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OK, guys, go easy on this stuff, it’s all in Beta stage! Read the commentary afterwards for this to actually make sense and see what I was on about!

Freedom from Paradise

 

‘I can’t be found writing this, but I feel as though I must. It is important that in years to come, when this oppressive regime has come to an end, when people can love as they please, when people can love who they please, that you can read my struggle. That you can read my pioneering for the quest of equality within sexuality. And if this letter is found and the laws stand as they are, well, I hope that my words might convince some of you. Reach into the hearts of those of you who are curious of what the love of the opposite sex could be like and allow you to see in these words that I write, that it is natural. You are not an abnormality.’

 

Adam got to his feet and crossed the room to check outside of his front door for anyone that could be looking in through his window. The streets of London seemed as they had done since he had checked ten minutes earlier. The sun had set ten minutes lower into the Thames casting its deep viridian glow through the skyline that sat upon the water, making the cobbles along Whitechapel high street appear like individual emeralds littering the lane. Emeralds covered in the excrement of humans and animals. A well dressed man appeared to be vomiting into his hands across the street as his equally intoxicated partner seemed to be kneeling to an appropriate level for an attempt at receiving fellatio, whilst another watched them in shadow from a coach of opulent splendour.

 

As Adam took in the street’s happenings and the stench that flooded his house, he felt his moral superiority soar inside him. It pleased him to see these sights, to reaffirm him of his purpose to enlighten and inspire. He heard a noise a few feet away from that made him start, but realised it was just the couple who lived next door to him; two middle-aged women returning from work, the setting sun’s ray making them appear as two indistinct reptiles.

 

He closed his front door with a snap and walked back to his desk in the corner of his room reaching for the decanter of whiskey he kept in the drawer; it was empty. With a pang of annoyance at himself he remembered he had not picked up any alcohol tokens from the Hall of Benevolence, but quickly rid himself of embarrassment as he displaced it upon the government. This spurred him to sit and continue writing.

 

“This society I live in, the depths of its malevolence cannot be fathomed. Just at this moment I desired a drink whilst I wrote, but alas, we are permitted but a measured amount of alcohol a week. If we are partial to alcohol, tobacco, opium, chocolate or anything similar, we must first collect tokens from the Hall of Benevolence. The society I live in, that what I put into my own body must be mediated and surveyed, and that is not all. Reader, I bury this noble account of one man’s struggle against tyranny to perhaps help hundreds in the future, and will tell you of the society of today.

 

After the War of Unity, heterosexuality came into being. Now not for a minute am I suggesting that it did not exist before, it did, it happened, it just didn’t have a name. It was not particularly widely discussed, but it happened, I know it happened as there were many men and women who made a decent wage selling themselves to its cause. The Greeks were known to do it, the Romans too, and until the outbreak of war that brought all nations together, I did it too. It existed, it just was not placed upon a podium, labelled, dissected, analysed and then forbidden.

 

Before, to love someone of the opposite sex, whether it be emotionally, physically or an amalgamation of the two was certainly not exactly a condoned act. It was always seen as strange, unholy (when there was a church) and for the lower classes (when there was a class system) but not illegal. That was until the war.

 

In 1879, there was the outbreak of what is now called ‘The War of Unity’. It is named as such because after the revolutionaries overthrew the monarchy, they did away with nearly every facet of what was Britain and united all citizens. Religion, Monarchy and a class system were the first things to go; anything that they felt could spark a threat to their rule or could cause innate human emotion to boil over was eradicated. The Negros were liberated and have become our equals as a result of the liquidation of the hierarchy. Substances and sensations previously banned were made accessible and Hedonism was encouraged, as long as, that was, it was in the form of which they approved. Adultery was eradicated due to marriage also being a thing of the past. Individuals were precisely that, and were able to be with how many partners they wished, on the condition of them being ‘normal’. Education too was altered, no longer was academia pursued or appreciated. To be seen reading Shakespeare, Swift or Virgil on the streets of London in 1880 was to be frowned upon. Now, eight years later, it is to be arrested and interrogated. They do not trust the educated, the deep thinkers, the free thinkers; we are the threat.

 

It has been common knowledge since the days of old that the differences between the sexes ran beyond looks, and that unities lead to more anger, jealously and distraught than conventional same sex relationships. People partook in it for procreation, it was merely for those purposes.

 

It was through medicine that they rationalised it. Through investigation and research: the heterosexual was born. After a prominent figure within society, who was far more open with his preferences than the rest of us, caused particular offence to the new regime, they introduced a further paragraph into their ‘Criminal Amendments Act’. From then on, any man or woman caught engaging in ‘gross indecency’ was liable to prosecution and medical attention. After calling it an ‘inversion’ of sexual preferences, the ‘affected’ would be admitted for treatment and, the majority of the time, never seen again.”

 

As Adam finished this sentence there was a knock at his door. He froze, his fountain pen poised between his fingers and thumb as he turned to stare at his door. The heavy rapping sounded again. Fear pumped in waves through Adam, as if it were in his very heart being expelled around his body. Had he forgotten the schedule of the advisors? He couldn’t have, he had been so sure. The rapping did not sound again, and Adam slowly and quietly got to his feet, and crept towards his window. He saw the familiar backs of two men, Charles and Nathaniel, walking down the high street, their hands held. This caused a prickle of jealous anger through Adam. They were acquaintances of his, Nathaniel was perhaps more, and he worked with them at the Halls of Justice, although he had not known that they were now lovers. They disappeared into the now nearing dark of the evening and Adam felt relief surge through him like the antidote to the panic that had so recently swept over him. He knew no one would call for him now, the streets of London were not for citizens at night. Once the sun sets like an apple hiding behind its leaf, the street’s allegiance changes from the people to the animals, and the Ripper, one and the same some would argue.

