From legends of murder, and undead killers walking, to missing girls, deadly diseases, suspense and gore aplenty; from sleuths and detectives, murder and vengeance enter into a world of crime, clues and mayhem.
12 authors weave tales both long and short of crime and suspense.
Excerpt – So Many Nights, So Many Sins – A Vampire’s Tale
From Dark Tales and Twisted Verses (c) A. L. Butcher
Amber firelight flickered in the small grate, casting a dancing pattern on the grubby walls of the cellar-bar known as The Cavern. It was, some said, hypnotic; others said the fire heard and saw all – for even in summer it was never truly out, merely banked to embers. Fire had been the friend and enemy of man since Prometheus snatched it from the gods, and this particular blaze had been smouldering for years. Some said decades, even centuries, and that it watched all that went on. Whether this was true Wolfgang had no idea, but it was not a normal fire, and such tales served his purpose.
The Cavern had stood on this spot for at least three hundred years, and before this, various structures from longhouse to army tent to inn had been in the vicinity. This land was old, saturated with history. And blood. Battles had been fought, lives taken, lost and even given and through it, all the Cavern stood in one form or another, and its fire burned. Creatures who lived in the twilight world of the undead were drawn to this place. Perhaps it was the blood, perhaps there was something special here. Life was a lure, to those who possessed a parody of it, but in truth, no one really knew or dared to discover. It was the sort of place no one asked too many questions or expected honest answers and so those patrons with things to hide and enemies aplenty caroused in The Cavern in an uneasy truce. The fire saw all, and so did its current keeper. For now, both the fire and The Cavern had Wolfgang’s undead patronage, and both knew it.
Wolfgang Feuerleiben turned his bright hazel eyes despondently towards the blaze and shivered; as usual, he could not seem to get warm even close as he was to it. This place, generally, was cold, as old buildings often were, even with the impressive blaze. Wolfgang had no internal heat, nor did any of his kind; but habits are hard to shake and even a vampire likes to be warm. Bodies with no inward heat found themselves stiff and slow and it wasn’t like a vampire could bask in the sun. Wolfgang surmised it was a throwback to his human past. Memories faded, became corrupted or were forgotten; it was a curse and a blessing – an elder had told him. Wolfgang considered this – ‘memories went with morality. One could not be haunted if one had no memory of past sins and past transgressions’ the Elder had said. Yet almost all his kind suffered nightmares – or rather daymares and the Vampire Scholar who’d propounded his theory had died raving in a fire of his own making. Driven mad by the guilt of split blood. It was hard to be a monster. And much, much harder to be a monster pretending to be a man.
Dark tales of ghosts of war, blood from the Autumn of Terror, the wrath of nature, an unusual murder and a cynical vampire. Twisted poetry of loss and mayhem. Some adult themes and language.
Winner of the NN Light Book Heaven Award for Short Stories 2021
Excerpt The Watcher – A Jack the Ripper Tale (c) A. L. Butcher
There she was, that whore. Once more. There she was.
Beneath the flickering gas lamp at the corner of Dorset Street, Whitechapel, she strode, grinning a seductive smile at a passing sailor, just ashore and looking for company. He, as bad as the bitch whose breasts he felt and whose ear he nipped with yellowing teeth, the unseen Watcher thought. With eyes burning hatred and a menace previously unseen and misunderstood. It was, he thought, a righteous hatred, and they blaze all the brighter for it. The beast within told him so. For he was the beast and he was its creature, at once the same.
She could have been twenty or forty; the Watcher neither knew nor cared. She’d not see another year, another week, another night. The dim streets grew ever wickeder to those of her sort spreading around their sin, their poison. Defiling this town, this land, defiling HER. The Watcher shook his head; no more whores and this place would rise like the jewel it was. Not jaded and dull but glorious and fit for a queen. The beast within whispered in his head. “Cleanse this town, make it fit again.” And so he did. A knife in the darkness, once more.
Geneva liquor and poverty aged a person far better than mere passing of the years. In the greatest Empire on Earth, they blighted the land. Gin palaces, opium dens, and hash houses aplenty gave heaven and hell to those with money, and those without. Life was cheap, and oblivion cheaper. The Watcher knew these unfortunates dropped their drawers for a taste of it, panting and moaning beneath the bridges and in the alleys, with their grunting men, and their penny a tumble.
