As a humble artisan, I can only submit my work and let it speak for itself. So here you go: a selection of stories and writing samples.

My stories seem to have a life of their own. As ideas, they just show up and get jumbled with the rest. When the idea is finally realized, they have already begun to grow, or perhaps fester or bloom. Their nature shifts as words are attributed to them. By the time I’m done, they are only frozen temporarily, as they tend to develop further and further inside my head.

From whatever parts of the aether they came to me, they became odd things unto themselves. Sometimes positive, at others negative. Strange, dark, sordid or just weird. I wouldn’t say they would fit comfortably in any one genre, be it Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror, but a strange melange of several.

I hope you enjoy these strange diversions.

The Last Meal of the Incredible Phileas McNeill

The story of one man’s obsession to eat every kind of food in the known universe.

Read on Website       Read as PDF

The Even More Incredible Afterlife of Phileas McNeill

All good things come to an end, and when they do there is a new beginning!

Read on Website      Read as PDF

The Ear of the King

This is an excerpt from another of those “proto-novels” every aspiring author has. You know, the ones where they have an idea, writes a chunk of it, perhaps as a short story, and keeps on having ideas for it, then comes back to it in a few years… Those ones. This one soundly goes into the Dark Fantasy category. It is still being worked on actively, though, so who knows what will become of it? I won’t set up the situation for you, let’s just say that it concerns “a vigourous splarching.”

           ” The dungeon was devoid of people, save Ulrich, the rats and myself. Even the Artisan slumbered after a day of dark machinations. I enter as a ghost, climbing from the crawlway hatch. The straw underfoot stopped me from slipping on the slick coating of ichor that was drawn from Ulrich’s body.

            “Don’t stir on account of me, my dear Ulrich.”

           A groan was all he can manage.

            “Now, now, I come to you as your only friend.”

            He spat, surprisingly since I thought his mouth would be parched from his ordeal. The unguents usually cause the stomach to swell beyond repair, and the glands to milk as if squeezed by hand. He stank.

            “You have little choice in the matter, Ulrich. You are here of your own doing, not mine…” A grunt was my answer. “Well, maybe a tiny bit to do with me. I merely set the stage for your grand performance. But it was you who took to it, as a troubadour before an audience. Your passion betrayed you.”

            He slurred, “Begone wretch, I have no patience for you!”

            “I’d save your breath for your executioners on the morrow, fool.  They will have the patience for you that I do not.”

            He harrumphed and demands my purpose. Why do I harry him so?

            I laughed. “Are you so ignorant and empty minded as to wonder why I wish to torment you Ulrich? Can you not guess? Does my diminutive stature not reveal my identity? Are you so much a pulchritudinous fool that you cannot recognize the accursed clown you have kicked, beaten and prodded, even thrown bodily about the court when the will suits you?”

            I bent down close to his face. Truly a feeling of power for one sized as I am. The acrid stink of his blood and the dissolved fat of his neck struck me as the fetor of a sewer. Rot had already set in, and flies laid their bounty.  I stripped off my cowl and mask, and let him see my twisted, half formed smile.

            “Yes, it is I. The clown you exorcised every shred of anger upon. I am not the troll you think: I am a man of diction and eloquence, and now, of unbridled violence toward thee, Count Ulrich. Every kick and blow you have stricken upon me will be one more minute for you on the Splarch. I will watch with glee as the slack is taken up on the ropes that now embrace you and see your skull and spine pulled from your body. Your last mortal vision will be of your own face left behind as my laughter assails your ears…” I accompanied my words with a caress – my fingers danced on his slippery skull. He registered the motion and groaned. Ahh, that wily craftsman, the Artisan had left some feeling in there. One supposes the old ways are still with us. If Ulrich really could feel my fingers, then perhaps I should have pitied him to some degree when the end came. It would have been a very painful affair.

Dagon’s Bell

A drabble is a story told in exactly one hundred words. This one was written as a dedication in a book for a friend. When I wrote it THEN, it was actually 120 words, but I didn’t tell anyone it was a drabble. I’ve long since revised it to the appropriate word count:

Dagon’s Bell tolled its gloomy resonance across that accursed bay.

