Swimming – An original short horror story.

I wrote this in the middle of the night, after reading this short comic by Fran Krause (The series is called Deep Dark Fears – I strongly recommend it). I couldn’t get this idea out of my head, so I sat and hammered it out. It’s got my usual love of YA and Lovecraftian themes, so pretty standard. I’d like to thank my brother for suggesting the inclusion of the extra bit after the ending… I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! Let me know!

Why is it swimming in PE again? I swear it’s every other week. Just because the school got a stupid grant from the government and built a state-of-the-art pool with the money doesn’t mean I need to be inflicted with the stinging water every week. They put way too much chlorine in it.

They could’ve quite easily used the money to put into the drama department you know. We’re doing this production after half-term of Macbeth – all modernised and set in a boarding school (I know, I helped draft the script, I’m a genius), and I’ve spent the last fortnight spray painting plastic baguettes silver to use a swords. I’m not even sure why the Mrs Lugo has plastic baguettes.

I look at Mary Simons’ legs and feel jealousy flourish inside me – I swear she doesn’t even grow hair on them, they’re so smooth and perfect. I look down at my own, pale and covered in more scabs and scars than Freddy Krueger’s face, and inwardly curse the universe, or fate, or whatever it is that has led to me being forced to stand, cold, damp and ashamed of my entire traitorous body. I’m not huge, I know that – I remind myself most nights, staring into the full-length mirror in my room – but something about my swimming costume highlights every bump and bulge I spend so much energy trying to forget. It’s the fabric equivalent of those big, bright lights they use during police interrogations in the movies – white and stark and revealing – not to mention perfect for making me sweat.

“Okay, everyone in!” Miss Bell shouts. Her voice, tinny and shrill, echoes in the huge pool, making the tiny PE teacher seem even smaller. I close my eyes and step off the bumpy, slimy tile and into the water. For the smallest increment of time it’s like I’m hanging in nothing, suspended in the air against every known law of physics. It’s only a single moment though, and I hit the water, an unpleasant wave of shock rippling through my skin as my body tries to cope with the freezing cold.

I’m not the only one who disagrees with the temperature, and several girls shriek as they drop into the pool.

“Get doing lengths, then! Fastest way to get warm!” the teacher yells, drowned out by the splashing and screaming. Want a group of sixteen year old girls to behave like they’re six? Just add water, apparently.

Cold water is splashed on my face, and I blink rapidly. The pristine Mary Simons is looking at me, her hair slick and sexy even in the water.

“You heard her, Ab-ee-gail,” she sneers at me, elongating every syllable of my name, a distorted mockery of my own accent. “Maybe you can drop a few pounds? Wear a bikini to swim in like a grown up?”

She splashes off in a flash of perfectly bronzed skin and vivid red material, leaving a trail of lazily widening ripples in her wake. I struggle to think of a late comeback.

“Yeah well… Your face,” I mutter into the water.

“Come on Abby, quit daydreaming!” Miss Bell shouts at me, and I realise how insane I must look, wittering under my breath in the pool. I pull myself back against the smooth wall of the pool and take a deep breath, and push off, trying to be a graceful and natural as possible, and start to work towards the deep end in a half-hearted front crawl. I take deep gulps of air as I swim, watching the pale blue tiles on the floor getting darker and darker as the depth of the water builds underneath me. I’m forced to begrudgingly admit that Miss Bell is right – I can already feel the tension in my muscles easing off as they work, warming my limbs with each pull through the water.

“Still would rather be in Starbucks with a hot chocolate, but oh well,” I gasp inbetween strokes, my words blurry and bubbling.

I’m finally settling into the rhythm of the swim, my arms pumping smoothly, my focus on pulling me forward and I let my mind wander. A little too far, in fact, and I slam into the side of the pool painfully. I hear someone laughing – and the large, pulsating paranoia that lives in my brain whispers, telling me that they’re laughing at me and my clumsy stupid existence. I picture it as this big, fat grey slug that feeds off my self-esteem and turns all my happy memories into faded spedia home movies that blur and shimmer. I can’t stand it, the heat embarrassment warming me far more than the exercise did, and so I kick off the side again to escape their snide sniggering. This time, I put my arms out over my head, making an arrowhead with my hands that angles downwards and drives me underwater instead.

The world is abruptly cut off from my senses as I plunge deeper, the water filling in the space where laughter had been just a second ago. I blink my eyes a few times, trying to adjust to the stinging chemicals they pump into the pool, but all I can really see is a wall of blue and the occasional blurry leg in the distance. Being underwater is the only good thing about swimming, I think. Everything is so quiet and peaceful under the surface, and I can just about forget about everything. It’s like how I imagine being in space must feel – isolated, sure, but I’ve felt like that my whole life. I kick in unison, pretending I have a mermaid’s tail driving me along instead of my stupid, messy, pockmarked legs. It can’t last forever though, and I can feel my lungs burning for oxygen as I start to head towards the shrieking, headache-filled world above, as though someone is inflating two balloons in my ribcage. It’s odd, isn’t it – as my air is running out, how it feels as through my chest if filled to bursting?

I break the surface with an almighty gasp, blinking rapidly to clear any water from my eyes. I always like to see how far I’ve managed to get on one breath. One time I managed to get pretty much my own body length away from the side – although I thought my lungs were going to burst afterwards. As my vision clears, my heart stops beating, my blood freezing in my veins.

I’m no longer in Coalington High School’s swimming pool. The shining, brand new chrome and white tile is all gone. I can’t see anything but blue-black inky water for miles. Forever, it seems, from one horizon to horizon. Somehow I’m in the sea, only it doesn’t look like any sea I ever paddled in as a kid. It feels wrong on my skin, thicker and more cloying than proper water should feel. Panic swells in my like a wave, forcing my heart into my throat, until my breathing becomes more like hysterical coughing.

“Hello?!” I scream. The word drifts over the calm, placid sea like a gull, and sails away into the distance. There’s nothing except me and an endless expanse of ocean, black like crude oil. The panic is spreading to my fingers and toes now, making them tingle as adrenalin floods them, begging me to do something, anything, to ensure my survival.

Only there’s nothing I can do – not a damn thing. I can’t swim that far, and there’s nowhere to swim to anyway. I look down, and my stomach lurches. My pale legs are spinning in messy circles, keeping me afloat desperately, and below them is nothing. More nothing than stretches out towards the horizon – the nothing beneath me is just miles of black, getting darker as it goes down. I strain my eyes to see if there’s anything down there, but the idea of all that crushing nothingness makes my head spin. I start to whip myself around, looking frantically at the empty universe I’ve found myself in. The sky is slate grey. Not the kind that’s thick with clouds – but as though all the colour has been drained out of it. I notice suddenly that there’s no wind blowing on my face. My hair hangs in thick, wet ropes around me, but there’s no trace of even the slightest breeze kissing my skin. The air feels as though it’s been untouched for centuries, dry and brittle and smelling faintly musty and rotten. The smell of decay.

