Out of the Mist

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I have always liked walking in the mist. It feels like walking inside a story. I love the way it can soften the world and make the most mundane corners magical. 

It was more than mist tonight. It was a heavy, swirling, writhing fog. Local radio had put out weather warnings and the police had recommended that if there was any choice, people should stay at home. It had been taken to heart. The last few hours of my shift at the store had been extremely quiet.

Mum had rung as I was dragging on my coat. “I’m sorry, love, but I don’t think it’s safe for your dad to come and pick you up. You can’t see across the road. Will you be okay walking if you go past the church and stick to the main road? It shouldn’t take you long.”

“I’ll be fine walking home.” I said, wrapping my scarf firmly around me. “I’ll cut down the back of the estate.”

“You can’t do that!” My mum had been horrified. “Not at this time of night!”

“Mum, it’s only 9pm and no-one is out.” I peered through the back window as my boss pulled down the shutters. You could barely see the edge of the pavement. “Besides, I don’t think any attacker would be able to see me in this murk.”

“Go past the church and stick to the main road.” Mum said firmly. “It won’t take much longer and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

“Okay.” I said, picking up my bag and heading for the door. “I’ve got to go now, Mum, see you in a bit.”

I nodded goodnight to my boss who was locking the shutters and headed carefully along the pavement towards the estate. If I cut through that way, I could get home almost half an hour earlier. Besides, I couldn’t see how much safer I would be on the main road. I would be risking walking next to a road that drivers could barely see.

I strained my ears as I reached the main road. I couldn’t hear anything. I’d never known the town centre so quiet. I could hear the faint hiss of the traffic lights as I got close to the crossing, but there was no other sound. I couldn’t hear any cars, or footsteps or any sign of life at all. I paused and felt the water droplets settling coldly on my skin. Crossing the road was a step into the unknown.

It wasn’t so bad once I got away from the glare of the streetlights on the main road and into the shortcuts. The estate was normally a hive of activity full of small businesses and traffic no matter what time it was. Even this late there was usually a mechanic working late or the carpet firm stacking their vans for the next day. Tonight, however, it was silent.

I walked briskly down the alleys and shortcuts, past the rag people and the appliance repair centre. The usual scatter of half-finished washing machines was there under their plastic covers, misted by water droplets and barely visible as I walked within touching distance. I looked around to get my bearings. All the landmarks had disappeared. On my left should be the main road and that meant that I needed to go straight and cut between the empty unit and the double-glazing place. I tilted my head and pulled my scarf loose. I couldn’t hear anything, and I didn’t want to miss my turn. I pulled out my phone to see if the maps were any use, but I couldn’t get a signal.

This is what it felt like to be truly lost, I thought, as I made an educated guess and headed across the road, tripping on the kerb. But if I squinted then I could just see that the fence had the double-glazing advertising on so I must be in the right direction. I heard a growl.

I wasn’t good with dogs. I wouldn’t hurt one, but they scared me half to death. Even my auntie’s elderly westie made me nervous and the growl ahead of me was low and menacing. I leant forward into the fog. “Good boy…” I took another step forward and the growl intensified. I wasn’t ready for this. I tried moving to the right a little and I heard paws pad on the cracked concrete. “Good boy.” I said with as much conviction as I could manage. I tried moving straight ahead again but once again I was met by the ominous growl. 

I froze. I could just about make out the shape a few yards in front of me and it was huge. It seemed nothing more than a shadow against the fog, but it was shaped like a large Doberman, long legged and fierce with pricked ears. I backed away a few steps, stumbling again on the kerb. I watched the dog pad unhurriedly behind me with a faint rumble of threat in his throat. I tried to take another step back towards the way I came, but the dog was not tolerating that either.

My hands were trembling so much that they could hardly hold my phone as I tried again to get a signal. There was nothing, and the great beast slowly approached me, cutting me off from the town centre and the road curving left. “You want me to go right, boy?” I said. The words hung in the damp air. The dog took another step towards me and I could see cold light reflected in his huge eyes. “Okay, good boy.” I stumbled towards the right.

I was always told never to run from a dog, and it wouldn’t be safe for me to try. I felt the awful cold sensation of the great dog’s gaze settle between my shoulder blades as I headed right, away from the town and away from my route home. I tried to catch my breath and slowed a little. Once again the beast growled, low and purposeful, his breath warm on the back of my head, and it stank.

I quickened my pace a little, but the fog was too dense to move at any sort of speed. The dog seemed satisfied, though, and apart from the hum of the intermittent street lights, all I could hear was the pad of his paws and his even breathing.

