Simon Clark

The May Special Guest Writer is Simon Clark

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simon clark

by Simon Clark

Day One

The infestation had struck other parts of the world. You know the kind of places where you expect this kind of thing to happen: hot Tropical swamps where cholera, typhoid, or some hideous flesh-eating disease erupts, slaughteringthousands. Not here, though. Not the placid British Isles with its harmless wildlife and cool climate that seems such a poor environment for any plague bug or virulent parasite to survive, never mind spread.

The infestation did arrive, however. A loathsome, stomach-churning infestation that seemed too incredible to believe in at first. But believe we did. Eventually. In fact, we not only accepted the existence of those vile creatures with their shining, iridescent skins, we even accommodated them. And when latched onto someone we loved we kept the entire thing secret. We quietly waited out the ten days in the hope that whoever had become a victim of the Snake, would successfully separate from the parasite and return to us, if not completely unscathed, at least alive and relatively undamaged.

On that first day – Day One – my wife went out into the garden where steps led down to a small underground cell or chamber that had served as either a wine cellar, air raid shelter or tool shed over the last hundred years or so.

My wife, June, a thirty-six year old schoolteacher, had paused by the kitchen table where I sat with a tablet,trawlingthe internet, in the hope of finding a sensibly-priced holiday cottage in Snowdonia. Thespring morning was warm after a heavy shower. I remember I’d scalded my mouth because I’d been too quick to sip the coffee.

“Bloody, damn it,” I chuntered, then sucked my top lip. “How about this one? Two bedrooms. Snowdon views. Two hundred and fifty a week?  Hmm, good size television.”

She frowned. “We’re planning to do more than watch telly, aren’t we?”

“Wi-fi, DVD,parking space. It’s got the lot.”

“Show me when I get back. I want to check the folding chairs are still fit for purpose. See you in a minute.”

With that she went out to the garden cellar. Of course, she didn’t see me in a minute. The next time I saw her she’d been taken by the Snake.

Day Two

The rest of Day One became a blur after I’d discovered June and the Snake. I have only hazy, unfocussed memories of the hours that followed: of phoning my parents asking – no, if I’m being honest about this – demanding that they collect my two sons from school and keeping them at their house until I collected them, which, whatever the outcome, would be at least ten days away. I didn’t give my parents an explanation. They didn’t ask for one, either, perhaps sensing marital crisis.

I’d seen news about the Snake infestation in theTropics. Yet nothing prepares you for the emotional impact of seeing one of the monsters in real life – nor the absolute shock of realizing that the person you love has been taken. There’s no violence, no sudden movements (or so I’ve learnt);the process happens slowly: smoothly in a way you’d associate with how a big, cold-blooded serpent would move. Of course, I never saw June actually being caught. By the time I’d entered the garden cellar,the attack, if that’s the correct word, had already taken place.

Day Two was when I came to my senses after the shock of discovering them. I found myself sitting on the cellar steps, gazing into that cold subterranean vault. There, in the corner, behind the lawnmower, the old upright vacuum cleaner, and boxes of old toys, were the pair of them, cuddled against where two walls met.

That’s when I stepped outside myself. No emotion touched me. Simply, I felt cold – completely detached from a sight that had shocked me so much that I’d spent the first night there in a semi-conscious state, not eating, not drinking, not even feeling the need to go pee.

This, hereafter, is what I wrote – plain, direct, roughly jotted down by the light of a single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling – a light fitting,spider-webbed and shouting withincandescent lips (as Dylan Thomas might have described, or has the shock ofJune’s tragedy left me a wee bit unbalanced?). So, this is my there-and-then description of the worst thing I’ve ever seen.

