Storage #FridayFictioneers

In the storage cage next to mine in the basement of the apartment block sat an old piano. It was dark brown, the lid up showing white and black keys and the stool pulled out as if someone was about to sit down to play.

I asked my neighbour about it and she told me, with sadness in her voice and face, that the piano was her mother’s and she couldn’t part with the instrument.

‘Sometimes,’ she added, ‘I can hear it.’

That night for the time as I fell asleep,  I heard the tinkling of piano notes coming from the basement.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/11/20/22-november-2019/ with thanks).

The Figures In The Fog (Part 4)

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I felt frozen and I knew I wasn’t alone. Things were moving in the fog and it had nothing to do with the wind. I stayed still, listening but not hearing anything else. Suddenly, I felt angry and frustrated, I was tried of being the source of a joke.

‘I’ve had enough,’ I uttered and strolled forward.

The dog trailed after me, tail behind her legs and head down.

‘Rufina,’ came from the whisper from behind me.

‘No, I won’t turn around,’ I spoke, ‘I won’t let you scare me.’

I stomped my boots for a few steps and then tried to calm down. Perhaps, they were trying to make me more angry then scared? That had always been a part of my brothers’ fun. The twins had been the worse, taking my toys and books, trying to get me into play fights, pulling out my red hair and also blaming me for many of their naughty doings.

The dog growled and tried to twist around me. I walked into her and stumbled over, unable to stop myself, I landed spread across the road. I tasted blood and felt bruises blooming.

I turned my head and pressed my cheek to the icy road. Blinking, I looked across and saw a figure leaning against the tree. It looked like a man smoking a pipe.

Turning my head the other way, my eyes picked out another figure. The man with the riding hat. He was standing on the edge of the road, the fog curled like white smoke around him, distorting his features.

I got to my knees and wiped my face then noticed my hands were dirty. Pushing up, I got to my feet and reached back down for the dog. She pushed her nose into my hand then growled a warning.

Looking over my shoulder, I saw the tall man behind me coming out of the fog. I couldn’t make out much of him but I saw his mouth open and heard my name whispered.

Fear rushed through me, I turned and ran. The dog was at my heels, chasing after me and my chest hurt with the cold air. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I knew it wasn’t real men out here nor was it my imagination, it was something else. Something no one living could explain.

A few times, I tripped and fell over a stick or my skirts or the dog but I didn’t care. Each time I got up and ran on because that voice started whispering my name in my ear again. I hated the way the letters sounded, long and curling like a never ending song note.

I tasted blood, felt wetness on my legs and arms. My feet, hips and chest ached. The house felt so far away and the idea that I wouldn’t reach it before the men grabbed me pushed me further on.

I broke through the trees, the road widen and I knew home wasn’t far away now. Stopping, I felt tugging on my cloak and thought it only the dog. I looked down and saw she wasn’t at my heels but ahead of me.

The tugging grew harder, I felt the collar and ribbon against my throat. I twisted, thinking maybe a branch had snagged me. There was nothing there. The cloak was pulled tight out as if someone was holding it.

My next breath chocked. I strained against the force but only felt the pressure more on my throat. I undid the ribbon and clasp, letting the cloak fall behind me. I walked quickly away, trying to run again but my energy was gone.

‘Rufina,’ the voice whispered, ‘Rufina.’

‘Go away!’ I screamed back at the forest.

I saw my cloak fluttering in mid-air, the fog filling it like a living form.

I couldn’t scream, my voice was gone. I turned again and broke into a run, my only thought to make it to the safety of my home.

Yellow glowing lights broke the fog and it seemed less dense along the driveway. The dog barked and another dog answered back. Gasping, I pressed on, trying to get the imagine of my floating cloak out of my mind.

A man’s screamed shocked through me. I twisted around, expecting to see someone behind me but my boots hit something hard and I tumbled down. I landed heavily on something solid, the scream still in my ears.

Dazed, it took me a few moments to figure out I had fallen into the fountain. The water was turned off for winter and damp leaves had gathered into the bottom. I reached for the stone edge and pulled myself up.

Ahead of me the house rose, lights blazing out of the windows.

Standing, I climbed out and wobbled up the front steps. I reached the double wooden doors and struggled to turn one of the heavy iron door knobs. I pushed the door open but couldn’t stop myself from falling into the hallway.

‘Rufina! What happened?’

I looked up at my eldest brother, Thomas, and groaned. He and someone else picked me up, their questions washing over me. I was sat in a chair where I looked around and realised my family, guests and some of the servants had prepared themselves into a search party.

‘Cook told us you had come out to find us,’ Thomas picked up.

‘When Melody came back without you, I knew something must have happened,’ my father said.

‘Did you fall off and hit a tree?’ one of the twins asked with a hint of laughter in his voice.

‘Then stumble into a fox hole?’ the other one added.

I shook my head and dragged in breath enough to speak, ‘there are three men out there and they chased me. They stole my cloak and they tried to…take me too!’

‘Men? But we are all here. There should be no one out there, ‘ my father explained.

