The Paper Mill (Part 2)

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Laying in bed, the bedside lamp on to keep the dark at bay, my thoughts kept going back to that girl. She had either run away from home or just didn’t have a home to go back to. I tried to imagine living like her; no family or college, no money or food, no bed or clean clothes. It would be hard. Tossing about, I finally settled down but my mind still wouldn’t turn off.

Tomorrow, I told myself, I’ll get somethings together and take them to her. Maybe she’ll talk to me then and perhaps I can help. Or maybe, the other side of my mind thought, I should just let it go. It’s none of my business. But by seeing and talking to her I had made it my business.

In the morning after a shower and breakfast, I should have sat down to work on one of my essays. I didn’t have classes today and tomorrow was Saturday, so I should have been thinking about going back to the library. Instead, that homeless girl was still in my mind, so I set about finding things she could have.

My parents had died when I was ten, so my grandparents had took me in. They were currently away on holiday, visiting their other daughter and grandchildren in America. There was still a lot of my parents’ things in the attic but I didn’t have time to look through all that. What if the girl had left the mill because I’d scared her? I needed to get there as soon as possible. Luckily, close to the front door was a bag of clothes my gran was putting out for charity collection.

There were a few of my tops that were too small now, but might fit her. I also selected an old green jumper and two pairs of my grandpa’s trousers. There was my old winter coat in the closet, a bobble hat and matching gloves. Taking everything back upstairs, I put the clothes in a rucksack then brought that down. In the kitchen, I took some tins of beans and soup that had ring pulls. Some cans of fizzy drink, bottles of water, a packet of biscuits that no one of liked and a bag of dried fruit.

With those in the bag, I wondered what else would a homeless girl need. Perhaps; sanitary towels, painkillers, matches, candles  and a few other bits of pieces. the rucksack was heavy but it would be worth it. I got ready to go, saw it was raining and decided on my wellington boots and an umbrella. Was there a spare one to take her? My grandpa liked to collect useful things, so at the back of the closet were a few spare umbrellas. I chose a small pink one then set off.

The day was dull and it must have been raining to awhile because there were large puddles and everything was dripping wet. I walked slowly, weighted down with the rucksack. Some of the streetlamps were still on but they didn’t seem to be doing a good job. I hoped it wouldn’t get any darker. Following the country lanes around and to the bridge I didn’t see anybody or cars.

Going over the river, I picked up my pace and hurried through the rows of houses to the mill. I squeezed the gap in the fence and made my way over. In the gloom and rain, the paper mill looked darker and more dirtier. I could hear the rain falling into holes in the roof and dripping off metal.

In through the door and I had to get my phone’s torch out to see. There was no keeping quiet with my wellingtons and heavy rucksack on the debris covered floor. I thought I went to the room she had been in, but I must have taken a wrong turn because I ended up at a metal staircase. At the top of which was a void of darkness. Shivering, I turned away and weaved my way back again. All the rooms looked the same but at last I found the right one.

‘Hello?’ I called, ‘It’s me Darcy.’

The fire wasn’t lit but there was enough dim light from the tall windows to see that she was still there. She was sat on the floor, huddled in dirty blankets with a sleeping bag wrapped around her. She turned and realised it was me.

‘I thought maybe….I could bring you somethings,’ I spoke, not sure what really to say.

She turned away from me without saying anything.

I walked over and placed the bag down.

‘It’s not much just some food and clothes,’ I added.

There was a large piece of cardboard next to my feet, so I sat down. I opened the bag and took anything out. She kept her head turned away from me as if I wasn’t there. Whatever I had been thinking might happen, it hadn’t been like this. But why would a teenage girl suddenly gush out her life story to a stranger she’d never meet over some old clothes and food? Had I really thought we’re going to become best friends?

I waited a few minutes, listening to the rain falling and feeling the cold stiffen my limbs. She was quiet, ignoring me and because she was keeping away from me, I couldn’t make out her face. I wanted to catch her eye so at least I could try and say something else, but she didn’t move.

‘Fine,’ I sighed, ‘I’ll go.’

I picked up the rucksack and slowly walked away. Every now and then I glanced over my shoulder, but the girl hadn’t moved. At the doorway, I stopped and thought about saying something else to her, reminding her of her manners maybe? Get angry and yelling out my disgust at her? Perhaps hoping her the best?

The words, whatever they were, wouldn’t come out so I turned away and walked back through. Even though my mind was still on her, I couldn’t help but think about what the paper mill would have been like in the past. It would have been loud with machines cutting up the trees and making the paper. The air would have been heavy with wood dust and chemicals. People would have been everywhere too.

I made it out in one go, only to find the rain had got heavier and the wind had picked up. I opened my umbrella and hurried home, my heart and thoughts weighed down.

 

To Be Continued…

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The Paper Mill (Part 1)

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The worse thing about autumn was it got dark far too soon and I’d always been scared of the dark. I hadn’t meant for it to be so late when I left the college library but I’d been doing research for my last two essays of the year. I hadn’t notice the time until I’d left and gone to the bus stop. I’d missed the last bus home.

