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Wednesday 13 December 2023

Health Update

     It's not hard to notice that I've been absent for a long time.

     For those of you who don't know, I'm currently dealing with severe depression, trauma and anxiety. I am on medication, I am in therapy, and I am improving, but it has meant that my energy and motivation for creative work has lately been thin. I'm still working on things, I still have lots of biiiig plans, but actually executing them at this moment is proving to be beyond difficult.

     I have full intention to return, and I am working on a new book series that I've been excited about for years, but the opportunity to begin it coincided with the complete upheaval of life as I knew it.

     It will pass, I will be fine, the depression and trauma have been caused by something, it's not a natural disposition, so this is something that will fade. But it does mean that, for the moment, creating in any form that requires a lot of thought and memory is beyond my ability. Instead I've been painting more, creating with clay, with carving, and trying to let the motivation return naturally. It's not easy, but I know that it is in my blood. It will return.

     My patrons know the bigger details, and I have paused subscription fees for the foreseeable future, at least until I can create content at a more regular rate. It won't necessarily be monthly, but if its one story every 2 months and a sneak peek at book planning progress, then that's something, and in that case I will be pausing the subscription every other month. No one will pay for more than I'm delivering.

     Otherwise, I deeply appreciate your patience. If it's irritating for you, it's far worse for me. I've always felt responsible for my work, and promising content and then being unable to deliver it really takes a toll on me. So kindness and patience is key to helping me get back on the road. Thank you ♥

Sunday 13 August 2023

Accursed Weststead Manor

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

    There's no time to get help. I can't let her follow me, she has to be kept away from town. So, to whomever finds this, here written is the account of the events leading to the death of my wife, Isabelle, and, almost as certainly, myself.

    It started with strange noises in the night. Isabelle began to gargle in her sleep. I thought nothing more of it than the flu, so I rolled her onto her side and it seemed to fix the problem.
    This was my first mistake.
    Six nights this went on, though she showed no signs of illness through the day. But the gargling soon worsened, and then came the night fits. I soothed her as best I could, I hid it from the children, and I quickly called the doctor. The "Change", he'd said. He'd given me an elixir and she drank it every night. We expected it to subdue the symptoms, give her better rest, but the fits only became more violent. She began waking up bruised. Before long, Doctor Yves recommended strapping her to the bed for her own safety. I did this, despite her growing terror. But I...I couldn't bear it. I slept in the guest chamber.
    That was my second mistake.
    On the thirteenth night, after too much ale, the shaking stopped, then I heard a thump in her room. I hurried in and found what I thought was her sitting upon the bed, spine bent backwards, a smoking black hand reaching out from her gaping mouth.
    Too much ale. A fever dream I hadn't fully withdrawn from; my worries manifested with too much fuel. I went back to bed with a headache.
    The hounds On the nineteenth morning, the hounds didn't howl with the roosters. They didn't howl with the bells. They didn't come when the children called, nor when they cried at a game gone wrong. My dear Isabelle, growing pale and drawn, suggested they were ill, but I was too busy to check on them until their feeding. That evening, I found them in pieces in the kennels, limbs and innards thrown around, their heads bitten through as if their skulls were butter. What creature could have done it? I might have wondered, but how could I have known? How could anyone?
    From that moment on, we didn't feel safe. This manor is far from town, and the forest surrounding it is thick. Anything could have been lurking. Truly anything, if the old stories had any truth to them.
    So I put signs up in town, looking for a hunter or someone who could help identify and kill it. A few came; some said wargs, others basilisks. But none would go into the woods to search. We increased the payment, but still, no one.
    So we locked the doors and barred the windows. The children were terrified. So was Isabelle, whose fits had finally ceased, though she had returned to scratching at her shoulders, opening up old scars. A sign of anxiety, but nothing more. Though still pale, her health was improving and my concern passing, so I was better able to swallow my own fear and put on a brave face. Such is the job of husband and father, after all.
    From that night on, though, I barely slept. I kept watch, moving from window to window with my crossbow, staring into the dark while my family rested uneasily. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. For a week I maintained vigil and, slowly, I began to ease. We all did. There was nothing out there anymore.

    I have made mistakes. I let things slip by, brushed them off as my imagination, a bad dream.
    There was nothing out there, because it was already inside with us. Everything that happened since the massacre of the hounds is my fault.
    I didn't hear anything at night, but I felt – felt often, I now realise - something moving around. A shifting presence through the bedroom. But I was never awake enough to take notice. I let it pass, another figment of my imagination. But I did hear Isabelle's occasional mutter to herself in her sleep about a scratching sound. And, with that, I'd listened more intently, wondering if she had located something that I hadn't...but strain as I might, there was no scratching. Nothing. Yet every night, every night, she would mutter. Then the muttering rose to speaking. Then to screaming.
    But still, there was nothing but her voice.
    I called the doctor back in. It went beyond the women's Change. "Touched," he concluded, although he didn't seem too convinced of it himself. A worst-case scenario, but one that, if handled immediately, may never have come to pass. So I did as he told me, keeping her in the sun all day, and the bedroom as black as possible at night. But her screaming continued.

