These are the most testing times the human race have faced since World War II. This time the enemy is unseen, an enemy so powerful it’s forcing many of us to retreat back into our houses. It’s here that people will try to continue to live as normal a life as they can and it’s here that the wonderful art of storytelling may blossom. Be it, young children sitting in front of a parent, or a person sadly on their own listening to the radio, stories will be spread and remembered, to be told to future generations once this horrible virus has faded.
I wanted to be able to share some stories with the fiends of Kendall Reviews, stories to help people get through these difficult times. It’s a huge honour for me to be able to bring you yet another story from the incredible Stephen Volk.
Thank you so much for your support Stephen, it means the world to be able to host three of your stories.
This is one that quite a few of my readers have told me they really liked, and I think it’s a perfect one for this time of year, and maybe for these difficult times. Resurrection can happen in the most ordinary, mundane lives. We can change (with a little nudge), if we remember what matters to us most.
Martin knew one thing. He knew it wasn’t there yesterday.
He was first aware of the tall wooden upright in his front garden as he left his house to go up the road to the corner shop and get his copy of The Indy. The hundred yard stroll always made him feel guilty for not having a more substantial constitutional as part of his daily routine, and he usually accomplished it in a kind of embarrassed slump for that reason, which he was considering doing this very day, if not for the appearance of a ten-by-ten inch timber a good twelve feet tall sunk deeply into the earth, casting a thick bar of shadow over his house (and over him, incidentally) like a vast sundial. There it stood, in the middle of his tiny but adequate lawn in front of his Victorian bay window, between his hydrangeas and his rose bush and his little white fence that needed painting.
“You can’t do that here,” he said.
“Yes we can,” said one of the men.
“Yes we can.”
He’d have appreciated it if they’d bothered to look up at him. Instead of which they knelt in their scruffy Bristol City Council overalls and high visibility vests, mumbled to each other and generally ignored him as they went about their work. One fetched a tool box from the van. One gesticulated in his hard hat. One dropped a handful of six-inch nails onto the path, where they made a surprisingly bright, tinkling sound.
Behind them, Martin saw a man standing on the pavement with bare shoulders and a rather skinny, unimpressive chest inhaling from a cigarette, wearing no trousers, and shivering in his bare feet. In fact he wore very little—actually, nothing but a pair of white Y-fronts from Marks and Spencer. Martin recognised them because he wore the same style or brand or whatever it was—though, admittedly, not in public.
“Hello,” the man said cheerily.
“Hello,” said Martin.
He waited for the workmen to say something to him but they didn’t, so he went back inside.
As he shut the front door he remembered The Indy, but didn’t go out again. He found himself kneeling and opening the letter box, through which he gained another point of view of the near-naked man, who said “Hello” just as cheerily as he had the first time.
Martin let the letter box snap shut and shook his fingers as if they’d almost been caught. Which they had.
After he told her—or even, actually, before he had finished, if truth be told—his wife Cheryl went immediately into the front room and looked out between the curtains. Not that she saw much, with one of the workmen’s sanders coating the window with a thin layer of dust.
“They can’t do that here. This is ridiculous.”
“This is Clifton.”
“They’re going to make a hell of a noise,” Cheryl said. “Not to mention the mess.”
“I suppose,” said Martin.
“What do you mean, you suppose?”
“Well, they haven’t made much of a mess so far, to be honest, have they? They seem quite good workmen, in fact. Quite tidy, I mean. They’re doing a fairly neat job.”
Cheryl looked at him aghast. “So it’s all right then, if they’re doing a fairly neat job?”
“Not really. No,” he concurred. He moved into the bay window and looked out himself. One of the workmen saw him and gave a little wave. He gave a little wave back. Seemed like a nice enough bloke. What’s wrong with that? “I’ll bet they brush up after themselves. I’ll lay money on it.”
“They do look quite efficient, though. They seem to know what they’re doing. They’ll probably be gone in a couple of minutes, eh?”
