The Holly King’s Apprentice: First Frost

If you haven’t read them yet, you might like to catch up with The Holly King’s Apprentice Part 1 and Part 2.

C.R. Dudley author Orchid's Lantern blog

For 6 whole days I practiced reaching the realm of Ain Soph without the Holly King’s aid. I was utterly preoccupied with the strange task that had been set for me; so much so that I did very little else. It was difficult at first, because I hadn’t a clue where to start, but with practice I found a method that worked.

The terrifying, foreboding doom that characterised my depression was like a shadow on the peripheries of my vision. I could never quite catch a glimpse of it, but if I approached with stillness of mind instead of chaotic thought and panic, it wasn’t nearly so elusive. So, I began to teach myself to shut down the offending thoughts at their root. It was as though some other part of me was persuading them to be discrete; convincing them it was a matter of life and death. It was like telling a child to stay quiet in the closet to hide from an intruder.

In the moments when there were no thoughts, I managed to return to the place the Holly King had called Ain Soph. I became weightless once again, and at one with the darkness that surrounded me. Each time the child in the closet forgot it was meant to be silent, the leviathan awoke and we had to start all over again.

On that 6th day, the whole exercise went smoothly. I remained in the desired state for what must have been approaching an hour. And then, for the first time, I saw the sleeping leviathan. It took all the strength I had not to jerk awake with shock; not to alter the rhythm of my breath. It was a colossal, grey, shapeless beast. It had no limbs, and no head to speak of: just three eyes and a dragon-like tail. All three eyes were closed, but they glistened in the light emitted by thousands of tiny stars. And there I was; poised to stalk the stars upon which the leviathan slept.

How would you approach a monster sleeping upon the treasure you seek? How about if you had to do it without forming a single thought in your mind? I don’t know how I did it. Such things are beyond knowledge, I have come to learn, and bear only an intuitive sort of understanding. The experience was something akin to willing a movement in a lucid dream. I looked at those stars, and I floated over to them without a body and without a thought.

And then there was an eye. A shining, ultraviolet eye that was bigger than my home; and, from somewhere below, a deafening roar. I fell back into my body, hitting reality like a cold pavement from 7 storeys up. I was shaking uncontrollably, my limbs were numb and my consciousness was in shock at having to deal with knowable things again. I drank readily of the water I kept by my side, and only when I spoke aloud – what the fuck? – did I notice my lap was covered in specks of sparkling dust, like glitter. I scooped it into a handkerchief as best I could, tied it up with a knot and put it into my coat pocket. I needed some air. It was 5am.


I took a route across the suburbs that was well-lit but unlikely to be used by others at that time of morning. It led out onto some open fields, and made me feel a little less choked by asphalt. But that day I was not alone. That day, there was a tall figure running across the fields at great speed. His feet barely seemed to touch the ground, like a skilled and graceful dancer. He pulled behind him a glistening net that spanned the whole width of a field. I screwed up my eyes and looked again, thinking perhaps I was delirious with lack of sleep. But no, there he was in his trench coat, ripped jeans and biker boots, spreading a film of tiny stars upon the grass and winter wheat: the Holly King. He saw me, too.

“Hey there! Glad you could make it, I could use a bit of help!” He hollered from a distance and beckoned me to join him. I found a gap in the hedge to squeeze through and trudged along to his side in a cold that bit harder the closer to him I got. He was looking healthier still than the last time I saw him: his cheeks were rosy and he had developed significant muscle tone. I pulled the handkerchief out from my pocket and showed him the contents. He clapped his hands together, “marvellous!”. Then, with surprising delicacy for such a strong finger and thumb, he pulled the tiny stars up from the fabric and showed me that they had formed a thin, net blanket upon being exposed to the air.

“Your first frost!” He remarked proudly. “Well done, well done, well done indeed!”

Then he showed me how to lay out the stolen stars. I ran through the cold air dragging my net, just like him! My offerings were pitiful in quantity when compared to his, but nonetheless I felt a warmth inside that had been missing for so long, at the thought I’d achieved something so out of the ordinary. I felt like I had worth; a purpose, no matter how left field. The Holly King put a sturdy hand on my shoulder as we admired our (mainly his) handiwork. I shivered.


My flash fiction collection Fragments of Perception is available now in paperback and e-book! For the full blurb, and to find out where to get your copy, please visit my books page.

Fragments of C.R. Dudley: An Interview

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Until fairly recently this blog was anonymous, and now here I am inviting your questions! The encouragement I’ve received here on WordPress has been instrumental to me publishing Fragments of Perception, so I thought perhaps it was time to open the doors a little more. Apologies in advance for the length of some of my answers; I’m not so good at small talk…

Continue reading “Fragments of C.R. Dudley: An Interview”


C.R. Dudley author Orchid's Lantern blog

Creative folk bounce in and out of one another’s lives: sometimes collaborating, sometimes revelling in symbiosis, and sometimes breaking one another’s hearts to discover new building materials.

And so, when Claude left Nancy, there came to be a trail of red paint on the carpet from the kitchen to the front porch, all the way out to where his beat-up hatchback had once stayed. Artists don’t like to walk around the outside of houses. Given the option of using a path or pulling waves through the floorboards to walk upon, they’ll go for impact every time. Luckily Nancy, being a musician, decided she quite liked the sound of the stain once it had soaked in. When she put her ear to it, it sung in mysterious tones; like sunlight hitting the moon. All through the winter she hummed along, accompanied by the new rhythm of her aching heart.

