Hentan House – Welcome

Sunlight rippled overhead in long shimmering streaks as my head bobbed up. No. It was not my head. I was tethered to a weighted body. We floated in the warming water until inky blotches of blood spurted out from between our legs. Clouding the sunlight I felt the water breach. Wrenching inward it gripped my feet and sucked me out. Out into the murky waters where cannonballs of people splashed deep to join me. Scrambling in their dozens they all reached out as if to catch me. Claim me for themselves. But I floated on simply watching. Waiting for the large eye permeating through the deep to see me. It wriggled for a moment, irked by my discovery of it. Were you happy to see me? Very soon I would have to breathe. Breathe and drink deep.

A mix of vinegar and bleach tickled my nose before wrenching me up into the very real world. I gasped and felt the glass bottle push against my upper lip. In that burst of consciousness my vision was filled with women. Peering down at me as if from heaven. From the snake-tailed tips, their tendrils of slick wet hair dripped down onto my chest like warm summer rain. Over them I saw the sunlight refract off the glass ceiling. Playfully shimmering over the deep blue sky in a way I couldn’t help feeling odd and familiar.
‘You gave us quite a shock. Take two of these quickly before your body wakes up.’ A woman with a ginger plait pushed out her hand to offer me the pills. I didn’t hesitate and took them into my mouth before gulping down a glass of water she handed me from her other hand. The other women began to spread out and wander off.
‘I passed out?’ I said out loud but it was more to confirm it to myself.
‘You have a nasty cut on your toe. Do you usually pass out at the sight of blood?’ The woman asked. I shuffled out across the white make-do stretcher that was really a sun bed draped in white towels and felt my toe spasm again. Wrapped in several bandages my once normal toe was now bulbous and a hazard to my weekend of enjoying free spa facilities. It was fat like a tick ready to be popped. Seeing it only made the resonating pain throb a little harder.
‘Not at all. It was just so nasty-looking.’
‘Here…’ The lady gave me a little plastic container with four pills inside. ‘These should do you for now. Do not take them all in one day okay.’
‘Will I still be able to use the services here?’
‘Ofcourse you can’t go swimming but anything dry you can do.’
‘I was hoping to just hang out by the pool.’
‘No, no no. Everyone is excited to have you join in the festivities.’
‘You know me and my sister? I thought you worked here.’
‘No but I am a doctor. Here at Hentan-House we are all a big family so they asked me to check on you. Did Yvonne never speak of us?’ There was a puzzling frown over the womans face. It was unmistakable that mum had problems with the family but were they really so surprised? I had never seen or heard her talk to anyone from that side. She never really spoke of our dad either. Other than that he deserted us. I shook my head and winced as the pulsing pain shoot across my toe.
‘Strange. She writes to me atleast once a year. And many more to my sisters.’ This couldn’t be true. She was piecing things together I had no clue over but I felt some need to defend mum. To stop any ill will being sent her way.
‘Oh, I think she’s mentioned a doctor before. I sometimes drift off about that sort of stuff.’ I lied. The ladies plait dripped once more. She smiled in response and patted her knee as if to confirm something.
‘She might have mentioned a Rosemary?’
‘Her and Janet don’t often talk about family. Is Janet here by the way?’ Rosemary shook her head but opened her mouth slightly before closing.
‘I don’t think so darling. Is there anything else I can help with?’
‘I think I’ll be fine thanks. Oh maybe- where is reception? I still need to unpack in my room.’
‘Of course, you haven’t been here before. You’re in the meditation garden right now. If you take those doors over there you can turn left and follow it down to the main hall.’ Rosemary gave a small smile and patted my hand. I tried to give a genuine smile back but what was there to be happy about? My foot was killing me and I couldn’t spend the whole trip ignoring strangers conversations by doing laps in the pool. Stepping off from the sun bed I eased my weight onto my weak foot. Gradually I got used to the pressure but I wouldn’t be running anytime soon. Hopping out across the grass I had to turn back to Rosemary who was thumbing through a thin black book.
‘Is this real grass?’ Once I said it I knew it sounded dumb but we were inside what I thought to be the middle of the building. The green stretch of grass covered the entire floor of the glass domed room. Through another glass panel wall I could see a few women bobbing about in the indoor swimming pool.
‘Yeah you aren’t the first to ask. Before renovations this was a courtyard garden for the priest that lived here so they decided to turn it into an inside garden. Can you feel the positive energy rising from the grass?’
‘Feels great.’ I nodded but couldn’t feel anything other than a throbbing pain. The inside garden was beautiful; Along the walls of glass were shoots of tall plants left to fan out and potted lavender. In the center stood a wide tree stump painted white. Once I saw that I noticed the smaller white stumps dotted around it in a circle. A woman was sat on one of the smaller ones with her eyes closed and bare feet nestled in the perfectly cut grass. I noticed a small glint of metal in her hands. She had been sharpening an ornate knife. She resembled a chiseled statue; a garden ornament left to gather small birds. As I walked past I noticed the wrinkle slits of her eyes peel open to see me intruding in on her zen vibes. I tried not to look her in the eyes but I could still feel hers and Rosemary’s on me. I could feel invisible eyes follow me as I hobbled through the halls.

