Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I'm Something Else - Part 3

When I reached the corner, it was nowhere in sight. I slowed my pace and proceeded down the road. It could be anywhere, waiting, watching. I scanned the surrounding area, paying special attention to the darkest nooks and crannies of the street. 
- ----------------- -

These creatures were cunning hunters, feeding upon the soul of the living. They inserted their fine needle like nails into their victim's neck and somehow drew out their soul to feed greedily upon it, leaving their victim an empty shell that  crumbles into a dusty heap. They only need one soul a night to survive, which means the one I'm tracking still needs to hunt.

Where do these monsters come from? I expect you're wondering and what makes me so special that I can face them? Perhaps I should give you a little more detail.  

The creatures have existed long before I was born. I remember mama telling me that they did not know where they had originated from, only that they knew about them. It was several years into the battle with them that one of my ancestors came upon a nest buried deep within a rock face. She apparently had a vision of this nest and following her instincts found it. There clustered together were several small bundles covered in a fine sheath of skin, waiting to break free. As she proceeded to draw her knife to cut these into shreds, two bright blue bulging eyes glared at her from a dark corner within the cave.  Clutching her knife, she steadied herself as it rushed towards her. The story goes that this one was different, bigger, brighter and somehow transformed itself into a human figure. Now it was less clumsy and more agile. It stood a good six foot plus, dark hair, rippling muscles but still with the needle like nails. The fight was a fierce one, she had to avoid those nails getting anywhere near her neck and although the skin on her her arms were ripped to shreds, she managed to make the one cut that counts and sliced out its heart.  Mama said that it is thought that this creature was the first and produced all others. It is believed that its not of this world but a much darker one, one that exists alongside our own. Mama also said that no one since has seen one transform and I often wonder why that is? There have been no more nests and that leaves us to believe that they can move freely from their world to ours as they wish.

As to my race, we are said to originate from another that visited our world and mixed their genetics with our own, resulting in a people that look like ordinary humans, but  have a more resilient skin that heals itself, a strength that could lift 5 times that of a normal human and as you already know a faster speed.  There are at any 200 year span, only 6 of us that exist, doing just as I am, hunting down these dark creatures from a parallel  world to our own.

 - --------------------- -

 In the distance I see a figure walking towards me, a man wearing a rain coat, collar turned up, trilby hat on his head and hands in his pocket. He is walking quite fast and I think he must be in a hurry to get somewhere. As he approaches me I see that his hat is pulled down over his forehead almost but not quite hiding his eyes. I smile as he reaches me and he nods as he passes by. Out of the corner of my eye I catch him make a side way glance at me. For a second I freeze. Did I see a flicker of blue? It couldn't be could it? One who can transform? I swung around in time to see the tail end of his raincoat disappear back around that corner and if I'm right, back to that night club.

To be continued.....

©Helen A. Howell 2019











Tuesday, November 19, 2019

I'm something Else - Part 2

The world has changed so much since mama's time, she wouldn't believe it. Here and now in 2019 I have lived for 159 years. Instead of the ball gowns she use to go out in, I go in tight jeans, skimpy tops, midriff bear, hair that is allowed to tumble wildly around my shoulders. My lips the colour of stawberries, red, lush, tempting. Ha, poor mama, she would turn in her grave to see me now.   

Yes, I know that you are wondering what a 159 year old woman would look like in that get up, but there is something I should also tell you not just about me, but about my kind, that is, we don't age past 35years. Young forever, every woman's dream I expect you'd say. However, I couldn't do what I do if I were to become haggered.  

I now have 41 years left to my 200th birthday, and I am being pressured to produce an heir - did I mention we only bear a girl child?  I know I must think about that soon and find a suitable partner. Not your ordinary man, something special, something that will contribute to what she will have to undertake.

 - ----------------- -

The streets are dark and wet, the lamp lights reflect upon the pavement. I pull my leather jacket tighter around myself as I head to tonight's destination. They seem to have a fondness for the nightclubs. Perhaps it's easy pickings for them.  There are places where these things lurk. They can hide in the shadows, hang against the walls, waiting, watching for the right moment. 

I reach the entrance, take the steps that lead to the club below. I part with a $20 bill and step inside. The coat check girl smiles and points to the hangers.
I shake my head, and move forward. The lights are dim, the atmosphere smokey. No bans on cigarettes down here. I make my way through the crowded  tables, across the small dance floor, where several couples gyrate together to the very loud music, and arrived at the bar. I perch on a stool and wait for the barman to notice me. His eyes meet mine and he walks over to where I sit.

"What can I get you?" His gaze cruises over me and I know what he is thinking.
"Make it a Wicked Lady." I run my tongue over my lips to moisten them.
He turns towards the bottles behind him and puts together my drink.
"Here you go." He smiles as he places the champagne glass down.
"Go on say it, I know you want to." I smile back.
He laughs, "You look wicked enough to me, without having that drink."
"Why, thanks, you don't look too bad yourself." 
I raise my glass in a salute and take a sip. I didn't want to be rude, or draw anymore attention to myself  but experience told me, flatter them and they'll go away happy. He tips his head and as I hoped, went to take care of others waiting to be served.

I pick up my drink and look for somewhere I can sit and observe the room. I sense a presence lurking. I just needed to pin it down. There is a comfortable chair over to one side that would enable me to see all around. I sit and take another sip of my drink. I'm going to need it before the night is over.

