November 14, 2009

Launch party writing

So it’s the morning after the launch party, and it was great! Live music, lots of people, good company, old friends; warmth on a cold November night is always welcome. So thanks to everyone who came, and the musicians who played, and everybody for your continuous presence and support.
For those who missed it, during the party we masochistically asked the audience for writing prompts. We then each (Alex, Duane and I) picked two at random and used them to write something in fifteen minutes. The results were then read out loud, whatever they were.
I wanted to share with you what I wrote last night. The prompts I got were “Fire extinguisher” and “Pirates”. So here it goes.

We were told not to come here. “Do not sail these waters,” the man had said back in Abu Dhabi after shaking his bone amulet. “If you go there, you could die. Or worse, you could survive.”
I would have liked to listen to the man with the bone amulets, I’m usually a listen to ominous warnings type of captain, but I could not. Not with what’s in my cargo hold. It’s got to be delivered to Akambo before nightfall on the 31st. The fate of the forever fire depends on it.
And everything could have been fine. But fate and the bone amulet have spoken. I forgot to replace the fire extinguishers on the Reliant, my old rusting Norwegian cargo that I won three years ago from a Swedish captain at a poker game. Apparently, that didn’t include fire extinguishers in working order.
So now, Somali pirates are boarding my old cargo.
I stand in front of their captain, a sweaty, stinky, bald gut with teeth that smell like the back end of an albatross, and he’s telling me to hand over my cargo. I can’t. Akambo will kill me in a much more unpleasant way than these amateur pirates could. So the smelly-teeth captain stares at me and grins, and then flicks his lighter. There’s Diesel all over the bridge, the Reliant leaks it from everywhere. I try to stop the man, think of the bon figurine, it was grinning too, I recall. And then the captain drops the lighter. Fire. No extinguishers. The pirates leave. As they get off the ship, the captain drops a bone figurine on the deck, laughing.
Fire. No extinguishers. Fireworks are coming.

November 9, 2009

Preview for Alexander Newcombe's "Ten Kinds of Places"

Here is the final preview for our first issue.  It is the story of Dex's "one last job" told through his own tangled point of view.  It's noir, but it's more scrambled than hard-boiled.  So, for your perusal, Here Be Monsters presents, Alexander Newcombe's "Ten Kinds of Places":

There are ten kinds of places in the world:

I spent the day planning until the sun was pushed low enough in the sky to go meet Dic. Dic only met after dark, and only if you bought him a drink and a bite. So I was off to a number five, a place to eat.
The trick is choosing the best place of its kind. Dic had an appropriate slice of pizza for a downtown pizza joint then drank my suitable beer outside. From there, we went to one of my favourites, a number seven, a place to talk. In this case, it was a café under the bridge, all dim lights hidden even from the stars, good to tell secrets in. Dic agreed and he read from his vast mind everything he knew of the people I needed.
Why them, Dex?” He asked. “I can’t see the connection.”
Not even you can see it?” I was shocked. “I’m shocked.”
Clearly,” said Dic, “the deal stands though? No harm of any kind to my clever girl Taxi?”
The deal stands my friend.”
Like a hand?”
Like a kick.” I returned.
I was out after an acceptable time for drinks. Dic should be called Fish, I thought, but it didn’t matter. My mind was already drawing names to faces, making pieces into people, casting people into parts.
A number three is difficult to judge. What happens there can go well, terribly, or not at all. I drove to the university the next day; the meeting place. The campus was all bobbing hats and hairstyles, flowing from one building to another in the late morning light. I stood on a bench and held out a red plastic lunch box with She-Ra on the front. A few hands pulled up weakly from the mass below, but I held it high. Then, near the doors, I saw a disturbance. An eddy had formed as something fought its way upcampus. An incredible woman came into view, wiry brown hair breaking above the surface. Despite my raised position, I gulped like a cartoon. She stood on the ground and looked me in the eye.
Pointing up, she asked, “Is this for me?” She said it sweetly, though there was no reason to. She could snatch it from me and pull me apart like a Christmas cracker.
It’s for whoever has Chuck’s address, Bell.”
She pouted slightly and reached up as if to cup my cheek in a caress. When my vision came back I was spitting blood and tooth out onto the well-treaded pavement. I inhaled the scent of over-priced sneaker until my breath came back. “Sorry Bell, it’s for you. There are some goldbären inside. Heard you like them.” I ran diagnostics, tested tolerances, and sat up gingerly.
Thank you,” she said, as sweet as ever. Leaning down with astonishing flexibility she said, “Find him at the shooting gallery on Turney. He’s always alone there.”

