taking away and tinkering with what I have. While that might improve what I have, it also means I spend so much time nitpicking what I’ve already done, that I can’t move forward. And stagnating usually ends up with me not working at all. Yes, I know I should be working every day but things come up, I lose focus, next thing you know I’ve spent the last few hours on Facebook scrolling and texting bad jokes to people.

What I have to remember is that, once the first twenty thousand is done, it’s only easier from then on out. Once I’ve gotten the introduction out of the way, everything else feels so much easier. I can start expanding on the lore and history of the world–which you shouldn’t really go into much detail on in the beginning, but more on that later. I can start fleshing out characters and showing off all these cool things I’ve thought up for my story. It’s these parts that I love about writing. I love sharing all these crazy ideas and harebrained concepts that I cooked up late at night, twelve cups of coffee in.

But I think I’ve gotten a lot better at starting stories now. I remember the first time I started to write. Although I’ll always cringe at the way I used to write (really, do all your main characters have to be gun-toting snarky macho-men?), I still recognise that I’ve grown and matured so much since the start. Through writing and practising and more writing–as well as some help from my friends and colleagues–I’ve gotten so much better.

But, I won’t just speak about myself without anything to back it up. I’ll let you read and decide for yourself.

Ladies and gentlemen, the first snippet of my latest story, The World Undone.


The Women of Vylderstadh

The dark roiling clouds had gathered months ago. Bubbling from a clear blue sky, the storm roared into existence, drowning the small, quiet township in rain and thunder and lightning. Never once did the storm seem to lessen over those long, long months. It hung over the town interminably, unmoved by howling wind or the burning summer sun. Darkness clung to this quiet town in the Kingdom of Farengail, darkness unseen since the time of The Great Cataclysm. Darkness infected every corner, every home, every room. The air itself swallowed light. Candles and fires were smothered by the darkness—the sun had disappeared by day and the stars at night were gone. For months, the people of Vylderstadh had lived with only the memory of light.

The people cowered indoors, underneath leaky thatch roofs and behind flimsy boarded walls. Men held their wives, wives held their children and the children clung to one another as if they would die without the feel of another human’s skin against theirs. Fear ate away their minds during the day, and invaded their dreams at night.

Those who could all fled long ago, leaving behind their homes and all their possessions so that they could take their chance to escape this waking nightmare. Their screams were still fresh in the minds of all the townsfolk. Their long, tortured wails had carried loudly even over the incessant roar of rain and thunder—their deaths were neither short nor painless. None dared to leave their homes after that. Sometimes even people who hadn’t left their homes were heard screaming.

Something evil held this town. Something wicked gripped this quiet corner of the Kingdom. The air was filled with the smell of death and rot. All the plants were withered and black, as if they had been set aflame, despite the never-ending rains. The houses were being eaten away by decay. Covered in mold and vine and ivy, they stood as if neglected for decades.

In a small, nondescript hut, near the outskirts of the town, five women stood huddled closely together. They bore heavy cloaks of thick, black wool. Their hoods were pulled up, obscuring their faces. The five were chanting, chanting an ancient song of power, a song not heard by mortal ears for millennia. Their hands were clasped tightly together, around small, dimly-glowing charms made of bone and wood. Their eyes were hollow and sunken into their skulls, their pupils having expanded so far that it seemed the entire colouring of their eyes was black. Their skin was pale, and so taut their bones stood out sickeningly through their skin. Perhaps under different circumstances, the five might’ve been beautiful. In another life, in another time, men would’ve thrown themselves at their feet, and Emperors would beg for their hands. However, it was not another life but this one. Not another time but now.

They bobbed backwards and forwards in their chanting, as if they were entranced by the song.

The hut in which they gathered was small. No furnishings stood in the hut anymore for they had all been removed, save for a pallet in the centre of the dim and dank room. On this pallet, laid a sixth woman. Of a pale and pallid complexion, she, of them all, seemed the most normal, save for one thing. Her bare body was exposed, revealing hundreds, if not thousands of sinewy red lines freshly carved into her skin. The lines curved and contorted and joined into runes and markings that seemed to glow in the darkness. Her belly was swollen and fat, and it was here that all of the lines and markings originated. Pulses of light flowed from the runes across her body into a single point just above her waist.

