Category Archives: Supernatural

Monkey Business [2]

Peter’s fear of the dark has only got worse since moving house, when unfortunately his night-light got broken... [read part 1]

Guest fiction by Pamela Cleaver

Quietness descended on the house, except for the creaks he remembered from the night before, of the old house settling itself. Peter tried really hard to clear his mind of horrors and closed his eyes attempting to sleep. Suddenly he heard a small scuttling noise from the corner of his room. His eyes snapped open again, alert and wary. What could it be? Instinctively he new that this was different, this was not THEM, it was something else.

Was it a mouse perhaps? A mouse would be infinitely better than a creeping, shapeless horror. He heard more scuttling and then suddenly something landed lightly on his pillow, something substantial and furry, much bigger than a mouse. A cat perhaps? He was less frightened now, he could feel warm fur against his cheek, he could move again. He put out his hand to investigate the furry body beside him, stroking the thing. It was not the silky fur of a cat who would respond to a human hand with a purr, it was dense, curly fur and its response to stroking was a kind of quiet chattering. The animal kept still while Peter stroked it, as if it was used to being handled. He was not at all afraid of it, he actually felt comforted by its presence, but what was it?

Because he was no longer afraid of THEM, Peter wasn’t paralysed any more. Stealthily, trying not to disturb his companion, Peter crept out of bed, walked to the door and put on the light. He looked back at his bed to identify his friend and saw — nothing!

He was amazed. His room was too small for the creature to have left it during the short time it had taken for him to cross the room and put on the light, so it must be hiding. Quietly (for his room was directly above his parents’) he began to search – under the bed, behind the door, at the back of the bookshelf, behind the curtains and even in the cupboard. He reasoned it couldn’t have got into the cupboard because the door was shut and no animal Peter could think of was able to open a door and shut it again. Nothing. There was no sign of any animal having visited the room at all. Peter was bitterly disappointed, the creature which he felt had come to comfort him had gone. He was alone again.

Sadly, he put out the light and went back to bed. He lay there thinking about the creature which had been as big as a cat but not a cat, woolly not silky and it had chattered not purred. What could it be? He was so busy trying to identify his visitor that he forgot about THEM and so tired out by his busy day and his earlier sleeplessness, that he fell asleep.

Next morning when he went down to breakfast his mother asked him if he had slept well. He was able to say, “yes thank you,” because, to his surprise, he really had.

“Good!” his mother said encouragingly as she stirred the eggs she was scrambling for their breakfast.

“That’s the ticket,” said his father approvingly from behind the paper.

For a moment Peter considered telling them about his visitor, but decided against it. If his mother thought there was an animal in the house she might start searching for it. Peter did not want that. He just hoped that whatever it was would come and visit him again that night. But this time he would not scare it away by putting on the light.

That day, while Mrs Newsam hung curtains and arranged furniture, books and ornaments in the sitting room, Peter and his father set to work to clear the garden. They began by raking up huge piles of leaves which had blown in from the woods behind. Then Mr Newsam got his saw and ladder to cut back trees and shrubs, pruning and tidying them. Peter’s job was to collect great armfuls of branches and add them to the mountain of leaves. Late that afternoon they had an enormous bonfire whose flames leapt up in the twilight. When Peter’s mother called them in for tea they were happy and dirty and very hungry.

After they had eaten hot buttered crumpets and some very good fruit cake, they went to admire the way Mum had arranged the sitting room. There was a fire in the big fireplace and the room looked welcoming; Peter was happy to see that the house was really beginning to look like home now. He began to think he might quite like living at Captain’s Cottage after all.

At bedtime, bouyed up by the hope of seeing the strange animal again, he was not as reluctant as he had been the previous night and still felt quite cheerful when his mother turned out the light and bid him goodnight.

“Could I have the curtain drawn back?” he asked her, “so that just a little light comes in?”

“If you want to, darling,” she said openining them up, “but there’s too much cloud for you to see the moon tonight and the sun may wake you in the morning. But try it anyway and see how you get on.” She was so pleased that he was no longer fretting about the nightlight that she agreed readily.

But after she had gone, clattering down the stairs, the old horrors began again. Peter felt the menace of THEM crowding round his bed, he was sure his voice had gone again and that he must not move a muscle otherwise THEY would get him. The darkness, a little less black than it had been the night before because of the open curtains, seemed full of strange, shadowy shapes. He was breathing faster and faster, his fear turning into panic when suddenly, this time without any preliminary scuttling, something landed on his pillow by his head. Again he felt a warm, woolly body, then a long tail curled round his head and across this throat like a comforting scarf. He turned his head sideways to try to see his companion and this time, because the blackness was not absolute, he made out its shape.

It was a monkey! It sat there on his pillow, its neat roundhead moving from side to side and its long tail moving gently. Its compact body was covered with short, curly fur like a lamb’s and it seemed to glow faintly in the dark.

“Hello monkey,” he greeted it, a note of amazement in his soft whisper as he ran his hands over its fur.

The monkey chattered as if in agreement. Slowly, not wanting to alarm the little creature, he sat up in bed; he held his arms out to it and the monkey jumped into them, clinging lovingly to him with hand-like paws.

To be continued …

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Monkey Business [1]

Image found on Pixabay by Viki B

Guest Fiction by Pamela Cleaver

Peter Newman was afraid of the dark, he had been ever since he was tiny but when they moved to the Captain’s Cottage it became worse. In the daytime he could believe that there was nothing horrible in his bedroom, but as soon as his mother said goodnight and turned his light out, the most terrifying thoughts came into his head. He would lie in bed rigid with fear, unable to move in case the tiniest noise or movement on his part attracted the nameless horrors that he felt sure were lying in wait for him. He couldn’t even call Mum back because he was sure that the very moment the light went out, his voice no longer functioned and that he became mute.

Before they moved it hadn’t been so bad because he had a nightlight beside his bed, a tiny china cottage with a little bulb inside which lit up the windows and made them glow in a cheerful, comforting way: while the light shone from the little rose-covered cottages with its simulated thatched roof, it kept the imagined horrors at bay and he was able to go to sleep.

Unfortunately all that changed when they moved to the country. When he first heard they were going, Peter was quite shocked to discover that the house he’d been born in, and which he’d lived the nine years of his life, would no longer be his home. He resented the house in the country which his parents took him to see. It was an old cottage with creaky floorboards and crooked dark beams that held the bulging walls together and the sloping ceilings up.

His mother was very excited, it was just what she’d always wanted, she said, and gleefully showed him the big fireplace in the sitting room around which, she promised, they would sit and roast chestnuts. His father pointed out how much bigger the garden was than the little one they had in the town.

“Great for football!” he told Peter. 

But to Peter the house seemed big and echoing, cold and somehow menacing, and he felt like a traitor even thinking of leaving the comfortable little house in which he’d always lived. However nothing he said or did would make his parents change their minds.

“You’ll soon get used to it,” his father said heartily when Peter said tentatively that he did not like the new house.

“You’ll soon make new friends,” his mother told him briskly when he had cried out in anguish on discovering that he’d have to go to a different school in the new area. Peter doubted it, he was a loner, not the sort of boy who made friends easily.

