Brave New Words – Penny Dreadful 1

Count K. ProchazkaLady OctoberLady Marie AshleySaviyaEntomologistThe Scribble Spectre

Miss Violet EdwardsCharles Fall

You can view the Penny Dreadful as printed here

Brave New Words

The roots of ‘Brave New Words’ tangle within the genres of Steampunk, the Victorian ‘Penny Dreadful’, and the contemporary zine.
• Steampunk – steam, brass, inventive attitude! Writers such as Jules Verne and H.G.Wells drew inspiration for their fiction from the ultimate age of DIY. For ‘Brave New Words’, Steampunk provides an aesthetic expression that mingles the past with the future.
• The ‘Penny Dreadful’ – popular sensational fiction in Victorian England, often produced within an afternoon and sold for a penny.
• The Zine – self-made, independent publication that is produced, photocopied, distributed and circulated among enthusiastic and creative minds.


The Locust’s Dream

Children banished to an island
Spit at multicoloured skies.
Small saliva pellets splat
Against clouds that vomit locusts.

Their thorny eyes stare sideways
Through cloudy corridors swamped with gnats
Into the fire of the island’s nose.

Locust songs travel down spit lines
Straight into little mouths.
Children fly upwards on broken horses
Ready to penetrate the skies.

Cloud swamped in insect meat screams
Sun smiles spits sick stains into open nostrils
Rotten cloud rains fresh flesh on ground
Open mouths receive mandible-ridden saliva lines.

It’s raining gnats.
The children grab their crystal swats;
They hit the insect droplets back.
Gnat-balls rise rapidly, hit cloud flesh, crack.

The island shakes, rumbles, opens its nose
Children wailing fall into stony nostrils
Fiery hooves hack frozen mucus,
Hoof splinters scatter, piercing skin.

violet-edwards1Dearest Charles,
I hope this letter finds you safe and well. Although it has been but a week since you left, your absence has left a deep impression upon my heart. I am desperately in need of distraction.
I know that you are gone away to war, and I am proud of you. I cannot help but miss you though, Charles. I used to look forward to our conversations. Just seeing your face broke into the dull monotony of life. I am so constantly shadowed, pitied, and overlooked, and yet I feel with you, pardon me if I am being presumptuous, as though I were treated as an equal.
Do not misunderstand me. I intend to be strong without you, and have undertaken to further my own education, develop my own self, so that when you return I shall be able to nurture your spirit as you do mine.
To turn to more frivolous matters, I have been reading the most marvellous novel. I suppose you are aware of the scandal surrounding Anne Bronte’s ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’? Well, I had been entirely unable to procure a copy, but I managed to obtain one from the most unlikely source. There is a gypsy woman who sometimes roams across the estate. Unlike most of her kind, who sell lucky heather or other such talismans, she sells books. She has given me ‘The Tenant‘, but I must repay her with words, which I shall throw out of the window on moonlit nights. I must admit I find this rather odd, but there was something most earnest and compelling about her when she made this request. I shall do as she asks, as I have in return one of the most marvellous pieces of literature I have ever possessed.
This book is so daring, Charles! It tells the story of a woman who lives alone and supports herself through art. How wonderful! She is able to marry for love, not money. Such a brave choice. Were that I was strong enough to pursue that path. Alas, I feel certain that I shall be forced to yield to society’s demands. Still, we must do what we must in this life, and hope to find reward in the next.
The weather of late has been calm and beautiful, and yet there are definite hints that harsher weather will soon come upon us. What dreary nights we shall endure, although the company of such writers as Anne Bronte shall make it infinitely more bearable. Papa is well, he has written to me and intends to visit soon, before the weather breaks. Your family all appear in good health and good spirits, but I am sure that you have heard from them yourself.
I find I am quite despondent of late, as my charges are to be sent to school and I shall have to find new employment. I suppose I always have the option of returning to the vicarage, however I am loathe to do this on several accounts. Partly, as I have become accustomed to a certain degree of freedom I was not granted at home, and also, as I have grown rather fond of this area, and its inhabitants. I feel a change in the air though, so I shall keep you informed of events as they unfold.
Some other news, we have a new addition to our parish. She practically accosted me at the end of morning service and introduced herself as “Lady Marie Ashley”. She is perfectly charming, and incredibly beautiful, although she was dressed somewhat inappropriately for church. She told me I was positively divine, although I can’t think why. Apparently I’m quite sweet and angelic. There is something so strong about her, and yet so sad, I cannot quite fathom her character. She seems, for want of a better word, lost. Yet I suppose we all are to some extent. Dearest, I hope you are not lost. I pray every night that God will guide you along the right path, which is of course, the one that leads you home, to me.
Eternally Yours,

