Brave New Words – Penny Dreadful 2

Brave New Words – Penny Dreadful 2

You can view the Penny Dreadful as printed here

Count K. Prochazka

Proměna Proces
As I awoke one morning from uneasy dreams I found myself untransformed. The same floor below me, hard and cold, as if my back were armour-plated. When I lifted my head a little I could see my body; ribs, stiff arched segments, indentations in the quilt, the only thing preventing it sliding off me.
Nearby church bells struck the last of eight. Every day at eight in the morning the smell of breakfast swirled through my room on the way from Mrs. Grubach’s to the outside world – Mrs. Grubach was my landlady – but today no breakfast smell teased at my nostrils. That had never happened before. I waited a little while, looked from my pillow at the swirls in the wood that formed the face of old woman. She was watching me with an inquisitiveness quite unusual for her.
I turned to look out the window at the dull weather. Drops of rain could be heard hitting the pane, which made me feel quite sad. “How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this.” There was immediately a knock at the door and a man entered. He was slim but firmly built, his clothes were black and close-fitting, with many folds and pockets, buckles and buttons and a belt, all of which gave the impression of being very practical but without making it very clear what they were actually for.
“Who are you?” He went over to the door, opened it slightly, and said to someone who was clearly standing immediately behind it,
“He wants to know who I am.”  There was a little laughter in the neighbouring room. “That’s something we’re not allowed to tell you. Get out of your bed and get outside. Proceedings are underway. You’ll learn about everything all in good time.”
What sort of people were these? What were they talking about? What office did they belong to?  I was living in a free country, after all, all laws were decent and were upheld, who was it who dared accost me in my own home?
I opened my wardrobe, spent a long time searching through all the clothes, and chose his best black suit, I then pulled out a fresh shirt and began, carefully, to get dressed. Once I was properly dressed I went through to the hallway, the front door of which was already wide open. Outside, slightly dishevelled and out of shape, another man appeared from the adjoining alleyway.
“You are under arrest.” The first man had joined us on the dimly-lit pavement. “The crime is Ungeheueren Ungeziefer Verwandelt. There is no direct translation in your English. I suppose you could say you stand accused of Eine Verwandlung, A Metamorphosis. You must accompany us to the castle.”
“But nothing has changed, I am the same as I was yesterday, and the day before, and the month before that, and the year before that and before that….” I shook my pitifully thin arms before me, twitched my matchstick legs, I waved about helplessly demonstrating I was still me. Yet the more I stared at myself the more distant it seemed. I felt a slight itch on my back belly. I reached slowly around myself, my fingers creeping round. I found where the itch was, and felt it cold and envisioned it covered with lots of little white spots which I didn’t know what to make of. When I tried to feel the place with one of my fingers I drew it quickly back because as soon as I touched it I was overcome by a cold shudder.
“Look at this, Willem, he does not know himself and at the same time insists he’s innocent. There’s no mistake here. Our authorities as far as I know, and I only know the lowest grades, don’t go out looking for guilt among the public; it’s the guilt that draws them out, like it says in the law,
and they have to send us police officers out. That’s the law. Where d’you think there’d be any mistake there?”
“I don’t know this law,” I said.
“”So much the worse for you, then,” said the policeman.
“It probably exists only in your heads,” I wanted, in some way, to insinuate my way into the thoughts of the policemen, to re-shape those thoughts to his benefit or to make himself at home there.  But the policeman just said, “We have a remarkable piece of apparatus.”

The Deadlurk

I have a confession to make
To anyone who cares to listen
It is this
I have never woken up with anything or anyone
I have lived too long
And I have a few pennies to my name

These stairs grow colder every day, although I cannot say how cold that is
My bed, the smooth wear of a thousand trudging footsteps is comfort enough
I have no pillow, but my head is not that heavy
It is not filled with thoughts or dreams like yours
Jealousy, guilt, lust – those lead-laced emotions
Hunger is an emotion of the stomach, my dear. That will always be
(My heart is a bog. Have you ever heard life-blood squelch quite like mine?)
But less of that, none of that.
I could sleep anywhere I choose, you know
I am a starling, free, graceful
With many nests