    I know now. Not everything - not even enough - but I know this is something beyond the reach of medicine. A priest would be better suited, but after the unholy massacre at Rolinghan, there are none to spare. They are all either dead or dying.
    There is something in her. A madness manifested, a creature, a beast - something living inside her. And I have now, to my shame and horror, witnessed it come out.
    I doubt I'm making much sense, and I realise I've spent too long on this already.
    The day of the hounds, she had scratches around her arms. Old scars on her shoulders had opened up and bled. I presume there was blood elsewhere but I hadn't noticed it at the time.
    The night the windows shattered in our bedroom, she had been covered in blood and scratches. I hadn't pieced together how she could have gotten them unless she had been standing beside the window when it broke - and how it had broken, I hadn't worked out either. It made no sense unless she had done it herself, but she barely had the strength to stand.
    The same with the damage to the walls. The damage to the fireplace that she had somehow extinguished with her bare hands. Things of which I had witnessed nothing except the final result.
    The hunters dead in the yard, those few who had come back with a second thought over the reward. The doctor, who never made it to our last appointment, nor further than twelve paces through the gate.
    And the children...the children...
    I buried them this morning, what parts I could find. But I spared no words. There was no time. I would be tormented by that for the rest of my life if I thought I would survive more than two more days. But I am being hunted. Not by Isabelle - this isn't my Isabelle. I don't recognise her anymore, and I don't believe she recognises me either. Whatever little of her remains shows no sign. Only the beast breathes now, sees through her eyes, smells through her nose, hears through her ears. And as long as I am out of sight and tread lightly, it doesn't seem to know where I am.
    So I steal time, and I prepare.
    These deaths are my fault. I didn't trust the signs; I shrugged them off as dreams, but whether they come truly from a demon, a curse, a malignance of one kind or another...that, I will never know.
    I have to make things right. I have to correct my negligence. For her. For the children. For my family.

    Should I fail and the beast walks still, then to whomever finds this account, take heed: she it has an aversion to willow and recoils at the scent of the oil, and its wood and iron both leave ferocious burns on her its skin. There may be other weaknesses, but I haven't had the chance to find out, and if I delay any longer then she it will come for me.
    It cannot be allowed to escape. I mustn't lead it away, nor give it any reason to leave. And, I admit, I cling to very small hope that the demon or curse will be destroyed wit

The rest of the vellum is bare, unspoiled; no spilled ink nor blood, no rips or crumples. It sits, silent and unfinished, beside a dried out inkwell. The quill itself is missing. The rest of the house, too, lies still. Deafeningly still.

This story is not to be copied or reproduced without my written permission. 
Copyright © 2023 Kim Wedlock

