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!

D

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.

D

The Death of Seasons

This was something that came into my head this afternoon whilst staring out of the window in a pub at the cold, barren fields. Partly inspired by playing a LOT of Dark Souls 2 lately, and really feeling the empty, ruined world that the Souls universe inhabits. It might develop into something later, I dunno yet… I don’t tend to opt for Fantasy but who knows?!


I was six years old when I first really started to understand the Death of Seasons. I was playing tag with the neighbour’s boy, Thomas, in the rocky field that our family owned. It was absolutely no use for growing food in, but sheep and goats could graze on it just fine, and the rich green framed the cold grey mountains beautifully. Thomas had just tagged me as it and was running full pelt away from me, deftly stepping over sharp stones and around the uneven tufts of ground when he dropped dead on the spot, his momentum causing his newly lifeless body to pinwheel like a ragdoll, all directionless limbs. I ran over to him, but his eyes were glassy, reflecting the slate coloured sky, and shining none of their former life out of them.

“Why does the Death have to happen?” I’d asked my mother through wracking tears that night.

She’d done a little to console me, but she’d seen so much death in her years that one more little boy meant little to her anymore, “It’s the will of the Gods, little one.” She sighed wearily, “If they didn’t take people away at the beginning of each new year, where would all the new ones fit?”

“But Thomas was only little…” I sniffed, “Why don’t the Gods take the old people away?”

I could see the patience slipping out of mother’s face like sand through an hourglass running down the etched groves of a lifetime of grief, “It’s not our place to judge who deserves life, and who deserves death. Only the Gods may choose, and it is beyond human minds to understand why. They took your father, they took your sister, but I am still thankful for what we do have.”

I threw my soup to the floor, the clatter of shattering pottery on the hard stone floor cracking like lightning through the quiet of the kitchen, “I hate the Gods. I hate them and I won’t ever be thankful for their pointless cruelty!”

Mother had beaten me fiercely for my blasphemy, telling me that one day I would have sons and daughters of my own, and I should be willing to give them up to the Gods with song and praise in my heart. But I didn’t understand why. The world was empty and barren, there was plenty of space. And anyway, most babies were born without ever drawing a breath.

The Death of Seasons comes every year without fail. As the nights outweigh the days in length and the plants begin to turn ashen and grey, people die without a moments notice. The young, the old, men and women, even new-borns. There’s no pattern, no sense of a plan. Mother tells me that the chaos of it makes it more fair, but it seems bitterly unjust to me. The land is sick with the Season…

What few people you see travelling through have all been touched by it. Sometimes lone adventurers clad in shining armour pass by the rough collection of houses at the foot of the mountain, searching the vengeance on the Gods. Their faces are always set with grim determination, their eyes hollow and empty as they blindly travel the world, fighting and dying forgotten and unknown. Most know they’re on a hopeless quest, but they can’t allow themselves to accept the will of the Gods. I envy their fire, and I pity their lonely fate. At least they die by their own actions, not the hapless groping of cruel deities.

This world is filled with ruins of once great civilizations picked clean like carrion by The Death of Seasons. You could walk for weeks in any direction and never see another human being, just the littered remnants of their hopes and dreams. There’s melancholy and loss that spreads across the ground like the bright, unfeeling sunrise. You can see it in the eyes of every person you meet. A broken spirit lingers in their bones, waiting for their turn to die.  Or worse, to never truly be allowed to go. For the Gods to leave them to age for centuries, cracked and so close to death, without ever reaching it.

I was sixteen years old when The Death of Seasons blessed my mother once more and stopped my heart from beating.


 

Thanks for reading.

Feedback/Encouragement always welcome. Would you read more?

D

I Wrote a Thing.

This scene came to me fully formed stood outside of a Krispy Kreme in Durham in the rain, after a long day at work. It pretty much unfolded exactly like this in my head over about six seconds. I don’t know if I’ve done it just justice, but it needed to get out of my brain because it’s been there for days. Grammar/Spelling may be off. I’m very tired.


