Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and as a holiday treat to our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. As the death knell for 2014 tolls out across the world, we bring you a glimpse of Tim Lebbon’s “The Lonely Wood.” By placing a grieving atheist in a house of God, Lebbon poses a philosophical question that underpins both religion and cosmic horror: which is more terrifying, the idea that we’re alone in this universe, or that we’re not?
He opened his eyes. Above him was St Paul’s huge dome, the Whispering Gallery encircling it at a lower level. There were several people up there now leaning on the handrail, looking down, swallowing up the transcendent song rising to them. On the walls lower down were immense paintings or mosaics of the four disciples that had supposedly written the Gospels.
“Come on, then,” Guy muttered, surprising himself. He had no wish to disturb the music, but something was settling around him. At first it was a playful notion, an idea that if he was ever to receive the touch of Christ, or to find his heart opened to the God he had never believed in, now would be the time. He’d never thought himself an on-the-fence doubter, was comfortable in his convinced unbelief. Yet he’d often had that discussion with Marie — If God exists, why doesn’t he just tap me on the shoulder and show me the smallest sign?
“Come on, here I am,” he whispered. “Do your worst. Do your best. Just do anything.”
Proof denies Faith, was always her reply.
Nothing happened. Guy chuckled. Of course not. He stared up at the amazing ceilings above him, the incredible artwork, and marvelled at the dedication and commitment of those who had created it hundreds of years before. To build this place now would be almost impossible. The cost would be into the hundreds of millions, the skills all but vanished in a time of steel-and-glass altars to commerce and excess.
And suddenly, in that place of wonder and grandiosity, he felt a flush of disgust. How many lives had been lost building this place? He doubted they were even recorded. How much money spent while the rest of London had lived in conditions of poverty, filth, and plague? The true cost of places such as this was never known. The music and singing soared, and it felt like the only pure thing. He appreciated the beauty of the architecture, but he could no longer admire it.
Guy stood, chair legs sliding against the floor. One of the choir girls glanced at him — it must have been the sudden movement, she can’t have heard his chair move from that far away — and he tried to smile. But she had already turned back to her music sheets.
The conductor waved, body jerking like a marionette.
The organ groaned and moaned, exhalations of distress given wonder.
Guy turned his back on the choir and walked away. He headed for the front of the cathedral and the impossibly high doors which were only used when important people came. Not people like him. But somehow he drifted to the left, and then he found himself at the entrance to the staircase that wound its way up into St Paul’s massive dome, and the famous Whispering Gallery it contained…
For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.
Tim Lebbon is a New York Times–bestselling horror and fantasy writer from South Wales. He’s had almost thirty novels published to date, as well as dozens of novellas and hundreds of short stories. His most recent releases include the apocalyptic Coldbrook, Into the Void: Dawn of the Jedi from Del Rey / Star Wars Books, The Cabin in the Woods novelization, the Toxic City trilogy from Pyr in the USA and the official Alien tie-in novel Out of the Shadows.
Future novels include The Silence (Titan UK/USA). He has won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award and a Scribe Award, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, International Horror Guild and Shirley Jackson Awards.
Twentieth Century Fox acquired film rights to The Secret Journeys of Jack London series (coauthored with Christopher Golden), and a TV series of his Toxic City trilogy is in development. His script Playtime (with Stephen Volk) is currently being developed in the UK.
Find out more about Tim at his website www.timlebbon.net