The Musings of a Hideous Mind is also avaialble for a free preview on Bookbzzr.com

Monday, 29 June 2009

Notes on Crash

Crash is really one of those stories that just grew from nothing. I had the image of a man being trapped underneath a car, it was night, and raining. Intially I had a different idea for the story, but once I started writing, the natural flow of ideas took it down a completely different path.

Thank you for reading and following my work,

Without further delay,

Sit back and enjoy.

Crash

Josh Ventrell wasn’t sure what was happening, he squinted through down at the speedometer which told him – he thought – that he was pushing one hundred kilometres and hour. He raised his head, ignoring the wave of nausea that washed over him. There were three roads stretching out before him, each one a clone of its neighbour. He had decided to stick to the middle one, but another deep gulp from the whiskey bottle he held between his knees saw him swerve to the left.

Before he had time to react, his vision suddenly cleared, the road disappeared, replaced instead by a large tree. Josh swerved to his right, back towards the road, but the car didn’t respond in time, its rear side colliding with the tree as he skidded on the wet grass. The car was sent off balance, tumbling over itself several times, crossing the winding single carriage road on its roof, before somersaulting through the ditch that ran along the other side, coming to rest in an overgrown, abandoned field.

The noise was cacophonic; the high-pitched monotone sound of the horn was a constant undertone. Steam hissed from the engine, while mist crawled over the ground as night gave way to the encroaching dawn of a new day.

The smell of petrol filled the air, and the muddy ground was wet from the previous days rain, the moon overhead was nearing full, hidden behind thick fast moving clouds.

When Josh finally came to, he simply lay on the ground, feeling the cold water soak through his shirt and run against his skin. He jolted, but it meant he was still alive. He smiled. The memory was gone, he couldn’t remember anything, but slowly it came back to him.

Finally he tried to move, to sit up. He got as far as raising himself onto his elbows, but saw that any further progress was going to be unlikely. He had been thrown from the car, the drivers door had been ripped away. He saw it later lying deeper in the field, imbedded into the ground like a fat javelin. He was trapped, the car crushing his lower body from the waist down. He could see his legs through the sunroof, they didn’t move when he tried, and seemed to be at rather strange angles to be each other and also with relation to the position his upper body was in.

The jeans were dark in the night air, but he could feel the blood flowing, the accelerated, strong pulse of his heart, emptying his veins into the passenger seat of his Ford Challenger.

He tried to move, knowing it was pointless. His leg twitched, several seconds after he had stopped straining. The only relief was that the horn stopped with it, allowing the silence of the night to envelope him. The crickets and other insects buzzing with life, their normal nocturnal routine disturbed by the accident, there was an owl somewhere hooting as he watched proceedings from high in the surrounding trees.

The car engine ticked slowly, and the fan continued to whirl, cooling the engine, which was remarkably still in its normal position.

“Help” Josh tried to call, but it came out a whisper. He lay back down. He began to shake, a long slow moving shiver ran the length of his spine, disappearing under car, he was sweating heavily.

Josh swallowed hard, the strong copper taste of fresh blood filled his mouth. He took a deep breath, as deep as he could given the circumstances and the intense pain that shook him as a result.

“HELP” The voice cam out strong, the pain and fear, coming to a head in a sound that would surely carry a great distance. He called again, and again, and again.

Josh continued calling, switching between please for help and generic screams of agony until his throat was red and sore, and his lungs ached from the constant gulps of air.

No help came. Although in the distance he was sure he could hear the wailing cry of an approaching police car. A sound he knew well, but that knowledge also told him that he was just hearing things. His head squelched in the puddle of him, cooling his scalp, matting his hair. He felt as though he was on fire.

“Please, someone Help me.” Josh spoke, as if appealing to the elements themselves for rescue. The crickets answered with their night time song, and simple serenaded him into unconsciousness. The wind rustled in the tall grasses and roadside shrubbery. Carrying the tantalising aroma of flesh and spilled blood downwind, alerting all animals in the surrounding area. Their ears pricked to attention, noses raised to the sky, savouring the smell like a connoisseur does a glass of fine wine.

Josh felt himself falling, he was surrounded by darkness. He was still sitting, strapped to the driving seat of his car, and was plummeting into the darkness that extended beneath him, and in all other directions. At one point he thought he saw light, but he fell past it, whatever it was. As he fell he was aware of the temperature around him increasing, he found it harder and harder to breath, the forces pressing against his body restricting is normal functions. His organs slowly being squashed together as he approached terminal velocity. He strained himself, trying desperately to undo the seatbelt which fastened him into the chair, but he couldn’t find the lock. His hands traced the entire belt but there was nothing. When he looked, Josh noticed to his horror that the belt was actually made of the same cream leather as the seat, As he looked, the strap began to tighten, squeezing against his chest and around his waist.

He woke with a jolt. The wind made him shiver again. He looked around nervously, scared.

He no longer remembered the drinking he had been doing, the alcoholic cloud that had fogged his vision and his brain long since blown away, meaning he also gave no thought to the blood thinning properties of the alcohol that he had ingested.

He reached out with his hands, looking for something. Maybe a fallen tree branch or discarded scarecrows pole, anything. He had read about people gaining near superhuman strength when the need arose.

Maybe I could prise this thing off me he thought to himself. He tried to move his neck but it would give. Jolts of lightening pain streaked through him, when he tried to turn. He stopped, his hands continuing to grope blindly.

The clouds moved, the moon was exposed again, casting an eerie yet welcome light onto the show. With a concerted effort Josh forced his neck to turn, and with a loud cracking sound his neck obliged. He closed his eyes and grunted through the pain. When he opened them he was looking to his left. Beyond the field he lay in was a dense copse of trees, no sign of life or approaching lights on the road made his heart drop.

Turning his head the other way, tears flowing freely down his cheeks, his breaths short, shallow and rapid, Josh saw the contents of his car spread down the road. The car had actually moved forwards as well as sideways after the impact. Closest to him, he saw his golf bag, it was empty, but resting beneath it, glinting darkly in the moon was a club.

Come on. You can get it. He winced the through.

Josh walked his fingers over the ground as though he were making a spider shadow puppet. He could almost reach it, the tip of his middle finger gently brushed against the shaft as he closed his hand.

The initial shock and confusion was beginning to wear off, and a dull throbbing ache worked its way under the car and through Josh’s body. He knew his legs were broken.

He stretched a little more, his finger slipped under the clubs shaft, and curled around it. He pulled, and the bag which was resting on the rest of the club rolled away.

Now, what. You have a nine iron. Josh questioned himself. Now he had spent his energy on retrieving the club he realised that it served little purpose at that moment in time.

“God damn it.”

“FUCK”

“Somebody, Help” He cried, each call taxing him even more than the last. He was exhausted, he felt light headed. The moon began to disappear behind another thick cloud and as the light faded, a shadow passed over Josh’s stricken torso.

“Who’s there?” He called to the darkness, trying to fight off the encroaching period of unconsciousness.

The other thing that answered him was low hissing laugh. He squinted, ignoring the pain in his neck he scanned everything within his field of motion. He saw nothing, only shadows.

Footsteps again, rustling in the long grass. Heavy rasping breaths, like those of an obese chain smoker.

Josh called out again, but his voice was taken from him. The wave of fear stole it away, and washed it out of his reach. He raised himself up again, pain exploded in his legs. He could see now the blood that covered them. One of his shoes had also come off, or maybe he had never had it on, he couldn’t remember. His foot looked more like a piece of meat. The flesh striped away in places. Three toes had been neatly severed and blood slowly tickled from the wounds.

His head pounded. There was also an ache beginning in his arm, just above his wrist.

“You belong to us now.” A growl bit through the darkness, travelling on an icy breath that actually frosted the air.

“Who said that.” Josh called out, terrified. His breathing increased, his chest was squeaking like a chronic asthmatic in a dust storm.

The footsteps resumed, and in the glow of the moonlight the body of death himself appeared, standing tall behind the overturned car.

Josh stared, frozen in panic as he gazed into its glowing eyes, which seemed to flicker like the very fires of hell. Beneath the eyes, where there should have been a nose instead were two holes in a maggot ridden face. The flesh was dead and stuck wetly to the bones, sinews of muscle snapped as the expressions changed. The lower jaw was void of flesh, the bone yellowed with age; dead leaves clung to the edges of flesh nearby as though the beast had crawled its way from the depths of earth. An assortment of bugs scurried over the skull, disappearing into the mouth, and re-emerging through the nose holes. Earthworms wound their way through the clotted mat of hair that covered the cranium.

The car shifted under the weight of the demon, whose body was as black as the night, tick and muscular, the flesh on it also decayed, yet held in place. Thick veins covered the surface as if the body had been turned inside out. The pulsed in no particular pattern, with a varying speed.

Josh wanted to scream, to pull himself free from the wreckage and run away. But he couldn’t, he struggled with all of his might, cramp ripped through his shoulders. He had no idea how long he had been stuck there. He heard a tearing sound which was followed by intense pain that radiated through his body.

The rotting face was peering at him now, the way a man looks at items on display in a shop window. The red eyes stared down at him. The car shifted again, the metal cutting further through Josh’s flesh, a bone snapped, and Josh could feel his bowels empty. He was helpless to stop it.

“Who. . .. . Who are you?” He asked hoarsely, the words forced past chattering teeth. He was so cold, and couldn’t stop shaking. The sweating had stopped now, the layer of liquid that covered him began to freeze, wrapping him in a frozen blanket of fear.

“I am here for you.” The gravelled voice spoke. It jumped, the powerful legs pushing it from the car. Josh winced, the pain was suddenly less, the sensation was leaving his body. Even the tips of his fingers were numb and moved with the grace of a rusty hinge.

Josh closed his eyes, he saw the creatures face, it was burned onto into his soul. The red eyes floating across the inside of his eye lids like the laser sights of a snipers rifle.

He heard the beast land on the ground near him. The smell of burnt flesh and death came in a rush of hot stale air. He opened his eyes. He saw nothing at first. Whatever it was, was standing behind him, deeper in the field.

“Please, let . . let me g. .g .. go.” Josh pleaded, something he didn’t take kindly too. He was looking around. Not for the creature but for anything he could use as a weapon. His police uniform had been in the back of the car, along with his belt, but it was nowhere to be seen now. His hands sunk into the rapidly softening mud as he tried once more to free his body. Josh thought he moved a little bit, stretching his body as far as it would allow.

There was a loud sucking sound, a knife being pulled from the earth.

The car door Josh suddenly realised. He threw his head back, the field, suddenly upside down was dead. The long untended weeds that had been ruling the ground were now dried and shrivelled.

“I am afraid that’s not possible. I have been sent to collect and I cannot return empty handed.” The voice spoke from the dark.

“Please….” Croaked Josh, the alcohol purged from his system by fear, replaced by a hangover amplified by the undoubted loss of blood.

The creature was standing beside him again now, looking down at Josh, lying on the wet earth, cowering. The creature threw back its head and began to laugh. It sounded like the hiss of escaping gas at first, but soon built until the ground and car were shaking.

“Listen, come on. Why me, just let me go and take someone else.” Josh continued his pleading. Normally quick witted and sharp on his feet when it came to conversation, he found himself unable to think. His brain was lost, giving him nothing but darkness.
“That’s not how it works. Fool.” The beast stopped laughing to speak, a change that happened suddenly, like turning off a tap, stopping the free flowing water instantly. Easily.

A black hand, dripping with rotting liquid reached forward, towards Josh, the fingers opened with a sticky sound, the flesh sticking together tore like a damp scab revealing red raw meat below the surface. Pus oozed from the wounds, and the hand wrapped itself around Josh’s wrist.

The hand was hot, and Josh heard his flesh sizzle like meat on a barbeque as the grip tightened.

With no effort at all the beast lifted the car with his other and threw Josh out from under it, his body slid over the ground deeper into the field. The ground was hard and dry where the demonic bounty hunter had been standing.

Josh felt his body roll to a stop, the golf club still gripped in his hand; frozen there by fear rather than rational choice. He prayed that he would remain conscious, his head bouncing on the dried earth. He felt the skin split on the stones and litter that covered the field. He came to a stop, but before he could move, the beast was on him again, grabbing him by the back of his shirt. Josh was lifted easily from the ground, his legs, burning fire, dragged uselessly on the floor behind him. He felt nothing but the pain as the exposed meat and nerve endings scrapped along.

“Please.” He called out once more, his brain had all but shut down now. The last message it sent took all of his effort to realise.

“You are a fragile race, but you are strong. Many others would have died by now, given up.” The demon seemed to be making small talk as he marched aimlessly into the field, heading towards the woods.

In the midst of the exploding fireworks of pain going off in his head, Josh still managed to hear the Owls, casting their view over proceedings.