It seemed to take forever before we moved directly under a street light, although it was only a few minutes. I recognised the corner. On the left was a sign writer and on the right was some sort of storage. If I made a run for it, I could race down the alley behind the sign writer and reach the town centre in only a few minutes. I glanced back and stumbled in shock as I saw the beast properly. He was huge, his head nearly at the height of my chest, with staring eyes that gleamed in the reflected light. His jaws were large with a tongue lolling incongruously over oversized, gleaming teeth. I froze.

For the longest minute I just stood there, trying to keep my stomach inside, trying to just to keep breathing as I stared at the monster in front of me. I couldn’t make sense of it – it wasn’t a Doberman or a Rottweiler or anything I recognised. Perhaps it was one of those ‘part wolf’ breeds that were cropping up. Whatever it was, it was terrifying.

He gave a low ‘woof’ and padded forward. The thing may not have spoken, but it was clear – I needed to keep going in the right direction. I stumbled forward, loosening my scarf as I tried to scrabble my wits together while what looked like a hell hound padded gently after me.

Where were we going? I didn’t know this part of the estate well, but we seemed to be heading towards the edge near the motorway. I could see the faint gleam of the lights in the distance and the sound of cars, muffled through the damp air. I swallowed and stumbled, catching hold of a wall looming out of the fog to keep my balance. There was a cemetery the other side of the motorway. Was that where I was being herded? Another low ‘woof’ reminded me to keep moving. I kept going.

The great beast started shifting a little, moving up on my right-hand side and guiding me left as I shied away from him. I could hear his breathing far too close as I rounded the corner near the tyre storage, smell his stinking breath and hear the relentless pad, pad, pad of his great paws. Maybe I should try and make a break for it or maybe I should try and find a weapon in the rubbish strewn across the path.

Then I forgot everything. The fog thinned in the air from the underpass and through the mist I could see the remains of a van. It had crashed down the bank from the motorway above us and landed awkwardly in the middle of the road. The windshield was smashed, and the glittering shards were stained with blood which trailed from a broken figure that had been thrown across the path and landed across a low wall. I raced over, oblivious to what the dog wanted.

He was only young, younger than me, with his shock of brown hair matted with blood and his eyes sunken in his pale face. I caught hold of his hand. It felt icy.

“It’s okay, I’m going to ring for an ambulance now. We’ll get you sorted out.” I frantically looked over him. There was blood everywhere, seeping through his thin t-shirt and trickling out of the corner of his mouth.

There was a faint pressure on my hand as he tried to squeeze it, the strength fading from him. “It’s okay. I just didn’t want to die alone.”

“No, you are not going to die.” I heard my voice break. “I’m going to call the ambulance, it’s going to be okay…” I stopped. The light had gone out of his eyes and something indefinable had left. I fumbled for my phone, and finally I got a signal. I was just too late.

I looked around for the dog, but there was no sign. As the fog turned to rain, I thought I could make out some faint paw prints in the blood that had splashed across the street, but they faded and before I could be sure they were being washed away.

It’s Day Four of the October Frights Blog Hop. I hope you enjoy the somewhat scary stories. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blogs!

Night to Dawn Magazine & Books LLCHawk’s HappeningsHeidi AngellCuriositiesJames McDonaldAlways Another ChapterSpreading the Writer’s WordYours in StorytellingCarmilla VoiezHello RomanceGirlZombieAuthorsFrighten MeM’habla’s!Angela Yuriko SmithBrain MatterNLCARTERWRITES.COM

The Giveaway

The October Frights Giveaway 

Clean Door

wooden door with handwritings
Taken by Aliaksei Lepik on Unsplash

I never felt quite comfortable with Elaine. There was something a little off. I recognised her bag as a genuine Chanel and her scarf was Hermes, but her nails were cracked and dirty and there was a dead look in her eyes. It didn’t matter, I needed the job. Times were hard.

“You want all of this cleaning?” I asked. I stared at the battered, graffiti-covered door. “It may well attract graffiti afterwards. I mean, almost straight away. It may be easier to paint over it.”

Elaine shook her head. “I would like the door taken back to the original paint,” she said. Her eyes darted around as she looked for an explanation. “I need to find the original paint for correct restoration.”

That was another thing. When Elaine spoke, she used an accent that I would have put somewhere in the Home Counties, with nothing particularly striking. The way she said the words was as English as Buckingham Palace. The words she used, however, were just that little bit off, like she was translating in her head. Still, these sort of cleaning jobs had dried up recently. “It will take some time,” I said. “I’ll have to go carefully as well. It’s an old building and the wood may not be sound. I may have to use specialist cleaners.” It was a rundown building in a rough part of town. This back alley was the back of closed shops, empty sheds and long disused garages. It wasn’t worth the effort, but who was I to argue with the fee she was paying.