As moving day approached, Peter got increasingly gloomy but his parents, although busy packing up and sorting out, were too pleased and happy to notice. Big, burly moving men invaded Peter’s house and began carrying bits of furniture out through the front door, packing books and ornaments into crates and finally rolling the carpets up and carrying them over their shoulders like inert bodies until their whole home was crammed into one vast pantechnicon and driven away. Peter and his parents took one last look round the forlorn, empty house, slammed the front door for the final time then jumped into their car to follow the pantechnicon.

Sitting in the car, Peter could not stop the tears rolling down his cheeks; his mother was tired but not sad like him, and his father showed no emotion at all.

“You’re a funny boy,” his mother smiled, “once we get to Captain’s Cottage and are settled in with all our own things round us, you’ll love it – just you wait and see.”

Peter nodded, but he didn’t quite believe it.

They arrived as the autumn daylight was fading, so the first night at Captain’s cottage was a muddle. Getting the kitchen straight so they could eat was the first job, and making the beds up was the next. None of the big boxes containing their personal possessions were to be unpacked until the following day, so Peter’s bedroom at the top of the house with its tiny latticed window and sloping ceiling under the roof only had his bed, his desk and his chair in it. No little china house to give him the comforting light so his mother agreed “just this once,” to keep the landing light on and the door ajar. 

That allayed his night fears, but he did not sleep very well because of the unfamiliarity of the place and the strange creaking noises the old house made, as if it were stretching and easing its bones, when the central heating went off.

The next day was a turmoil of unpacking, sorting and arranging old familiar things in new places. In spite of himself, Peter enjoyed unpacking his books and toys and deciding where to put them in his new room. But when he got to the bottom of the second crate he let out a cry of horror and dismay. His little china house that had given him light and comfort for so long was smashed into dozens of little pieces.

“Afraid not, old son,” his father said, “just like my shaving mirror – come and see what those clumsy oafs have done to that!”

But looking at his father’s breakage did not make Peter feel any better – especially as Dad could buy a new mirror and his little house could not be replaced; Mum said they just did not make them any more.

“Can I have something else – some other kind of night light?”

His parents exchanged glances.

“I don’t think you should dear,” his mother said, “you’re nearly ten, you’re getting too old for a nightlight now.”

Peter pleaded, but his parents had made up their minds – new house, new ways. Peter had to learn to be brave and go to sleep in the dark. They were not even prepared to let him have the landing light on outside, although they said he could have the door ajar so that he could call out to them if he was really frightened. He tried to explain that his voice just would not work in the dark when he was scared, but his mother just laughed.

“Nonsense Peter, you just imagine these things.”

So bedtime on the second night at the new house was truly terrible for Peter. He tried to put off the evil moment for as long as possible, keeping Mum close by asking for an extra pillow, an unwanted glass of water, all sorts of things. Finally his mother’s patience gave out.

“Look love,” she said, “I’m really, really tired and in no mood for games. Just settle down. Tell yourself a nice story and before you can say Jack Robinson, you’ll be asleep. I’m leaving the door ajar so if you want me you can call out, but please don’t get me up all these stairs unless it’s really important.” She kissed his cheek, tucked the bedcovers in firmly, walked to the door and switched off the light. “Go to sleep, Peter and stop worrying, there’s nothing to be frightened of, truly there isn’t.”

The landing light snapped off and Peter heard her footsteps clicking busily on the uncarpeted steps as she went downstairs. He heard her pause on the next landing where her bedroom, the bathroom and the spare room were. Another light clicked off as she left that landing and went down to the ground floor to join Dad in the sitting room.

Peter was in complete darkness and he’d never felt so alone or lonely before. His throat was dry and he knew that, however much he wanted to, he couldn’t call out for his voice was useless. Nor could he get out of bed and run to the door to put on the landing light, because if he were to move THEY would know he was there, but as long as he kept still he was safe from THEIR attention. Who THEY were, Peter couldn’t have told you, he just felt that shapeless, formless things of a malevolent kind were lurking in his room, intent on doing him harm

He lay stiffly in bed with his eyes wide open, but he could see nothing but velvet blackness; his heart was pounding madly, he wanted to call out, to scream even though it would alert THEM. He opened his mouth and tried, but no sound came out. He tried to take deep breaths and to imagine his little china house with the light streaming from its windows was still beside him, but that only made him unhappier and his fear fed upon his unhappiness. Peter’s ears seemed to  stretch as he listened for sounds of THEM, but there was nothing to hear, no sound in the house at all.

He had lain there terrified and unmoving for some time when he heard soft footsteps on the bare boards of the staircase. What was that? He wondered with a new stab of fear. The steps approached his room then a soft voice spoke.

“Peter, are you alright fella? Are you asleep yet?” It was his Dad.

He opened his mouth to reply: No I am not alright, I am frightened, please take me out of this room. But no sounds would come. He heard the soft footsteps retreating, then on the landing below he heard a murmur.

“He’s OK, fast asleep. It was all his imagination. I told you he’d be alright.”

He heard Mum give a soft laugh and then a door closed and he was alone again – still as frightened as ever.

To be continued …

The Mermaid’s Pearls – A Fairytale

Photo courtesy of Mysticartdesign on Pixabay

by Guest Author Pamela Cleaver

Once upon a time, there was a greedy fisherman called Joel. Everyone thought he was poor because he never seemed to spend any money. His wife, Mara, went about in a ragged dress and his son, Peter, ran barefoot. The fisherman worked hard catching fish to sell, but instead of using his money to buy Mara a new dress or shoes for Peter, he put his gold and silver into leather bags and hid them under the floorboards.

Besides being greedy, Joel was bad-tempered. He spoke crossly to Mara although she kept the house neat and always had hot food waiting when he came home with his catch. He was always scolding Peter although the boy did everything he could to help his father.

One day, Joel and Peter were out at sea, casting the net and drawing it in then tipping the fish into the boat. That day they had done well, the bottom of the boat was a mass of wriggling, shimmering silver fish. Greedy Joel rubbed his hands.

“This is a fine catch,” he said to Peter. “It’ll earn me a tidy sum.” He looked up at the sun. “Just time for one more cast,” he said.

Out went the net into the calm sea, the centre sinking while floats kept the edges bobbing on the surface. Joel waited a while, then began to haul it in.

“Lend a hand, lazy boy!” he shouted at Peter. “The net’s really heavy. There must be hundreds of fish in it.”

Joel was pleased and hauled away with a will, his muscles bulging. Peter pulled too, adding his small strength to Joel’s. Their arms were getting tired, but still they pulled , Peter wanting to please his father and Joel thinking greedily of the money he would put under the floor when he sold his record catch.

What a surprise they had! They hadn’t caught hundreds of silver fish, but one enormous fish with green scales. They were even more surprised as they wrestled with the slippery tail to discover that the front half was like the body of a human woman.

“It’s a mermaid!” cried Joel, “I’ve heard tell of such creatures but I thought they were nought but fishermen’s yarns.”

