Eaten alive

I’ve been long absent and treacherously slack in my visits.  Work and study are so dastardly demanding. But hey, it’s a gloriously sunny day in the backwash that is February and The Perilous Reading Society has a rebrand pending.

During the meanwhile, and to stop the site rusting over, this is a re-post from 2016. Some stories don’t have happy endings. It’s not a metaphor for anything, I’m just a not happy ending sort of moody today.



Dark spells crawl simple into the world. A seed perhaps. A look. A word. To water. A laugh to sew and grow and come to mean that eating in a dream still counts as eating.

The door to the communal lounge is unkindly heavy and she’s caught running to keep up. Her anger slip-sliding on grey vinyl, boxed and peroxide, ‘Why don’t you ever listen to me!’

‘Fine.’ Mum spins, colliding the space between them, ‘Go on then, I’m listening.’

‘I hate that you’re made to feel like the enemy.  I hate the atonement for failing.  I hate that only spoiled food feels good enough. For me. I hate all of it. But unfortunately, hating isn’t the same as not needing…’ The girl backs down, stands down, eases herself down to shipwreck in the unfamiliarity of their containment. ‘If you could hear what I hear inside my head you’d understand.’

‘Don’t be so dramatic, Carla.  Everyone has that stupid little, critical voice sounding off inside their head. You just grit your teeth and choose not to listen that’s all.’

That’s all. Spell bites harder into flesh, deeper into mind. She tries to stand straight with it but the dizziness that rolls tidal won’t shift much anymore, ‘When it’s roaring inside your head 24 hours a day? When you’re too tired to fight anymore? When it’s so much easier just to listen…’

Mum softens, ‘They say that we have two fighting wolves inside of us, one good and one bad, and the one that wins is the one we feed.’

‘Wolves?’ her voice, fingers to mouth in secret, ‘The voices, they never leave me alone, Mum. They tell me that I don’t deserve food, that I never do enough, that my body is repulsive, that I take up too much room, that I don’t deserve a life… they tell me that I should never have been born.’

Mum turns to look out of the window.  A long stretch of grass down to trees, ‘Minnie sends her love, and Alex.’

‘Great.’ The girl curls her fingers around her arm, checking how much they overlap.

‘You hurt them too you know, doing this, being here.  Alex is too scared to ask how you are, he doesn’t even want to come home anymore because he says you’re still there, reminding us of how we failed.’

‘People think it’s about control, being in charge of your own death.’

Mum goes perching on the words, ‘Everyone has difficult stuff going on in their lives, what would happen to the world if we all went starving ourselves to death?’

Day scours through slatted windows, chopping the light to bars. Carla shifting smaller in her space, ‘You know, I remember the day I was born. I remember what I was wearing, where I was, who I was with. And most of all I remember what I was eating.’ She smiles but there’s not sunshine there, ‘Just three words, Mum. That’s all it took. Three words to kill me and bring me back to life as another person.’

Mum has to ask the question with her eyes. Voice snuck to tight to cry.

‘This girl, I’d seen her around school but nothing like saying hello. And she comes and sits down next to me and says she likes my lunch box. Calls her friends over. She talks about my shoes, asks where I got them. I said you’d bought them for me. It felt like I’d done something wrong when she smirked, and turned to her friends and said my words back. But then she talked about herself and, Mum,  it was okay. It was nice. We ate and talked and it was nice. Then she stood up, and she said, See ya, fatty. See ya, fatty. Just like that. And they all laughed. I guess tear is spelled the same as tear for a reason? Because I never cried but I sure got cut up that day.’

‘She was just a cruel, pathetic bully, she was only trying to hurt you because she feels bad about…’

‘Spare me the armchair psych, I know what she was doing. I know what she was. But you wanna know what the real pathetic in all this is? If she came and asked to be my friend right now, I’d feel happy, lucky to be in her company. I don’t even get to hate her for what she did, I just get to hate myself. Pretty messed up, eh?’

