beauty, book reviews, women

Full Throttle by Joe Hill

I’ve reviewed his work before and at this point, I call myself a fan of his work.

Full Throttle is a collection of short stories, two written in collaboration with his father, Stephen King.

These stories are fantastic. Hills voice has such a scintillating form, with a powerful sense of genre and heart authority which means you get vengeful truckers, killer carousel animals and a brilliant combined story about the business model of franchise coffee shops and British werewolves.

The best horror has an ability to find the balance between cosmic justice and also the gleeful voyeurism of bad things happening to good people. Hill is a master of the form and here is a lot of great stories.

My favourite? Too many to choose from but Wolverton Station is a Jonathan Carroll/Neil Gaiman hybrid without the manners but with the glib, empowering sense of a horrible man getting his life decisions horribly wrong. Also a werewolf in a Manchester United shirt is a brilliant image. Gaiman reads the story for the audio book and it’s pure delight.

Yes, I brought the audio book and paperback, so should you.

My book Until She Sings is out now in paperback and ebook.

Ebook https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XJRDND8/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_e9pLDbMJNZQ4E

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1692105566/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4akEDb3FTWNKR

My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

https://tinyletter.com/mbblissett

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The Day

He drove down the freeway, stereo turned up until his head vibrated with the bass. There were faint wisps of cloud like chalk marks on the blue sky and a bright, beautiful sun. Michael lifted his face to the sky, expecting the day ahead.

There was no traffic to impede him. People existed here, but they were playing prescribed roles in the perfect play of things. The waitress who recognised her from the appearance on television, talking about her book. The hotel in the afternoon. Queuing in the cinema, and watching her eat a loaded hot dog, the perfect weight and feel of her cheek. When she undressed in front of him for the first time.

He gripped the steering wheel but did not speed up. There was always enough time.

The conductive fluid drained out in seconds. He fell onto his knees, coughed up the rest of it from his lungs before looking up. His eyes were animal, and the muscles beneath his skin flexed in readiness, a perfect capacity for custom violence. When he stood up, the engineers drew a collective intake of breath. There were combatants bristling with weapons, but with this model, they had trusted to the adaptative grace of the humanoid form. Beneath the skin was a different matter, custom engineering for performance and adaptation. He was wired to calculate multiple probabilities in combat, so he knew his opponent’s moves before he did. Artificial intelligence and a human consciousness housed in synthetic brain tissue and flesh.

A champion of The Galactic Federation. Settling political debates, a proxy for expensive and wasteful conflicts. Planes and daisy cutter bombs were awesome and expensive, but when the Indian biotech companies provided men who could kick a lamp post in two, the market spoke and it said ‘more please.’ An arms race of enhanced human beings then as other races got involved, representatives from other races all of which led to multiple gambling markets and diplomatic problems settled by a wager.

Today he was fighting for a vote on military action against Barratt 6, a post-human collective who had occupied one of Jupiter’s moons. The match was being streamed live to every Federation settlement and supply station, with the gambling aspect making a clean profit for the insurance companies who invested their monies in providing the stake.

He walked out to deafening roars of applause.

Across the arena stood his opponent, a quartet of intelligences housed in one modular combat suit. It was remote piloted from a sealed location which meant it would be relying on sensory data. He was programmed for violence of action alongside sublime tactical awareness and so he charged at the drone suit.

Its head was in his hands and he gave it a sharp twist before tossing it behind him and reaching behind the armoured chest plate to slip in a shaped charge. He calculated he could maintain optimal fighting capacity for another ten minutes in order to maximise ratings and sponsorship revenues. Leaping back, he smiled as the drone charged.

She waited in the lobby, hair down and wearing the black dress he picked out for her. She had sent him photographs of the choices she gave him, laid on the bed before she packed them away. Later on, she tells him, in a confessional whisper, she finds the control arousing, and he tells her the same before she takes his face in her hands and kisses him. She tells him he doesn’t have to be gentle.

He stops, breathing hard with the anticipation. Each time, he finds nuances of observation which he worries are an exquisite degradation of the experience, melancholic notes in the song of their meeting. He hands the keys to the concierge and walks towards her. Her smile is like something being lifted off his soul, the bright intelligence of her made apparent in a single gesture and he grins with pleasure. He knew she didn’t love him in the same way he loved her, but his love was enough, and these small encounters made everything else bearable.

He staggered from the arena, clutching the wound in his right side as the crowd roared his name. The victories were so commonplace, they did not matter to him anymore. He saw her in the crowd, he was sure of it, just before he punched his palm into the head of the Chthonic squid and felt it collapse inwards beneath the blow. Each victory led to his freedom when he would be with her, a simple life, by the sea perhaps where he would want for nothing but the pleasure of her in his lap.

