"One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion."


Let's all be good thieves together.

Monday, 15 March 2010


Yeah sure man I got a bit of time, you want to buy me a drink? Just so you know I don’t swing that way, if you’re ok with that then I’ll have a double of Jackie D with some ice. So if you’re not after my beautiful body then what do you want? You’re a writer, and that prick of a bartender told you I had a good story… Motherfu— you’ll pay me… How much? All right then, sit yourself down because that asshole was right, I do have a story and it’s a Moby-fucking-Dick sized whale of a tale, if you’ll pardon my French.

You see that pretty lady in the corner, the brunette in the leather jacket? That’s Patricia, she’s my little woman, my muse, the love of my fucking life, and that smile on her face means she probably just pissed her pants. That’ll be the third time today. The good news for the cleaners is that she’s wearing a diaper; the bad news for me is that once we’re done talking I’m going to have to go change it. She never used to be like that and she wouldn’t be today if we hadn’t moved to Iowa. No, that’s not right it’s all my fucking fault, well me and three bucks.

Three fucking bucks… Christ, it’s always the little things that get you isn’t it? Al Capone, the original motherfucking gangster, and they finally get him because he fiddled his taxes and me… If I hadn’t been such a cheap son of a bitch and ponied up another three bucks she wouldn’t be like that. She was so alive! She had this smile that made you really believe everything was going to be all right, even if you knew you were screwed six ways to Sunday. Sorry man I know I’m rambling but this isn’t easy for me -- another drink? Yeah, I’m going to need it.

Right the three bucks. Well we were living together when this happened, had been for six of the happiest months of my life. I was playing bass in a garage band, doing some local gigs and she was selling jewellery in a New Age store in the mall. One night I went to the drug store because we’re out of condoms, and instead of getting the usual ones I grab these knockoffs that were three bucks cheaper so I could get a pack of smokes as well. Yeah you can see where this is going, so one split condom later and we were looking at a pregnancy test telling us the stork is on his way. Only problem was we couldn’t afford a baby, at that point we were barely keeping our own heads above the fucking water, she couldn’t go to her parents for help and mine died when I was a teenager. In the end we figured the only thing we could do was get an abortion.

I pawned my amp and borrowed as much as I could to afford it. The day came and I took Patricia to the clinic and sat in reception while this nurse led her through. The nurse was one creepy bitch, she had this big friendly smile but her eyes were cold and hard, like a rattle snake trying to decide just how it was going to bite you. That was the longest wait of my life, and I can’t imagine what she was going through in that room. When she came out she was shaking, pale and had tears in her eyes. I swear that creepy nurse snarled something at me when I took her in my arms and held her while she burst into tears, but the only thing I could hear was her sobbing.

She didn’t say a word during the drive home and I didn’t push her, when she was ready to talk she would and besides I think there was nothing I could have said that would have made a difference. The only thing I could do was be there for her and I was determined to do just that. She almost flinched from my touch when we went to bed, I heard a panicky whispered no, but soon she crumpled into me when she realised that all I wanted was to hold her. She began to cry again, and all I could do was whisper into her ear that everything was going to be all right, that we had made the right choice over and over again in the vain hope that she’d start to believe it, or maybe it was to convince myself. I don’t know when either of us fell asleep, but there’s no way in hell I’ll forget when we woke up.

It started as a dream. I was dreaming about a kid, she was a little girl maybe five years old, blonde curls, with a smile to break your heart, and she was our daughter. We were happy watching her play on a swing, a perfect family living in a house in the ‘burbs, perfectly cut green lawn surrounded by a white picket fence with a lazy old dog lying in the yard watching the traffic go by. Then she fell off the swing, the clouds covered the sun, and all I could hear was her crying. in the dream we were frozen in place just watching her sit there on the grass crying. Then I woke up and the crying didn’t stop. It was coming from in-between me and her, along with a smell of rotting meat and this sticky, slimy… thing pressed up against us.

I threw off the blanket, jumped out of bed and turned on the light just as Patricia started to scream, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I screamed right along with her as she scrabbled backwards off the bed trying to get away from it. It was just lying there in the bed crying its milky blind eyes out, this lumpy, misshapen red thing that smelled like a slaughterhouse and was covered in blood and slime that glistened in the electric light. It was like someone had taken a baby and dumped it in battery acid, and even before it started calling out, “Momma! Dadda!” I knew it was ours, our aborted child come back to haunt us. The lights flickered all of a sudden and the crying stopped. It was gone.

The evidence we weren’t just fucking nuts was still there though, the two of us covered in slime and gore and the big, red, stinking stain on the bed. Patricia was in shock, she just sat there on the floor rocking backwards and forwards, not saying a thing. I had to manhandle her into the shower, and strip her nightgown off so I could clean us up. She stood there just blankly staring at the red water swirling down the drain, it wasn’t until it was nearly gone she started to cry. After we dried off I went back into the bedroom and got us some clothes to wear, I didn’t want her to have to see that stain. We sat on the couch silently, her in my arms until morning and neither of us slept.

We didn’t talk about it but we both knew we couldn’t spend another night in that house, so I called around and found a friend who’d be willing to put us up for a few days. Then I threw as much of our stuff that would fit into the back of the car. Sometimes being poor can be a blessing in disguise as the only thing I really had to leave behind was the furniture, most of which belonged to the landlord anyway. Once she was sitting in the passenger seat I went back into the bedroom, dragged that mattress out the back and set it on fire. If we came back I wanted nothing there to remind her it was anything more than a nightmare.

Our friends, let’s call them Jack and Jill, were very understanding even though we couldn’t tell them the full story. Jill took Patricia through to the guest room for girly talk while Jack and I had a beer. I couldn’t tell him the truth about what had happened that night so we just talked about football and the new Metallica album, nice safe topics and when Jill and Patricia came through to join us for dinner I could see she was feeling more like herself, in fact at that point I began to wonder if the whole thing hadn’t been a hallucination. That night would prove me wrong.

Again it started in a dream, this time I was teaching the little girl how to ride her first bike while Patricia was watching and shouting encouragement. Then the little girl fell off the bike, the clouds came rolling in again, she began to cry and I woke up to Patricia screaming and our… child? Could it even be called that? Well whatever you want to call it, the thing was sucking on her breast while Patricia flailed at it, desperately trying to get it off her. I grabbed it, every inch of my flesh crawling in disgust at the feel of its slimy, unformed flesh and threw it against the wall, where it made a soft splat of a sound and slowly slid down the wall. It was at that point that Jack and Jill came running in to see what was happening.

I couldn’t explain it at the time; I mean how the hell do you tell someone you’re being haunted by the ghost of your aborted daughter? We grabbed our things and went looking for a motel. We didn’t get back to sleep that night. Come the next day I had to go play a gig, we needed the money more than ever, otherwise I’d have called it off. I tried to convince Patricia to come with me, thinking that being around people might cheer her up a little, but she just looked at me like I wasn’t even there and told me she’d be fine, that everything would be fine. God I wish I’d stayed with her, that I’d seen the signs… I guess it’s true what they say, if wishes were fishes, beggars wouldn’t starve.

Look man, I’m going to need another drink before we go on, do you mind? Thanks, you see Patricia had picked up a little souvenir from Jill’s medicine cabinet, something I didn’t find out until I got a call from Jack in-between sets asking me, oh so politely, where the fuck were his wife’s sleeping tablets. I may have hurt his feelings when I dropped the phone and ran for my car, but at that point I didn’t give a damn. I tried to ram the accelerator through the goddamn floor and I was driving like a cross between a racing driver and a maniac. I had two police cars chasing me by the time I got to the motel, and it was a damn good thing I did. I ran into our room to see her lying on the bed, so still, so fucking still. The empty pill bottle was sitting on the nightstand and that familiar bloody stain and smell of rotting meat was floating around the room like cheap perfume. I was trying to shake her awake, screaming at her not to leave me alone when the cops burst in and dragged me to the floor. They called for an ambulance and performed what first aid they could, while I tried to explain what was happening to them.

They let me ride to the hospital with her and sit in her room, I owe those cops more than I can ever repay. I didn’t sleep that night so I actually saw the thing make its appearance: it was like a shadow lying on the bed that grew darker and then began to expand until it was the size of a baby. Then the shadow began to lighten and you could start to make out some colour, eventually all that was left was it lying there in all its slimy, red glory. I watched it for a few minutes as it vainly cried out for its mother and tried to get any kind of reaction out of Patricia. Then I stood up, I knew what it was and what I had to do. I wrapped it up in my jacket and held it until morning rocking it and singing lullabies until it stopped crying and just lay there in my arms. At some point I called it Lucy, we’d always said we’d call our first kid Lucy if it was a girl and that’s what it – no, what she was, Lucy my little angel. I never saw her again.

