Twig Trail #CCC

The twigs appeared like a trail down the middle of the road. It could have been caused by the storm yesterday but Carrie thought not.

Pulling her horse, Sasha, more to the side to avoid any sharp bits of wood, Carrie cursed the council clearing team. They were always leaving a mess behind them after being out here and it wasn’t good enough.

After returning home and stabling Sasha, Carrie went onto her laptop and wrote a complaints email. She doubted nothing would come to it but if she threaten to sue if Sasha got injured maybe they would listen this time.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/crimsons-creative-challenge-42/ with thanks).

Advertisements

Summer Storm #FridayFictioneers

Jayne looked out of the window and shook her head. Everything had been set for her son, Kit’s tenth birthday party in the backyard. The marque was up, the BBQ ready and the swimming pool full. Everyone had been excited and now the party was a total wash out.

A summer storm had rolled in; rain lashed down, wind whipped around, the thunder rumbled and lightening cracked.  They had all rushed and huddled inside, the children crying and the parents uncertain what to do.

‘I’ll put a movie on,’ Jayne spoke, ‘and get some pizzas in the oven. We’ll have a sleep over instead.’

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/08/14/16-august-2019/ with thanks).

Comfort Food

soup-4381589_1920.jpg

It was crazy, Petra knew but the flu was gripping her hard and the only thing she want was a nice bowl of stew….In the middle of August!

Though, today looked more like autumn, Petra thought as she looked out of the steaming up kitchen window. Gale force winds and heavy rain were blowing the full leave trees and bushes about as if a God was constantly sneezing on them.

Stirring the pot, she peered in, decided that was fine and put the lid on. Petra set the timer for a few hours, not a thing she’d normally do but she couldn’t smell so she couldn’t relay on that to tell her when it was done.

Back in bed, she snuggled down and tried to get an afternoon nap in. She dozed and thought of the tasty, warm, comforting stew bubbling in the pot. Soon, she told her stomach, we can eat and everything will feel better again. Lovely, stew…. 

Protesters #3LineTales

three line tales, week 183: the Ashes at the Adelaide Oval watched by people on the roof

They had lined the bridge for weeks protesting for the right. The government declared they were disturbing the peace with all the noise and blockades they were creating. The public who in the first few days had seem to be with the protesters now turned they backs.

Hope began to fade, a bad storm was rolling in and some of the protesters decided to take they cause somewhere else. A few braves remind though, chained to the the bridge railing and holding hands. They fight to the bitter end for what they believed in, they were strong together.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/08/01/three-line-tales-week-183/ with thanks).

The Eyes – Mokumoku Ren

shoji-screen-1841683_1920

Hideo dashed through the lashing rain, his wooden clogs slipping on the dirt track, his back weighed down by his heavy travelling pack. He looked desperately around but he was surrounded by abandoned rice paddy fields and there seemed to be no shelter to be had.

He made for the nearest tree which was only just taller then himself. Hideo shivered and wondered how far it was to the nearest village. Trying hard to convince himself that he wasn’t lost, Hideo fell into prayer.

When he opened his eyes and looked down the road, he saw a gate sticking out of the undergrowth. Smiling and feeling like his prayers had been answered, Hideo walked over, the rain and wind whipping around him. He tugged himself through the half open gate and went up what had once been a path which led him to an abandoned house.

Entering, he called out and listened to his echoing voice. Normally he had would have taken off his clogs and left them at the porch but he had no idea what would be on the floors and thought it might be safer to keep them on for the moment.

The abandoned house’s roof was sound and the all the rooms were dry. Hideo went into the front room and set himself up on the floor. He was tried but he had something to eat and drink before settling down to sleep.

The rain hammered on the roof like a banging drum and the wind howled through ripped screen windows. Normally such a racket would have kept Hideo awake but he was so tried sleep came easily.

Sometime time later, something disturbed his sleep and Hideo woke up, he lay in the dark wondering what it was. Thunder rumbled and he decided the storm must have awakened him. Grateful, he had found this abandoned house, Hideo lay down to sleep again but a creeping feeling of being watched prickled the back of his neck.

Muttering that it was just the storm and tiredness, Hideo tried to rest. The feeling wouldn’t go away and seemed to grow until he was forced to give in and light his lamp.

‘I’m sorry for entering your house!’ Hideo spoke in Japanese, ‘I was only seeking shelter. Please let yourself be known. I mean no harm, I am but an old travelling merchant who became lost in the storm.’

Hideo listened to his words faded but heard no reply. He debated getting up and walking through the house, making peace and saying thank you for the shelter. Something flickered out of the corner of his eye and Hideo turned to see a shoji screen behind him.

