Hi there, my name is Simon Bleaken and Jason has very kindly given me the chance to say a few words on his blog. Firstly I thought I’d tell you a little bit about myself, and then I’d like to share an excerpt from a work in progress.
I live in the UK and write in the horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres. I’ve had work appear in Tales of the Talisman, Lovecraft’s Disciples, Strange Sorcery and in several anthologies including Eldritch Embraces and Space Horrors: Full Throttle Space Tales #4.
Last year I brought out my first collection of short stories A Touch of Silence and Other Tales, and I am currently working on a second collection, which I hope to release later this year.
My biggest influences have to be my favourite authors, among them: Stephen King, Clark Ashton Smith, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. I am in awe of the worlds those guys built. I’ve always found the boundaries between sci-fi and fantasy often merge with the horror genre, and I’ve never tried to restrict myself to either – but to tell the story that needs to be told.
By day I work for an Infection Control Team in a hospital, and it’s a job that keeps me pretty busy – but I always try and make time for writing in the evenings all the same. It was this job, and my constant promise to my colleagues to ‘write an infection control horror story’ that was the origin of the idea for the excerpt of my work-in-progress I’d like to share with you now. This story is planned for inclusion in my forthcoming collection, and is about a survey team who encounter a deadly infection on an alien world. The idea was – what if the disease was utterly deadly, but the cure was utterly unthinkable?
The shovel scraped metal. I froze, crouching in the dirt down inside the grave pit. My heart was racing, and despite the cool breeze coming up from the valley below I was dripping in sweat, my sodden shirt clinging to my skin. I sucked in a shivering breath, fighting the dizziness creeping through my body. I wanted to curl up in a small corner somewhere, to close my aching eyes and sleep. But to do that would be to die.
The fever had started an hour ago, a steady burning at the base of the spine that had spread to the limbs and up the neck into the brain with terrifying speed. I had seen it kill over twenty people in the last thirty hours, and now it was my turn.
I straightened with a wince, craning my neck to glance over at the lander. There was no sign of Gregson. For all I knew he had already passed out, maybe even died. His infection had been far more advanced than my own, and I had left him writhing and thrashing in the throes of delirium. A flicker of guilt fluttered through me at abandoning him, until I remembered my own predicament. Falling to my knees, I clawed away the remaining dirt until I uncovered the metal casing of the storage unit. A fresh wave of dizziness washed over me as I wiped a shaking hand across my brow.
Come on, keep it together. You can do this.
Fear quickened my heart – both of what I was about to do, and of the disease now consuming my trembling sweat-soaked body. Sliding off the top of the unit, I squeezed myself between the side of it and the wall of dirt to my right. We had used one of the worker units to dig this pit just over a day ago, and I wished we still had them around to help me exhume it again.
I held my breath as I hauled the lid open. It didn’t make much difference. The smell was unbearable in the confined space. Inside the makeshift coffin the corpse was already beginning to liquefy, undergoing some kind of accelerated decomposition. Despite the state of the corpse, I could clearly see the strange fungal growths covering it. They had turned from blue to brown after death.
This foul rotting thing had been a friend once, Jason Cain, to be exact. I probably stared at his bloated discoloured face for a good twenty seconds, part morbid fascination and part shocked revulsion. Here was the brutal reality of death. We put people in the ground and then tried to forget what came next, tried to remember them as we had known them, as if that was how they would stay forever. But there was no time for any of this. I knew I was trying to put off what I had come here to do, but time was no longer on my side.
The hand tore clean away as I pulled it free of the body.
Somehow I managed to keep my breakfast down.
I crawled out of the pit, skidding down the slope beyond in a cloud of dust and grit. I collapsed at the bottom, my whole body shaking as I dragged myself weakly forwards, dry heaving painfully until my stomach and sides ached. Finally, I crawled up against a large boulder and huddled against it, filthy and shaking, drenched in sweat. Every part of my body hurt, and my vision was beginning to blur.
I looked down at the hand I held. It had been a part of my friend once. Now it was just a thing, an object, or that’s what I tried to tell myself. I just wondered how much of it I would have to eat. My stomach churned at the thought.
It’s just meat, I told myself.
If you want to read the rest of the story, keep an eye out for my next book The Basement of Dreams and Other Tales later this year.
If you can’t wait that long, A Touch of Silence and Other Tales is out now in paperback and for the Kindle, and contains ten short stories (nine previously published, and one new one). You can also find my stories (and lots more by other great authors) in the brilliant Kepler’s Cowboys anthology and in Twilight Madhouse Vol 2. from Schreyer Ink Publishing.
I’ll sign off here, but a huge thank-you to Jason for giving me this chance to say hello. If you’d like to get updates on my work, I don’t have a blog yet (it’s on my to-do list!) but you can find me on Facebook at the group: ‘The Stories of Simon Bleaken’.
Why not drop by and say hello?