Darkest Depths by Kirstie Olley, Allan Walsh, and Christopher Kneipp by Kirstie Olley, Allan Walsh, and Christopher Kneipp - Read Online



“Up ahead is an escalator that’ll take us down to the cerebellum,” he said. “That’s where the wombat leaves us.”
“Why?” I asked.
“He’s claustrophobic.”

In 2014, Vision Writers published an inaugural collection of speculative fiction stories, “18”. In 2016, we’re at it again, and this time, we’re digging deep and going dark.

If you’re brave enough to gaze into the abyss (beware: it’s watching you), you’ll find a woman caring for a monster, a father’s suffocating guilt, a jumping castle, a tale of the Horseman, a military science experiment gone wrong (don’t they all?), a lake monster, some mutants in a hole, and of course, a bizarre trip through the mind, with a doppelganger and a booze-soaked wombat in a 1969 Kombi.

So be sure to read this under the covers with the torch on and the windows locked. There’s dark things out there. And there’s even darker things in here.

Published: Kirstie Olley on


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Vision Writers

We’ve all got a dream right? What if we told you that for the cost of one Sunday a month (and parking in the city) you could sit down with other people who share your dream and instead of competing you’d all gather to help each other get closer to your goals.

Sounds like we’re writing fantasy, hey?

But it’s real. Vision Writers is all about helping polish our work, making us grow and improve, becoming better, celebrating our achievements, promoting ourselves, and networking.

When you meet our founders in person, Marianne de Pierres and Rowena Cory Daniells, you’ll see they still foster the attitude they birthed the group with — an attitude of inclusion and assistance.

So this is it, ye olde gauntlet on the ground, if you live in the Brisbane area and write speculative fiction, come join us and let’s see if we can’t all make our dreams reality.

For more info: visionwriters.net

Darkest Depths

Tony Owens

Chris Kneipp

Kristen Isbester

Allan Walsh

Kirstie Olley

William J. Grant

Geneve Flynn

Daniel Ferguson

E E Montgomery

Melanie Bird

Meghann Laverick

S Walsh

Talitha Kalago

Collated by: Kirstie Olley

First Edition

May 2016

Copyright © of each story belongs to its respective author. All rights reserved.

Vision Writers has been granted non–exclusive permission to reproduce the included stories in both digital and print anthology formats.

Published by Vision Writers.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any known way or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author. Nor may it be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that which it is published, without the written consent of the author.

RRP:$14.95 Aus

All stories, characters and events featured within this publication are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

ISBN: 978‐0‐9925150‐3‐4

Cover design by Talitha Kalago.

Interior design and formatting by Allan Walsh.

Copy editing by Geneve Flynn and Meghann Laverick.

Kindle Edition.

Vision 20 Year Anniversary

It seems hardly possible that the VISION Writers’ Group is celebrating its twentieth birthday. I was so nervous and excited at that very first meeting in 1996, and so intensely keen to learn everything I could about writing. It was my good fortune — a twist of fate, really — that I encountered Rowena (Cory Daniells) there, and found someone with as much drive and passion for the craft as I felt. But more importantly, I gained a lifelong friendship. Together we lit a flame in the name of speculative fiction, which was soon fuelled by members like Trent Jamieson, Adrianne Fitzpatrick and Chris McMahon. And that was just the beginning; so many outstanding, committed writers followed.

The way VISION has evolved over the years, the new generations and significant milestones achieved, is testament to the fact that writers need each other; and that together, they can make a difference to the state of their Art.

I feel truly blessed to be part of VISION’S legacy to Australian Speculative fiction writing, and wish to urge the group onward and upward into the future.

Marianne de Pierres 2016

Darkest Depths


By Tony Owens

Ichiro stared at the watercolour print on the wall of his hotel room. It was a beach scene: blue skies and a child standing knee–deep in the water with her back to the artist. It bothered him. He stood on the bed and turned the picture to face the wall, so he wouldn’t have to look at it. Outside, the lights of Los Angeles flickered and flashed through the windows but there was no excitement in it for him. He was tired. Of course, the round of meetings the next day were necessary. As were the reports he would have to write when he got home. It was just that sometimes, all he wanted to do was be home with his family.

Jetlag was kicking in. The digital clock in the room clicked over—1.28 a.m. It would be early evening back home in Osaka. Kumiko would be making dinner and little Maeko would be watching repeats of Doraemon on television. At least he figured that’s what she’d be doing. It was a rare thing for him to get back from the office before she was asleep. He leaned across the bed, picked up his cellphone and dialed home.

"Moshi moshi. Kumiko here," said his wife.

It’s me. I got in safely. I’m at the hotel.

Pause. That’s good.

What are you doing?

Making dinner. I’m pretty busy.

Can I speak to Maeko?

Have you been drinking? There was an angry edge to her voice.

No, he lied.

Look, I have to go. The line went dead.

