Yellow Mama Archives II

Harris Coverly

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Acuff, Gale
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Coverly, Harris
Crist, Kenneth James
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Woods, Jonathan
Young, Mark
Zackel, Fred
Zelvin, Elizabeth
Zeigler, Martin
Zimmerman, Thomas
Zumpe, Lee Clark

Don’t...!

 

by Harris Coverley

 

 

Don’t peek in there

Don’t go in that house

Don’t “hang” in the basement

Don’t check out the attic

Don’t turn around

Don’t be a hero

Don’t be a dweeb

Don’t whistle after midnight

Don’t attend the high school dance

Don’t go to the beach party

Don’t be a slut

Don’t be a virgin

Don’t be macho

Don’t be kind and gentle

Don’t be clueless

 

The monster is coming

And he has taken the form of your brother

Or maybe your father

 

Don’t trip over a branch

Don’t slip on the leaves

Don’t run out of gas

Don’t split up into smaller groups

Don’t go and see where Johnny went

Don’t wonder what the neighbours might have heard

Don’t investigate that noise

Don’t go and look out the window

 

The monster is coming

It can smell your fear

And taste your blood already

 

Don’t just stand there—RUN!

 

RUN—and don’t ask!



Helios Grimm


by Harris Coverley

 


eyelids torn like wet toilet paper

the awakening an explosion

the trees outside with those branches

black veins against the dirt blue sky

pulsing hard

throbbing with the blood of the scrub

the whole world silently screaming

firstly my name,

and then something like:

                hey, I’m here . . .


hey, I’m here . . .


hey, I’m here . . .


a billion times in two seconds

before I close my eyes

and retreat back to the other place.

some dreams are just the day

wearing a mask of dark light.


Hunter

 

by Harris Coverley


my many victims


truculent—yet succulent

great to be undead



The Mauler

 

by Harris Coverley

 

 

He took off his glasses

And then pulled off his jumper in one quick move

Along with his T-shirt

 

And he showed me his chest tattoo:

 

ANCOAT LADS

1993

 

In dull ink

Between sagging pectorals

 

Fair and greying skin stretched across a withering frame

With a few threads of muscle left for show

 

“I’ll never stop crimin’ me,”

He told me

“I’ve made too much money from it for me to stop now!”

 

I roughly calculated his net profit in my head:

About 5.32

Plus thirteen years inside

 

He pulled his top back on

And replaced his glasses

Cheap but modern

A gift from Her Majesty

 

“So boy, if you see this face, you’d better start runnin’!”

 

He tapped on the bars with his knuckles

And then against his chest

(They almost made the same sound)

 

He opened his mouth to stretch his jaw

Revealing a throng of brown-capped stubs

 

I decided to take his advice

And knocked on the steel door

To have the guard let me out

 

It had been an interesting interview

Not a good one

But an interesting one.



The Mob

 

by Harris Coverley

 

 

one mouth

spread across two thousand holes

with anything up to

sixty-four thousand teeth

between them

 

all screaming

all shouting

all grinding

torches alight

the stomping of four thousand feet

the rustle of coats

the frequent spitting

the occasional chortling

 

four thousand hands

whipping on you

scoring you

tearing you

blistering exhausted skin

shattering flesh

 

but upon your own lips

a bitten tongue licking the blood away

you manage to offer them

from the heap of you on the ground

a response:

 

“never . . . I say . . . never . . .”

 

Bloodbound

 

by Harris Coverley

 

A most usual task:

A portrait fair and quick

Done with the airbrush

 

A grand old house

Brown and tall

Nestled in turquoise hedges

 

That exquisite young lady

Who took me upstairs

To a loft full of minor masterpieces

 

Revealing my medium

To glaze upon the canvas bare—

Her own blood!

 

What could I do?

My machine was ready

And my belly almost empty

 

I inserted the tube into her wrist

Thin and pallid as it already was

And sat her opposite my easel

 

Plasma deep and rich and fresh

Oxidising in its journey

From vein-bound royal blue

 

The outline of her precious face

Down to her swan-like neck

And across her slender shoulders

 

Drying as brown as the house’s bricks

Runnings smoothed with a millimetre brush

Abstract made into visage naturale

 

Taking a break for both to rest

She struggling ‘round to see my efforts—

“It’s lovely!” declared with weakened tongue

 

Then back to work!

The final strands of red to brown

The intricate fiddling of a perfectionist

 

“Done my lady!” proudly exclaimed

Yet exclaimed to a shrivelled corpse

Propped up in her chair with widest grin

 

Hung on the wall by my own hand

In that big and silent house

I closed the grand door after me

 

Leaving up within that loft:

Two smiling ladies

One of blood and one bereft

 

A day’s good work

For a month’s sustenance

The artist’s living.


