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époque press
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The lane leading out of the village cuts through a gentle valley. The arable fields in these waning days of autumn are tilled bare and the flinty mud blanched with tracts of chalk. At the end of the village before these fields begin there is a stretch of woodland scuttling up the valley side and beside it a pasture used occasionally for cattle but which now lies empty. The pasture slopes to a wuthered horizon marked with stunted trees and halfway up a small copse of hazels stands beside a cow trough.

   Two boys are approaching this copse. They are ten and eight and in the inchoate stages of their exploratory lives. They are dressed against the inclement weather in anoraks and bobble hats and mittens. The older boy has the lead of the dog looped around his neck with the bolt snap attached to the handle. The dog is a mongrel and courses through the undergrowth. They walk in file with the younger boy a pace or two behind. There is a path scythed through the overgrown grasses and the wet sagging panicles brush against the tucked cuffs of their trousers. Their wellington boots are slick with dewfall.

   A mist is over the landscape for it is morning and the sun has not yet broken through the cloud. The boys are far enough by now that the village is gone from view and with the horizon not yet visible the feeling is one of isolation. The younger boy fears this isolation. He fears that they will become lost in the mist though the both of them know the walk well. To the younger boy the notion of being lost is one of permanence. A sense that in being lost one might never be found. The older boy enacts for this brother a fearlessness that he has in reality not yet achieved.

   The trees of the copse loom spectrally in the mist. The scythed path disappearing into the vapour yields with every step the threat of encounter whether human or animal. It is a weekday morning in the school holidays and since leaving home they have encountered neither. Even so the mist bears for them some sinister portent perhaps conjured by the gothic mysteries they watch on television or the fantasy books they read featuring haunted landscapes.

   They pass the copse and come to the upper slope of the pasture. Here the scythed path is no more. Running along the edge of the pasture is a barbed wire fence that separates them from the chalky slopes of the tilled fields. The fence is hung with drips of moisture and cobwebs heavy with dew. The boys skirt the fence to the rear of the copse and follow it up the slope. All about them is shrouded in mist and the mist intensifies the heavy silence that hangs above the moist landscape. The tilled tracks in the chalk field run to nothing and the barbed wire fence disappears in the veiled white silence. The mongrel runs ahead along the lines of leporine impressions in the grass and urinates at intervals against the blanched wooden palings of the fence. When the mongrel strays too far the older boy calls for her but his command to return is unheeded.

   The boys do not talk. Despite the breadth of the field and the absence of any discernible pathway they continue to walk in file with the younger boy following the imprints his brother makes in the dewy pasture grasses. He watches his brother and uses the motion of their shared strides to distract himself from the enveloping mists. He looks up to and takes cues from his brother whether at school or at home or during these ranging walks through the countryside and he derives comfort now from stretching his strides to match those of his brother.

   He has not told his brother about the night just passed because he is not sure what transpired. In waking from a nightmare he had gone along the landing to see his parents. It was not yet midnight and the house was silent but for the ticking of the water pipes and a disquieting murmur from up ahead. The floorboards sounded softly beneath his feet and light from the gibbous moon illuminated his passage such that his shadow lay faintly before him. His hand slid along the banister and the stairwell below lay shrouded in gloom.

   In the nightmare he was plunged in a membranous black liquid and as he tried to surface innumerable hands pushed him back down. Sombre light glimmered through the tarry liquid and in silhouette he could make out the form of his father amongst his other assailants.

   Approaching his parents’ doorway the murmuring increased. He could hear a low pained groaning and heavy animalistic breaths. He pushed the door ajar and peered in. The same moonlight penetrated the room through the half open curtains and all was bathed silver. He saw first the furniture. The glossed wardrobe doors. The antique chest of drawers. The dresser with his mother’s jewellery box and perfumes and lotions. His eyes fell upon the bed and his supine mother with his father on top of her. Both were naked and his mother’s nails were digging into the broad musculature of his father’s back as he thrust at her from the hips. The boy saw in the moonlight the sinews of his father’s taut arms and the helplessness of his mother stricken beneath him and his first impulse was to cry out and yet he held his tongue. He watched with mounting horror as the veins swelled in his father’s neck and his back arched and he thrust and he thrust and then he thrust no more. In the moonlight the boy saw the crescentic marks of his mother’s nails livid upon his father’s back. His father was motionless and then rolled away and with his hand still upon the banister the boy in breathless consternation stepped back and retreated along the landing with each of the floorboards’ soft creaks now amplified in the dread silence. He returned to bed and pulled the sheets up over him and for many minutes his heart would not cease its frenzied palpitations.

   He has not told his brother about this for their relationship is not one given to meaningful discussion. They value family and the fields and weekend walks and hearthside evenings with their parents. Childhood for them is a cocoon from which neither has the will to disentangle. Thus the younger boy in his insularity retains within himself the unsettling images of yesternight and follows quietly in his brother’s footfalls.

   Up ahead the mongrel comes to an abrupt halt by the fence and resting partway back on her haunches starts to paw gingerly at the long grasses between two of the palings. Her hackles are raised and in the uterine mists her growling can be heard resonating across the landscape. The younger boy looks at the dog from behind his brother and the older boy slows his stride as he starts to come abreast of her.

   It is not clear what it is that is wrapped around the barbed wire and what lies in the grass beneath. The mongrel continues to paw at it and the older boy pulls her back by the collar and it is in this manner that the three of them stare at it. Upon one of the twisted upturned barbs is snagged a mucosal goo that extends some distance either side of the barb and drips to the wire below in strangely curtaining spools. It is yellow grey in colour and largely opaque though where it thins it is imbued with a filmy transparency. Upon the barb on which it is snagged the mucus is amassed and within this mass there are luminous red capillaries. In the streaks that drip below there are thin streaks of blood and the substance glistens in the misty listlessness of the morning. On the grass is a sac like a lychee in appearance but veined with fine capillaries. Surrounding it is a garland of greying skin rimpled and puckered and bristling with fine hairs. Around the edge the skin has been torn and the rags of the skin are covered in crusts of partly congealed blood. In places these scabs are a purulent yellow and in places there are thin blue veins interwoven in the snags. In the bloodied grass there are black and wiry hairs and the blades of the grass are streaked with blood and with a thin bilious substance preternaturally yellow like the purulent flanks of the skin.

   While the older boy continues to restrain the snarling dog the younger boy subconsciously presses his hand against his groin and experiences a great shrinking within himself. His muscles contract and he feels on the cusp of urinating. He angles himself away from the bloodied matter on the barbs of wire and the unctuous sacs of skin in the grass and his mind is filled with the clawing of nails on sinewy backs and the primal thrusting of man upon woman and he looks into the eyes of the mongrel and there is something there he has never before seen.

Christopher Boon spent his formative years in a small village in rural Hertfordshire. He studied English at Manchester University and, upon graduating, worked for three years as an English teacher in Ogaki City, Japan. He now works as a teacher in southern France. He started working on his first novel, The Passing Of tHe Forms That We Have Loved, after his father died of oesophageal cancer in 2008 and whilst writing it his mother also succumbed to cancer. These experiences helped shape the novel.


The Passing Of The Forms That We Have Loved was published by époque press in September 2021 and can be ordered online via our bookshop here, or from all good bookshops. Christopher has also had his short story ‘Salad Leaves’ featured in the ‘Withdrawal’ edition of our é-zine.


Of the story featured here, Christopher says:


‘My story deals with the quiet menace that children face from a confusing and unfamiliar adult world.’

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