“Freedom: that was what we have been informed we have been given. Emancipation from the tyranny and oppression of the monarchy and the church. We are now, apparently, free to do as we please and live out our dreams, just as long as we do everything they tell us. This includes weekly inspections of our homes by lifestyle advisors, the heavy handed enforcers of the new regime, who ensure our freedom from any comprising contraband or evidence of conflicting ideals. Weekly visits to the Halls of Gratification are also expected, to pay the percentage of our earnings to the upkeep of our nation. A monthly visit to the Halls of Preservation to donate your sperm into containers if you are male or to chance conception from said containers if you are not. The Halls of Education are also a monthly treat, here you are taught of the goodness of the society, new and innovative ways to achieve happiness, newer and simpler literature (if you could call it such) and the evil and crime against Britain that is the heterosexual. The Halls of Benevolence are a chance to receive your allowance of tokens for your drugs of recreation and your allowance depends on your donation to the Halls of Gratification and Preservation. Finally there are the Halls of Records; here one is expected to visit monthly to sit and record into your file, the activities of your week. This is said to encourage reflection, organisation and productivity. What really is encouraged is to include your sexual exploits and partner’s names, literature read or music listened to, hours worked and suggestions for the regime. I feel this last encouragement to be an aesthetic only.

 

There were some who resisted once, places one could go. Those that did so went to underground clubs, met with those of their choosing, listened to Beethoven, read Shakespeare, and were themselves. But the officers of the regime found them, and suppressed them.

 

This is the society I live in: one of surveillance and mind control, all projected as beneficial and consumed willingly by the masses. But the masses is not a term for the entire population, there are some of us, a brave few, who resist. Because it is not natural what has been force fed to us and, before the new regime, heterosexuals were not uncommon and were so by birthright. I am one these.

 

In 1872, when I was 12 years old, before the hypocrisy and the control, my family and I went on holiday to Brighton. The Bank Holiday Act had been introduced the previous year and I found myself excited to be on a train for the first time to see the beaches, sea and attractions that it was so rapidly taking me to. Whilst staying at the hotel, my fathers happened to meet by coincidence acquaintances of theirs from work, two ladies by the name of Pyne whom also had brought their daughter, Annabel. I remember a tirade of feelings washing over me instantaneously the moment she smiled at me in greeting: confusion, attraction, apprehension, arousal and additional confusion.

 

My parents had told me there were people in the world that were attracted to members of the opposite sex but it had been a mere mention, they had not gone into detail and I had assumed it was something rare and that would never affect me. But I was wrong, not only had I found the first person in my life that I felt both emotionally and physically attracted to, but I found that she reciprocated in this admiration.

 

The week that I spent there was one I will never forget, as it verified to myself who I was. The experimentation of our feelings for each other, and the varying feelings we could impart upon each other, resonates with me to this day, and since then I have been committed to staying true to myself.

 

I suppose,”

Adam paused and looked up from his desk. He wasn’t sure how he could say it without compromising his image. He wanted more than anything for you to believe him and not think him weak willed, confused or indeed that the society he lived in might indeed be the right one after all.

Moments past as Adam thought upon what he could write; he got to his feet and washed the plates that he had used earlier and lit a fire in the stove before returning to his desk and staring blankly at his paper. From the high street, the sound of wolves howling could be heard against the noise of the city. This seemed to rouse Adam from his inactivity and procrastination, and he dipped his fountain pen back into the ink and continued.

 

“I suppose I have had doubts. I have had relationships with men, all of them failed however, and I would like that point stressed. There were boys at school, men at work, most of whom I was approached by and, I suppose, I got confused. It is easy to forget yourself in the constant overload of ideology that is washed over one. Reader, you must believe me, I am true to myself.

 

My only hope is that one day someone may dig this up. My labour, my oppression and my struggle may be read by you; perhaps one day people may use this to know just how severe it was to live in this society. Perhaps one day you’ll know what it was like to be me.”

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OK, guys, go easy on this stuff, it’s all in Beta stage! Read the commentary afterwards for this to actually make sense and see what I was on about!

Suffrage Boy

After politely dismissing the persistent landlady who assured her return in an hour with supper, Henry Bentley walked into the inn’s bedroom, shrugging off the black armband that clung to his arm just as he wished to also shrug off the afternoon’s bleak happenings. He was a sentimental man, and he had been thoroughly sobered by the afternoon’s proceedings.

 

His dismal disposition however, was altered, and not for the better as he spotted an unfamiliarly familiar package that had been slipped under his door, he assumed, by the landlady. From sombre sobriety his mood changed to suspicious suspense as he all too familiarly recognised the handwriting on the front of the envelope that read: “Please Read.”

 

Throwing his dog Holly the scraps of his hastily devoured breakfast, he sank into the chair next to the bed and considered the letter. He was reluctant to release its contents upon his already battered centre of emotion but, feeling it was his duty, he thumbed open the roughly clenched fingers of the document’s edges.

 

He expected to find a poorly timed delivery of the article that he had unwittingly stowed upon his journalist. Mr. Bentley was the editor of The Frightful Farthing 1/4d and therefore employed several journalists for his story paper who might attempt to outwit Mr. Harmsworth and his Halfpenny Marvel. His expectations were, however, misplaced.

 

As the package yielded its contents, Mr. Bentley discovered a form of diary, accounting for only a day or so, written by his only female journalist, Ms. Lucy Davison. As Mr Bentley looked at the handwriting he found himself experiencing a mounting sense of unease, as although the script was familiar to him, its progressively erratic and distressed form seemed to him a foreign trait of its caster. Despite his reservations, he poured himself a large glass of the whiskey that sat in the Victorian-esq decanter on the desk, and settled deeper into the chair.

 

‘It is as I sit here, in what could well be my tomb, that I wish to document what has befallen me. This is not so I may point the finger of blame to any, but merely so that others may learn from my folly, from disturbing memories that are best forgotten, and so that by doing so this may be laid to rest.

 

I arrived on Glastonbury at dawn yesterday, (June 4th 1913), to provide a thorough report regarding the tragic and mysterious death of two townsfolk that occurred at the premises of the also recently deceased Ms. Isobel Báthory. Ms. Báthory had been resident of a local manor at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, and a prominent member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, who had been killed during a rally in London.