An hour or two passed but I could still feel it. I scan the room once again, paying attention to the darkest corners. Nothing. Then as I look away from the back wall, I catch something in my vision. I turn my full attention to that area. It is hiding so well that even I had to concentrate to see it. It is bigger than any I have seen before, dark as a black cloud, hovering over the back of a young woman who was totally oblivious to it. I see its long bony fingers with nails like needles reach towards her neck. I put down my drink, now was the time to act before it can claim another victim. I reach into my jacket and pull from a hidden pocket a knife, not just any knife, but one that is able to slice the heart out of this monster. 

I move swiftly across the floor in its direction, but just before I reach it, someone scrapes back their chair, stands and bashes into me making me lose my balance for a split second. In that second, disturbed by the sudden noise, it turns its head. Bulging eyes, shining bright blue, stare straight at me. It realises I can see it and it sees the weapon in my hand. It snarls and turns disappearing through the solid wall.

I rush to the entrance and up the stairway. Out on the street I look around, then I see it several yards down the road, turn the corner.

I dash after it at twice the speed of a normal human being.( But then I'm not human am I.)  Every bone in my body was telling me this was going to be a long night.....

To Be Continued.....

©Helen A. Howell 2019
 
 





 

Monday, November 11, 2019

I'm Something Else - Part 1

It's time for me to tell you about myself. I have seen so much in this long life I have endured, things you wouldn't believe, things you wouldn't want to know about, things that would make your flesh creep and your heart beat out of control.

Let me start at the beginning. My name is Della and I was born in 1860. Yes born, not changed by anyone, but pure in blood. As a young child I was free of the knowledge I now have. Free to be   innocent of the world we all live in.  As I grew I started to sense those things around all of us, that others seemed oblivious to.

I remember my mother, Helena was her name, going out of an evening. She looked beautiful. Her dress hugged her torso and tumbled into silken folds that cascaded down to her tiny feet. Her auburn hair glinted in the moonlight. It was piled on top of her head, small ringlets escaped to frame her face. She had a pale porcelain like skin, her cheeks bore the merest smudge of pink.

"Where are you going, mama?"
"I have things to take care of. Nothing for you to worry your pretty head with."
She smiled not just with her lips, but her eyes also. A deep blue sapphire colour, they sparkled in the dark of the night.
"You go out every night, mama."
"I know my child. One day you will understand."

That day dawned on me on my 16th birthday. Mama took me to one side and whispered what I needed to know. What I needed to understand about myself.  At first it confused me, but then certain things dropped into place. My ability to sense them around me, even if I didn't know what they were. But now I did and it horrified me.  

Mama explained that we came from a long line that stretched back into the past centuries. That this task we are burdened with has been ours and ours alone. She said we do not live forever, just for a couple of hundred years and that I must carry on after her. That her time was almost up. She said she must prepare me and that I should learn all that I can.

Over the next few years I developed the ability to not just sense those things that move through our world, now I could see them, which meant, if I was not careful, they could see me watching them.
By the time mama passed on, I had learnt all that I could from her.  This legacy she had left me, was a dangerous one. I could only hope that I had the strength to see it through.

To Be Continued.....

©Helen A. Howell 2019



 








Saturday, September 28, 2019

Ticket To Ride - A Ghost Story


She waited by the edge of the track. The trains always made her feel alive as the draft of air whooshed past her and the wind whipped her hair from side to side. Her eyes followed the retreating iron horse as it sped away; the rumble of the wheels resounding on the metal. She fancied she could hear words in the rhythm of those wheels as they danced their way along the cool steel.  Marley stood listening to the echo carried by the breeze that followed in the wake of the locomotive.
What happened to the steam trains? she thought.
Marley frowned as she tried to remember when things had changed. One minute they were there and the next gone. Trains had always fascinated her. She lived just beyond the train tracks and could hear them, no not just hear them, see the steam rising in great white puffs to float across the sky like smoky tendrils reaching for the heavens.
She would run down the garden, her mother calling after her.
“You stop this instant Marly. Come back girl or they’ll be hell to pay.”
Marley didn’t care; swinging the gate wide, she would fly down to the tracks, pinafore billowing out, her boot clad feet slid and scraped in the mud as she clambered down the embankment to arrive just as a train went by. The driver would pull the whistle string and two loud toots would explode into the air. Marly would laugh and clap her hands as she stood and waved to the passengers who raised a hand in greeting at the small girl on the bank.
No one waves these days. Marly sat down on the grass and rested her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. She knew when she went home her mother would be cross. She could hear her voice in her head and knew by heart what she would say.
“I told you not to go. I should beat you within an inch of your life my girl.” But Marley knew she wouldn’t. Her mama was just frightened that some harm would come to her that’s all. “Look at the mud on you! What is it about trains and you?” Her mother would  shake her head, but a smile always was on her lips.
Dear mama and papa. Marley’s eyes glassed over but no tears fell. She hadn’t cried in such a long time, in fact she couldn’t remember when she last did. She lifted her head off her hands, stood up and smoothed down her pinafore. “Another train,” she whispered. She cocked her head to one side and listened; in the distant a faint rumble could be heard. She stood ready to wave, but the train flew past at breakneck speed, the updraft created by it swept her skirt upwards. She grasped hold of it and held it down.  Those trains travel so fast, no wonder no one waves. Disappointed she plonked herself down again on the bank.  One more train, then I’ll go home and face mama.
No one else every came down to this part of the embankment, it was her own private place. She didn’t know why, but she felt connected to the trains and to this place. It was special, it was hers and hers alone. When the trains flew passed her, it was as though her whole body vibrated; an energy flowed through her that lasted only for those few seconds. As she watched the trains disappear into the distance she felt as though she too was disappearing.
Clackety clack, clackety clack, Marley jumped to her feet, a train was approaching much slower. Perhaps they would see her this time and wave. An excitement filled her as she anticipated its arrival.  Clackety clack, toot toot—this was what she had been waiting for. A steam train at last!  A smoky haze drifted into the air as the old train came into sight. Marley held her breath, it seemed she had been waiting all day just for this moment.  She slid down the bank and stood at the very edge of the tracks, her heart beat in time with rhythm of the wheels, clackety clack, clackety clack, claaaackety  claack. The train pulled to a halt with a hiss. The driver, a rosy cheeked man with a large moustache leaned out of the window.
“This is your ride lassy.”
 Marley so wanted to jump aboard, but what would mama say? “I can’t come with you, mama would worry.”
“No she won’t not now my dear. Don’t you remember?”
“Remember?”
“Try to remember my dear.”
Marley was silent, what was he talking about remember, remember what?
“The trains my dear. What do you know about the trains?”
Marley stood still while her mind searched, trying to grab at something just out of reach.  The trains, they’d changed, this was the first steam train she’d seen that day. That day….? The last steam train before this one was? I remember. I was standing near the edge, waving, yes waving, then running and waving. I tripped, the wheels…. Marly let out a gasp as she raised her eyes to meet those of the friendly driver.
“You remember?”
“I’m dead aren’t I?”
“What you are my dear is free to ride on this train. Ride and see where it takes you, or stay on that embankment forever, the choice is yours.” He pulled the string and a loud whistle hit the air. “All aboard. What are you waiting for?”
Marley took a last look at the embankment, she still didn’t remember how long she had been there watching the trains slowly change from steam to those mad things that flew past,  then she climb aboard the carriage. There sitting on the other side, were her mama and papa. How long had she been dead? For the first time in a very long time tears rolled down her cheeks as she ran into their arms.
“Together again,” her mama whispered.