June sits; her back to the wall. Shesleeps. Breathing deeply. Eyelids closed. Her face seems discoloured, like she’s been blushing, and though the pinkness of the blush has gone it leaves blotchy darkness. The Snake is almost as long as her, and drapes over her legs that are outstretched in front of her as shesits. The Snake is half as thick as her waist. Has a flattened face, a straight line for a mouth, small eyes that resemble chips of glass that glitter. The eyes don’t move. The pairare almost face-to-face; six inches of air separate the eyes. I don’t know why they called this creature ‘Snake’ because it’s more lizard. A long row of stumpy limbs run down either side of its body (no fingers, no claws); they cling onto June. They hold her tight. They won’t let go.

I don’t touch the Snake.

No, and I don’t touch June, either.

This is the worst thing that’s happened to me.

Day Three

June’s first husband, Mark, dropped by. He must have rung the house doorbell before noticing that the entrance to the garden cellar was open. He found the three of us – me sitting at the bottom of the stairs, watching.June and the Snake in the corner.

Sleep deprivation and dehydration meant that I couldn’t make sense of what Mark said or did for a while. When myhead cleared I realized he was holding a glass of water to my lips, telling me to drink, then saying: “I came to tell you that Katy would be coming back from university this week. She wanted to visit you.”

These words hit me like a thrown brick. “No!” I shook my head, spraying out a mouthful of water as I shouted. “She can’t see her mother like this!”

“I know, I know… I’ll tell Katy that both of you are away.”

“No phoning, either.”

Mark stared at the pair in the corner – their clinch reminded me of when frogs mate, the male holding onto the female for days.

“Tom,” he said, “when did you find them like this?”


Mark shuddered. “Then there are eight days left until you know how it’s going to go.”

That seemed such a cold way of putting an inescapable truth.

Day Four

Mark wanted to report the Snake to the police.

I had other ideas. “No. We’re keeping this secret.”

“You can’t leave June here, wrapped up with this… thing!”He shone a torch on my wife and the reptile; his eyes stretched wide with shock. “Look how it’s holding her. We don’t know if it’s feeding on her, or – or laying eggs inside her body.”

I turned away, not wanting to see my wife being held by the creature in such a brilliant, detail-revealing light. June still slept. Neither she nor the creature had moved. They simply seemed to be sleeping there in the corner. June’s T-shirt and jeans bore grimy patches now. In fact, everywhere in that cellar seemed to have acquired a film of dirt. Walls, shelves, boxes appeared newly grubby. Even the lightbulb became dimmer as if smeared with some muddy substance.

Mark said, “The walls where they’re sitting…” His expression was one of disgust. “The brickwork’s painted white, but the walls are turning black. Is it mold?”

I shrugged. I didn’t know what caused the darkening. The walls were blacker and blacker by the hour. Absolute black nearest the pair. Bible black.

“Please, Tom, call the police.”

“No.You’ve seen what happens to women when one of those things latches onto them. If they’re forced apart the woman dies of shock.”

“What if it’s feeding on her, orlaying eggs?” He’d said this before. The disgusting notion obsessed him.

“That’s never happened.”

“As far as we know. Phone the police, Tom.”

I shook my head. “We can’t tell anyone about June. You know what’ll happen to her if you do.”

He shone the torch into June’s face. My wife’s nose and cheeks had become dull. All the shine had gone. The Snake was different. Its skin was brighter than before – the scales becoming glossy, smooth, iridescent – the same multicolour rainbow effect engine oil has on a puddle of water. In other circumstances I might have said that its skin was beautiful.

“I hope she doesn’t wake up,” Mark stated. “At least not until it’s over.”

Whenever Mark stood near June I always pictured them when they were man and wife. And that mind-picture always involved them being naked together. Mark pushing his cock into her. In my imagination the sex is all very visible and slippery. Wet-looking; lots of blissful sighs and moaning. Try as I might, I can’t stop myself picturing my wife coupling withMark. A peculiar reaction, I know – almost as if I’m punishing myself, but I’ve nothing to feel guilty about regarding June and her ex. Their marriage was over before I even met her.

After a while, I sat down on the cellar step. Mark joined me. He stared at his ex-wife as I closed my eyes. Mental images of his thick fingers kneading her breasts filled my head.

