Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Pride Month 2022, Writing

The Holiday From Hell

The sky sobbed at the sight of Dover. Rain fell, heavy, as we huddled together under the umbrella and stared up at the boat.

As stupid as it sounds, I didn’t expect it to be so big. It felt as tall as a building, towering above us and casting a large shadow that ran far past us and across the port.

I took Maria’s hand and looked up at her expectantly, but she stared, open mouthed, in dumbstruck awe, still captured by the majesty of the vessel that sat before us.

Maria had spent many hours boring me silly with her boat talk, and there had been many hours more spent watching documentaries about various liners and warships when it was her turn to pick the movie on date night.

I was exhausted with my lover’s nautical obsession, but seeing the childlike glee on her face as she stared up at the Carrickfergus melted my heart. She was a complete nerd, but she was MY complete nerd, and all of the overtime I had done to afford the cruise had been worth it.

We couldn’t quite stretch to a suite, but we had a nice room, and a little luxury. After a few rough years with Covid and the general state of the world, I wanted to treat her to an experience that would replace all the bad memories with something new. I just didn’t know what they’d be replaced with. I couldn’t have expected what awaited us at sea. Nobody could have.

“Shall we go then?” I asked, squeezing her hand gently.

She snapped back to life with a smile, nodding excitedly, and we headed towards the boat. Once we were inside, I was even more shocked by the size of the boat. It just went on and on. Corridors, staircases, swimming pools, restaurants and bars. It was like we were in a town that just happened to be floating at sea.

My beautiful girl seemed to smile wider with every new discovery, her hand held tightly in mine as we searched for our cabin.

We were lost at first, but as we wandered the large and seemingly never ending halls, we were approached by a man. He wore a crisp, white uniform, with a black hat covering his sandy, almost white hair.

“I’m Captain Parris.” He said with a smile, and an extended hand. “Let me guide you to your rooms.” Maria enthusiastically shook his hand with an awestruck smile as I glared in disapproval.

“Room.” I said curtly, snatching her hand back and securing it tightly in my own. The lightbulb above us began to flicker, and together, we glanced up at it, watching in awkward silence as the light stabilised and we were left with nothing to distract from the uncomfortable atmosphere.

“Of course ladies.” He simpered beginning to stride down the hall. “My mistake.”

The first few days were smooth sailing, quite literally. The ship flew through calm waves, like a knife through butter and together, Maria and I enjoyed the pleasures of a life at sea. We sipped cocktails as the sun fell into the clear ocean, ate dinner in our fanciest outfits and watched dolphins as they chased the boat through the waves.

It was paradise. So many carefree hours under the sweet sun, with no idea of what was to come.

It all began with dinner on our third day. We had steak and potatoes. It’s so strange that I can remember it exactly. The steak was a little tough, and she tutted at me, affectionately, for using my knife and fork “the wrong way round”. Those were the last few moments of normality. The last few moments without the sense of terror that seemed to leak into the water and creep into every crevice of the boat.

As she leaned across the table to help her helpless girlfriend with cutting up the aforementioned tough steak, there was a sudden yell from the back of the dining room. Maria dropped the cutlery to my plate with a clatter, turning towards the sound. There was a commotion, some kind of struggle as brawling men spilled onto the Captain’s table. One seemed to be fighting back against the rest, snarling as he shoved and pushed back against the other men.

“What is going on?” She whispered, clutching my hand across the table. I shrugged, looking over at the table as the chaos unfolded. Confused whispers filled the air as they tore at each other. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the one I’d noticed before. He was hitting out at everyone around him, biting and spitting as he snarled at them. I looked around and saw the other diners, staring in horrified awe at the scene.

“Lets get out of here…” I said, pulling her from her chair and running from the stunned crowd as the officers and other men wrestled the wild stranger to the ground. As we passed him to reach the door, he fought against his captors, reaching out a hand to us, his eyes frantic and feral for a moment before they fixed firmly on my own. A little smile crept onto his lips as his hand clamped around my leg.

“You’d better run.” My blood ran cold as he spoke, as I stared down at the chaos, watching the officers and staff pull him to his feet and march him from the room. Maria dragged me from the room, pulling me behind the door so we could catch our breath. We watched the crowd of officers forcing the man, kicking, screaming and biting down the corridor, towards a large, steel door that with a lot of pushing, shoving and grunting, they finally managed to force him through.

As we watched, I felt fear rising in my body. The officers closed the door, locking it and then dispersing, and for a few seconds we stood in silence. I stared at the door, unsure of what was behind it, but sure that I didn’t want to find out. Part of me felt drawn to it, though, and as I stared, almost transfixed, I was pulled back to reality as the lightbulb above us suddenly smashed, plunging us into darkness.

Maria and I ran back through the dark hallway to our room in silence, only speaking when the door was closed and we were sure that we were alone and safe.

“What the fuck is going on?” She said in barely a whisper, beginning to pace the room with her hands on her hips. I shook my head, unsure of what I should say. “That man…” I pulled her close to me, halting her panicked pacing. “What was wrong with him?”

“I don’t know.” I muttered, her hair, soft against my neck as I held her close to me. “But it was like he looked right at me.” She nodded, breaking from my arms and throwing herself down onto the bed.

“So much for a relaxing holiday.” She stretched her arms across the bed with a loud sigh. I sat beside her on the soft covers, stroking her curls, fanned out across the duvet cover. “Whatever it was, we are keeping our heads down, right?” I nodded, kissing her cheek tenderly.

I wish I could have kept my word, but trouble has a way of finding you, no matter where you try to hide, and no matter how firmly you confirm that you do not want to be involved.

We went to bed, trying to forget what we’d seen, and as I watched Maria fall asleep, I tried to shake off the slight nervousness that was buzzing through my body. I couldn’t stop thinking about the man in the dining room. He had looked right into my eyes, as if he knew me, and he spoke in such a way that I knew he was talking directly to me. I just couldn’t understand why.

I struggled to get to sleep that night, but when I did, it didn’t last for long. As I woke up, there was a storm outside, and by the bedroom door was the shadow of a stranger.

I stared in silence, watching the shadow wander towards the bathroom, glancing to my left to see Maria with her eyes fixed on the shadow too. As the shadow tottered slowly into the bathroom, she grabbed my hand and pulled me down to the floor. As we fell, I saw the shadow turn, standing still for a moment before heading back towards the bedroom. Maria shoved me under the bed as we watched the shadow emerge.

The shadow shuffled towards the bed, legs bowed and worn to almost nothing, and I prayed that the moon’s light would not reveal any more of my tormentor.

I held Maria’s hand tightly, feeling her shaking in my embrace.

“You’d better run” That same, raspy whisper rang out across the room, thunder crashing in the sky as Maria dragged my hand to her mouth, muffling her terror as tears met our clutched hands.

The lightning outside filled the sky with brightness and for a second, I saw him. A rotting tower of flesh, white, wide eyes, water dripping down his drowned clothes onto the floor, but the intent, furious stare from those white, wide eyes was so familiar, even if it no longer had any direction.

“They’re coming to get you Louise.” He crowed.

It was the man from the dining hall. He was barely recognisable. His body mangled, dead, dank skin hanging from his limbs, with torn, terrorised muscles and the same, frantic,feral stare.

He stumbled around the room, bumping into furniture and toppling on unsteady feet, but he always rose back up, searching the room for someone to hear his message.

“Don’t you want to know what they’re hiding behind that door?” I shook my head, screwing my eyes up tightly and praying that it was just a bad dream. “I wasn’t enough, you see.” His voice was getting closer to our hiding place and as I opened my eyes, I saw his legs, inches from the bed, the skin, worn away until the bones were almost visible. “Nothing is ever going to be enough.” He continued, his knees dropping to the floor as he got closer to the bed. Maria and I scooted back, but it was too late. He had found us.

“The captain is very particular, you know.” A single, skeletal hand slunk under the bed, reaching out and grabbing mine tightly. I was frozen in fear, holding my breath as tears fell from my eyes. “You’re exactly what he’s looking for.”

The man released my hand, rising from his knees without another word and became to wander from the room again, tottering and falling as he did, but always getting back up, until he was clear of the door, and out of sight.

For a minute or so, Maria and I lay under the bed in silence. She was the first to speak.

“We have to get out of here.” I knew that she was right but I had no idea how we were supposed to do such a thing. “The lifeboats.” She whispered. “If we can get to them, we can get to the nearest port and escape.” Again, I nodded, unsure of how we would do such a thing, but willing to try.

We abandoned our things in the room, leaving with nothing but our lives, and crept through the silent halls, hand in hand. As we headed towards the deck, I spotted the door from earlier. Large and looming, made of shiny, unforgiving steel and seeming to stare with the same intensity as the man from the dining hall.

As much as I wanted to keep our heads down and escape, I knew that I had to know what was behind the door. I knew that it was the key to the man from the dining hall, and why he insisted with such confidence that I was somehow connected to this whole mess, and in such danger.

“Absolutely not!” Maria whispered as I rushed towards the door. She clutched my hand tighter and tried to pull me from my path but I broke free and ran towards it. “It won’t even be open dummy.” She hissed, chasing after me. I could hear her but I didn’t care. I had to try.

