Featuring an excerpt from The Shade Clan, I created this short film for Whirling Chair Publishing’s ‘Tea Toast and Ghosts’ event in December 2016.
Anything could be happening in that place. In that post-industrial wilderness reclaimed by nature; the place they know as The Shade.
When Tom and his friends discover the vast, overgrown quarry, they know it’s the perfect location for them to set up their camp and learn to survive in the wild. But something else has been drawn there. Something nightmarish, unspeakable.
Through a chance discovery, they step into a world existing alongside the world they know, where great darkness dwells behind the brightest of lights.
What is living in that forgotten hole in the ground, and how is Aleksander, the charismatic stranger who comes into their lives, connected to what they’ve encountered?
Enthralled and afraid, Tom, Cal, Annabelle and Katya are soon asking themselves if anyone can be trusted, if anything is at it seems.
Have you ever met someone so beautiful it scared you a little?
This is not the fear of failing to impress, or the nervousness you feel on approaching someone you like. Talking to this person is easy, all too easy.
This person seems perfect for you; and yet, headily mixed with the excitement, is a distant terror. Is it rooted in helplessness, or inner conflict, in knowing self-deception? Haven’t you glimpsed it, this subtle dread walking hand in hand with exceptional beauty?
“The first impression I had of Alma Mobley…I felt an odd mixture of attraction and revulsion…The straight blond hair glowed. So did her pale eyes: in them I saw a kaleidoscope of shattered light and colours…She seemed beautiful in a nearly mythic way.” 1
Why are the pages of horror populated not only by monsters but also by gorgeous, perfect, alluring creatures: beauties as well as beasts. And which is more dangerous? With a monster, all you have to do is outrun it.
“Did I say she was beautiful? I was wrong. Beauty is too tame a notion…I cannot do it justice with words. Suffice it to say that it would break your heart to see her, and it would mend what was broken in the same moment…” 2
This is no modern invention. The potency of an Edward Cullen or an Alma Mobley draws on ancient archetypes. The Succubus, the Incubus, the Siren. The notion of frightening, unearthly, predatory beauty is as old as culture.
But surely the heroes and good guys are the good-looking ones! The terrifying things are those which you cannot bear to look at – the unspeakable face of the demon, the vision of torture and horror, the bogeyman.
Yes, but our relationship with the beast is a simple one, our response unambiguous – psychologists call it fight or flight. What’s far more perilous is standing mesmerised before someone so beautiful it makes you ache inside, wanting more than anything not to leave their presence, while a distant, un-heeded voice in your head is screaming, Run for your life!
You are a sailor, heading inexorably for the rocks, and loving every second of the journey.
1 Peter Straub Ghost Story.
2 Description of Caesaria Barbarossa from Clive Barker’s Galilee.
I’ve become fascinated with a particular kind of place. The kind of place no-one goes. It’s not far from town and it’s close enough to major roads to hear the distant rush of traffic…but it might as well be on the moon.
You probably know a place like this, if, like me, you live in quite a densely populated part of the world. An ex-industrial hinterland, a long dis-used quarry, a cluster of abandoned buildings. Maybe you went there once and, even though nothing in particular happened, you came away thinking, I’m never going back there.
I’ve become fascinated with the idea of places that are remote despite being in busy, well-populated areas, and are in fact all the more isolated for that.
Let me give you an example. When I’m not a writer, I’m a conservationist. I was asked to survey an area that had been impacted upon by the building of a high speed railway line. My job was to look at how the habitats the railway had cut through might be replaced – straightforward enough. But I was more struck by the way the new line had also cut through several country lanes, which were not important enough to make a bridge or underpass economically viable. All these winding little roads had become dead ends. No-one used them anymore. So the abiding impression I took away from that place was of a whole area that, because of the new railway, had thousands of people passing through it on a daily basis, yet had been rendered isolated by its very presence.
I’ve become fascinated by the idea that anything could be happening in these abandoned corners, and no-one would know. What a beautiful twist in the story of our civilisation, that the worst things, the most terrifying things might be found not in a remote castle or a lonely wilderness, but it that forgotten place, not so far from town, that you promised yourself you would never go back to.