 

After alighting from the train that had so swiftly carried me from London, I had my luggage sent ahead to the local tavern wherein I would be spending my night’s slumber and pulled my bicycle down from the train (a fusty gentleman had attempted to do this for me, yet I assured him I was able to perform this duty independently) I then proceeded to take the short four mile journey into the ancient town.

 

As I cycled, noticing just how bitter the air was against my skin, I couldn’t help but be slightly perturbed by the weather. Those ominous dark clouds, the lonesome blowing wind and the rain that seemed to cry tears down my own face. This was not the weather I had expected of June, nor the weather I had left in London. It disturbed me significantly, and I approached the town with more trepidation than I would have liked. This was contributed by the overhanging, dominating presence of Glastonbury Tor. It leered over the town, seemed to grow in size and presence even once I arrived and was consistently in my peripheral vision.

 

On arrival into Glastonbury I checked into the tavern that bore the name ‘The Bloody Lady’ on a rickety and rotten wooden sign, which creaked and thumped as the icy wind knocked it against the old building.

 

I could tell you of the nature of the inn, the peculiar and overtly sexist nature of the locals, the queer terror that arose when I mentioned my purpose. I could tell you of the bump in the night that awoke me, and the figure of a small skeletal boy that I had thought I had seen, sat at the end of my bed watching me sleep, but I dare not. It would detract from what I need to say and I do not know how long I have until he returns, or till I lose the ability to process real memories and am left with the echoes of ones that took place here, so many years ago. Therefore I skip to my arrival at the house: my inevitable resting place.

 

The manor was a short cycle ride from the town’s centre, and I swiftly came to the foot of Glastonbury Tor, and the pathway that led to the old mansion.

 

It was a sublime sight, like its surroundings, and filled me with a type of terror and awe that I had yet to feel in the city. It had gargoyles or each corner of the roof; they glared down at me daring me to enter and at the same time pleading my return to The Bloody Lady.

 

I left my bicycle as I reached the doorway, hoisted my suitcase containing my typewriter under my arm. With great effort, I pushed the monstrously tall door which creaked with immense weight and showered me in dust and cobwebs, and stepped into the dark and dank hall.

 

It smelt of damp, and the air was thick with dust and, alike to the door, cobwebs clung to every corner of the majestic room. Despite its obvious age, the time had apparently been taken to install electricity within its ancient walls and as I was able to light the room instantly. It was vast and square, with a staircase in the centre leading above, a doorway that I had been informed led to the kitchen, and a small, oval door behind the staircase, which seemed to be the only part of the house that was clean and seemed to have been in recent use. This sparked my interest: the two men that had been found dead had both been found in a cellar.

 

I set my typewriter on an ancient chaise lounge that expelled copious clouds of dust and headed straight for the door, notebook clutched to my breast. I stooped to open the undersized door and cross through it and was confronted with a pitch black hole with a flight of stairs.

I activated the lights to the cellar and as I did so, I saw him.

 

The boy that had been in my room the night before, stood at the bottom of the steps. Naked, skeletal, with pale skin that barely stretched across his face. He had sunken eye sockets with empty, bottomless black eyes, dried blood around his miniature ears and a mournful expression across his dry, chapped mouth.

 

He screamed, just as I did the same, and his face became contorted with rage. The next thing I knew I was tumbling down the steps towards him and crashed at the bottom. It took me a few minutes to come around and pick myself up from the cold stone floor of the cellar and look around. He was nowhere to be seen. I was, of course, terrified and regardless of my rational way of thinking, strong will and resolve, I turned to run up the stairs and leave this building forever.

 

However, it was then that I noticed a pristine and gleaming table set up in the middle of the room with three piles of documents upon them. They appeared to a mixture of newspaper cuttings and handwritten notes of which the writing was evidently of a child’s hand. I approached the table and began to sift through the papers.

 

It took me well over an hour to read everything, I could not stop myself, and after I had done so I had understood its relevance. The newspaper cuttings showed the rallies and exploits of Isobel Báthory: activist, independent woman and, what the newspapers could not divulge, mother. The notes were written by her son, they did not mention his name. Due to her status as a suffragette (a coinage I had read recently in the Daily Mail) Ms. Báthory had resented, despised and, seemingly, tormented the boy. That was what the paper-trail diary seemed to denote at any rate. The boy wrote that he had been locked in the very cellar I stood in, without food or ventilation for days at a time. Whenever Ms. Báthory went away on a rally or a convention, had acquaintances to visit or simply when the sheer sight of him caused her to remember his existence, he was locked in the cellar. It seemed as though this was where he had died, without anyone’s knowledge, from suffocation and starvation after his mother had been killed and never returned to emancipate him.

 

The notes were painfully distressing to me, and what was more I felt that the air in the cellar was starting to dwindle. I was struggling to breathe, despite the cellar door being wide open and the paper upon the desk rippling from the wind that surely blew in from the hall; air was becoming less and less easily absorbed into my lungs.

 

I staggered up the stairs, gasping, and reached for the doorway but the door snapped shut. I pulled and tugged at it as my mind began to cloud and my vision blur. However, just as I thought I had lost consciousness, I felt a hand upon mine, a small, bony hand with overlong nails that dug painfully into my hand and turned the handle of the door. It flew open and there I lay upon the hall floor, hyperventilating and feeling the sweet cold air flood my lungs and bring me to my senses.

 

I looked down at my hand and noticed, with a jolt in my stomach, that five, finger spaced, nail shaped cuts were upon my hand. Blood was seeping down my wrist like scarlet tears from my knuckles.

 

It was at this same time, as I sobbed on my knees holding my hands, I heard a sound that caused me to jump in fright. It was a bell. But there was no doorbell, I thought, and no one came up to this house, the locals had made that much clear as day. I gazed at the monstrous door.

 

However, as I knelt with the hair beginning to stand up on the back of my neck, the sound of a bell sounded, louder this time, and carried on ringing, over and over again. I suddenly recognised its sound; it was from my bicycle. I sprinted to the door, praying to find one of the strange locals signalling for me, and hauled open the door and ran out onto the porch way where I had left my bicycle. The sound had stopped as I crossed the threshold of the house to the outside and I noticed that my bicycle was not where I had left it. It was several meters away, on the pathway, and looked as though it had been thrown.

