Search this blog

Thursday 4 June 2020

๐Ÿ“š Segment 11: Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman - Alan M. Clark

Welcome to the eleventh segment in the serialisation of Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman, an Historical Supernatural Illustrated Novelette by (, IFD Publishing, 69 pages). Today we are back with Albert, our mudlark, on the surreal banks of the Thames in 1844's Victorian London.

Trivia: mudlarking saw a revival after World War II when it became about treasure hunting and archeology, and in 1949, writer and archeologist Ivor Noรซl Hume started to explore the Thames foreshore. In 1956 he published 'Treasure In The Thames' which is considered an important resource to this day.

Enjoy today's instalment, and don't forget that, if you missed any of the previous segments, you can catch up, find out more about the story, its serialisation and Alan M. Clark here, or jump to the segment you missed by using the links below.

|| Synopsis || Segments: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 || About the Author ||

      Albert saw the figure of a young girl ahead, another filthy waif in rags, not quite so bent with age as the ancient boy he’d seen earlier. She’d lost most of her right arm. A withered nub, hung out of her gray, rotting shift. Moving toward the girl, Albert watched her poke at something in the mud with a stick held in her remaining hand. “Just a rock,” she said, presumably to herself. She spoke slowly, as if the effort was practiced, not natural. “No life, no memories.”
      He stopped to speak to her. Hardly became still about fifty feet away.
      “Can you tell me where I am?” Albert asked.
      She looked him in the eye. Although appearing sad and withdrawn, her gaze didn’t frighten. She had crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes, creases around her mouth, much like those of Albert’s mother. Her skin had the liver spots of someone much older still.

"Alice": click here to purchase the original drawings by Alan M. Clark
      “Sticks,” she said, simply.
      He looked at the stick in her hand.
      “What did she say?” Hardly asked.
      Albert waved the older boy’s words away. “Do you live hereabouts?” he asked the girl.
      Her eyes widened briefly at the word, “live.” The crow’s feet disappeared. For a moment, she looked like any little girl. She seemed to search his face for meaning.
      Albert became uncomfortable, trapped within her gaze.
      Then a look of fright fixed her features. The crow’s feet returned. “The woolen mill, that’s where I…” Her voice trailed off for a moment. “The machine was so thirsty, never got enough of the oil, never satisfied. Had a hunger too…” She left the stick upright in the mud and rubbed the nub of her right arm. “…and a mean bite.”
      Finally the girl frowned and her gaze shifted. She shrugged, and took up her stick. “You’ve only just come, you and your friend,” she said, turning away and poking the mud. “You know nothing.”
      Hardly had approached. “Do you live here?” he asked the girl.
      “No live,” she said, “no die. No coins. One hundred years before I can go without paying the fare. Maybe tomorrow—don’t know how long I’ve been here. Not as long as he has been.” She gestured toward the boy Albert had first approached, now a mere thirty yards away.
      The air having cleared slightly, Albert saw several other children wandering the river’s edge in the hazy distance. Their movements slow and unnatural for children, he assumed they all suffered the same condition, whatever that was.
      “Which way to Limehouse?” Hardly said. He grabbed the girl by the shoulders. The nub of her right arm broke off in his grip. He threw it to the ground as if it had stung him, and looked at the girl, his mouth gaping in horror. She made no complaint, nor any expression of pain or surprise.
      Hardly’s astonishment emerged as a great whooping sound. Then he was in a rapid stumble to get away. He disappeared into the grayness.
      Albert, transfixed by the drama, stood dumbly wondering how he might help the girl. “Are you…?” he began.
      The girl looked briefly at the nub of her arm on the foreshore before turning away toward the river.
      Is she so ill she cannot feel? Has he made them all sick?
      Albert hadn’t wanted to believe Thomas’s tale of the Silent Highwayman, but now he easily accepted that the skeletal phantom existed.
      He’s done this, and now…
      “Luck is with you,” the girl said, pointing out over the water. “He comes for you.”
      Albert saw a small boat, much like his wherry. From its stem, a green lantern swung, sending out a sickly light that infected nearby mists. A gaunt cloaked figure stood at the tiller. The water appeared unusually troubled beneath the boat.
      A panic in Albert’s chest shifted to his throat, raising his head upright, and he ran, the muddy foreshore sucking on his every step.

Mudlarks and the Silent Highwayman copyright © 2020 Alan M. Clark

Come back tomorrow for the twelfth segment of Mudlarks and The Silent Highwayman, or purchase your electronic or paperback copy, now ONLY $7.95, from...

purchase from purchase from purchase from Barnes & Noble purchase from Kobo UK purchase from iTunes UK purchase from Smashwords find on Goodreads

No comments: