Just me and my words
Most of what you find on this, my personal, website has been produced in my years of retirement: part of an effort to keep my brain from atrophying. How successful I've been, you'll have to judge for yourself.
It's a showcase of my writing efforts, presenting a selection flash and short stories, some previously unseen, some from my books or previously published on other websites. Plus a little poetry and rhyme.
Most months, I will add a little more, sometimes a few items may disappear, to save bloating the website: all in the serendipitous way I tend to do things. Hopefully you will enjoy what you find this time and pay more than one visit to discover the latest additions.
My books span everything from stories of just a few words
to full length novels.
Watch out for a new book, planned for later this year.
Click images above for more information.
There are five, so far. Three Novels and two collections of shorter works. Click here for all the details and a link to them all on Amazon.
Colours in Darkness
Colours in Darkness is my third collection of short works and draws together a new selection of flash fiction and short stories, with some that bridge the two genres. some have appeared on this website, some through the portals of Reflex Fiction, The Cabinet of Heed and Ad Hoc Fiction, but there are new stories, too.
Between them, they reflect many aspects of life – past, present and future – in a variety of writing styles. Stories range from the emotionally dark and spiritually macabre to fond memories and pure humour.
Put simply, this book is a reader's pic'n'mix collection, intended to add colour to the dark days or thoughtful reflections and simple entertainment to enliven brighter moments. The light, the dark and the sheer sinister, all cheek by jowl, in serendipitous order.
"Quite simply, stories that tease the mind,
but don’t tax the brain."
Available as an Amazon exclusive paperback. Buy now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08L8VWN7N
and Kindle eBook. Buy now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08LCFWXLR.
A new book of poems by
John Alcock (1937 - 2018)
This new collection of poems by my late brother has been posthumously published by Cannon Poets Publishing. Amongst its pages you will find the expression and reflection of many moods and observations. There's an interesting review of the book at http://www.margroberts.co.uk/blog and you can learn more about the book on the Oddbits page.
All because of my brother’s love
Icy fingers clasped tightly around Deborah’s throat, squeezing the life out of her beautiful body. And it was beautiful, when I wrote those words, so long ago. A sort of confession really, but to my knowledge no one has yet found the story, hidden within a stable wall: and likely never will. But even in death, her pale form held my gaze in an unworldly enchantment I still vividly recall.
Tonight though, while it is bitter cold outside, I sit reminiscing and watch flames flicker in the hearth. Not that they give out much warmth, being one of those gas imitations. Give me the old logs in a wrought iron basket that blazed fiercely in the deep hearth of the old house, leaving soft glowing embers at night, with spurts of brightness and small short-lived flames that danced across them. That really warmed my bones.
But that place has long gone, pulled down to make way for these luxury mansions, all heat and light and flickering LEDs, with big illuminated screens that show ghostlike images that you can never touch, never feel, but just enter your mind as music and voices booming around the spaciousness. When I was a lad, we made our own fun, we playacted roles of war and romance and often of comedy. We drew each other together in family and friendship and as we grew older, war became abhorrent, romance became real, and comedy was the high jinks, after a long night on the ale.
Suddenly, I feel a sweeping chill, as Anthony comes through the front door from the frost sparkled driveway. Now, he can make me laugh. Always with an old chestnut of a joke on the tip of his tongue, if he sees me looking morose. He knows nothing of Deborah’s true fate. Nor why I am destined to hang around this place, so different from our old home. Anthony is my twin. He has found peace elsewhere, but just this one night, every year, he comes to visit me. It is the only time he can.
I can never tell my brother the truth. I would never see him again. For Deborah was his wife. I was best man at the wedding, and even then, I knew jealousy so fierce I had barely lasted the day in brotherly harmony. I stood by his side, wishing our roles were reversed, hoping that, by some miracle, a guest would stand up with an objection to their marriage. But that moment passed and they walked together, back down the aisle, through bright eyed and just a few tearful smiles, of all there, gathered in witness.
