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Writer's Corner - April 2008


Rowan Morrison
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I tried very hard to think up something for this month's contest but after dismissing my initial idea of a first-person zombie story set at at school reunion then putting aside my next idea for a story about the horrific 'zom-bee' I just gave up entirely.

I went downstairs to watch some TV when, whilst idly fishing for change down the side of our imported antique leather sofa, I found a piece of folded yellow parchment stuck down the side. Apparently the sofa was shipped over from New England in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century and my Gran bought it at an auction.

Anyway, the parchment seemed to be covered in some kind of spidery scrawl. On closer inspection this actually was a spider that had got squashed on the parchment and dried out there, but after brushing away the dusty guts I saw that there was in fact some legible writing upon it.

It's taken me a little while to completely decipher the handwriting, and due to some nasty blotches the full name of the author was rendered illegible, but I've managed to reconstruct the document (a poem, actually) and would like to present it to you here.

So, without further ado here it is!

The Zombie

By Edward Alan Foe (I think)

Once upon a midnight dire I sat beside the soothing fire,

Supping on a meaty stew the cook prepared the day before.

Around the house my family slept whilst through my thoughts a silence crept,

As I admired the firelight dancing o’er the polished hardwood floor.

I paid fifty dollars for my newly polished hardwood floor,

This it cost and nothing more.

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

Whilst I looked, the door creaked wide; a ghastly figure lurched inside!

Its peeling skin lay tattered round a visage that lay caked with gore!

Baleful eyes beheld me from a visage that lay caked with gore!

The zombie started ‘cross the floor.

As I cowered meek and lowly, on it shambled (very slowly)

Reeking of the odours that are leaked behind the bathroom door.

“Who is this?” I weakly muttered, but no syllable it uttered,

Just a moan escaped the creature as it moved across the floor,

Leaving horrid scuff-marks as it dragged its feet across the floor.

Quoth the zombie, “Mrrrrrrrraagghhh.”

Such an insubordinate measure, that this beast - to my displeasure -

Should befoul my careful, structured poem with its plaintive roar!

No attempt it made to hide, I’d be respectful if it tried,

At least to speak some semblance of the rhyming that had come before.

“Mrrrrrrrraagghhh” bore no resemblance to the rhyming that had come before!

Still it scuffed my hardwood floor!

I rose and shouted out with vigour at the filthy, rotting figure,

“Get thee hence, or wipe your feet before you wreck my polished floor!”

No reply the creature offered, though its hands were stiffly proffered,

As it came upon me with its every feature dripping gore,

Lurching ‘cross the walnut burls with every feature dripping gore,

Moaning as it did before.

I expected something shocking, but this zombie shambled, mocking

My desire for discourse with a spectre born in days of yore;

No charisma had this being: speech retarded, eyes unseeing.

Would my dreams of gothic glamour be just figments evermore?

All my darkest, rarest wishes left as figments evermore?

Quoth the zombie, “Brrrraaaaiiiinnnss.”

The carcass reached my wingback chair and groped its fingers through my hair,

Then craned its head towards my throat whilst opening its fetid maw.

I fought against its ghastly fumbling, but my stew pot went a-tumbling,

Spilling all the chunky meat upon my lovely polished floor.

Another horrid mark upon my lovely, lovely hardwood floor!

Then the zombie ceased its chore.

Releasing me from certain death my foe let out a startled breath

And pounced upon the juicy morsels that lay strewn upon the floor.

Though my mind was left confused no skin was pierced, only bruised,

Then I perceived a look of satisfaction that creature wore,

Licking stew from walnut planks begat the grin the creature wore!

Quoth the zombie, “Mmmoooore”

Though the corpse was quasi-rhyming, still my anger kept on climbing,

Caused by stains defacing my beloved newly-polished floor,

So I grabbed a white-hot poker, and with just one single stroke a

Chunk exploded from its head and thoughtless muck began to pour,

Cracked its skull and down it shuddered as the muck began to pour.

Then I smashed its head once more.

