More to Me Than HIV

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More to Me Than HIV

First published in Gscene July 2020 For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being           Read more

More to Me Than HIV: GScene post Aug 2020

More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.  When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more

More to Me Than HIV: first published in GScene July 2020

For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library. For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being             diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more

Gothic

Writing Every day in October. Filthy Weather, Part 2

Writing everyday in October.
Filthy Weather, Part 2

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The next day despite it being even hotter then the day before, Barry lay feverishly in bed, with the blankets pulled up around him. Genie walked in to the bedroom with a glass of water which only made Barry wretch. He then calmed himself enough to say that he literally could not stomach anything.
To make matters worse, Barry was a hopeless patient; by midday Gina had enough of Barry’s moaning, made all the worse as she was unable to do anything to alleviate his symptoms beyond damping his brow with a damp cloth and wiping a way the gunk that kept building up in the corners of his eyes.
When Barry started to dry heave again, Gina apologised as she rushed out of the bedroom saying she needed to get some air. Gina was pleased to find none of the other neighbours were out on the patch of grass at the back of the flats. As Gina settled into the deckchair she notice the neighbours on the ground floor had the windows shut and curtains pulled tight which suited her just fine. The last thing she wanted was small talk with the strange mother and son combo who lived there.

Sitting back, Gina felt her body relax. High above from one of the flat windows, Gina heard a radio DJ, giving the usual cheesy chat.
“Well, I hope whatever you’re doing you’re making the most of the weather as we have reports that rain is soon on its way, next up is a tune for all you lad-ies. Here are those, Weather Girls and It’s Raining Men.”
Genie had her eyes closed as she sang along to the music, it was then she suddenly became aware of the unaccustomed sound of seagulls. Just as she looked up she saw the sky turn grey as hundreds of seagulls flew high up over the roofs. As the birds passed it looked like they were pulling behind them a glimmering golden carpet. It was in fact an unusual cloud formation; it looked to Genie as if it was chasing the birds out of the sky. As the massive cloud eclipsed the blue heaven, sun rays pierced the cloud causing it to sparkle.

“What is it?”

Genie turned to one of her other neighbours and her two children who had popped out on hearing the increasing row the seagulls were making overhead.
Gina stood open mouthed, unable to give any answer that would have made sense as the sight in the sky was beyond any comprehension she could think off. It was then Genie heard Barry’s dry cough rattling out of the window from above. Normally her instincts would have been to go to his aid, but she found herself transfixed by the gold sheet that was now covering most of the sky above.

“It’s beautiful” shouted the little girl standing next to her mother. Genie could only stand and nod in agreement; the intolerable hot weather had all been worth it.
Genie suddenly became aware that all the neighbours, except Barry had come outside, standing in their small back yards as they marvelled at nature’s gift to them. The birds had all but been chased away and the skies had turned truly heavenly.
Not a sound could be heard as people got out of their cars and marvelled at the magnificent sky that continued to sparkle a deeper hue of gold.
From down the street someone started to clap, which was followed by someone else then an another and then another until it seemed that everyone standing in their backyards where applauding the magical gift in the sky.
What happened took everybody by complete surprise, it was as if the sound of the had reached high up and touched the gold cloud which in turn broke up and showered everyone below with its gold. At first everyone threw their arms and faces up, welcoming the refreshing downpour, relived to be soaked after the amazing heat wave. However, the pleasure soon turned to horror, the rain slid down the skin leaving an oily film; but worse, so much worse was its unexpected reaction. Within seconds of making contact with its worshippers, what was gold upon the touch quickly dissolved into a brown acid burning sludge. Where only moments ago a sense of joy had filled the street was replaced with the sounds of agonising screams.
Genie ran into the bathroom, stripped off her clothes and jumped in the shower frantically scrubbing herself. At first the relief of having the clean water rush over her gave Genie much relief but she suddenly became aware that the waters consistence had changed and the same gold/brown globs of liquid where now chugging out of the shower head. Distraught, Genie jumped out of the shower, ran into the kitchen and emptied what water was left in the kettle and water jug in the fridge over her. Hearing the commotion, Barry had pulled himself out of bed and started at Genie as she grabbed at the tae-towels, pulling the mess from her skin. Although exhausted himself, Barry grabbed another tea-towel and helped Genie get clean while the filthy weather continued to hammer against the side of the flat.

*

After a fitful night sleep, Barry turned to the alarm clock, the time said seven a.m. and yet it was still dark outside as the rain continued to pour down.
“Genie, you awake?” Croaked Barry. Genie groaned an unconvincing “yes” before turning her back and pulling the covers with her. Barry got out of bed and cupped his hands against the windowpane but could not see beyond the greasy sheen on the other side. Although Barry had swallowed the sea water, he had managed to get rid of most of it over the last twenty-four hours and felt a little better, but Genie had been really effected by the downpour, although she had managed to get the slime of her skin pretty quickly, Barry knew she was still feeling the phycological effects that were much harder to wash off.
Without thinking, Barry said, “Genie do you want a drink of wate…?”

Genie’s hand shot up before Barry had a chance to finish saying anything more which in turn made Barry feel just as bad.
As he made his way down the stairs, Barry became aware of a strong smell, as he reached the bottom of the stairs he gingerly opened the door onto the communal hallway then quickly slammed his hand over mouth and gasped. During the night the rain had seeped into the entrance hall, covering the floor with an oily brown shimmer that stank of nothing on this earth, but within the slime was movement. Barry didn’t want to look too closely, but the creatures looked a like large silverfish thrashing around across what had once been the hall carpet.
Barry ran back into the flat, unable to control his tears, to Barry it really felt like it was the end of the world. As he stood outside the bedroom, he managed to compose himself enough to walk back into the bedroom and was surprised to see Genie sitting up in bed. Genie looked terrible, but Barry pulled on his best smile and said, feeling a bit better love, you look a bit better”.
Of course, Genie and barry both knew the lie that hung between them, but to admit the truth was to much to bare and so Genie nodded and said that she did feel a little bit better.

Barry, continued to lie and said, once it stops raining we can all get the neighbours together and give the whole place a clear up.
Again, Genie nodded knowing full well that that was not going to happen. in the last five years of living here the only neighbours they had any contact with was that vile neighbour Ronny on the top floor and a brief conversation with that woman and her kids yesterday in the backyard before the sky had fallen in.
Genie managed to pull herself out of bed and went over to the window and cupped her hands against the pane. In truth, Genie could not see anything, but the cool glass against her head gave her some relief. As she stared into the nothing a bolt of lightning lit up the outside world, making Genie scream.
Turning to Barry, Genie looked ghostly white. Barry tried to askj her if she was okay and ran over to the window to see what had spooked Genie so much, it couldn’t have been just the lightning but when he cupped his hands over the window all he could see was the same brown/gold sludge pulling itself down the window.

Barry continued to stare at the window without turning said, what is it babe? What did you see?”
Barry then turned to see that Genie was no longer in the bedroom. Thinking that she must have gone to the bathroom or kitchen, Barry returned to the window, hoping the lightning would strike again. After a couple of minutes of looking at the same nothingness, Barry went to the bathroom to see if Genie was okay but she wasn’t in the bathroom or the kitchen of the lounge.
It was then that Barry saw the front door was ajar. Barry threw the door open and saw the receding footprints of Genie bare feet disappearing in the hall way sludge.

Glenn Stevens’s photo.

Posted on by admin in Brighton East Sussex, Flash Blogs, Flash fiction, Gothic, Gothic horror, Horror, sci-fi, short, short story, urban gothic, Writing everyday in October Leave a comment

Writing Everyday in October: Telephone.

IMG_3655Telephone.

The toilet had been a place to step out of the engulfing fog more then anything else. Thankfully it wasn’t one of those rank smelling ones Jess found herself in, in fact it looked like it had only been recently opened to the public.
Not wanting to look like a creep, Jess stepped into a cubical, tipped the toilet seat down with the tip of her shoe, and sat down. She was about to get her phone out of her bag when she saw a phone number neatly written at the top of the door. Jess paused as she went to call her parents to tell then that this time she had left George for good this time, but instead she found herself punching in the numbers from the toilet door.

