The weather outside is not as frightful a popular song might lead us to believe.It certainly isn’t snowing, it’s just a bit damp. Nor do I have access to a fire. My heating comes from an oil filled radiator and the stove is electric. I also have quite a few places to go, like work, or down to the local shops to buy milk. Grossly misleading songs aside, we are no firmly into the realm of the festive season. Out comes the gaudy and functionless frippery, we commence our decking of the halls with symbols of fertility and eternal life, and then ensconce the fresh corpse of a tree in the corner of our living room, assumedly as a warning to other trees and forestall there plans for revolution. But while many of us gather to celebrate this Christian festival, let us not forget its distinctly pagan roots. The height of winter, the fear of the long night and the darkness out there, a time of spirits and mystery. A festival where you did not wait for the arrival of a jovial old man in a red suit, but a festival where you await a visit from a Shaman.
The clatter of keys grows silent. November is over and NaNoWriMo is at an end. A typhoon of tortured tales grows still, their limp and pallid forms lie mewling on the dusty ground, their hurried and unnatural births now over. Deadlines and targets are a thing of the past. Some will be counting themselves as winners, having managed to put together 50,000 words. other will count themselves as losers, having fallen short of that lofty goal. I however, have been up to other things. Spending my evening in quiet contemplation, making soup and watching sci-fi from the early 2000s. When it comes to NaNoWriMo the distinction between winner and losers is at best moot and at worst erroneous. I learnt long ago, that the only winning move, is not to play.
The ghost have been blown away on the wind, the bats are back in their roosts, the vampires are safely stowed away in their coffins and the skellingtons have been packed back into their closets. Now it is November, a time of flame, fireworks and dangerously large amounts of writing. Yes, once again NaNoWriMo rears its bestial and hoary head from the wordy loam in which it has slumbered. It has let outs its keening howl to call writers to arms. It is a call which I have once again responded with: “No! Not again! You can’t make me!” Once is enough. I turned my will upon the task and triumphed once. never again, I am not strong enough to survive another attempt and the looming spectre of possible failure.
That is not to say I won’t be writing in November, I am always writing. It is required. It is mandatory. The Pictonaut Challenge is so much easier to manage, and requires a much, much smaller investment of time. Should you feel that NaNoWriMo might be just a little bit too arduous a task, then you should join me, join me in exploring the wonders and mysteries of “Midnight Freight.“
Now past gloaming, and into tenebrous seeming, the cloak of darkness has fallen across our land. We slide slowly into the belly of night on a stately and nightmarish procession towards the plutonian heights of midnight and the advent of the witching hour. Dread and fell things stalk our world, sure and safe below the onyx sky. They wait in shadowy hollows, waiting, hunting and mayhaps even preying upon that thing which is man. But while some may thing it wise to lock the doors and cower in our quaint fortresses of brick and mortar, we instead sally forth into the Stygian murk. We festoon our vulnerable and fleshy forms in gruesome masks and frightful frippery, so as to scare aware these vaporous horrors. We carve the faces of gurning monstrosities into vivid orange gourds and leave them to stand sentinel before the gateways of our fastnesses. Or we hack the essence of a face into the hard and unyielding flesh of turnips and swing these Snanny Lanterns by our sides as we go a galumphing in the gloom. As so we bravely, perhaps even foolishly, hold make the monsters for the night.
All Hallows Eve is weird.
Can you smell it? That charnel scent blowing down from the fells, it leaves a foul and acrid taste in the back of your mouth. A taste like bile and rising gorge; a taste like fear. But only like fear. This doesn’t taste like fear. You know fear, all humans know fear. It is hard-wired into the most primal and bestial parts of our being. Fear is something we can live with. Fear keeps us sharp, it keeps us ready, it keeps us alive. But this? This is something else. It is something older. It is a thing which was ancient long before we came down from the trees. It was antiquated even before legless fish dragged their bellies across the mud of the shore. It is something beyond primeval. It is a thing primordial. Beyond our understanding, we experience only echoes of it, we feel only hints of its being. But that is enough, we know to beware. For this month it rises from the sleep of ages. Just when the skin between this world and the next is at its thinnest, it sallies forth, snaking its tendrils into reality and so it goes about its dark and eldritch purpose.
Hallowe’en is coming…
From a solely official perspective, it is now Autumn. Finally it slinks into view, crawling out from its hidey-holes in masonry cracks and piles of mouldering leaves. A faint chill has crept into the morning air a threat and a challenge to those who would still dare wear naught but a t-shirt. But for all of the proclamations of an advent autumnal, the heat of summer still clings to the world, resolutely refusing to let go. Occasionally it will be beaten back by the slatey grey of scudding clouds or the assailing phalanx of the driving rain, but it does not yield. Every time I think it has finally been beaten and vanquished, it rallies and claws its way back into the sky. Arguments could be made that this is a good thing, but me? I just really want it to be coat weather again.
My monthly moaning about the weather aside, I suspect you’re here for some short stories. Either that or you’ve lost your way while navigating the seas of Google.
So September is here. September; the year of our lord two thousand and fourteen. Today sees the beginning of the 37th monthly Pictonaut Challenge. The mathematically inclined among you should no doubt realise that 37 divided by 12 is 3.083. Three and a bit. Which means that the Pictonaut Challenge is entering its fourth year. It’s all a little hard to take in. I expected to run it for a couple of months before getting lazy or bored, and give up on the whole thing. But no. The damn things has latched itself onto me and simply refuses to let go. It has become the most dangerous of things, it has become a habit. So here we go, number 37.
September seems to have become a month of haunting faces. The tears of the girl in the rain in 2011, the glare of the old Yemeni woman in 2013. September 2012 was an image of a desert, but 2 out of 3 isn’t bad. I saw no particular reason to move away from this general and statistically prevailing theme. For September 2014’s month of faces we have Orange.