Monday, 29 December 2014

Flash Fiction: "Pieces of Cake"

A short tale of only 625 words, inspired by an image my wife gave me.


Pieces of Cake

By Mark Cassell
(625 words)
       
       
A glistening dome, pink and soft, pushed up through the layer of sugar icing. Jeremy stopped chewing. Sponge crumbled and slivers of fondant heaved as a bloodshot eyeball stared at him. He screamed, still gripping the paper plate, and staggered backwards. His elbow whacked a dining-room chair.
        Mummy’s hands grabbed his shoulders. She shouted something but he couldn’t hear—too much noise in his head. His stomach writhed like he’d swallowed a billion worms. The plate became heavy in numb fingers. He’d demanded to eat the eye-patch. He was seven and it was his pirate cake.
        He spat. Sponge and icing crumbled over his lips and stuck to his chin; bitter, foul, reminding him of that time he’d eaten mud.
        His wide-eyed friends, Sam and Tom, stood clutching their own pieces of cake. Sam’s gapped-tooth grin melted and he spat out his mouthful.
        Jeremy threw his plate, filling the air with crumbs and lumps of sponge. The eyeball bounced across the table like a ping-pong ball, leaving red splats between the bowls of crisps and plates of sandwiches.
        Mummy screamed and dragged him into her arms. Perfume, the one that was like too many flowers, poured over him.
        The plate rolled off the table.
        And the eye twitched, looking at each of them in turn.
        Amid the shouts, the yelling, the crying, came a thump—a crash—on the back door. It rattled shelves. Something fell and cracked.
        Thump-thump-thump.
        Wood splintered as the door flew inwards and slammed into the wall. Glass broke and shards dropped, reflecting a fading light. The summer afternoon vanished in a wash of black smudges. This darkness separated…and Jeremy’s heart bobbed into his throat.
        The stink of the sea and fish, of rotten vegetables and farts, rushed in with the gloom.
        Sam puked. It splashed the table in a sound similar to when Jeremy left his cereal too long and had to pour the soggy mess into the bin.
        Tom, tears streaming down red cheeks, darted from the room.
        From the unfolding darkness came three men dressed in rags and wearing masks. The pair at the front wore sodden bandanas, and the one at the back wore a pirate hat, askew and slimy. Rusted scabbards swung from belts with equally-rusted buckles. As one, they staggered and reached with skeleton fingers. Flaps of stained cloth hung in clumps from jittery limbs as the men pushed into the room. Sand and smoke and shadow billowed around them in waves. Clumps of filth dropped to the floor and scattered things that wriggled.
        Jeremy coughed and choked. He still tasted the cake.
        In the centre of the table, framed between plastic cutlery and napkins, the eyeball’s gaze now fixed on the approaching men.
        They were not wearing masks.
        Their faces drooped, slanted and twisted. The skin, wrinkled and green as cabbage, flapped where it had slid from the skull. Sores and wounds oozed yellow stuff that dripped from slack jaws. Missing teeth, scabbed ears, curled flesh hanging. Wisps of hair tangled with seaweed flopped over their gazes. And their eyes…it was their eyes…or lack of…
        Just dark, sunken sockets. Twin holes as black as the darkness only something dead could walk with.
        Jeremy couldn’t be sure, but maybe he kept saying “Mummy” over and over and over. But she’d released him, fainted. It was as though she now slept between overturned chairs.
        Still the men came.
        A strange silence had entered with these visitors. It seemed to pulse with the roar in his ears. His heartbeat, loud, throbbed in his head.
        The man in front pointed at the eyeball. Mud and filth and maggots dripped from the end of that hooked finger.
        In a voice of gargled water, the dead pirate said, “Eye, Cap’n.”

       

Did you enjoy the flash fiction?

Here are the opening pages of The Shadow Fabric


Unable to blink, I shot a quick glance around the dining room. My heartbeat stormed my head. I had to get out of there, I had to leave the other men to it. These brothers had a lot of hate to throw around.
       The black fabric draped across the table and chair, tracing every contour. It flowed over the wood like liquid. Hugging tight whatever it touched, it turned everything into a shadow, a silhouette, a featureless dark blot of its former self. The way it moved defied physics.
       My throat clamped around a cry that came out a whimper.
       I had no idea what Stanley intended. The strange fabric didn’t travel far from his hand, and where the material ended, it rippled and pulsed, pulling further away, yet unable to claim more of its surroundings. The more it unfolded, the dimmer the room became. My skin itched as it sapped the light.
       Victor and Stanley stood facing each other: Victor, with his eyebrows pushed together, the ornate blade clenched in a fist, and Stanley, with his jaw tight and a twitch at the edge of his mouth. In Stanley’s grasp the fabric quivered, its material reminding me of the way midday sunlight reflects from the surface of a swimming pool, the ripples a criss-crossing of movement. It was peaceful to behold, hypnotic almost. But this thing was dark and stifling to observe.
       There was nothing remotely tranquil about this.
       I wanted to leave them to whatever absurd game this was…yet my feet refused to move. The familiar ache in my knee rushed through my body, drumming in my skull, telling me I was useless. Since the car accident the knee often was useless. I couldn’t leave Victor, I knew that. The man looked as terrified as I felt.
       “I hate you, Victor.” Stanley’s nose was no more than a thumb’s width from his brother’s.
       “No,” Victor gasped. His hand shook, his knuckles whitening around the knife. “Don’t!”
       I didn’t know who or what Victor spoke to. Was it Stanley? The shadows? The knife?
       In a blur of darkness, shadows coiling his arm, the blade slammed into Stanley’s chest. Blood spread and he staggered back.
       Victor’s eyes widened. Clutching the weapon, he stumbled from the fireplace, away from his brother. The knife slid out, sucking at the wound. A jet of scarlet misted the air, and then oozed.
       I could only see darkness…so much darkness, and my lungs went tight.
       The fabric—the Shadow Fabric—closed around Stanley’s buckling legs.
       The remaining material swept from the table, away from the violin case. Black tentacles whipped and grabbed Stanley. The darkness enfolded him as his eyes glazed over. It dragged his body along the carpet a short distance and tightened its grip.
       My jaw muscles twitched as I clenched my teeth.
       The Fabric began to shrink. Still in its embrace, the last I saw of Stanley was his dead stare.
       “Vic…” I whispered, and gripped the back of the sofa.
       My boss dragged his eyes away from the retreating shadows and stared at the knife. Behind him, the mantel clock hammered out several seconds before the weapon slipped from his hand onto the carpet, where it bounced with a red splash.
       He fell to his knees. “Oh God.”
       The Fabric vanished.
       I dashed across the room as much as my leg would allow and staggered to a halt beside him. Sobs wracked his frame as I grasped his bony shoulder.
       On the table next to where Stanley had been standing was the violin case, still open like a crooked yawn.
       A million thoughts tumbled through my head, but I couldn’t find the words. I’d been Victor’s chauffeur for no more than a day, and already I’d witnessed him stab his own brother. What the hell?
       I don’t know how long I remained like that, holding him, with light creeping reluctantly back into the room. Victor shouldn’t have been surprised that the shadows had taken his brother. After all, those shadows—the darkness—are associated with all that is dead…or should be dead.
       Silence clogged the air like we were buried in a tomb.
       For some of us, there is a moment in our lives where all we’ve believed real is whipped out from under us and we’re left to survive in a world that’s a lie. All the things in life we’ve taken for granted are sheathed in a weak veneer, behind which stands the shadows.
       For me, this was one of those moments.



Mark Cassell's dark fantasy novel is available
from all bookshops and also Amazon.

    

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

        

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Horror Bites #14 - "Another Pair"

Here I am biting again...

For those who are unfamiliar with this challenge: write a bite of flash fiction (200-350 words) inspired by an image supplied by Laura from Office MangoAll she asks is: "Try to scare me, or at the very least create a little bit of darkness".

Incidentally, when my wife read this she called me a creepy bastard.