With one swing, using up all of his energy reserves, Josh swung the golf club, blindly hoping that it would connect with something. The club hit, digging into the flesh with a sickening slap, the club face acting as a barb and lodging itself in the side of the demons neck. Pus began to spurt from the wound and the creature roared in pain. Its sound enough to crack the earth open, vents of steam came shooting into the air.

The grip on Josh’s shirt lessened and he fell to the floor, his nose breaking on impact, but the pain didn’t even register. He tried to stand, for a split second forgetting about his condition. His legs didn’t work, he looked down and saw they were both pointing in different directions to each other. One of his feet was almost severed through and a large shard of metal, possibly the gear stick of his car jutted from his right thigh.

Beside him the demon reached for the golf club, pulling it out with another groan. A black coagulated mass began to dribble from the wound, it was the consistency of sour milk, it was blood that hadn’t actually flowed for hundreds of years.

Realising that this was his only change, Josh began to claw his way through the field, his wrist was bleeding, the blisters that had erupted from the beasts burning touch burst and were soon covered with dirty. His eyes stung, and his fingers, which were all but void of sensation sheared thick layers of flesh away with each heaving movement.

“Come back here Mortal. You will pay for that. I don’t care what condition you are in when you make it to the judging room.” It roared like the king of the jungle, ruler of the meadow.

The ground began to shake once more the beast began to sweep the ground with its mammoth arms, scooping deep gouges from the earth.

Josh hadn’t moved very far, but a thick layer of cloud had moved over and the air was beginning to get heavy with the impending threat of thunder.

Using his shoulders, Josh managed to roll himself over sideways, his dead legs following him once his torso had completed the turn.

“Where are you?” Boomed the voice, in the darkness Josh thought that it sounded as though the creature was as tall as large as a house. Another crack opened up in the ground now far from where Josh lay.

Just keep quiet Josh ordered himself, He held his breath, certain that the his heart would give him away. It was beating so hard he was sure it was about to break out of his ribcage and run away.

In the distance he heard the first clap of thunder and a few moments later lightening lit of the horizon. He saw the shadow of the demon. It had sunk to its knees, clots of blood still falling from the gaping wound, the dead flesh splitting further with each growl. The gash now stretched round to the creature’s throat and the head was hanging backwards, pulled by the weight of the skull which Josh saw in the silhouette cast by the storm was elongated in the rear.

Pushing himself up onto his arms, Josh half crab walked half dragged his broken body towards the woods. With the hope that the dense trees would provide him some cover, and hopefully he could hole up until dawn. If he lived that long.

He found the meagre amount he could see was now loosing focus, and he couldn’t feel his hands the floor. His legs were still losing blood and he couldn’t stop shivering. He knew that he was bordering on shock, the minute he stopped moving, or found a space to hide away in he would pass out.

“You’re mine.” The demon sprang from the darkness, it too was crawling now, its head pushed forward keeping the wound closed.

Josh screamed, the shock of it served to wake him, the demon clawed his way on top of Josh, its full body pressing him into the ground which seemed to open up and swallow him. Several heavy clots of blood fell into Josh’s face. The demon leaned closed, its bony jaw opening, snapping out of its socket revealing multiple rows of sharp teeth. The tongue came forward, hard and rigid, its end forked. The stench of death was ripe on its breath as its head lowered towards Josh’s face.

“Just a taste.” The creature hissed.

Josh’s mind raced, he couldn’t breathe from the weight of the monster that was leaning on him like a lover that has gently lowered his companion into bed for the first time. His legs were useless; his arms heavy and pinned down by his side. His neck ached and his head was spinning from the blood he had already lost.

He tried to wriggle and felt nothing but the ripping of his own flesh, the wound from the car and now spread, circling round behind him like a belt. Fresh blood began to flow.

The teeth pierced the flesh of Josh’s neck, coming together creating a pinching sensation, the pain was more hot than anything, and the tearing of his flesh that followed felt no different than ripping a plaster from your skin. The beast threw its head back and howled into the sky. Lightening crackled overhead, not daring to venture any closer to the ground, while the thunder rattled in the distance, scared to come any closer. Drops of rain began to fall; fat heavy droplets that hurt like hail stones as they hit Josh’s skin.

Josh realised, just before the moment had passed that his arms were free, the creature’s attention was diverted in its moment of triumph. Without thinking Josh balled his right fist, - his left was useless, the flesh burnt away, the skin rotting as he watched now noting more then a frail leather glove that could be slipped off when the time came – and swung.

He didn’t know what he was aiming for, but his hand found the same spot the golf club had. Before the demon could react, Josh opened his hand, which was buried in the creature’s throat. It was warm and wet. His entire arm was beginning to sting as if he were grabbing a jellyfish. Spreading his fingers as wide as possible, Josh pulled his hand back towards him, the dead skin that served as the demon’s throat stretched thin, Josh’s hand visible through it before it finally ripped.

The demon had stopped howling, and was now chocking, coughing like a dog that had swallowed a chicken bone.

With a final tug, Josh pulled his hand free, plastering his face with rotting skin and blood that hadn’t flowed through living veins for centuries. The demon’s head rolled backwards, the skin tearing further and further, before it simple fell all the way to the floor.

The body convulsed, and fell, thankfully falling to the side and not directly forwards, crushing Josh as it tumbled.

The head rolled a few times before coming to a stop, the red eyes continued to glow, maggots crawling from the nose holes.

Slumping back to the ground, Josh lay there, the world around him was faint, and he was taking in squeaking gasps of air. His arm burned from its adventure inside the demon, and when he looked at it the skin was bright red and blistered as if it had been dipped in acid.

He began to cry. The rain was starting to come down harder now, and the numbness that began in his legs had now spread to mid way up his chest. Craning his neck, he could make out the trees, thick and dense, so close at hand yet they may as well have been on a different continent.

Behind the trees, off to their right, Josh could see a hazy light, flickering, and the source not yet in view, but approaching. He knew it wasn’t the storm, which had suddenly abated; yet the air was still heavy with its power.

His world went black. It felt as though he blinked, the passage of time – which must have been significant given his new position, suspended from a number of trees – had been instant. He felt neither groggy nor refreshed.

The lights of the rescue team had disappeared, yet Josh had the distinct feeling that he was buried so deep in the woods, their vehicle lights were simply blocked out.

Josh tried to move, the bonds that held him at each wrist and each ankle were taught, to the point that if they snapped they would quite possibly cut a man in half. He was suspended possibly three feet from the floor, in a star position. He could feel numerous eyes watching him, gazing from the darkness. He could hear their breathing, hot rancid breaths that caressed his cheek like a lover.

“You showed courage.” A voice came from the black, Josh jumped, his left shoulder popped slightly as he did.

“Who’s there?” He asked meekly. His voice deserted him. Only then did he realise that the pain was gone. His legs ached, but the burning pain was gone, the blood no longer spurting from his wounds like water through a sieve. The only thing that remained was the burns on his arm and opposite wrist.

“The person that saved you,” The voice came again, as the owner of it emerged from the shadows.

It was another ghastly looking man. Its face was burnt, badly, the skin still red and weeping. The left eyeball was clouded ever, possibly burst and now filled with abscess. Whatever it was wore a long brown cloak that reached the floor. Its feet seemed to glide over the ground, the twigs and leaves that it passed over didn’t so much as crunch under his weight.

It hovered closer to Josh, who being completely immobilised felt utterly helpless.

“I think you are a perfect replacement. Are you willing to accept the challenge?” The creature held out its arm, the hand protruding from the long sleeve was dead, almost skeletal. The hand was pushed towards Josh’s face.

He gazed at it for several seconds, and unable to flee he closed his eyes and kissed the knuckles as they were offered to him.

“Excellent. I am sure you will do me proud.” The creature withdrew, merging into the group that had suddenly appeared. They had encircled Josh. Large tree like beasts, short, stout creatures with long claws and eyes that shone electric blue in the darkness, their faces sallow from lack of sunlight. There were beasts standing like men, but their arms writhed like snakes, the creature’s heads where hands should be, venomous teeth in place of nails. Behind him, stood several werewolves, or so Josh guessed, and an assortment of stereotypical demonic creatures, large tusk like horns from their heads, some stood with a single rhinoceros horn jutting from the forehead, while others had two curled horns above their eyes, while some faces remained shrouded in darkness or hidden beneath hoods.

“Behold! The new huntsman.” The burnt man called, his voice reverberating from the trees whose leaves rustled as if in agreement.

“What? Wait a fucking minute,” Josh began, but an arm slipped around his throat. He was immediately silent.

“You killed the Hunter of Prengac. The beast that had lived through 4 different millennia, so now the mantle must pass to you, keeping the balance between the worlds is now your task, if you fail, he will rise again.” The beast spoke calmly. His voice was strangely eloquent.

“Who are you?” Josh asked. The arm or whatever it was around his throat had loosened. So too had the ropes that held him

“We are the Peacekeepers, those who guard over the land of the living and the land of souls.” A large demon spoke, its face was purple, the colour of a fresh bruise, it had two thick horns growing from either side of its head, which curled around on themselves several times. He had long claws from each of his fingers, which looked like knife blades.

He stepped forwards, his arms sweeping in a large circle pointing out the group. “Each of us has a task, a purpose in this game. Yours is now to keep the balance and collect those who try to escape their destiny. You must collect the souls.” He was speaking, but Josh cut him off.

“You mean I’m death. I’ve gotta be the fucking grim reaper?” He didn’t believe it. He was still unconscious; the loss of blood had sent him into a coma. That was all.

It was an oddly comforting thought given his circumstances.

“You are not death. He does not belong to the Peacekeepers. The idea of Death is a human invention, but if you insist on using it, then we are all death. As a group we are the man wearing a black cloak, holding the scythe.

“Your role is not to collect the dead, but to guide the souls in the right direction; some must be sent back, their time not yet reached, while others you must take. Those who hold on past their chosen time must be forced out and sent on their way. Balance must be kept otherwise one of the worlds will over balance the counterpart, which would be the end for both of them.” The burnt demon was talking again. “Do you accept your responsibilities?” He asked.

Josh thought it through, but there was only one answer to give. He knew it, he could feel it. The calling spoke to him in the burning pulsing wound on his wrist where the creature had grabbed him.

“Yes” His single word answered severed the shackles that held him, and he fell to the floor.

He looked down at his legs, the mangled mess of meat and flesh had begun to heal. Although not in the way he had expected. There was no new skin growing over the wounds, the bones were not being set back in place, they simply seemed to be whole. The flesh on his badly damaged foot was still exposed, wet with fluid, but there was no pain, and the injury didn’t worse.

Josh was standing in the centre, the other demons and creatures staring at him, smiling, their eyes glowing various colours, they began to applaud him. The salute washed over him in a wave of emotion and he threw his hands aloft, the broken bones fused bulkily together, giving his shoulders an unnaturally thick look.

So it remained for almost a thousand years, the Peacekeepers reigned over the two worlds, with Josh leading the group, collecting souls in a ruthless imaginative fashion, his favourites being murder and suicide, they gave him the most creative artistic freedom. Although he changed it enough to stop people from ever suspecting that it was anything other than just life.

Finally, one day, he met his successor, the man who was born simply to die and continue to tradition. He put up no fight when his time came, happy to move on, to be given his own direction to take.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Notes on Be Afraid.

This is another simple silly tale of a girl who is scared of the monsters that live in her cupboard and under the bed, but learns a hard lesson and is introduced in effect to real fear. As a result she learns that the normal fears of children and actually nothing to fear at all.

In essence she is forced to grow up before her time.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my tales and I heartily appreciate all of your comments and criticisms.

Without further delay


Sit back and Enjoy.

Be Afraid

“Good night honey. Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Walter Rand said kissing his daughter gently on her forehead.

She giggled, “Don’t be silly Daddy. Love you.” She grabbed her doll, (a ragged Teddy bear that she dragged everywhere with her,) trapping it between her small body and the mattress and then pulled the blankets up over the lower half of her face so that only her eyes and the top of her head remained visible.


Walter stepped back from the bed, tripping over one of the many toys that always seemed to litter the floor. He waited a few seconds, to make sure that she was comfortable and then tiptoed out, pulling the door shut behind him.

Chelsea lay there, warm in the blankets, pulling them closer to her. She didn’t move, her eyes were clamped shut and were beginning to hurt. Her heart was beginning to pound in her temples, the steady beats drumming against the pillow like footsteps; the lumbering footsteps of the beasts that were coming to take her away.

Her legs began to tingle, she had her back to the wall, everything felt heavy, leaden, she had to move, turn onto her back. She didn’t want to. She knew if she moved they would see her. If she rolled over she would see them.