At this devil’s hour upon the autumn solstice his betrayal was complete: years of loving caresses had begotten this child.

 His wife had died from the trauma of its radical birth. In one swift cut, her chained, naked body expelled her entrails upon the dock along with the hideous, mewling thing that had festered inside her.  Cradled in his arms, its lidless eyes, lipless mouth betrayed its intelligence, aware since conception.

 Foamy water lapped at the jetty. The “child” wailed, hideously.

And from those dank depths, something answered its cry…

Donovan Goldwater, esq. aka “Shufty Five Fingers” for Dr. Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators

During Dr. Grordborts’ early years, Weta collectibles asked for submissions for “testimonials” for their steampunk collectibles – ray guns in particular. For some reason, I was trying to write things cockney style and submitted this:

http://www.drgrordborts.com/testimonials/donovan-goldwater-esq/

I was shocked that they used it and that the creator of Grordborts, the affable and bearded Mr. Greg Broadmore, had done a portrait of the character I had created.

Note: Dr. Grordborts and the testimonial, characters, etc, are trademarks of Stardog LP, 2010.  (which is why I’ve linked, not posted it)

Twisted Humour Horror excerpt

The less said about this, probably the better. When left to my own devices, my writing tends toward the morbid and darkly humourous. This was one of them. It was, however, extremely fun to write.

“My attempt to lever the pickaxe out of the zombie’s chest was met with disaster. The head remained inside its ruined ribcage, and the haft broke in two, providing a sharp stake for my next victim. Mercilessly I rammed this remnant into the eye of another lumbering assailant, nailing its head to a nearby wall, scrabbling frantically to claw me as I pulled away from it.

This whole thing was getting ridiculously out of control. What had started out as an innocent attempt to rid my house of a malignant poltergeist had become a runaway orgy of hell bent violence and murder.  I guess I should have noticed it getting out of hand when the act of speaking to the dead required consumption of a small amount of human flesh… Perhaps it was already too far gone, I mean, fuck, what sane man thinks about eating human flesh?!?!??

 I remember standing over that dilapidated grave, murmuring strange words that were somewhere between Aramaic and Sanskrit, half thinking myself crazy for believing it to work, and half crazy for thinking it wouldn’t. I was shocked, after all, when that corpse began to move, and respond to my words, in a croaking ancient Native American tongue, Micmac, Beothuk, whatever they had been… But the occult tome had suggested to partake of their flesh, to become one with them to strengthen the bond between living and dead… And with little forethought I had stooped into that grave, pulled off something that didn’t quite look bad and tasted four hundred year old jerky. All I could really think of was what fresher meat might taste like that I hardly noticed the thing haul itself out of its own grave, and stretch its limbs…

 In contrast to what I witnessed now, that scene was a vision of lucid tranquility. Here, the summer night’s heady silence was pierced with the shrieking ululations of the dead, cawing and mewling as they feasted on whatever villager they could find. Like ravens, they picked the town clean.”

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Eternal Darkness was in many ways a love letter to HP Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos – that should not be a secret. It is also the best work I’ve done professionally and been recognized for.  I suppose it is odd for me to select an excerpt that most people roll their eyes at – one of the “autopsy” monologues from Maximillian Roivas. I am unapologetic about it; not only was Max my favourite character in the game, with his story being very Lovecraftian, but also the delivery was incredible, both in tone and manner. I had the opportunity to work with the amazing Bill Hootkins, best known as Red 6 in Star Wars: A New Hope, and his performance was spot on. It was tough picking one of the 16+ monologues I wrote for him, but I think this one hits the spot.

You can listen to Bill’s performance of all of them HERE. May whatever gods you hold dear spare your sanity if you do.

Max Roivas (gibbering)

Oh gibbering insanity wrought in flesh as though an artist had sculpted it! Created from nothing by their mistress Xel’lotath, a canvas as grotesque as any!! Their bodies made no sense – no heads, no organs – an empty husk devoid of the trappings of nature… But it walked… it sang… it shrieked!!!  A mockery of reason, both natural and mental!! A blasphemy from beyond the Veil!!

