Review of This Ragged, Wastrel Thing Book One of the Sonaya Nights Trilogy By Tomas Marcantonio Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis 

After serving eleven years in The Heights for the murder of his childhood sweetheart, one-eared vagabond Daganae Kawasaki is finally free. But beneath the neon glare of a sprawling Sonaya, he soon discovers the backstreets are bursting with strange new shadows. Confronting plucky street orphans, bitter biker girls and down-and-out expats, Dag is swiftly embroiled in a fresh homicide case – and finds his murky past isn’t done with him yet.

This Ragged, Wastrel Thing is the first instalment of the Sonaya Nights trilogy; a new dystopian noir series set in the fictional city of Sonaya. Deep in The Rivers, through the winding web of neon alleys, we follow our troubled protagonist, Daganae Kawasaki, as he scours the streets to uncover the truth behind his eleven-year stint in The Heights. But will his search for answers in the dingy basement bars and seedy homework clubs finally distinguish friend from foe, right from wrong, or will he uncover more bitter untruths than ever before? Will he finally find freedom from the pain of his past or will new revelations ignite a lust for revenge? Discover a new voice in modern noir fiction and join Dag on his painful pursuit for salvation and sake.

Review

First of all this book is hard to put into a genre as it seems to have a mixture of everything, from government conspiracies to detailed world building that immerses you within its every detail. The world of Sonaya is a world of shadows, and bottomless pits containing the worst kind of human if you can call them that. Sonaya is a forgotten state of a futuristic rebellious Japan. A dark backwater of horrific crimes and even deeper corruption that runs rampant throughout its streets. Its the backdrop to Tomas’s story and as the narrative developed this world took on a mind of its own from the blood stained pavements of the Rivers, to the black-market drug fuelled dens of The Warren. Tomas made sure that the reader lived every element in beautifully descriptive detail. Sonaya feels as real as any city in our world. I enjoyed it so much that I paused at certain paragraphs to reread them simply so that I could see the picture being painted in my mind all over again. The way in which Tomas wrote Sonaya was like a nuclear warhead going off in your senses. It sent waves of electricity crackling over my skin causing goosebumps Sonaya is alive. You can’t get enough.

The story is told from the perspective of Daganae Kawasaki. A recently released convict who has served eleven years for the murder of his girlfriend. He’s released from The Heights. Sonaya’s most notorious prison and his crime is legendary. He wants to make up for lost time and that means one thing trouble. Before he was imprisoned he was a respected police officer and his girlfriend was a shoe in for major of Sonaya. However the night of her murder his memory is hazy. Clouded with regret and alcohol can it be trusted? Should he really of served eleven years for murder? Did he really kill her as he remembers or was there somebody’s else agenda at play. These are all questions he hopes to answer as they are all he’s thought about since the cell door closed eleven years ago. As he returns to his old haunts and reunites with shady old friends and a questionable gang of biker girl vigilantes.

He gets to work on rewriting his past. However as Daganae falls deeper into the clutches of Sonaya’s dark side he begins to discover an entirely different vision of events from the ones he remembers from several sources. Ones he can trust with his life, and others that are out to kill him at the first opportunity. Everyone in Sonaya seems to wear a mask or has a long buried secret that is beginning to surface, and Daganae always seems to be at the centre of them. The cast of characters that he encounters throughout this multi- layered story is a tapestry of deceit.

My favourite has to be Jiko. A fiery red haired biker chick who takes no shit from anyone. She knows the dark streets of Sonaya like the back of her hand. Her involvement with Daganae is complicated. Their paths crossing in another life for both of them. However as the story developed you couldn’t help but begin to fall for their father-daughter kind of relationship. Both have their vulnerabilities on show. Their relationship is a rare light in the darkness that is Sonaya.

This book is a beautiful mash up of grim noir and Japanese flare with the beating heart of motor-head vigilantes. Its the Sons of Anarchy meets Sin City. I for one cannot wait to see what Tomas has in store for us next. This is a highly polished debut and receives five stars.

Pre-Ordering The Book

Has my review grabbed your attention? If so then why don’t you pre-order now on the link below.

This Ragged, Wastrel Thing by Tomas Marcantonio: Available for pre-order now!

About the Author

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Tomas Marcantonio is a novelist and short story writer from Brighton, England. He graduated from the University of Sussex with a degree in English Language and Film, and his fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, both online and in print. Tomas is currently based in Busan, South Korea, where he teaches English and writes whenever he can escape the classroom. You can follow him on Twitter @TJMarcantonio.

