Dark Ouroboros

New SciFi book by Michael Barley out soon

Captain Celeste and her handpicked planetary crew of scientific experts are suddenly called away from their cozy survey mission to investigate the colonised planet, Ouroboros. The planet has gone dark—nothing in, nothing out.

What they find goes beyond their most lethal dreams and unfathomable understanding. 

The Blacklight’s crew are pitted against a freezing planet that does not welcome strangers, but as her team discovers, Celeste is no ordinary Captain. With her help they must use all their courage and survival skills to protect the dwindling colonists and themselves from ever increasing horrors, and solve the riddles of the planet’s otherworldly creatures and geographic anomalies. 

From our Milky Way to the Andromeda Galaxy the unprepared crew must unravel the clues before they become trapped in the crushing embrace of the the strangest planet in the Universe, Dark Ouroboros.

Out in hardcopy and ebook very soon. 

Stalking the Dark City

A Poem

Joey Banks – Unsplash (trimmed by author)

I leave my family abed

(Tucked in and cosy)

And slip outside into something more comfortable

The darkness shrouds my infernal mission

The night-fog feels hard ominous implacably

Black and obscuring: a dense layered veil

Hiding deeds and misdeeds, trust and betrayals fall

From the dark and yellow lamplit windows

I smooth down my ebony cloak

Step silently over the shiny black cobbles

Slide into the shadows of back lanes and alleys

I descend the hill of grim passages and trammelled tenements

A labyrinth of merciless droll

Under the cover of nacht und nebel

(Such evils befall the world)

My black glove runs lightly over thin steel handrails

Down step by step the alley defiles

Knowing every brick, paver and hole.

I descend.

In the distance moonlight touches the thicket of spars and masts

The ships moored dockside; the salty sea-smell of the grubby river

Permeates the bricks and masonry

Curls its miasma into the malodorous mist.

Gas lamps throw up muted halos

Inside their rusty coronas: balls of golden light

Perch atop fluted iron columns

I prop in a murky slot

With a view of the drinking house

(I haven’t decided yet, or cast a lot)

Boisterous shouting clanking swearing,

Ruination in their heads, rough loud boasts and

Boy-men broken up chatter

Carry through the candlelit windows

They argue their choppy banter till the barkeep bawls

Enough! Time!

Figures shamble out

Weave their ways this way and that

These drunken oafs

I reach out: hold their hearts, some plump young

Well-meaning, others shrunken ash cinders.

It’s the usual crowd of numbed older men and young bruisers

A pair hold each other, struggle up the hill

Pass by gabbing and wavering

I deglove and feel the cool instruments

Arrayed neat as bright pins inside my coat: these

Silvery instruments can split wide a sternum

Trepan a skull or slice and cut in a trice. Plus

Vials of sleep, paralysis ichor and draughts of delirium

(Sometimes I like to hunt in the forest of the city)

The two drunkards are gone awassailing

Their unintelligible shanties dying in the fog

I slip, an ephemeron, nearer the ale house

I know, but I don’t know

And stop. Waiting.

A figure steps out

Walks stolidly uphill

His gait is more or less sober

Face hidden beneath a short cap

His attention on the uneven coal cobbles

He is the one, he will do

I will be the doer

He walks left disappears down a blind alley

I softly turn out to follow

I think a short sharp killing tonight

And take a quick breath of the fetid air

(My heart would thump aloud if I had one)

I pluck out a short handled blade

His head bent and wide steps tell me—a sailor

He’s heavy with the briny water:

The stiff salt-spray, his hammock below decks,

Glum eyes inured to the cobalt flat ocean

I stealthily close on my unwary intended

He does not sense my baleful presence

So close I can smell his beer and tobacco

Our silhouettes merge

The stiletto drops into my glove

I remember to breathe, then

My right arm leans round him.

I cut the blade

Clean, across his pink throat from ear to ear

I hold his collar, knock off his cap

His heart’s life blood pours out

Dark red from the mortal cut

He tries to turn, paws at the wound

But I press him hard against the wall:

He glubs: “Why am I done?”

An upward sweep of the knife cuts the tip of his nose

Then an ear I slice off

His body starts to fold, his wet breath blows bubbles

I follow him down, whisper in his good ear:

“You’ve done nought enough,”

Or some-such ambiguity

He slides down the wall, bloodshot soaked torso

And wan face look up at me

What do his sightless eyes see?

The after-light image of an opaque blackguard,

A life-thieving felon

His eyes roll back and I replace his cap at a rakish angle

Wipe cooling blood from the blade on his unlovely coat

Stand above his crumpled body

Another corpse, another dead man to add to my tally

That grows by the scores,

He’s the hundredth… or four hundredth?

It doesn’t matter—I don’t keep a diary;

It’s no whim that makes me take lives.

“Needs must…”, a soft laugh to myself

Ball up my bloody gloves into a thick woollen purse

No blood-fleck speckles my black coat

My naked hands stand out too white

In this gloomy dead end

I hope he’s found soon, before rigor sets in

I sketch him a salute: I’ll be seeing you soon

At the autopsy in my morgue, where

More bright tempered grabbers, tearers and saws await

Lined up on white linen next to the tray

That drains dark ruined blood and bone-bits away

My boot sweeps his encrusted ear to the gutter

(Perhaps a needless cut)

But I can’t find the nose-tip

A tasty morsel for a prowling hound

I retrace my steps back uphill to my home.