“Couple of minutes? You’re a mouse, Martin. Nothing but a mouse. Go and talk to them.”
His face grappled with a frown. “What will I say?”
“Tell them to do it elsewhere. Tell them to show you some paperwork. Tell them we haven’t been informed.”
“What if they have paperwork? I bet they do.”
“I bet they don’t. They just try and get away with murder, this council.”
Martin said: “You go and talk to them.”
“Why does it always have to be me?” said Cheryl.
“It doesn’t always have to be you, but you’re good at things like this. You tell people what’s what. They listen to you.”
“They do. You know they do. It’s a fact.”
“Why? Why’s it a fact?”
“Because you’re a woman. They won’t argue with a woman but they’ll argue with me.”
“Martin, you are such a wimp sometimes. I don’t know why I’m married to you. Honestly I don’t.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“Well it’s true.”
“Is it?” he asked, but Cheryl chose not to answer him. She chose to exit to the kitchen muttering “bloody hell” and he didn’t follow for more of the same, thank you very much. Well, he did actually.
“Anyway,” Martin said in his most authoritative voice (which wasn’t much of an authoritative voice at all, really). “I said to them, you can’t do that here, and they said, yes we can. It’s obvious they’ve got permission. Anyway, it’s too late now. Listen.”
They could hear the beep-beep of a truck reversing and the whir of an electric drill.
“That’s you all over, isn’t it?” said Cheryl, hand on hip, using a spoon to salvage an Earl Grey teabag from a mug and deposit it down the waste disposal. “Well, I’m not going to say anything this time. You’re on your own. That’s it. You’re the man of the house. Allegedly. It’s up to you. I’m going to work.” Her lips were tight. She yanked her handbag off the chair. “I’ll go to Sainsbury’s on the way home and get something for tonight. We haven’t got anything in the freezer. I suppose that’s down to me too.”
He didn’t know how to answer that, so didn’t.
Back in the front room though the film of sawdust, thicker now, he saw the plant hire crane lifting the cross beam off the flat bed and Cheryl crossing the road to her Audi without looking up and without saying anything to any of them.
Martin turned the radio to Radio Bristol, which he only did when he was on his own. He liked hearing the local news and the local accent, whereas Cheryl couldn’t stand it, said at every opportunity it made even intelligent people sound educationally subnormal. Which he thought was a bit harsh, personally. He thought it was, well, honest. Open. Unlike London, where everyone was on the take, or sounded like they were. He liked the nosiness and small-mindedness of the West Country, it strangely made him feel secure, he didn’t know why. It was slower, he supposed, and he couldn’t see what all this speed was about. They say you have two homes in life, one where you’re born and one you find, and he’d found this, within earshot of the lions and elephants of the zoo and within spitting distance of the suspension bridge and a decent deli.
He made himself a cup of coffee, mixing the granules with the milk before he poured on boiling water so it gave him a little froth. It was a trick Jeff had taught him, way back when he was in gainful employment. Jeff who never entered a meeting without bursting into a song from the shows. There Is Nothing Like a Dame! He missed Jeff. Didn’t miss the job, though.
Martin thought about the workmen outside. He envied them their nine-to-five. They probably envied him his freedom. Sat-at-home hubbie. Not a care in the world. That’s what they thought. That’s what people thought. They had no idea, did they? Those blokes probably wouldn’t mind a cup of tea, though, he thought. He should ask them. That’s what you did, didn’t you, when you had workmen in? He didn’t want to be impolite. After all, they were only doing their job. Anyway, Cheryl was gone now, and he wouldn’t get a row for it. Row? God, it made him feel like her child, not her husband. Maybe he should be more assertive. Well, all right, he would.
“Sorry. Anybody like a cup of tea, out here? I should have asked.”
The crane lowered the crossbeam. They hammered it into place, a large T.
“So that’s one milk and two sugars, one milk and one sugar, one no milk one sugar, and two no milk no sugar? Got it. Won’t be a tick. And if any of you need the loo it’s on the left at the top of the stairs. You can’t miss it.”
