The Ghost Sequences – A.C. Wise




My previous reviews of A.C. Wise: and this publisher:

This author had a story in Nemonymous in 2009.


30 thoughts on “The Ghost Sequences – A.C. Wise


    “The extra effort turns her skull into an echo chamber, her bones grinding like tectonic plates shifting through the eons. When the bullet kisses the Magician’s flesh, Meg gasps.”

    A story that is hallucinating with innuendo that somehow, although it flowed with meaning, caused that meaning for me to be more a poetic osmosis than a rationalisation of a plot to expound upon or spoil, and today it fits with some other mis-shooting of a gun that has hit the news in the last few days, as if that, now, was always part of its fated pattern — in readiness for my reading it today. A Magician who is ‘killed’ by a gun every night and the story of his selfish behaviour toward his assistants some of who love him, including a male stage hand, and the rabbit from a hat ends up biting his finger, and the female resurrectionists and their own metaphorical card tricks of emotional revenge, that I misinterpreted and need the triangulation of all its other readers to reach gestalt that — as I have often publicly stated over the years — I need … and the feathers that sprout from the back even as one jumps towards the desert of death. Inferred poignancy and deep visionary healing for the reader. I can say no more even though I failed to create my own trick in describing what you must feel about it, other than to urge you to see for yourself how its trick is done, and whether its bullet of meaning hits or misses you. I must have read it upside down. Now the right way up, if still a pareidolia manqué.

  2. I reviewed the next story in 2017, as follows, in that book’s context…


    The Stories We Tell About Ghosts

    “Ghosts have always known how to get inside people’s mouths, using them to tell themselves over and over.”

    And here we have the plainspoken mouths of children netted by this story’s prose and dialogue, a childhood of ghost hunting not with mouths opening upon the telling or nursery rhyming of ghosts so much as filtering such ghosts by an app on a smartphone. An app that also seems to encompass local legends of ghosts where the children live. A group of children, playing amid hedge or on-line short-cuts, one particular girl in reluctant charge of her younger brother Gen (half the letters of Orange and perhaps somehow an inchoately naive catalyst like Fawver’s ball)…with incremental creepy encounter with what was thus told or heard … or social-mediated.
    Or naively read in a real book.

  3. …and now that bullet scores a hit…

    The Last Sailing of the “Henry Charles Morgan” in Six Pieces of Scrimshaw (1841)

    “Spaces of blankness within the waves suggest the presence of hands, shapes of absence rather than definitively carved things.”

    Irregardless of the above 1841 date in the title being an approximation of the ‘1843?’ (sicnificant) in the story happening just an hour ago to be reviewed from the Mills book which was linked above yesterday — this is remarkably an inadvertent companion piece with that woman in the wood, where, now, from the sea ‘she’ is depicted climbing the wood of a becalmed whaling ship of yore, in tyched items of scrimshaw as carved upon various objects and inked in. Scored in. “…lines etched upon dead matter, darkened by ink.” A slow motion serial, almost flicked projection on tusk bone, baleen or whatever, of images described meticulously, images of this creature who may not even be female and a surgeon or butcher later cutting into its flesh like a new scrimshaw…after ‘she’ married the captain? With religious overtones. Or at least “as if to implore God.” With a powerful incision into the reader’s mind, still burrowing.

    “A faint pattern of crosshatching behind the captain, but separate from him, suggests a shadow watching from an unseen distance.”

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  6. I reviewed the next story in 2018, as follows, in that book’s context…



    “Time was funny on the ice.”

    After the start of a new serialisation of Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock last night on BBC TV (my earlier review of this book here), it seems appropriate, alongside Johnstone’s ascent and descent of a mountain as a sort of ‘maroon party’ (a real word for elongated picnic), and, in rapturous and rhapsodic resonance with the Blackwood-Larson Wendigo, the Warren, the Nelson — and, above all, with the Hodge as its own version of this Wise story’s honey, I feel the Area X type ‘maroon party’ here, of a mixed group of marooners, is a major work, on its own, as well as in the above context. A major work hiving off (like an anti-viral checker’s cache?) all the ills of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, with honey found in a cave where they sought bin’s Laden, a subsuming rapture and rhapsody that creates this gestalt of a hive. One with mixed results to individual members of it. But, importantly, with hope. I have noticed that hyper-imaginative literature that I normally try to dreamcatch is becoming more and more effective as the years go by. A synergy, I trust. A healing, hawling force hopefully against hyper-inimical forces that recently emerged. A map that is no longer just sex. Below are some telling quotes from this significant work…