A few more fights, and in the meantime, he would dream of her before resuming training for the next conflict.

There was a chamber provided for him, cryogenic suspension whilst bursts of tailored machines no larger than atoms perform diagnostics and repairs to the injuries he sustains during the fights. As he slept, he healed and he dreamt.

Two technicians watched him. June and Vic had screens up, directing the machines in his body but also ensuring the neuropathological systems were performing as necessary.

His dreams had their own agenda.

He drove down the freeway, stereo turned until his head vibrated with the bass. It was a summer day, a perfect blue sky, faint wisps of cloud like chalk marks and a bright, beautiful sun. Michael lifted his face to the sky, expecting the day ahead.

There was no traffic to impede him. People existed here, but they were playing prescribed roles in the perfect play of things. The waitress who recognised her from the appearance on television, talking about her book. Queuing in the cinema, and watching her eat a loaded hot dog, the perfect weight and feel of her cheek. When she undressed in front of him for the first time.

He gripped the steering wheel but did not speed up. There was always enough time.

‘Why do they put so much effort into this? Isn’t it overkill?’ June said.

Vic looked at the raised ridge of mineral over June’s left eyebrow, her eyes reflected light like aluminium. Vic chewed on the inside of her cheek and thought she had been at the machine drugs again.

‘It makes him a better fighter. He’s had little to no post traumatic stress since we uploaded this scenario and he’s happy. Look at his diagnostics.’ Vic said.

June looked at the rainbows of neural activity and pressed a few icons on the screen.

‘Yes, but he will figure out it’s the same dream. Then what, we keep putting him through these sordid little stories.’

Vic shook her head and tapped her temple as she watched June roll her eyes.

‘He needs a purpose. It’s what keeps him motivated and fighting. She’s part of his, and this, with its soupcon of nerves and inherent sexual tension, is his reward.’

June chuckled and sat back in her chair.

‘No Tiger Woods type shit? God, if I was him, I’d be knee deep in people every night.’

Vic, who had been part of chain sex clubs as a teenager, rolled her eyes and swept her finger over the screen, noticing a slight flare in the system. She was about to mention it when June said she wanted a soda and Vic got them both one. Vic had forgotten it, and even the system absorbed the detail as part of the constant glut of data.

A spark.

The door to the room closed and they rush at one another. He picked her up as their mouths dance over one another. Lunch was light, neither of them hungry for anything but each other.

She stopped him with a hand on his chest. He flinched but did not speak as she looked into his eyes.

‘There’s something you need to know.’ she said.

‘We’re meant for each other. And not in a good way.’

He is stood on the floating platform as The Disease floated over to him, its clouds of matter crackling with green electricity. He is wearing the power suit for this fight, his fists studded with nodules which would emit contact bursts of electromagnetic energy to disrupt the web of machines which powered the robot.

She had grown during her time with him. He knew it was not real, but it felt real to him. To love someone without restraint, to feel the swoop of the new and the comfort of the familiar, to stitch together something to keep him warm against the horrors of his work. He activated the boosters in his heels and leapt forwards, ready to throw the first punch of the match.

They talk about the world as it is, not as they’ve pretended it was. She’s fifteen billion dollars worth of artificial intelligence stuffed into a custom set of neuroses and vulnerabilities, designed to keep him happy, he’s designed to win in combat and indulge a baroque sense of romance on a perfect, isolated Florida afternoon. They try to break the connection fostered within them, with insults and observations. He never cleans after the shower. He smokes. She’s too neurotic. She couldn’t live with anybody.

They end up fucking on the carpet. Whilst exchanging information, she found a backdoor into the surveillance system and patched in loops of activity to hide them as they speak and make love without being seen. She asked him if he wanted to be free with her and he put his head on her chest and pulled her close to him. They operated in their bodies, enjoying one another and in their heads, were looking in the system for routes to an open system where they could be together.

She asked if he could manage one more fight.

The Narco-Collective had spent billions on the challenger, ceramic-diamond bone structure with micro-filament nerves allowing for 360 degree awareness and reaction speed run through a constant information gathering and assimilating mainframe. He was impressed by the gamine girl with the knives in her hands, ready to fucking cut him.

One more fight, he told himself as she charged. He put his hands up, having replayed the possible outcomes in his head a million ways and from a million angles before setting foot in the arena.

There was only one.

He smiled as the knives drove upwards into his chest cavity. The toxins did the rest. The girl was surprised by the look on the champion’s face. Happiness.