The tilt of her. Fingers. Uncurling, begging, ‘Tell me what to do, Carla, please tell me what to do.’

‘I wish I could tell you, Mum,’ she says, ‘because ever since the day I was born, everything tastes of  poison, and I’m sick to death of eating it.’

Dark Spells come crawling out small and black as tar. Made from mean and come to mean and all the things in-between. And bit by bit they eat their victims from the inside out until there is nothing left of them but skin and bone.



image –




Found another skull today. Bleached containment; all teeth and jaw and separation. January is the most depressing month of the year, TV told me. Folds me. In its statistics and the desire for redress. Seems the only pathway through this month is booked on line. Dark when I leave. Dark when I return. Drinks machine been making all the right noises and keeping hold of the coffee. Haven’t had any caffeine since 6am. Haven’t seen the sun since New Year’s Day. Money pulling thinner than the gossamer tripwires made again and again by spiders with no flies left to entertain them. I put the skull high up on a stone wall, makes me feel better, somehow. December called shotgun on all the blood and fire, and hey, let’s be honest here, there’s nothing scarlet about fog, and rain, and snow too weak to make it past the Tarmac. The beautiful lie is over for another year. Another month. Chin up. Skull says. No matter how bad January comes creeping, at least you still got your head attached.


Skull image by


Things sound different at night

December come preaching the language of death. Once upon a time, nuclear war was a damn thing. Even had a government pamphlet on how to poop in a bin bag and live off bath water ’till the radiation killed you. I didn’t know much about loss when I was fourteen but I sure as hell figured out that death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to you.

So back then there were weekends when I’d stand in the town square trying to reason with anyone who’d listen. Most times people were kind in December. Most other times they wouldn’t even look at me. Most other times if they could’ve raised a gun to my head, they would. Talking treason, they said. Most times. But December don’t care none about treason, November got all that covered in the scheme. December says, It sure as hell feels like a waste of time to me. I got enough trouble keeping the darkness from joining hands.

Most times December say, Shit, you bringing the same old blood on snow worship again? Fear been flicking a slide show through the what-next catalogue? And yeah, all these years down the line nuclear war is still a damn thing, ‘cept now we have scented bin bags and showers full of bottled water. Everything ready frayed at the edges. Too much slay in the sleigh. Too much snowman in the fallout. Christmas come early, if you get your mind to that way of thinking. December say, It’s all the same to a dead tree. Most times.


November skies

Remember. Caught holding the fuses while treason is canistered and staked; 36 barrels to the gallows. Seems the rust of October is gathered in at the corners. Trees and bones laid to rest. Three steps from winter and there are those who say we should sweep this naivety of frost away to the fires. Build a Guy to blame and flame. A parliament of gunpowder and indiscretions. Remember. Except you look at me, your eyes all blue like a November sky, telling me that you got this watch covered. Telling me for just one day, it’s okay. But you know me. Can’t sit in the cinema without being on the end of the row. Can’t look for a way in ’til I’ve found a way out. Most times when I’m sleeping I’m still running. Fingers curled around the handle. Figure even my grave will have a backdoor. November rings like a herald. The exits are HERE, HERE and HERE. Remember…


Guy Fawkes image: izquotes
Fuse image:

Famous Last Words

Never could trust October. Too many savours and flavours in the pot so it just tastes of salt. And the rain it don’t give no mind to what kind of rewind we find. Just as long as it can come to the vivisection party and bring a friend. Can hold its liquor with the best of them. Better than the rest of them. Running down the fault lines. Moaning. Groaning with the floorboards in all the old, familiar places. Fencing off the faces. And on days like this the damp of it comes leaching, preaching, making all the exits tight. Slam ‘um open. Slam ‘um shut. Damned if I can figure out which side the bars are supposed to be on. Autumn always did like to pick pride as a guide. Skeleton suits. Military boots. Now and then I’m pinned open. Guts like a white rat. White coat. Turn coat. Turn around. Stand down. In October the answers are easy; it’s the questions that’ll kill you. And the rain, hey it just don’t care who it pisses on. It just likes to piss. I didn’t draw my bedroom curtains today. My 87 year old neighbour phoned to see if I was still alive. I didn’t answer. It’s October.