Another flicker of movement and a human eye was staring at Hideo.

‘Thank you for letting me stay here,’ Hideo spoke and bowed low.

When he looked up again more eyes had joined the first and they seemed to be forming across the screen.

Hideo swallowed and watched as soon the whole screen was taken over by staring eyes.

‘Mokumoku Ren – haunted shoji screen. The first sign of a haunted house,’ Hideo whispered.

Quickly, Hideo began uttering prayers, blessing and thanks, everything he could think of that might keep the spirits of the abandoned house at bay.

Finally exhausted, he collapsed on the floor and fell into a deep sleep.

Sunlight tickling his face woke Hideo. Startled, he looked around, the memory of the haunting eyes hurried him to leave this place. Gathering his thing, he rushed outside then remembered to be respectful and turned back with a low bow to the abandoned house.

‘Thank you for letting me stay. Please don’t haunt me!’ Hideo called.

Spinning around, he ran down the pathway and back onto the dirt road, praying that no spirits followed him.

Uliginous #AtoZChallenge

skull-4058573_1920

Uliginous: growing in wet or swampy ground.

 

Euric knew the Swamp of Maidswell wasn’t a place anyone should go, yet here he was trying to pull his knee length leather boots out of a boggy patch. Swearing, Euric give his right boot a hard tug and tried to move forward. There was a loud slurping sound and the mud returned his boots though they were covered in dark brown and green slimy mud.

Stepping onto a thick mossy bed, Euric caught his breath. The stench of the swamp filled his nose and mouth, it smelt like rot, dead animals and bad gases. It was something no one could ever get use to and the thick cloth Euric had wrapped around his face didn’t help much.

He took a few extra moments to look around. There seemed to be nothing but little islands of green or brown moss surrounded by green- grey waters. Sometimes there was a small tree, being dragged down by draping moss, reeds growing out of the murky pools and skeletons.

Euric had seen plenty of bodies and skeletons before, the life of an adventurer came with all that. He had even fought undead skeletons once but he was hoping on this quest they wouldn’t appear. He guessed the remains around him were from people who had gotten into difficulty out here which was easily done.

Turning, Euric looked and saw his two companions coming over to join him; the druid Alibus had tied his long white robes up and was wadding though a pool to the right of Euric in new knee length boots which had taken lots of persuading to convince the druid to buy.

‘You can’t go into the Maidswell Swamp with sandals on!’ Euric had cried at the market two weeks ago before they had set off on this quest.

Using his long staff for support, Alibus stepped up beside Euric and began getting his breath back too. The druid looked drained and the large bug bite on his neck was weeping pus again. Euric patted Alibus’ shoulder, hoping his friend was going to be okay.

A loud spitting sound and cursing in elfish, made Euric and Alibus look over their shoulders. A tall, golden haired elf female struggled to shake a giant grey slug off her thigh length red boots. With a high kick, she sent the slug flying and stomped over to join them on the mossy mound.

‘I think this is the most stupidest thing you’ve ever agreed to, Euric!’ the elf snapped.

‘You knew the risks, Nimue,’ Euric said in a controlled voice.

There was light flapping of feather wings and a small brown owl appeared out of the darkening grey sky. She drifted down to the group and landed on the druid’s shoulder.

‘What news, Kiko?’ Alibus asked then leaned in as the owl began twitting away.

Euric and Nimue waited then Alibus translated for them, ‘the skull is close by, we are heading in the right direction and there’s a storm coming.’

‘Good to know,’ Euric said and started walking again.

Drops of fat rain drops began to fall and a rumble of thunder echoed over the near flat land. The water of the swamp rippled and the all ready wet ground welcomed more water. Frogs and toads began croaking loudly.

The three adventurers pressed on for a few minutes as the rain around them grew thicker. Lightening forked the sky and the thunder rumbled closer. Then Euric pointed ahead and shouted, ‘there’s the giant Hangant’s skull!’

Just though all the green and rain, they could see a white-grey skull growing larger ahead of them. They hurried on and struggling through a deep pool, they made it to the giant’s skull. It stood as tall as a castle tower above them, the huge empty eye sockets seemed to be looking down on them and judging them. There was a large, jagged crack in the forehead which widened as it ran all the way down the back of the skull.

Through a missing tooth, Euric, Alibus, with Kiko hidden in his robe’s hood, and Nimue stepped inside. Darkness swallowed them for a few moments then the druid cast light on his staff and they could see they were not the first to use the inside of the skull as shelter. The reminds of a fire from months ago was in the centre and landed out against the back of the skull were two human skeletons.

