”The Dreaming Dead” finds St. Cyprian and Gallowglass facing down a trauma-eating entity in Bethnal Green Infirmary in 1919. It appears in the Miskatonic River Press anthology, Horror for the Holidays, available via the publisher as well as on Amazon.com and its international affiliates, and other online stores.

HftH

♦♦♦

“So why Bethnal Green particularly?”

“Why not Bethnal Green?” St. Cyprian said. He squeezed the horn and zipped around an oncoming bus. “Blitha Healh…’Happy Angle’ or ‘Blitha’s Angle’ or, more commonly, Bethnal. Edwin Drood-my predecessor’s predecessor-wrote that it was one of London’s ‘sour tendons’ and that it was better that no one knew the truth behind the Tudor ballad ‘The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green’ or the whole neighbourhood would be abandoned to the rats within a fortnight.”

“What’s so bad about ‘The Blind Beggar’? Other than it being truly awful, I mean?” Gallowglass said, grabbing the dashboard.

“He didn’t go into detail, I’m not sorry to say.” St. Cyprian looked up at the cloudy sky and frowned. His head itched, and had since he’d woken up. “To answer your earlier question however…Sergeant Robert Ogden is why we’re going to Bethnal Green.”

“Who?”

“A…friend, I suppose.” He glanced at her and twisted the wheel to avoid a cab moving too slowly.

“You suppose?”

“Are you going to keep saying everything I’ve just said back to me? Yes, I suppose he was a friend, of sorts.”

“I don’t like that ‘was’. Was implies he’s not now. If he’s not your friend now-”

“Well he’s not my enemy, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Are you sure about that?” She jerked her chin towards obvious shape of the Webley Bulldog revolver nestled in his coat pocket. He didn’t carry a gun habitually, only carting the heavy little pistol around when he expected trouble. St. Cyprian didn’t bother answering. Before long they were in the East End, and Bethnal Green Infirmary rose like a grim patch, with Whitechapel gloom stuck to the bricks like permanent shadows. It was a gothic toad of brick and bar, and that its purpose was healing took away little of the menace inherent in its facade.

“Never thought much of this place for a hospital,” Gallowglass muttered, fingers tapping nervously against the butt of theWebley-Fosberry holstered beneath her arm. “How do you know this Ogden character is here?”

“He will be,” St. Cyprian said, pulling the Crossley against the curb. “After all, he’s the one who asked me to come.”

The infirmary wasn’t so much busy as crowded. Even two years after the war’s end there were still more men than beds. St. Cyprian walked as if he knew where he was going and led them through the halls at a brisk pace until they came to a quiet ward. Men lay on beds or sat on chairs, speaking quietly amongst themselves. As the duo entered, however, all conversation ceased. Each of the men looked as battered as St. Cyprian, with pale faces and dark circles to attest to their lack of sleep. As one, those that could, stood and saluted, albeit half-heartedly.

St. Cyprian looked at them blankly, each face easily recognizable for all that he did not know them. Phantom faces that floated to the surface of the miasma of his nightmares. “Kemmelberg,” he said suddenly.

“See lads? I told you old Charley would find his way here before too long.” The speaker looked as haggard as St. Cyprian felt; his expression of weary satisfaction was offset by the pinned-up sleeve of his coat and the limp way his legs were thrown up onto a bed. In his good hand, he held a pocket-watch. As they turned to him, he snapped it shut with a sniff. “Four days Charley? Captain Carnacki-God bless and keep him-would have been here in two at the latest.” He let the chair he was sitting in thump down and stood, saluting.

“At ease Sergeant,’ St. Cyprian said. ‘I’m not an officer these days.”

“Once an officer, always an officer, sir, if you don’t mind me saying,” Ogden said, dropping his salute. He smiled crookedly. “More is the pity.”…

Advertisements