Suddenly, the woman threw back her head and howled. The women around her fell silent. She screamed and screamed again, her head thrashing to-and-fro. The women around her knelt down, so that there was one woman for each of her limbs. The last knelt between her legs. The chanting begun anew.

The carved woman screamed louder, so loud that it drowned out the thunder and the rain and the lightning. The kneeling women looked to one another, so briefly that they did not appear to move at all. Their brows were furrowed in worry, and concentration. They held the charms in their hands tighter and their chants reached a fervent pitch.

Screams echoed loudly through the town and all the people who still remained drew themselves inwards, trying to escape from the horrendous sound. Those who had loved ones nearby hugged them tight. Teeth clattered in their skulls and the blood pounded in their ears and their hearts raced in their chests. Panic gripped them all and suffocated them in its clutches.

The storm above reached a crescendo. Rain beat down onto Vylderstadh as if it were trying to sink the township. Thunder shook the ground and rattled the walls and dislodged pieces of the ceiling. Lightning forked across the black clouds, illuminating in flashes the small, frail houses below.

For a moment, the winds blew open a hole in the clouds, revealing a bright, shimmering full moon.

The screaming stopped.

The bloody lines in the woman’s body disappeared, leaving behind no trace. Sweat matted her hair. She and all the women around her were transformed. All of them appeared on the verge of womanhood. Their normal eyes shone with youthful exuberance. Their hair still clean, soft and full. They did not appear so ragged anymore. The woman on the pallet held her screeching babe to her breast, and sighed relief.


 

If you like what you read, I have to ask that you help to share my blog and stories. Show it to your friends, your family, your dog, all of it helps me to get the word out.

Thanks!

-S.

Burning Skies

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Airships are strange things. They’re simultaneously kind of stupid and incredibly unrealistic, but there’s also something quite appealing about them. 

All common sense tells us that aircraft which rely on big balloons, highly explosive hydrogen, and a bunch of propellers and sails is a bad idea. And yet, there’s just something inherently cool about airships.

I think one of my oldest dreams was to stand at the helm of a great airship, tonnes upon tonnes of metal and steel ready at my fingertips, the wind howling in my ears, donning a heavy jacket against the chill of high altitudes. Captaining an airships combines that dashing, brave image of an experienced sailor steering his ship and the wind-blown daring and excitement of flying. I think that’s what makes it seem so appealing.

This is a snippet of a story I’ve been tossing around for a while. Obviously, the theme here is ‘airship’. So, here goes…


Burning Skies

The cracked leather of his gloves creaked as he squeezed the worn wooden spokes of the helm–iron grip holding the eight-spoked wheel steady still. The cold winds buffeted him, howling zephyrs trying to tear him off the deck and pull him down to his death. He was far north today, and the temperatures were bitter. He scanned the clouds around, his ears picking up naught but the creaking of the lines holding them aloft, and the gentle hum of the engines, vibrating through the soles of his boots.

Standing at the quarterdeck, high above the main deck, The Captain, looked over his ship like a king examining his domain. Only forty by ten metres, his ship was small, but it was his Kingdom. He held a command over this ship as harsh and as strict as any ruler.

The hull of the ship was wooden–a deep, rich mahogany colour that few other ships could boast. Its design spoke of old-world galleons and man-o-wars, even if it was dwarfed by any other of its ilk. The smooth hull of the ship swept upwards at the bow into a great bronze owl figurehead, wings spreading back to cover the bow. Two metal walkways protruded out sideways from the middle of the foredeck, hanging precariously over the abyss, both lead to twin Five-Guns. A great Bastard Cannon stood riveted to the centre of the deck. She was a ship of beauty, there could be no doubting that. Her name was Dawnbreaker.

The Captain spun the wheel to the right, adjusted switches and examined dials. The Dawnbreaker drunkenly lurched to the right. He made a few more adjustments to the panel of dials, switches, buttons and knobs that stood to the right and left of the wheel. The Dawnbreaker pulled out of her swaying, clumsy turn and her course levelled out.

Ahead floated the Ice Shards of Corinth. The vast field of levitating icicles glinted in the light of the sun. They were innumerable, uncountable. Each hovering shard glittered like crystal, every single one of them beautifully unique and different in shape and size. From this distance, he could only see the very largest of the shards in any detail. They were called the Three Brothers, the largest of the three–Dmitri was its name–was twice the size of a Mining Guild Dreadnought. Shaped like a cross, he tumbled around the edges of the field of floating shards. The two other brothers, Ivan and Alexei, traced wide elliptical paths round the centre of the field, cutting into and out of the ice field.

The Captain pulled on a pair of goggles against the glare of a thousand thousand glittering lights. He examined the ice field from afar. There. A single moving speck that did not glow and shimmer like the others around it–moving too fast and too regularly to be a shard. His quarry thought they had evaded him.

The Captain threw open a switch and the engines roared to life and the Dawnbreaker was on the move.

As soon as the engines had come on, the crew of the Dawnbreaker scrambled to their positions. Gunners deftly crossed the narrow metal walkways to the Five-Guns. Three men manned the Bastard Cannon–one to aim, two to load the immensely heavy metre-long shells. Engineers stood ready to extinguish fires and make repairs, each man strapped into a harness that let them dangle over the side of the hull. Tossers, thick-set and burly men armed with cutlasses and pistols, readied themselves to repel boarders from enemy ships. The Captain did not need to shout out orders, for everyone had their instructions drilled into the head.

The Dawnbreaker hurtled through the skies, engines howling. The lines holding together the ship’s balloons creaked. Engineers readied themselves in case they had to quickly fix a snapped line. The Captain kept her above the ice field, but even he could not avoid the shards that would some times break and shatter upon the bronze owl figurehead.

It was not long before Dawnbreaker’s prey–the aptly named Runner–had spotted them streaking towards them. It was an old ship, and damaged from their chase across the heavens. It limped along, engines spluttering and belching out great clouds of black smoke.

“Starboard guns! Shred the engines!” The Captain bellowed, his voice carrying loud and clear over the roar of the engines and the rushing winds. He turned the Dawnbreaker to chase at an angle, giving his gunner a better shot.

The gunner nodded and took aim. Squeezing the trigger, the air exploded with noise, smoke and empty casings, which clattered on the metal walkway and tumbled the long journey down to earth. The Five-Guns filled the air with a cacophonous noise, rotating five-barrel machine guns spitting out a hail of bullets, streaking tracers that etched a line of blinding light through the air.

The Runner’s engines exploded in a cloud of shrapnel and debris. It was disabled. It would never fly again.

“Ready the Bastard!” The Captain commanded. The men at the Bastard nodded and together loaded in a large, metre-long shell. The cannon swallowed the shell and clanked, ready to fire.

The Runner’s crew scrambled on deck, trying desperately to fix their engines. If only they could just get it working again, if only they could just dip back into the ice fields and hide from the onslaught of fire and death, perhaps they could live.

But there was no escaping the Dawnbreaker.

And The Captain had grown bored of the chase.

“Fire!”

 

Fairton Community Radio

I don’t know if any of you have listened to Welcome to Night Vale, but if you do then this the structure of this story will sound familiar. If you haven’t listened to it, then the premise of WTNV is it is a series of podcasts based on a radio station in the weirdest town in the world.

This story is pretty much like that.


The following is a transcript from Fairton Community Radio, January 6th

Greetings, listeners. To start us off, the Fairton Public High School student council has asked me to read this short notice. The Fairton Public High School student council is proud to announce the first annual Fairton Science Day, held this coming Saturday at 3AM to 3:07AM. Come and see what the best and brightest students of Fairton’s very own Public High School has to offer. Please, bring no electronics, recording devices, or synthetic clothing. The Fairton Public High School administration would also like to remind you that they are not liable for any injury, serious maiming, death and/or disintegration. So come on down this Saturday and watch the future unfold before your very own wide, unblinking horrified eyes.