‘What happened to them?’ Nimue asked.

Alibus inspected the skeletons then give a shrug, ‘don’t know. But their things are here,’ he added pointing to two leather bags and a few other things left in a pile.

‘Can we get a fire going?’ Euric asked, kicking the ashes of the last one.

Alibus nodded and using his staff, he created a real but magical fire.

Euric sat down, dug in his pack for a water bottle and some food. Nimue began looking through the abandoned things for anything useful. Alibis walked around, his light showing that there was nothing else inside the skull then he joined Euric by the fire and let Kiko dry off.

‘Sounds bad out there, I’m glad we made it inside,’ Alibis said.

‘We shouldn’t let our guard down though,’ Euric answered, ‘the stories might say that the Maids of the swamp hide during storms but we all know they aren’t the only danger around here.’

‘The bugs are!’ Nimue cut in.

A smile flickered on Euric’s face, ‘anything worth taking?’

‘No. If they had anything worth taking, it’s gone all ready,’ Nimue answered as she came to join them, ‘right. What do we do now?’

Euric looked up at the massive domed roof of the skull above them, ‘we look for the Trailing Fumewort,’ he spoke, ‘it should be around here somewhere. Remember not to touch it or breath it in.’

Alibus nodded, ‘it has small orange flowers that let off a poisonous scent, pin like purple spikes which are also poisonous, black leaves and a thick twisting vines. Death comes within minutes from it’s dual poisons.’

‘Lovely,’ Nimue muttered sarcastically.

‘The white roots, however are the opposite,’ Alibus continued having not heard her, ‘they bring life and cure all illness.’

‘That’s why the wizard Thuneas wants it then,’ Euric spoke.

A boom of thunder went off outside startling them all. Nimue drew her long bow, arrow notched in a blink and moved towards the closest gap in the teeth. An unsettled feeling rose the hairs on her skin.

The lightening flashed and in the few seconds of light, Nimue didn’t see anything through the cloud of heavy rainfall. It was hard to tell if there was anything about even with the elf’s sharp eyes. Perhaps, the feeling was because of the current nature of their shelter?

‘What is it?’ Euric whispered.

‘Not sure. Let’s look for the Fumewort and go. I really don’t like this place.’

Euric nodded and their search continued.

Ceraunophlia #atozchallenge

lightening-943272_1920.jpg

Ceraunophilia; loving thunder and lightning, finding them intensely beautiful.

I’m attracted to lightning. There’s just something about the raw power of a storm that draws me and fascinates me. I’m not sure how or why my love came about but it might have to do with the first storm I saw.

It was a family holiday, I was five and we were at a zoo. We heard the rumble of thunder and I remember asking what that sound was and then what the flashing lights in the sky were. We ran for the shelter of a cafe as the rain hammered down and the storm raged right over head. My baby sister cried, like a lot of the children round us but I pressed my face to the window and watched the pretty lights in awe.

After that, any thunder and lightning storm interested me and I would check the weather forecast to see when one was due. Sometimes, I’ll travel to a location to capture a storm and I watch lots of recordings online.

People might call me a storm chaser, but that’s not really what I do. I just enjoy watching lightning and listening to thunder.

 

(Join in the challenge here; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Salt

eat-1403082_1920

Doctor Roy Parker stood on the end of the pier, huddled in a huge winter coat and looking around. Everyone thought him mad to take a seaside holiday in February but he embraced it. The quietness at the out of season resort, the emptiness of the beach and town, no worries or cares, created a perfect escape from an intense twenty-four hours- seven days a week hospital job.

Resting his arms on the rotting wooden rail, Roy watched and listened to the gale force winds creating mini sand storms along the beach below. Out at sea, the wave tops were whipped into meringue peaks which then crashed onto the shore and got left behind by the large rasping, rolling salty water.

Rain started falling, fat drops plopping onto the wooden boards, the damp sand and stormy sea. Roy didn’t mind, this was nature at one of it’s wildest moments and he could just become lost in the raging weather. He balanced himself against the elements, letting them sweep everything away for a good while.

The wind became more violent, throwing sand and waves upwards to Roy. A tingle of danger went through him and the Doctor decided he’d had enough for the moment. With rain and sand grains clinging to him and sea salt the only thing he could smell, Roy finally turned away and walked back to the large dome cafe that dominated the middle of the pier.

He opened the door and was greeted by a gentle warm hug of air. Choosing a seat near a  right hand side window, Roy noticed he was the fourth customer in the cafe. Two old ladies in their seventies or eighties, sat a few tables away in the center row, were enjoying a meal. To the far left, next to a rain coated window, a young man in his twenties or thirties, sat with his eyes closed and hands around a white mug. A yellow Labrador guide dog sit at his feet, tongue lolling, face attentive.