“As long as you are thorough,” Elaine said. “And you requested half of the fee in advance.” She handed me a bulky envelope which I hastily stuffed inside my jacket.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll start this afternoon.”

I got back into the van and discreetly checked the envelope. The notes all looked genuine, but it was the same strange jumble. They hadn’t gone to a bank and withdrawn the cash in neat bundles. Instead it was a mishmash of notes of all denominations and conditions. I checked a few with the pen that I had picked up but couldn’t find a fake. My instincts were screaming at me to run, but I had rent and the van payments to consider and no other jobs on the horizon. I carefully stashed the money under the toolbox in the back and went to inspect the door.

I didn’t believe for a second that Elaine really cared about the original paint, but I took pride in my work and I took pains. If you have the right product, it’s not a hard job, but it took some time as I was washing off the chemicals between scrubbing the layers. I wondered if I would get in trouble with the gangs. It didn’t seem that sort of street, but I could feel an uneasy prickle between my shoulder blades as I worked, as if I was being watched. It didn’t matter. I needed this very generous payment.

The last layer was the worst. It was some strange signs that I had never seen before, not in years of graffiti removal. I squinted at them and took a picture on my phone. It looked like some strange writing, or a collection of symbols that should have been on ancient monuments, not a scruffy doorway in Leeds. I sent it to Kate at the University. She was into odd languages and perhaps could tell me who had tagged this.

It was getting dark as I finished. The usual chemicals hadn’t worked on the last layer but I fell back on the old faithful mixture of washing up liquid and biological laundry detergent. Eventually even that last tag was wiped away and the mushroom coloured door was left clean in glory just as the streetlights came on. It had been easy money, really, and I felt a twinge of conscience at the amount I had overcharged, but I had done a good job and the door gleamed.

My phone vibrated and I pulled it out of my pocket to check the text. I smiled. Kate had got back to me telling me not to wipe off the last layer, under any circumstances. I had to wait until she got there. Well that was too late. I sent back a pic of the immaculate door just as it was opening. I wasn’t expecting that. I hoped that the guy inside wasn’t upset at the change in his doorway.

Elaine appeared at my side, making me jump. “You have done well, especially with that last layer.”

“It was a little tricky,” I said. I fought with myself for a moment, and my conscience lost. “I needed some extra chemicals that I hadn’t accounted for in the quote for the job. I think…” I trailed off.

The man stepping out of the door looked barely human. Grey skin stretched tautly over sharp cheekbones and his eyes were red-rimmed and sunken. Great, I thought, a junkie. The elderly overcoat hung loosely on his tall frame and he swayed a little as staggered down the steps.

“Is that your door, mate?” I asked carefully.

He ignored me and turned to Elaine. “You have done well, my dear. You shall be rewarded.

My phone started ringing. Automatically I pulled it out of my pocket. It could be work. “Excuse me,” I said to Elaine. It was Kate.

“You need to get out of there, now!” Kate yelled frantically. “Just go!”

“I’m just finishing up now,” I said. “I’ll get my money and I’ll be over straight away.”

“Don’t wait for the money!” Kate screamed.

With unexpected, snake-like speed, Elaine pulled the phone out of my hand and ended the call. “You have done a wonderful piece of work,” she said, with a chilling smile.

I looked back at the door. That last layer of graffiti, that last bit of paint. It hadn’t been graffiti. I could feel the realisation flowing through me like ice water. It had been a warning.

“You removed the lock on the door,” the man said, also smiling. “Now you need to find what you have freed.”

I watched as the man’s smile changed, his teeth lengthened and his jaws gaped. I screamed and screamed as he stepped closer. And as his teeth fastened on my neck, everything went black.

It’s Day Three of the October Frights Blog Hop. I hope you enjoy the somewhat scary stories. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blogs!

Night to Dawn Magazine & Books LLCHawk’s HappeningsHeidi AngellCuriositiesJames McDonaldAlways Another ChapterSpreading the Writer’s WordYours in StorytellingCarmilla VoiezHello RomanceGirlZombieAuthorsFrighten MeM’habla’s!Angela Yuriko SmithBrain MatterNLCARTERWRITES.COM

The Giveaway

The October Frights Giveaway 

Dimming

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Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

He left yesterday morning. He wanted me to go with him, but I insisted on staying. Someone needed to look after the chickens and keep an eye on things. He said he would be back before I knew it with someone to sort out the generator.

It seems a long time ago. It’s a long time since I had a charge on my phone, and longer still since the last log burnt out of the fire. Now all I can do is watch the flame ebb on the lamp and wait.

And all the time the pad of paws pacing around the house grows louder. I hope the lamp lasts the night.

