Last week, I asked you to scare me and to send me your dark tales. You certainly did (please read them below).
Next week, I’d like your story or poem to begin with the words, ‘I knew I didn’t like her as soon as I saw her’. ‘Her’ could be a teacher, a new neighbour, a shop assistant, a colleague…the choice is yours. You can send a story or poem of any length.
Now here are last week’s tantalising tales:
I’ll start with Rajiv‘s story as he’s the one I have to thank for the whole dark tale challenge. Read it and feel the goosebumps:
Celebrate… My Love…
Did you celebrate Christmas, my love? Did you celebrate the New Year? Did you make some new resolutions?
Do they make you happy? And pray, what are they, my love? What are your resolutions that you want to live by? Did you swear to be faithful to your love? Am I not your love? The one you swore fidelity to?
What shall I do now, as I feel the emptiness of the night? What shall I do now, as I feel the dark as it wraps it’s cold arms around me? My eyes are but empty sockets in my face. A mad glow threatens to break loose. The darkness is in me. It forms cracks on my face, black cracks that make me beautiful, oh so beautiful.
Do you see my black lips, caked with the dried blood of those like you? My lips are dry, and my tongue moves over them. It seeks fresh blood.
Oh yes, my love, while you celebrated Christmas, I sat alone in my chair, feeling the thirst.
I need new blood. I need fresh blood this year.
As the year turned, I decided that my resolution was to renew my love for you. Your blood will enter me, and you will always be inside me.
Always, my love…
We shall never be apart…
Steve S. Walsky sent in this atmospheric extract from his novel, Simplicity Lane:
2:04 PM: Charenton left the Blue Honda on a side road. He laughed about this. Simply a force of habit, as there was no longer any reason to cover his movements or hide his identity. He looked up and saw there were clouds moving in; the sun had receded into the safety behind them, and the air tasted of pending rain. Good theatrics; ominous clouds and pending rain. He had never used theatrics because you were begging for problems when you allowed extraneous things to get into the act. Then, today was different; today he would have some fun. When Charenton reached One Twenty-Three Simplicity Lane he knew he would have time to settle in.
Stedman’s pond was moving from tranquil to slight agitation as the mood of the weather changed. It was the tree line behind the pond that caught Charenton’s attention. The stand, oblivious to the movement of the wind, was death still, as in the totality of death, not simply ‘dead’ as a synonym for lack of movement. Within the stand were trees that had long crooked limbs that stretched out like arms bent to both beckon you forward and to swoop down and hug the breath out of your feeble lungs. Arm-like limbs that grace the pages of nightmarish stories parents read to their children because of their own ignorance to true evil.
And, high on a branch was a lone crow. A big, deep, unforgiving darkness of night-colored, still crow. It was looking at him. Charenton stood and stared back; the crow was unmoving. It moved Charenton. Charenton recognized evil. “*$#*^&% morrigan!” He turned and made his entry up the path to the house.
(Simplicity Lane, copyright Steven S. Walsky, 207.)
Keith Channing didn’t feel very confident, but everyone who’s read it loved it and wants to read part 2!:
“What’s the worst thing you can ever imagine happening to you?” Dave asked the group of us seated around the Halloween camp fire.
We were a group of a dozen eighteen-year-olds, some of us away from home for the first time. Dave, our youth worker, had arranged this camping trip to the southern part of Spain. There had been resistance from a couple of the girls’ parents, but Dave had managed to persuade them that we would be safe, and that he would make sure we didn’t get into any trouble.
We had enjoyed a splendid meal for our first night, and Dave had let us have either a glass of local red wine or a bottle of light beer. One of the lads had suggested that as it was Halloween, we should all tell scary stories. That didn’t go down too well – no-one seemed to know any scary stories. That was when Dave asked what he did.
Far from telling stories, most of the kids just trotted out their fears:
“I’d hate to be homeless,” offered Janie.
“I’m afraid of growing old,” said Jamie.
And that’s how it went around; quite dull, really. Until, that is, the turn passed to Nobby.
“I’m not afraid of anything,” he said, “not after what happened to me a couple of years ago, anyway.”