“This is impossible…” I whimper, “This is not not NOT happening…”

Something moves in the distance. My heart leaps, hammering into the prison of my ribcage at the thought of rescue, and I squint at the shape cresting the water. At first I think it’s a sail – the sail of some ship emerging from the dark, lightless deep. But then I realise it’s no sail – it’s a fin. A gigantic, pinkish white fin, cutting through the water like a hunting knife cutting through flesh and sinew. For the second time, my heart stops. A white shark peeks from the water, easily big enough that it couldn’t turn around in the school pool. Easily big enough to swallow me whole. I only see it for a fraction of second, but that’s enough time to sear that monster onto my bones until the day I die – which might well be today. Massive, cold black eyes sit on either side of its bullet-shaped head, complete dispassionate and unnervingly calculating. Its mouth is what truly horrifies me though. Instead of rows of jagged teeth, like the sharks I’ve seen on those David Attenbrough programmes, this impossible nightmare has a gaping maw filled to bursting with writhing black tentacles, each one flailing hungry and blind. I feel bile stinging the back of my throat as the creature plunged back beneath the calm, lilting waves, its sleek body so perfectly designed for the water that it barely made a ripple as it sank. It’s almost as if it’s just a figment of my imagination. Until the first coils of a tentacle pulls me under.

Water is filling my mouth, which was open in a silent scream. White bubbles froth around me, obscuring my vision, but somehow I can still sense the shark beneath me, a mix of raw animal power, and cold, otherworldly malice spreading around me like a plume of blood in the water. A sense of despair that wills my muscles to give up, that dulling my survival instincts to little more than a sputtering flame battling against a torrential downpour of utter hopelessness. A second tentacle wraps around my other leg, and the pain of the pressure they’re squeezing with sends black spots popping in and out of my vision. They’re going to tear me apart, and feed each dismembered body part into that hideous creature’s belly. I wonder if they’d noticed me missing from the pool yet. The pull on my legs becomes so strong that my arms stopped struggling without me telling them too. I’m distantly aware, even underwater, that I can hear the popping of my joints being displaced under their powerful grasp. The world starts to fade at the edges as the last of oxygen was used up, my brain becoming sluggish as the cells began to die.

Two hands grasp me under each armpit and hoisted me out of the water. The burning fluorescent lights bleach out all other details, but I feel a hard, bumpy surface underneath my back.

“She’s breathing!” a voice yells. Miss Bell. “Stand back, give her some space you lot! Jessie, got get a bloody lifeguard will you?”

I try to speak, but life is flowing back into my blood slowly, pulling an exhaustion along with it that was so deep that I feel like I could sleep for a decade or more. My eyes start to adjust to the light, and the vibrant colours of the world came back to me. I’m lying on the hard tile of the poolside, Miss Bell’s weather beaten face looking down at me with an odd mixture of concern and annoyance. The school pool seems too sharp and vivid, making my head pound like a drum in time with my frantic heartbeat – the only part of me that doesn’t feel bone-weary.

“What… happened?” I croak finally. My throat is sore and bruised. I don’t want to ask about the infinite void I’d found myself swimming in, nor the impossible shark the colour of old bones that had stalked me through it – they’d skip a trip to the nurse’s office and take me straight to a padded cell. But it had all felt so real.

“Not a clue,” the teacher huffs, “One minute you were swimming just fine, the next you vanished under the water. It was the strangest thing – If I didn’t know better, I’d think one of the other girls pulled you under as a joke. But when you didn’t come straight back up I started to worry. When Marcy said you were lying like a stone on the bottom of the pool, I knew something was wrong – so I went in after you.”

She puts the back of her hand on my forehead and frowns, “Well your temperature’s back up. When I pulled you up you were practically sub-zero, it was the strangest thing – your skin had gone all grey and weird, your eyes were all glassy and white. You gave me quite the shock!”

She gives a little uneasy chuckle, and I try a weak smile to show her I really am okay, but the muscles around my mouth just twitch and falter.



Brand-New State of the Art School Aquatic Centre destroyed

The Government funded swimming pool at Coalington High School collapsed yesterday, shortly before the school was set to open, causing an estimated half a million pounds in damages. Police have said there was no obvious structural damage to the pool floor, but underneath the pool was home to a large number of unusual remains which appear to belong to some kind of humanoid creatures, but which officers have confirmed are not human remains. Detective Stains commented that the bones found were “More fish-like than human, but it’s too early to tell at this stage. Forensics teams are reconstructing as we speak.”

This comes just a week after the pool’s changing rooms were witness to the attack of P.E. Teacher Rebecca Bell, who was the victim of a frenzied attack by a Year 11 student wielding a concealed craft knife. Bell is currently recovering in Friarage General Hospital, and the student – who remains unnamed for legal reasons – has been taken into psychiatric care. It’s believed a severe case of hydrophobia, or fear of water, drove the girl to a psychotic break, although she had exhibited no such fear in the past.

Thanks for reading, if you did! Do hop over to Twitter and let me know what you thought.

Until next time…



The Worst Christmas Present

The other night I went to the YA Speakeasy Event at Drink Shop Do just off King’s Cross. It was a really fun night of drinks and chatting to authors and other bookish types, with readings and the like. Halfway through, they request some writing prompts from the audience for the guest authors to go off and spend twenty minutes writing a story about, and one of the themes suggested by my friend Grace, was “An Unwanted Christmas Present”. Now, I’m not a professional authorer, but I did have something begin to form in my head the second she said those four words. So I wrote it down. Warning, it’s pretty bleak.

The first thing I was aware of as I woke up was pain. Two different kinds of pain, quite unbearable in their own ways. One was a dull background ache that crept along my bones like ice, gnawing constantly. The second one though, the second one was something else entirely. When I tried to move, it hit me like a blinding white heat, agonising lightning shooting down every nerve ending. My jaw clenched. Slowly, I opened my eyes, sticky and tired. I was in a dull hospital room, off-white walls stained and plain, and a variety of unfamiliar boxy looking machines hooked up to me. The fluorescent light on the ceiling flickered, needling into my brain.

“Where I am…?” I croaked, my mouth dry and my throat painful.

“Sweetheart? Tim, Tim he’s awake!” My Mum was right there, by my bedside, her eyes red-rimmed and anxious. My Dad shuffled across the room, looking forlorn.

“Don’t try to move too much, son” he told me, an unusual softness in his voice, “You’ve had quite a nasty accident.”

Had I? I tried to remember but everything was a blur. As I strained, things started to come back to me. Leaving the flat at rush hour. Stepping out to cross the road. A blaring horn and a white van that loomed impossibly big, getting bigger with each passing microsecond. Blinding white pain. I flinched at the memory, the lightning pain rippling through me again.

“Don’t try to move, darling” Mum begged, “The doctors have you on some strong painkillers, but you’ve done a lot of damage. Moving will make it worse.”