‘Been here all the time?’ I questioned.

‘We’ve all stayed together. When the fog fell we came back. We were waiting for you but when you didn’t arrive we were about to go and find you.’

I looked at the floor, fighting myself. Could I have imagined the figures and what happened?

‘Do you want us to go and look for these men?’ Thomas inquired.

I bunched up my damp and mud covered skirts in my fists before responding, ‘no. It’s too dangerous out there.’

‘But if there are trespassers!’

I stood up and grab Thomas’ arm, ‘please, stay here.’

Arguments broke out and it took a lot of convincing to make them all stay inside. I don’t know how I knew but I couldn’t let any of them go out. Whatever those men were it wasn’t good and I knew entering the fog meant no return.

We sat down for lunch begrudgingly but there was no more talk of it again.

As for my black cloak, it was never found.

The End

The Figures In The Fog (Part 3)

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A wet pink tongue slobbered my face and heavy paws tangled in my skirts. I pushed the warm, soft, furry body away from me then brushed away the tears that clouded my eyes.

In my lap was one of this spring’s pups. A small bitch with white and tan coat, long ears and lean body. She licked my hands and whined.

I sighed and lay down on the road. The pup jumped about me, sticking her black wet nose into me and tongue licking bare skin. She pawed at me and nipped me when I didn’t move.

‘Did you get lost too?’ I finally asked.

I pulled myself up and climbed to my feet. I petted the dog, feeling relieved.

‘As everyone else still out here? Do you think you can find them for me?’

The pup licked my fingers and bounced around me.

‘You are better then nothing,’ I uttered.

I set off again, muddy paw prints on my skirts and my boots scuffed up. The dog followed me, tail held high and nose sniffing the air. I thought once or twice she was tracking the rest of the pack but actually she was chasing rabbit in the undergrowth.

Giving up on her, I followed my feet and soon felt the dip in the track. At least I knew where I was but I was far from home now.

On a normal day, walking here was a joy but in this thick fog, strong wind and cold air it was unpleasant. I wished for a horse or for my father’s car.

Somewhere to my left was a fallen tree that made a good seat to rest on. Without thinking much about it, I headed over there and felt the rough bark under my fingers. I sat for a few minutes and the dog joined me. She lay down, panting heavily at my feet.

The wind shifted the trees and stirred up the leaves. I looked up at the path and saw the fog seeming to part. A figure emerged dressed in dark clothes and a black riding hat.

‘Hello?’ I called out.

The dog growled and stood up defensively in front of me.

The figure shifted, moving between the trees slowly, staying just out of clear sight and using the fog as a mask.

‘Stop playing games!’ I snapped, ‘it’s not funny.’

My brothers had always teased me and played tricks on me. Was this them doing so again? It would have been easy enough for them to scare me in this fog.

‘Go and get him,’ I said to the dog and give her little shove forward.

The dog didn’t move. She stood her ground and carried on growling at the figure.

If it had been one of my brothers she wouldn’t be reacting that way. She knew all the family and servants well, like any of the hunting pack dogs. One of the guests then? but why would they want to scare me? They were all old men from my father’s army days, they had fought together in The Great War.

The figure vanished behind a thick tree, the fog rolling back around to claim the space.

‘I didn’t imagine that,’ I muttered, ‘you saw it too, girl.’

I called the dog back to me and she sat on my feet, staring around as if waiting for the figure to come back.

We had no choice but to continue. Hoping there were no more figures and we arrived home quickly, I sort out the road again and carried on. The dog padded at my side and I felt better for my companion.

We hadn’t gone far when the wind picked up and forcefully swept around us. Leaves flew up and scratched against me. The dog jumped and chased them as they went by. The trees rubbed together, creaking and cracking threateningly. A voice spoke something, a single word which I didn’t catch.

‘Hello!’ I screamed.

The wind snatched my voice away and wrapped my skirts and cloak around my legs. I struggled for breath, feeling like I had ice in my lungs. The dog started barking sharply then switched to growling.

The voice came again, it sounded like a whisper of my name.

The dog backed away and pressed against my boots. She curled around me, cowering and starting to shake.

‘I’m not afraid,’ I called out.

‘Rufina,’ a voice breathed in my ear.

 To Be Continued…

The Figures In the Fog (Part 2)

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I stumbled around on the track, calling and calling Melody back to me. The mare was long gone, lost somewhere in the bank of fog.  I gathered myself and checked for injures, just a few cuts and bruises. My skirts, red velvet jacket and black cloak were damp and covered with mud, leaves and grass.

Breathing the frozen air, I got my bearings and decided it would be faster to continue walking forward then try to go back. My father had planned the road out so that it circled to the house no matter which way you went.

Wrapping my cloak tightly around me and putting the hood up, I set off. The fog parted as I went into it then rolled back behind me. The toes of my boots tapped against fallen branches and I crunched over brittle leaves.

I shouldn’t have bothered to come out here to find my father, brothers and guests. I should have stayed in the warm kitchen overseeing lunch being made and listening to the gossip of the servants. I should have brought my dog with me. Jess could have sniffed out my father faster then my eyes could have spotted him.

