Sunday, 27 March 2011

Man is the Meal

P   R   E   V   I   O   U   S   L   Y      I    N 
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S
Spiderfingers had a wild-eyed talent, such a fantasy world far more involving than her own.  She felt her mind open, his words snuggling into the crevice her subconscious provided.  Her eyelids became heavy, absentmindedly pretending that her son's figurine would slice the bad writing out of her.  Leave it to Danger-Man, thought Steph, lazily, reaching out to stroke the smooth existence of the Plasticine watchman.  Her eyelids closed before rapidly opening.  Closed, then open.  Closing … a slight opening … then … closed ... firmly shut, her awareness trundling down, down, down into a strange, strange land.
Act III 

Steph blinked, sitting, at the back of a bus.  She could hear no engine sound, and could feel no juddering movement beneath her, though it became clear from the changing scenery that the vehicle was in motion.
It was violet – the bus – both inside and out, and the benches were yellow sofas stretching the full length of the carriage.  White and black fur littered every seat, whilst thick clumps of the coarse hair smattered the floor beneath her wellington boots.  Has some poor panda bear met a terrible death? And why, thought Steph, why am I wearing wellington boots?  The bus climbed over hilltops, scaling monolithic mountainsides, splashing silently through forded rivers.  It sped across rocky valleys, through peculiar blue vegetation.  And all the while, Steph could see the shadow of a great dark creature, stalking them through the velvet night.  The bus driver up front engaged Steph in conversation.  The fire in his hair billowed a sweet Jasmine fume, whilst each dreadlock of flame obscured his face as he spoke.  A question Steph couldn’t remember asking received an answer from an excited voice which leapt excitedly in tone.  A Ruthless dialogue.  Sparkling.
Did I train myself to my physical peak, using my grand inheritance to become the saviour of a corrupt city? Say no.

Thank you.  I don’t have strict moral codes that stop me abusing my powers for personal gain, cos I didn’t get to grow up with wholesome Midwest values, and I haven’t got a guilt complex after witnessing my uncle’s death.  

Can I fly? Not anymore.  I did once, perhaps.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  Sometimes the past is a page full of wrong words, waiting to be re-written by someone coming at it from a fresh perspective.

Why wear this? Matter of survival really.  You sit outside your local supermarket with a sign that says “Fruit if you can, no money! I’m watching my figure”, and people give up the silver coins.  Doing that act in a Superman hoodie and long red coat? Out flow the gold ones.  The community adopts you as its totem of charity.  Much more trustworthy than any of those N.G.O’s they’ve lost faith in.  Best to stage your show in your Herne Hill’s, your Richmond’s, gentrified places like that – they’re best.

Oh yeah, I see him.

Sure, but don’t worry – he’s only a little terrier, and he won’t bite you.  If for some insane reason he did attack – I’d protect you.  I’m not as strong or as fast as seven years ago, but I can still hold my own.  Hey, how’s the kiddie anyway?

Nothing wrong with that.  And don’t forget, Gideon has two parents.   I’m sure you’ve more of an influence than you suspect.

No, me and responsibility being the main reason.  I’m the kind of idiot that will chain himself up to save a few innocents when really, me being free to defend myself means the world gets to survive.

Don’t worry, I’m the lucky idiot who comes to his senses in the nick of time.  That’s what us antiheroes do.
Steph opened her eyes, to a cloudless evening, fully aware of the dream in which she was told a story.  Laying there, Dictaphone in hand, she felt giddy.  Special.  Last month’s dream of reading Why is Wigloo? to her class was surreal, but only on a structural level.  Waking up in her room and having her face disappear whilst washing it in a mirror had been fun, however, that dream within a dream paled next to the story Spiderfingers shared on his purple bus.  Rummaging through her bedside cabinet, movement sending Gideon’s Play-Doh Danger-Man to the floor, she eventually found a fresh cassette.  Her heart raced.  She switched off her mobile and changed the tape in her silver chrome machine.  Steph cleared her throat and tightly embraced the performer in her soul:
Man is the Meal, By Stephanie P Tent
The bible – being the weightiest of brochures – fails to mention the reality of the resort it advertises.  The one place we’d all like to go, but only if we’re good and do not disobey.