A thick silence fell into the room. I tried to think of something, anything to say. The looks of concern on their faces ripped at my heartstrings, guilt flooding through my chest.

“I’m sorry…” I coughed, the coppery taste of blood peppering my tongue, “Sorry I ruined Christmas Day…” I attempted a wry smile, but even twisting my mouth seemed to hurt. I dreaded to think how I looked. It seemed both of my legs where encased in a plaster cast that covered my pelvis as well. One arm, my right, was free, pockmarked by a few short lacerations that had the look of flying glass about them. My left arm – the one I actually used – was also in a plaster cast, the fingers poking out from under them gnarled, the nails blackened with bruised and horribly cracked.

“Don’t be silly,” Mum was sobbing now, and the guilt was welling up inside, threatening to flood my lungs and end me completely, “You waking up is a Christmas Miracle.”

Dad nodded his agreement, tearless but his face twisted with emotion, “Absolutely, Charlie. You’re the best Christmas present we could’ve asked for.”

I felt a hot tear slide down my cheek. To them, it looked like relief I’m sure. But it was no such thing. It was a tear of defeat. When I’d made the decision to step out in front of that van, waking up again was the worst possible Christmas present I could imagine.

THE END. Told you it was cheery.

Thanks for Reading!


His Dark Materials Western (Cont.)

A few months ago, I wrote a short piece of fanfiction, which I housed in the Old West of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials universe for my friend Laura, as she went off on an adventure to Australia. It was supposed to be a one-off. You can actually read it here, if you like. That’d be fab. Well, I couldn’t get the character out of my head. Or the universe. I found myself captivated by the idea of a woman tied to the railroad tracks, left by a dastardly moustache-twirling villain, having to accept her fate whilst left helplessly with her Daemon, accepting their demise. So I wrote it. And I linked it back to that first bit. You don’t have to read that first, but I’d like it if you did.

The railroad is a part of American history. Mighty spiderwebs of steel of steel that unite the country. An ambitious feat of engineering prowess. A triumph of human hubris over nature. In England the whole thing was done without nearly as much fanfare. All practicality, no romance. But in a country sodden with rain half the year, what do you expect? Anyway, you can walk the entire length of the country in less time than it takes to cross state lines.

“We also don’t often tend to hogtie women to the tracks” Emily sighed. Americans certainly had a flair for the dramatic, but positively no sense of subtlety. Her Daemon stared at her despondently, his sad little sparrow eyes breaking her heart.

“Maybe if I’d been something more useful…” he began, and Emily’s sorrow congealed into something hard and sharp.

“There’s am awful lot of ifs in the world Archie,” she groaned as the rope bit into her skin, “but not a single one of them offer us any practicalities in the here and now.”

His eyes lit up. “So you have a plan?” He chirruped.

Emily looked at the desert that stretched out to infinity on either side of her, at the arid sands that hadn’t seen rain in years. In the distance the landscape was dotted with cracked red rocky outcroppings that rose ominously into the sky like tombstones. She longed for the persistent drizzle of Oxford, which only months ago had driven her to despair. She also longed for a cup of tea. Neither seemed forthcoming.

“Not precisely, no” she admitted, “but God won’t abandon us. He always has a plan for us, remember?”

Archie hesitated, “and… if his plan is that we die out here?”

Emily stared stoically up at the garishly blue, cloudless sky.

“Then we accept it…” she whispered.

When Emily awoke, the sun was still hammering down its punishment like an earnest blacksmith, each hammer blow a lance of pain into her head. She tried to lick her lips, but her tongue was swollen and dry. She could feel cracked pain around her mouth where the skin had blistered in the scorching heat. Archie was sat on her chest, his eyes drooped and distant. Emily looked lovingly at the subtle brown hues of his wings, the defiant strength of his beak. He wasn’t the most fearsome of Daemons, she had to admit, but he’d pulled her out of more scrapes than she cared to admit. Her chest swelled when she thought of their adventures. She closed her eyes again, and began to imagine the glorious and sublime Republic of Heaven that waited for them both. She pictured the soft bliss that would surround them, the warm light that would bathe them. She pictured the loving embrace of God.

It was at that point that Emily’s face pulled into a frown. The light that was blasting red and harsh through her eyelids had diminished, leaving little dancing spots of colour in its place. Reluctantly, she pulled one eye open, dreading another encounter with that obnoxious American bandit. She’d have sooner died. Much to her surprise, a young girl stood over her. She had a hard face, with squinting eyes filled with mistrust, and sandy blonde hair crammed under a beat-up old cowboy hat which was far too big for her. On her shoulder he Daemon sat in the form of a Gecko, in muted colours that matched her hair. In her hand was a wicked looking revolver covered in cogs and levers. Home made weapon modifications where quite the style in the States, she’d heard.

“Well, hello there young lady…” Emily began, peeling her raw cracked lips back into a smile that she wore more like a grimace.

“I ain’t no lady,” the girl responded.

Emily took her in. She was probably only twelve or so. “Quite. Well, perhaps you could help me. You see, I’m in a bit of a bind-” she chuckled at her own joke nervously, “so perhaps your mummy or daddy could be of some sort of assistance? Could you give them a yell and ask them to come help me?”

The girl eyed her with her sharp, sceptical eyes, “Momma’s dead. Daddy too, for that matter.” She said it so matter-of-factly that Emily was stunned by how little emotion played across her face. But Emily was a trained member of the Church. She’d spent years learning to read people, to discover the things they kept locked away. To offer them salvation.

“Oh…” she put on her best counselling voice, the one she saved for widows and mothers of stillborn children, “Oh, you poor child. Was it a failed crop? Not enough water perhaps? Or maybe a terrible disease. You can tell me. I know it’s hard.” If she could earn this girl’s trust, she didn’t necessarily die tied to a train line in the desert. On her chest, Archie had tilted his head to one side too, mimicking her sympathetic tone.

“Nope,” the girl spat into the baking sand, “Man came and killed ‘em. And my baby brother too. Shot him right there in his crib.”

Emily blinked, momentarily stunned by the blasé way this girl reported such a horrifically barbaric act.

“Oh you delicate orphan!” she cried at the girl, who now rolled her eyes. “You must thank the lord God that you were spared. He must have a plan for you.”

The girl pushed her hat back, revealing more of her grubby face, coated with a waxy mixture of sweat, sand, and something darker.

“You reckon that plan was me following the man what did them in and emptying his brains out onto a canyon wall not two hours ago?” her face broke into a grin. If it wasn’t for the words she was saying, she’d have looked to Emily like any other little girl. Instead, Emily’s insides went cold.

“It’s all God’s plan in the end…” she told the girl,

“It God’s plan got you tied up like a prize pig at the county fair to roast under the sun, miss?”

“If that is his will then so be it, I am his humble-”

The girl interrupted her, which irritated her no end. Typical American, never taught any manners, raised like a wild child here in the arse end of nowhere.