They were out of jammy dodgers so he gave them a plate of Garibaldis, chocolate digestives and a couple of stray Jaffa cakes.
When he came out later to collect the empty mugs—a Dalek one, a flowery one, one reading Men are like floor tiles; you lay them right the first time you can walk all over them for years and one reading Keep Calm and Carry On—they were stacked in a little crowd on the path and the plate was empty, except, perhaps predictably, for the Garibaldis.
Martin looked up at the man on the cross with nails through his hands.
“Hello,” said the man.
“Quiet,” said Martin, standing with his back to the house and the tray in front of him.
“One of the reasons we like it.”
“I can see,” said the man.
“You get the occasional boy racer. Hope that doesn’t disturb you,” added Martin hastily.
“Oh. I doubt it, quite frankly,” said the man, smiling.
“But thanks for asking.”
“Not at all. I, er…”Martin noticed for the first time that the man had an Elastoplast stuck to one side of his forehead. “Are you… Are you all right up there?”
“Oh yes. I’m fine, thank you.”
“Are you sure? You look…”
“Yes, thank you. Don’t worry about me.”
“Is there anything I can get you? I mean…”
“Tea? Coffee? Glass of water?”
“No, thanks. Really.”
Martin started to return indoors, but came out again.
“Sandwich? It’s no…”
“No. Really. You’re very kind, but…”
“Are you sure? I’ve got jam. Raspberry jam. Seedless. Or cheese and pickle. Some nice mature cheddar, I think…”
“Absolutely. Don’t worry about me. I’m great. Just so long as I’m not bothering you. I’m not, am I?” The man seemed suddenly concerned.
“You’re not bothering me. No. Good gracious…”
“Good. Phew. I’m glad about that,” he chuckled.
“OK. Fair enough, then. I’ll leave you in peace, then,” said Martin, backing away into his house. “Sorry to bother you, then.”
“Not a huge fan of pickle, to be honest,” called out the man, as Martin closed the front door.
That night in bed Martin rolled over and put one arm round Cheryl. Her warmth radiated in a way that he found really nice and he moved over, snuggling into her back, his body fitting round hers. She felt his little twinges down below against her buttocks.
“Don’t,” she said, then again, a bit more spikily: “Don’t.”
He eased away. Loosened his attachment to her. The stickiness of his perspiration came away from her like old sticky tape and he lay on his back.
Cheryl lay on her back too.
“Well we can’t, can we?” she said, giving a little nod towards the window.
“Sorry,” said Martin. And he genuinely was. He searched for her hand in the dark and brought it to his lips and kissed it and shortly thereafter put it away again.
A few minutes later he realised his bladder was fairly full and he didn’t want to put all that effort into going to sleep now only for it to wake him up again, desperate, so he got up, mumbling another “Sorry” as he padded to the bathroom and open the sluice gate into the bowl. He would have considered his own reflection, had the mirror been hung correctly. As it was, he saw only his wonky chin, stubbly jowls, misshapen man-breasts and pallid skin. His face above the nostrils non-existent.
The flush still echoing through the house, he saw that Cheryl was already snoring. The shadow of the crucifixion outside was projected onto the bedroom windows by one of the bilious street lamps. Standing beside the bed Martin parted the curtains a few inches and peeked out.
The man was still there on the cross, though instead of looking up at him as he was outside, Martin was looking directly at him, slightly from behind. Martin was a bit taken aback when the man turned his head, but the man just smiled and raised his eyebrows slightly—like when you passed someone in a corridor and they didn’t want to say anything, perhaps because they were on their mobile or in the middle of talking to somebody else. As if to say: All right?
Martin smiled and nodded back, then let the curtains close.
He sat on his side of the bed for a minute with his hands between his knees. Then he got in. Cheryl was still snoring, but he just lay there staring at the ceiling for hours. He didn’t know why. He really didn’t. Something was keeping him awake and he didn’t know what. Perhaps he was thinking. He didn’t think he was thinking, but perhaps he was.
