The Offing

The waiter was a young man with high cheekbones, a half-mask of light stubble and a tattoo in burgundy and ochre that peeked out from the rolled-up sleeve of his shirt. He kept yawning and rubbing his eyes. Her mother allowed Fearne a diluted glass of the white Burgundy she was washing her bivalves down with. Each time she heard a boot gritting on the pavement she lifted her head in case it was Dad, but he didn’t appear. Her mother flirted with the waiter, her chin slicked with butter. Fearne wanted to be in her room listening to music through her headphones, reading her book, anything else.

‘Do you live around here?’ her mother asked the waiter. Fearne turned her face away.

‘Yeah, just up the road in Mapleton. But I’m aching to get out. I’m busting a nut. I don’t trust the power station. I don’t trust the sea. This place is a ghost town and nobody here realises that yet.’

‘What’s wrong with the sea?’ Fearne asked. Her mother arched her eyebrow, evidently amused that she’d engaged with another human being, and a boy at that.

‘It’s like a tsunami, only in super slow motion. Tide goes out. Comes back with interest. I don’t want to be around come that reckoning.’

‘Oh don’t be so apocalyptic,’ Mum said. ‘Guy your age. You shouldn’t be worrying about stuff.’

‘Yeah well,’ he said, ‘I’ve been here all my life. I’m not just a tourist.’ He seemed about to say more but he pressed his lips together and collected plates instead. ‘How was the meal?’

‘Lovely,’ Fearne said. ‘What’s wrong with the power station?’

‘Nothing,’ said the waiter. ‘Guy my age? I shouldn’t be worrying about stuff.’

‘People around here,’ her mum continued (Fearne recognised the drawl that alcohol lent her voice), ‘and I’ve heard them, still talk about the sea as if it should be placated. As if we should be sacrificing our first-born sons or daughters. Flinging them piecemeal into the waves, like rubby-dubby. Like chum. What do you think of that?’

‘You don’t have to worry,’ he said, smiling at Fearne. She felt her cheeks burn. ‘Your daughter is no child.’

‘She’s my little girl,’ her mum said, tartly. ‘She always will be. My baby.’

For a moment Fearne thought her mother might cry, but she cut it off with another gulp from her wine glass. Thirteen years old. On the cusp. Like this place. Her hips were becoming wider, like the bay. Her breasts were swelling, like the ocean. She felt something like the tide pulling at her insides. Childhood was something she had wanted to escape for so long, but now that time was here, she feared it. She wanted infancy back. The comfort and simplicity. The lack of confusion and doubt.

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 14.46.30My story, The Offing, which originally appeared in Terror Tales of the Ocean (ed. Paul Finch, Gray Friar Press) is to be reprinted in Best New Horror 27 which will appear later this year from PS Publishing.

CWA Daggers 2016

9633431_origMy story, Rosenlaui, from The Adventures of Moriarty: The Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes’s Nemesis (edited by Maxim Jakubowski) has made it on to the shortlist, released today, for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger award for short fiction. The CWA judges say this of Rosenlaui:

‘An inventive and beautifully written new take on the encounter of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach, told by a wheelchair bound boy who communicates only through blinking, but who is a keen, if perhaps unreliable, observer. Williams’ control of the narration keeps the story both thrilling and reflective, and casts an unusual shadowy light on crime fiction’s most famous showdown.’

It’s a great thrill to be in the running against such strong competition (including old chum and Watson, Little stablemate, Chris Fowler). The awards ceremony is in London on October 11th.

CW up for a CWA Dagger

d-logo-black

My story Rosenlaui has made it on to the shortlist for a prestigious Crime Writers’ Association Dagger award. I’m shocked and thrilled. The nominees were announced at CrimeFest this weekend. The awards ceremony will take place later in the year.

If you’d like to read Rosenlaui, along with a bunch of many other fine tales by many other fine writers, you can get hold of a copy of the anthology, edited by the redoubtable Maxim Jakubowski (who is also responsible for getting my PI Joel Sorrell on the scene, by the way), here.

Congratulations and good luck to all the other finalists.

Dead Letters Teaser #17

And We, Spectators Always, Everywhere, Kirsten Kaschock

kirstenkaschock.jpg

When they finally come back to the playground, the boy is in pain. He does not say so, but affects a slight limp. His left foot makes less viable connection with the balance beam than the right. She holds his hand, failing to register this new asymmetry. The boy’s gait is his first test for her and she fails. The mother clearly prides herself on attention to minutiae – so says the unnatural lift of her brow. The boy has a bruise on his heel, but it might be bone cancer. After the initial fever, polio can look like this, in other boys. In other times and countries.

Distraction is written all over. The blue sky scrawls with plane sign, and worms are fingering bottle caps and butts near the exposed roots at my feet, covered in boot. My book, soaked through days before, is illegible – each page polluted with the next, warped, stuck, tearing if turned. A buzz emanates from the mother’s purse. She checks it, smiles, and puts him down. She is no longer beside him. She is somewhere else.

Dead Letters Teaser #16

Ledge Bants, Maria Dahvana Headley & China Miéville

image.jpg

Scores of aspects of my memories, my strength, my powers, were exiled from the world. Which turned out to mean that they were hidden, camouflaged in matter, in lost places, fabled gulleys, reachable only by impossible ways. Hence those years of monster-hunting.

You should never underestimate the magic of magic’s passing. The strength of the death of that strength. Eventually, I came to clock that the things I found – eggs and jewels and chains and trinkets that were, in part, me – I found in more and more quotidian places and forms. Protected by forces that would have raised fewer eyebrows, less high, among populace by now utterly skeptical of the sort of mythic shenanigans with which I used to divert myself. Each piece shifting with the epochs, each still some snide material joke, a pun or a prod from my missing ex, but now camouflaged not in the hearts of dragons, but in shapes and places appropriate to the age. All without breaching the terms of the spell.

I hunted them, and I hunted her too, but of my Nyneve, there was no word or sign. I was convinced that I couldn’t find her because I’d lost my powers.

Dead Letters Teaser #15

Change Management, Angela Slatter

angelaslatter.jpg

What would it be like to be loved, to be wooed, by someone like Lucy?

Dangerous. Uncertain. Different. Oh, so exciting. There would be no ordinariness, nothing banal or commonplace – no status quo, only constant change. The idea threw a frisson down Eva’s spine that was part terror, part elation. What on earth was happening to her?

She examined the last page, with the red-brown dots – the reason, Eva was certain, the woman wanted the letter. Little stains that, when sniffed, touched to her tongue, smelled and tasted ever so faintly of old iron.

Blood.