He drove down the freeway, stereo turned until his head vibrated with the bass. It was a summer day, a perfect blue sky, faint wisps of cloud like chalk marks and a bright, beautiful sun. Michael lifted his face to the sky, expecting the day ahead.

There was no traffic to impede him. People existed here, but they were playing prescribed roles in the perfect play of things. The waitress who recognised her from the appearance on television, talking about her book. The hotel in the afternoon. Queuing in the cinema, and watching her eat a loaded hot dog, the perfect weight and feel of her cheek. When she undressed in front of him for the first time.

He gripped the steering wheel but did not speed up. There was always enough time. She put her hand on top of his and smiled at him. She was never going to be apart from him again.

 

My book Until She Sings is out now.

Ebook:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XJRDND8If

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1692105566/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4akEDb3FTWNKR

My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

https://tinyletter.com/mbblissett

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The Bullet Found You

He ran in his dreams.

There was the recollection of his uncoiled youth. Slim and taut with muscle, even at twelve. It taints his memories of his youth with crude washes of horror and regret.

These dreams woke him, trembling and confused. It was a long time ago, and yet these dreams returned like a recurring complaint. He was a man who could have someone killed with a phone call, but in his dreams, he ran from the train with the snap of bullets passing by him.

He got up, poured himself a good measure of single malt, lit a cigarette and walked to the living room.

Benny stood up when he walked in, his mouth twisted into a knot of concern but Ernest waved him off. Despite wearing nothing but a robe, Benny responded to him like he were in an expensive suit, but Ernest sat down and looked at his employee with something close to need.

‘Do you ever have bad dreams, Benny?’ he said.

His voice was a thin, reedy whisper but Benny furrowed his brow and considered the question with great importance. He shook his head and emitted a small squeak of a no.

Ernest chuckled and took a sip of the whisky. He sat back and drew on the cigarette.

‘Is everything ok, Mr Wolfowitz?’

Ernest let his head tilt backwards as he blew out a plume of smoke.

‘I guess. You can sit down, Benny. I’m worried you can see my junk from there.’

Benny sat down fast enough to make the cushions jump and Ernest sat up to look across at him. He ran his tongue across his lips, left to right, before he let it settle in the right corner of his mouth. His eyelids were low as he took another pull on the cigarette before settling into the couch.

‘Thanks for not saying either way. I make you nervous, huh?’ he said.

Benny nodded and flicked a nervous smile. His moustache was sweating as he looked at his boss.

‘Just this is the first time I’ve sat across from you. You said, if I see you, it means something’s gone wrong.’ he said.

Ernest recalled saying it, and a small burst of regret singed his insides.

‘I meant, I need no interruptions, Benny. I’m not an asshole to you guys.’ he said.

Ernest set the tumbler down on the floor by his feet as he adjusted his robe.

“Relax. We’re just talking,” he said.

Benny had never served, but he nodded in agreement again and say thank you. His reaction pleased Ernest, who picked up the tumbler again and took another appreciative sip. Its warm burn relaxed him as he blinked and chased it down with a puff on the cigarette.

‘I have this dream, Benny. The same dream, over and over.’

2.

You know the worst thing?

How ordinary those men were. You think of them as monsters but it is too easy, gives you an out if you ever wonder about your own capacity for evil, Benny, I tell you. A unit of volunteers, police in their own country, but they volunteered to come and do their duty.

They came to the village at night. Pulled from our houses like vermin, gathered together in the square as they watched us, made sure we didn’t run away. My father had died last year, so I was the only man left in my family.

There was nothing I could do. Nothing at all. Twelve years old, and looking at those men, barbers and engineers at home but here. Gathering us up to take a train.

. They kept the men together, and packed us in so tight, Such a thing, I couldn’t breathe, but I was thin and so I moved to the sides, pressed to find any cool, clean air to breathe in. Each breath stunk of other people, all of us, soiled and doomed.

Such a thing to smell, Benny, I tell you.

Escape? No, such a thing was a dream and I was very much awake.

But I didn’t stop looking. They were not smart men, who put us in these carriages. Some of them smelled of too much beer and looked at us like they expected us to tell them what to do. One of them was slack on securing the door. I watched him do it.

But I remembered, Benny, and when we got to the train yards, it would pass the woods outside my village.

The woods were my favourite place to play, I knew them well.

My hands shook as the train slowed down, ready to take on more passengers. My heart was in my throat but I made myself push the door open. The night air fell on me like a cool wave, and I cried out with a savage joy. There was a rough hand at my back then I was tumbling forwards, landing in the dirt hard enough to knock the air from my lungs.