Patricia was in a coma for a week, and after that first night nothing out of the ordinary happened again. Jack and Jill came by to visit and we mended bridges, they also brought me a newspaper which was how I figured out what had actually happened to us. The front page was about how a nurse at the abortion clinic had been killed in a traffic accident, that same creepy nurse with the rattlesnake eyes. Normally that wouldn’t have been front page news but what they found in her apartment definitely was. The bitch had been stealing the remains of the aborted foetuses and using them in some fucked up ritual. The paper couldn’t go into any detail but they mentioned that according to her diary she was barren and was punishing women who had had abortions out of some kind of fucked up hatred at them squandering a gift she could never have. I knew that’s what had happened to us, that fucking bitch had stolen Lucy’s body and used it in some fucked up black magic ritual to make her ghost haunt us. Though I suppose I should be a little grateful since I got to hold my daughter once, but the price she charged was too fucking steep.

When Patricia woke up she was suffering brain damage from her suicide attempt. Her parents didn’t want anything to do with her but she still trusted me, even if she didn’t recognise me at first so I took care of her. It was the least I could do, you know? The settlement we got from the abortion clinic was enough for us to live the rest of our lives on, could have been more but I settled for a reduction in exchange for Lucy’s body, which I buried in the jacket I held her in at the hospital, it just seemed right. Still look at her in the corner, giggling away, it kills me every time I see her because I remember how she was before this mess, but that’s my fucking penance isn’t it? For the sake of three dollars I turned the most beautiful woman in the world into a fucking I.O.W.A….

Hmm, oh you don’t know what I.O.W.A. is; some stupid greasy little Italian Goth wannabe called her it. It stands for Insane Out Walking Around, of course I kicked his ass so badly he ran all the way back to his Granny’s basement in Illinois but fuck, it sums her up doesn’t it, I.O.W.A.. Come on, one last drink for Patricia and Lucy, and for me and you, Mr Writer. When all’s said and done we’re all fucking Insane Out Walking Around anyway, so let’s knock it back and you can tell me what you’re going to do with my story.

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Tragic Tale of Nickolaus Albert Poe

There is a website lost deep within the bowels of the internet. No blog or journal links to this site and of those few still living who know the url none will share it, but still every year a handful of hardy souls will stumble across it hidden within the results of a Google search composed of tragically misspelled words and hate filled epithets. Awaiting those curious individuals is an amateurish, almost labyrinthine layout composed of broken images, dead links, garishly coloured text in illegible fonts, and missing pages. Only one thing is truly noticeable or memorable: the title which reads, “I am the writer Nickolaus Albert Poe, behold my words ye mighty and despair!”

They may stare for a few minutes, shocked by such a blatant display of ego but soon they will leave in search of more exciting sites. However now and again there will be one whose curiosity is greater than their desire for titillation and they will piece together the few remaining facts of his life and work; a path which eventually leads to me. I am perhaps the only man alive who knows the full story, and today I will tell it to you, exactly as my father told it to me and his father told it to him.

Despite his proud declaration Nickolaus Albert Poe was as much a writer as Pol Pot was a humanitarian; over 30 years old, he squatted in his grandparent’s basement like a troll beneath a bridge. His only real connection to the outside world was a flickering computer screen, where he would spend hours slowly building his stories, word by torturous word, unburdened by such concerns as plot or grammar. When they were done he would publish them in his own magazines and anthologies that he would then desperately try to sell in nightclubs or at concerts on the few occasions he left his basement lair.

Now such an individual would normally elicit feelings of pity in the hearts of his fellow men but Nickolaus had an unfortunate character trait, an inability to accept any criticism of his work or even to see it as others might. In fact if anyone dared to provide a less than flattering opinion of his writing he would respond with hate filled rants, insults and death threats. No one was safe from his vitriolic attacks, neither man, woman, nor child; even his critics’ friends and families were fair game to this stunted dwarf of a man. One of his favourite tactics was to write obscenity laced revenge fantasies and it was this that would ultimately lead to his great crime, and tragic fate.

Of course like many such men he was a coward and would never have dared to act on his threats and fantasies, it was a cruel twist of fate then that delivered him the tool that would seal his doom and that of so many others. As with most tragedies it began with an act of kindness done with the best intentions; a relative bought him an antique typewriter for Christmas, and though the provenance was unproven it was said to have belonged to H.P. Lovecraft himself and to have been the very typewriter he had used to write The Call of Cthulhu. That kind hearted relative would have done less damage to the world had he given him a rifle and directions to the nearest bell tower.