And now, the news.

It’s been a bright and sunny day out there in Fairton, isn’t it? Many of you have been calling in to the station and emailing us and texting us about that. It seems that many of us are not used to this sudden light in the crushing darkness of our existence. Remember Fairton, there’s no need to panic. That bright burning ball in the sky is not about to destroy us, not at least for another several billion years, and none of us are going to live that long to witness it anyway. So, relax. Take comfort in your short, fleeting and thoroughly meaningless existences. I know I will.

We here at Fairton Community Radio are pleased to introduce our newest Initiate to our ranks, John Patterby. John found himself here this morning, dressed head-to-toe in a white robe robe, stained a dark maroon by dried splatters of blood. He says he does not remember why he is here, or even where he is, or who he is. He says his memory comes to him in short, terrifying flashes of a some strange and eldritch ritual, performed in some dank and dark basement at the farthest corner of the globe, and that he could hear chants in a long dead language. John is also very good at sound mixing. We have him working the audio equipment right now! John says hello, Fairton.

Hello, John!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m afraid there are some issues that have come up that I must address on the air. Now, I’m not one for editorializing, especially on air, but enough is enough I say. In today’s modern times, there are certain traditions that must undergo change or be eliminated completely. That is just the nature of progress. Sometimes, things just get left behind. However, there are things that we, as a community, cannot let go lest we risk losing our very identities, lest we lose the thing that separates us from all the rest. There are just some things that we must hold onto with every fibre of our beings, that we must grab onto with our claws and fangs and talons and various other appendages and never let go.

And so, I say that all children should be sworn to the blood-oath, the same blood-oath we all have taken before them. It is true that some parents feel that it is an old, outdated and barbaric ritual. A ritual that is forced upon the only vestiges of innocence in our cruel and fragile world before they are able to fully comprehend the true gravity of their oaths. Is it old? Yes. Is it outdated? Yes, there are absolutely some aspects of the ritual that can be updated, such as that same old altar that everyone uses, just behind Town Hall.

But is it truly barbaric to swear our children into a millennia old oath to stay loyal to the Creators and to await their return? Well, let me ask a counter question. Is it barbaric to keep our history alive? Is it so bestial to remain faithful to the Oh Powerful Creator, the Oh-So-Powerful Creator who made us us in the awe-inspiring heat of the Solar Forge?

I rest my case.

Now, time for traffic.

I’ve been getting reports of heavy congestion on the the south-bound highway leading out of Fairton. This is strange, as the south-bound highway does not actually go anywhere. It just stretches out into the distance, stretching for as far as the eye can see and further, beyond the horizon. There have been efforts to measure the distance of the highway but all the equipment used to try to measure the highway have all either catastrophically failed, or run out of batteries, and they just could not be bothered to get more. Many experts agree however, that the highway is definitely the result of black magic.

So, maybe take a different route today listeners.

And now, for a word from our sponsors.

Consider the variety of choices you have in life. Consider the consequences of those choices. Consider the endless, overwhelming number of consequences and potential repercussions of every single choice you have made, will make and are making right now. Consider the impact you’ve had on your world without even noticing it. Consider all the people you unknowingly have affected, all the lives that have never been created, all the late work interviews, all of the destroyed relation, all because of your actions. Let us make your decisions for you.

Come to Wal-Mart.  

We will make your decisions for you.

Hold on a moment, listeners, I’ve just been handed a note from one of the station interns. It’s from John Patterby. Strange, I haven’t seen John move once from his spot in the sound booth. Well, let’s see what it says.

Well, that is odd. Listeners, John says here that there are dark goings-on today. His handwriting is remarkably neat and tidy, although the ink appears to be running down the page, making it hard for me to read his red lettering. He says, and I quote, that they are coming, dear Lord they are coming, dear Lord save us from their enveloping darkness. The Elder Ones. They are so numerous, so large, they blot out all of the stars in the sky. They drift towards us, asleep on the vast cosmic ocean, and soon will wake in strange waters. Our waters. We will all kneel and grovel before them for they are our leaders, and we are but insects in their presence. We are dirt.