It had been, I don’t know, instinct? A whispering voice at the back of my head? That had brought me out here telling me something bad was going to happen. I trusted that voice and my mother had always encouraged me to do so.

I heard footsteps ahead. I stopped and called out, ‘Hello?’

No voice replied but the footsteps continued. Had someone else been thrown off their horse and were lost like myself in the forest?

‘Hello! It’s Rufina. I came to find you,’ I spoke.

The footsteps stopped.

My breathing was harsh in my ears and I thought I heard a rustle in the distance but it could have been anything as the fog muffled all sounds. Then, had it really been footsteps I had heard?

Unsure, I walked on, feeling my way more then anything. When the path didn’t feel solid under my feet, I stepped about till I found it again. It felt like being in a dim light, like it was evening time instead of late morning. Branches and leaves brushed me, heightening my senses.

I spotted movement ahead and thought a figure was coming out of the fog. Was it my father? One of my brothers? Or one of the guests? It was hard to tell but it looked like a tall man.

‘Hello? Who’s there?’ I shouted., ‘It’s me, Rufina!’

No reply came.

I picked up my pace and approached the figure but as the fog parted, there was no one there.

I turned around, peering as if I could see the figure somewhere else but there was only the fog and the shape of the close by trees.

‘Is there anybody there?’ I shouted, ‘please come to me! No playing games, it’s too dangerous out here for that!’

The wind shook the trees, there was a rattle of dry leaves and I felt a few brush against my legs as my skirts was whipped up. I pushed things down and straightened my cloak out. I tied the ribbon of my hood tighter and ordinate myself.

I did have a big imagination thanks to all the books I read but I couldn’t have really conjured someone just being there on the road?

Shaking the thoughts out of my head, I carried on and tried to work out how far away I was from home. I knew the road looped down to the edge of the forest before going back up. I must be close to that dip now.

A howling echoed through the forest. My all ready cold skin chilled further and I tripped a step. I held my breath and tried to listen. Where had the howl come from and what creature had made it?

No wolves roamed here. Was it a wild dog? Perhaps, it was the gardener’s pet dog? Or one of the hunting pack hounds?

‘I’m over here!’ I cried then realised how silly that was surrounded by this fog.

The howl sounded again. It was just a single one and it wasn’t answered by another. Not a good sign as the hounds would have been making a lot of noise. There must have been fifteen to twenty dogs all together, so there was no way they could be quiet.

I fretted, unsure what to do. Should I call the dog to me and risk it being a stray or wild dog that could bite me? Or it could be a friendly dog who would guide me back home?

Before I could decided there was a ruckus close by and something jumped out. I screamed and tried to run but something hit into me and I fell.

To Be Continued….

The Figures in The Fog (Part 1)

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I shivered in my black woollen cloak and urged my white mare, Melody, on wards into the forest. It had been a bad idea for my father, my brothers and our guests to go a hunting this morning. I had told them at dinner last night and again this morning but men won’t listen to women like they should.

‘If it had been mother telling them they might have done,’ I muttered aloud.

No one had ever argued with mother. She had had a fiery temper and battles with her were like fighting with a demon. Father had blamed her nature on her thick, bright red hair which I had inherited. That was the only thing I took after her, my manner was soft, bookish and shy.

My mare let out a snort and her breathe misted in front of her. Her hoof beats rang out on the stone covered road which was newly laid for father’s latest pride and joy – an automobile. I couldn’t hear anything else but I knew father, brothers, the four other men, their horses and pack of hounds where close by.

The land we owed wasn’t very big and it was mainly this forest and two small fields. Most of the other clear land had been sold off when money was needed after the 1885 fire which had burnt all but the main part of the house down.

I was born in 1902 and didn’t know how much my family had lost. It wouldn’t come to me anyway, my older brother and twin brothers would be left the estate and I would have money to insure a comfortable life.

My plan was to buy a cottage by the sea and spend my days in peace, far from the stress my father and brothers made for me.

I pulled Melody to a stop and looked around. I couldn’t hear the sound of voices or the popping of gun shots. No birds sung from the half bare tree branches, no deer darted from behind the trunks, no running horses’ hoofs sounded and barking dogs broke out.

‘Where are they?’ I spoke.

From up ahead, a silent fog rolled in, covering the single track way in a thick white coat. The wind whispered through the trees like soft voices as the disturbed autumn leaves floated down. The morning frost covered the grass like a cake’s icing powered and made a crunching sound like a horse eating an apple when stepped upon.

A deer would hear you coming from miles.

The fog wrapped around and the wind chilled me. I couldn’t see and nor could my mare. I felt panic in my stomach and my mouth went dry. The idea of finding the men fled from me and the urge to race home spurred me to slap the reins down and kicked my mare.

She walked on, unsure blinded by the fog just as I was.

‘It’s all right girl. You know the way home,’ I said and patted her neck.