“You someone’s slave?” she asked.

Emily felt her mouth flap up and down, shocked by the incredulity that she might be someone else’s property.

“I most certainly am not! What on Earth would make you think such a preposterous thing?!” she sputtered.

The girl considered her for a moment, then scanned the horizon, “’Cuz you’ve got the colour of the slaves I seen in the city. And you’re trussed up like a bindle. And your accent’s funny.”

“I am an Englishwoman I’ll have you know,” Emily growled. Archie had started flapping his wings ineffectually. On her shoulder, the girl’s Daemon stared unblinking and impassive, still in the form of a gecko. “And the only one who owns me is the Lord. Look, are you going to free me or not?”

“You gonna try any funny business?”

“I can assure you I shall not”

The girl seemed to take that under consideration, before nodding. In a fluid motion, she holstered her revolver and with the other hand pulled a knife the size of her forearm from somewhere beneath her battered looking trench coat. It caught the sun, making it seem like it was glowing white. One edge housed neat and lethal looking serrated teeth. It was with these that she began to saw at the ropes that kept Emily bound. Her Daemon was now sat staring out at the landscape, shifted into the form of a wily desert fox, his large ears scanning for trouble while the girl worked. Once the ropes were severed, the girl helped Emily to her feet, with sweat running down her hand. Emily tried not to notice.

“Thank you, that was very charitable thing you did there. God bless you.” The girl simply stared at Emily with the same squinted cold eyes. Archie was nestling affectionately in her hair, which was haphazard and straw-like, dried out by hours in the sun. “I don’t suppose you have any water to hand, do you?”

The girl reached inside her coat and tossed a metal canteen over to her. Emily caught it greedily with both hands, pouring what little water it contained into her mouth. It was hot, and tasted sharp and acrid, no doubt off the metal of the flask, but the relief burst through Emily like it was the very wine of communion. Without really thinking, she drank it dry.

“Good thing I got more, ain’t it?” the girl mumbled to her Daemon, “Anyways, you’re welcome Englishwoman. I need to be going.”

Emily sputtered, “Wait! Where’s the nearest town to hear?”

The girl sighed, her Daemon whispering close to her ear, “Tabernath is about half a day’s walk South East of here. Happens to be where we’re headed.”

“Would you like some company?”

“Not particularly. But given that you seem prone to finding yourself in near death situations, I suppose you’ll be needing a chaperone. Proper English rose like you and all.”Emily ignored the thinly veiled jab at her pride, and instead stretched out a hand to the girl,

“Lady Emily St Grace Mendel” she offered smartly. The girl looked at her waiting hand for what felt like an eternity in the stifling dry air. Eventually, she slid off a leather glove and spat on her hand. Before Emily had chance to react, the slimy little creature’s claw was grasping her own, hot and wet.

“Laura, ma’am. Let’s get walking.”

“And what are you walking towards, exactly, Miss Laura?”

Laura’s boots kicked up clouds of dry dust as she made her way off at a steady, measured pace.

“It’s just Laura, your Ladyship” she answered over her shoulder, “and I’m off to free the slaves.”

So there you go. I hope you enjoyed it. I of course do not in anyway own the universe of His Dark Materials, this is just a bit of fun. If Philip Pullman reads it, I hope he likes it. If he does, I will die.

Thank-you for reading.


Down In The Tube Station at Midnight…

So here’s a short horror story I wrote this afternoon that’s been rattling around in my brain for the last few weeks. I was pretty proud of it, so I thought I’d share!

The tiled walls of the tube station shifted and swirled uneasily as Alicia tried deep breaths to steady her equally swirling stomach. As per usual, the after work “couple of glasses of wine” had become a couple of bottles, and now here she was again, unsteady and nauseous in the stifling stagnant air of Holborn station. Minutes crawled past her, marching steadily towards midnight, and a sense of regret came with them.

She breathed heavily, ‘Future Alicia is going to be super pissed in the morning… Saturday morning a write-off.’ her words echoed off the curved, dirty white walls. She was alone. Fortunately, respite was approaching – or the promise of a seat at least. The pressure change and blowing hot rush of air that indicated the imminent arrival of a train washed over her like a dusty desert wind, accompanied by the steady crescendo roar from down the tunnel. Alicia gathered her bag from where she’d let it slump to the floor, and turned to meet the pulsing of red and white that slowed steadily to allow passengers on and off. As it came to a rest though, it was obvious that inside the train was as empty as the platform. The doors slide open, and she stepped inside, wobbling slightly, but thankful to be able to escape balancing against gravity for ten minutes. So long as she didn’t fall asleep, she was fine. Sitting down, she even started to feel a lot less drunk than she had, and she surveyed the empty tube carriage around her. The light was searingly bright, and intense white that knifed through her skull like lightning, and it felt cramped and uncomfortable, but other than that it was a haven for her throbbing feet. The rows of seats stretched back from her towards the next carriage, but not a single one was occupied, except for a dog-eared newspaper that sat next to her, an unpleasant musty odour coming off it.

‘Solo tube Selfie, methinks’, she concluded after her inspection, noticing her words slurring into each other slightly, like a slow-motion car pileup, ‘what’s the point of being shit on for being a millennial if I don’t get to at least document my debauchery, after all?’

She pulled out her phone, already latched automatically onto the Tube’s Wifi, and opened up the camera. She pulled a suitably ridiculous face, all exaggerated pout and crossed eyes, the empty train carriage seeming endless behind her. It reminded her of when she was little, and she used to open two doors on the bathroom cabinet at the same time, enjoying the strange infinity of the door mirrors reflecting each other back and forth into eternity. She shivered slightly, despite the stuffy warmth of the tube, and took the photo, immediately opening to share it on Twitter.

“Solo Dork Adventures on the Underground” she tapped out, sending the tweet away with a wry smile.

‘Self deprecation is my favourite,’ she muttered to no-one, pushing her headphones in and firing up some music to drown out the toothless roar of the tube as it pulled into the next station. No-one got on. She pulled her phone out of her pocket again, feeling restless, the tiredness of alcohol making her yearn for bed. Her photo had garnered a few likes, as well as a couple of comments of “creepy!” from her followers. Her friend Adrian had replied, “Wow, cool shot! How’d you set that up?” which was an odd question. She told him that she’d just got on the empty tube – that it must have been good luck to get the whole train to herself, before sinking back into her music. She let her eyes droop, shielding her from the harsh buzz of the florescent light, but was careful not to let them drop completely. Last thing she wanted was to fall asleep and end up in Sheffield. After a minute or two, Alicia felt the train slowing down for another station, but it was once again empty, filled with litter and echoes. She checked her phone again. Adrian had replied saying “Haha, very funny – true dedication to the joke” which was even stranger than his first comment. She flicked back up to her original tweet, and felt the blood in her run ice cold. She was sat in the photo on her screen, in the same seat she was sat in now, pulling the ridiculous face she’d pulled earlier. The rows of vomit brown seats stretched away behind her just like she remembered, but sat twenty places or so behind her was a little boy. His black hair hung greasy and dank into his cold, black eyes. He was staring right at her.

