Decaying Idea


The eulogies were beautiful. Weeping and barely controlled mourners outlined a saintly life, the sort which only ever really existed post-mortem and whose loss devastated individuals and diminished all else.

Tyrone struggled to look on passively. This day belonged to grief, to sorrow. The anger he felt had no place there. Not that that did anything to ameleorate it of course, if anything the struggle to surpress his reaction heightened the feeling that demanded it. A price to be paid though, not a high one either given the costs already incurred by the person that body in the ground had been.

He knew why they’d invited him of course. Duty. They felt a duty to let him know about the funeral, he’d felt a duty to attend it. In the small talk surrounding the event they’d all been aware of their ignorance as to what more could be expected from the experience. He’d been tempted to cry to break the awkward silences. Not for himself, but for them, to give them some hint that their sorrow was his too. The lie of it would have hurt him more than it comforted them though, or so he told himself, not bothering to question his own selfishness.

In truth he knew he’d never cry for the dead man. How could he? In life they’d hardly known each other, the finality of the grave didn’t alter that fact even if he’d wondered before coming whether it might.

The dead man was his father. A technical label more than anything else. In life they’d had no relationship except perhaps for a distant awareness edged with ill defined and vague feelings. A pattern both men had been seemingly content to let endure. Death, though, had issued it’s own demands. Hollow labels had been reasserted as biological fact, ceremonies of grief had laid out patterns expected not just by society but also by the individuals who felt themselves beholden to it.

Beside him a woman let out a tear fuelled yelp. Tyrone felt himself visibly tense up. She had loved the dead man, that much was obvious although he didn’t know her connection to him. His first thought was to comfort her, a human thought, a natural one, but following it came the truth of uncomfortable apathy. In the sea of grief here he was the only one not drowning, to offer her a shoulder to cry on would be a lie in itself and if she didn’t notice it he certainly would. So he ignored her, half watching as a flock of friends and relatives swarmed over, tears in their own eyes and sorrow obvious on every face. Tyrone stepped back, clearing ground for the grieving. With awkward looks they both condemned him and showed a painful awareness of his reasons for holding back, not willing to sympathise but not quite ready to condemn either.

Later on Tyrone cried. Alone and hunched over a bottle he shed the tears which he knew would have been an unintended lie to any observer. Still, he knew the honesty of them, in solitude he could accept that the tears were his own and not the work of real sorrow delivered by death. That body in the grave was just that and no more, inert matter left to fade away beneath the turf. A tragedy for those who saw more, but nothing to him. He wept for his own loss, something separate from the rest, the departure of something far more simple than flesh and blood. He cried for an idea, a hope that was now interred six feet under. The idea of a paternal love never known and now never to be known.

For an instant he hated the mourners he’d ignored. Detested their hold on the dead, their existence as a barrier between himself and what might have been if their own grief hadn’t screamed so loudly over his repressed sorrows. But how could he resent such feeling? In life the dead man had never won such disdain from him, to let him send waves of it out in death would be a needless defeat. No, his loss was of something that had never existed, a man that never was, an idea that had no right to spawn living reticence.

Still he cried. The idea deserved that much if nothing else.

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. 

The Devil Wears Gold

It’s the end of days
or so they say
in corridors of power

The Devil he rode in to town
shot the Sheriff,
ran him down
he came in with a soulless swagger
full of spite
and sinner’s glamour
a punishment sent from below
surrounded by a strange dark glow

We didn’t call him said the farmers,
herders, drifters and sundry misfits
We just want a peaceful life,
no excess drama,
no excess strife

The writers they denied it too
and drinkers said they had no clue
no engineers held the seance
that called the beast up from the chaos
the Padre had no words to say
and the Madam stayed off locked away
as cloven feet and horned head
marched a path now filled with dread

Just one small cluster kept the silence
fearing for inflicted violence
not that they could have a clue
or be expected to pay their due

