Tag Archives: Robin Collins

Daphne and the Fallen Stars

Daphne was down at the sea shore again. She was staring out to the greenish-blue-grey wash of the unsteady sea. So many thoughts were being washed around her head. They were about her mother and father whose lives had been lost out there in that monstrous wild of water. They were on a ship that sank. Daphne knelt down in the tidal grit and began to find bits of flotsam and shells. She gathered them with ritual obsession and her hands worked with the flotsam and shells as if putting together a puzzle only she knew. She finally stopped and looked at what she’d done. It was a ship. Or rather The Ship which her parents and many others had gone down with when it sank before she has any clear memories; this ship was so much part of who she was Daphne could not think of herself as Daphne without knowing she was Daphne from the Ship.

But she heard somebody else walking on the shore and her mind went away from the Ship. He had a large shabby frock coat on with many stains and weathering that it’s original colour was obscured. A battered bicorn hat sagged on his head. The man was staring out to sea with the wind in his grey beard.

After a while she decided to go over to him.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

‘Cuthbert Thorrock’ he replied with a throaty voice.

‘I’ve not seen you here before’

‘Have you been watching the stars? They’re falling out the sky’ he answered her as if swapping news on the weather.

‘When did you see that?’

‘It’s been happening more and more, the stars aren’t staying up there anymore and they’re coming down here, watch out young lady you might be crossing paths with one!’ he turned his eyes towards her and they were full of the sea waves and clouds. He coughed loudly and spat into the shore grit.

Cuthbert Thorrock said no more, and Daphne stood with him a little longer looking out to sea. His big frame hardened with the life he’d had felt oddly reassuring to have next to her, perhaps this was what a father was like: dependable and under a big old coat with a smell of the world.

‘What’s your name young lady?’ he said after the silence.

‘Daphne’

‘Ah’ he said, and then he shifted and began to walk away again. His steps crunched over the shore with weight.

She took herself back up the narrow path onto the land. There was a rock not far away where she saw somebody was sitting. As she walked closer she saw it was a woman in a long black dress with long black hair under a neat lace snood. Daphne thought perhaps she’d come from a funereal and was stopping at the morgue on the way back, like people did.

‘Good day young lady have you seen any of my sisters?’ the woman spoke before she’d even reached her. She turned and her face was pale and beautifully shaped as if glass. She smiled at Daphne and she knew she should not have gone over. Behind her the sea tides hissed. Stars were falling.–

Words by Robin Collins-Art by Tom Brown

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Daphne and the dead seagull

Daphne woke up and knew she had to go for a walk by the sea. The hissing and cold wallops of its tides called her and she listened wondering what the sea wanted to show her. A wrecked ship? A beached kraken? A crystal bottle where inside was sealed another smaller crystal bottle? Daphne had found one of those. If she held it up to any light that was willing to shine on the morgue where she lived on that bleak, dour hill the crystal bottle inside the crystal bottle shimmered with flitting rainbows.

Daphne wondered if there was a ghost trapped inside, and thought she’d leave it sealed because ghosts imprisoned in bottles were there for a good reason. The weather that morning was fairly grey and the clouds were all grey. Not a bit of it seemed like it was going to be cheerful, which was entirely in keeping with Daphne had grown up to expect of it. She had started walking on the twisted lonely path away from the morgue. Behind her the morgue stood like a beached plinth of light sucking stone and plenty of curious lichens and mosses which possessed tiny eyes. Just next to the morgue was a small stone cottage with two squat little windows that looked like the morgue had a child. Daphne lived in the cottage, but she never thought to distinguish it from the morgue. They were the same to her.

As Daphne walked on the path she sang a traditional and soul destroying ditty to herself.

There was a sailor

who nailed himself to his boat

not meaning to

there was a sailor

who got eaten by the moon

he should not have gone out that night

there was a sailor

who tied himself to a big cod

why did he do that?

And on it continued as Daphne savoured the familiarity of its maritime vexation which she enjoyed keeping alive, perhaps she’d make somebody else learn it so its tune would never ever leave people alone?

Her path had come to a steep stony one picking its way down to the oozing sea shore. Beside it was a cairn of stacked bluish-grey stones which was added to every time somebody disappeared at sea. She went down like a spry little sheep to the sea shore, plucking the odd green leaf of salty sea beet that grew here ruminating upon it as she chewed it. A shape had caught her eye on the shore as she now crunched through its detritus of grounded up sea flotsam of stones, shells and brittle things regurgitated from the bottom of the sea.

The dead seagull was laid perfectly out on the gritty tide line. One white wing lay outstretched and crusted with silt and sand. Its yellow orange beak like an abandoned kitchen knife was still. Those rapacious eyes in its head were greyed over. Daphne knelt down in the wet grit staring with interest at the dead bird. She looked at its outstretched wing brushing delicately the feather vanes of their silt. She thought that she’d keep one treasure from the sea. Dead humans were always put in the morgue but it didn’t have to be that way….

Daphne went back up the path and in her arms she cradled the ragged bulk of a dead seagull, one wing hanging out stiffly. Behind her the sea tide hissed and churned. The morgue would have a new corpse and Daphne was pleased that it had feathers.