(exclaiming loudly)

The veil has opened!! And we should not see beyond!!

 (breaking down in remorse)

We weren’t mean to… never… ever.. meant to!!

 (waxing dramatic)

Oh, give us the blessing of ignorance, the happiness of oblivion…

(shouting)

Innocence can only be tainted, never returned!

Note: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is a trademark of Nintendo, copyrighted, all rights reserved, 2002.

Too Human,  excerpt 1998

Before Too Human, there was Too Human.  Though some people actually believe the game was worked on continuous from 1997 to 2008, there were two distinct periods of development, with a five year hiatus in between. This excerpt comes from some of the in-game voice over. Since the 2008 version of Too Human had an entirely different approach to delivering this form of content, this excerpt had no counterpart within it.

“I was reminded of an incident in my childhood. Seeing a butterfly writhing on a needle. This guy had his entrails hacked out, and replaced by a cluster of wires and tubes that fed data into a nearby computer bank.  He tried to stand up and walk, but like a dog tied to a post, was pulled back as the tether snapped taught. He screamed gutturally when that happened, as the fleshy connection would be pulled no further. This guy hurt like that butterfly, trying to uselessly push itself off of the impaling needle, you could see the look of anguish and horror in his eyes, just as you could in the butterfly’s thrashings…”

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain

Vorador’s Larder

Kain was the project I cut my writing teeth on. Although I had written some story glips and character bios for two of SK’s first few games – Fantasy Empires and Dark Legions – Kain was the first game where I contributed largely toward content, world building and story, as an Artist, Writer and Designer.  This excerpt is one of my favourites, even though it is buried deep in the game, when Kain confronts the ancient vampire Vorador inside his own “feeding” room.

 “The room I had entered had but one purpose – the torture and execution of human beings for the sadistic pleasure of its engineer. Dried blood was spattered on every available surface, coating the jagged rusty spikes that jutted from the arching walls, and filming the stones on the floor.

“My vampire ears picked up the lingering shrieks of agony of past victims, still echoing around the lethal walls. I tried to shut them out, to cancel their pain in my mind, but there were too many of them. The painful cries and screams of a thousand men, women and children called out in dreadful symphony. I heard their howls, their accusations: “Murderer! Vampire!”

 “Then, from amongst the cacophony of pleading, screaming souls came the subtle laughter of the Vampire himself…”

 “Help me Kind sir!”

I feel that this excerpt marked the beginning of my approach to interactive content. The idea was to present a sympathetic situation for the player concerning a half-dead woman, manacled to a wall in a depraved dungeon, yet to suggest the interior conflict of the player’s character who was a vampire and desired to feed upon the girl. The voice over does not cover what the player actually does – does he take mercy on her, or does he succumb to his vampire desires. I think most players went for the latter.

“I found the girl, catatonic with fear, in that wine cellar. She sobbed and babbled incoherently, forcing out half-words from between broken teeth so tightly clenched that blood issued from their very roots.  Tousled, frightened and bleeding from self-inflicted wounds, my thirst was tempted to take her right then, but I let the girl live, if only for her to tell her story.

         “She spoke of her Lord Nupraptor the Mentalist, driven into insanity by the brutal slaying of his beloved Ariel. She told of how he mutilated himself, sewing his eyes and lips shut so that he would not have to endure the outside world. And then  fueled by despair and hopelessness, turned his magic on the Circle, disrupting their minds; then  his servants; spreading lunacy amongst some and controlling the corpses of others like obscene puppets. Nupraptor cared for nothing now, save his self-pity.

         “Although she had survived the mental assaults, she had much to overcome afterward.  I will not say what became of her.”

Note: Legacy of Kain and Blood Omen are, unfortunately, registered trademarks of Crystal Dynamics/Eidos. Copyright and all that.

 

Except where noted otherwise, all content Copyright Ken McCulloch, All Rights Reserved.