Eight weeks into lockdown here in the UK, and conversations with my wife have turned to nostalgia. You know, when things were simpler and the world wasn't crippled by a pandemic. In truth we've always talked bollocks, but the other day I mentioned watching kid's TV back in the 80s and 90s. Particularly when the presenter asked for viewers to write in, and said something like, "Answers on a postcard and send to..."
Now it's all about social media and apps, and emails like this one.
So, how are you doing in this crazy world? All good, I hope. Would you like to share any conversations or revelations in particular? Have you anything weird happen to you in these equally-weird times?
Speaking of the weird.
As a result of all this weirdness, it seems absolutely no conventions will happen this year. With that in mind, if you're after any of my paperbacks or flash drives loaded with eBooks, then shout. There's no "shop" link, so just reply to this email (or use firstname.lastname@example.org and grab me personally).
One final thing, please know that all my eBooks are STILL up for 99c / 99p so head over to www.markcassell.co.uk/books and take your pick!
"The light in the window is a crack in the sky." - No More Tears, Ozzy Osbourne
Yep, it's me.
How you doing? I hope you and your family are safe and well. The world has truly gone crazy, huh? I'm here to keep you company. As well as I know how, at least.
I've knocked every one of my eBooks down to the insane price of 99p / 99c. Apart from the free ones... because they're still free. If you'd like to snuggle up with something that came out of my head, then go take your pick:
While you're here, tell me what you've been up to. How are you coping in these strange times? Let me know if you've read any excellent books, or watched some great movies or TV shows. You holding up okay? I'm here if you want to talk.
What is your biggest fear, or worry, or something that chills you to the core? Especially if it's something no one else "understands."
The weirder, the better.
I will write something personal about it, and maybe I'll name the character after you (your choice). I'll take your FEAR to a higher level, and the story will be published in a future release.
All I ask is that you buy me a coffee.
Indeed, if you have more than one fear ... well, perhaps you think they're worth a number of coffees? I shall leave it up to you to decide their worth.
I've already got the cover art in motion, created by the horror author Kealan Patrick Burke. He's one of the good guys, so if you haven't already done so, go check out his books. He's talented. In creating covers, too! Damn that man and his skills.
I look forward to writing your FLASH FEAR.
My eternal gratitude to ALL you guys,
Please note: This is an ongoing project that will take us throughout the year, with a release date most likely for 2021.
"Here's to you, my friend." - Here's To You, Love/Hate
Two Special Things
You can be in with a chance to grab a signed proof copy of my latest book Stitches & Threads. It's stamped Not For Resale because it's a one-of-a-kind thing before the paperback itself goes to print. Unique, no less! All you need to do is go to www.buymeacoffee.com/MarkCassell and ... you guessed it ... buy me a coffee.
Doing so will immediately put your name into a "cyber" hat. When there's enough in there, I'll hit the random button from my end and whip out a name. If luck is on your side, I'll sign the book and send it to you.
By the way, the more coffees you buy me, the more chances you'll have of winning that special paperback!
Now, this is the REALLY EXCITING part (yeah, it gets even better): Whether or not you win the book, you'll get yourself something incredibly personal.
With the new buymeacoffee.com website, you can sit down at a cyber cafe with me and we'll share a coffee. Regardless of your chances to win the proof copy of my latest release, the website is a simple thing where you can show your support.
If you're kind enough to buy me a coffee, then I'll write something personal based on a random photo (regularly updated to mix things up). The little tale I write for you will of course be focused on the two of us sharing that coffee. And I promise to make it in a similar weird vein as you've come to expect from me.
Note: Thanks to Miranda Kate for the nudge to write this flash fiction piece, inspired by the photo above (taken by Tien-Chien Chen). While I struggled for a title, Spotify answered via my headphones with Celldweller’s The Great Divide (from the 2017 album Offworld). Its definition: “The boundary between life and death.” So an extra thanks goes to Klayton for his timing.