Alicia pulled her headphones out and shot to her feet, spinning, her heart hammering double time, to look down the train. It was completely empty. She could see over the seats from standing, and there was no-one hiding behind them.

She called out anyway, ‘Hello? Is someone there-’ she caught herself mid-sentence when she realised she was uttering the dying words from every horror film ever made. Shakily, she held her phone up and took another selfie, her skin clammy and pale, but the alcohol purged from her system by adrenalin and fear. When the picture flashed up on screen, the boy was closer. Only ten or so chairs away this time. His eyes looked back at her through the phone, horrifyingly deep pools of black that sang hunger and sadness. Alicia screamed, and checked behind her again. Nothing was there. The carriage suddenly felt unbearably claustrophobic, the weight of tonnes of rock and London city crushing down on her. The air had gone from a stagnant heat to crackling with malevolent energy. She raised her phone to her face again, terrified of what she’d see when she took another picture, but more terrified of not knowing where the thing that was stalking her even was. When she tapped the shutter button gently, the picture showed just half of her face, cut off by the edge of the camera. There was a pale, mottled grey hand grasping her shoulder in the picture, the fingernails cracked and peeling away. The second she saw the image, she felt the pressure of a tiny but unbelievably powerful grip on her shoulder, sending a spider web of cold pain and abject horror through her. Her legs buckled, but she didn’t quite fall, instead stumbling with a wordless moan of primal fear towards the door of the tube. The train was slowing for another stop – not hers, but there was no way in hell she was going to stay trapped underground with some invisible child-shaped abomination. The slowing wasn’t fast enough, the seconds stretching out impossibly to long minutes of cold terror. Alicia was certain she felt tiny hands grasping at her hair, and jerked this way and that as though spiders where crawling up her body.

Finally, the tube shuddered to a stop, the doors swung open, and Alicia flung herself onto the unmoving concrete of the station floor. As she sucked in lungfuls of dry air, she just caught the glimpse of the boy stood behind the glass of the door behind her. He looked at her with those painfully yearning black holes, his mouth opening impossibly wide in a scream that sounded like a dying cat’s yowling. A thick, inky black fluid spilled out of his mouth in heavy, dripping ropes, and in response to his otherworldly howl, thin arms ending in long, grasping fingers snaked their way out from the dark gap between the train and the platform edge. They snatched blindly at Alicia, the desperation and starving need to have her coming off them with an animal lust. One grabbed her ankle, the fragile looking fingers exerting an impossible pressure on her skin, ice and agony knifing into her bone. It was pulling her towards the dark space beneath the tube as the it began accelerating away from the station again, moving with a heavy certainty that promised a messy death if the hands had their way. Alicia summoned all the strength she had and kicked her free foot at the hand that held her, and connected with enough force to shock it into releasing her. Driven by a pure and thoughtless survival instinct, she ran lopsidedly from the station, her crushed ankle screaming with agony as her broken bones ground against each other beneath the skin. Finally, when she reached the cold, fresh and freeing air of the world above, she allowed herself to collapse into a sobbing wreck, the pain becoming to much for her to bare. She passed out, the echoing black void of the child’s eyes swallowing her consciousness.

So that’s it! Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment if you liked it!


His Dark Materials Western

So the other night I was having a Twitter chat about how there was very little in the way of His Dark Materials fanfic, given how prominent Philip Pullman’s trilogy has been to an awful lot of readers. One of my best friends Laura suggested I tried writing some for her as a leaving present (she had the gall to fall in love & decided to move to Australia. How rude.), and I had a think about it and came up with the idea of taking the universe and looking not to the iconic snows of Svalbard, but to the dry wastes of Southern American. A Western. I was influenced a little by True Grit as well. So this is what I threw together in a couple of hours. Laura seemed pleased at least!

The man’s run was slowing to a stumble, his heavy boots and blistered feet thudding into the dry desert sands with clouds of pale dust. The bullet wound in his calf was searing like the punishing sun above him, and his daemon – a thin wiry coyote – was lolloping along, her tongue lolling from her mouth dehydrated and close to lifeless. Above them, the sky was a beautiful calm blue, not a single cloud to blemish it. It was like a mockery of the harsh landscape below. A memory of water unreachable up above.

He always knew that the devil would come for him one day. Of course he would. He wasn’t a saint, he knew that – he’d started rustling cattle at ten years old. Killed at fourteen. Done worse at sixteen. He was a bad man in every way the good word of the Church defined it, but it didn’t mean he was any happier than dying alone in the burning wasteful desert at the hands of…

He glared at the cactuses that clung to the rocky outcropping a few metres to his right, the only feature on the bland, bleak face of the land around him. At least Choloro had mountains. He would give anything to die in the mountains. But the rocks offered shade, and he was damned if he was going to die out in the open to let the vultures pick his bones clean. The cactuses looked mean and hardy, the only sign of life for countless miles around, but the man knew they kept a precious cargo of water locked deep inside. He’d lived in the desert long enough to learn that little tip. Maybe if she’d lost him, he might be able to wash out his wound and rehydrate from them. He could even survive this whole thing.

“Thoughts, Laiku?” he asked his Daemon, pointing to the outcropping.

She didn’t respond for a few seconds, the exhaustion etched on her face breaking his heart. He knew every gallon of blood he gave up to the desert drained life from her just as much as it did from him.

Laiku sniffed, “I can’t smell her on the air,” she narrowed her eyes, “but she doesn’t smell much. This whole desert smells like death. I never wanted to come here, you know, Marcus.”

“Ayuh,” he nodded, “I know it girl, and it might be a mite too late for me to be apologising, but know that I’m feeling it anyway.”

They plodded to the temporary promise of shade, finally collapsing the second the rocks were cold enough to touch. Marcus threw his pack to one side. His pursuer had slashed the bottom of it in the night at the camp, so he’d left most of his supplies scattered across the desert, useless. If he went back for them he’d be dead from heatstroke within the hour.

A stone dropped from the rocky ceiling that shaded him, and his hand immediately moved for the pistol on his hip. If he hadn’t been starved and chased through the punishing heat, he might’ve maintained some of his old speed, but as it was she got the drop on him.

“Your hand touches metal I shoot your Daemon square in the head,” the girl dropped from above him, landing in an effortless crouch and wrapping her arm around Laiku’s neck, a dull brass pistol covered in tinkers and mods at point blank range. Marcus felt his stomach knot and churn at the sight of another person touching his Daemon.

“You’ll get no sudden moves from me, miss” he attempted to placate her, but the hardness never left her eyes. Marcus was struck by how young she was. She couldn’t be more that twelve or thirteen years old. Her Daemon hadn’t even settled yet. And yet she’d tracked him across miles of inhospitable desert without him once spotting her silhouetted against the perfect horizon. He took off his wide brimmed hat, clutching it to his chest. Her Daemon, in the form of a mountain lion, growled menacingly, but slowly the girl unhanded Laiku, who bolted back to Marcus as fast as her weary legs would let her.