It was the Mayor,
the Boss
the Rancher,
the Journalists, the ones not plastered,
moneyed men, safe from disaster

Their wages given to the demon
they knew they were all set and even
safe from all dramatic prose
ensconced in mansions well enclosed
and even though their eyes averted
the cries they heard went un-diverted
and if the guilt lay at their feet
then the Devil never skipped a beat
as six-gun swirled and pitchfork trembled
he made the rest pay prices dreadful
a savage raging debt collector
ignoring every last protector

And at the end, the balance struck
a nod was given to those higher up
the moneyed men of wealth and fame
had paid their price with others pain
and what was learnt from this disaster
was that cruelty knows one lonely master
Money, wealth, and gilded greed
are the drivers of the steed
and when you hear that rattling spur
smell that sulphur coated fur
it’s not your neighbour who’s to blame
but the Masters of your own domain
and if you want to last the rest
cut their debit, end their rest
because the Devil’s coming back
and only you can break their pact

City Temple

“So where can I be, if not here?”

“You can be wherever you want, as long as it isn’t here.”

“They said the same thing over there, and there.”

Rix pointed over the road to another paved plot of land, identical to the one he was on, identical to most of the spaces in the city in fact. Frustration was setting in, everywhere he went there was someone to take offence at his presence.

“I don’t work over there sir, I work here, and you can’t be here.”

The security guard had perfected an inert face. He must have been aware of Rix’s reaction, the tension in the air between them but his training had been extensive. Don’t engage, don’t react emotionally, just state facts and wait for them to be accepted. On the first few stops of his pilgrimage through the city Rix had sympathised with that, a talent drummed into all the custodians of the safe and sanitary spaces which seemed to be the norm here. An unpleasant necessity of the job. That had faded though, through confusion, through contempt and finally on to simple irritation. It wasn’t natural for anyone to perfect such indifference in themselves. He had to remind himself that he was in the city now, a long way from the natural world he knew. Of course things were different, he should focus on that. But, still, not this different. People still had to be people wherever they were but, eyes fixed on him with an apathetic gaze, the security guard seemed to be doing his best to escape that certainty.

“I’m not leaving.”

The guard didn’t blink. He didn’t sigh, didn’t move and, Rix suspected, even hooked up to heart rate, blood pressure and perspiration monitors experts would have been hard pressed to discern any reaction to the statement. He just stood there staring at Rix, alone in a seemingly deserted plaza because, it seemed, no one could be there except for the guard.

“You have to sir, you can’t be here.”

A perfect silence hung in the air, another unnatural quality of the city that had pressed on Rix since his arrival. His own home was non-descript, a house set in the middle of no place, it had no name and nor did any of the few neighbours he vaguely knew existed. But it wasn’t silent, ever. Even in the stilled moments the wind still blew, leaves rustled, creatures scurried about out of sight. Yet here in the city there seemed to be nothing, no noise, no people, no animals – a surprise, he knew there were millions of lives being lived somewhere around him but on each little island of inhospitality there seemed to be nothing but unwelcoming stillness. And blank faced guards.

Rix sat down, resolved to take his stand while seated. The guard watched him but didn’t move.

“You can’t sit there sir, you have to leave.”

Rix started to unpack his battered cloth bag. He didn’t have much and, in all honesty, he had little desire to stay any more but if he wanted to rest before he set off to complete his journey then this was the last option he could see. Heading forward their was just more of the same, more pristine blocks of paved land, divided by empty roads and punctuated, all too rarely, with monolithic tower blocks.

Beyond them was the temple, that much couldn’t be doubted. Other pilgrims had seen it, thousands of them, it was an obligation to the faithful to seek out the hub of life at least once before they passed. It was just a misfortune of bad planning that none ever thought to mention the emptiness of the journey there.