She had just turned six the week before, and since then her fear seemed to be growing. Every night she would lay awake for hours before sleep would finally win, or so it felt to her.

There was a nightlight in the far corner of the room, plugged into a socket that was just above the floor, however it had stopped working just before her birthday and was now covered over by the new toys she had received.

She breathed slowly, trying to make as little noise as possible. Sometimes they left her alone.

Last night they had missed her. Tonight they would come, she was sure of it.

“Chelsea.” She heard the faint call cutting through the darkness. Her eyes clamped shut even tighter, tears leaking through a gap that she could never quite fully seal.

She held her breath. “One, Two, Three…..” She stuttered quietly under her breath. In her mind a field full of sheep was queuing up to jump over a fancy looking hedge into the next field over. One filled with dandelions and thick green grass.

The first few sheep made the jump no problem, easily floating over the hedge with a cloudlike grace. The third seemed to have a slight problem, only just making it, the fourth one began to jump but as it was over the hedge, a thick black hand shot out from with middle, grabbing the sheep with long, strong fingers the seemed to wrap all the way around. Once its grip was firm it squeezed until the sheep expanded at either end the same way a deflating balloon does when held in a similar fashion.

The remaining sheep in the field began to panic, running blindly around, some of the smaller ones were trampled, and even in her mind she was unable to stop it. There was a wolf running loose amongst them, only it was wearing a sheepskin over its back, its large grey body, angular and large was hardly hidden by the pelt. The white wool was stained red with the animal’s blood, the head balance on the beasts head rolling from side to side with each heavy pace the wolf took. Its shadow loomed large, covering half of the flock with its menacing figure.

Chelsea’s eyes sprang open. She gasped sharply. Her bedding was already feeling damp with sweat. In on quick movement she rolled, throwing her arm out taking a swipe at anything that was nearby.

She was alone. The room was dark but she could make out familiar shapes. The kitchen she had received for Christmas the previous year, with its utensils and pans hanging from various hooks, the food neatly laid out on the counter top for preparation in the morning. Next to that Chelsea could see the shadow of the large stuffed bear that had been a present when she was born from her Uncle. At the foot of the bed was a toy chest filled with smaller toys and dolls. She thought that maybe there was a monster that lived in there too, but she hadn’t heard him yet.

“Chelsea. Are you awake?” The voice called from the wardrobe. It was deep and gravelly, it sounded as though the creature it belonged to was drowning, calling out from beneath the water.

The cupboard in question was the other side of the room, the same end as her bed. She looked carefully to one side. She could make out the black frame of the cupboard and was sure she could see the gleaming yellow eyes of the monster the dwelled there. She held in the moan that was trying to escape. She closed her eyes and saw the wolf.

She opened them again and stared back up at the ceiling. The last remaining shards of daylight cast long shadows from the world outside. That world didn’t scare her. Not yet at least. She knew they were just shadows the way she knew that during the day her room was safe. Monsters were like Owls, she had decided. They slept during the day and could never be found.

“I think she is ready to play.” A voice, a hissing snakelike whisper floated up through the mattress from under the bed.

The bed shook on the floor. The legs scraped gently against the plush pink carpeted floor.

This time she couldn’t hold it in, a squeak as mighty as that of a timid mouse came out. The monsters laughed.

“I think she’s scared of us. What do you say Chelsea, are you going to join us tonight for some tea?” The voice of the dark boomed in the room, the darkness had just arrived, enveloping the lifeline of the outside world. She was cut off, adrift and floating into the frightening nightmare world.

She heard the small cups and plastic teapot rattle on the Princess table against the far wall. It was beneath the window.

She moved in her bed, the rustling covers seemed amplified like a bag of sweets in a silent movie theatre.

A waft of air blew over her, the goodnight kiss from the Sandman, in her mind he was a horrid troll like figure that carried a bucket of sand and he scooped it not into the eyes of children as they slept but into their mouths, suffocating them, while his eyes filled with a lusting power watched joyfully. She closed her mouth, trapping her tongue between her teeth. She tasted blood in her mouth. It was warm and tasted like an old penny.

“Goodnight Princess.” She heard the voice carried on the wind.

‘You’re not real.’ She whispered through her clenched teeth. Her hands were clamped on the bedcovers, her knuckles almost white enough to light up the darkness.

“Shhhhhhh. Quiet,” The wind carried the voice again. This one louder, it was a new voice. The monster from the toy chest maybe,

A cool gust of night air rolled over her. She heard the window slide up even further. The house they lived in was old and still had windows the were opened vertically. Her mother always locked it when she put her to bed. But tonight her mother was out. Her friends from school were having a party. Her Daddy had put her to bed, and he didn’t now about the window lock.

The curtains rustled, whipping gently, the way the wind rustles the sails of a pirate ship sailing one of the seven seas.

The cups jingled in their saucers and the teapot fell to the floor.

They were coming for her.

“Chelsea. Come here.” The snake under the bed hissed at her. She felt its hot breath heading up the mattress as though it were a dragon snake.

“Come to me Chelsea.” The wardrobe monster seemed to be. The door to the cupboard was ajar, she could see the eyes glowing, and brighter than she thought was possible. It was smiling; she could make out gleaming razor sharp teeth. Her hair was sticking to her scalp and plastered against her forehead.

She shivered.

Boots, heavy sounding boots stood on the table, it snapped under the weight with a brittle definitive crack. Chelsea flinched. She heard rapid breathing and felt something touching the bed. The creatures running their monstrous hands over the fabric of her duvet, fingers scaling the purple walls of her princess castle.

She began to shake, the hands felt real, the pressure hard. Something else rushed past her, the door opened and she saw something run into the hallway. Later she heard muffled sounds coming from somewhere else in the house.

“Daddy, Daddy… Heeeeelp.” She screamed. A hand clamped over her mouth cutting the words short. It was clammy and large, engulfing most of her face. She felt another hand pull back the bedcovers. The night air against the damp fabric brought her out in Goosebumps.

“Shhhh, Good girl” A nervous voice sounded. It was breathing hard as if out of breath. “I won’t hurt you.” It spoke lies. She knew it. Another hand was resting on her leg, crawling slowly up her thigh like a spider on a drainpipe. She kicked out but the hand held her thin legs easily. It hurt, the fingers pinching her flesh like the hand in the dream bursting the sheep like a balloon.

She began to sob.

“Chelsea” The mixture of the monsters voices called out to her. The door slammed shut,, while the door to the cupboard flew open. She saw, before the darkness deepened even further the crazy look in the eyes of the man that held her.

She saw it was just a man, she recognized him. He worked at her school. He was always standing in the playground. He had asked to take photos of some of the girls once, they wanted to, he had given them some sweets, but he ran away.

He said he was late for work.

He man turned around, the grip over Chelsea’s mouth lessened. She could breathe again, taking a deep gulp of air that hurt her throat.

At the same time the bed began to shake, rattling violently on the floor, rising up and then falling down still. The grip on Chelsea’s throat disappeared. She grabbed the bedcovers and pulled them up over her head. She could hear the sounds of struggling in her room. The wardrobe was crashing and banging. She heard shouts of pain and a scream of terror that was cut short and replaced by a choking sound.

She lifted the blanked, peering from darkness into darkness, which somehow enabled her to see what was happening.

The man who had come through the window was struggling, his hands up clawing at his throat as a thick snake like creature wrapped its body around the man’s neck. The tail disappeared into the screaming mouth, inching further and further down his throat. The man began to gag and vomit trickled out of his mouth and down the body of the snake.

The room smelled of vinegar.

The head of the snake creature looked unlike any snake Chelsea had ever seen. It looked like a dragon, as she looked at it she saw small flames snort from its nostrils which opened and closed with each chocking thrust of its body. She looked around and saw a large black, scaly creature wrestling with the man, large bulky arms. Its body was wet, and made a squelching slapping sound every time it moved. It had two legs which rooted it firmly to the ground, an don its back was a series of raised spikes like a dinosaur, and its head was enormous, the size of a deep sea diving suit mask, and had small ears that hung down like the fins of the goldfish Chelsea had won at the carnival that summer.

Its chest had a series of slits in it, gills she guessed that opened and closed like the snakes nostrils, only they made a hissing sound as air was sucked in and forced back out.

The two were grunting and pushing, and with every second the man struggled less. The door to the room opened, another figure came crashing in. It was another man, younger with long thin hair that now covered his face. His shirt was wet, gleaming black against the light from the hallway.

The new man screamed, his hands now she could see were covered with blood. He was holding a knife. Although to Chelsea it looked more like a sword.

“What. You,” He pointed at Chelsea. “I guess Ill go first.” He said, seeming not to notice the two monsters his friend was entertaining.

The man staggered towards the bed, Chelsea was now on her knees, trying to crawl as far towards the end as possible. The man clambered onto the bed and crawled after her. He was smiling now; even his teeth were covered with blood.

“You’re pretty.” He hissed, in a tone that made the dragon snake sound comical.

Suddenly, the toy chest burst open, Barbie dolls and some solid plastic ponies were sent flying into the air, before they rained down onto the bed. A short fat troll was suddenly standing between Chelsea and the man. He was wearing a brown cloth that looked like the sack that held the potatoes her mother always bought from the farmer down the road.

In his short arms he held a large hammer that was almost as tall as he was. The man stopped crawling and tried to back away as the troll swung with a powerful stroke and created a gust of wind stronger that that coming through the open window.


Chelsea heard a wet thud and saw a spray of blood fly across the room. When the troll brought the hammer back to rest over his shoulder she saw clumps of bloodied hair stuck to the face, and something else that looked like jelly.

She felt sick and her stomach retched.

The troll turned to face her. He had a long beard which hung down to his feet; his face was anything but the horrid dribbling image she had imagined, but instead seemed rather intelligent and kind. Behind him the man was kneeling on the bed again, half of his head broken in, his brains exposed, grey and wet. His left eye was hanging slightly out of its socks and his lips were a bloodied mess. He opened his mouth to speak and his teeth fell out of his mouth like a crunched mint. The troll turned, grabbed the man, throwing him over his shoulder and jumped back into the toy chest.

The lid slammed closed.

By the door, the man who had originally grabbed at her was in the process of being pulled in half. His skin was split and organs were dribbling from the split. With a slick ripping sound he came apart, one half falling to the floor, the lower half of the dragon snake falling free the from the throat which was now stretched wide enough for a melon to be swallowed whole. The dragon snake slithered under the bed, dragging the body with it, while the half held by the fish monster continued to flop about, before being dragged into the cupboard.

The door closed behind it. Darkness filled the room again, the light in the hallway was extinguished, a floating shadow moved over the ceiling, a flat face on it made her think of the stingray she had seen that morning in the Fish centre they had all visited.

“Don’t be scared Chelsea. We are here, all of us.” The Godly voice sounded, not coming from the small mouth of the cloud but somehow from the entire body. Like a music from a speaker.

Chelsea was frozen, she had wet herself and the smell of her excrement now also began to fill the air. Her trousers were damp and heavy. She kicked them off, repulsed by herself.

The cloud hovered, creating a darkness that no longer seemed to overpowering, but rather comforting.

She felt tired, the room smelt of sweat, and of a heavy musky aftershave. Blood covered the walls and floor of her room and by morning the sweet aroma of rotting flesh would be the main stench filling the house.

“Come Chelsea. Lie down, sleep. Nobody will hurt you now.” She felt herself lifted from the bed. The cloud shifted towards her, it was now a giant hand that scooped her easily into its palm, laying her nearly on her bed. She grabbed the covers and pulled them around her. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again she saw them all, The troll was standing on the toy chest, the hammer being used as a cane to lean on. His beard flowing covering his body. The Dragon Snake stood up like a hypnotized Indian cobra, his forked tongue hanging out of its mouth like a panting dog, the look on its face one of confusion rather than hatred. Beside the snake stood the Fish monster that ruled the wardrobe, he was smiling, and she noticed that it wasn’t scales that covered his body but rather a suit of armour. It shimmered in the dim light created by the hanging shadow of darkness which hovered above the bed.

She felt sleepy, her eyes grew heavy. That was when she saw him, the sandman. He walked down her nose, and slid from her chin as if it were a slide. He was tiny, no larger than a grasshopper, he did indeed hold a bucket, but it was too small for her to see what was in it. He turned to face her and blew a kiss. She fell asleep.

The body of her father was discovered when her mother returned from the high school reunion. Chelsea was scooped into her mothers arms, the bloodied bedroom left behind. She never woke. They moved into a hotel and soon a new house. The monsters never came with her, but most nights, before she fell asleep she thought she could still hear them, calling her name.

