Walk in the Park

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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

As first dates went, it hadn’t been too bad so far. I had met him at the local coffee shop and we had drunk a few lattes. He looked like his online profile, which was something, and the conversation had been light. He was studying computers and something that I didn’t catch or really understand and getting some side hustles with web design on the side. We shared a love of Doctor Who, agreed to disagree on Star Trek and I felt more relaxed with him than I had in a long time. I should have known it was too good to be true.

“Let me walk you home.” Ryan said. “It’s a shame to end the conversation. I feel like I could talk with you for hours.”

“I’m good.” I said. “And if you walk me home and we get talking there then I won’t get to bed early enough and I have work tomorrow.”

“Come on, let me walk you at least part of the way.” Ryan said. “Don’t pretend we haven’t had a marvellous time.”

“It’s been a great evening.” I said, “And I hope we have another one like it, but I do need to get up tomorrow.” What with one thing and another I would be lucky to get even a couple of hours sleep before work, even if he didn’t come in.

“Spoilsport.” He smiled at me and I smiled back. “Okay, let me walk you some of the way back. I promise I won’t go all the way.”

“That sounds like such a cheesy line!” I shook my head. I either gave in or he made a scene here. “But you said you lived over the other side of the city. Why don’t we walk as far as the subway terminus? Then you can get the subway back and I will be near home.”

“You aren’t that near to the subway terminus.” Ryan sounded a little sulky.

“Someone’s done their research.” I said. “But we can hang out together until you get on the subway, so we have a little more time.”

Ryan smiled. “I know you haven’t lived in this part of the city long, but I grew up around here. I know a great short cut, through the old park.”

“Isn’t that supposed to be haunted?” I asked. “I mean, I was warned about going into the old park after dark as it was dangerous.”

“Nobody believes in ghosts.” Ryan said, “And I can protect you.”

I looked at him thoughtfully. He was in good shape, but he didn’t look like he could take on a pack of muggers. What was worse, if we cut through the abandoned park, we would have to go past my home to get to the terminus. It looked like Ryan could be a problem. “I’d rather stay in public. You know all the advice that they give, about online dating, to stay in public for the first few dates and to be really careful who you give your details to? Perhaps I should just get an uber home.”

Ryan put a hand on my shoulder. Somehow it felt heavier than it should. “Please, we are having such a good time. Let’s just walk for a little while, carry on connecting and you can wait with me at the subway station.”

“And we can go past the supermarket.”

“Come on! Where’s your sense of adventure. There is nothing wrong with the park. It’s just neglected, that’s all.”

“It will be dark.” I said.

“It will be romantic.” Ryan held my hand and smiled at me. I felt incredibly uneasy.

The old park had effectively been abandoned by the council. Once it had been carefully landscaped but now it was an overgrown tumble of tangled bushes and trees with some worn tracks through the dense growth. It was dimly lit even in daylight. We walked through the rusted gates in the dark and away from the street lights and we were suddenly in an eerie dark. I dug a mini torch out of my handbag.

“You’re prepared.” Ryan said. “I admit, it’s darker than I was expecting, but I thought you would use your phone.”

“Wouldn’t that run the battery down really quickly?” I asked as I found a path. “Is this the way?”

“I think we need to go down here.” Ryan said, pointing to a different path.

“No, this way will get us through the park quicker and nearer the subway.” I insisted pointing my torch.

“But this way will be more fun, I promise.” Ryan said.

He set off ahead of me, and I sighed and followed. The park was not safe after dark just because it was so overgrown and badly lit. If he fell, he could hurt himself badly and not be easily found. I decided that I would see him off at the subway and then send him a ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ text. “Hang on!” I shouted after him.

“The park is supposed to be haunted, you know.” Ryan said as I scrambled after him. “They say that you can see ghosts here and that vampires and werewolves come here to meet.” Ryan looked around as much of the park as he could see in the small beam from my torch. “It’s a shame it isn’t a full moon.”

“Vampires and werewolves, seriously?” I said, as I hurried after him. “We’ve left the path.”