When the mermaid was freed from the net, she sat with her green scaly tail resting on the pile of silver fish. Her skin was pale green, her long golden hair hung down to her waist and her eyes were as blue as the summer sea. Her hands, tipped with mother-of-pearl fingernails, were clasped together in anguish. There was a pleading look in her sea-blue eyes and tears rolled down her cheeks.

“She wants me to put her back in the sea,” Joel whispered to Peter, “but I won’t!” He spoke to the mermaid. “You want to go back? Nothing doing, my pretty. You’re going to make my fortune.” He grinned nastily and, taking a piece of rope from his pocket, he tied her hands together so she couldn’t get away.

Peter felt sorry for her, but he dared not argue with his father.

All the way home, Joel ignored the mermaid’s sobbing, his head filled with schemes for getting rich. Peter was thinking too, but he was trying to find a way to help her.

Although their cottage was near the quay, it was too far for Joel to carry her, so he sent Peter to fetch a wheelbarrow.

“She’s so beautiful,” Peter said as he helped his father lift her, “but she looks so sad. Couldn’t we let her go?”

“Stupid boy!” Joel said crossly. “Certainly not! She’s going to make me rich.”

“How?” Peter wanted to know.

“I shall sell her to a showman from a fair. People will pay to see a mermaid because they are very rare.”

“Please put her back in the sea.” Peter pleaded, but he got his ears boxed.

“Keep quiet and do as you’re told! Let’s get her indoors before anyone sees her. I shall go and see the showman tomorrow.”

It was obvious the mermaid understood what they said, for when Joel mentioned the showman and people paying to look at her, she burst into a wild storm of weeping. Peter quite expected her to get her ears boxed too.

Mara was astonished when she saw what Joel had brought home.

“Poor thing!” she said indignantly. “It’s a shame to bring a sea creature onto land. Why don’t you put her back where she belongs? What do you want with her?”

“You mind your own business,” Joel said sharply. “Put her in the scullery and don’t untie her.”

That night they their supper in uncomfortable silence. The poor mermaid’s weeping put Peter and Mara off their food but Joel did not seem to care and ate a hearty meal. Then, while Mara and Peter washed the dishes, Joel snored in front of the fire.

Peter tip-toed out to the scullery and offered the mermaid some food. She shook her head but smiled gratefully.

“Don’t worry,” Peter whispered, “I’ll find a way to get you back to sea, even if my Dad beats me for it.”

Mara crept out to offer the mermaid a shawl to keep her warm. She shook her head, but smiled her thanks.

That night Peter hardly slept, worrying about the mermaid, but Joel slept like a log and dreamed of bags of gold.

In the morning, Joel put on his best suit. He gave Mara and Peter strict instructions to keep the mermaid safe, and set off whistling a jaunty tune, his hat on the side of his head.

As soon as Joel was out of sight, Peter ran to fetch the wheelbarrow and with Mara’s help, lifted the mermaid into it. Mara and Peter were determined that she should go back to the sea, no matter what Joel said, no matter how angry it made him.

Carefully Peter wheeled her down to the shore and gently helped her into the water.

“Goodbye, lovely mermaid,” he said. “Take care never to get caught in my Dad’s net again.” He thought ruefully about how angry Joel would be when he found his prize catch had gone, but he thought it was worth it when he saw the joy in the mermaid’s eyes as she felt the water lapping round her.

With a flash of her green tail and a wave of her pear-tipped hand, she dived under the water and disappeared.

Peter sat on the shore and sighed, never expecting to see her again. But a few minutes later, she bobbed up and swam towards him. She beckoned and Peter waded out, waist deep in the water, to meet her. Smiling, she handed him a bag made from thick, ribbon seaweed.

“For me?” he asked. She nodded.

He looked into the bag. Inside were ten, beautiful, gleaming pearls. He stared in amazement, then he understood. She wanted him to give them to Joel so that he wouldn’t be angry. Peter looked up to say ‘thank you’ but the mermaid had gone.

Joel came home that evening in a terrible rage. The showman would not agree to pay him as much money as he wanted. When Peter told him he had put the mermaid back, Joel’s face went scarlet and he opened his mouth to shout. But when Peter handed over the reward, Joel’s anger died. The pearls were worth six times what the showman had offered.

Joel smiled at Peter and patted him on the head. He went straight upstairs to put the jewels under the floorboards. He brought down six silver coins which he gave to Peter.

“Here,” he said, “you’ve done well.”

Peter could hardly believe his luck. Never before had his father given him money to spend. Next morning Peter ran to the market. He bought his mother a dress of soft grey wool, to match her eyes and bought himself a pair of sturdy shoes with shin buckles. There was even a penny left over so he bought himself a stick of candy.

It was just as well Peter spent the money quickly. A week later, when greedy Joel went to gloat over his treasure, he found the gleaming pearls has changed into dull grey pebbles. His fury was terrible to see, and Peter and Mara hid until he got over it.

After that, no-one ever dared mention the word ‘mermaid’ in Joel’s hearing.

Related posts: A True Romantic (about the author)

Teeny Tiny Tyke / The Deadly Game (more by the author)

Don’t Mess with this Mermaid (a book review)

Don’t Let Him In (part 13)

This is the chilling finale of a spooky serial – please use the menu to read the earlier parts for the full effect.

[We join our hero J in a dream encounter. He’s trying to escape Danny who has been hypnotising children into a zombie state.]

Panting hard, and gripped with fear, J stood hunched over but faced his pursuer. He bent slightly at the waist to alleviate the grasping, vice-like stitch produced by running full-tilt.   Danny reached the bank of the lake, and stood knee-deep in reeds, glaring at J with menace.  J kept his head low, watching Danny via his reflection, rather than looking at him directly.

“You’re gonna regret interfering kid!” Danny’s voice was loaded with fury.  “You haven’t a clue what you’re dealing with.”  

He pushed his hood back from his face, revealing skin which was eerily pale in the moonlight. Although not wearing his clown make-up, he must use an eye-liner because his eyes seemed huge, dominating his face.  

“You won’t get the better of me.  I can’t stop now, I have too much to do.  My power is growing.  No-one will miss those brats, they were weak and ineffectual.  I can achieve so much more.”

As he spoke he glared at J, his focus never wavering. Even observing him via his reflection, J felt unable to look away.  There was an uncomfortable feeling from staring at Danny, but something other compelled him. J was required to look at him, deep in his dark, unblinking eyes. J began to relax, allowing his body to drop its guard.  He could hear Danny talking, but the words no longer made sense. A buzzing sound was building in his head and simultaneously he felt rather heavy and tired.  There seemed no reason why he was standing by the lake; it would be so much nicer to sit down, perhaps even lie down, because he was very, very tired. As if weighted with lead, his eyelids yearned to droop and close, yet something in the buzzing made him keep focusing on the pale boy’s face, upside down on the surface of the water

At that moment the moon went behind the clouds. In the ensuing darkness Danny’s reflection disappeared as if a switch had been flicked, and his hypnotic eye-contact with J was broken.  J gasped a breath in surprise, it was as if he’d been plunged into icy water.  Snapping out of the trance in a nano-second he realised that watching a reflection of Danny had offered no protection at all, he’d been moments away from becoming a successfully hypnotised zombie.