©Helen A. Howell

Sunday, March 31, 2019

They called her Bags

 She hurried down the street ladened with bags, one around her neck, four on a trolley and two slung over her arms. Her whole existence was carried in them.

She had been on the streets for many a year and all of her life was packed carefully into each one. The one around her neck carried what few photos she had of a previous life, comfortable, homely sort of life. The four on the trolley each contained what few clothes and toiletries  she had acquired.  The two slung over her arm were the most important to her, for in each of these bags slept an ageing cat, one ginger, one black and white. These were her companions, and they loved her as much as she loved them. She knew each of them were nearing the end of their days, and she also was on her last journey.

That night the wind howled, such a bone chilling noise, it was almost like it too was lamenting that their time was coming to an end. Snuggled up together on a shop doorstep the three of them gave warmth and comfort to each other. She fed the cats the last of the food she had. They returned their love with a soft purring noise. She drew her old raincoat over them all and knew tonight would be the last time they closed their eyes together.


She was found by the shopkeeper in the morning with her two cats. They all looked like they were sleeping peacefully. The old lady had an arm around each of her companions and a smile was fixed upon her lips. The bags were piled behind her, all that was left of the life that was hers and yet there she lay with a smile.


296 words

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Night Before Christmas - A Ghost Story



Tree graphic from grannyenchanted.com with Licence.


May and Tom  wanted to exchange the hustle and bustle of city life for something more tranquil. Tom was a graphic designer and worked from home, so they were free to choose just about anywhere to live.  A broken signpost had caught May’s eye when they were out investigating places. It was so rotten that the wooden plaque hung down like a broken limb. The words were just discernible in flakey white paint.’ Waters Edge’.

“Let’s go and take a look.” May smiled at Tom.
“The post is broken, but I guess it must have been pointing down that Lane.” Tom looked at May as she nodded her head in agreement. “Do you really want to go. It’s not even on the map?”
“Oh yes. It will be fun to see what we find.”


May squeezed his hand and he knew once she’d made her mind up, there was no changing it. He started the car and drove slowly down the dirt track until it opened out into what appeared to be a tiny hamlet, just half a dozen cottages that were scattered to one side of a circular green, at it’s centre a large pond. To one side stood an old fir tree, its branches outstretched, dark green against the pale pallet of the sky.

“See,” the excitement in May’s voice was hard to ignore, but Tom said nothing, instead he just stared at the chocolate box scene.“Park the car over there.” She pointed to the far side of the green.

They both got out and took a deep breath of the fresh country air. It was only a few days before Christmas. The soft grey of the sky held the promise of snow.

“I bet this looks lovelier than ever when it’s covered in snow.”
“Yeah, lovely,” said Tom, in not such a convincing voice.
“Aww, don’t be a humbug. Let’s investigate.” She took his hand in her own and pulled him towards the cottages.
“I hope they’ve at least got a pub,” he mumbled as he followed her lead. 


They strolled past each of the cottages with their thatched roofs and pretty curtained windows. When they came to the last one a notice was nailed to the door. ‘ Vacant.’ 

“Ooh, I wonder if we can take a peek in.” May reached for the door handle and twisted this way and that, but the door was locked. She moved towards the window and pressed her nose up against the glass, but the light inside was so dim, it was hard to see anything at all.  She sighed and turned towards her husband. “That’s a shame. I wonder if it’s for sale?”
“Really?” Tom raised an eyebrow. “You want to live here? You’ll get bored. There’s nothing here. It’s not even big enough to be called a village.”
“Don’t be a sour puss. It’s probably gorgeous inside. And, how do you know there is nothing else here? We haven’t walked down that road yet.” She gestured towards the path leading away from the cottages. “Come on.” She marched on.
Here we go, Tom thought, as he caught up to her side and together they strode down the road.