He waited for Cheryl to finish with the butter and then took a pyramidal cut off one corner himself. He looked at her fearing he was about to be told off again, so scooped a little of what he’d taken and put it back onto the yellow brick in the butter dish. The trouble was, a little curl of croissant went with it so he had to negotiate that back off with the tip of his knife. His life was full of such hazards these days. Before he’d even had a mouthful of breakfast he felt emotionally exhausted. The anxiety had drained him. He sipped his tea and started to recover a modicum of composure. He’d begun to feel a little light headed.
“I wonder if he’s all right?” he said as he put the cup down.
“Of course he’s all right,” said Cheryl. “He probably volunteered.” She turned down Thought For The Day with a dismissive flick of the dial.
“What if he didn’t?” said Martin.
“Of course he volunteered,” she said pulling on her coat. “It was his choice. Some people will do anything to get a bit of attention. While the rest of us get on with our daily toil, not saying boo to a goose. Minding our own businesses. He’s after a bit of limelight, that’s what it is. Well, on his own head be it, I say.” She put the butter back in the fridge, just when Martin was considering having a sliver more. She pushed her chair back under the kitchen table. “That’s what’s wrong with this country these days, if you ask me. People wanting a lot of attention instead of just getting on with things.”
“Do you want some more toast?”
“Martin, if I wanted two slices of toast I’d have put two slices in the toaster. I put in one slice. What does that tell you?”
And with that, she went off to work.
“Oh. Hello there. Nice day,” said the man up on the cross.
Martin squinted at the sky over the Downs. “Not too bad. Bit cloudy. You never know. Could be a drop of rain later.”
“The gardens need it, mind.”
“Tea?” Martin asked.
“You’re all right.”
“Positive, thanks.” The man turned his head and looked down at him. An awkward movement, given his predicament. Then he relaxed into his usual, cruciform, position.
“Do you want a chat?” asked Martin.
“No. You’re all right,” the man said. After a moment adding: “Do you?”
“Only you’re, well… I don’t know. Lingering.”
“Am I? Sorry…”
“No, no, don’t worry. But… Do you?”
Martin said: “No, no, no. But if you want to… I don’t mind…”
“No, it’s all right.”
“Actually, I’m quite busy at the moment, actually.” For some reason unfathomable to himself Martin looked at his watch.
“Oh, well. I won’t keep you. Thanks for asking anyway,” said the man.
“Thanks for asking if I wanted a chat. Even though I didn’t.” He smiled.
His face seemed quite bright today and Martin wondered why that was. He looked a bit sunburned. A bit glowing.
“Yes.” Martin turned one foot then the other to go back inside. “Er… Sorry to bother you,” he said under his breath. Then “Sorry” again into his coffee mug. The Keep Calm and Carry On one.
“No problem,” said the man.
One hand in his trouser pocket with his loose change, Martin looked at one shoe then the other, for no particular reason. Then the same hand rubbed the back of his neck.
“Found it a bit difficult to sleep, to be truthful with you.”
“Oh dear,” said the man, no less than crestfallen. “There’s nothing worse than insomnia. Have you tried a little drop of lavender water on the pillow?
“No. I never thought of that. I don’t know if we’ve got lavender water, actually. In fact, I’m not sure what lavender water is.”
“It’s lavender, but it’s in water. You put it on your pillow to help you sleep.”
“Oh. Oh, I see. Thanks for that. That’s useful to know. I’ll bear that in mind.”
“You might find it helps. Worth a try.”
“Definitely. Can’t do any harm, can it?
“Thanks,” said Martin.“As I say…”
“My pleasure,” said the man. “Have a good day.”
At about three o’clock Martin took the stepladder out of the shed, lifted it over the grass-stained lawn mower and wound-up electric cable, and carried it through the house. Making sure its feet were secure—one was a bit uneven because it had lost its little orange plastic shoe—he climbed up, a weak tea with two sugars in his hand.
