I Am The Woodsman

This piece was submitted to the Adelaide Plains Chapter and Verse – Fairy Tales Twisted Sideways competition in June of 2013, subsequently appearing in the compilation booklet of the same name a couple of years ago. As you can probably guess, the theme was Fairy Tales with somewhat of a perverted twist. Re-reading it now, there are a number of things I’d change, however, it’s posted here in the form it was submitted in two and a half years ago. I will at this point disclose an “Easter egg” in the text; the North American spelling of “fulfill” with the extra “l” is a reference to the “Gemini Killer” from The Exorcist III, who could be identified by his misspelling of words through the addition of an extra “l”, such as the extra “L” in “IT’S A WONDERFULL LIFE” spelled out in the blood of the murdered Father Dyer.

I Am The Woodsman

I’m The Woodsman. People know me for what I do by day; chopping down trees; moving logs; running the wood mill and selling timber. By night, what I do is secret.

The scene wouldn’t be discovered until the following week; gristle, black bones and crackle; black walls; charred collagen and the smell of bacon fat. The three little pigs had been roasted alive in the third brother’s house of bricks.

The doors were locked and the locks broken from the outside. Double glazed windows didn’t offer a better chance of escape. The fireplace was how it started; the porcine brothers thought their predator was coming down the chimney, so they started a fire to keep him out.

An accelerant was the first visitor down from the roof – probably olive oil. The high intensity burns of an oil fire could be seen splashed around, which would’ve spread to the rug and the lounge room furniture. Yeah, The Wolf used a lot of oil.

Bundles of hickory twigs would have followed, which in turn would be piled upon with split branches and trunk. This would have had the dual effect of adding flavour, all while asphyxiating the brothers. They’d have huffed and they’d have puffed until their little lights blew out.

I stood in the wreck of the aftermath on the night following full moon, observing bite marks on bone, and The Wolf’s leavings. He’d kill again. He always enjoyed a kill, but never more than on the night of a full moon.

I’m not a psychiatrist, so I can’t tell you what that means. I’m just The Woodsman.

Wolf tracks in the mud led back to the west – towards the woodlands; back towards my home.


People often ask what it’s like to be The Woodsman in The Land of Fairy Tales. I tell them that it’s all down to freedom. People don’t know where to expect me, so if I’m out somewhere doing my own thing, they just tell themselves I’m probably after some special timber or something.

For all they know, I could be doing a spot of fishing, or secreting myself away for an affair. It’s never suspicious when The Woodsman wanders around.

The good folk of The Land of Fairy Tales are trusting and honest, if a little unwise. I can leave a pile of timber for a customer back at the mill with a note, and I know they won’t cheat me. I’m pretty regular with orders, even if I’m not always at the mill to meet folks, but they give me that leeway.

Of course, all this trust can come with a price, and in The Land of Fairy Tales, that price is monsters.


Little Red Riding Hood was, if you listen to the villagers, as about as innocent as you could get in The Land of Fairy Tales. I’m not entirely sure that was true. In as far as it mattered she was innocent, as were most of the folk around here. This is to say, people were innocent enough to deserve avoiding a nasty fate. In as far as their innocence may otherwise be tarnished it was and still is nobody else’s business.

At any rate, Little Red Riding Hood was the regular recipient of all manner of advice on account of her alleged naïveté…

‘Don’t stay out after dark!’

‘Don’t show too much skin around men!’

‘Don’t talk to strangers!’

They’d tell her these things, strangely, as if it’d be her own fault if something went wrong, which to my mind, was entirely back-to-front. I mention Red, because she entered the tale at precisely the wrong point – while I was tracking Big Bad.


It was good to get back to the woods by morning, but I didn’t have much of an opportunity for a nap. At least I had my orders ready at the mill, and if anyone saw me here, they’d not suspect I’d have been doing anything out of the ordinary.

When I finally caught up with Big Bad, we were both within hearing range of Red, who was walking along the path in the woods to her Grandma’s that her parents had told her not to take.  Big Bad could have, if he was so inclined, attacked Red right there and then, but knowing the kind of predator he was, I knew he had something else planned. He’d be setting something up, the way he set up the three pigs – all in one fell swoop, and with the victim harbouring a false sense of security.

Big Bad had another victim in mind, either Red’s parents, or Grandma. It didn’t take long to find out which he’d chosen.

Assuming the posture he always did when talking to young women (polite, yet with strong don’t-let-your-parents-know undertones), Big Bad approached Red the way a cad would approach a lady a few years older.