As I reached the door, I pushed on the handle, amazed to see it fly open without much effort. There was darkness on the other side, that didn’t look inviting, but I was one step closer to finding out the truth. Maria approached, reaching out a hand to me, and as I went to grab it, I was suddenly snatched away and pulled into the room by something in the darkness. I heard her cry out as the door slammed shut and I was alone in the dark.

“It wouldn’t have let her in anyway.” It was the same voice, scratchy and raspy. “It can sense what the Captain wants.” I shuddered, feeling my way back to the closed door and frantically trying to free myself from the room. “Almost like it can taste you.”

“What is this place?” I asked, banging against the cool surface of the door.

“Stop trying to get out.” His voice seemed to bounce in the darkness, as if he was moving around, circling me as he spoke. “You need to listen to me, or you and your little girlfriend won’t survive.”

“Who are you?” I cried, desperately trying the door again and again, despite his warnings.

“Have you ever noticed that nobody gets invited to eat with the Captain on this ship?” I hadn’t thought about it too much, but now that he mentioned it, it was true. The Captain had always dined alone, at the top table. “People aren’t invited, but some do still get that particular pleasure.” The man from the dining hall laughed, and while I had an idea of what he meant, I didn’t want to believe that it could be true. I shook my head, as the room filled with light, blinking it back as it stung my eyes. “Welcome to the restaurant.”

I stared around, my eyes adjusting to the new brightness of the room and my jaw dropped. It was filled with cages, small and cramped, and inside of each of them was a struggling, desperate person trying to get out. I recognised some of them from around the ship, but some were strangers. Over by the light switch was the man from the dining hall, clearly struggling to stand but wearing a sinister smile all the time. “The Captain is starving.”

“But…” I couldn’t stop looking at everyone around me. The sound of sniffling and sobbing was unbearable. “Why?”

“A Captain is the master of his ship, but every Captain has a master too.” The man said, hobbling towards me. “I heard from some of the others like me that this has been going back years.”

“Others like you?” I surveyed him with suspicion, taking a tentative step back as he continued to approach me.

“Ghosts, Louise.” I began to speak, my eyes wide in disbelief but he cut me off gruffly. “I wasn’t when we first met, but I was chosen that night.” He sighed in exasperation as he continued. “There isn’t enough time.”

“But…” He raised a thin, fragile hand that was mostly bones with a slight sprinkling of skin and I fell silent.

“I was trying to warn you, but I couldn’t get to you in time to explain… this.” He gestured at the cages around the room with a resigned sigh. “I’d seen the Captain watching you on the deck before they took me.” There was a sadness in his eyes now. I could see the marks from the knives that trailed down his skin. His flesh, stolen, for a reason that I did not yet understand, and still amidst all that, he had thought to try and help me.

“Why me?” I mumbled, almost choking on the words as I spoke.

“There’s something in our blood.”

“What about our blood?” I yelled, falling back against the wall in despair. Tears began to fall from my eyes again as he shuffled towards me.

“It’s different for each of us, but there’s something about you that he wants.” The man said with a nonchalant shrug. “I don’t know what it is, but I do know that he watches someone, and then they disappear.” He gazed with grief around the room at the cages. “And then he dines.” The door beside me suddenly swung open and as I looked up, the man gestured towards it. “Now run, like I told you.” I nodded, standing from the floor and running, without looking back out of the door. “And use whatever you’ve got.” The man called out as the door slammed shut behind me, and I looked around the empty, dark hallway, searching for Maria.

She was nowhere to be found, and I began slowly walking the halls, trying to keep out of sight but desperately searching for her.

As I made it close to the deck, I could hear officers approaching in the distance. Hiding down in the darkness, I watched them march past, one of them clutching a helpless, screaming child in his arms, dragging him in the direction of the steel door.

“The Captain is going to be fuming if we don’t find the dyke he was looking at earlier.” One of them said, struggling to keep the child still as he walked. “We’ll get this one in the pot and go look for her again.” Their voices faded into the distance and I stood in shock for a moment. I couldn’t believe that I was being hunted through a cruise ship by cannibals, and had somehow paid £954 plus VAT for the privilege.

Once I was sure that they had gone, I kept walking, eventually finding my way to the deck and the lifeboats. As I reached them, my heart soared and relief ran through every vein in my body and straight to my heart as I saw Maria, smiling from behind the control panel.

She gestured to the orange lifeboat before us, fiddling with controls to try and launch the boat. “Go and get in.” She said quietly, her eyes focused on the panel before her.