Rix laid his blanket out and started to munch on a bag of nuts from his bag. The guard was still there, immovable but seemingly done with repeating his reproachful mantra. A little food, a few hours sleep and he would move on. That soothed the worries about the demands to leave, after all, he had every intention of doing so eventually and that should make whoever it was that spoke through the security happy.

The sun was just starting to set. Anywhere else it might have been a beautiful day but the architecture of the city seemed to radiate resentment back towards the sky. Too much stone and steel made weather feel like an invasion, to Rix at least, where he was from the sun shared the earth with the shade, mingling to create a whole that revelled in the exchange. Perhaps the city did too, or parts of it did because there had to be a lot more that he hadn’t seen beyond the acres of paving and steel fences, beyond that there could have been another sort of exchange between the sky and the ground, one which worked in its own way. Rix hoped he’d get to see it before he reached the temple, after all the journey was part of the pilgrimage and couldn’t be surrendered to the sheer monotony of marching forwards.

“You can’t stay here sir.”

Rix was lying down now, he could feel the efforts of the day sinking on to him. The guard still hadn’t moved, so nor did he. Before long he felt himself drifting into sleep, an impulse more powerful by far than the monotone repetition of the same words that sent him off to dreams.

It was still dark when Rix woke up.

“You can’t be here sir, you have to leave.”

The guard was still there, a weighty shadow in the dim light cast from distant buildings. He hadn’t moved an inch, even his eyes were still resting on the recumbent form of his apparent ward. Rix stretched out languorously and hauled himself to his feet. It couldn’t have been long before dawn, he must have slept for longer than he’d intended and his overseer still hadn’t done anything. Another unnatural act and he even had to squint at the guard in the half light, scanning the neutral face to remind himself that it was indeed a human one. Training, it had to be, iron clad training to stand there and assert the rules until they were obeyed without batting an eyelid or letting the mask of indifference shift. It sent a small shudder down his spine but he calmed himself with the thought that he was leaving, perhaps the stranger would even show some signs of relief, or happiness, or anything at all.

“I am leaving, I’m on a pilgrimage.”

“That’s good sir, you shouldn’t be here.”

Still nothing, just fixed eyes as Rix knelt down to pack up his handful of belongings, his mind already shifting onwards to the temple which he could, perhaps, reach today.

With a nod of acknowledgement he set off to leave, the guard watching his progress intently even though he could have seen nothing more than a dull retreating shadow walking across the paved expanse. Perhaps that was natural for the city in general? Rix felt philosophical, this wasn’t home and the standards couldn’t be the same, perhaps in assuming humanity from the stranger he had really just tried to assert humanity as he understood it. No matter, the temple would have answers, there were people from the city there but they held the faith too, they’d be open to answering his questions. His steps were light, although the sun started to lash out and expose again the sparse landscape Rix felt content even in this alien land.

It was hours of walking later that Rix next saw life beyond the lonely figures of security guards, standing watch over yet more stretches of sterile land.

The life came in the form of a huddled group of three strangers, one man and two women standing around a fourth person – a guard. Striding closer he could hear them talking, tense but not shouting.

“You can’t be here, you have to leave.”

They must all attend the same training courses, these custodians, they all sounded the same after all. Rix came to a halt on the edge of the group, glad to have found people at last but reluctant to get involved in an argument he was already tiringly familiar with.

“We are here and we’re not living, this is our city.”

Locals, his first locals who weren’t in uniform. Perhaps they knew where the people were? Or why they couldn’t be here for that matter, although they didn’t seem to be making much progress in claiming a place for themselves.

“Yes but you can’t be here, you’ll have to go away.”

One of the women stepped towards the guard and gave him a shove, anger breaking through tolerance. Her friends didn’t move to stop her but didn’t join in either and the target for her ire remained unaffected, staggering a little but quickly bracing himself against further shoves.

“Please, miss, you can’t be here.”

More shoving, futile though, he was bigger than she was and had had time to brace himself. The scuffle went on for a moment before Rix decided to make his presence known, tapping the woman who wasn’t caught up in the excitement on the shoulder.