Mark said, “I know what you’re thinking.”


“It’s awful, but we’ll get through this. June will be okay again. It just takes ten days, then the Snake will go.”

“When they part, some women die.”

“June’s strong.”

We sat without talking for a long time.

Mark then said, “Have you finished writing the Dylan Thomas book?”

The Snake gripped my wife with its stubby little arms. This wasn’t the time for small-talk so I didn’t answer his question.

Mark patted my knee. “I’m sure it will be a good book. You’ll make money, and you and June can have a long holiday.”

My blood went cold. “I can’t see a time when life will ever get back to normal.”

“Tom, I know a doctor. We could bring her here?”

“No. Nobody must know. If people find out, they’ll treat her like she’s a leper. And that’s not just short-term, that’ll be for the rest of her life.”

Day Five

Mark shook me gently by the shoulder.

“Did you hear what I said?” he asked.

Those big grey eyes of his fixed on mine. He was clearly worried.

“What?” For a moment I didn’t realize I was still in the cellar.

Mark’s expression of worry became even more obvious. “Tom, you’ve hardly left the cellar in days. Your skin’s like ice. You need to warm up.”

“I’m all right. I’m staying here with June.”

“You can’t sit on that step for another five days.”

“I’m not leaving her.”

“Get a hot bath and something to eat.”

I shook my head: the pair in the corner – Snake and June – that’s what I focussed on. Nothing else mattered. I’d pledged to keep a vigil until the tenth day. I tried to speak clearly but I knew I was mumbling.

“I’m going to wait it out, Mark. You can’t stop me.”

“You’re not looking well. It’s damp and it’s cold.”

“Staying.” I grunted. “Just in case she…” I couldn’t push the last words out through mylips.

“Tom. If you don’t take a break I’ll phone for an ambulance.” He glared at me now. “Not for June – for you.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Just you try me.”

“I can’t leave her alone with that thing.”

“Don’t worry.” His voice became kind again. “I’ll stay with her.” He squeezed my forearm – a gesture of such affection that tears came into my eyes. “A bath, hot food… that’s what you need.”

Too choked-up to reply, I managed to stand up. My legs were dead after sitting on the cellar step for so long.

“Don’t worry, Tom,” he said. “I’ll be here.”

I thudded unsteadily up the steps.

“Call me if there’s any change.” I told him before heading for the house. “Even if it’s the slightest thing. Okay?”

I stepped out into the daylight. Its sheer intensity blinded me.


Thirty minutes later, I’d dunked myself in hot bathwater, drank coffee, scalding my mouth and throat and hardly noticed the pain. My meal consisted of what I could pick out of the fridge – so I quickly chomped down lettuce leaves, tomato, cheese, cold roast chicken, yoghurt, a slice of Bavarian smoked ham, then more coffee, searingly hot.

The Snake had captured the woman I loved. I hadn’t been able to prevent the attack, nor could I free her now. That was the situation… a situation which I couldn’t undo or even modify. The Snake would hold her in its stubby arms for ten days. If I tried to kill the Snake or forcibly pull them apart then June would die. There had been enough tragic incidents elsewhere in the last few months to prove that to be the case, so any intervention was a no-no.

I sat there at the kitchen table with a coffee in my hands and I understood that as well as cementing itself to my wife of ten years, the creature had also created my own world for me to live in. Yes, a peculiar notion, I agree. However, as I looked around the kitchen, and then out through the window at the trees, I realized that I seemed to inhabit a new world that was near-identical to the one I’d lived in before June’s encounter. The dimensions and sizes of trees, walls, kitchen fittings and so on all seemed ever-so slightly changed. The colours were duller. Of course, shock had done this to me. I understood that. Yet the world I occupied was a place I couldn’t trust. I mean, look at what had been inflicted onJune. My surroundings, somehow, had become threatening. The windows seemed to be on the verge of bursting inwards to gouge my face with broken glass. Is this a symptom of paranoia? Had the experience damaged me psychologically?