It was only when the phone started to ring that she realised what she was doing and hung up. She then scrolled through her list of M’s until she got to Mum & Dad and pressed dial but only got the engaged tone.
Thinking how silly it was to be sitting in a public toilet, Jess stood up when she heard someone else come in the toilet. Without thinking why, Jess called out, “Hello?” but no one answered. She tried again, but whoever it was ignored her call and went into the cubical next to her.

Jess sat back down again and leaned forward enough to see a pair of black leather boots with a spiked heel through the partition.
Jess stared at the boots when suddenly her phone rang. Jumping up, she rummaged through her bag and saw it was, Mum & Dad calling. Now with someone else in ear shot, Jess felt really conspicuous as she pressed answer and whispered, “Hello.”

It was her mum on the other end, “Jess? Is that you? It’s a very bad line.”
Again, Jess found it difficult to speak up, without really knowing why. “Yes, mum, it’s me. I’ve left George.”

Jess’s mum raised her voice, even though it wasn’t necessary, “Sorry darling, You’ll have to speak up. George called said you and he had had an argument and that he was worried. He said you had taken the car. Jess, are you there?”
Jess raised her voice above a whisper as she heard the person next door move, their heels clicking on the tiled floor, “Yes, mum, i’m…” before she could continue, her phone bleeped telling her there was a call waiting. Pulling the phone from her ear, Jess looked to see the number was from the toilet wall, without thinking, Jess pressed answer. At the same time the person next door left their cubical and tapped on Jess’s door.

Jess held the phone to her ear, a voice said, “It’s time Jess, come on, i’m waiting for you outside.

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Writing everyday in October: Room Number 4

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Okay, this is the plan to write a short, short story for fifteen minutes each morning. Some will be complete, some, I’ll return to either later in the month or for a different project.

 

 

 

First up,

Room 4

The receptionist to the little guest house looked up and said, “I’m afraid only number four is free.”

Before I had a chance to question her concern, a man, her husband I guessed, was by my side. He picked up my suitcase and nodded for me to follow him.
As we reached the top of the first floor he looked down at my key fob and said, “Oh”.
There was a bit of a pause before he added, “Your in number four.”
I jokingly asked if number four was haunted but he just shook his head and said, no, that will be number six”.
I was about to ask what was wrong with number four but had a sudden pang in the pit of my stomach.
A cold sweat form on my top lip as the husband gripped the door-handle to number four and pushed the door open.
A smell of fresh laundry and soap filled my nostrils. The husband hurried across the room, flicked the light switch, hurried back while ushering me in. he then stood in just outside of the threshold and said very quickly, “The bathroom is just down the hall, tea and coffee making facilities are in the corner, breakfast is served between 6:30 and 9:a.m, if you need anything either my wife or I will be on call at reception until then, a night-porter, Derrick, will see to your needs thereafter”.
The husband then took in a deep breath and hurried off back down the hall.
Dusk was thickly disguised by the thick fog that had been building up all day and was now wrapped firmly around the guesthouse. All thoughts of checking out the nightlife were put on hold. Besides, what I really wanted to do was a soak in the bath, something I only allowed myself when staying someplace else and an early night ready for tomorrows funeral.

With my small case unpacked I grabbed my toiletries and made my way down the hall. I had expected to hear the voices or televisions in any of the three rooms I passed, but each was silent. I checked my watch, 8pm, too late for dinner, perhaps the other guests were down in the main reception room having drinks. I thought I might join them, but I really wasn’t in the mood for small talk. So instead locked the bathroom door behind me and ran the bath.

While the water filled, I checked myself in the mirror, the family are going to comment that I’ve got older, but then if I have then so will they.

Turning of the bath taps, I quickly undressed and gingerly dipped my toe in the bath, the water was on the right side of hot, the water stinging my flesh as it engulfed my skin. I let out a silent, “ohh-ahh-ohh” as I lower myself into the water until I was submerged up to my neck when I became aware of someone on the other side of the door. It was then I noticed that someone had slipped a piece of paper under the door.