He threw the phone on the bed. Damn her. Outside a neon sign buzzed and crackled like a disgruntled cicada. The light was stopping him from sleeping so he trudged over to the window and closed the curtains.

A bath. Maybe that would help. As he ran the water, he took off his shirt and then his pants. Standing in only his socks he gazed into the partially steamed up mirror. The weary eyes that stared back at him were like the last dying embers of a fire before total darkness fell. He shook his head, took off the socks and gingerly lowered himself into the bath.

The water embraced him like a tired lover, gently taking him into its arms. Warmth flooded every part of his exhausted body. He put his head under the water and held his breath for five seconds, ten seconds. Opening his eyes underwater, Ichiro watched as the fluorescent tube on the bathroom ceiling swirled and contorted itself. He wondered how long he could stay submerged like this.

Not long as it turned out. Even underwater he could hear the nagging buzz of the room phone. Just a little longer, he thought. But what if it were the company? Well, fuck them. Then he thought, maybe it’s Kumiko. Something might be wrong with his little girl.

He gasped as his head broke the surface of the water. It took some effort to drag himself out of the tub. Wrapping himself in a towel, he splashed out of the bathroom and across to the bedside table. "Moshi moshi, he said and then corrected himself, Hello? Ichiro Watanabe."

There was silence for a moment. Then a slight buzzing noise. Was it in the phone or inside his head? Drinking when you have jetlag is a bad idea he decided. He was about to hang up the phone when a woman’s voice said, Ichiro, come to the restaurant. Then the disconnect tone. The voice was almost familiar, but there was a dull edge to it.

Ichiro sat on the bed, the towel bunching around his waist like the lapping of foam on the beach. Come to the restaurant. Why? Sleep was beyond him now. He dug in his suitcase for a pair of jeans and casual shirt. As he dressed he caught himself. What the hell was he doing? He had no idea who he’d spoken to. He had no idea if she had been serious. Perhaps it was a set up and he’d get mugged. And the restaurant would surely be closed now. Something else was driving him though. A compulsion to find out who it was, what she wanted.

He massaged his temples for a couple of seconds and glanced up above the bed. There was a watercolour print of a beach scene. The sky looked dark and the only human in the landscape was a man lying on a beach towel, his right arm over his face. The figure looked peaceful but Ichiro felt a surge of irrational anger. Kneeling on the mattress, he ripped the picture down. There was an awkward moment of regret as he held the picture at arm’s length. He couldn’t rehang it; he’d pulled the hooks out of the wall.. Instead, he slid it under the bed. He’d have to call reception in the morning and make up some story.

The restaurant was two floors below him. It would take five minutes to go down in the lift, find out it was all a complete misunderstanding or some sort of juvenile prank, and he could go back to his bath. At that time of the morning, the door hinges screamed into the empty space of the corridor. The muted lighting matched his mood as he pressed the lift button.

The door pinged open. A man wearing an ‘I love LA’ t–shirt stood propped against the wall of the elevator.

Good evening, said Ichiro but the man said nothing. Didn’t even look at him. It wasn’t the first time he’d encountered rude Americans and he ignored the slight.

He got off at the third floor. The restaurant was directly in front of him and Ichiro was startled to see that it was almost full. He could hear the pianist playing a familiar tune—Sea of Love. It was a tune that always filled him with melancholy. His late father had often played it on his record player and the past came at him uninvited. He stood at the entrance next to the ‘Please wait here to be seated’ sign.

The sounds of conversation, clinking glasses, and the general hubbub of a crowded restaurant suggested it was a normal evening but Ichiro began to feel uncomfortable. He watched as a young woman walked up to the pianist and put a couple of notes in the jar on top of his piano. She whispered something in the piano player’s ear and they both laughed. Trapped inside his little bubble of exhaustion, Ichiro resented their joy. He waited. And waited. No–one came to seat him.

Giving up, he walked into the restaurant, found an empty table and sat down. He looked from face to face at the people enjoying themselves, all absorbed in their own little worlds. He tried to catch a waitress’s attention but she glided past him without a sideways glance.

The piano player continued playing but something in the music disturbed Ichiro. It was slowing down and the people around him were moving in slow motion. Ichiro felt his stomach lurch as the edges of the room appeared to telescope outwards. Clutching the edge of the table with one hand, he grabbed the glass of water on the table and drank. As the ice–cold water trickled down his throat it burned and he choked. He put his arms around himself, rocking back and forth, sobbing.

The conversation around him continued unabated like so much white noise. He sat like this for several minutes until there was an insistent tugging at his sleeve. Looking round, he saw a small girl standing next to him.

Maeko. Sweetie, he said.

Daddy. I missed you.

Ichiro could feel his eyes welling up. I missed you too sweetheart.

Are you working, Daddy?

Yes, honey. I’m here on business.