She never felt safer than she did at that point in the day, the moment just before sleep takes hold and anything can seem possible, from dreams to nightmares.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Notes on Dinner and a Show

This is just a simple story that came to me while I was travelling to work and saw an advert for a circus that was coming to town.

It tells about the unlucky night of a man who was visiting the circus for the first time in many years, with happy memories of the quality father-son time he had with his father.

Sit back and Enjoy

Dinner and a Show

The tent loomed large as David drove up. It had been visible from almost half a mile away, the lights and burning torches that lined the driveway. The signposts had been up for almost a month already, and the public had certainly reacted well to the news.

The Chaplin Brothers travelling Circus hadn’t been to town for almost five years, and had only begun touring anywhere two years ago, after they closed their doors due to numerous animal rights protests which had resulted in the death of a trapeze artist and three protestors.

All long forgotten now.

The new sign showed the famous tent and Granny the Elephant who herself had been travelling with the circus almost since the beginning. The show promised the same spectacular show as before, but with a special finale that would have everybody standing.

The tickets had sold out the same day they went on sale, with the circus only staying in town and a few days before moving on again.

David pulled into the car park, and managed to find a space at the back of the field that wasn’t too muddy from the recent rain.

He almost broke into a run as he approached the large yellow and red tent. Looking around he was disappointed to remember that the car was his own, he was the adult now, and his father had been dead for over ten years.

He walked around to the front of the tent, the noise coming form inside was incredible, while outside people stood in excited groups, families with young children, older couples and singles, all mixing together. There were even a few of the local bikers standing in the queue for food. Their ticket stubs held in their muscular tattoo covered forearms.

There were clowns, their faces painted white with manic red smiles and darkened eyes that seemed to be anything but friendly. David wondered why clowns how acquired their infamous look and funny reputations. There were men on stilts walking around, squirting water, throwing buckets of confetti over the children, while a few young women in bikinis were handing out an assortment of sweets, toys and flags to whoever passed them.

The show started exactly on time, and David was sitting only 4 rows back. He had a perfect view of everything, and the company wasn’t too bad either. A happy family on his left, parents with two young boys, the mother was sitting closest to him. Her perfume filled his nostrils with a gentle aroma, which was urging him to look at her. On his right sat two young women who seemed very wrapped up with each other. Their hands interwoven, fingers interlocked; eyes constantly darting away from the ring to glimpse over each other.

The ringmaster stood proud centre stage. Charles Chaplin senior, or so he claimed, his potbelly hung over his black trousers; the vivid red jacket clung to his body. He had seemed a more imposing figure when David was a boy, coming here with his father while their mother – who thought the circus, was just a mobile house of disrepute thought they were at the movies – stayed at home with his sisters.

Still he was riveted.

The acrobats flew through the air; the clowns arrived early on in their tiny car and proceeded to have tears flowing from all but the most serious of eyes in the house as they fell from the trapeze into nets and large barrels of water. They pushed over the stilted men who fell like dominoes around the edge of the ring, and the extinguished an imaginary blaze in the audience with real hoses and even more, real water.

The elephant emerged, along with a new addition to the show, a rhinoceros whose large horn seemed filed down to a smooth rounded tip. Both had scantily clad ladies balanced precariously on their backs, and were followed by a procession of horses and displays of riding prowess. All along the familiar aroma of animals, straw and general carnival air filled the canvas show hall.

It was as though they had never been gone.

David sat riveted, and for the first time ever, a pang of sadness pulled at his soul for not having a child of his own to bring, to share the experience with.

The acrobats returned and the cages were wheeled in. The audience went silent. The instant eagerness of every single face could be felt in the tent.

The tigers . . . . ..

A murmuring chant built up. Tiger . . . . . Tiger . . . . . . Tige….. Silence fell. The majestic beast was brought in, led on nothing more than a rope leash by the largest of the clowns. His thick red smile hid all but the faintest look of apprehension on his face. Not that anybody who looked noticed it. All eyes were transfixed on the orange and black striped beast that walked before them.

It entered the cage and jumped onto the small round podium. Rehearsed and engrained into its memory.

It was now the turn of the ringmaster himself to steal the show. He held in one hand a whip, and in the other a small wooden stool. The latter was for comic effect rather than anything.

The audience gasped in amazement as the ringmaster then proceeded to drop the stool, - no real surprise – and then with an exaggerate motion, holding his arm outstretched he released the whip and entered the cage with nothing. Even his top hat was left on the floor, his greasy black hair, thinning on the top exposed to the night air.

The tiger roared once as the cage doors were closed. It was a sound that shook the bones of everybody with its power, while the ringmaster simply held his hands out like a preacher addressing his congregation.

The tiger sat.

The ringmaster approached, his hands now lowered by his sides.

The tiger sat, watching.

The ringmaster held one hand out and the Tiger raised its paw, before setting it over the human hand being offered to it.

The ringmaster bent forward and kissed the top of the paw.

The audience erupted.

The ringmaster bowed, waving his hands before his chest as he bent forward.

He then did the standard fare, making it jump through hoops and stand on its hind legs for a small piece of meat.

A drum roll began, quiet at first but quickly built until the crowd where stamping their feet in rhythm.

The ringmaster swiftly, and with a grace that was belied his appearance hopped onto the tigers back whereupon he proceeded to ride it around the cage like a show horse.

The whole time this was going on, the clowns continued to entertain, incorporating the daredevil act into their routine. With ostentatious displays of over the top emotion which saw one clown climb into the lap of the mother sitting next to David and bury his eerily painted face in her ample breasts and sob.

Somewhere outside the elephant called out. An angry impatient sound, one of the stilted men disappeared along with the strong man.

The applause was immense as the ringmaster dismounted the animal and strode confidently out of the cage. His face beaming with delight, they were really selling the show well.

In the wings he saw the next group standing ready.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” He boomed, his voice so commanding there was no need for him to hold a microphone. “At this point in the evening I would like to ask for a member of the audience to come down and join the fun.” He spat as he spoke; his thick black moustache caught a few small drops of white spittle.A murmur went around. Everybody seemed to flinch in one joint convulsion. Sinking back into their chairs, the way everybody bar one always takes a step backwards when a volunteer is needed.

“You Sir! You look like you are game for an experience that will change your life. Come on down.” A fat finger wrapped by a thick gold ring several sizes too small point directly at David. He could feel it just the same as if it were poking him in the centre of his chest.

Slowly, shaking not from fear but from nerves caused by the sudden weight of watchful eyes, David rose to his feet. He was escorted to the ground by the small clown and on of the stilted men. He was met in the ring by the ringmaster and ushered out and backstage by two scantily clad young ladies whose body odour had been better in his sear.

The four walked out and he over hear a few angry words whispered between the Ringmaster and a few of the other performers.

“Trust me. We need this. It will be fine. Just feed him.” He said.

David was standing alone and watched from outside, - the cool night air making him realize how much he was sweating. – As an incredibly attractive woman in her mid thirties he would have said, combed her long flowing beard before lifting a large plank of wood above her head. Balance on the wood was a midget on a unicycle trying with great success to juggle various items of fruit.

It really was a good show tonight.

“Can you dance?” One of the bikini girls asked. She was in her early twenties, and the edge of her nipple could clearly be seen above her top. She was wearing enough make up to broadcast her looks to the back of the room, but was clearly the sort of person who didn’t have to wear it to look good the rest of the time. A glinting charm hung from her bellybutton.

“I’m sorry” David stuttered, his mind taken away by her good looks, not to mention the large pink feathery headdress she was wearing, and the fact that she was a little bit taller than he was.

“Can you dance?” She asked again, impatiently, with a slight undertone of concern

“Well, I can manage a quick twirl, but I’m no professional.” He grinned. She didn’t laugh.

He did neither.

“Ok” She turned and walked away. The pink bikini briefs adhered to the contours of her rear, with the same teasing fragility as the top.

The ringmaster came over; his accent distinctly less it appeared when the audience was removed.

“Don’t worry about a thing. It’s perfectly safe. You’re going to help us put the circus trade back on the top of the list my friend.” He smirked as he spoke. His eyes never actually making contact with David, who hadn’t realized by had not even been asked his name before he was ushered back into the tent.

It had started to rain. It wasn’t a heavy rain, but rather the light, misty sort that gets you almost as wet as a torrential downpour would do.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” David heard the ringmaster begin, but his blood was pumping in his ears so loud that it successfully blocked out all other sound.

Before he knew it he was being lead by the same beauty he had spoken to outside. The cage was still there, in the centre of the ring. The strongman was standing by the door holding it open. His bald head reflected the light.

“Good Luck.” The girl said, kissing David on the cheek. His heart sped up, but then slowed. He realized he had better listen to what he was being told. Assuming he would have to simply stand there while the strong man performed something around him.

Instead the strongman, simply offered his hand and swiftly pulled David into the cage, climbed out himself and closed the door.

David was along. Or so he thought.

“And now, our guest of honour, a man so brave he needs no name is going to perform for us a waltz so majestic that it will have you in tears.” The ringmaster continued.

“What” David spoke, his voice a whisper from surprise and a sudden knowing fear? The crowd drowned him out.

He felt the adrenaline begin to build, and in the distance, or it appear to David, music began to play.

“Please, Viktor, bring in the partner for your Ballroom King.” The ringmaster beckoned with his arms, large exaggerated movements.

The bear came walking in on its hind legs. It stood towering over David, who without even thinking about the public staring at him felt urine begin to flow down the inside of his leg. A second cage door opened. This one larger than that used by David, and the bear clambered in, its long claws clinking on the metal bars that surrounded them.

Even the clowns had stopped their charades and stood, staring at the beast, diabolic mouths gaping in horror. David suddenly found himself more frightened of the clowns that anything else.

“Music Maestro,” The ringmaster called, and suddenly the melody of Joseph Lanner came booming through some hidden speakers. David looked over and saw a wide-eyed, vacant expression in the ringmasters face with a gleaming smile revealing teeth that seemed too white..

Upon hearing the sound, the bear, a black beast that easily weighed over one hundred and twenty kilos stood up to its full height and walked towards David, who had moved backwards and felt the cold metal pressing against his sweat soaked spine.

“Dance beautiful people. Dance and show your love to the world.” The ringmaster bought some time while the bear – apparently called Dolores walked forward.

It was clear there was no possible escape as the key that locked the door hung around a chain over the strongman’s neck. David walked away from the side of the cage and reached forward, towards the bear, his hands trembling. Sweat poured from his face and body, his shirt was plastered to him and the stench of his own urine burned away in his nostrils.

His fingers touched the fur, brushed against it. The bear didn’t react. It simply stood.

David moved slightly closer, the chants and applause from the crowd somehow overriding his senses. He reached up with one trembling hand and placed it on the outstretched front leg of the bear.

The moved in slow jerky movements, all the while the crowed grew wilder and wilder with excitement. Flashbulbs burst all around them as though they were a celebrity couple enjoying their first dance as husband and wife. Beside the cage the ringmaster continued to talk.

It was going great

Until, for some unknown reason, the bear let out a ferocious roar. It lacked the deep resonating quality of the tiger, but shook David enough for his liking. He went to move backwards, but the long claws dug into his flesh, and with a powerful swipe cut through his arm, pulling the shoulder from its socket, while stretching the flesh to the point of ripping.

David let out a scream. It was enveloped into that of the crowd, who were already fleeing for the exits. David looked across as the circus people stood staring, their faces aghast in surprise and horror. A strangely similar emotion when it came to action. The only one to move was the young girl, who grabbed the key from the chain and ran with it towards the door.

The second swipe from Dolores hit David from behind in the centre of his back. It snapped his spine with no effort at all, and several more deep lacerations opened on his back; the flesh splitting like a piece of over ripened fruit.

David fell to the floor, his scream cut off as blood began to erupt from his mouth in coughing spurts. The visceral ejaculations painted the black steel bars a deep red. Teeth sank into his shoulder and David was subsequently dragged away from the door, which was in the process of being opened. The girl in the pink bikini who had lost her headdress in her charge was fumbling to get the key in the lock.

By the time they got into the cage, the animal trainers had emerged from their backstage hiding places, shotguns at the ready. The door was opened and they entered.

David lay on the floor; the bear sitting behind him, a section of David’s bowel was hanging from the bear’s mouth like a strand of spaghetti and was soon sucked up with a spray of blood staining the bears chin.

Two shotgun blasts were heard, although nobody ever admitted to still being close enough to have heard either of them.

The first one passed through the bear’s immense chest, passing through its heart, severing it in two, before exiting through the lungs and spine. The beast roared and fell backwards. Not dead, not yet at least. The second although slightly larger than necessary blew apart David’s head, shattering his skull and sending shards of smoking bone and grey brain tissue over the floor and Dolores’s quivering flank.

