Revenge: the conclusion

Revenge: the conclusion.

She was between worlds; rising up through landscapes of memory.
Cloud-like forms carved from a million instances of her life, all bunching together, folding, metamorphosing, blending, and pirouetting through the void.
As she pushed herself up, fighting the current pulling her down, fighting to leave this storm, she finally broke surface, passing above the sea of chaos.
And, as she looked down, amazement shook her, making her forget what she had to do… for a moment.
For, in that split second, looking down at the brilliance, looking down at what tapestries of beauty her subconscious could weave, she was breathless from longing.
All around, scattered beneath her were the lost memories, a brooding storm of sights, each one rubbing shoulders with the next. Sights from childhood, womanhood, all clinging together, dancing beneath her, showing her a past she missed so much.
But it was not what it seemed.
For, as she rose higher, she heard their deceitful sniggers, and she knew what they were: the hounds of longing.
These were the memories that wanted her to stay, wanted her to take the plunge, stay in wonderland; taunting her to follow them down, down to memories that would smother her sanity, drown her existence in a multiplicity of pasts, leaving her trapped below in the caverns of a sleep that she would never arise from.
“No!” She screamed. “Not today.”
She pushed onwards, ignoring their subterfuge.
But, they tried, one last time, sending a cloud swirling up to encircle her, test her composure, her will.
A face appeared in the grey mass, tenebrous lips whispering her name.
As it spoke, clouds pieced themselves together, forming a screen, a beloved cinema from childhood.
Left and right she spied glittering mermaids carved in the walls. And up above, a starry dome with spotlights suspended between velvet curtains. Below her, curving out like a little cove, row after row of satin seats, and like landing lights beckoning her down, soft moody lights were embedded in the carpet.
Then came a voice: it was the old woman who’d serve ice cream at the interval.
“Come down. It’s your favourite film,” she waved as the projector sprung into life behind her.
Shouting at it, she punched out, kicking with her feet, trying to get rid of the scene; a past she dearly missed, but would not want to stay.
She pulled up, banishing the vision.
Heeding her words, the dream catcher stole away, the screen shimmering into chaos once more, diving away into the depths.
Breathless, she watched it. First it turned into a skipping girl who promptly split into a bizarre pattern of twirling Chinese dragons that quickly scattered like spooked fish, seeking sanctuary, disappearing behind sunsets of doubt, and swimming down into vortices of lust and longing. One by one, they melted into another scene then another, then another, without beginning, without end.
It was hideously mystifying.
Hideously tempting.
Above her, she saw it: a reminder of life; a beacon of light revolving high above her, a sunray piercing down through the grey and sullen clouds in a hemisphere of storms.
She pushed up.
With thunder snapping at her heals and subtle flashes of lightning spreading across the surreal boundaries marking the gulf between her mind and intangibility, she rose up, a human balloon.
Floating onwards, she remembered what she had to do.
The name.
Jesus! It was still out there; a willow-the-wisp conglomeration of sound.
She had to get it before reality took her beck.
Reality…, that aspect of life she would rather reimagine.
Piecing together fragments of reality and memory, she recalled what had transpired above her, in the oncoming flickering brightness.
For a brief second, she pondered the chaos below and a question.
What would it be: the blade of a raving lunatic or die looking for a name cried out across a bleak square?
Flailing, she desperately struggled to hold onto a vital piece of information, a lifeline, and a clue to her rescue.
“No…!” she struggled, the void smothering her movements, hindering her escape.
“The name, I need the name.”
It had been screamed across a moonlit market square. The secret they had wanted her to know.
But…, now, her journey nearly over, and reality knocking at the door of this world, she screamed out for help across the mists of memories.
But there was no reply.
Too late…
The final destination.
She sensed the air around her, its cold embrace, the pungent stench of lavender, old books and…, still faint, beyond it all, the soft fluttering of moths continuing their dance against the glass, unabated.
Eyes still tight, she gently took in air, letting the cold trickle into her, the steel still nipping at her neck.
A hard reminder.
But this wasn’t right.
No, she screamed within her.
It wasn’t time to face the old woman yet, not yet.
Just one more second.
Please…, one more second, she begged.
Speak to me! She screamed into the grey.
“Show me!”
Concentrating, she put together the scene.
Behind her eyelids, the image of what she had seen appeared: the vast shadow overlooking the market square.
A shadow so familiar. So full of hate and tragedy.
It was slipping away.
“Wait! No! I need to know.”
The more she spoke the quicker it folded into the darkness, a timid creature of the forest scampering away from the hunter, becoming a mere after image, fading from the retina of her subconscious.
“Speak to me, goddamn it!”
She reached out one last time.
Speak to me!
And out there, out there in that barren world, a cry…, so faint, like that of a lost child.
“Focus, goddamn it!”
Fighting against the blade’s edge, she reached out into the void, ignoring the cold, ignoring the slither of death at her neck.
“Let me be!”
But it was drawing her back, a cold hearted fisherman snarling at his catch, drawing her back to the room, and the hiss of reality filling her ears
She swam down into the void, one last time, snatching at the tiny echo, trying hard to fathom its meaning.
“One last time… Please!”
But, as it became a soft whisper, dwindling away, sinking back into to that bleak world, she caught its meaning.
And, like a radio locking onto a lost station, her mouth opened:
Her eyes were wide, she gasped for air.
Cold breath across her eyes.
Time standing still.
But it was there.
The name was there, before her.
Shimmering across the table, piercing the freezing air, filling the room.
She could see it, her breath, twisting and curling in the golden light, dancing above the flickering candle.
As it formed a multitude of formless shapes, she could have laughed, laughed out loud at what she saw. For, as that insubstantial body of air crept through space, its billowing motion brought back a fond childhood memory: a book, old and battered, showing Victorian ectoplasmic apparitions, cleverly spun charlatan spectres depicted in sepia, a world full of half-light, cut-out entities populating a long lost world.
A book of lies and swindles, the worlds she would one day crush.
But not all of them.
She breathed in.
But this was no parlour room play, no childhood fantasy.
It was the here and now.
And, as she stifled the laugh, putting the memory away, she heard the voices; not from outside, but from within.
Massing together, deep within her, screaming, rising up from that bleak world: thousands of voices, all screaming to be heard.
No. It couldn’t be!
They’d found a way out.
Channelling. They were channelling through her.
Voices from within her, all rushing out as one. A crowd running headlong for one opening, looking for the one who had hurt them so long ago.
Desperate for justice, they clawed at her throat.
But…, the knife, hanging at the junction between life and death.
It still hung there. Waiting for the single movement.
But no movement came.
The old woman was frozen.
Only her soft breathing, rhythmic, and her skin, laced with lavender, was the sign of life.
Was a name so powerful?
But her concentration was needed elsewhere: the voices were struggling to get out.
If they forced her to speak?
What then? Would the old bitch ignore them? Or simply cut her, bleed her like a sacrificial lamb?
Is that what they wanted?
Did they care for her existence or just their own pitiful revenge?
She couldn’t let them out, not yet; she had to control them.
Keep them in check.
Hold them back.
Her eyes focussed.
The knife hadn’t moved.
The old woman was a statue, shocked from the name circling the room.
How long did she have before the beast within her shook away the trance?
Breathe in. Keep it in. Don’t let it out, she thought; it was the only mantra that would hold it all together.
In the freezing air, her skin ashen, she held her breath in, the only weapon she had against them.
She closed her eyes.
Her lungs burning, skin awash with the kisses of death’s lowly demons, she saw them beneath the rippling water, her hands holding them down, tiny bubbles rising up. And in one giant glassy bubble she could see them, a mass of ghostly faces, grey, full of hate, full of rage.
Seeing her plan, they sank down, dragging her with them.
The water encircled her head, washing over her body, pulling her down.