So either, I walked the half an hour into town and got another bus or I walked the forty minutes home. If it had been raining which made it darker, I might have gotten the bus but I decided that I could make walking home. Most of the way would be well lit by street lamps and I had gone this way lots of times in the last year.

Drawing up all my bravery, I set off at a hurried pace. My heavy rucksack almost dragging me back whilst making my shoulders ache, distracted me as I went. My college was on a limbo boarder of just being outside a village and on the edge of countryside. The fastest way home was to half walk through the village then go up some country lanes.

I was about halfway home and just about to walk over a small bridge. Behind me an abandoned 1800’s paper mill ruled over the little houses that had once been home to it’s workers. The village had sprung up around the mill but once they had cleared all the trees, it started to get expensive importing more, sales had dropped too and the mill had closed it’s doors.

I stopped and faced off with the darkness before me. A single street lamp on the bridge was the only barrier between us. Beyond that the quiet countryside seemed to stretch endlessly away. I could hear the faint flow of the low river going under the bridge and something else in the distance behind me.

I listened harder, half turning to the sound which was like a muffled crying. I looked back at a row of houses, most had dim lights in the windows and others were draped in black. The paper mill looked eerie, like a silent empty watchman. I tried to tell myself the noise was just a cat or a baby but this feeling of strangeness grew in my stomach.

What if someone was hurt and only I could help them?

Glancing at the bridge, my mind made a choice that I didn’t get a chance to think about. I turned away and walked back towards the houses. I followed the sound along those small well lit pavements, thinking at any moment I’d find the source. Arriving at the gates of the mill and peering though the towering bars, I spotted the flicker of a fire in a ground floor window.

A voice in my head told me to go and my feet began to move away but the rest of me stayed at the gate. The crying was coming from the mill. Thoughts ran though my head; it’s a trick of the darkness, it’s an echo from something else, it’s a ghost, a homeless person, an animal. Why am I here? Go home!

I couldn’t though…

Looking further along the metal fence, I found a hole large enough to fit through and I stepped into the cobbled courtyard of the mill. Trying to walk in a hurried but quiet way didn’t work, so instead I give up trying to hide my presence and just went over to the steps. Looking up, I could make out how run down the mill was now but there was too much darkness to see further.

I went to the window the fire was coming from. I couldn’t see in though as the wall was too tall. My hands touched the cold damp stone and quickly withdrew as if something had bitten me. Coming away, I crept around for a bit, trying not to let the deep darkness creep me out more. Every shadow was a good hiding place for someone and I was just waiting for something to happen. My throat got dry, my heartbeat was loud and fear was making me sweat despite the cold evening.

Taking out my phone and putting the torch app on, give me some more light and helped to keep the shadows at bay. I found a half open metal door and slipped into the building. There was a maze of rooms and a musty smell. Carefully walking, I spent a good few minutes figuring out where the fire was burning. Trying to convince myself it was just kids messing around and perhaps one had got left behind, helped make me feel better.

Standing in the doorway of the right room, I saw a small fire on the floor and next to it was a small humped over person shape.

‘Hello?’ I called out.

The shape moved, twisting around to look at me whilst gasping. I couldn’t make anything out as my phone light didn’t reach so far and there wasn’t enough light coming from the fire. I heard scrambling and the person getting up and moving.

‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ I spoke in a shaky voice, ‘I think I heard you crying. Do you need help?’

‘No,’ the voice of a girl sounded back.

I sighed, glad the person wasn’t a man nor hurt. I waved in the door, wanting to move closer but then not moving as there might be danger.

‘What do you want?’ the girl demanded.

‘Nothing,’ I replied, ‘what are you doing here?’

‘This is my home!’

‘Your…?’ I trailed and looked at what I could see.

Then I stepped inside the room. It was bare but for the fire and small pile of stuff on the floor. I got closer to the fire, drawn by the heat and I saw a girl in her late teens, just like me. She was wearing layers of ripped clothes, her hair and face were dirty but she was standing defensively, ready to fight.

‘I’m Darcy,’ I spoke to break up the tension.

She shook her head at me.

‘How did you end up here? Where are your parents?’

‘None of your business. Go away,’ she snapped.

I frowned and thought about saying more. I had the urge to help her but what could I do? Turning away, I walked back to the doorway. Then with a glance at her went through and tried to remember the way out.

 

To Be Continued…

Soul Stealer

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The shadows were gathering across the room, they were waiting till I fell asleep then they were going to take my soul. I couldn’t let that happen. Under the other pillow, my hand tightened round my small gun. I knew it was useless against them, but it give me comfort.

Keeping my eyes away from the dim light coming from the lamp, I tracked the shadows movements. They kept their distance but only sunlight banished them which meant I could only sleep at then.

I couldn’t take my eyes off them as I knew any chance I give them they’d take it and if they did then the rest of the world was doomed.

 

Kenopsia #atozchallenge

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Kenopsia; the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet. 

