The Darkling girls lived in throbbing magenta.

They sauntered the length of the magenta lounge in absolute unison, matching each others movements precisely – one with a red telescope, one with a pink stethoscope, and one with a kaleidoscope of yellow. They sat themselves on the sofa and wrapped their bodies together in a three-headed bundle.

A spotlight hit their formation, washed them in petrol blues.

Together they said very loud:

‘Something aloof and rare in me wants to soar.’

The spotlight glanced upwards and vanished.

All was once again magenta.

Curtains trembled but never closed.

ride a white dog at a trot on the mud land

by the light of a mundane moon

Get it on

Get it off

Get it gone

Debbie Darkling wore a candy pink wig. It coiled around each of her over-developed breasts and knotted in a hairy bow under her heart-shaped chin. Daddy had painted a pink heart in the middle of her forehead. She was short and curvy – man, she was curved to the curvature of this hurtling globe, with a pink stethoscope growing out her ears. She had no heart – just this stethoscope, coming out for you. She could hear things that go thump in the night and she heard all your misgivings as she rode to a heart-stopping beat in Daddy’s fast cars, puking Pernod swill out the windows.

There was no love in this Darkling girl and she wanted your desire to fill her.

She was the dirty stop out.

Daddy Darkling was bare-headed, covered in congealed charisma and psychedelic brushed cotton pyjamas. He had buried his periscope out the back a long long time ago.

Pssst … this belly-god organza parfait

light-fingered with airglow betray

grins nuttery on smoother parlay

for his benzedrine lush bellamoure …

There was no future in this Darkling man and he wanted yours.

He was the empty dropout.

The lounge was dissected by strobelights.

All the young dudes prancing, menace the music for mincing, Daddy and Debbie discussing

The Great Monaco Yacht Plot.

‘If I was you I would get my gorgeous arse to somewhere wealthy, see? Get yourself to Monaco, jump in the sea, act like your drowning, get rescued (by your beauty), get pulled on board a yacht (by a millionaire) in the sea of Monaco.’

Julie to Lizzy:

‘Someone like him should not be allowed to hatch big ideas.’

‘He’ll fall for you instantly, you’ll pretend you’ve got no family, syphon his dosh to me – easy peasy, see? I’ll be waiting in a ritzy hotel calling myself Lord Inch-Gap.’

Julie to Lizzy:

‘Debbie is a desperate yes-girl for Daddy’s dodgy daring.’

‘When you’ve fleeced him good and proper, ditch him, and come running to me. You’ll be my Lady Inch-Gap. We’ll live in luxury – away from this Mummy poxed house, away from the fuzz, just you and me, we’ll be in-laws and outlaws – with no laws. The sound of the high life will ring in our ears, and we’ll fuck ourselves richly, my darklin’.’

Julie and Lizzy:

‘We don’t want to go to hell fuck in Monacoco.’


‘You two ain’t even invited. You’ll both stop behind, dumb and blighted.’

The lounge lurched to a stand-still.

The windows slammed shut.

Curtains trembled and closed.

‘His parents were sixty when they had him. He said they smelt like death and he was their breath of fresh air. He grew up cramped by their old-age pestilence in a council house infested with fruit flies and they put bicarbonate of soda in the vegetables and drank egg nogs off a hostess trolley – he reckoned they never got wheelchairs or zimmers because they were enthusiastic astral planers – blasting across time and space, wearing thermals teeming with lice, bums tucked in, ankles held high, shooting away on comet plumes – destination cremation.’

Julie wore a wig, most terrifically artificial, neon red and hacked with brutal corrections. She was the one with the red telescope clamped to her left eye. She had no right eye, just this telescope, focused on the facts. She saw things you only dreaded. Daddy painted a red bolt of lightning across her pinched features and when she stomped out in her bovver boots she cut quite a dash.

There was no soul in this Darkling girl and she wanted your truth to thrill her.

She was the wary look out.

Daddy wrapped his Zoom Zoom babies in cling-film – tightly packed shiny papooses. He placed blue pills on their extended tongues and they wriggled and flopped on the mud, eyes oscillating bewildered.

After he took the photographs he hooded them with plastic carrier bags.

When they sucked the air down deep in their lungs the bags moulded to their heads in a shrink-fit rush and their rib cages stopped moving.

The lounge was gilded rococo, all twiddly and ornate, burnished and buffed, with coiled decorous triumphants.

Daddy and Debbie played amorous games.

Musical Statues. Simon Says. Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

The lounging losers looked on.

Julie and Lizzy played Patience.

Came a loud knock, knocking.

Daddy asked, ‘Who’s there?’

Like solid gold easy action, Mummy shot up through the floorboards


people pleaser perfect

otherworldly boast shapes

welcome sheer futuristic

peep-toes raced metaphoric

bold unbuttoned hosanna

deified lace veiled vision

classic reality touching

drama frivolity smothered

ultimate majestic desire

flutter voluptuous vivid

translated girl outperforms

rallying extraordinary sweetness

oppositional celebration exquisite

curve ball frisson booster

dynamism universal embellish

defiance charm combination

Mummy had a pair of castanets and she clacked them over her head

and she said

‘This is my game and you haven’t mastered the rules.’

Debbie had a pair of big knickers and she pulled them over her head

and she said

‘Daddy loves me now, not you.’

Daddy had a pair of red leather gloves and he slunk them over his fingers

and he said

‘I wouldn’t fuck you if you were the last fucker in the world.’

The room swam upwards, the sun.

vapourised lamb shank

revitalised sheath

spiritualised sickle

the sun

flame circle spurs

great frazzled balls

cadmium rouge cunny

the sun

burnt nuzzle drifter

dry nettle blinker

aspect spectacular

the sun

sing meltdown cecily

chain-react domino

arabesque shafting

the sun

charity mother lode

mudscape marauder

orbiting cheesecake

the sun

Lizzy faced the sliding walls. Her yellow wig was cut severe – its harsh lines slashed her dumpling cheeks. She was the girl with the yellow kaleidoscope growing out the top of her head. She had no brain, just this kaleidoscope showing her how things couldn’t be. Daddy had painted a luminous kiss right under her nose. She saw nothing but misleading patterns.

There was no hope in this Darkling girl and she wanted your dreams to spill her.

She was the dizzy freak out.

How to Peel a Sack of Potatoes

Give them names. Get to know them. Poke their eyes out. Drop them in a bucket of water. Save their skins for Daddy.

‘I hate the noisy spaces and all the ugly faces in my mind. I’m gonna watch the Zoom Zoom fly, over the mud land, I’m gonna watch them break the sky. Maybe when I’m colder, what do you think I’ll be? If I could climb the lilac tree …’

Daddy decided it was a good idea to take Debbie out every night. He enjoyed showing her off to his cronies, introduced her as his saucy new bird.

In clubs and pubs he took her in the toilets.

She sat on the throne he parted her legs caressed the soft above Mummy’s stockings pulled her damp gusset aside dipped his fingers into her sugared sex pot.

Every time he touched her, in out over and over, he could see Mummy’s face drawing nearer and brighter and it made him feel again.

Debbie looked just like Mummy did.

her wayward bosom under

his sharp bristles smothered

his face in wobble-warmth

she fondled

his puckered brimmer

his hands grappled

her sliding pantyhose

she plonked

her stethoscope on

his suckypump

he reached for

her hot roughskin bumper

he forced

her jelly-legs behind

her ears


her glory yum-fruit (plumptuous and all soused in Mummy milk)

she rubbed reckless on

his spiked biters

he grazed

his pampered penis

she licked the nudge of

her nip-nips

he slid

his bell-end between

her jugs


his proud pearls drippy

Daddy looked just like Daddy did.

Every time she touched him, in out over and over, she could see his face drawing nearer and brighter and it made her feel again.

They had never been hurt so good.

They had found heaven on earth.

They wouldn’t be confined to the toilets.

They ruled the world and everything in it.

‘I can shift the scenes I see

the everyday happenings

the discordant parts

the comforting sound

of the coloured shapes swishing

brights in my circle of light

rearranged with each revolution

perfect permutations

pleasing arrangements

falling in avalanche tumbles

settling symmetrically

glad to see your new tidy patterns

wish I was part of the design

I’m only part of the furniture

waiting for the crunch

of boots on gravel

coming to take my best toy away

twisting my twister all the long days

I lay my belly across the arm of the sofa

making the pieces slide and settle

I go down to the boating lake with Daddy

‘Come in, your time is up.’

Hidden in the back of Daddy’s wardrobe the girls found a box of broken things going THUMP THUMP in the dark:

a balaclava

a sticky white PVC G-string

a film reel

a pair of tweezers

the big book

a multi-zippered all-in-one with all its zips hanging wide open like hungry golden-toothed mouths

two tattered lace body stockings

a pale blue babydoll nightie dappled with stiff brown stains

a greasy bicycle chain

a red plastic devil’s tail with a golden tip, tied round the handle of a whip

a rusted pipe

a splintered branch from the lilac tree

a rotten molar and two dark brown incisors

Daddy’s recipe for Delirious Darkling Delight

a jar of black toe-nails

a jar of dandruff

a jar of Dolly Mix

a book of raffle tickets

the Merman’s used plunger

a cracked petri dish

a blow torch

a bottle of Mummy’s pills still in the chemist’s paper bag

a fork with curly tines

a dessert spoon with a scorched and sooty bowl

a tiny pair of ballet pumps in sumptuous pale salmon leather with the hand-sewn elastics hanging

a bone

a bent knitting needle

two halves of a black and white photo of a good-looking young couple standing on the steps outside Lewisham Registry Office, the edges of the rip skimming their noses, both looking gormless

a shrunken lump of matter wrapped in a skein of red hair

the black silk stockings, laddered and flaked with dried skin, Mummy had worn on the last day but one.

If it was hidden it could never be gone.

Julie disentangled the stockings from the jumble in the box and hung them out the window – to air them, she said. Two empty legs, lost without their body, shivered – loose and forlorn.

Debbie claimed the stockings for her own.

Stroking their snags she filled them with her suet legs, clipped them to Mummy’s suspender belt, slipped her feet into Mummy’s stone cold high-heels, strutted her very own girly stuff all the way down the tight magenta passage, white straps bisecting her pudding thighs.

The lounge was swimming in early light sprightly with dust motes.

Debbie boogied her trussed up bottom all morning for the leftover people and Daddy. It was a one woman floor show, she was unbalanced and blowing their budgets.

Violins and guitars and Gawd knows what screeched like foxes fucking – it was slaughter with a chain-saw, apocalypse with a chaser, road rage with a trippy side-car, with a bass line felt in the throat like a stuck toad, lurching. The living daylight stung their eyeballs and forced them to squint until tears trickled down their faded faces.

All they could focus on was Debbie. Debbie grinding her trappings. Debbie demented and high.

‘Really, she should be doing that with me, in a cage hanging from the ceiling.

That’s what Daddy said.

Lizzy twisted her kaleidoscope.

Julie aimed her telescope out the wide open windows.

Curtains trembled but never closed.

‘Well okay, I’ll admit it, I did frequent their home. I had a habit and I scored there. It was a turbulent time in my life. I’m in recovery now, have been for thirty odd years, I hasten to add. I had a soft spot for those girls, yes, I did. I knew where they were coming from. I don’t know where they went, though.’