The lobby was mostly empty except for a lone secretary ruffling through a stack of papers on the desk. I could see she was frustrated but I really needed to get to my room and decompress. The lady was fiddling with her white shirts top button awkwardly, as if trying to pry it loose. I slowly approached to the table in hopes she would notice me and enter polite mode.
‘Hey there, I’ll just be one moment.’ She said as she finally loosened the collar. ‘Ah that’s better…so how can I help you?’
‘I am trying to find my room number? My sister and mum have already gone ahead of me.’
‘Sure thing, I think I can find it on the computer for you… so what’s your name?’
‘Aspen Hund,’
‘Hund… Hund… There’s quite alot of you lot here. Sorry it’s my first day.’ She wriggled with the shirt collar as her other hand continued to scroll down with the mouse.
‘No problem. Kinda sucks you’re here by yourself.’
‘I know right! They really did a number on me. This is just a weekend gig apparently. Most of the staff are off for the weekend.’
‘Huh, that’s weird right?’
‘A gig is a gig. I actually got recommended by Lucile. She runs the agency I’m part of. Oh I found it.’ She double clicked and leaned in to read the screen. ‘You are in room 12. It’s just up these stairs.’
‘Awesome, thanks. I’ll go there now.’
‘Wait, you need this too.’ She pulled out a small stack of papers and handed it to me. The paper was cream and had a soft texture that reminded me of cotton. The top had been decorated with small drawings of red berries in the corner and a rabbit being chased by dogs at the bottom. The following words had been handwritten beautifully.

Hentan-House Welcomes You

Heat & Ice

Feast Preparation

Three Cheers to the Hunt

The Beat Around the Bush

The Scrub

Appeasement & Meditation

CASE 0295 : M-M-R-L-O-N-6-L-E-6-S

Interviewer: XXXXX
Interviewee: XXXX XXX
Date of interview: XX.XX.2019
Location of interview: XXXXXXXXX, United Kingdom
List of acronyms: SP=XXXX XXX, IN=Interviewer

[Transcript continued from pause 00:32:25]

IN: I need you to confirm the details once again from the start.

SP: Everything? Seriously? Were you not recording from the start?

IN: We were but this is for clarification. Please speak into the microphone clearly.

SP: Where do I start?

IN: When it began. In the afternoon of XXXXXX. You were sleeping?

SP: Yeah, yes… I woke up on from a nap to my neighbours knocking on my door. They had been removing their patio and so I thought they might have wanted to borrow something or have an extra set of helping hands. But there was a problem. They had hit something. They called it a pipe at the time.

IN: And what happened next?

SP: Well I went to have a look. I’ve only been living there for a year so when someone says they hit a pipe that leads to your house it’s always best to look. There was no water spewing from it so that was good. It was old looking. Made of clay maybe. I didn’t know what to do about it to be honest. The neighbours were apologising but how could they have known. These were old stone houses that had stood the test of time. So we were always expecting to find one or two surprises. Instead of taking the neighbours offer to just close it up I wanted to see what its purpose was for. So I asked if they could deal with it being open for a day or two and they agreed. I managed to get rid of most of the dirt that had piled in when they broke it. There was something odd about the shape of it. I’ve only known pipes to be circular and this one was more rectangular. It was about fifty centimeters wide but shallow – very shallow. Like twenty centimeters. Then my wife noticed these small bones. Tiny rodent skulls and other parts. Immediately after that she was on the phone to an exterminators.