The pistons in the factory opposite stamp cold, hard
Metal smacks, dancing as loudly as man has ever known
(I danced once)
And the factory owner must be dancing too
At parties, his parties, breath thick with port and tobacco
He does not dance well
My legs kick like pistons when I am surrounded by pigeons
I snapped one’s neck the other day
It fell to the ground like a sack of apples
(It was actually nothing like a sack of apples
It struggled for a few minutes
And then died on its back)

My friends are not society’s friends
Fractured little children
My child, her child, yours
You would not stoop to pat them on the head, ruffle their hair, sit them on your knee
(You did not pat them on the head, ruffle their hair, sit them on your knee
Hollow spectres, all work and no play makes Jack dull of wits
They have helped themselves to your purses and pocketbooks, and now they are wolfing down borrowed bread
Sometimes their engulfing seems to me so hurried, clumsy, I worry they might eat their own fingers, hands
One final banquet
Stop it. Less of that, none of that.
Less, none
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a child cry
For the odd coin they’ll call me ‘ma’am’
And it always makes me laugh

My clothes are not clothes
This dress is frayed, you must have noticed
You can have it for a shilling, it’s (a) good yarn

Summer is long gone now. Last night I slept in hail and wind. I can’t stand it anymore
I need some. I’ll take any. You want more?

(Please address any responses to ‘Alice’
And leave them where you danced
And I will in due course reply
If I have the chance)

Miss Violet Edwards

Charles FallEmpire

Dear Violet,

I can only think of you. In these terrifying and violent days, where the sky seems ruptuted with fire and the earth riven through with trench seams, your sweet kiss is my guardian angel. The faceless enemy presses down on us suffocatingly; I can barely breathe for fear even talking about it. Their uniforms are much like ours, they must have families like ours, lovers and children and mothers like we do, but we are on opposite sides of a cataclysmic gulf. This gulf is filled with an ocean that divides land from land, man from man. I am truly glad that we are not on English soil, my dearest, or you may very well be entangled in this terrible war.

We fire the cannons throughout the day and night. They are storm-bringers, thunderous and earth-shaking. When I hear them, I push the palms of my hands against my ears and shiver with horror. The noise and devastation they create seems almost too enormous and epic, as if God himself was coming to seek retribution for the rape of his good earth. We each have rifles to shoot at the enemy, and these too are more dangerous then I imagined they could be. Yesterday, Violet, I shot a man. I have been in this trench for five days and never knowingly killed a man, but now one is dead because of me. I feel as if I am carrying him around on my back as I trudge through the churned-up mud. Last night, as I snatched four hours of miserable sleep, I felt him curled up against my feet, as if he were a man-eating tiger mistaking itself for a domestic cat. This morning, he was a lead weight in my stomach, and I could not gain nutrition from my breakfast for he was eating it all for me.

Violet, I am scared that I won’t be coming back to you after all. Every second I can imagine the fatal bullet speeding through the air towards me, faster than a heartbeat and stronger than the love I feel for you even in a different land. My darling, I will not be sending you this letter. I cannot allow you to know what life is like here for me, and how frightened I am every second of every day. But every time I commit pen to paper, all that I can write is what I see, what I feel. I will try to write something happy and sterile for you to read, even though I know how complicated and passionate you are. I could not bear for you to be upset. If I come back from this treacherous barren land, the theatre for the end of all worlds, I will marry you.

I love you. I will burn my words, and hopefully my fear, for you.

Charlie xxx


Grey skies
Great me back at home again and
My dark eyes
Recede into my head and despair

At the thought of me
Going one more week
In the longest battle
To retain my dreams
Of a different world

One more day
Is all I can really take
In this distant town
my mind is falling down

It’ll be the end of me
Of all my hopes and dreams
Need to get away, find a different place
Get away from this broken town.

We all fall downpour

Oh, I can hear the noise out in the street
Where marionette people still meet and greet
But I am here, hidden, beneath my sheet

Thick curtains block out their childish call,
leaving only a halfpence of light on the wall,
Much too little to see much at all

Soon shall I have to attend their cries,
Have to smile as they repeat their lies,
and do my best to avert my eyes

I know he’s there still, somewhere outside
Smoking that damned pipe with that damned pride,
Perhaps thinking of his broken bride

Oh, I can hear the noise out in the street
There’s sudden commotion, and running feet
Carriages creaking, could it be sleet?