charles-fall1The sea is made of white-gold. Its molten movement is foreign to me. Today the sun is burning down- it is late July, but my insides are cold and gripped with fear. I am sailing to a new and terrifying place to fight an enemy who wants me to die.

I have been separated from my oldest brother Thomas. It’s probably for the best, because I know he would call my fear weakness. In truth, that is what it is. Yet I would do anything to see him now, just for the feeling of home. I wish that we weren’t on this endless sea. I wish that I were sitting in the park talking to Violet, feeding the ducks with my youngest brother James who was so very jealous that Thomas and I were fighting and that he could not, walking contentedly around the garden. I never wanted to be a hero, although Father tells us that this is a great honour.

I am trying to busy myself with understanding this strange ship. I had never seen the sea before we started this voyage, and the vessel itself is something of great interest to me. It is an enormous iron thing belching steam upwards into the air. The way it moves through the water is extraordinary; so fast and sleek despite its formidable size. I had expected to be seasick- Father said I would be, but this ship barely rocks in the water. It cuts the ocean in half as it ploughs through.

There are many men aboard. Most, like me, are soldiers going to war. Father tells us that the Empire needs us. I was taught much about the Empire at school, about the brave men who go to new lands for the sake of the Queen, but I had only understood it as formless shapes on a map. I remember Thomas’s wild excitement with geography. He has always loved the idea of an Empire: the sun never setting on England’s conquests. I am, at least, happy that one of the Fall brothers will bring his Father honour.

Every now and again I get wild shaking fits. My hands can barely grip the pencil I write with. I am not so friendly with the other boys onboard, because I am worried of what they will think about my cowardice, but there is one who may be a good friend. His name is Albert, and he is very strong. I know he misses his sweetheart too- he sits writing letters to her, great long reams of paper filled with loving things. I have tried to write to dear Violet but when I put pen to paper her face departs my imagination and I can’t find the words to tell her how I feel, how much I miss her. So instead I keep her locked up inside my head. When I am feeling at my most afraid, and my hands won’t stop their trembling, I look inside and see her there, and she comforts me.

Other than my writing, and thinking of Violet, the only other things to do onboard this ship are the constant drills the Sergeants put us through. ‘Advance, retire, left, right’- commands ringing through my head all through the night. We must clean our rifles and shine our boots around the clock. Our uniforms are pressed and starched. Together, we are as anonymous and small in uniforms as a single drop of water in the ocean. That is another of Father’s sayings. ‘As one, you are weak and useless. As part of an army, you are indestructible. Remember boy- a white sheet means nothing, but when combined with reds and blues it becomes the backbone of the Union Jack.’




I can no longer remember my story, what I have lived through, where I have been. The only thing that has remained with me is my purpose, and that I have ignored. But now I have found my terminal flourish. I can leave this world with a blast of virtue, trailing sparks of golden flame from my heals and carving through the shroud of darkness that will consume me.