We. Are. Dirt.

All hail.  

Well, I don’t know about dark goings-on, and enveloping darkness, and vast cosmic oceans, but I do know good prose when I see it. This note has all the elements of a budding story, just waiting to be told. I did not know that John was such a talent at crafting fiction. I think he’ll go far that man, you mark my words, Fairton. Mark my words.

An update on the Fairton Science Day. The Fairton Public High School student council wishes to retract their announcement about the Fairton Science Day. They say that Science Day is not even really a thing and that we should all forget about Science Day, right now.

They clarified that Science Day is still being held this Saturday, at the same time, but that we are not granted the right to that information. Instead, the Science Day will be held and no one will attend, save a few tall bald men in dark suits from the government. Or at least, we think they are from the government, said the Fairton Public High School student council. It’s just that their blank and empty expressions, coupled with eyes devoid of any life, light and/or laughter, made them look like they’re from the government.

The Fairton Public High School administration apologises for the error and pledges they will immediately remove the existing student council for their failure and replace them with a more malleable, more easily controlled puppet council. Any student wishing to participate in this new puppet council are encouraged to talk to the school’s councillor immediately.

An explosion was reported at Bill & Dolly’s Gelato and Ice Cream Shop. Onlookers described a scene of carnage inside the quaint little white-plank house that serves delicious and authentic gelato and ice cream, open since whenever. They said that the floor was covered in broken glass and debris, as if something had torn through the building. However, they also said that there was absolutely nothing broken. The windows were intact and all of the patrons inside appeared to be treating themselves to Bill & Dolly’s signature Mint and Lamb Ice Cream. No one seemed to be moving. They were all frozen in the middle of whatever it was they were doing at the time. A crowd soon gathered outside of the Gelato and Ice Cream Shop and began to steal whatever they could from the stationary and unmoving patrons.

And if you’re one of the people who were frozen at Bill & Dolly’s Gelato and Ice Cream Shop and had your personal possessions stolen, remember that vigilante justice is, as always, highly encouraged.

Listeners, John has given me another note. He’s really let his handwriting go. It may not seem like much but I’ll tell you, John, publishers take notice of things like this. There are smears of blood and viscera all over the paper. It looks like he’s written this with his fingers.

The Elder Ones are coming. Even now, I can feel them approach. They are like a blight on the horizon, a terrible darkness that is slowly sweeping across the land like night falling upon our small and meaningless world. I can see the stars winking out one by one, consumed by the Elder Ones’ darkness. One is nearby. He will be with us soon and His coming will be foretold by madness and insanity. Some will hurt others, some will hurt themselves. We writhe in His coming. We writhe in His glorious coming. He will consume our meagre existence and gift us with the sweet release of the grave and we shall love Him for it.

All Hail.

Keep it up, John. At this rate, you won’t have to be working in the sound booth. One of these days, some publisher is going to snatch you up and your name will be known all across the globe.

And listeners, I wouldn’t worry too much about Elder Ones and deep, dark eldritch monstrosities. In the end, our level of consciousness is so low that we will not even be able to comprehend the effects that these cosmic beings will have on our fragile reality. Instead, our minds would simply collapse underneath the immense strain of this whole new plane of existence and likely send us into a deep and potentially permanent coma. You probably won’t even experience more than a single moment of mind-destroying soul terror before your slip into unconsciousness.

So relax. Sometimes we must accept that some things are just beyond our control, and we should move on.

Looks like it’s going to be a clear night here in Fairton. I hope all of you have someone to share this night with. Or, at least, good memories of when you did.

Farewell, Fairton.

Farewell.

Welcome!

Come, sit-down, get comfy.

The Domus is a place for me to put up short stories I’m working on, share snippets and updates on my work (I’m a developing author), as well as whatever I feel like writing. Expect to see a lot of opinions, recommendations and reviews alongside my creative writing.

I’m going to try to be posting regularly on Mondays and Saturdays so that I can keep a regular schedule of uploading. If you like what I put up, click that follow button to get updates on whenever I post!

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