When the town awoke the following morning, the signs, torches, tent, trainers and trucks had all vanished, disappeared into the night. All that remained in the field were two mounds of freshly dug earth. One was considerably larger than the other. Each one adorned by two small roughly fashioned wooden crosses.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Notes on Words

This story came to me while I was struggling to come up with an idea to connect the different story lines in my novel.

It is tells the story of a write who not only looses the words that earn him his living, but looses control of them.

I have not given this sotry the final check for grammar, as will wait to get reactions from this posting before producing the final version.

Sit back and Enjoy.

Words

Fiona Reynolds set the tray down gently on the desk, careful not to spill the soup over the sandwiches she had made.

Her husband Gary Reynolds had been locked in his study for the last six days, only coming out to sleep or use the bathroom. The later of which he seemed to hardly ever need.

She always hated the final few chapters of a book. When he reached that point, finishing it and getting the first draft printed off were all he could think about, and this time was no different. If anything it was worse. He was speaking less. He came to bed later and later, silently slipping between the sheets.

Every day he said less to her, first he cut out the ‘Good Morning darling’ something he had said every day for the last twenty-seven years of their marriage. Instead he gave her a peck on the cheek and shuffled into his study, cup of coffee in one hand and a few slices of toast in the other. “Good Night’ left next, against replaced by a kiss and a gentle rub of the arm.

This was going to be his sixth novel, and from what he talked about before, it was going to be his longest yet. He was originally pondering whether to make it a trilogy.

She waited a few moments, at least for him to acknowledge the food, which he did with a glance in her direction. His eyes were wide end beginning to redden from the hours he had spent crouched behind the screen, peering closely at the text as it danced along the screen.

Fiona stole a quick glance at the screen. It was dialogue, short sharp sentences or so she guessed. She wasn’t a reader herself. Unless it was one of the many celebrity gossip magazines she bought on a weekly basis.

She left again without either one uttering a word.

Gary watched silently as his wife laid his lunch on the desk. He wanted desperately to thank her, to say anything. He was sweating, his forehead was clammy and the palms of his hands greasy from the effort. Yet he couldn’t muster the strength to say anything.

Instead he turned his attention back to his novel, 149,800 words at the last count. He was getting close to the end. He stared at the screen.

Justin watched as his bride’s chest rose and fell one last time. The dress that she had been so eager to wear fell still. ….

He could think of nothing. His mind was blank, the story written out. Yet, he wasn’t there. The ending hadn’t been reached. He had simply run out of words.

Come on just write something. It will flow He thought to himself, his lips never moving. His eyes were burning from the screen, and his fingers were beginning to ache. He began to type. Throwing in a flashback about the couple’s first date, their first meeting, anything that came to him.

He wrote,

It flowed. He liked it, was happy with it.

He stopped.

Hands frozen above the keys, waiting for the starter’s pistol to sound. The sprint to the finish about to start.

Lowering his hands, he pushed himself away from the desk, his fingers quickly working the thick Oxford Dictionary from the shelf. He hadn’t used it for years. He didn’t even use the spell check on the computer. He hated it. Thought it made people lazy.

He searched the pages, found the word he was looking for. A simple word, one he had used countless times in the past. Many times in the current book alone, yet it was lost. Plucked from his brain and discarded like a piece of rotting fruit on the tree.

He went to put the book back in its dusty crevice, but at the last second decided he would keep it and hand. He set it beside him, between the keyboard and his lunch.

He ate his food. The word staring at him from the screen;

Surreptitiously . . ..

His train of thought lost once more, Gary checked the words. As long as he was over the target he had set himself, then he could wrap up the story and let the second draft pick up any loose ends left behind.

The number appeared on the screen. It didn’t make sense. He closed the screen, made sure that he hasn’t just highlighted an area by mistake.

No, everything was correct.

He tried again. He stifled a cough that sent the last mouthful of soup up into his nose. It completed the loop by dribbling out of one nostril, running down his chin and collecting back in the cup, which he was holding against his lips still. The small window on the screen informed him he had written 149.300 words.

“It’s cant be” He exclaimed, his voice scratchy and slightly sore from lack of use.

The file was closed, changes saved and reopened. 149.4300 It was definite.

Gary rubbed his eyes, he was sure that the total before had been higher.

He stood back from the desk, suddenly aware of how tired he was.

He laid his head on the desk, closed his eyes and tried to shut his mind off. Just for a little while.

He rose, began to leave but his hand stopped just short of the door handle.

He sat back down. Determined to hit the target. It’s only 700 words he told himself. He began to write.

The ideas came slowly, limping out of his tired mind. The characters had already been through so much, and now, faced with the final chapter; it was getting harder to keep them motivated.

The afternoon passed, the sun set, the office darkened.

Gary didn’t even notice. Only when his wife came in to say she was going to bed - turning the light on as she spoke - that Gary finally shook out of the trace he had been in.

His fingers had been dancing over the keyboard. He couldn’t remember what he had been writing; it was natural to him now, second nature. The basics themes, the essentials needed for any story flowed from his fingers like wine around a French dinner table.

“How’s it going?” She asked with genuine interest.

Gary turned to look at her. His eyes stung from the sudden brightness of the room. His hair was a mess, it looked as though he had been running his fingers through it His eyes were a vivid red, the white completely overtaken. Large purple bags were beginning to appear under them; even his stubble seemed inordinately thick.

Gary looked at her.

He wanted desperately to say something, he opened his mouth but nothing came out. There was nothing there. His mind raced, he could think of nothing, his mind was empty, devoid not only of new plot ideas, but of any words at all.

“That bad. Don’t worry honey. You’ll get there. I know you can.” She kissed his forehead. It was clammy with sweat. “Do you want me to make you a coffee or anything before I turn in?” After the first three books Fiona had realized that it was easier to just let him go. It was only for a short time and he was never angry or violent with his artistic rage so she had learnt to accept it.

The money that seemed to come in each time as a result of these stormy days helped also.

She closed the door carefully. Gary hadn’t asked for anything. She thought he was about to cry.

She crawled into bed and when she last looked at the clock it read three minutes past midnight.

She slept fitfully.

Gary sat stating at the computer screen, reading and rereading what stood on the screen. He understood it less and less each time. His mouth was dry, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. His lips were brittle, the skin over them suddenly as fragile as crepe paper. He heard them crack as he moved his tongue over them.

The words wouldn’t come. He taped the keyboard. Staring at the screen, giving his digits their privacy as they romanced the keys, but nothing appeared. Line and after line of nothing filled the screen.

He stopped writing. Turning to the dictionary, he ran his fingers down the columns. “Gender . . . . . gender.” He repeated the word to himself as though it were foreign. He couldn’t find the word.

He deleted the last word he had written.

His heartbeat had increased. His hands were beginning to tremor.

He dropped the book onto the desk. It landed with a thud, it sounded different. The meaty sound that normally accompanied such a fall was absent. Replaced by something that as a substitute sounded . . . . Hollow.

It nagged at him, even after he turned his attention back to the room. He wiped the back of his hand absently along his forehead, suddenly aware of how hot it was in the room. How close the walls seemed.

He cried out and rolled backwards in his chair, the desk seeming to drift far away, like an inflatable raft caught on the ocean’s current. He drifted helplessly, coming to a stop on the other side of his office bumping against the bookshelf.

With trembling hands Gary looked around, lost, castaway and washed up in a strange land. He tried to think but his mind wouldn’t settle. He was working, he knew that, but what was it he was doing? He racked his brains, he knew it . . . ..he was . . . . He was… the word seemed to evade his grasp.

He had no idea. His head felt empty, drained.

He stood, suddenly dizzy, his balance unsteady. He fumbled for the door, pulled it open and walked out.

He walked into the bathroom, splashed water on his face, not bothering to turn the light on. The idea didn’t even occur to him.

He walked around on the landing, listening to the creaking of the three floorboards directly at the top of the stairs. He heard his wife breathing steadily, the slow deep sounds of slumber.

When he returned to the office, the shakes had left him, his mind felt cleared, his thoughts more his own. He locked the door behind him, and turned on the light. The dictionary sat on the desk directly before the keyboard.

He knew what he had to do.

Just finish this chapter Gary, and then you need to take a break. Get some good rest. Come on just hit that 150,000. He focused himself and returned to work.

He checked the spell check before he started. He jumped again, 99,999 was what it read, and as he stared at it he saw the numbers begin to roll back, a speedometer in reverse. The spun, stopping one at a time.

‘And tonight’s winning lottery number is . . . . ..

98 751 Congratulations Gary Reynolds, anything you would like to say?’ The voice filled the room.

Gary sank back into his chair, tears suddenly filled his eyes, he grabbed at his chest, pulling at his shirt, which felt tighter with each breath he took.

“No” He shrieked in a tired whisper. “Not possible.” His eyes remained focused on the screen. The room felt like a sauna, sweat was soon running through the furrows in Gary’s brow like rivers.

He stared at the words on the screen. It wasn’t quite a romance novel, but there was certainly more romance in it that his previous novels, which had done very well in the thriller market.

It had been hard work from the start; each character, plot and sub plot had taken hours to weave together. It was Gary’s least favorite novel to date, and the last on his contract with this publisher.

The numbers began to spin again. It made his mind ache. He wanted to scream, to shout out, but the words were gone. He swept the dictionary off the desk; taking with it the keyboard, pencil holder complete with an array of coloured pens, several stacks of paper and notebooks and a half drunk cup of coffee from the morning.

The book landed on its spine and the pages fell open. Gary watched in horror as slowly, the words began to melt from the page, oozing from between leaves and onto the floor.

Pools of O’s Q’s and J’s swam together into an alphabetical stream covering the floor where the current seemed to pull them towards Gary, who stood motionless.

The study suddenly seemed very small.

The letters began to circle Gary, covering his shoes, and beginning to climb up his ankles like wallflowers.

The scream that Gary had been storing up came out, but was cut off as the books began to fly from the shelves. Their pages fanned out, they fluttered around the room like butterflies.

Reference books circling just beneath the ceiling like bats flapping blindly in the night air, while below them you had the general fiction books swooped and darted through the air, playing like sparrows on a summer’s day. The only books that were still were the two large encyclopedias, which sat perched on the top of the bookcase, watching over proceedings.

All the time the word counter on the computer was spinning backwards, slowly sometimes, quicker at other. In a last attempt Gary grabbed the keyboard and ripped it from the desk. The receding march continued.

Never had such an act of retreat been so outwardly aggressive.

The letters had made it almost to Gary’s knees by the time he turned to grab at the door handle, his head pounding, blood surging pounding in his ears. His heart it seemed had taken up a time-share agreement with his brain. Sweat blinded him and when the thick Encyclopedia N-Z flew at him, snapping his wrist with his bulk he could do nothing but bite through his own tongue. He could taste the salty liquid in his mouth, trickling down his throat. He opened his mouth and the letters began to take flight, alighting from him and from the shelves of the bookcase. The horror books he enjoyed to collect hung like bats from the shelf above them, their contents making a direct line for Gary’s open mouth.

He gagged as they flooded into him. His mouth stretching farther and father until he felt his jaw begin to pop out of joint. His tongue flapped, pumping blood in think squirts over his chin and the front of his shirt.

The walls of the office seemed to be closing in on him, while all along the counter was slowly reeling itself back. He had written less than 200 words now.

He felt helpless. His brain had gone from aching and began to thump.

His ears began to bleed, followed by his nose. Words continued to cram into him, filling him, stretching his throat until he could no longer breathe. His face was red and his eyes began to bulge. The pressure built inside his skull. He watched, his eyes wide with terror as the word counted reached the final ten words.

The room began to shake, the shelves rattling in their casing, the loose keys of the keyboard that lay scattered over the desk began to dance. An earthquake shook the room and as the word counter hit one Gary’s world went black.


Fiona woke to an empty bed, her husband’s clothes were not piled on the floor in a crumpled heap and there was no sign of cookies anywhere. She knocked gently on the door to his study, suddenly and irrationally afraid. She knocked again, louder this time and the door swung open. Inside the room was a mess. Books littered the ground, pages ripped out. The bookcase had been smashed and the computer looked as though it had stepped in to help out its roommate.

The only thing the remained untouched was the monitor. The screen saver was showing Gary’s favourite selection of family photos.

Fiona walked further into the room. The door wouldn’t open all the way and she soon saw why. Gary was lying naked on the floor; pages of books covered him like a tramp’s blanket. He was shivering and his head was bleeding.