I was wandering the streets, the hard cobbles anchoring me to some semblance of reality. The evening was beginning to close in, light just illumination enough to allow the eyes to trick themselves. Gloominess betrayed ghouls always lingering in the periphery, awaiting their chance to pounce. But the Scribble Spectre keeps them away. The others trapped within me seemed to cower away from the Spectre’s presence He is real, not a fictive apparition of man or beast released to reside deep within my subconscious. Stronger than their false existences he protects me. He allows me to walk the streets in the real world.

I stopped. My legs walked separate from me, their instinctual touch on the cobbles bypassed any cognition, driven by a primal desire that riddled my veins. Stood before me was a marble building. Its peak disappearing into the evening black sky. It’s door clawed with age, stone exuding the stoicism of historicity.

More than all this though, the building was throbbing. As my eyes flickered between realities I saw the stone bulging with stifled screams. Almost supersonic, a crackle deep inside the ear picks up their calls.

The crescendo. The final movement ushered in by an almost-sound of approaching destiny and inevitability clashing together in a cymballic cacophony. I pushed the door.

Its firmness seemed invulnerable. But my weight upon the door was more than my physical essence. I conjured from me my absorbed words. Wringing my soul like a sponge they poured out, wraithlike. Insinuating about the door they slid along its edges, stroking them, appeasing the instinctual sapience of the wood to repel my invasion.

It gave way and I entered. My steps inside already disturbing the careful balance of the world. Each footfall sending specks dancing into the air, while their negative absence remains behind me. The first marks in the virgin ground. A buzz cut through the soft silence and light burst through the darkness. Spreading out to defocussing distance, stacks of books, veiled in the grey of age and neglect. Their screams quietened to mere whimpers. They sensed my presence. In the edges of the audible I hear a tapping. The muffled sureness of shoe leather guided with purpose. Approaching. I turned to look for the safety of retreat. The door had disappeared, replaced by swirling intertwining fronds of smoke. The books sit silent with apprehension. We wait…


Huddled on the floor, around
your fountain, I wait –
burning for your words to

come softly to my hands–
the watery rendering
of jewels and umbrellas.

In your eyes –
a wash of coloured water,
and a dark current

that effervesced,
a theorem of your frailty
as your cheeks burned crimson.

Do you still burn, my Melusine?

On the phone, I am marred
by your gospels of bitter
liquorice and listen –

as your words weep glitter,
and drift –
like thick snow falling softly.

And I still burn to be like you–
my Melusine.

Do you not see
that your eyes
flash like Gnostic defloration?

And do you not feel

that your legs twist –
into coils of green?

Photo Agnostic:

I see all of your dead secrets
Lined up on the window sill
I sometimes take pot shot at them
Keep a tally of the broken people
The pain filled nights, so dark, so long
I used to enjoy them with you remember
Holding you close in the cleansing rain
Thunder rolling over us like blankets of wool
Lightening our spot light, our cue to act
And now those times are dust in the attic
Innocent and pure , now yesterdays obituary
The secrets are not the same without you
The wine, the pain, the tears are pointless
Now that you are gone
Another casualty of fear, chance corrupted
A spiral of our twisted smoke filled energies
Blackens and damns our souls with repetitions
It ties us together throughout all eternity
And yet it will never be the same now
An unfinished story that im left to write
For all time knowing I will never end the journey
A trip you took, we took
A trip we had to take, we had to
I remember still your eyes that purple dawn
Our secrets raw and passionate still
Our poor dead secrets


My name is The Scribble Spectre, and I have seem some horrors in my lifetime. I have seen nothing, however, like that I witnessed; or became; the night of my séance. All my fears of the future have been confirmed. We are spiraling toward something devastating, and it breaks my heart. I will say no more. My experience of the Séance is transcribed below:-

