Thanks for coming! The waiting is over, and the hot, bright white lights are coming on. There will be nowhere to hide for the next nine days as each day brings a new story, and a new take on the theme "Unsettled."
Right. Let's get to it!
Our first story is from someone who will be very familiar to followers of noir fiction. Richard Godwin's "Laughing City" stories over at Thrillers, Killers n' Chillers are some of their most-read tales, and with good reason.
His story "Blister Pack" was featured in last year's "Eight Days of Madness" blogfest and subsequent anthology, and was also one of the most discussed stories of the entire event. Mr. Godwin excels at presenting stories with a heady mixture of intellect and sudden, visceral horror.
Without further prologue, I'll let his words speak for him. Here is "Schizo Numericus".
~~ 9DOM ~~Schizo Numericus
Simeon Archer rose in the leprous dawn and wandered the streets seeking relief from a violent erection. He held his trench coat around his sweating midriff and saw in the gray air the shape of the woman who would banish his feverish urges. For days now he’d heard the noise of chains at night, a steady, slow, metronomic, clanging of metal links inhumanly large and coming his way. They edged over some metal wall and he wondered where the noise emanated from. The thought of abattoirs, and mechanical hangings of slaughtered animals staring blindly at night, resided like a bruise in his thinking. It was if some mechanism wanted to trap him and he resisted it with numbers, pursuing complex mathematical algorithms down endless numerical corridors. The only thing, he told himself, that could shake it off was nocturnal sex of the kind that feeds the lycanthrope’s needs. Someone had sent a wraith his way and he would expel it with sudden coitus.
He was a neat man, precise to the point of mania. An accountant by profession, he’d lived happily with his wife Doris for years without an inch of infidelity between them. But ever since she changed her perfume he’d become obsessed by the need for flesh. Women who passed him in the street gave off a heat that stirred him in ways he found unfathomable and inconsistent with his character. He’d studied every definition of psychosis and concluded that he was not suffering from a mental problem but one which needed a practical solution. To him the urge to copulate with strangers was an equation that could only be solved by an act of sudden sexual mania.
He was caught in the spectroscope of Tarski-Banach decompositions and harnessed all flesh to the binary world he inhabited.
Maths had always been his salvation. As a boy he used to study numbers with the fever of the religious and he often thought if people knew their power they would be afraid of them.
They kept things at a distance. His love of them was commensurate with his distaste for mirrors which he refused to have in his house.
He wanted the Tessaract to govern the tidal movements of bodies, fervid in their craving for penetration and the flux of fluids.
‘You can see all you need to on a calculator’, he said to Doris.
Her need for feminine finery was to him a betrayal of reason.
‘We are all a series of numbers’, he said.
At the edge of an alley overrun with broken bottles and crushed beer cans he found her, alone and dozing in a drunken stupor. He leaned forward and lifted her skirt.
The next day as he rose from bed and found Doris making toast in the kitchen he felt he’d pulled a muscle. He was unsure how it had happened and he went to work dismissing it as an irrelevance. He sat all morning filling in his planner, adding appointments and cross-referencing as he always did.
And yet something wasn’t right. His body was not his own. It was an algorithm set there by an innumerate impostor. He felt unlike himself, as if another had entered him and mocked his daily proceedings. As he sat eating his sandwich, chewing into the white bread he heard it before he saw the blood. The splattering noise entered his head and he thought of vomit spraying the ground. Looking down he saw his planner coated in blood.
Something landed on the carpet and he saw his paperknife lodged there. He looked around the room to find it empty. He considered some automorphism was at work. As he called the police and reported the attack he saw his face in the window and the fresh cut on his cheek and he remembered how she clawed the first time he did it. A voice in his head told him lies and he sat with his hands over his ears until the police arrived. They took him to a station where they showed him old movies in which a man walked the streets at night, a blurred shadow beneath lamp posts, passing shops. The film was about a vagrant who attacked women.
‘I wouldn’t pay to see a film like this’, he told them. ‘There’s no plot, although the actor looks familiar.’
They shook their heads and took him to a hotel. He’d worked for clients like them before. He sat in the car thinking he would put in a hefty bill.
He thought of Bankoff’s conundrum. He found his listing on the Banzhaf index, a fraudulent mirror image of him. They could not steal him from his rational clutch. They could not formulate identity.
The hotel was disappointing, cramped, squalid and unfriendly, the tenants were diseased, a miserable lot who spoke in riddles. He thought he would do the job and leave.
He could apply Galois extensions to find out who these people were who tenanted his singular world. But he realised the gradient of crime was rehearsed in space.
‘The room’s not big enough’, he said to a waiter who was dressed all in white. ‘Bring me my planner.’
But they left him alone and he sat there waiting, hearing the scraping noise of canine teeth on bone.
He decided he would re-plan himself according to an exact mathematical principle.
~~ 9 DOM ~~
Richard Godwin is the author of Apostle Rising and is a widely published crime and horror writer. His second novel Mr. Glamour is out now and is available online and at all good retailers. It is about a glamorous world with a predator in its midst and is already attracting great reviews.
His Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse are interviews he has conducted with writers and can be found at the blog on his website here where you
can also find a full list of his works.
can also find a full list of his works.