The book was complete, and the publishers love it. Proclaiming Gary Reynolds as the greatest writer of the romance thriller, and immediately offered him a new six-book deal. This was rejected by his wife, who had taken over the his business affairs, along with taking a part time job while Gary continued to receive the treatment prescribed to him. He hadn’t spoken a word for three months, until one day, when Fiona returned from work to find the him sitting on the couch, the word gender scrawled all over his flesh in black ink.
“Gender . . . gender. It is a word.” He said, looking up at her as she walked through the door. There was a dictionary open next to him, the entire exposed page painted black save for one word.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Notes about Bully for You

Once again please do not post any comments about grammar.

This story is in the very early stages of development. It is infact only the first initial draft.

All feedback and criticism regarding the story and characters is welcomed and will be responded to.

Sit back and Enjoy!

Bully For You

The air in the school room was rich with the smell of hormone infused vomit and the sickly sweet smell of ripening meat. The victim, Melanie Wharbutton was only fifteen years old, with that birthday only having been the week before. She was wearing the standard school uniform for all students pre A-Levels, Her hair was tied back in a ponytail, a subtle hint of lip-gloss glinted on her lips and her cheeks were gregariously rouged with blood. In her hands she held her own intestines.

Susan Greenfield covered her mouth to stifle her disgust. Also hoping to contain what was left of her lunch. The girl stretched out of the science lab desk still twitched as Riga Mortis set in, stiffening her body, trapping various nerves along the way.

The perpetrator of the crime was in no better shape. The gruesome event, which had transpired during a biology lesson, had been a very public suicide.

Each student in the class, along with the teacher – Susan checked her notebook – a Richard Perkins, had been taken to hospital suffering from various degrees of shock. Some brief statements had been taken, and to Susan, an experienced if low-level police officer it seemed a simple case.

Halfway during the lesson, the girl had simply decided that the time was time and had taken a scalpel from the tray, then sliced herself open, crawled onto the table and began to disembowel herself. Pulling on whatever she could grip, spreading herself over as great of a distance as was possible.

While the events had different greatly from student to student, the one fact that remained and Susan couldn’t shake from her mind was that, the all said the victim never screamed, worse than that. . . . She didn’t make any sound. Instead she chose to lie quietly, playing with her insides as if merely passing the time.

The room was now buzzing with life, crime scene tape covered every opening, the blinds had been pulled down to keep the summer heat away from the body as best as possible, with the added bonus of shielding the scene from prying eyes and trigger happy photographers.

There were people busy taking notes of the room, the position of every chair, even the thickness of the pen being used on the white board. Police photographers were snapping away and uniformed police were guarding the doors and generally standing in the way looking almost as out of place as a rich boy in the back streets of Glasgow. The activity had started over an hour ago and had steadily grown, yet still, Susan was the only person looking at the victim. She was looking at her, studying her as a person rather than a statistic, or nut job depending on the rank of the people involved.

She saw a girl that was trouble, one that was beautiful but never got a chance to realise it. Without warning she began to cry, not so much out of grief but simply because she could. Looking at her, Susan saw in a harshly real vision her own face in place of Melanie’s. For that is the way it very nearly was.

What had at first glance been a simple case, was quickly become something more to Susan. A flame had been lit inside her, only it felt as though the gas had been leaking for some time, this incident was merely the flame added to the mix. The emotions flooded through her body, and she only just managed to hide her tears from the other people in the room. She looked carefully at Melanie’s arms and saw them littered with scars, thin silver lines, hardly visible when the correct make up was applied. They looked remarkably similar to hers. Susan rolled up her left sleeve and traced her finger along a deep scar that ran from her wrist towards her elbow.

The coroner’s assistants unloaded the body from the car, and wheeled her down the long corridor that passed under the hospital and into the mortuary area. It wasn’t the normal route they took, but the back door and parking area was being remodelled to make way for an extension to the main building. Susan had arrived at the same time and so chose to follow the body through the tunnel. It was tight and claustrophobic; the round walls were plain brick and reminded Susan of being in the sewers.

“Whose on call tonight?” She asked which ever of the two men felt like answering. Her voice echoed down the tunnel and it wouldn’t have surprised her to have the answer come reverberating back towards her from the other end.

“Doc Rose” Charlie McCrawley answered. He was the longest service assistant at the hospital and was always amiable enough whenever he had worked with Susan. The first time they had met he had asked her out, instantly attracted to her blonde hair, and vivid green eyes. She had turned him down and he had accepted it and never bore a grudge.

Sometimes Susan wondered if the offer was still open for discussion. She was closer to 40 than any good numbers, her blond hair was beginning to loose its appeal and numerous lines and crevices had appeared on her face pulling the attention away from her eyes. She lived alone and even the cat she had bought ran away. Twice.

“Nice. I like Rose. He’ll give me the answer I need without humiliating the poor thing more than necessary.” As always her thoughts were with the victim. She had worked with some pathologists who just liked to pull organs out or cut bits off with no regard to the subject.

“Yep.” Charlie’s response ended the conversation. He was obviously uneasy in the tunnel, which had been the death tunnel connecting the hospital mortuary to the church. Nobody really used it anymore and the air was stale and tasted of death.



* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Jesus, you look like shit.” Captain Arthur Yeland stood behind his desk, he had just arrived and still wasn’t fully dressed. His tie was loose around his neck and the top buttons of his shirt were open.

Susan had been sitting in his office waiting for over an hour already, and had been in the station since the early hours of the morning. Just reading, and then re-reading the post mortem results, checking through some of the statements that were then beginning to filter through from the various officers that had taken them.

“I was reading over the reports for the High School suicide.” She answered, getting straight to the point. The boss was never much fun to be around before his morning coffee and first few cigarettes.
“Ok, well type up your report and close it down. With this UN Meeting coming up next month I want all of the easy cases cleared from the workloads.” Finishing dressing as he spoke, he poured himself a cup of coffee which was still heating from the night before, and strong enough to clean the engine on the riot van. Sitting down, it was only then that he looked at Susan and saw that she hadn’t begun to move. “Is there something else keeping you?” He was short with his words. He was always short, old school techniques had been how he was taught and how he continued to teach today. It didn’t make him popular, but once his officers adjusted they learnt how to deal with him.

“It’s this suicide. I want to have the people responsible arrested for murder.” Susan’s words were exactly how not to deal with an emotionally unstable Captain.

A shower of coffee blew over the desk, hot droplets falling on the back of Susan’s hands. She wiped it away on her trousers and prepared herself for the response.

“What, What the hell did you say? You want to bring a murder charge into a suicide case?” The question showed how confusing it sounded and Susan knew it.

“Yes. I’ve read through a few statements and this girl was bullied. Terribly so. Even the teachers saw it but did nothing to stop it.” She began, her voice filling with anger, her hands trembling, heart racing. Thankfully her head was clear and moving steadily forward, creating a logical argument for her demands.

“It’s a fact of life; we pick on the ones who don’t fit in. If we start charging every bully with assault or whatever then we would never do anything else.” His face was beginning to redden; a vein had appeared in his neck and was pulsating rapidly.

“This girl was tormented; she was abused and broken down by a few people. Every day of her life, they made it hell for her. I’m not going to let them go unpunished.” Susan spoke from the heart; the words seemed to cut her almost as much as she intended them to cut the Captain. A flood of memories came rushing towards her. She managed to close the door on them just in time. She leant against the door with all of her mental weight to keep them from bursting through.

Arthur rose, grabbed a cigarette from the packet on the table and took a long drag. Calming his anger somewhat.

“Listen Susan. You’re one of the good ones, you understand? I can’t have you running off on some damn crusade because someone called you fat when you were in high-school.” Another drag of the cigarette followed. This one was enjoyed. Susan rose.

“You have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t even know the half of it. I’m going to pursue this even if I have to do it on my own time. Justice. That’s what we are supposed to achieve. These girls, whoever they are bullied this poor kid into the grave. Now she’s gone they wont change. They will just find some new target to move onto. Little Betty whose parents are poor and shop at the budget centre. Or maybe fat Sandra who eats doughnuts for breakfast.” Susan found herself loosing control. She called inside herself for control, but was too busy shielding herself to worry about what her mouth was saying.

“Susan” Captain Yeland tried to intervene, but he was cut off short.
“They will pick on this kid then the next one. They will marry the rich men and lead simple lives; they will have kids that they don’t care about who will bully other kids their age. It won’t stop. These girls are killers. What they did is no worse than locking the girl up and torturing her for ten years and you fucking know it.” Her speech finished, emotions overflowing, sweating running down her back made her shiver while her heart beat like a jackhammer. She didn’t wait for an answer, instead thinking that the best thing to do was leave. She rose and closed the door behind her. Not slamming it shut in anger, but certainly not gently pulling it shut with an apologetic grin on her face like so many others had done before.

She stood still on the other side of the door and looked at the clock. It was 8.30.

She arrived at the school just as classes began. She walked down the hallway, heading towards the head masters office. She knew where it was after it was used as the coffee hub the day before. She walked past the classroom were the tragedy had occurred. Yellow tape still sealed the door and a litany of flowers and hand written letters did its best to hide the scene from view. Susan paused for a few minutes, her head bowed.

“Move it freak.” Harsh words broke the silence of the hallway, drowning out the murmured speech coming from the various classrooms.

Susan jumped; there was something about the tone of the voice. She knew who it was. It was Lizzie Meltzer. Susan turned around and she was suddenly Fourteen years old again. The school hall remained the same, as in the majority of schools over the country. The cold neutral colours, the linoleum chess board flooring. Rows of steel lockers lining the walls, separated by message boards filled with posers and various sports lists. Not forgetting the obligatory trophy cupboard.

“Didn’t you hear me? I said out of my way looser.” Lizzie stood by her locker, late as always, but that didn’t matter when your parents were rich. Her locker was on the top row, while the young girl who now lay sprawled on the floor owned the locker beneath it.

The girl scrambled to her feet. Her uniform dirty from the floor, her glasses crooked on her head, eyes wide with fear. Susan found herself shrinking back against the wall. Lizzie closed her locker and stormed away. She stopped to look at Susan as she went. “What are you looking at Shitfield?” She carried on walking, entering a classroom a few doors further down.

Susan stood for a while, shaking, frozen in place. Her vision cleared in a blink and she was back in the real world. It was just your mind Susan. She told herself.

She checked the halls, they were empty. She turned and left without seeing anyone.

It wasn’t until she was in the car that the lunacy of it hit her and she began to laugh. A half hearted laugh that she didn’t truly believe but had little option but to accept.

She started the car, she didn’t know where she was going, but soon found herself heading towards the suburbs. It was a hot day but she kept the windows rolled up, she drove in a trance. She only realised where she was when she parked the car.

She had no memory of the journey, the last thing she remembered was leaving the school. Now she found herself standing at the end of a slightly inclined driveway leading up to a picture perfect family home. A well cut lawn, bicycles resting against the wall, a station wagon in the driveway. Blinds hung in the window, and inside Susan could see the Melanie’s parents sitting on the sofa, holding each other. There was at least one other person there. Quite possibly the funeral director.

Susan paused. Are you sure you want to do that Shitfield. I mean, what are you going to do with it. You will only mess it up anyway. Nobody can count on you can they A voice spoke in her mind. It was loud and clear like the reception on a satellite radio. Susan turned. The voice was one she hadn’t heard in years. Nathalie Caldwell.

She was alone. Swallowing the hard lump that had risen into her throat, Susan walked up the drive and run the bell, admiring the beautiful hanging baskets that hunk on the edge of the porch.

“Thank you so much for this. I just want you to know that I am going to make sure something happens because of this.” Susan gripped Mrs Wharburton’s hand lightly inside both of her own, while Mr Wharburton watched on from the doorway into the living room.

Under her left arm Susan had a diary clamped firmly against her ribs. It had been given to her with very few questions. Not unsurprising given the shock the family had suffered. Their two other children were still sleeping off the effects in their respective bedrooms upstairs.

“I’m not sure I follow you.” Mrs Warburton’s tear swollen eyes looking searching towards Susan.

Susan tightened her grip on the hand she held, and before speaking looked from one parent to the other. She ignored the funeral director who had appeared in the doorway as soon as he had heard the introductions. “I am going to make sure that the people who tormented your daughter are brought to justice. I promise you.” Her words were serious and seemed to somehow steady the tears in Maggie Wharburton’s eyes.

“It’s a nice statement to make Miss Greenfield., but it’s fine. You don’t have to offer us false promises.” Andrew Wharburton spoke for the first time since Susan’s arrival.

Susan looked at him, she understood his disbelief and felt like crying with him. “I can assure you that there is nothing false about my words. I will find out who is responsible and I will see them punished by the law for it. I promise you.” She held his gaze. His eyes were sunken; the skin around them sagged like the hanging stomach of an elderly elephant. Tears glistened in the sunlight making his eyes sparkle.