The next thing I knew I had the tablet in my hands, searching for accounts written by friends and family of people who’d been taken by the Snake. For the next hour I read #Snakecapture Tweets. I scoured websites, and I watched films on YouTube of unconscious women in the grip of that disgusting reptile.

Day Six

Once again, Mark persuaded me to take a break from watching over June. After an hour nibbling sandwiches, while poring over websites, I made a coffee for Mark.

My first words to him on my return to the cellar were: “Any change? Anything different?”

He shook his head as he took the coffee from me. “Cheers.”

“Listen. I’ve been checking up on this…” I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘Snake’ – even to think the word made me queasy. “Over seventy percent of people survive.”

Mark nodded firmly. “June’ll make it. Trust me.”

“But what will she be like afterwards?Websites say that women are never the same again. And the victims are always women, never men.”

“She won’t be damaged goods, Tom.”

“Survivors of this are affected mentally. Lots shut themselves up at home and never go out.”

“June won’t be like that.”

“How can you be sure? You don’t know her like I do!”

He gave me a look, the one that said clearly that he did know the woman as well as I did. After all, he’d been married to her for three years. That’s over a thousand nights sleeping in the same bed together. A lot of intimacy. A lot of tender conversations.

“Tom,” he said in a gentle voice. “We’ll help her through whatever comes afterwards.”

“What if the neighbours find out? They’ll shun her! Because that’s what happens. I’ve been reading Tweets from hundreds of women saying that even their own families turn their backs on them.”

“Calm down.”

“It’s easy for you. You’ll go back home after all this is over!”

“I’ll help you both. Trust me.”

“How can she trust you? You pissed off after she’d given birth to Katy!”


“You know something, it’s like people smell Snake on their victims. June’s friends will instinctively know what’s happened. They’ll have nothing to do with her. Theywon’t be able to stomach being anywhere near her.”

“Stop shouting at me, Tom. I’m doing my best to--”

“Aw, piss off! Go on, get out of my sight!”

I knocked the coffee out of his hand, then shoved him toward the cellar steps.

I yelled, “Get out! We don’t need you!”


“Shut up!”

“Tom, stop this.”

“Go home!”

“Tom! She’s waking up!”

There in the corner of the cellar room a change had begun to take place. The Snake still clung to June with its stumpy limbs. Its rainbow skin flushed – coruscated: bands of red, green, blue, orange and yellow flowed across its flesh: a multi-coloured blushing effect. June and the creature were face-to-face, perhaps ten inches apart.

And June’s eyes were now open. They widened in horror. Straight away, she tried to pull back, her face turning to a mask of revulsion.

“June,” I shouted, “can you hear me?”

She didn’t say anything, or even give any indication she had heard. Her frightened eyes had locked onto the flat reptile face in front of her. She managed to raise one hand to try and shove the ugly thing away.

Mark gasped. “The ten days aren’t up yet. What will happen if she breaks free to soon?”

June pushed at that face just in front of hers. The shoves were initially powerful ones. Yet they quickly faded in strength until she only patted the scaled hide. The expression of fear receded. Her eyelids became heavy, as if she felt drowsy.

She stared at the glittering scales. “Shiny,” she murmured. “So shiny.”

She now stroked the Snake’s body with the palm of her hand. I watched as her hand moved gently across the gleaming scales as if she gently stroked a kitten.

“So shiny,” she whispered again, then her eyelids slowly closed once more.

I took a step closer, watching her face closely; she was unconscious.

Mark whispered: “It’s drugged her. The thing must secrete a chemical that’s sent her back to sleep.”

We sat down, side-by-side, on the cellar steps. We could do nothing else other than continue our vigil. Just as I couldn’t stop myself picturing Mark and June having sex, now I began to imagine what would happen on Day Ten. There was no evidence that the Snake laid eggs in the women they took, yetI was assaulted by vivid images of women shrieking in panic as torrents of tiny, wet, wriggling snakes gushed from their bodies.

Day Seven

Exhaustion drained all the strength from me. Mark opened up a deckchair for me to rest in as I maintained my vigil there in the chilly cellar, with my wife and the monster in the corner. Did the cold affect her, or (and it was a sickening thought) did the Snake keep her warm, pressed up tight against her like that?

A few hours later, I returned tomy customary place on the cellar steps and Mark took my place in the deckchair.

Soon Mark fell asleep, his face covered by a blanket, so only the top of his head poked out. A spider ran through his hair as he dozed, the tiny creature spinning webs, giving him flecks of white in those thick, black curls of his.

June and the Snake remained motionless. From time to time, I checked if she was still breathing. Even so, I never touched her or the creature. Rumours abounded on the internet that to even lay the lightest of fingers on a captive of a Snake would result in the person dying of shock.


My biography, Dylan Thomas – The Film Years, absorbed me for the rest of the day. I only planned to re-read a couple of chapters I’d written; those words, however, became my fortress, protecting me from reality. I started working on a chapter about Thomas scripting a wartime propaganda film called Deeper than the Submarine Swims. Eagerly, I entered the world of Britain in 1945, picturing the Welsh poet sitting in a pub where, fuelled by beer and cigarettes, he wrote his script. Often work is an escape from our troubles. Dylan Thomas’ intense concentration as he laboured over a story of hunted submariners arguably made him forget violent arguments with his wife, Caitlin, and the landlord’s demands for unpaid rent.

For the first time in days I forgot about the thing in the corner of the cellar.

Day Eight

Most of the time Mark and I sat in silence. A brooding, gloomy silence at that.

We’d not spoken for hours when an object exploded into the cellar. A screeching, fast-moving object that hurtled around the room.

“Get it out!” Mark shouted.

The intruder was a magpie. We’d left the cellar door open for fresh air and the bird had invaded that silent place that could have become a tomb for my future happiness.We waved our arms as the big black and white bird thrashed its wings, rocketing from one side of the cellar to the other.

“Don’t let it touch June,” I cried. Although how he could realistically prevent such a thing I don’t know.

We shouted at the magpie, while trying to herd the fluttering beast back to the staircase. At last, after leaving a black feather as a souvenir of its visit, the bird flew up the steps, back to the outside world.

The intrusion left us agitated. We paced the floor (keeping our distance from the two in the vile clinch), while suddenly talking to one another in a brittle way.

“Magpies are vermin,” I snapped. “They eat dead rats. There could be all kinds of bacteria sprayed over the place.”

“It shit on the deckchair,” Mark declared angrily but he made no attempt to clear away the blob of white from the canvas.

Of course, the subject changed to what preoccupied our minds.

“When they separate, where will that go?” Mark jabbed his finger in the direction of the Snake.

“More’s to the point, where do they come from?” I scratched my face, feeling abrasive stubble. I hadn’t shaved since all this started. “After all, nobody knew that these bastards even existed until a couple of years ago.”

“The sea, that’s where scientists think they came from.”

“Now some’re saying an earthquake in Burma released them from caves, and they’re swimming through the sea, spreading all over the world.”

We paced, debated, not fully listening to what the other said. The magpie’s shocking intrusion had left us cranky.

Mark ran his fingers through his hair. “They latch onto women. It’s like these things are giant leeches.”

“I watched films on YouTube after they detach themselves. They just crawl away and vanish. If they’re caught, they melt down intto a pool of … of snotty slime. You know? Like if you put salt on a slug. They liquefy.”

“Why do they fix themselves to women? Is it laying eggs? Feeding?”

I stopped pacing, my blood running cold. “The day after tomorrow, Mark: it’s Day Ten. Then we’ll know if June lives or dies.”

The words had come out of me in a rush. That’s when the dread hit home again. I sank down to sit on one of the cellar steps, staring at June and wondered if this time next week there’d be a funeral.

