New Books

piled books on brown wooden shelf
Image from Unsplash, taken by Prateek Katyal

“Good afternoon. I’m Mr Kennington. I was the first Head Librarian when this establishment opened, in 1803, and I’ve haunted here ever since my death.”

The new ghost smiled and shook Mr Kennington’s ethereal hand. “I’m Rose Donnelly.” She smiled, a figure in her late fifties, dressed in ghostly Victorian skirt and blouse and with an air of energy and determination around her. “Apparently I’m attached to the books.”

“As am I.” Mr Kennington nodded. “This is Toby. He passed on the premises two years ago.”

Rose tactfully didn’t ask the details but shook his hand. “You look about the same age as my great-great-grandson.” She said. She smiled a little sadly. “It was a shame that he decided to get rid of the collection, but there wasn’t the money and he needed to sell the house, so that was that.” She rubbed her hands briskly. “Besides, they were practically untouched. He spent most of his time on his top lap.”

“Laptop.” Toby said, without thinking. He was watching Elsie. The third ghost was peering over Rhia’s shoulder at the latest display she was putting up.

“Quite.” Rose said. “Who are the ladies?”

“Elsie has been here since she passed away from the influenza, back in…” Mr Kennington thought for a moment.

Tony drifted over to the display. “1919, apparently.”

Rhia looked over her shoulder. “Do you mind?”

“Rhia is the current Head Librarian.” Mr Kennington said quietly. He took Rose’s arm and quietly drifted back into the stacks. “She is somewhat in love with the owner of the Library, Mr Liam Kelshaw. And she is the first employee who can see us.”

“Is that convenient or inconvenient?” Rose asked.

“It has had its uses.” Mr Kennington said. “I managed to direct her to some items which were sold and secured the future of our library, and I’ve deflected her from a few other bits and pieces that I have salted away for future necessity. I cannot, however fully approve.” He sighed. “The ghost is Elsie. She is a good girl, who has always done her best, but she was never much of a reader. She met her young man here, as it was warm and dry and away from her mother, and promised to meet him here when he got back from the Front.”

“And he never came back?” Rose asked.

“I sincerely believe he was a casualty, rather than an unfaithful beau.” Mr Kennington said. “Unlike Elsie, he was a reader, and had great promise. The Great War took many good souls.” He drifted back to the main room. “Elsie doesn’t always keep up with things.” Mr Kennington said. “But she does her best.”

“That’s my name, there.” Elsie said, pointing at a list on the board in Rhia’s beautiful calligraphy.

“That’s right.” Rhia said. “Elsie Stretton, Spanish influenza.”

“And that’s my nan, and my auntie.” Elsie pointed.

“All the people in the parish who died of Spanish Flu.” Rhia said. “I’m trying to show how many were infected.”

“And this is the names of the soldiers who died overseas of the Fluenza.” Elsie said. “That must have taken some working out.”

“I’m a good researcher.” Rhia said. “And I had some help from Toby. He’s wonderful with computers.”

“And that, that’s Albert.” Elsie said, suddenly quiet.

“Albert Birkenshaw, yes he died of the Influenza when he was at Etaples.” Rhia said, shuffling through the copied photos. “It’s very sad. A lot of soldiers who survived the Great War were killed by the Spanish Influenza.”

“My Albert is dead?”

Toby laid a gentle hand on her insubstantial shoulder. “It’s has been a while.” He said.

“Albert was an estimable young man, with great potential.” Mr Kennington said. “I was always confident that he would have returned if at all possible.”

“My Albert is dead?” Elsie repeated. “So he won’t come back to meet me here?”

“I’m afraid that he won’t be able to meet you here.” Mr Kennington said. “He would never let you down if he could possibly help it.”

“Albert can’t come here to meet me.” Elsie said. “If he could, he would.”

“Indeed.” Mr Kennington said sadly, as Elsie started to fade.

“And if he can’t meet me here, why am I waiting?” Elsie said. “What if he’s waiting for me outside the Pearly Gates? I can’t be hanging around here.” There was barely a trace of her left, a wisp hanging in the air. “I’ve got to go and meet my Albert.”

“Goodbye.” Mr Kennington said softly to the empty air. “And God Bless.”

Quiet Library

“We have to do something.” Elsie whispered. The faded ghost peeped around the corner. “She’s in a world of her own.”

“You can’t interfere with someone’s love life.” Mr Kennington said. In life he had been a head librarian and he still had the habit of authority.

“She didn’t realise that he couldn’t see us for years.” Elsie said. “She’s not going to notice that he’s besotted by her.” Elsie sighed. “It’s so romantic.”

“She may not like him.” Mr Kennington pointed out.

The third of the library’s ghosts drifted over. “It’s up to him,” Tony said. “Unless she’s got a boyfriend somewhere else.” He looked nervously at Elsie and then looked away quickly.

“That’s not the only reason she would refuse.” Mr Kennington said. “After all, the young man is not likely to be a good provider.”

“We only know what Rhia told us.” Elsie said. She looked wistfully between Rhia, sorting out the classic fiction, and Liam, who seemed engrossed in his computer. “Tony, go and have a look at what he’s looking at, there’s a love.”

Tony looked at Mr Kennington, who nodded. The ghost of the teenager, the only one who had any understanding of computers, disappeared through the wall and slid into place behind Liam.

Elsie and Mr Kennington carefully composed themselves as Rhia picked up a faded book and walked passed them to the back rooms. Mr Kennington sniffed as soon as Rhia was out of sight of Liam and wagged a faded finger. “Your cleaner did not attend again this morning. It is completely unacceptable. You need to speak to her. In fact, it was Mr Liam who did that vacuum thing and dusted this morning.”