The Great White circled the dance floor, searching for a meal. As it sliced through the shoals, cruising in silent waters, it knew it was ready for a feast. As it stood, I was in the cubicle of a toilet, staring at the silver bullets lined up on the porcelain.
I was more than a man.
Tonight, I would throw sparks from my fingers and set alight to the world as the cosmos wheeled around me.
Tonight, I would outshine everyone.
Tonight I would be magnificent. Unreachable. Eternal.
My black eyes shone as I leaned down and breathed in the Saturday Night. I pulled myself up to my full height, bathed in nothing but light. Fuelled by the Great White.
I felt that I might burst at the seams. I had the snap, the crackle and the pop. Walking out of the cubicle and into the darkness, feeling the pounding pulse fill the marrow of my ancient bones.
That’s when I saw her and closed in.
They had argued, that much was sure. She sat with black trail lashes. He had left. There was nothing in the world like the taste of lovers falling apart. She was sad, in her way, with her teardrop flavoured Smirnoff Ice, but the Great White feasts on broken hearts. She was dead in the water as I glided up, my tenderness would outlast me but she didn’t care. She needed someone’s help. Only I knew that my smile would expire like a pumpkin chariot in the dead of night.
I was more than a man.
Nothing like a man.
I threw sparks from my fingers as the cosmos wheeled around me. I inherited what was mine. I outshined everyone. I was magnificent. I might have slipped her something, but to be honest I couldn’t remember myself as we stumbled to the door. The movement of her shaking, quaking hips was all I needed. The Great White had the appetite of an entire land. It wouldn’t be long before she was in the cavernous belly of this shark.
Somewhere near Tescos, blokes walk by, collars up in attack mode. Something always clicks. Was it me? Was it them? Did it matter? I thought, or did I speak, “Fighting above my weight, shark. You all know I’ve got the spark, I’ve got the night, fuelled by the Great White.” Pushing the girl behind me like a damsel in the Conan comics; I saw my breath steam on the cold night air and knew I was breathing fire again.
“Knock out my fucking teeth,” roared the Great White, “I’ll always grow more.” I flashed my rows of razor sharps in the dark.
One of the lost boys moved forward, big bastard too, but I jumped first. Ripping and tearing and rending with those razor sharps until my chin was sopping wet and they were all agog.
The veins in my neck were corded and throbbing like complex and strange train lines.
They scattered.
Back at her place we mated in the worst way, The Great White fulfilling his midnight promise to feed on her broken heart.
I was more than a man.
I was nothing like a man.
I was nothing but a beast.
Through gritted teeth and the flat packing sounds of meat on meat, I ploughed into the night. I shook her to keep her from passing out and grunted sharp instructions. Pushing and pulling, rolling and lolling around with the fresh kill, I wanted to do everything to her. And I did. The milky way spread out in beads before us to pick like grapes. The cosmos wheeled around me and I plunged further into the deep, slipping into a tango of dark alchemy. The Great White thought, when you wake up you won’t remember my name. Wiping my come of your dirty face. When I wake up I won’t remember my name. Wiping you off to start again. When there was nothing else to do, I shuddered to a stop, quivering against her and filling her to the brim, as my eyes rolled from black to white and I leaned in to bite.
I pulled off the condom with the sound of a playing card slapping a table. I began to shrink. The gulls would be here soon. I left the broken mermaid on her stained raft.


Light filtered through the blind. James’ eyes parted and he looked at her sleeping figure. Bruised and dishevelled. He pulled himself off the bed as his brain thumped against his skull.
Leaving her in the bed, he stopped to pick up his underwear and silently slipped them on his skinny legs. The room span but, shaking it off, he left the building with his tail between his legs.


violet-edwards1Bordered In Black

I Crave Shadow.
Bring me darkness and
I will repay you a thousand times
with stolen kisses.
Bring me darkness and I will
Betray you a thousand times
with stolen glances
Lost looks
Imploring him (you)
To leave (don’t leave)
With me.
Outside. The brink
Of disaster.
Let me fall.
(Don’t let me fall)
I know I don’t know what I want.
I know (I don’t know) what I want.
I know (I don’t know what) I want.
I Wear Shadow.
It clings to me like a cobweb.
It shrouds me in its cool embrace.
It chokes me.
I am just beyond your vision.
Bordered in Black.
Words edged in g(u)ilt.
I am confined to the space you let me occupy
In the absence of light
Or anything (one) else.
I Am Shadow.
Sooner or later I will shrink and fade.
Outshone. Outdazzled. Out(un)Done.
Pushed further aside
By glittering teeth
And sharp tearful eyes.
She will devour you.
And I will be reduced to almost nothing
Clutching corners of your room your heart your mind.
Holding my breath till you turn out the light.
In the dark, something g(listens).
I can(‘t) wait.

