The Bledbrooke Works
John F. Leonard
A new story from the Scaeth Mythos, The Bledbrooke Works does not disappoint.
I love reading these stories, John F. Leonard has a talent for subtle horror yet disturbing all the same. The Bledbrooke Works I feel is one of the subtlest yet. I was engaged with the two characters from the onset. Donald Hobdike, a cranky older gentleman who resents youth, yet at the same time he resents getting old. He is tasked with wayward youth Michael Bassey, ‘Mikey B’, who is sent to Hobdike to work of his debt to society.
Hobdike takes Mikey down under Bledbrooke, into the sewage system to search for what could be a ‘fatberg’ – A fatberg is a congealed mass in a sewer system formed by the combination of non-biodegradable solid matter, such as wet wipes, and congealed grease or cooking fat. –Thank you Wikipedia for that definition. As they work their way through the darkness and stench of the towns waste Mikey begins to get nervous. He thinks he feels something touch him in the water. He sees shadows and movement. Things that cannot be real, that cannot exist. Hobdike tells him it’s just the darkness; being so far below the surface can have an effect on people – A plausible explanation. Mixed with being soaking wet after a tumble into the sewage, and too hot from the unnatural humidity down there, Mikey could almost accept that he was just being paranoid, almost.
The truth of the matter is far worse. It’s no fatberg at the end of the tunnel.
This book goes from ‘normal’ to creepy in one giant monster leap. The twist, the payoff, I have to admit I had no idea. The best way of course is when you are taken completely by surprise. The Bledbrooke Works reeled me in good. Hooking me from the start with believable characters, a musty old sewage works and some dark and smelly tunnels (and of course my favourite, a mention of rats).
It is such a simple yet effective setting, old factories and ageing buildings are ready-made for horror stories. They have unlimited potential, as John shows in his writing, with an atmosphere of suspense and horror built into them from their creation.
The sights, sounds and smells were all but palpable. John really has a knack for descriptiveness. You can almost envision yourself there, walking though the ripe narrow passages behind Hobdike and Mikey, as well as suffering the claustrophobia and paranoia that Mikey feels.
I felt there were undertones of the harsh realities of ageing within the story. Hobdike, not the young whippersnapper he used to be, being somewhat resentful of Mikey’s youth. He recognises himself in Mikey, something I feel we all do as we get older, we see the younger generation making the same mistakes as we did, yet we still hold contempt and criticise in what becomes an infinite loop. He isn’t ready to grow old and retire. He doesn’t want to die. Who does of course? But some things are meant to be. The symmetry between young Mikey and old Hobdike at the end I feel validated my thoughts on this with a somewhat ‘passing the torch’ moment.
“Michael Bassey, a blundering boy, crippled by circumstance. Packed with potential and denied opportunity. A horrible reality for the vast majority of the underprivileged in the modern era. This vicious circle that kept the underclass confined to poverty. Wedged and forever stuck at the bottom of the pile.”
The Bledbrooke Works is yet another fantastic story from The Scaeth Mythos. John F. Leonard just keeps coming back with all things subtle and scary; I swear they get better and better.