Exuviae: A Mother’s Interest 

There’s a secret scratching beneath the surface of this town.  A secret that Annie Bishop and “Big Al” Halifax are going to split open for the whole world to see.  A secret powered by my completed EXUVIAE rules, within two and a half hours and with no preparation whatsoever.

Annie Bishop works the taxidermy store at the top of town.  It’s a stuffy job, but she’s got the stomach for the work and the intermittent deliveries of Big Al.  So, Big Al pulls up outside her house one morning, having “hit something” on the freeway again, but there’s something up with this moose.  Intricate patterns have been carved into its skin — though clearly not by any knife or claw that Al’s familiar with.  He hauls the carcass into her house — the symbols are weirdly familiar both to south American ancient cultures, but also European and Asian paganism too — though what’s less than familiar is the fact the moose’s liver has calcified into a lump of granite.

The two are both hot up on their conspiracies — Annie reads a ton of occult books and their authors tend to take too much seriously, and Al is a regular listener of those radio stations where you’re allowed to speak out against the vampire lizards.  This stoneliver is clearly a sign: and probably tied to the fact that the florist opposite Annie’s taxidermy shop was broken into a few days back, but still no cops have turned up to turn the place over.

So the two hit up the florist: Al taking his usual subtlety with a heavy kick to the door.  Inside is dark, and the place stinks of rotting lilies and bloating flesh.  There’s a body on the floor and someone rooting through the pockets, but this guy stands up and holds his hands into the air.

But then, see, the body on the floor, it sits bolt upright.  Al spooks, throws his wrench at the guy with his hands up — guy whose head snaps back with a flailing proboscis.  Annie flees the scene, but is barged to the floor by some heavy who steps into the doorway.

The clearly-not-a-corpse has gotten to its feet by this point and grabbed Al, who stares transfixed at the empty eye sockets of the thing.  By the time he breaks free, a steady stream of mosquitoes pour from the sockets, and Annie’s looking through Al’s truck for something to lever open the nearby hydrant.

Except that she sees someone over the road and is promptly interrupted by her mother, who’s not only clearly friends with the brute who knocked Annie to the floor, but also friends with Al’s ex-wife who also crosses the road.  The brute grabs Annie, Big Al runs into the brute’s mate out the back of the shop, and the pair wake up tied to chairs in a dockside warehouse.

This first act of the game led to the players uncovering almost half as many truths as they needed to win: and after escaping the warehouse and resting up at Al’s contact, they researched an abandoned truck-stop at the edge of town.  Eventually leaving that in flames and with the corpse of a hybrid human insect in the back of a truck, the pair fled along the coast road to Annie’s father, where they eventually learned the truth of her mother’s involvement…

seanspade2

EXUVIAE is currently in the run-up to a Kickstarter later this year.  I’m organising artwork, layout, printing, &c.  However, if you want to get access to the beta reader rules then send me an email at SEANatBOOKSEANSMITHdotCOdotUK.

 

Exuviae: A Mother’s Interest 

Harbour End — a Gothic sestina

Darkness lengthens as short days end;

A painful chill that floods the veins.

But night is certain creatures’ love —

Monsters that are cloaked in shadow,

Motivations dark and gloomy.

The help of strangers turns suspicious.

 

“Don’t read my interest as suspicious:

I come to you from harbour end.

The water’s turmoil: eddies gloomy,

Rippled patterns like water’s veins.

I met a man who cast no shadow

Wailing for his drownèd love.

 

“She came to him eyes full of love

Yet glossy sheen made him suspicious.

Followed closer than his absent shadow,

He led away from harbour end

Through streets thinner than children’s veins.

Her airless gasps turned his face gloomy.

 

“Thinning clouds lifted skies from gloomy:

A mottled skin dappled the face of his love.

The tears stood proud ‘gainst flattened veins

And rippled neck he thought suspicious.

He watched her breathing draw to end.

She dropped to floor like drying shadow.”

 

Yet stranger why my steps d’you shadow,

Impress my thought with stories gloomy?

What of this woman’s tragic end?

I am but young, I know not of love,

Yet compulsion thus I find suspicious.

And why stare you such at my veins?

 

He laid a gentle palm on my veins

As I noticed that he cast no shadow.

My mind was calmed, felt not suspicious,

Despite the evening dark’ning gloomy.

His eyes locked mine and burned with love.

His teeth, my neck; a pleasant end.

 

He took veins’ contents ‘til their end.

His absent shadow I filled with love.

So listen not suspicious, though my tale be gloomy.

Harbour End — a Gothic sestina

Le Roi en Jaune (fragment)

This has been translated from a French collection of lays. Originally written in a freeform structure, I’ve taken the liberty of corralling it into rime royal. The second half is lost.