Julie took herself inside the quiet of the church and crouched down by the altar. If she looked long and hard maybe she would see something wonderful.

She stayed there until the candles wavered and dimmed. There was no miracle, there was no magic, not even the flicker of a vision.

In the thick broth silence her thin milk body made shapes.

And they saw a Willyman on their street.

They were marching to the corner shop, all three make-believing they were Emma Peel – hallelujah! – Sunday morning seemed real. He was blocking their path, swinging his willy, poking it through a gap in his baggy blue overalls.

Julie pointed her telescope in every direction but his, there was not a soul in sight.

Debbie listened closely to his palpitations.

Lizzy was mesmerised by his fractal whirl.

He said: ‘I bet you three couldn’t eat that,’ and he waved it in their faces.

They said: ‘Eat what?’ and shuffled their kinky-booted feet.

Breathing heavy, he muttered: ‘You don’t understand…’ and tucked it back on its perch, looking disappointed.

Julie’s fist down his throat was a five-fingered choker pinning him to the pavement. She smashed her knuckles past his snaggled teeth into his greedy hot mouth. She forced her fingers way down past his tonsils and rocked him slowly, back and forth, savouring her all-seeing grasp. She tightened her clench on his slippery guts and repeatedly slammed his drooling bonce on the concrete.

Said: ‘Eat that! Eat that! And that!’

Daddy Darkling was indoors, jiving with a jolly lady. She had a thin leather belt strapped three times round her naked waist and love beads swinging loose round her love bites.

The girls got on their scooters and raced up and down the neighbourhood with Mummy’s aprons tied round their necks – billowing from their shoulders like capes.

And they saw a Willyman on every street.

‘Their house was known as ‘The Hippy House.’ They left their curtains and windows wide open night and day, so we couldn’t help seeing the goings on – shocking it was! We were always complaining and calling the police but it never stopped them. Course, he did a bit of bird, but that was when Mrs D was still there. She must have come to the end of her tether. She was a hard working woman, y’know. I used to see her at it, scrubbing the front door step, hanging out the washing. And she had a cleaning job at the local pub, she’d leave the house at six in the morning, and him and his junky mates would still be at it in there, and she’d come back at lunchtime and she’d still have a rowdy houseful. I dunno how she stuck it as long as she did. Odd she left her girls there with him though, must have had no choice in the matter.’

… she hovered above his bed – the springs were defeated and sagging, the blankets fell in jaded disarray and the sheets had lost the battle. Piles of traumatised underwear clumped, crusty and humming, down there at the foot with the perished hot water bottle, and a tower of defaced library books propped up his filthy-special apparatus …

Some long winter nights, if he was feeling flush, and Love Middleton was about, he would shut the windows and turn the gas fires up full blast. When it got too hot and the smell of the joss sticks overwhelmed everyone with that pungent reek of fusty exotica, Love would climb out of her glad rags – a naked beauty at large in the lounge – and she would do the go-go with Debbie while Julie and Lizzy, bell-bottoms flappy, slaughtered their air guitars.

Two strangers took Love away one day and she was never seen again.

How to lose your Man

Avoid thinking. Feel your rib cage moving as you breathe in and out.

Some long winter nights, if funds were low, he would hold the Daddy Challenge from the depths of his creaking stink bed. All the lights off, holding a torch, he fired questions in the dark at the girls and all his stray hangers-on.

‘What six parts of a cow make up beef offal?’

He shone his beam of enlightenment in Lizzy’s revolving eyes.

Lizzy went ‘MOOOOO!’

If you gave the wrong answer you had to stay hunched on the floor.

‘Kidneys, Liver, Tripe, Brains, Feet, Tongue.’

If nobody knew the answer he awarded himself a cigar.

‘How did Jack the Ripper sign his letters to the Police?’

Or a swig of his drink.

‘From Hell.’

It was uncomfortable.

‘Many people believed Lord Carnarvon’s death was due to what?’

Or a scratch of his nuts.

‘The curse of the mummy.’

It was humiliating and tedious.

‘Who reached No. 21 in the UK charts in January 1958 with ‘I’m Left You’re Right She’s Gone?’

A lumpy bint with ash blonde hair answered correctly and climbed up beside him.

‘Brown boobies, Bushtits, Ruddy Ducks, Bristle-thighed Curlews and Dark-rumped Petrels are all birds native to which continent?’

Julie scurried out the room on all fours and bumped down the stairs on her bum.

‘Aha! The continent of my bed, of course! Haaar!’

He barked with glee at his own ridiculousness and trained his torch on Debbie.

‘What purpose do the following human features have in common – Skin, Tears, Sweat, Stomach Acids, Mucous Membranes and Inflammation of the skin?’

‘To protect us against disease!’ she lisped and jumped under his mouldy covers.

‘Where was Dick Turpin executed by hanging?’

Or a loud luxury fart session.

‘In what year will Elvis die?’

He could see the future.

‘What will the headline in tomorrow’s Daily Mail be?’

He knew everything.

He knew the weather.

He made the Loch Ness Monster.

He put black swans on the river Thames.

The factories belched his poison.

Julie could clearly recall the last time she had seen Mummy in the flesh. It was the night of Daddy’s avant-garde orgy all-nighter.

Unlikely combos squelched and moaned in cutting-edge positions, lost in panting lust motion. Salvaging her private parts from the middle of a slurping daisy-chain, all shaky in her birthday-suit but very much determined, she started singing raucously at the top of her lungs – clapping her hands above her head, jigging her boobies, and throwing manic smiles.