Danny, however, still chanted his mystic words and used his trance-inducing stare. He had failed to notice that his intended subject was no longer under his influence.  He continued to recite and stare, while moving his feet ever closer to the edge of the deep, still lake.  He stumbled a little which was his undoing, because his wobble shifted his point of focus as he struggled to regain his balance.  He continued his mesmerising routine, but now – as the moon pulled free of the clouds – he was looking at his own reflection in the lake.  

Danny’s droning speech continued and his eyes were unblinking.  J, however, stuck his fingers in his ears and turned his head to the side so that he was only aware of his pursuer from his peripheral vision.  

No longer hearing Danny’s words, J wasn’t pulled into a trance as he had been before.  From the corner of his eye he observed that the older boy continued creeping forwards, the water at the lakeside was now lapping over his black trainers.  J tensed, suspecting the crazy fool was trying to reach him by wading through the water. Without knowing how deep the lake was, it seemed an extreme plan.  

He blinked and rubbed his eyes, it was hard to watch without looking directly.  Without his fingers blocking his ears, he detected a less commanding tone in Danny’s speech than before, and sounded almost sleepy.  He had crept further forward and was, shockingly, thigh-deep in the water.  J could hardly imagine he was still being chased, instead it seemed that Danny was in a trance.  J risked a direct look, and what he saw amazed him.  Danny’s eyes were locked onto the eyes in his own reflection.  His lips were moving, reciting whatever he usually did to bring vulnerable children under his influence, but he was accidentally hypnotising himself!  

Danny chose that moment to bend at the waist so his upper torso came forward, his face was almost in the water!

J gasped in shock. “Stop!  Wait!” he called, but Danny took no notice.

Smoothly, calmly, as if it was the most obvious thing to do, Danny sank his face into the water.

The sky went dark again, thick clouds obscuring the moon, but even in the reduced visibility, J stumbled forward to help.  His legs sank into the achingly cold water and he strode forward with big, slow steps, feeling the drag and suck of the black lake around his lower limbs.  He still couldn’t see a thing, the moon remained behind a blanket of cloud, but he knew the direction to head.  

J swirled his hands blindly in the water, feeling the occasional tickle of water weeds, but no arms or legs to grab onto.  J began to panic, how much time had passed? When the moon broke through again, he was able to see more clearly.  But there was no trace of Danny.  

J was standing right where Danny had sunk into the water, but the older boy had disappeared without a trace.  He scanned the lake’s surface all around while his bleak feeling escalated. There was nothing to be seen.  Apart from the ripples that his movements were making, the lake was smooth as glass and silent.  

Silent as the grave’ was the ghoulish phrase which popped into his head.

J’s electronic alarm blurted which jolted him awake.  His body felt stiff and cold and, as he swung his feet out of bed, he saw they were scratched, scraped. His feet were sore, the toenails were encrusted with dirt.  He’d need to get showered before his Mum saw the state of them, but first there was something he had to check.  

J tiptoed onto the landing and put his head round Lulu’s bedroom door. His heart lurched with relief.  His sister was sitting on their mother’s lap, arms wrapped around her neck, talking softly.  His Mum looked up and, catching his eye, she smiled.

“Lulu would like boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast.” she told him.  

He grinned and backed out of the room. Around the lump that was suddenly in his throat, he called downstairs to his dad with the food order.  Next minute Dad thundered up the stairs to join Mum and Lulu in the bedroom.  J smiled and rubbed his head, padding carefully to the bathroom to grab a shower, a bubble of joy lodged in his chest.

Sunday rolled around, sunny and mild. J was clipping the lead onto the dog’s collar, preparing to take her for a romp in the woods and fields, when  Lulu dashed into the hall. She skidded to a halt by the rack of wellies and outdoor shoes.

“Can I come?” she asked, looking at him with pleading eyes. She began sliding her toes into pink glittery boots.

“OK,” said J – everyone was spoiling Lulu this week, they were so pleased to have her back to her normal, cheeky self.

“I hold the treats J,” she told him firmly, reaching up for the bone patterned tin where they stored bacon flavoured bites that the dog loved.

He smiled to himself and grabbed bags and a tennis ball before they set off.  The dog was excited to get going and fairly dragged him along the paths towards the wood.  Lulu kept up a stream of little girl chatter, J listened, but an answer wasn’t required very often.  When they came to the fork in the path which led to the lake, their dog dragged them towards it. She loved to paddle round the edge of the water.

J approached the lake with great trepidation.  It was the last place he’d ‘dream’ encountered Danny, yet nothing had been seen of him since.  J felt guilty to play any part in the boy’s disappearance, but he was glad the danger he presented was removed.  Not only had his sister returned to normal, but he’d seen Katie Thompson around school, back to her bright, perky, pre-hypnotised self.  

The dog pulled to be let off and scamper about, but J couldn’t shake a feeling of foreboding. Lulu sneaked her smaller hand into his.

“I don’t like this place,” she said and sidled up close.

“Nor me Lulu,”  he replied, calling the dog back.  “Let’s take this crazy hound to the fields, shall we?”

He called and tugged on the lead, while Lulu held out a treat which the dog vacuumed from her fingers with enthusiasm.  Casting one last, wary glance at the surface of the lake and the dark secret it hid, J and Lulu walked away.

Don’t Let Him In (12)

A chilling tale being told in episodes – read the previous ones first for the full spooky effect!

Jolted awake at 2:58 am, J was filled with that familiar feeling of dread and chill.  Feeling as though his stomach was crammed with blocks of ice, he trod silently, but with speed, down the staircase and let himself out of the front door.  This time he didn’t intend to be late, this time he wanted to get there before any hypnotism could occur, so he hustled along as fast as he could manage with bare feet over loose gravel and tarmac.  Bushes scraped him as he passed which he barely noticed. He focused on his instinct leading him to the right location, as it had done previously.  Up ahead was a house with green up-lighters to create a feature of the spiky blades of plants in its front garden.  Near the corner of the house he made out the tall dark form of a creeping man.  His cold clammy feelings ramped up several notches, he experienced an underlying buzz  now he was close to the threat. 

J darted forward to reach the door ahead of the broad-shouldered guy dressed in black, despite having no plan as to what he was might do.  He didn’t have his phone with him, or his earbuds, this was a dream for goodness sake! How would he protect himself from being compelled by Danny?

Still he pushed forward, breathing heavily to block the looming figure.

“What d’you think you’re doing?” he said in a low but aggressive voice, stopping him from going any further.

The figure halted abruptly so the porch light illuminated his face. Despite having the hood of his black sweatshirt pulled over his head, he recognised Danny’s face.  J seemed to have the advantage, Danny looked puzzled.

“Who the hell are you?” his expression both shocked and angry.

“This ends now.” J stood his ground, although his heart was beating fast. With adrenaline pumping, his legs felt as if they were primed to leap over the hedge – gazelle like. It made him hyper-aware of everything; a plan began forming in his mind.

“Not one more kid will fall under your influence Danny!”

Danny’s shadowy face looked startled, then twisted in a sneer,  “How exactly do you intend to stop me?”

