I’d like to think there were editorial clashes; Katharine Briggs, in her mid-seventies and a towering authority on British folklore, pushing for the inclusion of more fairy stories while Russell Ash, fresh off Fortean Times forerunner Man, Myth and Magic, arguing the case for quirkier tales of magic. Robin Gwyndaf Jones roaring “MORE WELSH!” Of course this is extremely unlikely. In reality, it was almost certainly compiled centrally, at the UK offices of that most unhip of institutions the Reader’s Digest, from the submissions of the impressive list of contributors. After all, who can argue what is more valid to be included in a book like this? What is the bar for entry?
Seething-black snake-serpent in MY HOUSE keep your distance creature I know you I know where you slither-crawled from where you’ll get yourself back in to curled sleepless round your nest of rotted chalk eggshells hatching only dead cells.
The fading light of sunset suffused the woods with a staggeringly tedious glow. Oh god, he thought, not this again. Not the majestic beauty of nature. The rich autumnal hymn rising wordlessly to the delight of the unknowable cosmos. Christ. Who actually enjoys this bullshit?
The end of the world is always the same; the day dawns downy with ghosts, red sun casting shadows of things that can no longer be seen. Every moment is pressed with meaning, significance, this is the last time this will happen, take in this detail. You won’t see it again.
You only notice in retrospect.
John shivered in the damp. It was July, but had been raining so long that the heat of any Summer sun was long forgotten. Every tree in the grey mist of the morning looked like the looming head of some giant figure, hauling itself across the landscape on its belly. The birdsong cut sideways through the glum, a cheery reminder of a season that should be happening. Was maybe happening elsewhere.
The air was heavy; baked and left to cool, it smelled like the screen of an old television set. Her feet flexed inside her close-fitting shoes, grinding tight circles in the dust. She breathed in steadily, fighting the urge to cough, seeing in her mind the oxygen reddening her blood. The blood reddening her skin. She ran her hand over her bare arms, a nervous gesture, and shuddered in the heat.
“They said I was mad,” he said. “They said it would never work.” I wondered who ‘they’ were.
“I work mostly in the genre of metafiction,” I said, not looking up from my monitor. “I’m not really interested in your story.”
There were three crows, sat on different branches in the same tree. I lay on the soft grass beneath, staring up as the crows stared down.
Here we go again…