Story by Robin Collins

Art by Tom Brown

 

Daphne finds the Mirror

There was a door at the back of the morgue Daphne had never opened before. That day she opened it she found herself staring down a cold dank passage that seemed sunk in the earth. She’d never been afraid of the dark. The morgue was a gloomy place and even outside it the daylight was reluctant to go beyond the same washed out layers of grey. Daphne knew the dark was her friend, but this dark beyond in the dank passage she could sense was not her friend. But she’d opened the door now. Down she trod sometimes looking behind herself to see the vague greyish outline of the doorway becoming more and more distant. The passage was cold with a kind of suffocating deathliness. Daphne came into a chamber at the end. Up in its walls were small slits in the stone letting in meagre light, but enough to see the great stone plinth in the middle of the chamber upon which lay a wooden box. Who put this down here? She thought as she looked at the wooden box. As her fingers went over its surface she had the strange feeling that it was carved with uncanny signs and sigils that slithered and scarred its grain. Daphne thought they were probably like those funny old markings she saw in other places in the morgue and sometimes outside. In the air at that moment she heard demonic whisperings and sibilant imprecations as if they were telling her to put the wooden box down. She told them firmly to mind their own business; this was her morgue and not theirs. When she opened the box she found wrapped up in musty corpse-cold silk a peculiar object. After a moment of holding it by its carved ivory handle that was attached to its roughly oval flattened head she realised what it was: a looking glass or mirror like she’d seen once at a fancy shop down in the town.

But what was a mirror doing hidden away like this? More demonic susurrations flurried about her though this time they were threatening not annoying. They tugged at her hair and clawed at her shabby dress. Daphne had enough of this. Wrapping the mirror up in its silk she walked out the chamber, and carried on until she was at the door again. When she’d shut that heavy stiff hinged door she stood there catching her breath and listening to her heart beating. She looked at the mirror again. Her hands ran over its face and then knew it was like a frozen lake of ice that reflected no light only swallowed it endlessly into its black abyss. No use to her though, what would she need this bauble for? There was something about the mirror though that seemed to be tugging at the cracks of her soul. The more she held it the perfection and flawlessness of its design seemed to get at her. Daphne frowned feeling that if this was a person they were not welcome any longer to stay in her morgue.

‘This is my morgue do you hear?’ she said aloud, though of course she realised the mirror didn’t hear because it was a mirror. Or at least it seemed so.

To make this clear she walked to the morgue doors and pulled one ajar. Outside she looked at the mirror again. A wan shaft of light caught on its yellowed ivory handle and mirthlessly showed the crooked undecipherable signs cut into it by a long forgotten and heathen hand. Daphne looked into the mirror as out of its ice-bound crevasse a strange flickering grew like a lonely candle coming closer and closer. She found herself gazing not at her reflection but of another girl with sparkling blue eyes, skin white enough to be almost bluish, sharp cheek bones and yellow hair. In that moment Daphne understood what the demons had been trying to tell her: But too late. She felt a sudden cold searing flash of pain in her hand holding the mirror. The blue eyed and yellow haired girl smiled. Then her face was gone. Daphne dropped the mirror on the ground and ran back inside the morgue.

‘Thank you for setting me free again you are very kind, do you want to freeze the world with me forever and forever in the fimbulwinter?’ the girl was there smiling and smiling.

Written by Robin Collins
Art by Tom Brown

Daphne’s first Dustcat

By Robin Collins

Hopeless Maine has one morgue. It is an old and musty edifice those walls are often scoured by winds from the sea or home to glowing colonies of wandering moss crabs. The morgue stands a lonely and depressing sight on its cold hill. Whoever built it had ugly little dwarves carved into the guttering like gargoyles, vomiting cold rainwater out of their slimy mouths whilst increasing anyone’s likelihood of cheering up to an inevitable low.

Interestingly or sinisterly depending on your view there is a little girl called Daphne, who lives in the morgue. She spends her days among the dead bodies laid on the stone shelves talking to them, and going up to the roof where she can look out to sea and dream of being a vampire mermaid sucking blood out of sailors.

Daphne had always been the only living human in the morgue. She was proud of being the only living human in the morgue. Those who brought the cadavers up never seemed to think perhaps this little girl needed a proper home. Her love of the colour black and her intense stare anyway made them glad that she didn’t live with them.

Daphne though had never been brought presents for her birthday. She didn’t know about birthdays, but would she have noticed when she was staring out to sea dreaming of being a vampire mermaid?

The present was left in a wooden crate just outside the morgue doors. Daphne sniffed it and then saw somebody had handwritten a little note for her with much thought and kindness evident in the writing. But Daphne did not read. She ate the note because it looked like it could be eaten. Then she opened the crate because there might be food in it. I have not mentioned this but Daphne was often delivered food by the caring people from Hopeless Maine because they were afraid of what she might do if she did not have her fish pie.

Out of the container suddenly emerged all covered in fur and with claws and green eye… a dustcat. The dustcat’s mouth opened and out wriggled its grey fleshy dust sucking tube. It stuck to Daphne’s face with a wet sucking noise. She was initially surprised and about to pull her little axe out she carried wherever she went to kill the dustcat, but she began to laugh. This was fun and she was smiling. The dustcat finding no dust on her face then flew up above her head resembling a ragged clot of fur and meow. It sat on her hair. Daphne was laughing now so much she was starting to hurt her ribs. When she’d finished laughing the dustcat had already gone inside the morgue and found a lot of high quality dust. Daphne watched as the creature went about the gloomy, morbidly introspective interior, its green eyes glittering and its dust sucking tube making dust sucking sounds.

‘I will name you…’ she stopped and thought for a moment. ‘…Darkness,’ she said happily.

This was her first present and her first dustcat.

Art by Tom Brown