After 9 days I let my mind run free

No matter how many times we storm the tower who we are can’t be rescued. Filligan let the thin line of blood run across his fingers before turning up his collar, ‘How long do we have left?’

‘You were out for 5.23 minutes,’ if there was any remorse Bastian didn’t show it, ‘which will reduce our time considerably.’

‘It’s still long enough.’

‘I’m curious,’ Bastian barred Filligan’s way, ‘the marks on your skin?’

‘We need to get moving.’

‘I would call them self harm, but considering the length of your arms and the angles required, it would be impossible to burn yourself with a cigarette like that.’

‘I can do the rest of this without you.’ Filligan pushed Bastian aside and picked up his bag, ‘It only needed two of us to break the lock.’

‘What’s your story I wonder?’

‘I have no story.’

‘Oh, my dear friend, we all have a story,’ Bastian grabbed the flashlight from the top of the cabinet and followed his companion along the corridor, ‘and I can assure you that everyone begs to tell it in the end.’

‘Spare me the serial killer rhetoric.’ Filligan tapped a series of numbers into a keypad and pulled open the iron door. He paused, ‘Once we get down there, you take what you want, I take what I want, there will be no questions asked on either side.’

‘I do believe that is the agreement.’ Bastian watched him disappear into the darkness at the bottom of the stairs. He hadn’t hesitated, he hadn’t acclimatised himself, he hadn’t even used a torch. It was almost like he’d been in the room before.

Bastian stood for a moment, finding the flavour of his reaction. There were whispers here, an everyday of fimilarity. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Lucifer was made in the image of man and even the stairs had something to say about his decent.

He flicked his torch around the concrete grey of the unpleasant room. A row of old filing cabinets. A set of wooden crates. Half a dozen boxes. Books. More books. Bottles. Oil paintings all stacked up against each other. A table. A bed. A set of wax crayons. A clock drawn on the wall.

Filligan had his back to the stairs. Crouched low. A ragged breath in the stolen light. There was a slow way of cooking that infused meat with everything that had gone before. Bastian turned out the torch and took the darkness into his lungs. This partnership wasn’t just about forging out a profitable business. For all his secrecy, this young man was leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs that Bastian found impossible to resist.


©2017 Jac Forsyth


Part 1 – I’ll slip into something more comfortable
Part 2 – Just depends what sort of mood I’m in.
Part 3 – It’s not like we stood in line fore this
Part 4 – That first cut is always so damn sweet
Part 5 – After 9 days I let my mind run free





That first cut is always so damn sweet

Bastian Celeste walked his fingers over the casing of miniature drawers. There had been a time when a studio fitting like this would have been a show of status all by itself, but these relics of mahogany and brass were frowned on as much as ivory now.

He slid the first drawer open,  ‘You know, I often think that the 20th century and I would have got on rather well.’

‘A century that gave us genocide, atomic revenge and Margaret Thatcher.’ Filligan eased himself into the gap between the walls, ‘I think they’d have named a tube station after you and put your face on their banknotes.’

Bastian shook his head, reaching for the button tucked up inside the roof of the drawer, ‘The 20th century was all about humans trying to be gods.’ he flicked a sarcastic glance at his companion, ‘Now we just make them in our own image.’ He closed the drawer and moved onto the next one, pulling it half out and then pushing it back in again, ‘Power was and always will be an addiction, and where there’s an addiction there’s a lucrative living to be made in solutions.’

‘I thought you didn’t care about money?’