The “B” Word

Recovery, recovery; it’s not.
It’s repression of memories
And relapse is just what happens when you remember
‘What are you thinking?’
‘What are you thinking, right now?’
I wasn’t I don’t I can’t. Imagine the consequences.
Look under my bed and find them.
All the letters written to people who forgot about me years ago
It’s a whisper, a rumour
that lingers in the lonely dark air as I lay the past to rest;
it’s my present that defines me not my past.
So either stay in my life or leave
But don’t dilly-dally on threshold,
You know how much I hate the cold.

by Charlotte Thomas

the-entomologist1Cricket Intentions

She crawls across the floor, her antennae twitching nervously. She knows what she has to do; she knows that she has to go there. The smell of food wafts past her hole, beckoning her to brave the room where the Idiots live. Though she is aware that they hate her and her family, she thinks the mission could still be a success. After all, those humans seem more interested in watching that bizarre, glowing, box-beast than in what goes on in the world of the floor. Squeezing half her body out of the hole, she listens to the racket of the enemy, while the smell of food grows ever more potent. Unable to resist, she scuttles out from her humble abode towards the goal. Smoke pours out from a stick the human is holding and she wonders why a creature would ever want to eat something so putrid. The human unexpectedly begins to shake, gurgling at the glowing object, and she freezes with fear. Had it noticed her presence? Could this be a display of threat? Soon, however, the bewildering behaviour ceases, and the Idiot sucks on its smoke-stick again. She can continue her adventure.

Smog swirls above her, illuminated by the groaning, buzzing, flickering square object. It sits on four pillars with snarling self-importance, barking at her, barking at the human. She notices that many more idiot humans sometimes inhabit the object, but they seem unable to escape to the outside world. She scuttles underneath it, wondering how the Idiots could fit inside such a small square. Should she should take advantage of the situation by exploring the room? The humans normally had an irritating tendency to gather in large numbers, but now there was only one human, distracted, alone, and the others were locked inside their flashing box. Could her epic ambitions finally be realised? She dashes past the box-beast and its torturous outbursts, and journeys onwards.

The Idiot vibrates again, the fat on its face slopping up and down in a vaguely musical fashion as it growls at the luminous square cage. She approaches some large, wet, green glass artefacts. Her six legs struggle to carry her through the gluey alcoholic puddles dotted about her feet, but eventually she escapes from the repugnant glass items and proceeds towards the food. Glorious, rotten smells throb in the air, encouraging her, summoning her; she knows her time of bliss is approaching. The stupid giant is lying down now, saliva dribbling down its mouth, its decayed red eyes beginning to close. The square object still keeps on living, however, throwing its beams of light through the dreary smoke, hissing at her, mocking her. That doesn’t matter anymore, though. She’s getting closer and closer to the end. The object and its inhabitants can spit and snigger all they want.

The rat lies still, its flesh soft and mouldy, an expression of fear smeared across its face. She has found her food, her life, her ecstasy; she only has the maggots to compete with now, and they know that she is sovereign. Her mandibles accelerate towards the insides of the rat, searing into the organs that once kept it alive. Like dolphins at sea, the maggots leap in and out of the body, soaring upwards to the surface for air and then diving straight back into the murky depths of the carcass. She scrambles over the grey, harsh fur of the dead rat, eagerly searching for a new section of stale flesh to dominate. Her wings twinge with elation as she borrows deeper and deeper into her prize, her serrated legs scattering the maggots out of her way. This is her paradise, and here she is queen.

charles-fall1I (never wanted this) am here. With dry eyes and a cold heart

I gouge your bl&ck liquid earth and drink your water.

