Autumn Warmth

I didn’t find autumn cold like most people did. I found it warm and cosy. I loved pulling on a soft jumper, curling up on the sofa with a hot coffee or chocolate then burying myself in a thick novel.

Outside, the wind might be howling and the rain might be pouring but that just made perfect background noise to my reading. As the early darkness covered the sky and lingered by the windows, I pulled a blanket over my knees and wonder how the hero was going to escape this time.

The bubbling of stew and dumplings called to me before I could get there. It was a hearty meal with bread for soaking up the gravy at the bottom of the bowl. I felt hugged from the inside!

Sleepiness drifted like the night upon me and I took the book to a fleece lined bed and goose feather pillows. Safe from the world, I disappeared in between the words till I was dreaming I was adventuring alongside the hero.

Dear Diary

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Dear Diary,

Today it rained all day which was great for the gardens but not for me because I wanted to sit outside. Instead, I sit in the window box on the landing and with a book, a teapot of tea and the cat.

The servants were all hurrying about because the housekeeper this morning received a letter saying father, step-mother and the twelve year old twins were returning home.

We hadn’t heard from them for the last few weeks and the last letter I got from father was dated Egypt, Cairo 1921, which said both the twins were sick with scarlet fever or something similar. They were staying at a hospital and would write with more news soon. 

My lady’s maid had received word from her sister who was my step-mother’s lady’s maid that one of the twins, Henry, had past away from the fever and George, just alive, was weak and unable to do anything. Plans were being made for the trip home.

We had no idea when my family would arrive but the hard nosed housekeeper had whipped everyone into action. The servants were cleaning everything within an inch of it’s life and there was so much noise and bustle it was like one of father’s factories.

That’s why I wanted to be in the garden. I would have been away from this madness! Instead, I had tried to keep out of the way and not demand so much.

I was home from boarding school and hadn’t wanted to go travelling from country to country. Normally, the exotic sights, smells and sounds would have made me desperate to go but I was heartbroken and only in the mood to mop around.

I told my father I would go and spend my time visiting family and friends, attending my studies and perhaps teaching others. It hadn’t really been a lie. I have been visiting people and I have been studying but I’ve been at home all the time and not embracing my freedom from school confinement.

The only person I have confided in as my maid. She is sworn to secrets but I know she’ll tell her sister. It’s just I think that happens, I remember telling my sister Mini everything. We’d crawl into each other’s beds and pull the sheets up and lay there whispering to each other. I wish I could tell Mini everything now. She’d understand and know what to do.

Perhaps, tomorrow I shall go and visit her grave. Take fresh flowers and talk to her. Then I could sit in the church and do some drawing or reading. The little church is lovely and quiet.

No doubt it’s where Henry will be buried. There was nothing in any letters about then bring his body back but I know they will do. Father would want him in the family crypt with Mini and mother, all the other babies and children that have been lost and relatives.

I wonder what the funnel will be like. Mini’s was bright and busy, so many people loved her. Her’s wasn’t the last through, it had been my step-mother’s and father’s third baby; she had lived a few days and then was just gone.

It makes me wonder how many losses I might have……

There’s enough time for that. Night is pressing on the windows, it’s even darker out there because of the rain. Perhaps, tomorrow will be sunny and I can walk in the gardens and forget all about this.

 

 

 

 

Late Night

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Just one more chapter, I tell myself as I lay in bed. Rain is patting against the window and I’m wrapped up cosy.

Just one more chapter, I say, turning the page and carrying on. The rain continues and the window mists over. I’m too comfy to move.

Just one more chapter, I declare, determined this time to make it so. Night peers in at me, her soft voice whispering me to sleep and the rain is my lullaby.

Just one more chapter, the book calls to me, how can you stop right now? I turn the pages read more and more until dawn’s light sends night to her rest.

Afternoon Coffee

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It was still raining and it would carry on no matter what I did. Signing, I turned back to the jigsaw puzzle in front of me on the dinning room table. I had been wrestling with the 2,000 pieces of the solar system for days now. The boarder was there and some of the middle was starting to stretch out but I had a long way to go.