It’s Day Two of the October Frights Blog Hop. I hope you enjoy the somewhat scary stories. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blogs!

Night to Dawn Magazine & Books LLCHawk’s HappeningsHeidi AngellCuriositiesJames McDonaldAlways Another ChapterSpreading the Writer’s WordYours in StorytellingCarmilla VoiezHello RomanceGirlZombieAuthorsFrighten MeM’habla’s!Angela Yuriko SmithBrain MatterNLCARTERWRITES.COM

The Giveaway

The October Frights Giveaway  

No Rest

cars parked on side of the road during night time
Image by Pontus Wellgraf on Unsplash

“What’s her name?” I stalked slowly towards the man hunched over the drunk girl sprawled on the pavement. It was a scene played out every Friday and Saturday, and I knew the script. A predator had found his prey.

“She’s my girlfriend, and she’s sick.” He lied. “I just want to get her home.” He avoided my eyes. I didn’t blame him too much. I am a tall, well built man who is completely sober. I’m not an easy target like the woman crumpled next to him.

“What’s her name.” I pushed past him easily and picked up her bag, pulling out her driver’s licence.

“I think she needs to go home. I’ll call a taxi.” He tried to meet my gaze and failed.

What’s her name?

“I’ll go get a cab from the station.” He ran off.

I gently helped her up and guided her to the shop at the end of the street. It was a 24 hour convenience store, and, though corporate probably didn’t know, a safe haven with reliable people and a good relationship with the local cops. She swayed a little but managed. I checked her name and made sure she still had her phone. “Come on, Rose, come in here. It’s nice and warm and you can have a nice cup of tea.”

Steve came over, and nodded to Shelley who started calling the paramedics. “How is she?”

“I think she’s okay.” I said. “But I don’t think it’s just drink. She may have been spiked.”

“That’s the third one tonight.” Steve guided Rose onto a chair set next to the door, with a sturdy back and stable arms to support a vulnerable guest.

“I had a good look at him.” I said. “About the same height as Shelley, not tall, and skinny with it. He was wearing jeans and a denim jacket.” I shrugged. “That might help. I mean, who wears denim jackets these days?”

Steve raised an eyebrow. “You’re keeping up with fashion? I know what you are. I wouldn’t have thought you noticed these things.”

I looked away and shrugged. “It’s useful information.” I looked down at Rose who was still semi conscious. “I had better get back on watch.”

“You’ve been watching this street since I was a kid.” Steve said. “It’s not just at night, either. Last week someone raised the alarm about Surjit falling and getting stuck at the corner of Wine Street. I guess you couldn’t show yourself in daylight, but if someone hadn’t pulled down that stand of brochures into the alley, Surjit would still be there.”

“I need to get back to my post.” I said, taking a last look at Rose and backing out of the door.

“I know we are all grateful, but it must be hard for you.” Steve said. “When are you going to rest?”

“When I’ve paid my debt.” I faded into my usual nothingness and slipped past the paramedics as they rushed in. I looked down the street and watched a group of lads stalking a drunk. They looked like they had robbery on their mind. Softly, into Steve’s ear, just before I set off, I whispered, “There’s no rest for the formerly wicked.”

The New Building

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Taken by me

Kane Thelwell looked around nervously and slid into the church hall. It should be safe enough. All he had to do was keep his head down and no-one would look at him twice. He was just so desperate to get out of his small room and at least be around living people, even if he didn’t feel comfortable speaking to them, that he risked this trip to the church coffee morning.

It was standard stuff. Three old ladies were serving tea and coffee from a huge, overcleaned urn in one corner, together with a selection of bacon butties, sausage sarnies and toast. Another table had a selection of home made cakes. Kane looked over them and decided to buy one later. In his experience, competition between the ladies meant that the cake stall was always worth a visit. There was a sad selection of battered paperback books that had probably been trundled out every Monday for years, and a rail of ‘nearly new’ kids’ clothes.

The best thing about this was that the church hall was new. It was so new that you could hardly find it on the internet. It was a brand new, purpose built complex with a church, a church hall, a selection of meeting rooms and a large and extremely modern kitchen area. This was not a haunted building. It hadn’t had time. Besides, it had been blessed, so it had to be ghost free, right?

Kane couldn’t remember when it had started. He had always been faintly aware of ghosts, even when he was a child. There had always been the faint whisper on the edge of his hearing, the faint flicker on the edge of his field of vision and the sensation of not being alone. It was only as he got older, however, that the ghosts had started talking to him. As a young teenager in foster care, he had been glad of a sympathetic conversation and the old railwayman who had died forty years before in the bedroom now allotted to Kane had been a good listener with some sound advice. Kane had missed Eddie when his placement ended there. Then there had been Millie. She hadn’t been very helpful when it came to sorting out survival in a hostile household, and she hadn’t always listened, but she had some good stories and some great advice about how to talk to girls, which had been a real help to a fourteen year old.