It’s raining. Why is it always raining in emotional situations? My English teacher told us a phrase for it at GCSE, but it’s slipped my mind over the Summer holidays, replaced with melting ice creams and beach barbecues. There are fat, heavy raindrops sliding down the window of Jameson’s Café, and I can hear them bouncing angrily off my hood, like determined little kamikaze pilots. My hands are cold, starting to go numb, but I stand still, getting steadily wetter. My gaze is fixed on the warm yellow glow that spills out of the café window, a feeble candle in the storm. Inside, a man sits with his daughter – his kind eyes crinkled at the corners in a fond smile, as the girl sits with an ice cream in a glass that’s bigger than her head. She must only be about ten years old, her school uniform creased and worn, already with a large stain of chocolate on the blue nylon jumper. Dad doesn’t care though, his face a mask of adoration at his little girl. I’m not seeing them though. Not really. They’re frame for a different man and girl, six years ago in the same café. I’m projecting my memories onto them like they’re actors in my own mental play.

A little girl sits in a crumpled school uniform. She’s just finished her first day at secondary school. Big school, she called it, before she went. Her jumper is navy blue, her shirt underneath a dirty grey from the predictable September shower. Her young, fresh face is set in a frown, her eyes downcast. She is me. I am eleven years old.

“It was fine, Dad…” I mutter, not willing to meet his eye.

“Sara Grace, I watched you learn how to lie” he takes my little hand in his. I feel the familiar roughness of it, as it encompasses mine, “You never actually learned to do it very well.”

“The girls in my class, Dad… They said…” I trail off. It feels like saying it out loud will solidify my shame. It’ll turn from a twisting knot in my chest from some fat slug-like monster that crawls out of my mouth and makes a beeline for the sugar bowl.

Dad stares at me. I’m watching all this from outside, of course, the audio of my memory playing in sharp high definition straight to my brain. I see concern etched on his face, the lines that I never bothered to map, as he watches me stumble into a world that’s bigger than I expected it to be. Bigger than him, even.

“What did they say?” He asks softly, his thumb stroking my hand gently.

“They said my skin was the wrong colour.” I see an angry tear roll down my cheek, and outside in the rain, I feel more, hot against the cold rain.

Dad tightens his grip on my hand, and I see a symphony of emotion cross his cloudy grey eyes. Anger, frustration, sadness and disappointment all flicker there in an instant. Not disappointment in me, I can see, but the weary disappointment of a man who feels he can no longer change the world. The hardness in his features passes as quickly as it came, and his eyes regain their kindness.

“When I first met your mother…” He starts. Outside I smile. Inside, I groan,

“Please Dad, a lovey dovey story is not going to make me feel any better.”

“Humour me, will you?” He insists, “When I first met your mother, she had just moved to England from South Africa. There was no-one else like her in our little Yorkshire town, let me tell you.”

“Did they pick on her for looking different?” I ask.

“At first. But she soon proved that she was the smartest, most talented girl in our school, and she fit into it like a hand into a glove. Once people got to know who your mother was underneath, they stopped caring about what colour her skin was.”

“But why do they even care in the first place?”

He gives me a sad little half smile, “because, Sara, most people are stupid as shit.”

Inside, eleven year old me gasps, a shocked smile breaking through the stormy frown. I’d never heard him swear up until that exact moment, and it suddenly created this entire new facet to him. It was like I’d found a new shoot on an old, familiar tree. Outside, I smile fondly.

“People are afraid of new things, sweetie” he added, “because new things are normally better than they are. People don’t like being reminded that they’re ordinary.”

“You think I’m extraordinary?” I ask him, poking my tongue out between my teeth, wriggling it.

“I think you’re a miracle” he answers back, his smile lopsided and filled with cracks and crevices from a lifetime of smiling.

He lets go of my hand and makes an exaggerated yawn of exhaustion,

“I’m beat, kiddo. Think we should skedaddle out of here?” He asks me.

