Lethe Rising – The Monkey

The Pool – From the novella – Lethe Rising

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The monkey was ancient, as toys went, its fur worn and grubby, its stitching loose and in parts, missing. He lifted it closer to his face and smelled the fabric. Mildew and years, coldness and closeness. He replaced it, thinking perhaps he should have given it to one of the kids in the group. Or Patrick’s boy, William.


He stumbled as the name scissored through his mind. How could he know that? He thought of Patrick and the flash of recognition. What was that? Their house was far behind him now, consumed by the mist and the water. How did he know them? He thought of the strange sense of abandonment, the emptiness, their emptiness. There, but not there.

Had he known him? He searched his memory, and came away as cloudy and confused as the currents around him. He pulled up his collar, shivering as an icy rivulet snaked down his neck and his back, a knife-blade of sensation. The rain eased off but the flood still grew higher. He wiped liquid from his eyes, breathing hard. Had he known Patrick, William?

You should at least know if you don’t.

“But I don’t know,” he said, the wind stealing his words.

Then what do you know?

He walked in silence, heading towards the city. “I don’t know,” he said after a while.

Don’t you think that’s strange? 

Daniel shrugged deeper into the jacket and kept walking. “I need to find Kei.”

You’re changing the subject.

“OK,” he said. “No one knows everything.”

It’s not everything. It’s a person. So do you know him, or not?

Daniel stopped. “I don’t know.”

Lethe Rising is a dark psychological fantasy available on all Amazon stores.

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Artwork by Christian Ronquillo. You can see more of his work here.

Lethe Rising – Evacuation

Evacuation – From the novella – Lethe Rising

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“Sir, get aboard now.”

“No, I don’t think so.”

The sergeant snapped his fingers and two privates hopped down and took position beside him. Daniel felt himself drifting. This was like a movie. He’d seen this somewhere before. None of this felt new. He looked to the man to his right. Red hair poking out from beneath a helmet, tobacco stained teeth, lopsided smile just on the malevolent side of neutral…he knew this.

The red-haired soldier took his arm and guided him to the back of the truck. Daniel stepped onboard and found a place standing next to another man. Curiosity exhausted, the rest of the evacuees looked away and went back to their own concerns. The soldiers jumped in last and shut the tailgate.

They took off with a lurch, exhausts pumping black diesel smoke into the dark air.

“Where are we going?” asked Daniel as they veered around a clot of stalled cars.

“The docks, Sir. Only way out now, innit?” said the red-headed soldier, “Where else? Wouldn’t want to be around these parts in the next day or so.”

“The docks?”

“Brass are cutting it bloody fine, if you ask me,” he said, more to himself, “It’s going to get nasty before long.”

“Freddy!” barked the other soldier.

“Yeah. Sorry.” He looked away.

Daniel held on as a bump made him lurch close to one of the other men. His head swum. The truck pulled into another street, becoming last in a convoy of three others packed with the same odd mixture of passengers. Each of the trucks a relic, he wondered what museum the army raided to get them into action.

Looking around he barely recognised the city, yet there was something naggingly familiar about the layout of the buildings they passed. They splashed into a smaller road, following the flow of water. Daniel clenched his fingers into fists, fighting the sense of being sucked into a dream. Everything felt real. Nothing felt right.

He glanced at some of the other passengers. Fear etched their mouths taut and killed conversation. They were terrified, but he realised, willing. What did they know that he didn’t? He paused. What did he know?

A little boy clung to a blue toy tractor, an old fashioned suitcase at his feet. Near him stood his parents. The father’s hand on his shoulder, the other around the waist of his wife. Her face pale, eyes bloodshot from crying, tears the colour of rain. She fidgeted with an embroidered handkerchief. He looked at the boy’s toy a second time, drawn to the bright blue paint, the red piping, small rubber wheels. Not plastic, he noted. Not like these days when everything was cheap and brittle. He hadn’t seen one of those tractors in years.

He scanned again, and as he did a blanket of cold wrapped itself around him. This wasn’t real. They didn’t make tin toys like that anymore. He edged toward the back, avoiding the disinterested gazes of the soldiers. As they rounded another corner he knew where he was.

And it couldn’t be true.

Lethe Rising is a dark psychological fantasy available on all Amazon stores.

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Artwork by Christian Ronquillo. You can see more of his work here.

Lethe Rising – The Monk

The Monk – From the novella – Lethe Rising

FREE on AMAZON from now to 6th July


The Monster had taken her face, her voice, her scent. But it hadn’t taken this.