 
I received an advance proof copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t effect my views.

 

Review of Juniper By Ross Jeffery Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis 

Juniper is the first book in Ross Jeffery’s proposed trilogy: a post-apocalyptic horror about an insane American town seemingly at the edge of reality. As Juniper suffers from scorching drought and medieval famine, the townsfolk are forced to rely on the ‘new cattle’ for food: monstrous interbred cats kept by the oppressed Janet Lehey.

But there’s a problem: Janet’s prized ginger tom, Bucky, has gone missing, flown the coop. As Janet and her deranged ex-con husband Klein intensify their search for the hulking mongrel, Betty Davis, an old woman clinging to survival on the outskirts of Juniper, discovers something large and ginger and lying half-dead by the side of the road.

She decides to take it home…

Juniper is surreal, dark, funny, and at times: excruciatingly grotesque. Buckle up for a wild ride through the dust-ridden roads of a tiny, half-forgotten American town.

Review

Juniper is a book everyone needs to read. I couldn’t stop reading Juniper because of the unique voice Ross projects onto every page. Ross is like a spider weaving a complex web of perspectives that ask the reader to look beyond his writing to find the deeper meanings in this melting pot of text. The story centres around three main characters. Each one impacting upon one another in several ways throughout the narrative. Injecting interesting arcs that maintains the readers attention throughout. All three are well fleshed out meaning that you absorb their flaws and relate to their daily struggles.

These three characters are Betty an old woman who roams the outskirts of Juniper in search of roadkill for her pot. She is rumoured to be older than Juniper itself there from the very beginning. Children believe she is a witch. She was the most interesting character. Ross described her superbly drawing you into how she survives leaving a sense of mystery around what her role is in this dead end town. Janet is a beaten woman who can feel her life slipping away as she struggles against the violence of her deadbeat husband Klein. Klein is an ex con who delights in causing havoc throughout his marriage and neighbourhood lording his power over everyone forcing them to live in fear.

I lost myself in Juniper. A town that has been forgotten by the wider world left to rot in its own misfortune. A sun scorched wasteland where the worst of society go to die. The descriptions of Juniper are so vivid that it almost becomes a character all on its own. A ravenous monster of warped creation that the unfortunate cast of characters barely survive. As I continued to read I found myself picturing Juniper in all its glory, as if I was a lone traveller on a road to redemption with no end in sight. Even though the setting is influenced by the vastness of America and its forgotten communities. I couldn’t help but begin to draw parallels with the disengaged and desolate areas of the United Kingdom that have been cast aside in the current climate.

By using Juniper in this way Ross focuses our attention on several struggles that his characters face from domestic violence to homelessness. Through the characters Ross discusses a multitude of themes displaying many different abuses of power whether it is control over an individual or a community. Throughout the narrative Ross showed these abuses with a skill that allowed you to judge for yourself who truly was the hand of evil, and demonstrated the devastating impact these themes can have on a community. Ross brings these themes into the light wonderfully helping to remove the taboos. This was the main message for me from this book that we must discuss all elements of human capacity to generate conversations to change the downward spiral that we seem to be flying towards at unforgiving speed. What made Juniper different is that we are shown the situations from all perspectives from the abusers to the victims insight. Ross isn’t afraid to show the reader that his characters have many conflicting emotions that at first glance would make you believe they are doing the right thing. As this dark themed narrative progresses, Ross implodes our judgements on the disease that is humans in the western world asking us is this truly what we want future generations to inherit.

What Ross has been able to achieve in this novella is nothing short of remarkable. The character developments, multilayered meanings, and the sense of place that is created is breathtaking. A sense of place is an element of books that I need to hold my attention if I don’t engage with your setting you lose me and in Juniper the setting is breathless. For a debut book Ross has engaged my curiosity and this is only our first encounter with the dark beast that is Juniper. This book is Armageddon meets Salem’s Lot. A highly recommended read. I cannot wait to see what Ross writes next. Well done you receive 5*.

About the Author

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Ross Jeffery is a Bristol based writer and Executive Director of Books for STORGY Magazine. Ross has been published in print with STORGY Books, Ellipsis Zine 6, The Bath Flash Fiction Festival 2019, Project 13 Dark and Shlock Magazine. His work has also appeared in various online journals such as STORGY Magazine, About Magazine TX, Elephants Never, 101 Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Soft Cartel and Idle Ink. Ross lives in Bristol with his wife (Anna) and two children (Eva and Sophie). You can follow him on Twitter here @Ross1982

I received a copy of Juniper in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t affect my views.