Why yes, I do believe it’s rain!
The noise as it charges down the drain
So I must hurry out into the lane,
drench in the deluge my inner pain

And gentlemen scurry under soaked hats,
And the ladies scream like backroad cats,
And the children scatter like acrobats,
Into the gutter with the drowned rats

There in the storm stands shattered me
Wrapped in glassy glistening glee
And in the puddles, I think I see
Glimpses of the girl I used to be

Oh, traces, faces, of yesterdays,
Of meadows, of wandering bridleways,
before that time I met his gaze,
and set my tinder heart ablaze

The icey tempest takes this old town,
frozen diamonds are crashing down,
and as I stand in my soaked nightgown,
I laugh, I laugh, for I may drown

I am speaking my voice, I haven’t in weeks
And my pockmarked self then springs leaks,
But as I laugh, I can hear the creeks
And I know I am the one he still seeks

I think he’s here, wanting his old treat,
He must be slithering through the sleet,
And then comes the echoing of his feet,
I silently sound my regretful retreat
Return to the sancutary within my sheet
Oh, I still hear his noise out in the street


I love to live alone in my secret place beneath the city. In my private meditation rooms I am surrounded by nothing but rust and concrete, so my dreams and visions remain pure, untainted by the antics of other humans. My other rooms, kept alight by spluttering, blood red neon lights, are swamped with caged insects and their agitated, glorious whisperings. Sometimes, when I become satisfied with the visions I have seen alone, I bring my prized creatures into a meditation room and listen to what they have to say. There, we travel into dreams together and share distorted recollections of the world above.
I love to be wrapped in this darkness and smothered in this fragrant stench of sewage; here, I am free from the polluted skies, the smog-ridden alleyways, the trivial conversations and the toxic characters that lurk around every corner. But…I can still sometimes hear the industrial whines of the world above. They pierce through the quiet drips in my meditation rooms, and they trickle through these damp walls when the insects stop their singing. I can feel the monotonous, grey drone of the city calling me to surface, and my visions remind me that there will be a new shipment of creatures arriving soon. I have constant dreams of grass and of a blue sky, and the insects can sense my restlessness. I must not let them see weakness. It seems that they are becoming impatient themselves, and they are still hungry for fresh meat. A cockroach shared these words to a mantis in a dream only two days ago:

“Your head swivels towards their peaks;
Your vision travels along the blades
that pierce into heaven.

Your eyes capture the passing clouds
They split the sun into ugly fragments
And the sky slithers along their surface.

When will you escape
the rust that entangles you?
When will you wipe clean
the blood that strangles you?
How will you escape
The ground that’s always smothered you?”

Tomorrow, then. Tomorrow, I will step inside the elevator and travel upwards. I hope it still works. If new blood does not join the ranks, I fear there will be an uprising. Who will I meet in the world above?

Lady OctoberAlseid
By Lady October

Last night, when I picked up my tarot pack from its place upon my shelf, a card fell, face down upon my velvet-covered tablecloth. This has been happening more and more frequently as of late. I do so hope there cannot be anything the matter with me.

When I finally overturned it, I found it to be the same card, the same configuration that has been presenting itself to me over the last few days: always I turn up the holy image of Les Amoureux; The Lovers. It has been a strange few days, for I have never cast myself a fate involving love. Perhaps it is meant to signify another’s fate. Perhaps it is an image of the past. Either way, I have accepted that my life as a cartomancer is a lonely one, and therefore, it cannot be my own destiny.

In the waking somnambulism that follows a tarot reading, I have succumbed to a series of imaginary reveries; each one involving a partnership between two beautiful children. One is raven haired and the other’s head is covered with the flaxen remains of a honeyed sunset, as pale and fair as one of the Alseid, from Homer’s verses. How beautiful they both are, and yet, I am filled with despair when I see their painted image atop the card. I will go to my window alone and look out at the mountains through the counterpane, for I am very sad.

Love is a strange entity, forever changing. Some of us merely prepare a lover for their next relationship. Some of us travel as far as we wish to go before leaving in a plaintive display of profound irritation. Some of us cannot seem to find a way out of the subaqueous depths that a lover has left us in. All the tarot card tells me is that: when love is what propels you, for your partner as well as yourself, then you find the right answer. How strange of me, but on this night, I do not think that I am capable of believing it!


Major R. Thunderbolt gripped the sides slightly harder, clamping his jaw tightly together. (Not that it made much of a difference; clamping his jaw could not stop this flimsy contraption falling apart.) If he had one of his favourite cigars in his mouth, he would have ground its stump to a pulp, a thing which he only did when he was nervous (which wasn’t very often). Major R. Thunderbolt was hurtling through the air at breakneck speed with a crazy professor in front of him in a flying machine. This flying machine, which had been clapped together by the eccentric, seemingly mad scientist Silas Arrow, had two propellers at the rear end of the craft. Of course there were wings, but these didn’t seem too sturdy. Two seats were in the body of the craft, which were currently occupied by Silas Arrow and Major R. Thunderbolt. Major R. Thunderbolt seemed much taken in by the idea that this day could very well be his last. To think that he had survived so many battles, sieges, sniper bullets, bombs, attacks, assaults and missions only to get finished off by a malfunctioning flying apparatus seemed to weigh heavily on his mind. He closed his eyes, hoping he would miraculously wake up in his bed from this exceptionally bad nightmare….. after all he had not planned on actually flying in this machine. The excited professor had insisted that the Major test the co-pilot seat for comfort. Then the engine started and Silas Arrow shouted with glee, “Off we go!”

“Well, that was quite a spiffing flight, wasn’t it?” Silas Arrow queried, excitement written all over his face. “Next time you could be a bit more specific about what you’re going to do with this flying contraption of yours,” the rather annoyed Major growled, and felt to see if all his bones were in place. “That thing nearly shook me to pieces,” he muttered under his breath. “Well, I’m sorry about having taken my little machine for an early ride,” Silas shrugged. “SORRY? I nearly fell out of that thing!” said the Major, pointing an accusing finger at the machine, which hadn’t completed the neatest landing. “I –” His words were cut short by the arrival of three men. Both Silas and Major Thunderbolt didn’t like the appearance of these men, especially the latter, who had many bad experiences with shifty characters. The three people advanced, and the Major and Silas instinctively pulled back. One of the men, who seemed to be the leader, advanced menacingly. Major Thunderbolt’s mind told him something was not right. “Where were the other two men?” he asked himself. He got his answer soon enough. Suddenly both he and Silas Arrow were attacked from behind! Then they both lost consciousness.

THUMP! When they woke up, they were bound and gagged. Well, what a turn of events, thought Silas. Outside he heard crashes. Evidently the robbers were searching his house/laboratory/work-shop for anything useful or valuable. That’s strange, Silas reflected. Hardly anyone knows that this place exists, and even fewer people know what I do. Suddenly Major Thunderbolt sat up and proceeded to untie the bewildered inventor. As soon as his gag was taken out he asked, “How did you get free so quickly?”

“An old trick I learned,” was the reply. “Well, what now?” The inventor asked. “Distract them, get a big stick and give them a ding on the coconut, then tie them up neater than an Easter ham.” “If you put it that way…” The Major then found two suitably large objects to knock the intruders with. But Silas had a better idea.

The ransacking assailants could hardly have been more surprised when they heard a very loud “Hallooooooooooo” from a corner of the inventor’s workshop. One of the rogues grumbled “If yer didn’t tie those knots tight, Bill, you’re gonna be in trouble!” “I always tie me knots tight, Bob!” retorted the man who was known as Bill. “Bert, go see what that noise was!” commanded Bob. “Why is it always me?” whinged Bert. “Just go!” Bob shouted. But before anyone could go see what was going on there was a mechanical hissing noise followed by several grinds and clanks. Suddenly a strange-looking vehicle ploughed through the mess that the bandits had created and screamed to a halt. The vehicle had treads, with two seats and a triumphant Silas Arrow and Major Thunderbolt sitting in it!

