John Siney

The June Selected writer is John Siney

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by John Siney

He was the only person to respond when Annie entered the classroom, a slender youth, his eyes like coal fixing on her. As his gaze tracked her across the room his confident smile seemed to be as much a challenge as a welcome. The others, no more than a dozen, they had continued chatting among themselves, not spread about the room as students might but gathered at a single large table, seated around it like junior executives at a conference.

Or like acolytes.

That was education, wasn’t it? Sharing knowledge?

Clearing her throat and steeling herself, she dragged a chair towards their table, bidding the group a nervous “Good morning!”

One or two returned her greeting, more ignored her and continued their conversations, some just sat in sullen silence.

She didn’t know which she found more intimidating, the total disregard of the majority or the focused attention of the individual. Dropping her bag by her desk, but guessing it would be best
not to sit there, she dithered a moment as she wondered how to introduce herself. She could hardly address them as children, these people who were only three or four years her junior, didn't want to come across as some spinster school-ma’am, and she cursed herself for being in this situation.

Annie was too much of an introvert to be a teacher, her friends had said as much, she hated children, couldn’t bring herself to take an interest in them, let alone be bothered to educate them or discipline them. No other work had come her way since graduation, though, except for a tedious few weeks manning a telephone at a call center, and before that an equally mind-numbing spell at a supermarket checkout. So here she was, with no option but to make the best of it. The least she could do was share her knowledge with these senior youths who might be—
should be—receptive.

“So, the book you're studying is Of Mice and Men?” she smiled, and this time there was even less of a response than there had been for her greeting. “Well?” she demanded, momentarily annoyed. “Is it?”

He was the one to answer, he whose eyes had never left her, saying pleasantly, "Before we blow Cill’s mind with American literature—which I think is something of an oxymoron—I was trying to explain to her the difference between a suffix and a prefix.”

“Which is?” Annie prompted.

“Well the first ain’t an English county like silly Cill thought, sunny Suffix by the sea,” he said, his eyes scanning the rest of the group, drawing some laughter from them. “Before and after is the best way to think of it, before and after.”

Seeing the opportunity to learn a few names, Annie asked who Cill was, and slender fingers tipped with lacquered black nails fluttered at her.

The girl had long hair worn in dusty dreadlocks, sewn with beads and hanging like a curtain all about, almost hiding her heavily made-up eyes. Dressed all in black, she seemed to wear a multitude of skirts, rather than just one, of lace and silk and satin, and a variety of blouses and vests.  She was by no means a slim girl, and the profusion of clothing only added to her bulk.

“That’s me, Cilla,” she said, but with a slight lisp—Cthylla—the tip of the tongue peeping between her teeth like a shy reptile.

Annie turned back to the young man. “And you will be?”

“Kwinn,” he answered.

“You’ve not seen nothing like the mighty Kwinn,” someone said.

There was a stamping of feet and a round of cheers, hands slapping the table, and Annie found herself waiting for silence rather than demanding it, cursing herself once again for the situation she was in. As she regarded the group sitting before her the noise they made died down of its own accord, as if they were surprised that she had permitted it.

“Yes, well, I’ll get to know the rest of you as we go along, I guess, so if we could move on to Of Mice And Men,” she said, now that she had—or had been granted—some modicum of silence.

But Kwinn was not quite ready yet, and said, “I think ‘sub’ is my favorite prefix, you know, as in subvert, submit, subjugate.”

Sub-ju-gate. The word said slowly, with relish, his eyes fixed on the girl Cilla as he spoke, his voice taking on a deep adult tone, and a blush came to her pale cheeks, her eyes lowered as if his words made her drowsy.

“Mice And Men!” Annie insisted. “Now.”

“Mice and men, yes,” Kwinn agreed. “There are mice and there are men.”


The day went better than Annie could have hoped. It was a good school in a good district and the students were generally well behaved. Still, she felt in need of a stiff drink at the end of the day, so when she had showered and changed, she left her rented apartment and made her way to the nearest pub.

It was a balmy summer evening; the pub was next to the river, so she took her vodka and tonic outside and sat at one of the trestle tables, a book open before her, to enjoy the peace. It was when she returned from the bar thirty minutes later, with her second drink, that she saw her students.

They were seated at the remotest table in the garden, Kwinn and Cilla, close to the river’s edge, in the shade of a large willow. Or, rather, Kwinn was seated at the table; Cilla was kneeling on the ground at his feet, her skirts spilling out about her, her head bowed as he stroked her hair. She seemed like a penitent at the feet of some dark Christ, or a supplicant awaiting his favor, and though the tableau offered something of an odd public spectacle Annie also felt that there was something endearing about it, in a teenage first love sort of way.