    “Rewriting my cells; instead of bones and blood, guts and liver, there were only endless chambers, dripping honey. […] And together we walked, a segmented body…”

    “I knew the patterns, written into my bones, with the gathering song. […] It mellified my bones.” (cf Mellie’s Zoo)

    “…and the low, sad song as the tall creatures behind the sky moved from the beginning to the end of time.”

    “…like she’d spent a year hauling nets in the cold. […] The harvest song howled in the dark.”

    “We’re separate, but together, strung across vast distances, never alone.”


    Above bold print, emboldened today.

    Other quotes today, many of them women in this band of soldiers, now amidst Covid, too…

    “I raised my head, the muscles at the back of my neck aching and putting dull pain into my skull.”

    “Adams wanted us because we were broken. Because none of us had anyone at home who would miss us. We were expendable.”

    “The words weren’t Russian; they weren’t even human.”

  7. I read the next story in 2017, in that book’s context, as follows:


    The Secret of Flight by A. C. WISE

    “Not all ghosts are about guilt.”

    …nor all ageing reviewers … nor once younger publishers, one of whom published this author nemonymously.
    I did my best with a collage of play scripts, personal letters, newspaper clippings, diary entries and a brief fable but I was defeated. My fault.
    The extracts range from 1925 to roughly the present day, spanned by ageing Raymond who writes to his male lover, whilst being infected by one of his past leading ladies, I think. Involving theatrical tricks with starlings. But I dare not say more in case I inadvertently spoil the plot that I lost.


    In view of above failed review, and also because of the uncanny possible connections with a so-called story (Lucilla Barton) that I just half an hour ago — before finding the above Wise review from 2017 — read and reviewed (here) from the arguably concomitant Mills book, I intend to re-read The Secret of Flight and hopefully review it before otherwise finishing this Wise book!

    • No time like the present. I still don’t understand it consciously, but perhaps my greater powers of osmosis today gives me much more than before, and seems completely in tune with the methods of the Mills story, if a completely different plot about deaths and suicides and and possessions and transfigurations, the Wise one being about a woman who vanishes into a starling murmuration, but I still fail to gather the gestalt of this story myself, as if a theatrical trap door has now opened under my feet, feet that had always claimed firm literary ground under them despite the preternatural airy-fairiness of my otherwise pretentious methods over the years. Weaker today in ratiocination, if not in osmosis, I guess!

      “ Anyway, the birds. The sun was just starting to rise, and the birds were winging back and forth across the sky like one giant creature instead of hundreds of little ones.” But then in the same paragraph: “Being part of something larger than yourself, knowing exactly where you fit in the world, then having it all ripped away from you, and finding yourself utterly and completely alone”?


    3BAA7119-09AD-45C7-9062-B006FCCAE311”Then they lie for a while with their heads in each other’s laps, forming a lopsided circle…”

    This crossing is not the man woken by a water-lady in the fairy story, but a beautifully limpid Sapphic one…a lopsided circle transcended by enhancing it.
    The story of Emma Rose with unaccountable grey eyes; onward gradually from 4 years old, we follow her path in the loves she often clumsily or guiltily plies (“Maybe they are both monsters, unfit for the love of any but their own kind”) as well a a Channel crossing toward the tug of the opposite coast, having been taught water skills by her dear parents. Ever sea-thwarted by her own self visualised as grown-up as that naked water lady within the sea…. Until, heartbeat by heartbeat attuned by her latest love, the last about whom we are told … and who knows, other than those who are allowed to finish this story, whether more years pass, and more loves happen, or more self-cruelty projected from the past into endless future, and who it is that says goodbye to whom? And so I murmur — what if love can transcend or even enhance Zeno’s Paradox? What if, too, this book’s death aimed at its heart at the start is never allowed to reach death’s inevitable target?

  9. And from the previous story to the “and maybe this time, just this once, you really will drown” of the next…

    How to Host a Haunted House Murder Mystery Party

    “Every tale needs a survivor.”