 It was a strange apocalyptic feeling that crept slowly over Georgina as they walked through the abandoned prison.

‘We shouldn’t be here,’ she whispered.

Bayo shot her a look over his shoulder then paused as her saw the cringing expression crossing over Georgina’s face.

Her voice had sounded louder and had echoed more then she had meant it too. Georgina felt like she had broken the second spell that hung over the building by being the first to speak. The first spell had been when they had entered the grounds, ignoring all the warning signs and sneaking under the two wired fences.

 ‘What is it?’ Bayo hissed.

‘This place is gross,’ Georgina said back.

Bayo give a small shrug of his broad shoulders and carried on walking. He was dressed far better for this place then Georgina was. He was wearing high work boots with his jeans tucked into them, a tight t-shirt and a padded coat. His skin was as dark as the shadows around them and his short black hair was a mass of small weaves.

Georgina watched him duck through a rusted twisted metal door then followed him, careful not to snag her blue designer coat, teal coloured mini skirt and matching tights on the sticking out wires. Her low pumps were covered by so much mud and dirt, it was hard to know what colour they were.

Judging from what was now around them, they had entered the first male block of the prison. The other three teenagers had come to stop in the main space and were shining their torches about. Bayo and Georgina joined them and began looking around too. On this floor, tables and chairs had been dotted round. There had been a TV, a snooker table and a table tennis table, giving the inmates downtime. Above rose four floors of cells, many of which had their doors wide open.

Nature had long taken over what had once been a loud and bustling scene. Patches of green and yellow moss covered the floor. Weeds grew in clumps through cracks and black mould coated the ceiling. Water was dripping heavily from somewhere close by. Rust covered everything metal and the paint was peeled.

Georgina shivered and felt like she was being watched. She touched her loose golden blonde hair nervously and making sure it was tucked safely into the hood of her coat. She double checked the coat was zipped up before putting her hands in the warm pockets. Then she turned away and took in her friends. They all looked deeply fascinated.

The only other girl in the group, Phoebe, had her head thrown back and was looking up at the ceiling as if it was covered in precious  gem stones. She didn’t seem at all concerned about what was around them. Her dark brown hair was plaited back and she was wearing hiking boots, old jeans and a thick grey jacket. Her torch light reflected off the grimy walls.

The three boys, including Bayo, seemed interested in exploring the cells. There were a few on this floor, but it was a certain one that they were eager to find. They shone their torches around, trying to figure out the numbers on the doors so they could plan their route.

Georgina moved closer to her boyfriend, Alex. He was the tallest of the boys and had dark spiky hair. His face was rounded and baby like but had a handsomeness to it that Georgina enjoyed staring at. He was wearing black trainers, ripped up dark jeans, a loose t-shirt and a leather jacket. She slipped her hand against his and wormed her fingers in between his so that they were holding hands.

‘I don’t like it,’ she muttered like a tried child being forced into bed.

‘It’s cool,’ Alex answered back.

‘It’s not. It’s creepy and unhygienic. I want to leave!’ Georgina snapped.

‘Go ahead then,’  Tiger sneered.

Georgina looked at him and pulled a face. It was Tiger’s fault they were here in the first place. He was the oldest of the group and Phoebe’s boyfriend. He had short brown hair, sharp eyes and model’s face. He was old boots, tight jeans and a long sleeved top.

Georgina turned away and pressed her face into Alex’s shoulder.

Tiger snorted as if he had expected her not to reply to him.

‘Which one is it?’ Phoebe asked.

‘It’s on the second floor. I remember that much,’ Tiger answered.

He walked over to the unstable looking concrete stairs and began climbing them. Phoebe and Bayo followed, their footsteps ringing out in the quietness.

‘Alex, I really want to leave. There’s something off about this place,’ Georgina whispered.

‘It’s fine,’ Alex responded and drew her into a hug, ‘I really want to see where one of the most famous murderers of all time was locked away.’

‘Why?’ Georgina asked into his jacket, her voice muffled

‘Let’s go,’ Alex spoke, having not heard her.

He took her hand and they walked up the stairs then across to another set and up those. Georgina tried not to look further ahead then the next steps. The open cell doors didn’t seem inviting at all and they reminded her of animal mouths, just waiting for something to walk in before snapping shut.

‘This is it, I think. Number thirty-eight,’ Tiger pointed out.

Alex and Georgina joined Tiger, Phoebe and Bayo at the open cell door.

‘Yeah, they say he drew pictures of his victims with his own blood on these very walls,’ Tiger continued.

He walked into the cell and flashed his torch around. It was empty of furniture, pipes were sticking out were a toilet and sink had once been and the walls were a dark grey and peeling badly.

Phoebe squeezed her way in and touched the wall. She inspected the floor and began looking for something.

‘We’ve seen it now, can we please go?’ Georgina cut in.

She tugged the sleeve of Alex’s jacket.

‘There’s other cells to see on this tour,’ Tiger declared, ‘the hanging cell, the gun shot cell….the showers. Do you fancy a trip to the showers, Georgie?’

