Beyond the Gates #CCC

Charlie stood before the ornate gates. Her fingers on the cold metal bars as she looked at the pathway poking out of the overgrown nature.

She rattled the gates, not expecting them to open but they did. Fitting through, she walked to the burnt remains of a manor house.

Wondering what happened, Charlie picked up a piece of half burnt wood and felt a chill on her back. There was no wind and no one else here but she heard a woman’s whispering voice say, ‘you should not have come here.’

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2019/10/23/crimsons-creative-challenge-50/ with thanks).

54 #TwitteringTales

The number kept appearing on his computer screen. He didn’t have a clue what was going on but his anger was slowly being replaced by fear.

There was nothing wrong with the computer. He had built the thing himself, ran regular checks and could solve any problems.

No matter what he was doing, the screen would flicker, turn black then the number 54 would fill the screen before the computer shut down.

It was impossible, no one knew and yet someone clear did. It couldn’t be a coincidence anymore…

His secret was out, he was the city’s serial cat killer.

 

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2019/10/22/twittering-tales-159-22-october-2019/ with thanks).

Candle Light

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It was about two in the morning and Bell hadn’t been able to sleep. She had been reading a Gothic horror novel, lost within it’s pages and words. The candle by her bedside was low, the wax dripping away and the flame dropping.

Bell knew she should get a fresh candle but once out of the armchair and woollen blanket, it would be freezing. The fire in the wall next to her had long gone out and the chill from the autumn moor had crept into the house.

She looked at the candle and decided if she didn’t want to end up in the dark within a few minutes she had to move.

Placing the book down, she wrapped the blanket around her and got up. There was a candle by her bedside which she took and carefully lit the new wick from the dying candle. She blew out the first flame then took the new candle and her book to bed.

It was a grand four poster thing and she wasn’t use to sleeping in luxury. She had been brought up in a simple house with simple things. Her father had educated her which had helped Bell learn that her family had fallen on hard times. She couldn’t remember not being happy and her parents had tried to give her anything she needed.

The turn had come when she was fourteen. Her father, ill of health for years, passed. The money ran out. Her mother lost everything.

In the poorhouse, the beds had been straw. They had been surround by people making lots of noise for three years. You would think you couldn’t sleep in such a place but the twelve hours of work a day made you so exhausted that sleep came as a blessing.

Now, Bell was alone in this large room, in this huge house owned by a uncle of her father’s whom she had never known but had somehow found her. Bell was grateful to have been saved after her mother had become ill and died three months ago. It was the answer to her prayers.

Some nights though, she wished to be back with her mother on that floor. Comforted and loved. No longer feeling the loneliness and sadness that consumed her.

Bell got into bed. The sheets were cold against her. She opened her book again and began reading. Her concentration was broken and the chill was making her shake. Putting the book down again, she curled up and thought about trying to sleep.

There was a window across and the curtains were half drawn. She could see the night sky and the full moon. It was too dark to see the raising moorland that surround this house but she could picture the current barren landscape well enough.

The candle wick cracked and the flame flickering against the wall. There were too many shadows in this room for Bell’s liking. The words of the old maid came back to her and Bell remembered the warning of falling asleep with candles lit. That’s how the west wing burnt down.

Bell’s head turned towards the door as footsteps sounded in the hallway. The boards squeaked and a door handle rattled.

It was just her uncle or a servant, restless like herself and walking around the house.

A door opened, the loud creaking wail further broke the silence.

Bell felt a drift of air. The candle flame flickered violently and black smoke trailed up the wall. Bell sat up and looked towards her door.

It was wide open.

She clutched the sheets to her chest. Thoughts racing through her head; it’s just my uncle or servant checking on me because they saw the light. 

No figure seemed to fill the doorway and nothing else moved.

Bell couldn’t find the words to speak.

The candle went out.

Plunged into darkness, Bell let out a cry and threw the sheet over head. She curled up, fear driving everything. Her breathing was harsh in her ears so she didn’t hear the soft footsteps crossing the floor.

The bedding began to slip down, gathering on the floor.

Bell clung to what she could but the bedding began to drag her with it. She let it go and dug her nails into the woollen blanket still around her instead.

‘Who is there?’ Bell cried in a shaky voice.

There was a low whistling like wind through a gap. The dying candle came back to life. The glow of the yellow and orange flame so bright in the room.

‘What do you want?’ Bell shouted.

