The New Year is upon us, and with it comes the advent of new beginnings, of something fresh, vital, brimming with raw potentiality and the opportunities for outrageous shenanigans. But most of all the air is filled with the smell of hope. It smells of soap, and mint and freshly baked bread. The hope that maybe this year will be better than the last, or the hope that we’ll finally get round to doing that thing we’ve been meaning to do for years, or perhaps that this will be the year you “finally get your shit together.” A new year is ever a time of strange, unexplored frontiers and of terrifying unknowns. So strap on your sturdiest boots and prepare to venture into the land Beneath a Square Sun.
It’s time to shut it down, pack it up and box it away. 2014 is done and finished. Christmas is over and there remains only the hurdle of new year’s eve before it is finally over. For better or worse, 2014 happened. There were highs and there were lows. But regardless of a geopolitical shitstorm(s) threatening to swallow us all, I remain resolutely alive. Any day above ground is a good day. I have recently returned from a brief sojourn to the frozen north and once again masterfully avoided the yearly rail meltdown. December has left me tired, strung-out and worn-down. Because that is how December rolls. Yet despite this, there is as always, stories to be told.
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…