She sang all seven verses of ‘Kumbaya, My Lord’ before Mrs Wilson got up and joined her, and so did Charlie the Porsche, and they sang it all over again. Soon all Daddy’s pornstars were at it, laughing and stomping their feet. Mummy had disrupted the heavy headfuck of his fantasia free-for-all with her infectious God song.

Daddy stood apart – he was fuming – he wanted his mass fellatio fix.

‘Choose a single detached part of the human body – hands or legs or tits or cock. Roll up! Roll up! Roughly chipped or highly polished.’

Nobody was listening.

He was the first to notice two cops climbing in through the window. He dodged nimble quick past the blissed-out throng but the police made faltering progress, distracted by the genitalia.

By the time they made it to the kitchen he was already out the back door and dashing across the back garden.

The two cops stumbled into his barren domain.

A solid wall of wet sheets blocked their path and they became tangled in its weighty embrace, whipped by a freakish wind. Daddy’s jazzy pyjamas flitted out of reach as the sheets slapped the men who yelled in dismay – trapped by the dripping bedding.

It was a tense night and a luminous rainbow arched its back over the sparks from a bonfire that crackled and snapped energetic, casting a sulphurous glow over the square mile of mud. Daddy gathered his thoughts in a shallow trench in his landscape of uncultivation.

Over the mudflats he flashed fast and slippy towards the chicken-wire wig-wam where he kept his Zoom Zoom Zoo: his deliberate mistakes that should never have been born, he bred them as a hobby – dog-geese, snake-bats, duck-rats, crow-cats – experimental, educational and fun, better than bouncers for security, fed on tabs of acid, wielding polished sets of variety teeth and wriggling venomous tongues.

They never lived for long, most starved to death, some didn’t even have stomachs, all were genetically unsustainable, in agony from conception to death throes. Mummy said they were unnatural.

Unlocking the padlock on the cage, he let his hybrids loose. They flapped their furry feathers, spread their nightmare wings, and launched their scraggy bodies towards the two stupid struggling policemen.

Daddy screamed: ‘I calls ’em the Zoom Zoom – because when they fly – all eyes on them – ZOOM ZOOM!’

But nothing could compete with the ecstatic bark quacks as seventeen thread-thin legs sailed over the mud-pits and the white sheets raspberry rippled.

A police siren wailed in the street.

Daddy heaved his bulk up the lone lilac tree and over the close-boarded 6ft high fence. Once he was out in the alleyways he was up, up and away. Julie thought she heard him laughing hysterically above the screaming and the Zoom Zoom.

Mummy came upstairs, pulled her away from the window and shushed the girls back to their beds.

Next morning, Mummy was gone.

How to get a tampon inside

Stand. Remove the cellophane wrapper. Bend your legs at the knee and splay outwards. Hold the tampon with index finger and thumb, domed end of the tampon upward, and insert into the hole between your wee hole and your poo hole with gentle probing wriggles until your finger can go no further and the pale blue or pink string is hanging, unimpeded, from in-between your labia, that is, the parted jacket of dark meat that guards your entrance. Ensure crotch is snug.

The lounge was bleached with peroxide light, feedback fed the wasted air. Daddy sat nonchalant on the sofa. The girls were arranged before him.

Julie: ‘Because I couldn’t have him or him I set my sights on him.’

Daddy: ‘Somewhere.’

Debbie: ‘It took me a painful false start and a hard year slogging to get him to say he loved me.’

Daddy: ‘Somehow.’

Lizzy: ‘It was only then we felt safe.’

Daddy: ‘Someone.’

All three girls: ‘He liked taking us out and showing us off: Look what I made. Look what I did with the Darklings.’

Daddy: ‘Something uncouth and bare in me wants to roar.’

The sisters formed a conga and skidded round the room.

Curtains trembled but never closed.

And they heard Daddy gibbering in his cups:

‘If only

dry bone wrinkle skin concertina

If only

age treat corrugated meat reek

If only

fingerprint residue on shrink clit

If only

taut inflamed joints barely moving

If only

ears nose hair nails stop growing

If only

stripped bare banal root

Only, only.’

Debbie and Julie told Lizzy: Lie down. Shut your eyes.

There’s a Starman sitting on your bed

He had to fuck someone so he picked on you hoo hoo, hey, that’s far-out, so you want it too oo oo, please don’t tell Daddy or he’ll do his nut all night

There’s a Starman pulling down your nix, he’s got four hands to feel you and he’s fiddling with your bits

Debbie looped her pink fleshy stethoscope three times round Lizzy’s neck

there’s a Starman wanking in the sky

Julie pulled it tighter

he’s coming down to fuck you

Debbie eased one end of the big red telescope deep into Julie’s wet slit

and he’s gonna blow your mind

Julie hoisted her hips and worked the other end of the telescope deep into Lizzy’s wet slit

he told us

Julie fucked up and down in a frenzy inbetween Lizzy’s stick legs

Let the Starman fill you

Debbie tightened her strangle-hold on Lizzy’s gasping throat

let the Starman thrill you

Julie smacked Lizzy’s skull on the wall with each hard thrusting shove-poke

let the Starman spill you

Lizzy’s head went ZOOM ZOOM with each blackout swooning shove-choke

the Starman spun in dizzier circles and flashed his gaudy lights

the Starman was hotter than the paraffin heater

Lost in his mis-matched eyes, x-rayed by his glamour, she rolled out flat and wide like wallpaper glued to the walls until she encompassed the whole scene and she yearned for Mars and the heat from the stars where the Starman let the children lose it, children like her who wanted with a fierce insistence more than they’d ever get.

Lizzy opened her bloodshot eyes and saw she was only a brainless kid on a single bed with her knees flopped weak with need and both her sisters bent over her bits intent on finding what fits.

