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Twisted Tales: The Ritual

Well hello – I’m back… I know I said monthly, or fortnightly, or whatever – but I couldn’t wait to tell you about what the nasty Mr Sythwood got...

Well hello – I’m back… I know I said monthly, or fortnightly, or whatever – but I couldn’t wait to tell you about what the nasty Mr Sythwood got up to with that girl he snatched and stuffed into the footwell of his van. First though, I want to tell you a bit more about Black Sheep, my NaNoWriMo novel, and how it’s progressing… and how I got a bit annoyed with a smug blogger the other day.

So I’m just short of 27,000 words on the novel, with the aim being 50,000 during the month of November. That’s all you need to ‘win’, but my personal goal was to finish the full first draft. I say ‘was’ because now I think that maybe I am putting too much pressure on myself to make it of ‘publishable length’. So maybe I’ll just aim for the 50k and stop stressing…Not that I am inferring that it will be publishable at all, of course. I may just have to rely on my handful of ‘fans’ to read it, and they will no doubt protest if I start charging them for it, so I don’t expect to be retiring to the Bahamas anytime soon…which brings me to what annoyed me the other day.

A charming, yet (I suspect) ‘creatively-challenged’ numbskull called ‘A.C’ wrote a delightful piece in the Prospero section of The Economist (I know, I know… why bother being upset…) entitled ‘How hard can it be to write a novel’. He/she/it then proceeded to slate NaNoWriMo and its enthusiastic participants, with the final paragraph gloomily predicting the demise of the ‘proper’ novel due to the glut of resultant dirge produced during November. Well, A.C. – my response is SCREW YOU. It’s not easy at all. As some of the commenters pointed out: Why should anyone be encouraged to write? Would you rather we remained a nation of reality TV watching morons? None of us are expecting to be the next Stephen King, we’re just having a bit of freakin’ fun, FFS!!! *Takes deep breath* Ok, rant over. I must go and see if “I’m a goddamn celebrity get my big brother out of Essex NOW is on yet”.

Right – with that off my chest – here’s another extract from Black Sheep. It follows on from the part I put in the first post, so if you haven’t read that, you might want to read it now…

Well go on then… I haven’t got all day.

* * *

The Ritual

Marston Sythwood was happy. The girl had woken shortly after he’d carried her into the house, and when she started to scream it had only taken him a minute to silence her. He strangled her with a long blue cable tie, and her neck had been so slim that the plastic had cut deep into her paper thin skin. It was a good starting point for the blade.

He used an electric carving knife; this was the third one he’d gotten through in as many months. They were easy to come by, but the blades blunted quickly and he’d had little success in sharpening them. They cut neatly through the skin and sinews, but they were no good on bone. For that, he used a straight forward axe.

Simple yet effective.

He started with her head, before moving on to her arms, then finally her legs. The body parts were laid out neatly on a large tarpaulin. He’d used the same type of tarpaulin to cover the ceiling and the walls, sealing up all the gaps with layers of duct tape. It was a laborious process, and he had to replace it each time, but it was worth it. He felt satisfaction when he peeled it all down and rolled it up and it left no mess or residue. He burned the tarpaulins in a large oil drum in the overgrown garden behind his house.

He had no neighbours.

He left the body parts to dry out overnight, then he put them all into black bin bags and placed them neatly in the back of the van. He used Google maps to pick the locations. Last month it’d been in woodland on the outskirts of east London. The month before, it was a park in a small Berkshire village. This month he decided on some wasteland near Brighton. Afterwards, he might head down to the seaside.

He left his house at two and he got there in under an hour; there was little traffic at that time of the morning. He drove through the industrial estate, checking the coordinates on his phone as he went. As he’d hoped, the place was deserted. He parked up next to a disused warehouse, then dragged the bags out of the back of the van. He opened each bag and breathed in the rusty scent. He laid the legs out first, then the arms, then the torso, and finally the head. The head always bothered him a bit, because it was so small. It didn’t really fit the pattern.

When all of the parts were lined up next to each other, he doused them in kerosene from a small can. He watched. They burned quickly, shrivelled in on themselves. All that was left was six charred stumps, like a flat book of matches, with one broken off at the end.

He arrived at the seafront just as the sun was coming up. He climbed out of the van and breathed in the sea air, looking around for somewhere nice to have breakfast.

* * *

That’s it. What do you think? Do you think the burnt body parts would resemble matchsticks? The police think so anyway, because they’re calling him The Matchstick Man.

Now back to my request from last week – some random prompt ideas for a new story. No takers? Come on – this is your chance to have your ideas in print, on the interweb and everything! Maybe you’re shy… maybe you can’t work out how to leave a comment… Maybe you just don’t give a flying fork… But if you think of anything later, like just before you fall asleep, or step into the shower, or get in the car (my top three places for ideas to strike), tweet me, or facebook me – I’m not hard to find… and I don’t bite… but sometimes I do squeal…

Be Seeing You.

@SJIHolliday

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