‘No!’ Georgina cried as Tiger leered at her.

‘That’s enough,’ Alex growled and moved between them.

Tiger shrugged, letting the whole thing slide.

‘I can’t find the blood pictures,’ Phoebe said disappointingly.

‘It’s okay, babe. There’s more to see,’ Tiger answered.

Georgina looked behind her. There was a wire fence securing the edge and below was the main room. She thought she saw a flicker of movement down there in the shadows. It was nothing though, right?

She tugged Alex’s jacket sleeve again.

‘Okay, we’ll leave,’ he huffed.

‘Whatever,’ Tiger scoffed, ‘we’ll carry on then.’

‘Some other time,’ Alex added to show there was no hard feeling between them.

Tiger shrugged, not caring either way. He took Phoebe’s hand and led her out of the cell. Bayo trailed after them like a guard dog.

‘You okay?’ Alex asked Georgina.

She nodded, her eyes still watching below. There was a figure down there for sure now. He was a massive man with tattoos and he was just wearing shorts. He didn’t appear to be doing anything, just waiting.

Georgina held her breath and watched the man blending back into the shadows. The urge to get out reached it’s peak and she fought back a scream. Biting her lip, she looked up at Alex, he was watching the others head to the next floor.

‘We need to go,’ Georgina forced out.

‘Sure,’ Alex sighed.

Holding hands, they began to head out towards the sunny afternoon whilst behind them their friends walked further into the darkness of the jail.

The Repeating Dark

Man's Hand in Shallow Focus and Grayscale Photography

Most people don’t really know they are dreaming. They just wake up realise they’ve had a dream and then get on with their day. Me though, I always know when I’m dreaming. I guess it’s because for years I’ve had the same dream. I’ve never really told anyone about it fully. When I was younger, I told my parents a few times about it but they just said it was a nightmare and it would go away.

The dream never has though.

So why now do I want to share it with you? I guess it’s because we know that by the time you read this I’ll be dead. So, it really won’t matter anymore. I’m worried though that this dream won’t die with me and it might get passed on to you. So, I thought I better write everything down and if the dream ever does come for you then you’d be more prepared and maybe do what I could never figure out; break the cycle.

The dream is the same all the time. Nothing, not even the tiniest detail changes nor does the events. I’ve tried many times to change something, but it has never worked. Also, I’ve never found a pattern for the occurrences. Nothing seems to bring them on or makes them stay away for long. The dream seems like a ghost; appearing and disappearing when it wants to.

The dream begins when you wake up in a dark room. For a few moments, you think you really have awoken and it’s the middle of the night. Then though you began to see things and the realisation that this is not your room dawns. You see a table, an empty bookcase, a tall leather armchair and a window.

As you began moving around, you’ll notice other things; the smell of flowers even though there’s none in the room, the breeze of fresh air though the window isn’t open and there seems to be no door. Soft sounds that you are not sure what they are; voices whispering maybe? Faint footsteps, the patter of animal paws. You feel the furniture, it’s solid and cold.

You study the bookcase and see that it’s not actually empty. There is a book in the bottom corner. Pulling it out, the book is thin and black, you open the pages and see a language that is beyond you. The letters seem to move across the page, twisting and transforming, but still you can’t read them. You put the book back.

Unsure what to do, you go to the window and look out. There is no curtain or netting and the window is sealed. No matter what angle and how far you look, you can never see out of the window. A blackness masks the glass, leaving you no hint of where you are.

You can continue to inspect the room, but you’ll find nothing else. Time might then began to pass but sometimes he appears quickly. Once again, I have found no pattern to his appearance. Sometimes you feel you’ve been waiting mere moments, other times it’s hours or days trapped within that room.

The man always appears though. He seems to come from the window, shifting out of the darkness. Taking the form of a shadow at first, but then becoming more solid. He is a dark man; black from toe tips to the fine strands of hair. Backed by the window as he always is, you can never make out any of his features and often he seems to be one with the darkness.

You can try talking to him, but he’ll never answer back. For years, I have questioned him, but not once has he uttered a word. Perhaps, things might be different for you and maybe he will break his vow of silence. I have also tried different things; standing or hiding in different places, giving him the book etc. But nothing works.

Then he holds his hand out and waits for you to take it. I’ve tried not to. I have fought hard to ignore him and often I have stood facing a corner with my back to him. No matter what, somehow my hand always ends up in his! Then his hand closes on mine, holding it tightly and I feel a strange coolness.

He begins to fade back through the glass slowly. You can’t take your hand out of his. I’ve tried but found no solution. He vanishes totally and you see your hand has gone to and the darkness is creeping up your arm. Even if you panic and scream, nothing can be done. The fear is so over-welling that you get dragged down with it.

Then you are surrounded by total blackness and nothing else can be done.

When you awake because despite everything you always do, the dream will seem gone but it never really does. It lingers at the back of your mind and you’ll catch yourself questioning the dream though you might have been thinking of something else. Nothing will resolve though and the memory of the dream will stay with you like a scar.