And the stars on Mars propel the cars and beam out signals from the bars where the Starman leans on his pointy elbows making pointed remarks.

She fell off the bed, down the stairs and out the front door, fell flat on her face in front of a clutch of clucking junkies necking their meds on the doorstep. As she rested her cheek on the gravel of the path her bulging eyes saw the muddled colours of the multiverse and she sighed like Liz the Wonder Kid and turned her face away.

You could be better off than you are

Carry moonbeams home in a jar

You could be swinging on a star.

… she trailed her foggy fingers along the wall hung with the pictures he painted when he was doing time. Heavily varnished, the smallest a boychild with a filigree ear-ring and pretty vacant eyes. Next to this was the faceless young couple depressing into each other in green greys. Above these, a small study – see the fear in the eyes of the man looking out from between his spread fingers, hiding his face.

The largest painting had taken him over two years: a night-time scene of a wide-boy standing outside in the rain, pressing his face and his palms to the window of a smart restaurant where the woman sat inside disdained him, a row of fish glistening slick on her white tablecloth, his nose and mouth and fingers squidged against the glass, his pale hands beautifully rendered, splayed helpless from his glistening white cuffs … his cufflinks bloodstone lozenges set in old rose gold …

‘They had this huge muddy backyard, no grass or flowers or nothing, except for this cage full of howling black dogs, I swear they never fed them. It was terrifying. And there were cats all over the place, must have been about thirty of the manky creatures – the whole place stank. She was teacher’s pet and nobody liked her much, we used to see her hanging around in the graveyard – she was weird and she spoke a bit posh. My big brother Clifford fancied his chances with her. So did all the boys. He asked her round for tea and they were watching TV when I saw him creep his hand up her skirt – and she let him. A right little slag, she was. She tied me up with her skipping rope and made me eat her mud pies and drink her mucky lilac petal tea – rain water with weeds in it stewed for days in a rusty old teapot. And when she tried to bite my thumb off and nicked my blue ring my mum had a word with her scary father and he really upset my mum and I wasn’t allowed to play round there no more.’

Daddy lay alone in his bed.

A defrosting turkey shared his pillow, leaking its cold juice on his face.

Mummy’s stockings were scrunched in a ball in his mouth.

He pushed his fingers past his teeth and tugged at the sodden fabric, endless yards of black silk unravelled from his gagging throat, the more he yanked the more there was, it went on and on, the longest ever legs unwound from deep inside him and tied themselves in tricky knots round his flab mounds.

He rolled over, reaching for Debbie.

The turkey rolled into his arms.

Mummy froze the oozing black walls.

‘Sex is an itch ripped raw. I skewered my pudenda with my bony cod-piece, slotted sharpened switchblades in my loose cold flesh, dig deeper please my hubby, stroke my weeping ruts, pick the ruby red scabs, peel this dead gush fountain, slice these ripened labia, lick your fingers, taste my flavours, sores sting my crevice, soothe me with your saliva, come, man-handle my plucked wobble, never wash again, bury your chin, mouth, nose beneath my beggared stink claw: inhale my rotting sex.’

He was choking on stocking yet he managed to splutter. ‘My Darkling, it doesn’t come easy. One has to coarsen and dishevel. There are too many things to want in this world and although I know they ain’t worth the having, I wants them just the same…’

Mummy melted the icicles. ‘Played like the tosser you are. I am your only salvation. I am everything.’

The room swam backwards, the rain.

mist nimble snow sifted

drop purple clever

still room raged backwards

the rain

shoosh from the valley wax

suffer pig mountain

lower gleams ramble

the rain

street rinse on rubber stun

spin crumple nylon

itch flipper harness

the rain

sideways slung ooze prickle

carnation gash float

window knock wetter

the rain

Julie never told anybody what she remembered about Mummy. She kept it all to herself. There was never enough to go round.

Mummy had worn a black wig with a heavy fringe low on her creamy nose. She was curvy, almost fat, and her face was set hard like cement, from loving Daddy since she was seven. She never dressed in fashionable clothes like the party people did. She wore a tweed pencil skirt and cashmere twin-sets fitted close to her sombre form, with her big tits pushed inside conical bras. And she didn’t wear tights like the other women did, to cover their legs all the way up past the bum-skimming hems of their mini-skirts – she wore stockings and black patent court shoes, and she smelt like big knickers and Norman Hartnell’s ‘In Love.’

When they were born Mummy turned to the church. She never chose any particular religion, she worshipped with them all, she was a promiscuous believer, going anywhere she got the chance to sing. She had loved to sing, her voice was strident and true. She marched with the Salvation Army on early Sunday mornings, gave her girls their tin tambourines, dragged them out with her while Daddy slept off the night. And she had a soft spot for Mormons, they were always sat in her kitchen, skinny and skint in their suits with their bibles, never drinking nothing but water, American accents twanging. Daddy enjoyed quizzing them about having more than one wife. Jehova’s Witnesses came and went, yapping about Armageddon, they didn’t sing very often and when they did it was tragically out of tune. And she sang gospel with a passion and she taught the girls the words to every song on her Godspell LP and she made them join a Catholic choir.

Mummy never prayed but she sang her heart out.

Three Darkling girls chanting in the mud:


‘He used to leave me love letters tucked in my drawers – he used to leave me covered in bruises – he had cumbersome troubles up his sleeves, so I told him to leave me alone. I miss him, every hour.’

How to put your face on.

Rub vaseline in your eyebrows, make them stick up spiky, rub chocolate on your lips, lick them if you likey, draw a lipstick zig-zag right across your chin-wag, stick a yummy on your tummy, squirt three wishes up your dishes, shimmy show down, kiss the carpet – Go girl! GO!

