February 09, 2010

Weird Fiction exercises 2.

Here's last week's homework for the Weird Fiction module being run by China Mieville. Not had this one back yet, so no idea what it'll come back like, but I have a feeling I may have stretched the guidelines to the limit in terms of supernatural content, so a little uncertain of it making a good impression. On the other hand, it was very late at night when I wrote this, and I found it most entertaining to write at the time, even if reading it back now I don't feel nearly so confident!

The task: Note the point in Blackwood where tips from everyday to strange/monstrous. Half a page, that stops before that supernatural. Description of a place or a thing that has a sense of being strange, unthinkable – awe, numinous wonder – terrifying somehow. But not supernatural in itself. Can reveal or not reveal what it is, it’s up to you.

I stepped under the canopy and into the green shadow-murk. The trees towered over me, their black bodies reaching up to the sky in straight-backed salute, ranks of sentinels lining the way. My footsteps were rendered soundless on the needle-shrouded floor. I continued forward, one step, another step, so many silent steps – and still the trees rose impassive above me. I moved close to one, placed my hand carefully on the thick-paved mats of its bark, and the nerves in my palm thrilled at its unresponsiveness. I trailed my hand along the wood and the battle-roughened swords of splinters nicked my skin, until my reflexes forced discomfort upon me and I shied away. I leant back my head as my skull registered a hollow tap; the trees were shedding their cones upon me, as though they had allied with the wind to pluck out their own cone-orbs of eyes and were now casting them down in a show of distain: they did not need to see me, had no need to notice me, I was insignificant. The cones pitter-pattered on my coat; false blows. I bent to the floor and picked one up, spinning the ridged mass between my fingers. The forest was still silent, trees remaining in an alert solitude of muteness. The only sounds that would ever reverberate through this eternally young funereal road were the noises made by the breathing trespassers. Off to my left I heard the panicked crackling chirrup of a cock-pheasant as he whirred through the mummified undergrowth and I jerked into movement, the cone slipping from my fingers to nestle at the mould-rusted feet of its owner. I stared up at the branches, scything overhead in an iron-black arch, and quickened my pace, feet padding faster now between the regimented columns of Nature’s soldiers.

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