Why not treat yourself to a copy by clicking on the link below

https://storyoriginapp.com/universalbooklinks/bf102188-40e1-11ea-a9d2-cf337a3bfa89

Review of Beyond the Black Gate by Joseph Sale Written by Dan Stubbings

Review

Gods of the Black Gate was one of my standout novels for 2018. A delicious dark abyss of murder, manipulation, and creepy that made the dark demon within my heart sing. To say I devoured it would be an understatement. I inhaled it in two sittings. I personally thought that it stood up brilliantly as a standalone. However, I did have some unanswered questions about Rogers and the man that has haunted my dreams Craig Smiley.

Therefore, I was delighted when Joseph informed me he was writing a sequel called Beyond the Black Gate and did I want a review copy. I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t wait to fall back into this oasis of dark treats that hasn’t left me since the first book.

The good news is Joseph has outdone himself. Creating a plot and world that oozes off the page in a lake of light and dark exploring character flaws, environments, and chilling dialogue in such detail that engages readers from the first page. Taking them on a mind-bending adventure that straddles multiple genres from horror, fantasy, and detective mystery. As chapters unfolded, I found myself imagining a lovechild mixed between Frankenstein and The Harry Bosch books written by Michael Connelly, as our cast of disgruntled, damaged, unwanted heroes try to understand their own views on the reality they find themselves in.

Every chapter added something interesting pulling you deeper in the abyss of madness that Joseph has created. Whether it was a new complicated character, landscape, or a peer into the minds of the multiple viewpoints Joseph utilises throughout the narrative. You couldn’t help but be enthralled as he opened windows to ideas you quite simply didn’t know were possible. Joseph has been able to go beyond the perimeters and troupes of specific genres, and engineer something that is a work of art.  I can’t wait to see what he produces next. He is fast becoming one of must-read writers I love his words.

Beyond the Black Gate opens with Rogers down on his luck sat at a bar not knowing what to do next. His nemesis the evil mastermind Craig Smiley is gone murdered by his own hand. His years of torment at the hands of Smiley finally at an end. He should feel complete. His demons extinguished, and yet he can’t seem to shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right.

This thought takes us as a reader into world of wonders that ensnares the senses, and opens dark corners of our own minds that we never knew existed. As he brings back the demon that is Craig Smiley. This revelation scared the shit out of me. How could Joseph bring him back. What was going to be the next chapter within his demonic story? It had me both intrigued yet at the same time worried that Joseph would stray away from what makes Smiley so terrifying. I shouldn’t of been concerned. Joseph adds another layer to Smiley that makes him more manipulative and cunning than I ever thought possible as he goes on a quest through his own personal hell in search to understand why the gods betrayed him?

An element I wasn’t expecting however and was pleasantly surprised by in the evolution of Smiley was the relationship he creates with a character called Pheona. A mysterious woman that has her own story to tell. Joseph gives hints throughout about her true identify however your never quite sure if he’s telling the truth. I greatly enjoyed this subplot as I tried desperately to join up clues, as both her and Smiley hide their true natures from one another making you wonder who would be the first to strike a deadly blow. This produced an interesting dilemma, allowing for some detailed dramatic scenes which added wonderful characteristics to both individuals, making you as a reader explore this dynamic further to find out how it all ends in this ever-changing landscape of disillusions and fears that rapture the fundamentals of Smiley ideology.

As I continued to turn the pages, I couldn’t help but begin to draw comparisons with Dante, and Egyptian mythology when reading Smiley’s trek through the vivid and desolate landscape of his self-imposed hell as he is presented with his sins. These scenes are written so expertly that you feel as if you’re Smiley encountering these threats having your mind invaded with dark thoughts as you fight to become you once again.

Every character’s story from the first entry in this universe is developed with quirky and explosive consequences that drove the plot to a frightening but satisfying conclusion. I adored how Joseph showed our characters different struggles whether it was survivor’s guilt, or alcoholism. Joseph can explore these complex issues with sensitivity and the precision of an expert surgeon. Taking us into his world effortlessly, moving the goalposts of what we should except from fantasy and mystery.  This is a delicious cake of complex character development and world building that you hope never ends.

I love Joseph’s voice and how he makes shivers run down my spine with the smallest amount of description. Beyond the Black Gate is a wonderful sequel, and answered all my questions. You won’t be disappointed well-done Joseph. 4.5 Stars.