IN: To make it known I’m bringing evidence Zero-Zero-Five out of it’s box and putting it into the DVD player. Please can you describe what you are seeing as I play the footage. If you want me to pause please say so.

SP: Okay.

[Shuffling sounds and TV being wheeled into place.]

IN: What can we see?

SP: We can see the exterminator, XXXXXXXX, on the screen as he wiped the camera lens. He said it was like a drain snake. You can slide it through the pipes and walls and see what’s going on. Press play again. Yeah so here it’s going through the point where the neighbours broke it open. The space looks dry as it continues going forward. Nothing here just more of the tunnel. We decided to check where the pipe leads to first just in case. An electrician had told me that a few of these houses he had worked on had their own airways made underground. To vent the house and stop it from getting damp. Pause here. This here. You see that black nothingness ahead. That’s where the tunnel stops and goes up somehow. The length was running short on the camera so we had to stop pushing it there.

IN: Did you check where that pipe stopped?

SP: We did. We followed the general direction of the tunnel and from the length of the cameras lead it stopped twelve foot behind the sheds where the common is.

IN: The common?

SP: It’s where dog walkers go mostly. Just a small stretch of field and woods before the dual carriageway. And that’s where we found it. The entrance. It was very well hidden under a thorn bush. It had this rusted metal grate that you could open if you bent down low enough. (inaudible) Excuse me. We can fast forward the video here as it’s just the exterminator pulling the camera back. (Pause) Am I doing this right?

IN: You’re not missing anything out I hope.

SP: No, I’m trying to be as detailed as possible. You’ve seen the photos haven’t you?

IN: I have.

SP: It’s wrecked my wife. She’s been staying at her parents for two weeks now. The sight of it…

IN: Can you continue here. The camera is now going back into the pipe.

SP: It’s a tunnel not a pipe. XXXXX called it a crawlspace.

IN: Okay so the camera is being pushed down into the crawlspace once more.

SP: Yeah this time it’s facing our house. You can see as we go further in – like right there. And there. Those are more small bones left. Pause it here… Thanks. In the up left corner you can just about see the markings. Scratches maybe. Unpause please. You can see them throughout. I think they are letters. You’ll see what I mean in a moment. We are under my house now. It’s wider here and you can see the concrete above just slightly. My wood flooring is just above. That’s trash in the corners. Bits of wrappers, magazine pages, and more bits of bone. That larger white blur between the pictures of women – that’s a cats skull they confirmed a few days later. Seriously somehow it managed it drag some poor cat through that space and ate it under our livingroom. I didn’t want to say anything but the neighbours two doors down lost their cat a month ago.

IN: And those are the markings you mentioned correct? On the longer end of the wall.

SP: Yes. Wait a moment for the camera to focus and- there. You see that. That’s an M I’m certain of it.

IN: And do these scratches spell anything out to you?

SP: You know they do. It’s its name. You can’t say it couldn’t write. The thing looked like it was collecting all those ripped up magazine clippings of men all day and you think it couldn’t think or read. Here it is on the screen. Pause here. Thanks. M-M-R-L-O-N-6-L-E-6-S.

IN: And what do you think that means?

SP: What do you think it means?

IN: It means nothing to me. I am interviewing you – what does it mean to you?

SP: I- we- think it’s their name. M-m-r is kinda like murmur or mama.

IN: And the numbers?

SP: I don’t think it’s a six really but actually a “G”. The exterminator noticed it first. He called it Daddy Long Legs wife. Mama Long Legs if you replace six. That’s the name or words that it writes all across the tunnel and up past the goddamn vent where we found what was left of it. Jesus.

IN: Speak calmly sir. You are referring to these… Make it known I am showing the photos taken of what was found on the property.

SP: I can’t look at it. Don’t make me describe it.

IN: Sir. You need to say what’s in the photograph.

(Long Pause)

SP: It was a few days after the fumigation. We were doing the walk through when we noticed the smell coming from the downstairs bathroom. The image your showing me is what we pulled out from the wall. You can see three of its legs hanging loose from the hole. Translucent skin and black bone. It’s thin as a rod and the length of a baseball bat. It’s making me sick thinking about it living, breathing, listening as it climbed through the walls. The crawlspace. All the while me and XXXXX watched TV or showered. You’re going to sort this out right? I can’t go back there.