Paradise

 

by Harris Coverley

 

the arch of your hip in the morning sun

the indentation in the mattress

the open window allowing in a rustle

the soft and slow regime of respiration

the popping of springs as you get up

and walk as Eve to the bathroom



The Now Outside

 

by Harris Coverley

 

 

when you stand outside

on the vacant street

at 2 a.m.

 

the road clear

with not even a distant draught of traffic

 

the lights at the far crossroads

changing dumbly and obediently

for nobody

 

the wheezing rattle

of a neighbour’s ventilation system

 

the town hall bell tolling

just to prove to itself that it’s still there

 

you could mutter an oath

and no living sentience would hear you

 

you sponge all that in

 

and you finally realise

just how big eternity

is.


Rooms

 

by Harris Coverley

 

 

My earliest memory is of sitting in my mother’s cool arms, trying to suckle and being rebuffed, a bottle’s nipple shoved between my lips. I may have only been little more than one year old, but the pain still feels real.

There are great black spaces after that, but by the age of three more and more thoughts of the day come into play, and the routine that dominated our lives becomes clear.

We had the run of most of our house, but we stuck mainly to the kitchen. It was there where we ate all of our meals at the big dark oak table, each meal cooked by my mother, a process often taking up most of her day. The rest of the time we sat at the table and talked, played games, and then early in the evening we would both go to bed at the same time. There were plenty of other rooms upstairs in the large house, but we never went in them. She had her small bedroom, and I had mine. The bathroom was the brightest room in the house, a colour scheme of rich sea blue, and kept pristine.

Our groceries were delivered to our doorstep, and anything else needed was ordered over a cracked, wall-mounted telephone, cast in green plastic.

It was only every so often that I saw the Master come and go. His room was on the ground floor, along the left-hand side of the hallway, behind a tall red door of a different design to the others in the rest of the house. Never did a single sound emanate from behind it, or at least nothing I could be sure of.

I don’t remember the very first time I saw him, but he was there, never looking upon his entrances and exits into our kitchen activities, me only occasionally being able to glimpse his person, shrouded in a wide-brimmed trilby and a shaggy grey coat that nearly dragged across the floor.

Sometime before the age of four my mother noticed me peering at his latest return through the crack in the kitchen door, and as soon as he went into his room and locked the door—as he always did—my mother knelt in front of me, took me by the shoulders, and told me never to look upon him, never to speak to him, never to ask after him, and, especially, never to enter his room, or else I would be punished. The threat of punishment from her, always so tranquil, scared me, but I was a good obedient boy, and so did as she ordered. The only detail of his being that she gave was his moniker: the Master.

At the age of five I was sent to school, and as we left each weekday, I averted my eyes from the window of his room as we departed and returned. It was not until after I turned six that I gained a little rebelliousness to glance quickly at the window as we set out one day, and I saw what the insistence of peripheral vision had long suggested: the glass was covered with ancient, glued on newspaper. My mother did not notice, and we carried onto school, a short walk away, but as the days went on, I tried to steal more and more glances.

School proved nice enough, and made a break from the monotony of home life. I made friends, but was often at a loss for stories of any adventure to tell. Other children went on holiday, called on their parent’s places of work, had grandparents and other relatives visit.

One night I asked my mother why we never went on holiday, and she said that holidaying was impossible. I asked her where my grandparents, and aunts, and uncles were, and she quite nonchalantly told me they were all dead. At some point in the past I had already learned of the concept of death, so this did not trouble me, and I threw no tantrum at the prospect of never going on holiday, although I never did throw any tantrums.

A short time after I fell ill with a severe cold, and was forced to stay home from school. Our routine reverted to those pre-school days of us in the kitchen, although I found my previously solid schedule of going to bed at eight and rising at eight suddenly interrupted by an onslaught of headaches and vomiting. It was during one such interruption, a midnight trip to the toilet to empty my stomach, that I happened to look down the stairs and spy the first instance of my mother and the Master communicating. I caught her kneeling before his door and sliding a small brown envelope underneath. She stayed for a few moments, me peeking out from behind the upstairs wall, before a similar, but definitely not the same, envelope was shoved back from the other side. As she stood up with the delivery she looked up the stairs and, fatigued by illness, I was unable to retreat fast enough. Our eyes met, and for a brief second our own individual fears were mirrored in each. I regained my strength and rushed back to my room, the covers pulled up, new vomit forced back down my throat.

The next day, as we finished our breakfast—she some wheat cereal, me, still liable to vomit, dry, unbuttered toast—she turned to me and told me that such letters were the only way for the Master and her to communicate safely, but that’s all she would admit. I plucked up some courage to ask her where he sometimes went in the middle of the day, but she told me she did not know. In retrospect, it was clear she was lying, but I did not raise it again.