The placement after that hadn’t been so much fun, and the elderly schoolteacher who had died in that room five years before was not sympathetic. He was, however, surprisingly tolerant when it came to helping Kane with his homework. Kane’s school attendance had been erratic at best even before he got into the system, but Mr Kettering had stood behind Kane as Kane scrolled through teaching sites on the council issued laptop and then patiently talked through the work Kane had missed. Kane had been almost sorry when the acerbic Mr Kettering finally passed over, comforted by the knowledge that he had got one more troubled boy through his exams.

His next placement had been a halfway house. There was no question of him going to college, despite his good grades, but the converted Victorian townhouse had been okay, and with the three ghostly parlour maids, the spirit of the old lady who had been the matriarch of a large family and the shades half a dozen kids and teenagers, there had never been a dull moment.

But that’s when it turned. One of the other, living, members of the facility had overheard Kane’s half of a long conversation with Mary, the maid from 1908, and had reported him to the resident social worker. When blood tests showed Kane to be drug free, a few further observations and careful questions led to Kane being held for psychiatric evaluation. That had been six months ago, and while Kane had illicitly stopped taking his medication, he was aware of being monitored in that same halfway house. Now he was careful.

Kane smiled nervously at the old lady as she poured him his tea, picked up his sausage sarnie and found a seat in the corner. As a defence he pulled out his battered phone and put in the headphones. There was nothing to listen to. Kane hadn’t been able to afford to pay for any phone calls for months. But if anyone saw him talking, perhaps they could assume he was having a conversation.

The sandwich was perfect – the sausages were crispy and brown sauce oozed from the soft, white roll as he bit into it. Then Kane’s heart sank. He could see ghosts. He could see their faint outlines as they wandered around the hall and inspected the latest information on the notice board. He started to bolt down his sandwich. He had to get out of here before the ghosts realised that he could see them. He drained the last of his tea, but he was too late. The ghost of an elderly lady caught his eye.

Kane’s heart sank as she grabbed her companion’s insubstantial arm and tugged the elderly gentleman towards Kane. He looked towards the door but it was too late.

“Hello, dear, I’m Margaret and this is Herbert. Herbert was the first minister on this site.”

Kane positioned his phone so he looked like he was making a call. “I thought this site was new.”

Herbert shook his head. “They rebuilt on the same site. I was completely against it, of course. I always said that there were issues with the traffic when the new supermarket was built.”

“Nobody listens to us, of course.” Margaret said sadly. “And now all we can do is listen to the endless rumble. It affected the foundations of the old building.”

Kane looked out of the window and onto the busy street. He could see the ghosts’ point. Traffic was edging along in a jam just before the turn off to the massive supermarket. “It’s progress.” He said quietly.

“We noticed the cracks in the cellar in the old building before anyone else.” Herbert sighed. “They never listened to us, and by the time the committee had spotted them, it was too late.”

“The old building had its problems, of course.” Margaret said. “They had a lot of trouble with the heating.” She looked wistfully out of the window. “Everything is working well, but there is so much traffic.”

“If there was only a way to escape this.” Herbert followed Margaret’s gaze. “Some way of leaving this endless rumble.”

“Is there a way?” Kane asked.

Margaret leaned forward, sinking slightly into the table. “You can see us. Perhaps you can find a way to get us some peace. That’s all we want.”

“If we could just find a way to silence the endless rumble.” Herbert said. He looked around the bustling church hall. “It is all so different from my day.”

Kane looked at Herbert who was wearing a frock coat and stiff collar and then glanced over to the young mums in leggings. “Time change.” He managed.

“And not for the better, young man.” Margaret said. “Surely you are willing to help us?”

Kane drew a breath to answer and then froze as a stern and elderly minister stalked over towards his table. Kane shrank back into his chair, miserably aware that a skinny youngster apparently talking to himself was never going to get a warm welcome.

The minister leaned down on the table and, to Kane’s utter shock, spoke directly to Margaret. “Are you causing trouble again?” He looked over at Herbert. “You both know better than that. This poor lad came in for a drink and a sandwich. He did not come in to be harassed by two ghosts barely better than poltergeists.”

Herbert pursed his lips. “I beg your pardon!”

“Which story were you telling? The tale where you just needed a picture of your descendants? Or the one where you needed to see pictures of the town.” The minister looked between the two ghosts. “Don’t tell me you were trying the traffic one again. You are on your last warning.”

“You are no fun.” Margaret pulled herself upright, drifting slightly above the ground. “It’s not like we meant any harm.”

“You never do.” The minister snapped. “But I’m still having to counsel those you contact.” He shook his head. “I think you need to leave this young man alone. And I am warning you, one more episode like this and I’m banishing you back to the churchyard.”

Kane watched the two affronted ghosts drift away through the nearest wall and then turned to the minister in surprise. “You can see them?”

“Most of us here can,” The minister smiled sympathetically. “But we’re an unusual bunch.” He hesitated. “I can talk you through some techniques to avoid the supernatural, if you like, or learn more about it.”

“I would really like to learn more about it.” Kane said without thinking. He paused. “I’d like to be able to ignore them as well, at least, the annoying ones.”

“I’m Charles Easton, the minister here.” Charles held out his hand. “If you’re free on Wednesday, I’m in my office all afternoon. We can have a chat.”

Kane automatically shook the minister’s hand. “I’m Kane Thelwell.” He said. “Pleased to meet you.” He took a breath. “I’ll be back on Wednesday.”

“Excellent,” Charles said briskly. “Excuse me, I need to speak to Mr Matthews.” And he was gone.

Kane took the last mouthful of his tea and stood up slowly. He couldn’t wait to tell the ghosts back home about this.

Just in Case

“You can’t be too careful.” Dan said as he nailed another horseshoe on the top door. “The fairies cause problems.”

Yvonne looked critically at the horseshoes. “Shouldn’t they be the other way up?”

Dan looked shocked. “If they are on the other way, all the luck would drain out.”

Yvonne chose her words with care. “Dan, you know that fairies aren’t real, right?”

“How can you be sure?” Dan asked, standing back and looking at his handiwork. “You know that there are a lot of strange things in this world that never make the papers.”

Yvonne nodded. “Absolutely. But have you ever seen a fairy?”

“That’s not the point.” Dan said. “Milk is going missing from the dairy.”

“And that’s nothing to do with the local cats?” Yvonne asked. “What other proof?”

“The iron keeps them away.” Dan said. “It proves that it’s working.”

“Did you ever see a fairy before you put the iron up?” Yvonne asked.

Dan rubbed his sleeve over the latest horseshoe to knock off the dust. “Just because I haven’t seen a fairy, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”

Yvonne sighed. “You’ve been a vampire here for four hundred and seven years. If there were any fairies around here, I think you would have noticed by now.”

Waiting

architectural photography of brown house
Image from Unsplash, taken by Irena Carpaccio

Rose jerked awake from where she had been dozing.  The knock on the door had sounded like thunder in her dreams.  She rushed to the window and peered through the dusty nets.

Ellen joined her at the window.  They both looked out at the slim young man.  “Is this it?” Ellen asked.  “Have they found Mary?”

Ruby stood at the entrance to the room, too nervous to join them at the window.   “Does it look like good news or bad news?”

The door knocker sounded again.  “We should answer the door.” Rose said, sounding braver than she felt.

“What if it’s bad news?” Ellen asked.  “What if they haven’t found Mary?  What if she can never come home with us?”

“Is it a man or a woman at the door?” Ruby asked, edging a little closer to the window.

“It’s a man.” Rose said, peering a little further then darting back against the cobwebs as their visitor looked up at the window.  “He’s wearing a suit.”

“Does he have anyone with him?” Ruby clenched her hands into fists.

Rose shook her head.  “He’s got a box, though, all draped with a silk cloth.”

“Is that good news or bad news?” Ruby asked.

“It has to be news about Mary.” Ellen said.  “We should answer the door.”

“What if it is another ‘favour’.” Ruby said flatly.  “We’ve worn ourselves to shreds doing ‘favours’ for those who should have helped us.  Perhaps they think we need to do more.”

The knocker thundered again.  “We have to answer the door.” Rose said.  “We should all go.”  The man was looking around curiously.  An expensive car stood at the end of the weed covered drive.  “He may leave and then we will never know.”

The sisters tiptoed into the hall.  “We can’t ignore this.” Rose said.  “We have to take courage and think of Mary.”

It was Ellen who finally slid open the chain and turned the stiff lock.  The neglected door creaked a little as she dragged it open.  It was a cold, late autumn day with damp in the air, but the man did not rush.  He nodded politely and stepped in.  He looked around, and, without saying a word, pulled the dusty hall table to the centre of the hall.  Then he placed the box reverentially on the table.  The sisters didn’t speak as he carefully pulled off the black cloth and folded it neatly, tucking it inside his heavy, expensive overcoat.  The sisters could barely move, transfixed by black, lacquered box.  The man deftly removed the lid and removed an urn.  He checked that it was safe and centred.  Then he looked around the hall.  The sisters did not make a sound.  The man bowed politely again and left, closing the door behind him.