Another Pair

By Mark Cassell
(250 words)

It’s difficult to hold scissors when they’re slick, sticky. Sometimes it’s easier to use both hands though. Especially if you put up a fight. Two strikes and you’re out. Ha!
        The bite of winter is here in this alleyway; my favourite type of hiding place. I spy, I follow. You die.
        Christmas is a great time of year because quite often I’ll find another pair of scissors to play with. You guys often leave them somewhere, hanging around, waiting to be used on you. Perhaps you’re thinking of an unexpected guest you may have to quickly wrap a present for. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ll be the unexpected guest. Your uninvited death.
        Four tonight. So far. Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas, you’re number five. Here I come, keeping to the shadows as you reach your doorstep. You remove a glove, and you now have your house keys in one hand. Your breath plumes about your head like a phantom. Your phantom is white whereas mine is black like the darkness surrounding me, within me some may say. You cannot see me, you cannot hear me. Your hat covers your ears—oh, how I love winter.
        I’m behind you. One push, one fist to the back of the neck. And now you’re unconscious. That was easy.
        Your door closes.
        I like your decorations, and your tree. It's quite something. Very festive.
        Once I find another pair of scissors it’ll be time to play...



Did you enjoy the flash fiction?

Here are the opening pages of The Shadow Fabric


Unable to blink, I shot a quick glance around the dining room. My heartbeat stormed my head. I had to get out of there, I had to leave the other men to it. These brothers had a lot of hate to throw around.
       The black fabric draped across the table and chair, tracing every contour. It flowed over the wood like liquid. Hugging tight whatever it touched, it turned everything into a shadow, a silhouette, a featureless dark blot of its former self. The way it moved defied physics.
       My throat clamped around a cry that came out a whimper.
       I had no idea what Stanley intended. The strange fabric didn’t travel far from his hand, and where the material ended, it rippled and pulsed, pulling further away, yet unable to claim more of its surroundings. The more it unfolded, the dimmer the room became. My skin itched as it sapped the light.
       Victor and Stanley stood facing each other: Victor, with his eyebrows pushed together, the ornate blade clenched in a fist, and Stanley, with his jaw tight and a twitch at the edge of his mouth. In Stanley’s grasp the fabric quivered, its material reminding me of the way midday sunlight reflects from the surface of a swimming pool, the ripples a criss-crossing of movement. It was peaceful to behold, hypnotic almost. But this thing was dark and stifling to observe.
       There was nothing remotely tranquil about this.
       I wanted to leave them to whatever absurd game this was…yet my feet refused to move. The familiar ache in my knee rushed through my body, drumming in my skull, telling me I was useless. Since the car accident the knee often was useless. I couldn’t leave Victor, I knew that. The man looked as terrified as I felt.
       “I hate you, Victor.” Stanley’s nose was no more than a thumb’s width from his brother’s.
       “No,” Victor gasped. His hand shook, his knuckles whitening around the knife. “Don’t!”
       I didn’t know who or what Victor spoke to. Was it Stanley? The shadows? The knife?
       In a blur of darkness, shadows coiling his arm, the blade slammed into Stanley’s chest. Blood spread and he staggered back.
       Victor’s eyes widened. Clutching the weapon, he stumbled from the fireplace, away from his brother. The knife slid out, sucking at the wound. A jet of scarlet misted the air, and then oozed.
       I could only see darkness…so much darkness, and my lungs went tight.
       The fabric—the Shadow Fabric—closed around Stanley’s buckling legs.
       The remaining material swept from the table, away from the violin case. Black tentacles whipped and grabbed Stanley. The darkness enfolded him as his eyes glazed over. It dragged his body along the carpet a short distance and tightened its grip.
       My jaw muscles twitched as I clenched my teeth.
       The Fabric began to shrink. Still in its embrace, the last I saw of Stanley was his dead stare.
       “Vic…” I whispered, and gripped the back of the sofa.
       My boss dragged his eyes away from the retreating shadows and stared at the knife. Behind him, the mantel clock hammered out several seconds before the weapon slipped from his hand onto the carpet, where it bounced with a red splash.
       He fell to his knees. “Oh God.”
       The Fabric vanished.
       I dashed across the room as much as my leg would allow and staggered to a halt beside him. Sobs wracked his frame as I grasped his bony shoulder.
       On the table next to where Stanley had been standing was the violin case, still open like a crooked yawn.
       A million thoughts tumbled through my head, but I couldn’t find the words. I’d been Victor’s chauffeur for no more than a day, and already I’d witnessed him stab his own brother. What the hell?
       I don’t know how long I remained like that, holding him, with light creeping reluctantly back into the room. Victor shouldn’t have been surprised that the shadows had taken his brother. After all, those shadows—the darkness—are associated with all that is dead…or should be dead.
       Silence clogged the air like we were buried in a tomb.
       For some of us, there is a moment in our lives where all we’ve believed real is whipped out from under us and we’re left to survive in a world that’s a lie. All the things in life we’ve taken for granted are sheathed in a weak veneer, behind which stands the shadows.
       For me, this was one of those moments.



Mark Cassell's dark fantasy novel is available
from all bookshops and also Amazon.

    

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Steampunk Flash Fiction: "Monice"

I'm currently building a steampunk universe, so when someone else's muse showed me the following image all I saw was...something else entirely.

I thought, Those are claws and tentacles reaching up over a tree line, above the glow of gas lamps in a country park...

My mission then was to write some flash fiction. To be honest, I'm using it as a universe-building exercise.




Monice

By Mark Cassell
(500 words)


Smoke dirtied the moonlight, and fires crackled beyond the trees. The gas lamps that remained upright still glowed, drenching the dead in a putrid yellow. Most of the town's residents had fled to the park only to be trampled or ravaged or snatched into cavernous mouths.
        Now the screams had stopped, Monice knew she was alone. At her feet the Commander’s body lay twisted into the mud. A three-clawed impression had crushed his weapon. And his head. The mud and grass blended with skull and hair, flesh and oxygen mask. Shell casings glinted.
        Like discarded mannequins, her platoon surrounded her in various mangled states. Monice had been the only one to take cover beneath the crumpled sheet of metal she guessed was an airship wing. Its length had protected her from the onslaught as she'd fired round after round at those...things.
         She licked dry lips and adjusted her dented armour. Her comrades' blood smeared the breastplate.
        In a surprisingly steady hand, she hefted her rifle. A green light pulsed within the valves, and chemicals bubbled through coiled tubes. Of late, the Ministry were spending a heap of taxpayers’ money on weapon modifications. The contraptors in research and development had unparalleled reputations but the mods had so far proved inefficient.
        She refused to end up like the rest of her platoon. Besides, she had aspirations to head for Sky Island once her duty ended. This was, indeed will be, her last duty to the King.
        Something crashed—a tree perhaps—and a roar echoed on the smoky air.
        Over the trees and beyond the park, tentacles lashed the sky. Claws, too, on gnarled fingers. Spirals of smoke curled as those fleshy limbs whipped and tore away the top branches.
        More trees crashed. The ground shook.
        Those things were close.
        Time to move. Towards them.
        Mud squelched and she ran into the shadows. For now, the trees would offer protection. She knew where the creatures were most likely headed: the town centre, near the zoo, the clock tower. That was where it had all began. No more than a couple of hours ago the tower created a portal, only to snap shut on an emerging creature. That one was dead. Speculation from the Ministry suggested that now the fabric between worlds had torn it was inevitable more beings would come through. And they had, amidst a vortex that spat red lightning. Two beings slithered into the world, and the rip in space proceeded to suck everything into it.
        The hulk of a fallen evacuation ship loomed over her. At least half of it—the other half, she could only imagine, was in another world.
        The curved panels of the fuselage lay buckled and tangled with shreds of balloon fabric. Blood caked the inside of the cracked windows. Suspension cables snaked across the grass. Glass and iron splinters littered the area. Plus several bodies, some with missing limbs.
        She ran faster.
        Once these creatures were defeated, her duty to the country would end. Then Sky Island.
        Time to find a larger weapon… 



Did you enjoy the flash fiction?

Here are the opening pages of The Shadow Fabric


Unable to blink, I shot a quick glance around the dining room. My heartbeat stormed my head. I had to get out of there, I had to leave the other men to it. These brothers had a lot of hate to throw around.
       The black fabric draped across the table and chair, tracing every contour. It flowed over the wood like liquid. Hugging tight whatever it touched, it turned everything into a shadow, a silhouette, a featureless dark blot of its former self. The way it moved defied physics.
       My throat clamped around a cry that came out a whimper.
       I had no idea what Stanley intended. The strange fabric didn’t travel far from his hand, and where the material ended, it rippled and pulsed, pulling further away, yet unable to claim more of its surroundings. The more it unfolded, the dimmer the room became. My skin itched as it sapped the light.
       Victor and Stanley stood facing each other: Victor, with his eyebrows pushed together, the ornate blade clenched in a fist, and Stanley, with his jaw tight and a twitch at the edge of his mouth. In Stanley’s grasp the fabric quivered, its material reminding me of the way midday sunlight reflects from the surface of a swimming pool, the ripples a criss-crossing of movement. It was peaceful to behold, hypnotic almost. But this thing was dark and stifling to observe.
       There was nothing remotely tranquil about this.
       I wanted to leave them to whatever absurd game this was…yet my feet refused to move. The familiar ache in my knee rushed through my body, drumming in my skull, telling me I was useless. Since the car accident the knee often was useless. I couldn’t leave Victor, I knew that. The man looked as terrified as I felt.
       “I hate you, Victor.” Stanley’s nose was no more than a thumb’s width from his brother’s.
       “No,” Victor gasped. His hand shook, his knuckles whitening around the knife. “Don’t!”
       I didn’t know who or what Victor spoke to. Was it Stanley? The shadows? The knife?
       In a blur of darkness, shadows coiling his arm, the blade slammed into Stanley’s chest. Blood spread and he staggered back.
       Victor’s eyes widened. Clutching the weapon, he stumbled from the fireplace, away from his brother. The knife slid out, sucking at the wound. A jet of scarlet misted the air, and then oozed.
       I could only see darkness…so much darkness, and my lungs went tight.
       The fabric—the Shadow Fabric—closed around Stanley’s buckling legs.
       The remaining material swept from the table, away from the violin case. Black tentacles whipped and grabbed Stanley. The darkness enfolded him as his eyes glazed over. It dragged his body along the carpet a short distance and tightened its grip.
       My jaw muscles twitched as I clenched my teeth.
       The Fabric began to shrink. Still in its embrace, the last I saw of Stanley was his dead stare.
       “Vic…” I whispered, and gripped the back of the sofa.
       My boss dragged his eyes away from the retreating shadows and stared at the knife. Behind him, the mantel clock hammered out several seconds before the weapon slipped from his hand onto the carpet, where it bounced with a red splash.
       He fell to his knees. “Oh God.”
       The Fabric vanished.
       I dashed across the room as much as my leg would allow and staggered to a halt beside him. Sobs wracked his frame as I grasped his bony shoulder.
       On the table next to where Stanley had been standing was the violin case, still open like a crooked yawn.
       A million thoughts tumbled through my head, but I couldn’t find the words. I’d been Victor’s chauffeur for no more than a day, and already I’d witnessed him stab his own brother. What the hell?
       I don’t know how long I remained like that, holding him, with light creeping reluctantly back into the room. Victor shouldn’t have been surprised that the shadows had taken his brother. After all, those shadows—the darkness—are associated with all that is dead…or should be dead.
       Silence clogged the air like we were buried in a tomb.
       For some of us, there is a moment in our lives where all we’ve believed real is whipped out from under us and we’re left to survive in a world that’s a lie. All the things in life we’ve taken for granted are sheathed in a weak veneer, behind which stands the shadows.
       For me, this was one of those moments.



Mark Cassell's dark fantasy novel is available
from all bookshops and also Amazon.

    

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Shadow Fabric - available from Amazon


What the reviewers are saying:
 

"Terrifying. Intense. Brilliant..."


"The Shadow Fabric managed to sate my appetite for intrigue, while stuffing me full of terror..."


"Grabbed me from the get go..."


"This work was a pleasure to read, a great story and very well written..."


"The sheer evilness of the Shadow Fabric and the mechanism that it grew in power was down right scary..."


THE SHADOW FABRIC 

 
Leo remembers little of his past. Desperate for a new life, he snatches up the first job to come along. On his second day, he witnesses a murder, and the Shadow Fabric – a malevolent force that controls the darkness – takes the body and vanishes with it.
 
Determined to get answers, Leo has no idea where to turn. Revelations come in the most unlikely places, and secrets of witchcraft and ancient artefacts unfold. In particular, a device used in the 17th century to extract evil from witches proves key to his discoveries. With these truths long hidden from humankind, his memory unravels. Not only haunted by the past, a sinister presence within the darkness threatens Leo’s existence and he soon doubts everything and everyone...including himself.
 
