“When you play with fire in a ghost house then expect to get burned.” Diary of Jonathan Webster, insane. Incarcerated, Bethlem Royal Hospital, 1876.
This is another preamble in the world of a WIP written only in the mind and a plethora of short stories. Vivacious was tricky, using its antonyms less so.
The Amanuensis still continues to search time and places trying to unlock his own temporal prison doors. I, in turn, am trying to release the story incarcerated in the grey matter to find out if he can.
There is an element of horror here as the bricked up child does have history with the previous BlogBattle story. However, using Vivacious was tricky until I started with the antonyms. That made “life” much easier!
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Local businessman Jonathan Webster was, today, accused of setting a fire with intent to incapacitate and murder Albert and Elisabeth Beechwood and their unborn child. In addition the remains of an unknown female, also with child, were discovered in an upstairs room.
Being of unsound mind the accused was spared the hangman’s noose and admitted to an asylum for the remainder of his days.
When inquisition as to motive was applied by the prosecution the only words uttered by Mr Webster were, “Get out of my house.”
Extract from “Letters of The Amanuensis”
The business man who dabbled and turned insane.
So the parchment declared. Extracts from old newspaper cuttings transcribed into his library archive. The scattered aftermath of an event that turned history.
Insane? The Amanuensis thought not. Traumatised by events that filled his head with demons, yes.
Jonathan Webster was not an innocent. A murderer with a motive baited by a child.
He sat upright. A vision drawing deep breath. Children, always there are children.
On the desk his hands rifled more parchments. His eyes remained closed allowing thoughts to coalesce. Opening them he read the extract again. His mind searching history.
“No, I wasn’t in control.”
They say you were intoxicated and set fire to a house.
“It wasn’t me… well it was my body, but not my mind.”
“It’s the truth”
Of a madman.
“The house has demons.”
The Amanuensis rifled more pages. The house, not just any house the House, whose name binds it to past, present and future. The house resting on the edge of the Black Marsh.
Black again…. in his mind images flashed. Screams growing dimmer as bricks were laid.
How many demons?
“I don’t know, one rests in the cellar. She’s madness and vengeance. The antithesis of vivacious.”
So you fired the house killing innocents.
“No…yes…but it was her not me.”
The child possessed you?
“Yes, yes… that’s it.”
And where is she now?
“Entombed in bricks. Bones and rags. Fingers torn and broken. There are signs inside as I tried to dig out of the darkness. He was a fool, possessed by his own defilements. He killed one of mine.”
This is no longer Webster is it?
“Good guess, Scribe.”
The Amanuensis felt a darkness connecting everything. He gazed into his candle flames. This time they stood unperturbed. Linear in time these events were not.
Too many unconnected deaths. Coincidences he believed improbable. The library held everything. He just needed more time. Always that confounded him. A library of eternity and not enough information to grasp the answers. He closed his eyes. Ghosts, he would visit one tomorrow. Shed more light in the fired house. Not the child, the woman Elisabeth Beechwood.
For now though, he gazed upon the woman displaced in time by a room that ate people. Her fate was sealed when her present passed into the past in a house filled with demons.
A door slammed and Amelie could hear crying. She returned to her room and sat on the bed shaking. This time her bedroom door was left slightly ajar so she could see if things outside reverted to normal. They did not.
Settling back she felt her own baby move. Third trimester, it was agitated too. Her own husband was at a conference in Holland presenting a paper on something to do with particle physics. She was never quite sure what that meant at the best of times. CERN was just a word meaning big vacuum tube thing where other things you couldn’t see flew round in circles crashing into other invisible things that were even smaller. Did her head in, although a scatty memory and interrupted sleep wasn’t helping and made dealing with things you could see tricky at the best of times.
Downstairs she heard a different male voice.
“My apologies for being so late Torrie, the meeting ran over slightly.”
“Not to worry Alfred, these things happen.”
She lies well, thought Amelie.
There was the sound of breaking glass and a scream. Amelie moved back to her vantage point, this time daring to look over the bannister. What she saw made her heart beat a shade faster.
Flames were expanding from drapes that were drawn across two windows to the left of the front door and opposite the base of the staircase. Glass was strewn across a tiled mosaic floor and the curtains flapped in a breeze from outside fanning the fire that was now spreading.