It was all questions; ‘what are you doing today?’, ‘what have you got in that basket?’, ‘are you in a hurry?’ and the like. This was to give Big Bad control of, and to lengthen the conversation, which would increase the chances that a useful piece of information would slip from Red’s lips. The village denizens of The Land of Fairy Tales, unless they were utterly silent, were always able to oblige in this respect, which is odd, considering how many warnings they issued, and how moralizing they could be.

I simply sat in a thicket, listening to the conversation, as Big Bad exploited the way Red enjoyed being paid attention by a man in a manner her parents wouldn’t approve of.

Before long, it because obvious what angle Big Bad was going to take – Grandma. Big Bad and Red parted, and naturally, Big Bad was off towards Grandma’s via a shorter route. Only, I knew the woods better.


I’d seen it before – moonlight killers who went in for seconds while the moon was still bright at night. Big Bad would be planning to capture Grandma and Red somehow, and hold them over ‘till night time. Only, I had plans of my own.

Big Bad had to be fast to get to Grandma’s with enough time, and I had to be almost as fast to give me enough time to be waiting for him around the bend. It turned out that Big Bad was either too slow, or too careless to avoid taking the flat of my axe to the head.

Red’s encounter with The Wolf would just be one of those flirty chats with older men that thankfully went nowhere.

I bound Big Bad in rope, and made off with him to my second, secret mill, deep in the woods.


‘Oh what big eyes you have, Mr. Wolf!’ I told him as he awoke a couple of evenings later.

That was of course, because his peepers were bulging with effort as he groggily struggled with the ropes that tied him to my bench.

‘Who the fuck are you?!’ he yelled in near disbelief at his plight. Perhaps he thought he was having a nightmare.

At this point, he couldn’t feel or see his body, because I’d given him a herbal concoction to numb the senses, and he was wearing a tarp like a giant bib. He didn’t know he’d been there for days.

‘What a big sweary mouth you have, Mr. Wolf!’

‘All the better to fucking eat you with!’ he threatened in vain.

If I hadn’t drugged him, and whatnot, after the days he’d been laying there, he’d be ravenous by now. All I’d given him was some water to keep his throat moist.

Still, even without hunger, Big Bad had a fetish for the gastronomical.

‘Would you like some sausages, Mr. Wolf? They’re healthy free range meat, with rosemary, wrapped in fresh skin; lamb and rosemary, incidentally. And I do have mint sauce.’

This confused him. He should have been thinking of escape, but he was first and foremost, a predator, not prey.

He was obviously interested, but of course, there had to be a catch, didn’t there?

‘What’s wrong with the sausages?’ he asked.


I dropped the sausages into a hot pan along with some of the finest butter you’ll find in The Land of Fairy Tales. I let them simmer and spit and caramelize, so that my mill filled with the smell of cooked meat.

Even in the state he was in, Big Bad couldn’t help but salivate.

I plopped two sausages onto a plate, alongside some mashed potato I’d also prepared, adding just the right amount of mint sauce, before tucking in. I only got half way through a sausage before Big Bad had had enough.

‘Alright, alright! I’m not hungry, but you’ve got my attention. Feed me some of those sausages, but forget the mint sauce and the mash.’

I fed him four sausages, before he greedily asked if he could finish off the sausage I hadn’t started on. I feigned mild shock at his gluttony, but acquiesced eventually, before dipping my remaining half-sausage in mash and finishing it off.

‘I know that lamb, and you’ve cooked it well, whoever you are. I’ve never been one for rosemary, but this time it was a treat. But let me know, where did you get the sausage skins?’

It’s at moments like these I wish it was possible to slow time down. You want to savour these things, but if you leave things too long, the penny will drop.

Theatrically, I pulled the tarp back from Big Bad’s body, like I was transmuting a surgical cape into that of a matador.

Big Bad looked at me pleadingly, unable to force himself to look down. I smiled in the affirmative, as he saw the truth in my eyes, while I saw the fear in his.

The intestines I used for the sausage were his own. I have to confess, I felt more than a small amount of pride at this revelation, and certainly more than was polite.

My laughter assaulted Big Red’s brain as it echoed off the walls of the mill, and perhaps he wished he was still caught in a nightmare. But he wasn’t – it was all quite as real as anything else in The Land of Fairy Tales.

I put on my chainmail gauntlet, grasped his snout and twisted it sideways. I told him he could have been an ordinary wolf, and stuck to wild prey and the occasional lamb. I told him he could have stayed away from the ordinary villagers who deserved better than monsters like him, or I.