I giggle hysterically, “we ordered ice cream, Dad!” I cry in mock outrage.

“So we did!” He laughs, “Well, so you did. I’m just a glorified wallet with legs to you.”

“You are not. You’re also a taxi driver too, and you fix things” I reply.

“A multi-tool, eh?” He grins.

“You’re definitely some kind of tool” I’m pushing my cheekiness now, but I know that Dad will find it funny.

“Cancel the ice-cream!” He yells, “No ice-cream today please!”

By this point, inside I’m in tears of laughter, desperately trying not to make a scene. Outside, I’ve got my fingers lightly touching the rain spattered glass. There’s tears too.

Finally, the ice-cream arrives, and just like the little girl who caught my eye as I walked past the café this afternoon, it stands bigger than my head. Dad takes the wafer out of the top without asking and I shriek with over the top shock. The scene slowly fades back to the Father and Daughter scene of the present day, and an ache eats at my heart. It’s a burn that I’ve grown accustomed to, but not one I’ve ever gotten past. Every day after school for at least the first two weeks of year seven, Dad brought me to Jameson’s Café and bought me a ridiculously huge ice-cream that I had no chance of finishing. And of course, he was right – I made friends in a few short weeks of classes, slotted straight into the school like I’d always been there. The brown of my skin still came up from time to time, but I learned to weather it. People are stupid as shit, after all.

Today I started Sixth Form. I wonder if he’d be proud of me, taking a healthy mix of science and art. He always told me that I was too talented at everything for my own good. I wish I could tell him about how my first classes where. I wish I could sit and eat an ice-cream with him. It’s been two years since his operation went wrong. Since the doctor came in and told us that he hadn’t made it. I’m still scared. I have no idea how I’m supposed to keep moving forward without his hand on my shoulder, his smile fixed so proud on my face. I’m supposed to see him look at me with pride and sadness as I graduate university. As I get married (if I get married – jury’s still out on that). It’s not fair that I can never share that with him. The figures inside the café start to blur – from rain or tears I’m not entirely sure. Both, most likely.

“I love you, Daddy” I whisper. The sound is swallowed by the thrum of the rain, but I will it to find him. To let him know.

Free Writing No. 10 – Bump in the Night

This is a slightly long piece of Free Writing, mostly because I had a very particular set piece in my head, and I was on a train anyway. It’s got some violence about it, and some strong language. Sorry Mum and Dad, I only heard those words on TV, I’ve never used them.


Big Tim and the others had been having a pretty great night when they spotted the thing in the fog. It was 4am, and the nine of them had managed to get kicked out of two pubs and a club for fighting, which he personally counted as a good effort. Not a personal best for him, but not bad when you considered the options in a next to nothing town like Little Westbrook. When the thing that would kill him first lurched into their vision, Tim had his arm around Kate, who he had been fooling around with all evening, despite knowing full well that she had a boyfriend – little rat faced Jimmy who worked at the corner shop. Tim wasn’t afraid of that little wanker, though. Big Tim wasn’t afraid of anything. He had his boys at his back, and the streets of the town where his playground tonight.

A bright, full and ominous moon hung above the leafy street as they sauntered cockily down the middle of the road, daring cars to give it a go.

“What the fuck is up with that?” Mick shouted from behind, and Tim took a moment to adjust his beer hazed eyes to the thick fog that had come in off the river through the night, somewhere between pub six and pub nine.

It shambled, that was the best way to describe to describe it, listing this way and that as if it was a drunk on deck during bad weather. The moon cut through the fog almost perfectly to highlight some of the vague details. It had two arms, two legs, but it looked like the rest of it was covered in a dirty sheet, hiding its face and body from view.

“How can he even see?” Kate asked him, but Tim just shrugged.

“Some pisshead’s decided to have Halloween two months early!” Mick yelled, and hurled a half filled beer can in an arc that landed a good few feet short of its target, frothing onto the concrete.