“I think the headmaster would be interested to hear you’ve been abusing rehearsal time and school resources.  I’m surprised you keep your grade average up with the amount of kids parties you’ve performed at recently.”  Even as he said it, J recognised this was not the kind of threatening talk they used in gangster movies or the Fast and the Furious, but he was winging it!

Danny laughed dismissively, making fear and disgust clutch at J’s heart. How could that monster treat this so lightly, children were literally fading away for his personal gain? That’s when another puzzle piece fell into place.  All Danny’s power & strength was being drained from his victims; his grades had probably improved, his victims’ loss being his gain. Fury ran through J’s veins like white heat, his sister should not  waste away just so that Danny the Clown could get good grades!

“You don’t know what your talking about!”  Danny blustered.  “You’ve got no proof!  You’ll sound like a nut job if you go blabbing to the Head.”  As he protested, his face became hard and ugly, projecting a menacing sensation. J knew he’d been unwise to pull a tiger by his tail.

J took a step back, he wanted some air between them in case Danny tried his mind manipulation on him.  In fact J wanted to put lots of space between them. He should take their argument somewhere more private … J suddenly thought of a place which could give him an advantage.

“Oh I’ve got proof alright!  You’ve been caught on camera, and a little girl called Lulu snapped out of her trance today and told her parent’s some pretty disturbing facts about the clown at her party. ” J bluffed wildly. ” In your shoes I’d expect the police at the house any minute now.”  

J was backing away as he spoke, then he turned and broke into a run. He hoped his ‘baiting’ plan worked and that Danny would follow him.  

It wasn’t easy to run in bare feet, J took a route over as many front lawns as possible, the grass was cool on his feet. He could hear Danny’s heavy footfall and laboured breathing close behind him so he daren’t ease up.  There were street lights to guide him for now, but soon he’d turn down a path which was unlit and stony and his advantage might be lost.  He gritted his teeth and hung a right, taking the route he often chose for its shade, walking with his dog on hot sunny days.  It couldn’t be more different now, the sharp stones bit into his feet and he felt both the jabbing sting of nettles and the tear of brambles grabbing at his legs as he powered past.  His eyes took a few moments to adjust to the dark, but he knew the route well and it was straight for 200 metres.

Behind him Danny was grunting and swearing under his breath, J heard his footsteps falter and stumble but he kept running. Sharp pain made him sure that his feet were bleeding from broken glass amongst the stones.  J kept running, even through a stitch which twisted his stomach and lungs tightly in a grip of iron while the adrenaline flooding his system made him want to clutch his waist or throw up.  He had to keep going.  There was a fork up ahead and he took the turn which led to the lake.  

He flung his arms up to protect his face from any low branches, continuing to blunder ahead, wanting to get to a far bank of the lake before he dared turn and confront his dangerous pursuer. 

The crashing behind let J know that Danny was still in hot pursuit, but not managing to stay on the path!  Desperate to make the precious extra seconds count, J hurdled the stream straight into a clump of nettles but he still dragged himself up the bank and around the edge of the lake.  The water was still and calm, like a black mirror, waiting to be lit  by the moon next time it emerged from the clouds.

[To be continued …]

Don’t Let Him In (11)

This is part 11 of a serialised spooky tale, Chapter 10 is here, or use the Menu to locate earlier chapters

J moved around the library racking his brain regarding where to look for more answers. In front of him was the ‘global culture’ section, from which a book had fallen on the floor, which he picked up.  “Greek Mythology” its front cover declared, in raised gold script. J opened the book and flicked through the pages, realising as he did so, how many legends had been plundered and used for modern game design.  Turning to the pages relating to the quest carried out by Perseus, his memory began circling the story as if it had something significant to impart.  He remembered the Gorgons with their hair of writhing serpents, the one which Perseus kills was named Medusa.  Pieces clicked together in his mind bringing a revelation as to this story’s usefulness: Perseus had used his mirrored shield to avoid looking directly at Medusa, which enabled him to get close enough to behead her without her enchanted gaze turning him to stone.

At last they were getting somewhere!  He checked out the book then stuffed it into his backpack before hurrying off to afternoon class.

That night J went round to Alex’s house.  He told his parents it was to study but really he wanted to discuss his findings and plot what action to take.  Up in Alex’s slightly messy bedroom, they played music to disguise their conversation if anyone was passing his door.

Being a gamer, Alex was familiar with Perseus’ quest. He thought a reflective object to look into was a great defense if Danny was using his eyes or a swinging/ spinning object to induce a hypnotic state in his victims.  Alex suggested carrying a hand mirror at all times, in preparation for dualling with Danny.  J thought it was simpler to use the ‘camera’ function on a phone, its electronic ‘eye’ would be in no danger from hypnosis.  They both realised the hitch was if Danny was using auto-suggestion. They could  hardly stop themselves ‘hearing’ his words –  using the camera wouldn’t help here. They came up with the idea to put headphones in their ears and turn the music up loud, but admittedly it would be hard to achieve in a hurry.  As a precaution they would both wear their earbuds at school to make it easier to quickly start playing music.

With those practicalities sorted, the next step was where and when, and of course how to tackle Danny!  Alex had team practice after school the next day, and was adamant that J shouldn’t confront Danny alone, he wanted to provide back-up.  J argued that he couldn’t waste any more time, he was heart-sick about his sister Lulu. She remained a pale, frail thing, not waking properly or eating.  His parents were taking her to a specialist as soon as they received a letter of referral from the GP.

J had a plan to confront Danny with their suspicions, and threaten him with exposure to the Headmaster and parents of the affected children.  He hoped Danny could be persuaded to cease his serial hypnotism of small children, and release his current victims from their coma-like state.  J suspected that if the older boy was enraged, he’d be likely to try hypnotising him in retaliation, but was hopeful that the phone camera would act as filter and offer protection.  Alex suggested he could even play the footage back to Danny and hypnotise him with his own technique – that would be a neat way to end his wicked behaviour!  It was risky though, J would have preferred Alex there as wing man. 

With plans made for tomorrow, and a tube of Pringles eaten washed down with a large bottle Pepsi, J set off home with his heart racing.  He felt keyed up about what he must do tomorrow. He made sure to put his phone on charge overnight; he’d need a full battery for playing music to override Danny’s hypnotic words.  

J’s parents were huddled together downstairs talking. His mother’s eyes were red rimmed, as if she’d been crying, but they tried to act normally and wished him goodnight.

[To be continued …]

Don’t Let Him in (part 10)

A spooky tale which is being serialised, see the menu for all the earlier episodes)

It was the usual helter-skelter rush getting ready for school.  Mum and Dad were still worried about Lulu because, unfortunately, she wasn’t showing signs of improvement.  Dad was on the phone to get her a Doctor’s appointment as J slammed the door, in a hurry to get to Alex’s house.  Alex was already on the path, waiting, so they set off at a brisk pace, talking as they walked.  J described the pitiful small boy he dreamed of, the most recent victim of the hypnotic menace.

“Why do you dream about it though?” Alex questioned.

J shrugged. “No idea, I’ve been wondering that myself.  I wake at almost 3 am too, it always happens at the same time.”

“We could Google that.  We also need to watch Danny closely, get an idea of his movements and who he hangs around with. I have a free period before lunch, I’ll do some scouting then.  Meet you in the canteen!”  Shrugging his backpack further onto his shoulder, Alex hustled off to form.