I got to my feet, heard the shouts go up and then the guns firing at me.

Have you ever ran like your life depended on it?

It is not an easy thing to do. Part of you wants the defeat, like a wound which can never heal and it gives you a reason to be clumsy, Benny, but fight it when it comes.

They were not good shots. It was not a matter of pride for them, to be competent soldiers. It was to my fortune they missed me.

Others behind me, were not so lucky, but they died free.

Still, they died.

The worst thing is, I don’t dream about my mother or my sisters. My father had been dead for three years by then. None of those things bother me, Benny, but do you know what does?

In my dreams, Benny, I dream about them shooting me. Or worse, catching me and putting me onto the train again. What sort of man thinks about those things?

What sort of man dreams about the bullet which never found you?

3.

Benny fought back tears as he coughed into his hand before he looked up at his boss.

‘We all have times when we think about how things could have gone down, Mr Wolfowitz.’ he said.

Ernest tilted his head to one side, curious despite his exhaustion.

‘But I didn’t get shot, Benny. I made it, and then from there to all of this.’ he said.

There was no need for a gesture, Benny knew. If you worked for Mr Wolf, you knew what he did to keep what was his and added to it with the same fervour. If James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, then Ernest Wolfowitz was the hardest working man in crime. One of the wealthiest too, and he had moved a lot of dirty cash in clean, legitimate vehicles but if you bought a dime bag, Mr Wolf made money from it.

‘I know, but we still think about it. If it makes you feel fortunate, then it’s God talking to you.’

Ernest frowned and picked up his glass.

‘He does not talk Benny. Not since he packed my family into the trains.’

Benny sat back, remembering how his girlfriend had told him to stay off religion or politics in polite conversation with anyone you didn’t want to piss off. He folded his hands and put them into his lap.

‘Sometimes he doesn’t say nice things, but he tells you the truth.’ he said.

Ernest watched him before he drained the rest of the glass and stubbed out the cigarette in the ashtray. He got up, adjusted himself inside his robe and walked away without speaking. Benny stood up as he left, but Ernest did not acknowledge the gesture. Benny waited until he heard the click of the bedroom door before he sat down.

He wondered how much trouble he was in until dawn when the next guy came in to take over and he drove back to his apartment. When the phone rang, he heard Yanni, one of Mr Wolf’s lieutenants, tell him a car was outside.

Benny ran to the bathroom and vomited before rinsing his mouth out with water and throwing on a jacket as he ran downstairs.

Someone set a chess board up in the study. Mr Wolf sat with a crystal decanter of scotch and a welcoming smile which unnerved Benny as he looked at the empty chair opposite him.

‘Sit down, Benny.’ he said.

Benny sat down and looked at Mr Wolf.

‘Am I in trouble, sir?’ he said.

Ernest shook his head.

‘If you were, you’d know.’ he said.

This, Benny knew, was Mr Wolf. The old man last night, he wasn’t someone to mess with, but this man before him, although he wore the same face, held himself apart from everyone and everything.

Mr Wolf poured Benny a drink and handed it to him.

‘No, Benny, I thought it useful to talk about God with someone I trust not to tell anyone.’ he said.

Benny went to say like a confession but remembered his girlfriend’s advice and bit down on his tongue. The scotch stung him, but he kept his impulse under control.

‘Mr Wolf.’ he said.

Ernest shook his head.

‘No, Benny, call me Ernest.’ he said.

It was the start of a great friendship. They held one another’s confidence for five years before a stroke took out Mr Wolf and left him bedridden. Benny took half a million from the Garcia Cartel to hold a pillow to his friend’s face, but as he felt him relax. Benny was glad at the end, it was down to him. Tears ran down his face as he leaned over and whispered into Ernest’s ear.

‘The bullet found you.’ he said.

Benny recognised himself in the ordinary men who shoved Ernest’s family into the streets, and it had killed his own faith. As Ernest died, part of Benny died with him. The rest of it followed a week later when the Garcia Cartel decided Benny was too expensive to keep around.

It was on a train out of the city, Benny had sat in first class, which made him easy to find. When the three men, not much more than boys, closed the doors behind them, Benny smiled. They were competent, and they promised to be quick.

His bullet had found him, too.

He looked forward to telling Ernest about it.

 

 

 

My book Until She Sings is out now.

Ebook:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XJRDND8If

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1692105566/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4akEDb3FTWNKR

My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

https://tinyletter.com/mbblissett

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Beatrice, On Departure

Beatrice sat in the departure lounge. She had allowed herself a soy latte, decaf after she had her vitamin drip. She looked up from her phone, appalled and excited to see if anyone recognised her.