“Not without you.” I folded my arms, shooting her a defiant look as she glanced up and rolled her eyes.

“One of us needs to launch it Lou, just get in for God’s sake.” She insisted, walking out from behind the panel and pushing me towards the boat. I pushed back but she was relentless, shoving me inside the boat and forcing me down on one of the seats.

“I’m not leaving you here.” My words did not move her, she shook her head and kissed me, her fingers tangled in my hair as she held me close to her, as if it would be our last kiss.

“I’ll be right behind you, I promise.” Our eyes met, and I knew that I had no choice but to trust her. I wanted to believe her, but nothing about what we were living through made that easy to do.

“I love you.” I cried out as she stepped off the lifeboat and back towards the panel.

“Tell me that again in a minute.” She said with a smirk as the crane holding up the lifeboat began to whir into motion, lowering the boat down towards the waiting ocean. I kept my eyes on her as the lifeboat descended, and just as I was about to hit the water, my heart sank through my body and down to the deepest depths of the sea that lay beneath us.

Behind her was the Captain. I called out her name, but I was too far for her to hear me. I struggled in my seat, pulling off the belt and struggling with the metal door of the lifeboat, but it was no use.

Heartbroken, I had no choice but to watch as he grabbed her and I felt that familiar sense of dread wash over me as I watched her struggling with the Captain.
My heart was racing and my mind frantic as I screamed her name again and again, until suddenly, the panel before them erupted with sparks and a cloud of smoke.

I saw Maria rush back as the lights above them began to flicker, fighting from the Captain’s grasp.

“Give him hell, kid.” A familiar voice whispered behind me. I turned in shock, and beside me was the man from the dining hall, watching the chaos unfold above on the lifeboat deck. I tore my eyes from him, looking back at Maria as the Captain rounded on her again, my heart pounding. “Let me help you out.” He whispered, his eyes following the Captain with the same fury that had become familiar from my unusual ally. As he stared up at the Captain, the life jackets that lined began shaking, fluttering against the wall at first and then flying off the shelves and gliding towards the Captain. “Focus!” The man barked. I stared up, watching the Captain bat the life jackets away, as Maria stood in panic, with nowhere to run.

“Jump!” I screamed. “Jump!” The lightbulbs began to blow, one by one, my heart skipping a beat as each went out, shards of glass soaring towards the Captain. “Jump!” I begged, and as the Captain fumbled towards her, covered in blood and glass, Maria leapt from the deck, plummeting through the air and falling into the water with a huge crash.

With a smile and a lazy flick of his bony, broken wrist, the man glanced towards the door of the the lifeboat and it opened with ease. I leaned over the side, searching frantically in the water until I felt Maria’s body, soaked and shaking.

Pulling her up into the boat, I held her close, smiling as I heard her heartbeat thudding against her chest.

“I love you too.” She whispered, and with that, I rushed to the lifeboat’s control panel, setting a course for as far away as I could manage.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Northlay Falls – Chapter Three

The next two days were a blur. I counted down the seconds until Wednesday, when Willard and I were scheduled to meet, but as is always the case in Northlay Falls, it was never going to be that simple.

The beast returned on Sunday night, while we were sleeping. My mother’s scream woke me early the next morning. I unlocked my bedroom door and ran through the house, following her voice to the front lawn, where my mother was knelt in the grass.

“Mum, what’s going on?” My father walked past her in silence, walking towards the pub without looking back, and I ran to her side. “Mum?” I fell back in shock as I reached her.

It was Richard, or what was left of him. His head and a few fingers were strewn on the lawn, blood splattered across the grass and flowers as my mother reached across to me and grabbed my hand.

“What would you like for breakfast?” She brushed the tears from her eyes and walked towards the house. Once again, carrying on as if everything was normal. It wasn’t a surprise to me anymore.

I never loved Richard, but I wept at his side, running my fingers across his soft face as he stared up, with glassy, long gone eyes. My fiancé (his words, not mine) was dead, and I had a sinking feeling that I was to blame.

Nobody said anything about it, and I knew that they wouldn’t, but it still shocked me. I found Mr Hithe, giving his usual warnings outside my father’s pub, and I stood with him, telling him what I’d seen in my garden that morning. He believed that the beast was sending a message, and as we parted, he repeated Willard’s warning about the drinks.

I nodded and hoped, perhaps naively, that things would get better.

They didn’t, of course. I’ve never been that lucky. The next day, Mr Hithe was waiting for me in the garden. The beast had left him intact, for the most part, but had claimed one of his legs.