Alfred moved toward the door, but staggered away as he opened it falling backwards, his head covered in blood. Jonathan stepped through, a hammer in his left hand. It was stained red and dripping, leaving a trail of blood on the floor.
Elisabeth’s mouth opened and closed as she stumbled against a table that offered temporary support. Her face was white. She spoke in a terrified whisper, “What the hell are you doing Jonathan?”
He glared back, eyes filled with the red mist and staggering with the gait of a mad man riddled with liquor wielding a raging slur, “If I cannot have you then no-one will.”
He moved toward the table, Elisabeth backed off. The flames were moving across the room and behind her. She turned too fast and tripped, crashing her head against the corner of the table before landing on the mosaic. A pool of red liquid grew from her hair.
Jonathan dropped the hammer and fled.
Absolutely brilliant information. I need to pin this for later.
Thanks for sharing.
Wow, I got a little confused and have sat and read through the comments… so Amelie started in our time but the room moved her to 1874 where she died in the fire… it’s an interesting story and good use of the word vicarious.. I think I need to read your other works around it..
Thanks Marian. I think I put a note to the potential for it being tricky to follow at the start. Primarily because it draws on loads of other works. I did write a short story ages ago where Amelie is moved in time called “The Room That Swallows People.” There is a snippet from that in this. It’s part of the process the Amanuensis uses to extract information on his own plight. I’ve said somewhere before that his short stories have created 70k of back story. One reason it might seem confusing because I’m so familiar with the cast list I write forgetting others might be seeing them for the first time. If I can get my blog working right with a newer theme I’m hoping other stories might be easier to find too.
Well, this is intriguing. I must admit I had to read it through and then read it backwards. Not in a satanic way 😉 Although I’m convinced there are hidden messages in here. I like the fragmented aspect of it, made me appreciate the challenge facing the Amanuensis. It vaguely reminded of the fantastic TV series Sapphire and Steel that aired in the early 80’s in the UK. It had a similar time sleuthing feel often with elements of horror. I’ll be interested to see how this web of stories intertwine and what nightmare might be weaving them.
Thanks Chris and also for the throw back to Sapphire and Steel! I’d forgotten about that series and yet I did enjoy watching it way back! As you say there was a good element of horror amidst the sleuthing there too.
This character has been evolving for quite some time now. As I’ve said on other comments it began with the A to Z challenge a year or so ago where he was supposed to just interview characters from my manuscripts. Using extracts to weave around the dialogue. However he rapidly through a curve ball by weaving them all together and generating an entirely new world build. Since then prompts have generated 70k of back story.
The crux being he has no knowledge of where he is apart from a conjurers bubble displaced in time which is acting as a prison. Why of how he got there is what he’s trying to piece together and discover how to escape.
It plays through time and multiple worlds. His own world build is fascinating me at present. It’s a mix of fantasy with a sinister undertone.
I did put one up a few months back as a blog battle prompt too. Should probably have linked this to it. Hindsight being the demon it is!
A great idea which leaves so many possible directions. Would love to read the previous post if you find the link.
Thanks Chris. The whole process is on here somewhere. Really must redo my theme and make stuff easier to find. The last BB version is here
I was eating while reading this and I was worried that my brain couldn’t handle two things at the same time, because it felt like I wasn’t able to connect everything. Thankfully, the comment section helps put those worries at ease.
Is Torrie Elisabeth?
The ending was great. It tied nicely to “Get out of my house.” So spooky.
The piece definitely draws us in and makes us want to know more.
Thanks Goldie, I know things related to this character are convoluted to anyone who hasn’t seen the links previously. Part of me self excuses that as it’s helping me flesh out the world build back story. I do try to explain things more though if specific comments ask.
Yes Torrie is Elizabeth. In Victorian times that was often a nickname.
More is likely to appear too. I’ve several characters that have appeared before attached to this world, but probably easier to follow without knowing the full connections. The Amanuensis is a sort of glue between everything. Started from an A to Z challenge a while back when my intention was to use him to interview my book characters. By the letter D that plan disappeared as he came alive with a whole new concept! Funny where inspirations hit!
I thought so, but wasn’t sure.
Most definitely. There are a couple of people who use those prompts in a continued story from month to month. This is something that is starting to appeal to me more and more. I will have to think about it next time around. If the characters/story become larger than life, I will know not to cage them.