I really hope that you don’t have it. I hope it dies with me. But since I can’t be sure, I hope you can find some comfort in this letter and know that you weren’t alone.

December’s Arrival

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The nights were darker and the days seemed shorter. There was less color in the world and it was quieter too. As Mavis watched the midnight hour arrive from her bedroom window, she let go of the breath she had been holding. It was December at last.

Not feeling it

black-and-white, person, woman

I’m just not feeling it today. I woke up too tried and wanting to just stay in bed. The sun was pouring through my window, looking warm and inviting, but I couldn’t muster the strength to move. Listening, I heard the sound of voices and a car engine, I tired to make out the conversion, but couldn’t. Those people were so close to me and yet so far, as if they were in another timeline from my own.

Rolling over, I try to go back to sleep, but it wouldn’t come and I need the bathroom. I could just go in the bed, it’s no big deal. Getting up takes all of the energy I’d gotten from minutes of dozing off before. The coldness of the room wraps around me, awaking me more whilst at the same time driving me back to bed. I grab a blanket, drape myself in it and go to the door.

I open it and look into the living room-kitchen combo of my tiny flat. It’s practically empty as if no one lives here. Taking a few steps down, I arrive at the bathroom and go in. I do what I have to do whilst my mind wonders how I came to be me. Of late, it’s a question that keeps coming up a lot. Why am I me? How did my mind and body become one? Why couldn’t I have been someone else?

I decide to shower. It’s safer then taking a bath, though I long to be surrounded by water again, but I don’t trust myself. Those dark thoughts are forever looming like shadows that play on the walls at night. They call to me often, inviting me to be with them, to become one with the darkness and not have to think anymore.

The hot water helps. I stand under the shower, letting it pour down around me and take everything away. I find a sponge and some lime shower gel which I wash with carefully. I try not to think, but just listen to the sounds of the water hitting me and the bathtub. I wash my hair too because that sometimes helps.

Turning, I stand there for awhile, just letting the water cascade off me. I feel sleepy suddenly, dizzy and drifting as if my mind has been called away. A loud ringing starts up in my ears, covering up every other sound. I switch the shower off, get out and sit on the loo, head down, eyes shut. The faint passes without me going out. Still though, I feel it lingering.

Putting a dressing gown on, I go into the kitchen and make some peppermint tea. I also grab a breakfast bar as I wait. Then I take everything to the sofa and put the TV on to try and dispel some of the loneliness. I sip my tea, tasting comforting mint. I feel better, but now I don’t want to move.

This is my today.

Escape

nature, person, woman

Uma started running through the forest, letting the small house and the twinkling light from the open back door disappear into the growing night. With a quick glance behind her, Uma saw the shadows detaching themselves from the trunks of the trees. She fixed her eyes on the path ahead and tried not to think about it.

Fallen branches and old leaves crunched under her feet, but it sounded so loud in her ears. Her breathing too had already spiked and Uma tried to keep it steady, a part of her knowing she would never out run them like this. A low tree branch whipped against her and Uma cried out as she was pinged backwards.

Thinking it was one of them who had grabbed her, memories flashed before her eyes like photos. Uma saw the Ouija board blood splattered, black shapes forming across the basement walls and the bodies of her friends laying about. Screaming, crying and that God awful wailing filled her ears. She had gotten out somehow, the wooden stairs biting hands as long black fingers reached for her….

Coming back to, Uma saw the tree above her. Desperately, she fought to untangle the hood of her blue coat. Twisting this way and that, she saw over her shoulders the black mist becoming more solid. Finally stopping, she claimed back her hood and thought about taking her coat off. Her breath misting in front of her made her pause. It was the height of summer and yet the forest was freezing.

A wailing sounded behind her and Uma turned. The shadows had taken on the form of humans, only if the bodies and limbs had been stretched totally out of proportion. There long arms reached out for her, see through hands with trailing claw like fingers waving in the air. Their faces were empty, just black balls on stick necks and yet the sound was coming from somewhere.

Uma screamed without meaning too. The fear bursting out of her as if a balloon had been popped. She spun around, but too fast and lost her footing. She fell to the forest floor, tasting dirt and blood in her mouth. As she tried to scramble upwards, icy fingers wrapped around her foot.

Another scream ripped through her, startling some birds from a tree. Uma tried to kick away and get up, but the ground was slippy and she was now unbalanced. Uma flopped over and began madly kicking to try and free herself, but the ghosts were upon her and they had no intentions of letting her go now.

Family Secrets (Part 4)

Pedestrian, Walking, Shadow, Night, Evening, Street

Em’s eyes scanned over the objects in the steam trunk. There was a heavy mix of papers, thin books, photos, objects wrapped in newspaper and letters. Instead of looking through them, Em stood up and ran her hands over the inside of the lid. It was covered with flowery wallpaper which was peeling at the edges.

She dug her finger tips into the top right corner and pulled down. The inside lid easily give way and dropped quickly downwards. Em tried to shelter the contents from flying out, but all they did was bounce before settling. She looked over them, finding for a few seconds all the baby stuff a strange compared to the old woman items.