Review of In the Vanishers Palace by Aliette De Bodard Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Blurb:

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land… 

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

Review

After discovering Aliette’s The Tea Master and the Detective this year I have been on a one man mission to read as much of her work as possible. So I was absolutely thrilled to receive a early review copy of her new novella In the Vanishers Palace. A dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast with an interesting twist the beast is a shape-shifting female dragon one of the last of its kind. I couldn’t wait to dive into this fast moving narrative.

When Yen is sold to one the last remaining dragons in her world Vu Con. She expects the worse, unexpectedly however she is tasked with tutoring Vu’s two unruly children, as time passes Yen finds herself developing feelings she never expected for Vu as more of Vu’s personality is revealed to her these feelings deepen. I adored how Aliette developed the relationship between Yen and Vu Con. Showing that even though Vu is a dragon she still struggles with secrets, and a longing to be accepted in her world. As the story unfolds Vu becomes almost human in our eyes making us wonder what truly is a monster? You cant help but begin to root for Yen’s and Vu’s relationship as you become engrossed in this charming tale these scenes come to life like a movie reel inside your head.  You can imagine every second of their interactions. My words simply cant do them justice. Please pick up the book, and appreciate them for yourself they are stunning bravo Aliette. 

The blending of Vietnamese myths within the narrative only further heightens the enjoyment as you read on with ravish. It may only be 145 pages in length but Aliette has been able to craft a wide spanning world that ensnares the senses, enabling her to expose both light and dark details of this dystopian world with a sensitivity that is quite simply astonishing. I loved the description of Vu Con’s lair as it grew within my mind every detail building on the last, becoming so vivid I felt as though I could almost reach out and touch it.  This book is a must read for writers wanting to learn how to write LGBT characters in a sensitive, and unpatronising way that gives real weight to the characters, and pushes the narrative forward. 

It receives 5 stars as Aliette’s writing continues to leave me wanting more. All I can say is buy it you won’t regret it.

I received a copy from the author for an honest review this doesn’t effect my views.

 

Review of Ice Fall By Stephanie Gunn Written by Daniel Stubbings

About the Book

The Mountain on the planet of Icefall holds the mystery to a lost colony and an irresistible, fatal allure to the climbers of the universe. Maggie is determined to be the first to make the summit. Aisha, injured in a climbing incident herself, has always supported her wife, trusting Maggie would return from her adventures. But no one ever returns from the Mountain.

Review

This fast paced novella has everything a sci-fi fan could wish for. Creepy AI’s, space-travel, futuristic technologies, lost colonies, unconquered mountains and planets you cant help but want to explore.

The story is told from the viewpoint of spacecraft pilot and injured climber Aisha. A character that as the plot thickens, we discover has many secrets that as we dig deeper begin to expose some unpleasant truths about her past and future. One of them being her ongoing fight to support her wife’s ambitions of been the first climber to summit the mountain on Ice Fall. As she continues to struggle with the ongoing pain surrounding her mysterious headaches, and secrets coming from all sides we as a reader begin to wonder about what truly lurks beneath the surface of these two main characters. At times it made my skin crawl as I became more and more submersed in this vivid world of Stephanie’s creation. Hoping with every turn of the page to uncover what the mountain held.

One of the joys of Stephanie’s writing is that it makes you feel unsure and disturbed. She just has that amazing quality which every writer I like to read has, where you think she leading you down one path but then totally flips it on it’s head and makes you go what the hell. I loved it. These characters and world grab you from the moment you open the cover, and dont let go whisking away on an adventure that will make you question everything you think makes you human. When the story begins we are told that the planet us humans call earth has long been destroyed. Erased from the universe by wars, greed, and feminism meaning humans have had to colonise, and develop technologies that help them to thrive in a new environment known as Icefall.

An ice colony in the far reaches of space with a mountain nobody has conquered. Many have tried as the climb isn’t difficult, but for some reason nobody ever seems to return. Some trip never to rise, some fall asleep never to wake, and others step off the edge without so much as a scream. Making you wonder the entire time what dark secrets does it hold.

The level of detail Stephanie goes into when describing the climbs on this fictional world is astonishing. From the equipment they use to how their breathing changes as they rise is done with breathtaking accuracy. Throughout these passages I felt as though I was Maggie and I was there to conquer this beast that lay before me this allowed me to fully submerge myself into this imaginative world, and become the character which is something I always look for. I couldn’t wait to read on. For a novella it is jam packed with ideas. However at no point did I feel short changed with every thread concluding with an unseen twist or ending I enjoyed.