Monday 27 March 2023

Song of Scratches

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

I can feel them closing in. The walls. Big black things. You can see them too, can't you? Shutting out all light, rotting the air... They're inching closer. Have been for months now, scraping along the ground on all sides. I could ignore them at first, they were far enough away...but they're right there. Right behind me. Beside me. Inside my shadow. I-I swear, I can feel them inside me.
*I'm sweating. I'm always sweating. Always slick and short of breath, always scratching at my shoulders, panic ripping small holes into my skin. I know my eyes are wild.*
Every time I hear the sound...words, a melody, a droning wind, a noise in so many forms yet all telling me the exact same thing... Every time I hear it, the walls rush in closer. They abandon their scraping creep while I'm distracted, like a game of Grandmother's Footsteps. A cheating game of Grandmother's Footsteps, because they never truly stop. And what little stale room remains in here with me is being filled by a growing cloud of bitterness, one that swells even as the walls surge, and just as fast. Every single time I hear it...
The breathing space is shrinking. Rapidly. I know I'm going to choke.
*I'm fighting for breath. I'm scratching my shoulders again, flicking wild glances around me*
...I'm afraid of what I might do before then. I'm afraid of what I might say. I'm afraid I could - afraid I will - ruin what little good I have left, what little there is to get up for in the morning, frighten that little light away...but...but if I keep biting my tongue...
I tell myself to wait. Leave it alone, enjoy the light for now. Give it time. I have other things to think about, other things to face, other things to escape from. Leave it alone. Enjoy it. For now. For now. I deserve it. Let Future Me deal with the walls.
...But every time...every, single, time I hear it...e-every...every damned time...
*A bitter chuckle shudders from my closing throat, and I clutch myself tighter in the darkness.*
I catch myself in the middle of this sometimes, disconnected, wondering if this is what it feels like to go insane...
I can go days sometimes, hiding from the thoughts, ignoring the slow scratch scratch scratch of the walls. I even imagine that they've stopped, convince myself of it, that it's become such gentle white noise as to be completely inaudible. Completely absent.
That's when they speed up. Always then, when I start to feel comfortable, even, dare I say it, hopeful, hah...heh...that's--that's when I hear it.
The sound finds me.
Then the scratches.
The can no one else see them? Feel them?! They're there! I mean, they're right there, and everyone is just...going on with their lives like I'm not about to implode... How is that possible?! How?!
*Blood runs down my arm*
...What's going to happen? When they get here? Will they destroy me? I feel like they're going to destroy me - I mean, you can't see them, apparently, no one can, but they're there and they're going to kill me. I know it. They're going to crush all the light out of me...all of it...all of it...
...And yet I know it's a choice...
Fuck. How could that be a choice?!
*My flickering stare lands on the door*
The door... Yes, there is a door. It's there, it's big, it's unlocked. I can fit through it. And it's getting closer just like the walls. It's within reach...
If I go through that door...
*The blood is trickling through my fingers. Still I scratch my shoulder, my head spinning enough to unscrew where I'm huddled*
If I go through that door, now, it will be my end. The end of everything. Absolutely everything. I'm not ready. I will never be ready...
*And now my voice, my thoughts, my soul withers even further*
...This is where the choice is, isn't it? It's go through that door, or be crushed by the walls. But I'll be crushed on the other side of that door too, because it's all the same, on all sides, fucking everywhere...there is only one outcome, so it's really only a question of how many bones I want to get broken in the process.
Except it's not the bones I'm worried about...
Haha...ugh...heh...ohhh I can't talk about this. I'm...I'm trapped. I can't talk about it, but I'm stuck. I want to scream for help, I want to act, I want to get out.
*But now my head is shaking*
No, no I don't, I want to stay, I really want to stay, the light, that's the twisted part of all of this, I just want the light and for these walls to stop I want the walls to stop...
Stop, stop, stop, stop...
...Please, stop...
...But...but that's evolving into something. I can see it, jumping around across the walls right now, casting shadows wherever I look. It's touching the walls, how can it do that? It knows they're there and it's treating them like they' they're nothing...
It has teeth. It has teeth, it never used to have teeth. Or eyes. Or such a toxic fucking aura... It's like it's choking me, it's these moments when I just can't breathe or see or think or survive...
...Please...please just stop!
...p l e a s e...
...Oh, God...
*A flicker catches my eye. For a moment, my heart stops, and the viciously wonderful teeth sink back in*
...W...w-wait...wait, there...look. Look, see it? Do you see it?! There, that glimmer! It just appeared out of the dark! That little light...heh...ohh...yesss...yes, see, it's that light that does it...I know it's that light that does it, that little flicker, that little's so bright, so beautiful... It does so much. Too much. That's what keeps me here. And that's what made the walls start moving in the first place. And I'm not imagining it. That little glow...the glow...the joy it brings me, the lightness, the feeling of worth, it's real. It's honest to God real. And it's the onl--
Wait...wait, no, d-don't go, don't--n-no...ohh, no, fuck, no it's happened again! It's happened again! It's happened again happened again happ--

This story is not to be copied or reproduced without my written permission. 
Copyright © 2023 Kim Wedlock

Saturday 31 December 2022

Uruz, VerĂ°a

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

     A lethargic silence blanketed the world.
    Winter's graceful grip had frozen even sound, and cast the mute forest into a stark lullaby of blue and gold. Trees, tall and tightly packed, were silvered with the year's age, their branches glittering in the low midday sun, tousled by a whispered breeze.
    Amongst those giants, a run-down shack stood almost indistinguishable from the fallen trees, so old and forgotten that the forest had reclaimed the rotten, hollow wood, and young trees grew, winter-kissed, through the broken roof in their hunt for light.
    Burrows closed off by a tangle of frozen spiderwebs were filled with hibernating life beneath trees and walls, but even those active went almost unseen, small birds sitting fluffed on the broken fence, absorbing the weak warmth while they closed their little eyes lazily against the blinding light.
    The world was asleep, at peace beneath the alluring claws of winter. Blind and deaf to the thump-thump-thump of hooves approaching rapidly from behind.