Oh, Heaven! It exists, but it is empty.

Miss, no mortal has ever walked through its gates, which aren’t – I may add – tall and pearly.  Heaven is quite desolate.

No, don’t interrupt.  You promised me.  Remember?

The deal was this: you talk, hand me your pamphlet and tell me of God’s Kingdom and I say NOTHING until you’re done.  Now it’s my turn.

So, are you ready for the truth?

Heaven is a ghost town.  It’s empty, because no one believes they have enough moral credit to get in.  I’ve heard legends of those very few – pure of heart – who woke up there.

They open their eyes, realise where they are, that place full of white light and marble furniture.  In that very small gap in time, where the spiritual orgasm is indescribable, these newly arrived guests of the heavenly host look up and see the beating of wings, scabby great big beaters that belong to giant grotesques, swooping down, out of unseen sky cages.   They descend on the new arrivals, those unsuspecting mortals.  Such pious and faithful beings.  They’ve spent their lives dreaming of paradise and its eternal gift to find out the rib shattering, cranial haemorrhaging, belly-piercing, God-is-so-fucking-awful truth.  The angels have been waiting for so long between feasts.  And they’re starving.  They chow down on the spiralling concoctions of pure white light that their tenants spew.  Love feeds the lord.  Indeed.  Hey don’t look at me like that.

But it’s my belief...

Ah, Ah, Ah! Now you listen to me! If you can hand out your version of reality on those cheaply-printed-badly-photo-acted pamphlets, then surely I can share the director’s cut? Dems da rules, Miss.

I said that the bible is like a brochure for a resort, but maybe I got that wrong.  Maybe the bible is a menu that we – the food – are sadistically allowed to read? The reading-and-believing bit is all part of the Head Chef's seasoning.  Our faith, it’s like a marinade.  We spend a lifetime in preparation.  Love is the garnish; man is the meal.

How do I know? Gaia told me.

You know, Mother Nature? Get close to the earth and she’ll let you see and hear black truths.  Mother Nature – Gaia – she reveals narratives that are several scenes shy of Parental Guidance.  Definitely not the kind you’d wanna print up and hand out on a crowded street on a Saturday.
The End.

Happy with this promising first draft, Steph reached for her phone, mentally arming herself with enough tact and guile to evade conversation traps.  There was no way she would ever get back together with Howard.  She only had time for the little man.  Steph would tell a fairy-tale to little Gideon.

N   E   X   T      T   I   M   E      I    N      
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S
“Oh, John, we really ought to get you back to Bellevue.”

(N.B The comments posted below pertain to an extended version of this story, truncated due to issues of pace). 


  1. A great tale as usual. There are a few bits and pieces on which I have comments:

    I really liked the contrast between this story and the previous two, the mundane nature of Steph's existence is offset nicely by the stranger that she meets and they way he makes her feel. The little streams of consciousness that Steph engages in, like imaging her self in a disaster movie, are very realistic (certainly, this is how I think) and that really helped to make the character relatable.

    Despite this being Steph's tale, Spiderfingers still dominates, overshadowing your secondary characters despite all their best efforts to be heard. I'm sure this is deliberate on your part, and it's an effective tool which shows megalomanical (I don't think that's a real word) and powerful Spiderfingers is that he can have such influence.

    Having said that, at times I feel like Steph's back story is being developed to rapidly in this piece: her relationship with an absent son, her God-awful job and the issues with this Milo character and how their relationship obviously clashes with her faith. It's very artfully weaved in to the story, and I'm satisfied that you've shown us her story rather than told us about her, but I feel like it's a bit of an onslaught in this piece. (I realise that a few months ago I was asking for more character development, but I am a contrary old sod like that!)

    The plot itself continues to be intriguing. I really enjoyed the idea that Steph is a struggling writer who uses the material she's gleaned from the old tramp as a means of kick-starting her creativity. I get the impression that, should she plagiarise Spiderfingers, there will be repercussions and I'm really excited to see how the narrative thread progresses.

    As always, your style is faultless, and the pace of the narrative is such that it is a pleasure to read. Can't wait for the next instalment.