Don't forget, the full versions of all of our stories are available this Friday, 8pm, at the launch party.  Thank you for reading everyone, looking forward to seeing you at the party.

November 4, 2009

Time, writing, November 13

So, I feel a lot has been happening in the world, but I am removed from it. I mean I have not heard about all of the world’s problems over the past few days, but I am certain they are still there. Besides H1N1, no escaping that one... School has sucked me in deep.

I have had ideas, but no time to write. My ideas for my next short story are accumulating, but without time they are doing only that. The more time the ideas bounce around up there, the better they will be I feel. Time can let me see and think about them from different angles. When I say think, I mean the kind of thinking that happens at random unpredictable moments, on the bus, falling asleep, in the midst of an unrelated conversation when maybe I should be paying attention… After such moments if I am lucky, they end up on random bits of paper. If I am even luckier those bits of paper are not lost.

Why do I write them down? Well ideas are very clear when they happen and during the moment I feel I won’t forget them, only I know better. In a deeper sense, why do I write them down? Why do I write anything? Not certain. Partly to tell a story that is. Partly to flex creativity because it craves to be. 

The creative process is intriguing and if anyone has comments or ideas on it then feel free.

Also, just a reminder that there will be a thing, the HBM launch with good music and such at Burritoville, 2055B Bishop Street, Friday, November 13 at 8. I imagine it somewhat like a house party.

October 29, 2009

Alex's story prompted by the internet

A couple of weeks ago we solicited everyone we could contact on the internet for writing prompts.  A few responded and here is what I wrote.  My prompt was the first sentence.

For the fourth time that evening before going to bed, Kim checked her alarm clock to insure it would ring the next morning -- whether she was simply paranoid or had an OCD, this had been her nightly ritual for the past 5 years.

Before that, her ritual had been to roll over, put her hand on Damian's chest, and sleep undisturbed.  He'd set alarms, planned days, and found the time.  On her own now, life was a jumble of appointements, places to go, and chores.   She began an uneasy alliance with daytimers, calendars, and post-it notes.  She agreed to make them useful if they held off the rushing chaos of the real world.

She awoke five minutes before the alarm went off.  She knew the time before her bleary eyes focused on the orange digital numbers.  More days than not, she didn't need the alarm, but she had to set it.

Kim found her way to the bathroom, checking the small desk clock she had there after brushing her teeth, and again after her shower.  Cursing the extra two minutes her hair had taken her, she skipped breakfast and had only a coffee instead.  She checked the clock on the stove before rushing out for work.

The office she worked at did background checks for businesses, but she was in human resources, so it didn't particularly matter what the company did.  She was just there to make people's days go smoother.  

The subway had been slowed by a vague accident that was understood to be a suicide.  She sat down at her desk at 8:58 and wished she'd had time to buy a muffin from the bakery she always passed.  She thought about setting her clock three minutes faster at home, then worried about slow people in the bakery line-up and decided on five instead.

Victoria came and sat with Kim at 12:25.  She remembered the time because she had placed her cell phone beside her play on the lunch table and its clock was facing her.


So, I ended up with more of a character sketch than a story, but that is what often happens with me in these writing sprints.  Keep watching the site for more writing and don't forget that our launch is coming up soon.  November 13th, downtown at Burritoville, 2055B Bishop.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Newcombe

PS.  Cool prompt Élise!

October 19, 2009

What Happens When You Don't Stop.