 

The chain that worked the wheels from the pedals had slipped off and I bent down and reattached it into its correct place; I was ready to climb upon it and ride back to the town. As soon as it clicked into place the pedals started whirring and spinning, the wheels turning rapidly, whilst my hand was still inside the chain. Its teeth snapped at me and I fell backwards with a scream as ruby red blood scattered across my clothes.

 

As I staggered into the house, attempting to find a tap to run my hand underneath, I noticed my typewriter had moved. It was lying, in pieces on the floor, as if someone had smashed it. The paper that had been inside it, ready for my recordings lay crumpled on the floor, yet I could see the trace of ink upon it. I crossed the room and scooped it off the floor, my heart thumping in my throat, and unfolded the note and realised that it had been typed upon, just two words, before the destruction of the typewriter.  “HELP. ME.”

 

I…’

 

The diary stopped here. Mr. Bentley assumed the worst of what had happened after she had written these final words. The locals had informed him that they had found Lucy’s body in the corner of the cellar of the house, lifeless from asphyxiation.

 

A shiver ventured from the back of his collar and made its way down his spine as he considered just how the landlady could have come across the letter and, more troublingly, how she could had known it was for him. He heard a creak outside his door and glanced up from the paper.

 

Holly growled deeply and retreated into the corner as the door slowly opened.

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OK, guys, go easy on this stuff, it’s all in Beta stage! Read the commentary afterwards for this to actually make sense and see what I was on about!

Illustration by Elliot Coffin, check out his awesome art and illustration at: Elliot Coffin Illustration 

For years, the forest of Lyca was perfect for taking a short cut to the larger towns and somewhere that the children could roam free and play without fear or care of any kind. That was before the disappearances, before the howls in the night and the cries of children silenced.  

 

The creature that dwelled deep inside Lyca forest was one that was simply evil. It was the worst type of creature, the one all the other bad creatures cross the road to avoid passing. It was thirteen and a half feet tall, and that was with the hump in its back that caused it to lean over at a slight angle to the right. It was clothed in robes that hooded the creature, that were of a most bottomless and hopeless black and ripped and torn as if they had been through barbed wire. Its face was one of terror incarnate, with entirely white eyes, slits for nostrils and a wide, gaping pit for a mouth that constantly hung open as if it were howling with misery. It had teeth that were broken and jagged, skin that seemed to not be large enough to fit its face and therefore appeared stretched and peeling. It was, in short, horrifying.

Perhaps the worst thing about the creature was its affinity for children. Its yearn for taking children from their families who henceforth could never hope to see them again. What it did to them, reader, even I do not know, but if I did, I still would not tell you. This is certainly evidence enough for mothers far and wide adamantly refusing their children entry into the forest, it is known that in particular, the creature preyed most preferably upon girls that were reaching the time wherein childhood is but a repressed memory and womanhood a tentative cycle journey away.

Before, parents around the land had not known that the disappearance of their children and the mournful, spine chilling scream that arose from the forest each time they did, were due to the monster. This was until seventeen children had gone missing, and after each and every one had been devoured the parents could hear the same soul-wrenching howl that meant the monster had indeed struck again. One of these had been Alice’s own brother, and since then children had been banned from entering the Forest of Lyca, children just like Alice.

Alice was, well, perhaps not like any other girl her age; she was naive and curious as fourteen year old girls surely are, but she possessed an essence of beauty that was blossoming with her age. She had long, wavy dark hair that swallowed one’s gaze and flowed right down to the bottom of her back; her eyes were the lightest shade of blue, so blue that it seemed she had inherited them from the wolves in the hills and her lips were full and of a blood red. Her skin was pale, and made the red hooded coat she had recently purchased from running an errand for her sick mother, stand out boldly against it. And her mother was just that: sick. The type of sick that people don’t come back from.  But Alice had been told that there was a plant, a herb of the rarest kind that grew only in the heart of the Forest of Lyca, and it was that alone that could save her mother.

Alice was stubborn and headstrong, and despite her mother’s refusal, at dawn she had made her departure from her house in secret, two hours earlier than her mother normally rose from bed. She would at least adhere to the warning she was given, and had been given since she could remember: “Keep To The Path. Do Not Stray From The Path.”

As Alice stood at the gates of Lyca Woods, she contemplated the weather. It was spring, the weather was still bitterly cold at times and the villagers were still treated to the odd bout of snow, often preceded by sunshine that lacked all warmth and merely glared down at the villagers as if showing them its potential whilst deliberately refusing it. However, the closer Alice had got to the forest, the fouler the weather became. The sun had almost completely retreated and now its foul cousins the wind and rain had come. The wind itself seemed to be attempting to blow her back the way she had come and the rain seemed to be trying to weigh her clothes down with so much water that she would be unable to walk on. Even the odd ray of sunshine seemed to be pointing in the direction of home.

The trees at Alice’s point of entry towered over her and seemed to glare menacingly whilst simultaneously welcoming her in with branches outstretched like great gnarled arms, and indeed, as Alice crossed the threshold of the forest she turned her head to see if some knobbly and gnarled fingers weren’t reaching out to grasp her from behind.

They in fact, were not, although Alice noticed that the moment she passed under the candid stare of the tree a deafening silence engulfed her. You might question how a silence can be deafening, but from the terrific noise and commotion from the weather that Alice’s ears had become accustomed to, the sudden instant that she crossed the threshold of the forest it silenced, causing her to jump and scream and look about as if the tree’s imaginary fingers had placed their hardened hands about her head. However, Alice was levelheaded and brave enough to regain herself. She shook her head and walked along the path that snaked suggestively through the forest.

It was a path that was not really a path. There was no man-made evidence that made it a path, nor a consistent heavy footfall that had created one. There was just gentle falling of leaves and shrubbery that seemed to beckon her to the desired route. As Alice walked along she noticed how she could, at best, see only ten or twelve steps in front of her at a time. This was partly due to the dim and gloomy light that only partially provided a vague picture of her surroundings, but also due to the path only having a very short stretch in front before snaking round a bend of trees restricting the route from Alice’s view.

