Fantasy Flash Fiction: Audience Participation by Mark Huntley-James


fantasy flash fiction



To: Mayor S. Cornflower

Barrowhurst Town Hall

Barrowhurst-on-Helltide
Middle England
 
Master of the Dark Arts (retired)
Moore Magic and Occult Consultancy
Blunt’s Alley
Barrowhurst-on-Helltide

Dear Seb,

Our phone conversation got cut short for some reason — I hope you are well, but I thought I heard a scream of pain before the line went dead. Anyway, here’s a summary of what I said.

Yes, demons are a nuisance, and yes they will keep coming out to play after dark, during the helltide. And no, I don’t think the helltide will go away any time soon, nor do I have any information on the exact times of day for low- and high-helltide.

I agree that the word does seem to have got out somehow, and yes there do seem to be a lot of visitors coming to Barrowhurst and they are, as you put it, Occult Tourists.

Honestly, I don’t think there is any practical way of stopping demons from killing and eating the tourists. I know it’s bad for repeat business, and the abandoned cars are clearly a growing issue, but I don’t see any way to prevent it, other than the education programmes I suggested.

Firstly, I think the Town Council has to take ownership of the issue, publicly acknowledge that demons are real, and encourage Occult Tourists to take sensible precautions when they are out demon-watching, or enjoying “really evil performance art”. I’m sure there must be lion safaris that we could borrow ideas from. Stay in the car, don’t make eye-contact, and definitely don’t make any sort of whimpering noises because that just gets them excited.

I know the public acknowledgement is contentious. Perhaps you could persuade the more conservative councillors to put public safety ahead of not sounding like a knob.

The only alternative is to teach the demons that when they eat humans, they ought to dispose of the metal cans considerately. I know that doesn’t address the economics of losing long-term customers, but it will keep the streets tidy, and free of abandoned cars.

I have had a further thought — although it still doesn’t fix the lost-custom issue, but does help with traffic congestion. I thought we might have some sort of parking facility outside of the town, and provide buses to local hotels and demon performance art hot-spots. I was provisionally calling this Park-And-Die, but apparently I need a more “customer friendly” phrase.

With regard to quality assurance, I really don’t see any practical way to persuade the demons to become ISO9000 quality accredited. I know the local Morris dancers did it, but they do nothing more than get a bit rowdy after a few beers. I know it seems like a good idea, but apparently it involves paperwork, and documenting procedures. I’m not sure we really want them to record in detail the correct way to eat people. Seriously, demons do contracts not bureaucracy, although I have had dealings with several who claim to have invented it.

As a final observation on quality standard registration, it strikes me as asking for trouble if the Council is found to have advance detailed technical knowledge of demons killing people. I think you’re better off turning a blind eye (metaphorically, unless you have a face-to-face with a certain class of demon) to an ongoing, ad hoc artisanal gourmet experience, as opposed to a closely documented complicity in wholesale slaughter. Things are edgy in the town with demons walking at night, so probably best not to have another scandal like the salmonella soup-kitchen debacle.

Overall I think this is a minor problem that will sort itself out. It’s not as if the demons are leaving heaps of festering corpses and tying up valuable police time. As I understand it, there’s not even bones left, just the cars. I think we have to accept that they’re just doing what comes naturally. There’s no malice in them, just eternal malevolence, which is best left well alone.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Moore.



This fantasy flash fiction was originally published on Lore's medium page, before switching over to our own site. We hope you enjoyed it!

Author: Mark Huntley-James

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