Hey everyone and thank you all for your support so far. It's been amazing. So here is my own effort at using a prompt from the audience. The prompt allotted me was a first sentence from Elise that went as follows: "He jumped up the stairs one at a time using his damaged right leg, leaving behind him a trail of blood reminding all of the incident which caused his left foot to be cut clean from his leg."

So here it goes:

He jumped up the stairs one at a time using his damaged right leg, leaving behind him a trail of blood reminding all of the incident which caused his left foot to be cut clean from his leg.
The mobile bridge was slowly pivoting away from the far shore just as he stumbled onto it and the supply train from Azur I disappeared into the iron structures of Eyeball 35. He knew he wouldn’t make it but he refused to stop. He had worked too hard to get to this point; the plan had been perfect, a work of art, really, except for that unfortunate Ancient Laser incident a year back, when he was constructing the Complete Immunity Suit that would allow him to survive the crossing from his dying city to the promised land of Eyeball 35, where the supply trains took Azur’s life blood, the precious axrun ore, to build the ships that sailed the Emptiness Between. The Head’s police had been called to his warehouse then; they’d seen his severed foot, given him a first aid kit and a warning: whatever you’re doing, stop. We will not hesitate to remove you to the Lower Lands.
He hadn’t stopped. He couldn’t. It was his life’s work, his very own sweat and tears poured into his escape plan, though he didn’t think of it as escape but more as a voyage like those of the explorers of old, the discoverers of the Upper Pelvic Area and such heroes of a forgotten and better past.
In any case, the Head’s police had caught up with him tonight, in the last moments of the sunset, just as he was about to jump on the supply train through the hole he’d cut in the shielding tube. They’d ordered him to stop, one last time. He’d disobeyed, a capital crime for an Azurian. They’d shot him as he stepped onto the maintenance stairs that led to the bridge. Fortunately, the shot had missed his head and instead butchered his right leg, so he’d hobbled on, his prosthetic foot clanking on the metal steps, his blood draining away like his city’s life.
He thought of the last radio message from Ania, his only contact in Eyeball 35. He’d been so eager to meet her. Maybe see the sun from her windows, the sun that had deserted Azur I for so long, now.
Well, that wouldn’t happen. But he was damned if they would get Ania’s name out of him. Contact between Azurians and Eyeballis was also a capital crime. He could never lead them back to her.
So, as the bridge pulled away from the far, forbidden shore, he jumped.

Vincent Mackay

Here Be Monsters Launch Party

Our launch party has been booked!  Come celebrate with us and pick up your copy of the book.

When: Friday, November 13th - 8:00pm
Where: Burritoville, 2055B Bishop
What: Live music, readings, drinks, and good times. 

Thank you everyone for the support so far.  We're looking forward to seeing you and partying on Friday the 13th!

October 17, 2009

Website creation, blogging, prompts from you guys...

So there are a few things I am curious about. First, we want to do a Website eventually for our writing project, but none of us has experience with that. Anyone know what tools, services, etc would be good to use for Website creation?

Second, I discovered BlogJet and have to say it seems to make the blogging easier. A nicer easier to use interface. Anyone know of anything better? Blog writing advice is welcome too.

So we met this morning to do our prompt writing for a bit and we used dice to randomly select one each from the people who made suggestions (only one due to lack of time). Sadly there were no missing pants stories. Thanks for all the ideas!

I got one of my brother’s, a beginning sentence from wikipedia. I have to say that what I wrote may not make a whole lot of sense because it is a snippet of a much larger idea that I have been kicking around for a while now. I won’t elaborate too much because if I write the rest it would be less fun to read, maybe, if the main idea was already known…

July 17

A sense of shame is the consciousness of awareness of shame as a state or condition. My shame is dark, a stain on a hospital gurney cover. Why? Why? This is in fact something I feel uncomfortable writing. Writing will not make it more real. No, the realness is not the issue here. What is done is done. The issue is secrecy. I know what I did, so do a few others. Most of whom no longer matter. I want to free this inner demon from my chest, but I cannot even write it in here, to you my mute friend.

July 23

The last few days have been busy, but most of what has been happening has in fact been in my head. I have decided to reveal my secret here. I hope just that no one reads it before I am no longer alive. I hope any family I have, if any by then, will not be the ones to read it. Things have been happening and the newspaper article I am folding between these pages describes it well. The picture, so still, makes everything look peaceful.

July 23… again…

When I discovered the case, that subject and I knew he was beyond normal, my heart raced. I had never felt so alive, but yet moved as if stuck in a barrel rolling down hill. Momentum built, things fell into place. Things cascaded. The subject was unaware of his uniqueness, in fact he was aware, but delusional… perfectly, well not quite. A possibly sane man who believed he was not. That was why he was undergoing psychiatric evaluations. The initial discovery that set things in motion was from the PET scan. His brain looked to be a sort of network of four individual brains interconnected within one human skull.

October 16, 2009

Some suggestions from my FB and the FB here be monsters page

Just to put some of these in the same place… So, I am curious about where we could go with a missing pants story. Thanks!

You could use random sentences from wikipedia as starters, perhaps with minor tweaks. For example:

1. Fires start when a flammable and/or a combustible material with an adequate supply of oxygen or another oxidizer is subjected to enough heat and is able to sustain a chain reaction.

2. In typical usage, water refers only to its liquid form or state, but the substance also has a solid state, ice, and a gaseous state, water vapor or steam.
... Read More
3. Most traditions have a recognizable cuisine, a specific set of cooking traditions, preferences, and practices, the study of which is known as gastronomy.

4. A "sense of shame" is the consciousness or awareness of shame as a state or condition.

From AB

First sentence: He jumped up the stairs one at a time using his damaged right leg, leaving behind him a trail of blood reminding all of the incident which caused his left foot to be cut clean from his leg.

Dialogue: "Are you sure the doctor said you had to insert that there?"...

First sentence: For the fourth time that evening before going to bed, Kim checked her alarm clock to ensure it would ring the next morning – whether she was simply paranoid or had an OCD, this had been her nightly ritual for the past 5 years.


October 14, 2009

It's time for audience participation!

The authors of Here Be Monsters are getting ready to print the first issue of the anthology, but we're not content sitting around waiting for it to get into our claw-like appendages.  We want to challenge ourselves and keep our adoring fans interested, so we're putting out the call for prompts.

This is how it will work:  Anyone can suggest a line of dialogue or a first sentence.  Just put it in a comment on this post.  On Saturday, we'll randomly select two prompts each and write whatever story we can.  Then, we'll post the stories here for the world to judge.  You can then tell us if we saw deep into the hidden folds of your mind or if we got it all wrong.

Here are a couple of examples of what we're looking for:

Dialogue - "You can't bend that with your tongue."

First Sentence - "Somehow, even the day had an undercurrent of rage."

Be silly, be challenging, be cliché!  Put down the first thing that you think of.  We'll take it all and twist it around.  Remember, we'll be writing the stories on the morning of Saturday the 17th, so get your comments in before then.

October 8, 2009

A shot of story...

Here is one of the exercises that I did at the writing group.  Like the other bits posted here, this was based on prompts and done in 15 minutes (less the time it takes to look nervously around the room and swear at all the people who are already writing).  For this one, I pulled two prompts: "Fantasy Story" and "Write something that involves a big miscommunication."

by Alexander Newcombe

Orlan knelt in the vast meditation chamber of the Beneficent One's temple.  The thick carpet cushioned his old legs.  He sighed once and began reaching his spirit out to the Perfect Force, the manifestation of his deity in the heavens.  In his many years of study at the temple, Orlan had found that the clarity he acquired in meditation to be the greatest reward of his dedication to his god.

He rolled his mind methodically through the day.  As he recalled the obnoxious chattering of the initiates over lunch, a burning flash erupted inside him.  His eyes felt as if they were plunged into the sun.  He cried out and pitched sideways, blind from the heat and light.