That’s one part of writing I like. Especially for period pieces. Researching turns up some amazing things.
I’ve noticed quite a few turning stories out this way too. Bella is one, Abe another and I pretty sure Joshua might revisit some characters too soon. If you’re like me then dropping WIP characters in really helps you get to know them outside the actual book. Testing situations often develops character trait stiffness, for want of a better word!
Hmmm…. very interesting…
Well, this certainly turned dark, Gary! I loved it. I’m not sure if I understood all of it, as there appear to be references to other works I’ve not read — I recognise the name Black Marsh from your NaNo profile! Having said that, I did enjoy piecing the bits together — much like the other parts I’ve read with the Amanuensis. Very twisty and jumping back and forth — very much my sort of thing!
“Good guess, Scribe.” That bit gave me chills. I do wonder who the Amanuensis was conversing with, there. “He killed one of mine.” I get the distinct impression that whomever was speaking is a very powerful entity indeed! It has an almost Lovecraftian feeling, with the possession, insanity, demons, and feeling of a great evil that lurks behind the veil of our own world…
The last fragment of the story was very action packed, and quite brutal. I liked the frankness in your description of such violence — it’s nicely juxtaposed with the rest of the story. Echoes of The Shining when Jack snaps.
Great stuff as usual, Gary. I particularly enjoyed the line, “Her fate was sealed when her present passed into the past in a house filled with demons.” It’s got a lovely rhythm to it!
Seems conversing with you is rekindling writing routes wrt dark horror. There seems to be two strands working with each other as the Amanuensis grows. One is a fantasy world build, the other is much darker. You’re correct in it linking with other works too. Much is buried on the blog roll and needs better placement once the theme is changed. Black a Marsh is a book title. That is likely what you saw on my NaNo profile. It’s the sequel to another called The Bequest. I’m finding the Amanuensis drawing another story out of them through the “interview” process. That might well be a third strand, which is adding to the slush pile!!
The “thing” he is conversing with is actually related to the previous BB story. Again that link connected when I wrote that. Well, more a backstory connection as that entity finds “life” in Black Marsh itself. I’m also aware that when I’m on form with a good habit the language style forms without much effort too. Outside of that it’s often pants!
The last fragment is from a short story called The Room That Swallows People. That’s where Amelie gets displaced in time. Elisabeth also appears in both The Bequest and Black Marsh. The house she died in being called Marsh Bank House. Primarily because it’s built next to the actual Marsh in a town called Houghton Fengrave. That final part is named specifically to reflect the Marsh’s origins.
I’m not so sure the two greats you mention are worthy of comparison, but I’ll take even half of one! I do like twists and turns though. Parallel worlds bleeding into ours too. Add in more psychological horror and I’m away!
I hope the violence didn’t come across as gore for the sake of it too. I prefer more descriptive approaches that let readers infill their own horror there.
Many thanks again for such a thoughtful comment too. Much appreciated.
That sounds very cool, Gary — I’m picturing a double-helix of fantasy and dark horror-esque worlds twisting around each other! Yes, it’d be really nice to have convenient links to all of these works and a structure of how it all weaves together — especially for us newcomers to your stories!
I really do enjoy learning more about this universe you’re threading together, Gary! You might not think so, but I get definite echoes of the greats whilst reading these pieces. Definite Lovecraft and King (of course) “vibes”, whilst still remaining very you.
The violence wasn’t excessive at all — it felt very well-placed. If the story calls for it at a particular moment (such as here), then pile it on! If it serves the narrative, then it’s not gore for the sake of gore. Implied horror is always great — but that doesn’t mean we can’t give our readers a little nudge in the right direction! 😉
There is sort of. If you ever saw Naz and Yish who are both part of the Amanuensis’ world then you’d see fantasy. When he steps across worlds he explores the darker material that caused his citadel to crumble. The back story I like. Explaining it is harder given it’s a 70k file which should be a book prequel… hmm idea!
I must get onto this theme revamp and stop procrastinating.
Not sure what to make of such worthy accolades too. You mention two legends of wordcraft and somehow my seat feels uncomfortable sitting beside their names. That said, both are to be aspired to so if it’s heading that way then I shall take that as a huge positive!