A year passed, and I moved through my classes, becoming more curious. I asked more questions at home, about this and that aspect of the world, but I made sure to avoid the topic of the Master. My mother, acknowledging that I was cracking the shell in which I had long since existed, bought me books, such as a junior encyclopaedia, and compilations of fairy tale I could read by myself. There was no television in the house, so I devoured them quickly. Before long, I had exhorted her to take me to the local library on an almost daily basis, and I began to make my way through the children’s section. I admit that stories of the supernatural were what really got me going, along with natural science and evolutionary history. Soon the juvenilia proved too meek for me, and I moved onto more adult sections, conquering them shelf-by-shelf.

One day, about a month before I turned eight, I found a yellowed pad of paper in one of the spare rooms—clearly I was already getting a little adventurous in exploring the unlived-in parts of the house—and I started to write ghost stories, inspired by my library adventures. I was a boy with a growing imagination, and like anyone at that age I truly believed that I was writing the finest horror fiction on Earth. I must have, over the course of a week, cracked off a dozen or so tales of haunted houses, spectral invaders, and mad scientists. By the weekend, I was confident that these tales would make up for a lack of real life stories to tell, and so planned a full reading at school break-time on the Monday. But when Monday morning fell, the pad was nowhere to be found—not in my dresser drawer where I had left it, not in my schoolbag, not in the kitchen; it was completely absent. I pondered this throughout the day, and when walking home with my mother I asked her if she had seen a yellow pad anywhere in the house. She did not answer, and remained silent until we crossed the threshold.

“I threw it away,” she said, taking off her coat, and expecting to leave it at that.

I almost cried immediately, all my good work gone, and I asked her why.

“There are some things you cannot possibly know, or write about, even in jest,” was her reply.

For the first time in in our shared life we argued, violently, like so many parents and children do, and also for the first time I was exiled to my room. She refused for the rest of the week to take me to the library, her idea of punishment, and my mind grew stale and listless. Searches for new pads of paper proved fruitless.

That Saturday I was reading a ragged textbook on animal husbandry, having adopted a strange notion of moving North and establishing a farm, when I decided to go down to the kitchen to get a drink, the day being a warm one, while hoping not to encounter my mother’s severe eyes.

As I made my way down the stairs, I saw something that stopped me dead: the Master’s door was wide open. It was never wide open. He had always left and returned with the solid securing of its brass locks.

At first, I stood halfway on the steps, curving my body to look beyond the frame. There appeared to be nothing unusual to see, and his room seemed devoid of life. I made my way to the foot of the stairs, and surveyed the hallway up to the kitchen, pricking up my ears. As far as I could tell, I was completely alone; neither the Master nor my mother made any sound or sight.

The impulse came to me and I surrendered to it: I would take the opportunity to see the Master’s dwellings for myself. To hell with my mother and her years-old warnings! What power did she deserve over me given the way I had been treated? It was all complete nonsense! I had lived as an idiot for so long, and even at such a young age, I desired an insurrection, truth, a chance to figure out for myself what was really going on.

I calmed down and walked slowly to the edge of the doorway. I took a deep breath, and sharply turned in.

The door may have been of a different design to the rest of the house, but the decor inside the room matched: the same dark lime carpeting, the same worn brown floor panels and kickboard, the same off-cream wallpaper. At the front of the room, under the papered window, was his low wooden bed, covered with a rough blue-and-white tartan sheet, neatly and tightly made. On the far wall, opposite the door, was a combined bookcase and chest of drawers, adorned with dull brass handles. I went up to the case and gazed at the books, the titles of some of which are still scorched into my mind, despite at that time having no knowledge of Latin: Tomus de Clamoribus, Liber de Oculis, Niger Verba, Ad Superior Caro…there were more, but those remain with me. There were also English-language books on subjects that I recognised the library as having copies of, or similar, on occult subjects, astrology, lost civilisations, and “science” that even a small boy could recognise as at best junk, at worst insane, along with general textbooks on chemistry and biology, neurology and mechanics. As I looked closer, I noticed on the desk section above the drawers that there was a line of seven glass items, bauble-like and misty in hue, with copper stands on their bottoms. I leaned in and observed within them…movement.

I stood up straight and rubbed my eyes. The situation was getting to me I was sure; the rush of disobedience was causing me to see things. I leaned back down for a new look, and soon wished I hadn’t.