“I grew up here, remember?” Ryan turned and smiled in the glow of the torch. “I know all the tracks, like this one here.” We stumbled out onto a slightly wider path that was heading downward towards the neglected artificial lake.

“I need to get home and you need to make sure you get to the subway in time for the last train.” I said. “This is silly.”

Ryan looked around. “I’m just trying to get my bearings. Does your phone have GPS?”

“I thought you knew this place?” I was trying to keep calm. I really didn’t want to have a scene. “Come on, lets get out of here.”

“Seriously, which way is North?”

I ignored his hand open for my phone and pulled up the map function myself. “It’s that way, and if we follow this path, we’ll come out almost next to the subway. And you won’t miss your…” I was interrupted as I turned to point to a path. Ryan snatched my phone out of my hand and threw it into the bushes. I whirled around to glare at him. “What are you doing?”

“It’s kind of exciting, isn’t it?” Ryan said, in a low voice, running his hand over my arm. “You are in the middle of the haunted park, in the dark, possibly surrounded by werewolves, and with a handsome stranger. Anything could happen. And you have no way to call for help.” He tried to pull me towards him for a kiss, but I struggled free.

“Okay, that’s it. This date is over, lose my number.” I shone my pitiful torch where I thought my phone landed.

“I don’t think you understand.” Ryan said. “You are alone, in the dark, with a stranger. You are in no position to tell me what to do. I’m in charge.” He moved a little closer. “I could even be a werewolf. That would be something, wouldn’t it, to be rescued by a werewolf.”

I swore at him and headed to where I thought I saw a glint of grey. “What are you going to do? Leave me for the ghosts. Leave me alone.”

“Or what?” Ryan was smirking as he followed me. “There are no werewolves around to rescue you.” He pushed his hand into my hair and pulled my head back. “We are going to have a nice time here, and then we are going back to your place and by the morning you will see that I am the best thing that could happen to you. No werewolves needed.”

“You’re right.” I snarled, my fangs lengthening as I grabbed his arm and twisted until he was on his knees, screaming. “No werewolves needed at all.”

Out of Place

person pouring coffee into glass
Image from Unsplash, taken by Tyler Nix

“How has it been?” Kane asked Jane. She had sounded strained on the phone when she had asked to meet him in the park.

“Well, it’s sort of a success,” Jane said, running a hand through her hair. It was evening and the setting sun gleamed on her loose, golden hair. “But it’s sort of not.”

“Is he haunting the café?” Kane asked.

“That’s the problem,” Jane said. “I thought he would have a bit of a chill around the place, you know, a cold spot or unexpected draughts. Instead he’s fixated on the machine.”

Kane thought for a moment. “Why?”

“He used to be a plumber when he was alive, remember,” Jane said. “I think he keeps trying to work out the coffee machines. To be fair, they work a lot better when he’s here. They get hotter, the flow is smoother and in general they are just that little bit easier. But it gives the barista’s the shivers.”

“How are they taking it?” Kane asked.

“With maximum drama,” Jane grumbled. “I don’t think that they’d miss it for the world. He’s very respectful, you know. They only spot it when the steam comes out twisted or there’s a disturbance on the surface of coffee, and they know he’s trying to work out what’s going on.”

“Is he haunting the customers?” Kane asked.

“He usually turns up for a Goth couple that come in most days, and all involved seem happy with that. But he seems unhappy to try anything with someone in a suit and tie, and they’re all office workers there. And he won’t upset the ladies.”

Kane smiled sympathetically. “If you’re going to have anyone haunting a coffee shop, it’s perhaps as well that they’re haunting it nicely,” he said.

“I wonder if you could have a tactful word with him,” Jane said. “He’s doing wonders for business and I’m very grateful, but perhaps if he redirects some of his work.” She smiled apologetically. “And I’ve arranged for a man to come and show the staff how to service the coffee machines. I’d like Bob to watch. I think he’d like it, and I’m sure he’ll understand it more than us. He could put us right.”

“You want Bob to service your machines?” Kane stared at her. “He’s a ghost!”

“But he’s already pretty good and it would save a fortune in repairs,” Jane said. “Please, will you tell him?”

Kane thought for a moment. It may seem odd, even to him, but who was he to argue. “I’ll let him know, and I’ll share what he says.” Kane shook his head. “I don’t know how he’ll take it, but I’ll be around tomorrow, around 10am.”

“Brilliant,” Jane said. “I can’t wait!”

Choosing the Battles

rain dropping from roof
Photo by Anna King on Unsplash

Tim put another log on the fire and then leant back. He hadn’t bothered to switch any lamps on as the light faded, and the flickering glow danced around the room, throwing shadows against the wall. It was that time of year again, when he wondered whether he had done the right thing, whether he had chosen the right path. A scatter of rain hit the window and he could hear the wind rising in the trees. There was a knock on the door.

Tim walked down the hallway, switching the lights on as he went, and checked the peephole. You didn’t get many surprise visitors this far out in the country, and he didn’t think it would be Estelle. She was visiting friends over in Rochdale and was staying the night. He did not expect to see a thin, hunched young lad, damp and bedraggled in the porch light. It could be a trick. Tim slid the chain on and cracked open the door. “Yes?”

“Mr Timothy Arndale McGuigan?” the young lad asked, shivering a little.

“Who are you?” Tim answered, peering around him for any possible accomplices.

“I’m Kane Thelwell, and I’m here on behalf of Major General Alistair Arndale McGuigan.” Water dripped from his plain brown hair. “He’s asked me to pass on some messages.”

“Alistair McGuigan is dead.” Tim said flatly. “He can send no messages.”

Kane turned, as if listening to someone. “No, I can’t say that! Or that! Okay…” Kane squinted through the rain back at Tim. “The Major General says that you wanted to call your first cat Cowshed, because a friend had a cat called Cola as…”

“Alright, alright.” Tim unhooked the chain and ushered the lad in. “You’re soaked!”

Kane managed a smile. “It’s a bit wet out there, sir.”

“Stay there!” Tim ordered. “My wife would kill me if I let you drip on the sofa.”

After a brief whirlwind of activity, Kane was perched on a bundle of towels on the sofa, his hair roughly dried and a large mug of hot chocolate thrust into his hand. Tim put another log on the fire and sat back in his chair. For a moment he watched the stiff winds whipping the flames up into the chimney and turned to Kane. “How did you know about my cat Kimble?”

Kane glanced uneasily at a space at his side. “I can see ghosts.” He said. “Sometimes I get paid to help people out with hauntings and stuff.” He glanced again and nodded. “But this time I’m doing a favour for Major General McGuigan, as a way of saying thank you for his help.”

“What do you mean?” Tim said.

Kane shook his head. “The Major General wants to pass on a message to you. He says he knows that he always told you to be a soldier like him. And that you became a solicitor instead. He says that he talked about you going after money instead of glory.”

Tim pressed his lips together and turned back to the fire. After all these years, the words still stung. “I am a damn good solicitor, you know. I’ve been invited to apply for a position as a District Judge.”

Kane paused and listened to the unseen presence at his side. “But you’ll take a pay cut if you do that.” He said.

Tim shrugged. “I’m not exactly on the breadline, and judges get a respectable salary. Besides, I’ll still get a share of the profits from my firm.”

Kane sipped his hot chocolate and listened again. “The Major General says that you were handling a divorce recently, the Atkins. He said that you encouraged them to reconcile.”

“They were just going through a bad patch.” Tim said. “It would have been wrong to force the divorce.”

“But you could have made a lot of money out of it.” Kane said. “The Major General says that the other solicitor was itching for a fight.”

“They didn’t want to divorce.” Tim said. “They just needed to have a long talk. And they’re happy now.”

“The Major General said you walked away from that fight.” Kane said.

“It was the moral thing to do.” Tim said coldly.

Kane cocked his head to one side. “But you went in hard for that financial settlement.” He said. “The Cawlstone one. The Major General said you fought that like a tiger. He said you spent hours on the books over that.”

“It was the right thing to do. I was merely pursuing a fair settlement against unfair tactics by the respondent.” Tim said. “It was a challenge.”

Kane listened for a moment, then nodded. “The Major General said that you did the right thing both times. That you showed excellent judgement and good leadership.” He paused and nodded. “He says to tell you that you made the right choice, in those and the other cases he saw. That you choose your battles with skill, use well considered tactics and strategy and that he is proud of you. He says you would have made a good officer, but you’re doing pretty good where you are.” Kane listened again. “He says to tell you properly, that Major General Alistair Arndale McGuigan is proud of you, his son, and that he always will be.”

Tim swallowed. “Thank you.” He said. “And I’m proud of him.” He hesitated. “I love you, Dad.”

Kane looked at the space next to him and smiled a little. “I think he loves you too.” He said. “He says, goodbye.”

“Wait, Dad, hang on!” Tim leapt to his feet, but Kane was shaking his head.

“He’s gone home now, passed over. He’s not here anymore.”

Tim lowered himself slowly back into the armchair. He found himself breathing a little harder, as if he had been running. He let the conversation sink in slowly. He turned to Kane. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Kane said awkwardly, sipping his hot chocolate.

“Seriously, thank you.” Tim said. “It means a lot.” He managed a smile. “And that is just the way Dad would have said it.”

“He seemed a bit hard work, but he was a good man.” Kane said. “He helped me out with a problem last week, and I don’t think I could have managed without him.”

Tim smiled a little sadly. “He was a great man to have on your side.” He hesitated. “You say you are employed to sort out hauntings?”

Kane nodded. “Well, sort of sort out. I can see and hear ghosts, but I can’t make them do what I want.” He thought for a moment. “I could never have got the Major General to do anything he didn’t want to.”

Tim laughed. “That sounds like Dad. But what is your fee?”

Kane shook his head. “No fee tonight. It’s my way of saying thank you to the Major General. I don’t mind.”

Tim looked at the hunched young lad, with his battered trainers and worn, cheap jeans. “I feel like I owe you a great deal.” He said. “Are you sure there is nothing I can do for you?” He watched the emotions cross Kane’s face, as he struggled to resist temptation, before he gave in.

“Could you give me a lift to the station?” Kane asked.  

Child in a Sweet Shop

He looked carefully at his outfit.  He had to get the look exactly right, it could make all the difference between success and failure.  There was an all night screening of the Twilight films and he could not miss this opportunity.

 He was naturally pale but his blond hair was a problem.  The old fashioned top hat that he had picked up on the internet should cover it and give the right feel.  He had considered a cane but he hoped there would be times in the evening when he wanted both hands free.  There were likely to be a lot of young ladies at the screening.

The suit had been a problem.  He had found one eventually in a second hand shop.  The black suit jacket had velvet lapels and the waistcoat was nicely cut.  He had been meticulous to get rid of any faint trace of the iridescent dusting powder.  With the slightly flared trousers it said very clearly that this was a man who had not quite got the decade right. 

He had wondered about the shirt.  He may have wanted to look as if he couldn’t keep up with fashion after all this time, but there was no way he was wearing 1970s drip dry polyester with a frill.  He had settled for a deep crimson silk shirt.  It was brand new, but silk was an old fashioned material and he could always say that he had ripped his favourite brushed nylon shirt in a fight with a werewolf.  With well polished shoes and a heavy, plain signet ring he should look the part.

He checked he had his ticket and plenty of cash.  He didn’t want to break the look with a credit card and if he got lucky with a persuadable lady he didn’t want to give too much information about himself, just in case.  The taxi outside sounded the horn.  

“Going to the screening?  You look just like a vampire, mate.  It makes a better night if you put a bit of effort in to look the part.” The taxi driver sighed.  “I used to have a suit like that forty years ago.  Of course, I was a lot thinner then.  Well, you won’t be lonely tonight, I bet you’ve got a hotel room booked.”

He smiled enigmatically and gave the driver a generous tip.  Looking at the crowd there were others who had aimed for his intended look but he prided himself that he had hit closest to the mark.  He was already getting interested glances and he thought it would not take much to entice the pretty brunette near the popcorn stand to a secluded corner to ‘talk’.

Carefully keeping his expression immobile, inside he was laughing wildly.  He may be seven hundred and thirty two years old and a vampire but looking at all those pliable, gullible necks made him feel like a child in a sweet shop.  

The Coffee Shop

empty chairs and tables
Image from Unsplash taken by Van Thanh

“Please, could you just consider it?” Jane looked around into thin air. “It would make such a difference.”

Kane looked at the ghost of Bob Jones who was twisting the shade of his flat cap around in his hands. “Times are hard at the moment,” he said.

“They always are, son, they always are,” Bob said. “But that’s no reason to lose my dignity. I’m not one to put myself forward and I’ve always been respectable.”

“Can you see him?” Jane asked.

Kane nodded. “He’s not very comfortable with this, and I can see his point of view.”

“All I’m asking is a little help,” Jane said. “I’m not asking for clanking chains and moaning. All I want is a little presence.”

“Presence?” Kane asked.

“Yeah, a bit of a chill sometimes, or perhaps unexpected draughts. Something lowkey.” Jane looked around, trying to guess where Bob was standing. “What can Mr Jones do anyway?”

“That’s a very personal question,” Bob said, affronted.

Kane turned to Bob. “You must have seen the amount of work Jane has put in to re-open this café. She just needs a little help.”

“It’s not the same since she bought it,” Bob said. “I was coming here for years before I died here, and I always came in for Ellen’s smile. She had a lovely smile and she always made sure I had an extra bit of bacon.” Bob smiled reminiscently. “So when I passed here, well, I just hung around. I still got to see Ellen’s smile, though she found it a strain at the end, as she got older.” His tone changed. “Then this young lass waltzes in and changes everything. It’s not the same. I miss Ellen.”

Kane turned to Jane. “Bob is talking about Ellen, the former owner. I think he’s worried that she’s being forgotten now someone new has bought the shop. Do you know her or any of her family that may be able to speak up for you.”

The colour drained from Jane’s face. “Ellen Carson? She ran this place for years, with the best bacon butties and meat and potato pies for miles.”

“They were absolutely the best,” Bob said, “And she always had a cheerful word for anyone coming in.”

“But it was losing money in the end. People weren’t coming in. They wanted fancy coffee and my poor grandmother couldn’t keep up. She took a holiday away to think about it but she just faded when she was away from it. She passed in her sleep.” Jane looked down at her hands and a tear slid down her face. “I miss her. I promised her I’d make a go of this place, and I inherited it fair and square, but the costs of renovation have taken all my savings. I have to make this work.”

Kane stepped back as Bob peered forward then looked at Kane. “Is she Ellen’s granddaughter?”

Kane looked helplessly at Jane. “Can you show anything to link you with Ellen?”

Jane stared for a moment and then dug into her pocket. “How about this?” She pulled out her phone and flicked through the pictures. “Here.” She held it in the air.

Bob walked around Kane to look at the picture. “That’s Ellen sitting with you! I mean, she isn’t as young as she was when I met her, but she always had the sweetest smile.” He frowned and looked at Jane, tilting his head and frowning. “Do you know, I think you do have a look of her about you.”

“I think he believes you,” Kane said.

“I think I do,” Bob said. “I tell you what, I’ll make a deal. I’ll haunt this place – respectfully, with no hanky panky, as long as there’s a picture of Ellen on the wall.” The spirit’s face softened. “She made a great cup of tea as well. She knew what I liked – strong enough for a mouse to run across it.”

Kane tried to hide his grimace at the thought of the tea and passed the message on to Jane.

“It feels strange, knowing that he knew Gran,” Jane said. “But nice, like having a fairy godfather.”

Bob snorted, but there was a smile in his eyes. “And the reason that infernal new coffee machine keeps messing up is that the workman put one of the switches in upside down. I watched him as he was trying to sweet talk some lady on the phone. The foreman was far too forgiving. It would never have happened in my day.”

Kane passed the message on, keeping any comments to himself about his own experience of past workmen. He turned to Bob. “You won’t get carried away, will you?”

“As I said, I’ve always been respectable.” Bob was firm. “A few unexpected chills won’t hurt anyone, just a little decent spookiness.” He grinned, a gleam in his spectral eye. “And if Jane takes down the picture of her grandmother once or twice a year, I’ll do something special for it. Not at Halloween,” he added hastily. “That would be cheap. I won’t do cheap. But it will be good just to keep a story going. So it’s still fun to come here for one of those strange coffees, but there’s a little extra.” He puffed up his ghostly chest. “Ellen would have liked that.”

It’s Day Six 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!

Are You Afraid of the DarkNight 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 

The Jar on the Shelf

green plant in clear glass jar
Taken by
Keszthelyi Timi on Unsplash

She was finally dead. My bitch of a grandmother had finally shuffled off the mortal coil. Everyone knew she was a witch, and she held it over the heads of her family like a dagger. She always acted like she knew everything as well. What was worse, she wouldn’t tell me how to do it.

“You have no warm blood in your heart,” she’d tell me. “You don’t care about anyone but yourself. You’ll never make a witch.” I hated her more every time she told me this.

And she was so precious about her things. A very select few were allowed to look at her notebooks – not me of course – but none of her grandchildren were allowed into her pantry or among her jars and boxes. At least, Annette and Daisy managed to have glimpses, once they were older, but I had always been shut out.

I hadn’t expected her to have a proper funeral, and I hadn’t expected so many to turn out. There must have been over a hundred in the hall afterwards, most of them bringing their sad pyrex casserole dishes filled with something vegan. I don’t see why my mother couldn’t get it catered, but she always was a cheap cow.

I wasn’t going to stick around and simper over someone I was glad to see gone. Annette and Daisy were red eyed and sniffling, but I didn’t care. I was going to do something I had always wanted to do, and no-one was going to stop me now.

I left as soon as they started passing round the instant coffee and headed straight to my grandmother’s house. It hadn’t been touched, of course, and my cousins had been too respectful to do anything before the funeral. They had been left all the magical stuff, of course. I just had the money. It stung that grandmother had done that because she thought it was all I cared about. If she hadn’t been cremated I would have danced on her grave.

I had been in and out of the old house all my life and I knew its ways. I slipped around the back of the house, got the spare key from under the plant pot and let myself in. All of my life I had been fascinated by a jar on the high shelf. Once, when I was around thirteen, I thought I had heard it calling to me and tried to reach it. The old bag had stopped me then, but she couldn’t stop me now.

I stood on a chair, took the jar down, set it on the scrubbed table and paused. I could hear Daisy and Annette shouting to me as feet pounded up the path to the house. They weren’t going to stop me now. The lid was stiff at first, but then it turned easily. I could hear the singing as the lid loosened and then finally, it was open.

I could hear Daisy calling down the hall, screaming at me to stay back, but I didn’t care. Now I could see inside the tiny perfect world, marvel at the minute and delicate fronds. Except now they were not so tiny. The fronds whirled, whipping around like vegetable tentacles, sprouting and stretching, growing faster than I could watch. The jar shattered as I fell back, too small to contain the writhing plants which were sprawling over the kitchen, feeling their way along to the surfaces and grabbing at me. The fronds were strong, far stronger than a plant should be and I couldn’t break free. They tightened around my throat and as I gasped for air, a cold green tendril slid down my throat. I could hear Daisy screaming as everything went black.

It’s Day Five 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!

Are You Afraid of the Dark, 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 

Out of the Mist

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is photo-1485236715568-ddc5ee6ca227-1.jpg
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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is elijah-o-donnell-8tbfaUMSTDs-unsplash-1-576x1024.jpg
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  

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.

Today is the first day of the October Frights Blog Hop. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blogs with their spooky content!

Night to Dawn Magazine & Books LLC, Hawk’s Happenings, Heidi Angell, Curiosities, James McDonald, Always Another Chapter, Spreading the Writer’s Word, Yours in Storytelling, Carmilla Voiez, Hello Romance, GirlZombieAuthors, Frighten Me, M’habla’s!, Angela Yuriko Smith, Brain Matter, NLCARTERWRITES.COM

The Giveaway

The October Frights Giveaway  

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