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12STORIES by David Moody


June 2023

It had to happen sooner or later, it’s just a shame it was sooner. I couldn’t get a story written in time for this month. I’m sorry, and not a little embarrassed. I promised to post something every single month. I owe you an apology and an explanation.

Like I said, I’m really sorry. I started the year with good intentions to post some original fiction every month, but we haven’t even made it to the end of June, and I’ve already crashed and burned. I know it’s lame, and I apologise. It’s not like I haven’t had time, but you know how it is. Sometimes life gets in the way. I’ve had a lot of commitments to try and balance – both work and home-related – but I can’t help feeling like I’ve let you down.

The other side of the argument is that everything I post in this section of my site is free, so I’m under no obligation. I realise that I don’t have to explain myself, but I don’t want you thinking I’m going to renege on every promise I make, so I kind of feel like I should.

It was all going so well . . .

Start of the month and I was flying. If you’ve read my most recent newsletter, you’ll know I’m working on a book called DIRTY DAY – a real-time novel that takes place over an hour and a half and is written minute-by-minute, entirely in first-person. It’s the same whenever I’m working on a project – I become consumed. I usually set aside each morning for writing, then spend the afternoon and evening catching up with admin and other tasks. I let things get all out of kilter at the start of June, though, and spent so long working on the novel that I ate up all the time I’d set aside for working on this month’s short. It was all planned out and everything. It’s called CANNON FODDER. It’s half-written, and it should appear here sometime in July (provided I get myself back on track).

But it doesn’t matter how well you plan and how much contingency you factor in, there will always be extenuating circumstances that you just can’t provide for.

I’ll be completely honest, in my world, family always comes first.

One of my closest friends got married in Cornwall at short notice. There was no way we were going to miss it. The venue was a couple of hundred miles from home, so we decided to make a weekend (and half a week) out of it. A couple of the kids came along, and we ended up having an impromptu family holiday and seeing the sights. Have you ever been to the Eden Project, by the way? Now there’s a source of inspiration for any horror/science-fiction novelist if ever I saw one. It’s a remarkable place, and even though I’ve failed to deliver on this month’s story, I can see myself writing something set there in the near future.

I digress.

If I’m honest, I’m just making excuses.

My plans were upended even before we left for Cornwall.

It was one of those rare nights when it was only me and my other half in the house. It was hot and we would have been sitting out in the garden, but we’re doing some work out there, and between the half-dug (at the time) foundations and various mountain-like piles of rubble and soil, it’s currently not the nicest looking spot, hardly relaxing. Anyway, I was on my own downstairs when the landline phone started ringing. That’s unusual in itself. Lisa and I have talked about getting rid of it because we don’t use it, and we’d have done so if it wasn’t for all the people we’ve given the number to over the years. The monthly cost is negligible and . . . and I’m digressing again.

So, I answered the phone in the lounge, and it took me a while to be able to understand the guy who was calling. I know I should have probably hung up straightaway, but I’ve been getting so annoyed with crank callers and spam calls recently that I’ve taken to engaging with them. You know what I mean? The caller wants to talk to you about a ‘minor traffic accident’ you’re alleged to have had at some point in the last twelve to eighteen months, and you’re supposed to panic and pay the company that’s cold called you to make the problem disappear. I’ve started asking them for more details . . . what was the date, what’s the registration, how many people were killed, that kind of thing. Either that or I just pretend to fall to pieces and start sobbing. Eventually I hang up. Or they do.

This guy wasn’t a crank caller.

He was just excited. Very excited. He asked if he was speaking to ‘David Moody, the guy who wrote Autumn and Hater,’ and when I told him he was, he got even worse. At this point, I have to say, I was happy to talk. As a very, very, very, very lower-league author, it’s rare that I get to interact with people who’ve read and enjoyed my books like that. He was talking about my work with a real depth and understanding and, to be honest, I was very flattered.

His name was Gordon, he said, from Coventry. I had a memory of meeting him at an event I’d done in Cov with Wayne Simmons about ten years ago, maybe even longer. Gordon seemed like a genuinely nice guy. He was warm and engaging, and he spoke with a real passion about my books and the genre as a whole.

It was only when we’d been talking for about fifteen minutes, and he showed no signs of even pausing to take a breath, never mind hanging up, that I stopped to think about how dodgy the call was. I asked him where he’d got my private home number from (we’re ex-directory). He was a little sheepish, but he explained that he’d been digging around some of my old websites. When I first started out, I registered far too many different domains (.co.uk, .net, .org, etc etc). Turns out I’d forgotten to make the WHOIS contact information private on one of them, and he’d found my details there.

Don’t bother looking now because I’ve made the contact details private for all my domains. It’s frustrating. I should have done it years ago, but it’s one of those things you never think about checking until it’s too late .

Anyway, I finally got Gordon off the phone after about half an hour. I agreed to send him a signed book if he emailed me his details (which he did immediately).

It’s not the first time something like that’s happened, and it probably won’t be the last, either. He gave me a load of earache about why I haven’t written any of the SPACES BETWEEN books yet and, to be honest, that’s a justified complaint. I’ve been working on the series for more than a decade and, apart from one short story (see January’s 12STORIES entry), I’ve not released a word.

A week went by. We took advantage of the mid-June heatwave here to spend time with the family (drinking and barbecuing, mostly, rather than writing), and I recounted my phone encounter with Gordon a number of times. I sent him his book, and I thought that was that.

Until he turned up.

Fucker was absolutely out of order, and I told him as much. I said I’d go to the police if he didn’t fuck off and leave me and my family alone. What else could I do? It was my own stupid fault that he’d got my details. Knowledge is a dangerous thing though, don’t you think? Short of smacking him repeatedly around the head until I’d given him permanent brain damage, there was no way I could take my personal details away from him, was there? I was so fucking angry . . . I couldn’t think straight. It’s one thing when someone hassles you in the street or on the phone, but when it’s at your home and your family are scared and there’s nowhere else you can go, what are you supposed to do?

It just turned into a fucking slanging match in the road outside the house, and I’m not proud of myself. I behaved like an animal. I was so fucking furious . . . I’d have given Danny fucking McCoyne a run for his money.

Gordon apologised, but I didn’t want to hear it. He said he just wanted to talk, but I was having none of it. Eventually he got the message and fucked off back to Coventry.

So, as I think you can probably appreciate, it’s been a month and a half here. And this has turned into a one and a half thousand-word apology (so far). I thought it might be cathartic to explain what happened like this but, if I’m honest, I’m just sitting here getting wound up again. It’s not my fault, though. That cunt Gordon just doesn’t understand the concept of boundaries.

When we got back from Cornwall yesterday, he was here again.

He scared the living fuck out of us.

He’d climbed over the fence and he was sitting in the back garden, waiting for us to get home. We’ve got decking in the corner of the lawn and he was sitting on my fucking recliner, soaking up the sun. Can you believe the gall of that bastard? I went straight out there and had the fucker. I grabbed him by the throat and threw him into the hole we’ve still got in the middle of the lawn. I started filling it in. I swear, I’d have buried him alive if it hadn’t been for my missus dragging me back from the brink and making me see sense.

She went inside to call the police. I stayed out in the garden, standing over him with a shovel, ready to finish him off. He was sobbing, absolutely frigging heartbroken. I was exasperated. I didn’t know what to do, what to say. He’d told me he’d read everything I’d written. Christ, he’d watched the AUTUMN movie more times than I have. In desperation, close to tears myself, I just said to him, ‘what the hell do you want from me?’

‘I just want you to write a story about me,’ he said.

And I said, ‘no fucking way’.

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