“Care to tell us about it?” Dave asked.
“Not really,” Nobby replied.
Choruses of “Go on, tell us,” from the rest of us eventually managed to wear him down.
“Alright; if you insist,” he said.
“We do,” we replied with a single voice.
“It was my sixteenth birthday,” he explained, “Mum and Dad had said a few days before, that as a special treat, I could go to the pictures with a couple of my mates. John and Gazza; that was my mates; said they fancied seeing the latest Halloween film, but I wasn’t sure – I’d never been to see a scary movie at the pictures before. They convinced me it would be okay and that they’re not as bad as people say, so I went along with them.”
“And was it?” Jamie asked.
“It was,” Nobby replied. “When we came out, every sound I heard scared me witless; every shadow had me convinced that there was someone evil lurking around the corner. What made it worse was that John and Gazza wanted to go around the town playing tricks on people, seeing who they could scare. I didn’t want to do that; I just wanted to go home where I could feel safe.”
“So what happened,” Dave asked.
“They walked away, and I walked home.”
We all groaned. We were expecting something more than him being scared by a film and then going home.
“And that’s it?” Janie asked.
“I wish!” Nobby replied, and started his story.
“Everything was okay as I was walking home, and I started to get less nervous. I was still a bit on edge, and nearly jumped out of my skin when a car pulled up beside me and the driver pushed the passenger door open. ‘Sorry, mate; did I scare you?’ the driver asked. She was an older woman, maybe thirty-something, but quite fit-looking for her age. I told her it would take more than her to scare me, putting on my hardest look and hoping that she couldn’t see through my lie. ‘That’s good,’ she said, ‘I didn’t mean to make you jump. Where are you going?’ I told her I was going home, and she offered me a lift. I said I didn’t think it would be a good idea and, anyway, it wasn’t all that far. I asked her why she stopped by me in the first place. ‘Oh yes,’ she said, ‘I almost forgot. Two of your friends, Gary and John I think they’re called, are in a spot of bother with the law.’ When I asked her where they were, she told me they were at a police station in town, and offered to take me to them. Of course, I agreed. They may have given me the worst birthday ever, but they were still my mates. Anyway, I got into the car and she turned around and headed towards the town. As we were getting close to the centre, she took a turn-off and soon we were on a narrow road headed in the wrong direction. ‘Where’s this police station?’ I asked. ‘Who said anything about a police station?’ ‘You did,’ I said. ‘No,’ she insisted, ‘you must have imagined that. I have plans for you that will be much more interesting than a police station.’ I thought about what she had said, and suddenly came to a realisation. ‘You’re taking me to a surprise party, aren’t you? Did the lads set this up? You a strippergram or something?’ ‘Let’s go with or something, shall we?’ she said. I didn’t know what she meant by that, and it was starting to worry me a little. ‘Let me out of the car, please,’ I asked, ‘I’d like to go home.’ ‘I don’t think so,’ she replied, ‘it’s still early, and I haven’t eaten yet.’”
Looking around, Dave could see that some of the girls and a couple of the boys were beginning to look as though sleep would evade them that night.
“Okay, okay, Nobby,” he said, “that had better do for now.”
“Don’t you want to hear the rest?” Nobby asked, “Don’t you want to know what happened to me; what she meant by ‘or something’?”
“Not tonight, Nobby,” Dave said, “maybe another night.”
“That’s good,” Nobby admitted, “that’ll give me time to make something up.”
Oh, how we laughed!
Sacha Black is a master in creating a chilling atmosphere:
She ran into my room complaining about the smell again.
“Mummy, Mummy, the bad doggy came again,” she said bouncing up and down on tippy toes clutching her tatty rabbit’s ear.
“It was under the bed this time.”
“Honey, I told you, we don’t have a dog.”
She jutted her bottom lip out and frowned at me with her crystal blue eyes. I bundled her up on to the bed snuggling into her tummy and blew raspberries.
“Eek, stop it, stop it!”
Several locks of her shiny black hair fell on my face. The stench of dog sellotaped itself to my skin. I coughed letting her go and sat bolt upright.