In the depths of this smoky age

History is ripe with full stops. and the swollen comma,

A gr!m army of leaden khaki ants crawls forward blind

To your cowering families. We will win even though we have nothing to win for:

Except bloated politicians howling triumphantly behind their pulpits and on their soap boxes.

I (do not) know what the Motherland is. \Mother is a word loaded.

Define me, define us, we are the new steam-driven mechanical detritus you cannot see.

Feral and anaesthetised by your PrOpAgAnDa

Our name is lost in static and here we’ll die for you.

God, God, God:::::: we’ll die for you.

lady-marie1Monotony Flames

I wake up this morning in a swirling haze. Frederick is smoking in bed. Little curls are spiralling their way around the canopy. I ring for my maid.

‘Jenny, could you please tell this gentleman he is no longer needed?’
‘Certainly ma’am. I think Lady Marie is finished sir, if you would like to refresh yourself the bathroom is across the hall.’

Curled up on the other side of the bed, I feel Frederick turn and look at me. My face is placid as feline content. Yes darling, the rumours are all true. He gets out of bed, like a startled baby deer. Poor Jenny, she unflinchingly hands him clothes from the strewn floor. I roll over when I hear the door close, Jenny and I look at each other.

‘Sausage and eggs ma’am?’

Our giggles can probably be heard from the bathroom. I pick up the still burning cigarette from a dish on the side; only I smoke in my bed.


At midday I heard the carriage pulling up and the familiar tap of George’s cane on the cobbles. Outside the window I see him refusing the hand of Tom, and making his own way across the uneven path. I check the boys are playing quietly on my way down the stairs. The front door opens,

‘Darling!’ I plant a kiss on my husband’s flushed cheek.
‘Dear God Marie, do you have to wear so much rouge? It’s the Lord’s day you know.’

I stand back. A bad mood just emanates off him.

‘Take his name in vain why don’t you? And when was the last time you were in church anyway?’
‘Too long ago. Which is why I’m taking you tonight. And the boys. The little heathens need some kind of instruction other than the whims of a mother who’s a child herself. We’ll leave at 6, have dinner at 8.’

And with that the staff all melt away, knowing they are dismissed. George gives me a look and turns to go in the direction of his study. At the top of the stairs, two little pairs of eyes are staring at me. I smile at my little boys.

‘It looks like we’re having an adventure tonight little ones, but should we read some more of your storybook before?’

Their eyes glitter.


My white gloves are garish in the church. While the chorus is swelling I take them off and hide them in my bag. I felt dowdy leaving the house in these dark brown clothes and George insisted on us sitting near the front, as if we are parading the boys with their carefully combed hair.

‘Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.’

And I’m singing quietly, so the words resound in my head, while all around me voices are raised loudly in praise and George’s gravelly voice fills the other corners of my mind when suddenly I realise that there are tears gently slipping down the sides of my face and I sit down and take my handkerchief out of my bag and I am sobbing into it while all around me are the voices of the good and righteous.

‘When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.’


And afterwards, my hands are still shaking slightly, while George won’t look me in the eye. The pink in my cheeks is brighter than any rouge. None of the women talk to me. And I suddenly don’t feel so dowdy, though the veil hides my carefully darkened eyes. I see a girl standing aside, her hand in that of the youngest child of the Fall’s. Her eyes sparkle. I talk to her while everyone else is avoiding me. She is Violet, the Fall’s governess. But there is a certain honesty in the governess’ smile that I find arresting and confusing. I am not used to honesty. Their oldest son is there as well, looking far more pious then he did at Lady Barbara’s the other night.

When I finally get home after the niceties and the farewells I eat dinner and barely notice the silence of the clinking of our knives and forks. The highwayman has entered my thoughts.


