Treatises on Dust

Antic Found Texts

The Wanderer Resurrected

In early 2011, my friend Fiona G. Ment and I came across a mouldering and crumpled document in the apartment of the cult weird fiction writer Simon Peterkin, who’d disappeared under bizarre circumstances in late 2010. This document, a typescript running to over 200 pages, was entitled on the first, The Wanderer: A True Narrative.

Reading the tale it recounted, thinking it at first perhaps an abandoned novel of Peterkin’s, then wondering if it wasn’t something more eldritch, I felt it should see the light of day, though more as a curiosity than anything else. I didn’t think it would last. Samuel Johnson may have misjudged Tristram Shandy, but in general, ‘Nothing odd will do long,’ is a sound principle. And The Wanderer is odd indeed.

Which is why it is delightfully strange to me that it has to been published again, in a revised and slightly expanded edition, incorporating additional notes and materials, by the wonderful Zagava Books in incredibly handsome editions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let It Be a Blood Ape on the Prowl…

This antic text was passed to me a good few years ago now, by a friend, Laila, who knew of my interest in such things. One evening in an alleyway in Camden, behind the restaurant she was then working at, next to the large kitchen bin, she came across a ram’s skull with involute horns, which was swagged with fruit and vegetable peelings and looked, in Laila’s words, “like some pagan fetish”. Threaded through the empty orbits was a strip of paper, almost like a length of tickertape, on which, in a tiny meticulous hand, was written what seems an invocation of sorts. Of all the texts I’ve found or been given, this one, though it suggests nothing directly uncanny, is perhaps the one that disturbs me most.

...a hagfish’s grisly gape...

Let it be a blood ape on the prowl and a stooping screech owl, let it have a tapir’s snout, a hagfish’s grisly gape, a fox’s mealy muzzle, a goat’s breath and grizzled beard, a sea devil’s lure, a vulture’s ruff and tonsure, a platypus’s venomous spur, a lobster’s claw, a badger’s paw, give it a toad’s throat sac, an armadillo’s plated back, the mandibles of a stag beetle, a turkey’s snood, carbuncle, and wattle, a hog’s bristles and wild eye, the bottle-green sheen of a blowfly, and flesh soft, pallid like a grub’s, give it a warthog’s tusks, a narwhal’s braided horn, and the tottering gait of a foal new born, let it have a rat’s tail, a man o’ war’s scourges, a goat’s lustful urges, a cock like a ram’s, a weasel’s sneer, an echidna’s spines, let it whine like a hyaena, whoop like a gibbon, yowl like a mandrake, growl like a bear, let it live in air, in water, on land, and let it wait in the dark to gnaw out his pineal gland.

Under a Certain Old Streetlamp…

For a while now I’ve been collecting texts that hint at strange tales. None of them are ghost stories in the traditional sense—and actually I don’t really believe in spirits or an afterlife—but they’re all haunting in some way. “Treatises on Dust” I call them, because dust is the stuff of all things. The very first, which got its hooks in me, set me seeking out others of its ilk, was something I came across when I was working as a temp at a Community Mental Health Centre in Kentish Town back in 2001. One day, while helping out with an office move, I pulled out a filing cabinet and found something scrawled in red ink on the wall behind. It was scarcely legible, took me some time to make out. But I’m pretty sure this is what was written there, or something very close:

...under a certain old streetlamp...

An elderly man, committed several years ago for delusions and raving, told me yesterday that during the hours of darkness, under a certain old street lamp, on a quiet street in [here the name of the place had been blotted out with thick hatching], pebble-dash and mock Tudor and net curtains and a patina of boredom and frustration and prurience over everything, it was sometimes possible to hear faint yowling and scent the salt tang of blood or brine and the cloying perfume of bindweed flowers. Then, if you stood in the sallow cone of light and looked up at the bulb, it would sputter out and you’d see a sky, perhaps clear on an overcast night or lowering on a cloudless, and if clear, a bloated green smear of a moon and an awry spatter of stars, clustered not into the wonted ragtag menagerie, but a writhen horde. Last night, feeling constrained to go there myself, I found he’d spoken only the truth.