Agonizing moments passed, and then he felt calmer, though he could still feel his body writhing and screaming at some indeterminate distance.  A voice shook from the light inside him, "Hero of the golden trials, you have braved much to reach this holy stone.  As the ancient compact states, you may now receive my consul.  Do you wish to have it?"

"Yes," came Orlan's fevered reply, "tell me lord."

The voice reached a tooth-shaking volume in his head, "You must find the red serpent, then loose it upon your friends.  Watch for a stick of oak in a forest of ash, it will guide you truely.  Your fate will be decided in combat, as you wished, though against an enemy you cannot fathom."

Orlan sat, digesting the words of his god, but could not make sense of it.  "What was that?"

"You cannot question your future Doraldan."

"I'm not Doraldan."  He was dazed.

The pain and light faded slightly, "What?" said the voice.

"My name is Orlan.  Your servant, Beneficent One, a student of the Perfect Force."

"This isn't good."

"Why was I given this prophecy?  I don't understand your will my lord."

"Stop that.  I am not your lord."  The voice still resonated with shocking power, but it went on unsteadily, "You've done something terrible, human."

Now Orlan was frustrated and suspected trickery.  "No, I was just praying.  You got in my way."

"Ah no.  I was divining the future, reading the very fabric of the universe.  You crudely intercepted the message in some way."

"You don't know that.  You're grasping for excuses.  Just like those children at the table this afternoon, never accepting responsibility.  Listen, have you ever done this before?"

"Yes!"  The voice boomed at its full strength again.  "Since before man crawled on his belly from the sea."

The force of the reply sunk Orlan down to the floor again.  "Fine, well I will delay my meditations until midnight.  Will that work for you?"

"I can't redeliver the prophecy, Orlan.  Only one person on the earth can hold such knowledge."

"Well great.  Not very useful to me is it?"

"Perhaps, but if it is not given to Doraldan, he will die."

"Hey, I'm not going to do your work for you."  The light faded from his body as he called after the unseen voice.  It seems no one is willing to put in a little real work these days, thought Orlan as he shuffled to bed.

October 5, 2009

Inside and outside - very nice!

So I just have to say that I have seen workings for the cover and parts of the inside and it will look very nice. No doubt at all now that we have been very lucky putting this together.

October 4, 2009

An excerpt from Duane Burry's “Electricracy”

So it was not easy for me to find an excerpt that I felt represented my story for our first edition of Here Be Monsters, but I think this works. The title for my story comes from combining technocracy and electrickery. As always there are things I see in it that I feel I would like to improve... but I will refrain. A sample of the third story should be here soonish. Thanks again.

The modifications performed on Queln took. One after the other. Week after week the procedures were successful on him. The sci-mage, Zinntar, turned out to be not only one of the best, but one of the most caring. Those who ended up under his hexes and blade were in good hands even if some of his experiments did not succeed or work as expected. Very few of his subjects died. As the mods became more popular, heavy handed industry moved in, laws and regulations to control the implantations and changes were put in place. Slowly the system became safer, but not because industry cared for the people, but because industry saw the money that could be made if things were controlled. Procedures like those performed on Queln and the junk kids of that period were never done now, except for underground. Queln himself was still learning years later of what his modifications could do. It was a subject that was a guarded secret for him, a part of his life that he shared rarely. Standing in line to be cut and hexed so he could have food and shelter for himself and one other person was a time he would rather forget. It was a symbol of his failure, a symbol of his family's failure, of his social failure, of his lack of strength. But he had bowed to the harsh world, opened himself to Zinntar's blade and hexes and here he sat, before a person who had come to the procedures years later after they had been refined, perfected, rendered safe and undetectable for the right price. Was he disgusted? No. He was awestruck and proud. This beautiful girl before him could experience what she could from the mods because of what he and others had been subjected to. Maybe he was angry at the injustice of it, maybe deep down an ember of despise, or anger, or rage was birthing, but for now it was imperceptible.

October 3, 2009

Anthropomorphic muffins

First, I would like to thank everyone who has come to check out what we have been doing. Pass the word. It started a while back and it has been a slow progression, but it hasn't stopped. I have to say we have been lucky with the help we have gotten from our friends.