“Yeah, dickhead, you Casper the friendly ghost or something?” Mick’s twin brother Andy followed up, flinging his can through the gloom as well. The brothers where always the first to kick off, if not purely for the fact that they knew Big Tim would back them up, and over the years their behaviour had gotten pretty tiring. Tim would have to give them a serious talking to one of these days, with a baseball bat preferably.

Andy’s can was much better aimed – either through dumb luck or the fact that the figure was gradually ambling up the road towards them, and it connected with the part of sheet that Tim figured must have a head underneath it. Now it was a little closer, he was struck by how short it was, standing probably just over four feet tall. The thing stopped as the can bounced off it, stiffening and staring straight at them – only staring without any eyes, just a serious feeling of malevolence.

“Lads, leave it out alright?” Tim commanded, trying to keep his voice steady and nonchalant, but there was a spider web of uncertainty working its way into his heart, “It’s probably some kid out pissing about. Look, he’s like, gnome height, in’t he?”

“Whatever,” Mick answered. He’d heard the hesitance in Tim’s voice, and decided now was great time to push the big man for a display of authority over the group. Behind, the lads bristled nervously – fighting and drinking had filled them all with an energy, and now it was bubbling to come spilling out onto the floor, one way or another.

“Mick, I said leave it,” Tim reiterated.

“You’re not the fucking boss of me, ‘Big Tim’,” Mick spat back, derision in every syllable of his words. The two of them squared off for a second, eyes matched and burning with tension and wild purpose. Eventually, Mick broke first and strode across to the now stationery figure in white.

“I’m going to knock your freaky little teeth in now, mate. Stay nice and still, yeah?” He said to it, in the same voice people might use to patronise a small child. He pulled back his fist, hung it in the air for a second to see if the thing even knew he was there, and swung it forward with all the force his alcohol filled body could manage.

The shrouded creature moved impossibly fast, stuttering in Tim’s vision like a lagging character from a video game, and Mick’s fist met empty air as it sidestepped him. As he pitched forward, his momentum not quite taking him over onto the ground, an arm shot out from under the sheet of the creature and grabbed Mick at the wrist. Tim noticed with overwhelming horror that the thing had seven fingers, four at the top of its hand and three across the bottom, each pointed and needle like, giving it a fearsomely powerful grip. The skin of the hand and arm was a mottled grey, dark and leathery, like something that had been buried underground for centuries and left to fester in arid, dry conditions. As soon as the fingers curled around Mick’s wrist, he let out an agonised cry of terror, standing bolt upright as if electricity was coursing through his body, and gradually blood began to run from his ears and nose, before finally pouring from his eyes like tears.

“What the fuck?!” Andy yelled, running past Tim and towards his brother. The creature made no movement to avoid his full on charge until the very last second, where it again simply wasn’t there anymore. It stood barely a foot away from Andy, still clutching Mick’s arm at the wrist. Unfortunately for Mick, the arm was no longer attached to him.

Blood poured from the open wound at the shoulder where Mick’s arm should have been, spurting alternately as his heart beat forced his life out at high pressure. His skin rapidly turned translucent and pale, before he collapsed to the ground, his eyes staring back at Tim lifelessly. Andy bellowed with rage, and swung at the creature with his fist, just like his twin had done, only this time the creature stayed still, bringing its horrifying arm up in a straight arc, and split Andy into two pieces. Blood and organs spilled out onto the street as the man fell apart as easily as ripping paper, and Tim heard Kate throw up next to him. He’d probably have done the same if he wasn’t so paralysed with terror. The next thing he knew, the creature had rushed towards them within a single blink, ploughing into them with ethereal elegance, like a cloud moving at the speed of light. He felt Kate fall to the ground beside him and saw with horror that her head was gone. Simply missing, with dark blood pooling on the floor beneath her body, and he freaked out. With the power suddenly returned to his limbs, he ran as hard as he possibly could, past the mutilated remains of the twins and into the swirling fog.

