Cretaceous — Ashley Stokes


“…a simulation within that deep state of almost-death, fizzles in my brain…”

…and when I saw the word ‘dead’ five times in one sentence, I knew I was not a reviewer of this story but its carer. I was, by the way, one of this story’s “older folk [who] had starved because they would not open the door to delivery drones.” But now more a nurse with a syringe. If I live long enough to use it. This story has extended my life by giving me a new determination to cope with what life has crazed me with.

A story as capsule book that the narrator had written that would, he feared, affect his wife and ‘underkin’ daughters, stemming from or actually coterminous with some long-term lockdown they had suffered transmuted into a Hendrix ‘Purple Haze’ of spores, a plague called the Drift, global quarantine, unruly leylandii, the Swan with Two Necks pub, his neighbours, suspicions about his wife’s behaviour when playing away with pink furry handcuffs, a community called Gyddon, where this idea-crammed story big enough for a novel universe becomes an anaesthetised archaeology, all their bones as one massive Cretaceous creature in the pit in a wood, “the room no one sees”…

I cannot cover all the idea-crammings in this work, but they come out at you like the plague itself, but separately I relished each one as a creative projection of some super-sub-literature called survival. T.S. Eliot, eat your heart out. “Things break down where things break down.” And, just as a warning, some of the prose stuff about C-Rex and Vlox is what you’re up against if you submit yourself to this landmark collusive experience (sometimes addressing you as ‘you’)… at least do a ’find’ on C-Rex and Vlox and see if you can help me. Better, though, to dream of steak and pilsner, even burgers, I guess. “…with only our book as companion.”


This new story is available in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #72, first published August 2022.

My previous reviews of Ashley Stokes:

My previous reviews of TQF:

My ongoing reviews of single stories by living authors:

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