THE GREAT DIVIDE
Something echoed up ahead: a rhythmic clank. Hannah eyed the mountainside trail. The overgrown path narrowed, replaced by railway tracks. Rows of wooden sleepers hid beneath moss and creeping foliage, their vibrancy glowing in spite of the mist that pressed in from the gorge beside her.
At 2000 metres above sea level, inhaling the sweet aroma of the mountain woodland, her head was indeed in the clouds. She slowed her pace to avoid tripping over the sleepers and rusted tracks. Ferns slapped her trousers.
The insistent – perhaps even frantic – clanking sounds made her picture someone with a hammer. She’d not seen anyone for a couple of hours, and a sense of vulnerability pushed down on her as thick as the surrounding clouds.
It reminded her of a blacksmith portrayed in movies set in medieval times, where a topless man glistened with sweat, forging a sword. Or axe.
She was being silly. Why not think of him hammering a horse shoe?
The clanks stopped.
Wind howled. Yet the trees that reached into the mist remained still. A rumble made her come to a total standstill. A heaviness filled her gut. Perhaps it was an earthquake – yet it was a far off sound rather than a sensation beneath her feet.
She removed a drinking bottle from her rucksack, twisted the lid and gulped water. Some trickled down her chin. Although warm, it was refreshing. Wiping her mouth with the back of a hand, she listened intently. Nothing. The silence squeezed her. The mist thickened.
No more wind, no more rumbles.
No more imagination, dammit. Yet she had heard the clanking sounds. Most definitely. Taking a lungful of mountainside air, she put away the bottle and began walking again.
And again: clank … clank … clank …
Finally, as she rounded a curve of the railway as it cut alongside the mountain, she saw someone sitting between the rails, facing up the track. Their grey hair was cut short, making her unable to determine gender. Dressed in the familiar garments of the Taiwanese older generation – definitely the poorer end of society – they held a rock, bringing it up high and then crashing it down between their legs.
“Hello?” She was about fifteen paces away.
They didn’t acknowledge her.
She came up beside them. It was a man, possibly in his late-fifties or early sixties. He sat with his legs spread wide. A stink of body odour and piss wafted from him. She recoiled but held her ground. He hammered at one of two chained manacles that bound his ankles to the rails that flanked him. His bare feet were slick with both congealed and fresh blood.
Still he didn’t look up.
Clank … Clank.
“Let me help!”
The manacles reflected the green and white of their surroundings. Unfortunately it seemed his efforts had failed to even dent them.
He stopped hammering, his breaths rasping, and glared up at her. In rapid Taiwanese, he spoke. Having travelled through Asia, visiting countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, China, The Philippines, and now Taiwan, Hannah never got to learn much of any language. By the time she trod foreign soil, learning basic words so as not to come across as an ignorant Westerner, she’d set off for the next country.
The man snapped his mouth shut, his teeth clacking. He went back to smashing at the manacles.
“Please.” Hannah crouched beside him. “Let me help.”
The rumbling started up, just as before. This time closer.
Up ahead, the mist billowed. As though it breathed out, giving way to the silhouette of a narrow locomotive. Black smoke belched. It broke through the mist. Hannah lurched upright, stumbled backwards, and tripped over the rail. She crashed to the hard ground, her head smacking rock. She cried out. The train thundered towards them, phasing in and out of focus; a shimmering phantom, transparent and unreal. The trees and ferns remained eerily still, only the mist parting.
The man hammered at the manacles with desperation. Clank. Clank.
She tucked her legs away from the tracks, shrank against the rock, and screamed. Hot wind blasted into her face and whipped hair into her eyes as it hurtled past.
The clanks stopped and the locomotive vanished. Along with the man.
With breath tight in her lungs, Hannah watched the mist drift along the rails. It teased the rusted manacles. And there, half-buried in the hardened earth, several bones, each pitted and yellowed, lay scattered between the sleepers.
(c)2019 Mark Cassell
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