Soon its moans reduced to silence, prompted by my acts of violence,

As the zombies brains were scattered like confetti on my floor.

Then my thoughts turned cold and bitter, fifty dollars down the shitter,

All because this silly bugger lurched in through my chamber door,

Didn’t wipe its feet before it shambled through my chamber door,

Seeping pus and dripping gore.

Soon the dread began to fill me, as I knew my wife would kill me,

When she saw the outcome of my battles from the night before,

No more nights out drinking, bragging; just a stream of endless nagging,

Nagging me to clean the bits of zombie from her polished floor.

How I wish I lay in splatters on her bloody hardwood floor,

To rest in peace - forevermore.

(by staplehead)

It appears parody's all I'm good for at the moment. My sincere condolences to Mr. Poe.

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I really couldn't feel the flow this month. My writing is absolute shit.

The boy awoke in a pile of his own filth. Somehow he’d soiled himself – unfortunate, but nothing a three-year-old didn’t do occasionally when he fell short of the toilet or had a particularly scary dream. If he’d had such a dream, he couldn’t remember it now. To be honest everything that had happened recently escaped him, as if a giant monster had swept down and taken a solid chomp from the last few hours of his life. He sat on the lounge carpet, his stool soft and oddly comforting in his nappy-pants, looking from blank television screen to net curtains, from net curtains to the door and back to the television. After a while he started to cry.

Nobody came to pick Stuart up.

His sobs dried to short, violent shudders. These gave way to a certain restless blankness. He couldn’t decide whether to stand or stay seated, and would struggle to his feet before falling with a plop back on his rump. Some of the shit had risen to the base of his spine; he felt it drying there, holding his clothes to him in a rancid brown bond. He tried crying again, but it seemed as though his tears had dried up for good, and soon he was reduced to a low, hitched keening.

The light that fell through the curtains was dimming. Night would soon be there.

He stood, uneasy and uneven, and toddled through the lounge door into the hallway, and from there, into the kitchen.

There was somebody there, sat slumped over on a chair by the kitchen table. They moaned and dribbled white slime down their cheek, and they looked sort of like Stuart’s mummy except that in mummy’s eyes there would be happiness and love and a sparkle that made Stuart giggle and feel warm inside, and here there was nothing but a dim sheen, a harsh look that made Stuart back away from the thing. The thing half-heartedly stretched an arm out toward him; he dodged to one side, almost falling over in the process. The fingers looked strange, shrunken, giving way to too much bone and too much fingernail. The skin was rough and tinted pale blue, and a far cry away from his mummy’s soft pink fingers, fingers that would caress his cheeks, stroke his hair and tickle him until he squealed.

Scared, Stuart navigated the table, giving the thing a wide berth. It grumbled low in its throat, but otherwise paid no attention to him.

The back door was on the other side of the kitchen. It, too, had net curtains across it, filtering the darkening light from outside to gloom. His daddy should be home by now. His daddy always came home from work before it became dark outside.

There was a key protruding from beneath the door handle, and when Stuart reached up and tugged on it, it fell clattering onto the doormat. ‘Welcome’, the doormat said in large brown letters.

Stretching his hands up as far as they would go, Stuart pulled on the door handle, and with a click the door swung open.

It was cold outside, cold and bright in a minty toothpaste kind of a way, and there was a curious green glow to the sky, as though stacks of carnival glow sticks lay just over the horizon. Stuart’s parents had taken him to a fair just a month ago, and although the memories of the rides, the organ music, the sweet candyfloss and stalls selling bootleg stuffed cartoon characters grew dim in his memory he remembered the glow sticks, the batons of blue, green, yellow neon, hung in loops around necks, waved in the air like fireworks.

Fireworks flew overhead. They flitted here and there, mingling with the star trails and thin threads of evening cloud. One flew close hovering low over the house, shooting a spear of light down into Stuart’s back garden. He laughed and reached up for it, and then it was gone, moving down the neighbourhood and out into the city beyond, humming a low, throbbing tone as it went.