  2. I've kept silent for a time now. Letting the story develop, hoping things will become clear: the two main characters voices comingling and getting confused at times, the odd bits thrown out, that don't seem to tie in yet, and though there is still confusion there is the nature of the russian doll. They consumed what they conceal and later reveal. That spiderfinger's has baited a trap with his tales and steph is being consumed by him., with each tale he bleeds over into her mind and world just a little more, Soon she'll be a part of him, concealed within as another russian doll story.

    Or perhaps this is just my deliciously ominious speculation...

  3. mmm yes.

    This is the best so far (in this narative) i do believe. Though admitadly i did slap my forehead and groan a bit when i read the school name and class, really aught to have remembered that bloody photo earlier!

    You know in this Sfs reminds me of Dracula (as in original novel) the way he lives in the margins, though is more than capable of entering more rarified circles if he wishes, manipulating those he is interested in, drawing them into his world. Playing with them.

    Ramifications Leanne? My impression is that he wants her too, like Roman style immortality. He has chosen her to bear witness and record, this is his seduction of her, no?

    Rooen the Dog, mmm? I am really quite fond of your all too plausable mortal perceptions. Even have me doubting what reality is real at times. :)

    It amuses me how my/our critisms are reflected in Steph's, and strangely gives me more confidance in you as a writer.

    There a few tweaks here and there perhaps, the info bombardment...i didnt mind so much, though i could cede the point to Leanne, have a little more in earlier eps. Its clear you have edited and reworked this a lot, its glinting wikidly ;) (i didnt see your earlier guffaw!)

  4. You use words very well. The descriptions are vast and encompass a lot of imagination.

    What I'm not understanding in these three pieces, are the-seemingly so, because I could just not be understanding something- long winded passages that don't seem to go anywhere or add anything other than letting me imagine Spiderfingers, Steph (and the author, maybe) are either crazy, slowly going insane, have taken way too many drugs, or are in a Bobby Ewing dream. (Okay, lol on the author being any of these, just kidding here, John, don't get pissed.) But reading this, I'm wading through a lot of stuff and sometimes losing track of the story.
    I do look forward to the next segment and maybe that'll start to tie things together.

  5. Thank you one and all for being such sports and reading my work. What is a writer without his/her readers?

    @ Leanne:

    You enjoyed it? Excellent. I write for myself in the hope that others enjoy and request more so hey, nice one!

    Interesting that you say mundane as I hadn't really applied a vibe or tone to her life, I merely wanted to reflect a fair approximation of a typical day with Steph. Her life does need a bit more of a focus on what will please her (Milo being the obvious solution).

    Don't know who said it but someone says their are two types of story: Someone goes on a journey or, a stranger comes to town. I'm not sure if this is strictly true, but I want to do a bit more of the latter with these stories. We'll see how it pans out shall we? Oh and Leanne, the contrast between the stories is probably because i want to try out various types of story. I want to master quite a few genre's and for reasons I'll let you come up with on your own, I think The Russian Doll stories offer the perfect premise for such a venture.

    Steph has been quite the non-entity and that's because in the first two parts of this saga, it was imperative for me to introduce Spiderfingers to new readers but also those more familiar with him; which chaos god they were gonna get this story arc. So far, it's fair to say he is the villain of the piece. Still, you can't really be pissed with a vampire for drinking blood, it's in their nature. Sympathy for a god anyone? Heh, well, maybe later then...

    Megalomanical isn't a word but fuck it. This is a conversation not a classroom.

    Mis speaking, bad spelling? Fuck it.

    You think Spiderfingers dominance is an effective tool? Cheers. We'll have more from the other members of the cast later in the year but yes, they really are secondary fiddles to the big erm, [insert bigger instrument here]

    I wanted Steph's day to be hectic and non negotiable. i wanted people to understand why she might seek release in the arms of a man, despite her faith. I didn't want the reader to be lulled into her world.

    I think I succeeded.

    However, when this piece gets published I might flesh out her day more, as i won't be thinking about each chapter having to encapsulate so much PLUS, have chapters end on some sort of discordant event. So hey, thanks for that advice. Don't want the reader worn out, though again, I'm sure reading Spiderfingers on screen can be tiresome from time to time. Some readers print out web fiction. Maybe we should all try that for next month as an experiment? The floor is open people.

    Is steph's job god awful? I think she'd rather be somewhere else but personally I think her life story could be a whole lot worse.

