The starling double helix and the gravestone circle

Near Brentor, Dartmoor

First, a nightmare: a moorland stone circle made up of tombstones. Their inscriptions face outwards, the graves face inwards. On the far side are five demons, whispering to one another. One breaks away from the group and makes it way around the circle towards me.

Second, a mathematical dream: standing on a rooftop in the Barbican, London. Murmurations of starlings fly past, but not in their usual sweeping flocks; one flock makes the shape of a DNA double helix, its twists perfectly replicated. The other flock has taken the shape of a huge rectangular box with spiralling arms reaching out from each side. As one, the shapes split up and scatter and I am surrounded by millions of flying starlings.

I’m considering the first dream to be a warning. Not all sacred sites are ‘good’ places. Be prepared for bad energy, bad experiences, as well as positive ones. Doors open two ways. The dream ended before the demon reached me, and I woke up frightened but grateful that it had not gone further.

The second is a mystery. Flocks of starlings fly past my window at dusk each day at this time of year. I’ve seen small murmurations in Penzance harbour and a fairly large one in Liskeard, but nothing like the massive ones seen in, say, the Somerset Levels. The dream was mind-blowing, and the scientific/mathematical aspect is beyond me right now. Perhaps, if some dreams are astral-travel experiences in real places, it always will be. Or it may be somewhere I’ll go to again some night.

I’m writing a lot. Another week spent in the shadow of Brentor’s great energy not only helped me get another draft of my latest short story completed, but I also made some notes on my next story: Ravens (Darkworlds Part 2), which I’m really looking forward to writing. And whilst walking at the amazing Merrivale (stone rows, a cist, standing stone and stone circle) I found three owl pellets, each a mixture of fur and bone. I took one and it now sits in a glass jar in my bedroom.

[Listening to: Rosa Decidua by Coil. Very, very moving and quite appropriate for dream talk.]

A bird or a shooting star*

A chest infection has prevented me from doing more or less anything (apart from watching the Montol procession, a hearteningly strange event) for around a month, including no more than a few lines of writing. However, the chance of a week’s recuperation on Dartmoor and illness finally loosening its grip has pushed me to type up a new draft of my latest short story, Pieces. It’s now in a fit state to take away and do further work on. There’s plenty still to do before I’ll let anyone see it; the ending, for instance, has the right words but they’re not necessarily in the right order. It’s quite clunky in places but the meaning is there and it’ll flow in time. It’s nice to write about more unconventional characters than I have for a while, too. Not that many of the people I create are ‘normal’ (whatever that is) but I’m mindful of Sarah Waters’ advice and am happy to have a tattooed lesbian couple in the centre of the tale. They’re right for the story, too which of course is the most important thing.

I haven’t been entirely out of the loop, though – thanks to the Acorn Arts Centre in Penzance, I now have a couple of notices on the Dance and Theatre Cornwall website advertising for an actress to do the reading at the Penzance Literary Festival. I’ve also been assured by event organiser Rosanne Rabinowitz that part of a story will be acceptable. Therefore I’m considering Cross Bound for the event, as I ideally want to do a fairly recently written piece that’s been published. And a review of Kzine on describes my contribution (Blue) as “a dark piece of surreal fiction, the kind of thing Thomas Ligotti would write if he was pretending to be David Lynch for the day”. I’m not as familiar with Ligotti’s work as perhaps I should be (I remember reading some of his work many years ago) and this is not my first comparison with him, but he’s undoubtedly a writer with a nicely twisted view of the world, so this is a great compliment. David Lynch, of course, will be known to anyone who might read this blog. It goes without saying that I’m pleased with the review although it’s perfectly possible that the comparisons were not actually meant as a compliment!

And I’ve discovered, via Spectral Press, that congratulations are due to dark fiction writer Alison J Littlewood, whose first novel has been picked for Richard and Judy’s Book Club. Never mind the inanity of R&J, the exposure for her and for some decent dark fiction will be amazing.

I’ve finally been able to listen to Matthew Shaw’s Lanreath album. It’s a good ambient piece, a little lighter than most of the ambient pieces I have – it doesn’t have the sinister quality of the likes of Coil and Nurse With Wound, but playing it had a quite amazing effect. It took me to Duloe stone circle (where some of it was recorded); I had an insect’s view of the stones, from way down in the grass. I also ‘saw’ the fogou at Carn Euny. I think I’d call it life-affirming. As opposed to Coil, who were life-after-death-affirming. Both have their place. I would love to hear it performed at a sacred site. But why choose Lanreath? There’s nothing on the cd cover or the website to say why. The village’s own website mentions local hauntings, but isn’t everywhere haunted by something? He doesn’t give much away and it would be interesting to know of his spiritual beliefs, if any. Perhaps that’s something I’ll question him on at some point.

*from Daughters of Fire by Barbara Erskine