There was a hand by the flame. It first it seemed nothing more then a wisp of smoke from the candle but it grew and turned shape, became more solid and took the form of a figure.

Bell wanted to scream but couldn’t. She was stiff with fear and yet she couldn’t turn away from what was forming beside the candle flame. She had never seen a ghost before but this one was for sure.

It seemed to be a woman in a flowing dress like a shadow against the wall.

‘I can see you,’ Bell whispered, ‘do not hurt me.’

The ghost moved, gliding to the bed and Bell saw the features of a face. The eyes and mouth expressed sadness and longing with familiarity.

‘Mother?’ Bell breathed.

 

 

Wish #first50words

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I wish we hadn’t gone to the woods that night. It had been fun at first, playing hide and seek.

In the dark everything was more hyped, thrilling and dangerous.

Hiding under a dead tree, trying not to laugh, I heard something whisper my name then felt hands around my neck.

 

(Inspired by; https://first50.wordpress.com/2019/10/14/i-wish-4/ with thanks).

Unstuck #TwitteringTales

It had taken ages to get the positive canvas wall complete in my studio. Now. every time I came in one or more of the canvas would be on the floor. I blamed it on the sticky strips but something more was going on, somebody that wasn’t keen on happy messages.

 

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2019/10/15/twittering-tales-158-15-october-2019/ with thanks).

Photos Speak Louder #FridayFictioneers

Photos have always drawn me in. I’m no good at taking them and I’m not interested in photography. I like to think about why someone took a photo, the landscape and people in them. The capturing of the moment, the memory.

There are some that believe photos capture the soul. I’ve not come across anything like that, just a lot of nameless faces and changed places.

What I believe is that each photo holds a story within. It’s my destiny to uncover these stories, no matter what they might be.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/10/09/4-october-2019/ with thanks).

Unknown (Part 2)

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Macy woke close to lunchtime and almost rolled back over to sleep again. She forced herself to get up and have a shower. After, she dressed warmly and went down to get something to eat.

It was still raining outside.

Macy passed the afternoon watching TV, reading, doing some arts and crafts which her therapist said was good for her to keep up and drinking cups of tea.

She listened often for the crying but didn’t hear it.

After having an evening meal, she tidied the house, which was really clean all ready but since she couldn’t go for a walk she need to make herself tried. Then she took a bath.

Relaxing in the hot water scented with lavender, Macy listened to the tap dripping and the rain tapping on the window. Everything else seemed quiet. Not that it bothered her.

Letting herself drift, she cleared her head of everything.

At first, Macy thought it was the wind but then the crying became more pronounced.

Macy frowned and wondered what was going on. Maybe, she needed to go see her neighbours? It wasn’t very good to complain though. Sometimes there wasn’t much you could do when a baby was sick and crying. Still though…she felt she needed to know for her own piece of mind.

The night passed like the last one; she didn’t sleep and often she heard the crying.

In the morning, she went around to her neighbours – both middle aged couples- and asked them about the crying.

Shockingly, they knew nothing about it and the pregnant woman wasn’t due till next month.

Puzzled, Macy spoke to more neighbours, even though she didn’t really know them. She did find out that an old woman, Mrs Kettle, on the corner had a number of cats and some of them were feral which she was trying to tame.

‘Could it have been one of them?’ Macy had questioned.

‘Maybe,’ Mrs Kettle had replied, ‘but perhaps it’s her…’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Do you fancy a cup of tea? I’ve some nice ginger cake in.’

‘Sure,’ Macy replied.

Mrs Kettle was a short, stooping woman, with white hair in a bun and many wrinkles across her skin. Once she had a nice curvy and plumb figure but old age had made her look compact and fat. She was wearing a wool skirt, grey blouse and a knitted pink cardigan. She had a friendly and pleasant, mothering nature.

Mrs Kettle’s house reminded Macy her step-aunt’s before Macy had began to make it her own. The wall paper and furniture looked 1960’s and there was fading smell of moth balls and cats.

Macy took the second armchair and shared a pot of tea and a plate of sliced cakes with Mrs Kettle.

‘How long have you lived here?’ Macy asked.

‘I was born in this house a few years after the war ended,’ came the reply.

‘You’ve been here all your life?’

Mrs Kettle nodded.

‘So, who were you referring to? Who is she?’

Mrs Kettle stroked a ginger tom cat that had come to curl into her lap.

Macy eyed a skinny white cat with no ears that was warming it’s back by the gas fire. So far she had counted eight cats but she suspected there were more.