“What’s wrong?” Lala asked smiling and flashing her tummy at me.
But a growing unease had started to settle deep inside me. I had to admit, there had been a lingering smell of wet dog I’d been unable to get rid of for three days, and the cat had been behaving even stranger than normal.
Sometime in the afternoon Sarah bought Tommy over for a play date. The kids screeched playfully chasing each other around the livingroom, whilst Sarah and I sipped at coffees in the kitchen and gossiped.
“Thing is, Sar, it’s been three days, and she keeps saying it,” I slurped at the warm coffee, and rubbed my temple, “do you think I need to take her to a psychologist or something?”
“God, no. She’s a kid. Kids make shit up, Tommy’s best mate is an invisible Asian elf called Gertrude. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
I nodded politely.
Three short sharp shrieks ricocheted into the kitchen, followed by a silence no parent wants to hear. Sarah dropped her coffee cup and ran.
“Tommy,” she yelped.
I watched the cup fall to the tiled floor and splinter, spilling brown liquid.
I took a slow measured breath, unsure if I wanted to see what was in the livingroom.
“It was the bad doggy,Mummy,” Lala said tears in her eyes.
She was smeared with blood, and her clothes ripped. Tommy lay semi conscious on the floor, chunks of fleshy skin hanging awkwardly off his leg.
“Jesus Christ,” I whispered, “I’ll call a ambulance.”
I ran back to the kitchen and picked up the phone. I noticed the cat shaking in the corner of the room, every inch of her fur standing to attention, rippling in time with her shakes.
What the hell is going on?
When I put Lala to bed that evening she was subdued, and clinging to her bunny.
“I’m sorry, Mummy, I didn’t mean to,”
“Mean to what?” I said tucking the covers under her chin, and kissing her forehead.
She shook her head and rolled over. I knew she was talking about Tommy. But I didn’t know why. It wasn’t possible for a toddler to do that kind of damage to a child’s leg.
The unease I’d felt early in the day felt like an anchor of worry. My whole body ached for an answer. Exhausted I climbed into bed and passed out clinging to the baby monitor.
Scratch. Scratch. Tap.
Scratch. Scratch. Tap.
I woke to an overwhelming stink of putrid wet dog clinging to the air.
Scratch. Scratch. Tap.
The sound of claws scratching across wooden floor boards rattled around my head.
My heart hammered. Fingers tingled. And a heavy knot clung to my throat.
I snuck as quickly and silently as I could to Lala’s room. My breath heavy. Fear throbbed through my limbs.
The door creaked as I pushed it open, breaking the oppressive silence.
Lala’s bed was empty.
Covers strewn across the mattress.
My chest felt tight. I couldn’t breathe. I desperately searched the room flitting my eyes to every corner.
I took a step into the room.
My toes squelched into something warm, furry and wet.
“Lala, come here now.”
A shuffle and scratch of claws came from under her bed.
Reluctantly I shifted my foot and peered at the furry heap on the floor.
I drew a sharp intake of air.
“Oh. My. God. The cat.”
I tore my eyes away, tears streaming down my face.
“Honey, its ok, just come out now.”
Another scratch and scuffle.
I puffed my breath out, and wiped the tears away. I knelt down next to the bed, every muscle screaming at me not to look underneath it.
I had to.
I needed to know.
I pulled the cover up.
The smell of dog was so overpowering I felt sick. The sound of heavy panting and the slathering of jowls filled my ears. Terror prickled at my chest.
It was definitely under there.
Slowly, I peered under the mattress.
It was looking back at me. The only part of her that was recognizable were her crystal blue eyes.
Geoff Le Pard gives us a master class in ‘show, not tell’:
Unexpected Item in the Bagging Area
‘Welcome back Emily.’ That was it; Mr Poole, store manager nodded and moved on. No one else spoke; they didn’t know how to. I picked up my tunic and went to the tills. Even Gail the checkout captain turned away, like she had something in her eye.
I suppose I was grateful, not to have to explain. They wanted to know, they probably wanted to sympathise but what words were ever adequate?