The rest of the tables, though set for customers were empty, giving an eerily abandoned impression to the place which the weather made all the more real.

Looking towards the counter and kitchen area, Roy saw a bored teenage girl at the till putting a brownie onto a plate. Listening, he heard a soft brush of musical notes coming from the kitchen along with the smell of mingled hot food and coffee.

Roy picked up the plastic covered menu wedged behind glass salt and pepper shakers and a bottle of vinegar. He scanned the deserts and drinks list then turned the menu over to see the meals. There wasn’t a lot of choice but that wasn’t a surprise.

Meanwhile, the waitress took the brownie to the blind man and spoke to him for a few minutes. She patted the guide dog’s head. Roy got the impression they knew each other which in this small town was easy to believe. Then the girl turned, coming towards him whilst digging out a paper pad and pen from her white apron bag.

‘Hi, what can I get you?’ she asked in a fake bright voice.

‘A pot of tea,’ Roy answered.

The girl noted it down.

‘And fish and chips.’

The girl made to nod then replied, ‘if you order the special it comes with tea, bread and butter.’

‘Is that a pot or just a cup?’ Roy asked, avoiding the temptation to look at the menu again.

The waitress thought for a moment as if she had forgotten or was deciding something, ‘I can make it a pot,’ she stated and wrote on her pad again.

‘Thank you,’ Roy said.

The girl walked off and disappeared into the kitchen. Roy listened for voices but the wind, rain and sea were in storm mode and all other sounds were now blocked out. Turning to the window, Roy watched the rain pounding against the glass and clouding the view which he imagined on a nice summer day was a picturesque beach.

He was lost in his thoughts for awhile, so when the waitress appeared with his tea, Roy was slightly startled.

‘There you go,’ the girl said as she set a tea pot, milk jug, sugar bowl and cup down.

Roy thanked her as she headed back to the kitchen then looked at the mismatched and dented tea set. The poor sliver colored tea pot had seen better days, the rim of the sugar bowl was chipped and the darker sliver milk jug looked like it could fall apart. He gingerly poured the steaming tea and fridge cool milk into his tea cup.

‘Excuse me, Sadie,’ a man’s voice called loudly.

Roy looked about and saw the blind man trying to attracted the waitress attention.

‘I’ll get her for you, dear,’ one of the old ladies spoke.

‘We are leaving now, Mark,’ the second replied.

‘Thank you, Iris and Lilly. I want to leave too,’ the blind man answered, ‘the storm sounds bad, so I’m going to get a taxi.’

They both got up. The first lady, who was wearing a powder pink felt coat and had a hint of pink in her white permed hair, walked slowly to the counter. The other lady dressed in a pale blue felt coat and with blue wisps in her white hair, went over to the blind man.

Roy watched, wondering if they were twins or sisters or friends.

The waitress appeared at the counter, talked to Iris or Lilly then picked up a phone.

The old lady went back to her sister or friend and after saying goodbye to Mark and his dog, headed for the door.

Roy braced himself to feel the bite of the wind as the door opened but he was sat far enough away that he felt just a whisper of the chilly wet air. He picked up his tea and took a few sips, feeling warmth sinking into him.

The girl appeared at his side and placed two plates down, one had two slices of bread and small pot of butter, the other held his fish and chips.

‘There you are. Is there anything else you need?’ she asked.

‘No, thank you,’ Roy answered.

With a single nod, the girl swept away and over to the blind man. She talked to him, no doubt saying she had ordered a taxi.

Roy arranged the plates of food how he wanted them then put salt and vinegar on his fish and chips. He picked up his knife and folk from the white napkin and started eating. It wasn’t the best meal he’d ever had but it tasted great today. The chips had just a crunch to their outside and were soft in the middle. The fish was lightly and crispy battered, soft and tender inside. With the added salt and vinegar the whole thing came together in one celebration in Roy’s mouth.

So distracted was he, Roy didn’t noticed the blind man leaving till he felt a touch of cold. Looking up and towards the door, he saw the man going out and the waitress helping him. She closed the door and hurried through the cafe into the warmth of the kitchen.

Alone, Roy took a moment to glance around then carried on eating. The fish was tasty, though the salt was drying out his lips and he had to keep licking them. He drink some more tea to help. Unable to stop, he ate quickly, forgotten how he’d built his hungry by a morning walk in the town, then along the edge of the beach and around the pier.

He was finished before he knew it. Pouring the last of the tea, Roy hugged the cup and listened to a rumble of thunder in the distance. He looked out of the window and though it was hard to think the weather had gotten worse, it seemed just that.