“Be careful. That’s a bit dangerous, that,” said the man.
“I’m all right,” said Martin. “Edmund Hillary, me.” He gave a little chuckle.
The man chuckled too. He sipped the tea and closed his eyes, savouring the experience.
“Gosh, that hits the spot, I tell you. That’s lovely.”
“Good. I’m glad. I was worried.”
“Don’t be,” said the man. “Worry doesn’t get you anywhere, does it?”
Cheryl arrived home from work as the light was fading and tigers were growling in the night air and the man on the cross heard her switch the engine off and crank the handbrake on. It had a bitter rasping sound that was finished off by the punctuation of a car door slam and the beep-clunk of the central locking.
“Good day?” he enquired as she strode to the front door.
“Not really,” she said, digging for her keys whilst pointedly not looking at him. “Pretty awful actually.”
“Oh, that’s a shame,” said the man. “Never mind, eh? Tomorrow is another day.”
She opened the door and closed it after her quickly, very quickly, with her heel.
“This is beyond a joke now. You really need to phone the council, Martin.”
“Do you think so?”
“Yes of bloody course I think so. Why is this happening in our front garden? Why isn’t it happening in somebody else’s?”
“I don’t like to complain. It might make things difficult for him.”
“For the man.”
“What about making things difficult for us? Because that’s what’s happening now. Things are difficult for us.”
“Are they? I don’t mind it, actually. I don’t care that much.”
“You don’t care that there’s a crucifixion in our front garden, blocking out entire view of the street, completely preventing the sun from going into our front room? It’s like a bloody dungeon in there. The room is uninhabitable. I think we deserve compensation, at the very least. At the very least we should find out about compensation.”
“I don’t mind really. And I know you think it’s because I’m a mouse, Cheryl, but it’s not because I’m a mouse. You just call me a mouse because I’m somebody you can shout at, and I don’t mind that normally, but in this instance I think I’m right, actually.”
Which was when, to his extreme surprise, she began to cry. Not just cry, but blubber.
Martin thought to himself, people say it was like a tap was turned on, but this was like a tap was turned on: gushing and stuttering and noisy, and he wanted to reach over and turn it off but he didn’t know how. He didn’t have the slightest idea how. He was still thinking about why.
And he was still wondering why, and thinking about how, when she straightened from that hunchy-over position that he’d never seen her in before, with her shoulders shuddering and her lip trembling and shiny and her cheeks wet, really wet, and was looking at him, really hard, and said:
“You’re not a mouse, Martin. You’re a bloody ant!”
And before he knew it the crying was gone because she was gone, and he went out and saw her office shoes lying in the hall under the radiator, one lying on its side, and heard her footsteps on the stairs. Then they weren’t.
He hovered the watering can over the bush of sage that looked as if it was past its best.
“I hope that wasn’t anything to do with me,” said the man on the cross. “It was, wasn’t it?”
“Not really,” said Martin.
“It was though, wasn’t it?”
Martin shook the last droplets over the sage. “She’s under a lot of pressure at the moment. They made redundancies at the job centre and she’d doing three people’s work. She gets shouted at a lot. By members of the public.”
“Oh, dear. That’s not fair, is it?”
Martin looked up. The light in the bedroom window went off.
“I’ll go and see if she’s all right. Do you mind?”
“Not at all. Take her a nice cup of tea. That tea you made me was lovely, by the way.”
“I will. That’s a good idea.”
“Goodbye, then. See you later.”
Martin took up a mug and placed in on the bedside table. She was covered completely by the duvet and he waited, then he left the room.
Sally rang at seven, as she always did on a Wednesday evening, to talk about herself. She was studying Politics, Psychology and Philosophy at Edinburgh and she stored up grievances the way a seagull stores food to regurgitate to its young. Except Sally didn’t regurgitate to her young. She regurgitated it to her mum and dad. Or her mum, usually.