Melody whined as if saying she wasn’t so sure. I encouraged her on but her pace was slowed, the fog clearly spooking her.

There was a snapping of branches to the right. I tried to look but could only see the dense white fog and shadows of trees. I went to pull Melody to a stop in case it was the hunting party instead Melody reared, front legs pounding the air and her neigh loud with fear.

I cried out and clung tight to her neck but my fingers slipped on her damp coat. My skirts offered my legs no extra grip on the sides of the saddle and I struggled to stay on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able too, so I loosed my boots from the stirrups.

Melody threw me, I tumbled down to the wet grass and bumped into a tree trunk. Dizzy and gasping for breath, I tried to hurry up to my feet but my skirts tangled and I tripped back down. I tugged at the grass, feeling the icy cold touch of the frost. I got back up and onto the road again but it was too late, my horse had ran off.

 

To Be Continued…..

The Tunnels

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The sound of dripping water greeted the paranormal team and their guests as they all descended into the darkness of the tunnels. Spots of light from their torches showed the deep stone steps, hand carved walls and Victorian brick arched roofs. An icy cold that would long afterwards keep their bones chilled made itself felt as they reached the first open chamber.

Harper, bundled in her winter gear, tried not to shiver and focused her torch light on the artifices which sat on ledges around the room. All the items had been found down here, lost by the men who had dug The Williamson Tunnels for seemingly no reason other then to earn a wage.

She looked at the nearest display of white and green glass bottles, pill boxes, cracked plates, pipes, and china cups. It was as if the men had actually lived down here. Perhaps, they had? The two volunteer guides with the group had said that not much was known about the history of the tunnels which ran underneath most of Liverpool.

‘There are some chairs in the next room. We shall sit down there for a bit and see what we pick up,’ Earl the leader of the paranormal team spoke.

The group moved off and Harper trailed behind, feeling unsure about being down here. It had seemed like a fun idea when she had stumbled across this ‘ghost hunting’ event online and decided to book tickets for herself, fiance, Andy, and her parents, Luke and Louise. Now, she was thinking it had been a mistake.

There were seventeen chairs set out along a narrow passageway; eight chairs on one side, eight on the other and one chair at the end. Behind which the brickwork had been removed to expose a large dark hole. The group filled the seats and Harper tried to remember all the people.

There was Earl who took the ‘head seat,’ he seemed to be in his early sixties, he had white hair and a short beard. The woman medium, Margo, with short brown hair and black leather pants. A male medium whom Harper couldn’t remember his name. Dale who had long brown hair, was the photographer and Rose, the last member of the paranormal team, who was using a recorder to catch ghost voices. 

Then came the ‘guests,’ people who had brought tickets to this event. Beside from Harper and her family, there were eight others. A man who had come by himself though he had claimed he was meant to be meeting friends here but guessed they had pulled out.

A married couple in their mid-forties who had spoken little but hung on to every word the mediums had spoken. Three twenty-something girls and two men who were clearly from Liverpool and seemed more like they were on a night out then down in some dirty tunnels but they were taking things seriously.

Everyone settled into the grey plastic chairs and started turning their torches off. Harper was one of the last. Total pitch darkness filled the tunnels. Harper reached to her right for Andy’s hand. She felt his warm skin and reassuring squeeze of fingers.

Harper couldn’t remember ever experiencing a black colour like what was around her now. She was blind to everything and all her other senses had become heightened to superhero like levels. She could hear her breathing, loud in her ears as well as the sound of water dripping somewhere into a puddle.

‘Are there any spirits here?’ Earl’s voice rang out.

His words faded and everyone stayed still and silent listening for anything that could be taken for a reply.

‘Make a noise if you are here,’ Earl spoke, ‘we are not here to harm you. We come in love and peace, we just want to know if you are down here or not. Please let us know by joining us. Touch someone. Use your voice and tell us your name, please.’

Drip, drop, drip went the water, the only sound to be heard.

Someone shifted and there was a rustling of clothes. Someone else moved their feet as the photographer began clicking a few photos.

Harper sniffed and smelt something odd in the air, ‘what’s burning?’ she whispered.

‘What’s that?’ Earl called down to her.

‘I smell smoke,’ Harper repeated.

‘Does anyone else?’

‘I’m picking up tobacco,’ Margo the medium replied.

‘No, this is wood burning,’ Harper explained.

There was a mumble of no one else smelling anything then the group fell silent once more.

Harper turned her head about feeling her neck began to ache. She couldn’t really see anything but her eyes had gotten use to the darkness and she could pick out a few shapes. She stopped moving and guessed that she was looking back through the archway to the passage and into the chamber they had entered by. Behind that was a small space with a metal ladder leading upwards to an emergency exit.

A shadow seemed to be moving there. It was going back and forth, like it was ducking in and out, not wanting to be seen by anyone but wanting to look at the group.

It’s a trick of the light, Harper thought, wait, what light? There is none… 

‘Can anyone else see that moving shadow?’ one of the Liverpool girls whispered.

‘Over there by that ladder?’ someone else added.