The sailor moved on. He’d had his pleasure with another of her kind and spent his last pennies in the tavern, and she was here to work. Nothing was free in her line of employment. Except for death.
So there she was, alone. Death walked these streets – and tonight it watched the red-haired whore, who sang and smiled and patted her new bonnet. There she was. The whore. Alone.
The minutes passed, creeping towards death; ebbing away from heaven and him ever closer to immortality. The whore did not know it. Of course, she’d heard the tales, everyone had. Screamed by newsboys on every corner “another ‘orrible murder” but rent still needed to be paid. And so she plied her trade. Afraid. Denying it would be her turn this night. A whore, alone.
Another night, another customer. Fear curled in her belly; these streets were streets of blood, four of her sisters slain in just a few weeks. But hunger was the greater force. Desperation made Mary-Jane brave – so she walked the streets, as she had often done. It wouldn’t be her, she thought. As they had. It couldn’t be her. Besides the police watched the alleys and the thoroughfares. The streets were largely empty, save the desperate and the foolhardy, and those too much in drink or lust to know or care.
The Watcher stood, beyond the pool of light from the gas lamp. This night was his. She would be his. This woman wasn’t as much a drab as some of her sisters-in-sin. Lust rose, entwined with his loathing. Two joined as one, desire and disgust, powerful and compelling. He’d never understood why they went together, but then he was a simple man, not one of the mind-doctors who had been so influential of late. The beast within did not care. Lust and hatred, pain and desire…bound so close he could experience little else when the darkness overtook him. Now, however, he watched.
The hunt was almost as enthralling as the kill; the knowledge of their fear, their desperation, and yet still they strutted themselves, offering a screw in the alleys and passages of the East End, and more if the customer had money and the taste for it. Filthy strumpets, he’d said to any who’d listen. Never did he consider the terrible choices they made. Never did he consider their choice was no real choice. What cared he for desperation and poverty? Respectable women did not sell their bodies. They kept sex for the marriage bed. SHE did – his icon, the woman he loved above all others.
The whores’ sins, the watcher thought, was what damned them. And they would pay, in this world and the next. He’d save London. He’d save it for HER. Blood would cleanse the streets.
The year is 1888, and the place is Whitechapel, in the very heart of London. But the heart is bleeding. A mysterious killer is stalking women of the streets – his true name is unknown, but his legend will go down in history. This is a short tale of Jack the Ripper.
De in Engeland geboren A. L. Butcher is een fervent lezer en schepper van werelden, een dichter, en een dromer, een liefhebber van wetenschap, natuurgeschiedenis, geschiedenis, en apen. Haar proza is beschreven als ‘donker en gruizig’ en haar poëzie als ‘evocatief’. Ze schrijft met een zekere en soms erotische gevoeligheid over dingen die hadden kunnen zijn, nooit waren, maar zouden kunnen zijn.
Alex is de auteur van de Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles en de Tales of Erana lyrische fantasy serie. Ze heeft ook verschillende korte verhalen in de fantasy, fantasy romance genres met af en toe een uitstapje naar gothic style horror, inclusief de Legacy of the Mask serie. Met een achtergrond in politiek, klassieke studies, oude geschiedenis en mythe, zorgen haar affiniteiten voor een eclectische en unieke smaak in haar werk, waarbij realiteit en droom in alchemistische verhoudingen worden vermengd die haar personages en werelden tot leven brengen.
Ze is ook curator van speculatieve fictie themabundels op BundleRabbit – voor het grootste deel de Here Be Series
Alex is er ook trots op schrijver te zijn voor Perseid Press, waar haar werk te lezen is in Heroika: Dragon Eaters, Heroika Skirmishers – waar ze redacteur en omslagontwerper en schrijver was; en Lovers in Hell – deel van de veelgeprezen Heroes in Hell-serie. http://www.theperseidpress.com/
Onderscheidingen: Outside the Walls, mede geschreven met Diana L. Wicker ontving in 2017 een Chill with a Book Reader’s Award.
NN Light Book Heaven awards:
De keukenimps en andere duistere verhalen won beste fantasy van 2018
Alternative history, time travel, feisty orphans, steampunk cats, disappearing Dickens and cursed plays, Jack the Ripper – with a twist, terrorists holding London to ransom, beer wars and more in Britain’s capital city.
Ten tales of survival and mayhem in and beneath the streets of London – Join the adventures in this dark and diverse Tales of the City Bundle.