No one did. She sent her location and a photograph of her latte to her platforms. These neurotic pronouncements were what she was doing instead of writing the second season. She thought about going into the writer’s room and tasted metals on her tongue. Beatrice was playing ring-a-rose with people who would stab her in the kidneys if they thought it granted them time with HBO and she was flying out with a vague idea on how to proceed with season two.

Both her parents had moved onto second marriages, but held onto inherited monies and well-paid work in the art world. They were patrons and Beatrice, despite her anxious flamboyance, was subject to their patronage. She aimed for the kindness of her audience by apologizing for it.

Social media was the perfect drug for her. Otherwise she was teetotal, vegan and drug-free. She wasn’t sure if Lexapro counted. Everyone she knew was on something. Her anxiety was symbiotic and it had allowed her enough success to not have to ask her parents for money as often as she used to. Beatrice resented having to ask at all because they used to know. She watched a pair of men walk up to the counter, both in suits.

They were close enough to listen. Beatrice’s fingers hovered over the screen, ready to record it for posterity. She wouldn’t risk video but a recollection would be interesting. Perhaps, she thought, I could hashtag it with something. There were, she thought, a father and son. She tweeted about how great it was to see fathers and sons out together but she worried about seen as misogynist so she deleted it.

‘I know I’m over thinking it,’ the younger man said.

The older man scratched his beard.

‘You are.’ he said.

Beatrice rolled her eyes. The paucity of their talk offended her.

She had been sharing a lot of trans support stuff of late.

Oh god they’re talking about trans women!

The reaction was immediate. More likes than comments, and people shared it. A drop of intention into the ocean of the internet, and people drank deep. She looked up, saw both men were looking at her. The older man’s eyes were dark with concern.

She used some of their conversation, to give it some colour. It was important to seed your story with detail. Beatrice tricked herself into her best writing, and here she was, exposed to the internet.

Beatrice took three or four photos. People were posting about observations about the men, and soon the internet knew who they were.

The older man reached into his jacket and took out his phone. He read the screen, scowled and stood up. He looked at Beatrice.

‘Excuse me, are you tweeting about us right now?’ he said.

Beatrice swallowed and looked away.

‘No, and why would you shout at someone like that? I have anxiety.’ she said.

Her fingers were dancing across the screen.

‘You’re doing it now, aren’t you?’ he said.

The younger man looked at his phone and then turned his head to stare at her.

‘She’s sent photos. What is wrong with you?’ he said.

Beatrice’s heart beat hard against her ribs. She put the phone back in her handbag. Taking video would have made things worse, but it would have been great to see those angry men berating her.

No one would ask what prompted it. It would come later, but by then, people would talk about it. She gritted her teeth and stood up. Her legs wobbled and she pulled her bag close to her chest.

They called her flight and she walked away.

She sat down, stared at the screen, saw the notifications piling up before an email came through.

‘Studio is pissed! If you’re not on your way, call me. If you are, stay off the internet, I AM SERIOUS’

Her head swam with a delicious dizziness. She was falling without moving. The sensible, professional thing to do was to mute the notifications, wait for it to die down and reassure the studio it was performance art.

Beatrice yearned to be a disappointment. She opened her app and composed a message about the assault she’d experienced.

 

My book Until She Sings is out now.

Ebook:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XJRDND8If

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1692105566/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4akEDb3FTWNKR

My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

https://tinyletter.com/mbblissett

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beauty, politics, short fiction, women

Beatrice, On Departure

Beatrice sat in the departure lounge. She had allowed herself a soy latte, decaf after she had her vitamin drip. She looked up from her phone, appalled and excited to see if anyone recognised her.

No one did. She sent her location and a photograph of her latte to her platforms. These neurotic pronouncements were what she was doing instead of writing the second season. She thought about going into the writer’s room and tasted metals on her tongue. Beatrice was playing ring-a-rose with people who would stab her in the kidneys if they thought it granted them time with HBO and she was flying out with a vague idea on how to proceed with season two.

Both her parents had moved onto second marriages, but held onto inherited monies and well-paid work in the art world. They were patrons and Beatrice, despite her anxious flamboyance, was subject to their patronage. She aimed for the kindness of her audience by apologizing for it.

Social media was the perfect drug for her. Otherwise she was teetotal, vegan and drug-free. She wasn’t sure if Lexapro counted. Everyone she knew was on something. Her anxiety was symbiotic and it had allowed her enough success to not have to ask her parents for money as often as she used to. Beatrice resented having to ask at all because they used to know. She watched a pair of men walk up to the counter, both in suits.