The sisters finally relaxed as they listened for the old gate creaking shut and the car purring away.  Then they crowded around the urn.  The three ghosts, finally reunited with the ashes of their beloved sister, faded away.

Love You Forever

“How dare he date her!” A shower of dead rose petals scattered across the floor.

“You died two years ago.” Kane felt desperately out of his depth. How could he explain it to the ghost of Carlee Evans? “He can’t mourn you forever.”

“I killed myself because of him.” Carlee sobbed. “Of course he should love me forever. I left a note saying that I would love him forever. It’s not too much to ask.”

“I did some digging and looked some stuff up on the internet as well as talking to him.” Kane said. “You killed yourself because he went to his grandmother’s funeral.”

“I needed him!” Carlee wailed. “He was always talking to his precious family and his stupid friends. He should have been concentrating on me! I was devastated from work.”

“It was his grandmother’s funeral.” Kane stared at the ghost’s face for a moment, but saw nothing there. “He loved her and was heartbroken.”

“He should have been loving me!” Carlee stamped her ethereal foot. “I loved him.”

“Did you mean to kill yourself?” Kane asked.

Carlee shrugged and turned away.

“Because your internet search history was all about ‘safe overdoses’.” Kane could feel the ghost pulling away from him, but he concentrated a little. He was getting a lot better at dealing with ghosts and, to Carlee’s horror, she couldn’t leave.

“He should have been worried about me, not anyone else.” Carlee said. “And we should always be together. He doesn’t need anyone else.”

Kane took a deep breath and nodded to the ghost of Auntie Brenda who was hovering just on the edge of his vision. She slipped away. He tapped Carlee on the shoulder and almost smiled as she flinched at the unexpected contact. “You know Mick asked me to help because I can talk to ghosts.”

Carlee nodded. “And you can tell him how much I love him, and that I forgive him, and you can keep relaying messages. He won’t need the bitch now he can talk to me.”

“I can speak to all sorts of ghosts.” Kane said. “I keep it quiet, but I can often find a particular spirit or ghost, if I try and have a few clues.”

“I only care about Mick.” Carlee said. “Nothing else matters to me and nothing else matters to him. He has always been obsessed with me.”

Kane thought of the way Mick had described Carlee, the reluctance to date, the nightmare of the relationship and the relief mixed in with the guilt when she died. “I spoke to your mother.”

Carlee stared at him. “You wouldn’t!”

“Carlee Jean, how could you do this to me?” A ghost of an older woman strode towards them out of the shades, her lips pressed hard together and her eyes cold. “I can’t believe that you continue to embarrass your family, after everything I’ve said.”

Carlee spun around. “Mother!”

“Don’t you take that tone with me, young lady. Your father is so disappointed in you.”

“No, not Dad as well!”

The man following was as formally dressed as Carlee’s mother and wore a disapproving expression. “I found out about what the papers said.” He shook his head. “Even in death you were a disgrace.”

“I’m surprised that Father McKinley did the service.” Carlee’s mother said. “And to think he baptised you.”

“Mother…” Carlee tried to interrupt.

“You are coming with us.” Her father was adamant. “I am not allowing our family name to be dragged through the mud because you can’t control yourself.”

“No, Mum, Dad, you don’t understand!” Carlee cast an imploring look at Kane. “Say something.”

“Good luck.” Kane said, watching the figures fade out of sight. Now to give Mick the good news.

Wanderer in the Mist

brown leafless trees on brown field
Image from Unsplash taken by DimitriyAnikin

The wanderer couldn’t believe how long he had been walking in the woods. It felt like days. The mist between the silver trees softened the edges of the world and blurred any sounds into a faint hiss. Everything looked the same and the faint echoes of song that tantalised him on the edge of his hearing were impossible to place. He paused and put a tentative hand on the ice cold trunk of a tree. Perhaps he had passed it before. He couldn’t tell. He had tried arranging stones on the paths to see if he was going in circles but when he found the stones again they were not quite the same as he remembered. They had been a little jumbled and he couldn’t be sure if they were the stones he had left there or not.

He regretted taking the dare. Everyone said that the lane led to Fairyland if you went on a full moon on May Day Eve. He hadn’t wanted to go but Harry had dared him and he hadn’t wanted to look scared. He stopped again and leant against a tree. It was funny. He didn’t feel hungry or thirsty, but he was sure he had been here most of the night. He shivered.

He looked around. It felt like days but there was no sign of dawn. Perhaps the mist was hiding it. He looked around. He didn’t remember this fork in the path. Perhaps that was the way out. He frowned. He could hear voices! He finally could hear voices!