My only criticism would be that sometimes you lost who was speaking in some of the dialogue. Therefore causing a drop in some of the tension that had be created. However this was a small thing in what otherwise was a well polished novella, with a unique idea and plot.  It gets 4 stars from me a highly enjoyable read. I will be recommending it to other sci-fi fans.

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About Stephanie Gunn

Stephanie Gunn is an Aurealis and Ditmar award nominated author of speculative fiction. In another life she was a research scientist. Now she spends her time writing, reviewing and reading. And buying far too many books. She lives in Perth with her family.

 

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This doesn’t affect my views.

Review of Tales from the Shadow Booth Volume 2 Edited By Dan Coxon Written by Dan Stubbings

Book Synopsis 

The booth juts at an angle from the sand, the canvas taut beneath the weight of the drifting dunes. Janet almost passes it by. But it’s the sign that snags her attention. Painted in rust-red onto three pieces of driftwood, the sun-bleached planks lashed together with lengths of twisted blond twine, it looks surprisingly fresh. Enter the Shadow Booth, it says, and you will never be the same again.
The Shadow Booth, a journal of weird and eerie fiction, returns for Volume 2! Drawing its inspiration from the likes of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman, The Shadow Booth explores that dark, murky hinterland between mainstream horror and literary fiction.
Volume 2 contains new stories by: 

Chikodili Emelumadu
Dan Grace
Kirsty Logan
Johnny Mains
Ralph Robert Moore
Mark Morris
Gareth E. Rees
Giovanna Repetto
George Sandison
Anna Vaught
Aliya Whiteley

Enter the Shadow Booth, and you will never be the same again…
Review

This collection of dark and eerie tales from several contemporary and diverse writers is a readers dream. Once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. Every story has its own uniqueness that draws you in and forces you to keep reading with each one seeming to build upon the last.

Three stories from the collection that stood out for me were:

We Are the Disease by Gareth Rees. An eerie tale set abroad a ship trapped in the Arctic ice. As more crew members become effected by their isolation they begin to see and witness strange creatures and behaviours. Throughout the story Gareth had me on the edge of my seat making me wonder is this real, or is it the crew giving into their basic fears, which is making them create these sightings. Throughout the entire story your never quite sure what is the disease? Gareth’s voice and writing style is simply gripping. I could almost feel my fingers burning as I turned pages racing to finish.

The next was My Father’s Face by Giovanna Repetto. A tale about a man who has lost his memory and how he fights to get it back. As the story unfolds however we begin to question is this person trustworthy, and what are they hiding. It moves at a neck-breaking speed and makes you question everything you thought you knew about family. It was my favourite story in the collection. The voice is so unique. I want to read more by this author I loved it.

The final story was Feasting;Fasting by Anna Vaught. A story featuring elements of tradition horror and supernatural. A strange house, an unusual family, and a small village with a story to tell at no point does Anna give away who they are, what they are, and why they are there. She allows you as a reader to draw your own conclusions, and decide for yourself who these people are, and what their story is. It is a totally different take on the haunted house narrative.

This book has something for everyone. Unique writing styles, cultures, and author voices that make it stand out from the crowd. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the weird and wonderful. The three stories I selected are only glimpse of what awaits. Go and check it out. It gets four stars. It is a highly polished read.

I received a copy from the publisher for an honest review this doesn’t effect my views.

Short Story- Erased Written by Daniel Stubbings For Storgy Exit Earth Contest

Blood had long been forgotten, all that mattered now was ink.  It was all that mattered ever since he had vanished clutching my arms, begging me not to let him go.  I can still see the fear in his eyes as his body turned to dust like all the others. Blood was just a trace of our old lives, flashes of a world before the erasing had begun. That was five years ago and still, I harboured the scars.  Those scars had lead me to a place I knew all too well, cloaked in darkness, a place where I had truly learnt what it was to be what they called drawers. Bending my knees, I slid down onto the stone floor, pressing my back against the wall as I peered into the darkness. A cold prickle going down the back of my skull as a face emerges from within. Covered in scars, eyes deep emerald, a grin spread across its lips, begging me to remember. Who was it?

A cold sweat ran down my spine. I stood and walked over to a set of old Chester drawers. A dull light shone in from two small windows just above eye level, hidden from the outside world. A grey, steel spiral staircase leads up to other parts of the house. The basement is small and damp, multicoloured geckos running along the walls. A battered grey mattress covered in plain white sheets acted as my bed, positioned tight against the wall. A full-length mirror hung above the headboard reflecting back a self with rows of leather bound journals piled high, covered in dust. Each one numbered and dated, giving me a timeline of when this all started; dreams, nightmares, and keeping track of the erasing.