Inside the palace crypt Cassilda sings
A mournful song of lost now in Carcosa,
Such as the recent passing of our kings
From living to the lake-side land Carcosa:
Beneath the baleful suns of far Carcosa.
Yet time upon our city now to mourn;
Bid patience ’til successor be inform’d.

Swiftly from the tomb Cassilda steals
And to the waiting arms of her Diego:
A close embrace then at her feet he kneels.
“Do tell me that Camilla does not know.”
“Neither of our love nor poison, no.
The secrets of his murder with him rest;
No need that talk of treason be suppress’d.”

Yet the late king’s illicit lover waits
And hears the dialogue admitting guilt:
Lucrezia stands hid behind crypt gates.
Initial thought of confrontation wilts
To better guard her safety ‘gainst swordhilt.
“I’ll shed the falsehood at the masquerade
And that the coronation might be stay’d.”

While edge of town a tattered stranger knocks
With vivid hand cowl’d under yellow shawl
And cover’d face as though to shield a pox.
The door opened by royal chef full tall
Who in but a breath is under stranger’s thrall.
The stranger he invites into his home.
Then feastly preparations to be done.

For now the lights are dim, the wine is set:
The guests arrive in rich excellence clad.
Despite disguise all as a king are met.
Among the throng the yellow robed nomad.
So look upon the dance as one near-mad
And hear the conversations overheard
Regardless of who took intended word.

Come midnight bell the call to then unmask
And all but one reveal smiling delight.
All but one — the stranger he — “I wear no mask.”
Camilla from him turns her face in fright
Surveys the scene all pallid in moonlight.
Cassilda from the room has turned and fled.
Camilla’s husband: lying, twitching; dead.

The nobles clutch their stomachs full of pain.
The stranger tall he stands amid the scene
Looks on while gore and bile from faces rain.
The toxin wine gone from decanter clean
Absence brighter than yellow tatters sheen.
Into the street fleeing Cassilda thrust:
“Not upon us, oh king! Not upon us!”

Le Roi en Jaune (fragment)

The Hunt for Higgs’ Bos’n: XVI, for #smalltales

Sure, I was cuffed to the chair. And sure, the chair faced over the open quarry. But if Cold wanted to kill me, he had ample chance. Either way, it wouldn’t do to be completely slave to his whims – and there was a little play in the cuffs. They were clearly cheaper than a swampland sauna.

“It’s not like you to leave a stiff in the cold, Al.”

“Had to send a message, Kurt.”

“Yeah, well Luce put a gun in my face.”

“Luce is more on the looking end of a piece… She came?”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

The Hunt for Higgs’ Bos’n: XVI, for #smalltales

The Hunt for Higgs’ Bos’n: XV, for #smalltales

When I came to, the hangover was hitting harder than the headwound. I could feel that I was cuffed to a chair – we stared out into the gaping maw of open quarry.

Digits? I’d waste that fucker for playing this game. Though this was a little brutish…

Pebbles dropped like my chances of a good morning’s sleep, clanging off the quarry wall with an echo weaker than a hooker’s waistband.

“Long time, Kurt.”

“Don’t sound like a dead man, Al. Last I heard your throat was cut this morning.”

“You ought to watch your news outlets. We need to talk.”

The Hunt for Higgs’ Bos’n: XV, for #smalltales

The Hunt for Higgs’ Bos’n: XIV, for #smalltales

Time I left Roy’s, my head was a swirl of liquor and the lattice of leads stabbed harsh into my temple. Figured that’s what brought the frown until I noticed that I was staring at the open hood of my car.

I kept nothing in it – but the lever is beneath my dashboard.

I took a few steps towards it like wading through shit and placed my hand on the wing. Empty darkness.

My vision blacked out before I registered the blow.

My head reeled as if falling back but I could feel strong arms tipping me into the trunk.

The Hunt for Higgs’ Bos’n: XIV, for #smalltales

The Hunt for Higgs’ Bos’n: XIII, for #smalltales

She sat with her back to the room, curled brown hair trapped loosely beneath a scarlet beret. Vicious red nails on bone-white cigarette; long, deep draws into delicate smoke rings.

As I crossed the floor, her chiselled calf pushed a chair aside for me to sit. I sat beside her. We each watched the leather back wall of the booth.

“Mr Ansa. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Who are you?”

“That’s not important right now. But you can call me… Awely. Miss Awely.”

“Why are you following me?”

“There’s a ship, Kurt. Well, a derelict. Out beyond the third buoy.”

The Hunt for Higgs’ Bos’n: XIII, for #smalltales