Em knelt down again and started picking up things and moving them neatly to one side. Sometimes she would linger on items like the small teddy bear, the blue booties, the small patchwork blanket and a baby’s white jumper. When she came to the only photo of the baby, she stopped. She looked closely at the image and saw  her very young self cradling a small pink baby. He was wrapped in a hospital blue blanket and just the side of his head could be seen.

With one finger she touched the baby’s head and wondered where he was now. All the memories rushed back taking over her completely. Sighing and giving into her sobs at last, Em dropped her head. She cried hard, letting everything out and the tears wash over her. She curled on the floor, her body shaking and no longer able to keep herself up.

Slowly, her sobs grew quiet and the tears stopped. She wiped her face and pulled herself up. Gently placing the photo back in, she closed the inside lid on those memories again. Using her jumper sleeves, she scrubbed her face and palms. Glancing at her grandmother’s things, she pulled out a few letters to distract herself with.

Opening the first one, she saw it was a love letter. It was one she’d read before and she knew it was to her gran from her granddad’s childhood friend who was also looking for Em’s grandmother’s attention. Reading it, made Em smile. Putting it back carefully, she opened another one and saw it was a returned letter that her gran had wrote to her granddad close to the end of the Second World War.

Scanning it, the history of her family opened like  a book in her head. She fell into that, forgetting for a few minutes her own past as she became lost in someone else’s. Once she was done, she put all the letters back and closed the steam trunk lid. She turned the key in the lock then removed it. Getting to stiff legs, she put the key back on the roof beam.

Weaving her way out of the attic, Em wiped her face again and felt her cheeks still damp. At the hatch, she turned out the lights and went down the ladder. When her feet hit the bottom the sound of the TV came fully back to her. Folding the ladder up, she closed the attic hatch and went into the bedroom.

It had grown darker and she turned on some of the lights. Catching herself in the mirror, she saw her dust smudged face and clothes. Not stopping to see what the TV was now displaying, she went into the bathroom and had a shower.

The hot water combined with the smell of lime and lemon body wash cleared her head.

Why did I even go up there in the first place? Em thought, did I think it would be different this time? I should get rid of all that stuff. 

‘No!’ Em cried a loud.

She pressed her hands to the wall, the water rained down and soaked her hair.

‘I can’t…’ she shook her head.

Sniffing, she tried to hold it together and told herself that it was okay. Em straightened and started washing her hair. Letting all the thoughts go again. Hair washed, she got out and wrapped herself in a massive towel. Glancing back at the shower, she longed to be back under the hot spray again.

Drying herself as she left the bathroom, the sounds of the TV called her back. Going into her bedroom, Em put on a nightdress and turned off all but her lamp. Then she curled in bed and watched the news telling the world’s updates. She felt herself drifting, but not wanting to be alone, she left the TV on.

Snuggling down, she dozed and felt sleep easily take her away.

Being Followed (Part 3)

Ghost, Gespenstig, Shadow, Silhouettes, Mystical

Briony sat on the edge of the ambulance’s steps, a harsh wool blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Her eyes darted everywhere taking in the unfolding scene before her. Three police cars cluttered the street and officers in blue were dotted about searching her house and the surrounding area. Lights flashed on and off from top the cars and also within the houses. Faces appeared at windows and doors, looking worriedly out.

A too young female paramedic was gently inspecting Briony’s right hand, whilst a grey haired man in a matching emergency uniform watched. Briony looked at her and saw the confusion over the girly love heart shaped face. She dropped her eyes to her hand and wrist and saw the long, seemly deep imprints of fingers across her blue skin.

‘It looks like a freezer burn,’ the girl muttered.

‘Let me see,’ the male paramedic requested.

Briony felt her hand being handed over to him and his fingers brushing the marks. Slight waves of pain trailed along her arm and she heard soft mutterings. Twisting to the side, she watched two policemen talking in her living room. A third officer stood guarding the front door with light pooling around him like an angel appearing out of Heaven.

‘This is Briony Hashley.’

She turned back and saw the female officer from last time standing with a suited man a few steps away.

‘I’m Inspector Crane,’ the man stated.

Briony nodded.

‘Start from the beginning and tell me what happened.’

‘I got home from work, ate, watched TV and went to bed. Then something woke me up,’ Briony answered in a very shaky voice that didn’t sound like her own.

‘What was it?’ Crane asked.

Briony looked at the female officer who was writing in a pocket notebook. Taking a deep breath, she carried on, ‘I felt the bed dip and my comforter being pulled, like someone was on the edge of the bed and getting in.’

‘Okay.’

‘I looked over and didn’t see anything. I thought it was just…nothing…’ Briony choked, ‘but then I heard footsteps in the hallway and my bedroom opening. I saw a tall black man with long arms and red eyes standing in the doorway.’

‘Did he say anything? Any other details you can remember? His clothes?’ the female officer cut in.

Briony shook her head, ‘no, it was too dark.’