I pull open the drawers and peer inside two leather bound journals stared back at me reaching down I turn the pages of the first one I come to. It is filled with random sketches, unfinished stories, and details of each event. I push it aside, grabbing the other flicking to its final few pages, tracing my fingertips over the wolf’s head on its spine, its silver eyes whispering within my mind. Stirring my blood, forcing millions of images to flow across my eyes the hairs on the back of my hand stand on end, wind whistling through my ears. I stare down at my hands blackening from heat radiating from the journal, it was coming…… it was here….. what I knew as the ink. I turn, throwing the journal against the wall, my skin tingling as red flames pulse through veins. A shadow crossed my face as I looked into the mirror. My mouth is suddenly dry like a dessert; I lick my lips as the air crackles around me like the atmosphere of an electric storm.

The muscles in my arm tense as I focus on the ink surging through my veins.  taking a deep breath I try to remember every detail of my dream. My eye develops a muscle spam out of my control as the ink spreads underneath my skin, glowing a deep purple as it rises to the surface. I stared at my reflection; my eyes are tired and sore. A voice whispering in my mind. This is what you are, what you have become….. you’re a drawer. Quickly, I placed my fingers over the mark, two silver eyes within a black wolfs head and pressed firmly down. The response was instant, violet ink erupted from my fingertips. Tears ran down my face like acid, eating away at my flesh, and scraping against bone, as my dream began to appear in front of me. A pair of piercing amber eyes framed in a flat ebony face, stared at me as I begin to guide it onto the papers of my journal. My skin tears with every stroke a piercing scream breaks across the air; my legs give way forcing me to the ground. Lifting my head, I peer at the journal.

There it was….. my dream, my nightmare, lording over me as if it were a king.  A smile creeps over my lips, as I inspect my body. Deep purple slashes run along my arms, parts of my flesh have been melted away. Vapours of black smoke rise, pools of dark black ink surround my feet and hands as a thin line of sweat covers my forehead. A shiver gurgles down my spine; I try and stand but my legs collapse from under me. My eyes are haunted with fear as I turn and look into the mirror seeing dark shadows pooled in its corners. A wide grin across their dark, featureless faces, all laughing at me, all saying the same thing….. “More ideas are coming and you’re running out of time. I push myself up and run towards the stairs, taking them two at a time only stopping for breath when I reach the top. Grabbing the door handle I throw it open allowing a blinding white light to escape that pierces my eyes.  I step into a large living area and before I have barely taken two steps, I collide with a tall gentleman.

He dressed in a long grey overcoat interrupted by shabby dark hair and a pair of old biker boots strapped to his feet, all accompanied by deep ruby tattoos covering his neck and legs. Partial drawings of buildings, weapons, and scripture from important speeches throughout history adorned his body. His voice was husky…..“Nice to see you, there’s no need to fall at my feet.” He laughed as he held me up allowing me to catch my breath. He walked me over to an old wooden table, surrounded by two sturdy leather chairs with each of us taking a seat. His long shabby hair covered his eyes. “What are you doing here Reggie, were not supposed to meet until tomorrow?” A fresh cut leaked blood down his left cheek. “I heard some rumours, details that might be of interest to you” he said nervously. Last time you came to me with so called information, it just added more questions to what we already knew. We both know you are just in the same position as me so show me your arms Reggie.” His eyes scanned the room checking all the doors and windows. “Why do you need to see my arms Jin?” growled Reggie as he clenched his hands into fists. “Easy there Reggie, I just need to check something out, you know we are both drawers?” Have you been having any impulses lately?” Reggie just stared into space tapping his bonelike fingers against the wood.  Leaning forwards, she stared into Reggie’s eyes, a deep, piercing look. “Okay Jin, I do have some drawings you need to see.” Thoughts raced through Reggie’s head as to what drawings, he was thinking on his feet?  After an uncomfortable silence Jin responded, “Okay Reggie, let’s see them”.

Reaching inside his coat, he pulled out a battered, old leather-bound journal, larger than hers but in the same style, then placed it down on the table. Pulling up his sleeves as he often did, his tattoos moved spontaneously as if they were alive. I reached out and traced my fingers over them and felt a humming energy building that forced my eyes to change to a deep blue. Surges of emerald flames danced up my arms blackening my flesh. I quickly pulled back into my seat; this was an energy I had only felt once before. He was going to a place drawers should not seek.