A few people agreed.

Harper bite her lip but kept quiet. The feeling that they weren’t alone climbed up her.

‘If that’s you over there, please come and join us,’ Earl shouted.

‘I’m picking up on the name William,’ the male medium cut in.

‘William? Let us know you are here, William!’

‘Was that footsteps?’ a man’s voice questioned.

‘Could have been,’ Earl muttered.

The shadow was still bobbing but that was no longer Harper’s focus. There was something else standing in the middle of the first chamber. Harper felt dread and a sense of evil. Her grip tightened on Andy’s hand and desperately she tried not to cry out what she was now seeing.

Earl and the mediums took it in turn to speak, asking the spirits to do things and saying what they were picking up on.

Finally, Harper couldn’t take it anymore and burst out with, ‘there’s something evil down here!’

Everyone stopped then the male medium spoke to her, ‘what is it?’

‘It’s got long arms, it’s dragging itself across the floor and it’s got a like skull head,’ Harper answered.

‘Where is it?’ her mum’s voice whispered.

‘It’s all around us. It’s not human.’

‘Does it have a name?’  Margo asked.

‘What does it want?’ Earl demand at the same time.

‘It’s watching us. It wants you to get angry, that’s what it feeds off. It wants to trick us and keep us down here….It won’t tell me it’s name. It’s not human…’ Harper trailed off.

‘I can get angry,’ Earl shouted, ‘come at me! Come and get us! Show me that you are here!’

Harper shivered and couldn’t take her eyes of the long white arms and skull head of the creature in the chamber. She knew it was real and not her imagination.

‘It’s okay,’ Andy muttered beside her, ‘it can’t get you.’

‘I know. My spirit guide is defending me,’ Harper replied confidently, ‘I don’t know about the rest of you.’

‘Can anyone feel that cold blast of air?’ someone cried out.

‘Here? Yes I can,’ Margo replied, ‘let yourself be known to us.’

There was a sound that sounded like tin scraping rock. The dripping of water paused, the continuous rhythm broken for a few seconds before the next drop fell.

‘The lady that can see this thing,’ Earl’s voice spoke, ‘what’s it doing now?’

Harper took a deep breath and answered, ‘nothing. It’s just watching us.’

‘I don’t like it,’ a woman’s voice uttered, ‘can we leave?’

‘In a few minutes,’ Earl responded, ‘who would like to sit in my chair against the hole?’

No one spoke up.

Earl turned on his torch and stood up. The light broke Harper’s concentration on the creature and she turned to look the other way. Earl was walking then stopping in front of one of the Liverpool girls.

‘I knew you were going to pick me,’ she said.

She got up and went to sit on Earl’s chair. He took her’s and once they were settled he turned out his torch.

Harper turned back to the chamber but the evil thing with long arms and skull head was gone.

‘It feels so cold here,’ the girl uttered.

‘The evil thing comes from that hole,’ Margo spoke, ‘other people have felt the evil down here. No one has described it before though.’

‘Well, I wished she hadn’t told us about!’

‘And this is why I don’t open my mouth about such things,’ Harper whispered but everyone still heard her.

Andy squeezed her hand and Harper hoped he wasn’t thinking anything bad about her. She imagined the break up conversation going something like; ‘you can see ghosts. You didn’t tell me that. I don’t want anything to do with you anymore, that’s too much to handle.’   

Harper shut her eyes and tried not to think about anything. Coming to this event had been a mistake and now she had seen a demon! What if it followed her home? She didn’t want an attachment.

‘Right, let’s move to the lower levels now,’ Earl spoke.

The group moved and went down into the belly of the tunnels. They saw and heard nothing else which Harper was grateful for.

As the clock hands moved to one AM, they walked back up the stone steps and left the tunnels.

Harper breathed the cold, wet air deeply. Puddles on the road glowed in the streetlamps and lights from windows. Voices and music drifted around, reminding them of life going on.

‘Did you really see something?’ Andy asked in a low voice.

They were standing away from everyone else, near a bench with a remembrance plaque on it.

‘Would you think any different of me if I did?’ Harper spoke.

‘No,’ Andy replied, ‘I love you no matter what.’

‘Then I did see that creature.’

Andy nodded and drew Harper into a hug.

‘Everyone accounted for? Good. Let’s go back. The ghost hunt is now over,’ Earl called out over the chattering of the group.

People set off heading back to their cars. Harper walked holding hands with Andy, too tried to talk about her experience anymore.

 

(Note; this story is based on a real experience I had on Sunday 27th October between 12am and 1am in the Paddington section of the Williamson Tunnels in Liverpool. I took my family on a ‘ghost hunt night,’ we and some other people were with a paranormal group seeing if we could pick up on any ghost activity within two different tunnel sections. 

I have always been a sensitive -someone who can sense ghosts- but I don’t like to talk about it. I’m weird all ready and can do without adding to it! Sometimes though, things like this just happen to me and I know it was real and not my imagination. 