Twisting around, she stared up at the shimmering light of freedom, taunting her in this hopeless struggle, distorting the life above, still in sight, her air running low.
The water was gone.
Only cold air all around.
Keep them in, she told herself.
Keep hold.
She tried so desperately to control them, keep them in. But the knowledge of what she had become had weakened her: she was the conduit, the doorway. They could reach out and take the old bitch.
Please…, not now.
Not with so much danger around her: the knife that could so quickly end her life.
She counted the heart beats, marking out time in her chest, beating, still beating.
“Keep them in,” she whispered in her mind.
Screams thronging in her throat now; so many curses, so many lives cut off too short.
Voices, pushing, pulling at the gate, pushing, pushing, looking for that way out.
She opened her eyes once again, looking around, looking for a point to concentrate on.
The window.
The books.
The figure.
The ghost.
There, she’d seen it.
A movement?
Something caught her attention.
The wispy breath, which had come up from so deep, which had manifested itself before her eyes.
What was it doing?
Why hadn’t it dissipated?
It was circling the candle, a comet trapped in the gravity of a glowing star.
But it looked strange, this dimensionless form shifting in space, fighting forces that would dissipate its simple life.
As it drifted, forming misty rings around the flame, it reached out to the light, like the moths at the window, seeking the light, yearning.
Her heart pounded.
The voices were near.
“Keep them in! keep them in!”
From the corner of her eye, in the third chair, the ghostly figure moved.
Heat pounding.
Bump, bump…, bump, bump…, bump, bump.
Her heart beating the rhythm of her life.
Seconds stretching out.
But…, the figure. What was it doing?
Raising an arm?
Across the table, it touched the cloud, and with it, the candle light intensified.
It couldn’t be.
She stared at the shadowy form, her heart about to burst.
The figure was changing, taking on a new visage.
A woman.
It could only be…, the name.
This is what they wanted from her.
She could fight no more.
Her strength gone, they ripped up through her, gushing up, free at last: seeking the figure, the ghost.
The vacuum within her sucked at the air, her lungs filling with life.
The knife at her neck, for a second, gently cut her skin, but withdrew.
Behind her, she heard steps, moving away.
The ghostly figure in the chair manifested itself.
And, for brief seconds, she was there.
And then, as if someone flipped a switch, she was gone.
All that remained was soft flickering candlelight and a quiet wail in the darkness.
The old woman stood back, the knife hanging in the air.
“Lily,” she said, despondently, followed by that chilling wail again.
She finally drifted back into the half shadows. Her shoulders hunching back down, her back rounding, her eyes sinking away, she became a lonely old woman once more.
As that name hung in the air, she shuddered.
Her head dropping, she spoke. Her voice lost, broken, alone.
“Lily, was my mother,” she said. “But…, she… was…..”
Her voice trickled away.
She put her tongue across dry, chapped lips, contemplating her words.
Only the brushing of wings upon glass.
In the hallway, the clocked marked the hour, a prompt for the hunched figure to move into the semi-light.
“He made me do it. My father,” she stammered, words coming in short bursts. “It was my father. I remember,” she said, her words slowly gathering clarity, momentum.
“I remember.”
Looking up, her eyes twinkled in the candlelight and she let go of the knife.
“I remember now. I remember his obsession. I remember the books, the pain. Lily knew something was wrong with him, something violent, malevolent. Why do I remember it now?” She turned to the bookshelves.
As she did, Mademoiselle Clements clutched at her neck. She felt a tiny rivulet of blood and the sting of pain.
It wasn’t deep. So just needed to hold her hand there.
She had to listen. The old woman was back.
Was it nearly over?
Had they done it, the spirits?
They’d called her here to find the woman and now they’d forced the old bitch’s memories back.
Now it was time to listen.
Mademoiselle Clements let her body relax.
She’d got away with it.
In the corner, where she’d left it, the sensor device was still on, still transmitting, still blinking.
A confession was all she needed.
A confession.
It was all she wanted.
The confession.
At the window the moths were at rest.
A calm entered the room.
The voices had set the arena.
Judgment was to be done.
But they needed to hear it from her lips.
Mademoiselle Sanson stood at the bookshelf.
Her voice sharp now.
“Each book, all held together with rusty clasps, tells a story. Not in words. No,” she said, letting her hand wander across the glass the shelves, her voice still distant.
“My mother had known it. She’d seen how they’d affected my father, made him change, especially after starting his research. His job had been to find special books. The “Lost” books, as the museum director had called them. All full of secret histories. He’d found people, all over France, collectors, all with stories to tell and books to sell. My mother could remember the first one he’d brought back. It had fascinated him. It was a book that should have been burned in the Revolution, but had somehow survived.
Night after night he would sit in the study, reading under candlelight. Hour upon hour, only the sounds of swishing pages and a fountain pen hard at work, dipping into ink, scrawling his thoughts, his fears. She would often find him asleep at the table, his head resting on those vile pages.
She’d pitied him, thinking work was causing his obsessional work.
But then came the dreams.
He would wake up shouting and screaming. Names, places, strange words of unknown origin.
She said it was often the voice of another.
It was this that had struck fear into her heart.
Fearing the worst, she’d sought medical counselling.
After seeing my father in one of his darker moods, the doctor had proclaimed the book had a hold of him, manifesting another in his body. It could only be the work of powers we never speak of, was his answer. He decreed that my father should receive help of the psychiatric nature and that we should speak to no one of his ailment.
Lily was advised to get rid of the book immediately. Take it to the museum, he advised her. Let them take care of it. Get my father help for his troubled soul.
But when she called the museum, they’d told her that my father had handed in his notice weeks before.
Lily could take it no more.
Who was she living with?
The following evening, when he was in the study, she confronted him. Asking him to put the book aside.
But, as she’d feared, they’d waited too long, and the “other” was behind those eyes.”
The old woman moved to the centre of the room.
“I can still see her, back there, in our old home. I can remember what she told me. She saw what he had become: a haggard shadow of his former self. Eyes sunken, skin yellowed like the pages of the book, his energy had been sapped away by those pages. And now it was being used to resurrect something else.
I remember waking up, running into the study, seeing them both there, I saw her trying to take the book, and this gaunt figure lashing out at her, striking her to the ground.
My mother screaming out.
I saw her on the floor helpless; my father standing at the table. Not trying to help her.
I was frozen.
But then, I saw her reach for something on the floor. She picked something up, a knife. Getting up, she lunged at my father, plunging it into his chest.
He fell next to the table.
Prone against the table, a pool of crimson spilling out from between fingers, he clutched at his belly, as his life trickled away.
I was frozen in shock.
Gasping, crying, barely understandable from hysteria, she tried to tell me why. Tears streaming down her face, she told me my father had died inside months ago and that a stranger had been living with us. The book had changed him.
Thinking only of staunching the blood, I ran to him.
However, in those few seconds, as I touched him, the life finally ran away from him.
And I remember the cold. His skin, so cold.
It was only then that I realised my mistake.
But it was too late.
Why hadn’t I listened? The words of my mother.
For, in the seconds his life expired, his madness entered into me.
That monster entered his flesh and blood.
I’ve done its bidding. The puppeteer holds me for its performance.”
She looked at the rows upon rows of books. Tears now streaming down her face.
“I buried my mother in our cellar. He’s there too.
I suppose they are still there today.
He made me kill her.
She knew too much and I had so much work to do, he’d said.
Who’d believe a young girl had done it, the voice had told me. He’d forced me. Every time. It was him.”
The old woman studied the books.
“I remember now. You’ve made me remember. I remember that it wasn’t me. Never was me. The books, it came from the books, feeding on their suffering, always seeking more. He said they had to pay for hiding that which had to be burned. Purge those who hold onto the old values, hiding from the guillotine.”
She banged her fists on the glass.
“Purge? What do you mean?”