Aside from the growing feeling of being watched, the random snap of a twig and her own mounting feeling of unease that she ignored, Alice found her earliest hours walking through the forest to be thankfully uneventful.

It was not till two hours after this that Alice began to tire. She thought that it must be around noon at least, although looking above to see how the light had changed she remained unaware as the trees still admitted no sunlight, or any light it seemed. The eerie, dim light had a green tinge to it that made it seem that it came directly from the trees themselves, as if each one were a part of a sun that lit the forest.

As she sat upon a boulder that lay next to the path, Alice drew her cloak around herself and looked around. She had certainly thought she had heard a lot of activity within the forest surrounding her, but she had not seen a single animal. The plants were changing too. They had appeared like any of the plants that grew outside in the fields, but as Alice progressed through the forest she had noticed them changing. They, similar to everything in the forest, seemed to have a life, a soul, seemed to shrink away if she stomped too close, to follow her scent as she walked. There were tall, imposing flowers that were of a vivid pink, with arms that seemed to sway in the wind and gills in its neck allowing it to breathe.

As she tried to not allow the bizarre foliage disturb her anymore than it already had, she heard something. It was a movement, a scurrying in the thickets around her. She instinctively got up from the boulder she was resting on and returned to the path.

Alice set off looking around her as she went, but she couldn’t locate the origin of the sound that was beginning to distress her more and more. Throwing back her hood and feeling the muggy, frozen forest air wash over her face, she stopped walking and listened intently. The sound had stopped. Whatever it was appeared to be waiting for her to make her next move.

The next thing Alice knew there was a sudden movement in a tree above her, and she ran as fast as she could up and along the path constantly looking behind her to see if anything was following her. She ran for as long she could until, partly due to the light, partly due to fatigue, she tripped over a thick root that lay conveniently along the path. She fell with the full force of her sprinting, and collapsed, face first, biting into and removing a large, fleshy segment from the inside of her bottom lip. There she lay, panting, with blood flooding from her lips that matched the colour, and onto her cloak that did the same. As she did so she noticed the scurrying grew closer and seemed to be coming from behind her; she turned onto her back, ready to face the creature if she must.

Staring at her, from the path, were two animals. One was a squirrel. But a squirrel unlike any that Alice had ever seen before. This, she thought, must be the king of all its kind. It was larger than most, and its coat was of the most beautiful looking fur Alice had ever seen. It, like the trees, seemed to have a glow emanating from it, which gave it the combined and total look of splendour.

Beside it was a stag, a stag of the same astonishing beauty as the squirrel that sat next to it; it seemed almost to be straight out of a dream. Alice gazed at it in awe, wished that she could gaze at it forever, but it turned and cantered off from the path, out of sight, and the squirrel followed it.

Alice ran, away from the path and after them. She wasn’t able to explain it, but she had a compulsion that swelled deep inside her to be near them, to touch them, to follow them wherever they led her.  It could have been that she was just grateful of the company in the forest, but she couldn’t say. She ran, not looking where she was going.  The trees were becoming a blur of green and brown, but her way ahead was clear. Alice could see a third creature in front, much bigger, alongside the other two; she needed to see it, to find out what it was, to be close to it.

It wasn’t long before Alice had to slow down. Her lungs could not keep up with her will, and battery acid was flowing through her veins as her heart begged for a chance to catch up. As she stood, her head hung, panting, she heard it. Breathing, breathing that quickened with excitement. A rasping, moaning wheeze of a breath and a sniffing, a deep smelling of the air, of her scent.

As she gazed into the impenetrable darkness she saw it appear, two pearls through the fog. Two oval shapes of purest white, two eyes. It had found her. The creature that Alice had been told of, the thing that all others feared, and she could see why. Alice had to silence a scream when it jumped to her lips as it came into view; it was horrific. The tattered cloak, the stretched and disfigured face, the disgusting drooling mouth with the overwhelming expression of sadness.

It was then Alice noticed a breeze, a breeze that flowed through her hair, around her neck and towards the creature. The monster breathed in deeply, a slow, wheezing breath and its white pupils seemed to bulge, its mouth to contract. This caused Alice to gag, and nearly be sick, but just as this happened the stag smashed through the undergrowth and landed with a clatter between Alice and the monster. Before then, Alice must have been rooted to spot with terror, unable to move due to sheer horror and repulsion. Whatever had been holding her lifted now with arrival of the stag and she found herself running, faster than she had been before, faster than she had all day, faster than she had ever run.

Without looking where she was going Alice tore through the forest. Branches whipped across her face, cutting her, and roots and rocks tried to tripped her up, but she did not stop. She did not look back to see what had become of her assailant or rescuer but continued to run, as blood and tears streamed down her face she ran until she collapsed against a tree, broke down and sobbed into her muddy, bloody hands.

It wasn’t until some time later that Alice looked up from her tears and stared around her. She pulled herself to her feet, pulled herself together and pulled her hood back over her head. As she brushed the dark strands of her hair that had stuck to her face she realised for the first time that she was no longer on the path but far from it. It seemed she had followed the animals and ran into the heart of the forest. The air was thicker, the strange light was stranger and the ear-perforating silence engulfed her more than ever.

Moments later, Alice saw something emerging from the dense shadows. It was a figure, unlike the one she had run from previously. It made no noise, and seemed to glide rather than walk and, for good or for bad, was coming directly towards her. There was something about it that filled Alice with unease. She felt as if she knew it, but at the same time had absolutely no idea what it was.

As it grew closer, Alice saw that it was the figure of a man, or was it a man? It seemed to be of human form, and male, but young, only a few years older than she was in fact. As he approached Alice realised, with a shock greater than any other she had encountered yet, why he was familiar.

It was her brother. Although Alice had not known him well before he had left home and disappeared, she knew that she was not mistaken. The confirmation came from within her.

“Brother?” She called. “Brother, is that you?”

It was he and she knew it. Although he did not seem to quite be there; it seemed as though he was not of solid form, a mist-like substance, smoke, as if a breeze occurred too strong and he might be blown away in an instant.