    I may be guilty of too much 'show' as some readers simply need to be told what is going on rather than play detective. Yes, you know who you are ;)

    Glad you're so genuinely intrigued with the plot which if I may risk saying it (I can be pretentious but this is NOT one of those moments), is one of those slow burning contrivances that is very much character driven. Keep reading between the lines and you'll work it all out; the whole plagiarism postulation is quite the psychic find Leanne. A gold medal for you ;)

    Hmmm, the narrative thread. Wasn't that Spiderfingers just showing off? Steph seems to think so.Ii agree with her. Then again, John Clay can be one of those 'look-at-me-and-my-clever-plot-device' writers. Let's see what happens at his stab (pun so very intended) at horror, as it dribbles out of next months installment, BLACKEST BLACK.

    I'm still working on a style. Some writers never truly create a remarkable one, just a mish-mash of what they read and what their editors force in. Still, thank you for enjoying the flow of the piece.

  6. @ Fox-Face:

    Best in the The Russian Doll Story arc? Thank you. I think it's the most accessible, but I enjoy reading Steph's Gold Medal out of the three so far. Invisible has the loftiest expectations though. GREAT! Now you all think that as well as writing himself into a tale about gods and faith, the wanker just sits around all day reading his own stuff. HA!

    And what is this about a photo? I'm the prick-writer who wishes to confuse and annoy, YOU'RE the straight man. Don't be turning the tables here love!

    Yeah, Spiderfingers is at the top of his game, and he hasn't told anyone the rules has he. Wanker. Let's hope he gets his just deserts.

    There is a seduction going on? He's making it awful hard on himself. If I were Steph I'd avoid him like the plague now. Would you seek him out again Ashley?

    You spotted the Rooenn foreshadowing! Well done. If you're a new reader, Rooenn is...actually you'll find out next month. Keep quiet you old schooler's. Don't spoil it.

    'It amuses me how my/our criticisms are reflected in Steph's, and strangely gives me more confidence in you as a writer.'-Ashley Fox.

    Tell me what you mean by this as I'm not sure and don't want to mis-read? Nice.

    Glad you liked the way it reads but tell me of these tweeks. I'm in contact with you to further my own agenda! Now, why does that make me think about Steph's relationship to Spiderfingers? Hmmmm...

  7. @ Jenn:

    YO! I remember how much you liked older Spiderfingers issues and was a little dismayed about your email regarding Steph's Gold Medal. Still, I think that the shift in style wouldn't be welcomed by all and hey, dissent is healthy (this installment is even more of that old-fantasy-adventure-type that I used to upload).

    I see that someone else reckons that Spiderfingers has gone all Dracula on us! So far, he has done something for her creativity, and i don't think he meant to come across all scary did he? He's just some homeless dude whose been out on the streets too long.


    Oh, tempting as it is, to push that idea of Steph becoming part of a Russian Doll story, it may not actually happen. I honestly don't want to travel down roads that fantasy of this kind could predictably skip down. You guys would HATE me for it! Expect BIG, EVIL, SHOULD-HAVE-SEEN-EM-COMING-TWISTS. Expect them to be foreshadoed waaaaaay in advance.

    Oh, and expect terror too.

    Hey, tell me about the two voices mingling. You mean Steph and Spidefingers right? What did you mean by this? I'm intrigued!

  8. You use words very well. The descriptions are vast and encompass a lot of imagination.

    Like the appreciation for my description as i used to not bother AT ALL for my works. infact, I was happy with a whole bunch of characters simply chatting and running off the leash so to speak.

    Steph doesn't come across as crazy. I think Spiderfingers definately does and that may be the appeal that keep syou coming back here? I hope there is some appeal as I detect a certain frustration in reading stuff that 'doesn't go anywhere'. Seriously, and as i know fantasy isn't a genre you like (you left a group because of that focus right) if you're not enjoying the tale, I can understand you not wishing to continue with the comments and critique.

    If however there are some story elements that have grabbed you, lemme know? I feel that the passages that irritate you (I have to guess as you haven't copied and pasted them into your reply-please feel free to do so as it really helps in reading your critique objectively) are inheriant to my burgeoning style. Some characters arrive, and i hope in an entertaining way, conclusions that stimulate the readers interest.

