The annual horror-themed Bloody Parchment mini literature festival was once again held at The Book Lounge as part of the 2012 Horrorfest festivities. The Horrorfest, which is now in its eighth year and this year runs for a week and a half, is organised by Paul Blom and Sonja Ruppersberg. It comprises a film festival (that has now extended to Johannesburg as well) and other horror-themed activities such as the zombie walk, a Halloween party, and an alternative market.
This year Bloody Parchment, which was organised by Nerine Dorman, who also acted as MC, was presented in a new format: drabbles, which are 100-word pieces of fiction that force the writer to be succinct and snappy.
After devouring spooky snacks and admiring those brave enough to appear in costume (and special recognition must be given to The Book Lounge staff members who put an immense amount of effort into their costumes) we settled down to hear a selection of writers speak their macabre 100 words.
The format proved to be highly entertaining and resulted in a fun, fast-paced event.
Lauren Beukes went first, grossing us out with a parasite-infused drabble, and then followed it with one by Lily Herne (the Sarah Lotz half, who would have read it, was unable to attend due to a previous literary engagement). The story features another basement horror (you can never have too many).
Lauren Beukes’ Bloody Parchment Drabble
She has become obsessed with parasites. The names are like a skipping rhyme. Nematodes, trematodes, cestoda, protozoa. Parasites you can pick up from cat faeces or stagnant water or infected food. Bilharzia. Toxoplasmosis. Robie’s disease. Flukes and snails and worms and funguses that can get right into your brain and change your behaviour. They lay invisible eggs. They get inside you, colonise you, get their hooks into you. Like love, she thinks. So they can feed on you. Little bit. Little bit. You’d barely notice. Like her husband, she thinks. You can take deworming pills and anti-fungals. Bigger parasites require an axe.
Inheritance By Lily Herne
Today’s my thirteenth birthday. The day Gran promised she’d show me what she keeps in her basement – a room I’ve always been forbidden to enter. Mom makes me do my homework first – another boring essay on the 19th century apocalypse. Yawn. Ancient history. Who cares? It’s not as if there are any zombies left, right?
I type it up and race over to Gran’s.
Without a word, she leads me to the reinforced basement door and unlocks it.
‘Lebo,’ Gran says as an eyeless, mouldy figure lurches out of the gloom. ‘Meet your great-great-great granddad. One day, he’ll be yours.’
Meg de Jong made her literary speaking debut this year with a drabble describing a terror that manifests during a geography lesson.
Meg de Jong’s Bloody Parchment Drabble
It started during a geography lesson. One of the girls started laughing. Another joined. And another. And another. The sound soon switched from bubbly giggling to frantic bleating; jaws locked and eyes frozen in terror. The laughter spread to yet more girls, while the teachers looked on, bewildered. Some of the students started trying to scream behind their howls and hysterics. After 45 minutes, one of the teachers started with a choking guffaw. The headmistress, completely confounded, dialed the emergency hotline. After eight long rings, someone picked up; their whoops and cackles sounding tinny across the phone line.
Next up was Joan De La Haye, whose story Death Express appears in Bloody Parchment: Hidden Things, Lost Things and Other Stories, which was published earlier this year by eKhaya (an imprint of Random House Struik) and collects the winning story and the runners up of this year’s Bloody Parchment short-story competition. De la Haye’s drabble, Scratch, was inspired by a news story she saw on Twitter about a woman who was bitten by a spider in her ear.
Barend Buitekamer het die enigste Afrikaans drabble, Die Yskas (the refrigerator), gelees. Dit is ’n uittreksel uit sy nuwe boek wat volgende jaar beskikbaar sal wees.
Carine Engelbrecht‘s The Troll Apocalypse is a shocking and hilarious tale of the birth of a 21st-century troll. Engelbrecht is a particularly entertaining speaker and she had the audience in stitches by the end of the story.
This year’s Bloody Parchment anthology takes its name, Hidden Things, Lost Things and Other Stories, from Brett Bruton’s contribution to the book. He also had a drabble for us on Friday night, Road, which describes the awakening of a frightening presence.
Sam Wilson first read a tongue-twisting story by Louis Greenberg (which in itself was probably quite frightening for Wilson as he had to say “eschatological” three times). It is entitled The Answer and you can read the text in the comments on SA Partridge’s blog post about the Bloody Parchment event. Wilson then read his own piece about a labyrinth (and that’s all I can say without giving away the ending).
Toby Bennett, who also contributed a story to this year’s Bloody Parchment anthology, read two drabbles, both of which were poems, and then Nerine Dorman ended the readings with two stories, the first by Jocelin Kagan, a member of the writers’ group that Dorman runs, and the second a lovely description of a cemetery, death, and those left behind.
Nerine Dorman’s Bloody Parchment Drabble
A metallic rasp draws my gaze upward. A pied crow lurches in the pine’s boughs, its beady eyes glittering, small chips of onyx set among plush feathers.
All details are sharp where I stand among the granite headstones. The markers are polished to a high sheen and I can’t help but wonder who rests here, beyond caring. Some sort of barrier is pierced and the sense of vertigo makes me stumble. What must it be to just not be, to not know anymore?
It’s then that I realise these stones are laid not for the dead but for the living.
Once all the drabbles had been read it was time for prizes, courtesy of Penguin Books, which were awarded for the best costumes. The well deserved first-place winner was a staff member of The Book Lounge who shaved his head as part of his dedication to his character. The evening then wound down with more snacks, lots of talk of the macabre, and author signings of Bloody Parchment: Hidden Things, Lost Things and Other Stories.
The first book in the Bloody Parchment anthology series, Bloody Parchment, Volume 1, can be downloaded for free at Goodreads and includes works by Nerine Dorman, Carine Engelbrecht, and SA Partridge. This year’s collection, Bloody Parchment: Hidden Things, Lost Things and Other Stories, is available in print, as well as PDF and ePUB formats.
You have until 31 October 2012 to submit a story for consideration in the 2013 Bloody Parchment competition, otherwise start working on a story now to enter into the competition this time next year.
The 2012 Horrorfest runs until 2 November 2012.
- Bloody Parchment (eBook): Hidden Things, Lost Things and Other Stories edited by Nerine Dorman
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- Inkarna by Nerine Dorman
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- Zoo City (UK edition) by Lauren Beukes
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