Day Nine

I don’t know about anyone else but I find that unusual events attract additional, and unexpected, situations. Tragedies are accompanied by novel accessories.

When my mother underwent surgery on Christmas Eve last year I waited in the hospital canteen for her to come out of theatre. All around me were nurses wearing Christmas novelty fancy dress, including elf outfits, even down to plastic pointed ears. I could only imagine the shock of a patient waking after a general anaesthetic to see a lifelike elf telling them that everything is fine and not to worry.

Just to confirm my hypothesis, regarding the Law of Sod (which results in unusual events inevitably attracting additional and unexpected situations)in the cellar, the already nightmarish events took another even more dangerously bizarre twist.

Mark and I had fallen asleep. He dozed in the deckchair, while I was dead to the world on a row of boxes that I’d put together to form a bunk, topped with an inflated lilo.

We woke to find water pouring down the cellar steps.

Mark rushed up them to see what was happening. “It’s raining cats and dogs up here! Your bloody drains are blocked!”

I clambered off my bunk to discover that the water came up to my knees. June and the Snake continued to occupy one corner of the room, still motionless, both apparently asleep (that is if a reptile does actually sleep).

“Clear the drains,” I shouted up at Mark. “And close the door.”

“I can’t! The force of the water’s too much. It’s a river out here.”

I went to help him. The staircase opened into a small hut on the back lawn. There was a door that could be locked in order to keep the cellar secure from human intruders. Now floodwater poured through. Mark tried to pull the door shut from the outside. I helped him, pushing as hard as I could from the other side.

“It’s no good,” he panted. “The current’s too strong.”

“Clear the grates!”

“All of them?” he shouted in disbelief. “The ones in the street must be choked, too! All the run-off’s pouring into your garden.”

A loud pop came from behind me; instantly,the cellar lightbulb died.

“The water’s got into the electrics.” I let go of the door, which I’d only been able to budge by a centimetre anyway.

“The cellar’s going to flood.” Tom’s eyes were big and scared looking. “June will drown.”

“We can’t touch her.”

“We’ve got to.”

“If she separates from that thing now the shock will kill her.”

“You can’t leave her to drown.”

Day Ten was still two days away. Separation from that parasite worm of a thing and its human captive had to occur naturally. But what could I do? Watch June as water rose up over her face? Or take a chance with-

Mark grabbed my arm, “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know, but I can’t just leave her alone down there.”

“You’re her husband, Tom. This has to be your call.”

I splashed down the waterfall that now gushed over the steps. Half way, I missed my footing and slipped all the way down, the fall sending a stab of pain shot through my foot. I opened my mouth to yell, but already I’d hit the pool, which was almost a metre deep. Cold water, as fast as a boxer’s fist, rammed against my teeth before filling my throat. I struggled to my feet, coughing. Mark slammed into my back, almost knocking me over.

I remember swearing at him as I regained my balance. After that, I blundered through the dark to the shelves where I’d left the flashlights. After groping amongst hammers, screwdrivers, bits of string, I found a flashlight and hit the switch.

“My God!” cried Mark.

Because the light revealed the cellar had become an underground swimming pool. Cardboard boxes, pieces of wood, tennis balls, and old newspapers I kept for the rare times I decorated, floated in that brown swill.

“Put the torch on June,” Mark shouted. “Shine the light on her!”

The blaze of silver revealed the pair in the corner. June still sat with her back to the wall. The Snake remained in the same place. Neither reacted to the influx. Both were in a comatose state. The Snake’s eyes were open (then they never closed, anyway; perhaps the creature didn’t have eyelids?). June’s eyes were shut, however. And, by now, the water level had reached her chin.

Mark punched my arm. “Tom, you’ve got to get her out of here.”


“She’ll drown.”

“If they separate now, she’ll die.”

“She’ll die anyway.”

“Don’t you see? If she drowns it won’t by my fault. But if I free her?” My entire body shook – fear not the cold water. “I can’t be the one who causes her death. I won’t have that on my conscience.”