“Kill them. Kill them all. Take their books. That’s all he ever wanted.”
The confession?
Did she finally have it?
She couldn’t believe it.
“Yes. Blood on my hands. Blood everywhere. Screams. All their screams ringing in my ears. But he wanted it,” she held out her hands. “He said they’d never find me. Never suspect me.”
Turning to the shelves, she banged her fist on the glass.
Now…, now. You must take them. Take the books. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Take them all.”
She pounded on the glass. “Take them all. Burn them. Just take them.”
Mademoiselle Clements simply shook her head.
“No. I’m not here to take any books,” her voice soft, calm, in control. “That’s what you wanted to believe. The truth is…, I’m here for you. I’m here for what you’ve done.”
The old woman looked at her incredulously.
“Done? What have I done?” Innocence in her voice. “It was him. He did it. It was always him. I’m his puppet,” she whimpered, pointing to the books. “Don’t you see? Haven’t they shown you, your spirits? It’s in the books. He wrote it all down. He had control.”
But the young woman remained calm, watching the old woman.
“It was him. HIM! I tell you!”
“It’s wasn’t him, was it?” Her voice calm.
“Mademoiselle Sanson, you’re wanted for the murder of fifty three people, and perhaps countless more. I‘ve been working with the police to try and find you. The only information I had were the voices of thousands of people who suffered at the guillotine. People killed hundreds of years ago. All my life I’ve heard them. I never believed them; I thought it was just some crazy dream about some strange books. But slowly, over the past six years, their voices crystallised into something tangible: they told a story even the police didn’t want to believe. I tracked everything they told me, every single detail, every single avenue of evidence. It was those voices who led me to you.”
“Then outside, the old wood they found was…”
“People were executed here. Decapitated. It’s the reason the moths were attracted to this place. That was the breakthrough we’d needed. The voices focussed on this place. And then, I met the priest.”
“Then…, you are not of the cloth?”
“I’m a medium. Helped the police on a lot of cases.”
“Then…, they will arrest me? Take me in?”
“They’re waiting.”
The old woman sank to her knees.
“It was always him. Always,” she sobbed. “I have no way out. He trapped me.”
It was over.
Or so it seemed.
Was it too easy?
Had the voices accepted her confession?
The moths.
Something had disturbed them.
“What is happening?” sobbed the old woman, staring at the window.
The tiny insects were going crazy, their bodies banging against the glass, a raging storm battering the glass.
“The spirits they’re…,” the young woman looked confused.
Cold wafted around again.
Within her she could hear their footsteps running across the cobblestone market square, all shouting…, and screaming. But what were they screaming?
“Revenge? Are they screaming for revenge?”
Her throat was dry again. Within her a storm was churning in her stomach, in her mind they were shouting, over and over again.
The old woman was hysterical.
“Oh, please take me to the police. Please! It is so cold. They will….”
Her eyes glazed over.
She clutched at her chest, falling to the carpet, her legs kicking out, her head thrown back in agony.
“Mademoiselle Sanson!” God!” The young woman got up, going to the now still body.
She stopped herself at the last second,.
In that instant, that terrible sound began again.
The booming from the bowels of the house thudded into the floor, sending out ear-splitting screams as the foundations slid beneath her feet.
Thunderous roars shuddered through the room, sending ornaments flying.
Ominous sounds buffeted the floor, the walls, hammering, unrelenting, deafening.
As it built up to a crescendo, the lights flickered on; pulsing white light blinded her, turning the room into a vision of unreality.
Her mind in confusion, she struggled to stay on her feet, grabbing the table.
Above her, the chandelier rocked from side to side, driven on by the quake.
As the roar started a fresh assault, she saw the damage.
Spiralling out from the chandelier, long cracks shot across the ceiling.
As plaster drifted down, the wave of sound thumped into the walls, into the floor.
Something had to give, she thought.
And, as the sound became unbearable, and the cracks reached the window, her silent fear was confirmed: the windows warped, then…, exploded.
Glass sparkled in the air, tiny fragments flying inwards.
“Jesus,” she screamed, diving down beneath the table, her only option.
As the glass came to rest, a new noise filled her ears.
A shrill, high pitched scream, all around.
Thousands of tiny shadows fluttered before her vision, smothering the light.
Above her, the air was alive.
The night air rushed in, bringing with it the storm of moths, frantic wings beating, furry bodies swirling around, all coming together, forming a spiralling cyclone, a twisting funnel revolving around the room, a blur of bodies encircling the prone body of the old woman.
“No!” she screamed out. “Leave her alone. You don’t know what she is!” She screamed out.
But it was no use. The spirits were in the tiny creatures, this hurricane of insects.
She knew what they wanted, and there was nothing she could do to stop them.
A moth landed on her arm, its body bloated. A hazy blue glow shimmering around its body.
“What energy do you carry?”
A tingle shot through her.
“Oh no. It can’t be!”
She got up, heading for the doorway to the hallway.
Running fast, she had to escape.
But it stopped her.
An invisible energy shot out and held her.
“Leave me alone!” She screamed, fighting the force.
An invisible hand pulled her back by her hair, dragging her painfully into the side of the table, making her lose balance, fall over.
Her skin crackled with the blue energy.
From the body lying close by, she heard a laugh.
“Thought you could outwit this old bitch, did you?”
What had been Mademoiselle Sanson turned over to stare at the petrified woman, its eyes streaming blue crackling energy.
“Keep away from me. The police. They’ll be here. They’re waiting. They’ll shoot you if you try and…”
“What do you think they’ll do to this bad old bitch? Oh yes, I know. You told me. Thank you for that piece of information.”
The old woman stood up, hitting out at moths, bright light leaking from cracks in her pasty skin.
Through the storm of bustling creatures, she slowly opened her mouth, releasing a thick beam of blue light. It shimmered up, twisting in the storms of insects.
“I think it’s time we said hello to your friends outside? Time for some action!” Her voice vile, hateful.
“Get away from me.”
Mademoiselle Clements started to crawl backwards, to the door, a way out, tiny fragment of glass cutting into her back, her hands.
“Get away from me!”
The old woman looked down at her, her face now a mass of blue blinding light, sparks of iridescent light spilling out into the air, swirling around in the storm of insects.
“Oh, you think I want to touch you. That’s it,” she laughed. “No. I can let these foul creatures do all the work for me,” her laugh was obliterated by the hiss of wings. “It was nice meeting you, Mademoiselle Clements. But now I’m afraid you have other business to attend to. All I can say is adieu.”
The glowing blue light shot from her mouth and eyes, enveloping the moths, turning their tiny bodies into glowing stars flying around the room.
The vortex of energy hit Mademoiselle Clements, knocking her back into the carpet, pining her down.
As she tried to get up, she felt energy seeping away, and as consciousness left her, she was being sucked down a tunnel, her vision dimming, until only darkness.
But wait, she wasn’t dead.
She felt her feet on the ground.
The moths all around her.
She opened her eyes.
All around were stars, blue stars, the moths.
She was being lifted.
Looking down, she saw the thousands of moths, circling around her, their tiny bodies blurred in her vision.
No, wait!
They weren’t moths: they were hands.
Grabbing her, lifting her, propelling her forwards, taking her outside, through the window, into the road, into the night.
And there, under the street light, the tall shadow of the guillotine awaited her.
Her body was so weak, powerless, arms dead, legs like lead.
She tried to struggle.
But it was to no avail.
She looked back at the house, and saw with horror, leaning out of the window, not the old woman, but a vision of herself.
Around the corner, she saw the laser sights of the police.
So close. So close.
They would never know.
All around her were voices: shouting, guns being cocked, radios chattering, boots beating down on cobbles tone, engines charged.
But she was still in their clutches, held in the air.
Now they were lowering her.
Above, she saw it, the grotesque shape high above. A ghostly shadow version of what had once stood in the street.
And, there at the top, a sliver of metal, ready to fall.
As she strained to look up, she felt cold damp wood encircle her neck.
The hands let go.
She was trapped.
She could hear them screaming at her:
A thousand voices.
All wanting one thing.
And finally.
The hiss of the blade.


Revenge… part three

The Séance



I would like to thank vladimm for letting me post this image. I must admit I saw this image after completing the story; however, it summed up so much for me. If you want to see more of his excellent dark and surreal creations, you’ll find him lurking in the virtual shadows at:

OK, on with the show:

From the dimness of the hallway, a cold, ebbing wind swept into the study, bringing forth the stench of rotten, damp wood and foul roots, those tangled blind serpents that ravaged the tenebrous depths of old houses.
Unbound from those depths, the howling flurry raced through the room, forcing the two women to huddle into a corner.
As the unnatural tempest roared, the room became an arena for the spirits to play.
With the air crystallised, charged with unseen energy, the curtains swirled and billowed, ornaments danced upon their shelves and books upon the shelves pounded the glass doors.
But, of all the strangest things to be seen, thought Mademoiselle Clements, was the single candle upon the table: how it remained steady, its flame unmoving as the room became the victim of this charging force.
From the corner, the two women stood their ground, too scared to move, fearing the wind and the foul stench filling their nostrils.
The old woman closed her eyes – her lips moving in silent prayer.
But, as quickly as it had started, the wind slowed its dance.
Around the room, everything steadily became still as the wind pirouetted into silence, bowing back to the recesses from whence it had emerged.
With its passing, however, came that singular sensation, a presence, and a tangible perception that they were not alone.
Mademoiselle Sanson stopped her praying, and, face drained of colour, turned to the table and the three chairs.
“Why has it chosen me? This house? Tell me,” she said, clinging to Mademoiselle Clements, her face distraught, her voice that of a desperate, lost child. “Why? Tell me!”
But there came no answer.
The young woman focussed on the table and the farthest chair.
Had it moved?
It was unbearably cold now.
On the table, the candle flickered.
At the window, the moths danced even livelier – a captive audience waiting for the show to begin
And then…, she saw the farthest chair gently rock.
It slid out, just enough for someone to sit down.
Foreboding passed across the young woman’s face – there would be no running now.
For, from deep within the house it had risen, seeking her.
She’d already felt its mind, ancient, cold, full of hate, like all of what she’d encountered in her life’s work.
She’d recognised it before as she stared down into its abyss, at the window, as the moths had gathered around. It was a darkness that sunk deeper than any fetid roots that clung to the wretched foundations of the house.
It was from those depths that it had sought her, probing, touching the books, and finding the words that had been frozen in time.
It had been called and it had answered.
The chair moved again, ever so slightly.
The old woman stirred next to her, a whimper crossing her lips.
Mademoiselle Clements wanted to say something but her lips could only twitch, no words would form.
Her eyes froze on the chair.
She tried to speak, tried to control her tongue, but it was frozen, like her lips, dry and cracked, and her throat, a searing dryness now constricting her breathing.
Panic gripped her.
As she focussed on the words, the cold flooded over her lips, flowing like icy water moving in her mouth, filling it with the taste of putrefied matter. Then, oozing onwards, it dipped down into her throat, into her stomach, filling her with biting, nauseating cold.
Every part of her inner being was drowning now in whatever the presence was.
She was powerless to this incomprehensible force; invisible fingers pawing inside her, opening her like a book, flicking through her memories.
Each touch freezing another part of her soul.
Then she felt the pull, like a steady change in the tide, an undercurrent drawing her down, clasping her legs and tugging. It was smothering her.
Looking down she could see the seething roots, coiling around each other beneath the floor, their tips testing the air ready to reach up to catch her, ready to choke the life out of her.
She pushed the vision away. Struggling to gain a mental foothold in reality.
But her sight dimmed; the space around her drifting outwards, extending into space: the table, chairs, the bookshelf and old woman were moving down a long concertina of darkness.
She tensed to hold onto reality, but that tide encircled her body again, pulling down, her control fading.
As light slipped away, her thoughts were only of what they would do.
Those that waited down there.
The spirits who’d visited the old woman so often.
God they were strong. So strong.
Would they listen to her?
Her conscious being was falling into the depths of the house.
As she twisted, she reached out, feeling roots, soil passing swiftly, crumbling in her fingers, no chance to hold on, spinning around, helpless, falling…
Then.., she felt it.
A frozen finger touched her lips.
Opening her eyes, the spinning stopped.
There was no hole, no abyss.
She’d been freed. The spell broken.
Everything returned.
The room was before her – her lips could move.
As she focussed, the candle flickered and the lights finally went out.
The old woman was still at her arm.
“Is it here?” asked Mademoiselle Sanson, tugging gently at her arm.
Looking towards the chair.
Had something moved it?
The young woman saw it: a cloudy outline, a shifting shape, dimming, focussing, and trying to hold onto reality.
Was it a memory in the darkness? A character from one of the books?
She didn’t know.
It had to be their messenger.
At her side the old woman persisted.
“Is it here? She begged, oblivious to the presence.
Mademoiselle Clements nodded.
An invisible hand gently stroked her back. Cold lips brushed her ear, her cheek, numbing the skin.
The screams started.
From a thousand miles away she heard voices screaming out, crying for mercy, crying to be freed from their prison.
Then came other voices, chastising, hideous, offensive, jeering out, ignoring their pleas; these were screams from a time that was now only kept alive in the books.
It was a time of revolution and death.
These screams were memories held in ink and paper. Prisoners without souls. Suspended in words that would only awaken when the eye beheld them.
But something else had awoken their sleep.
And they were screaming for justice.
They wailed in her mind, crying for her to listen.
However, that presence in the chair had also heard their pitiful cries and, growing impatient at their madness, silenced them with a terrible sound, one that sent a spasm of fear shuddering through her body: it was the unmistakable sound of sliding, screeching metal and it thudding down hard on wood.
As it hit, the voices sped away – tiny birds whisking away from the hedgerows upon hearing the prowling cat.
Now, only one sound remained.
A cold, dead voice lurking in the vacuum of her subconscious.
It spoke, a whisper on a howling wind, and she fought hard to comprehend its words. Closing her eyes, her temples aching, she listened as it screamed into her subconscious. Listened as it strove to tune into her mind, sliding through the ether.
As the wind lessened, she heard it.
“Write,” it said.
Next to her, the old woman, her face twitching from fear and cold, shook her head, nervous, waiting for an answer.
“What do we do? What do we do?”
Mademoiselle Clements slowly turned to her.
“It wants me to write,” she said, her voice trailing, straining from the freezing river in her throat.
Across the gulf that separated life and death, the voice reached out again.
“Paper. You shall write what I say.”
Icy breath enveloped her body. It was an ancient voice, like stone, cold and lifeless.
“What?” The old woman squinted at her, her voice frail.
“Paper. I need paper. In the cupboard. Have you got paper and a pen? Please.” She begged, her words coming in quick bursts.
The wind returned.
Mademoiselle Clements gasped as it reached down, sliding into her. The spirits were exploring her, finally let out of their deep dark prisons after so many years.
As the wind rose, so did the voices, all screaming together, reaching into her.
They were strong, a heaving throng on the edge of her subconscious, reaching out to her. More than one, trying to speak. She had to hold them back.
Concentrate. Don’t let them through…, not yet.
The old woman finally moved. Shuffling across the carpet, she put her hands to her mouth. Looking back at Mademoiselle Clements, her eyes were dim pinpoints in the shimmering light of the candle. Fear cracking her delicate skin, she remained unaware of the voices.
“Paper. I’ll get it.”
Fumbling around the old writing desk, she found a small pad and a pencil.
“Here,” she said, putting them on the table.
Mademoiselle Clements pointed to a chair. “Sit down.”
The old woman did as she was told.
Mademoiselle Clements couldn’t move.
Her body was paralyzed, caught like the books behind glass.
Now she felt an icy hand upon her. The sinister spectre sat at the end of the table was playing puppet master with her.
As the vague shape moved, freezing fingers played along her wrists.
Without warning, it pulled her to the nearest chair, pushing her down. Icy strings pulled on her hands, making her draw the notepad towards her.
She was powerless. All she could do was fix her eyes on the moths dancing outside.
Her hands began moving.
The pen scratched its way across the paper, line after line, forming a long list.
She wanted to look down, but the dance of the creatures outside was mesmerising.
Her neck cold. Held in place by the spectre.
What were they writing?
Would they remember to wait?
She prayed that they would wait; wouldn’t expose the truth too quickly.
The old woman had to talk to them.
Tell them the truth.
Please, make them be patient.
Please don’t tell the old woman yet. Please…, remember.
She couldn’t see the words.
She so desperately wanted to see what they were writing, but her eyes remained locked on the moths.
The cold lips were at her ear once again, and that voice from so far away, hissing like winter’s bane, callous and uncaring, whispered.
“Look down… read the truths we give to you. Let her see what she has done to us… all of us. Then it shall be complete.”
The wind in her mind, raging, rampaging, tore through her world. She forced her head to move, but it had control, keeping her in its cold grip.
Across the table, the spirit gestured, a smoky hand rising from the table.
As the flame of the candle gently waltzed by itself, the coldness lifted from her neck.
She could move.
Across from her, white as marble, the old woman sat waiting, her eyes wide, her fingers gently pointing to the paper.
“What are you writing? What is it? Tell me.”
The wispy stranger stroked her arms and she felt herself pushing the writing pad slowly towards the candle.
“Please, take it. I can’t get up.”
The wind was barely audible; but she knew they were waiting, waiting in the shadows of her mind, waiting in the wings.
Mademoiselle Sanson got up and slowly walked to the young woman. From her pocket, she took out old reading glasses.
She picked up the writing block and, putting it near the candlelight, began reading.
“They’re names. You’ve written names.”
As the old woman spoke, the wind stirred, voices hissing, screams from the abyss of Mademoiselle Clements’ mind. Voices caged in.
The old woman read further. When she’d finished she put the writing block down.
Straitening, she took off her glasses.
The voices hissed, louder now, screaming a word; however, they were too loud, the word becoming inaudible in the storm of screams.
Mademoiselle Sanson walked to the sideboard, her voice whining, and the beginnings of tears.
“I didn’t know…, I didn’t know… they would….”
Her voice trailed off and, as it did, she shuffled towards the window, the shadows swallowing her.
Mademoiselle Clements followed her, losing sight of her; but the voices screamed on, a word, a word…, but what were they saying.
She shut her eyes tight, willing one of them to speak; one voice one voice, please…
Her eyes opened.
The cold had returned.
But…, this was another cold.
The voices screamed on.
No…, this wasn’t the wind, this was…
At her throat was a knife, and with it came the overpowering smell of lavender.
A voice.
The old woman.
But not the old woman.
Her eyes caught a glimpse of a twisted, misshapen face.
Hate contorting it into a hideous visage.
“Thought you’d get my books, did you?”
It wasn’t her voice. This was something else. A creature that lived here and used the guise of a frail old woman.
Lurking in the life of another.
“Cheap tricks to get my books. All my beautiful books.”
She screamed out. “My beautiful books! All mine, I tell you. I collected them. Mine!”
The blade dug into the folds of her neck.
“Séance and all… Think you’d outsmart an old woman with your tricks. I think you better tell your spirits that if they want my books they better start praying for your soul.”
But the phantasm was drifting away, far away, swimming out of focus.
The spirit sitting in the corner pointed to Mademoiselle Clements.
With a wispy movement, it closed her eyes.
The world moving.
It was taking her away.
But she needed to know the truth.
That was why it was there.
To talk to her.
Help me, she asked.
Help me.
She’ll kill me.
You know the truth.
Help me…
It took her hand, showing her another place.
Her body frozen; her will under the control of another; all she could do was concentrate, make them listen, make them understand.
They had to listen.
She felt it pulling her away from her body, out into the darkness.
A deep, dark undulating mist engulfed her mind, and she was set adrift in a sea of confusion.
Twisting around, she searched for a foothold, an anchor point, flailing in free fall thought.
But wait!
What was that?
She now saw edges forming, lines taking shape, materialising.
There were…, cobble stone roads, houses, chimneys belching thick smoke, a market place…
She was over an ancient market place; that cold night where they suffered. She had to find that voice, lonely, whimpering.
One voice was all she needed.
One voice and the truth.
She was in the market square.
Full moon overhead.
Frost glittering upon the rooftops.
Another time.
Horses in stables.
The smell of death.
Then the voice.
It came from a house, overlooking the square.
A woman’s voice, and a single word…
She wandered to that voice and the house.
As she approached, a door opened, and candlelight seeped out. A woman stood silhouetted there.
She pointed and shouted.
“Look to the square. It’s waiting.”
As she turned, her eyes beheld the vast dark shape rising up, tall, malevolent, waiting for the one to trudge up the steps to meet their destiny.
The woman at the door shouted again.
“Tell her! Tell her the name!”
And that name rang out across the market.
One name.
But…, as she clutched for that name, she was being called back, called back by the cold steel at her neck.
To be continued…

Revenge – part 1 (the first draft)



Having followed the coast road for twenty minutes, Mademoiselle Clements finally drove into the outskirts of the small town.

It’d been a long drive: her eyes were getting heavy and concentration was failing her.

A small car park came into view. She pulled over.

Lifting the handbrake, she sat back with a sigh: the journey was nearly over.

Opening the window, she let in a fresh sea breeze.

“Just what the doctor ordered.” After three hours of air conditioning, it was invigorating to let the cool air wash over her.

Gazing out, the eve of night commenced its first act, bidding farewell to the soft memories of day.  A failing band of blue and orange to the west was all that remained. However, in the dying light, she could see undulating dunes, and, somewhere in the distance, she heard the rhythmic beat of waves. Here and there were the soft glow of fires, people enjoying the cool evening and grilling their suppers. On the wind came the sound of chattering, laughter and music.

She’d have loved to have joined them, but work called.

Her short break over, she had to get her bearings. Reaching into her jacket, she took out her phone and called up emails.

“What had Mademoiselle Sanson written?” Her finger brushed against the glowing screen. “OK, so she’s at 11 Rue Sebastien de Neufville.”

Scrolling down further, she read the mail:

Be careful when driving down the narrow streets. When you reach the coast road, look for the railway crossing. Turn right at the crossing. At the first zebra crossing, turn left into the yard. It’s a red house, you can’t miss it. You can park down the right hand alley. Take the steps up to the first floor, this is where I’ve got my kitchen. I’ll have something ready for you when you arrive.”

Putting the phone away, she started the engine. Before her the road was awash from lights shimmering from the hotel across the road. Some people came out, wandering across the road to the dunes. A taxi slowed to let them cross the road then accelerated away.

She watched its passage. Red brake lights flared.

Traffic lights shone a hazy red. Beyond them she could make out the railway crossing lights. “Right at the railway crossing. Bingo, it’s just around the corner.” She set off to meet Mademoiselle Sanson.

She found the place. Parking the car, her stomach suddenly felt cold, empty.

Not from hunger…, fear. This one was going to be a tough one. Father Cardaliaguet had already briefed her on what to expect. Poor woman.

Following Mademoiselle Sanson’s instructions, she went up the painted stairs and rapped on the door. Delicate linen hung inside the door, masking the interior. From within, she heard the noise of a chair being pushed back.

Someone coughed.

“I’ll be right there,” came a light voice.

A shadow suddenly masked the soft glow behind the linen. A key turned in the lock and the door rattled open.

An elderly lady, perhaps in her mid-70s, stood before her. She had a regal face, a pinched nose, grey hair, pony tail over one shoulder, and a white linen shawl drawn around her. Her face wrinkled up with a smile of welcome.

“Mademoiselle Clements, I presume?”


“Oh, how nice it is to meet you. I hope you didn’t have much trouble finding my humble abode by the sea.”

“No…, no problem at all.”

“Please, do come in,” she said, opening the door wider, her arm beckoning. “I hope you like fish. You get a fantastic mackerel here. Couldn’t help myself at the market this morning, they looked so good. The smell was awful, mind you,” she laughed. “But, served cold, they’re absolutely delicious on fresh bread.”

“Oh, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.”

“Nonsense. I insist. You’ve had a long journey, so it’s the least I could do.”

The kitchen was sparsely decorated. Simple, yet functional. Typical for the region. The light came from a standing lamp in the corner, its wide shade slightly askew as it huddled up to a tall fridge freezer. The walls were whitewashed, and here and there hung blue-framed watercolours of the surrounding area, she guessed.

The round wooden table was set for two.

“Please, take a seat,” she said, pulling out a chair for her guest.

Mademoiselle Clements sat down.

The old woman went to the ancient cooker and picked up a kettle, taking off the metal lid.

“Would you like something to drink? I prefer a white wine in the evening. But, I can make you a tea or coffee, if you like.”

“Water’s just fine. I like to keep my head clear.”

“Wise girl.” She put the old kettle down and took a bottle of water from the fridge. Pouring, she smiled apologetically. “I don’t want to sound rude, but how long have you been doing this job, Mademoiselle Clements?”

“Ten years next September.”

“Oh, that long,” she said, her brow raised. “A wise head on young shoulders as my Henri used to say. Do many women take to it?”

“I know a few.”

“Not an easy decision to make, I’d have thought? I couldn’t imagine doing it myself; always listening to the woes of others. I think it’d get me down. I’d end up taking my work home with me,” she passed her guest the glass of water. “No…, it’d be nothing for me.”

“It’s quite rewarding. I suppose I take after my father. He’s just retired.  Following in his footsteps seemed the right thing to do. He always told me about what he did. He believed.”

“Yes, I can imagine he did,” she said, adjusting her shawl. “But for a girl so young as yourself,” she said, her smile now becoming a thin line.

But it was the way she didn’t quite meet her eyes when she answered, and the subtle change in her tone that seemed suspicious.

Mademoiselle Clements brushed her fringe.

“I can show you my credentials, if you want?” she said, voice calm, polite, her hand reaching into her jacket pocket. However, the old woman’s waving index finder and raised eyebrows, implying nonsense at such an impolite thought, were enough.

“No. I trust you, Mademoiselle Clements. It’s a sixth sense I have. Had it all my life.” In that second a strangely wry smile crossed her face, her eyes wandering for a brief second. Anybody else would have taken it as a tic, a part of old age. However, Ms Clements noticed it: Was she being made too welcome? Was something bothering her? Time would tell. She has probably lived alone for too long, she thought to herself.

Mademoiselle Sanson finally sat down, letting out a slight groan of pain. She gently rubbed her side.

Regaining composure, she pointed to the food. “I bet you’re quite hungry? Come on now, help yourself.”

“Thank you.”

For a short while they ate in silence.

The room was chilly. It could have been a draught. Mademoiselle Clements looked at the windows. They were all closed. Only the kitchen door was slightly ajar.

A grandfather clock, chiming ominously in the hallway, behind a half open door, broke the ice.

Mademoiselle Clements smiled. “Haven’t heard one of those for a long time.”

“It’s a particular fine piece. Belonged to my father.” She looked towards the door. “Been in the family for generations. Keeps me company, especially on lonely winter nights.”

“How long have you lived here, in this village?”

“Oh, I moved here eight years ago. I felt magically drawn to the sea, the air. It’s good for the old bones. I saw a picture of this place and I knew I had to have it,” a smile lit up her face.

Mademoiselle Clements let her savour the memories. She took another mackerel and finished the salad before probing further.

“So you felt happy living here in the first few years?”

“Yes…, but…” Her pleasant face melted.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t want to…” she stopped, thinking how impolite her question was. But the old woman shook her head.

“No, I’ll have to talk about it at some time with you, so there’s no time like the present, we always say.”

Trying to control the memory, a tear formed in her eye.

She fumbled with her hands. Looking down, Mademoiselle Sanson struggled to find the words. Clearing her throat, she gently put a napkin to her mouth. Her lips twitched as she prepared to speak, looking for the words. Finally, her soft voice drifted across the table. It was if she were talking to a child, her words wavering from a secret she had to disclose.

“It was about a year ago when the problems started. I didn’t think anything of it. But, over the months, it’s worsened.”


“It was terrible. Terrible things happened here. Terrible voices.”

Mademoiselle Sanson looked up, her hands shaking. “I’m very superstitious, so I went to the priest. He told me about some people who could help me, you know…, look into the matter.”

“And he mentioned my name?”

“Yes. Actually, he told me of several people, but he said he’d worked with you before, a few years ago. Told me you were very thorough, discrete.”

A reassuring smile crossed Mademoiselle Clements’ face. “That’s part of my job.” Her voice softened: “We don’t want to cause a fuss. Best to keep things quiet, especially in such close knit communities. I’ve found the smaller the place, the worse it is for gossip and ridicule. I take it you haven’t mentioned this to anyone?”

“No. Only the priest. I thought about going to the doctor, but I was scared.”

“The priest was a good start. From what Father Cardaliaguet has already told me, this doesn’t sound like the ranting’s of someone going crazy,” she smiled. “You do know why he didn’t want to do this himself, don’t you?”

“I assumed he’d never done anything like this before?” she asked, her soft voice wavering again.

“Yes. That’s right. Not that he lacks the confidence, on the contrary.”

Mademoiselle Sanson put a napkin to her mouth. Her hand was shaking. A tear finally running down her cheek, old memories rising up. “I do hope you can help me,” she sobbed, her shoulders gently rocking, her voice became a whisper, despairing. Her body folded inwards. “Father Cardaliaguet has been such…, such a great support for me in recent months,” she said, stifling the tears.

Mademoiselle Clements reached across the table, taking the old woman’s hand. “Don’t worry. We’ll get this place sorted out.”

“I do hope so.”

Mademoiselle Clements took the bottle of wine and poured the old woman a glass. “Here, try this. It’ll help.

“Oh, thank you,” she whispered, taking a sip. Putting the glass down, she wiped her face and sat up straight. Taking a deep breath, her eyes wide, she looked at her visitor.

“Sorry. I don’t want to appear a snivelling old woman, it’s rude of me to put on such a display.”

“I understand. You’ve been through a lot. It takes it out of you. Do you think you’ll be able to go through with it? We can wait?”

“No. You’re here now, so I’ll have to do my best. After this,” she said, lifting up her glass, a smile passing her lips, “I’ll be OK.”

“Dutch courage always helps.”

Getting up,  Mademoiselle Clements looked around the room, noticing the paintings. “Do you like collecting?”

“Oh, yes,” she smiled, her mood improving. “The paintings are from a local artist. They remind me of the past.”

“The past?”

“When I was a girl…, where I grew up.”

“Yes…., mementoes from another time. Does he have a gallery?”

“He had a gallery. He died several months ago. Tragic.”

“I’m sorry. Did you know him well?”

“Only the casual business chit chat of two people sharing a love for art, nothing more. But, I suppose I’ll miss his particular way of viewing this place. Visiting his gallery gave me the opportunity to get out.”

“Yes, it’d do you good to get away from things. Especially in the light of what has been happening.”

The old woman got up. She joined the visitor by one particular painting.

“This was his last.” She pointed at the frame. “Look he sighed in on the twenty fourth. The next day he was dead.”

I hope you don’t mind me asking, but has it happened recently?”

She nodded. “Yesterday was bad.”

“Can you describe what happened? It will help me with my initial…, investigation, if that’s all right with you?”

“The quicker we get started the better,” her voice had gained confidence now. A good wine.

“OK. Could you describe it, the time, the duration? Can you remember if it was cold?”

Mademoiselle Sanson pointed to the kitchen door, and the dim hallway visible through the crack.

“I’ll do better than that. Follow me. I’ll show you were it always happens.”

Leaving the kitchen, she led her into a long carpeted hallway.

Over the old woman’s shoulder, she saw the tall grandfather clock at the end of the hall. It was illuminated by a small lamp sitting on a marble bistro table.

“I’ll take you into the study. It looks out onto the road. It always feels as though something is coming in from across the way. It taps on the window several times before starting its…, work.”

They entered the study.

Mademoiselle Sanson flicked a light switch. From above, a chandelier sparkled into life. The curtains were drawn.

The smell of old books permeated the room. Looking around, she was amazed at the book shelves laden with books. Each shelf was surrounded by special glass.

“You’re quite a reader.”

“I’m afraid this is the old baggage I’ve carried all my life. They have been handed down through my family. Ghosts from Utopia, my father once said.”

Mademoiselle Clements walked to the nearest shelf, head cocked to one side, perusing the flaking spines.

“Is there any particular reason he referred to them in such a way?”

“Book purging, he always told me, was one of man’s greatest weaknesses. Neutralise history was what the revolutionaries always wanted. Here are just a few that survived the black lists. I suppose they’re from another world.”

“My God, these are priceless.”

“I suppose they are. They are memories of what once was. Here is a library of what has happened in my life, and the generations before me. Their value is one of sentimentality. When I’m gone, they will bloom in some other world, but not mine. I keep them prisoners, prisoners of an old memory.”

Mademoiselle Clements moved away from the shelf, looking around the room.

“So here is the epicentre, you say. Is there any particular time the visitations happen, or is it random?”

“It can happen at any time.”

Mademoiselle Clements wondered about the books. Old books with old stories that are hard to forget.

“You said that you feel as if it comes in from outside, from that direction,” she asked, pointing to the thick, dark green curtains hanging the full length of the wall.

“Yes. During the day, I can see the trees sometimes shake in a flourish of wind. Then the noise, the tapping.”

“What about temperature. Does it get cooler?”

“Yes. On hot sunny days, it’s a cold spot here.”

“And are you always alone?”


“Would you say it happens after you’ve read any of the books?”

“No. I hardly ever touch them.”

“Do you feel any mood changes prior to the events?”

“No. I can’t think of anything that could cause it to happen. It just comes.”

Mademoiselle Clements looked around.

“Just before the events started, can you remember changing anything in the room, removing a picture, putting in something new, perhaps?”

“It’s been like this for the whole time I’ve lived here. The only changes were outside.”

“Oh? What kind of changes? Changes to the house?”

“No. They put in new telephone cables. The road had to be dug up.”

“And this was just before the events?”


“Do you think they found anything outside, where they were digging?”

“Yes. Oh, I’d nearly forgot. They dug up a lot of old wood,” she rubbed her chin, her face concentrated. “Some people from Caen came to examine it all. They were very excited about the find. I can’t remember what it was…, probably an old house? Do you think this has got anything to do with my problem?”

“Possibly. But it was a different property, you say, across the road?”


Mademoiselle Clements shook her head, staring at a painting of the local chapel.

Mademoiselle Sanson yawned.

“Oh, I do beg your pardon. It’s been a long day, and my nights have not been pleasant in the past few weeks. So, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll retire.”

“Yes, of course. I’m tired from the drive. Could you show me my room?”

“Of course. Follow me.”

Going back into the hallway, Mademoiselle Sanson took her to a door close to the kitchen.

“Here you are. It’s small but cosy.”

“Thank you,” she said, putting her travel bag on the bed. “It’s perfect.” She turned around to the old woman. Look…, if anything should happen this evening, do wake me. I’m a light sleeper, so I may hear something myself.”

“If you don’t mind?”

“No. This is why I’m here,” she said, looking around the room. “Oh, I nearly forgot.” She reached into her travel bag and took out a round object. “It’s a sensor. Quite high tech really. It will monitor the room for temperature, humidity and sounds etc. Anything out of the ordinary and it will send a signal to my monitoring equipment. I’ll just place it on the table in the study, if you don’t mind.”

“No, please go ahead.”

With the sensor in place, she returned to the room and bid the old lady goodnight.

Sitting on the bed, she took out the monitoring device and checked the measurements. Everything seemed fine. Would the old woman have thought it strange that she had brought such a device? She let the thought pass.

Propping it up on the bedside table, she lay her head on the pillow and closed her eyes. “Let’s see what the night has in store for us.”

In her dream, she was in a market square filled with people. She was in the middle of the throng, being pushed along in the flow. They chattered loudly, indecipherable, obviously excited about something. She couldn’t see where they were heading.

Making her way to the edge, she tried to get out of the mass, claustrophobia setting in. Reaching an old house, she stepped into the doorway.

The door opened and a cloaked figure grabbed her from behind. A strong, strangle grip on her throat pulled her into the dark interior.

The thing’s touch was cold, freezing her skin.

She struggled to pull away, panicking.

The cloaked head was next to her face. Its breath, slow and heavy, reeked of decay, death.

She tried to scream.

It spoke:


She was awake.

“Mademoiselle Clements. Is everything all right. You shouted out.”

The old woman tapped gently on the door.

“I’m… ok. It was just a bad dream. Nothing more.”

“Oh, thank the Lord. Good night.”

The old woman’s steps drifted away.

Propping herself up, she rubbed her face.

“Bad dreams. Well, that’s a first.”

Looking at the bedside table, she checked the monitor device. Nothing.

She grabbed her travel bag. Opening it, she pulled out a small notebook. She scribbled a few entries.

“Latent memories permeating the house. There must be a strong spiritual flow coming into the study. Will have to check church records for past events in the vicinity.”

to be continued…

Revenge… the next short story

Time for another short story.

This time the idea has been generated from one of my very own photos. It is one I took on the evening we arrived in Houlgate, on the Normandy coast, where we spent the first part of our vacation.

We’d just set up the tent and decided to go for an evening stroll down to the beach.

It was twilight, and as soon as I saw this place bathed in the street light, I knew there was a story.

As we walked passed, there was an eerie silence. The whole scene was quite spooky, especially as we found ourselves in a place we weren’t familiar with. We were glad to reach the main beach road where there was some “life”.

The working title is “Revenge” and will show a dark side to this beautiful French holiday village.

I’ll be uploading the first part at the weekend.


The Waiting Room

After much consideration, I’ve decided to start a short story exercise.

This “exercise” in creativity is to select a photo, a random photo from the Internet, and use it to generate the inspiration.

I chose this:

OK…, here goes.

The Waiting Room

Taking his usual place on the rickety bench, in sight of the old clock, he laid the freshly picked flowers down on the seat next to him.
“Always good to get here early,” he said, his hushed voice rising up into the soft arches of the sunlit room, mingling with the leaves of flaking paint and the winding tributaries of cracks in the plaster.

The old clock chimed, marking the hour.
“Ah, plenty of time left, old friend.” he smiled.
Finished in mahogany, it’d hung on the white-washed wall for as long as he could remember, marking time, staring down at travellers, watching the world fly by.

But the place was quiet today.
Nothing going on.
Just the smell of wood oil and stale cigarettes, and, outside, the sun and the Blue Jays playing.

Noticing creases bunched up on his trousers, forming little waves, he smoothed them out.
He checked his tie was in place and adjusted his hat.
“Couldn’t be doing to look a mess, now, can we?” he mumbled to himself.

Glancing again at that faithful chronometer, he recalled Hank, the old station master, dressed in his freshly pressed shirt, cap and waistcoat.
He’d always have his E. Howard in his hand at this time of the day, checking everything was running to plan.
People would be fascinated how quickly he’d hook his finger around the chain and deftly flip the timepiece out of his waist coat pocket. With a flick of his thumb, it’d click open.
He’d often be seen talking to passengers, a pencil rubbing against the side of his head as he explained the timetable to folk on their way to the city.
Then, it’d be back to the boys in the waiting room, sitting together, shooting the breeze, listening to the sports news over a fresh coffee.

But, inevitably, time would always take priority.
The watch would always slip out, reminding him of his job.
“Can’t beat this one,” he’d croak, squinting at the silver hunter case decorated with rail road regalia. “Never loses a second. Best one you could find in this darned land, if yer want my opinion.”

But, every now and then, he’d be different.
The watch would take him to another place.
Grasping it tightly in his wrinkled hand, feeling the weight, its importance, and the synchronicity of its mechanical heart beating out the rhythm of his own life, Hank would often let melancholy sweep him away.
“Never, loses a second…”
In that moment, everyone sat in that cosy little group would see the change.
Time would take a back seat, and a memory would smother those brief minutes.
He’d think about his Lily, hanging up his waistcoat, delicately putting the watch in the pocket.
It’d been her ritual.
Her way of sending him off to work.
But…, that’d ended.
Ended the day she’d passed on.
“Never loses a second.”
The old boys would sit still, getting uncomfortable with the silence, sensing his thoughts.
“She’ll have been lying up there for well on two years now…,” his voice would be quiet, distant.
He’d look to the window, across the fields, out to where they’d met, all those years ago.
“Fine woman you had there, Hank. Fine woman. She’s missed by us all.”
They’d give their half smiles, waiting, watching for him to look back.
But he wouldn’t.
And the silence would creep in further, refusing to leave them.
It’d spread, drowning everything, washing them away to another time.
Heads would drift down.
And eyes would find the knot holes in the bare floorboards, tracing the weaving lines, the lines that had once marked the passing of time in the now dead tree.

They’d be walking up that hill together.
And, as the sunset came around, shrouding the land in its vibrant palette of saffron and ochre, the dancing fireflies would lead them through the Johnsongrass, towering above their heads on all sides. Those tiny living stars would gently dance in the evening breeze, leading them up to that silent resting place.
The resting place for all.

In that moment, they’d hear the silence.
That cold silence that’d send shivers down their spines.
A deep feeling of regret and sorrow would pull them down.
Holding them.
Reluctant to let go.

But it finally would.

When it did, they’d breathe sighs of relief, thankful that reality, with all its mundane aspects of life, had brought them back to shore.
The water cooler, the radio calling out the scores, the people milling around the platform, and
Hank, who’d quickly realise that he’d forgotten the time.

Snapping out of the trance, he’d give the watch one last look, and slip it back into his waistcoat pocket.
To take their minds off the silence and the memories, he’d look to the old clock on the wall.
“Why that old girl’s getting lazy by the looks of it. She be slowing down like the rest of us, eh?” he’d laugh. “They just don’t make’em the way they used to.”
At that, he’d head outside and return with a small wooden stepladder.
Propping it against the wall, he’d climb up to the clock, open the glass front and put the old winding key into the little slot.
Finally, he’d adjust the hands.
This had been his routine.
Hank’s routine.

A breeze wafted into the room.
And a noise outside caught his attention.
He looked to the door, half expecting him to walk in.
“Hank, are you there?”
No one answered.
He peered out through the window, waiting for the familiar hat and waistcoat, the rattle of the watch and chain, the soft blue cloud of smoke.
But all he saw was a crow perched on the rusting signals.
“It’s getting late, old friend.”
He looked down at the flowers and memories flashed through his mind.
He caressed their soft petals.
The memories took him up to that hill again, watching Blue Jays pirouetting above the trees, spooked by a slow shunting train that had whistled its presence from far away.
The Johnsongrass sang its whispering melody.

Another sound broke the silence.
A car.

The door to the waiting room was pushed open.
A woman, dressed in jeans and white t-shirt, out of breath, and hair out of place came in.
A smile of recognition and then relief spreading across her face.
“Here you are. I thought we’d lost you!”
She sat down next to him.
“Dad, you can’t just wander off. We’ve been looking everywhere….”
“I was waiting for Hank. He’s gonna come. We always wait for Hank.”
“C’mon dad, let’s get you back.”
She put her arms around his shoulder.
But he just stared at the wall.
Stared at the clock.
But all he saw now was a place that was cracked and blistered, a multi-coloured mess of spray paint and abuse, a world that had been forgotten, left to rot.
“I guess Hank ain’t coming today.”
Sighing, he picked up the flowers.
“I wanna go to the hill.”