They must have been walking for ten minutes or more when a small shabby shop appeared to the right of them. They stopped and looked at it.  The door was painted bright red and the front bow window was stacked with items and posters stuck to the glass advertising various goods. The sign above the window stated in bold letters ‘Ye Old Shoppe’. 
 

“Well, there you are, it’s a shop. See there are other things here.” May had a smug look upon her face. She loved proving Tom wrong.
“Are you sure it’s a working shop? It looks pretty old. 
“Come on Tom, let’s go in.” As May hurried forward, she glanced over her shoulder and saw that Tom hadn’t moved. “Are you coming or what?”



Tom put the cigarette he was about to light back into the packet and slipped it in his pocket, before walking towards her. He pushed open the shop door and above their heads a bell tinkled announcing their arrival.  The shop was dusty and dim, a bare light hung from a worn cord in the middle of the ceiling. Shelves behind a wooden counter that ran the width of the room were stocked with various goods. To one side of the counter was a wire cage arrangement, two sides and a front with a slot for handing things through. 

From behind this contraption appeared an old lady.  Her silver hair was arranged  in a tight knot on the top of her head, her  rounded glasses balanced on the tip of her nose. Two black eyes, bright like buttons peered over the top of these as she walked towards them.



“Hello my dears. How can I help you?” She pressed her thin lips into a wide smile. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No”, replied May. Just visiting.”
“Thought so. Don’t get many strangers these days. In fact you’d be the first for, oooh I don’t know, a long time.”
“Who’s responsible for the vacant cottage, only I’d love to see inside.”
“You don’t want to be bothering with that place my dear. It wouldn’t suit you, no not at all.”
“See, May, listen to the lady and let’s get going.” Tom turned towards the door. May grabbed his arm and stopped him in midstep.
“Hang on.” She frowned at Tom, a look he knew so well. May turned back to the old girl. “What makes you say that?” 
“Oh, just a feeling in my old bones that’s all, my dear. That particular cottage is at least a hundred and fifty years old. It’s been empty now for as long as I can remember. It was the first one here, so they say. Stood all alone opposite that green and pond. The fir tree, did you see that?” May nodded in reply. “It’s said that it was planted by the young woman that first lived there.”
“When did the other cottages appear then?” May was beginning to be intrigued by the old woman’s tale. She could hear Tom’s feet shuffling against the floor and gave him a small kick in the ankle.
“I believe the first of the other cottages appeared at least a hundred years after. There were no farms as such near by and the nearest town, still there today Ruffsby, is about  five mile in the other direction. So you see this was and still is a secluded place.”
“How interesting. Do you know anything else about the first cottage.”
“Oh yes my dear. It’s a well known story around here.  It’s said that the young woman was placed in that cottage by her lover. A well-to-do gent with a wife and family and standing within the community at that time. As I’ve heard it told, he built the cottage out here away from the town and prying eyes and would ride out to see her as and when he desired. The girl, only 18, came from the streets. She caught his eye one day and he did have an eye for the girls. They say she was a beauty with hair as black as a raven’s feathers, eyes as blue as the morning sky and a voice as sweet as sugar.”
“What rubbish. May, you don’t believe all this do you?” Tom was beginning to become annoyed.
“Shut up.” May turned around to face him. “If you’re not interested, go and wait outside.”
“OK, I will.” Tom strode towards the door. The bell jangled as he pulled it closed behind him.
 “Sorry about that. Please go on with your tale.”
“Alright, my dear, if you’re sure?”  May smiled and the old lady cleared her throat. “This liaison, as you may call it, went on for sometime, the gent’s wife and colleagues not suspecting a thing. It was well known that he liked to go out riding on his own, so no one questioned his absences. It was in the evening of Christmas Eve that he was about to take his leave of his mistress, when she invited him to come and see the fir tree and how she had decorated it. They walked together across the green and whilst he admired the paper decorations she had made, she whispered to him that she was with child. The gent, of course, didn’t want anything to do with it and told her to get rid of it. She broke down and threatened to tell his wife if he would not accept the child as his own. Well, what’s a gent to do eh? He takes her by the neck and pushes her into the pond where he holds her down until she breathed no more.” 
 “That’s terrible.”
“But there’s more my dear.” May leaned in closer across the counter. “It’s said that on the Night of Christmas Eve you can her her sobbing, as she returns to her cottage. Some say they can even see the reflection of a fire burning in the grate. It’s said she is looking for someone.”  Anyway it’s been enough to get that cottage empty forever.”
“That’s daft. It’s only a story.” May straightened up.
“But is it, my dear?” 

The old girl’s eyes met May’s and just for a split second she thought she saw them glitter. The air around her had become cooler and she pulled her coat a little tighter around her.
“That was an interesting story, but you still haven’t told me who owns the cottage.”
“If you have any sense you’ll forget about that place.”
“The name of the owner, please.” May was now beginning to feel a little uncomfortable.  There was something unusual about this woman.
“If you insist, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Carry on down this road till you come to the Dog and Bone and ask for Arthur. You’ll find out what you want to know there.”

 With that the old woman turned and shuffled her way back to the confines of the wire cage. May made her way outside to find Tom on his third cigarette.


“About bloody time. I thought you were staying for the night.”

“Don’t be sarcastic. We’re going to the pub now.” May laughed as she noted how his face lit up.
“Now that’s the first sensible thing you’ve said all day. Where is it then?”
“Just up the road a bit.”

He threw down his cigarette and took hold of her hand.  It wasn’t too long before they saw the pub sign swinging in the breeze.


The lights were on and a fire blazed in the corner of the bar.  

“Evening, what can I get you?” The barman was a stocky fellow with bright eyes and a bulbous red nose. His shirt was open at the neck and the sleeves were rolled up to his elbows.