The memory of the alley was as clear and textured as one of the paintings. The sounds of monkeys stacked in cages, the smell of parrots and finches, the noise and the stench of them was all there, raucous and vibrant and stinking of life and animal excitement.

The sun was setting somewhere behind them, painting fire on the bamboo and wood, splashing the shopfronts red and umber and making inky caves of the interiors. It was a happy wrong turn that brought them here to this market, and he smiled in remembrance. They walked together, he knew. Her hand in his. He felt the pressure of her palm, the little signals of her fingers as they played to their own secret rhythm in his.

She told him about poetry, about Yeats and Wordsworth and Milton and Dante and Byron and Coleridge as the monkeys hooted and the cats screamed.

“They are great journeys,” she said. “They take you places you’ve never been. They let you feel, let you become people you could never be.”

“I like the journey I’m on now,” he said.

She would have smiled at that, he knew, but he’d given the Monster her face.

They were about to turn away when the smell of smoke drew them deeper into the alley. Walking around a corner, away from the ranks of animals he saw a monk sitting in the shadows. He pulled a shred of paper from a pile, held it over a small brazier and let burning shreds drift away on their own convection.

The monk ignored them. The place was full of ash, the stink of burnt and burning paper pungent. Another memory left to him. But not her face.

A burned tatter landed on her shoulder and he brushed it off, leaving a grey smear on her blouse.

“What is he doing?” he asked.

“Praying.” She took out a journal and scribbled something on it, then passed it to the monk. The old man accepted the page, along with a coin, and held the paper over the brazier.

“What was that?” he asked.

“A little prayer of my own,” she said.

“What did you pray for?”

“Poetry,” she said.

Lethe Rising is a dark psychological fantasy available on all Amazon stores.

Check out Amazon and Amazon UK.

Artwork by Christian Ronquillo. You can see more of his work here.

Lethe Rising – The Pool

The Pool – From the novella – Lethe Rising

FREE on AMAZON from now to 6th July.

LetheRising-004_v3Seconds later the doors opened into a vaulted underground pool. Daniel was struck by the way light from the water reflected off the tiles on the roof, alive and shimmering. He stepped into the room, blinking in disbelief at the scale of it all, intimidated and stilled by the rippling depths of greens as they gave way to darker colours.

“This is the pool,” she said quietly. “This is where they went.”

Daniel walked along the ledge, captivated by the diamond-cuts of light and the immersion of colour. The water smelled fresh and earthy, like rain. He kneeled, straining against the unfamiliar restrictions of the overalls, dipped his hand. Water trickled off his fingers, ice cold, ice clear.

“I don’t think you should be so close.”

He turned to her, flushed.

“I’m sorry. I have never seen a place like this before.”

She tilted her head. “It is beautiful. It reminds me of a place I went to when I was little.”

He nodded, not sure whether he was acknowledging her, or agreeing. “This building,” he said, “seems to be familiar.”

“A famous building, maybe,” she said. “There may be books. I think it’s the kind of place people would write books about.”

“Yes, perhaps it’s that.”

“This is where they went,” she said again.

“Who went?”

She crossed her arms against the cold, looking willowy in the brown jumper as she closed the distance to stand by him. “The people I said before.”

He dipped his fingers into the water again, then thinking better of it stood back. He turned to her. “Did someone drown here?”

She titled her head again as if searching for the right word. “No, that’s not what I meant to say. What I said is this is where they went. They are gone.”

He blinked, realising he was staring. “I don’t understand.”

“See?” she said and turned him to face one of the walls.

“Look at what?”

She pointed. “That.”

He stared before moving closer to the wall. A muddy line ran along the tiles about chest height to him. He reached out and touched it, and his fingers came away bearing a load of fine silt. He sniffed it. Stepping back he glanced left and right, seeing the high water mark stretch away around the whole perimeter of the room.

“The water rises,” said Kei. “To here. Then falls again. When it started rising the first time, people came here.”

“So where did they go?” Daniel wiped the mud from his fingers. “I don’t understand.”

“Why not?” she said, “Water is your business. This is why I called you.”

Lethe Rising is a dark psychological fantasy available on all Amazon stores.

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Artwork by Christian Ronquillo. You can see more of his work here.

Lethe Rising – An Exhibition of Drowning

An Exhibition of Drowning – From the novella – Lethe Rising

An Exhibition of Drowning

The walls curved up and around him, like vaults, and he realised they must be deep in the hull. He found her sitting on a metal grill in the centre of this empty space, looking at a display behind glass. The room wasn’t like the interior of a boat anymore. The hold, if this is what it was, had been refit into a museum with displays and dioramas either side of a central walk. He kneeled beside her and she stared at him, her eyes wide.