Having thanked them for their time and accepted an invitation to attend the funeral, Susan left. The diary placed on the seat next to her began to call her. She ignored it until she got back to the station. The captain was waiting for her.

He wasn’t happy, but after a brief albeit heated discussion he conceded and allowed her to investigate things. Under the strictest of guidelines, he made it clear that once the press heard and began to make light of the case she would take a step back and let it drop. Susan agreed.

TUESDAY 14TH APRIL

‘I hate them all, those fucking bitches. I wish I could just curl up and die. Why do they have to be like that. Couldn’t they at least give me a few minutes to breath before they attack me. What have I don’t to deserve this?’

Susan sat in her flat reading through the diary. She wondered if Melanie’s parents had read through it before or after her death. She hoped not. She only skimmed from page to page. Each word was filled with such emotion that she couldn’t bring herself to read more than a few lines at a time. She already had a headache building and a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach.

THURSDAY 28TH MAY

‘She was sick today. Rachel, but the others were there. Didn’t really speak to me much, which was nice. By the time English had finished my hair was covered with bits of paper. They covered it with glue before they through it. I had to cut some of them out when I got home. I didn’t go to the sports field this afternoon. Told Matron I had a bad knee. I cut myself with a blade from the science lab to show her. I couldn’t take with any more beatings. They still tried to push me into the showers. Ripped my shirt. It was the only one I had left. Mum was mad at me. She doesn’t understand.’

When Susan opened her eyes, having clamped them shut to hold back the tears, she was a child again. She realised soon that she was dreaming, simply because her mother was still alive and sitting before her.

Her mother was a gargantuan woman who quite literally occupied the entire volume of whatever room she was wheeled into. The only memories Susan had of her were of her lying naked in her bed, covered only by a thin sheet. A smell hung over her which Susan now realised was the smell of death. Her mother had been decaying for years before her obese frame had finally given up. Skin would peel away from her body in thick black lumps, her legs were often covered with her own urine or faeces, a task which Susan was given to clean off.

“Susie Susie. What have you done this time? Why is there blood on your shirt? I told you we can’t afford for you to keep ruining your clothes. What is the matter with you?” Her mothers scolding voice cut her with the skill of a surgeon’s knife. She wanted to kill her mother. She hated her. She remembered the times she had cried herself to the point of vomiting trying to explain the bullying to her mother, only to be told to grow up or toughen up a bit. Her mother though she was weak. “Everybody gets teased a bit Susie. Jesus Christ you don’t think I hear rumours of what other people say about me. Do I let it bother me? No, I get on with things.”

“No, you just eat another pizza and let the fat in your ears block out the sound.” Susan had snapped back. The conversation had never actually taken place, it seemed that in her dreams Susan had much more inner strength.

“That’s enough.” Her mother lashed out at her. Swiping with a giant limb, that quivered violently as it moved through the air. Susan jumped back, easily avoiding the blow. Her mother, left winded by the excessive movement was vulnerable and Susan stepped in and slapped her across the face with the razor blade she had always kept in her pocket. It sliced through her mothers flesh with the same reliability it had when applied to her own arms or stomach. The skin of her mother’s throat slit open, pulling apart easily and spilled burning fat instead of blood. The wave of bubbling heat scolded the remaining skin which turned red and blistered almost instantly. Her mother screamed. Finally the blood began to flow, staining the filthy sweat covered bed sheets and grey pallid skin with its vivid clarity.


Her mother’s mammoth chest rose and fell one final time as the blood poured over her breasts, dripping from her exposed nipple as though lactating. Susan rose calmly and walked out of the room. Looking down at her arms, which had been bloodied in the process.

When she came too Susan was no longer on her sofa, but standing in the bathroom. She felt a rush of relief wash over her. A sense of freedom and floating that she hadn’t experienced for some time. She felt the her blood dripping from the wound rather than the pain it caused. Looking down she saw two long incisions running along each forearm. A pool of blood was beginning to gather in the sink. A the bottom, gleaming through the red pool was the blade she had somehow broken from the disposable razor that had been used the day before to shave her legs.

“Shit.” Susan yelled, grabbing for the towel that hung over the narrow radiator between the sink and toilet which was to her left. She wrapped it around both arms, effectively handcuffing herself and walked back into the living area. Collapsing back onto the sofa. The diary closed and when she opened it she didn’t have the energy to go back to where she was. It was a thick book which seemed to span several years. Some entries were long, spanning several pages, filled with water marks where obvious tears had fallen. Some were littered with stick figure drawings, depicting all manner of self harm. Each figure was accompanied by a label. . .

Me.

MONDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER

Mum grounded me today because I left school early. I came home at lunch. I made myself throw up at break. I had to get away from them. They followed me home. Calling me names. They posted the photo of me on the wall of the boys locker room. The on of me getting changed after hockey. I hate them. I just want to die. Nobody understands me. I wish they would just kill me. I wish I could cut their throats to stop their names. Maybe I will just kill myself. What is the point anyway. I mean, they are the beautiful girls, they will get the boys. They don’t even look at me yet. Rachel has boobs already. Big ones. The boys like that. She told them I used paper to make mine. They all just laughed at me. That’s why I came home. I’ve just cut myself. Not my arm now, there are too many scars already. I sliced my belly. I’m fat anyway. They all say it. I just wanted to slice even deeper, pull out the fat. Maybe next time I wont stop. Maybe being dead is the best thing I will ever do. Who would miss me, or even know I was gone. Nobody understands.

A rather gruesome series of stick figures appeared after this insert. Each one depicting a different method of suicide, from gunshots to the head – or face as it looked in the book – to poison and wrist cutting, only in the picture both hands had been removed and lay beside the body.

The pain in Susan’s arms subsided, instead giving way to a dull and all too familiar pulsing. It was enticing in the same subconscious way pheromones are said to attract us to a mate. It was a constant reminder that release was always at hand. It had taken Susan years to conquer her addiction. She had been lucky enough to come out the other side. She fell into a restless sleep as the bandages she had by then applied slowly turned a deep red, soaking up the fluid that continued to leak through the wounds as if being drawn out somehow. When she woke, her body was covered in sweat, but the bandages had dried to a hardened maroon.
In her dream she was wandering through the hallway of her old school. What remained of it at least? In her dream she saw the school as nothing more than ruins. The upper floor was completely removed, and the walls were in a state of advanced decay. The smell of smoke was heavy on the air and smoke poured from out the row of lockers, which appeared to have half melted into the ground.

Susan walked further along the hallway, it branched off like a T-junction at the end, she remembered to the left was the common room, study hall and lunch room, an area she had avoided like a vicar in the lobby of a whorehouse. To the right were the classrooms which were housed in this the largest of three buildings that made up the unusual high school, and the library which was the place she had found most solitude. Amidst the stacks of encyclopaedia’s and reference textbooks was the place she first thought about cutting herself. It was the place where her addiction had started. She remembered the day well, with the same fondness one has for a long dead grandmother, yet also with level of trepidation one felt about visiting the same elderly woman while she was alive.

All around her, Susan could hear the educated walls moaning. Calling out in pain as it was slowly ground down, brought back to its foundations, the place where it first started its well structured existence.

Susan found her way back to the library, it was engrained into her memory the same way the names and favourite tricks the girls used to play on her were.

It seemed like the logical place for her to go. She was pulled there.

The instant she walked into the library the world changed. The library was intact, the air removed of the smoky aftertaste, instead filled with a musty smell. It was a lonely place that felt more like home than even Susan’s apartment did.

She found Melanie in the stacks, the very place Susan realised she would be once she realised that it was just a dream.

“What do you want from me? I’m on your side here.” Susan spoke. Her voice shaking slightly as she did. Melanie was standing before her. Wearing nothing but the shroud that covered her body in the city mortuary. The top of her head had been loosely reattached but as it was a closed casket ceremony the job had been left to an intern. Who in appeared had no stomach for the job. There was a good centimetre between the two section of skull and Susan could see right through and out of the window Melanie stood before.

“I don’t know. You summed me.” The voice of a child in pain spoke. To Susan’s ears her emotional state was obvious, but that was probably the same thing as one alcoholic being able to tell another from they way they order their drinks.

Melanie took a step forward. Her feet made slapping sounds as they moved over the hard floor. They both looked down. A puddle of blood encircled them both. Trapping them on an island of gore. The white sheet was stained a deep maroon shade over Melanie’s groin and stomach. It clung to her skin, the deep pit behind after her organs had fallen out was highlighted. Susan stepped forward while Melanie looked carefully under the shroud gown as if checking her bra still contained the paper she had stuffed it with. When she raised her head she was crying.
“Did I do this?” She asked as if she didn’t remember anything. “Did I?” She screamed. Her white skin was stretched taught over her bones. Even in a dream Riga Mortis kept a slight grip.

Susan stared at the girl before wrapping her arms around her. Hugging her in a parental embrace. Melanie shook, and sobbed into Susan’s chest. “I’m sorry this had to happen to you.” She kissed the top of Melanie head, brushing her hand through her hair as she did.

They separated and stood looking at each other in silence.

“Who was it? Tell me the truth.” Susan spoke. “Don’t lie to me. I can help if you let me.” She was almost pleaded for the information. A technique she had never used before in an interrogation.

“How can you help. What can you possibly do? They made my life hell, and everyone I tried to talk to ignored me.” Melanie wailed. Yet at the same time she stood motionless. The only thing to change was her facial expression, and even that became more rigid as the exchange moved forward.

“Well you got my attention. I’m ready to listen.” Susan tried to make herself as supportive as possible. “Just tell me their names. I know the ones in your diary are fake.”

“I know.” Melanie paused, her mouth open but the words held back by the dead vocal chords. “Maria Archibald, Helen Carter, and Lucy Caldwell. She was the worst.” The last name hit Susan like a Tyson hook to the stomach. She found herself unable to catch her breath. She reached out for support. Feeling for the bookshelf that was just to her left. Instead she found Melanie. The girl was suddenly right before her again, only this time Melanie grabbed her, pulling her close. She whispered in Susan’s ear. “Promise me I didn’t do anything wrong. Tell me it wasn’t my fault” Before Susan could answer a wind burst through the library.

The howling wind wrapped around them, encasing them in a whirlwind, then it was gone, as suddenly as it had appeared. Only it had taken Melanie with it. Susan was alone, standing in the remains of what had been the library. The smell of smoke was heavy around her. Small fires were dotted around the floor where piles of books from disintegrated shelves still burnt. In the distance a fire alarm sounded. Wailing away like an air raid siren.

Susan woke with a start. She was in her bed, lying facing the wall, faced with that feared moment that everyone faces when waking from a dangerous dream. If I turn around and face the room now, it will be there. It will be real. I will see it. So she did was everyone did. She waited, and then suddenly, as if charged by a bolt of pure electricity she spun around to lie on her back.

The room was black, her visibility was zero, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was someone else there with her. After more than an hour of tossing and turning, Susan finally fell back to sleep.

The interview room was cold, it always was first thing in the morning. The time of year made no difference in a police station, they were built to be cold, unforgiving places. Lucy Caldwell sat in her school uniform on the far side of the small table that dominated the room. It was the only item of furniture there was, save for the two chairs.

Lucy had her arms wrapped around her, and was gently rubbing them to keep warm. She was cold with nerves. On the table directly before her was the tape recorder. Susan had placed three tapes into the slots the very second Lucy entered the room. It wasn’t standard procedure for the questioning officer to meet the suspect in the room, but in Susan’s mind this was a special case.

Lucy sat down and Susan rose, placing a fourth and final tape into the small cassette recorder that was positioned on the windowsill behind Lucy. The blinds were closed, wiping out the panoramic view of the downtown area and industrial estate to the east.

That had been ten minutes ago. Since then Lucy’s mother had arrived. She was an arrogant woman whose general aroma was unpleasant. Her perfume was overpowering much like he personality, which she made no effort to hide. Susan stood in the surveillance room three doors further up. Each interview room was equipped with a camera – a fact that was advertised by a large print easily read sign on the wall besides the door. – She had been staring at the two women and lost track of time. She was shaking. Her palms were sweating. She had never expected to meet Natalie Caldwell again. She had dealt with Lizzie Meltzer once a few years back. Lizzie had suffered the fate most deserved by the beautiful high school bitches. She had married a rich businessman who earned his money the illegal way. Once the rug was pulled out from beneath her she had turned to drink. Susan had been the arresting officer when she was caught trying to lift a few bottles of cheap whiskey from the SPAR on the edge of town.

Come on it’s been years. She probably won’t even remember you. Lucky bitch is leading the good life she doesn’t need to thinking about the past. Susan tried to work herself up, but she couldn’t shake the nervous wave of nausea that was bubbling away in her stomach like the contents of a test tube in the made scientist’s laboratory.

