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:

Nightscript #7



Edited by C. M. Muller

My previous reviews of Nightscript and C.M. Muller:

Stories by Clint Smith, Joshua Rex, Douglas Thompson, Timothy Granville, Elin Olausson, Gordon Brown, David Surface, Douglas Ford, Alexander James, Jason A. Wyckoff, Rhonda Eikamp, Steve Toase, Tim Major, Ashley Stokes, Regina Garza Mitchell, Marc Joan, Danny Rhodes, Charles Wilkinson, LC von Hessen.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…