“The Cotswold Olimpicks” was first published in TERROR TALES OF THE COTSWOLDS, published by Gray Friar Press in 2012, and it was reprinted in 2013 in Stephen Jones’ THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR 24. “I’d like the audience to remember that the Cotswold Olimpicks are a real event, and that the poem at the end of the story was genuinely written by Robert Dover!”
SIMON KURT UNSWORTH was born in Manchester in 1972 and has not yet given up the hope of finding that the world was awash with mysterious signs and portents that night. He lives in an old farmhouse miles from anywhere in the Lake District with his fiancée Rosie and assorted children, dogs and guinea pigs. His neighbours are mostly sheep and his office is an old cheese store, in which he writes essentially grumpy fiction (for which pursuit he was nominated for a 2008 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story). STRANGE GATEWAYS is his third collection, following 2011’s critically acclaimed QUIET HOUSES (from Dark Continents Publishing) and 2010’s LOST PLACES from Ash Tree Press. His stories have been published in a large number of anthologies including the World Fantasy Award-winning EXOTIC GOTHIC 4, TERROR TALES OF THE SEASIDE, WHERE THE HEART IS, AT EASE WITH THE DEAD, SHADES OF DARKNESS, HAUNTS: RELIQUARIES OF THE DEAD, and LOVECRAFT UNBOUND. He has appeared in Salt Publishing’s YEAR’S BEST FANTASY and five volumes of Stephen Jones’ THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR. He has a further collection due, the as-yet-unnamed collection that will launch the Spectral Press “Spectral Signature Editions” imprint. His novel THE SORROWFUL is due out from DoubleDay in the US and Del Ray in the UK in early 2015. Simon blogs here.
Your reader – David Rees-Thomas – wishes to remain an enigma wrapped inside a blanket…
“‘What do you want?’ asked Fillingham.
‘You to celebrate with us,’ she replied, holding out the cup again. The liquid inside slithering up and then down again and even in the poor light, Fillingham saw the residue it left on the clear plastic sides glistening and clinging like oil. ‘Devotions must be paid.’
‘What?’ said Fillingham. ‘Look, I appreciate you’ve got this weird acting gig at the games and you’re only doing your job, but please, it’s late and I’m tired and I don’t want to drink whatever that is.’
‘A last enquiry: you refuse?’
‘Yes! I refuse! Now, just leave me alone.’ To emphasize what he was saying, Fillingham lifted his camera and took a photograph, the light of the flash filling the corridor with a leaching whiteness that painted the woman into a colourless mass for a moment. As the dancing ghostlights cleared from his eyes, the woman nodded and then lifted the cup to her lips and drank the liquid it contained. Keeping the cup at her lips, she thrust her tongue out into it and Fillingham saw it writhe within, licking at the remaining drips of drink. It should have been erotic, he thought; he was sure it was meant as erotic, but somehow it wasn’t, it was crude and unpleasant. Her tongue was dark and looked slimy, glittering inside the clear plastic walls of the cup. Finally, she dropped the cup to the floor, lowered her head and muttered something that sounded Latin or Greek. Before she could look up at him again, Fillingham shut his door.”