To me this is a piece of non-fiction but make of it what you will. I’m not asking anyone to believe me or try to disapprove what happened to me. I just wanted to share my experience in story form with you all.     

For further information or maybe a visit to the tunnels yourself, check out their website; http://www.williamsontunnels.co.uk/)

Punch (Part 2)

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Chester arrived home close to ten and parked on the small driveway. He turned off the engine and got out of the van. Stretching his aching limbs, he noticed how cold the autumn nights were now getting.

He walked to the bungalow’s front door and unlocked it. He turned the hall light on and put the numbers into the alarm’s panel to turn the security system off. He was half tempted to leave everything in the van but it had broken into a few times and it wasn’t worth the risk. He had been lucky every time that the thieves hadn’t taken the puppets or the show equipment, clearly they didn’t know the value of things.

Chester unpacked. He put things into the no longer used dinning room. By the time he had done a few trips and was on the last box, he was so tried he could feel it in his legs. Making sure everything was locked up, he went into the living room and sank onto the sofa.

Sprawling out, he told himself he should get up to bed but he found his body was too heavy to move.

Quietness and darkness pressed upon Chester. He could hear the wind picking up outside and rain tapping on the window. The pressure on his ears and head was too much, so he put the TV on. He channel flicked until he found the news. He also put on the lights before getting back on the sofa.

Deciding he would go to bed as soon as the news finished, he caught up on the reports he had missed. Then the weather forecast came on.

A knocking noise came over tomorrow’s weather report.

Cheater dragged himself up and staggered to the front door. Who’d be calling so late? he wondered.

He looked through the spy hole, saw no one but still cracked open the door. There was nothing there. A gust of wind dragged a few rain drops onto his face and Chester felt a chill across his skin.

‘Kids messing around again! You stay away! Leave an old man be!’ Chester shouted.

He slammed the door, locked things again and went back to the sofa. Wide awake now, he huffed at the TV and crossed his arms tightly over his chest.

Knock Knock.

Chester looked up then around. That sound hadn’t come from the front door but from the back one.

‘Blast those kids!’

Chester got up and stormed into the kitchen. He turned the light, unlocked the door and flung it open. He screamed into the night, long and loud. As his voice faded, he dragged in deep breaths and looked around. There was nothing on the step or in the garden, just the wind shaking the bare branches of the dead apple tree and the back gate.

He prowled around, looking for an access point and signs of someone being here. The gate was lock and like the fences too tall to climb over. No lights came from his neighbours’ houses and as he paused the only other sound was a cat meowing.

Chester went back inside. He rubbed his chest, feeling pain burning him. He turned everything off and got into bed. He was too tried to play games and the cold was clearly starting to effect him.

He got ready for bed but Chester heard the knocking once more. This time because he was closer, he realised it was coming from the dining room. He got up and went to investigate.

Glancing at the show stuff, he heard the knocking again. It was coming from one of the cases! How could that be? He opened each case till he came to the last one.

‘Hello, Punch,’ he whispered, ‘were you knocking?’

Chester picked the puppet up. There was the soft clicking of wood on wood and the rustle of clothes. Chester slipped the puppet onto his right hand like a well fitted glove. Then he clapped Punch’s hands together and said in that high pitched, nasal voice, ‘well done, you’ve found me!’

Punch laughed a long haha.

Sighing, Chester closed the case and went back to his bedroom with the puppet still on his hand.

‘I’m sorry things have come to this, Mr. Punch,’ Chester said, ‘I would be passing you on to my son now just like my father and grandfather did. But times have changed and there’s no longer a place for you and Judy in this technology world now.’

Chester slipped Punch off his hand and arranged the puppet on the bedside table. He finished getting ready and got into bed. Leaving the lamp on as he did every night, Chester began to doze off.

‘Such a shame, that,’ Punch’s voice whispered.

Chester open an eye and looked at the puppet who was strangely lit in the glow of the lamp. There was an eeriness to the painted features, a wicked twist to the red painted lips and an evil glint in those blue eyes.

‘Yes, it is,’ Chester replied.

‘What you going to do about it?’

‘I’m sorry?’

There was a clicking noise then a drumming wood on wood sound as Punch swung his legs against the bedside table. The puppet’s hands gripped the edge and the head turned fully towards Chester.

‘What,’ Punch hissed, ‘are you going to do?’

‘I…don’t know…’ Chester trailed.

‘So, I’m locked in a box forever?’ Punch snapped.

‘Well, no. I’d get you out sometimes. Maybe leave you around the house for company. We can still have our conversations….and on Halloween we can scare the children together! Just like we always do,’ Chester suggested.

Punch scoffed and began climbing down the bedside table.

Chester sat up but stayed huddled in the bedding. He watched as the puppet reached the floor then began clambering up the bed by using fist fulls of duvet to do so.

‘What is going on here?’ Chester muttered, ‘is this a dream? You can’t talk without me.’

Punch swung himself up onto the bed and sat in Chester’s lap like an elf on Santa’s knee.