    Birds fled in a flurry of ice and startled peeps as the aurochs crashed through the hollow wall. But she barely noticed them. She ran in a different world, a blissful silver blur and deafening thunder of heart and hoof. She stormed on through the rain of splinters as if the shack hadn't been there at all.
    The fence flattened just as easily beneath her hooves.
    While the wilds alighted again upon the settling wood behind her, her pace grew only faster. Debris fell from her broad and polished horns, misshapen with a hint of elk tine; defined muscles tensed and shifted beneath her painted, vibrant skin as she ran, fast and powerful, and clouds huffed steadily through a fierce grin.
    The forest itself yielded. Bowing back, branches tinkled in her wake, loosening frost to her lustrous golden brown mane and glittering among the first hints of grey. And through that chiming, the drum of her pace and the melodic chirp of distant birds, her heart sang.
    Frozen air prickled her skin and rosed her cheeks. Frost gathered on her eyelashes. Her fists were numb. Her lungs and muscles burned.
    Yet she laughed.
    It had taken years for her heart to become so light - not through passive time, but conscious practice, and defeat after defeat after defeat. And now, her demons had been both tamed and destroyed.
    Worries were gone, lost to the moment. Inferiority forgotten; she was incomparable. Time was no longer bottled and stagnant in the present. Armour no longer weighted her bones every moment. Her heart was open, thoughts were spoken, grudges released; hate became pity, and pity became forgotten.
   She could barely feel the ache around her wrists any more from years spent in shackles.
    Her grin only broadened.

    A silver branch reached across the aurochs' path, and she seized it without a thought, swinging herself up into the boughs, loosening clouds of frost beneath her hooves. The slippery and impossible steps were executed with equal grace and lunacy.
    Up here, the world was a disorganised tangle, yet she navigated it just as easily. Forward remained ahead of her, Backwards remained behind; Up was still above, Down was still below. The sun still hung in the sky, and it still set every night and rose every morning. These were all the directions she needed. The rest came from within.
    Her hooves slipped again and again on the frost, and weak branches gave way beneath her, but she didn't stop running. Birds fled in startled panics, weasels leapt playfully along behind her, a snow fox ran through the frost below. Wind whistled past her ears, and an imagined scent of hot berries played around her numb nose. Imagined or not, it was pleasant, and she accepted it as part of the moment.
    She dropped down into a clearing when the branches became too distant, and stampeded on, storming through frozen puddles. Her grinning reflection multiplied in the shards, and the life in her hazel eyes challenged the hold of Winter itself.
    The landscape had grown steeper now, and the trees thinner. Frost turned to pockets of snow, pockets became sweeps, until the ground turned fully from silver to a blinding white, flooded by the sun.
    Then, the forest stopped.
    The aurochs skidded to a stop at the edge of the cliff and stared, panting, over the snow-blanketed valleys and frozen rivers beyond. The view was immense. Frightening. And freeing.
    Clouds huffed from her numb, chapped lips, and as she caught it, she breathed deeper of the crisp air, again, and again, and again.
    Her skin, too, burned in the snow, but she stood firm, naked and self-reclaimed. The scrolling runes painted on her skin flashed the only colour in the landscape. Her scars shone in the sun. Lumps from the healing of splintered shins were all that marred her with a hideous shadow. But that shadow was hers. Her strength had been lost for a decade, but now it was wrapped tighter around her bones than ever before.
    Another hungry breath. And another. Wild ran restless inside her. Her heart raced, adrenaline pulsed, muscles twitched and tensed. Her head tilted from one side to the other, feeling the weight and power of her horns, cut now with new carvings for a new life.
    Her grin was primal.
    Power burst from her throat, a lump of energy uncontainable, and she roared, a huge mist that hid the landscape from her eyes like the smoke of a dragon.
    And the world roared back. Bear, swan, warhorn, wolf, fox, elk. The wind, the earth, the mountains themselves.
    She stamped her hoof, a savage thump as the reverberation filled her, and bellowed again.
    Her shadow stomped beside her. Her echo roared around her.
    Territory. Sanctuary. Freedom.
    There were more like her out there. The Free. She could hear them, she could smell them; wanderers with no destination in mind. Going and doing as they pleased.
    And she, at last, was one of them.
    Her grin widened. Then, she charged on.


    A thick, glittering cloud erupted from the edge of the cliff as hooves carved their way down through earth and ice. Sun shone on, turning the cloud to gold. Birds fluttered across it. A weasel leapt to catch it. And another bellow of freedom shook the sky from the forest below.

This story is not to be copied or reproduced without my written permission. 
Copyright © 2022 Kim Wedlock