The figure of her brother made no sign of recognition, or any sign that he heard Alice speaking to him at all. Instead, he merely grew closer and closer to her; his eyes unfocussed yet staring right through her. Although he made no obvious sign of threat, Alice couldn’t help but feel the instinct of fear and mounting unease that was becoming so familiar during her trip into the forest. She began to back away.

It was at that moment that many things happened at once. Firstly, Alice, backing away from the apparition form of her brother, tripped over. Her shoes had managed to locate yet another root poking out from the undergrowth. Secondly, the misty and translucent vision of Alice’s brother had come closer and she noticed that he had changed ever so slightly in appearance. It was if his features had been blurred, or burned and inexpertly patched back together again. His eyes had focussed with an unnatural hunger and burned momentarily red. At the same time as she noticed this she fell over, and by doing so, her hood fell back and her skirt flew up.

Before she could even get to her feet, he was upon her. For a vision that seemed to almost be made out of smoke, he was solid enough. Solid enough in all of the places she feared and he pinned her to floor. She could not move an inch, she could feel her cloak threatening to tear as she struggled, and his weight upon her was causing her to lose breath.

But as her mind clouded, as the air that could not reach her body seemed to fill her mind, and all hopes of rescue and prolonged childhood seemed to flicker and die, the scene around her came back into focus. She could breathe again, and the smoke-like figure of her attacker was fading. Something had driven it away. Alice looked around her and saw what it was. The creature, the hideous monster that she thought she had escaped from was stood in an opening of the trees behind her, wheezing deeply, drooling from its mouth and watching her.

Alice got to her feet but staggered and winced with pain from her midriff. She looked down at her clothes, they were ripped and torn and she was scared at where blood was coming from.

The creature limped towards her, dragging one of its legs as it did so. Alice, too weak to run anymore, tried to move away, but her back found the cold and tough touch of a tree’s trunk blocking her path. She slumped to the bottom of it as the monster bent over her. It gazed intensely at her with its bulging, bottomless white eyes. It did not seem as if it were readying itself to attack her. It seemed to be considering her, trying to communicate. This did little to calm Alice’s fear however: those teeth were meant for only one thing.

The thing extended an arm from its robes, at the end of which was what Alice supposed was a hand. It was crooked, and deformed, with brittle jagged claws for fingers. It grasped her arm and pulled her away. She kicked and screamed but it was pointless. The monster was far stronger than she and her voice, like the rest of her body, no longer had the will to resist.

In the distance, Alice could see the path that she had run from. It snaked through the forest going ever deeper into its heart. The light in the forest appeared to be dwindling, yet she found she could see further. The creature limped, dragging her along with it back towards the path as Alice sobbed and made one last futile attempt to break free. As she felt the claws clutching at her arm, she was surprised at how gentle they were when holding her, despite denying her freedom. She was in no pain from the creature. Well, she thought, not yet at least. That part would surely come soon enough.

It was then that Alice heard it: another sound in the forest that began as an echo. A dull, rhythmic thudding that quickly grew in volume and clarity. Hooves, Alice thought.

With a crash from a nearby tree, the figure of a horse smashed into the surrounding undergrowth occupied by Alice and the creature. With a roar that Alice had never heard any horse make before, it reared and kicked the monster where its chest ought to have been and sent it soaring into the bushes. With smooth, muscular arms, it picked Alice off the floor who gazed at it opened- mouthed.

She was staring into the face of a longhaired, bearded man, but she could have sworn she had noticed no rider as the horse dived through the trees. With a queer thought she looked down, and her mouth, if possible, dropped even lower.  There was a point where the bare-chested man, who held Alice carefully in his arms, ceased, and the horse that had gallantly attacked the monster, began. He was both horse and man, and a superb specimen of both. He was broad and wild, with piercing blue eyes and a long, silky mane of blond hair.

“I am a centaur, Alice.” He said, as if it needed clarifying, in a deep, slow and reassuring voice. “I have come to ensure that you will no longer fall prey to the hideous creature that curses these woods.”

He placed Alice upon his back, and began to walk away from the path.

“How do you know my name?” Alice asked. It was this, rather than the fact she was sat, riding on the back of a mythological creature, that most concerned her.

“I know many things.” The centaur said, in his calculated tone. “I know of your purpose here, I know of your past and of what is to come.”

“I need to find the plant,” Alice said. “I need to find the herb that can save my mother.”

“I know of your purpose here,” The centaur repeated, shaking his magnificent head so that his hair danced around him. “And I shall take you to where it grows.” He spoke no more, but broke into a canter and Alice found herself drifting heavily into a sleep despite her not being in the least bit tired. She could not keep her eyes open.

When she awoke, it was to find herself curled up in a haystack; her bleeding had stopped, her clothes were repaired and the green light from the forest appeared to be shining brightly again around her, so much so that it caused her to squint and shield her eyes.

She pulled herself out of the hay and looked behind her. To her astonishment there was a small, old stone cottage with a thatched roof that seemed familiar to Alice with smoke puffing out of its chimney. Alice turned to pick up her red cloak from the haystack.

“Alice,” Said a deep voice making her jump and causing her to drop her cloak. The centaur stood at the doorway of the cottage, but she could have sworn he had not been there before. “Come into the cottage. We have prepared the plant that you need to save your mother. It is brewing inside. Come in,” He opened the door, “and we shall make a batch up for you to take home. I will escort you back to ensure no harm comes to you.”

“Thank you,” Alice stammered, “Thank you ever so much.”

She collected her coat again and approached the centaur and the cottage.

“Give that to me.” The centaur said, in his deep, commanding voice, taking Alice’s cloak. “And your dress, you won’t be needing them anymore.”

Alice did not question him, but did as he said, took his outstretched hand and stepped into the cottage with the centaur at her back.

It was smoky in the cottage. Alice couldn’t see clearly, but she could see figures huddled in the corner and a cauldron bubbling with a sickly sweet smell coming from it.

There was a creek, as one of the shadowy figures opened one of the windows, and the air seemed to immediately clear, as the outside air guzzled the smoke up.

