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…
I come to you now from a world draped in cobwebs, festooned with skellingtons and dotted with lanterns both Jack-o and Snanny (it’s a Northern thing, we make them out of turnips.) The night covers the world, and with the setting of the sun comes the return of that which does not belong in our world. The dead stir in their graves and walk upon this earth once again. Ghosts, ghouls, poltergeists and malign spirits slip through the cracks in the fabric of existence and embark upon a mission of mischief, mayhem, madness and all-purpose merry-hell. Obviously the only sensible response to this is to dress up, devour high-calorie sugared snacks and inappropriately add the adjective “sexy” as a prefix to thing which it does not rightly belong. Or if you;re me: turn-off all the lights and pretend you’re not in just so people will go away and stop knocking on your door. But even with all this frivolity, frippery and social cowardice there’s a lingering feeling that there really might be something out there in the cold autumn night. Something hungry, prowling darkened streets and hiding in the bushes. Something on the hunt…
Arguments can be made for October being the worst month of the entire year. These arguments tend to hinge of two factors. Firstly there is Halloween. Halloween on its own is perfectly fine and innocuous, at least from a conceptual perspective. What isn’t innocuous is juvenile humanoids cruising the streets, jonesing for a sugar fix and pelting your front door with eggs if you have the temerity to be out when they come a calling. And secondly there’s the clocks changing. While we all sleep, time creeps into our bedrooms and gives us all an extra hour in bed. Now you’re probably thinking “Mister Verbumancer, sir? How is an extra hour in bed a bad thing?” Well for me it’s the equivalent of taking a 3 kilogramme lump of hardened steel, fitting it to a stout wooden support pole and using the resulting contraption to smash the bejeezus out of my careful recalibrated diurnal rhythms. I clutch the shattered and broken corpse of my sleep patterns, cradling it within my arms; I weep and I realise that I have to start all over again. Time is insidious, it takes and takes and whatever gifts it gives are all poisoned. It is callous, unforgiving, relentless and never around when you really, really need it. It hounds us and hunts us our entirely lives and then, in the end, it devours us. Cheery thought isn’t it? And by that extremely tenuous segue we come at last to October’s Pictonaut Challenge Hunting.
Be careful traveller for tonight’s the night,
Mischief, fun and the time for fright.
When strange things raise their head,
When the gross and rotten seem less than dead.
The night when ghouls and ghosts roam the moor,
And bring their friends knocking at your front-door.
The skein of the world’s gone all thin,
Full of enough holes to let things in.
So come inside and lock the door,
There’s horror and so much more in store.
Just be aware that you cannot leave,
For out there tonight, it’s All Hallows Eve. Continue reading
So here we are in October. 2012 is shrugging out of those ridiculous baggy cargo shorts and the voluminous tie-dye t-shirt she’s be wearing all summer. She’s putting on proper clothes now because it’s starting to get a bit nippy and inclement out there. It’s started to rain a lot, the sun is getting tired and sluggish; it’s getting up later and going to bed earlier. From here on out it’s all boots, sensible trousers and one of those coats with more pockets than are strictly necessary or in fact sane. There is however the distinct possibility of a decidedly silly and not entirely practical hat. Last year October’s Pictonaut Challenge was all about Halloween-esque spookiness and Lovecraftian terrors. Not wanting to repeat the same theme this year I decided to go with something a little outlandish and a bit mad. Just like that hat I mentioned. Behold, October’s Pictonaut Challenge “Hail Traveller!”
“I’m not going to lie, last night got really weird…”
And so begins another month, the auspicious days of autumnal October. A month when the nights begin to close in around us and Winter begins to flex its chill fingers. It’s a month when the cold starts to nip at our heels just before it really begins to bite. October to me is a time of transition, a slightly mystical month; with the world-changing around us it feels like almost anything could happen. When it finally draws to a close October goes out with a bang, culminating in All Hallows Eve. If there is a day that embodies the mystery of the unknown I have yet to discover it. It is a night where the world feels just a little flimsy and surreal, as if the fabric which holds everything together is not quite as stolid as we believe it to be. The night where even the bravest and most sceptical of us all are just a little bit afraid of what might really be out there, lurking in the dark and dim corners of the world…
It’s the first of October, it’s a new month, it’s time for Pictonauts old and new to start flexing their fiction muscles.