Monday, 11 October 2010

"Sweet as Decay"

With the release of Macabre I thought I'd post an extract from David Witteveen and my contribution to this anthology, "Sweet as Decay".

It was great to be part of Macabre, edited by Angela Challis and Marty Young, and I believe its going to be one of those anthologies that decades from now readers of the horror genre are going to wish they had on their shelves if they don't, or be proud that they do, because it is so comprehensive in its coverage of the genre, and there are some great stories in there.

I think David and I only just snuck in, because I remember writing the story more than five years ago when I lived in Melbourne, and our carreers as speculative fiction writers was really only just begining. I've just appeared in the first Elder Signs Press anthology Horrors Beyond and Book fo Dark Wisdom, while David was turning up in a few Brimstone Press publications and winning Australian Horror Writer Association awards, and we would have been lucky to have a dozen short story credits to our name.

David and I had been friends since 1989, we'd shared a flat with another friend during our post-university days, and also went backpacking through Africa and the United Kingdom, so we got to know each other pretty well. We'd also spent a lot of that time talking about our love of the speculative genre (David more dark fantasy, me more science fiction) and bouncing ideas of each other for books we wanted to write.

In 1993 we had a successful collaboration with Devil's Children, a supplment for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game which to this day is still considered a classic in the gaming genre, but we'd never written fiction together. When the opportunity to write for Macabre came up, we went for it.

We based "Sweet as Decay" partially on our experiences in Africa, partially on a mutual friend whose ideals, moral compass and determination we both admired, and on the idea that at what point does one turn against ideals and right and wrong in order to destroy a greater evil.

In the end I'm still very happy with this story, and it was great to work with David, who's imagination and simple but so very effective style makes me envious (read "Perfect Skin" in Cthulhu's Dark Cults and you will see what I mean). David's always said that he's admired my ability to conjure up plotlines. Together, I think our talents really complemented each other, and we came up with something that I think is different for both of us, but as always, I'll leave it to readers to judge.

David Witteveen & David Conyers

The guards come at midnight.
They drag the prisoner from his cell. He screams, tries to resist, but they beat him with clubs until he falls bleeding to the floor. Then they tie a sack over his head, drag him outside, and throw him into a truck.
Squelching mud, the truck drives out into the tropical night.
Bloodied, concussed and blindfolded, the prisoner loses all sense of time and direction. He drifts through the darkness and fear.
The truck stops. Guards pull him out. He tries to kick. A club smacks into his shin and he feels the bone snap. He screams like the goats his father used to butcher as a child. The pain doesn’t lessen, it escalates. The uncaring guards drag him into a building, through corridors, down staircases. It stinks of human waste, and something else, something sickly sweet. Then the guards heave him into a room, and lock the door with a clang.
The prisoner tears the sack off his head. He holds his leg but that only hurts it more. He moans. The room is pitch-black. It feels big, humid. The concrete floor is covered in some sticky liquid. He curls foetal, hugging his broken leg.
There are people in here with him.
He hears them shuffle, their feet scraping over the stones. They come closer. He can smell them now. And they smell like faeces and dead meat.
He yells at them to stay back. But they keep coming.
Hands all over him, clammy and strong and relentless. He tries to push them back. But there are too many. They grab him, drag him, pick him up and carry him. And they hold him high, face up, forcing him into the stream of some viscous fluid.
“Drink,” they tell him. “Satisfy Chorazungu.”
He struggles. The fluid smells like rotting fruit. It covers his face. He tries to hold his mouth shut, tries not to breathe. But the hands pull his jaw open, and the liquid gushes in.
The taste is sweet as corruption.

Rebecca Parker drives her rusty four-wheel drive into the parking lot of Bashango Prison, kills the engine, and waits to find her courage. The air shimmers like evaporating oil. The midday’s heat is toxic with the fumes of burnt tires.
The prison looms dark against the green-wet West African landscape, a crumbling remnant of European colonialism. Tatters of cloth are caught in the barbed wire that lines its walls. Concrete walls are stained with rusty water. Guards smoke cigarettes and fiddle with their assault rifles.
She takes a deep breath, reminds herself that fear comes only from the mind.
On the passenger seat is a brown manila folder. Stamped on the cover is the logo for Global Rights Watch. Inside it is the case history of Jacob Ningu -- journalist, critic of the Mombato regime, arrested and held without trial. I’m here to help free him, she tells herself.
People are tortured and murdered behind those walls. She wants to make a difference, stop all this. But she is only one person, and wonders if one person is enough.

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