IN: Let it be known we are ending the interview. Please exit the room and an officer will escort you to the next room.

SP: You still haven’t found it have you? (inaudible) I swear I (inaudible). Sir. (shuffling)

End of recording.

When a person or neighbour in your village cries out “troll”, lock your children inside the house and keep your hunting rifle by your side. I used to believe they were only children’s tales supposed to scare the kids from stepping deep into caves or under bridges. They had bright pink hair and you stuck them onto the end of your pencil. There was nothing to fear because they were nowhere to be seen.

This all changed a few years ago. I was walking Hunter through the forest on a warm Summer’s day. He was off the lead and jumping through bushes and hopping over streams and rarely waited for me. But when I stopped to tie my shoes I looked up and he was gone. There was nothing but the faint groans of pigs. I moved through the bushes closer to the noise and to stop Hunter from scaring the animals. Clearing through the bushes I saw what looked like three children all dressed in black. They were hopping around the front of a cave and throwing something between them. I stepped closer and noticed they were not children at all. Standing four-foot-tall and covered in wiry black fur. They squatted at the entrance and squealed as they chucked something against the rocks. Stamping the ground and smashing their swollen grey hands down onto the item like they were pressing grapes for wine. Their faces were a mess of mangy hair and bulbous snout covered in warts. For a second I caught sight of their small pebble black eyes scan the trees. I stood horrified as one flung the creature they had been stomping on to the other. Amidst all the blood I saw one of the trolls spinning Hunter’s collar between its fingers. They were throwing my German Shepherd around like he was nothing more than a wet towel. They squealed and painted their cave red with his blood. Only after some time had passed, they finally grew bored and lazily clambered back into the darkness. As I stood there paralysed in fear the last thing I heard where the echoed howls of twenty more.

When I returned to the village and told them of the trolls the older men looked at me displeased. They said they had warned us many times of the trolls, but no-one listened. It was several days later when I heard that they had built a fence around the cave and done nothing more. Looking back now I agree with how they handled it. It was too much of a risk to try and fight them as an angry troll will often follow you home and sniff out your loved ones. Best to let them lay in their caves and hope you don’t catch their eye.

Through extreme pressure and heat the coarse sugar melted down and was squeezed out through tiny holes; This molten sugar spread through the air, cooling, and catching on the sides of the steel drum. Clutching one another, this once hard crystal was now lighter, and like webbing it danced in the light growing thicker as the motion continued. Levi watched how it waited, almost invisible to his eyes, until he placed the long stick down into the machine. Like an adder it snapped at the stick and coiled its body around, darkening its glistening threads to a thick and puffy pink. Seconds later it was fat and ready to be consumed.

Levi raised the stick from the machine and admired its sixties beehive hairstyle shape. The kid next to him stared at it wide-eyed and waited for Levi to move out the way before taking hold of the stick from the vendor working there. Stepping out towards the group of tourists alongside the sandy edges of Positano, he sat down on a deck chair and waited for the Pink Sea to arrive. It had always been an unwritten rule or cheek-kissing custom for him to buy Emil a treat whenever they visited a beach. And this was no exception. Emil would have complained about how terrible the colour was before unabashedly scoffing the candy floss down. Levi wished he had shared the sweet with Emil just once instead of feigning disgust at the chemical sugars. It was a constant regret he had let go of Emil’s hand when he strolled down to the strange phenomena happening in the water. He said he knew all about it but did he really? Even now Levi still couldn’t decide what it was. That coral-toned shimmer; rising with the waves yet so alien to the sea-water it inhabits.

A gaggle of tourists pointed their phones as a dolphin broke out from the water in the distance. Levi wondered how many people in the growing crowd would bite the bullet. After all the talk, the arguments, the endless doubt and fiery bursts of courage – would they give it all up, everything and everyone, to plunge into the Pink Sea? Levi had not been so sure several years ago when it appeared over Skegness. Families screamed for their kids to get out the water. Sirens wailed and the police commanded everyone to leave. He could still feel the gentle squeeze of Emil’s hand leading him towards the ruby froth rushing back and forth. His words, like whispers, were muted through the chaos on the land and rhythmic crashing of the waves. But Levi could still remember the look in his eyes. “It’s going to be better. Embrace it with me.” But that warmth and reassurance slipped free once Levi saw the man and woman ahead of them; swallowed at their waist they held onto each other as the pink froth lit up, and in moments, what was skin and bone and everything considered human began to dissolve. They did not scream, not one of the many people who accepted the cosmic oil-slick dancing over the water felt any pain. They all smiled. Levi let go of Emils hand and stepped back. He watched Emil continue to transcend into the deep and only once he was a floating head did he turn back to the shore. He could not hear Levis cries and apologies. He simply watched and when the Pink Sea was ready he became one with it. Continue reading