Grimacing pain slowly etched across his face, his mark had dissolved, his protection was gone. “Reggie! what have you done?” I screamed. His lips curled into a cruel grin, his eyes manic with fury. “You know what I’ve done Jin, you know where I have been.” The colour drained from my face as his eyes turned a milky white, the heat radiating off him in waves pushing me backwards. His skin rippled emerald flames cutting into his bones as the tattoos fought to break free. Listening to his final words as he stared at me with soulless eyes he muttered, “Jin, it can’t be erased otherwise our world has no meaning, all the events we’ve experienced will be erased forever. We embraced it, you know what we did?” he whispered. The flames took him into the shadows blinding me for a moment as I slowly moved to open his journal. “This will only add to your burdens” I thought to myself as I fought to resist the temptation.

I hadn’t even heard her approach as she glided across the floor in front of me. Her hair glistened with silver flashes of time woven into a tight indigo ponytail that swayed down her broad back. Her dark oval face was deformed by two parallel scars that sliced through her full black lips, like a shadow trailing in her wake. She glanced back every so often as she moved towards an ivory seat. Her eyes were strangely hidden offering no insight into what she may be thinking; who was she I wondered?

Grabbing Reggie’s journal, I turned to the last entry; it was of a woman, the description matching her perfectly. It must be her; surely it couldn’t be anyone else?

I didn’t move as she glided back towards me, her eyes still hidden. Staring down at the picture another name began to rise from the page burning in golden fire. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the fierce light before I recognised the outline of a name….Keira! Kiera!

As Kiera moved closer her eyes emerged, they were a piercing deep amber. I recognised her as the girl I had seen in my dream. What was she doing here? “It’s good to see you Jin” she whispered quietly. “How about you listen for once, and forget what you just saw on that last page?” She flicked her wrist, threads of golden ink emerged from a vortex in her outstretched hand, wrapping around the journal and igniting it in a ring of deep orange flames. The intense heat burnt my hands; I was beyond being comfortable so reluctantly, dropped it onto the floor. I edged backwards resting against the table, the ink moving in parallel lines underneath my skin. “Who are you?” I asked uncomfortably. “How do you know me and why were you in my dreams?” The questions stumbled out without me pausing for an answer. My hands were shaking uncontrollably as I tried to disguise my increasing anxiety. Kiera laughed at me and began to run her hands through her hair “I am Kiera, I know you well but you know that already, I am in your dreams but you have seen me before. Think carefully Jin and ask yourself, “What am I?” I know you have heard my name before…….” One question merged into another as I felt myself becoming frustrated at my inability to work it out.

I systematically searched my memories but tiredness began to overcome me. Finally, something clicked……. “You’re an imaginative.” I whispered at first before rising to a piercing scream. “That’s right Jin I am” her eyes instantly going black. Her shadow spread like a wild fire engulfing us both. Quickly I shut my eyes trying to focus on what I could hear but it was too late.

A wave of coldness washed over me that grew with every heartbeat, spreading up my arms and legs. Tentacles emerging from within searching for my eyes as a foul-smelling fluid rose in the air.  I twisted and turned, screaming, trying to break free of its embrace. I dug my nails into my skin trying to force ink to the surface. “Jin, what have I told you? I would only add to your worries”.  Keira’s voice sounded menacing as I fought to keep my eyes shut from her piercing finger nails cutting into my eyelids. My ink slipping away, my energy fading, the dream had been too much; talking with Reggie had been too much. I had felt that energy once before, the energy I felt surging through Reggie was all flooding back entering my head as a distant memory resonating back to that day, back to him. I soon realised that I had been here before, I’d seen this all before. “Glad to see some of it is coming back to you” said Keira.  “Why don’t you open your eyes? We are here now”.

At first, I was hesitant but slowly I opened my eyes. Keira was staring back at me but her shadow had vanished. Her arms cradled around me like a baby, her eyes blurred with tears. As she lowered me to the floor she whispered, “Sorry about that, it was the only way I knew”. “What do you mean it was the only way you knew?” I screamed. “Really Jin what do you think it was?” She replied fixing me with those deep amber eyes as she stood behind me, her image coming in and out of focus as she lifted me to my feet. “I am not sure but I am sure I felt it before in a time away from here” I said nervously. “I can’t answer that for you, why don’t you look all around?” she whispered. Taking a deep breath I turned my head. I was surrounded by mirrors with a dull blue light coming from a source unseen. I stared into one of the mirrors looking past my reflection and focusing on Kiera. One of her eyes had turned black and had sunken into her skull, her hair had changed to charcoal black. Her scars vanished leaving behind full red lips, she smiled squeezing my shoulders “Don’t worry’’, I look worse than I feel” She giggled. “All will be revealed shortly”. She said moving towards a dark corner.