“Come on,” he said, “let’s go. I think the ship’s drifting from the pier.” He looked at her. “We’ll be OK.”

“No we won’t.”

“It’s just the power. We’re fine.” But his words sounded hollow.

She shook her head, but allowed him to help her stand.

“No,” she said, “it’s not the power.”

He followed her gaze, and with eyes better adjusted to the red light, could see the display. He blinked as the coldness from before grasped him tighter.

It was an exhibition of drowning.

He turned, taking in dioramas of men and women frozen in time as epoxy water filled their cabins. He saw the panic and fear, the resignation and on some —  bright, confused anger. To his right, paintings picked out in blues and greens, now rendered black in the emergency lighting; of families struggling upwards under the pressure of tones of water, desperately seeking pockets of air. Faces, wide-eyed, distended in fear. Suitcases floating around them, spilling out photos and toys, precious things that would never again see the sun. Behind him, enclosed in display cases, mannequins in civilian clothes clawed their hands just beyond the painted surface of waves, pinned down by debris from a burning ship.

“We have to go,” he breathed.

Lethe Rising is a dark psychological fantasy available on Amazon.

Artwork by Christian Ronquillo. You can see more of his work here.

Lethe Rising – The Man in the Rain

The Man in the Rain – From the novella – Lethe Rising


“A drop of rain and everyone turns into a bastard.”

Daniel turned to a man, mid-fifties standing next to him, face creased in fierce concentration as he shielded his eyes from the rain. Road-spray stained his grey suit black, his legs a startling white under his rolled-up trousers. The businessman grimaced as he surveyed the street. “One small thing and it all goes to hell.” He wielded a newspaper, an oblique totem in this digital age, like a baton, coiled and dense. Tiny black print smeared over his fingers which gripped the pages too tightly, stained where they touched the paper. His fingernails compressed, white with pressure.

“One goddam small thing and people start going crazy.”

Daniel nodded as he shook out a cigarette.

“Got to keep your hand in the game or you wake up dead, know what I mean?”

Daniel’s head nodded in an automatic courtesy but his lips betrayed him. “No.”

The businessman took his gaze from the sky and planted it on him. “You get old and the things you think you knew you don’t know so much anymore. You can hide from it like a crab in a hole and wait to die or stay out in the sun. Me, I choose sun.” He smiled and the landscape of his face made his eyes reflective. “Not so much sun these days though.”

The cigarette burned low as people pushed past, taking advantage of the break in the traffic to move without getting soaked.  “Well,” said Daniel, dropping the butt into the water where it bobbed and rolled with the rest of the litter into the mouth of a drain, “need to keep going.”

The older man’s eyes dried and glinted with blades of regret. His hand raised, enough to cast a shadow over his face in the sudden glare of a streetlight.

“Do that then. Keep moving son. Keep remembering.”

“Do we know each other?” Daniel asked as something like recognition lit up a corner of his mind.

The other man smiled and shook his head. “Everyone knows everyone in this damn place,” he said, “You mark my words.”

Lethe Rising is a dark psychological fantasy available on Amazon.

Artwork by Christian Ronquillo. You can see more of his work here.

Lethe Rising – Paper Boat

The Paper Boat – From the novella – Lethe Rising


Closing his eyes, he allowed in the sensations of the day. Warmth and sunlight, honey coloured shadows and the scent of spring flowers. Water glittered like laughter in the stream below the field at the end of the gardens. Above, the clouds twisted in the blueness of the sky, spelling incomprehensible words. The sun, high and hot was no colour at all.

And himself? Empty, almost perfectly empty. Then a memory came along and ruined it all.

She took the boat from him and turned it over, examining its geometry. He knew without asking if he passed her a sheet of her own she’d reproduce the little origami craft exactly. Her hands were small and long-fingered with nails cut short. Musician’s fingers.

“What should we name her?” she asked.

He shrugged.

“You’re hopeless,” she said, turning over the little craft. “She shall be the River Princess.” Kneeling by the edge of the little stream, she placed the tiny boat as far toward the middle as she could manage. The water took hold of the paper and gently spun it from her hand.

They stood back as it bumped into a rock before spinning free. “She’s a sturdy ship,” she said.

He nodded. “Yes she is.”

They waited until the River Princess disappeared around a bend in the stream. The water gurgled over rocks. Sunlight filled the air with reflections.

“Let’s make another one,” he said.

She took his hand. “No. She’s unique. She needs to make this journey alone.”

Lethe Rising is a dark psychological fantasy available on Amazon.

Artwork by Christian Ronquillo. You can see more of his work here.