Roy finished his tea and sat relaxing for a few minutes. Coldness crept over him and he felt stiff in his legs and back from the plastic chair. Perhaps, it was just his imagination but he felt a slight rocking motion.

Getting up, he went to the counter and looked for the girl. A door labeled kitchen was open in the back wall and Roy could hear radio music more clearly now.

‘Hello? he called, his voice sounding loud in the empty cafe.

‘Coming,’ the girl called back.

She appeared, trying to turn a scowl into smile.

‘The bill, please. And if it’s not too much trouble could you phone me a taxi?’

‘Here you go, the girl said and handed him a slip of paper, ‘and yes, I can. Where are you going too?’

‘To the Mermaid Hotel,’ Roy replied as he dug out his wallet.

The girl took his money and made the call. He listened as she said the address of the cafe and the hotel. She hung up the phone and turned back to him, ‘The taxi will be a few minutes and pick you up from the pier enterence.’

‘Thanks,’ Roy answered, he added a ‘goodbye,’ and went to the door.

Preparing to step out into the storm, Roy took a deep breath and opened the door. Rain that felt solid hit him and the strong wind tried to force him back. Roy wrestled with the elements, hurried out and back along the pier.

‘It is swaying!’ he cried.

Daringly, he looked over the safety rail and saw the sea waves arching upwards around the wooden supports. Imagines of the pier collapsing, the buildings crashing down and himself thrown into those violent waves flashed through his mind.

Panicked, Roy ran off the pier, slipping on the wet boards and dodging the small buildings and stalls that were dotted around. He made it safely to the enterence which was an indoor hallway connecting the street to the pier.

Huddling inside there, water dripping everywhere, Roy looked out for his taxi. A rumble of thunder made him jump then laughing loudly, Roy let all his fear go. Of course, the pier was moving! It was built to do so! How else would a wood and iron structure survive the sea? And the storm was only that and nothing to be scared over.

A red car pulled up outside, horn blaring.

Roy opened the door, walked out and got into the taxi.

‘The Mermaid Hotel,’ he said to the reflection of the driver’s face in the rear view mirror.

‘Right O,’ the driver spoke and peeled the car away.

Build Again #TaleWeaver

tornado-1650683_1920

The island was use to all kinds of storms which was why I had decided to move here to study them. Newly waving my degree and happy to be finally striking out on my own, I was naive to adulthood and the overall consequences of surviving storms.

My first one was an evening thunder and lightening storm out at sea. I sat on the roof of my new bungalow house with my binoculars, camera and notebook in hand, watching and recording the fascinating scene of lightening bolts striking large waves.

After that, there were tropical storms which whipped the wind and rain into a frenzy that crashed down trees and damaged houses. A violent sea storm that causes a cliff to fall and low down houses to be flooded. More thunder and lightening, including one that started a fire in a patch of woodland.

I studied them all, publishing reports and making my wages at the weather station. Of course, I felt some of those storms’ effects but I was never threatened. However, six months in and there came a report from the mainland about a possible hurricane hitting us.

I was the one who picked up the message and brought it to my supervisor to read.

‘Chances are it’ll miss us, like the last two,’ he said then took the report to the boss.

So, no need to worry then.

Throughout the month, more and more warnings came in and with a week to go, the hurricane wouldn’t be ignored anymore. We had been putting out the word, recommending that people prepared for the worse and should think about leaving for safer mainland cities.

I excited, my first hurricane! decided not to bother returning home except to collect somethings then moved into the accommodation next door.

Whilst everyone else was protecting their homes by putting up wooden boards or metal sheets, stacking sandbags, then stocking essentials and either leaving their homes or hunkering down in storm shelters and basements, I was in my element watching the  hurricane growing.

When it hit, something finally clicked in my body and the urge to flee grew so much I had no choice but to go and join the other weather station employees in the shelter. The winds were over 100 MPH causing trees, houses and everything else to be tossed around, I could here these constant sounds of the wind roaring and things crashing. The rain pelted down like stones. I could also make out the sound of the sea in the background, which was swelling around the island as if trying to claim it back.

I don’t know why it took till that moment, huddled on a camping bed under a sleeping bag, wide awake, watching the electric lights flicking then finally dying that true knowledge of my situation kicked in. A million thoughts flooded me and the flight instinct screamed but there was nowhere to go. I reasoned with myself, eyes fixed on the metal door, that if I went out there death awaited whilst in here there was a chance of surviving.

I felt terrified, sick and emotional all at once, shakes racked my body, the noise wouldn’t stop in my head. I bolted up, hands over ears, screaming and screaming. It didn’t help though because I could still hear the hurricane.

