He has not put anything on the walls – no photographs, no artwork – and he lies there for a while staring at the bare white chimney-breast, and then into the dark space beside his head. He thinks about his life.
Something catches his eye: there is a something glinting just above his head, a trace of light thrown against the wall or something affixed to it.
He props himself up on his elbows, alert.
In the corner, where he had thought there to be a smooth span of wall there is in fact, he now sees, a door, small, with a handle of brass, its wood painted the same shade of white as the surrounding wall.
From the Kickstarter page: Drawing its inspiration from the likes of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman, as well as H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen, The Shadow Booth explores that dark, murky territory between mainstream horror and literary fiction. From folk horror to alien gods, the journal aims to give voice to the strange and the unsettling in all its forms. This Kickstarter campaign is specifically aimed at launching the first issue of the journal, to be published later this year. The stories are already written and selected, the cover is designed. Now we simply need you, the readers, to show your interest by ordering a copy.
My story is called ‘The Upstairs Room’ and is about a man in a house. I won’t say much more than that, not because I’m a secretive, reclusive oddball who clams up like Theon Greyjoy when required to talk about his work (although I am) but because there’s honestly not a whole lot more to the story than that. I know, I know, that premise sounds none too thrilling – a man in a house – but that’s pretty much the template for the golden age ghost story. MR James’s entire fiction output could be titled Various Men in Various Houses.
Here’s the story behind this story. I’ve been working on ‘The Upstairs Room’, on and off, for about ten years. When I first started it I was living in Preston next door to an abandoned and gradually dilapidating house (you can read all about this woeful time in my life in a brief piece I’ve written for Gravy Mag - pre-order your copy now!) It often feels as though the buildings we surround ourselves with develop something approaching sentience and as though that sentience can outlast its inhabitants. Of course, this is a bit of silly and superstitious unscience, yet it endures because it has a resonance with that murky intersection where place, memory and the human imagination all converge. And that’s how I felt about the house next door, when I was awake late at night, that it was in some way cognisant, malignantly so. I couldn’t help myself from imagining what unspeakable aberration had befallen my absent neighbour, what celestial claw had emerged from the walls and swept him into oblivion. And so, to protect myself, I wrote a story. Over the years it’s picked up other themes and motifs: fractured masculinity, fatherhood, madness, toilets.
It’s exciting to be having a story published in such a great new mag with such a formidably illustrious line-up. As well as the likes of me, there’s also contributions from people whose work I know and/or like: Gary Budden, Daniel Carpenter, David Hartley and many others.
You can pre-order your copy here. There are various rewards available, including a bundle of books by the authors involved, among which you will find a signed copy of The Night Visitors.