Later in the evening I sit at the window staring over the gardens. Three words stick in my head: I know you. A pair of deep dark eyes are burned into my own. I know you. He chose me, and someone knows why. A vision flashes through my mind. A scent of deep incense in my throat. I see her hands moving through a darkened robe, flickering over cards. Lady October. The frost is moving over the garden. I curl back into bed, ignoring the spectre in the room. I know you.

saviya1The Travelling Book Peddler

‘Where can you be found’ is a question often asked. But where you find me depends on my mood. Where does one find wind? Where does one find the north star. Where are syllables found? You might find a pair of boots in the ditch, or an orphan child. Perhaps a silk cravat soaked in sweat and eau de cologne. But more likely you’ll find that with the changing of the wind the hemisphere shifts. The star outside your window smirks. You’ll find words dribbling from your mouth slightly differently. Softer – here yesterday, gone today. Staler – airy today, porous tomorrow. And the cycle goes on, clack-clack knitting needles knitting a shawl of metaphors. Well I can knit a good ol’ shawl. If you need warmth, come to mine. I’ll make a stew for you in exchange for your entertaining company, humming to the hard little flames that refuse to die in this damp climate.
If you wish to trade literature, look no further but tap on my caravan’s orange shutters. Every Wednesday I load books onto my blue-green cart and pull a load of eclectic manuscripts to various mid-week markets. I sell periodicals, serials, leather-bound atlases, travel tales, religious texts, histories, and navigation maps. Find me in my caravan…find trails of loose paper where Crenshaw, my pet raven, has dragged leaflets of Edgar Allen Poe (his favorite author). He is reading ‘The Conqueror Worm’ one page at a time. Sometimes he brings back a page he has finished perusing on some high perch overlooking London-town. Other days he forgets and the pigeons, who have no respect for book learning, giggle at the long words. You may see them dash beneath fountain water at Piccadilly Circus shrieking,
’Motley drama!’
’A blood-red thing!’
’It writhes!- it writhes!-’.
They cackle raucously, beaks splitting open until one of them tips backwards into the basin. The death of Fred brings reason back to pigeon-brain, however temporary this may be.

I alternate between caravan and coffee houses. Since last November I’ve been frequenting Assaf’s coffee house, a fine red place of Persian carpets and green glass china. Dim candelabras and bolts of Turkish coffee rearrange the atmosphere between fading and glowing. I’ve been acquainted with two backgammon players and they have several times specified rules on paper napkins, which Crenshaw inevitably destroys with his greasy after-dinner claws. Meticulous bird. I have witnessed several intriguing characters that I long to be introduced to. There is something about this coffee house that piques one’s imagination.

Susan Jennings and the Pigeons
A Victorian Fable by the Scribble Spectre and Lady October