Excellent to hear too. Well placed I shall take. One can’t not have such details included if the narrative demands. I guess it’s about fine lined between too much and not enough. That’s where support in comments can be invaluable.
The trick with implied horror is taking the reader to the edge and letting them fall off. Bit like character description. I never bog down in that. Who cares is jeans are blue or black? Dare I say that was a bugbear in the GOT books…how many times do I need to know someone was dressed in boiled leather?
I don’t think I met these characters before! Yes, it’s a lot to cram into a short explanation, by the sounds of it. Definitely should be a book, at 70k words in length!
Not to guilt trip you, but I’ve since revamped my own blog! Although, that was mostly aesthetic (coupled with the other brand new art blog, which I previously mentioned!).
I reckon you and I are alike when it comes to positive praise — it makes me feel slightly awkward and uncomfortable. I’m far better at taking insults to heart! Indeed — we can aspire to be the next Lovecrafts and Kings, can’t we? 😉
I said so during our chat about curse words — I think violence and gore has the same approach. Having it there for the sake of it being there will be easily noticed — it’ll stick out! But if it fits the narrative, the reader won’t really notice it as it feels natural.
I agree! Give the reader enough of an outline so that they have a vague sketch, but keep it enough of a question mark to allow them to fill the gaps in with their own imaginations! I still haven’t gotten around to reading the GoT books, I’m slightly ashamed to say! I’ll get around to them, at some point!
I might turn it into a prequel of short stories once I’ve actually got going with the main work. That said it’s an enjoyable way of exploring before starting. Especially on a big world build. Makes it less ad hoc. See…I practice procrastination excuse rather efficiently!
Guilt trip…. hmm…I do that to myself quite often. By now I should really have decided on the new layout and fixed a theme in mind. I rather fear my creative side there is lacking in skill set. Not that that is a particularly good excuse!
A good point too. If the narrative fits the character then it may well be a positive inclusion to make them feel “real.” I did try removing curses from Rose and I thought it left her flat and no longer her.
If I recall right, King said in his book that many readers do fill in things like hair colour and clothing if they associate with the character. The idea being to take the reader into the story. It’s possible our own minds place us in a cameo role as them. That puts age, dress sense and many physical characteristics into the character by the reader based on the actual characters personality. I wonder if we could test that theory. Write something then ask readers for their mental image of the main character. Be interesting to see how broad a spectrum of opinion that might lead to.
That sounds like a great idea, Gary! I really think that’d work very well. I’ve got an idea of a world I wanna explore. I’ve written a little bit of it this week’s BB — I might try and write something about it for each BB (if I can wrangle the prompt word in!). I fancy “feeling out” the world!
I think there’s some quite nice themes available — I spent an hour or so playing around, to see what I could come up with. Took a few minutes of working things out, as it’s not really in my skill set either, but I got there in the end 😂 I think the best advice is to set aside some time to just “play” and see what feels right!
Precisely. We humans are colourful creatures, none of us perfect. Our imperfections give us character. Make us jump off the page!
That is a really interesting thought! I wonder how different personalities “fill in the blanks”. I’m sure there’s interesting psychological theories, this way and that. When my life is a bit more steady, I may have a dive down the rabbit hole to see if there’s any research on this!
Beauty of prompts. Sometimes I write them then go back seeing where the prompt word can be sewn in after. Wrt world builds…playing with them in prompts is actually fun. Not only that, but you kick off a novel already knowing you characters better too.
I think I have a theme in mind now. As you say it’s just taking a time out to tinker with it. Sometimes just doing is the best way to learn.
Ha, ha…mostly colourful yes, but I have noticed we’re very easy to socially programme too. Take politics…. some people vote a certain way because they always have. Never challenging why. There are many “doctrines” that you can apply that to too. What should make us colourful is the ability to question everything and being prepared to alter an opinion if new facts prove better. That kind of ties into the last bit with psychology of thinking. Advertising uses the concept all the time…I actually now think buy it now economics is proof it works too. Goes back to the first bit about questioning everything. It keeps the mind mindful… so to speak.