Although I was in fully immersed, I knew I could not settle until I had read the note. Pulling myself out of the bath, I quickly dried my hands and pick the note up. Someone had scribbled with some haste, ‘Leave room 4 while you can!!!!’

The four explanation marks seemed a bit excessive,  but still they unnerved me. I turn back to the bath, pulled the plug, wrapped a towel around me, grabbed my toiletry bag and scooted back to my room.

to be continued

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Creating Filth. (A Blanche Street Tale)

The making of ‘Filth’.

 

 

http://www.angusstewart.me

Photo by Angus Stewart
http://www.angusstewart.me

In my short story, Filth I wanted to play with the idea of how we can all be prisoners of convention. As a starting point I revisited Charlotte Brontë’s Jayne Eyre and in particular, the character of Bertha Mason, the first wife of wife Edward Rochester, who is confined to the attic as she is deemed insane. (a brilliant reimagining of Bertha’s side of the story was written in the novella, Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys.) I also re-read (The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gillman). The protagonist, Jane is also driven insane by her husband, John, who insists she takes ‘rest cure’ by doing nothing while confined in a room at the top of the house, covered in the aforementioned yellow wallpaper: a motif that I take a literary nod to in my story. “Black spores flowed from the trunk’s keyhole, clustering together. In no time the chair, windows and yellow wallpaper were completely swallowed.

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I was further inspired by Perkin Gillman’s short story. Just as Perkin Gillman made something as innocent as the yellow wallpaper frightening, I wanted the dust in my story to become just as menacing. Equally, I was interested in using this device to trap my main character. Unlike Jane in the Yellow Wallpaper who becomes imprisoned by her husband, I wanted my character to become imprisoned by her own unrealistic desire to keep her home as impossibly pristine as possible, with her constant fear of dust never far from her mind.

fit51391diviantart.com

By Charlotte Perkins Gillman

The idea first came about with thoughts of how back in the day so many homes would have a ‘best room’ that was only used on special occasions, like Christmas or for when an unexpected guest, usually a posh relative would come round and for some reason needed to be impressed.

Just like Bertha, my character was driven insane by her surroundings, but unlike Jane, she would be constantly on the go, mainly cleaning or worrying about dust and more importantly what the neighbours would think, particularly when a mysterious, filthy trunk that appears in her home.

“There was no way she could ask any of her neighbours to help remove it, they would only gossip that her home wasn’t so pristine after all.”

From here on in the main details of the story began to form, but I couldn’t think of a suitable name to fit the character I had in my head. I tried out a few names: Charlotte? Joyce? Chrissy? Judy? Susan? Nope, none of them fitted in with what I thought she looked like and so I turned to my trusty, Wordsworth Dictionary Book of Names. It was then I found the name, Nettie; for me the name conjured up images of something being caught, which fitted in perfectly with my character’s constant need to capturer an dispose of dust.
As I progressed with the story, I realised I had the making of another story about a trunk that I had been struggling to make work; the story would eventually become the Brighton based story, Dead Famous that appears at the end of the Blanche Street collection

Next Saturday 22rd November 2014: Frank and the Faust influence.  

 

You can download my short story, Filth, as a sample page for free and buy the e-book Blanche Street (where all the neighbours are a nightmare) by clicking the link below.

www.amazon.co.uk/Blanche-Street-Where-neighbours-nightmare-ebook/dp/B00OWFK1SA

The Yellow Wallpaper (short story by Charlotte Perkin Gilman

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Gothic Literature: A Snap Shot

The 18th Century saw the birth of novel. There was already a readership for autobiographies, journals and memoirs; however, the novel brought a new style to the emerging middle classes. Daniel Defoe is credited as the founder of the English novel, with Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). Both novels were written with a sense of realism and human dilemma which proved extremely popular to his readership.

By the middle of the 18th Century, Horace Walpole: English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician was also keen fanatic of all things Gothic, and is acknowledged as the person who invented the Gothic novel, with his tomb, The Castle of Otranto (1764). In the first edition Walpole claimed the story was a translation based on a found manuscript dated from 1529. Once the Novel was received positively, Walpole would confess that the work was from his own imagination.