Mark could have pushed by me and tried to pull the reptile’s limbs away that held my wife. He didn’t.

Instead, he looked me right in the eye. “This is your decision, Tom. I won’t do anything without your say-so.”

“We’ll wait. Maybe the water won’t rise any higher.”

The level did rise. As it did so, a bubble, resembling a giant soap bubble emerged from the Snake’s mouth, growing larger and larger. We watched as that shining sphere pressed against June’s face. A moment later its surface tension seemed to give and suddenly the bubble enclosed June’s head.

Surely the bubble will burst.The thought repeated over and over in my head. The bubble didn’t pop. Instead, the iridescent sphere, now fully inflated with air, formed a protective shell around June’s head, something like a space helmet from a cartoon strip.

She was still breathing as the water level rose and rose until I could see her face no more.

We sat at the top of the cellar steps, gazing down into the murky liquid that filled the staircase to the halfway mark. June was down there. She and it, submerged.

Day Ten

Darkness fell at the end of Day Ten. The Snake erupted from the waters that filled the lower part of the stairwell. Smoothly, that damned thing ascended the steps with anaconda grace (as Dylan Thomas might have put penned; yes, a strange observation on my part –  funny how segments of our mind can be so detached from even the most horrendous of situations). Mark and I scrambled up from the top step, where we’d been sitting, and moved out onto the lawn before the Snake emerged. The creature’s short, thick limbs were lying flush against its body. Moving in a smooth, serpent way, gliding through the garden, the monstrosity eventually disappeared into the night.

“They’ve separated.” Mark’s statement was unnecessary, but perhaps the words had to be said for the truth to register.

We rushed down the staircase to find that the flood levels had dropped, leaving a metre-thick space between the surface of the water and the cellar roof.

I shone the torch across the room. June stood in the corner, her eyes open, staring directly at me. The bubble that had enclosed her head had gone. A moment later she fainted with a sigh and sank beneath the surface of the water.

Ten Months Later

Being immersed in the flooded cellar, being in the embrace of the Snake for ten days… I can hardly bear to recall the horror of it all, yet June emerged from that nightmarish time without a mark on her body, or the stain of neurosis on her mind. Life resumed its regular rhythm of old. My Dylan Thomas biography appeared to a fanfare of glorious reviews. Happy days.

By mutual agreement, June and I never discuss what happened in the cellar. Mark never mentions it on the rare occasions he drops by. He always keeps his distance from June, as if the prospect of being within touching distance of her repels him. Our two boys, family, friends and neighbours don’t know about the Snake taking possession of June. That Snake is gone and we have the rest of our lives to live.

Yes, indeed, happy days. Until, that is, last night, when we lay in bed, side-by-side. June fast asleep on her back. I rested my hand on her bare stomach. Then, abruptly, something as firm as a muscle seemed to squirm beneath her skin, and as I lay in the gloom her tongue slid out of her mouth to stand upright in the air. The pink flesh continued to slip out between her lips until its tip was ten inches above her mouth… there the tongue swayed slightly in the gloom – and I will swear until my dying day that I saw a pair of tiny, glittering eyes embedded amongst the taste buds. The eyes were staring at me, and I knew the worst was yet to come.

Simon Clark is the author of many novels and short stories, including Blood Crazy, Vampyrrhic, Darkness Demands, Stranger, Bastion and the award-winning The Night of the Triffids: his adaptation of the novel has been broadcast as a five-part drama series by BBC Radio. He has also edited two anthologies of Sherlock Holmes stories for Robinson books, The Mammoth Book of Sherlock Holmes Abroad and Sherlock Holmes' School for Detection. 

A short film based on his short story 'The Gravedigger's Tale' can be found on YouTube. Made by Joel Champ, the film has some striking special fx and delivers enjoyable chills aplenty to the spine.

Coming soon from Simon, an eerie Sherlock Holmes novel Lord of Damnation, published by Weird House


van gough

bedeviled poet