I got up, abandoning things for the fourth time that day and went into the kitchen. There was nothing amusing in here. I made a coffee but not just any, it was a nutty latte with a thick layer of foaming milk on top and a sprinkle of coco and nutmeg on top. The smell was amazing and like being in a fancy coffee shop during a break from the Christmas shopping rush.

Gripping some soft biscuits with creamy buttercream in between them that I made this morning. I took my hot mug into the living room and curled up on the sofa with a huge book about all the known myths and legends around the world.

 

 

Create This Book!

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I’d never destroy a book, they are like precious stones to me so when I received a book who’s sole purpose was to be drawn in and have pages abused, I was stunned. How could anyone, let alone me, do what this book was demanding?

Flipping through the almost blank white pages, I read the title on each one and my mind turned of the suggestions that the book was wanting; fold this page, draw dots, create a pet, write a list of things you have lost etc.

‘How can I do this to you?’ I whispered.

‘Because I want it,’ the book answered back, ‘I don’t want to be empty. Fill me with your pens.’

I shut my eyes, took up my pens and made my first marks on the cover. I was expecting to recoil in horror by what I had done but actually, I smiled at my crude drawing of a tree.

It’s okay, I thought, this book was made for this and the pages want me to bring them to life.

 

(Photo belongs to me)

Monster Book

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Joy wasn’t sure how she’d found the book, it must have been fate! She had known the minute her fingers had touched the skin cover and the scent of two hundred year old pages filled her lungs. She had looked closely just be sure then with a quick glance around the storeroom, put the book into her bag.

Hurrying home as a storm ripped across the sky, Joy was glad she only lived streets away from where she worked at Rare Eager, Secondhand and Antiques shop. She stumbled into the hallway of the two bedroom terrace house, dripping wet like she had just got out of a swimming pool.

She turned the lights on, locked the front door then took off her soaked shoes and coat. Going upstairs, she took the rest of her clothes off- blue blouse and black trousers- and changed into fleece PJs. She dried her short blonde hair and took her makeup off.

Pausing, Joy listened but the house was almost silent; just the hum of the fridge and heaters. Outside, rain and wind battered everything, Thunder rumbled and lightening forked across the sky like the bolts of an angry God.

‘Autumn weather for sure,’ Joy said aloud and closed the curtains.

Having all ready eaten before and feeling fine that she was now dry, Joy got into bed. She glanced at the alarm clock and saw the hands were on quarter to nine. She sighed, tiredness sinking in. She had worked late tonight with the re-stocking of the shop and was ready to sleep but first….

Joy pulled the book from her bag.

The skin cover was like worn leather, paled and roughed over the years and there were no markers anywhere upon it to say what the contains were or who by. Joy ran her fingers over it and thought she could just feel were letter might once have been.

Without opening the book, she looked at the hand cut pages. They were not straight but jagged and hard against her fingers. They were a dark yellow colour and tempted a reader in.

Joy went to open the book but her boss, the shop’s owner, Mr. Eager, came into her head. He was old, mid-sixties with a bald head, wrinkles like a walnut and strange odd colored eyes.  From his mouth came the words, ‘…it’s a book full of such disturbing horror stories it was banned! Most of the copies were burnt back then….There’s one around here somewhere. I brought it years ago in London.’

‘Have you ever read it?’ Joy had asked.

‘The first page and that was enough for me!’

‘And where is it now?’

Mr. Eager shrugged and answered, ‘lost in here someplace!’

Joy had taken in the stuffed shop which one could barely move around in let alone find anything they actually wanted! But wasn’t that the look and draw of secondhand and antique places?

With a shake of her head, Joy told herself, ‘I’ll return it tomorrow and show Mr Eager. Pretend I ‘just’ found it and ask if I can have it.’

Letting her fingers rest on the cover about to open it and began reading, Joy wondered why she had taken it in the first place.