The party started at midnight on Christmas Eve. Daddy sent them to bed early and woke them later to get ready to perform for his liggers – the house was bursting with the royalty of the hip.

After the strip-tease bottle-spinning and the wife-swap limbo dancing and the topless tight-rope competition, the three excited girls climbed up on the tinsel-twined table, stood still in the restless hush, and threw their spindle-thrift voices into ‘Edelweiss,’ three times.

The fairy lights flinched. Dumb silence from the captive audience.

Putting his pricey stylus to the spinning disc, Daddy sniggered with relish as they leapt down from the table and he introduced their well-rehearsed routine: ‘I give you – my Darklings!’

The berserker screams of ‘Crazy Horses’ by The Osmonds shook the floor with its primal rush.

Julie and Lizzy were the horses, down on all fours with their bums in the air, side by side facing the crowd. Accompanied by a volley of wolf-whistles, Debbie straddled her legs across both their backs, and waving her stethoscope above her head in wild circles like some wanton lasso, she bounced her hips and bumped her bottom, out of time with the hoof pounding beat.

The mind-boggled tribe applauded and with a largesse bravado flourish, Daddy proudly presented his Darklings with a crisp new fifty pound note. Debbie snatched it off him and they legged it to the bathroom to decide what the hell on earth to do with it.

And they saw a Merman clinging to the shower curtain.

He was a silver scaled shot-away, spaced-out in sequinned scanties, and his eyes were swimming doggy paddle behind his silver long stringy hair, and his long silver skin was crazed with a cracked patina of scum and his four foot long silver platform waders chafed his flapping gills as he floundered in a rarefied perfume that drizzled down his thighs to his soles.

Lizzy said his aura was fishily coddish.

Julie said he was coddled.

Debbie put her stethoscope to his solid silver nipple and in that absolute second of contact his heart plunged to a halt and he slammed to the floor – felled like a spindly birch tree.

His silver boots pointed to the ceiling, his body was blocking the doorway, he was a space-age fish-head draught excluder. Silver threads from his foreskin throes spun his scaled skin tinged with blue. Dilation alley dead dead, the silver needle stuck in his groin vein pinned him to the hard cold tiles.

Daddy whipped the nifty fifty out Debbie’s grimy bra and belly-flopped the Merman by his ankles down the magenta passage and dumped him on the tinsel table, a centre-piece for the banquet: laid out on a silver platter on a silver bed of ice, trimmed with silver baubles and lily blossom bouquets with nose-gays of shiny silverworms diving into his staring blue eyes.

Later that day there was peace on earth. Daddy and his girls slept through it.

How to get your Man

Girls, a cat’s lick and a promise will suffice.

‘She was a loner. I used to warn her against it, encouraged her to join in with the other kids. She was only interested in those toys she dragged about with her – she had a stethoscope, one of those plastic ones from a kid’s dressing-up kit – and a telescope like you get out of a Christmas cracker and this little old kaleidoscope. She used to sit alone in the playground staring into that tube, transfixed – ignoring everything and everybody. If any kid approached her, friendly or otherwise, she’d bite them – or kick them hard in the shins.’

Debbie mourned the Merman for a week: Monday moaning, Tuesday tears, Wednesday wanking woeful, Thursday fretting, Friday fish fry, Saturday sucking his bones. By New Year’s Eve, she was doing Daddy’s head in. He told her to get dolled up and he dragged her out on the town.

Julie witnessed their return the morning after: Daddy screeched to the kerb in his cream Cortina and sat staring blind out the windscreen with a soppy grin stuck on his face, stroking his black goatee. Debbie toppled out the car door with Mummy’s mink shrugged on her shoulders, gave Julie a regal wave.

He had cocaine convinced her they ruled the world – there were no limits to what they could do.

She had Pernod and black slimed on her chops in gloopy go-faster streaks, the stethoscope stuck between her sticky thighs made her short chubby legs dodder, and then she belched fruitily, it sounded painful, and when she licked her lips with her pointy black tongue all the buttons on her pussy-bow blouse popped off, and scattered at her feet one by one – homage in mother-of-pearl.

Daddy locked the car, hitched up his gorblimey trousers, spotted Julie squinting through her telescope. With a hop, skip and a tumble she was upside-down, skirt over her head, flashing her knickers, doing a handstand, legs in the FUCK OFF position.

His greased back hair flipped forwards to shade his bugged-out eyes.

And they saw Daddy holding Mummy cradled in his arms. He laid her gently on his bed and he unfolded her, searched her empty belly, fingered her missing pieces, gathered her to him, filtered her solutions, arrived at his conclusion. She stained the creeping black walls with her rays of light refracted through his fingers, and she fell like the rain, soft engorged droplets burst on his parched skin, left him drenched and dismantled, alone in his lair and he bellowed: ‘VAGOSAURUS!!! DOG-BAT!!! BITCH!!!’

‘Living next-door to that bunch of maniacs was blue murder, I can tell you. He built a ten foot high, sixty foot long fence out the back, close-boarded mind, and it ruined my view. So I had a concrete hump made for me, its still there, up against his precious fence. I can stroll up the incline and get a look over the top. I had to keep an eye on their weeds – didn’t want my lawn spoilt, did I? Oh, and the countless miserable nights they kept me and the Mrs awake with their constant loud music and parties. They were always at it. If I went and banged on the door they just ignored me. It got me so mad, one godforsaken night I went outside in my dressing-gown and slippers, about two o’clock in the morning it was, and I got the hose-pipe out, turned it on full blast and aimed my jet of water right in their open window – some long-haired druggie leant out, said ‘Oh, its raining again …’ and that was it, they just carried on – oblivious. And there’s me standing there with a splitting headache and two wet feet.’

