Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Dark Voices - out now!

It's out! Dark Voices, a charity horror story anthology from Lycan valley Press, is on sale NOW, with 100% of profits going to Breast Cancer organisations

Voices are meant to be heard. Darkness amplifies sound. And Dark Voices cannot be silenced. You won’t find pages filled with sunshine and lollipops or rose glass filtered landscapes. Instead, gloom and evil lurks, monsters and despair prevail. As you read these 38 women of horror, sci-fi and dark fiction, their voices will linger in your mind and infiltrate your soul. Their voices are loud. Their voices are strong. Their voices are dark.

My own story, Nine Portraits of the Empress Danrin, is set in 1919 during the great Spanish Flu pandemic - and here's a little excerpt:

It has occurred to me that there is as yet no proper, scientific record of the processes of decay in the human cadaver. We are surrounded by death in this generation, but we have not learned to read the words it inscribes. Imagine the mercy to the relatives of those lost on the battlefield, and the boon to the forces of law and order, if we could look at a human body and state with confidence how long it has been deceased, of what cause, and - in the case of those found nameless and misplaced - if we could discover from its mortal remains its history, its living appearance and perhaps even its identity.

I am setting myself the task of making a meticulous photographic record of the process of post mortem dissolution. Such a thing has never been attempted before, to my knowledge, although I know of some rare artists who have flirted with the theme. Whilst I was at Oxford a friend took me behind the scenes at the Bodleian Library and showed me a scroll from old Japan that illustrated the body of an empress in the nine stage of decay, from death to bare bones. Despite the graphic and gruesome nature of the paintings (which were clearly rendered from reality, if greatly stylized in manner), I found the story curiously moving. The Empress Danrin, renowned for her great loveliness, wished to demonstrate to her subjects and admirers the illusory nature of human beauty and the foolishness of attachment to such transient flesh. She ordered that upon her death her body was to be exposed by the roadside, so that all might see the truth of The Buddha's teachings upon impermanence. Her parable in the flesh, as it were, inspired many Japanese artists to depict the subject.

I have set myself to creating a modern version of this record, on a purely scientific footing.
* * *

[Portrait Two: the lady's fresh corpse lies abandoned among the weeds, her robe open to expose her pale breasts. There are as yet no external signs of decay.]

Cadavers are easy to come by, in my position. After death, patients are washed down by the nurses and then laid out quickly in pine coffins in the mortuary. Our hospital is of course chronically understaffed, such is the fear of the flu and the attrition rate among young employees. It's simple enough, if one works late at night as I do, to surreptitiously replace the body in the box with sandbags from the yard, and remove the corpse via the lift apparatus to the top floor of the building. I believe that these ranks of small rooms were quarters for servants back when this place was originally built, but they are currently unused and I have forbidden access to all medical staff.

I can run many experiments concurrently.

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