Everyone tried to calm me down but I was beyond human contact. My supervisor sat with me, repeated talking. I guess tiredness made me stop in the end. Everything was damp with my tears and loud with my panic. Blinded, deaf and numb, I just remembered, my supervisor getting me to drink water and take some pills.

‘Those will calm you and these make you sleep,’ he explained.

Like the electricity, I was out for the rest of the hurricane.

When I came to, I was alone and silence pressed heavily on me. I got up went to the bathroom, had a shower and brushed my teeth. Dressed, I walked out of the shelter and saw that everything had changed.

Trees broken in to bits, lay across everything and things underneath them; houses, cars etc were crushed into almost unrecognisable pulps. The weather station was gone, blown apart as if hit by a bomb. Most of the other buildings looked the same, as if they had been wiped away. Those that still stood were flooded and only fit to be knocked down.

Boats that been in the harbour were now on land, sticking out from the remains of houses and trees or laying in lakes that had once been fields. Roads had given way, creating dead ends and blockades to places. Rubbish and peoples’ belongs were scattered everywhere that it would be impossible to reunite things when the clean up began.

I walked slowly, trying to pick patches of dry and clear-ish to step. My mind was reeling, I had only seen scenes like this in photos and on TV. There was just too much to take in and I could smell the sea so harshly my nose was sore.

I reached a small group of people, picking things out of the remains of the weather station. My supervisor waved me over.

‘How you feeling?’

‘Okay,’ I muttered.

‘Look at all this!’ he said picking up a piece of twisted metal, ‘oh, well. When we rebuild, more hurricane proofing is needed.’

‘Rebuild? How can you?’ I cried, ‘everything is just…gone!’

‘Not everything. We are still here.’

He had a point.

‘Don’t let this put you off,’ he added, ‘it’s not all bad.’

I nodded and with nothing else to do, went and helped where I could.

From that moment, I give storms greater respect and I made my job more about helping people survive them then just studying them.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/02/07/tale-weaver-209-rebuild-7th-february/ with thanks).

 

The Murder Mystery Party (Part 4)

haunted-castle-1802413_1920

I felt strong hands gripping mine and pulling them back. I tried to wiggle out but I was too confused by what had just been said to realise fully what was happening.

‘I am arresting you for the murder of Louisa Pitney,’ Chief Inspector Macklain declared.

I felt a bit of metal on both my wrists, I went to move and he had handcuffed me!

‘Wait!’ I shouted, ‘this isn’t right! I had nothing to do with it! This isn’t how the game was meant to go!’

‘We will have to lock her in her room, Chief Inspector,’ Kendell announced, ‘the storm is too bad for any of us to leave.’

‘And have a murderer under the same roof as us?’ Crispin yelled.

‘Do not worry, I have the only key to that room. She will not get out.’ Kendell cut in.

‘Let me go!’ I cried, ‘you’ve got this all wrong! I didn’t do anything!’

‘Come along now, Missy,’ Macklain spoke.

He started to drag me out of the room, I tried to kick him and anything else I could. I struggled hard against him moving me. Doctor Guilford and Kingsley came to assisted him and with three men dragging me off, I couldn’t fight the all them.

Still screaming my innocence, they half carried me half pulled me, upstairs and along all the corridors and staircases to my room. Kendell followed behind with a determined air. I tried to appeal to her but she wouldn’t listen.

At the door, the Chief Inspector released me from the handcuffs whilst Kingsley let my right leg go to open the door then they flung me inside like a sack of potatoes. I hit the floor hard in the darkness, bashing a knee and biting my lip. I flayed about then sitting turned to face the four of them standing in the doorway.

‘How could you?’ I cried, ‘that was too much!’

‘Not enough for a murderer like you,’ Macklain snapped.

‘I didn’t do it!’ I yelled.

Scrambling to my feet, I flew at them but hit the closed door instead. Macklain had slammed it shut before I could reach it. Hammering my hands and fists on the door, I screamed like a mad woman, repeating over and over for them to let me out and that I didn’t do it.

Sometime later, exhausted, I sank to the floor, my back to the door. My face was soaked with tears, my hands blooded. I curled up and tried to collect myself. It was all meant to be a fun game but it didn’t feel like it anymore, it felt too real to be anything else.

I wiped my hands and face on my dress, not caring anymore. Slowly, I got up in the dark, I felt my way around and turned on the lamps. My stuff was still on the bed, so I took it off. Then remembering the little bathroom, I went in there and cleaned myself up. I also took off my clothes and changed into the fleece pajamas I had brought. Whatever happened next, I’d had enough for one night.