J pushed through double doors, moving with the flow of pupils to their classrooms, keeping his eyes peeled for Katie or Laurie, filled with concern for their wellbeing.  As morning lessons progressed, J’s mind continued to puzzle over what would motivate Danny to control the willpower of the young people he was hypnotising.  Finding the answer to this might influence his next worrying question – how to stop him? 

J’s last lesson before lunch was maths. As Laurie moved into his classroom J’s stomach lurched with shock and fear.  Laurie looked so gaunt and emaciated, his skin was chalky and unhealthy and his movements were slow and shuffling, as if his body was too heavy for him to animate.  His hair looked greasy and uncared for and his eyes were fixed on the floor as he moved to an empty desk.  J felt very uneasy and anxious from his close proximity and he noticed other students casting similar, furtive looks at Laurie.  Once the lesson began the difference was even more marked, as Laurie (once the star maths pupil, widely tipped as an Oxbridge candidate) did not participate at all, he just sat listlessly with his head hanging, like a moving toy with the batteries removed.

J was really troubled by this. It seemed as if Laurie’s life force or spark was gone. Could this be the root of Danny’s motivation? Perhaps stealing from young, vibrant children somehow added to his power.  It was no more crazy than entertaining the idea that an actual vampire went to their school!  

He needed to run the idea by Alex so that they could consider how this would help them tackle him and reverse his influence.  He scraped his books into a pile, dumped them in a backpack and flowed with the rest of the students out of the classroom and towards the dining hall.

He didn’t know how Alex did it, but he was already at a table shovelling food into his mouth with enthusiasm.  J slid into a seat opposite him and shared his latest revelation.  Alex took it in his stride, years of watching the sci-fi channel and reading Marvel comics meant nothing much surprised him.  

“What did you discover?” J asked as he forked up shepherds pie and chewed.

“Danny mostly hangs about with those 2 goth girls in year 13 … and the drama group are putting on a show at the end of term. There are a lot of rehearsals for that going on, meaning he stays after school several nights a week.”

J knew the girls Alex meant, they looked like something out of the Addams Family wearing their hair straight in an unnatural shade of black.  Their chalk white faces with heavy eyeliner and their choice of clothes made them appear as if they were on their way to a rather dramatic funeral. He had a feeling they were both studying textiles, so were probably involved with the costumes for the show.  

J wondered if they knew what Danny was capable of, and if so did they help him?  Would he need to factor them in when he tackled Danny to make him release his hold over the children? He and Alex needed to divide the tasks to tackle this without delay.  He decided he would visit the library for books on hypnotism or auto-suggestion. Alex would continue to scout around to learn more about Danny’s habits and timetable.  

J headed off down the corridor and up the stairs to the library where he began to browse science books, tilting his head to one side to read the titles on their spines.He wasn’t seeing any material which related to his specific problem. He began to feel agitated, as if there was a timer in operation, the sand constantly leaking through the narrow gap between the upper chamber and the lower, with his sister’s life in the balance.  

In desperation he pulled out a book called The Mask of Time by Joan Forman and flicked through it’s pages.  His eyes were drawn to one passage:

When a human organism dies, the matter, the physical body, is seen to change and known to decay.  But a human organism is also energy, electrical, gravitational, magnetic, and on physical death, it ceases to operate through the material structure with which it has been associated.  If energy cannot be destroyed it must therefore remove elsewhere where it may continue to operate according to the laws governing it.

This seemed to support his theory of an ‘energy’ which could be taken from a person, but unfortunately it made him more afraid for the lives of Danny’s victims.  He slammed the book shut and pushed it back into its slot on the crammed shelves. 

[To be continued …]

Don’t Let Him In (9)

This is part of an ongoing chilling series, to read from the beginning, start here.

[4 minute read]

Alex was still at rugby practice when J hurried past his house with his head down.  Unlocking his front door, he went straight to his Dad’s study to find out how Lulu was feeling.

“No change unfortunately. She isn’t eating and has slept most of the day, but she has no temperature. I’ve an appointment to take her to the doctor tomorrow.” 

J had a sinking feeling this wouldn’t help. He really needed to talk to Alex, to plan how to force Danny to break the hypnotic trance his sister was under.  He retired to his room with a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea. With his laptop on, he began trying to find new intel on hypnotism and meditation in the hope of identifying a ‘key’ to free the entranced children.

He face-timed Alex and up-dated his friend with what he had pieced together; with music on in the background he successfully masked their conversation.

“Who’d have thought? … Danny?  All the plays I’ve seen him in …” Alex shook his head.

“But that’s probably how he did it! Working with Katie, rehearsing with her, he’d have plenty of opportunities to gaze into her eyes or use a pendulum and hypnotise her” J said.

“What’s with them all saying ‘they let him in’? That really fits with my vampire theories, but Danny looks the same as us.  Do you think he is a vampire?”

J shrugged, he’d never given it serious consideration because he hadn’t believed vampires existed, but he tapped at his keyboard, Googling vampires and the legends surrounding them, he excitedly read one entry aloud.“Glamouring!  Vampire hypnotism is called glamouring, they use eye contact to make their victims happy and relaxed about having their blood sucked.  Perhaps Danny has glamoured them all.”

“Check Lulu’s neck Dude!  See if she’s got fang marks on it.”

“Aargh! Don’t say that!  I can’t even deal with the thought of that!” J was shocked and disgusted at the idea, but he knew it made sense.  It would certainly explain the pale and listless appearance of all the victims.  He planned to take a look at Lulu’s neck sometime that evening, but he needed to avoid raising his parents’ suspicions.

An opportunity presented itself quite innocently, Dad had made a snack of toast and marmite with a drink for Lulu, which J offered to take up to her room. While Dad put the finishing touches on the family’s meal, J cracked the door open and tiptoed into Lulu’s room.  

She was cocooned in her duvet and facing the wall. Murmuring soothing things he gently stroked her hair off his sister’s cheek and away from her neck and peered closely, feeling tense about finding puncture wounds, but there were none. Thank goodness, her neck was unmarked. Her skin was clammy and cool but no bite marks.

“Lulu, do you want a drink?  Or some marmite soldiers?” J used a coaxing tone and pulled her shoulder a little so that she rolled over.  She didn’t rouse out of her sleep but he was able to look at her neck on the other side … phew!  It was also unmarked. J’s relief at this discovery was intense, but looking at her sleeping form he felt sad, and a little scared, what if they couldn’t get her back to normal?

He ate supper with his parents, Then, with the excuse of pressing studies, returned to his room, where he let Alex know that he had found no sinister marks on his sister’s neck.

“Another contradiction to the idea of Danny as a vampire, is that he walks about in the daylight.  He’s not burned or harmed by the sun,” Alex pointed out.

“That rule doesn’t apply in Twilight.  Those guys avoid the sun because it would show their skin is sparkly.” J countered.

“Seriously? Man that’s so weird!  Let’s try to look closely at him in school.” Alex was thoughtful for a moment. “I’ve never noticed his skin glittering.” Then he piped up, “Hey, Twilight’s a chick film?  What’re you watching that for?”

