New Short Story: THE PERIPHERY via Horrified Magazine

Short New article for Horrified Magazine!

Horrified is a new kid on the block but is producing some fine work in the realm of British horror, both in terms of analysis and original fiction.

An aim of mine eventually is to break back into fiction. I started online writing fan fiction scripts and I have dabbled privately in prose, plus last year winning a local Birmingham competition for a story I wrote called ‘The Coin on the Rea’ (later turned, last Halloween, into a short audio drama), but this is the first piece I have ever published online, and I am grateful to Horrified for the opportunity.

Read on to learn more and enjoy a brief sample of the story…

The Periphery popped into my head a good seven years ago or so.

I was working at a school and I would always see, out of the corner of my eye, a staff member who I thought was quite attractive, but who for whatever reason–usually due to us arriving at adjacent offices at the same time–I didn’t actually see properly for a few weeks, face to face. Something struck in my mind about this, about the horror of someone you only saw in the corner of your eye, and out spilled what turned out, in the end, to be a strange short piece about obsession, a broken marriage, and a haunting passion.

Like many stories, I have no real idea where most of this came from. I’m not entirely convinced even I quite know what the ending means. But it was enjoyable to write (quite some years ago now) and I hope, if you’re a fan of psychological chills especially, you take some enjoyment from it. This hopefully won’t be the last published short, at least, as I build up eventually to writing a novel.

Here’s a sample of the piece, and you can enjoy the rest by clicking the link below:

She was always there, on the periphery.

The periphery of my vision, like a persistence of the mind, like a shadow lurking in the corner of the eye where sleep waits. 

I noticed her the first night I stayed in the Connaught. Many people used to think I meant the famous hotel on Carlos Place, right at the heart of Mayfair, the place with ballrooms and spas and Saxe-Coburg history seeping from the pores. My Connaught was a smaller, less grandiose getaway in Charing Cross, a place I would come when my wife pretended she was away on business, and I would pretend she wasn’t in the arms of her lover. 

Not that I was a saint. Not that I didn’t deserve it. I had become infatuated with Her, let’s be honest. 

The woman on the periphery. 

At first, it seemed like a nonsense, like a trick of light and sight. I walked down the second-floor corridor in the Connaught with its slightly damp walls covered over with light purple wallpaper, to complement the dark purple of the carpet, zig-zagged with patterns that when you looked down made you feel like Gulliver in a mouse’s maze. It first happened when I walked across the intersection bridging my corridor with an adjacent one down the front-facing part of the hotel, and the staircase across the way. 

She was there. 

Imperceptible but tangible. Like a whisper. 

She existed without form, without construct, yet she was clear, in that space between understanding and possibility. 

I noticed the red hair first, felt it burning like a hazy Sun, running gracefully down the front of her formless body from what I presumed was a gazelle’s neck, soft and illuminating. 

The curls spoke to me, the warmth drew me in. 

I stopped. Did I turn? 

Never. I never turned. Not at first. 

She was looking at me, that I knew. She was on the staircase, yet not. She should have been lower, should have been someone I looked down at, but she was at my eye level enough to register her presence. Equal. Unafraid. 

I felt no fear, at least at the beginning. All I felt was the rapture, the pull, the instantaneous desire to turn, to embrace, to become… 

“Morning Mr. Jewson,” came a voice, ripping me from my reverie. I looked straight at the smiling young woman passing me by, one of the Connaught room service staff. Was her name Amy? Astrid? 

“Morning,” I tripped over almost in reply, and Amy–I was sure it was Amy–continued on her way. Had I smiled? My voice had sounded reedy and distant, for sure. If she wondered about the grey-haired businessman in a suit slightly too big for him and a gaudy, cheque tie he hated but his wife had bought him as an anniversary gift, wondered if he was acting strangely, she didn’t show it. 

I barely noticed her disappear down the corridor with her tray of towels and bed covers, my mind fixed as it was on the periphery once more. But she was gone. 

It didn’t happen again until three weeks later. 

The Periphery

Author: A J. Black

Author: Myth-Building in Modern Media | Twitter: @ajblackwriter | Podcaster: @motionpicspod @wemadethispod | Occasionally go outside.

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