The lounge was moody mud red.

Bang smack in the womb of the room Daddy Darling stood erect while his huge hands explored his puce length like two agile albino crabs.

Daddy spoke softly: ‘Memories piled on memories. The memory of memories replacing the memory. I remember remembering that this is the memory of the memory of you.’

Mummy turned in whispering smoke rings between his girded legs:

‘I could fill you in seconds, spill you in minutes, thrill you in one infinite hour, absolve you in no time at all. Hold me. I want your 1.5 litre capacity. Boil me. I need your heat-resistant element.’

He stooped, pulled back the carpet, and effortlessly ripped up a floorboard, propped it against a wall, and chalked it with accurate diagrams: a vagina, a penis, a condom and a tampon.

He called the girls in from outside, pulled up three chairs, and with a mighty serious expression he delivered his carefully considered lecture: ‘Ahem. Sex and the Single Female.’

The Darklings lent him their ears.

‘ … And in conclusion –

Somehow – you are women.

Somewhere – you will want.

Someone – you won’t find.’

The girls gathered over-used ashtrays from around the house and crumbled the butts into his pigments to make his dirty deeps darkest.

He painted orgasms on the floorboard.

Curtains trembled but never closed.

‘She was made of blank spaces. And it seemed to me, people rushed to fill them, uninvited. She was going down. Head first. Diving into surfaces.’

… she drifted inside the cupboard under the stairs where wine bottles lined up on the shelves were refilled with his distillations – potato peelings steeped in so much sugar, laced with lethal liquids, and swollen balloons stretched over the bottle necks – a new batch of his popular brain-shifting wine …

And they saw Batman saving the world by leaping tall buildings, but only once a week, on the telly.

The lounge was saturated in petrol blue.

Daddy was a flame thrower:

‘Three Darkling girls on the sofa make a pleasing shape. Darkling girls peeling parsnips make a person salivate. When they start to ovulate, ain’t no need to hesitate – shove them on a glazed round plate, forking hell, they taste just great. There’s no need for limitations, first class world wide domination will deliver this sensation. Don’t make do with imitations, I’ll be giving demonstrations, Darkling girls are my salvation – we’ll go out and wow the nation.’

The three sisters voices soared into the room, demented magenta, trilling high:

‘This is the dawning of the age of gone gone, the age of gone gone, ageless and gone, ageless and gone.’

Daddy was a fire eater:

‘Something youth and dare in me wants to pour.’

Curtains trembled but never closed.

How to get inside a pair of tights

Sit. Roll one leg down ensuring toe piece is straight and facing forward, insert toes, pull to ankle, repeat. Stand. Ease both legs to knee-level and gradually inch higher until they’re settled around your waist . Ensure crotch is snug.

‘He was a shady geezer with heavy connections and his fingers in rackets and pies. His house was a pleasure palace. Sex, drugs and money make the world go round. His world span at top speed – off its blinkin’ axis. Course, that adds to the allure, don’t it? He could certainly pull the birds. Always had some tasty little number on his arm. Keep what you know hush hush, innit?’

And they saw Mummy in the kitchen, the flimsy gauze of her draped in Daddy’s arms. He was trying to make her substantial by plastering her with his daddygasm slobber.

Three Darkling girls chanting in the playground:



























… she floated upstairs to his bedroom, where the walls were coated in black paint so thick there were no sharp angles in the room, and it never dried – it just oozed – a numb membrane of opaque sludge

They went to school, but not very often.

They were too busy learning.

How the bourgeois cannot be forgotten.

How you have to chuck ’em some crumbs.

How to hold the house together with sing-song.

How to draw the curtains and shut the windows.

When they did go, they asked awkward questions: Who amongst their classmates was a virgin and who was a vegetarian? Did any of them know what LSD stood for? What did their parents get up to at night? And – didn’t they all agree, girls were more fabulous than boys?

Wandering home after another disappointing day they found a dusty hedgehog by the side of the road, smothered in helpless lostness. They carried it home, taking turns with great care, sure-footed through the alleys and into the mud lands of Daddy’s back garden. The lilac tree grew skinny against his wooden fence and the chicken-wire wig-wam loomed tall, shreds of fur and rag fluttered festive from its heaving sides, squawks and grunts from within its enclosure disturbed the afternoon lull.

They sneaked the little hedgehog into Debbie’s room, tucked the dear creature in a nest of old baby blankets, gave it a bowl of warm milk, made it a promise and left it safe gentle.

But Daddy Darling wanted it dead dead.

He stuck the spiky bundle in the roasting oven & served the charred stump for dinner.

Basted brittle spines would have tasted bitter.

Julie calculated the distance from the nest to the kitchen and Lizzy admired the view.

Debbie planted her stethoscope in the lumpen thump thump of gone forever.

Daddy chucked the burnt morsel out the window. It shot over the mud and got stuck in the gap at the top of the wig-wam.

They knew lots of songs about gone. They sang them after lights out, thin warble tonedeaf trilling.

‘There was this blonde – starkers she was – sprawled in the mud, in broad daylight! Her mouth was hanging open, dribbling, her eyes were all over the place and those flea-bitten geese of his were going crazy, biting and pecking away at her. She was well gone, zonked out, y’know?’

Daddy’s finger moved with the upturned shot glass round and round the alphabet. He urged it through the emotions. It kept spelling out the same word: ‘D-A-R-K-L-I-N-G.’

Daddy was disgruntled.

‘Is that all you’ve got to say to me?! My own name?! Pah! Bloody useless!’

It was about that time the girls noticed movement on the ceiling. A wave of grey foam was riding the swirling Artex.