She had stole before, little things, like; her childhood friend’s pencil case, a poster from school, a pot horse from her aunt’s house and once in desperate need after a night out, clothes from a washing line.

‘Why did I take this book?’ Joy wondered.

She looked down and felt drawn to forget everything and just open the cover. Were the stories inside as scary as Mr. Eager had said?

Opening the book, Joy saw there were no other publisher and introduction pages like at the start of other books, there was the begin of the first story instead. Shrugging and deciding she didn’t care, Joy curled up and began reading.

It seemed standard 1800s’ horror story telling, a little gross in parts but an interesting read. The stories were short and Joy read three or four of them before she started to doze off.

Putting the book under her bed, she vowed to take it back in the morning and fell asleep.

 

A soft thud and scraping noise disturbed her. Joy rolled over and still half-asleep listened. The noise didn’t come again and she drifted off.

Three more thuds, louder this time and more scraping like something was being dragged echoed through the house. Joy woke almost fully, she turned on the light and looked around. The storm had died down now and it was just a rain tapping against the window.

The noises didn’t come again as she wondered what they were; perhaps, it was an animal or a neighbour. Maybe, apart of my dream! What was that about anyway?

Joy turned off the light and settled back down. A creeping feeling came over her and sleep didn’t want to come back. She lay in the darkness, thinking and listening.

The sounds stared again. Someone was dragging something on a carpet and thumping it about. Then there was a different sound, like a chomp and a heave as if the person doing the dragging before was now trying to pull something up whilst eating an apple.

Joy almost giggled at that thought but realised the noise was too close, all most like it’s in my bedroom!  

She turned on the light, scowled herself for being silly, it’s just something outside….What’s that on my bedside table? 

It was the book!

Confused because she knew she had put it under her bed, Joy went to pick it up. Before her hands could touch it the book began to open!

The cover raised slowly. The pages had become long sharp triangle teeth. They moved, opening like they were in a mouth and a long, two forked tongue began to reel out, sensing the air like a snake’s.

Joy moved backwards across the bed and put her hands to her mouth to cover a scream.

‘It’s just a dream!’ she cried.

The book’s ‘tongue’ went back in and the covers opened further like a shark’s jaw. The book let out a monstrous growl and jumped at Joy’s face.

The scream erupted out of her and Joy threw her hands upwards to defend her face and fight off the book, but the book had grown so wide that it just swallowed her whole.

With the scratching and ruffling sounds of tumbling pages, the book fell closed on Joy’s bed, right were she’d been a few seconds ago.

 

 

(Based in part on a dream I had).

Wrong Glasses #FridayFictioneers

The book’s words blurred, Rosemary wondered what was going on. She took her glasses off, wiped them on her loose cream nightie. Her gnarled hands began shaking as she put the glasses on.

‘What is wrong with these things?’ Rosemary muttered.

Taking the glasses off, she held them to the page and used them like a magnifying glass. That helped a little, she carried on reading.

When she grew tried, Rosemary set the book aside and noticed that there was another pair of glasses on the table.

‘Oh! My new glasses!’ Rosemary cried, ‘No wonder I couldn’t see!’

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/09/11/13-september-2019/ with thanks).

Read

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I opened my book, slipped the leather marker out of the pages and looked at the chapter heading. Straight away I remembered where I was up to and eagerly began reading.

The phone rang. I looked up and listened to the shrill tone. Abandoned my book with a sign, I got up to answer it.

‘Hello?’ a man’s voice with an Indian accent asked, ‘I’m calling from your internet provider. We are going to cut your internet off.’

‘I don’t have the internet,’ I answered.

‘You don’t?’

‘I’m eighty-eight! I’ve no interested in such things!’

He hung up.

I put the phone down and went back to my favourite armchair. I curled up again and picked up my book. Where was I? Even without my bookmark jammed in between the pages, I could easily tell.

I begin reading again. I got through a few pages but then the door bell rang.

I rolled my eyes and got up. It was a delivery man asking me to take a parcel in for next door. That all sorted, I got back to my book.