Stuart’s arm hurt. It wasn’t a sharp pain, but it was enough to make him pull his sleeve back to look. In the green dusky light he could see small white things moving, crawling and writhing in a wide gash on his arm. They were stained red with blobs of glistening dark matter. He plucked one up for a better look. It clung to his skin – or what lay beneath his skin – so he tugged at it. When it came free it writhed between his fingertips, and he dropped it on the grass where he lost sight of it. Dim memories of his father’s fishing trips lurked at the back of his mind. Pots of writhing mealworms, all tangled up in the strawberry jam that lay embedded in his arm. Mealy jam, he thought.

Looking through the slats of his back fence he could see more children, roughly his age, wandering the road between the houses. They shuffled along, dragging their heels in an awkward way that made it look as though their ankles were broken. He heard them crying for their mummies and daddies. Above the crying came a familiar rumbling sound: a car was coming.

With the sound came a rich smell like roast beef gravy and chocolate all rolled into one. It made him feel hungry.

Daddy! It was daddy, come to take him away from the thing in the kitchen, the wailing children, the fireworks in the sky and the strange green light. How he longed to see his daddy.

A door slamming. Footsteps on the driveway. Daddy calling out mummy’s name, his name. Soon he’d find the back door open and come out to see him, and Stuart would let himself be swept into daddy’s arms where he’d kiss him, and cuddle him.

And maybe, just maybe, bite him so that he had the mealy jam, too.

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Okay.. This is the first attempt at anything which isn't a technical book since I was at school. :(

So this was what my world had become. From my vantage point of the first floor balcony I could see across the ground floor concourse safe in the knowledge that unless I shouted, screamed or caused some disturbance that I would remain anonymous. No-one in their world even cared I was there. I looked out at an abyss, across a see of head looking but not seeing, not one holding anyone’s gaze for more than a moment.

Below me the crowd doesn’t run or walk it trundles. They trundle, the people, if that’s what they still are. They shuffle across the tiled floors not lifting their feet more than a feathers width, navigating the steel and plastic furniture through a series of bumps. Human pinball machines where everyone is someone else’s flipper try to find a way to end the motion yet knowing in themselves that they need to keep there bodies mobile or they have failed. I can see that they all want to go somewhere but the hope that a journey brings has been lost

And the noise! There are no words, just murmur. The sound of thousands of mouths which have ran out of things to say but need to still have purpose. It’s the noise of static in the middle of the night when the telly is nothing more than a light as its snow hisses in a hypnotic way to itself while you sleep. Occasionally a sound can be heard across the drone, the voice of god like being with the power to bring an escape for some and misery for others. I can’t tell which yet as I haven’t been infected by the trance. I’m safe for the moment.

I stare down at the faces. I look as best as I can, each one has the same vacant look; all stuck in a limbo where even time has no meaning. Already I can tell them apart. I see those, the first ones to succumb to the stupor. They look old but only in the way you get wearing the same clothes for a long time. You can see those in t-shirts where clean and crisp at some point but now the stains and crumples have appeared. I see ladies who I imagine smiling to themselves when they last left the house in they best work clothes now slumped, jacketless with their blouse half out of there skirt and hair flattened. Faded make up exposing faces.

Not all are like this; a steady flow of new bloods approach like a tricking stream. They have the crisp t-shirts and smart blouses and a look of invunrability about them but I’ve been watching, I know what will happen! They’ve breezed past the warnings because they are untouchable, but I can see then, I’ve seen people like them before. I see them move through the swell, the horde moving aside as the fresh march on. I see the lane start to narrow. From up here I can see the funnelling happen. I see the unknowing ones pause and look up at the lights now surrounded by the affected, the infected and see watch the hope fade from their faces. It takes seconds and then there gone. Lost into the mass; another soul with destinations to reach and no path to follow.

Could I help them? Could I have been the one that shouted “STOP! Wait!”

While I stood and watched these people walk on I knew the truth. It wasn’t that I was willing to sacrifice them to save myself; I knew the truth. I knew that whatever I tried, whatever I did, I would be pushed aside. Who would believe me when I said leaving the safety of the first floor would bring despair? Would it have saved just one?