“Why isn’t anyone coming out of their house?” He muttered in frenzied panic, noticing lights on in the windows around him. He even noticed people stood, watching the spectacle of violence with mild indifference. His town had turned on him.

He heard the shouts and screams as the rest of his friends where effortlessly dismembered with ruthless efficiency, but he was spared the sight of it, as they were obscured by the pearlescent fog. Eventually everything fell silent again, and the night pressed in on him, taking away the sense of confidence and control he’d flaunted all evening. His lungs burned from running, and he finally had

to slow to a stop as his breath failed to catch, resting his hands on his thighs, the cold sweat of fear mixing with the hot sweat of exhaustion down his back. The very last thing he ever saw was the shrouded monstrosity gliding silently through the fog towards him, letting out a single sigh as it rushed past him at a phenomenal speed, severing his head from his shoulders as it passed with a flick of its razor like hands.


 

Hope you enjoyed it. The thing in question I think is some kind of ancient alien. I dunno. I don’t think it matters right now. It might become a thing, though…

D

Free Writing No. 6 – Exposition

This time I ended up writing without ANY dialogue, which is probably what I’ve always found easier. Dialogue is harder for me. It’s also first person, present, which I’ve not done a lot with before.


I screamed full and loud into the night. It was a hard, harsh and primal thing, and it shocked me as it escaped from my throat, twisting and turning like an animal on its way up. The sound reverberated across the field, and I could see it as a fountain of red light as my damaged brain mixed sight with sound.

Sometimes it worked like this – sometimes there was directionless anger and frustration at the world around me. I wondered how other people were capable of such ignorance and hate, and it boiled inside me like a force of nature, a volcano of injustice waiting to spew forth. On days like that, I had to run, had to scream and had to let the energy flow through and out of me. If I didn’t, I knew for certain it that I’d burst into glorious flames and be left as nothing but ash and dust in the wind. Those were the easy days, and when I punched Mark in the face today for grabbing my arse at school, I’d felt a surge of action, and that brought positivity with it – I was shaping the world using my fire, and the world had recoiled at my unbridled power.

It was the way it ebbed away that was terrifying. The emptiness that it left in its wake was unbearable, and I’ve never found a way to fill it. It would be coming now, lurking at the edges of my consciousness with dark, hateful tendrils of misery. The fire that fuelled me, that made me so notorious for being outspoken, it was only short lived, and then it seeped out of my body through cracks and joints, leaving my chest – once so filled with righteous fury – hollow and empty. That was where the danger lurked. That was when I took all of my tablets at once, walked into the sea, and drank bleach. Because it futile, my brain berates me, because I will never make this world a better place, and when I die the universe will hardly notice. On the blackest days, I imagine the sun swelling up to engulf the earth and all I can think is that every single human being who has ever lived up until that point will be lost in an impossible swell of nuclear fire, and all the sonnets of Shakespeare, all the ballads of Lennon and McCartney, even my macaroni art that I’d brought home from playschool at aged four, would be completely lost forever. It terrified me, and it filled the void the fire left inside me with a heavy leaden feeling – days where I couldn’t even get out of bed, because literally every single endeavour was pointless. My life has no meaning.

I’ve tried to find meaning in life. I write songs, I front an angst ridden band and drink at house parties, the usual teenage clichés. I’ve slept with boys and girls from school, and some men who probably have daughters my age. I thought sex and alcohol and drugs would help distract me, but they don’t – not even slightly, not even there in that instant. I cut myself because I deserve it, it’s a punishment for being weak, and all the while I hiss insults at myself through angry, bitter tears. I remind myself about starving children, about war torn families and about being white and middle class is hardly comparable. There are others who have such a shittier start in life to me, who would kill to live in my world. If I could trade places with just one of them, I would. I’m not doing anything spectacular with the head start I’ve been given, but that Somali child could be the doctor that cures cancer, with my access to education and privileges. I deserve none of it, and I’ve squandered it at every turn.

