What can I say about a young cutie who loves wine, cooks like the head chef at a 3 Star Michelin restaurant, and bakes like Julia Child? I can say he pens beautifully organic and artful prose as well! Take my hand and lets walk across the nearly silent cobbled road for an early morning visit with a man who is quietly bursting out of the gate at breakneck speed. I know, it shouldn’t seem possible to quietly burst, yet much like Thomas Brown himself, it is a complexity well worth exploring. Welcome to The Road to Nowhere… LDP!
Who is this Darkling of Despair?
As I write this, it has just gone four a.m. The house is silent, but my window is ajar and the sounds of the outside world trickle inside: the wind in the trees, the occasional lorry making its morning rounds, a background chorus of wakening birds, like twilight white noise. I have been to sleep, but not for very long. Even with the curtains open it is still relatively dark in my bedroom, and the laptop screen is bright against my eyes.
Spell-check informs me I have made three mistakes already. That is the trade-off, I suppose. I have always found it easier to write at night, or in the early hours of the morning. There is a quote by H. P. Lovecraft attesting as much; something to do with a writer not truly being such until he has written something by night. I realise this doesn’t corroborate anything. We all have our own writing practices, inclinations as personal to us as our fingerprints, or the people we choose to lie next to at night, but it is comforting to know that someone else out there, at one time or another, felt similarly about the book-end hours of the day. I am not lying next to anyone this morning, although I often wake with a cat beside my face.
I’m not sure I wholly agree with Lovecraft’s quote. Even as I pen this, I expect suckered tendrils to creep over me; the insidious arms of the Old Ones come to exact the cosmic wrath of their patron. The idea of a writer as an identity still seems a strange one. Perhaps it is because I have only been writing professionally for a handful of years, or perhaps it is because I have struggled with labels my whole life, but I rather see myself as a man who writes than a writer. Perhaps I will settle into the moniker, one day finding the confidence to call myself writer and in so doing accept all the implications that the title brings. Some people live their whole lives by labels, and that is fine, but it doesn’t feel right for me.
It is half five, now. I am not sure where the time has gone, but outside it is brighter, the road noisier, the birds quieter. Somewhere in the house I can hear one of the cats dry-heaving – I hope dry-heaving! – either way, I am a little more awake. More and more I am reading back what I have written. It is another habit of mine. I tend to write slowly and meticulously. This is probably one of the reasons why I feel most able when it is late, or very early. My daily word-count is low, but the words seem to flow more easily at these times.
I realise that in almost five hundred words I have revealed very little real information about myself. I am twenty-five and live in Oxfordshire, England. I enjoy drinking and dancing and laughing with good company as much as I appreciate time to myself. I hold a day-job in a shop on the high street, which pays for my drinking and dancing, whether I’m counting bottles of cheap wine in the kitchen or the entry fee to a club. Of course I read. I would go so far as to boldly say I am a reader, even. This is a label I am comfortable with. Stoker’s vampires sang to me long before I first wrote anything. Carter’s fairy-tales awoke something inside, which was their desired intention, I am sure. Adam Nevill inspired me, Ligotti frightened me, Poppy Z. showed me the beautiful melancholy to be found in horror.
It will always be about horror. I find it difficult to conceive of how people write about anything else, sometimes. I have found my way back to personal inclinations, but for me writing is deeply expressive; my way of trying to make sense of the world. If nothing else, horror is about emotion; a genre brought to life by fear, terror, repression and the constant struggle for characters (and their writers) to overcome these things, or at least negotiate with them.
For me, this idea of horror as emotion is the soul of a story. Plot and pace fall behind atmosphere, setting and personal expression. I pour so much of myself into my writing; not necessarily in terms of characterisation, although that is certainly true to a degree, but in terms of feeling and personal philosophy. Writing is therapy and art and a friend in the dark, and I can’t imagine where I would be without it.
It is now half six and a cat has appeared at my bedside. There is another one, somewhere, but she does as she pleases. I can only assume this one wants breakfast. I am going now to feed him, and perhaps myself. If there is anything that I love as much as writing, it is breakfast. And lunch. And dinner…
About Thomas: Thomas Brown is a graduate of the University of Southampton, where he studied MA Creative Writing. Literary influences include Friedrich Nietzsche, Poppy Z. Brite and Thomas Ligotti. He writes dark, surreal fiction.
Thomas has written for a number of magazines, websites and independent publishers, including: Almond Press, Dark Edifice Magazine, Dark River Press, FUSSED Magazine, Hampshire View, Horrified Press, Notes from the Underground, Pen of the Damned, Sirens Call Publications, Sparkling Books, The Horror Zine, Thirteen Press, trans lit mag and the University of Southampton’s annual Creative Writing anthologies. In 2010 he won the University of Southampton’s Flash Fiction Competition for his short story, ‘Crowman’. In 2014 he won the annual Almond Press Short Story Competition, ‘Broken Worlds’. He is a proud member of the dark fiction writing group, Pen of the Damned.
Thomas is also the author of the beautifully written novel, LYNNWOOD. Find him on his blog and twitter:
Thomas’ Latest Post on Pen of the Damned
All These Voices
The sound of the tape slides soothingly into Nicholas’ ears. Not the music itself, although that is certainly pleasant, but the mechanical whir of the reels as the tape’s innards wind through the machine. He doubts if he could write so well without the quiet whirring. He doubts if he could write at all with the noise of the world at his window and under the soles of his feet.
The pub beneath his bedsit is busy tonight. Voices slice through the floorboards as though the wooden planks do not exist. He might be sitting at the bar himself, submerged in the chorus of cries and thoughtless laughter: the White Ship on stormy, booze-wracked seas. Pouring a glass of wine he sits back in his chair and drinks.
Sometimes he can make out word-for-word the different conversations at the bar. Drunkenness seems only to increase people’s volume, as though for a few hours the fugue imparts a sixth-sense: a glimpse of more than just the pub, the street, the city, the entire world as it really is. So the patrons below shout and scream, laughing madly into their drinks, looking anywhere but the frightened whites of their friends’ eyes, the hollow blackness of their mouths; the window panes, dewy with the cold empty night.
The unmistakable pop of breaking glass shatters his reverie, followed by a collective cheer. A bottle or a pint glass, perhaps, caught by an elbow or dropped from careless fingers. Putting his feet up on the desk, he breathes in deeply through his nose. Air inflates his lungs, his chest, the narrow curves of his ribs, forcing everything else out of him and away, except for the pinkish blur behind his lowered eyelids and the gentle flutter of the cassette in the player. Exhaling, he concentrates on the sound.
It was a week after he’d moved in before he discovered the tapes, in a locked drawer under the desk. There was no key that he could find but the wood gave easily enough when forced. The drawer has not been the same since.
He found other things in the drawer, besides the tapes: yellowing sheet music scratched with skeletal notes, a ragged doll with faded red hair, a desert of seashells still coated with grit. When he had finished inspecting these things, he let the drawer keep them. As much as he loves music, he cannot read it. If he was in the doll’s place, he would not like to be brought from out of the shadows looking so sad. The shells are sharp, and he finds them repellent in the way all things decayed seem to repulse. Mostly, the drawer tells a story, and he respects that. A hundred possibilities might have led to these cast-offs finding their way into the locked confines of the desk. Who is he to disturb their tale, their private narrative?