That’s actually a really good idea. I’ve got a thought of where I want to take that Boddi Craig story next (perhaps something of a prequel, we’ll see…). I might just write it, and then see if I can sow the seed of the prompt into it, as you suggested! I’ve got lots more that I’d like to explore. I feel as if I’ve been plopped down in the middle of nowhere and a blank canvas, and now I must wander whilst jotting down my findings like a cartographer…
Doing is a great way of learning, I agree! As mentioned elsewhere, I do music (and you know I do art). The vast majority of that is self-taught — just experimenting, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Got a similar approach to writing, too!
Yes, I’m always skeptical when I hear “I’ve always voted [whichever].” Politics shouldn’t be like a football team — who you support through thick and thin. It should be like public transport — use whichever gets you to your desired destination. If one bus breaks down or gets lost along the way (or it turns out you got on the wrong bus, either by accident or poor information!), it’s fine to get off and seek something else — there shouldn’t be a feeling of “I’m committed to this party or politician.” As you say, it’s not just politics that this works for, either. Humans are certainly interesting creatures — I’ve recently gone down the rabbit hole on cognitive biases and the backfire effect (where, if presented with evidence to the contrary of one’s closely-held belief, people have the tendency to reject the facts even more aggressively and retreat further into their own “bubble”). Really interesting stuff! I wonder if being aware of these things means that we’re slightly less prone to succumbing, or if we’re equally as fallible. As someone who has studied science, I’d like to say I’m always open to new evidence and facts, but maybe that’s what I want to believe about myself… Maybe I’m not even aware of it when it occurs, either!🤔 This took quite a philosophical turn! 😂 Food for thought!
Then I’m rather eager to see where these senseless monks go! The Amanuensis trail started out of not much more too. Any prompt can be used to drift through back story. Obviously too much backstory avoids the actual tale being told!
I do think knowing your own facts are not immutable when it comes to application to thought train is the first part of being mindful they are not necessarily absolutes. If another argument holds better water then there is no shame in shifting stance. I’ve seen many a scientist so rigid they refuse to accept they are wrong. Some even enter what’s known as the infallibility syndrome. Talk crap long enough and start to believe it’s true. I knew one professor who’d ignore experimental data if it didn’t match what he wanted.
It kind of teaches one to be humble methinks. Evaluate everything, listen, then speak. Easy to say 🤔
Haha, I’m also looking forward to seeing where it goes! I have plans, of course, but I’m very much open to letting the prompt word influence the direction and details. I can’t wait to see the next word, to let the creative juices start flowing! Nice to know others have done similar, such as you with the Amanuensis, and A.E. with the current IMP storyline!
Wow, that’s crazy, ignoring data that doesn’t fit the theory? That’s exactly the opposite of what science should be! Agreed, there’s nothing wrong with throwing your hands up, admitting error and changing opinion when presented with new information. In fact, it should be encouraged. We should be much warmer to those who are brave enough to point at their own mistakes and flaws in their logic. Intellectual honesty is such a valuable trait, in my opinion!
It’s very useful to come from a background of neuroscience and biochem, to have a partner currently in uni studying physics and *gestures vaguely towards the sky* all that space stuff. Plenty of stuff I don’t know (even in my respective fields!) and vice versa. Like you say, listen, then speak. It’s like that Bill Nye quote: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” What that “something” is can vary from person to person, but I think it’s such a cool concept to keep in mind — What does this person know that I don’t? What can I learn from them? Every interaction with another human being presents the opportunity to grow. Ha, this got very philosophical again! 😀
Ha, ha…by now you’ve seen the word and I know you’ve written this months as I’ve seen it on the story post that gets published soon. It’s sort of pointing me at Yish and Naz again, although I could use the oldest teenager in my multiverse who’s stuck in a coma after an attack by my antagonist. Oddly she thinks her new “reality” is becoming real. Also has a Dragon Stone in it too….
Too right. That really annoyed me. Data is data. Why do experiments if you’re going to ignore that? Just go and sell second hand cars. I have more respect for anyone who admits an error, or sees data telling them their original thoughts were erroneous.
Agree again too. If you are aware of that you have keys to unlock interesting conversations that might otherwise never come up.
Yes, it came quite quickly — I knew I wanted to have a look at some of the old stories hinted at in part one, and the brooch gave me a mental image which got the whole thing snowballing. I’ve said it before, but I can’t wait ’til next BB now! 😀
I hope to read yours soon, whether it’s a return to Yish and Naz (whose company I greatly enjoyed) or a tale with a Dragon Stone! I very much like the universe you’ve created — all the stories feel linked, yet each section has its own flavour. Feels a bit like looking at the map of a great continent, with regions for horror, fantasy, sci-fi, drama, and various blends of genres — sometimes crisscrossing, sometimes boundary blurring.