I breathe heavily into the warm night air, as the atmosphere around me tingles with potential and static. A storm is probably coming, judging by the thickness of the air and heavy promise of action in the roiling clouds up above. I light a cigarette and blow a long stream of smoke into the air, shivering despite the warmth. I probably shouldn’t have run all this way in my underwear, but when the fire fills me, I move and let the energy dance – because once it’s gone, I’m afraid I might never move again.

Free Writing No. 4 – Stories with Unhappy Endings

I genuinely struggle with happy endings. Always have!


 

“Relationships are bullshit.” Michael spat, before taking another large gulp from his beer. He was probably on about nine by now, and Amy was becoming mildly concerned. He was a big guy, and if he was angry and drunk, she was pretty sure she couldn’t make him do anything he didn’t want to do. Or stop him from doing anything she didn’t want him to.

“They’ve only been going out for a few weeks, Mike.” She tried to calm him, pouring cool water onto his swirling, chaotic fire.

“Yeah, Amy, and I’ve not seen him once in those two weeks. Not even a text message. He’s supposed to be my best friend.” It was sad to see such a physically strong person so weak over something like that.

“I know…” Amy tried to be sympathetic. She rubbed one of his arms soothingly, but if he noticed he didn’t react in the slightest.

“Man, women just swoop in and fuck everything up.” He threw his hands in the air, unbalancing her slightly and sending beer flying. Amy was immediately put on the defensive. Michael would probably never hurt her, not intentionally, but he had a reputation for getting out of control after a few drinks that she’d seen firsthand. She’d seen him lay out guys with a single punch for catcalling her on nights out.

“Hey, I’m going to have to take some offence to that.” She told him, trying to sound like she was joking. She was only sort of joking.

“You know what I mean…” Michael mumbled, “Women, Men, relationships, they make everything so much messier.”

“Yeah, I know. Or, I guess, I would know if anyone ever gave me the time of day.” She tucked her hair behind her ear, then immediately panicked that maybe she was giving signals to her gigantic drinking buddy. The thought that he could overpower her without even breaking a sweat spiked into her head again, like a knife cutting through her thoughts.

“Come on, Amy, you’re a prime catch.” He smiled at her. She’d only know him for about six months, since they’d both ended up on the same pub quiz team. Somewhere their friendship circles overlapped, and since he liked to drink, and she worked behind the bar, the two of them talked often.

“I mean, you’re not my type. I think I’d probably snap you in two.” He continued, rumbling laughter following his comment.

Thank god for that, she thought. It was true, she was petite to say the least. All skin and bones, as her mum always said. When she was at school, her friends had always told her that they wished they could be as skinny as she was. They wished they could still fit in children’s clothes. The boys called her Anorexia Amy, which cut to the bone and resonated in her brain even now, on the darkest nights.

“Think maybe it’s time to call it a night?” She asked him, hoping that he’d take the hint and maybe get some sleep. Maybe it’d all look better in the morning.

“Huh, yeah…” He agreed, opening his wallet, “I got nothing left to spend on drowning anyway.”

He slid off the barstool, standing a good foot and a half above her.

“Walk me to my car?” She smiled. She’d been working, so just the one glass of wine tonight.

“Sure, I’ll play the gentleman tonight.” He replied, and she laughed, punching him on the arm. It was like punching a rock.

They stepped outside to find Maria stood smoking by the door. Maria was the cougarish lady that frequented the bar most nights, and usually left with a different man every time. Amy didn’t blame her, she was a good looking woman and she may as well enjoy herself.

“Careful with that one, Amy,” she drawled, “He looks like something out of Lord of The Dance or whatever.”

“Rings, Maria, I think you mean Lord of the Rings.” Amy corrected her.

“Whatever.” She huffed.

“Hey Mike, you want a lift home?” Amy turned to her friend.

“Yeah, that’d be nice. I’ll try not to throw up in your little smartcar.” He smiled.

“Yeah, let’s not do that please.”

Neither of them saw the shadows shift and darken and take on human form. Neither of them saw that humanoid shadow step forward and slit Maria’s throat.