The short bit that I am posting here was in fact, I believe, the first piece that I wrote during writing group. I had two prompts: anthropomorphic muffin and cathedral . As you will see right away or maybe slowly, we all have different styles and the directions we take our writing vary drastically.

The stories that we will publish in our first edition will be about 70-80 pages total in a 5 x 7 format, I think. Considering when we meet to write, we are looking to generate ideas, tell stories and get comments what we write is much shorter. I am always impressed. Sometimes it is amazing what someone will do with an idea and sometimes we are writing and someone will say, "Oh this is sooo bad...". It is always fun.

Normally, I don't give the short pieces titles, but for putting them here I guess I will. This, inspired by the prompts above, is:

A Heart's Taste of Purpose

“I haven't eaten in days, my battalion is... I don't know where and my only protection from the war is this broken cathedral.” My soldier uniform is filthy, but of no concern to me. Things are in a haze.

“I can help,” it sounds like a voice spoken through a muffled bag.


“I am under the pew. Behind you. You saw me when you came in yesterday, but I think you forgot me. You passed out and I think you had nightmares.”

“I don't remember anyone.”

“Look. You'll see me. You need me and I need you. Give me a purpose.” The sounds of the words are still distorted.

I look under the pew. “My god... is... is that you?”

“Yes.” says the muffin.

“How?” I ask.

“The chaos of war changes everything big to small. It breaks concrete and even minds.”

“Me, am I crazy?”

“No. You are hungry. Eat me. Don't let me waste away without a proper end. I have oats and... and sweet banana.”

“I can't.”

“I know. I am ugly. I feel sluggish. This green-blue coat of fur is getting thicker everyday, but I can still help you.”

“No. I am not going to eat you. You are disgusting and I can find real food.”

“That hurts. I don't think you can and I think leaving me to rot is selfish and wrong. You can peel away the rot, the green-blue fur. The banana bits on the inside are still good.”

The muffin is heavy to lift. I begin to peel away the rot.

The muffin whispers, “Thank you.”

October 2, 2009

A bit of story from a prompt

As you know, the Here Be Monsters stories were created in a context where we drew random prompts from a hat. The stories like "The Stone of El-Al-Fey" and the other two stories that will be published in our first issue were stories that we decided to work on further and complete. Here, on the contrary and for your amusement, is a story that was written in about fifteen minutes during one of our writing sessions, using the following prompt: write something involving walls.

Here goes.

The New Wall. By Vincent Mackay.

I woke up one morning and it was there: bricks, mortar and all. Well, mostly bricks and mortar. It completely blocked my window from which I’d had, the very night before, a sweeping view of the ocean. Now there was only the wall.
Blaming it on caffeine withdrawal, I rubbed my eyes and walked down to the kitchen to put a pot on. But out the kitchen window towered the same ugly, reddish brick wall, this time hiding my garden. I sighed and sat to wait for the coffee.
Unfortunately, drinking it did not dispel the wall, so I stepped out on the porch. The morning air smelled of dust and cement instead of the usual sea breeze, and the sound of clanking tools rose from the front lawn, where stood another wall under a low, gray sky.
Still clutching my coffee and the hope it contained, I scratched my beard and walked to the clanking. I found a man there, kneeling beside a cement mixer, wiping his dirty hands on a dirtier towel.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hello,” He said back.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Building walls,” He answered.
“On my front lawn?” I said.
“If that’s where here is,” He said.
“Why?” I asked.
“I got a contract,” He said.
“That’s very inconvenient,” I said, and drank some more coffee.
“Not my problem,” He said. “D’you have any of that coffee left, by the way? Been up since four, you know.”
“Oh, uh, yeah, sure, come on in,” I said.
I led him to the kitchen and served him coffee.

September 30, 2009

Pictures of the Here Be Monsters Authors

Alana took some photos of the authors today on the Plateau.  What may seem like serious authorial insight on our faces is actually just the cold.  Check them out here.

What is Here Be Monsters?