After the three villains had been tied up and been taken care of, Silas rushed off to see if any damage had occurred. He returned with an unhappy look on this face. Major Thunderbolt said, “Well, I suppose all’s well that ends well,” “That’s all right for you to say,” said Silas dejectedly. “These barbarians practically tore apart this place!!!!! Most of my creations have been obliterated!! It will take me months, maybe even years before I get this building back into the state it was before these philistines ploughed in!” “Well, then you’d best get started right away,” Major Thunderbolt said as he proceeded to light one of his favourite cigars.



‘The Bleakness of Beauty in Cold Winter Lodgings’

Despite the grim, pale light outside, I smile.
Despite the cold, damp interior, I luxuriate.
I turn my head on my gin-spiced pillow
and glory in his half-starved form.
The love we made a fleeting spectre of the night now spent,
he is mine but a few precious moments longer.
I long to reach out, to caress his dusty features –
too careworn for his young years.
His eyes open, unleashing the shadows caged,
forbidding the slightest tenderness.
I reach out nonetheless,
tracing the arch of his collarbone with my ragged nail.
I marvel at the beauty existant within his bleak yet perfect form.
The rumble of our bellies a goulish taunt,
I groan to my feet to survive another day,
and paint a whore’s face over my own.

SaviyaRhythms in Tobacco and in Fog

He’d be in a big chair, with a fire going.  We’d be smoking pipes and drinking brandy.  Every once in awhile he would stop reading and we would have a discussion about what he just read. Who was this learned traveler? I only remember this conversation like a dream. The last words I told him as he left were blown back at me, oval mouth lined with moustache and tobacco crumbs.
‘The fog gathers in the corners, in your lungs. It settles in your soul. Button up your coat.’

When he left I felt numb.  Even the fire failed to restore the usual invigorating flow of my blood.  Dawn was placing long hands on windowsills and still, there I was, blowing on embers, my breath slow and painfully rhythmic. I was trying to grasp hold of stability, buffet squirming thoughts into steadfast pattern.  Suddenly Crenshaw hurled his feathered body like a small cannonball into my arms.  He pecked the soft roll of skin beneath my chin, determined to have my eyes on him.  I brushed off the bird and vaguely heard him scuttling into the kitchen, sulking no doubt.  I heard the lid of the biscuit tin lifted, crashing to the neatly swept, hard-dirt floor.  Moments later Crenshaw flew into the fireplace, gingerbread sticking from gullet.  Aghast I saw him perching on a flaming piece of coal.  My pet!  Crenshaw opened his beak to let out a horrific scream, more fantastic than any other scream known to birdkind. I lurched forward, pulled out the raven and sat rubbing his smoldering talons.  Crenshaw swallowed laboriously as I massaged his belly.  He tipped his beak back in bliss.  My thoughts never ceased to circle the occurrences of the night before. I got up, pacing the small distance between fireplace and kitchen.  Crenshaw lolled in my arms, little saucy tongue hanging out.

The day continued wandering, slightly unsteadily on her feet.  Near the edge of afternoon the front doormat had small frost crystals forming.  I sat on a wooden block, watching the crystals and drinking spicy tea.  Near me Crenshaw sat reading ‘Spirits of the Dead’.  I had been perusing a volume of the travels of a contemporary adventurer, and wishing myself on the ocean or in my caravan, at least, when I decided that my pet had had enough morbid literature to last him his entire life.  The sun was going down, leaking last rays of warmth across the cobblestones.  Freezing and starving, I kicked aside the doormat and opened the house door.   We prepared a gigantic pot of vegetable stew, with bay leaves.  Suddenly Crenshaw let a carrot drop that he’d been chopping with his beak, and with a shriek left through the north tower window.  Used to my pet’s antics I shrugged my shoulders and continued with the stew until a potful sat neatly bubbling over the fire.
It was late that night when the raven returned. I’d fallen asleep with several books across my chest, scent of leather bindings lulling to foreign lands. Crenshaw appeared, head feathers sticking up like a little punk.  He sat with rain gleaming on his blue-black feathers, exuberant smile lurking in his shrewd eyes.  Around his foot was tied a ribbon, black, with a lunar shimmer to it.  I took hold of it, curious and suddenly wide-awake.  Where had this inquisitive raven been?


‘I Cannot Love You’.

My body is a window to the world,
I cannot love you – I am made of glass
and you are made of flesh.
Impossible to talk, to think, to eat –
How can I love?