“Excuse me, do you know why can’t you be here?”

She stared at him, eyes evaluating him while the man stepped towards him to do the same, leaving only the other woman to argue with the guard.

“We can be here, he can’t stop us.”

“Yes, but why does he think you can’t be here? They keep telling me the same wherever I go.”

The woman’s face flashed briefly into a sneer.

“Because they own it, or someone does. They want us somewhere else, but there’s nowhere left to go except for the temple and that won’t last.”

Rix sagged, anything that effected the temple effected him and all of the faithful.

“Why not? The temple’s important, I’m on a pilgrimage there, I’m not the only one either – people are always going there.”

One of the men cut in eagerly, expression open and friendly, a first in the city as far as Rix had seen.

“You’re a pilgrim? Welcome to the city! You’ve not got far to go to the temple.”

Ignoring the upbeat intervention the woman went on.

“The temple is the last place to be, unless you’re in one of their buildings, they can’t stand it, they don’t want us there either.”

“Who’re ‘they’? Not him?”

Rix pointed to the put upon guard whose eyes were still on the woman who’d been pushing him who was, for her part, now simply scowling, tired of her fruitless attack.

“No, not him,” said the woman “His bosses, whoever they are. Look, you should go, we’ll be here a while, we’re going to camp here because they can’t stop us. Keep heading this way, you’ll find the temple. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

Her tone had shifted to the warily conciliatory, enough to convince Rix that he should leave. The city was a strange place but they were at least properly human and their encouragement, even if lacklustre was enough to make him look forward again. Besides, the guard had said they couldn’t be there and having broken with the edict once already he felt uneasy about repeating it, even if he felt those doing the arguing were in the right he was still a stranger in a strange land. And there was the temple to look forward to after all, the end of his journey, that was all that mattered.

It was another hour of walking before the landscape changed. First came buildings, the first he’d been close to despite seeing a few in the distance as he’d walking across the paved land. The first ones he passed seemed lifeless. He could see lights on in steel framed windows but no movement, even around the doors there was no one there, not even guards who seemed to exist solely in the empty spaces in between. Rix briefly wondered if that meant he was allowed in the buildings, but it wasn’t a thought he wanted to test. The strangers had said people worked in them and they were allowed, implication enough to make him suspect that he probably wasn’t. That was unimportant though, they were inhospitable enough for him not to want to cross any thresholds. More buildings followed them too, denser ones, packed closer and closer together and showing more and more signs of life.

Before long he even saw a person walking casually down a side road, narrow enough to be filled by that simple flash of life. Then there were more people, people who seemed truly human as they walked, ran and shambled around dressed in a breathtaking variety of outfits. Some pausing to talk with each others, some even nodding a vague greeting to Rix himself. This, he thought, was the city he’d expected, alive and filled with it’s own sense of nature. It made him nervous, scared even, so alien was it but Rix was no coward. Strange as the place was becoming he wasn’t one to recoil from it, even when the crowd grew so dense that he had to resort to a sidling shuffle, gently shoving anonymous strangers out of his path in order to progress.

Eventually he reached a doorway where he could take stock. The crowd was still near solid, flowing past him on the street, but the recess of the entrance gave him some space to think. The temple, it would be nearby now, these people would know it. Some may even have been pilgrims themselves, they might have taken the same path he did and have their own explanations for the strange emptiness they’d encountered. A comforting thought, with all these people there were sure to be answers. First things first though, to the temple, to fulfill the demands of the faith, whatever they were. No one had ever really explained them to Rix and he’d never thought to ask. Pilgrims came back changed, he knew that, he didn’t know how, or why but those few who’d passed by his isolated home had always seemed strange to him. Not in a bad way, nor in a particularly profound way for that matter, but certainly strange when compared to what little he knew of normality.