“Hard to avoid it!” J laughed. “They’re always playing the Twilight trilogy on Film4, and my Mum’s a huge vampire fan.”  J felt sure she wouldn’t be a fan if she thought a vamp had been anywhere near Lulu.  

Lulu in the clutches of an undead blood sucker was unthinkable, but he reassured himself no puncture wounds on her neck was a positive thing. Catching a glimpse of the time, he wound up his call with Alex. He still had an English essay to write before he went to bed.

Somehow J was less startled when he snapped out of sleep at 3 am that night. It was becoming a grim routine, so he lay still allowing his senses to ‘feel’ the pressing darkness and whoever or whatever was out there.  His eyes began to focus on the front of a house he didn’t recognise. The streetlight pooled a yellowy glow in its front garden and he could see a gate to the right. This was not latched shut, so it banged softly in the breeze. The darkness had a menace to it, was it possible that Danny was still here? J moved soundlessly, and with dread, through the gate and round the back of the property. He could see in through the conservatory as the occupants kept tropical fish in aquariums, which lit up the room with an eerie glow.  

Pressing his face to a window, and with all his senses on alert, J peered around the interior.  At first he thought there was nobody there, then he spotted a young boy in cartoon pyjamas. His blonde hair stuck up in all directions, as often happens with restless sleepers.  The boy had an unhappy hunch to his body language. He stood repeatedly banging his head against the wall. Hearing his sobs made J’s heart twist, so he tried the handle of the door, but it was locked.  His attempts to gain entry didn’t distract the child and the mournful crying continued.  

His heart was heavy that another young person had fallen under the evil influence. J speculated that this boy had wanted an entertainer for his party and so Danny had visited the house, “let in” by the boy’s unwitting parents.  Danny would give no clue regarding his sinister nature when he called round to make plans about performing as a clown.  

J had never trusted clowns, they gave him the heebie-jeebies!  As a young boy he’d found their thick make up, especially the painted on smile and eye expressions, highly suspect.  He’d swerved invitations to attend any party with a clown on the agenda for just that reason. How ironic that his immature suspicions had truth behind them!  Looking at the distressed boy, who he couldn’t get close enough to comfort, J knew he would be a pale and listless trance-induced state by morning, he wished fervently that he would not be proved right.

[To be continued …]

A Witch in Time (2)

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

This concludes a story written in by my mother under the pen name Emma Payne. It’s pitched at the YA market and pre-dates the Harry Potter inspired flurry of supernatural tales. Previously 10-year-old Melina began to suspect that the things which made her mum perfect might have a catch, what if she was a witch! Start with Part 1 or read from here.

The final straw came when Miss Jeffers started to cast the form play. I had hoped to be the Princess, but Miss Jeffers chose Lucy Merkon. I was given the part of a lady in waiting, and Lucy’s understudy.

Lucy and I were old enemies, which made it worse. She turned round, her face a mixture of triumph and spite and poked her tongue out. I was furious and when I got home I told Mum.

“That Lucy Merkon! I’ve never liked her,” Mum said, “you’d make a far better princess. It would serve Lucy right if she fell ill and you took over.”

“She never so much as catches a cold,” I said gloomily.

“She might catch something worse,” Mum said darkly.

I thought no more about it until Mum was proved right, as usual. Lucy developed a rash and a fever after just three rehearsals, so I took over the part.

When I told Mum that Miss Jeffers said the doctor was baffled by Lucy’s symptoms, I caught her smiling and it gave me a horrible thought. Had Mum cast a spell on Lucy?

Next day when Mum was at the shops, I went into the kitchen to look at the strange book again: I wanted to compare the words with the witches’ scene in Macbeth. ‘Grockle the muncheon and slowly plebide the turlow’ did not sound much like ‘eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and toe of dog,” but then, perhaps Shakespeare had been guessing.

The book wasn’t on the shelf, so I began to rummage in other drawers in the kitchen. At the back of the knife drawer I found a strange little figure sculpted in pastry and embedded with seeds that made it look horribly spotty. I picked it up and tied round its neck with green embroidery silk was a label which read Lucy Merkon.

I dropped the figure back into the drawer as if it were red hot. That did it! Mum’s witchcraft was really out of hand now. Mrs Bearman had been talking wildly about witches and spells recently, she’d also been giving Mum strange looks. I didn’t think anyone believed in witchcraft nowadays, but the part of East Anglia where we lived historically had a strong witch tradition. It must have been closer to the surface than I knew, for that afternoon in the playground, Will Gandy said, “I hear your mother’s put a spell on my aunt and her dog. She’d better take it off or I’ll make you suffer. You’re a witch’s child.”

His friends began to chant, “Witch’s child, witch’s child,” and soon a menacing group had gathered. I was scared and began to cry, frightened as much for Mum as for myself. I burst out of the circle, through the school gate and ran home, where I threw myself sobbing into Mum’s arms. I told her what they had said.

“And don’t try to tell me it isn’t true, because I know it is.” I managed to say between hiccoughing sobs.

She hugged me tightly. “I’m not a bad witch, Melina.”

“But you are,” I wailed. “There’s Harold and Mrs Bearman and now Lucy.” I told her I’d found the strange book and the pastry person. “How come you’re a witch?” 

“It’s complicated, but I’ll try to explain. Have you ever thought what would have happened if some important event in history had turned out differently? If Richard III had won the battle of Bosworth, there would have been no Tudor kings.  Supposed America hadn’t fought the War of Independence and it had remained English, history would tell a different story, wouldn’t it?”

I nodded, I loved history, but I couldn’t see where this was leading us.

“Imagine time is like a huge tree, with the creation of the world the thick part of the trunk at the bottom. Each time an event occurs, that could have two possible outcomes, the tree branches so the two results exist as branches of equal thickness. Then when another crisis moment comes, the tree branches again.

“Each of those branches is another world or timeline. Beside the world where William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings, there is an alternative world where King Harold won.

“My world had the same history as yours until 1590. In that year Elizabeth I was queen of England and James VI king of Scotland. James had not yet married and his heir was Francis Stuart, earl of Bothwell, who was secretly leader of the Scottish witches. Have you ever heard of the Plot of the North Berwick witches?”

I shook my head.

“No? Well it’s only a footnote in your history books because it failed in your timeline, but in mine it succeeded. Three covens of witches, under Francis Stuart’s guidance, raised a storm that drowned the King as he was bringing his new queen home from Denmark. So in my world Bothwell became King Francis I and witchcraft became an accepted way of life.

“People with second sight and people who could harness magic were encouraged, instead of being hunted down and burned as they were in your timeline. We developed communication by mind-power and human energy instead of electricity. Transport was achieved by focussing minds instead of using engines. People learned to work with animals. America was colonised by traders rather than persecuted religious minorities. Hosts of other things were different.

“I’m not saying my world was perfect, trouble was caused by greed and fear because humanity is fallible, but I liked my world better than this one.”

“If you liked it so much, what made you leave?” I asked.