“Half a pint of your best bitter please sir, and,” Tom looked at his wife.
“Rum and black for me, thanks.” May looked around her, the place was empty except for themselves and the barman. She waited while he got their drinks and then asked, “Is Arthur here?”
The barman’s smile dropped instantly, “Who wants to know?” he said, staring straight at her.
“Me actually,” May continued to smile. “I want to ask about the empty cottage, further down the road.”
“Oh, in that case,” he appeared to relax a little, “you’re talking to him. “How do you know my name?”
 "The little old lady in that shop further down said to ask for you.”
“What old lady?”
 “You must know. She was in the old shop that sells all sorts of things by the appearance of it.”
“Don’t know who you’re talking about, but then I never go down that way. Anyway what’s your interest in the cottage?”

 May was a little more than surprised at his answer. “You must go down there if you own the cottage.”
“Why? Is it not possible to own a building and never see it?”
“Well, I suppose…” May never got to finish her sentence before the barman spoke again.
“Exactly.” 

He place both hands on the bar top and stared straight at her. It was then that she noticed his hair was parted in the middle and slicked back with some sort of hair product.  He’s behind the times, she thought. May took a sip of her drink. “Is it for sale?” Little did she know that Tom had his fingers crossed behind his back and was hoping desperately for a no.
“Is what for sale?” The barman looked wide-eyed at her.
“The cottage.” May tried hard to keep the frustration out of her voice.
“Oh that, no. But maybe I might rent it to you if you really want to stay in it.” 

There was something about the way he smiled that put May on edge a little. “Oh, really.” May looked over her shoulder at Tom who was frowning and shaking his head. She ignored him and turned back to the barman. “How much to rent it for a couple of days over Christmas?” Behind her Tom spluttered into his beer, spilling some onto the floor and his shoes.
“You wanna be careful there,” said the barman looking around May and at Tom, “that bitter’s very strong if you’re not use to it.”
Tom wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, “I’m fine thanks. May,” he tugged on her sleeve, “can I speak to you in private?” He walked over to the fireplace and waited for her to join him.
 “Excuse me, I won’t be a moment.”

 The barman nodded and pulled a face as he watched her join Tom.


“Are you mad?” Tom whispered. “Rent over Christmas? There’s nothing here and the place is probably filthy inside.”

“It’ll be fun, just for a couple of day’s, Tom, say Christmas Eve and Day. Imagine how wonderful that hamlet will look if it snows. It’ll be so romantic.” She placed a hand on his and looked into his eyes. 

Tom knew he wasn’t going to win this one. She would be unbearable if he didn’t agree. He loved her, but she could be difficult if she set her mind on something and didn’t get her own way. He shrugged, “Okay, but only for a couple of days.” May kissed him on the cheek and hurried back over to the bar.


“Right Arthur, may I call you Arthur?” 

“Sure.” 
“So, what would be the rental for a couple of days over Christmas.”
The barman scratched his ear and appeared to be considering the matter. “One hundred and fifty pounds a night and an extra fifty pounds for me to get a cleaner in and get the place tidy for you. You will be the only ones here for Christmas Eve and Day. The other folks in the cottages all go away for that period.”
“Why do they go? Is it because of that story about the girl?”
“What story would that be then?” He placed his arms on the bar top and leaned in towards her. “I’m all ears.”
May frowned. “You must know. The one about the girl and gent who drowned her in the pond. She’s supposed to haunt the place this time of year.”
“Nope, don’t know that one and don’t believe in ghosts anyway. The only spirits I’ve seen are in these ‘ere bottles.” He laughed as he waved his hand at the shelf behind him. “You don’t want to believe in that rubbish. Who told you that?”
“The woman in the shop, and I don’t believe in ghosts either.” May pressed her lips together to stop herself saying something she would regret. She didn’t like the smugness of this man.
“Oh, the mysterious woman. I’ll have to check her out one of these days. People leave here to be with their families at this time because their families don’t want to spend Christmas in a godforsaken place like this. More’s the pity, not good for business. Mind you with so few people, business doesn’t boom anyway. I’ve been thinking of leaving for good myself.”


May was now becoming impatient. She took another sip of her rum and black. “Do we have a deal or not?”
He extended his hand with sausage like fingers over the bar. “Deal, but you need to pay up front.”
May, grasped his hand in her own and shook it. His skin felt ice cold. A shiver ran down her back. “Three hundred and fifty pounds, right.” She withdrew her cheque book from her bag and scribbled the amount out, signing it with a flourish of her pen. “Here you go,” she held the cheque out to him.


He took it, smiled and folded it into the breast pocket of his shirt. “You best come in daylight. These lanes are not so safe when it’s really dark. In fact you should leave now. Dusk is on the horizon. The cottage will be open for you when you arrive.”

“Will you go down and open it then?” May waited for his reply.
 The barman pursed his lips and said, “I’ve told you haven’t I. I don’t goes down that way.”
“Thank you very much, might come up for a drink on Christmas Eve.”
“I shouldn’t bother if I was you. I’ll be gone too.”


May joined Tom who was now sitting down and finishing off his beer. “All arranged.”
“Oh yes, how much?”

“Three hundred and fifty quid.”
“What!”
“It’s just for two days, It’ll be fun. We best be going. That man says the roads are tricky when it’s dark.” She tipped the rest of her drink down her throat and placed her empty glass next to Tom’s on the table.
As they walked back down the pathway, they passed the shop, the cottages and reached the car. Tom started up the engine and  for now they left Waters Edge behind them.

.....