This time, however, Martin said her mum was having a lie down, she’d had a busy day, he said he thought he could hear her running a bath. He considered whether Sally’d pick up that that was a euphemism and they’d had a row, but Sally wasn’t good at picking up on euphemisms. For someone studying Psychology, she didn’t pick up on much. Mainly because she wasn’t interested in listening.
“It’s a disaster,” was how she usually started. “Dad, you won’t believe this! I had a meeting with my personal tutor, OK, and he said, like, anything bothering you at the moment, anything I can help you with? So I said, well there’s this lecturer, Blah-Blah, and he just talks and none of us understand what he’s on about, and like, not just me, like everybody, and I said I told him once, look I don’t understand what you’re talking about, like at all, and he said, well, that’s your problem, really snooty and pompous, and I’m like, no, I don’t think so, you’re the teacher, if I’m not getting it, it’s not my fault, no way, your teaching is the problem. And do you believe this? What this personal tutor says to me, who’s supposed to be, like, really helpful? He says, do you think I look pale at the moment? No, like really? Do you think I look ill? And I’m like…”
Martin watched the hall clock ticking. His involvement in the conversation was not required. He sat beside the phone and made himself comfortable.
“So what’s happening your end?” Sally said after forty-five minutes. “You’ve been quiet. Any gossip down Bristol? Any news to report?”
“No,” Martin said. “No. Nothing.”
He brushed his teeth, remembering the instructions from the dentist, that just tasting the peppermint isn’t enough: two minutes minimum, and concentrate on the gums and the teeth will look after themselves. She was good, that dentist. Not particularly pretty, not particularly funny or nice—just good.
He lay in bed next to Cheryl, trying to pretend he wasn’t there. Trying to be soundless, invisible. But she was awake. She’d been awake all along. She’d been lying there thinking. What she might have been thinking frightened him.
In the dark, he heard her voice.
“Sometimes I just want somebody to say everything will be all right.” There were still tears in it, that voice.
“I do. I do say that. I am that person, Cheryl. You know I am.”
“And what if it’s not? What if everything’s not all right?”
“If it’s not, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “But we have to behave as though it will be, because otherwise, what’s the point? Eh?”
“You’re a kind man,” she said. “You’re a kind man, and I’m not.”
“You’re not a man at all, I hope,” Martin said, and she laughed, but the tears hadn’t gone yet. They were still there. And he could feel the salty sparkling of them back behind his eyes and nose. But he felt her turn on her side and felt the gentle weight of her arm across his chest, and he turned over taking her hand with him, and kissed it and held it to his heart.
He scooped two heaped spoonfuls of sugar into the weak tea and went outside, a slight spring in his step, staying there for a full ten seconds staring at his front lawn before returning indoors.
“He’s gone,” he said.
The garden was empty.
A neat square of turf had been replaced in the position where the hole had been filled in.
Funny he never heard the council van pull up or any sound of the workmen dismantling the thing they’d erected so noisily only a few of days before. Was it only a few days before? Funny.
Funny the man never said goodbye.
But then, Martin remembered, he had. That’s exactly what he had said.
Martin watched the tea go down the plughole. Cheryl put her arms round him from behind. Radio Four was on and Nick Robinson was interviewing a Tory politician who was trying in vain to squeeze a word in edgeways.
“Ah well,” Martin said, attempting to be cheery. “All sorted. All back to normal.”
When all the tea was gone and swished down, he switched off the taps.
“Back to normal,” Cheryl said.
And he wondered if she sounded a little bit sad, too. Or did he imagine it? He imagined it, probably.
That night there was a knock on the door, just after the last drumbeats of EastEnders had faded. One of the neighbours was standing there against a backdrop of darkness. The shiny cove who ran the off license. Head shaped like a kidney bean. Pipecleaner wife standing next to him, now saying perkily: “Have you heard the good news?”
Martin hesitated sheepishly, his eyes darting left and right momentarily, then took the monumental decision to shake his head.