“I don’t know, father.” The voice of a young man said. “The signs are mounting up. There is something coming to Leeds and I’m not sure what.”

“I do not wish to believe it, Steve.” An older voice said. “But I fear it is true.”

The wanderer ran towards them. “Hey, hey there! Can you help me? I’m lost.” He ran into the clearing and then stumbled to a halt. A tall, dark man with devilish green eyes was dressed in what looked like Medieval armour and was facing a slim man in a sharp suit.

“I am Lord Marius,” the man in armour said. “This is my son, Steve Adderson. Why are you here?”

“Harry dared me.” The wanderer looked between the two men. “This is Fairyland, right?”

“Yes, it is.” Steve looked at him. “Have you been here long?”

The wanderer smiled ruefully. “It seems like days. Do you know the way out? It’s just that if I’m out too late my mam won’t let me listen to the coronation on the radio.”

“Coronation?” Lord Marius asked, amused.

“Yes, King George VI. He’ll do a better job and at least he’s married to a proper lady.” The wanderer looked between the two men and their suddenly set expressions. “What’s the matter?”

“I’ll explain it.” Steve said. “I’ll meet up later, father.” He turned to the wanderer. “We need to get out of this domain and have a long talk. What’s your name?”

The wanderer stared at him for a long moment. He had come into Fairyland, some time ago. He had come because of a dare from Harry. He wanted to get back to listen to the coronation on the radio and he couldn’t if his mam was cross and he seemed to have been wandering for a long time. Those thoughts had run a track around his mind for longer than it seemed, with nothing else on his mind. “I can’t remember.”

The Garden

white flowers in tilt shift lens
Image taken by J Lee on Unsplash

It had been a tough week. In the space of three days I had left my boyfriend, moved right across the country to a new home and started a new job in a different industry. I didn’t know if I was on my head or my heels.

I stepped outside my back door. Than was something else I needed to work on. For the first time in my life I had a garden. I had always lived in flats, but when I saw this house on sale within my budget and five minutes walk from my new job, I went for it. Now I was regretting it. What was I supposed to do with a garden? I didn’t know a plant from a weed.

I slowly stepped forward onto the unmown lawn. At least I could recognise the daisies flourishing across the grass. It was sort of sad. Someone had really loved this garden, but I didn’t know where to start. I suppose I should start by buying a lawn mower.

“Hello,” a voice said across the overgrown hedge.

I peered over. “Hi, I’m Kate. I’ve just moved in.”

“I’m Rick. I’ve lived here a few years. I knew Mrs Carr, the old lady who lived here.” The tall man behind the hedge nodded politely. “She died you know, in hospital.”

“I’m sorry.” I said.

“She was very fond of her garden,” Rick said. “We used to talk about plants a lot.”

“I don’t know anything about gardening,” I admitted.

“I’m sure you’ll be able to keep up the garden,” Rick said with breezy confidence. “It’s low maintenance. I spend a little more time on my plot.”

I walked along to the gap in the sagging fence. “It looks very nice,” I said uncertainly. The manicured rows of plants marched in rows, ruthlessly pruned and trimmed and without a leaf out of place.

“Those are the shallots,” Rick said, “I’m looking forward to pickling those later. Of course I’ll add some of the chilis from there. That’s the brassicas. I’ve got chard, perpetual spinach, cabbage, kale and some tender stalk broccoli. I’ve got some sprouts coming in the greenhouse.”

“That sounds nice,” I said.

“I’ve been having trouble with the onions, so I’ve tried the old trick of planting with parsley and that seems to be working. And I have rosemary with the tomatoes over there.”

“Mmm,” I said, trying to look intelligent.

“Tomatoes can be tricky, and I’m having a spot of trouble with blight. The cherry tomatoes seem to be okay, and the yellow tomatoes in the corner, but the heritage varieties don’t really stand up to it. It’s only to be expected.” Rich’s eyes were alight with his passion.

I nodded, as if I had a clue as he raced on about planning for parsnips and the issues with carrots but I was distracted. Just next to the gap in the fence was an untidy drift of white flowers that looked out of place among the regimented beds. “What are those?”

Rick paused in his account of his flourishing garlic plants and looked uncomfortable. “I don’t know. They self seed and I like the way they look. Mrs Carr always used to say that they looked joyful.”

“I think you’re going to have to give me some advice on my garden,” I said, “But keep it in the same way as Mrs Carr left it.”

Rick nodded, smiling. “I’d like that.”

After all the hurry and dashing around over the last month, with all the tension and worry, something inside me relaxed. It was going to be alright.

The last flash fiction before the October rush. I hope you can enjoy it.