“You know what I want from you?” She asked, her voice low, even. The cold of it was comforting in the roiling temperature.

“I reckon you’re looking for revenge of one kind or another.”

“You reckon right.”

He fixed her with a weary stare, trying to piece together if there was a way for him to get out of this with his skin intact. He didn’t see that there was. Her Daemon, impossibly nimble, shifted to a polecat and darted forward. Quicker than his eyes could follow him, he’d pulled his gun from the holster on his belt.

“What’d I do to you then?” He asked her. Fire blazed in her eyes.

“You mean to say you don’t know?”

“I done many bad things to many people. My memory lost track a few years back, miss.”

She stood up from her crouch, keeping her strange revolver fixed on him. She was dressed like a bounty hunter, numerous bandoleers filled with ammunition criss-crossing her chest, and a dark brown leather coat scraping on the floor at her feet. Her hair was the same yellow as the sand around her, her eyes a strikingly bright blue.

“Let me see if I can’t help you bring this particular atrocity to mind, Mr. Marcus” she spat, “You shot my papa, the honourable Doc Williams, as he enjoyed his pipe on the porch last Summer. Then you went inside and had your way with his wife. My momma. Oh, and then when you found a baby screaming in the room next door, you shot him in his crib for good measure. Getting clearer for you?”

Marcus nodded, “Yup. Doc Williams. Made a lot of fuss against the keeping of slaves. Two hundred dollars on that bounty. I remember.”

“The bounty didn’t say nothing about helping yourself to his family”

“Spoils of war, little lady”

Her Daemon twisted into the form of a desert fox, yapping at him with unbridled aggression. Her manifested soul letting out the emotions that she kept so fiercely locked behind her angry, youthful face.

“I was there,” she growled, sounding more animal than her Daemon ever could with her voice low, but perfectly audible above the whistling winds, “hidden under the floorboards. I went down to the cellar to play when you stormed your way in and destroyed my family.”

“Ruined a lot of families little lady. Stopped feeling the guilt a while back now.”

She regarded him again, pure contempt etched into her skin. Behind her, the heat was causing a shimmering mirage above the ground. It tricked his eyes into seeing water where there was only a dry, merciless death.

“Look, miss” he began, “If you’re gonna play at being men, just get it over with. Otherwise-”

The shot cracked like lightning from the gods as the bullet slammed into Marcus’ head just above the eye. Blood spattered vibrant against the pale sandstone as his eyes lost the spark that he himself had snuffed out countless times before. Laiku disappeared in an instant, her life inescapably linked to his. The recoil of the gun was minimal, thanks to the gadgets of her own invention, though the strain of holding it aloft throughout their conversation had left her arm tired and strained. She slid it back into its holster.

“You know Arty,” she said to her Daemon, who was sat on her shoulder in the form of a large, thorny lizard to match his desert surroundings, “I actually think I do feel a little better after that.”

“You’re only saying that to be contrary, Laura” he sniffed huffily, “I feel the same emptiness you do, remember? I am part of you, after all.”

“Spoilsport” she teased.

He was right though, of course. She didn’t feel any fulfilment from the murder she’d committed. Not that she felt guilt – Marcus had murdered and raped his way across the South for almost two decades, so to meet his fate at the hands of a twelve year old girl was to her mind, absolutely delicious. But still she felt a gnawing at her heart, one that she couldn’t find an easy solution for.

“So what next? We got the world at our feet” Arty asked her.

She pondered the horizon, seemingly endless from where she stood. As the gathering dry wind whipped her pale hair about her face, it really did seem like the world was at her feet. And it was a world filled with murderers and injustices. Laura made her mind up.

“We’re gonna finish Daddy’s work, Arty,” she told him, “You and me, we’re gonna rescue slaves and burn down the homes of the wicked. We’re retribution a-coming.”

“You know that’ll cause the Church to have some disagreements with us? They quite enjoy their slaves.”

“Oh I expect they’ll be awful unhappy with us,” she smiled, “but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.”

Arty sighed, shifting into a dragonfly and launching himself into the air, brilliant green glinting in the sunlight.

“Somehow I was afraid you might say that,” he said.


There’s a chance I might build on this… I guess I’ll see what the feedback is like! Let me know!

Thanks for Reading!



Things Going Bump in the Night

So in the last week I’ve moved out on my own. Hurray! Super exciting! Having your own space really is shiny special. However, living alone also comes with its own special set of anxieties, especially for someone with a runaway imagination like me. When I was a kid, every creaking floorboard was a vengeful spirit and every half opened wardrobe a gateway for alien abduction… And that’s never really left me. In the middle of the night, things seem more plausible than they do as a rational grown-up in broad daylight. Magic flows in the dark, and shadows hide horrors. So this is something I cooked up staring at my new kitchen window at two in the morning the other night. Because that’s how I process things – I write about them.

Two thirty three.

Amy stared at the angry green light of her alarm clock as she slowly came to the weary realisation that she wasn’t getting back to sleep. With a sigh, she sat up in bed, pushing her covers aside and surveyed the vague dark shapes that littered her bedroom. She still hadn’t really bothered unpacking, so her whole apartment was a warren of different sized cardboard boxes with her whole life rammed into them. It looked as jumbled and chaotic as it felt.

Three nights in her new flat and all three so far she’d woken up at two am sharp. Stretching out her aching arms, Amy hopped out of bed and pulled her dressing gown around her. She still hadn’t worked out how to put the heating on. The layout of the flat was still unfamiliar to her, but she decided to navigate in the dark anyway to try and force her brain into mapping it out, stalking out into the short hallway. Her familiar furniture loomed strange and threatening in the shadows, reminding her just how much her life had been warped and distorted by the last few weeks. Jason had completely ruined everything he’d come into contact with during the five years she’d put up with his crap for. When she’d finally walked in on him in bed with another woman, her world had shattered into fragments, each one a jagged, harsh truth she’d never wanted to face. She wasn’t sure if she could piece that old life back together any more. Although, if she was honest with herself, she wasn’t sure she wanted to. A brand new one seemed much more refreshing, away from the taste of betrayal, salty and bitter. Away from the crying for hours at a time, until knives of pain needled relentlessly into her skull.

The silence that hung from the walls was deeper and more oppressive than the shadows could be. University had been loud, vibrant and exciting, living with six other girls in a cramped terraced house. Even when the arguments with Jason both drove them into sullen silences, there was still the sense of presence that hung in the air that the flat completely lacked. Amy stood for a few moments, soaking in the sense of unease that had accompanied her last three sleepless nights.

‘You’re a grown woman, for God’s sake’ she whispered. It felt like a transgression, like swearing in church or breaking a mirror. Shivering, she realised that the feeling that was churning in her stomach wasn’t an unease from feeling alone at all. It felt like being watched. She tried to quash the feeling by chastising herself harshly, deliberately breaking the hallowed silence of the night.

‘Amy,’ she hissed, ‘stop letting your imagination play tricks on you. It is all. In. Your. Head.’

Her bare feet slapped softly against the cheap laminate floor as she padded quietly along the hall. Even though she was pretty sure no-one could hear her unless she screamed her lungs raw, she was still paranoid about annoying her new neighbours, and all her day to day movements had been measured and dainty since she moved in. Not that it would last for long – she was definitely the clumsiest person she knew, and sooner or later she’d shatter something in the middle of the night and her neighbours would detest her forever. Maybe. Her mouth felt clammy and tasted sour, the memory of sleep gummed up in the corners, begging for the water to return it to normal. Stumbling, her body still unsure of its surroundings, she squeezed herself into the cramped kitchen. It was one of the few rooms that had been fully unpacked, which her dad would’ve no doubt used as an opportunity to make fun of her weight, just like he always had when she was a teenager. She felt a dull ache in her stomach. She hadn’t spoken to either of her parents since she was sixteen – seven years ago now. In the stillness of sleepless nights, she let her memories bubble to the surface from time to time, and let the arguments and violence echo around her. It reminded her of how far she’d come. Not even Jason could take that from her. A single plain white plate and polka-dot mug sat by the sink, sparkling in the moon, a show of perfectly normal, bland everyday existence. Grabbing a clean glass from the cupboard, Amy let the cold tap run gently, making a tinny rattle of water on metal as it fell into the sink as it cooled, and stared out of the window as she filled her drink. Outside, the world was still and waiting, bathed in a blend of inky deep shadows and harsh orange light that flickered like an angry buzz, desperate to chase the shadows away. Over the top of it all, the pale glow of the moonlight held court, adding its own hue to the frozen, empty stage of the night. She was nestled in a horseshoe shape of identical apartments, pushing in from either side and looming from above, and beyond those was the uniform row of uncaring terraced houses, each an uninspiring grey that was designed, Amy believed, to sap the creativity and aspiration out of the people who lived there. By day, kids kicked balls against them and hurled insults at passing strangers like hyenas defending their territory. She always felt her heart hammer in her chest as she approached them, wondering frantically why they never seemed to be at school. But now everything was still, and staring idly out into the world she tried so hard to shut out, was when she saw the thing.

Amy wasn’t sure how she’d even missed it in the first place. It was a hunched, humanoid looking shape, shimmering a dull grey that perhaps she’d mistaken for the contours on a bin bag, highlighted by the chaos of light and shadow. Now she’d properly noticed it, though, it was obviously not a trick of shadow and sleep deprived eyes, it was definitely something that hadn’t been there when she got home from work, squatting in the centre of the car park all pointed limbs and statuesque stillness. It was as still as the brickwork that surrounded it, but something about the way it held itself emanated otherness. The water topped the rim of the glass, pouring over Amy’s hand and jolting her with an unexpected cold stab. She twitched only slightly, but it was enough for her to loose her grip on the wet glass, which fell with an almighty clatter into the metal kitchen sink. It didn’t break, but the sound reverberated through the perfect stillness like a gunshot in a movie.

Outside, a ripple of angry twitches ran across the creature’s back, and inside Amy was paralysed with fear. It seemed like all the air had been sucked out of the room, the silence becoming a vacuum as deep as the void of space. The creature outside began, with a slow deliberateness, to stretch itself to its full height. Amy watched, her heart tight and painful in her chest, as long arms and legs unfolded, impossibly lithe and thin. She almost thought they must be too weak to support any weight at all, but something about them looked hard and strong – and dangerous. As it unfolded, it became more and more horrifying, standing easily two feet higher that the blue transit van that sat in the car park. Its back was still turned to her, but everything about it screamed danger and Amy could feel a silent scream croaking and dying in her throat. Finally fully unfurled so alien and abhorrent into the everyday normality of the car park, the thing stood still again, like the music had cut out in a game of musical statues. Except the muscles under the pale grey skin twitched away, making the creature seem like it was crackled with electricity. The skin, taught and stretched, reminded Amy of the marble statues from Ancient Greece that she’d seen during a school trip to the British Museum years before. She remembered finding the statue’s featureless staring eyes deeply unsettling, and the memory definitely wasn’t helping make the thing outside her window any less terrifying.

Finally, a whimper escaped her mouth. It seemed like such a small thing that fluttered out into the air panicked and fragile that she was hardly sure if it had happened at all. There was no way the creature outside could’ve heard such a soft noise, she told herself frantically. She was wrong. The monstrous entity cocked its smooth, featureless head as if honing in on the sound Amy had made with ears that simply didn’t exist. In the place a human being would have ears was nothing – simply more uniform marble like skin which glistened as though wet in the various half lights that lit the square. In an uncharacteristic shift in speed, it spun ethereally and effortlessly to face her and finally Amy came face to face with the horror that stood separated from her by a flimsy two sheets of glass. Funny, double glazing had seemed so secure when she moved in. Peering in at her was two rows of six uncaring, dispassionate eyes, each a horrifying black so intense and so deep it made her chest ache. She had no way of knowing where their gaze was trained, but something about the way it had frozen screamed that it was fixated utterly on her. In the middle of the parallel lines of eyes was a large, sharply hooked beak which was the same uniform whitish grey as the rest of the monstrosity’s naked, featureless form.

Amy screamed then, any idea of causing upset in her neighbours utterly fractured. Outside the thing opened its beak, revealing concentric circles of hundreds of tiny viciously sharp looking teeth, and let out a scream in return. The sound was piercing, worse than a thousand nails on a thousand chalkboards. It was the sound, she thought, of hopelessness, and it felt as though her skull buzzed and flexed as the pitch reached crescendo, her vision blurring with it. Around the square, no lights came on. She was utterly alone in the universe.

Falling backwards, the spell of abject terror that had held her so fixed broken, Amy fled the kitchen, turning on each and every light she could find as she tripped and tumbled around her littered possessions, none of which anything that she could use to fight a lithe, loathsome horror that stood twice her height. As she flailed blindly in boxes for something useful, one of the long wicked butcher’s knives perhaps, there was a pounding knock at her front door that echoed in harmony with the hammering of her adrenaline soaked heart. She stopped moving, as if the disturbance of the air her arms made could be picked up on the other side of the door. More knocks made the little chain that kept it secure rattle as if it was made from paper. Then everything fell quiet, the pressure of uncertainty building in the hallway like the heat of a roaring fire. After a few seconds of the air building to an almost unbearable level of threatening possibility, a voice drifted through the cracks around the wood. Her stomach lurched as impossibly familiar patterns of speech crept their way like seeking tendrils into her ears.