Within those baubles swirled clouds of unknown colours, propelled by the ecosystems of their own individual worlds. Each bauble’s world was different, and yet related to each other’s. The patterns, the shapes… indescribable, not re-creatable by human language or the artistry of human hands. As I continued to stare, I neglected to notice the front door open and close.

I settled on the central bauble for my deepest observation, thinking at one point that my pupils would touch the glass. I entered its world, and soon began to see an even deeper level to the madness inside. It became increasingly obvious, although I still find it hard to believe, that the waves of smoke that made up the clouds were not mere smoke. No, the smoke waves were but a composite of hundreds upon hundreds of faces, many human, some not so human, and all screaming, crying, yelling, in states of agony and inconceivable terror.

Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me say, “Boy, you have finally entered the fold…”

I spun about and looked directly into the face of the Master who stood in the doorway. He was so hideous to me: ironclad eyes of blue steel under that trilby, his orangey skin laced with black pockmarks, the teeth of his vile grin like the broken fingers of a skeleton.

He stepped forward, seemingly ready to embrace me.

“My son,” he continued, “how wonderful it will be…”

“What will?” I said, managing to break through the shock gripping me, holding back my bladder.

“Me and you, side by side,” he replied, that grin growing ever wider. “What we can achieve, what we will accomplish together…”

As the Master moved forward, my mother revealed herself in the doorway, reflecting my look of fright.

“Get out of there!” she cried, the Master not reacting, far too focused on my trembling body. “GET OUT!”

Obeying her, I quickly ran around the now crouching Master and out of the door, my mother pulling it shut behind me.

“To your room, now!” she yelled, and I did as she commanded. As soon as I got there I hid under my sheets, shaking, my shoes still on, me ramming my face into the mattress and begging for sleep.

Several hours later I composed myself, and made my way out of my room and downstairs. The Master’s door remained closed and the room beyond was silent. In the kitchen my mother sat at the oak table with a bottle of whisky and a mug, taking the occasional sip. I had never seen her like this, so I knew to tread carefully.

I sat down at the table and we said nothing for a good many minutes, until I found the nerve to break the hush: “Why? What does it all mean?”

My mother didn’t say anything at first, merely taking a larger slug of the whiskey, but she eventually replied, “Across the eons, throughout history, some people, exceptional people, have been displaced, as it were.”

To this I just nodded, and she continued: “Some of these people attained something beyond what mere mortals have…some were evil, some were good…the Master is unfortunately one of the evil ones. People like him need a…caretaker of sorts. Someone to look after him, someone to monitor him…that person ended up being me.”

We sat quietly for a while longer, before I was able to say, “He called me ‘son’.”

My mother made to put her head in her hands, but she stopped herself.

“Even your own mother has her weaknesses,” she said with great sadness. “And for that I am truly sorry.”

After that I left it alone, and went back to my room.

As the years went past, I stuck to the old rules: do not go near the Master, do not look at the Master, and do not in any way interact with the Master.

However, I still went against my mother’s wishes in that I continued to write fiction and hone my skill at the craft. I eventually made my way to the study of literature at university, in spite of her disapproval, and since graduation I have managed to sustain myself by writing a popular-enough novel each year, usually of the dark or weird variety. Some have even been optioned for film, although none of them have been lucky enough to have been made yet.

A wife has come and gone, no children thankfully. But as I reach middle age, I admit I feel guilty. All those years I lived at home, I got older, and my mother grew tired and haggard, while the Master I know refused to age a day. Yes, the coat continued to fray, and the trilby grew more warped, but his face remained in its same ugly yet static state—so yes, I did not stick to the old rules as well as I should have.

Every time I visit her she is weaker and weaker, and I know it will not be long until my final visit. She refuses to leave, married to her duty until the very end.

It is obvious what will eventually happen: I will have to take her place as his guardian—I cannot entrust such a task to any other—and spend the rest of my life typing up my work at that same old kitchen table, making sure should he go out that he gets in by the end of the day.

I have no interest in what sick and terrible things he gets up to in that room, or what was really in those baubles of his. Well, I would be lying if I said I had ‘no interest’. Those books, that equipment…what evil deeds must he get up to day and night? Where did he come from? Who is he?

Regardless, I have half a mind to burn the whole damn house to the ground, and rid the world of him and my mother of her endless suffering. But I love her, and I couldn’t really bear to do it. It is just a reoccurring notion, kept down by the occasional single malt.

No, the end is inevitable.

I am, and will always remain, my mother’s son, and the Master’s keeper.




Along with previously in Yellow Mama, Harris Coverley has verse published or forthcoming in Polu Texni, Spectral RealmsCalifornia QuarterlyCorvus ReviewThe Oddville PressBetter Than StarbucksEgoPHobia5-7-5 Haiku Journal, and many others. He lives in Manchester, England.

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