I got into the bed but I couldn’t sleep, so I lay there my mind turning over things.

More time passed. I heard the sound of footsteps and whispering voices outside. A key was turned in a lock and a door creaked open. People moved into the room.

I turned my head to see and saw Doctor Guilford and Kendell coming to the side of the bed.

‘I’m not playing anymore, Kendell,’ I told her, ‘and if you’ve come to apologise to me I’m not accepting it.’

I made to roll over but my body was too stiff and tired to move.

I heard a clicking and glanced to see what it was. Kendell was holding an old fashioned black leather doctor’s bag and from it Guilford was pulling out a needle and small glass bottle of clear liquid.

Panic flood me, making my body jerk into action. I scrambled up the bed, my back hitting the headboard.

‘What are you going to do with that?’ I shouted.

‘It will help you sleep,’ Guilford said, as he drew the liquid into the needle.

‘No! You are not sticking that in me!’ I yelled.

I made to fling myself across the other side of the bed and towards the floor but before I could, with the expertise of a doctor use to patients running, Guilford had stabbed my arm with the needle.

I cried out and flopped down on the bed, breathing hard.

‘There, she will not be any trouble now,’ Guilford announced.

I sat up, stared at the tiny needle mark which was fast fading then looked at them both, ‘what was that? Why are you doing this?’

Guilford and Kendell didn’t answer, they turned away and out of the door once more. Locking it behind them.

I felt waves of sleep drifting over me. I settled down in the bed again, my eyes closing and unable to fight, I fell into a heavy sleep.

 

I was standing in the hallway by Jarrett and Louisa’s half open door. My hands were weighed down, handcuffs? No, a black metal bucket full of coal. I placed that on the floor and looked inside the room.

Louisa was at the dressing table, adding finishing touches to herself. She was currently trying to put on a pair of pear drop earrings. Jarrett was storming around the room, shouting at her and Louisa in turn would shout back at him.

‘How could you? I knew it was a mistake to come here!’ Jarrett yelled.

‘These are your friends, not mine,’ Louisa snapped back.

‘You always blame everything on me! Well, I am not the one having an affair, am I?’

‘Remember the Anderson’s summer garden party? You got blind drunk and kissed everyone! I had to drag you away before the police were called!’

‘I did not make love to anybody!’ Jarrett roared.

‘I would not describe it like that….’ Louisa responded, coldly.

Jarrett huffed about, ‘I should never have married you. I know you only did it for the money.’

Louisa turned to him, ‘and what are you going to do about it?’

Jarrett stopped moving, he was facing me, though he didn’t seem to see me. I saw his face change colour to a deep red, his cheeks and chest swelling. He flexed his hands, balled them into fists then opened his fingers into claws.

He spun and launched himself at her. Louisa screamed but was too slow to get away. Jarrett landed on top of her, his hands aiming for her throat but because she was sitting down he missed and they tumbled to the floor together.

They fought wildly, like mad cats, Louisa screaming loudly, trying to get away and Jarrett stopping her, grabbing at her. The room became chaos, items and furniture flying everywhere. Then Jarrett cornered her, his hands wrapped around her throat. Her hands beat at him but she didn’t have the strength.

I heard the breath catching in her throat, her last struggling and I saw how transfixed Jarrett was, the hate consuming him, his hands squeezing.

My fingers curled around the door, I wanted to burst in and stop him but I was frozen.

Louisa flopped in his grasp. Jarrett let her go and she sank to the floor. Jarrett stumbled back, looking at what he had done but no shock crossed his face. He walked around the floor, scattering more things then from somewhere, he took out a small knife and went back to Louisa. He slashed her wrists, dumped the knife and breathing hard came towards the door.

Grabbing up the bucket, I fled down the hallway and into an empty room at the end. I snapped the door shut behind me and press my back to it. I tried to stop my fast breathing, to be quiet, I prayed Jarrett hadn’t seen me, that he wouldn’t come for me next.

 

My eyes fluttered open, everything was out of focus and my mind was foggy. I tried to look at the ceiling but my head hurt too much. I shut my eyes and tried relaxing, I controlled my breathing, counting as I breathed in and out. I could feel my heart racing and there was an edge of panic in my body.

It took a long while for me to be calm. Opening my eyes, I saw the ceiling clearly above and as I listened I could hear nothing but myself.

Getting up, I all but crawled to the window, my body ached all over. Outside, it was a clear morning, the sky a winter grey and weak light battling the last of the night’s shadows around the castle.