Mum laughed. “I didn’t mean to. It happened by mistake. I was working on a space-travel project that involved the pooling of mind power. I was using my technical manual (the ‘spell’ book you found) and was endeavouring to add the force of my mind to that of many others. Accidentally I turned over two pages, saying half of one formula and half of another. That sent me sideways in time and into your world. While I was trying to figure out how to get back, I had to blend into this world. Then I met your dad and fell in love, so I stopped searching for a way back. When you were born my decision to stay in this world was made.

“At first I tried to live by this world’s rules, but a little bit of witchcraft made life so much easier. I used my powers sparingly and thought no-one would know. But I didn’t fool you and it seems I’ve now made other people suspicious. I need to think how to correct this.

“Why don’t you reverse the spells, Mum? That would take the pressure off.”

Her eyes lit up. “I can do better than that, I’ll make them forget and we can start afresh.”

“Wonderful,” I said “and you must promise not to use spells any more.”

“Not even to help in the house?” she said wistfully.

“We-ell ,” I said wavering, “little spells for cooking and cleaning should go unnoticed.”

“Perfect,” she said smiling, “and I can teach you spells, you’d be easy to train, being half witch.”

“No thanks, I prefer to stay the way I am.”

Mum laughed and went off to undo the magical mayhem she’d caused, while I went upstairs to do my homework. I’d forgotten, until I opened my bedroom door, that I’d rushed out that morning and left my room looking as if a tornado had struck.

“Oh fiddlesticks,” I said to myself, “I wish I could use a little magic to tidy this mess.”

There was a noise like a rushing wind and my clothes lifted off the floor and bed to arranged themselves tidily in the open wardrobe. Books floated back onto shelves and the duvet shook itself and spread neatly on the bed.

I sat down, overcome by shock. I was stunned, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. They say blood will out and I was, after all, a witch’s daughter.

THE END

A Witch in Time

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

I’ve mentioned in my ‘why write’ page that my mother was a writer. Here’s a story which she wrote under her pen name Emma Payne. Pitched at the YA market it was written before Harry Potter influenced so many authors of fiction. I’ve made a couple of tweaks to keep the plot current. Part 1 is here, the conclusion will follow.

My mother was a witch, but I had no clue until I was ten. Up to that age, children expect their parents to be all powerful, but after that, they begin to question.

Mind you, she was a fantastic mother, she never said “not now dear, I’m busy,” and she was brilliant at inventing games. She could tidy up in a snap as if by magic (which  is probably how she did it) and she ran the house without any fuss or bother. She was a great companion and she always took my side in any quarrels. She kept her promises and her forecasts always came true. I thought she was perfect until the fateful day I discovered her secret.

It was an autumn afternoon when Miss Jeffers sent us home from school early because she had a sick headache. On the way home, scuffing through piles of dead leaves, I planned to play a trick on Mum.

I opened the door soundlessly. The smell of freshly baked cakes drifted through the kitchen door, which was ajar. I crept across the hall and peeped in. Where was Mum? I saw a basin on the counter with a wooden spoon stirring vigorously, but no-one was holding it! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Then I saw her: she was floating in the  air just below the ceiling, totally relaxed as if she was lying down. Jason, our cat was floating beside her, washing his paws. I watched in disbelief as a tray of cakes wafted out of the oven and arranged themselves on a wire tray, while Mum drifted above them. That was my first clue that she was a witch!

I slammed the front door and stamped noisily. When I entered the kitchen, Mum was standing by the cakes spooning icing over them while Jason rubbed himself against her legs.

Mum turned round with a welcoming smile. She offered me a cake to try while I explained about Miss Jeffers.

“Never mind, Melina,” she said. “I guarantee she’ll be well tomorrow.”

[“How?” I wanted to yell, “by magic?”]

After that I began to watch her more closely.

That evening she and Dad and I were sitting round the fireplace. We were arguing about the age of different types of rock. Dad said sandstone was older than chalk, but Mum disagreed. I just sat there like a spectator at a tennis match.

“Best not to argue with her Dad,” I warned, “she’s always right.”

Dad grinned. “I bet a box of those fancy chocolates you love to a tub of my favourite ice cream that I’m right.”

Mum almost purred. “Mmm, I can practically taste those chocolates. Melina run and get your tablet so that we can settle this. You left it beside the cook books.”

On the side in the kitchen, when I went to get my iPad, I saw that a thin book had almost slipped off the shelf. As I rescued it, I noticed it had a strange iridescent cover and the pages were smoother and shinier than paper, but it was the text that stopped me in my tracks.

‘After this,’ (it said) ‘grockle the muncheon and slowly plebide the turlow; this should create a smooth felox without unsightly veblons.’

It had to be a spell! This confirmed my suspicious, she was a witch.

At that moment she called out. “Having trouble, Melina?”

I jumped guiltily, and grabbed my tablet. “It’s OK, I’ve found it.”

I don’t remember the outcome of the argument, I went to bed early to think about my awful discovery.  There might be a simple explanation but I was strangely shy about asking. As she only did good things, I concluded it didn’t really matter; but I had to think again next day.

Mrs Bearman, our next door neighbour had a rather fat pug called Harold, who was the darling of her heart. Jason, our cat, teased him by using their garden as a shortcut, knowing he could outrun the breathless, overfed pug. However, on this occasion Jason misjudged his advantage and the pug’s snapping teeth connected with the tip of Jason’s tail. Jason howled and ran to Mum for comfort. She soothed the cat while saying dreadful things about the pug.

Soon after this, Harold lost his voice. When he barked, no sounds came out. I heard Mrs Bearman telling another neighbour that Harold seemed to be bewitched.

Bewitched! If that was the case I knew who had cast the spell, and was frantic in case Mrs Bearman guessed too. When I went into the kitchen to try and persuade Mum to remove the spell by hinting to her, I’m almost sure the potatoes were taking off their own skins, but I looked again and saw Mum had a potato peeler in her hand.

“Mrs Bearman can’t hear Harold barking any more, she says it’s as if he were bewitched.”

“Nonsense,” said Mum, “she’s just getting a little deaf.” And then she looked out of the window as if struck by a thought.

I sighed and went to help Dad rake up piles of leaves for a bonfire.

“Tell Mrs Bearman I’m planning a bonfire,” he said. “Don’t want to be blamed for getting smuts on her washing.”

She answered the door drying her hands. “Good morning, Melina.”

“Hi,” I was filled with the usual awkwardness at having to hold a conversation with an adult I didn’t know well. “I came to warn you we’re having a bonfire.”

“No, I am not in the choir,” she said haughtily.

She must have misheard. “Dad is having a fire, do you mind?” I said, a little louder.

“No, I do not mind that I am not in the choir. Why are you asking me this?”

“Fire!” I shouted, “fire not choir.”

“Fire?” said Mrs Bearman, alarmed. “Where is the fire? I must fetch Harold.”

I grabbed her hand. Slowly and clearly, with 100% eye contact, I said “Dad – is – having – a – bonfire.”

“Oh,” she was embarrassed. “How silly of me, I misunderstood.”

“How is Harold?” I asked, “is he better?”

“Letter?” she was off again. “Harold didn’t get a letter, who would write to a dog?”

She looked at me pityingly, but it was I who pitied her. I could only blame Mum for her deafness.

[To be continued …]