It seems to be a waste of time and resources if you don’t acknowledge the end result… As you say, why bother? Go do something else, if that’s the approach! I think one can learn a lot about a person’s way of thinking by seeing how they respond to learning that they have been wrong, in some shape or form. Do they accept it with humility, or do they fight tooth and nail to try and save face?
Too quickly and I’m going to have to prep my prompt post this week already! You put brooch out pretty quick, I just revisited dwarf and elf today. Now it’s time for….hmm… another of my prompt selections…mustn’t spoil it just yet.
I quite like your description of a genre map of the works too. Personally I find it hard to stay in just one of those. I find it doesn’t fit my “style”…if I actually have one of those!!
Very true, a failure to acknowledge erroneous approaches rather delimits the perceived intellect. The save face and fight method is often the way of the bully too. I’m right, you’re wrong. Facts ignored. Bit like climate change. Despite data there are still those unwilling to accept it. Even using empirical observation now, downed aircraft has made a huge impact. Skies with no contrails. Now, who might champion the current must travel the world every five minute junkies? Diurnal temperature fluctuations are backing up those recorded after 9/11. Not that back then it was acted on apart from an academic exercise swiftly forgotten.
Ha, I’ve not put out flute very quickly, have I? The story came to me rather quickly, but I looked at the prompt quite late! It’ll be up by the end of the week, or so I aim.
I know what you mean — these “genre countries” have overlapping borders, the boundaries between blurred. Like a very messy venn diagram! I think you very much do have a style — very colourful, with elements of multiple genres and moods. Bit like King — I reckon he’s written something for everyone, even if not everything he’s written appeals to all. There’s something in his vast catalogue of works that will click with everyone.
If I may digress slightly, I find it rather interesting that in the age of the internet — the age of information — so many falsehoods get easily propagated. Climate change as you say is a big one — the efforts some go to deny it is almost impressive, if it weren’t so depressing. I’ve even seen some saying that the coronavirus doesn’t exist! I’ve mentioned my interest in the backfire effect before, and the notion that humans like to make up their minds regardless of the facts, and then cherrypick according to their preconceived beliefs — it does make you wonder, if facts get rejected and willful ignorance is celebrated, how do we proceed as a society? (Haha, so much for tying up our discussions, sorry!)
Not really my favourite genre but it is clearly evident that you know your craft well.
I will take that as a huge compliment Doug! The fact you commented on something that’s not your preferred reading material is something most people wouldn’t do. Many thanks indeed!
Once again, you suck us, readers, in. I love how this all ties into each story you’re working on. I cannot wait to read it all in its entirety 🙂 Nicely done, my friend 🙂
Ha, ha. You have a big advantage as you’ve read everything! For which I am extremely grateful. You’re probably aware this is the WIP with the world build. Must stop procrastinating on that as I know the characters really well now!
Thank you Helen 😊
Plenty of horror and mystery both here! There seemed to be clues scattered all around that I tried to keep track of, and I think I got a handle on Jonathan. I still wonder, though, why Amelia was the unknown woman upstairs? It seems to be a timey-wimey dilemma, but I think I missed something … perhaps I forgot a clue? Nice job on how the dialogue changed when Amanuenis was contacting Jonathan and discovered it was no longer Jon. Congrats on getting Vivacious to work!
Clues are there yes, but probably fit better for folk that have read my other stuff…namely my alpha reader! Amelie is unknown because she entered a room in our time but it swallowed her in time displacing her to 1874. I should have linked that back to a short story called “The Room That Swallows People.” The house is an integral setting for two novels, so I get blasé about using it without proper reference. That said with only 1000 word to play with it’s not easy to set everything up when I’m drawing from the Amanuensis. He’s the one I mentioned on your post as having 70k of backstory. I should really stop dabbling with him and get on with the world build proper!
Thanks Abe for the comment too, especially the note on dialogue change. That particular miscreant is connected to last months tale too. Not sure why everything seems to cross link. It’s making things proper challenging 😳