I haven't been sleeping though - in the past year I've been keeping busy with my writing.
I've had several articles and a short story published in The Star and Crescent at www.starandcrescent.org.uk in Portsmouth. I have written and performed a short story at the Square Tower, Southsea at the Day of the Dead iii event in November. I have picked up and am running with my next novel, now with the working title of Payback, and I have directed and produced The Return of the Soldier, a play by John Van Druten, at Titchfield Festival Theatre, also in November 2015.
All of this and a total knee replacement back in July!
My short story: The Haunting follows:
I’m glad you came back again to fill these empty halls. The castle stone walls are damp and cold in winter. Twelve months is a long time to wait in the dark, alone, for company. It changes you. It certainly changed me. I’m cold and so, so hungry for company.
There was a moment, maybe three months back when I did see a glimmer of hope. It was a wedding. The sun was shining but there was a chill wind coming off the sea. I was gazing down from the balcony - just about there. Children were running about - no discipline at all any more. The wedding guests were loud, stuffing their mouths with food, quaffing copious bottles of wine and ale from dainty glasses, shouting and laughing across the hall with no decorum at all. The energy was most unwelcome; it made me feel oppressed and angry.
Watching them eat, I was so hungry. I just wanted something to eat.
I didn’t notice the child until she was right there, next to me on the balcony. Just me and her, alone up there. I could feel her inner glow and was overcome with a need to devour her life force. She stood so close to me, I knew I only had to give her a little shove and she’d fall through the railings. I anticipated the sound of her body landing in the centre of the wedding feast, imagined her form draped over the wedding cake, the looks of shock and horror wiping the grotesque grins from the faces of the drunken wedding party.
I was this close to doing it, as close as I am to you now. But someone down there was watching, and spotting the child so close to the railings, she let out a God Almighty scream, ‘Chantelle! Get down here right now!’
The whole room hushed. A hundred pairs of eyes looked up at me - I shrunk into the wall in haste, forgetting that they couldn’t actually see me. I watched as the parent clattered up the stairs and dragged the child away, wrenching her arm nearly out of its socket. I sent a silent message of pity to that child that day. Could have ended it all for her if her mother hadn’t ruined it.
Are there any children in here this evening? I like children. Children have a special aura about them, an innocence unsullied by modern living. That’s why I like them. Well, sort of like them.
It was just one year ago tonight that I first came to this Tower, just like you, delighted to have been invited to an evening of ghostly story telling. I’ve never believed in ghosts - I thought it would be fun.
And the evening started well enough. I was greeted by smiling witches and devils, encouraged to drink wine, peruse local authors’ works, then was shown to my seat in this very room. I sat just there, right where you’re sitting now amused and so cynical that anyone would be stupid enough to believe in such a load of claptrap!
During the intermission I found myself in conversation with a gentleman in a black cape and top hat. I assumed he was one of the authors. There was something about him that sparked my interest and when he asked me to stay behind afterwards I was flattered. I sat through the second half, impatient to find out more about this mysterious man. He was not unattractive.
When the evening was over I lingered in my seat. People began to stack the chairs andI moved into the other room. People in here were packing away their books and posters, laughing and chatting together. They were warm. Warm and alive together. I remember it because it was the last time I felt that feeling - of life.
The gentleman wasn’t here though so I looked in the cloakroom. Now, I swear I was only in there for a few minutes but when I came back out the place was in darkness and empty. Buy the light of my mobile phone I made my way to the door. It was locked.
At that moment I was scared - just for a second or two. I banged on the door and called out. Surely someone must be outside. I scrolled through my phone for help. Then the phone beeped and died. I was in darkness again. Fear crept through me. I began to cry, silently at first, then I began to sob loudly and to shout for help. I was suddenly cold, cold as the stones.
Eventually I sank to the floor, exhausted. Part of my brain was telling me that all I had to do was to wait, that I may have to stay here all night but in the morning surely the caretaker would be in to clean. Another part of my brain was filled with thoughts of spiders, and rats running over me in the night. Nothing in my head told me to beware of anything supernatural.
I looked up and saw a glimmer of light coming from the far corner of the room. A shadow was stealing towards me behind the dim flickering light. A candle I thought. Someone else was here. Thank God! As the figure moved closer to me I stood up, peering into the light. I couldn’t see the face but recognised the cloak and top hat of the gentleman. The relief I felt was immense. I spoke to him - I can’t remember what I said, probably something like, ‘thank goodness, I thought I’d been locked in.‘
He was silent. He kept moving towards me. As he drew close I tried to look at his face but could only see shadows beyond the candle.
‘Who are you?’ I asked. He lifted the light higher and I could see his face, his eyes searing into mine. I felt myself drawn into the depths of what appeared to be red discs of fire. He raised his arms, his black cloak swept up and enveloped me. I cried out and struggled to escape from his arms but gradually I felt the strength ebbing from me, I could no longer breathe.
The feeling of panic was unbearable at first, then gradually I felt a kind of peace flowing through me as the life force was sucked from me. I looked up at him one last time and he was smiling.
Then he was gone. And I was cold, and hungry.
I’m so glad you’re here.
I’m so glad, because I like your company so much.
And I’d like to invite one of you to stay behind tonight. Perhaps you could stay - for dinner?
I do hope you enjoyed it.
I'll be back soon......