It had snowed the night before so when May and Tom arrived in the hamlet. It was dressed in a blanket of soft white that sparkled in the last of the day’s light. None of it had been disturbed, that is until they stepped out of the car.

“Isn’t it beautiful Tom.” May looked across from the cottage to the fir tree, its branches heavy with snow. “Listen.” May cocked her head to one side.
“Listen to what?” Tom was busy pulling their case from the boot.
“Nothing. There’s absolutely no sound. It’s so quiet, it’s like it’s sleeping.” May wrapped her arms about herself and smiled.
“You do romanticise, don’t you,” he said slamming down the boot. “You’d better grab the food from the back seat.”


Inside the cottage Tom put the case down where he stood and May hugged the food box to her as they both surveyed their surroundings.  A huge fire crackled and spit in the hearth, where a  heavy iron kettle hung above from a rail, steam hissing from its spout.  To each side of the fireplace stood two high backed comfy chairs. In the centre of the room stood a bare wooden table and two wooden chairs. May noticed two doors coming off of this main room.

“There must be a kitchen through there.” She nodded her head in the direction of one of the doors and made her way towards it.
 Tom picked up the case and went through the other door.  He dropped the case onto a wooden bed that looked just a bit smaller than a double.  He sat down and the mattress crackled beneath him. “Bloody hell.” He jumped up and pushed the covers back to be met with the sight of an old straw mattress. Is this some kind of joke. “May,” he yelled, “come here.” May appeared in the doorway. “Look at this.” 
She walked over and felt the mattress. “Oh god,” she whispered. “That’s not all, there is no kitchen as such, just a sort of scullery with a wooden bench and some old pots with hooks. How are we suppose to cook over that fireplace?”
“Sod this, we’re leaving.”
“We can’t go now, it’s almost dark. Look I packed some paté and french bread, olives, tomatoes and a bottle of red, we can at least make some tea from that noisy kettle out there, if I can find some cups.  It will be like a picnic.” She smiled and tried to gauge Tom’s response. “We can leave in the morning, we’d be home in a couple or so hours.”
Tom sighed and put down the case. “A great Christmas Eve this will be. You can pour me a glass of that red right now.”

.....

It was five to midnight. Tom, a little worse for wear having consumed most of the wine by himself, sat gazing into the fire. May sat opposite him nursing her own glass of red waiting, as was their tradition, for her watch to read 12 before toasting a Happy Christmas. She studied Tom who she knew was not happy with the situation they were in. A sudden chill filled the air and she pulled closer to the fire.

“It’s gone cold, don’t you feel it Tom?”
“No, I’m sitting right beside a blazing fire.”
May went to reply when she noticed that every out breath she made hung in the air before her. “Look Tom.” She huffed out another breath, a smokey mist that twirled its way upwards.
“Look at what? I don’t see anything.”  His own breath hung like a heavy cloud before him but he didn’t seem to notice.


May wrapped her cardigan tighter around her as the temperature dropped another couple of degrees. She looked at her watch. It was midnight. “Happy Christmas, darling.” She held her glass out towards his but something whipped it from her hand and it smashed on the stone hearth. “What the…?  Did you see that?”
“What, that you threw your glass on the ground, yeah I saw that. Are you starting some sort of new tradition?” Tom swigged the last of his wine down and threw his glass onto the hearth where it lay smashed next to May’s.
“I didn’t…..” But  May never got to finish her sentence.
“Oh, don’t tell me, a ghost did it.” Tom laughed, but it wasn’t his usual laugh, there was a touch of malice to it.
“I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t me.”
“I’m going to bed.” Tom stood up and wobbled slightly as he made his way to the bedroom door. He looked over his shoulder at May, “You coming?”
“In a minute.” 

May watched him close the door behind him and an uneasy feeling settled over her. Something  brushed the back of her neck and she swung around. The temperature was now freezing. Her breath, thick and smokey, suspended in time, hovered in front of her. She cast her eyes towards the bedroom. There on the floor leading up to the door were splashes of water. “Oh my god.” Fear spread through every bone in her body and for a moment she couldn’t move. She blinked as though to wake herself up and rushed towards the door, grabbed the handle and turned it, but the door was locked.  “Tom, Tom, can you hear me?” Terror filled her voice as she pulled on the door, but it wouldn’t budge.  From within she heard at first what she thought was a woman singing so softly it was hardly discernible. Then as it grew louder, she knew it wasn’t singing but sobbing. Loud, heartbreaking sobs filled her ears.  “Tom, Tom,” she screamed as she hammered on the door.

Exhausted, she slumped down onto her knees and began to cry herself. The door flew open with such energy that it flung her across the room and into the leg of the table. Shaken she stood up and eyes wide, she looked towards the opening. There stood a blurry figure, like a cloud of blueish smoke of a slim young woman, hair that flowed about her as though it had a life of its own. Her hand held Tom’s, who seemed to be in some sort of  trance.

“He’s not yours. Leave him alone,” May shouted as she rushed forward. The apparition raised her hand and May slid backwards across the floor once more. The table tipped over to trap her against the far wall. “No!” she screamed as the woman floated forwards, pulling Tom behind her and  passed out the front door into the snow filled night.

May scrambled out from behind the table and rushed out the door. Tom and the apparition were standing by the pond. She ran across the green, feet crunching in the snow with every step she took. The woman stepped into the pond still holding onto Tom’s hand. “Let him go,” May screamed.

The apparition turned to face her. Her features were now so clear. A face so contorted and full of malice stared back at May. “Mine!” She screeched in a voice that ripped through the silence of the night. A wild wind hit May full on, blowing her hair out like an untamed mane and pressing her body backwards.