Rhia managed a smile. “Hello, Mr Kennington.” She sighed. “Liam can’t afford to pay the cleaner any more. He said he’ll take over that job.”

“It is inappropriate for the owner of the library to dust.” Mr Kennington said. “The first owner, his esteemed ancestor, would never had done such a thing.”

“We need new subscribers.” Rhia said. “People aren’t coming here. Liam doesn’t know what to do. He says people don’t like old books anymore.”

“Hi,” Tony said awkwardly as he slid out of the wall behind Rhia. She jumped and turned around.

“Tony, I wish you wouldn’t do that.” Rhia said. “Anyway, I need to get on. I’m going to see if I can do something about this spine before it goes.”

The ghosts watched her as he walked briskly into the back room before Elsie and Mr Kennington turned to Tony. Tony had only been dead three years and had managed to keep up with a lot of the technology. He shook his head.

“I think Rhia’s right. He’s looking at stuff like auctions and articles on the best way to sell old books. He looks pretty down as well.”

“See,” Mr Kennington nodded. “He’s not a good provider. Rhia is mostly sensible and would not chose a husband who couldn’t provide for her and a future family.”

“It’s not really like that these days.” Tony avoided Mr Kennington’s eyes. “Anyway, it looks bad. Perhaps he can ask her for a date once he has sold the library.”

“What?” Mr Kennington snapped, before taking a deep breath. “He can’t sell the library.”

“It’s not going to happen.” Elsie said with fake confidence. “I mean, we live here – if you know what I mean.”

“We’ll probably be still here, but I think they’ll turn this into a bar or some flats.”

“Flats?” Mr Kennington said. He didn’t always remember modern terminology.

“Apartments, small sets of rooms where people live.” Tony said helpfully.

“But then how will my Albert ever find me?” Elsie asked, her pale eyes wide.

“He isn’t coming back.” Mr Kennington said with as much patience as he could manage. “You have been dead over 100 years. If Albert was going to come back, he would have already got here.”

“I waited for him.” Elsie said. “I promised him. I said I would wait and always be in the library whenever I could so no matter what happened while he was away, he could find me.”

“I have overseen this library for nearly two centuries.” Mr Kennington pulled himself to his full height, such as it was, and drifted slightly upwards. He shook his head sadly. “It is all my fault. I have spent far too much time coaching Tony and now that Mr Pierce and Miss Ellis have found peace, well, we are spread thinly.” Mr Kenning shook his head. “Not that I blame either of you,” he said quickly. “It’s been a pleasure to see you come on, young Tony, and I certainly don’t want any more deaths in the library.” His translucent finger tapped at his pale chin. “We shall have to have an advertising campaign in all the appropriate newspapers. Perhaps even a picture!”

Tony shrugged. “People don’t bother much with papers these days.” He said. “Besides, adverts cost money. If Liam can’t afford a cleaner then he can’t afford hundreds of pounds and a marketing manager.”

“He shall have to sell a book.” Mr Kennington said. “It’s a dreadful thing for a library to do, and it should be resisted until there is truly no other way. Fortunately, I have been holding something in reserve.” He drifted towards the classics section. “It was before your time, Elsie, but Charles Dickens visited Leeds.” Mr Kennington sniffed. “He was not complimentary about our good city, but he did sign some copies of that Oliver Twist book.” Mr Kennington’s mouth twisted. He was not a fan of serialised fiction. “I know he signed quite a few, because a rascal came in and tried to force Mr Horace to purchase them.” Mr Kennington shook his head. “There was a dreadful scene and several of the dozen books he brought in fell down the crack at the back of the bookcase. No-one noticed as the rogue got quite vocal and had to be escorted out. Mr Horace threw his books at him afterwards. I couldn’t get out to see what was happening, of course, but the constabulary were called and there was quite a scuffle, Mr Dickens being popular.”

The ghosts drifted over to the classics section. Sure enough, behind the collected works of George Bernard Shaw, was a crack where the thin pine of the original shelves had split. Elsie slid in to check.

“They’re dusty, of course, but they seem okay and you can still see their autographs. But we can’t tell Liam. He can’t see us.”

Mr Kennington looked over to where Liam was slouched at his desk, his head in his hands and a blank look on his face. “We tell Rhia and hope that she can persuade Mr Liam to invest the small sum raised by the books into an advert in the Yorkshire Post. And then,” he said, shaking his head, “We need to work out how to get them respectably married – once Mr Liam can provide properly of course.” He frowned. “Do you think that they will raise enough funds with those novels?” He shook his head. “I shall start working on contingency plans, just in case.” He cast his eye over the two ghosts. “The library must go on!

The List

Tim McGuigan, solicitor and reluctant trustee turned to Kane. “Can you see any ghosts here?”

Kane looked around the dusty flat. “Hang on a minute, sir.” He moved slowly around the living room and pushed into the bedroom.

“The old lady died in hospital,” Tim said. “I suppose her spirit might have returned here.”

“You have her will, don’t you?” Kane asked.

Tim sighed deeply. “I think that Ms Beresford had a sharp sense of humour and hated her relatives. I have the will. I’m looking for the codicil.”

“Co da what?” Kane peered reluctantly into the bathroom and then returned to the living room.

Tim followed him. “It’s a legal addition to the will that is kept with the original will under normal circumstances.” There was an edge to his voice. “This is not normal circumstances.” He paused and then shrugged helplessly. “You may as well know. I loathe breeching client confidentiality, but I think any clue will help you. And Ms Beresford wasn’t exactly my client. She had already lodged the will when I bought the practice.”

“So you never met her?” Kane asked.

“No,” Tim said. “But I’m getting an idea of her. The will listed individual requests to her carers, made allowance for bills, taxes and payment for the funeral, and then said, and I quote, ‘the remainder of my goods and chattels to be divided among my relatives as stated in the list dated 14th November 2007, with the remainder to be sold and the proceeds to go to my nominated charity together with any money or monies remaining.’ I have memorised the dratted thing.”

“Is that a problem?” Kane asked.

“Look around. Somewhere there is a detailed list of who gets what of the art.” Tim shook his head. “That’s an original Hockney, and that’s a Moore. The art in here is worth a fortune. And then there’s the collected first editions of books. Some of them are worth thousands. All of her relatives are clamouring to get their share of the…” Tim’s training asserted itself. “I mean, they want to be able to have whatever legacy is due to them. And the charity has pitbulls for their legal team. My receptionist handed in her notice yesterday.” He turned to Kane. “Can your Auntie help? I know that she’s found people that are, you know, passed over in the past?”

Kane shook his head. “She’s fading,” he said. “She’s getting ready to pass over. I’m going to miss her, but it’s only right.”

“I’m sorry,” Tim said, patting the young lad’s shoulder.

“It’s okay,” Kane said. “I’m sort of ready.”

Tim smiled sadly, then looked around. “I don’t know what my predecessor was thinking. I mean, there could be artwork worth over a million pounds here, and we have no idea who should receive it. We’re going to have to store it, insure it and still try and find that list. He must have been mad. I can’t think what made him agree to that sort of madness.”

“You’d be surprised,” a voice behind Kane said.

Kane turned. The ghost was of an older woman with bright orange hair and wearing a pink velour tracksuit. “Ms Beresford?” he asked.

“That’s me!” she said. “As for how I persuaded the solicitor – I may have passed my prime, but there were a few tricks in the old dog yet. You see, Mr Clough had a weakness for…”

Kane desperately tried to cover his ears as Ms Beresford started to explain in minute detail exactly how she had persuaded the former solicitor. “It’s okay, you don’t need to tell me.” He turned to Tim. “She used sex.”

Tim looked at the embarrassment glowing from Kane. “I can tell. Has she appeared?”

“Yes,” Kane said. He turned to the outrageous lady. “Why did you hide the list for the relatives?”

“None of them have done a day’s work in their lives,” Ms Beresford said. “I thought it would do them no harm to exert themselves to find the list.”

“But they can’t come here until the list has been found,” Kane pointed out. “It’s Mr McGuigan that has to do the work, and he’s done nothing to you.”

Ms Beresford frowned. “But at least that shiftless lot will have to wait a while, and that’s something.”

Kane relayed the information to Tim and then turned to Ms Beresford. “How did you choose which charity to leave it to?”

“I chose a big one for the main will with a royal sponsor,” Ms Beresford said. “It was more or less at random. But the trustees are legally obliged to get the best deal possible for the charity, so they have to fight to keep the will as written.”

“Very clever,” Tim said after Kane had explained.

“It’s the cats’ shelter that I really valued, and I managed to put a decent amount their way when I was alive,” Ms Beresford said. Her ghostly face softened. “I helped out there, years ago. I’ve never forgotten.” She looked into her past. “I’ve always been a bit adventurous, with sex, but this was with love and it was different. I’ve always wondered what happened to her.”

“Did you leave anything to her?” Kane asked.

“I didn’t know where to start looking,” Ms Beresford sighed. “Besides, I could have more fun thinking about the useless lot scrambling for their pennies. They’ve ran up credit cards and loans waiting for me to die. The longer they wait, the more the interest will eat up the portion they get. And I’m going nowhere. Not until I see them work for it.”

Kane turned to Tim and moved a little aside. “I don’t think that I can persuade her,” he said. “Do you think you could arrange for the relatives to come and look?”

Tim stared at him. “It would be a riot. I’ve met the relatives, and while I’m not happy about being stuck in the middle, I don’t blame Ms Beresford for a second. They are…” His solicitor training kicked in. “They are difficult.”

“I suppose we could start looking,” Kane looked around.

“There are hundreds of books, all perfectly sized to have a small list in them,” Tim said. “The list could be inside the cushion of a chair or sofa, but we can’t do anything destructive because that would reduce the value of the estate and, trust me, those relatives would sue.”

“Perhaps we can go and get a coffee and plan what to do next,” Kane said. He looked at the smug shade of Ms Beresford.

He was interrupted as the ghost of Auntie Brenda shot into the room. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere! April’s had her baby and it’s a girl!”

Kane sighed in relief. “Are they both alright?”

“They are both fine,” Auntie Brenda assured him. “She’s a bit tired, poor kid, but the little girl is doing fine – a bonnie 7lb 4oz and they’re calling her Louise.”

“That’s a lovely name,” Kane said. He turned to Tim. “Sorry, it’s Auntie Brenda’s ghost. She brought some news…” he trailed off as he caught a glimpse of the expression on Ms Beresford’s ghostly face.

Ms Beresford was staring at Auntie Brenda, who was staring back. Auntie Brenda took a step forward. “Jocasta?”

“Brenda?” Ms Beresford’s ghost had lost all semblance of colour. “Is it really you?”

“I’m so sorry,” Auntie Brenda said, her voice suddenly younger. “But you know what my family was like and they whisked me away.”

“I tried to find you,” Ms Beresford said, her voice breaking, “But it was no good.” She took a deep breath. “I behaved disgracefully.”

“So did I,” Auntie Brenda said, and laughed her deep, throaty laugh. “Thank goodness we did!” She turned to Kane. “It’s time for me to go. Give April my blessing.”

Kane watched the two women fading gently. “Where is the list!?”

“Bedside table on the left, second drawer down, taped to the underside of the drawer,” Ms Beresford said over her shoulder before turning back to Auntie Brenda. “I can’t wait to hear all about it!”

Then they were gone.

Tim listened patiently as Kane tried to explain what had happened. The solicitor shook his head as he carefully removed the bedside table’s drawer. “It sounds like they are about to cause trouble wherever they end up,” he said. “I did a bit of research on Ms Beresford, and she did a lot of good on the quiet, while being very loud on the scandal.”

“Auntie Brenda fostered kids,” Kane said, “And she did her best even with the hardest ones.”

Tim neatly unpacked the contents of the drawer onto the dusty bed and then turned the drawer over. He started taking pictures with his phone as he eased off the yellowing envelope and pulled the flap open. “I can’t be too careful,” he said. “Ms Beresford’s family are not nice people.” He glanced over the list and his jaw dropped. “Look at this!” She’s listed everyone of her living relatives, with a family tree – look- and left them each a teaspoon. That’s it. One decorative teaspoon. It says that there’s a drawer full in the kitchen and she got them cheap from an auction house.” Tim looked at Kane, wide eyed. “And all the art and valuables are listed, and they’re all left to different charities.” He grinned. “There are a lot of cat charities listed.”

“The family are going to be furious, aren’t they?” Kane said.

Tim stared at the list as if he was holding a ticking bomb. “I think I’ll stick to zoom meetings for this. It might be safer.”

Bad Night’s Sleep

You were my perfect victim. You were young, bright and energetic and I was so glad when I stumbled across you when you visited that fake medium. You were the only one who believed in him because you had just a hint of my presence as I followed you home, but you shook it off and eventually went to bed for your lovely, long healthy sleep.

It was glorious. Here was someone who slept eight hours every night. That is a gift to one of my kind. During the day I could creep into a corner or a shadow and remain an unobserved spirit. I would even hide under the bed. Then, when night fell and you slid between your covers and slept, I could creep into your dreams.

You had never remembered dreams before. When I first crept into your sleepscape I was shocked at how bright it was, filled with sunlight and good memories. But it was also full of your energy and you were worth the effort. It took weeks for me to make it my home. I eroded the sunlight, filled the golden fields with a nameless dread and sent strange shapes to hunt your dreamself. I nibbled at the corners, cutting off the good memories and making the perfect opportunities for every shameful moment of your life to echo. Every dark thought, every insidious fear, every tiny morsel was savoured as I nurtured your sleepscape like a master nurtures a perfect pupil.

You didn’t notice at first. I’ve been around for a very long time and I don’t make mistakes like that. Instead you noticed that you were a little tired, a little run down. You laughed with your friends about your strange dreams and tried changing your diet around. Once I became settled, I took a little more. You were finding sleep harder and harder and the nightmares were scaring you. You cut out all caffeine and went to a counsellor. I went with you, of course, and took notes during your discussions. You gave me wonderful tools to use for your torment.

Then you cut out sugar and went to the gym more. I basked in the dark thoughts that were brimming in your sleepscape and fed to satiation. I gave you sleep terrors and laughed as you woke screaming. I noticed that your boyfriend was a little too perceptive, so I made sure your nightmares featured him. I was relieved when you dumped him, as he was getting close to the truth.

I drained draught after draught from you as you slept, your torrid dreams feeding me to repletion. You, however, lost weight as you tried different diets and exercises. You went to the doctor and got sleeping pills and I celebrated. You had started to wake a little too often and now these wonderful pills kept you in my domain for so much longer.

You were finding it harder and harder and I gave some thought to moving on. The bright, bubbly victim I first met had gone. You were gaunt and pale, with dull eyes and slow speech. You dragged yourself from work to home to sleep to work and suffered. You were now insipid fare. I looked around for a suitable candidate, but you were now far too exhausted to speak to anyone and my choices were becoming very limited. I couldn’t survive long without a host, but you were so drained that you were barely adequate to keep me in existence.

Thank goodness I had my lucky break. You were far too tired to drive but at the same time you were far too tired to see sense. You lost concentration as you drove to your work and so you swerved to miss a fragment of dream and hit a tree. I was frantic, wondering if I would be able to transfer to one of the crowd who rushed around to help you, but they brought you into this place.

I have never been in a hospital before. It is truly a marvellous place. As you slip deeper into a coma and I perch unseen on the end of your hospital bed and plunder the last of your sleepscape, I have so many other potential hosts I can choose from. The patients are not worth considering, but there are plenty of visitors, along with technicians, secretaries, cleaners, maintenance, porters and all manner of healers. The chirpy blonde girl who chats to your unhearing form as she cleans the room is perfect. I wonder what her sleepscape looks like.

It’s the last day of the October Frights Blog Hop. I hope you enjoyed it. And it’s the last time that I remind you of all the goodies.

Why not dip in to the giveaway of great stories at Story Origin? You can find them here. It’s a selection of free stories from some of the people taking part in the October Frights Blog Hop and you may find a new favourite author. Just in case, there is an associated Book Fair here, where you are always welcome.

While I am talking about the goodies going on, there is the panel taking place today which you can find here where some of the authors who are part of this amazing event will be chatting

And speaking of authors, here they are!

Nickronomicon

GirlZombieAuthors

An Angell’s Life

Angela Yuriko Smith

carmillavoiez.com

Frighten Me

Hawk’s Happenings

James P. McDonald

Blood Red Shadows

The Unicorn Herd

Creative Quill

Curiosities

Welcome to Avalon

No photo description available.

Where Did I Put It?

assorted files
Image from Unsplash, taken by Viktor Talashuk

The ghost of Mr Caswell polished his spectral glasses. “I am at a loss,” he said.

Kane tried to look sympathetic. He turned to the new owners of the house. “The problem is, Mr Caswell is troubled, and until he puts his mind at rest, he can’t leave. He’s looking for something.”

“This is definitely the last time I buy a house and contents,” James said.

Verity looked around the well ordered but very full living room. Bookcases lined the walls and every surface was covered with knickknacks. “What has he lost?”

Kane winced. “That’s the biggest problem. Mr Caswell can’t remember.”

James closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. “Let me get this straight – we have a ghost that can’t rest until it’s found something, but can’t remember what it lost? That’s ridiculous!”

“I am not an ‘it’!” Mr Caswell said indignantly. “And it could happen to anyone at my time of life. Or not.”

Kane looked at the tall, thin spectre in front of him and nodded before turning to James. “He’s a ‘he’. That is, Mr Caswell doesn’t like being called it.”

Mr Caswell dropped down into a chair where he sunk below the surface of the seat for a moment before drifting slightly higher to rest on top of the cushion. “It’s very depressing. I just don’t know where to start.”

James frowned. “I’m sorry. I really am sorry. But look at it from our point of view. We bought the only house we could afford that was near my work, with the contents, and now we have this…” He struggled for words.

“It’s an opportunity to really turn the house out!” Verity said brightly, forcing a smile. “Can the ghost remember whether it was big or small?”

Mr Caswell shook his head. “I just know that I forgot something.”

Kane shook his head, then turned back to the ghost. “Mr Caswell, can you remember when you last had whatever it was?”

Mr Caswell frowned. “I think it was after I retired,” he said. “But before I fell ill. That would make it after 2003, but before 2018.”

James’ face was set as Kane repeated the information. “So, around a fifteen year gap, with a margin for error.”

The living room lightbulb popped. Kane and Mr Caswell jumped, but James and Verity were unmoved. “I’ll get the steps,” Verity said, dashing out.

James pulled out a tray of lightbulbs from the kitchen. “It’s costing us a fortune in lightbulbs,” he said. “We’ve had the wiring checked, but apparently it’s fine.” He glared at Kane. “As far as we can tell, it’s the ghost. Whenever the ghost is in here, a lightbulb goes, and we need them at this time of year. We are drowning in broken lightbulbs!”

“Why don’t we start in the kitchen?” Verity said, before James could get carried away any further. “There’s not much there.”

The kitchen was bleak. The cooker was older than Kane, although cleaned within an inch of its life. The fridge was new, but small. “They made me get a new one for my medicines,” Mr Caswell said. “And at least they left it propped open when they unplugged it.”

Verity inspected inside. “This is quite a good fridge.” She looked a little embarrassed. “I feel little like a grave robber.”

“It was included in the price,” James said, his voice carefully controlled.

“I’m very glad that they have it,” Mr Caswell said. “And I’m sure that they’ll make better use of the house than I did, especially over the last forty years or so.” He sighed, hovering next to the sink. “I wish I could help them more. And I’ll answer any questions they have.”

“Mr Caswell is happy to answer any questions,” Kane said, looking between the couple. “And that has to be a help. I mean, he can tell you what all the switches are for and everything.”

“The manuals to the boiler, the cooker, the fridge, the washing machine, the microwave and the kettle are in the second drawer on the right,” Mr Caswell said. “The cold tap sticks, and I was planning on getting a plumber out. I got a bit too frail to sort it myself. I thought a little WD 40 might help. You can find a tin of that in the cupboard on the left, top shelf.”

Kane relayed the information. “Mr Caswell is very well meaning,” he said.

Verity sat down on a kitchen chair and for a moment her face crumpled. “We are broke. Being able to use these things would make things so much easier. We’ve been sleeping in the car for the last week. We couldn’t afford both rent and mortgage, and we just about covered this house.”

James put a gentle hand on her shoulder and looked at James. “It’s been a tough few years.” There was another pop as the lightbulb in the kitchen went. James visibly sagged.

“Dearie me!” Mr Caswell looked flustered. “I can’t have a nice young couple upset like this!” He shook his ghostly head. “I watch the television and listen to the radio – or I did – and I know how hard it is these days. Why, I bought this house for £3,000 back in 1967. When I saw the price that was charged after I died, I could hardly believe it. And the house needs a lot doing to it.” He pulled himself together, floating an inch above the floor for a moment before settling. “First things first, forget the lightbulb. In the cupboard under the stairs, top shelf, you can find a torch, or flashlight I suppose you would call it, spare batteries, candles and a spirit lamp.” The ghost frowned. “I think that the methylated spirit may have gone, but the chemist at the end of the road used to sell it, and it wasn’t too expensive.”

Kane passed on the message and followed James as he went along the hall to the cupboard. “Mr Caswell could be quite useful,” Kane said.

James looked at him carefully. “You may be used to ghosts, but we are not.” He pulled out the torch and batteries and checked along the shelf. “Everything is exactly where he said it would be.” He turned back to Kane. “This house is the most organised I’ve ever seen. Talk about a place for everything and everything in its place. It’s incredible.”

“I liked order,” Mr Caswell said. “I couldn’t keep it as clean as I liked over the last few years, and the carers sometimes cut a few corners, but I’m still quite pleased.” He looked at Kane. “I never blamed the carers, you know. They did their best.”

Verity joined them at the cupboard. “I hope I can keep up this standard.” The hall lightbulb popped.

Mr Caswell sighed. “No-one could,” he said. “I drove so many away.”

“Hang on,” Verity said. “Look at how ordered this house is. And Mr Caswell remembered exactly where the manuals and candles were. Whatever is missing is really unusual, because I bet he never lost anything. Everything in its place. Whatever is missing must be something important.”

“It usually is something important that makes people ghosts,” James said.

Kane didn’t comment. His experience of ghosts did not give him a great deal of respect for them. “Why don’t we sit down somewhere comfortable, in the living room, perhaps, and talk things through. If it’s a repressed memory, perhaps we can work through it.”

“What an excellent idea!” Mr Caswell said. “I never had much time for such things in the past, but after what Verity said, well, it makes a great deal of sense.”

“We are going to do talking therapy with a ghost?” James said, but after reading Verity’s expression, he nodded. “But not a séance.”

“I should hope not,” huffed Mr Caswell. “There was never anything like that here when I was alive.”

They trudged into the living room. The winter afternoon light was already fading and James set up candles, aided by Mr Caswell’s advice, while Verity switched on the electric fire and drew the curtains. “It’s very snug,” she said.

Kane looked around. It was dated, but it was snug. He sat at the edge of an armchair and turned to Verity. “Where do you suggest we start?”

“I have a basic certificate in counselling,” Verity said. “It’s not much, but it may be a help. Where is Mr Caswell?”

Kane indicated the armchair opposite him. “He looks a little nervous.”

“I am nervous,” said Mr Caswell as he watched Verity and James take up their position on the sofa. “But this state of affairs simply will not do.”

Kane looked at Verity. “I’ll pass on what he says, and I’ll do the best I can. I suppose it isn’t like a proper counselling thing.”

Verity shrugged. “The course didn’t cover counselling the dead, so it’s all new territory for me.” She thought for a moment. “Mr Caswell, why did you buy this house?”

“I was looking for somewhere after my mother died,” Mr Caswell said. “For so many years there was just me and my mother. My father died in the war, you see, and I was the only child. She took in lodgers and worked at a solicitor’s office. I suppose that’s where I got to like things to be nicely set out. I think it makes life a lot easier. She put me through a good school, as well, you know. There were plenty of times when we had to watch the pennies, but I never went without and when she passed she left me a nice little nest egg. Of course, I’d been saving my own money, from my job in the bank, and it made sense to get somewhere. We had been living in a rented flat, but I thought that it was time to invest in bricks and mortar.”

“Did you miss your mum?” Verity asked, through Kane.

“I suppose I did,” Mr Caswell frowned. “Of course, I was busy chasing promotion at work, and with buying this, I kept myself busy.” He watched Kane patiently relay this. “I had a lot to do, at first. I heard about the house going for sale through the bank. It had been repossessed. Well, you didn’t see so much of it in those days, not like in later years, but I saw the ones that came up.”

James nodded as Kane translated. “We saw some repossessions, and they all needed a lot doing to them.” He grimaced. “And someone always outbid us on them anyway.”

“Of course, it all had to be redecorated, and I did a good job, if I say so myself,” Mr Caswell said. “I had to start from scratch with the garden and take it back to the topsoil. You wouldn’t think to look at me now, but I was quite energetic in those days. I put down turf, laid out flowerbeds and planted those trees outside.” He nodded to James. “You need to keep up with the treatment for codling moths on the apple trees. I used to get the bands from the hardware store on the High Street. It’s gone now, of course, but I’m sure that you’ll be able to find the bands somewhere.”

Kane passed on the information to James. “Mr Caswell seems to have a way of doing everything.”

James frowned. “It could get irritating if he kept telling us when to mow the lawn or if we’ve missed a bit of dust.” He paused. “But having this sort of information is like gold. I’ve never lived anywhere with a garden before.”

“I’ve got a couple of folders in the bookcase nearest the door, bottom shelf. They have all the information about how much wallpaper you need per room and how much paint, and when the boiler was last serviced.” Mr Caswell said. “And I kept a separate address book for the tradesmen I used. I did a lot myself, but not so much as I got older.”

“This isn’t finding what you lost,” Verity reminded Mr Caswell.

“I suppose not,” Mr Caswell said gloomily.

“But let’s go back to the house. It’s quite big, isn’t it?” Verity said. “Did that make it a good investment?”

“Well, with the baby on the way and everything, I thought we would need the room.” Mr Caswell said. “I used the small bedroom at the front. I thought it would be a little snugger, and there was plenty of light.” He paused. “I forgot I had a child.”

Kane stared at him. “How?” He turned to James and Verity. “Mr Caswell has a child.”

The ghost hunched over and there was a suspicion of moisture on the faded cheek. “I worked really hard,” he said. “You see, Judith, my wife, wasn’t ordered like me. In fact, she was the opposite. We should never have married. But of course we didn’t realise. I mean, you didn’t live together before marriage in those days, so we didn’t realise. We had a lot of arguments.”

“I see,” Kane said.

“Judith was a successful woman in her own right, you know, and there weren’t many women solicitors in those days.” He hesitated. “Her family always thought that she could have done better than me.”

Kane quietly repeated this to Verity. She nodded. “It must have been hard.”

“Judith just left one day,” Mr Caswell said. “And she wouldn’t let me see Jeanette. That was my daughter’s name.” His eyes looked into the past, unfocused and filled with pain. “I wanted Margaret, after my mother, but we ended up with that as a middle name.” He shook his head. “It was very different then. I tried, you know. And I sent money. Judith said that she banked it for Jeanette, but my daughter never contacted me.” The ghost stood and started pacing. “I sent Christmas and birthday cards, but they moved and the cards were returned to sender. I think that’s when I gave in.” Mr Caswell stood in front of the tiny electric fire. “I couldn’t do it anymore. So I pretended that I didn’t have a family. I worked really hard at it. I just wrote a letter every Christmas and birthday, filed it in its proper place, and then didn’t mention anything about it for the rest of the year. I never saw either of them again. Jeanette’s birthday was last week. I think it was the first time I didn’t write her a card or letter in fifty years.”

“That’s what you forgot,” Kane said.

“And there’s nothing more I can do,” Mr Caswell said. “I just have to accept it and keep going.” He blew his nose with a ghostly handkerchief.

Verity listened to Kane’s explanation. “Where are the letters?” she asked.

“Second bookshelf to the left in the study, fourth shelf down. There are three files,” Mr Caswell said, slowly losing his colour.

“He’s going,” Kane said quickly.

“Mr Caswell, I’m going to find your daughter and get those letters to her,” Verity said quickly. “I’ll do everything I can.”

The fading shape of Mr Caswell smiled. “That would be a great kindness, and I would feel so much better. And don’t forget to keep the shed door closed if the wind is in the East, or the windowpane at the back will fall out.” Then he was gone.

“He’s passed over now,” Kane said. “There shouldn’t be any more problems.”

Verity looked around. “I think the first thing I’m going to do is track down his daughter,” she said. “It seems only fair.”

James stood up and dusted down his jeans. “And I am going to change some lightbulbs.” He paused. “But I’ll check first to see what brand he used. There has to be a record of it somewhere.”

Welcome to the fifth day of the October Frights Blog Hop! I hope you enjoyed my contribution and will look out for another story tomorrow.

And why not dip in to the giveaway of great stories at Story Origin? You can find them here. It’s a selection of free stories from some of the people taking part in the October Frights Blog Hop and you may find a new favourite author. Just in case, there is an associated Book Fair here, where you are always welcome.

And speaking of authors, here they are!

Nickronomicon

GirlZombieAuthors

An Angell’s Life

Angela Yuriko Smith

carmillavoiez.com

Frighten Me

Hawk’s Happenings

Blood Red Shadows

The Unicorn Herd

Creative Quill

Curiosities

Welcome to Avalon

Home

Tap Tap Tap

It started when the house along the street blew up. We were told it was safe and I suppose it was. The houses either side of the gap were fine and there was no trace of gas or anything. But that night the tapping started.

First it was on the windows, a light, tap tap tap, like a branch against the panes in a light breeze. Except there were no branches near my window. Just the tap tap tap after dark. It started to unnerve me. There was never any trace when I pulled back the curtains to look and nothing seemed out of place when I looked at the windows from the street in daylight.

Gradually I got used to it and talked about perhaps it was mice or birds in the attic. I even added it to the ghost stories that were exchanged at work – I live in York, after all, and there are always ghost stories. However, as the nights grew longer and the days got cooler, the tapping changed.

It was the day after my birthday, 22nd of September, when I sat bolt upright in bed. The tap tap tap was now coming from the living room. I remember how frozen I felt, pinned to my bed as the gentle tap tap tap seemed to patter against the wooden floor. I crept to the door of my bedroom and listened. There were no human footsteps, no rustle of clothes and no sigh or grunt of someone moving. I opened the door just a crack, peering out into the hall. No light shone from under the living room door. As I gathered my courage to confront the noise, the tap tap tap faded away and I realised it was dawn.

That was three days ago. I forgot about the tapping as I went away for work. I lost myself in the hectic pace of the conference and the after conference drinks, happy to forget about strange noises, but now I was back. There was no sign of any disturbance in the house. Nothing had moved. I had a quick shower and got into bed with Netflix playing loudly as I wriggled down into the bed.

But it didn’t drown the tapping. I can hear it now, tap tap tap in the living room. I am lying here, terrified, as the tap tap tap gets nearer and nearer. The tapping is in the hall now and getting closer to my door.  I pick up my phone from the bedside cabinet and scroll through my contacts, looking for the number that had been forced on me. Now I was desperate. I found the name – Rev D King, Exorcist. My fingers trembled as I dialled the number, burrowed under the covers. Dawn is two hours away and the tapping is getting closer.

Welcome to the fourth day of the October Frights Blog Hop! I hope you enjoyed my contribution and will look out for another story tomorrow.

And why not dip in to the giveaway of great stories at Story Origin? You can find them here. It’s a selection of free stories from some of the people taking part in the October Frights Blog Hop and you may find a new favourite author. Just in case, there is an associated Book Fair here, where you are always welcome.

And speaking of authors, here they are!

Nickronomicon

GirlZombieAuthors

An Angell’s Life

Angela Yuriko Smith

carmillavoiez.com

Frighten Me

Hawk’s Happenings

James P. McDonald

Blood Red Shadows

The Unicorn Herd

Creative Quill

Curiosities

Welcome to Avalon

Image preview

Hunting in the Fog

Vitalius paused at the corner of the street and breathed in deeply. The heavy, acrid fog of the London’s East End sent most reeling, but to the vampire, it was a balm. It had been a good decision, he thought, to leave Dubrovnik and hide in the holds of so many ships that brought him here, eventually, to the thriving capital of Queen Victoria’s Empire.

He picked his way carefully over the rough cobbles. Earlier in the evening he had attended a performance of Carmen and then joined with the intelligentsia of literary society for a late supper. He had barely touched the creams and jellies that had been spread out and he had avoided the devilled lobster. He hungered for something completely different.

And here it was. Barely half an hour in a hansom cab from the glittering West End to this – the murk of London’s darker side. As he paced slowly, he watched. The contrast was stark. From the expensive gowns and lavish dinners to the cheapest of the cheap. Women were clustered on corners, their outlines softened by the clinging fog. Vitalius sneered. They were his for only a few coins. But he would not take someone from a group or somewhere well lit. He was not ready to get noticed. He pushed further into the dark, cramped alleys and back streets of Whitechapel.

It was easier here. In the wealthy areas of North and West London, the new aether technology was causing interference. Here in the poor slums, there were no aether lights or stoves to disturb the flow that curved and snaked overhead. Like all vampires, he could see the aether trails with their currents, the ebb and flow of the energy that was now being harnessed by the new engines and their crystals. Here, where the flow was undisturbed, he could walk unimpeded by the darkness and the fog and search for prey.

And prey there was in abundance. Life was so cheap here. An unregarded child, a drunken woman or a sick and crippled man were all easy to find and unlikely to be missed, at least, missed by anyone that mattered. Vitalius turned left into a maze of alleys and then right, into a back street that had been fruitful before. Dirty public houses lurked at the corners with light and music dispersing into the deadening fog. He smiled. The taste of the cheap gin added a certain piquancy. Some vampires fed solely on the aether energy. Vitalius preferred more robust food.

He paused. His ancient instincts told him that someone was following him. He smiled at the thought. Few in this bustling city knew enough about vampires to even guess that they existed. None of the people in his old home would have followed him into narrow spaces in the dark. Of course, the local thieves had not had a chance to learn from the mistakes of others. This could be more fun than the opera. He ducked suddenly right into a narrow alleyway.

Even he found it difficult in the dark and the smoke as he picked his way over the cobbles. The aether energy was thin overhead and barely flickered as he moved steadily forward. A cat fled as he approached and his perfect hearing could hear the rats scratching over the stealthy approach of his hunters. He smiled again. The prey was bringing itself to him. He ducked right again away from a drunken couple and then jinked left to avoid the lights of a pub. He slowed. Ropes across the top of the alley gave him pause. Someone hung their clothes here when the fog wasn’t thick in the air. It made one escape route trickier, but there were always other options. He could hear the movement behind him. There was more than one, but that was unlikely to be a problem.

Vitalius paused and then slowly turned. The wall behind him was solid and there were no crates or barrels to impede him on either side. Three shapes emerged from the mist. His smile grew. Three of them! He would feed well tonight. “Do you have any idea of what you have followed tonight?” His fangs lengthened and his claws grew from the tips of his fingers. Unexpectedly, a cold chill of fear ran through him. The three facing him also grew fangs and claws and they did not look ready to back down.

“We know what you are,” the leader said. “And we know what you planned. We do not permit that here – and we police our own.”

Welcome to the first day of the October Frights Blog Hop! I hope you enjoyed my contribution and will look out for another story tomorrow.

And why not dip in to the giveaway of great stories at Story Origin? You can find them here. It’s a selection of free stories from some of the people taking part in the October Frights Blog Hop and you may find a new favourite author. Just in case, there is an associated Book Fair here, where you are always welcome.

While I am talking about the goodies going on, there is the panel taking place today which you can find here where some of the authors who are part of this amazing event will be chatting

And speaking of authors, here they are!

Nickronomicon

GirlZombieAuthors

An Angell’s Life

Angela Yuriko Smith

carmillavoiez.com

Frighten Me

Hawk’s Happenings

Blood Red Shadows

The Unicorn Herd

Creative Quill

Curiosities

Welcome to Avalon

Home

Image preview

Please Hold

person holding ballpoint pen writing on notebook
Image from Unsplash, taken by Thought Catalog

I’ve missed quite a few Mondays recently, and I apologise. I like to keep the little bits of flash fiction going as it’s a writing version of going to the gym for me. I have had something of a fail on that recently.

I also am incredibly grateful to anyone who looks in on this blog, and I don’t want to let you down in any way.

The long gap gave me time to think, and to consider what the blog is actually for. I mean, I put my flash fiction up, and I put up information about anything I’m publishing, but it feels a little limp. Is it entertaining enough? I’m not so sure.

October will be on us in 23 days at time of typing, and, as in the last few years, I’ll be posting something vaguely supernatural every day for the month. There will be a lot of old favourites, but I’m hoping to put in a few new bits as well. This is a chance for me to gear up, but also a chance for me to reset the blog.

It won’t actually be much different. You will still see the flash fiction, and I’ve been making a few notes so hopefully there will be less gaps. There will be the usual stuff about anything being published. I’m also hoping to get more into book reviews, and take some time to reflect on what writing means to me.

There is also a risk of me adding in some of the jokes, curiosities and peculiarities I see around me. The world is a strange and wonderful place, and I hope I can share.

It should start changing after the spooky October posts end on 31st October. Any and all (family friendly) suggestions will be carefully considered, but no guarantees.

Sincere thank you to all who visit this blog. You are awesome. The kindness on here has been amazing and I am always grateful. Hugs and good vibes to you all.

The Castle

There is a castle on the hill

A king sat there in days of old

His knights were brave, his ladies fair

A pinnacle of brave and bold

Minstrels there were, and jesters sharp

Ministers with wisdom deep

Priests and monks in cloistered nooks

All knowledge gathered in his keep

There was a knight, a lady fair

A false man and a desperate fight

A riven kingdom, empty hope

A funeral pyre and fading light

The story’s old and patched with songs

On threads that wore out long ago

Who knows the truth of treasure there

Before the final overthrow

Young lads go there to try their hand

Digging the vaults and dusty hall

The tombs are empty, nothing’s there

A bird’s nest in a broken wall.

Some nights, when Venus sails the sky

And Mars is courting near the moon

They say that ghostly dancers whirl

To echoes of an ancient tune

Splendour and crowns have tumbled down

The painted walls have faded pale

And while we bustle round our lives

Dust slowly settles on the tale.