‘Who said anything about money?’ Bastian opened and closed a line of drawers, down and across, before stepping away. He began counting backwards from ten.

‘There are other safe zones,’ Filligan pushed himself against the back wall as Bastian snuggled into the alcove next to him.

Bastian slithered closer, ‘Four. I don’t even need to be in here, I had a noise cancelling patch fitted two years ago. Three. I just like how uncomfortable this makes you feel.’

‘You’re a complete arsehole.’

‘Of that there is no doubt.’ he nudged Filliagn, ‘Oh, and zero.’

‘Godamn…’ Filligan made a valiant attempt at throwing his hands over his ears before passing out.

Bastian patted his companion’s shoulder, allowing him to slide gently to the floor. Then pulling a delicately carved pill box from his top pocket, he raked through the contents with his little finger and shut the box again, this time opening it along a concealed hinge and exposing a lower compartment which was empty except for a plastic lining and a miniature knife. Bastian picked the blade out carefully, twisting it and rolling it along his fingers as he crouched down and pulled Filligan’s hair away from his neck, inhaling the sweetness of it, ‘Oh, Filligan Platt, now you’re just playing with me.’

He flipped the blade between his thumb and forefinger, savouring a final breath before cutting a neat set of parallel lines at the base of the young mans neck. Then he slid the blade along the length of the cuts and pulled the thin strip of skin free.

Bastian held it up to the light and smiled, winding it around his little finger several times before placing it into the pill box along with the knife, ‘I’m a bad man, my friend, but then you knew that before you signed up.’


I meant to post this on Friday but ended up in hospital instead. My whole week has been shot to pieces, but Bastian Celeste remains. I’m gonna have a drive around over the next few days, see what all you peeps have been up to without me.

Part 1 – I’ll slip into something more comfortable
Part 2 – Just depends what sort of mood I’m in.
Part 3 – It’s not like we stood in line fore this
Part 4 – That first cut is always so damn sweet
Part 5 – After 9 days I let my mind run free

It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Third Thursday

SHE Coffee Lounge, Trowbridge. 7.30pm
Good Coffee & Good Company
Phil Huston, Extemporaneous Poetry and Bongos Award

TPRS 3rdThursday poster hobbit.jpg

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

It’s not like we stood in line for this

Sterility and stale leaves. September always tasted the damn same.

Bastian pulled the cuff of his glove tight and turned away from the door, slipping low under the first of the windows. The humiliated drone would be searching for him, calculating which side street, which building he’d ducked into, how fast, how far he could have gone. The old library sliced a piece of history through heat recognition easy enough, but any visual movement, any contrast, and he was screwed.

As he reached the next window, Bastian flicked a deliberate glance towards the faded colours at the far end of the building. This time of year the rising sun and dawn collided. A double light that went scattering in embers across the pale, marble floor. Despite everything, the uncomfortable ache of belonging always clutched at his chest when he was here. Looking back, it was hard to figure how the complexities of love had kept him chained for so long.

He slid down against the wall and divided the shuttered space by 5.3. It would be easy enough for the world to judge his parents as responsible, they’d continued to push books on him long after the psychological damage they caused had been discovered. And for sure, his parents had taught him more about contrition and cruelty than any book ever could. But to give either of them credit? He smiled softly, that was like crediting a lamb for the meal you’d just cooked with its flesh.

As HIVE sounded out 6.30am, the first of the information drones arrived in the street outside, it was already streaming his cut-out image into 4 million waking minds, including his own. This was the bit that the breakers always forgot, and the bit that interested him most of all. He closed his eyes and rode back with the surf. It was like looking through the window of a sweet shop.

He felt the sigh before he heard it, ‘Seriously, Bastian?’

‘Hey, you can take the kid from the fun, but you can’t take the fun from the kid.’

‘The kid?’ Filligan Platt shot a sarcastic glance at his business partner, ‘From what I heard, that face came with the stone you were skulking under when your parents found you.’