Daddy kept his hold on the shot glass, shouting: ‘Is that all you’ve got, ya bitch?!’

The foam fell from the ceiling in foul insubstantial dollops, sucked the air out the lounge, settled mostly on Daddy, slid down his pyjama bottoms, slithered inside his Y-fronts, coated his shrivelled ball-bags, cradled his stiff old todger.

Mummy slipped her blubber down to his toes, all the way up his legs, and when she was waist-high, crotch snug, she kissed his nape. She held him and he knew all things made her and she made the rain and all things.

His hand, still on the shot glass, whizzed round the board even faster, spelt out these ardent words: ‘FUCK ME, FUCK ME, MY DARKLING.’

Julie: ‘Daddy doesn’t like dead people.’

Debbie: ‘He bloody hates them.’

Lizzy: ‘Only the good die young.’

Daddy: ‘I don’t like the dead, I hates them. Good or bad – they dead. They cling and grow and change, more radical re-inventions than even I do manage! They accumulate layers of glory and goodness, virtues they didn’t possess when they were still livin’ and breathin’…’

Debbie: ‘I hear Mummy.’

Lizzy: ‘Where is Mummy?’

Julie: ‘She’s dead.’

Lizzy: ‘Where is Mummy?’

Daddy: ‘She’s gone. Gone to be a moonbeam in the sky.’


world-sized ceiling


lights blinking


throb grey


Mummy: ‘You are my punishment. I chose you.’

Daddy: ‘I can’t be arsed with love.’

The girls knew Mummy was not a moonbeam or a monolith or anything profound or mysterious. Mummy was fragile, precious – not an egg or an eye-ball, though.

And they saw the Starman on Upper Street.

He was ravishing in his spangled duds on sinewed hose-pipe legs, towering in very red shoes. He dallied for one unreachable moment – lifted his skirts, flashed them his unearthly bum – and then, with a twitch of his padded silk shoulder – wham bam, thank you ma’am – he was gone.

The graveyard was small and overgrown, nestled around the ancient church opposite their school. Its walls were low-slung and uneven, built with roughly hewn chunks of flint. The gravestones were higgledy-piggledy and the paths were lost in wild flowers and long grass and meandered the wrong way to nowhere.

To be chosen to be in their gang you had to take off your wig and let your hair hang loose. It had to be long and it had to be black, or at least very dark brown.

Under the massive mossy wings of a praying angel they held hands and danced around the graves. When they were convinced the conditions were suitable our girls lay flat on their backs amongst the toppled urns, dead flowers and weather-beaten soft toys.

The other girls knelt down around the outstretched bodies and placed their bony forefingers at strategic points beneath them, and with their eyes screwed up, concentrating really hard, they sang a marvellous song.

The Darklings rose vertically and bobbed unsupported high above the tombstones. Drifting upwards on the cobwebbed breeze, hair and skirts a-swishing, they looked for all the world like three flying rag-dolls.

Zoom Zoom – Darkling girls – aloof and rare, they soar.

‘When I look out the wrong end of my telescope you are almost gone.

I don’t love.

I don’t hate.

I know everything.’


~ by yearzerowriters on November 27, 2010.

17 Responses to “Darklings”

  1. Pen, I said this before but what really got me with this piece was how skilful your ear for dialogue is – it was only reading this that I realised how little you do dialogue

  2. Oh, Penny! It’s glistening in its murkiness and absolutely inspiring. I had a hard time getting through it because I wanted to stop and draw all the beautiful things it was putting in my head (and I had to change the music to fit it from time to time.)

    There’s just so much here to talk about. But it’s beautiful and candid and shimmering and sticky, dark in periphery and creaky and mushy and tart and transient and slipping and ebbing and imprinting and a whole other world of fabulous things. The colours you chose to use are, for me, not what I’d assign the piece, and it makes it so pungent and interesting.

    I know I say this on a lot of your pieces, but it’s like some new wave of libertinage, but not “new” as in “modern” and “soon-out-of-date”, but a reinvention. An abstract exponent of Miller and Bataille with a new vitality that can’t quite be contained in just words. It’s more than a story and moves like a dream-film, where things only make sense if you don’t figure them out.

    I love that you put in “how to peel a sack of potatoes”. That makes this almost too good.

  3. I’ve never read anything like this – it is staggeringly different, and I fucking love it. Bravo, Penny, bravo. xxo

  4. Yes bravo! Cutting edge. Love the way you build up layers of images, like a French polisher producing a perfect surface: “a council house infested with fruit flies and they put bicarbonate of soda in the vegetables and drank egg nogs off a hostess trolley …”

    It’s going to take time to read and study before I can comment more – I sent you an email attempting a crit but that was probably premature!

  5. Oh Penny. You are such a pretty penny for our minds.

    What a dazzling, mind-boggling 5 ring circus with a double dip of sideshow you have served up. It is like a triclinic Bravais lattice composed of words. So lovely yet irregular.

    I must this piece again later, once I have gotten some sleep. So many threads to untangle and order, as I read.

    I love how the stethoscopes were indicators of the senses and mind.

    My mind is as boggled as those souls at the party.

  6. Utterly brilliant.

  7. I read this, utterly transfixed from beginning to end and I understood a little girl who should have been broken, but who was too smart. Until I read the comments, and it seems I didn’t understand anything.

    I thought magenta was blood in moonlight and everywhere in the 70s and yellow was acid, for the girl with kaleidoscope eyes, and LSD.

    I thought Bowie was a saviour and all of it was very painfully revealed and resolved.

    Such is art, I suppose.


  8. […] “it’s like some new wave of libertinage” Sarah E Melville on Penny Goring’s Darklings […]

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