The little girl nodded, as if it was the confirmation she’d been looking for. She walked around the table and sat in the chair opposite.

Could I have a lemonade? I won’t tell Mummy.

Ichiro smiled. Of course you can. But … I can’t seem to …

No–one can see you, can they Daddy? But I can see you.

He looked around in a vain quest to find a waiter but when he turned back, his daughter already had a glass in front of her. Maeko began to blow bubbles into the lemonade through her straw.

Do you know where Mummy is? he asked. Her only answer was to remove the straw and casually point it towards one of the tables near the window. His wife sat there in conversation with a man he didn’t recognize. She threw back her head laughing at something her companion had said.

I think Mummy likes him. His name’s Takeshi. She leaned across the table. I’m not supposed to know, but I saw Mummy kiss him. Giggling, she reached across the table and drew some lines in the condensation on the outside of her father’s glass. "Mizu," she said, turning it around to show her father and pointing at the Japanese character for water she had drawn on the tumbler.

Ichiro smiled. You always were a clever girl.

His daughter regarded him seriously. Do you remember when we went to the beach?

We went to the beach a lot of times sweetheart.

But you know the time I’m talking about Daddy. The special time. You were very tired.

Ichiro’s chest began to feel heavy, like he was trying to breathe underwater. I can’t remember.

Don’t be silly Daddy. Of course you remember. You had a sleep on the sand. I found some shells. Was it the light or was her skin changing colour?

You got really mad at me, she giggled. Because I put water on your head. Her skin had a definite bluish tinge. It couldn’t be the light. And that dog chased me on the sand. And I went swimming. The waves were really big. Do you remember?

He looked away from his daughter. The people in the room were still talking and laughing. His wife and her new friend stood to leave.

The waves were really, really big. Some of them knocked me over.

They were coming closer, across the floor towards his table. He didn’t know what to do, what to say.

And then that really big wave hit me, she whispered. I couldn’t get up. Ichiro hadn’t heard her.

His wife walked past the table, oblivious to the presence of her husband and daughter.

Hello, Mummy, said Maeko. The woman continued on, ignoring her child. Mummy didn’t see us because she’s not really here. The child grimaced. Her skin was now definitely an unhealthy blue. The lights in the room flickered. She looked at her father. Daddy, I don’t feel well.

Her little chest started to heave and she leant forward, one hand on the table and the other clutching her chest.

What’s wrong, sweetie?

But she couldn’t answer. She was gagging and as she did so, she rocked back and forth violently in her chair.

He didn’t know what to do. Someone ring a doctor please! My little girl is sick! he shouted at the heedless mob. He dug in his pockets but they were empty. The damn phone must be back in his room.

Maeko dropped to the carpet and thrashed about on the floor, gasping for air like a beached fish. Ichiro took her by the arms and tried to quell her violent fitting. He could feel movement under the skin on her arms where he held her. In shock, he dropped her on the carpeted floor. Hundreds of small lumps were moving under the skin of her arms, legs and face.

Maeko screamed and screamed. The sound of laughter and clinking glasses continued unabated. He bent down to pick her up in his arms and held her aloft, zigzagging through the tables. He bumped one table, fell back slightly and collided with a waiter carrying a tray of drinks. The sound of smashing glass caused some of the diners to turn and look in their direction but no–one offered Ichiro any assistance.

He held his daughter’s tiny body against his chest, her head nestled into the crook of his neck. All the while he could feel the vile movement under her skin. Help me, help me! he screamed.

He had no plan in mind. If no–one could see him, what could he do? He was in the hallway next to the lift when he finally had to lay her body on the carpeted floor. The lighting outside the restaurant was getting dimmer. Gasping for breath he took her head in his hands. There, there, he said in an effort to calm not only her, but also himself. There, there sweetheart.

There was an infinite amount of sadness and fear in her four–year old’s eyes. Don’t leave me Daddy. There was a moment of silence and then she screamed as the lumps under her skin burst. Hundreds of tiny creatures erupted out of her little body. It took a second or two before Ichiro realized they were small crabs. Some scuttled away but many of them stayed, nipping at the skin. Ichiro could only gawp in stunned awe as they tore at her flesh. In the half–light it looked like her skin was being corroded by acid. He tried to sweep them away from her body but they swarmed onto his arms. He batted at them with his hands.

An elegantly dressed couple passed by him, the woman stepping over Maeko’s body to get to the lift, but otherwise not registering any response to the horrific scene that was taking place. The creatures on her face now concentrated their efforts around the eye sockets. He put his hands over his ears to block out the clicking noise. Paralysed with indecision, Ichiro backed away, scuttling like a crab himself until his back was against the wall. Unable to close his eyes he watched in terror at the writhing mass that until minutes ago had been his daughter. Then, mercifully, the lights went out.

It was like someone was jumping up and down on his chest. His head broke the water and he found himself in the hotel bathtub. He put his head over the