And then I grabbed the dense hardwood haft of a large axe that’d lost its blade and I smashed Big Bad’s head in. Again and again and again I bashed – blood spattering all over me, my eyes bulging, biceps pumped with a pulsing flow, and a raging heartbeat banging in my ears.


Folks in The Land of Fairy Tales think that as a woodsman, the things that fulfill me the most are the sounds, sights and smells of the forest – the birds chirping, the gentle patter of light rain on leaves, the colours, and the fresh air. The reality though, is that these mundane things almost leave me numb.

It’s when my heart races and my blood pulses from beating a villain to death, or when I laugh at the fear of another monster, that I really feel truly alive. This is what I live for. This is what it means to be me.

This is what goes on inside my mind, or what I hunger for, when you see me pass through the woods with axe in hand.

I am The Woodsman.

~ Bruce

A Night At The Gov feat. Soilwork

Soilwork @ The Gov - 12th Feb, 2016 Soilwork @ The Gov – 12th February, 2016

Whenever I could tune-in from my rural location to the then MMM FM back in the late nineteen-eighties, I used to listen to The Metal Show hosted by Mal. As a kid of around thirteen, I’d listen to Mal announce gigs, remember the venues, and being too young and too far away, harbour fantasies about going to “one of those gigs Mal promoted”. Hell, I even worked the Adelaide scene of my imagination into some fiction writing that my year nine English teacher took considerable exception to. Years later, by the time I got to Adelaide, and was old enough, Mal had moved on and MMM had become DDD Radio.

Wind forward to the now, and in more recent years Mal has returned to the station for a show every now and then, last year announcing on-air that Soilwork would be playing The Gov while touring to promote their The Ride Majestic. I didn’t mind Soilwork; I had a mate interested enough to still have a thirteen-odd year-old Figure Number Five t-shirt; a plan basically wrote itself.

After said mate travelled down from Mildura, and after a few drinks at different bars, we found ourselves in The Gov’s beer garden listening to Se Bon Ki Ra. Coming as a bit of a surprise, not being mentioned at the point of ticket sale, they were lined-up before Aversions Crown who’d themselves been announced earlier as Soilwork’s supporting act. I’ve only ever heard Se Bon Ki Ra’s work as studio material played on DDD Radio, and while I’ve liked what I’ve heard, I haven’t payed that much interest until now. Se Bon Ki Ra are awesome live. I can’t remember half of what my mate and I dissected out in the beer garden, possibly on account of the Coopers sparkling ales were were pouring down ourselves, but timing on the drums and the vocal range on show both featured in our commentary. I’m going to have to pay better attention to these guys in future.

My friend would have said more himself later on, when asked whether he liked the show by Ben, Se Bon Ki Ra’s bassist, only my friend was a bit taken aback by the urinary setting of the conversation. Bass players are a funny sort.

It was around the end of Se Bon Ki Ra’s set, and the beginning of Aversions Crown’s, that I finally met Mal of Metal Show fame. He was wearing a Mercenary t-shirt for the third of three “M”s. We got a little talking in, in-between the music and him snapping his camera closer to the action, although most of what I remember for my part is mostly laughter and inebriation.

Aversions Crown had the bar set high for them in following Se Bon Ki Ra. My friend and I found ourselves commenting on the volume of the drums (a fun thing in and of itself when the blast beats hit) which came off in parts as drowning out the rest of the band members. Nothing though, could fully quench the ultra-guttural growls of Melbourne’s Mark Poida, who stepped in to replace Colin Jeffs on vocals last year. I’m not much of a deathcore person myself, or even much of a “core” person in general, but I may end up making an exception for these Brisbane-based monsters. I’ve grabbed Tyrant off the shelves which I’m still giving a belt every now and then, and their cover art being what it usually is – i.e. scary-awesome – I’ll probably have to wait for their Erebus to get a physical release before grabbing that too.

Following eventually, after what was possibly a slightly longish sound check, was Soilwork.

Get on to Google Play, or whatever else and have a listen to their work. Whether they’re your thing or not, what you won’t be able to tell me is that these guys aren’t as technical-as-all-fuck; high precision that couldn’t get much higher if it found Dave Mustaine’s long-lost stash and snorted it through the woodwind section of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I’m arguing this based just on Soilwork’s studio material. But Soilwork on stage?

I’ve got to ask; do these guys ever make mistakes playing live? I’m not sure I’ve ever been to such a fine-tuned performance. I may have been a tad drunk, and yes, I’m not a muso, but I’m not entirely unable to spot a botch, and I didn’t notice a single one. This, despite material that is obviously not easy to play.