For the 21st Century reader,Walpole’s story lends themselves more to an episode of Scooby-doo, with his over the top characters and cliché plot devices. These include the family curse, a haunted castle, and of course, a maiden in distress. What is interesting to note are that many of the elements that Walpole created are reimagined in many modern-day Gothic novels. For example Stephen King’s The Shinning (1977) replaces the haunted house on the hill with an out of season hotel. The main protagonist, Jack Torrance, becomes possessed by the hotel’s curse, while his wife becomes a Twenty-First Century maiden in distress.

Although common now, it would take a few more years before the Gothic genre would truly be embraced by the reading public. In fact it would be another thirty years before the next celebrated Gothic tale would make any impact. This time the tale was penned by celebrated writer Ann Radcliffe and her equally over the top Gothic offering, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). Once again a young woman is holed up in a cumbering castle, this time her tormentor is her evil aunt and the aunt’s lover. Radcliffe already had a large female following among the upper-classes and the newly emerging middle-classes. It was these readers that would champion the gothic style, embracing the high (camp) drama, knowing that by the final page the hero and heroine would both live happily every after.

Two year later, Matthew Lewis would release his own Gothic tale, titled The Monk (1796). In comparison to what had come before, Lewis’ novel was more explicit in its subject matter, but as with all good Gothic tales, it made its mark. At the time, literary giant Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that Lewis was, “the offspring of no common genius”

            Around this period a selection of artist abandoned the traditional landscapes and portraits for something darker. One of the most iconic paintings to embrace the Gothic elements came from Henry Fuseli and his 1782 painting, The Nightmare. The painting depicts a young woman draped provocatively on a bed. Sitting upon her stomach sits a ‘Mara’, an evil spirit that brings nightmares to those it visits.

These images of sexuality and horror are key to many Gothic tales, particularly in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, were ‘the other’ contaminates the innocent Mina and her friend Lucy. Interestingly, the character of Mina is less submissive, but it is the gallant male protagonists who once again save the day.

In the 21st Century the Gothic tradition is as popular as ever, with contemporary writers like Stephen King, Clive Barker and Anne Rice showing the dark side of the modern world, where the monsters no longer live far away in castles, but may just be in the house next-door.

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Fiction & Books, film, Flash Blogs, Gothic horror, Leisure, Literature Leave a comment

Gothic Read.

While you’re out in the sun, you might fancy sitting down for a read. For those who like a touch of gothic fiction or equally want to delve into a tale that explores feminist studies, then I’d strongly recommended The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. First published in 1892, the story explores one woman’s battle to take control of her wellbeing, while trapped in a patriarchal household.  Having been prescribed the rest cure, (the same cure had been prescribed to Gilman by her physician, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell; the result was this short tale.) Dispite her wishes both her brother and husband coerce the narrator to stay in the at the top of the house. Forbidden to partake in any stimulus, she writes in secret, spilling out her inner frustrations regarding her husband, her home life and lack of energy, each made worse by her long neglected, hated surroundings. However, as each night passes, the room begins to give up it’s secrets, releasing the woman, as other women had done before, from her male tormentors  forever. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Fiction & Books, Gothic horror, Leisure, Literature, Zhoosh Leave a comment

Gothic Literature: A Snap Shot.

The 18th Century saw the birth of novel. There was already a readership for autobiographies, journals and memoirs; however, the novel brought a new style to the emerging middle classes. Daniel Defoe is credited as the founder of the English novel, with Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). Both novels were written with a sense of realism and human dilemma which proved extremely popular to his readership.

By the middle of the 18th Century Horace Walpole, a keen fanatic of all things Gothic, published The Castle of Otranto (1764). In the first addition Walpole clamed the story was a translation based on a found manuscript dated from 1529. Once the Novel was received positively, Walpole would confess that the work was from his own imagination. Read more

Posted on by Glenn Stevens in Fiction & Books, film, Gothic horror, Leisure, Literature Leave a comment