Since April 2010 my local writing group, Hasiwriters, has met in Haslingden Library. Hasiwriters (a contraction of Haslingden Writers) has finally made its way into my memory cells. From a lifetime of made up words, I’ve an instinctive aversion to new ones.
We are going through a time of changes. Over the past 12 months I have wheedled and cajoled the members into getting some of their writing published in an anthology. Most of the reluctance is based around resistance to change; their lives are ordered, there’s no need for anything new. Group members have won competitions with their poetry and short stories; but the members prefer ‘quiet fame’. Gradually they have come on board and, having finally seen the galley-proof, they’ve bought into the idea. So much so that I’ve ordered 80 copies of the book Has You Like It for them.
As a group we face other changes. Since mid-November 2014, the group have been unable to use Haslingden Library for their regular meetings, due to ongoing refurbishment. The ETA to go back to our meetings is ‘some time in January 2015’ not definite. The evenings of our meetings are accompanied by constant rough-housing from the adjacent room, more akin to a boisterous youth club than a library. Add that to a (limp) consultation exercise about 6 months back on library use and the grey area of uncertainty surrounding the refurbishment could end up being disastrous for the group.
There are no assurances that there will be a room for us. From idle talk with the workmen, I’ve established that the refurbishment will create a kitchen for the youth club aspect of the library. It’s pretty plain that the internal space will be radically reorganised and our meeting room is the logical place to build any kitchen. Knowing the construction trade, I’m certain there will be a plan which will have been agreed with the Lancashire County Council; it’s looking like the missing link is this hasn’t been communicated down the chain of command.
If we end up with nowhere to meet, do we go back to hiring elsewhere… there are few suitable places in the area.
Writing groups are what they are. Some are little more than a nod to literary ambition —no grand schemes, no projects, nothing taken to completion —write a few hundred words and forget about it until next time. I do my best but I refuse to write something I don’t believe in, for the sake of writing —perhaps I take it too seriously, but why should I write tripe if I can do better? This brings to mind Idries Shah’s observation on Cargo Cults (these being attempts by South Sea Islanders to induce the return of cargo carriers); ritual tokenism has a social purpose but you need to look further to grasp cause and effect, and to get a desired result.
|My story, Lory Gato, Interstellar Gourmet Lory Gato saw Lory meet jiz Le’acia, xeno-Archaeologist. Having brought this piece to novella length (i.e. a landing stage), it’s time to makeover another Unfinished Tale. Over a series of Hasiwriter meetings, I came up with an undead narrative. If pressed, I’d claim (rightly) ‘It were started Under Pressure. It’s Probably Tripe.’ But having written the start, it has a life of its own, which I’m responsible for. It currently goes under the title of:
Erisse of the Illany
The opening extracts are:
The face moved away from my window.
“Come on Derry. Down boy.”
He didn’t listen to me; he was concentrating on the door. I grabbed Derry to leash him. The fire was low and gave out cold heat. There were still one or two embers that he might disturb, so I hooked his lead onto the bureau leg and made my way to the door.
I touched the frame and it trembled; outside the wind howled and leaves lashed against the side of my cabin. Quickly I unbolted the main latch and it opened under the pressure of the gale outside. As soon as this happened Derry launched into a savage, howling snarl. Fortunately the lead held him safe in my cabin.
The wild scent of frozen night burst its way into my home. Dark clouds scudded across a night sky behind frost-rimed branches. And she stood before me.
I trembled inside; this was the moment I’d dreaded for so long. Erisse was back from beyond the grave. Her pale illyany face was gaunt. Harsh marks were on her bare arms. That apart she was clothed in gauzy cloth the colour of mud; streaked with substances I wouldn’t dare to describe.
My instinct was to scream in terror, but cold purpose held me. Besides where would I run to? If she’d found me here, she’d find me anywhere.
“What is it my sweet?” I asked.