But don’t let me give you the impression that Soilwork are merely just technical virtuosos, or cold-hearted perfectionists, either. Björn Strid’s interaction with the crowd was at turns gracious, good humoured, and energetic, the band following through in the same spirit. There was every sign these masters of the stage were perfectly in-touch with the crowd’s mood, culture and blood alcohol level, working these elements and others into a keenly measured metal alchemy. There was more than just tight instrumentation and vocals going on, and you could feel the rest of the crowd knew it too.

Soilwork peppered their set of new material with divergences to points throughout a large back catalogue, which judging by the responses of die-hard fans who know that back catalogue better than me, was executed with deft timing and chemistry. Eventually, after the first stage exit of the night, a chant of “one more song” cued the band to come back to play several – a premeditated response, no doubt. The band knew perfectly well what it was doing, bringing the audience to new heights before the night’s true end.

After watching the band working its way back stage – seeing them choose not to ignore audience members as they went – and opting not to try skiing on the beer-inundated floor, the gig was over. Stumbling back to the CBD to contend with lock-out laws, late-night food, beer selections and taxis, the time taken by multiple encores having locked us out of public transport back to my part of town, I was forced to realise that previously, I’d really been depriving myself, gig-wise. After years of complaining about auto-tune and lip-synching, you can forget that some artists are even better live than in the studio – stage and the social environment being things you just can’t replicate at home, subject to crafting through a whole raft of other skills.

I may not have the health or the time to see gigs as much as I’d like anymore, decrepit and aging thing that I am, but I’ll be keeping an eye open for more, and making a commitment not to take live music quite so much for granted in future. I’ve got Soilwork and their co-conspirators to thank for the lesson, and of course, Mal too.

~ Bruce

What on Earth Have I Been Up To?

This is one, first and foremost, for the folks who’ve known me around the traps for much of the last decade of on-off blogging. They know who they are.

Backstory in brief

Five years ago, I got it into my head that I’d have a go at writing a work of non-fiction. This is a project I’ve mothballed indefinitely. Early on, it became apparent that in order to write effectively, and produce a piece of work I could actually be happy putting my name to, I’d have to get things right in my headspace. I didn’t anticipate just how much work that’d entail, or how much recovery was actually possible.

The past couple of days, a few supplementary frustrations not withstanding, I’ve felt great. I popped on an album from back in the days before depression bore down on me (George Harrison’s Cloud Nine) – only to experience sensations I haven’t been able to feel in decades. No sugary twee for me, mind you. It was bittersweet, albeit with a healthy absence of teen self-pity.

This isn’t about that though.

Nor is it about the resolution of a years of tension arising from the community most central to my sidelined non-fiction project. Four years ago, I’d grown tired of a number of atheist personalities, for reasons varying from individual to individual. Anticipating disputes falling along certain lines has been tiresome, but they’ve finally all erupted, and largely as expected. Nothing’s fallen on me though, so I don’t get to commiserate. I am though, oddly enough, more willing to engage now, no longer having to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone, said doubts either evaporating, or rendered irrelevant through the collapse of provisional arrangements. Presently, I’ve got nothing hanging on the word of people I can’t trust implicitly.

But again, this is not about that. I’m not returning to the non-fiction project quite yet.

The Project

What I have been doing is writing a piece of fiction. So far I’ve found it to be fun, and to be honest, somewhat easy. While I’ll doubtlessly make several future revisions and edits, I’m at least not left shaking my head re-reading my prose. There’s satisfaction to be had here.

While genre snobbery doesn’t appeal to me, neither does restriction to a genre niche, and not for the clichéd objections concerning “pigeonholing”. If, given the chance, other folks end up wanting to pigeonhole my current project, then fine. It’s just that I don’t conceptualise it that way.

What is this project?

For pigeon-holers, it’d be hard science fiction. For me, it’s a bit broader and blurred at the edges. For the blunt, it’s A Book.

I abhor the tropes of pop-sci-fi, largely because I loathe tropes in general, but also because the often seem lazy and/or dull above and beyond the hackneyed conventions of other genres; Space lasers! Space princesses (to be rescued)! Space calendars and space dates that uniformly adhered to by inter-stellar civilisations; faster-than-light travel allowing for interstellar soap opera, rather than faster-than-light leaving the protagonist alienated from, and out-of-time with, planetary surface dwellers; political jurisdictions that span multiple star systems, despite not being enforceable at such distances and time frames; harsh existential realities of the void, circumvented much the same way that special effects often negate the silence of space. 