What would people think of us?
They already know you’re mad, like Doctor Victor in his lab,
As lightning flashes and rain rain rain
hits hard on brittle things.

I cannot love you.
What use am I to you or you to me?
A trophy wife that’s mute and deaf,
Walking source of energy for a husband who, I know, is a father too.
My icy eyes and smooth hands are part of a whole that’s not all there.
A broken puzzle; a square peg.

I wish that I were you.
I wish that I could speak and open this rictus grin of mine
and let the wordless howls pour out.
To tell you what I need.
A dream. A home. A heart. A world to call my own.

Are there more of us?
Others who can feel what I feel inside – around – my bones?
The marrow made of other peoples’ flesh,
Nerves and memories ingrained in your sick fantasy.
Is it a joke?
You control me with a coin-flip, dice-roll.

I am that word on the tip of your tongue.
I am balanced on the edge of your knife.

I can’t shut myself down,
So I’ll let you do it for me.
Not a kind lover – not the loving kind,
Take me in those arms of yours,

And you can turn me off.
Lady Marie AshleyThe sun was shining when I left the house this morning, but when I step out of the Feathers Inn, it has slunk behind dark clouds. Sitting in the carriage I carefully button up the front of my corset as we travel through the mid-morning streets to Madame Belvoir’s. The undone laces dig into my back, but Madame Belvoir is always discreet.

Inside the gilded rooms I sigh, the final fitting for tomorrow’s ball. Purple fabric and black lace envelop me as Madame pins and tucks and hems. Her assistant is lacing me back into my corset and my breath catches in my throat. I lean over and stroke a thick tweed cloak on the racks on the side.

Madame, this on my account as well
For today?
Thank you, could you please call my carriage.

Her assistant leave and Madame helps me back into my skirts, then wraps my clothes in tissue paper. On top she places a sparkling comb.

For tomorrow Lady Marie, a gift.
Oh, Belvoir you are too kind.
No no, you must take it. You bring me more business than anyone, I have had a month’s fittings in two weeks.

I blushed reddens my cheeks at the gesture. The assistant returns with a note, written in my husband’s hand.

The carriage has gone m’lady.

The blush deepens in my cheeks and my hands shakily open the letter:


The room spins and I lean on the counter to steady myself. I breathe in the scents of fabrics, picking up my things I smile.

Madame, I’ve changed my mind, this can all be billed to my husband.
Is everything okay Lady Marie?
Oh yes, I think I’ll just take some air.
But M’Lady, it is raining…

But I am already out the door, and as the bell clangs brashly behind me I am running, the storm has started. I push the comb on the top of the packages into my hair and do not look back until I reach Cheapside with my skirts swishing at my heels. My hair is soaked and loose, the comb carelessly hanging to a last lock of my hair. I duck into a side street, my heart racing. It is familiar, with a moon over the door, my breath mists on panes of glass set with stars. It is the place I have dreamt of for two weeks now. I go to ring the bell, but she knows I am here. Lady October.

In the warmth of a darkened room my clothes mist, an empty glass sits in front of me. Incense mists around the cloaked figure opposite.

I cannot reveal what your heart desires to know Marie, but I am aware you don’t ask for that either. I have seen you at my door for some time, but I cannot tell you why you have sought me out. It is not solely for the Scribble Spectre. Maybe we have sought each other out.
I know Lady October. I am sorry. I do not ask anything of you other than a warm fire.
Let us sit then.

Lady October hands me a silken black handkerchief and a minute, hour, month passes while tears stream down my face.

There is a carriage outside Marie.
I am forever indebted to you.
It is your own carriage, Marie, but I can’t tell you what that means.

I pull the comb from my head and place it on the table, the final strands of hair falling across my face. It is only then that I notice the design is a moon surrounded by stars.


At home Violet looks shocked at my appearance. The tissue paper crackles as I hand her my packages.

In my room please Violet. How are our boys?
They are well, but Lady Marie, your husband…
It is nothing Violet. It no longer matters. We have a ball to prepare for tomorrow.

I pull a handkerchief from my pocket, a silver moon is embroidered in the corner, and I hold onto it as I walk up the stairs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: