Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Friday, October 31, 2008 23:17 | Filed in Fiction/Writing

I do not think that I could find the place again, even if I would wish to. It is sufficient for our narration to note that the bar was in London, and not on any of the main streets. Oh, if only I had chosen to stay on the main streets, instead of walking down those side streets to find a bit more colour.

Colour! As I lie here, feeling the cold — that awful, perpetual cold which now chills me to the marrow — I can remember how I was then. Then, I was in my prime, I was hale and hearty, bold and brash. Back then, I had confidence that I would be able to inspire others with my writing, and used my photography simply to help me find things to write about.

Back then, the only problem was that I couldn’t always work out what I should be writing about. Now, my head is full of awful, abominable ideas which wriggle and squirm and attempt to push themselves to the surface; wicked ideas full of blood and pain that I can’t help but visualise, and it is all I can do not to write the worst bits down. Simply because I stepped into the wrong bar.

The bar was old: the grimy windows let in barely any light, and the single bare bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling illuminated only the hook-nosed barman, scowling across at the shadows. The shadows were occupied; you could see movement within them from time to time, although it was not possible to see the people themselves.

In light of what I now know, I even doubt whether all of the shadow booths were filled with what we would call ‘people’. There was one chair left obviously empty, in the booth nearest the bar. The dim light illuminated only this chair and a few inches of the table beyond: the rest of the booth was an inky impenetrable darkness.

I took my drink and sat down, thinking to myself that this was “atmospheric” and could serve as the setting for some kind of story. But once I sat down…

I became aware of what I can only describe as a presence across from me. I heard a rustling sound, as if old, dusty parchment was being unrolled. A wizened, twisted white hand emerged from the darkness across from me and a scent redolent of decay assaulted my nostrils, just as I noticed the small flaps of skin which extended between each finger.

The voice that emerged from the darkness was strong, but cracked and somehow wet-sounding.

“I know the place where the stories are made.”

I looked across, but the velvet darkness blocked my sight of all but the cadaverous blue-veined hand.

“The centre of all the stories. Where they live.”

With the word “live” came what I can only describe as an exhalation of moist fœtid air. I felt the warm dampness on my face, but again, that stench of decay…

I ventured that I may indeed be interested to find out more about this supposed life of stories, although I was somewhat wary that my unseen companion would be unable to actually lead me to anywhere, nor did I particularly wish him to.

“I can tell you. But I want something in return.”

That was the time I began to feel cold. A chill rippled across my shoulders as I contemplated what the person behind the white, almost translucent, dusty and yet somehow oily and clammy looking hand actually wanted. Whatever it was, I felt it would be something unpleasant.

And yet, while I dread the turn my life has taken since I stopped in that god-forsaken bar, in an uncanny twist, I have achieved those burning ambitions that I took into the bar. My fiction, while banned in several countries for being too graphic, too violent and too horrific, is on the whole very successful. But I cannot sleep.

The dreams: oh, the crimson flows, the butchery. Dreams from which it seems I will never awake; dreams that torment me long after I’ve written them into my next novel.

The hand jumped, spider-like, and seized my wrist. A terrible cold burned into my wrist where this touched me, and long after the touch had receded I could still feel a damp powdery residue.

“Finish it. You will know what I mean when you see it; just make sure you finish it.”

With that, the hand receded into the darkness. I waited for several minutes, but nothing more was forthcoming. Listening closely, I could hear nothing from the corner near me; low mumbling and bar noises from around me, but nothing from the dark recess. Nothing at all. No sound of movement; no glass clinking, not even a sound of breathing.

Leaning forward, I discovered that my companion was no longer there, but there was a door in the darkness. An old, wooden door, from which a faint breeze emerged.

Leaving my drink behind and stepping through the door, I found myself in a dark alley. The buildings rose so high overhead that almost all of the light was blocked out, but on one side of the alley there was a sign marking a station for the “City and South London Railway”. I’d never heard of this; the London Underground was surely ubiquitous here. Perhaps I could investigate this and make some story from the long forgotten tunnels of “Ki … lliam Street”, from what I could read from the sign.

I do not know how, or even why, I pushed aside the sheets of metal and wood which blocked the entrance to what turned out to be King William Street station. The journey down to platform level was made in almost pitch darkness: I was stumbling, sometimes falling headlong, as I was inexorably drawn to something below with only the light from my mobile phone to guide me.

Something below which made a certain wet sound. I remember the wetness of the walls; the feeling that the they were slick with an oil; the smell of old copper, and the creaking underfoot as I walked across rotting wood, and then I was at the platform.

There was a signle central tunnel, with a platform and lines on either side. These platforms were either decayed or demolished, and the ground underfoot was treacherous, but I stepped across the rubble, down to the level of the original line where no tracks remained. Or rather, no metal tracks.

But at one end of the line there was a greenish-yellow glow, as though a luminous fog had taken up residence at one end of the tunnel. There was also an unpleasant wet spattering sound from there.

Drawn on legs that seemed to step forward of their own accord despite my body and mind urging me to run, I clambered across the rough surface of the original line, wondering how many years had passed since the last human soul had been down here.

And then, through the yellow mist, I saw a cowled and hooded figure, mostly in silhouette. Back then I assumed that my previous thought — that another human soul hadn’t been down here for a century — was wrong, but later… later I would begin to suspect that the figure I met down there was possibly not human, or possessed of a soul.

“You came.”

Those two words were spoken by the cowled figure before me: the figure from the bar.

“Come and see my handiwork. My … stories. All those little tales to tell.”

I stepped forward into hell.

Deep underground, it starts to get warm. Where you get warmth, and you get food, you get rats. This … charnel house … was something poisonous and cold, so cold that the underground warmth and the rats had not penetrated. Some ancient coldness held this place.

There were bodies everywhere. I don’t know how many bodies were there; most of them were in small pieces — a few feet of intestine here, a hairy leg severed at the ankle just there, a glass jar full — full — of ring fingers with wedding bands, and everywhere, everywhere the blood. The redness, filtered through the yellow glow imprinted itself on my vision.

I do not remember what happened next, only that when I came to my senses, I was back at the surface level; my hands were covered in blood, that I held that accursed wet, webbed and batrachian wizened hand in mine — no longer attached to any arm. And, God help me; that coppery taste

…that coppery taste which wakes me from my crimson dreams; when I awake in the night and journey direct to my typewriter to pour out the poison onto the pages. Pages of disembowelment, of viscera, blood and gore. And in my dreams, the empty paint tins in my garage aren’t quite so empty anymore. The fact that each morning I look closesly at the skin between my fingers, wondering whether it has thickened since the previous day. And always, always, that coppery taste.

It would be nonsense to make any connection between this and the spate of missing persons of course. Unless you want to come and look in my garage, ha! Only joking, but there is a place where I get my ideas from. A place full of all the little stories. I know where all the little stories live. Where they are made. Would you like me to show you?

[Inspired mostly by Pickman's Model, the disused london underground stations that I've always found fascinating (see Wikipedia's article and Underground History), and a few hints of other Mythos stories. Written for JackP and Chartroose's Cthulu Halloween Challenge.]

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