Written for this
- The road-signs point to The North. Only ever to The North. As more and more flash by, The North stops being a place and becomes more of a...presence. As you approach, a faceless angel the colour of rust and dried blood looms on the horizon, staring sightlessly down from its perch.
- The world is grey. The buildings, the streets, the sky, the water - everything is grey. And when the sea fret slithers up the Tyne to settle inland, and the air tastes of salt and seaweed, you think you might drown here.
- The mines are closed. The shipyards are closed. The old men who worked in them mutter into their pint glasses and cast narrow-eyed looks to the grey sky. They sit and rot and rust and wither and their low grumblings slip into dreams. The mines are closed. The shipyards are closed. But you dream of steel all the same and wake with black dust ground into your skin.
- The language rises and falls like whalesong - queer and eldritch. Barely English. It slips into your brain and pulls at ancestral memory; dark as the core of the earth and as dangerous as the tides that dragged you here. Sea and coal and sweat.
- There is a castle here. You've never seen it. You don't know where to look for it. You don't need to. You can feel it. The castle has seen you, and it waits for you at the heart of its labyrinth.
- There is a second castle. This one, you know; this one, you all know. St James' Park towers on the top of the hill, demanding pilgrimage. An army clad in black and white ride hope and hippocampi into its concrete halls; their roars fill the sky like thunder.
- You do not mention the plague pit. No one
mentions the plague pit, and yet you know of it, and that knowledge twists in your brain and your gut as a hen party shrieks and staggers too close.
- The Quayside is a maze of narrow, twisted streets filled with red neon and howling. You slide through the crowds and avert your gaze from a young woman vomiting red into a gutter. The city demands its sacrifice.
- The fair situates itself over the old gallows, where witches were hanged. The grey sky darkens and the rain begins. It is summer. Rain drips from your hair and your nose, soaks into your skin. You listen to the screams.
- Those from the Outside look on in wonder as you pass. Bundled in scarves and coats to protect them from the wind and the bone-deep chill that rises from the river, they don't understand that the cold means nothing. You are Viking, you are Selkie, you are Geordie
, and the cold has no dominion. They shiver. They do not understand.
- You can never leave. Not really. The North is a presence and it's been latched onto your soul from the day you were born. You go, you run as far as you can, but there is a day - there is always a day - when the sea in your blood pulls you to your door. "Am gannin yem"
you say when people ask, queer and eldritch, with a voice that rises and falls like whalesong; eerie and incomprehensible.