The relentless and destructive power of the Shadow Fabric compels Leo to fight not only this growing darkness, but also the entity beneath the Fabric’s surface. While these supernatural horrors rage and his world crumbles, Leo must confront his past before he can embrace his future. But the future may not exist.
 

Bringing witchcraft and demon fiction into the 21st century


THE SHADOW FABRIC is a British horror novel revealing the unknown history of the witch, the paranormal, and demons. With a slice of occult horror and an insight into the true cause of the Great Fire of London, the story opens up history and spreads it raw.
 

A supernatural horror novel


THE SHADOW FABRIC (Herbs House 2014) by Mark Cassell – British horror at its finest, building a new platform in occult horror novels, demon fiction, and dark fantasy. A spine-chiller to the end.
 
"A clever, intelligent novel that takes well-worn themes and works them brilliantly into an original, thought-provoking story." – Amazon.com reviewer.
 
"We are drawn into its depth by fascinating characters and secrets that want solving. At the end I didn't even dare blinking.." – Amazon.co.uk reviewer.
 

Mark Cassell – the new voice in dark fantasy


The Shadow Fabric is an unconventional dark fantasy novel playing with the traditions of today’s occult and zombie fiction – horror without the Devil, and without actual zombies.
 
This is a modern-day tale of the 17th century witch, the paranormal, and the demon. A spine-chiller of sins, shadows, and the reanimated dead. It has been referred to as a zombie novel without zombies. It features the walking dead but not in the conventional way, and to truly understand would be to unravel the Fabric…
 
Scroll up, click on the image, and LOOK INSIDE to read the opening pages of The Shadow Fabric.

About the Author

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.   The Shadow Fabric is his debut novel, and a few shorter tales based within its threads are already out there.

Product details


Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Shadow Fabric - promo film







THE SHADOW FABRIC 
is available from
digital and paperback





Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Horror Bites #13 - "Red"

A number of us regular Horror Bite attendees ganged up on Laura and demanded number 13.

For those who are unfamiliar with the challenge: write a bite of flash fiction (200-350 words) inspired by an image supplied by Laura from Office Mango. More info about the challenge can be found on Laura's blogAll she asks is: "Try to scare me, or at the very least create a little bit of darkness".

Recently, I've filled my notebook with scribbles of steampunk...so this isn't an aeroplane's wing you see here.



Red

By Mark Cassell
(350 words)


Vinston, his teddy bear clutched to a hammering heartbeat, squinted at the inferno beyond the window. Engines rumbled and vibrated his seat. His teeth chattered and he swallowed tears. The airship lurched then pulled away from the chaos. A blade of red lightning—with a life of its own?—reached from the flames. In a blinding wave, that peculiar energy tore through more buildings.
        The other children, some wedged in seats, most standing, clutched one another. Vinston pressed a hand to the glass. His throat burned like the town below.
        Higher, and the view widened. Fire raged through streets and devoured buildings. Swift, unnatural—that red lightning was unnatural. Steambikes smashed to the cobbles, riders sprawling; coaches and engines tore apart. Flames snaked through the zoo, mechanical animals fled, stitched fur smouldering. The clock tower and neighbouring structures collapsed in smoky plumes. People ran, fell…and jagged lightning snatched them. Bodies, limbs flailing, discarded like defunct automatons.
        Not long ago, when the ship arrived and emptied soldiers in a splay of weaponry, his father squeezed him—fire had already taken mother. In a bustling crowd desperate for evacuation, and overshadowed by the airship’s hull, Vinston clung to him.
        The pilot approached, her goggles mirroring fire.
        “Children only,” she said.
        Father shouted, “I’m going, too!”
        Her voice sliced through the cacophony. “Adults on the second ship.”
        The crowd yanked Vinston from his father’s arms.
        Now, as the airship rose and the town shrank, a darkness spread from where the clock tower once stood. Black swirls, churning with flames, formed a fiery whirlpool. Lightning spat, reaching up and out from the vortex.
        The energies shot towards their vehicle and clamped the wing. Traceries of red and orange licked the panels. Flames roared. In a screech of tortured metal, the wing buckled. The airship tilted. Severed cables whipped the fuselage, and the window cracked. Vinston recoiled from the glass. Something overhead exploded. Deafening. The balloon?
        The weight of bodies rushed him. His head smacked the glass, and…
        Beyond the window, that chasm of swirling black and red and fire, yawned wider.