    …and at least one victim? This story would have been the perfect candidate for an anthology I once planned like this party and it actually came to fruition: ‘Horror Without Victims’. A timely map-making for such a party with an element of Bowen’s hide and seek parties imbued therein. With many formulae or tropes from haunted houses as recipe, including a claw foot bath and a room you never enter, even though it is unlocked. The guests enumerated and named, making 13 in all, are hallucinatory with meanings you think you should get should you ever enter this story’s final room.
    Why not even one victim? Well the erstwhile bullet never lands as guilt has a bad aim, I guess. So no spoilers here.

    “Besides, it would take all the fun out of your party to know every detail in advance.”

  10. In the End, It Always Turns Out the Same

    “Pretty is something she is, not something she does.”

    A classic story as darkly tantalising study of self-disguises and monsters within the Proustian self, a sort of a paranoia within the soul, the same soul that creates such paranoia in the first place, all of this involving some teenage detective tropes of the old school, and character studies of the teen participants, one of them in tune with the swimming story above, plus an ever-old bus driver who seems to be the monster, but who really is the monster against children? Not this work’s pervasive dog? — even though it is maybe God in disguise by an anagram of self-inversion?

    “‘There’s no such thing as ghosts,’ they say. ‘And everyone knows what monsters look like anyway. They look like you.’ Wrong. Sad. Old.”

    I can’t remember much about Mellie’s Zoo but, now, by disguised instinct, I intend to re-read it as the eventual coda to this review below.

  11. The wording of this ACW tweet yesterday seems strangely relevant to the preceding review entry (also yesterday), no doubt coincidentally so – Here.
    As far as I can see, no-one at all has viewed this review entry for the last few days.

  12. I discovered for myself yesterday that ELizabeth BOWen uses the word ‘elbow’ countless times in her works, far more than one would expect on any normal course of average! This quote seems in particular tune with The Ghost Sequences —

    From Part III (2) ‘The Death of the Heart’ 1938
    Beside her goddess-like friend, Portia walked with her head down, butting against the draughty air of the street. When they came to the crossing, Lilian gripped Portia’s bare arm in a gloved hand: through the kid glove a sedative animal feeling went up to Portia’s elbow and made the joint untense. She pulled back to notice a wedding carpet up the steps of All Souls’, Langham Place – like a girl who has finished the convulsions of drowning she floated, dead, to the sunny surface again.  She bobbed in Lilian’s wake between the buses with the gaseous lightness of a little corpse.

  13. Exhalation #10

    “It sounds like it’s coming up to a crossing.”

    A series of films and the unbearably acute hearing of a man called Henry who has loved Paul since they were young, the latter now happily married to Maddy and working at investigating crimes, never to make the films he and Henry were destined to make together. They share such crime investigations now, using Henry’s acute abilities to solve a hardcore snuff-filmed video of a woman dying, and other videos in sequentia, and Henry shares and adopts Paul’s pain as a sort of loving catalyst of healing for Paul but almost destroying Henry himself at the same time, … except later Henry does meet a beloved husband, a director of photography, and there are shades of the first story in this book above and the parallel news in real-time, as if films show the moment that the dead one last saw, the metaphorical bullet coming, and there is much in this story of such pain as cicada screams underpinning such creatures’ legends of being created by Muses (a wondrous passage). A whole story, though, that seems pre-planned, even contrived, with its really hardcore horrors we are made to ‘witness’, but perhaps this was its own genius in working like a film should…
    …harnessing Henry’s own memories from his childhood with what is happening now, as if everything happens within a single Zeno’s Paradox… “Two halves of the same story, trying to find a way to fit together into a whole. Except now, the film will always be unfinished, missing its other half.” — “Henry knows all movies are ghost stories, frozen slices of time, endlessly replayed.” — The ghost sequences indeed.

  14. Excerpts From a Film (1942-1987)

    “After so long, he almost dismisses it as a trick of his imagination, or maybe the Laphroaig at his elbow,… […] ‘Do you really think you can make me a star?’ She props herself on one elbow, looking down at him. […] They stood at guests’ elbows while they drank champagne.”