    I have no desire to write dialogue which is shameless reveal, after shameless plot movement. I know your stance on commenting, but please reply as it would smack of irresponsibility to leave myself and others in the dark regarding 'long winded passages that don't seem to go anywhere'.

    You poor man! i don't want you to 'wade through' anybody's work; not if you have had no prior reason to do so. Does it read quite so badly?

    Are my descriptions the only things that would compel you to 'look forward to the next segment'?

    Maybe I've become one of those writers that people (or at least on these last three occasions, you) stick with because you're hoping that their will be resolutions along the way that lead to an overall conclusion?

    Let's make a deal. If you like the next story part, if you become interested in the characters and what they are going through, tell me. i just don't remember a book where the descriptions ALONE are enough to keep me reading. Right, I'm gonna have a shower and read your poetry ;)

  9. Bloody hell John! Those replies were almost as long as the text!

    Accessability. The lack off this is potentcialy the biggest flaw of your writing. Its in no way an easy read, in fact demands a certain level of mental agility, in the style itself rather than plot. Now this will turn off a LOT of readers. But the ones that stay will probably love that aspect of it. Thats why i though this was the best so far, ike that wired half and half bread; best of both.

    Steph's day & Seduction; You said yourself that Milo represents an escape from the wear and tear of everyday life, an excitement she is desperately in need of (even if she is not aware of it). BTW i think you need to show why Milo is so irresistable to her, mabe with the fone convo, if he says something which has great meaning to her, idk. This very reason is why i said its all SFs seduction of her, he is offering all that to the nth degree. Seduction isnt always about/for sex. Its about desire.

    Its soooo SFs to tell someone to write something, then get pissy about plagerism. Rolls eyes.

    My/our critisms/steph; in that those percieved faults in your writing are addressed via stephs changes to the story etc, so shows you are aware of them, and also is kinda like a stuck up middle finger. Which amuses me.

    Photo; What do you mean, you dont know?!?! I thought it was a masterly stroke! The Kurt arc, last part (i think) when SFs is all mopey, mooching around in the rain, he breaks into a school and steals a photo of a school trip....

  10. Hahaha! I like to chat and had a lot to reply to! I HATE it when I leave a big fat comment on someones work an all they can say is 'Thanks!'

    I'm addicted to stories, so the talking about them is gonna be a mainstay for me!

    As to regards mental agility, my heroes (I think you all know my influences, so why list them? I'd be showing off) wrote work that probably requires the same level of concentration. So long as I'm not intentionally bafling the reader, then my job is done. PLEASE say you didn't find anything here that made you go 'HUH?', for too long. If you did, copy and paste it in a reply. Its what i do for you guys and it will obviously make me a better writer.

    We'll find out why Milo is irresistible sooner rather than later. Still, i think her meditation on his arms, scent and voice appear to be the main draw. Does NOT having the intellectual reasons stated now hurt the story? Or are there other bits and pieces of info that have a higher priority and being more important, 'bumped' Milo's appeal down a few places? A chapter focusing on Milo will surface very, very soon.

    Spiderfingers hasn't told Steph to write anything, are you thinking of the dream sequence?

    I need your comments because they highlight my shortcomings. You and Leanne wanted more from Steph and you demanded it sooner rather than later, so here we are. In many ways I am not the only writer of these Russian Doll Stories. Maybe I'm wrong in thinking I write only for me? Maybe I'm very wrong indeed.

    Oh, and I need to know, has my writing become more clear over time, or less clear?

    The photo was from a primary school, not the one featured in the story. This arc has darker and more terrifying connections to HERO-WORSHIP, and you don't have to have read that to enjoy this ;)

  11. Brilliant, please dont read this as some kind of cop-out, because its not...
    This story doesnt need critique, dont change a single word. leave it exactly as it is its perfect.
    It works for me on so many levels that if I started going in to it I would effectivly be running through paragraphy by paragraph and saying why I like it.

    I really love the end, the build up towards the torrent of unrequested information in the direction of the 'witness', I also love the 'fairytale' at the end.