I noticed we had company, their back facing me in the room, a hood concealing their identity. Kiera glided in just behind them and whispered something in their ears. Even before she spoke I heard the words in my head “She is here so what do you want to do?” There was a pause…. “It is time Kiera, she has to know leave us.” Kiera turned giving me a brief smile and wave as she faded back into the shadows.

All around went silent as one word erupted from the figures lips, “Erased.” Suddenly stone began breaking underneath my feet as the energy built. An orb of yellow light surrounded the figure, blinding me for a moment as it stretched out its arms towards the mirrors. I watched in horror as mirrors grinded against the stone floor, cracks forming over their surface sending shards of glass in all directions, cutting my face and hands. Black droplets of ink hit the floor as wind whistled around me pushing me down turning me onto my back I lifted my head and quickly scanned the room. Nothing much was left but for a tunnel lined with bright white candles. In a moment, the figure took me by the arm with a tight grip and dragged me towards it, each candle spontaneously lighting seconds before we approached it.

A hot wind touched my skin blowing grit into my eyes. The air turned humid making it hard to breath but the figure pulled me through the dark tunnel, shimmers of light guiding us to some unknown destination. “Where are we going?” I shouted looking up at the figure but it remained silent, tightening their grip menacingly. As we grew near to the end of the tunnel a large, round stone chamber came into view with a strange red light flowing across it walls. The figure loosened their grip around my arm and took my head into their hands turning it clockwise towards the wall. Despite my fear I couldn’t look away, my eyes widening as I took it all in. The walls were covered in drawings and images of jungles burning to the ground with rivers flowing blood then turning to dust. Statues had been decimated and lay randomly across the ground.

I stared at the figure intensely, “What is all this?” I asked. It took a moment before answering in a hoarse voice, “You remember now don’t you, you know what happened?” I stared again as it pointed to the middle of the room. I turned my head and could see a girl; she was laid down on a black dentist’s chair, strapped securely by brown leather straps. Black orbs of liquid dripped from her lips. The figure released me, its face still concealed by their hood. I rose slowly unsure of how to proceed…..”Why does all this feel so familiar? Why do I know this room?” I began asking myself.  I ran my fingers through my hair and walked forward peering down at a female presence, her skin covered in deep black scars oozing ink from within. Her eyes were now a piercing emerald green and blank of any emotion, her clothes ravaged and torn from her body. Clear tube like structures stemmed from her forehead pumping a solid blue liquid around her brain. As I approached slowly she sat up fixing a stare at me with her eyes. “Welcome home Jin” she whispered reaching her hands out towards me.

I edged back unable to take it all in. “What do you mean welcome home?” I shouted peering into her eyes as something troubled me at the back of my mind. She smiled and replied, “Really Jin, you been gone too long.” I grabbed her by the shoulders shaking her, demanding an explanation.  I turned to my left and peered into the shadows watching intently as another hooded figure began to emerge. Reggie smiled at me with a crooked grin, Kiera turned away as the hooded figure pulled back their hood revealing themselves. His long black hair, thin face and bright blue eyes gave me a friendly smile. I screamed at them repeatedly “What are you? What are you?” expelling air from my lungs as I dropped to the floor exhausted. I looked into the mirror and saw the face I had been dreaming about night after night. Scars shaped like crosses on my cheeks, emerald eyes, misshaped head and ink surging through my veins.  I suddenly realised It was me strapped to the chair talking to myself, crawling at my flesh as screams echoed through my skull.

My dreams finally made sense as the memories flooded back. Screams thundered through the base of my skull causing my eyes to ache….what had I done? Why was I here? Why could I only remember the ink? Sobs rocked my body as James came and hugged me “Don’t worry, it didn’t hurt, were all just broken memories” he whispered as he kissed my forehead. He gave me one last hug before joining Kiera and Reggie as they faded back into the shadows.  I laid back looking up at the images as they merged into one. I stood alone in a sea of bodies, a tidal wave of ink covering their skin; the mark of a drawer branded across their arms glowing in a violet light.  I looked above the images, slowly realising there are some words written in my own hand burning in a pure white light. I read them several times before I understood. Jin Drawer your ideas ended our world, you’re the only person left. I closed my eyes and cried myself to sleep I was never leaving this place. What had I become?