‘I was about twelve and it was this time of year -October,’ Mr Kettle spoke, ‘back then no matter the weather children always played out. I was skipping alone, waiting for my friends when I heard it.’

‘The crying?’ Macy jumped in.

Mrs Kettle nodded, ‘it was coming from your alleyway. I went to look and found in one of the bins a wrapped up bundle. Inside was a tiny, tiny baby still bloody. I didn’t know what to do. So, I took the baby to my mother.’

‘It died didn’t it?’ Macy asked, cutting in, though she had a feeling she knew.

‘Yes. Within an hour,’ Mrs Kettle said in a low voice.

‘And the mother?’

‘We never found her. No one seemed to know where the baby had come from.’

‘Wasn’t there an investigation?’ Macy questioned.

‘In the fifties?’ Mrs Kettle replied with a laugh, ‘around here? No one cared. It happened all the time. A young woman, out of marriage, getting into trouble and abandoning the baby.’

‘Oh,’ Macy breathed.

‘From then on, people would hear the baby crying in the alley and find nothing. Then came the rumours of a woman carrying a bundle running and wailing down the street. Us children came up with ghost stories and believed the baby and her mother had taken to haunting the alley. I stayed away after that.’

Macy finished her tea and hugged herself, not being able to believe this. Was the crying she kept hearing a ghost baby?

There was thump next to her and Macy turned to see a small, tortoise shell cat on the arm of the chair. The cat stepped into her lap and brushed against her crossed arms. Macy stroked the cat, feeling the warmth of the fur and the slight dig of claws into her jeans.

‘Would you like another piece of cake?’ Mrs Kettle asked.

Macy shook her head.

‘You live alone don’t you, love?’

Macy looked up and saw the old woman staring kindly at her.

‘I knew your aunt well. She was a dear friend.’

Step-aunt,’ Macy automatically corrected.

‘A young woman shouldn’t be alone.’

‘I like it that way. It’s easier.’

Macy looked down and saw the tortoise shell had curled in her lap was purring. She hadn’t stopped stroking the cat and Macy realised how calm she felt.

‘Her name is Precious,’ Mrs Kettle explained, ‘I found her when she about a week old. Her mother had abandoned the litter and only Precious was still alive. I hand reared her.’

‘She seems a nice cat,’ Macy responded.

‘Yes. Snow there,’ Mrs Kettle pointed to the white cat with no ears, ‘is deaf and some teenager cut her ears off. A friend saved her and give her to me to look after. And this is Toby,’ Mrs Kettle patted the ginger tom in her lap, ‘he was a farm cat who wouldn’t hunt the mice and rats! He’s a big softy.’

Macy laughed.

‘Do want some more tea?’

‘I should…Actually, yes,’ Macy said with a smile.

She hadn’t liked other peoples’ company for years but Mrs Kettle so reminded her of step-aunt and Macy felt safe here. Plus, if she got up she would wake Precious and the cat was a nice warm and heavy spot on her lap.

Mrs Kettle brought more tea and cake. They talked some more then watched quiz shows on the old TV.

Finally, Macy decided it was time to leave.

‘Take care out there,’ Mrs Kettle said, ‘a storm is coming.’

Macy nodded as she looked out of the frosted front door windows which were dripping with rain.

‘It’s been so nice to have company. Please come back anytime.’

‘I shall,’ Macy replied and stepped outside to battle the weather.

To Be Continued…

Unknown (Part 1)

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Macy lay in bed, the insomnia keeping her awake again. She listened to the rain hammering down and hitting the window like a handfuls of gravel. In the distance, the wind was shaking the autumn trees and evergreen bushes along the narrow road.

She thought about going outside and letting the weather sweep her thoughts away. Deciding she couldn’t be bothered, Macy went to turn the lamp on, her thoughts turning to reading or messing around on her phone.

The crying stilled her hand.

Macy wasn’t sure what it was; the weather? A cat? A child crying?

Maybe I’m dreaming? she wondered.

Turning on the lamp, she watched the light pooling around the bedside table and the edge of the bed. It was comforting.

The crying continued. It was a dim wailing sound like that of a sick baby. It sounded almost as if it was inside her house.

Didn’t the next door neighbour just have a baby? Macy thought then added, I need the bathroom now, unfair! 

Sighing, she got up and went to the bathroom. She turned the light on, did what she needed to do then washed her hands. Catching herself in the mirror, she noticed that the dark bags under her eyes were worse. Her thin cheeks were flushed but her skin looked pale and unwell. Her short, dyed blue hair was sticking out, mused by her tossing round in bed.