We were so alike in many ways, Tony and I, as you’d expect from identical twins. But not completely so. I had a way with words, he with numbers and we often swopped homework as schoolboys. And when he met Deborah, he asked me to write his love poems. Always from the heart. My heart. The seed of jealousy was sown the first time he brought her home. A seed that germinated in my breast, that sent my heart thumping even in my dreams. Perhaps more so in my dreams. For I could never cross my brother, however much my whole self ached to do so.
I never married. Just lived in the shadow of Tony’s bliss. Always welcomed whenever I visited. And that was frequently. Always invited to birthdays, anniversaries, society gatherings and Christmas. Three torrid years of denial, before the dam burst and all my feelings flooded out. I was alone with Deborah in the stables of the old mansion that stood here long before this soulless edifice was built. We’d ridden the nearby moors through autumn gold, from morning mist to soft clouded sun, returning for lunch on a day when Tony was travelling back from business in London, where he spent much of his time. Most of the staff were up in the house preparing the Hallowe’en feast to which he’d invited many guests.
The ride was a stimulus to us both. Refreshed and exhilarated in the excitement of the gallop, flushed with exhaustion, I helped her down from her mount and quite naturally folded my arms around her. Our eyes met with a flash of longing. On both our parts. Or so I still believe. I pulled her closer and we kissed, hesitant at first, but without undue resistance. And then a deepness of feeling took control as I led her up to the hayloft, lay her down and parted her from riding boots and breeches, as she unbuttoned her jacket and blouse. But I was never destined to take her, for my mind twisted in revulsion at the thought that this was my brother’s wife. Yet I could not bear another hour of longing for his prize, the torture of seeing her and now knowing she would succumb to my advances. I was not worthy of her and she not worthy of my brother.
Rage rose within me, to see this beautiful body laid out bare before me, supple and willing and knowing she could never be mine. In the crisp air of the hayloft, our breath streamed in vaporous clouds, as passions arose between us. And mine took an ugly turn, caressing her sublime form and reaching my icy fingers to her neck, not in gentle touch, but in the thumb tight power of strangulation. I could not release them as she bucked and writhed beneath me. But not in passion. I needed only to release this vision from my mind. To destroy the torment of jealous longing. And that was soon done. Too soon. Though the vision ever haunts me, still.
There was no one about as I dressed her, lifted her gently and laid her over her mount, which I led out beside mine, looking every way to see I had a clear path to the hedge and ditch we had jumped earlier. I found a windblown branch from recent gales with which to strike her neck and hide the marks left by my fingers. An act which so pained me, although she felt none, now, and then again, more self-agony in finding a large stone, down on which I thrust her head, arranging her body in the tangled heap of a horse thrown fall. A hard slap on her mount’s flank and he was off back to the stables ahead of me, as I raced to the house to tell of the tragedy that had happened to the mistress, imploring help and the urgent attention of a doctor, then sending the stable boy down to calm the runaway steed.
I have never seen a man so distraught as my brother. I grieved his loss with him, for many months, before he futilely took his own life, just so as to join her. To once more hold his love close. Though never to find her. He never knew the truth. And her image remains unsullied by any wanton desire, to which she may have succumbed. At least I had prevented that. As to myself, I grieve still and always will. I lived on many years until my heart fell foul of physical trauma. I had gone to the stables, having inherited the mansion on my brother’s death, to ride the moors in my regular manner, and a new, young stable girl, grooming my horse, turned about and in her I saw the same dark eyes, the same soft smile, the very bones of Deborah, at the age she had been when my hands took away her last breath.
She rushed over to help me, but it was too late. And I was laid to rest alongside my brother within a week. But rest I was not allowed. For my sins I was bound to the stables in eternity and, when they had gone the way of the whole estate, I was affixed to this brick and glass construction that overlooks the very moors I used to ride.
I do not trouble the family who live here. They have enough troubles of their own, judging by their dysfunctional squabbling and constant wants for strange contraptions I do not understand. But on All Hallows' Eve, when they depart on their strange custom of knocking on many others’ doors, around the small estate, I sit here and welcome my brother on the only night he is free to roam. He makes good company. He sees me only with brotherly love. And as long as the truth lies buried with my earthly body, he will lift my soul just long enough to forget awhile, the love I never could have; and the terrible deed that stole from him, too, the love and passion we both once craved.