‘What happened then?’ Crane said.

‘I…I tried to turn on the light, but it wouldn’t work. I reached for my phone, but it wasn’t there. It was in my handbag next to my desk. I made a run for it, but when I got there before I could get it he grabbed me. I screamed then something hit me across the back of my head,’ Briony recalled, she touched her hair, tucking it in, ‘then all this happened,’ she waved a hand at the nearest police car.

‘Nothing else?’ the Inspector asked.

Briony looked up at him, ‘no.’

‘We should get you to the hospital now,’ the young paramedic suggested.

Crane nodded, ‘We’ll take a full statement from you later,’ he added.

Briony opened her mouth then closed it again. She glanced up at the house, watching the shapes of police officers moving in the windows. She felt the paramedic trying to guide her up and without any protested, she obeyed.

 

Early morning light crept into the hospital carpark as Briony got into her mother’s car. She settled back into the seat and sighed with relief. Finally after four days she was going home. She rested her hands on knees and looked down at the fading red finger marks. Her neck, shoulders and back had been badly bruised and four scratch lines, like the claws of a cat had trailed down her spine.

The doctors, nurses and police were baffled. The injuries made no sense and nothing had been found in or around her house. Everyone declared the reports inconclusive and there was to be no further investigations. Briony claimed emotion stress and had taken the next few weeks off work.

Her mother got behind the steering wheel, bringing Briony out of her deep thinking. Her mother looked like her twin sister only a lot older and with darker brown hair. Briony shut her eyes and let normality swim back to her.

‘The police still haven’t found anything,’ her mother’s voice cut through Briony’s meditation.

‘I doubt they will.’

‘What?’

‘The man…I don’t think he’s real. He’s a ghost or a daemon,’ Briony explained.

Her mother laughed, ‘that’ll be the pain killers still talking.’

‘It’s not. I’m fine. I had time to think and everything seems to add up to that.’

‘Briony, seriously. I know you’ve been through a lot, but there’s no need to just make stuff up. You didn’t tell the police that did you?’

‘No,’ Briony answered as she looked out of the window.

‘Everything will be fine when you’ve had a few days rest. And the police will catch this guy. Your father has had all the locks changed and security cameras put in. You’ll feel a lot safer. Now, should we go and pick your things up or do you want me to drop you off and pick stuff up myself?’ her mother asked.

‘I want to go to my house,’ Briony stated, ‘I want to get back to normal.’

‘All right, sweetie. Whatever you want.’

 

The house was cold. Briony stood in the doorway looking around whilst her mother fussed over the mess the police had left. Blocking out the anger mumbling, Briony pushed the door to and went up to her bedroom. She sat down on the disarranged bed and took everything in. White dust lay on the window still and the desk, a strange smell hung in the air and everything seemed out of place. Her bedroom no longer felt like her own.

She took a shower, relaxing under the hot spray then got dressed in clean comfy clothes. Going downstairs, she found her mum making tea and sandwiches in the kitchen.

‘Are you sure you want to stay here?’

‘Yes, mum,’ Briony replied as she sat down at the small table.

‘Your dad and I don’t mind you staying for a bit.’

‘It’s fine. I’m okay…Do you know anyone who’s religious?’

‘Religious?’ her mother repeated.

Briony nodded.

‘Why? Not your ghost daemon thought?’ her mother cried as she slid onto the other chair and handed Briony a chipped mug.

Briony shrugged her shoulders and looked down into the swirling milky tea.

‘I think Mrs Butterworth is. Would you like me to speak to her?’ her mother said gently after a few moments.

‘Yes, please,’ Briony said in a small voice.

‘Would that make you feel better?’

‘It really would.’

Falling silent, they ate and drink then Briony’s mother left. Briony tidied up the kitchen then with nothing else to do, spent the rest of the day tidying the house. She debated going shopping, but decided instead to have some soup and an early night. However, as she got ready for bed, Briony decided that she couldn’t face sleeping in her own room.

She gathered some things and went into the guest bedroom instead. Switching on the TV, she watched an old movie and dozed in the warm bed. As the movie ended, she turned off the TV and snuggled down, clutching childhood teddy bear.

Leaving the lamp on, she tried to sleep, but thoughts kept popping up. She wondered if she would see him tonight and what would happen. She thought about the book she had read in hospital, borrowed off a teenage goth girl with a broken leg. The title had been something about ghosts and daemons haunting the living. Briony frowned as she tried to remember then decided it wasn’t important. The information she had found out was though.

Listening, she heard a creaking in the attic above her. It was nothing more than natural movement though. She drifted off, her mind a mass of questions and dark thoughts that couldn’t be answered. She fell asleep, feeling warm and safe even though something nagged at the back of her mind.

It was pitch black when she opened her eyes. Water was dripping from somewhere. She could hear it plopping on something metal. Stretching, she half got up and looked around the room. Seeing nothing, she clicked on the lamp then paused.

I thought I’d left that on, she thought.