The cove leaned in conspiratorially, bald head crossing his threshold: “Those bloody West Indians at number twenty-seven are moving out. Bloody good riddance, I say.”
They spoke more, but Martin wasn’t listening. He zoned out like he did when Sally was on the phone. In fact, curiously, he was thinking of Sally now, and thinking that they should go up to Scotland and visit her. He missed her. He missed her an awful lot, all of a sudden. And in any case, it would save a mint on phone bills. He would talk to Cheryl about it. He would definitely talk to Cheryl about it. And before he knew it, he was closing the door in their faces and rather pleased with himself for doing so, because they hadn’t stopped talking yet.
Next morning, first thing, before sitting at the kitchen table full of sunlight, Martin kissed his wife on the lips.
“This toast is lovely.”
“Same old toast.”
“Same old toast is lovely,” one of them said to the other.
“Easter” was first published in Where The Heart Is, anthology edited by Gary Fry, published by Gray Friar Press, 2010. It was reprinted in Stephen Volk’s single-author collection Monsters in the Heart in 2013.
Steve’s most recent works of fiction are the collection The Parts We Play and the much-praised volume, The Dark Masters Trilogy; three stories featuring Peter Cushing, Alfred Hitchcock and Dennis Wheatley respectively – with a guest appearance by Aleister Crowley.
STEPHEN VOLK is best known as the writer of the BBC’s notorious “Halloween hoax” Ghostwatch and the award-winning ITV drama series Afterlife starring Andrew Lincoln and Lesley Sharp. His other screenplays include Midwinter of the Spirit, Shockers, The Awakening starring Rebecca Hall and Dominic West, and Gothic starring Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley. His novellas and short stories have been chosen for Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Best New Horror, Best British Mysteries, and Best British Horror, he is a Bram Stoker Award and Shirley Jackson Award finalist, a BAFTA winner, and the author of three collections: Dark Corners, Monsters in the Heart (which won the British Fantasy Award), and The Parts We Play. The Dark Masters Trilogy is arguably his most acclaimed fiction so far, consisting of Whitstable, featuring the late horror film star Peter Cushing; Leytonstone, based on the boyhood of Alfred Hitchcock; and Netherwood, featuring both the novelist Dennis Wheatley and the occultist Aleister Crowley. His provocative non-fiction is collected in Coffinmaker’s Blues: Collected Writings on Terror (PS Publishing, 2019).
You can find out more about Stephen via his official website www.stephenvolk.net
You can follow Stephen on Twitter @Stevevolkwriter
Whitstable – 1971
Peter Cushing, grief-stricken over the loss of his wife and soul-mate, is walking along a beach near his home. A little boy approaches him, taking him to be the famous vampire-hunter Van Helsing from the Hammer films, begs for his expert help…
Leytonstone – 1906
Young Alfred Hitchcock is taken by his father to visit the local police station. There he suddenly finds himself, inexplicably, locked up for a crime he knows nothing about—the catalyst for a series of events that will scar, and create, the world’s leading Master of Terror…
Netherwood – 1947
Best-selling black magic novelist Dennis Wheatley finds himself summoned mysteriously to the aid of Aleister Crowley—mystic, reprobate, The Great Beast 666, and dubbed by the press ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’—to help combat a force of genuine evil…
The Parts We Play
An illusionist preparing his latest, most audacious trick . . . A movie fan hiding from a totalitarian regime . . . A pop singer created with the perfect ingredients for stardom . . . A folklorist determined to catch a supernatural entity on tape . . . A dead child appearing to her mother in the middle of a supermarket aisle . . . A man who breaks the ultimate taboo—but does that make him a monster? . . .
In this rich and varied collection of Stephen Volk’s best fiction to date, characters seek to be the people they need to be, jostled by hope, fears, responsibility, fate, and their own inner demons—and desires. These tales of the lies and lives we live and the pasts we can’t forget include the British Fantasy Award-winning novella, Newspaper Heart.