Erisse opened her mouth and gave out an ear splitting scream. I put my hands to my ears and fell to my knees. The noise echoed in my head for a long time. Bone hard fingers grabbed my hair and forced me to face her. Tendrils of panic played inside and my limbs went weak. I was forced to look into harsh pitiless eyes. It took several seconds for me to register that that scream had been a word.
All else around me faded in importance. Her hand held my hair in a vice like grip – I was forced to my feet – it was either that or suffer a broken neck. Perhaps I could have broken the grip, I don’t know; what I do know is that I felt like putty.
She turned away from me, her arm bent at an impossible angle – hand still gripping tight. I was truly stuck fast.
She moved away from my cabin – I started to register things about me again. The door was wide open; I couldn’t reach it and I was being pulled away. Derry was howling, but the snarls had ended – as if he knew there was no one to warn of danger.
Would I be coming back? I didn’t know. At least he’d be able to chew the lead to free himself.
Far off under the mad moon I could hear the wild hunt of the illyany. It was unwise to live near them; doubly so to live with one – and as for murder…. They had their own savage ways; not for gentle human ears.
I followed Erisse, numbly. Death would be too good for me.
The Lean Dark
The lean dark waited, ready to pounce on me and tear me to ribbons. This was illyany magic and I wanted no part of it. Erisse’s iron-like grip held me like a vice – claiming me. That was no comfort. What came next would be worse.
Clearly I ought to think of how to get out of this mess; but I hadn’t the fine words to plead for leniency; and even if I had, it’d be unlikely that Erisse would listen. I was ciught deep in illyany magic.
How had I got into this mess? Least said, soonest mended.
My posture was made awkward due to the height and angle of her arm. As she pulled me along, her shoulder gave a little and I felt an easement in my posture. I walked a little freer. Was her arm about to fall off? I shuddered at the thought; it was bad enough that she had hold of me.
A Night Air
My sidewise vision was better; it angled to the right.
By day I had come to know this place, but now shadows danced in the night around me. Up above, moonlight rove shattered clouds that glimmered to the horizon, exposing me to the dark airs of the night sky. Hektaphon and even molesis would be abroad. There was a sound like a whip crack over the wind, followed by a long drawn out howl. The wild hunt were still distant, but that howl spurred their bellows which redoubled. Things were about to get unpleasant a lot sooner than I thought. I shivered as I was pulled along by the dead corpse-like hand of Erisse.
I heard the whip-crack again, but followed by peal upon peal of thunderous sound. That wasn’t magic; it was the storm. I ought to take cover but that wasn’t an option. With the small play allowed I had angled my face slightly to the heavens. Mistake. A squall hammered into me taking my breath and rain lashed my face and eyes – hidden tussocks of grass grasped for my feet; I stumbled. Don’t fall. Don’t fall. I barely prevented myself. In seconds drops bled down my short locks to trickle over my scalp. In the rain there’d be no point studying the sky for hektaphon; they’d be impossible to see. Perhaps this wasn’t their kind of weather. Faint hope.
The wind beat the downpour into a roar, to which a new sound was added; a keening wail, as of a wretched soul in torment. But this was no afterlife, this was here and now. I tried to block out the sound as I was half-marched, half dragged through gloomy undergrowth and hidden grass.
The wail grew nearer and clearer. Erisse stopped, bringing me to an abrupt halt. The air here was filled by the clamour of rain on ground. Dull but quivering glints marked leaves that shivered in the wind. The rain lessened. I tried to look around. No luck. Her hand held me fast; my face pointed down and the best I could do is twist it some, to my right. The wail came from my left again, this time much closer.
What was it? I couldn’t be hektaphon; they were air borne and as for molesis, well they were supposed to be silent. I shuddered, involuntary. A foul reek of rotting carrion blew past. The stench grew strong. I was reminded of college days. Anilyonine. Half-bear, half dog and all reptile. A terror beast from the Oligocene epoch. Long extinct, but a true carnivoran. I’d joked then that it had to smell bad. Whatever this was, it smelt that bad. I fought an urge not to retch. Maybe worse.
The wind dropped and the….
…story came to a premature end, pending the next creative impulse.