Unthology 7 launches at the London Short Story festival today. Here’s the official announcement regarding the latest in Unthank Books superb short fiction anthology series:
Flinch at the things that twitch in the windows a mile up from the city streets. Let text messages lead you towards a man that you already know is going to mess with your head. Find the meaning of life in your own lobotomy. Now, the ghost of Gaudi whispers in your ear, urging you to get yourself another lover, insisting it’s all going to be smooth and comfortable this time. Ruin yourself and drift towards the haunted shores of your youth. Then find yourself back there, returned to the low-down slums of a city in a country that no longer exists, that UNTHOLOGY 7 documented and mapped out for you, and you alone, a long, long time ago.
Elizabeth Baines | Roelof Bakker | Gary Budden | Elaine Chiew | Adrian Cross | George Djuric | Ken Edwards | Charlie Hill | Debz Hobbs-Wyatt | Sonal Kholi | David Martin | Roisin O’Donnell | Amanda Oosthuizen | Dan Powell | John D Rutter | Barney Walsh
I’m sad not to be able to make the London launch, or indeed this year’s London Short Story Festival, but I am thrilled to have my story, Free Hardcore, included in Unthology 7 alongside so many authors whose work I admire. If like me, you have been unable to attend today’s London launch, Unthank are hosting another launch event in Norwich on Thursday 25th June. I will be there along with the fellow Unthologists, Elizabeth Baines, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, Elaine Chiew and Gary Budden. Full details here.
As a way of celebrating the release of this brilliant collection into the wild, here’s the opening of my story Free Hardcore.
Bill opens the door to find two lads on his front step. One is tall and pale skinned, his face a jumble of spots and blackheads, the other squat and fat, his face greasy with sweat. Both wear faded, once-black t-shirts, the band logos crinkled and disintegrating. Both are smirking and seem, to Bill, about to laugh.
‘We’ve come about the sign,’ says tall and spotty. He jigs and looks back over each shoulder, then grins again at Bill.
‘Yeah, the sign,’ says the fat lad. He points back down the drive, to the edge of the road where an off-cut of MDF hangs nailed to the fence. A girlish giggle escapes him like a burp.
Bill looks the lads up and down. ‘The sign?’ he says.
Both boys answer. Both boys nod. Both boys grin. ‘Yeah, the sign,’ they say.
Bill looks them down and up. They both bounce on the balls of their feet and grin back at him.
‘Fuck off,’ Bill says and slams the door.
He takes the stairs two at a time and stops at the landing window to watch the pair trudge back up the drive. They stop when they reach the sign and stare back at the house. Bill thinks they can see him in the window but isn’t sure until the fat lad flicks him the Vs and the spotty one kicks the sign from the fence post.
‘Who were that at the door?’
Helen is stood at the bottom of the stairs, a full laundry basket clutched to her belly. From where he stands Bill can’t help but see down her blouse, to where her bra cups her breast.
‘No one,’ he says.
Bill painted the sign himself, tongue poked between his lips in concentration. The black gloss dripped in streaks across the MDF as he slapped each letter down. Now he takes a nail from the four gripped between his teeth and, pinching it between forefinger and thumb, he hammers. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. He takes the three remaining nails in turn and pounds them in, then drops the hammer to the ground. He stands back for a moment, checks that the sign is level, then grips its sides and pulls. The sign does not budge.
He hefts the hammer in his fist and walks back along the drive. A cairn-like pile of stone and broken brick looms into view as he rounds the house and he compares the size of it to that of the house. He cannot tell if the mound is any bigger today than yesterday, at least not by sight, but in his gut he knows that it has grown.
Bill lies in bed and listens to the thick hiss of traffic noise from the B-road that skirts the edges of the adjacent fields. Helen is curled up on her side of the bed, her back to him. He is sure she is asleep. The curtains are open and he watches clouds drift across the waxing gibbous moon that hovers behind the house. The moonlight illuminates the contours of Helen’s blanketed body and the sweeping curve of her hips exacerbates the erection that is keeping Bill awake.
He shoves his left hand down into his pyjamas and squeezes his balls and the room darkens and remains dark. He hesitates with his right hand and is about to grab his penis when the room lightens and he sees Helen is staring at him.
‘What are you doing?’ she hisses.
He slips his hand from inside his pyjamas and rests it upon his stomach. ‘Nothing,’ he says.
Helen closes her eyes and turns away from him and back onto her side. ‘Go to sleep,’ she says.
©Dan Powell, published in Unthology 7, Unthank Books, 2015 (Release June 20). This extract can not be reproduced without permission of the author and/or publisher