First thoughts on reading this may leave folks thinking along the lines of Stephen Baxter or Larry Niven, and I’d be lying if I said there was no influence there.  Certainly, both authors have a penchant for oblivion that I appreciate.

Still, both can get a little more apocalyptic than what I have in mind. While the heat death of the universe, or alien life on the surface of a neutron star may provide imaginative and extreme perspectives, I want to keep the extreme beyond reach, while exploring and accentuating the relatively untapped absurdity of the near-universe. Camus used the conflict between human values and an uncaring but Earthly universe for his source of absurdity. I want to get away from Earth, to where nature is inimical to humanity, but not yet to all matter. My scope for absurdity then, is somewhere between Camus and Baxter.

What to do with the extremities of deep time and space then? These things not being directly accessible by humans, positions them as entirely alien, and I do want to employ a Lovecraftian fear of the unknown. This will be alluded to – inferred by the story logic, and occasionally hinted at implicitly. The project will have something of the Weird Fiction about it, although I hope to avoid what I consider the overwrought and contrived history of the Lovecraftian mythos.

In the story logic, the deeply alien may have visited Earth, but it didn’t put life-forms here, alter the history of evolution, insert genetic material into the germlines, build cities or pyramids, or live on the planet. There certainly won’t be a history of multiple visitations by every Tom, Dick and Cthulhu. For the most part, aside from a few key indirect interactions, the deeply alien will be poorly interacting with humanity. It may very well be in-frame at any given point, but unless explicitly stated, the reader likely won’t know it without my notes. The scope of experience of humans, and that of aliens persisting through geological time, are just too far divorced from one another for mutual recognition to come naturally. Think of the microbe that crawls across your face – how aware of each other could you possibly be?

I have a fondness for Michael Moorcock’s work, although without going as far as dismissing his material from my influences as too pulpy – if only I could churn out books the way he has – his characters are hyperbolised further than I’d want to go myself. I want a tad more realism, while maintaining the convention-breaking with regards to types. Looking to Vonnegut for clues in this respect may turn out to be productive. I will say this of Moorcock’s work though – the alien morality of his more far-flung representations of humanity sometimes come across as more plausible than many realist depictions of futuristic morality (compare the antics surrounding Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius to that of the inhabitants of Star Trek’s Risa colony, the latter coming across as entirely affected).

On a brief note, there’s a necessity for looking into cyberpunk given some of the technological themes I’ll be touching on, which for the most part for me so far, has been an exercise in risking re-inventing the wheel. On the one hand The Project has AIs, sentience and mind-body issues, while on the other I have a heaping of Gödel, Escher, Bach. I’m not sure I’ll look to Turing. I’m not overly aware of the ins-and-outs of cyberpunk, and I’m not actually sure this isn’t a good thing, but I’ll need to check, not too soon so as to potentially extinguish my imagination, but eventually, in order to compare notes.

As for my protagonist; she’s a supporting protagonist; an “audience surrogate” to some extent, but not so far as to “hold test tubes” and tell a main character “how brilliant he is”. The character she’ll be interacting with the most, will almost serve as a false protagonist, although I certainly won’t be bumping him off. While identifying to some extent as human, my near-false protagonist will become increasingly alien over time, in the sense that he’ll become less relatable to (although not in the sense of The Fly, or any other b-movie transformation). This, I hope, will have the effect of rendering my protagonist as both more central and crucial for the reader.

The near-false-protagonist is a character I don’t want to fall into the trap of fetishizing. While not a hero like The Doctor of Doctor Who fame, I think The Doctor has been fetishized far too much by Stephen Moffat, to the extent that the character’s quirkiness has been repeatedly regurgitated as trope at the expense of the development of other characters. I mean, that fucking guitar in the last season – why? – so the audience can gawp at the same joke yet again? The point of The Doctor is to be a vehicle for the audience surrogate – the means by which they, and hence the audience, are drawn towards the conflict in the narrative. We aren’t supposed to worry about the Doctor’s midlife or existential crises, so much as we should worry about the companion’s anxieties about the Doctor’s inner workings, the tensions brought about by space-time travel, and where this is ultimately leading them. This keeps The Doctor alien, and the conflict relatable. Or at least, this is my opinion. It’s Moffat’s show (for the time being).

In my own meagre project, I’m intent on not repeating what I consider a mistake.

I could say more, such as on the topic of identity labels and neologisms centuries into the future, my exclusively male list of author citations in this post, about my use of the Scrivener software, or any number of other things, but I’ll save these all for other times. It’s time for me to get back to the coalface.

~ Bruce