“Aaaaaaaaamyyyyyyyyyyy…” rasped Jason’s voice through the door, taunting. It couldn’t possibly be him, she knew. He had no idea where she even lived now, and he definitely didn’t care about catching up with her either. She knew in her bones that the voice was that of the creature that stalked her.

“Amy babe,” the voice crooned to her, a sound so familiar that her body responded to it in a variety of involuntary ways, “I’ve been missing you… I need you to let me in sweetie…”

Her voice shook, “You’re not him… He’s not here. I don’t need him any more.”

“Of course it’s me,” he laughed, “who else would it be? Come on Aims, you’re being fucking mental as per usual.”

“What are you..?” she quivered, a tear rolling down her cheek.

“Amy… Aaaaaaaammmmyyyy…” It was mocking her, using Jason’s voice to confuse her. She had to fight it. Jason wasn’t anything she wanted. She couldn’t open the door to him.

“I don’t need you any more. There’s nothing here for you!” She tried to keep the shake from her voice. Tried to will an ounce of confidence to fight the thing that tried to twist her thoughts.

“Then why was he the very first thing I plucked from your mind?” the Jason voice teased from behind the door. “I don’t just sound like him you know. I can look like him too. I can be the perfect him that you always hoped he would grow into. No more skinny whores or careless drunken fists…”

Amy thought she was going to be sick as memories of black eyes and split lips swam back up into her mind’s eye. “He never meant to… It was an accident.”

The thing on the other side cackled with a laugh that wasn’t quite Jason. It shimmered with a high pitched otherness that spoke of endless horrors.

“Let me in, Amy. I can be everything you ever needed from him…” it purred.

“I don’t want anything from you.”

The voice shifted then, growing deeper, developing a broader accent that Jason’s crisp educated drawl.

“Amy, you ungrateful little bitch, let me in right this second or I swear you’ll regret it” the voice of her father echoed through the years back to her, unseen but malevolent as it had always been.

Amy’s head swam, over a decade of guilt and fear coming surging back along her veins, old terror mixing and congealing with new to create a fizzy mix of blind panic pulsing through her.

“You’re not him you can’t be him he doesn’t know” she babbled.

“Time for pissing around’s done now,” his deep voice was quiet but as always every word was impossible to miss. Her ears still made sure they heard everything to avoid the consequences that came from poor obedience. “Let me in and we’ll forget all about it. You need looking after Amy, look at you. You’re a disgrace, young girl like you living on your own. It’s not proper.”

“I don’t need you. I DON’T NEED YOU EVER AGAIN” Amy shrieked, her voice cracking as she allowed an entire life of hatred fill it and force her words forward with the anger of bullets. Years of being told by her father, by Jason, by so many people how to be a quiet woman who does what she’s told. It all bubbled to the surface as the heat the memories made her blood boil. Charging down the hallway, her fear now evaporated into incandescent bitter rage, as her father’s voice called “You’ll always need me. A little girl always needs her daddy!”

She placed her hand on the chain that locked the world out and separated her new sanctuary from the aggression and judgement of society. Her blind rage was building to eruption, until a sudden voice cried out in her head. Amy looked at her hand, ready to fling the door open so that she could drive the full force of her fury into her father’s chest. Only it wasn’t her father outside, egging her on. She was being manipulated by an unknowable monster whose desires she couldn’t possibly begin to fathom. She allowed the white hot fire drain slowly from her body, feeling her heart still racing as the aggression soured.

“I will not let you in…” she whispered into the wood.

Outside, a shriek of frustration cut so sharply and keenly through the night that it felt as though the very universe would be torn asunder.


The end! Feedback is always appreciated.

Thanks for reading. If you did, I mean.


On my love of Stories…

Ever since I was very small, I’ve loved stories. My older brother used to make them up to help me sleep at night, my parents used to read to me, so stories have always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. In recent years, with the rise of the ebook, there’s been a big debate about “the right way” to enjoy a story, and quite often ebooks aren’t it. I hate that. Stories are a special kind of magic: they help people to escape, they give them access to empathy, they help us to understand one another and let us forget the world all at once.


Don’t you dare tell a person that their ereader is an abomination. That’s snobbery, and it’s just as bad as telling people that they shouldn’t enjoy certain genres of book/film/etc (something I blogged about for the Booktrust, which you can read if you fancy).

I’m a great big fan of letting other people do what makes them happy. If a person finds a book hard to engage with and they prefer to digest a story through a film? Great! I love films, and the visual medium can do so much that a printed one can’t (I might write a blog about this in the future), and if a person finds reading on a digital device easier or more convenient then good for them, they’re still enjoying narratives and that’s the best thing ever.

I prefer physical books because that’s just how I’ve always encountered stories, so that’s ingrained in me I guess, as part of my upbringing, but even then I prefer paperbacks to hardbacks, battered and worn. I know that others prefer pristine hardbacks, resplendent and beautiful, but for me it’s the words inside that I crave. That’s not to say I don’t just aesthetically enjoy books for the way they look – I am definitely not above buying a gorgeous edition of a book I already own because it looks pretty on the shelf. I am that shallow sometimes, okay?

Just look at the charm of this, though!

Just look at the charm of this, though!

But it isn’t even always a preference issue either – ebooks are cheaper, and space a premium, so why should we live in a world where the ability to enjoy stories is reliant on class? Or health? There are many who find holding a physical book difficult, and we shouldn’t be looking down on them for their choices, because that’s an especially awful kind of elitism.

I’ve heard the argument that physical paper is where stories are meant to live, but what about before we had a written language? The beauty of stories is how versatile they can be, and the oral tradition of storytelling is filled with just as much beauty and passion as the written word is. Have you listened to Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter books? It’s divine. And implying that stories belong in physical books really denies the power of plays too – Shakespeare does not work on paper. It just doesn’t. I love the bard, but reading him is no fun – having those stories performed though, is amazing, because that’s how those stories where intended to be told, and that’s what I’m trying to get across – however you choose to engage in a story is absolutely great.

You like to binge on Netflix and absorb episodes of on-going narrative? Excellent! Me too! You like the ballet? Awesome! I’ve never tried it, but I bet I’d be absorbed. You like playing hours of Bioshock? I adore video games – they’re a chance to interact with a story in a way you don’t get from other mediums. You like an action blockbuster with pretty people and an uncomplicated plot? So do millions of other people because that’s storytelling in an accessible way, and that is a real joy!

I will argue the sheer awesome power of this story forever.

I will argue the sheer awesome power of this story forever.

So don’t frown on someone because they buy ebooks. And don’t think someone’s a snob for only buying leather bound classics (unless they’re ostensibly being snobby). Don’t judge someone who wants to see the film because the book isn’t going to hold their attention. The essence of the story is still there. Remember, to our knowledge, human beings are the only thing in the entire known universe, amongst the vastness of existence, who spend their time making up stories to amuse and thrill each other. That to me, feels like a very unique sort of magic. We should treasure it.

Thanks for Reading,


P.S. A big thanks to my great friend Ming for proofreading, editing and offering suggestions.