The Projectionist – Chapter Four

Oliver had spent the rest of that evening weighing up the invitation. There was nothing else, no small lead or person he knew who could help. It was only Una and Caspar. Even if she could not fully help then perhaps she had knowledge of something that could. Her son had the same affliction. Oliver wondered if he would ask the boy about the moth.

After his conversation with Caspar he had thanked the man and withdrew to his room. The slip of paper with the address of where Una was staying and Caspar’s number burned in his pocket. He lay that evening on his bed with an ice pack wrapped around his neck. Between small naps he watched trashy TV shows and documentaries on animals. He was worried about the hag. Caspar seemed to think it would come for him. It had found something in him the man had said. Oliver gripped the oversized straw the hotel waiter had given him, and drank the remainder of the orange juice.

Checking the jotted-down address he saw it was a day or two drive north with the fastest method being by train. He would pack first and then head down to the help desk and have them order a taxi.

Continue reading “The Projectionist – Chapter Four”

Azure Walls

A misplaced step. Twisting to the shrill echo of her voice on the wind I found myself slipping down. Down into the crevasse. Hands frantically pressing against the walls to no avail. Falling deeper until the white began to bleed into a deep blue. Slowing. The ice closed in tighter, scratching up my legs, tightening like a bottleneck. I found myself stuck. Ruffling the snow from my head I felt a warmth around the back of my skull. Pulling my hands away I found blood smeared along my fingers.

Pleading to the gods I made promises I knew I would break. Only the distant echo of ice cracking replied. I held my breath. Fearful my body heat would soon begin to melt the surrounding ice. My eyes were losing focus, softly blurring my vision of the ice into the form of clear skies…

No clouds had gathered on that last weekend I spent at home. It was a welcoming change that we took advantage of. Alice had called our daughter down into the garden. I had stepped over to peek at my wife from the kitchen window overlooking  the back garden. Mindful not to linger as the bubbling risotto would need several more ladles of chicken stock. She was dressed in a pair of dungarees and an old top I had tried to throw out. She had worked so hard on this square of land we called a garden.

‘Come quick and see the bumblebees prepare for dinner.’ Alice said, waving over Madeline. Madeline lingered at the edge of the patio, squatted low with her back to us.

‘Mum, this bee is asleep.’ She whined.

I had called out for her not to touch the bee until her mum was there.

Alice hurried over and knelt down.

‘No, no he’s not sleeping. He is tired from the heat. Go ask your dad for some sugar water.’

I was already mixing the solution together before Madeline jumped into view. She tugged at my hand and pulled me over to the decking. I watched on as the struggling bee twisted its legs and paused every so often to make its way to the spoon. At that time I wasn’t sure if it was right for us to intervene. Yet seeing my family caring over the smallest of creatures gave me comfort in knowing this place was worth the struggle.

The gash on my nose left an imprint on the ice wall. The ridge of my nose did not feel broken but it had began to swell and grow tender to the touch. I must be imagining her voice out there. She was at home. I pressed my head back down. How soon will they search for me once the radiocheck isn’t answered? It was night now and the winds were growing sharp overhead. How long had I been fading in and out of consciousness? A dull ache was setting into my bones. I would have to move soon. There was a small ridge jutting out just a few feet above. Stretching out I thought of Madeline…

I wanted to be there when Alice would tell her how we first moved into that house. How we had sunk every penny we had into it. We needed a place before the Madeline arrived. That was our only incentive. We needed a place for our girl to grow up feeling secure when she knew her father would not be back from his trip for several months. Just a week after the purchase I found Alice laying on the sofa with a blanket wrapped around her. I had asked what was wrong and she had replied that this was not the home she had envisioned. The garden was a collection of weeds and rocks. Upstairs our rooms were bare and pipes rattled. I paused for a moment before asking her what she had imagined the first item her house would have.