Did you enjoy the flash fiction?

Here are the opening pages of The Shadow Fabric


Unable to blink, I shot a quick glance around the dining room. My heartbeat stormed my head. I had to get out of there, I had to leave the other men to it. These brothers had a lot of hate to throw around.
       The black fabric draped across the table and chair, tracing every contour. It flowed over the wood like liquid. Hugging tight whatever it touched, it turned everything into a shadow, a silhouette, a featureless dark blot of its former self. The way it moved defied physics.
       My throat clamped around a cry that came out a whimper.
       I had no idea what Stanley intended. The strange fabric didn’t travel far from his hand, and where the material ended, it rippled and pulsed, pulling further away, yet unable to claim more of its surroundings. The more it unfolded, the dimmer the room became. My skin itched as it sapped the light.
       Victor and Stanley stood facing each other: Victor, with his eyebrows pushed together, the ornate blade clenched in a fist, and Stanley, with his jaw tight and a twitch at the edge of his mouth. In Stanley’s grasp the fabric quivered, its material reminding me of the way midday sunlight reflects from the surface of a swimming pool, the ripples a criss-crossing of movement. It was peaceful to behold, hypnotic almost. But this thing was dark and stifling to observe.
       There was nothing remotely tranquil about this.
       I wanted to leave them to whatever absurd game this was…yet my feet refused to move. The familiar ache in my knee rushed through my body, drumming in my skull, telling me I was useless. Since the car accident the knee often was useless. I couldn’t leave Victor, I knew that. The man looked as terrified as I felt.
       “I hate you, Victor.” Stanley’s nose was no more than a thumb’s width from his brother’s.
       “No,” Victor gasped. His hand shook, his knuckles whitening around the knife. “Don’t!”
       I didn’t know who or what Victor spoke to. Was it Stanley? The shadows? The knife?
       In a blur of darkness, shadows coiling his arm, the blade slammed into Stanley’s chest. Blood spread and he staggered back.
       Victor’s eyes widened. Clutching the weapon, he stumbled from the fireplace, away from his brother. The knife slid out, sucking at the wound. A jet of scarlet misted the air, and then oozed.
       I could only see darkness…so much darkness, and my lungs went tight.
       The fabric—the Shadow Fabric—closed around Stanley’s buckling legs.
       The remaining material swept from the table, away from the violin case. Black tentacles whipped and grabbed Stanley. The darkness enfolded him as his eyes glazed over. It dragged his body along the carpet a short distance and tightened its grip.
       My jaw muscles twitched as I clenched my teeth.
       The Fabric began to shrink. Still in its embrace, the last I saw of Stanley was his dead stare.
       “Vic…” I whispered, and gripped the back of the sofa.
       My boss dragged his eyes away from the retreating shadows and stared at the knife. Behind him, the mantel clock hammered out several seconds before the weapon slipped from his hand onto the carpet, where it bounced with a red splash.
       He fell to his knees. “Oh God.”
       The Fabric vanished.
       I dashed across the room as much as my leg would allow and staggered to a halt beside him. Sobs wracked his frame as I grasped his bony shoulder.
       On the table next to where Stanley had been standing was the violin case, still open like a crooked yawn.
       A million thoughts tumbled through my head, but I couldn’t find the words. I’d been Victor’s chauffeur for no more than a day, and already I’d witnessed him stab his own brother. What the hell?
       I don’t know how long I remained like that, holding him, with light creeping reluctantly back into the room. Victor shouldn’t have been surprised that the shadows had taken his brother. After all, those shadows—the darkness—are associated with all that is dead…or should be dead.
       Silence clogged the air like we were buried in a tomb.
       For some of us, there is a moment in our lives where all we’ve believed real is whipped out from under us and we’re left to survive in a world that’s a lie. All the things in life we’ve taken for granted are sheathed in a weak veneer, behind which stands the shadows.
       For me, this was one of those moments.



Mark Cassell's dark fantasy novel is available
from all bookshops and also Amazon.

    

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.