As Alice’s vision cleared, the figures around the cauldron came into view. There, stood gazing at her, was a squirrel and a stag. She knew them to be the same animals that she had met what seemed like a lifetime a go, but they could not have looked more different. They were not glistening and soft, but matted, mangy and with open sores all over their skin and foam at their mouths. Their eyes no longer shone hope and benevolence, but contained malice and a twisted hunger. Outside, Alice could see the strange light surrounding the clearing in the wood; the flowers were beautiful, the trees majestic, but that light seemed obscured from this room. And as Alice looked down at herself, she noticed her bleeding had restarted and that her cloak was nearly torn in two.

Alice turned to flee, but found her path blocked by the centaur. He too had transformed. No longer did he appear so glorious, he was balding, weak chinned, fat and ugly. His eyes were crossed and his smile wicked. He was laughing, and no longer was his voice the deep and calm tone it was before, but a high-pitched cackle that emitted from his evil mouth. She could not escape.

Outside stood the monster, gazing through the window, trembling and shaking with grief. It’s horrific face twisted in agony, and tear drops of the thickest oil-like substance splattered onto the windowsill. As the tear hit the windowsill, onto the patches where the light of the forest could not reach, it turned to a pearly white. And the mouldy claws that rested next to it appeared to be hands of the most beautiful pale skin.

The creature, turned from the cottage, threw back its head to stare pleadingly at the heavens, and howled. It howled and screamed in misery, the same howl that the surrounding towns had feared and presumed evil.

“Alice! Alice!” A voice. A voice from what seemed so far away began to come into focus and clarity.

Alice opened her eyes to find her mother standing over her.

“Where, how did I…”

“You’ve been ill Alice,” Her mother said. “quite ill in fact. But the doctor managed to find a rare plant that would cure you.”

Alice stared up at her in amazement. “But what about you?” She asked. “And your illness?”

“Quiet now Alice.” Her mother said calmly. “You’ve been asleep for three days now. I found you outside the house, collapsed! It was after you got back from town on that blasted errand I could have probably run myself.”

Alice stared at her surroundings. The sunlight was peeking in through her open window and offering no warmth. She had no visible signs of injury, and the red hooded coat she bought on the same trip to town was hanging up on her bedroom door, untarnished and intact.

And she lived.

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So, in regard to a post of mine a while ago, I was going to post up a couple of bits and bobs that I had been working upon for my final year, the piece de resistance being my dissertation topic of a warped and sexualised re-imagination of Little Red Riding Hood. I have, however, encountered a little snag.

The thing is finished, bound and handed in (huzah with bells on!) but it totals around 12,000+ words if you include the rationale that goes with it. Now, I would just post the ‘fairy tale’ but I think it is lost without its explanatory friend. I’m relatively pleased with it, left it till the last minute as always, but think it’s interesting enough.

I guess what I’m babbling about is I need your guidance. What do you think? Is this something that you’d be interested to read (as many of you expressed a month or so ago) despite its length? If so, I shall post away (it even has a rather spiffing illustration.)

Let me know what you think wordpressians, much appreciated.

 

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So it’s about that time of the year that those with the funds this summer take a minute and decide on what festival they’re attending. Or is it? With Glastonbury and Oxegen taking a year off and Sonisphere joining the Big Chill in being cancelled, have you decided against festivals this year? Can your purse/wallet not take the punishment? Or (perish the thought) is it your body that cannot hack the 3-5 days or so of absolute annihilation that you put it through? If any of these reasons are ringing any bells then you may be in the population of regular festival-goers that have bowed out this year only to be followed by the festivals themselves.

It appears that Reading and Leeds are going ahead as planned (hopefully at any rate, as I have a weekend ticket for the former) although tickets have not sold out, despite being on sale for over a month now. Am I the only one who can remember these tickets selling out within hours? The days of sitting in front of three screens with five different ticket sites open on each clicking the refresh button over and over? Crashing sites and engaged telephone lines seem to be a thing of the past.

Bestival, Camp Bestival, Download and V festival are among those that are soldiering on and it seems that the former two are some of the very few that are not suffering losses. The independent festivals orchestrated by DJ Rob Da Bank seem to be selling tickets as normal and the independent entrepreneur assures the public that they will not be disappointed and that “we’ll sell out again on both our shows.”

But it seems to be relatively lonely in its confidence of success. Sonisphere and the Big Chill are just some of the bigger festivals that have pulled out due to organisation and ticket sale disasters this year, whilst a host of smaller festivals too have been forced to cancel. Oxegen’s promoters too have stated that, like Glastonbury, they will be taking a year off, despite it being Ireland’s biggest and most popular festival and winning numerous awards. Sources claim that lack of ticket sales are to blame.

It seems that one of the greatest British pastimes for the summer is losing its buzz, and one shouldn’t struggle to fathom why.

The price is obviously a set back; with weekend tickets setting folks back often over £200, the initial intimidation to your bank account is surely something that has put many off. To attempt to combat this, sites such as Ticketmaster have brought in a deposit scheme for Reading and Leeds where customers can pay a 25% deposit for their ticket. Whilst speaking in an interview to NME, Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn stated that:

“It would be lovely to make [tickets] cheaper if it was economically viable but it isn’t… There’s going to be a deposit sale introduced for the March main sale, which will be the first time we’ve done that properly.”

Considering the majority of festival attendees are aged between 16 and 30 this is most certainly a wise move. However, this has not stopped 2012 being one of the worst years for ticket sales.

The spirit of festivals has declined too one could suggest, popstars who do not play instruments and rely on electronics to perform win the heart of the masses who have seen the old five-piece rock band routine all too many times.

Additionally, one of the most prominent factors that ought to be addressed is the tiny event that is being held in Britain this year known as the Olympic Games. An event with the historical magnitude such as this and that none of us will live to see on Britain’s shores again is a convincing diversion from a festival that will be held again a year after. This comes with another 60 events sprouting up to supplement the game; Radio 1 is hosting a weekend in Hackney and is charging a grand total of £0 for 100,000 lucky goers. The versatile line up seems to take Glastonbury’s absence with an appeal to many musical appetites with acts ranging from Rhianna to Enter Shikari and Ed Sheeran to DeadMau5.