Getting up, she followed the sound of the water dripping through the house, but couldn’t find the source of it. Lastly, she came to stand under the attic trap door. Looking up, she wondered if a pipe was leaking. Deciding it couldn’t wait, she changed her clothes, put on some shoes and went up.

The attic was dark even with the single blub on and the torch she had. Briony stepped inside and begin carefully checking the maze of pipes above and below her. Dust danced before the light beam, which bounced back on an array of long forgotten objects the previous owners had left. Briony had never used the attic. There’d been no need with just her in the house. Making her way to the back, she didn’t see any signs of the water, even though the dripping sounded louder up here.

Turning about, she decided to call her dad in the morning to do have a proper look.

Something brushed passed her feet.

Briony paused and flashed the torch light down. The bare wooden chip floor came into view. She looked, but didn’t see anything. Maybe it had been a mouse or a rat? Shaking it off, she walked a few more steps.

An icy breeze tickled her ankles and a soft moaning came from behind her.

Briony didn’t stop. She picked up her pace and headed straight for the ladder.

The moaning grew and hurried footsteps boomed out. She felt cold air wrapping around her and something drawing her to look back. Not giving in, she made it to the attic hatch and looked down. Light pooled all around the ladder, welcoming her back. She went to step down and felt hands on her bottom.

Briony twisted her upper body. Her eyes landing on the red glowing orbs looming out of the darkness behind her. She screamed and felt herself falling backwards through the hatch. Her hands scrambled for something to hold on to and scrapped passed the ladder and wall. Her screaming echoed loudly in her ears and all she could see was the shadow man peeling away from the darkness and falling after her.

 

Briony felt herself drifting upwards. Coming too, she wiped her face and tried to look around. The hallway was dark and she couldn’t see anything. Getting up, she reached for the wall and tried to find the light switch. Her sense of depth must have been off, because she couldn’t find the wall.

Puzzled, she waited for her eyes to adjust and tried to work out what had happened. She had gotten out of bed to do something…it wouldn’t come back to her. Shrugging, she felt her way back to the guest room and got back into bed. Laying there, she looked up at the ceiling and tried to sleep.

The door creaked open and footsteps entered the room.

Briony reached out to turn on the lamp, but couldn’t feel it. Frowning, she tried again, but there seemed to be no bedside table either.

‘What’s going on?’ she said aloud.

‘You died,’ a slow deep eerie voice came from the foot of the bed.

Briony stopped and looked down. The shadow man was standing there and even though he was still cloaked in black, she could see him clearer than before.

‘I…what?’

‘I pushed you out of the attic,’ the voice whispered.

‘Why?’ Briony stuttered.

‘Because I need you.’

‘I’m dead?’ Briony cried and tried to touch anything she could.

‘Very,’ the shadow man replied, ‘I need you to help me.’

‘And I couldn’t alive?’

‘It’s the only way.’

Briony pressed her hands to her face, ‘oh God! Why? What about my parents…what are they going to do? What am I going to do? How could you!’

‘Doesn’t matter. What does is finding me more souls,’ the voice hissed around her.

‘Souls? What?’ Briony let out a loud and long oh noise and began rocking.

‘To survive it’s what we need. You can leave here and bring them back,’ the shadow man explained, ‘I can’t leave. That’s why I need you. We can feast on the souls together and grow stronger.’

‘I don’t want to,’ Briony sniffed.

‘No choice. Your soul is chained to mine now. See.’

Briony heard the soft clinking of a chain and looked down at her wrist. There was an iron manacle pressed against her skin and a single linked chain leading to the wrist of the shadow man.

‘You are mine now. Forever.’

‘No,’ Briony screamed and scrambled off the bed.

Loud, echoing laughter filled the room as she fled into the hallway. Stepping around a big crumpled up shape, Briony went downstairs and to the front door. Her fingers fumbled with the lock and went right passed the door. With a quick glance back, she stepped through the door and out on to the doorstep.

A fuzziness filled her ears, like the static sound of a TV. Her vision was black and white and she could make out distant shapes under the starry night sky. She tried to take a few deep breaths and tell herself it was all a dream. But somehow she knew it wasn’t. From behind her came the heavy footsteps and growling sounds of the shadow man. She heard him stop at the front door and call her name.

‘Leave if you want, but you’ll come back. You don’t have a choice. There’s nowhere else for you to go,’ he added.

‘I’ll find a way to be free,’ Briony shouted back.

There came a low chuckle, ‘the last one said that too…’

Briony looked behind and watched the looming shadow press against the front door glass.

‘Come back in. We should get to know each other.’

Briony shook her head then felt a tugging on her wrist. She looked down and saw the chain being pulled back into the door. She tried to move further away, but the manacle tightened around her wrist. She felt no pain, just the urge to go back inside. Holding her wrist, she gave in and did just that, going through the door again as if it was open.

Facing off with the shadow man, her mind raced through everything as he began speaking. His voice went straight over her head and she only released he had stopped talking when she brought her eyes back to him.

‘You’ll get use to death,’ he said, ‘everyone does eventually.’