Sunday, June 1, 2014

#BLauthor8: R.M.F. Brown

R.M.F. Brown tweets!
Follow him @RMFBrown.

#BLauthor8 is R.M.F. Brown.

R.M.F.Brown (1983 -) was born in Fife, Scotland. A writer for over ten years, his works include: Death to Love, Dr Acula's book of horror, and A rat's war. He has had various short stories and reviews published in a diverse range of publications from Spiked Online, Cassiopeia Magazine, Stalking Elk, The An Lucht Lonrach project, Paragraph Planet, The Puffin Review, and recently, his work has been published in The clock struck war, an anthology of stories by Mardibooks. His influences include Michael Moorcock, Stephen King, HG Wells, and Alfred Bester. A historian, poet, philosopher, and cartographer, Brown is a multi-genre author who dabbles in crime, sci-fi, horror, historical, and romantic fiction. He also freelances as a film critic for TV Bomb. He is currently a Twitter user for the time being.

Here's a short piece of fiction by Brown, plus art by Kelene Karetski.

"1968," by Kelene Karetski

Crowning over the main road, its gardens filled with all the colours of summer, stood Maybury hill. Its moss lined walls, its pristine lawns, a collection of flora that would have made a botanist weep, alluded to the locally held view that this was the nearest thing to heaven the inhabitants were likely to see. And yet, a dark shadow hung over the place, not from within, old Mrs. Crawford was as gentle and courteous as could be, her manners and civility spoken of in glowing tones. Rather, it was the figure that walked the cracked paving slabs filled with moss, towards the front door. A figure that was dressed all in black, an air of menace following him, and a cold, hardened face that cared not for the simple pleasures of Maybury hill.

The man in black rapped heavily on the brass door knocker on an imposing looking front door, breaking the tranquility of the scene. Moments later, the door swung open, and Mrs. Crawford stood there, the smell of warm bread wafting out from behind her.

“Mr. Grant. How nice to see you,” greeted Mrs. Crawford.

Grant stood there, his heavy coat pulled around his neck despite the heat of the day. His shaved head and bulldog like expression sneered at this display of old world courtesy.

“Mrs.. Crawford. You know why I'm here, of course?”

Mrs. Crawford feigned surprise. “Of course not, but I'm sure it is important. Why don't you come in for a cup of tea?”

Crawford decided to humour this little old lady, and stepped over the threshold into a hall filled with shelves of books, its walls lined with classic paintings. There was an air of pleasantry here, and Crawford did not like it, deliberately banging louder on the polished floorboards as Mrs. Crawford led him towards a conservatory.

The conservatory was more a botanic garden, stuffed with plants and blooms, its air thick with the scent of flowers, the occasional bee dancing amongst the bright petals. Grant sat down in the seat offered to him by Mrs. Crawford, shifting uncomfortably in the delicate wooden chair, taking the measure of the woman sat before him. She was old, in her seventies at least, her white hair offset by the blue dress she wore. She had little in the way of jewelry, but had a permanent look of joy on her face that made Grant want to wipe it off. Well, perhaps he might get the chance.

Grant reached into his coat pocket, producing an envelope and placed on the table, Mrs. Crawford barely glanced at it as she poured them both tea into delicate china cups. “This is Mr. Smith's final offer,” he said.

“I see. Would you like sugar and cream with your tea?”

Grant ignored the request, and made his case. “It's the same offer as last time. Mr. Smith felt slightly insulted that his generous offer would be ignored out of hand…”

Mrs. Crawford sat herself down, and sipped at her tea. “The secret's in the brewing. Always use fresh water, fresh leaves, and most importantly, let it breathe. Far too many people are in too much of a hurry these days, rather spoils a good cup of tea.”

Grant sat there stony faced, feeling slightly claustrophobic as the blooms seemed to close in on him, once or twice thinking that branches were creeping towards his neck.

“That's his final offer; I suggest you take it…”

The mood changed, like night into day, a small furrow appearing on Mrs. Crawford's face as she placed her cup down on the table. “Mr. Grant, I never thought I'd live to see the day I would be threatened in my own house!”

“Nobody is threatening anybody…yet,” said Grant, his teeth flashing the smile of the predator.