Despite these issues, I for one hope that festivals do not die out and hope that they may find the spirit that is dwindling. The magic that was Glastonbury in the 90’s may have gone, where Oasis and Blur fought for control and instead of spending 1/5 of your loan on a ticket one could just climb through a bush, but we as a generation can bring our ingenuity too. And by that I don’t mean Justin Bieber and a rise in unemployment, but bringing something new to the musical table. Music has forever changed and adapted to its society and, therefore, so must its festivals.

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This is they way of things now, Wolf.” Said Red.

As he tried to clamber to his paws, the wolf glanced up in terror at the two women standing over him. He couldn’t understand.

One was an elderly woman, she was haggard in her face, a hunch in her back, but that did not cause him sympathy. Now this could have been for a few reasons. It could have been due to him being a cruel and heartless wolf, it could be that a wolf’s sympathy is not seduced by such things, perhaps. Or perhaps it could have been due to the heavy spade that the frail old dear was raising, to hit him again across the snout.

One was a girl of the age wherein childhood is but a repressed memory and womanhood a tentative cycle journey away. He felt nothing but pure dread when regarding the girl and her rosy hood. Now this might have been for a few reasons. It might have been due to the fact that despite being where he was, he felt such an affinity for her, it might have been from her long dark hair to that repulsively rapacious rouge robe that seemed to pursue him through the very wood in which he dwelled and through his very soul. It might have been this rebuked compulsion, perhaps. Or perhaps it might have been due to the eight-inch knife that he assumed the girl intended to use to remove his other ear.

This had been waiting to happen he thought. Fate had been hinting a change of play, in the way that it did, the unrelenting, unfeeling director that it was. Girls just weren’t what they used to be. No longer did they marvel at his propensities and their utilities or even fear from straying from the path. Perhaps he was no longer something to fear but a rite to simply conquer before continuing down along the passage.

He wondered why this was happening. It was in his nature to pursue and dominate (the wolf: a strong essentialist) but that didn’t seem possible these days. He even missed the huntsman. As he noted the absence of the third killing entity he noted its presence now obsolete.

As he got to his paws, the wolf looked up in terror at the two women standing over him.

“This is the way of things now, Wolf.” Red said.

He understood.

The End.

I just knocked this together in a few minutes. I’m writing a re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland for my dissertation at the moment, investigating the gothic stereotype and female sexuality within the traditional fairytale. Yes, before you ask that is precisely what I ought to be doing right now.

This takes a slightly different route (obviously) in looking at the rise of feminism and the wolf as a symbol of male lust (as is pretty standard within the interpretations of LRRH), the male gaze and, perhaps, misogyny and patriarchy.

From Charles Perrault’s LRRH with its message at the end to girls to keep on the path and beware of wolves of all types makes it quite clear that to stray off the path is to lose your virginity and to keep clear of men who will try to charm you into bed. The story is a rite of passage within many different versions. Other versions take different stands, Angela Carter takes a feminist approach for example, The Brother Grimm another; the wolf usually embodies male lust and killing the wolf either symbolises repressing female lust and sexuality for safety, or setting it free to celebrate it. Nothing new here.

I suppose this represents that times have changed. The wolf speaks the voice of masculinity, intimidated by stronger women, being over-ridden and destroyed and highlights the crisis of masculinity found today. The wolf used to be the one that preyed on Red, she was the damsel in distress and fell prey to his dominance unless she behaved in a very puritan fashion. But now, despite the fact that her entrancing and arousing nature over the wolf has not changed, she is in control and exerting her femininity and sexuality over the wolf that causes him to fear her. He wants what will destroy him. The grandmother takes revenge on the wolf from her days of suffrage and it acts a form of ritual between generations as a rite of passage.

Red doesn’t require the huntsman (or any man) to save her or awaken her sexuality. Homo-social worlds are a thing of the past in this story.

The wolf presents an essentialist view upon gender and sexuality. He is confused as the lust and drive to hunt is something he was born with and therefore he is confused (to begin with) as to why he is being punished for it. Red presents a more social constructionist view upon gender and sexuality, and is performing the role she performs in every pro feminist reading of the original text(s).

Please leave comments on any other interpretations you took from it, it’s packed full of imagery and metaphors so that one and all can have (hopefully) an individual view of it!

Post Script: Sorry for any spelling/grammatical errors and stuff that doesn’t make sense, I’m in a rush and need food.

P.P.S: Thanks to this site for the image: http://www.toplessrobot.com/2010/12/the_10_sexiest_mcfarlane_toys_action_figures.php

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After studying the novel by Susan Hill at University and watching the stage adaptation on three separate occasions, it is safe to say that I had a nervous anticipation about the release of this film.
Additionally, my excitement to see Hammer making a comeback with their second production accumulated to some high expectations with fears of disappointment that is so often the way in contemporary cinema.


However, I was pleasantly surprised. Surpassing Watkins’ debut, The Woman in Black delivers horrifying chills, nail biting suspense and beautifully twisted macabre. Its finest feature by far is its cinematography. The camerawork is simply superb with, assumably, a combination of over the shoulder shots, POV from all characters putting the handicam to great effect. It is this that is responsible for so much of the terrors within.
As an adaptation, it does well to emulate but not mirror the novel or the stage show, of which an attempt to do so would have been insulting. It maximises the benefit of its medium by delivering horrific special effects and eardrum perforating sound; all in crisp and all too lifelike high definition.
Radcliffe is, sadly, unmemorable. It is a credit to the actor that he is attempting to break away from the painful Potter days but this will not be remembered as his best work. Whilst the audience screams and shrieks at the events occurring on screen, Radcliffe encounters each hurdle and ordeal with unconvincing stoicism. He certainly improves as the film continues although his lack of passion and fear allows the audience to relax and be reminded that that’s all this is: a film.

James Watkins’ The Woman in Black stars Daniel Radcliffe and is currently showing in cinemas.

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