I only had a few chapters to go and I really wanted to know if the soon to be married young lovers would discover they were actually brother and sister!

The sound of crows crying loudly, brought my head up. I looked out the window and saw two crows fighting over the bird food I had put out yesterday. They were having a right go at each other.

I wasn’t a fan of big birds, so I went out and scared them off. I waved one of the walking sticks at them and the crows got the message. Black wings beat loudly and flew over the fence. I looked at the darkening sky. It was going to rain soon and it was getting colder.

I went back in, heard the clock chime and realised it was almost time for something to eat. I put one of the frozen ready meals in the oven and whilst it cooked I made and lit the fire.

The crackling of the flames on the logs and the smell of fragrant smoke were comforting.

I eased back into the armchair and began reading again.

The timer went off and I had my meal. After I got a cup of tea and tried once again to finish my book.

The door bell went – next door come to get their parcel.

The phone rang – my daughter checking up on me. Reminding me about the trip to the garden centre tomorrow.

The fire needed other few logs.

I drank my tea, read my book and finally relaxed as it was night now and nobody would disturb me. I could finally finish!

Or not….two chapter to go and lulled by the fire, I fell sleep.

Friday 13th

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It was one of the days Henry dreaded most; a Friday thirteenth, the unluckiest day of the year. He debated if it was even worth getting out of bed. He could call in work sick and just stay here where it was safest. 

No, the boss will know I’m lying, Henry thought, he overhead me talking about today for sure. 

Henry got up and avoided doing anything that might trigger the bad luck. He didn’t look into the mirror, he didn’t walk on any cracks as he headed to work, he didn’t go under any ladders or scaffolding and he prayed no black cats crossed his path.

At work he didn’t speak much and just got on with his accounting spreadsheets. He didn’t take his breaks or stop of lunch, Henry just wanted the day to be over. He ignored his colleagues asking him to come out for drinks or food or dancing. He mumbled he was busy tonight or he wasn’t feeling well.

He left work on time, a rarity for him, and hurried home. Once there, he undressed and got straight into bed even though he was hungry and his favourite quiz show was on TV.

If I can sleep through the rest of the day, everything will be fine, Henry thought.

However, he couldn’t sleep and within an hour had got up and was making something to eat. He had soup and crusty bread whilst watching the end of the news. Seems a few bad things had happened today; but then didn’t they everyday?

As soon as he had finished and tided up, Henry went back to bed and read for a few hours. He felt safer in his bed, nothing could happen here.

He heard it start to rain outside and a cat begin meowing loudly. He tried ignoring the child like crying yowls but the noise was cutting through his concentration.

Henry got up, went to the window and looked out. At the house across the way, he saw an outside lamp on and underneath, on the front door step was a black cat!

Henry clutched his chest and stumbled backwards. Was it okay that he had only glanced the cat? The creature hadn’t crossed his path or touched him or even looked up at him. Perhaps, the cat wasn’t all black?

Henry clung to that thought and got back into bed.

Everything is going to be okay, he started repeating.

He checked the time and saw it was almost ten o’clock. Three hours to go till Friday thirteenth was over.

Henry picked up his book again and tried to get back into it but his mind kept wondering. He got up again and looked out the window but the cat had gone.

‘I don’t know if it was all black or not,’ Henry said aloud, ‘but if it lives in that opposite house then I must have seen that cat before and I know there’s no black ones around here! Unless…they got it recently….’

Trying to get rid of his thoughts, Henry got back into bed again and pulled the duvet over his head. He tried to convince himself nothing was going to happen and somehow he fell asleep.

In the morning, he awoke to his alarm going off. Henry struggled out of a deep sleep and turned it off. Sleepy, he looked at the date and saw that he had made it through the unluckiest day of the year.

Missing Page

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Courtney turned the page, ready to find out how the novel ended but there was nothing but blankness. Turning back, she re-read the last lines which were not the finish. Flipping the page, she found it still blank. She cried out and tossed the book away, never to know what had happened.