May watched as the woman turned away and  Tom stepped into the pond “This is not  happening, no way.”  She ran with every muscle in her body tight like a spring ready to explode and reached the pond in time to grasp hold of Tom’s arm. She dug her heels in and hung on. The ghost, now waist deep in water turned once more, passed through Tom and held her face inches from May’s. It transformed once more into a contorted face, grey skin hanging in folds from her cheeks, empty sockets where her eyes would have once been. She hissed in a breath from hell that hit May, a blast so cold she felt she would freeze where she stood. “Mine,”  a screeching voice filled May’s ears.  Then the apparition turned back and started her descent into the icy water dragging  Tom behind her.

“Let him go you bitch.” With a strength she didn’t know she had, she dug in her heels and pulled on his arm. Each step backwards she took was filled with an anger so strong it frightened her. She kept hold of him as he started to emerge  from the pond, until she had dragged him onto the soft white ground and pulled him clear of the water. Then she slumped down next to him. “Tom wake up, wake up Tom.” A deafening scream ripped through the air and May watched as the apparition rose to the top of the water before descending into its depths once more.

“What am I doing out here? Why am I wet?” Tom blinked as he sat up and looked at May.
“I’m not sure you’ll believe me. Come on let’s get back to the cottage.” 


May put an arm around his waist and helped him back, but what they saw when they got there was another shock. Their cottage and all the others stood as silhouette ruins against a white backdrop of snow.  They looked at each other. Both felt like they had awoken from a bad dream.
“Let’s get to the car and get out of here.”


Nobody believed their story and their bank balance was not short of £350.00. A few months later they decided to go back and look for Waters Edge, just to prove that they weren’t mad. They found no trace of it.

Waters Edge only exists at a certain time each year. Will you visit?



© Helen A. Howell 2018


Tree word art  graphics from grannyenchanted.com with Licence.










 







 



 