Some of you may be wondering what Here Be Monsters is. It is an anthology of short stories by Vincent Mackay, Alex Newcombe, and Duane Burry. The stories themselves were created because the three of us wanted to write for fun. We met every week or so and wrote story ideas, bits of dialogue, and characters on scraps of paper. Each of us would reach into the pile, pick one up, and write a part of a story using what we were given. We eventually decided that completed stories would be more fun than snippets done in a single evening and that was the impetus for Here Be Monsters.

This first issue is called “No Room on the Life Raft”. It has one story from each author in it. The stories are independent, but they all follow characters diving into the weird and fantastic. We have posted a preview for “The Stone of El-Al-Fey” already; the previews of the other two stories will be coming soon. We hope these give you a sense of the style and setting for each piece.

We’re busy assembling the book and preparing to distribute it. We are doing everything except for the printing, which is being done locally at Répro-UQAM. Once it is printed and distributed, we’ll let everyone know where it can be bought. If you live outside of Montréal and want a copy, contact one of us and we will get it to you. The price of the book isn’t set yet, but we are aiming to have it lower than $8.00. This money offsets the cost of the production; we’re not looking to quit our day jobs for this yet.

We already have grand plans for the next issue, which will be out early next year. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to post them here or contact us through e-mail.

Thanks for your support!

September 26, 2009

A sneak peak of Vincent Mackay's "The Stone of El-Al-Fey"

Here is an excerpt from Vincent Mackay's tale of adventure and revelation set in a mythical desert oasis. This is the first of three tantalizing previews that will be posted here, so keep watching for more exciting fiction. Without further delay, Here Be Monsters presents, The Stone of El-Al-Fey:

It was like walking out of your thoughts. From whichever direction you arrived, you came in from the emptiness of the desert and into a dizzying bustle of tents, carpets, muezzins, silver tea kettles on goat-dropping fires and camels drinking at the precious well. The colours were subdued, but after the long walk in the never-ending sands of El-Sharakh, they felt like fireworks. The smells of cumin, tea and dirt assailed you, and the noise broke into your mind like a burglar. I didn’t like to return to Al-Arakh, a place I avoided at all costs, but circumstances, and Zishkir, left me little choice. It reminded me of Omar’s words; I had less than two days left to find my buyer for the stone of El-Al-Fey. More than I needed; I knew my job.

I brought my camel to the lake of the well and let him drink for a long time, happy to just sit on a stone and watch the comings and goings of the oasis. To the left, three men were gathered in front of an orange tent, haggling over the price of some sheep. I tried not to think about the building that had stood in the same place as that tent, and about what had happened there fifteen years earlier. My throat tightened a little, and I bit my lip to force the thoughts back into oblivion where they belonged.

To the right, under some high trees, an obese man was reclining in the shade, a slave was serving him tea and another was fanning him with a palm leaf. He seemed to be counting gold, the coins lined up in front of him like a set of building blocks. I wondered at the man’s audacity, showing off wealth like that. He must have thought himself very powerful indeed if he believed he could tempt robbers in Al-Arakh.

“You should not watch the Sheik of Shez this closely, friend,” said a deep voice behind me, “Unless you wish to bring trouble onto your head.”

I turned, a hand on my knife, and found myself facing an astounding mass of muscle on top of which sat a bald head decorated with astute eyes and a pair of iron-rimmed glasses; a rarity around here. I was forced to back away a few paces so I did not have to crane my neck to look at him.

“And who would you be, friend, to give advice so freely?”

The man let out a big hearty laugh that managed to remain threatening. “I am Syl, and I used to kill men for him.”

A little introduction to the Here Be Monsters process

It was a dark and stormy night.  In the dank basement, the harried writers huddled around a frugal meal of chips and pizza dough.  Ginger ale flowed to still their restless souls.  Somewhere, ghosts of dead pulp authors lay watching, silently biding their time.  A sweaty hand dipped into the cracked bowl and drew the first prompt.  The writer read it with a troubled heart, "Write a story involving an anthropomorphic muffin."  A scream rent the night.  It had begun.