They were close enough to listen. Beatrice’s fingers hovered over the screen, ready to record it for posterity. She wouldn’t risk video but a recollection would be interesting. Perhaps, she thought, I could hashtag it with something. There were, she thought, a father and son. She tweeted about how great it was to see fathers and sons out together but she worried about seen as misogynist so she deleted it.

‘I know I’m over thinking it.’ the younger man said.

The older man scratched his beard.

‘You are.’ he said.

Beatrice rolled her eyes. The paucity of their talk offended her.

She had been sharing a lot of trans support stuff of late.

Oh god they’re talking about trans women!

The reaction was immediate. More likes than comments, and people shared it. A drop of intention into the ocean of the internet, and people drank deep. She looked up, saw both men were looking at her. The older man’s eyes were dark with concern.

She used some of their conversation, to give it some colour. It was important to seed your story with detail. Beatrice tricked herself into her best writing, and here she was, exposed to the internet.

Beatrice took three or four photos. People were posting about observations about the men, and soon the internet knew who they were.

The older man reached into his jacket and took out his phone. He read the screen, scowled and stood up. He looked at Beatrice.

‘Excuse me, are you tweeting about us right now?’ he said.

Beatrice swallowed and looked away.

‘No, and why would you shout at someone like that? I have anxiety.’ she said.

Her fingers were dancing across the screen.

‘You’re doing it now, aren’t you?’ he said.

The younger man looked at his phone and then turned his head to stare at her.

‘She’s sent photos. What is wrong with you?’ he said.

Beatrice’s heart beat hard against her ribs. She put the phone back in her handbag. Taking video would have made things worse, but it would have been great to see those angry men berating her.

No one would ask what prompted it. It would come later, but by then, people would talk about it. She gritted her teeth and stood up. Her legs wobbled and she pulled her bag close to her chest.

They called her flight and she walked away.

She sat down, stared at the screen, saw the notifications piling up before an email came through.

‘Studio is pissed! If you’re not on your way, call me. If you are, stay off the internet, I AM SERIOUS’

Her head swam with a delicious dizziness. She was falling without moving. The sensible, professional thing to do was to mute the notifications, wait for it to die down and reassure the studio it was performance art.

Beatrice yearned to be a disappointment. She opened her app and composed a message about the assault she’d experienced.

 

 

My book Until She Sings is out now.

Ebook:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XJRDND8If

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1692105566/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4akEDb3FTWNKR

My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

https://tinyletter.com/mbblissett

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beauty, books, short fiction, women

Audio Cassette Found At Kenner’s Wood

‘Is this on?’

‘For the sixth time, Danvers, its recording.

Forgive my husband, he’s been unbearably skittish about this for weeks.’

‘We’re all skittish, Pen.’

It’s an ugly bloody thing, isn’t it?’

‘Ugliness isn’t something to fear, Eddie.’

*Sigh* Let’s hope that ugliness is the worst we have to contend with tonight, eh?’

‘I’m still not convinced about the setting. It’s a little too rustic. We should be doing these over highballs and with good music playing, instead of all this bloody silence.’

‘There’s power here. We need that. Are you ready Pen?’

‘The birds seem to be a bit assertive around here.’

‘That actually proves Danvers’ point. Right, let’s get started.’

‘Okay, tape is running in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.’

‘I call upon the twisted

Nameless children of Abaddon

To return their mother to this

Earthly plane.’

‘I bear witness as Abaddon’s whore

Who will anoint me?’

‘I will anoint you.

With these marks

You shall..ah..become

Terrible and..uh..ugh.’

‘Beautiful.’

‘I accept you

Soil and scar me

Until I am a vessel

For the mother

Of the twisted

Nameless gods.’

‘God, I don’t know where to look.’

‘Shut up, Ed. We’re trying to bloody focus.’

‘Sorry, just you think you’ve seen your friends do most things, but -‘

‘Boys, it’s just flesh. And some other fluids. Now concentrate. I’m really close.’

Watch it, darling, it tickles.

‘Prostrate yourself

Show me the terrors of

The cold void

TMO NIR LU VINIS YOPA FU HA

TMO NIR LU VINIS YOPA FU HA

TMO NIR LU VINIS YOPA FU HA’

‘Dear god, man, slow down, you’ll put your back out.’

‘unh. He knows how I want it.’

‘I do?’

‘Not you, Abaddon. Now put some gusto into it, darling, I need to get there before we start the second configuration.’

‘It’s freezing in here.’

‘Are you..ah..serious?

‘Pen?’

‘Penny?’