Friday, August 25, 2017

Once Upon A Time - The Final Chapter

Photo by Helen
PARTS: 1    2    3    4



Wasyl Waring-Wynd walked across the floor, his old bones creaked with every step he took. His jotting desk hung from his neck by a leather strap. The wooden panel lay flat against his chest, while its bottom edge rested on his waist. In his right hand he carried a quill and in his left a pot of ink. He hoped whatever it was the King wanted him to scribe, wouldn’t take very long. I have a cheese sandwich and a mug of cider waiting for me, he thought. No consideration. Oh no, don’t mind that it’s my lunch break.
He stopped in front of the King. “Sire, you sent for me?” 
“Master Wynd, do you know what a Writing Prompt is?”
“A Writing Prompt Sire?”
“Yes, that’s what I said. You write, don’t you? Therefore you should know.”
“Know Sire?” All Wasyl could think about was his sandwich. A nice blob of that fruit chutney cook sent up would go well, he thought as he licked his lips and stared blankly at Boroff.
“What a Writing Prompt is!”
“Just a moment, Sire. Here hold this.” Wasyl shoved the ink pot into Boroff’s hand. Boroff, somewhat surprised, scowled at the little man, as he watched him turned the wheel that sat on the side of his jotting desk. The wood panel cranked itself downwards until it was lying horizontally from his body. Wasyl looked up at the King and grabbed the ink pot. Placing it down on his board, he stuck the quill in it. His gnarled hand reached into the deep folds of his rough robe and pulled out a small book.
“What’s that?” said Boroff, growing more impatient by the minute.
“This Sire, is what is called a Word-mean-ary. Something I thought up. Quite clever don’t you think? I’ve been adding to it for years.”
“Get on with it man!” Boroff tapped his foot against the cold stone of the floor. His cheeks, growing redder by the second, made him looked like he might explode any moment.
“Psst, psst, Wiz,” said the dragon. 
The Wizard glanced towards the table, then back at the King. Boroff, preoccupied with the Scribe and his book, didn’t noticed the dragon. Magico sidled up to the table.
“What do you want?” he whispered.
“I can’t see a thing from here. Prop me up, there’s a good fellow.”
“All right, but make sure you keep quiet. The King is not in a good mood.”
“As if I would cause any trouble. You certainly know how to hurt a chap’s feelings.”
Magico narrowed his eyes. “Now look here knocker, behave or I’ll put you back in my pocket.”
“Don’t get excited. I promise. I’d cross my heart if I had one and some hands to do it with. There, believe me now?” The knocker gave him a toothy grin.
Magico closed the weighty tome that sat to the side of the knocker and propped the dragon up against it. He walked back over to Boroff. 
The Scribe, book opened, searched down the page. “There are many words in my Word-mean-ary, Sire. I’m sure I’ve seen prompt in here somewhere.” He licked his finger and held it in readiness to turn the page but as he did, his thoughts turned once more to the cheese and chutney sandwich, and his finger remained static above the book. 
Boroff glowered at him, then snapped his fingers. “Wake up. Get on with it before I part your head from your shoulders!”
Wasyl jumped back to the present with a jolt as the vision of his sandwich disappeared at the mention of the loss of his head. “Ah yes, here it is. Prompt: to stimulate, encourage, nudge, inspire.”
“Tell me what a Writing Prompt is, and hurry up about it.”
“That’s easy Sire. It’s writing something that is encouraging, or stimulating. To whom do you want me to scribe such a thing?”
“To the Writer of course.”
“Writer?”
“Have you not noticed the dark sky? Or how everything is changing? Apparently the Writer is upset and needs a Writing Prompt to cure it, or life as we know it is finished.”
“Who is this Writer?”
“It’s who created us, so the Wizard here tells me.” Boroff jerked his head in Magico’s direction.
“Yes, Scribe. The Writer has created all that we know. But it’s suffering from something called Writer’s Block and only a Writing Prompt can cure it.”
“I see,” said the Scribe. “Perhaps you need to have me write something encouraging like, The Writer’s a jolly good fellow, or everything you do is wonderful. These are encouraging words.”
“But will that work? Is it enough?” Boroff turned to Magico.
 The Wizard shrugged but said nothing.
“I say,” said the dragon.
Boroff swung around. “What is it?”
“I told you to be quiet,” said Magico. “I’ll put him in my pocket Sire. That’ll shut him up.” The Wizard marched over to the table and grasped the knocker.
“I wouldn’t do that if I was you.” The dragon puffed out a cloud of smoke that drifted up into the Wizard’s nose. 
Magico coughed and spluttered. “And why not?” he said shaking the knocker. 
“I kno-o-ow wha-a-a t a Writi-i-i-ng Prompt really is.” 
Magico ceased jiggling the knocker up and down.
“I’ve been listening, and I know what to do. I told you dragons were clever.” 
“Let him speak.” Boroff pushed the Wizard aside and glared at the knocker. “Spit it out then.”
“The Writer,” began the dragon, “creates and a prompt is something that one does to inspire or nudge. Therefore a Writing Prompt is an idea that may inspire the Writer to continue creating. All you have to do is come up with an idea that stimulates the Writer and everything will he hunky dory again.”
“Hmm.” Boroff hated to admit it, but the knocker had found the solution. “We need an idea. Wizard have you got one?”
“Emm.” Magico racked his brains, but all he could think of was pictures of dancing girls he’d seen in a magazine he found hidden in old Maduf’s wardrobe the day he visited him. “How about a room full of dancing girls Sire.”
“Dancing girls,” repeated Boroff. As he turned this idea over in his mind, he liked it more and more. “Scribe what do you say?”
“A cheese and chutney sandwich Sire.”
“Ninkinpoop!” Boroff rubbed his chin and paced up and down. “I have it. Scribe, write this.” The Scribe took out a small square of parchment, dipped the quill and held it ready. Boroff started to dictate. “King Boroff sat upon his throne while a hoard of the prettiest girls appeared in flimsy attire before him and danced the dance of the seven veils. It was a sight to behold.”
“Some chance,” muttered the dragon.
“I’ve scribed that Sire. What shall I do with it?” He held out the parchment.
“We need to send it up to the Writer of course. Here Wizard, magic that up and make sure you do it right.”
“Sire.” Magico took hold of the parchment and folding it up, strolled over to the window. He tried to hide his shaking hands.
“I could puff it up,” said the dragon, “if Wiz there fails.”
Magico ignored the knocker, leaned out of the window and started to mumble the spell. Light sparks danced around the piece of paper until it drifted from his hand skywards. Magico kept up the incantation, his voice becoming louder with each repetition. The parchment floated up and up until it vanished behind the dark clouds that crowded the sky.
For a moment, the shaft of light shimmered. The King joined Magico at the window and stuck his head out to look.
“It’s working, it’s working.” Boroff rubbed his hands together. I wonder when the girls will appear? he thought, as he pulled his head back in and turned around. He took two steps forward. His head started to twist in one direction, his torso in another and his legs in the same direction as his head. “Arrrg,” he cried as he tottered forward, well not forwards so much as sidewards, backwards, all over the place really.
“My, that’s a crick in the neck if ever I saw one?” The knocker laughed.
Magico on hearing the Kings cries, swung around. “Sire.” He ran forwards, (well not ran, but did his best to imitate running. His legs, just didn’t seem to do anything but amble) to his aid, but Boroff was twisting and falling all over the place.
A gust of wind blew through the window and with it came the parchment, all twisted up. The dragon observed it as it glided to the floor. “It appears the Writer didn’t like that idea of yours Kingsy. I say, you look like one of those court jesters dancing around like that.”
Magico picked up the parchment and unravelled it. As he did, so the King also unravelled. 
“Who did that to me? I’ll have him flogged and quartered, then hung and, and, oh I’ll think of something.” 
“The Writer, Sire. It didn’t like your suggestion.”
“But you did look funny. Do you have a court Jester?” enquired the dragon.
“Jester?” Boroff, somewhat flustered, took a moment to consider the question. “No, I do not. Such fools.”
At that moment, the shaft of light expanded and filled the throne room to fall upon the King like a spotlight. His robes melted away, and for a split second he stood naked as the day he was created. On his head appeared a red and white striped hat with a bobble and some bells. His body become clothed in a tight fitting garment. That too was striped red and white and in his hand he held a pig’s bladder, from which bells also hung.
“Sire?” said the Wizard, staring at the King.
The light now stretched over to the the table and illuminated the dragon knocker. It grew so bright, that Magico, Boroff and the Scribe had to hide their eyes. When it faded again and they open them. They gasped.
“I say, I like this.” The knocker now had a body and around its shoulders was draped a red velvet cloak. Upon its head sat a golden crown. It glanced over its shoulder towards the throne. That too had become enlarged, well large enough to seat a dragon. The dragon smiled. 
Through the window, the twittering of birds could be heard. Magico moved towards the opening and looked up. The dark clouds had diminished and in the clear blue sky were instead, white fluffy ones. He continued to look at them twisting and swaying to a rhythm that was all their own. Magico watched as the clouds drifted together to form words. 
He glanced at the King now in jester’s clothing and the dragon dressed as a King. The Writer knows a fool when he sees one, and one that has the ability to be wise. Magico smiled as he read the words in the clouds ‘Chapter Two - The Dragon King.’ “A new chapter begins,” he whispered.

~ The End ~