But then she saw Kwinn's fingers clench, wind a fistful of Cilla's dreadlocks around them a time or two until her hair was pulled tight, her head drawn back and face looking up at him. He bent, Annie thought he might be about to kiss the girl, then saw him lick her face, a single long puppy-like lap of the tongue.

Cilla shuddered as if his touch was corrosive; he grimaced, as if her taste was offensive. Kwinn was speaking to the girl, pulling at her to move her head to a more awkward angle, and though Annie was too far away to hear what was being said, she sensed a certain threat in his manner.

As she was debating whether or not to go across and intervene, Kwinn stood, not releasing his hold on Cilla’s hair but yanking her cruelly to her feet beside him. In this same fashion, gripping her hair to hold her head erect, he walked her around the side of the pub and up to the road, his stride long and easy, her steps more faltering as she struggled to match his pace, her bulk a handicap, as if she carried some onerous burden.

Quickly Annie downed her drink, snapped her book shut and dropped it into her bag, then set off after them. She saw them ahead, turning away from the town center and her apartment, like gray specters in the twilight of the tree-lined lane, the girl's long skirts and her escort's long coat making them seem to glide along, like the grim reaper with some soul he had claimed. For maybe half a mile Annie trailed them, the road was quiet and the houses there well spaced. The occasional car drove past, but too quickly for any occupants to take note of the couple ahead, and there were no other people out walking.

Then Kwinn and Cilla were gone.

Annie hurried ahead just in time to see them reaching the end of a broad gravel drive, facing a spacious detached house. The home of Kwinn or Cilla? His, she decided, when she saw him produce a long chain from beneath his coat, unlock the door and lead Cilla inside. Dusk had deepened now, a light came on in the hall as the door closed, but all the other windows at the front of the house were in darkness.

Were his parents home, Annie wondered? Could she tackle them about their son’s behavior? She waited a long five minutes, saw no signs of movement within the house, so began to move cautiously up the drive, though veering a little to the right, away from the front door. It was as the side of the house came into view that she saw the narrow band of light, low down on the wall. A basement, she guessed, the window low down on the outside of the building but high up on the ceiling inside. Of course! Where else would a pampered favorite son have his den, his playroom, his private space, in such a house?

Stealthily, careful not to make any sound on the loose gravel, she made her way along the side of the building, heard a loud slap as she reached the narrow window, a crack of flesh against flesh which startled her so much that she fell quickly into a crouch. The window beside her was slightly open and Kwinn’s words came to her clear and cruel.

“I saw the way you were looking at that new English teacher, eyes wide like a cow’s. What was it about her that had you so enthralled?”

Cilla answered, “There was a kindness in her smile.”

“Kindness?” Kwinn laughed. “What the deaf can hear and the blind can see? Well I think we can do without that. It’s not kindness we crave in this world.”

“No, not kindness,” Cilla agreed, though it sounded like a weary reluctance.

Annie leaned forward to take a peek through the window.

In a basement darkly decorated, matte black walls appearing to devour the light and make more of its size than seemed possible, she saw Cilla kneeling, completely naked, her back ramrod stiff and her head raised, as if waiting to receive communion. Kwinn, still fully clothed, even down to the long leather coat, was walking around her slowly.

As a teacher of the two young people, as a responsible adult, Annie knew she should go directly to the front door and knock loudly, get Kwinn there before her, put a stop to things, but instead she made herself more comfortable and looked on in silence. For how long had it been since her own eyes had glazed over the way that this young girl's now did? Months, longer. There was something brutal, uncaring about the way Kwinn was treating his classmate, she should have done something to put a stop to it, but all she could do was look on, riveted.

As he approached Cilla once more he spread his arms in some parody of a benediction. “Kin of the Old Ones, guarded by the Deep Ones, secret daughter of Cthulhu, destined to give birth to him again...”

Cilla’s knees parted, wider than seemed possible, as if she was about to be ripped apart, and from between them, from a lap even bloodier than her torn knees, a writhing mass struggled to fight its way free, a heaving grey membrane forced this way and that by arms, fists, tentacles and all manner of appendages, limbs of such tortured construction that to imagine the creature that wielded them would be to surrender to nightmare.