By 11, my mind was drifting. Swiping, getting bags, sorting change and receipts, it all becomes routine. I know it had gone 11 because Gail went on her break; she was always a stickler for her breaks. That’s when I heard the baby, somewhere behind me, crying. It happens, often, but this was different.
When I turned a girl looked right at me; she was holding the baby. When she saw me looking she held it out, pulling at the shawl to uncover the face.
“Hello? Are you listening?” The customer was red in the face; she wanted another bag. When I looked back the girl had gone.
“You ok?” It was Gail. “Come on, let’s get a cuppa and a smoke.”
It was nice of her and the smoker’s area pretty empty given the weather. Gail does go on but I don’t mind. I couldn’t get the young girl out of my head.
“How are you?” She said it quietly so I almost missed it. “How’s Paul?”
My bloke. He couldn’t bear it, not that I could say. “You know. Difficult.”
“We wanted to come to the funeral but… We thought you maybe wanted your own space.”
I nodded. I’d felt so numb; only having Paul and Mum and my Nan seemed sort of right. I’m not sure I even noticed.
“Did you get the flowers?”
Bloody lilies. I hate lilies. “Yes they were lovely.”
“You’ve done well to get back so quick. I suppose work helps. You know? Keep busy?”
“Did you see that girl with the crying baby? She looked like she needed help.”
Gail frowned, thrown by the change of subject. “Girl?”
“She was right by the self-service check outs. You…” I stopped. She looked blank. “No, you’d have gone on your break. Sorry.”
It got easier, coming to work. Certainly than the atmosphere at home. It would have been better if Paul had shouted or something but the silent rages he had with himself were dreadful, like watching someone who wanted to explode but couldn’t.
It was the following Monday when I heard the baby again. I knew it was the same; the noise went right through me. When I looked round the little girl was crying, staring at the baby’s face. She looked up and said, clear as day ‘Help Me.’
Of course I stood to go and help.
“Oi, where’s my bloody card? You can’t just walk off with it.”
I looked down; I was holding a bank card.
“Give it here.”
Dawn on the next till looked at me oddly. “You ok, Emily?”
“That girl. With the baby.” I pointed towards the self-service tills but the only people were swiping their goods. I stood up and craned my neck but there was no girl and no baby.
By that weekend Paul had had enough. He punched a hole in the bathroom door and left me, sobbing saying something about needing space. I didn’t try and stop him. I needed a break from the atmosphere at home. I felt so ill, I didn’t go to work on the Monday. I woke at my usual time and drifted off to sleep. I probably needed the rest.
When I woke the sun was pouring through the window. The bedside clock said 11.12. Why then? Why the very moment my life shattered? I was still hating that clock when I heard the crying. I couldn’t reach the curtains fast enough. Standing on the street, holding the baby was that little girl. She looked at me with those huge scared eyes, her mouth beginning to form a scream but with no sound other than the baby’s sobs.
I didn’t bother with my robe; I just ran down stairs and threw the front door open. The postman took a leap back and sat down hard. “What are you playing at, lady?”
I should have stopped, explained but I needed to get to that girl. I pushed past him, out onto the road. It was empty.
I hurried back to the postman. “Did you see her? That girl with the crying baby?”
“What are you on about? There ain’t no girl and baby. Christ isn’t it bad enough some kid’s kidnapped without everyone imagining seeing them.”
“Ain’t you heard? Baby kidnapped from the supermarket, what a month ago. Really horrid. Some girl, they say about ten, just took her. Lots of people saw but assumed she was her sister. No one’s seen either since.”
“When was this?”
“What? January? Tenth? Eleventh. Something like that. You need to sign for this.”
January tenth. It had to be.
Somehow I made work the next day. It took me until the Friday to summon the courage to ask Gail about it. She was reluctant to say.
“We agreed not to mention it. I mean the same day as… you know. We thought it would be awful.” She lowered her voice. “Her mother’s here, every Monday, just after 11. It’s like she expects to find her back in her pushchair. Over by the self-service tills.”