‘A teal chest of drawers laced in vines… I was ten at the time I made the list.’ She laughed. I nodded and kissed her lips. That next day I drove around the village charity shops. Hunting through the trinkets and hand-me-downs until I came across a small oak chest; scarred with some heavy dents and chipped ridges. I sanded It down and cut a series of vine patterns onto paper for the stencil I would paint over. Alice returned later that night, flicking her shoes off on the hallway floor. She entered the dining room to see the painted furniture drying in the setting sun.

‘What is this?’ She asked.

‘This is my promise to you that this place of ours can be the home you dreamt of. We just need to work toward it.’I heard a faint sound of snow crashing overhead. I did not mind. It was much warmer here in the memory.

 

Purple Haze (Extract)

pppp
Licking the cigarette paper before twirling it tight around the weed and tobacco, Jamie contemplated multiple decisions. Summers unbearable length was coming to a stark ending and he still had no idea where Sasha had disappeared. Spread out on the deck chair in the shabby grass of his back garden, charcoal hood lifted up over his head. Sparks and the glow of embers reflected in his eyes, sucking in, he let his mind wander. Tapping it, the ash floated down onto the ground.

‘I’ve made so many mistakes recently Sasha,’ Jamie spoke into the darkness. Taking another drag, he packed it into his lungs. Hanging over the void of no reply. The tree’s rustled and melted together between half-closed eyes. Releasing, he let the smoke crawl out of his mouth.
Feeling light but
Shackled to the chair. Expanding with each breath, rising up. Floating down. ‘No-one knows a single thing. I should have come back that night you rang.’ Jamie felt his most comfortable away from people; he couldn’t help but live a lie in front of them. Closing himself off, eyelids tightly shut.

Three quarters through, he rolled the roach back and forth. A weight pressed onto his shoulders. Tar smeared the back of his throat. Teeth clenched tight. ‘You found me.’ He said, smiling. A single tear escaping as the wind ruffled through his fringe. Fingers covered his eyes. Jamie laughed without a sound, his body bobbing up and down. Slowing, the laughter scratched into a deeper melody.

‘I’m getting your fingers all wet hun.’ The heat pinched his lips. Her image trickled over the walls.

Sad Violins (Extract)

violin animation

 

Retreating to his music room, giddy in excitement, Alwin knew the realities of his talent-less body. What was once a room to practice, had become a private concert between him and Sofia. He would linger there for hours, bringing all work to this room when she rehearsed. It wasn’t just listening to the high craft of a genius, watching her playing – with such devotion and peace – let him forget his troubles. Being in her presence eased the pain that he could never replicate such delights.

Resting the case on the wooden table, he unclipped it and took hold of the violin. Light as a birds bone, he eased the chin rest into place. Plucking the strings lightly while twisting the pegs, Alwin was amazed that it was all in correct tune. Taking hold of the bow, he eased his mind to recall the month he spent on the violin as a child. His clunky fingers held down on the neck ready for the bow string. Old Joe Clark. At fifteen, his mother had gifted him a violin for his birthday. Sat on the long windowsill to his room, he cracked his knuckles and twisted the digits, letting sandwiches harden out on the table untouched. The hum of Old Joe Clark still remained in his adult self, a constant whisper. Here he was again, a man now with heavy fingers, fat and sprouting hair. Drawing the bow back and forth, he went over the tune, surprised to find how easily his fingers adjusted. He played it slow, discomforted by the lack of difficulty. Picking up the pace, he went through the repetitions, swiftly dithering his hand at the correct beat. Lost to his senses, he did not notice his fingers stretching along the neck. Finger tips along the razor wire.

He stopped. Pouring himself a celebratory glass of whisky from the cabinet. Running his finger along the spines of music books, he stopped over the violin sheet music. Shuffling through the papers, he rested on one and took position once more. Danse Macabre. Swiftly he began to play, not a touch incorrect. Raising his eyes to the ceiling, tears streaming down his cheeks. Rocking back and forth, the playful notes began to turn bitterly haunting. Fingers pushed down forcefully and switched nimbly. Frozen in ecstasy, he could feel his eyes rolling back into his skull as if possessed. Chin wet with tears, they dripped down the neck.