She was still humming it when she met Terence by the pond the following March. He was photographing the surface of the water: not the water itself, he stressed, just the surface. He was endlessly fascinated by surfaces of all natures, and fancied if their essences could only be isolated then our understanding of beauty would improve threefold.

Terence moved in with Nancy the very next week, and he covered her walls with home-developed photographs in black and white. Images of pavements overlapped with images of skin overlapped with images of the sea; all of them, he claimed, depicted something identical. He stuck them over, under and around the curly letters Stephanie had written a year before, making a brand new dancing visual poetry of the house. Nancy had a different tune then, and she hummed it with her fingers upon ivory keys. It still had remnants of the dried red paint, but this time against a quickened heartbeat, and with a distinctive smattering of surface qualia.


Fragments of Perception and Other Stories is available now in paperback and ebook! Visit my books page to find out how to get your copy.

The Holly King’s Apprentice: Ain Soph

This is part two of a story that began here.

Orchid's Lantern blog C.R. Dudley author

The thoughts of sadness remained at bay for a couple of days. I did some shopping, painted some pictures, and saw my friend, Fred. I decided not to mention my strange new therapist to him, though the autumn leaf pendant he had gifted me tingled around my neck.

Then, on the third day, the freight train of shadows I’d been expecting hit me hard in the face. I became sure it didn’t matter if I was alive or dead, and since every little task suddenly required energy I no longer had, thoughts of the latter were never far from my mind.

I felt trapped by suffering because it was in everything. I longed for some peace: to be some place where my brain wasn’t revving in mud. This is temporary, I reminded myself, it’s the time of year. I did some activities that have helped in the past: I showered, took a walk, listened to some eighties synth pop. I called Fred but he didn’t answer, so I left him a silent voicemail. You can do all of these things though, and somehow every episode of depression still feels like an unprecedented depth. It becomes harder and harder to believe it will pass, despite experience being on your side.

Continue reading “The Holly King’s Apprentice: Ain Soph”


C.R. Dudley author Orchid's Lantern Press Blog

Everything is not
All is
There is a ringing
In the air though
The bell was struck long ago


A cold
Without harshness
A void
Without disappointment
A pregnant pause
Like a rollercoaster
Poised to dive


Breathe with me
Make the sounds
Vibrate the
Of the rhythm of life

And Finally

Nothing is
Is not


Fragments of Perception and Other Stories is now available in paperback and e-book! For the full blurb and purchasing options, please visit my books page.

A Chaotic Mind


My notebook has notebooks inside it!

A chaotic notebook has unfortunately led to a chaotic mind, and last week I had to take some time out from my writing projects to put everything into some semblance of order. I could really do with one of those meta-grids I imagined in Bottled Up… Anyway, I have now devised a set of symbols to help me find things more easily in my journals without losing the spontaneity of mixing up inspiring quotes with research, plotting, prose, and general thoughts about life. I have lists, spreadsheets and trackers; and a (slightly) less cluttered piece of consciousness.

So, as you know, Fragments of Perception has been released into the world. A big thank you to everyone who has bought it so far! I do have a favour to ask: if you have read the book, would you consider posting a short review on Amazon and/or Goodreads? It would mean a lot to me. Alternatively, if you are a book blogger, perhaps you would write a review here on WordPress?

The road to indie publishing has been interesting and challenging: I have loved every minute of it. I know more than ever that this is the path I wish to take, and am excited to now be working on the next book. Right now I’m busy researching subjects as far-ranging as the mid-Atlantic ridge, Greek mythology, and VR therapy. I’m also writing for an anthology, and throwing around some ideas for a collaborative project. All of this inevitably steals from what used to be blogging time, but the truth is I need to keep writing flash fiction to release those smaller, short-term creative echoes. It may be a juggling act, but I fully intend to keep posting new content and I won’t keep you hanging for the next instalment of The Holly King’s Apprentice much longer!

One more thing: this week I will be doing an interview about Fragments of Perception for an online author’s site, and I thought it might be fun to do one here too. If anyone has any questions for me about the stories, process, forthcoming work or even me as an author, please pop them in the comments or email me at and, providing there is enough interest, I will compile them into a special post in the next week or so.

Thanks everyone!


Fragments of Perception and Other Stories is available in paperback and ebook now! For a synopsis and purchasing options, please visit my Books page.

Noumenautics – Peter Sjöstedt-H (9/10)

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‘One might say that the noumenaut is a philosophical psychonaut – one who navigates through both the human harbour of ideas and out through to the inhuman ocean that is psychedelic consciousness.’

When I saw the subject matter of this collection of essays, I couldn’t wait to read it: so I was thrilled to be sent a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Although it took me a while to read, this was only due to the fact I kept stopping to make notes and contemplate, so it’s safe to say I was not disappointed.

Like most books with a philosophical bent, there is a lot packed into Noumenautics’ 136 pages. It starts out with a discussion on psychedelic phenomena: what the experience of using psychedelics does to our sense of reality and physics, and how we can apply the knowledge gained from it in rational, philosophical thought. It is an area that is surprisingly omitted from most popular notions of philosophy – which may have more to do with our prescribed morality (a topic also covered in the book) than a lack of validity – so I found it fascinating. I am a fan of Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, and this reads well as a scrutinising companion.

‘To deny philosophers of mind psychedelic substances is tantamount to denying instruments to musicians.’ Continue reading “Noumenautics – Peter Sjöstedt-H (9/10)”