I rubbed my neck and hobbled into the bathroom. Even though, I wasn’t a fan of baths, I took one. The water felt so hot and soothing, like nothing from the night before had actually happened. I lay in the tub, drifting and breathing in the cooling steam. When the water started to cool too much, I got out and wrapped in a towel, searched for some warm clothes to put on.

Once ready, I went to the bedroom door. Flashbacks from last night rolled through my mind. I took a deep breath, stepped up and tried the handle.

It turned and the door opened with no problems.

Confused, I walked out and looked around. The corridor was still and silent. Walking out, I didn’t focus on remembering the way, I just went. The castle seemed dead, time had stopped and I was like Sleeping Beauty, though now awake and wondering what had happened.

I made it to the grand staircase. Going down, I looked through all the rooms and found them similar to last night; most ready for a large party to take place. In the dinning room, the fruit, wine bottles and glasses were set up on the table untouched. In the kitchen, food was prepared to be served or re-heated. There was also sealed boxes of wine on the floor. In each fireplace, wood logs and coal were stacked up ready to be lit.

I got an odd feeling that something really wasn’t right here. I went back to the entrance way and stood looking around, feeling utterly baffled.

I heard noises from outside, a distant car engine? Voices and footsteps, someone laughing and heavy things being put down. Keys jingled then turned in the front door lock. The double doors opened.

A group of people were stood there, some held boxes. For a few moments their faces were happy and excited then they spotted me and their expressions changed to shock, worry and confusion.

‘Jane?’ Kendell’s voice asked.

She handed the box she was carrying to her someone else and stepped forward.

I looked at her, Kendell was wearing black jeans and a cream blouse. I tried to picture her in the white frilly dress and swan feather mask from the night before. It was hard to tell but she didn’t look as slim and her hair was a darker sliver.

‘Jane, what are you doing here?’ Kendell question.

‘I came last night,’ I replied in shaky voice.

‘Last night? but the party is today. How did you get in?’

‘You let me in,’ I answered.

Kendell glanced back at her husband, who shrugged then she turned to her other side and at a man who was holding a bunch of keys in his hand.

‘I wasn’t here,’ Kendell spoke, ‘are you feeling okay, Jane?’

I rocked back on my feet, my head swimming. I touched my hot forehead then twisting around, went and sat down heavily on the third step of the grand staircase.

Kendell came over. She sat on the step beside me and wrapped her arms around me. I hugged her tight, breathing in the fresh damp air and warmth off her body.

‘Tell me what happened,’ Kendell requested in a low voice.

I wiped my face, a few tears had fallen.

The group of people had abandoned their boxes and come over to us. Kendell’s husband sat down on my other side. With a quick glance I realised the other people were bar staff, waiters, kitchen staff and the man with the keys an owner of the castle.

‘It’s all right, Jane,’ Kendell said.

I took a shuddering breath, ‘I don’t know where to began. I’m not sure what happened now.’

‘Just try.’

‘Well, when I arrived there was a party going on and everyone was dressed in nineteen- twenty clothes and had masks on. Like your invite said,’ I began.

‘There was no party here last night,’ the owner interrupted me.

I stared in shock at him, ‘but there must have been! There were people here!’

He shook his head.

Kendell grabbed my hand, ‘go on,’ she uttered.

‘Then the murder happened!’ I continued, ‘and I thought the game had begun. But things went horrible wrong. I was accused of being the murderer! I got arrested and locked in my room, then a doctor injected me with something and I fell sleep. I had this dream, I think and I saw the real murder happen and who actually did it. Then I woke up and was walking around the castle but everything was like nothing happened.’

Kendell pressed her lips together and studied me hard.

Her husband patted my knee in sympathy.

There was a small cough and a teenage girl with dyed red hair, dressed in blue jeans and a red uniform t-shirt stepped forward.

‘There was a story my grandma told me,’ the girl in a soft voice said, ‘about an unsolved murder that happened in the castle in the twenties. It was on a stormy night, a day before new year’s eve, during a masqueraded party.’

I felt sick and faint, my vision began to swim.

‘Because the killer was never found, though the husband, I believe, was suspected, legend says that party haunts Toski Castle to this day still,’ the girl finished.

I tried to swallow the bubble in my throat. I still couldn’t think clearly. The silence pressed hard down, nobody daring to even breath and everyone watching me.

‘It was the husband,’ I whispered finally, ‘he killed his wife, Louisa.’

‘There wasn’t enough evidence against him, grandma said,’ the girl explained.

I looked down at my hands, they were shaking. What had happened last night? Had it been real? A dream? Had I really seen ghosts reacting an unsolved murder from the twenties?

I don’t know but even today I am still haunted by that night.