I have recently released my debut horror novella, An Army of Skin. It is a revenge tale of insanity, gore, flaying, and a sprinkling of dark humour!
It’s available on Kindle and in paperback and you can grab yourself a copy over at Amazon, if you are so inclined!
And how absolutely amazing is the cover? This is the work of the very talented and awesome M. R. Tapia, author of Sugar Skulls and The Die-Fi Experiment, and it encapsulates the feel of the story perfectly.
I’ve seen other bloggers sharing excerpts of their work so thought I would jump on the literary bandwagon and do the same. So here is the first chapter of my book for you to (hopefully) enjoy.
I wiped the corpse’s sticky blood and my own sweat from my brow. Taking a step back I cast a critical eye over the finished piece. Not bad for a first attempt, but in reality it was nowhere near the picture in the textbook.
I took a deep, calming breath and scratched at my tired eyes. But when they reopened the structure seemed even more amateurish than seconds earlier. The limbs, dissected into eight pieces, were arranged like a grotesque Jenga construct. The torso was the foundation of the piece while the head sat proudly on top like a putrefying sentry. As I stared, one of the forearms slid outwards, the slimy surface acting as a lubricant. The whole structure collapsed with a wet schlopp sound.
“Bitch,” I screamed, before marching forward and kicking the head against the wall. The pain erupted through my toe as the bloody cranium rattled against the brickwork. I hopped for a second or so, wiggling my leg, as if that would do anything against the throbbing that was taking hold in my foot. I lashed out at the dismembered body parts that now lay in a slick pool of blackened blood covering most of the floor. My standing foot gave way and I slipped. Instinctively my hand shot out to cushion the fall. The raw muscle of one of the legs was wet and tacky against my skin. I looked at my now glove-less hand and cursed myself for removing them so soon.
“Idiot,” I sighed.
My attempts to stand wouldn’t have been out of place in a slapstick comedy movie, but I was far from a jovial mood. When I made it back to my feet I clenched my fists and scowled at the pieces, as if that would somehow shame them into rearranging themselves back into the neat pile I’d spent hours working on. The head was grinning at me from the opposite corner of the room. The teeth bright white against the shiny, red muscles like a zipper stitched on to a juicy tomato.
I composed myself with some breathing exercises Dr Mellick had once shown me. It was a good technique. You breathe in deeply, push out your chest, and think about something from your childhood; an interesting textbook, a favourite toy, or a trip to the seaside. Then you exhale smoothly as though you are blowing through a straw. It was a mild form of self-hypnosis and always worked like a charm. Thankfully this was another of those occasions.
After a few moments I left the display to try and get my head together. I turned to the table behind me.
Although my attempt at post-mortal architecture had failed, not miserably but something fast approaching that, my other exploit this evening had faired rather better. Like an expensive wedding dress, her skin lay crease-free and undisturbed on the table in the corner of this cold, white room. The painted brickwork did give the suggestion of a mental institution, which was rather ironic. How could someone who was labelled insane make something as marvellous as this? Well?
I picked up the dress of skin and held it aloft, as though I were about to hang it out to dry. I was careful not to finger it too forcibly, although I wasn’t sure if this was entirely necessary. This being my first attempt at flaying a human I could remember, naturally I was unaware of how the skin would react to being fondled in this way.
Funny, though, I had little memory of the actual killing and dismembering of this woman. It was a little annoying, to tell you the truth. Perhaps it was the excitement of my first time, like losing your virginity. You spend years picturing it then, when the time finally comes, it’s over in seconds and you ask yourself whether you actually just imagined the whole thing. I made a mental note to savour the next one.
I placed the skin, now slightly crinkled, back on the table and consulted the textbook. The pages of the tome were well worn and many of them ripped, but the pictures and instructions were as clear as day. I was only on page 3, and a brief flick through the book made me consider giving up right there and then. There were over 400 pages in the damn thing. Although I wasn’t going to beat myself up if I couldn’t finish it all. Maybe I’d skip a few that looked too hard.
In fact, on page 213 there was a particularly difficult-looking piece. The subject, which was what all the victims were referred to in there, was suspended by its hair, with its elbows and knees hyperextended, the fingers and toes gnarled. It had the appearance of a floating spider-person. Maybe I’d give that one a miss. Like I said, I didn’t have to do every single one. It’s the taking part that matters, right?
I put the book down and stared at the face on the table. I removed the bottle of pills from my pocket with a shaky hand and swallowed two. I didn’t know what they were but they were prescribed by Dr Mellick and made me feel better at times like this. It wasn’t that important to give them a name.
The face almost seemed to look up at me from the table. “Not bad, not bad at all,” I muttered, “but I’ll do better next time.”
“Yes, you will,” answered a voice.
I spun around as panic and fear began battling for supremacy in my head and chest. “Who the fuck said that?” I screamed at the empty room, my echoing voice the only response. The sweat dripped from my quivering face. The salty discharge stung my eyes but I was too gripped with terror to clear them. It must have been minutes that I stood there, too scared to move or say anything. Was someone else here?
The breathing exercises did their job again. I finally began to believe my eyes and convinced myself that my ears were just fucking with me. It wouldn’t have been the first time. It was OK, I was definitely alone.
My eyes returned to the skin. Had it shifted its position?
I froze. My mouth hung open and my throat clenched. “What?” I finally asked it. But the skin lay lifeless and silent.