“And yet, your Mr. Smith seems rather eager to have me out of the house at any price. If anybody should be insulted, then it's me at having being offered such a paltry offer. My late husband, bless him, built this house with his own hands, stocked it with the plants he had acquired on his travels, and now you say this house is to be torn down to satisfy the whims of a property developer and his plans for a supermarket. Over my dead body!”

Grant seemed unimpressed by this bluster, as he scratched away at one of the many scars that crisscrossed his broken nose. “Let's hope it doesn't come to that, but you do remember Mr. Parker, don't you?”

Mrs. Crawford stared at him coldly. “How could I forget.”

Grant shook his head in mock surprise. “Terrible thing, a man of his age, the stress and strains too much for his heart, or so the doctor said. Terrible thing…” Grant let the words hang in the air.

There was a scraping of chairs as Mrs. Crawford stood up abruptly. “I'm rather busy, Mr. Grant, and I must be getting on.”

Grant stood up. “Of course, we're all busy people,” he said as he was led to the front door. “Have a think about the offer in the envelope, but don't think about it too long,” laughed Grant, as the door slammed shut behind him.

Mrs. Crawford slumped down against the door, it was all she could do to quell the rising anger at the thought of her husband's vast collections of books and plants torn down by vandals. Her blood boiled. She stared at the liver spots on her hands, veins showing through thin skin, the wrinkles on her legs. What could an old woman do to fight back? And even if she didn't, if she sold up, where would she go? She stalked the halls of her home, taking in its stateliness, the opulence that reeked from every pore. She stared out of the window into the gardens, took in the rows of blooms, carefully attended to by bees, and then she smiled.

Grant got the phone call the next day, a beautiful summer's day, not a cloud in the sky, gentle heat beating down from the sun. Mrs. Crawford greeted him at the front door.

“Mr. Grant, I called you here to discuss your offer, perhaps we could walk amongst the gardens; it gets terribly stuffy in here.”

Grant nodded, heart filled with triumph, already planning on what to spend his bonus on as Mrs. Crawford led him through the house, out the back door, and down some stone stairs into the gardens. Even a man like Grant could not failed to be impressed by the rows of flowers, the carefully tended lawns, the overwhelming scents that filled the nostrils.

The scents were overpowering, lulling him into a false sense of security. He barely took notice of Mrs. Crawford pointing out her particular favourites, or regaling him with a story of the efforts her late husband went through in order to obtain a particular specimen.

The bees swarmed angrily, almost repulsed by his presence. Grant made to leave, but the path seemed to have disappeared; only hedges were stone had once lay.

Panicking, he made to cross a flower bed, but this seemed only to annoy them further, as bees flew perilously close to him. His arm lashed out, swatting them away, but the bees were legion, closing in on him.

"Skulls and Crosses," by Kelene Karetski

He barely noticed when she disappeared, losing him in a series of twists and turns within this labyrinthine garden, and was suddenly afraid when he stood there all alone, save for the company of a dozen bee hives.

Blundering, Grant lashed out, losing his balance, careening head first into a hive, smashing it to pieces as the construction hit the ground.

Some distance away, Mrs. Crawford sipped gently at her cup of tea; smiling slightly as harsh screams rang out, abruptly cutting off moments later.

The following summer, friends of Mrs. Crawford could not forget seeing her in such good spirits as she led them around the garden, being particularly pleased when she pointed out how well the petunias seemed to be growing this year.

Co-editor Stephanie Crets on R.M.F. Brown: "Hyacinth" paints quite the creepy picture of intrigue, mystery, and even horror from the seemingly normal opening to its startling conclusion. This story is concise, but I like it that way. My least favorite part of horror stories is when the horror is over-explained or completely revealed. And this leaves us with both satisfaction for the main character (I could call her a protagonist, but we don't know if that's truly the case), but also wonder. I have so many questions with only a few answers. Do I need to know the logistics of what happened? Do I need to know this woman's backstory? No. Instead I can imagine. This story really stayed with me after I read it. I do crave more, but I'm also content with this self-contained piece. I hope you enjoyed it, too.

About the artist, Kelene Karetski: My inspirations come from the masters with Picasso being one of my favorites. I keep creating art which helps me strive to be better in my work and to push myself as far as I can go in imagination. I love color and I use it a lot in my paintings and drawings. I mainly paint in acrylic on canvas but also on wood and paper.