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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

It was near closing time in the castle. If they weren’t the last visitors, they at least weren’t far off. Penny was standing at the wall, looking out of one of the small cross-shaped windows. She’d had enough of imagining herself as a twelfth-century archer, and was now simply savouring the warm afterglow of Earl Grey, scones and jam and enjoying the view down the hill when Craig called over to her.

“Hey Penny, come look at this,” he said.

She turned reluctantly away from the view, adjusted her bag on her shoulder and turned around. He was pointing up towards the window on an upper deck of the castle and she didn’t see the open cover of the well. One foot went down into it, and as she turned to try and stabilise herself, Craig’s foot swept around and kicked her other ankle. She dropped into the well, almost silently, a sound resembling a mouse squeak escaping her and no more. Read more

I’ve wanted to bring back Munro ever since the story “Elkwood”. (I also want to take the story Elkwood and rewrite it a bit, but that’s another story.) I had the name first and then wondered what would be special about this ring, and what it would do.

Of course, it was evil, naturally. I wrote the thing in one hit, printed it for editing and my other half pointed out that there was a couple of problems. I fixed those, but she was still left wondering why he was OK in one scene and paralysed in the next. I thought that was obvious: he wished for money, the ring decided the only way to arrange that was compensation, and the only way to organise that was to cripple him. Hmm. So much for subtlety. Read more

“Don’t move, and you won’t get hurt.”

The sawn-off barrel of the shotgun waves an inch from the bald man’s face.

“I’m sure we can come to some arrangement,” he says, smiling.

“Just give me the money,” the man shouts. “I just want the money.”

“How much money do you want?” the bald man asks. “And why?”

The man with the gun narrows his eyes a little. “Why do you want to know?”

“Because, as I say, I think we can come to some kind of arrangement. A quid pro quo, if you like.” Read more

The idea of a were-man – a wolf that turns into a human at the full moon – came to me some time on Monday, but I couldn’t work out exactly how to make it work. Rebeca suggested the answer one day while we were out walking the dogs, that I tell it from the point of view of the were-man. I couldn’t really work out what exactly this would entail, so eventually in desperation I started writing on Saturday night, going carefully to try and get it right.

I basically followed the narrative through in my head, at each stage trying to work out what was happening. OK, so first he escapes from the zoo before the other wolves see him as an intruder and kill him. Fine, but then where does he go? The keeper who raised him as an abandoned cub and now has retired. She’s got clothes out for him and is baking cookies because he’s almost a son to her (I’m assuming she’s a widow, separated or divorced, of course). Read more

The moon is full; I can feel it. I can feel the change in my legs, feel the skin ripping and tearing, the transformation beginning. The pain is almost unbearable for a few minutes as my legs change shape, my chest changes, the hair changes.

My family won’t recognise me any more. Even my thoughts are different, somehow changed along with my body. I’m cold. No clothes, of course. I must run but I can’t. Be careful, I tell myself – this is the danger time. Give them no sign. Slip away, quietly. It’s for the best.

There’s a wall around the side. I walk around there, climb it easily. So easy when I’m like this. I couldn’t normally. I’ve done this so many times. Read more

First off, I have no real idea what inspired me to call this one “The March Society”. The idea that a music journalist wouldn’t see the name and immediately think of John Philip Souza and other purveyors of vaguely military-style pieces in two-four time is nonsense. Second, the idea that someone who was opera mad wouldn’t question that either is a bit silly. I can only hope that people will assume the character is either changing the name of it and it originally had nothing to do with the word “March”, or that the narrator has chosen to skip over that no doubt hilarious misunderstanding.

I actually started writing this one on the Monday, which is early for me. It’s a story idea I’d had years ago, at least the first part: the idea of something hideous, so sinister looking you can imagine it haunting Lovecraft’s nightmares, and yet all it wants to do is to sing, and you listen to its amazing, pure, delicious voice and suddenly all the other singers you’ve ever known and loved sound like ashes in your mouth and you can’t stand them any more is like catnip to me. But the question I didn’t have resolved in my mind was how to end it? I’d thought about having the society break up, be exposed… in the end, something so pure just wasn’t made for this world. (Did I really write that? Maybe I’ve got a career writing Mills and Boon beckoning…) Read more

The March Society

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/03/31
Posted in Year of Short Stories  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

I’m writing this at Graham’s request, although not necessarily just for his consumption. Unlike him, I’m not a journalist so I don’t really know how this should work. After all, I only worked in the copy department.

Graham started as the music critic some ten years ago, when I was working there in the IT department – repairing PCs, fixing things, that kind of thing. Of course, working with my headphones on, and him being a music critic, the first thing he said to me was obvious: “what are you listening to?”

I don’t really remember what I was doing, of course – probably some printer driver issue or other. We had some very expensive printers around that time that used to give us endless trouble. I have no idea why we had them, except that some bright spark in accounting decided that they were the thing to have because they were some three or four pounds cheaper than something built like a tank that would last forever. That’s the trouble when you put the bean counters in charge, I reckon.

Where was I? Oh yes. I think it was Berlioz; probably “Symphony Fantastique”. Which surprised him, as he was expecting I’d be listening to nu metal or some such. We ended up talking about music while I attempted to make the infernal printer work. He enjoyed all sorts, from metal to Mozart, while my tastes where a bit more avant garde. But opera? Ah, that’s where the common ground really lay. Read more

The clichéd question that every writer gets asked is “where do you get your ideas from?” Well, I’m not sure, but for the last few weeks the ideas haven’t really been flowing freely. In fact, this was the third attempt to write this story. I started off thinking I’d bring back Mr Munro of the antique shop, but re-reading Elkwood just made me want to fix the problems I saw in that story. Besides which, I couldn’t then think of a decent scenario to use them in. So that was enough of that one.

The next attempt to write it was actually a resurrection of the very first idea that I came up with. I won’t expound on that one as yet, for the simple reason that I probably will end up writing it before the year is out and I don’t want to give any spoilers out. But suffice to say that this time I didn’t even get as far as the first time, and that was particuarly galling.

In a bad mood, I ended up some time on Friday evening trying to come up with something. Finally, I came up with the title, and the rest – as often seems to happen with me – flowed naturally. Read more

The old man scratched at his beard as he walked. He looked through the bars of the cage, past the old lion, watching the sun going down on the horizon.

“Hey there, Leo old lad,” he said, softly. He billed himself as the gipsy lion tamer, of vaguely eastern European extraction, from a town no longer in the same country as his birth, no longer able to remember the language he spoke as a child yet still retaining a vague accent. The reality of an old man from west Yorkshire who decided one day to join a circus based on a Monty Python sketch wouldn’t, he’d decided, sell many tickets.

He sat down next to the cage, cross legged, and pulled the tobacco pouch out from his pocket. The lion shifted across the cage, and rubbed his ears against the bars. Rolling a cigarette with one hand, he idly scratched behind the lion’s ear with the other. Read more

When I first wrote If, Never three weeks ago, I didn’t think it would have a sequel. Even in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn into a trilogy (and some of those dreams and pretty funky, thank you for asking.)

The initial premise of the first story was expanded on, and I enjoyed writing the second and coming up with another twist. But the next question was whether that was the last twist, or whether there was another twist somewhere to be had. I realised from some of the comments I’d had in person that some people were a little confused what had happened, and even thought that the carrier bag had been hidden outside. That made me realise that there was still some scope in these events, and that maybe that second twist should be resolved. Read more