No!

For the truth was simple. We had reached the point that there was no turning back. We where all destined to be part of the affected. and for me, the time of watching was over. I’ve stalled to long as it was and now, despite my inner voices screaming not to join them, not to become part of the swell, to run, to stay, to hide, I find can’t fight the urges or the clocks any longer.

I reach into my jacket pocket and drawn out my headphones. All other noises are hidden as I’m washed over with a flood of music. I enter my world where I’m submerged but not protected. The notes stimulate my body just enough to throw my bag across my shoulder and step towards the escalator.

How long will my mind last? The steps move and carry me down.

My hand fidgets with the buttons of my mobile to send a message of farewell to loved ones before I too become a zombie in airport departures.

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Sadly I missed this because I miscalculated the last day of the month. I was genuinely planning on writing something in one fevered sitting at around 11pm tonight, but now my plans are in ruins. Still, at least this means I'm guaranteed not to be choosing next month's word and won't be responsible for any further whining from Narcissus' corner.

I am voting for Staplehead because I cannot and will not resist a well-done parody of The Raven. That'd be my weak spot if I was a boss character. I bet I've just posted a massive MGS4 spoiler there.

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My vote goes to Vic Viper. It was the only piece to have any real emotional resonance for me, although it wasn't necessarily the best written from a technical standpoint. It was such a lovely idea, I keep thinking about it.

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I'm torn between Danster's entry, which was Cyclopean in it's greatness, and Staplehead's frankly brilliant Raven parody.

Hmmm...

Staplehead gets my vote.

And Zok glad you enjoyed my attempt, I think I may keep on practising writing and posting work in here. Plus your entry, along with all the rest, was fantastic.

Cheers.

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Couldn't get into it this month. Knowing how little time I'd have, I wrote and posted the first thing that came to mind, without it going through the usual protracted editing and re-write process. Subsequently I hated it, and only the fact that people might have already taken the time to read it stopped me from withdrawing it.

My vote - Narcissus

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Vic Viper - Nice twist.

vegetables - Loved the narrative.

Staplehead - Clever.

donpeartree - I liked your character.

johnjwaters - Fucking hilarious. I laughed. Out loud.

Narcissus - Almost too real.

These were my favorites.

My vote goes to: Narcissus

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What a month; almost nineteen thousand words between us, guys. These threads are becoming a commitment! Read all the entries again in one sitting and have thoroughly enjoyed the thread. Feedback on everything I've read follows.

Danster - strong, sturdy style and one that instantly grabbed me. Very reminiscent of an older style of writing and one that I adore. You could write the back of cereal boxes and I'd be enthralled, I expect. I'd agree that it seemed to slip into more casual language at times but it was still an awesome, awesome read.

MankeyMan - An introspective, brooding journey into delirium.

donpeartree - A nice exploration on the last thoughts of the undead. Ironically very 'human'.

vegefables - an original take on the word. Lots of messages and ideas flitting to and fro in the piece, all expertly communicated through only the dialogue of two strong, well-defined characters.

Sarah Sundae - Another original take. Dark, morbid stuff. Sinister and mad. Would have voted for you but you haven't returned my CDs yet.

Chase - Your humble muse is not worthy of such tribute. Bursting with personality and dancing with humour with a strong backbone of identity throughout. Whatever that means!

JLR - 1'300 words in half an hour is no mean feat! Could perhaps have done with a little longer in the oven as the tense staggers around like a zombie in a rink of cooking oil. Felt over-described in places, which is a problem I have myself. Technical. A firm ending.

hombre - One of the best entries. A nice snapshot of a surreal moment; the battle of two collided lives and existences of one person coming to its conclusion.

Donkey - A warm, sleepy scene with the encroaching memory of a horror.

Jolly - Brilliant show of self-awareness in a dying mind.

Vic Viper - Brilliant first entry. Struck more than one chord; I loved it, and I'd agree that it paints a picture that stays in the mind.