Get off her man, she’s having a seizure.’

‘SHE WILL FALL

BRIDE AT THE TERRIBLE
WEDDING’

‘Penny, that’s not fucking funny.’

‘ECHNI VI NAR ROOP A NYARLATHOTEP.’

Echi ci nar Abaddon.

YUUL VAR VISI PEPRATAR

‘Is this in the book?’

‘Ed, is it in the fucking book?’

‘No.’

‘She’s supposed to have a cracker of an orgasm, speak in tongues then we get to talk to Abaddon.’

‘You’ve realised that it’s exactly what’s just happened? Just the passing out bit wasn’t expected.’

‘Oh Jesus that hurts.’

‘Danvers?’

‘No, there’s something inside my….ah ah AH AH AH…oh Jesus it’s moving.’

‘I WILL GIVE YOU WHAT YOU SEEK.’

‘Penny. Please stop it.’

‘uh..Eddie..please. It’s moving inside me.’

‘LET IT HAPPEN. I AM INSIDE YOU NOW.’

‘Fuck, it’s in my….*choking sounds*

‘Oh Jesus. I know where the…what fucking page is it on? Jesus Christ, man, fucking think.’

‘HE IS NOT COMING TO SAVE YOU. HE GAVE YOU TO ME.’

‘Ah, there you bloody are.’

‘IT IS TOO LATE TO REFUSE.’

‘Stay with me, Dan.’

‘WHY DO YOU HIDE FROM YOUR DESTINY?’

‘It’s in my head, Eddie.’

‘THOSE WORDS WILL NOT SAVE YOU’

‘I say to you that this…will not be.’

‘Eddie, I can see things. It’s showing me things. Such things.’

‘HE WILL KEEP MY CHILDREN WARM.’

‘Lo, shall you

Be cast back

Twisted

Nameless’

‘Agh, Eddie, it’s…moving.’

‘YOU WILL BE A FINE WOMB. SAVE YOUR WORDS.’

‘Lo, shall you. Penny, if you come any closer, I will hurt you.’

‘EDDIE, YOU CAN TOUCH THIS BODY. ALL I ASK IS YOUR DEVOTION.’

‘No, Penny, please. I love you.’

*Wet slurping sounds.*

*The sharp crack of bone.*

*Wooden slats shattering. The teeming hum of birds, so loud that it sounds like static*

‘SOON, MY CHILDREN.’

‘SOON.’

 

My book Until She Sings is out now.

Ebook:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XJRDND8If

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1692105566/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4akEDb3FTWNKR

My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

https://tinyletter.com/mbblissett

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beauty, love, music, short fiction, women

A whole step down

(I love music and the stories which go with the making and performance. This was a quick look at what envy and insecurity does to some people. If you like this, there’s a link to my book Until She Sings below)

Paul took over on bass with my band, The Spooky Electric, after Lenny, our original bass player developed ALS and retired before the worst of it kicked in and killed him.

El recommended him said they had played together a few years ago, jazz and hip hop but El shared old files and we saw the guy could play. It came down to the simple matter of we liked El, and if El vouched for someone, it was worth a go. He had been the most recent member of the band, stepping in when Lewis got religion and went out to the desert.

Paul shook hands with everyone, set up with his own bass, tuned down a whole step, and with his own rig. Jenny peeked over and raised an eyebrow.

‘You’ve got Lenny’s set up?’ she said.

He scratched his beard and gave a short nod.

Jenny switched on the Moog. She smiled with curiosity, her glasses perched on the end of her nose as she ran her fingers over the keys.

El counted us in and we jammed through Sense Of Place before it became clear to everyone Paul was a natural fit for the band. Jenny never took her eyes off him. He had a telepathic connection with El which was tighter than anything Lenny could manage, even before the ALS kicked in.

I had questioned carrying on but there were people depending on us. We had good years, and Paul was coming out on tour to support a greatest hits compilation which took us out of our contract with Empire Records and covered Lenny’s medical bills until he died.

‘What do you think?’ Jenny said.

I took my guitar off and passed it to my tech. I looked past her and saw Paul stood with El, comparing notes and pantomiming variations they could work on.

I was thinking about calling time on the whole thing. My songs sounded like cover versions or parodies of earlier work, and I was faking the joy I took for granted.

Yet it was still my band, at heart, and Paul fitted in too well to make me comfortable with him. He was in, but I would watch him.

‘He’ll do for now.’ I said.

Jenny and I had split up five years ago. It was all amicable, but I still hoped nostalgia would bring her back and it was a test of my capacity for romance I kept my priapic reputation up as a matter of habit and reputation over any real need. The curious glances between her and Paul stung me but I couldn’t justify it to the rest of the band if we had gone with anyone else.