I always sleep soundly after culling them.

Murdering men. Someone must do it,

The killing I mean, if not I then whom?

I slide between the cool starchy sheets

See my wife in the half light asleep on her pillow

Close my eyes, sleep the restful sleep of the sinister

I dream of Persephone

Her return from summer to my place underground,

Pay her fare to the ferryman

Sit amongst the dead voyagers

Cross over the Styx then alight

Stroke Cerberus’s three heads and enter the Gate.

I’ll be there waiting to embrace her

When winter comes

I’ve Been Unwell

A Horror Poem

Tatania Lapina – Unsplash

……

Outside my

Home of wood and pealing paint,

Half a sky-blue colour, half… not

Behind unloved pickets once white

Now a pale washed barricade that

Halts the garden weeds’ escape.

Six throttled roses gasp for breath

……

Only their scrawny thorned throats remain

The weather boards peel along hairline splits

Come unsprung

Leaving gaps for the fat rats to squeeze their

Hairy bodies and naked pink snake tails

Into those dark small spaces

Only rats can reach.

They snuggle in against the wall behind my bedhead

Their moving brushing fur noise is profoundly unsettling

Almost as bad as their continuous gnawing

Their pointy little teeth on wood—gnawing hard at the wall struts

Blackboard nail scrapes along my already stripped out nerves

Who can sleep with rodents perched so close behind my head?

……

I pull a pillow over my face and stuff it over my ears

Hope the toothy random scratching will cease

Truth be told,

I a not well, ill I am

And I can’t breath under this coarse ivory pillow case,

Suffocating.

……

I plop my damp haired head back on the pillow

Hold up one clammy hand

It’s so pallid, is it mine?

I see the finger bones in x-ray

The rats have ceased their infernal chewing their way

Into my bedroom, thank god

I listen hard can’t hear them, only

The whistling wires inside my head of neurones misfiring

My brain-case lit up by light-speed neutrinos

The white-hot streaks zip right through me

……

As I may have said (but cannot remember)

I have some bad illness

In my darkened room I lie abed

The breathful puffing out of the nervous curtains

Over the low-light window sill

Flaps irregular ominous rust shapes

Onto the bedroom’s water-stained wall

I watch the creepy shadows shift

In the dim corners; the ghostly parade grows and

Fades from my sweating brow and

Its outlandish chimeric fancies

……

Again that sound

That weasel-gouging of wood grounds

I lift my brows an inch, listening

(Surely they’ll bore through)

But can’t hold my too large head up

And drop it back into the dent of my leprous pillow

I imagine my foreshortened self under the covers

An Uccello perhaps, the slaughtered soldiers and broken spars

All lying in perfect perspective

My body lies as straight too

My arms and weak fingers by my side

Under the antique parchment ceiling

Higher than the last time I stared

……

I clamp my eyes shut fast,

Feel timidly for the water glass

Fingers wrap around the cold familiar form—

I flub it over!

For god’s sake! the liquid slides across the little table

Dribbles over the edge onto the threadless carpet

The glass keeps rolling too

It falls slow motion

And clonks onto the floor, bounces stops

Too far away for me to bother fetching

……

I watch the ceiling (now it seems much closer),

The dark corner stain overhead—it always looked bad,

A charcoal scape spread wide and

A too long inhuman head looming

I shudder, tense up,

Again the rats scratching fur body brushing

The wallpaper wall sounds thin as tissue

I slide my body further away to the foot of the bed

A poorly corpse I feel

A shivery heat rushes up my backbone

But my feet are cold—I don’t feel my toes

……

If the rats break through I’ll just lie still

Their grey hairy bodies and little animal claws

Might ignore me

They’ll plop out one by one

Fall on my bed around my head

The oily creatures

I can almost feel them brush my cheeks

Nuzzle pink wiggling noses at my neck

Scuttle onto my chest, searching

For food that’s soft and close and warm

Probing beneath the sheets with little hooked hands

……

I am hot and fever-struck—I whisper:

There are no rats

Yet I hear them—earwigs drilling into my brain

The sodden sheets stick to my body

I lie embalmed on a slab

Swaddled in linen bands behind the round stone

Hold my breath and risk a peek at the evil shape above

It is nearer, hovering over me,

I feel a rancorous breath on my face and turn aside

But the bruised smell of decay I can’t escape

……

I close my eyes, stop my ears, take a shallow breath—anything

To avoid that horror smell, the effluvium of Dante’s circles

Lie very still, hold one small breath,

I hear a profound silence for a second, two

Before the sawing gnawing starts anew

Could even be in the back of my head

Maybe they’re through

On my pillow already, waiting

……

I take a tight breath hitched through a blocked tea strainer

It snags, stuck in my throat that pathetic packet—

I need more air, my lungs hardly expand

The little thin air

Passes slowly over my cold lips, not much

I wheeze out the tiny gasp of oxygen

Wouldn’t keep a rat alive for long

……

I lie abed in my accursed shroud

If anybody comes and the rats get out

A skeleton they’ll find, they

Might wonder how I died

How I was whittled down

……

The wallpaper by my head tears open

The rats, I knew they’d come

The black cloak enfolds me as I breathe out

Then try hard to draw in air, but there’s none

I lie straight and still one last time

I’ve been sick