    Here, now, movie films’ ghost sequences are in apotheosis, with arguably non-specific pre-echoes of a recent prominent news item regarding Hollywood….
    The starlet with many ghosts — and with many names (Mary, Evelyn, Eva, Eve, Lillian Marshall) the gestalt of which, for me, somehow seems to be Mellie …. “pulls the bedside drawer open all the way, leaving the gun within easy reach.”
    But there are many versions of this death, even, in tune with the previous story, a snuff scene to be fabricated within a non-snuff film, as we follow George in the shuffled movements of a dark symphony that is his life, interleaved with the starlet’s own narration of her life (“I’m going to bring the other dead girls with me. We’re going to show the world what we really are.”)
    We experience George reviewing his own films of some forty odd years, sequence by sequence, dotting back and forth in time. In a projection of every film that he once directed, he guiltily sees the ghost of this starlet whom I call Mellie. Dead girls everywhere, living forever on the big screen where the camera cannot lie. Films blurring truth and fiction. And now we experience that blurring with these words. Even a re-rehearsal version of ‘The Crossing’ above, sequence-edited : “But in the half light they might as well be sharks or mermaids, selkies or sirens… […] …through the impossibly blue water, and all the pretty little wannabes swim in the ghost of her, soaking her through their skin.”
    Sometimes I find a particular author who writes stories that cannot be spoilt by plot spoilers, although I ever try to avoid issuing such spoilers. This author seems to be one of those special authors whose work I always hope to choose to real-time review, authors whose gestalts I try to help triangulate, along with any of your own coordinates of their works, should you impart these thoughts publicly. Forwards as well as backwards…
    …when I was young (with my now being an old man like George), I went to cinemas that ever showed ‘continuous programmes’, so, if I took my seat in the middle of a film, one needed to see its second half first. And that often happened and I still appreciated it in real-time!

    “It occurs to George—far too late—that the only kind of magic he ever needed was this. Watching his films backward to arrive here….”

  15. Pingback: Only Pot Boilers Need to Worry About Plot Spoilers | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  16. Lesser Creek: A Love Story, A Ghost Story

    “Time stretches to infinity.”

    I was tantalisingly subsumed by this poetic prose of refrain, memory and vanishing-points and competitive Faustian gambles upon a boulder’s marks in a creek, a work that blends the styles of Elizabeth Bowen and Katherine Mansfield with more horror moments than theirs, also Dylan Thomas, Proust, and I would add Aickman’s ‘The Same Dog’ as a co-resonant boy-girl plot, even though there is no dog in the Wise, but Aickman’s title also resonates with my thoughts on Dog and God above. The Devil, too.

  17. I Dress My Lover in Yellow

    Before I started this story, I had the premonition it would at some stage use the word ‘chambers’ and, lo and behold, it just did! —

    “Her expression is one of fear, as though she intends to flee; surprise, as if the viewer has intruded upon her private chambers;…”

    A haunting, clinging palimpsest of writings, one being a modern lover’s tiff in notes to her boy friend who is studying the lost painting described in what she writes upon, the latter text being about a 19th century matter, including the painting’s subject’s words, a parallel of a painting’s study of a woman in a yellow dress and what later happens in modern times – but you will never have experienced this yellow as described, so evocatively imagined in light and dark if not chiaroscuro, nor experienced the real-time emotions felt by the painting’s and the story’s subject dressed in such a dress, and the endless hallways we all become lost in, and getting thus lost there are also the painting itself and the casual reader themself and whoever studies these texts or even studies this whole edit-sequenced gestalt-as-story that contains all these things!

    “She has seen our king in terrible rags, fluttering like flame in the wind.”


    Read up to “Let’s go inside”

    To be read in parts…parts random in size.

    “There’s a delicious thrill to the thought that he’s scaring himself with his own story. It makes it feel more real. Like the Nag Bride has always been here, and he’s just telling something that’s true.”

    Andrew and Sophie are 12. Halloween party at his grandparents. She often stays with his grandparents away from the nearby house where her parents live. He tells her outside near the cornfield his spooky story of the Nag Bride.
    Of a man who married a were-mare?
    And does Sophie see this creature now for real like a woman in the corn? Now near, now further away, by turns.

    “A ghost to haunt them is exactly what her mother and father deserve.”

    No further spoilers.

    This review continues here:

  19. Pingback: The Wood That Screams For Us | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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