“...spawn of the stars, child of Xoth, he will come again, born of Cthylla, to subvert, to sub..., to subjugate.”

What Annie at first thought was the earth rumbling beneath her, some tectonic tremor so out of place in that quiet corner of England, she realized was Cilla letting out the most anguished groan, a low bass bleat of anguish which reverberated about the basement and had the whole house trembling. Within the basement the darkness lifted, a soft pulse of red light sending shadows dancing about walls which receded, ever further, opening up a space of prodigious proportions. A cacophony of noise grew, coming from that vast distance, accompanying Cilla’s groans, in counterpoint to her cries, a stamping of feet and a drumming of fists, a scratching and a shrieking and a flapping of wings.

In Cilla’s lap the membrane spread itself as it was finally expelled, a glutinous mass at first but taking on form as she gathered it in her arms, shaping it as she caressed it, cosseting it as if it was any normal birth. She gazed down at the creature in her lap, as tenderly as any mother might, but then let out a sob of despair.

“It has no face!” she cried. “Kwinn! It has no face!”

There was an abundance of limbs reaching out to Cilla.

“Caul,” Kwinn laughed, kneeling beside her and taking her in his arms. He’s born with a caul. A sign of good luck, an omen that he is destines for greatness.”

And as Kwinn peeled away the last of the membrane which swathed the creature’s head, Annie saw more clearly the abomination beneath.

Saw more clearly...


Kwinn’s self-confidence could not be contained, his intelligence was undeniable; he was everything Annie should have hated in an adolescent but instead she felt herself warming to him as the lesson progressed, her mind invigorated as they verbally jousted, as she took each idea of his step further than he intended.

“Lennie is a lummox, a brick shit-house of a man,” he was saying, as they considered Of Mice And Men with little or no preamble this time.

“You know what I mean,” he continued. “The man is thick, dull, physically commanding but intellectually weak, so malleable, easily......” He seemed to pause this time, as if to give some consideration to the choice of the right word, and Annie grinned.

“Easily subjugated?” she said, her eyes quickly leaving his to search the rest of the group, then settling on a girl at random. “We do not submit so much to the physical power of a person, as to the power of their will? Would you agree with that?” she asked, and was gratified to see the pale girl blush.

“The pen is mightier than the sword?” another member of the group offered.

“Exactly. Words can hold one person in another’s thrall just as effectively as chains can bind them.”

As the discussion developed, Kwinn seemed willing to surrender the floor, happy to sit back and observe rather than take center stage, and Annie guessed that this was an unaccustomed attitude for him, was amused to sense his attention now focused silently on her with a certain intrigue and curiosity. Only once more did he speak out, responding to someone’s comment by saying scathingly, “But the man is such a limp-dicked tosser!”

“Kwinn! Well, really!” Annie exclaimed, but then was already turning to someone else before he could offer an apology.

Finally the bell rang out to draw the lesson to a close, she thanked everyone for their attention and their contribution to the discussion and people began to gather their things together.

“Kwinn, Cilla, could you wait behind a moment please?” she asked as the students began to filter from the classroom.

She turned her back on them and went to her desk. Sitting behind it, head bowed, she pretended to busy herself with the books which littered it, waited until the room had emptied before she finally looked up.

Slowly Kwinn sauntered towards her, Cilla following a step behind, said, “Look, if this is about me using words like ‘shithouse’ and ‘limp-dicked tosser’ then I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I am. I speak my mind.”

“Just the way he is,” Cilla nodded. 

“It’s not that,” she assured him, for she truly did believe in the power of words. Suddenly her voice took on a low guttural tone, eyes closed, recalling those which had once been so familiar. Nh'nglui mgl''nafh Cthulho R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn...

And even while she was speaking the words, Cilla smiled as she translated. “In his house at R’yleh dead Cthulhu lies dreaming...”

“We’ll take you to him,” Kwinn said. “You’re one of us.”

A fine art graduate, John Siney taught the subject for many years, then worked at lesser paid jobs with art galleries and museums on Merseyside. At the same time that he turned from teaching fine art he also turned from its practice—have you seen the rubbish that passes for fine art these days?—to concentrate on writing. Under the pseudonym Severin Rossetti he has published numerous works of an erotic nature, in the UK and the USA, and had his stories featured in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski and Adam Nevill, among others.

His first works in the Horror/Weird Fiction genre have been published by The Horror Zine and Schlock! Magazine.

The author presently lives in Andalucia, Spain, with his partner Blanca, and can be contacted at jsiney.com