Susan Jennings was a perfectly pleasant little girl.
Her parents were nice and well to do. Her father, Victor was a money lender and had a gentle, eloquent air about him. Her mother, Catherine was unemployed; but she was a beautiful woman, with golden hair and rain-coloured eyes. They lived in a small house that was of an elegant, if not antique design that sat on the outskirts of the London.
Susan was in year four at school and did well in all her subjects. She was “a shining example for class 7G, applying herself to every task she was assigned” (Miss. Dempridge, parents evening report, 1872.)
She had a best friend named Emily who lived three houses down. Each night after school, they would sit around Susan’s dollhouse, imagining an endless confusion of possibilities as to what their future lives would be like. After Emily had left, Susan would sit at her little, painted dressing-table and stare at the reflection that looked back at her from the reversed antechamber behind the glass. She would brush her hair exactly fifty times and then, she would fall asleep by the soft light of a candle as it gently deliquesced in its holder next to her bed. Her parents would stand in the doorway to her room and congratulate each other on how perfect their darling child was. They would use words like ‘Angel’ and ‘Sweetheart’, and smile at each other politely before entreating to bed themselves, where their furious and agonizing attempts at love came to nothing. But still, there was something Susan’s parents would never know about her and in the faint luminosities of dawn, they would wave goodbye, never knowing of the dark secret that Susan harboured, deep within her breast.
Each morning, her mother would trust Susan to walk to school, which was a short distance from their home. Trafalgar Square lay in the very centre of her journey and, even though her mother entrusted her with a solid twenty minutes to walk these three hundred yards (enough time to talk to her friends before class), she would without fail be late.
Trafalgar Square was always busy at this time of the morning, filled with horse-drawn coaches of an elegant design and was always filled with pigeons. Fat pigeons and thin pigeons. Scrawny and misshapen ones, with missing legs and broken wings. Some were grey and freckled while others were dark and devastated but all were protected by the great monolithic lions that guarded the square in the middle of London. They would fight and fuck, gossip and argue, grovel and preen, swagger and swipe, all under the stony gaze of the guardians. Each morning, Susan would stand before the pigeons and eye them with circumspect as they shuffled around unexpectantly. The sight of the milling birds caused something strange to happen to Susan. Every morning was the same, inevitable and repeating. She never understood it, and it was completely out of her control, but she would surrender to it all the same. She kicked off her shoes, her bag hit the floor, and Susan went apeshit.
She would snarl and spit as she careened into the flock; kicking and clawing at any available pigeon. She would growl, and bark, and garble her words (if they were words at all) as she foamed at the mouth, like a rabid animal. Passers-by would see Susan speaking in tongues as she tore at the birds and assume that she was possessed. Any terrified pigeons that took to the skies in escape attempts would be ripped out of the air and kicked devilishly into the fountain.
The great lions would watch the savagery helplessly but, each and every morning, they would never say a word. Feathers flumed violently across the square, drifting in front of brougham carriages that slipped by, and sticking to the faces of the innocent onlookers that could do nothing but watch, silently. They would be caught in Susan’s hair and stuck to her lips. If the birds flew too close, she would snap and bite them out of the sky before wheeling around for another demented pass. Once all the pigeons had scattered, fearing for their lives, Susan was left alone in the square. Some witnesses claim to have heard her panting and snarling for minutes after the attack. As the temporary insanity ebbed from behind her eyes, she picked up her bag, removed the feathers from between her teeth and slipped into her brogues.
She skipped the rest of the way to school, humming
Then, on a morning that began like other, Susan discovered that there were no pigeons to be found atop the cobbles. She gazed around dolorously, but no carriages or phaetons passed; not a soul could be seen in Trafalgar Square that morning. An unearthly silence permeated into the buildings and the heavy grey alterstones, utterly unbroken but for the tapping of her brogues atop the ground. The only presence to be seen were the great lions, standing vigil over their empty kingdom and watching with their cold, unseeing eyes.
Susan could have sworn she saw the spectres of the city shifting in her periphery, but it was only ever leaves, or the memory of the life that she thought should be there. Disappointed and unnerved, she decided to make her way to her schoolroom. She did not have far to walk before she heard a sound amidst the sonorous quiet, distant and pulsing and emanating from somewhere far behind her. She stopped, motionless. The sound grew steadily louder as it reverberated off of the buildings and monuments, thundering and crackling in the air. In that moment, Susan recognised it as the beating of mighty wings. She turned around, slowly to face the wall of sound and her eyes fixed on something dark and terrifying to behold in the sky. It was a great black shape, twisting and shifting and Susan was reminded of the frenzied whirling of the Dervishes that she had learned about, years before within the confines of her schoolroom. When she saw what was about to happen, she began to scream uncontrollably.

Black throbbed around her; Pumping; Pistoning. Her feet kicked and wheeled. Wild shadows flickered past. Inky veils punctured. Feral. Susan was still screaming. Wet fennel, chaos dripping. Hagiophobic (seaside with Grandpa). She tried to cover her face. Susurrus scraping. Foetal. Doll houses/misinterpreted. How high? Susan slipped into unconsciousness.


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