‘I was born and I will die,’ Bastian tilted his head to catch the fragrance of amber rays, ‘just like every other bastard thing on this planet.’

‘Spare me the mission statement. Did you kick the drone again?’

Bastian shrugged, ‘It’s about time they upgraded their defence net. Any fool knows rubber and electricity never did get on.’ He turned to Filligan, ‘Did the shipment come in okay?’

‘Not as much as we’d hoped, we lost most of the A grade to distraction deals.’

‘Is there enough left?’

‘Maybe,’ Filligan flicked his thumb over his fingers, ‘it’s hard to tell until we unpack the rest.’

‘And my, personal order?’

‘Safe inside the C grade, it’s the first thing I checked.’

Bastian rumbled through a sigh, patting Filligan’s knee, ‘You’re the closest thing I have ever had to a friend.’

‘Does that mean you’ll stop fantasising about how you’re going to kill me?’

Bastian patted his knee again, ‘I told you, you’re the closest thing I have to a friend, I’m saving something really special for you.’


©2017 Jac Forsyth


Part 1 – I’ll slip into something more comfortable
Part 2 – Just depends what sort of mood I’m in.
Part 3 – It’s not like we stood in line for this
Part 4 – That first cut is always so damn sweet
Part 5 – After 9 days I let my mind run free

Just depends what sort of mood I’m in

Bastian Celeste detested heroes. All that perverted selfishness and hidden agenda, where was the honesty in that? Sure, moral corruptions followed him around like a pack of rabid dogs, but lying had never been one of them.

He picked up a coffee at the station and ducked past the security checks, stone-skimming his phone ID across the surface of a dozen underground relays.

The woman had asked about his life too many times, her ill concealed hopes locked into the rhythm of his breathing. He’d given her Arthur, a media architect from Chichester. She wanted someone with an exciting credibility, but he’d slung in a subliminal Once and Future King for good measure. It was all about fantasy, even when they pretended it wasn’t.

Her phone had failed to load his QRID, so she’d printed off an inkjet copy and put it on her bedside table. He’d placed a strategic ring of tea over it as he left. Hell, it was fake anyway, but somehow tragedy always tasted of a sweeter and more permanent kind of cruel. He could have killed her a thousand times over, instead he made her cry out without even touching her. The mood for anything else hadn’t been on him. Sometimes it was like that. He’d never taken the time to figure out why.

The billboards flickered through another cascade of neon cubes. HIVE had bundled the IOT into a centralised unit and chopped everything else up into a target driven resource. It had been months since anything more than a punchy little strapline had made it past the public broadcast system. Freedom of choice was a dead sales pitch. And no one seemed to miss it very much.

He flicked a glance at a public safety drone that had circled down the alley ahead of him. He’d overshot his social permit by two hours, but what the hell, even he was in love with Arthur.

He was close enough to his street office to see that the ad-graphics on the door needed changing again, it didn’t pay to let any signs of business inertia creep in. They’d talked about replacing the cluttered panel with a clear, face recognition glass. It would have given them a much higher PS rating and an air tight way to conceal their more covert activities. But even with the incentive of government subsidies, it was still expensive shit to buy. Plus, ditching the ads would mean factoring the loss of tax-deductible revenue into an already sketchy looking end of year return. The business took virtually nothing through the legitimate checkouts now, discrepancies like that flagged up pretty damn quick on the HIVE, and the last thing they needed was another alarm generated inspection.

He could hear the drone buzzing, it must have picked him up as he crossed the street, this wasn’t gonna be easy. Bastian smiled, he hated it when things were easy.


©2017 Jac Forsyth

A return in your honour : drainbrainx

Part 1 – I’ll slip into something more comfortable
Part 2 – Just depends what sort of mood I’m in.
Part 3 – It’s not like we stood in line fore this
Part 4 – That first cut is always so damn sweet
Part 5 – After 9 days I let my mind run free