    Basically I think you have perfected this story, I dare not suggest any alteration. Ill my questions have been answered and I'm starting to (hopefuly) get this story in a story in a story thing, I'm left wanting to know more about Stephs situation work&home and obv more of Spiderfinger.

    This is the kind of story that settles in the mind well, there is alot in there that is touched on and kinda self emplied with regards to predjudices etc and I find myself reading expecting Spiderfingers.

    **I had trouble trying to word this in an undertandable way --> there is basically an underlying conflict and yet solitude between Steph and Spiderfinger. They are both in their own ways outcast yet im sure they might each view their counterpart as less of an outsider. Its a strange form of fiction you have here John, its not like the stuff im used to where things are either deliberatly ambigious or blatant, alot of what makes it enjoyable to read is that as a reader we impose our own sense personal perspectives. ...and being that both characters are effectivly commenting on their lives and thus society

    ***I lost the second half of this comment when publishing - will attempt to reitterate

    1. ...its like A thinks that B thinks that C should behave like X ...and here is me Mr. D trying to find the common ground and act as in interperator ^_^
      and to complicate matters even more for the overzelous mind of Mr. D by subtly slipping in little yet potent images of Raiders Of The Lost Arc style 'angels' devouring the flesh of the unliky witness that actually finds out what heaven is all about.

      I really enjoyed this (can you tell) and hopefully the next one isn't so perfect so I can actually be of use besides apprasal.

      Oh' I likes the whole flow and language of the story but my favourite part was the end where we got in to Spiderfinger's tale.

      I'm obviously wondering what the next tale will be and how Steph is getting on with her bizniz


  12. I watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom recently so I very much appreciated your Raiders of the Lost Ark reference!

    The story isn't perfect in terms of the overall pace - would have loved to (oh the benefit of hindsight) show more of Steph's relationship with Gideon but then his lack of presence contributes to the main theme of Steph's story as it does indeed the Russian Doll Stories in general.

    No, I won't tell you but feel free to guess Rumple's/Spiderfingers' game plan. Can the god of chaos have one?

    The tale within a tale motif goes on for a little longer before things get really chaotic. Enjoy then these relatively peaceful movements into lives not quite revealed but intriguing.

    The Man is the Meal mini story is one of my favourites and links fairly directly with the main theme of the Babushka tales. Oh, by the way, cheers for addressing the clarity issue with this tale as it was written in antithesis of the mind bending Invisible.

  13. 2/2 for the month of September

    I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter fewer tendrils pulling and vying for my focus! I managed to get into the flow a lot quicker, I found I could relate to Steph a lot more than Spiderfingers so perhaps this was a contributing factor. You really captured the intelligent woman's take on trash magazines – dismissed where possible but indulged when it offers a foot in the door with the exclusive and excluding social circle!!

    I too found the disparity between Steph's faith and sexual activity questionable but I am sure there is reason behind this soon to be revealed/explored.

    The relationship between Steph and Spiderfingers is developing nicely and on interesting levels so I am looking forward to watching the developments unfold.

  14. Glad you enjoyed this chapter, so different from the first and second parts. It was a reaction to my perception of my own writing ability, that I could muster something mystifying relatively easily but that technique could keep audiences at a distance. This was fun to write as I actually read a whole heap of women's mags whilst sitting in a doctors surgery!

    I'm curious as to weather you feel that I can legitimise the varying tone of the series simply because Spiderfingers is episodic? Must there be an overall tone to this story arc or in your opinion, can each story jet off in it's own desired direction because of the shifts in perspective? Answers please! Nice one!

    Faith and sexuality being at odds was my hinting at a future 'reveal' of Steph's character. I had to use aspects of her arc in a way that helped her come off the page more rather than her just being a vehicle for the - as yet undisclosed - main theme.

    If you have any suggestions as to how the piece can be improved than I'm all ears. Cheers!

  15. Hi, I'm not sure what episode I'm supposed to read next ...there is a deleted scene where I expected an episode :/
    do I skip 'next' month's episode and go on to the next of await the edits?

  16. Well, you've commented upon Blackest Black (the deleted scene) so I'd say check out The Killing Moon. Easy huh? By the way, I'm starring in a series of podcasts being released on youtube on 4th of March. I'll tell you more closer to the time. By the way, if you have a story you want me to review and critique lemme know ;)