Slight Ghost in the Night Hutch

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A selection for an optimum book anthology containing short fiction that came to my attention as a result of my real-time reviewing since 2008:

Flowers of the Sea – Reggie Oliver
The Bellman – Colin Insole
Nights at the Regal – Jason Gould
Dying In The Arms of Jean Harlow – Paul Meloy
The Sleep Mask – Joel Lane
The Quixote Candidate – Rhys Hughes
Cyprian’s Room – Frances Oliver
People on the Island – T.M. Wright
A House by the Ocean – Steve Rasnic Tem
The Hareton K-12 County School and Adult Extension – James Van Pelt
Sleepers – Christopher Harman
The Shallows – John Langan
Sado-ga-Shima – Quentin S Crisp
The Tower of Moab – L.A. Lewis
The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada – Anonymous

Caveat: The first and last were published by my Megazanthus imprint.

Tomorrow such a selection may change.

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3 responses to “Slight Ghost in the Night Hutch

  1. Published in ASLAN in 1989:

    Slight Ghost In The Night Hutch
    By DF Lewis

    He was, some said, a very handsome man. His hatch was nattily top-knotted above a blonde river of hair cascading around a thick, corded neck; and his sharp-featured face had only the faintest lines of age fanning out from below deep blue bowls of sight.

    But my view of him was coloured by the fact that I was his sidekick and had to traipse behind him, a Squirt to his Knight, a plodder of every adventurous path he chose to follow.

    Whilst his skin was white as driven snow, mine was, they told him, dark amber.
    He was tall and graceful, with slender, tapering fingers: I was more wide than high, my head and feet only just visible out of matted black hair. He was a vision of a god, almost translucent in the roaring light of sunrise: I was a snuffling hogshead rolling in his wake.

    Nevertheless, they told me, I was a real man, all parts complete and functional, my cantilevered T-bone and jacket-spuds always feather-triggered. The fact that he was deficient ‘down under’ was counterbalanced, no doubt, by his thirst for the open road, the bracing wind, the wild mountains, the crack of muscle, the clash of broadswords…

    He called me Edalpo more often than not. He developed what I can only describe as a mythology around us … that we were sharing a crusade to destroy over-deep thought, art, religion, intellectualisms of all kinds and particularly the legends of monstrous demons that were said to prevail in the mountainous area we were wandering. He could not suffer the slightest innuendo and subtlety nor the merest pretension of philosopher, nor the priest’s warnings of bogey men lurking behind death’s arras, in wait for the impious.

    The evil legend that he formulated in his mind was a Master Story-Teller, arch-priest of all those with brains bulging out of the orifices of their heads, with skins that were leathery, with tendencies queerer, bodies more dislocated and, above all, with ideas above their station. So his quest was to seek out this Master Story-Teller, rout his libraries, upturn his studios, fix up street lights from his communes, lead his disciples to the straight and narrow way from their dragon-haunted dreams.

    I had no choice but to acknowledge his single-minded purpose. The phenomenon that he hoped to destroy he embroidered with visions: of gothic concert halls; of towering cathedrals that straddled rivers and worshipped not only the One True God but the Great Old Ones, too; of blasphemous effigies of the ancient Azathoth, squat and tubular (like me, he said), centred in their renaissance courtyards and canal squares of the Master Story-Teller’s disciples with huge wasp-wings which they used as sails to drive their gondolas; of inns with bizarre swinging signs; of pedlars selling stews ever crusting thicker; of half-seen monsters perched on the city’s roofs at night and, ofttimes, climbing in at nursery windows; of imagined characters with silly names seriously discussing all such things in pubs; of a mighty photographic explosion when the sky made one enormous flash of day-night, turning all white people black and vice versa, and the foam of the river to sludgy oil, a positive to negative of all wholesome things…

    I looked up querulously while he spoke, a shadow creeping across his face, as he embellished the legendary backdrop to his quest. The night was indeed beginning to slew across his features, as the forgotten camp-fire withdrew into its embers – and his speech continued accordingly.

    “I’ll beat their brains out for their fevered imaginings; I’ll plumb each dark alleyway and erect my scorching searchlights; the fleshy gargoyles they have hung from the great city gate, I will take the smiles off their faces with my hungry sword; and, the Master Story-Teller, I will pluck his privities like forbidden fruit and bake ‘em over a bonfire of violins and paintbrushes…”

    And then he told me some typical stories that the arch Master Story-Teller himself would probably tell, so that I would recognize him if one day he told them to me and I could then put a stop to his incessant recital. I listened with perhaps only half an ear, in the trembling ember-light, as was thus exposed our one worst enemy’s foul art…

    The stories might have continued for at least a tandem of eternities, but I, Edalpo, in that one frozen moment with the great casserole of night around us like a darkroom, developed my own vision, collected an image, saw blackness seeping further into my knight’s purest templed skin as he bobbed back and forth in the telling amid the dying firelight. The quest, the purpose, the crusade, the Wagnerian initiation had been branded into my very soul … so, it must have been another part of me that rose like a demon from hell, snatched his own treasured broadsword and used it to carve off his single nodding head.

    As purple curds oozed from the twitching stump of his neck and quenched the last vestiges of the camp-fire, I was convinced — (from his earlier diatribe about gondolas, stews, monsters, pubs, privities and violin bonfires and, then, from his interminable dip-in duck-out Scheherazadic slip-streaming of stories to show how the Master Story-Teller could be recognized if he ever told stories to me) — that I had just duly sliced to death the Master Story-Teller himself.

    After a further few moments’ rumination, however, I turned the last stroke of the broadsword blade upon the slight ghost in my own night hutch.

    (published ‘Aslan’ 1989)

  2. Another Megazanthus story that made it big: The Lion’s Den

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