Emir - The idea of bones creaking made me shudder. Very visual, perhaps influenced from your mentioned focus on reading comics?

johnjwaters - Surreal, had a certain Hitchhiker's Guide vibe to it, in the situation as opposed to the style. As always I'm a fan.

Zok - So nearly got my vote. So inviting in the way it's written and has such a consistent pace. 'Alive', too.

bastion - So glad you decided to post this, it's witty, very well-written, and gloriously self-depreciating. It's a scribble that'll stay with me. I also much prefer it to your usual style.

staplehead - I've already riled Rowan enough this month so I'm going for the hattrick by telling you I have absolutely no experience of the literature you're parodying. On its own merits it's an admirable, inspired, hilarious, fresh piece. I'm sure I'm missing half its brilliance.

Campfire - Masterful description. I thought the flow of the piece was very good and nothing stuck at as poorly fitting.

Teagon - Another brilliant first entry. A fearful observation of an alien crowd.

After all that waffle, nobody surpassed Danster for me.

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JLR - 1'300 words in half an hour is no mean feat! Could perhaps have done with a little longer in the oven as the tense staggers around like a zombie in a rink of cooking oil. Felt over-described in places, which is a problem I have myself. Technical. A firm ending.

I really struggle with tense in general. I think it's from never 'practising' English properly, and instead writing the occasional piece as a hobby. I should read up on it more, educate myself on technicalities of the English language - I've just never bothered to do so.

Also, I've decided that my vote goes to Bastion - because I bum him.

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Vic Viper's story was very good, and would have got my vote if it wasn't for staplehead's amazing interpretation of The Raven. There's not much I can say about it that hasn't been mentioned already. Just brilliant.

My vote - staplehead

But props to Vic Viper and also vegetables, as they were close runners-up for me. Overall, the standard of entries was very high and the vast majority have been a pleasure to read. Looking forward to next [this] month's topic. :wub:

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Narcissus gets my vote this month. I would write more but to be honest I've wasted enough GTA IV time reading. May edit this in the next week with more on my favourites from this month.

-------------------------

Edit:

Danster – liked the feel to it, the and the whole name pronounciation thing. Spent ages at the beginning wondering how its said out loud.

Penitent – Thought it dragged a little in the middle but a solid piece :wub:

Mankyman – Nicely written but the story never clicked with me to be honest, never felt the emotion.

Donpeartree – Enjoyed the piece, thoughts of a dying zombie. Was a little confused on perspective (thought someone was there caring for Dean for a minute) but that could just be me.

Vegetables – I have to say I love the concept and you can easily tell the characters apart without the need for italics. Brilliant piece

Narcissus – This story well and truly freaked me out big time. So well written I was gripped and felt all kinds of sick afterwards. Hence the VOTE.

Sarah Sundae – Character of the father well captured, and the sons indifference seems to indicate this isn’t the first time he’s heard the story. Nicely captured without having to say it out loud. Endings a little sick but then again the topic is Zombie.

Chase – Your, shall we say, different take on the writers corner inspired the story I wrote before the one I posted. It was about me, Concrete Donkey trying to come up with an original idea on zombies while discussing with my brother how hard it is do something original when its all been done before. Then I realised I haven’t actually seen many zombie movies so I wouldn’t know what I was talking about. Still, none of that tells you what I thought of your story but I needed to something other than the ‘interesting take on things’ I wrote last month. Nice last line.

JLR – Story really draws you in to the character and the situation. Liked the twist but can’t quite see the zombie connection.

Hombre Hompson – Loved the whole role reversal thing, the masses vs. the zombies. Very well told as always.

Jolly – I always enjoy your writing and this was no exception. Haunting vision of the future that I hope can’t be described as realistic. Very well told, capturing my attention with the first two words.

Vic Viper – Very good opening entry. Well told and cared about the characters. Liked the idea of the silent temporary un-dead with a good twist to it at the end. One of the few instances where dream sequences are justified.