‘Alwin!’ Sofia screamed. Fingers froze as her presence. His soul sliding back between the familiar bones and flesh. Turning, he saw her with Stephanie, his daughter, clung to her legs. My darlings, he thought, they’re in shock at my skill.

‘Sofia, my love, did you hear? Had you been deceived in thinking I was playing a record in the music room? It is something is it not. To think, I had been so cruel on myself – too brutish in my early years, to not give myself the possibility I had potential. Will you play with me? Let Stephenie dance until ten even if it’s a school night. She can tell her teacher and classmates she danced to the music her father made.’

‘You’re bleeding Alwin.’ Sofia said, trying to comfort Stephanie with her hand.

Lullaby

I squeezed the segments of the orange in my mouth, sucking them hard until the juices burst and ran down my throat. Mashing the skin and veins against my teeth until only the dry thin membrane remained. Spitting the leftovers on the fence of Jones’ old house. My mums on and off boyfriend she would always say. Working in the sound part of the television. He had the responsibility in choosing the sounds that get the best response and make sense. I always imagined if he got it wrong we would hear a cow bark or the boiling kettle give off a scream instead of a whistle.

Climbing over the fence, I stared at the windows at the back of the house. Only darkness inside; a void which in my mind was filled with someone watching, waiting for me to just step down onto the lawn and get a little closer. It was Halloween in just two days and the films last night haunted my mind. Freddy Kruger’s knife fingers luring me closer, tapping on the door frame in eagerness.

I dropped down. The grass hid the thud like a mattress. Frozen, I looked at the windows, waiting for some figure or sound to emerge and catch me. My scalp began to itch with a prickly heat. Creeping closer to the back door. A dying breeze softly rocked the open door, as if drifting off to sleep. The thought of exploring the empty house tickled my mind. Mr Jones was sure to be at work, I had seen him scarcely return in the day. The slam of his white van always woke me up in the middle of the night. Poking my head through the gap, twisting my neck into unthinkable positions, I managed to see the kitchen. A similar layout to my mothers. She always made me dry the dishes. After every meal, I would stand to attention beside her – faithful lieutenant. Careful not to let the plates slip from wrinkled fingers. Many cups had lost their arms to my ‘misplacement of attention’ as mum would say.

A large bowl winked at me from the counter of Mr Jones’ kitchen. Covered in ghouls and pumpkin pictures, the purple plastic bowl was filled with treasure. Treats and sweets; from chocolate cups to sour twisters that stained the inside of your lips. Gumballs of every colour poked their bald heads over the top, waving at me. My mouth began to water, pooling behind my bottom lip under the teeth. One sweet. Just one.

Stuffing the crinkled wrappers into my pockets to hide the evidence, I had eaten too much. Mr Jones would surely guess someone had been eating them. Some sneaky boy he would think, perhaps the boy next door? And come for me, telling my mum of my thieving. She would slap me. There were no packets in the cupboards forcing me to creep into the living room to find where the large packet was to fill the bowl back up. Everything sweated in a thick heat, the shag carpet sank under my sneakers. The wallpaper was covered in a pattern of leaves and trees, peeling up around the wooden skirting. Beside the sofa and armchair, a long desk with computers and machinery lay. A green light pulsed from the screen. Scanning the desk I saw a microphone tilted upwards. A long grainy scratch filled the room, originating from the speakers attached to the screen. I waved my hand over the mouse, brightening the screen. Video and music files marked with women’s names. Sliding the icon towards the first name, Delilah, the preview image looked like a face. Red and white smudged over the skin.

‘What are you doing Sam?’ said the voice from the doorway. The shock rattled me, almost forcing me to fall back. I stammered, watching Mr Jones, leant against the door frame, looking back at me. He was unshaven, white whiskers gathering on his chin and cheeks, his blonde hair fell over his forehead. ‘Did your mum ask for me?’ He was in a checkered blue shirt and jeans. His bare feet sinking quietly into the floor like a cat as he approached. I nodded and darted my eyes from his. He stood over, looking at the screen I had just been nosing into.

Mr Jones’ hand curled over my shoulder. I could feel each finger tighten for an instant, the tips digging under my collarbone. The pressure from his eyes drilled into the back of my skull, filling it with a tingling. ‘Is this work?’ I said. The hand lightened.