Rix reached out and tapped one of the many passersby on the arm. The stranger spun around to face him, shocked at the interruption to their routine voyage.


It was a woman, middle aged but with lines borne of a life well lived giving her an air of experience that belied her age. Rix was glad of that, he felt she would know something and finding answers was something he longed to do.

“Yes, excuse me but do you know where the temple is?”

“The temple?”

“Yes, the temple, I’m a pilgrim.”

The woman frowned a little, although not out of any anger or frustration, before stepping out of the flow of traffic to stand closer to Rix.

“You’re here, pilgrim, this is the temple.”

Rix looked around with a start, eyes falling on the door behind him.

“In here? It doesn’t look like a temple. Does it?”

The woman laughed gently, laying a warm hand on Rix’s shoulder.

“No pilgrim, not in there. It’s all of this, all these people, this is the temple. Not what you were expecting?”

He could think of nothing to say, so he said nothing, aware suddenly that he had no real expectations of what the temple should be. As with the rituals he was supposed to perform there he’d assumed that all the answers would appear when they needed to.

“You’ve finished your pilgrimage, go and enjoy it!”

With a gentle slap on his shoulder she moved to step back into the crowd.

“Wait! What do I do here? What do the faithful do here?”

She was already half gone as he said it, shouldering her way towards wherever she was headed. She took a pause though, turning her head back to him to shout with a laugh.

“Whatever you want pilgrim! You’re in the temple!”

My latest work, No Cure for Shell Shock, is a collection of short stories and poetry. It’s available as an eBook and a paperback here.

As always reviews, support and shares are welcome.

Fear, Loathing and Fineness

A crystalline veneer
on a pulsating force,
delicately obscuring
a force of fear, loathing and fineness
that grabs for the eyes
before blinding them
motives uncertain
but strength uncontrolled,
and absurd

Fractures form
across dark crystal carapace
and panic descends
as tendrils of energy
start probing at matter
warping and shearing away
the organic sense
that realises now
why such armour was cemented

No certainty and no truth
no terror made manifest
or phobia made flesh
but a pulsating force
of fear, loathing and fineness
that grabs for the eyes
before blinding them
and crystallising a shell
again to obscure
for forgetfulness to submerge
beneath organic remains

My latest work, No Cure for Shell Shock, is a collection of short stories and poetry. It’s available as an eBook and a paperback here.

As always reviews, support and shares are welcome.

Breaking Cities (Extract)

The building was toppling over. Or he was. The difference between the two was hard to judge. Granted, buildings tended not to fall over of their own accord. In fact they seldom did anything beyond standing there indifferently, especially where so much effort went into protecting the immaculate sense of shiny corporate stasis. So it made no sense for it to be the concrete, glass and steel of the office block which was toppling. Instead it must have been him. But that was how he knew he was going mad. Logic was starting to stand separate from what he could believe. And what he found he could believe now was that the building was slowly inching towards the horizontal, while he stood frozen and vertical in a fog of confusion before it.

Strangers were passing by doing nothing to help. Again he knew what logic made of them. A bustling mass of individuals masquerading for the duration of the London rush hour as suited and sterile echoes of the business ideal. Nothing odd in that, nothing beyond the familiar daily routine. No reason to see anything else. But for the madness, which was morphing them into a string of disembodied faces. Each one sweeping past, oblivious to the buckling foundations of their surroundings but acute in their mockery of him and his growing distance from sanity. They were staring and they were leaving. Again, that made sense. He was the one fixed in place as an inconvenient barricade to their flowing escape from the city. Why wouldn’t they cast him odd looks? In the bustle of the metropolis that was what you did to evade the unexpected and illogical. But that made no difference to what he saw in them. Judgement, or fear, or untoward attacks. A stream of faces contorted by some incomprehensible emotion that seemed, for no sane reason, to revolve around him.


My latest work, No Cure for Shell Shock, is a collection of short stories and poetry. It’s available as an eBook and a paperback here.