Guestpost: NEXT YEAR’S GHOST by John Reppion

John Reppion is half of the writing team Moore Reppion.  He asked me if I wanted to show you a new short story he wrote.  I said yes, of course.

NEXT YEAR’S GHOST
John Reppion

Some people may think it morbid to take pleasure in a visit to a graveyard. I was once however, not only one who enjoyed such visits, but who actively sought them out. As a taphophile the diverse ornamentation of tombs and stones fascinated me and became a hobby of mine. My interest took me all around this island and, eventually to a small ex-mining town in the North.

Next Year's Ghost by DNS

The pit which had once been the lifeblood of the place had collapsed disastrously some three decades earlier and the community had never recovered. The once bustling town was now a morass of blind-eyed broken windows and slack-jawed black doorways with only a huddle of the more ancient buildings still occupied.

There was no priest in this place; its church bearing the same aspect of dereliction as so much of the surroundings and my examination of the burial-ground was completed more quickly than anticipated, most of the more ancient monuments having toppled or crumbled from neglect. Even the stark, lone, large slab inscribed with the names of those who had lost their lives in the mining tragedy was, I am ashamed to say, something of a disappointment.

My return journey not being scheduled until the following morning, I found myself faced with an evening spent in the under-occupied pub, or else alone in my dingy room above, and neither scenario appealed. My hobby had furnished me, almost accidentally, with knowledge of the folklore surrounding burial places, and I found it interesting to note that this was the eve of the feast of Saint Mark. I decided it might be amusing to pass my time observing that old custom which Keats so famously wrote upon – namely that if one watched over a graveyard on that night, the spectres of those yet to pass in the coming year would show themselves.

Seated on the mossy church step as midnight approached, the sight of a figure walking among the crumbling monuments brought me sharply to my senses. In the bright, clear moonlight I soon recognised the face of the pub landlord and fear turned to embarrassment. I began to stammer an apology but the publican only shook his head slowly and sorrowfully.

“They are coming”, the words spoken softly yet somehow left ringing in my ears as he trudged back into the shadows.

And come they did.

Customs have their purposes, forgotten to many though they may be, and I am witness to what may happen if such rituals are neglected or ignored. I had seen the next year’s ghost already. The landlord (as you have guessed) passed away peacefully enough within the allotted course and was buried in the old churchyard, but no Saint Marks Eve vigil had been kept in that ruined parish for many years. Those who came shambling after the publican – who should have come long, long before – could not be mistaken for the living; their bodies having been crushed and mangled in that awful cave-in of thirty years previous.

Illustration by DNS .

John Reppion’s most recent prose work can be found in JOURNEYS IN THE WINTERLANDS from amongruins.org .  His collected writings for Steampunk Magazine – STEAMPUNK SALMAGUNDI — and his (highly recommended by me) Lovecraftian Liverpool short ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER JORDAN are available from moorereppion.bigcartel.com .

Reading Lists: Rachel Rosenfelt, James Moran, Jason Howard

Rachel Rosenfelt, editor, The New Inquiry

I’m planning to read Brad Gooch’s Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor alongside her collected short stories.

I’m also planning on Woman Hating by Andrea Dworkin, and Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal.

James Moran, screenwriter (Doctor Who, Cockneys vs Zombies)

I always feel guilty when asked what I’m reading, as for the past 4 years or so, I’ve had something I quite wankily call Reader’s Block – I can’t seem to read prose fiction anymore. I always used to read, a lot, several books a week, but lately I’m completely unable to concentrate on them. I’m fine with non-fiction, also comics, TV shows, movies, magazines, etc. Just not prose fiction. After half a page, my attention wanders, I start picking it apart, seeing the construction of the fake story, and my brain says "I don’t give a shit, this isn’t real, who cares?" It’s really, really annoying and upsetting, because I’ve got a stack of books that I know I’ll never read. I think it’s a visual thing – if there are visuals to focus on (TV, comics, movies) I can let myself be swept up in a story. But bare text, it has to be something real or I wander off. I’ve heard the same thing from a lot of other writers who work primarily in TV or film, so it must be an occupational hazard. Or information overload. I don’t know. But I get very guilty and defensive about it. It feels wrong, like I’m an incomplete person, and a fraud (as usual). On the bright side, I’m discovering a whole world of non-fiction which, for some reason, I had avoided for most of my life. Anyway. Currently in my (all non-fiction) pile:

Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements. I’m in the middle of this right now, it’s loads of fantastic stories and trivia about the elements. It’s fascinating, surprising, and genuinely magical – the best popular science books fill you with a sense of wonder while educating you, and this is no different. And now I badly want my own collection of elements, in a wooden display case, so I can touch them and smell them and lick them. Except the ones that would kill me, of course.

Them: Adventures with Extremists, and Lost at Sea, both by Jon Ronson. I’m very late to the Jon Ronson party (what an odd but brilliant party *that* would be), and just finished my first one, The Psychopath Test, so I grabbed these immediately afterwards. The topics are almost beside the point, I just enjoy going along for the ride with him and meeting lots of people who are really, really, really mad.

Confessions of a Conjuror, by Derren Brown. I really enjoyed his first book, Tricks of the Mind, and am sure this will be more of the same. He’s passionate about what he does, the history of it, debunking those who prey on the vulnerable, and rambling on about nonsense. He’s a lot of fun, and great at what he does.

Shockwave: The Countdown to Hiroshima, by Stephen Walker. Interviews with witnesses, flight crew, scientists, and victims, about the events leading up to (and directly after) the dropping of Little Boy. I’ve had this for a few years, and keep putting it off, given the subject matter, but am determined to read it soon. Maybe.

 

Jason Howard, comics artist, Super Dinosaur, Scatterlands (back next week)

Do audiobooks count? I tend to listen to a lot of audiobooks while I work. Lately it’s been mostly sci-fi and fantasy fiction.

Currently in the middle of Down These Strange Streets, an anthology of short urban fantasy stories edited by George R.R. Martin.

Next on the list are-

– Shadow’s Edge by Brent Weeks. I enjoyed The Way of Shadows quite a bit, looking forward to this sequel.

– The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. Another sequel book, this time to The Name of the Wind.

– Acaia by David Anthony Durham. Don’t know much about this one, saw it recommended online, liked the premise and added it my list to read.