Nickolaus immediately became enamoured with the typewriter, he claimed the hammering of the keys provided inspiration for his writing, and he began to type out all his stories on it before transferring them to a digital medium. One night he discovered another poor review; consumed by a fit of rage he sat himself down to the typewriter to compose one of his revenge fantasies and pulled out the Barbie doll he had stolen from his half-sister so many years ago. His only friend and companion in the dank and gloomy basement lair he called home he had named her Patricia and began to mutter to her.

“What should we do to this one my darling?” he paused for a few moments listening to a voice only he could hear.
“Ooh that is nasty, what an evil woman you are Patricia. But yes a car crash, a fatal one. Should her head be decapitated? Of course it should, what kind of a fatal car crash would it be without decapitation.” And so he continued, his muttering hidden by the click-clacking of the typewriter’s keys. As he typed though he noticed something unusual, with each key he hit he began to feel drained, sweat formed upon his brow, and his eyes felt heavy. The farther he went into the story, the more difficult it became to continue until by the end he was barely able to hit the keys, with his tale finally concluded he collapsed by the typewriter and slept until morning.

When he awoke he read over his piece and was excited, it was the best work he had ever done and he couldn’t wait to show it to his critic. Quickly copying it to a word file he visited their blog only to find a post from their brother informing people that they had died in a car crash last night. Surely it was a coincidence, Nickolaus thought, his story couldn’t have been responsible. Feeling equal parts excitement and dread he tracked down the details of the crash… It had happened exactly as in his story: the foggy night; the tired lorry driver; even the decapitation. For a moment he was consumed by guilt and fear that he would be caught and punished but that passed all too soon. What was his critic but a glorified fanfiction writer who had tried to poison his career! Who had lied about him to publisher after publisher until no one would touch his stories. No he had deserved the death Nickolaus had written and he was not alone, as for getting caught… Well who would believe that one man could control the fate of another with an old typewriter?

But how to be sure that it wasn’t a coincidence… There was only one answer. He would write another tale, one featuring even more detail, and if it happened exactly as he had written then he would know for sure. Picking out another of his critics he crafted a story in which that individual was raped and murdered in a robbery gone bad. Once again he felt drained as he typed and upon waking he noticed some grey hairs in the mirror where the day before there had been none. He spent the next week anxiously checking the news and blogs, hoping to hear that his target had died as he had written, he had almost given up hope and began to believe the car crash had been a mere coincidence when his critic surprised a burglar as he was robbing the critic’s home and was raped and murdered exactly as Nickolaus had written.

Now knowing of the power he had stumbled upon Nickolaus had to decide how best to employ it, for while it had been satisfying to exact revenge upon those he felt had wronged him surely there was more he could do. Had he been a better man he might have chosen to exact justice on terrorists and murderers who eluded justice, on those who destroyed the lives of others on a whim, but Nickolaus Albert Poe was not a man but a child in a man’s body, and as such all he cared about was his own dream to become a famous writer. And so he came to the conclusion that if all the other horror writers were dead then the publishers would have no choice but to publish him and finally expose the world at large to his genius.

Over the next year he wrote the deaths of hundreds of horror writers from beloved bestsellers to amateurs who posted their fiction on websites, anyone who was a better writer than Nickolaus Albert Poe was a target and so no one was safe. They died by drowning, by electrocution, by fire, poison, noose, blade and gun, and in one particularly bizarre case being crushed under a gnu accidentally fired by catapult, since Nickolaus’s spelling was as good as his personal hygiene. Eventually the papers caught wind of the mysterious number of deaths and soon the entire world was wondering about the horror writer’s curse. All this while Nickolaus still remained unpublished, as for each writer he struck down another seemed to take his place in spite of the danger to their health.

Of course Nickolaus himself paid a toll for his crimes, each life he took drained more and more of his own life force until at the age of thirty-three he looked to be a man of eighty, his remaining hair grey, his skin dotted with liver spots and wrinkles. And still he sacrificed more and more to the cursed typewriter always believing that just one more death was all he needed while the rejection letters piled up. In the end he died at that typewriter a bitter old man damned by the blood on his hands.

My grandfather, who was a neighbour of the Poes at the time, helped his grandparents clear out the basement which was how he acquired Nickolaus’s journal and the typewriter itself. It sits in my study and every now and again it will start to type on its own, the soul of Nickolaus Albert Poe still bound to it, writing tales that no one wants to read while the world at large has forgotten he ever existed. In fact the only evidence that he ever lived at all is that solitary website in the wilderness of the internet with its proud declaration, "I am the writer Nickolaus Albert Poe, look upon my words ye mighty and despair!"