Macy stuck her tongue out at her reflection and went back to bed.

There was no point even trying to sleep, so she got warm in bed and debated what to do.

‘Where is that noise coming from?’ Macy said aloud.

The crying sounded worse now. It was still feeble but it was louder.

Throwing the duvet away, Macy got up and walked though the small house. It was mostly her own now but somethings of her late step-aunt remind. An old arm chair, coffee table, TV stand, bookcases, photographs and ornaments. There was still a feel that an old woman lived here and not a twenty-something person.

It was a simple two up two down 1940’s terrace house. The front room and a kitchen with a two seater table downstairs, one bedroom and a bathroom upstairs. There was a tiny square back garden and not one on the front as the door open straight onto the street. A joint sheltered alleyway where the bins lived was on the left side between the house and the one next door. A gate into her garden was at the end.

Nothing here, Macy realised.

She looked out of the kitchen window and decided to go outside after all. She put on wellington boots, feeling the chill of the rubber on her bare feet and legs. From the drying line she took a hoodie and put it over the night dress. She couldn’t be bothered to go and get a coat from the hallway.

Unlocking the door and stepping out, the rain hit her like cold water in a shower and the wind whipped around her too skinny frame. She could barely see a thing. The light from the kitchen window wasn’t enough to get through the darkness of the early hour. Still though, she could make out the empty flower beds on the left and the muddy vegetable patch on the right.

Macy looked up at the back of her neighbours’ houses on both sides and could see no lights on.

They are sleeping, like I should be! 

Stomping back inside, Macy shut and locked the back door. She went to take the wet hoodie off but paused as she picked up the crying once more. It sounded a little echoey….

An imagine filled her head; someone had abandoned a baby in the joint alleyway!

Macy ran to the front door, opened it and dashed into the alley. There was no light and she couldn’t see. Cursing, Macy went back inside and dug around for a torch or something. She found a candle, decided it would do and returned to the alleyway.

The small flame almost went out in the wind and rain. Macy waited for the candle to stop guttering then looked around the dripping walls. Her bins were lined up against one wall and her neighbour’s on the other. There was nothing on the floor and her back gate was locked.

She couldn’t hear the crying now, the rain and wind were too loud. Turning back, she took the lid off the bins and looked in, just to clear her mind. Nothing.

Maybe, it’s just a cat left out and crying to be let in? Cats can sound like babies and with this weather the cat could be streets away. 

Macy went inside once again. She stripped off the hoodie and the boots. Blowing out the candle and locking the door, she went back to bed.

The clock said it was almost four in the morning. Macy felt cold and tried. She settled back down and rested, feeling sleepy for the first time that night.

To Be Continued…

Brisk

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Autumn’s carpet lay at my feet. The trees above were almost bare having been forced to shed their coats by the strong winds. The sky was grey with rain promising clouds which would add to the water all ready on the ground.

It was the kind of brisked day I liked to go walking through the woods on. The cold reddened my skin, making me feel more alive then the summer’s heat had done. There was also so many different smells to be enjoyed; earth, wood, nut, rot, fire, damp and pine. There was nothing like the scents of autumn!

I could imagine my old dog going crazy through the crisp and crunchy leaves, chasing birds and squirrels. She would also find conkers and acorns to chew up then the biggest sticks to demanded me to throw.

My wife too would have loved this. Autumn was her favourite kind of year and she would cook the most wonderful of foods; stews, soups, hotpots, apple pies, pumpkin pies, fruit pies, ginger biscuits and so much more. She said autumn was her season and you couldn’t beat it.

Alone I now wandered, walking paths once filled with happiness. Autumn makes me both happy and sad, able to forget the hurt and remember more deeply. Out here, I can pretend my wife and dog are just over there, playing in the leaves and laughing amongst the trees.

 

(This story was inspired by the below ASMR sound video)

Postcard Story

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Dear B,

I know it’s been while but a lot has happened at the ‘haunted hotel’. Everything is ready for open day which should have been days ago but set backs.

I have experienced a few things; doors closing, cold spots, lights flickering and once a moving shadow!

More ‘sensitive’ people have seen the ghost of a child and a skinny man. I hope one day to see them too.

Looking forward to your visit. I will give you our best room where everyone says they’ve see a ghost in. I just know that’ll thrill you!

From X.