I spent the weekend in a daze. A baby was abducted at exactly the same time and on exactly the same day as I lost my baby. At just the moment the nurse said, “There’s no heart beat” another mother was looking around frantically for her child. As I was screaming at the presence of blood pooling on the sheets, she as screaming at the absence of her child.
I nearly stayed at home but at just after ten I slammed the front door and began running. I don’t run; I never have, not since I was a kid but I ran then. No one seemed to take any notice, me in my blouse and skirt and indoor shoes. I wasn’t going to make it. My watch seemed to be moving faster as I began to slow. The church clock struck 11 as I reached the high street. I stopped looking and sprinted, everything hurting, tears pouring down my cheeks.
I knew I was too late. I had just pushed through the front gates when I saw the woman – it had to be her – head down heading away from the store. Frantically I looked where she was going. Ahead of her the little girl, holding the baby was moving steadily towards the hill.
“Stop! Wait!” I was vaguely aware of people looking at me. I pointed at the girl. “The girl. There. The kidnapper.”
Two women shook their heads and a man looked about to speak but instead turned towards the bus stop.
“Please. She’s getting away.” Why didn’t anyone care?
If they wouldn’t help that poor mother, I had to. I turned to chase but they had gone.
“Noooo!” I couldn’t let her lose her child again. It wasn’t fair. Once more I began to run. There was a gate in the fence on the far side of the car park. It led up the hill to the church and the tower blocks beyond. I gasped in as much air as I could but still there was no sign. I forced myself on. There was only one path. They had to go through the church and if I really hurried I must get to them before they reached the warren of passages around the estate.
My mind was focused only one thing. Finding that child. It took all my remaining will power to reach the gate. I pushed my way into the churchyard and took in the scene. To my right the little girl was walking through the graves to the far wall, still moving steadily with no obvious hurry. To my left the woman, the mother I was certain, was just turning the corner of the church. “Wrong way. This way!”
The women didn’t stop; she had to be ignoring me. I understood that sort of grief, when even the loudest cries seem so far off as to be unreal.
I followed the girl, stumbling across the uneven ground between the old graves. It was difficult to keep her in my sight as the land rose and fell. It was only then I realised where we were headed; the area for the new graves. The area where my beautiful Bethany was buried.
“No. Please, God No.” The little girl stood by the grave; the flowers still fresh despite the time of year and the cold. She stood as she had the first time I had seen her in the supermarket. She held the baby towards me, pulling the shawl from her face. Her mouth formed the words ‘Help me’. I reached out and then froze. There was no baby. The shawl was empty, just a dark echoing space full of a baby’s sobbing. My mind shut down at the horror.
The mother found me; she had gone to the church to pray. Something brought her to Bethany’s grave. I was curled up on the freshly turned soil cradling her child. The police were understanding saying losing Bethany had caused me to have a breakdown. The fact the baby was unhurt counted with the authorities and I received a suspended sentence as long as I continued with the psychiatric care. They wanted to know who my accomplice was, the little girl but eventually they dropped their questioning. I still see her, every Monday, after 11. She’s no longer holding a baby. No, now she just beckons me to go with her. One day, maybe.
Last, but definitely not least is this gem of a poem from Jason Moody:
Don’t look back
He’s been there an age
His yellow teeth gnashing
His fists clenched in rage.
He watches you sleeping
He watches you eat
A less gruesome creature
You never will meet
When you leave your home
He hides in your room
And patiently waits
For the return of the moon
To keep himself busy
He’ll rewind your clocks
And when he gets hungry
He’ll nibble your socks
He’ll hide in your wardrobe
Until it gets dark
He’s waiting for you
He will leave his mark
You won’t hear him coming
He won’t make a sound
He sneaks around corners
And crawls on the ground
What’s that in the shadows?
Your eyes don’t deceive
He’s ugly and gruesome
You’d better believe
He’ll roar and he’ll chase you
He simply won’t cease
He’s going to get you
He will have his feast
He crawls on the ceiling
There’s not a place he won’t go
You might be afraid
Just don’t let it show
Turn on the lights
The next thing you know
The Gryzlor is gone
He’s ugly, he’s gruesome
He’ll give you a fright
But the silly old Gryzlor
Is afraid of the light