‘Yes Sam, its work. I work for the television…this in particular is for all those Halloween shows you kids love to watch. You like to watch scary things right Sam?’ I turned to look at him. He smiled at me, encouraging a response.

‘Mum thinks they give me nightmares.’

‘Do they?’ Mr Jones said. The heat in the room caused the skin on my scalp to itch beyond relief. I dared not scratch. ‘My mother never let me watch television, she was always so strict. Only classical music I could entertain myself with. Never the good stuff.’ He grinned.

‘My mum is wrong. They don’t scare me. Monsters aren’t real.’ He brought a finger to his mouth and gave a quizzical look.

‘Do you want to hear something scary I’m working on for tomorrow?’ I nodded. His lips parted, teeth like Wrigley’s gum all in a row, and leant over. Hair tickling my ear as he took hold of the mouse and clicked a folder. It opened up to reveal a list of other names, some boys this time like John and Malcolm. ‘You’ll be helping me on a very special project. Something everyone has wanted to know about for a long time now.’ He slid the microphone over.

I never told my mum what had happened in the house. I was a burglar, breaking into his home and stealing those sweets. Mr Jones would have me thrown into jail. Alone with the killers she would always warn me about. There were no killers here in the village. Girls ran away all the time. Their faces on the telly and stuck on lampposts, mothers gathered like turkeys gobbling and wailing.

Gwen chased me through the house, never catching me as I was always too fast. She was a way better babysitter than Jude. Jude always just sat on the sofa and cried over some guy named Harry. I think he was in a band. Maybe she ran away with him last spring.

I hid in the coat closet, wrapping an anorak around me, feeling safe from sight. Gwen finished counting down. A small sliver of light came from the partially open door. I was so stupid to leave it open. Gwen was in the living room. Flickering the lights to try and scare me. Nothing could scare me. Monsters didn’t exist. The front door handle rattled for a second or two. I watched from the crack in the door, how it twisted around. Gwen had locked it after the trick or treaters had all gone home. Maybe it was mum.

‘Help…’ whispered from behind the door. Little hairs rose on my neck and arms. It was a boy’s voice.

‘Help…me.’ It said again. Again and again it said help. Gwen shouted my name from down the hallway. I didn’t respond. I couldn’t let her catch me just yet. She walked down towards the door.

The boy asked for help.

‘Sam? Why are you outside?’ Gwen said, looking through the peephole. I wanted to jump out and say it wasn’t me. It sounded like me but wasn’t. I was me. The voice broke out into a blubbery cry. Gwen put her hand on the door handle. Was she scared? ‘Wait there Sam…I’m going to phone the ambulance.’ Silence. Gwen looked through the peephole again. ‘Sam?’

‘Help me I’m hurt! I’m hurt and it’s bleeding everywhere. Help me…’ The boy said again. I knew those words. The same words I’d read aloud. Gwen slid the lock from the door. The crying stopped. Cool air swept through the crack. I opened the closet door a little wider. Gwen stepped out into the porch.

I called out to her. Watching her turn to me, her foot stepping on something. Smiling at finding me in the closet she bent down and picked the object up. The small black box caused her to frown. She clicked a button. The boy began to cry again. Then I saw him, the boy who had been using the box. Standing behind Gwen – bright blue eyes like a baby shining out from the cut open holes of the bag on his face.

‘I’m coming in.’

Jabberwocky

Twas Nochi and the rozz did patrol and grumble in the grove. The bogaty would raise their nose to the wheezing of the urchins whose sweating phalanges were marked on the knuckle lead me, a fellow kind, to the Jabberwocky. My father warned of its igra to love would vred like a razors blade and shiv from sharries to yarbles. But he did not say to the licking pleasure that oozed over your skin with zoobies biting so gentle but naughty and volos that tickled and teased.

I slingered closer to the door, remembering the devotchka I lived with between months, playing with the Jabberwocky under tempest nights. All our dreams spilled out like ghosts as we lubbilubbed until the moon turned blue. I preached and prayed the daily dose but her appetite grew too large. Nagoy and bezoomy she sprang into traffic as I followed – spotlights blinded like the stars. Devotchka spread her crurals and smiled with those perfect goobers as a double-decker ran her down. A quick striking to the door with barter and sweating and I had that little creature in my sight. Oomny or nazad I cannot decide for I am now the monster, a terrible bloodsucker.