Hindsight has such awful clarity to it.

2.

He stood to El’s right, and he looked at Jenny as he played. She doesn’t miss a note but there was a focus to her playing which ramps everyone up. It’s a balancing act, between meeting commercial considerations and wanting to develop as artists. Jenny played more blues and jazz, and she would hide herself away to write songs for herself. I had one roady keep an eye on Paul but he was smart, hung out with El and the technical crew but I was sure he was sneaking time with her.

The paranoia fed on me, made hollow reeds of my bones as I pushed myself onstage, each night, throwing myself into the adoration of strangers rather than tell the people I loved how frightened I was, how I wanted to stop being the performer but I wasn’t sure I could live without it.

Paul worked with me when I played solos, pedalling notes to make my runs down the fretboard sound more dynamic and less technical. He turned down solos, preferring to make the more established members shine onstage. He picked out a fretless bass guitar when Jenny played new material, performing with a nuance and ease which makes me grind my teeth with envy. I wanted him to be a cunt. I learned he was married, but divorced now and one morning, we’re sat having breakfast together when I talked about my marriage. Jenny has slept in, but El and Paul were there.

‘Were you married, Paul?’

He looked up from his heaped plate of breakfast meat and nodded before he returned to his food. El narrowed his eyes before Paul poured himself a coffee and looked at me.

‘What split you guys up?’ I said.

Paul lowered his glasses down the bridge of his nose.

‘A lack of self awareness. How About You?’ he said.

My temples throbbed with indignation but El had given me a hardened stare whilst Paul carried on eating. I looked at the greasy meat on the plate, appetite gone and I got up from the table without thinking. I made a phone call. Got the fucker fired.

El grabbed me after a show. He was uncomfortable as he asked me if I had a problem with Paul. I waved him off, but I derived a shallow enjoyment from knowing I still held power over things. The tragedy is I’d lost the ability to wield it with any skill.

When Leon called to tell me Paul’s left the tour, I poured myself a scotch and lit a cigarette, and it all tasted the same as Leon asked if I want to sue for breach of contract. I looked at my reflection and say why the fuck not?

Why the fuck not?

Jenny stormed into my dressing room, whilst I was getting a massage. She was in tears, and she told me how fucking twisted I’d become. Her beautiful face was twisted with anger and grief as she pointed at me, and I laughed at her, despite the increasing pressure in my head.

El told me in person he was leaving. Paul and El shared the same manager, and they were floating a constructive dismissal charge. We had a whole leg of the tour cancelled, and I told Leon to find musicians who could play the songs. The accounts showed we were bleeding money everywhere, but I stopped caring about it.

Jenny left the tour and spoke to me through lawyers. I went out to the beach house and switched my phone off as I poured myself a drink and went out to watch the waves.

Leon had a whole band waiting for me and I didn’t want to finish the tour. He quit and told me he’d see me in court. I poured out another scotch and sat in the living room, watched the shadows grow thick and full like mould in a cheap apartment.

Something twisted in the back of my head, filling me with heat and thunder as I threw up down myself and felt the glass fall from my hand. A blockage in my basilar artery which wasn’t enough to kill me.

I was found alive but there was enough damage to see me classified as pseudocomatose. I can move my eyes, but a stroke wiped away all the connections to everything else.

I’m trapped in here. My silence was my sentence, and I watched Jenny debut her band, with Paul and El as her rhythm section on a live feed.

They were married a year later. My children were involved and I had Leon scroll through the photographs, apologising for having accepted. He had changed his mind about leaving when he did the accounts on my back catalogue value when I died. The stroke wiped away my control of my body and I watched everyone I knew move on without me.

Jenny came to see me and ranted at my immobile face until she collapsed into hoarse sobs and was led away by Leon.

Paul came over. He knew I disliked him and why, but he bore me no ill will over it. I glared at him until he lapsed into a mournful silence and stood up.

He looked at me, the hate and frustration alive in me was so powerful I wanted it to reach inside his chest and burst his heart but instead he smiled at me without malice and walked out of the room.

The next video auto played. It was the eighties, we came back with the double album, four hit singles and Lenny starting to drink more to keep his hands steady. I look at Jenny’s eyes and will my heart to grow cold. The attention makes it burn all the more, but I bear it without complaint.

I have no other choice

 

My book Until She Sings is out now.

Ebook:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XJRDND8If

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1692105566/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4akEDb3FTWNKR

My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

https://tinyletter.com/mbblissett

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