Susan opened the door and walked in.

The interview started normally. Both mother and daughter remained silent while Susan read through the rights and asked Lucy to explain her interpretation of them. They remained silent as Susan began to talk about the case.

“I understand that it is tough, what you saw. You’re classmate lying there, holding her own insides, watching as she pulled them out. Do you have any idea why?” Susan didn’t hold back, she attacked the young girl, while never taking her eyes from Natalie, who sat returning the stare.

She remembers you. Susan thought.

“I don’t know. I mean some people are just born crazy. Ain’t they mum.” Lucy looked over to her mother. They looked spookily alike. Especially when they smiled.

“What is the point of this Shi….Susan?” Natalie finally spoke. Slapping her hand on the table. “I have got better things to do than listen to your crap.”

The two women stared at each other. Susan, her hands hidden under the table to hide the tremor that had set in refused to look away. Instead she remained quiet; waiting for the rush of panic – reminiscent of each and every morning of her high school education – to pass before she made her move.

“It’s simple Nat (Susan remembered how she hated that name. It made her sound common.) You’re delightful daughter bullied this girl insufferably. She drove her to suicide; she as good as stuck the knife in herself.” Susan could feel the rage building inside her.

Sitting on the other side of the table the Caldwell women began to laugh.

Susan remained motionless, waiting for the moment to pass. While in her mind she regressed swiftly and suddenly as if being pulled through a black hole. The interview room disappeared and she was back at school. Running from the sports centre to catch her bus, she had one shoe on, the other in her hand, the laces pulled together and tied in an impossibly knot. Her shirt was wet from where it had been thrown into the shower and her hair was flapping in her eyes because from the wind.

The bus was only a few hundred meters away. She could see the drivers face as he welcomed the children onboard, checking out the older girls in the mirror as they walked past. The leg came out of nowhere, stuck out from behind the large bushes that lined the path leading from the sports field to the bus stop. With her momentum being as forward moving as it was, Susan had little chance of staying on her feet. She came crashing down, first onto her knees cutting through the material of her trousers, slicing her skin apart before the rest of her crashed into the ground. She fell into a large muddy puddle left behind from the almost continual rain of the previous two days. Her bag also fell, the zip left open in the rush. She watched as the books spilled out and joined her in the impromptu bath.

“Enjoy your trip Shitfield?” The patronizing voice of a juvenile Natalie Caldwell came from the bushes.

Susan looked up as Natalie ran away and onto the bus. Speaking to the driver before taking her seat, and giving Susan a little wave as the bus pulled away. By the time Susan had picked herself up the bus was already out of sight.

The sudden movement was what ended the flashback. Natalie and her daughter were reaching for the door when Susan sprang to her feet. Forgetting about the tape recorders, they could be taken care of later. “Sit down. I’m not done with this.” She reached out and took a firm hold on Lucy’s arm.

“Get off me, who the hell do you think you are?” Lucy was surprised and shocked that anyone tried to manhandle her.

Natalie wrenched her daughter free and threw Susan’s arm away violently. “Listen up Greenfield. We’re going; I certainly don’t intend to listen to your wild accusations any longer.” The pair squared up to each other. Susan wanted to retreat she shook, her words ran over themselves and came out stuttered and nervous. “You’re going . . . not going anywhere. You . . . Her, she is here to be questioned, she is suspect. I mean a suspect.” Susan saw the hatred flair in Natalie’s eyes. She wants to hit you.

Natalie raised her hand and smiled as she saw Susan cower, it was only a slight movement but it told her enough.

“Shut up. How dare you accuse my daughter of something like that? You always were crazy; I’m surprised it wasn’t you who killed yourself. I mean you always like to cut yourself didn’t you. I remember, little cry baby Susie Shitfield. You disgust me, and I don’t intend to waste any more of my time looking at you. You pathetic, pathetic woman, now get out of my way.” With a slight shove Natalie pushed Susan backwards and into the wall.

The pair left, Susan remained, shaking almost uncontrollably. Tears were falling freely down her face. Beside her she could see Melanie standing beside her. She felt her slip a ghostly hand through her won and intertwine their fingers.

“You said you would help me. I need you’re help.” The spirit spoke. Susan looked around, tried hard to wake herself up. She had dreamt enough for one day. The harder she tried the more she began to realise the she wasn’t dreaming. She was still standing in the interview room. The tapes were running. The tapes, Without thinking Susan snatched all four tapes from the payers and charged out of the room. She went straight to her car, an old beaten up Volvo with more miles on it than a London taxi, but it had a tape player, and that was all that mattered. As she drove through the quiet mid morning streets, heading out of town she opened the windows all the way and tried to let the breeze blow her head clean. Also hoping that the blood covered young girl sitting next to her would also take the chance to leave.

“Why are you ignoring me? You promise me you would help me. I know what we can do. I see what you see, you know that don’t you. I have seen you for a long time. You are the girl from the library in my dreams. The burning school.” Susan brought the car to a sharp halt, pulling off the road just short of the wooded picnic area that was a popular retreat for holiday makers and horny teenagers at this time of year.

She stared at the girl, she was so lifelike, her chest didn’t move, and she still wore the stained shroud, but her face now had colour to it. Make up. Despite the closed coffin a body should always be buried looking their best.

“What did you say?” Susan was now the paler of the two, if there really were two of them in the first place.

“Read it.” Melanie reached forward. In her hands she clutched her diary. The very book that Susan had left beside her bed when she left for work that morning. It was already open, on a page towards the end. It was dated only a few weeks ago.

TUESDAY 28TH MARCH

I dreamt of her again. She has no face but she always come to me. Last night we were in a library. I don’t know where. It was burning. I think I set it on fire. We spoke, she knows all about me. She looks as me as though I am a ghost. She is white; I think she is a ghost. I don’t think she knows it. Maybe I am supposed to help her.

We don’t speak, she has no face, I don’t think she can speak. I don’t understand what she wants, but I like her. I think she is old, maybe 40.

Susan closed the book. She had no intention of reading any more. “You’re dead. You killed yourself. I don’t think there is anything I can do to help you.” As she spoke Susan remembered the tapes. With shaking hands she fished one out of her back and slipped it into the player, looking in the rear-view mirror as she did, suddenly paranoid that the Captain would be chasing after her for stealing evidence or something. She saw nothing but her own surprisingly old face. She had foregone make-up that morning, and now was paying the price for it. There was no colour, other than a sickly grey, even her eyes seemed to have been infected with it. Deep crow’s feet gathered by her eyes looking like rolling canyons of flesh in the small magnified mirror.

Voices burst through the car’s speakers, deafening Susan who never used the player and had no idea the volume was turned up so high. On the tape Susan heard herself speaking, She had just sat down. I need you, you have to help me, She will only find someone else. The voice was distant and filled with static, but there was no mistaking where it came from. Susan looked to her left but the chair was empty. Melanie had gone. The realisation dawned on Susan that she was just tired. The best thing would be to go to bed and sleep it off.

Backing slowly back into the road as she tried to turn the Volvo round in one smooth motion Susan glanced in the mirror to check the road was clear. All she saw was Melanie’s face staring at her from the back seat. She sat calmly, the seatbelt fastened like a child being driven to school. Her face was sad, her eyes sunken. There was no life to them, and while Susan knew why, she also knew that they had looked that way before she died.

“You are the only one who understands me. Why else would you promise my family you would help me?” She asked pleadingly.

Susan slowly the car to a stop once more, never breaking eye contact with the girl. It was then that Susan noticed her clothing had changed. She was no longer covered by a sheet but a delicate summer dress. The red straps that rose from the white body hung gracefully over her slender shoulders. Only the very tips of the long reaching arms from the Y-incision were seen poking out from the sides of the outfit. The last she would ever wear.

“What does it matter to you? You’re dead. You’re not even here. Jesus Christ I’m loosing my mind. Come on Susan, get a grip.” She slapped herself across the face hard enough to for it to sting her palm. It woke her up but Melanie remained fastened in the back seat.

“I killed myself. They made me kill myself. Now I’m going to Hell and they don’t care. They laugh and joke with each other and pick on someone else. I can hear them all the time. They fill my head.” Susan tried to interrupt but Melanie spoke over her. “I can’t do anything. I can hear them coming for me, to take me. . . . Away. You have to help me.” Melanie’s face still had the same lifeless expression and sometimes Susan wondered if her lips were even moving. She thought not, but couldn’t quite remember.

“I know. Believe me I understand all about the Caldwell’s but what can I do? Bullying isn’t against the law. It sucks but even I can’t really change that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I was just being stupid as always.” Susan chided herself. She hadn’t realised that she was still driving. Heading back to the Melanie’s school. “Where are we going?” She asked suddenly, when her mind cleared.
“I’ve got to go to school. You know that. Don’t you?” Susan stared in silence. She felt herself balancing on the edge. One side was her life, one filled with memories and sorrow. The other, was a deep abyss where darkness was so all encompassing it actually consumed the light rather than blocked it. It was an abyss she had been to once before. It was a scary evil place.

“They must be punished to the full extent of the law.” Susan spoke under her breath. Reliving fragments of the conversation she had had with Captain days before.

“Exactly!” Melanie spoke. She reached forward her body passing through the seatbelt which, Susan saw was actually fastened. In her hand something glinted, caught in a warming ray of summer sun.

Susan didn’t look at what it was; only barely registering the gesture. The car was parked in the staff parking area in a space set aside solely for the head of the English department.

Susan walked slowly through the halls of the school. She was alone, Melanie had disappeared the very moment that she crossed into the school. It was as though she couldn’t return to the scene of her death. A strange concept given the general notion of ghosts haunting the place they died, but Susan gave it little thought. She was caught in a dreamlike state. She was light headed and felt as though she were floating rather than walking. Her feet gliding over the linoleum floor, while all around her she could hear the chattering from the various classrooms amplified in her mind. She couldn’t make individual voices out of the general clamour, but that didn’t matter. She knew where she was heading.

The blood began to flow as droplets, leaking from incisions like a damaged tap, but by the time Susan made it half way down the corridor it had become a steady flow. A dark red – black when placed against the dark flooring – trail showing her the way home should she get lost. Chased by the wicked witches she thought to herself as she looked back, checking the hallway was clear.

Elsewhere, across town the small coffin that held the hollow remains of Melanie Wharburton being placed on the runners that would eventually lower it into the ground. Of the people in attendance was Richard Perkins, Headmaster, and Elliot Willoughby the head of the English department, and the one teacher who had taken a liking to Melanie. Who, for all of her faults had show the potential to tell a very vivid and enthralling story when the mood struck her.

Susan found her pace slowed as more blood began to seep through the multiple wounds she had found inflicted upon her. She had no memory of making them, only sitting in the car with a bloodied blade in her hand. It felt good she couldn’t argue that. If anything she was saddened that she had no memory of it. No recollection of that rushing wave of sanctuary that she felt each time.

Forcing herself, she moved forward she braced herself outside the classroom door. She knew that Lucy Caldwell was inside, somehow. She now knew everything she needed to know in order to bring charges against the girl. The room in question was in the Geography area of the building, tucked away at the rear of the ground floor, opposite the history classrooms, whose doors were closed and blinds drawn. A sign was on display in the window. TEST IN PROGRESS. While the window of the room she was about to enter instructed her to be SILENT. DO NOT ENTER TEST IN PROGRESS.

Susan steadied herself, the world was beginning to loose focus slightly, the edges of the world began to blur as the blood continued to drain from her body.

She knocked hard on the door. She could hear the collective gasp as the powerful concentration within each students mind was shattered.

“Police, open the door.” She called, loud enough to disturb even the most unruly of classes. She hadn’t tried the door herself, but she knew it would be locked. Standard procedure used to punish those who arrived late, for whatever reason.

A shadow appeared before the door. The latch clicked and the shadow moved away again. Susan pushed the door open and walked in calmly, not bothering to close the door behind her.

Melanie’s parents stayed behind after their daughter’s coffin had disappeared from view. They moved no closer to the grave, nor did they move farther away. They simply stood arm in arm, their eyes surprisingly dry. A sudden sensation washed over them, and although neither one would admit to it, it could only be described as relief. A sense of completion that they needn’t speak about, for that would be its undoing. Theirs was a silent knowledge.

Susan Greenfields visit to the high school that afternoon ended with Eighteen deaths, including a vicious attack on Lucy Caldwell a student at the school, who had her tongue cut out before being laid on a table and eviscerated. Her intestines were found held to the wall with drawing pins and had been strung in a criss-cross pattern blocking the door like police tape. Susan then turned her weapon on herself and managed to fire twice, removing the top portion of her skull.

She died leaving no note, and no clues behind her as to why she did what she did.