‘This isn’t a dream,’ Punch squeaked, ‘I’ve always been able to talk and move without a hand up my back side! You just never choose to notice until now….And ain’t that always the way? The master needs help from his puppet. Bah!’

Chester felt lost for words, he struggled to deal with his whirl of thoughts. He shut his eyes and decided this was a bad dream. He was sad at the loss of his show and his mind was trying to get him to come up with ideas to save it.

‘I’m too tried and too old for this!’ Chester shouted.

He pulled the bedding up and waved it so that the little puppet went flying through the air. Chester buried himself under the duvet, muttering about nightmares and forcing himself into actual sleep.

Punch had let out a startled cry at being thrown about. Luckily, he had managed to grab some of a blanket and use it to slide down to the floor with. Now seated, he looked up at his ‘master’ and decided something had to be done.

‘I won’t be locked away forever!’

Wooden feet tapped on the floor and Chester listened as his door was opened and sounds like someone grunted. The footsteps carried on towards the dining room and there were noises of something moving about and a high pitched voice swearing.

‘Go to sleep, go to sleep,’ Chester uttered, ‘this is all a dream. Punch hasn’t come to life! What a crazy idea!’

The sounds carried on and Chester fell asleep. That was until something slapped Chester across the face.

‘What the-?’ Chester roared as he shot out of bed.

‘Haha!’ Punch laughed.

Chester looked and saw the puppet with his wood slap-stick in-between his hands.

‘What are you doing with that?’ Chester yelled.

Punched giggled and brought the slap-stick down onto Chester’s face again. Chester raised his arms and felt the stick hitting there instead.

‘Give me that!’ Chester snapped and tried to grip the stick.

Punch danced out of the way and began waving the slap-stick around trying to hit any part of Chester he could.

Cheater shouted and cried, he tossed around in the bed, trying to catch the puppet. Punch was laughing his head off but then his wooded foot slipped on the duvet and he tumbled to the floor.

‘Right!’ Chester said and made to jump off the bed after him.

The bedding had twisted around him and as Chester struggled to free himself, he tumbled from the bed and banged into the bedside table. The lamp went flying and the bulb smashed on the floor, sending the bedroom into darkness.

Chester, sprawled across the floor, felt a shocking, shooting pain in his chest and arms. He gasped desperately, unable to breath and felt dizzy.

‘Do you give up?’ Punch’s voice’s sounded from above him.

Chester tried to move his head but the pain was too much and he could only groan.

‘I can’t hear you!’ Punch yelled.

‘No,’ Chester croaked.

‘You sure?’

Chester mumbled something into the floor and then despite the pain coursing through him he reached out and fumbled for the puppet.

There was a clicking of wood, a muffled laugh then Chester felt the slap-stick on his back.

He roared in pain and tried to move but found the pain in his chest too much. Tears came to his eyes, ‘stop, stop stop!’ he cried.

Nothing but laughter came back to him and more of the slap-stick which hit him repeatedly.

Red then black filled Chester’s vision. The pain grew too intense for him to handle anymore and then a last thing came to him, a voice in his ear whispering, ‘that’s the way to do it!’

Punch (Part 1)

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It was Chester’s last fete. No one was interested in Punch and Judy shows anymore. They had grown scary and not politically correct. Soon, he imagined, that everything would be offensive and no one would be able to speak for fear of saying the wrong thing and being put in jail.

Packing the puppets away, Chester knew he would keep them all. He would sell everything else- the red tent, the Italian style back drops and the small van he transported around in. He was in constant need of money and the puppets would have sold for a fair bit but he couldn’t part with them.

He put the doctor, clown and constable in one case. In the second went the crocodile, the dog with his string of sausages and the skeleton. The third was for the baby, Judy and Punch and his whacking stick. The four case, bigger then the others, which he hadn’t opened for this show contained the lesser used puppets of; the hangman, the devil, the ghost, the lawyer and the beadle.

Chester placed Judy then the baby inside. Finally, he picked up Punch. Feeling the weigh in his hands and studying the puppet, Chester felt the deep connection he had always had to this character.

Punch was wooden like the rest of the puppets and dressed traditional in a jester suit of red and yellow trimmed with a matching cone hat complete with pompom at the end. He had yellow painted stockings, red and shoes. His face was hand painted with a long hooked nose which was bright red end, wide teeth flashing grin, red lipstick lips, red circle cheeks, staring blue eyes and just the hint of flock grey hair coming out from under the hat.

Chester slide his hand inside the puppet and brought him to life with simple movements. Whispering words in Punch’s squeaky, high pitched voice, Chester felt like he was saying a final farewell to what had been his life since he could first remember.

The shows had been his grandfather then his father’s trade and naturally Chester had followed them. The puppets, who had been repaired and repainted over the years had belong to his grandfather. It was hard to get good looking traditional puppets like this now, collectors went crazy over them.

Sliding Punch off his hand, Chester placed the puppet in the case. He closed the lid and wondered if he would ever get the puppets out to perform again.

He took the cases to his grey van then drove back to pack up the rest of his show. As he did so, he noticed some of other stalls packing away too. It had been a good crowed for the autumn harvest festival in this farmer’s field and the weather had held too.

The smell of pies, cakes, cheeses and burgers had filled the air all afternoon. Children had ran about laughing, holding balloons, candy floss and over sized stuffed toys won from the game stands. The music and noises of the fairground rides in the field next door had become background to everything else.

Chester drove his van back to the car park, made sure it was locked tight and walked back to the field. He brought a few last minute things – a pie, some cheese and a fancy bottle of fruity wine. He walked passed the craft and snack stalls into the tea tent.

They were still just about serving. He got a cup of tea and a slice of lemon cake. Sitting at one of the empty tables – of which there were many- he people watched and listened to the chatting.

The creeping feeling of being alone came across him. He was an old man now in his mid-sixties. His wife was dead, his only son moved to Sweden for work then stayed due to marriage and two children. Chester had meet his grandchildren once or twice. He didn’t have a good relationship with son or his wife, there was too much bitterness there. Nor was Chester a fan of being called ‘farfar’ the Swedish for grandpa.

He kept his distance, just like he had done with other family members. They had frowned at his career choices, said he was too close to his puppets, thought he was odd and the black sheep of the family. He was best written out and forgotten about.

Chester sighed and finished eating and drinking. He sat until the tea tent closed and an old woman shooed him out.

The fete was slowly closing but Chester walked through the prize flowers, veg and fruit and autumn themed displays as they were packed away. It was always nice to look at the hard work of other people and celebrate their achievements which were so unlike his own.

After, he crossed fields and wandered around the fairground. There were many rides all being lit up as the evening darkness arrived showing that though the fete might have ended the night was still young here.

The air smelt of greasy burgers, hot dogs, chips, melted cheese and burning donuts. There was also a smokiness from all the grills and the sweet smell of sugary treats.

Adults, teenagers and children crowded the muddy pathways. Their voices raised above the booming music to point out a ride they wanted to go on or a food stall they wanted to visit. Ticket booths had queues outside and there was an atmosphere of a party.

Chester walked passed the rides, noticing ones he recognised from his youth; whirling waltz, bumper cars, carousel, helter skelter, haunted house and the ferries wheel. 

He looked at the game stalls. Grab a duck win a goldfish! Throw three darts pop a balloon for a prize. How many hoops can you score? Tin can alley knock down them all. Ladder climb, ring the bell at the top to win! Bingo. Horse Derby Racing. Whac-A-Mole and finally, the one he wanted; Shoot ‘Em Out

He paid for three rounds, heaved the air rifle to his shoulder and aimed at as many targets he could. The rife give a kick back he recalled from the real thing. In a flash, Chester saw himself in the woods with his grandfather and father shooting deer, rabbits and pheasants.  

Chester focused on the moving targets like they were real animals. His score came close the first tine. The second and third rounds, he shot down enough to win two medium or a large prize.

‘What do you want?’ the grumpy looking vendor man asked Chester and began pointing out the stuffed toys as he named them, ‘a tiger, a unicorn, a panda, a dog or one of these kids movie characters?’

Chester looked across to the other prizes and the vendor continued, ‘the medium ones are a fish, a turtle, a teddy bear, a rabbit….whatever.’

The vendor shrugged his shoulders then crossed his arms over his stained waist coat. 

‘Two teddy bears, please. One white and one brown,’ Chester replied. 

Begrudgingly the the game’s owner handed them over. Chester thanked him and walked away. He would keep the teddies to send to the grandchildren for Christmas. He started to head back to his van but his stomach growled at the scent of food. 

Why not? It’s a two hour drive home now, Chester thought.   

He brought a burger then some chips which tasted much better. For the trip home, he got some bottled water, sweet rock pieces, sticky toffee and hard humbugs.

Back in his van, he sucked on a black and white, minty humbug and tried not to feel tried. Starting the engine, Chester looked in the rear view mirror into the back of the open van.

‘Right, Punch,’ Chester spoke, ‘I hope you’ve had a good last show because it’s time to go home for the last time now.’

To Be Continued…

Dead #3LineTales

three line tales, week 195: hands coming out of the ocean

She wasn’t dead though she was meant to be. Instead, she was crawling out of the sea he had tried to drown her in with revenge all ready on her mind.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/10/24/three-line-tales-week-195/ with thanks.)

The Keeper #WhatPegmanSaw

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I had heard the tales, who hadn’t? but I needed to see. The twisted road to the house was through an overgrown woods and a bubbling swamp. It seemed the perfect for a horrible castle, especially as the full moon was playing hide and seek with the clouds tonight.

The gates appeared and top was the green stone dragon.

I got out of my car and went forward.

Finding my voice, I asked, ‘Hello?’

‘Who disturbs me?’ the dragon’s booming voice rang out as he shook himself awake.

The tales were true after all!

 

(Inspired by; https://whatpegmansaw.com/2019/10/19/ljubljana-slovenia/ and also https://crispinakemp.com/2019/10/21/have-you-seen-our-dragon/ with thanks).