Emir – Apology accepted. Only kidding. Good description of fight with a nice humorous ending. Not many of them this month.

Johnjwaters – That first sentence is quite a mouthful. Very outlandish which isn’t a bad thing but the flow to the story, especially in parts, felt a little rushed. I’m not sure that’s the effect you were going for but it doesn’t feel like the story could be adequately told in 1000 words and wouldn’t mind seeing a slightly extended version if you wrote one.

ZOK – Well told and good at making the reader identify with these kinds of butchers.

Bastion – Don’t know what to say about that ending. Didn’t see it coming for one thing. Good story with a lesson for us all.

Staplehead – Amazing doesn’t even come close to describe your entry, with the intro being a nice touch.

Campfire Burning – Love the idea of seeing events from the perspective of a child and it was really well told as well. I think this is my favourite story I’ve read of yours so far.

Teagon – Really well told with very vivid descriptions.

My story I don’t know where it came from. I was in the middle of writing a story about how I couldn’t think of an original zombie story when I suddenly switched to writing what I posted. I should have spent a little more time polishing it up, but this month has been pretty busy for me (well if you call non-stop sessions of Civilization IV and now GTA IV being busy)

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My vote goes to bastion and stapleheads would have got it, but in a way it was too polished and I loved the school boy wink ending of Bastion's. Narcisuss's would ahve got it but I don't like scary shit :P

Everyone else, good work!

danster: Loved this, captured an admittedly well used style but pulled up with a great and plausibe story.

Really liked this one a lot more than last months,I don't think it needs the lead in at the start though,

it stands find without a preamble.

Pentinent :wub:

Mankey Man- "We shouldn't have stopped running" is a great line, but the rest just wasn't literary enough for me,

and all faded into the background against the part at the end which I felt was a lot more developed.

donpeartree - Again colloquial, but in this one I felt it had more of a point as there were

quite a few things to chuckle at, "particularlary the "what came out was more like braaaainsss"

Enjoyable.

vegetables - set us up with self deprecating poppycock then produce a really well observed funny thing

that I'll admit, does leech some pratchett ideas but brings them a lot more up to date. I think this is my favourite of the

off the cuff ones so far cus it gets the tone perfect.

Narcisus: Terrifying fantastic and mature. Made my throat itch.

sunda: "like a rampant xylophonist" , I think it needs more , I dunno, structure, and while the end

and the fact he's telling it to his son (and his sons seeming indifference to it) is gruesome,

it doesn't seem to have the edge that narcissus's did.

chase - developing a theme in wicked meta-stories here, ""I could write better stories than those with my penis tied behind my back.", he retorts"

oh man lolol.

jlr: second story that's ended with a sort of woman hateful corpse, an okay story, an ok twist but didn't set my heart a pounding.

hombre: Very enjoyable, a delicate story and a lovely sense of calm about it

concrete: hmmm nice twist, but a few cliches and some punctuation errors threw me a bit.

Jolly: Started getting very angry around the time "it's" showed up...Felt like it was trying to make

a point but I'm not sure it ever got there really.

Note people who post this month and don't offer feedback to others won't be getting feedback

from me next month. I never give too much anyway so it's not big loss, but I think it's important people do.

vic viper: the same dream every night, that's not an old or tired phrase... I dunno, dream sequences don't really do it for me.

Emir - I sort of love the double exclamations marks here, but I think I love them despite the story, they should parody it to hell

but I get the feeling you used them seriously. Sort of funny if rushed ending.

zok: a great first entry, good work with the word.

bastion: lolol oh man. Twist of the month.

staplehead - oh man, a change of pace, this is awesome.

campfire: cute, sorry, it's getting late and my powers of criticism are failing

teagon: shoulda read chase's harsh story about cliched zombies as lazy first, so I'm giving this a "just adequate" rating.

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Note people who post this month and don't offer feedback to others won't be getting feedback

from me next month. I never give too much anyway so it's not big loss, but I think it's important people do.

Are we expected to comment on all the pieces, or just the one we vote for? I'm not sure what to do!

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