I closed the blood soaked front door and hid in the house all day. I felt like a coward, but I didn’t know what else to do. I just counted down the hours until Wednesday morning, so that I could meet with Willard, get on the boat and get out of Northlay Falls. Mr Hithe was gone, and I was all alone. It was my fault. So much death, in such a short time, and all of it traced back to me, but nobody said a word. Nobody cried. Nobody thought about it too deeply, or they’d go mad.

A loud crash woke me at about three AM on Wednesday. I didn’t remember falling asleep, but I was grateful to be pulled from the horrifying nightmares that plagued me as I slept.

I knew that the beast must have been hunting, and dreaded the offering he would leave in the garden.

There was light outside my window, which seemed odd for the time of day, and as I rubbed my eyes and leant up against the window sill, I saw a crowd gathering outside of the house.

There were candles and lanterns in the hands of the villagers, and I could see their mouths moving, almost in unison.

It was one of the strangest sights I’d ever seen, outside of the obvious. I opened my window, to try and get a closer look, or to see if I could hear some part of their conversation, and as the sounds became clear, a chill ran down my spine.

“The girl must die.” It wasn’t one voice, or even a few, it was a chorus of chants, monotone and emotionless. “The girl must die.” Every single person who was crowding our house was saying it, over and over, all at once. I was the girl, and they seemed ready to sacrifice me.

Willard and Mr Hithe were right. The drinks sent over by the beast were tainted. The beast was controlling them, somehow, seeping into our every day lives and bewitching us, or at least those of us that chose to drink from his nectar. That was almost everyone, of course. After all, there was nothing for anyone to do in that place but drink, so the people were helpless to his spell.

“Ivy?” I snapped the window shut, rushing towards my door and turning the lock as fast as I could. “Ivy, what did you do?“ My father’s voice on the other side of the door had a nervousness that was oddly reassuring. There was some kind of feeling as he spoke, which was more than could be said for the baying mob outside. “Ivy, I need you to open the door.” I stared at the lock, not knowing what to do. “Did you make him angry?” My father tried the door, fruitlessly fiddling with the handle for a few seconds as he spoke.

“Who?” My voice was a weak, mousy whisper.

“The beast.” Just as Mr Hithe said, the people had an awareness, they just didn’t want to anger him, and as I took another quick glance out of the window, I understood why.

“He took Ray, Daddy.” I leant up against the door, tears in my eyes as the pressure of everything I had seen caught up with me. “I just wanted to get away…” I ran my fingers across the lock, wondering what to do, unable to think clearly with the constant chaos all around me.

“Just open the door and I can help you.” He said softly, barely audible over the deafening crowd outside.

It’s easy to say that you’re a grown up, especially when you live in Northlay Falls, where girlhood ends as soon a man decides to make a wife out of you, which seems to happen sooner every year, but in that moment, I had never felt more like a helpless child. I was in too deep. I had made a mess that I had no chance of fixing.

The beast approached, with his army of spellbound subordinates, and it seemed that everything was so hopeless, so for once, after so much time, trying to be independent, I just needed my dad to hold my hand and tell me that everything would be alright.

“It’s all going to be alright Ivy.” I slowly pulled the lock back and opened the door. He pulled me into a hug, and the second that he did, I knew it was all over.

“You’re not my Dad…” I sobbed. Just like the sailors, like every fool in that village, the beast had tricked me. His claws dug deep into my shoulders and I saw my real father, down the hallway, stood amongst the crowd that advanced towards us. His eyes glazed over like the rest of them, the horrific calls for my sacrifice escaping his lips, just like everybody else.

Willard was there too, standing just in front of my father, giving me an apologetic stare as he broke from the pack and mouthed a single word to me.

“Sorry.”

In the end, I got out of Northlay Falls, but I will never truly escape. I can write our story but nobody will ever read it, and I’ll spend the rest of my life on this boat, with Willard and the rest of those traitors. Back and forth, back and forth across the lake. Always so close to freedom, but never quite able to taste it.

It’s like I said. Nobody leaves Northlay Falls.

Posted in Creative Writing, Writing

All Through The Night

Emlyn was beginning to get tired. It had been a long day of driving and he was desperate to get some sleep. The quiet, country road stretched out in front of him, with nothing but slowly, swaying trees either side of the road for company as the shy moon hid behind the clouds.

His eyes grew heavy and he thought about pulling over somewhere to rest for an hour or two, and by happy coincidence, or maybe dastardly design, that was when Emlyn saw the sign for “Ruth’s”.

It was small and modestly lit, so he almost missed it, but there it was. A small sign up ahead, reassuring and essential. Emlyn headed right for it, almost salivating at the thought of a hotel room with an actual bed, after hours and hours of driving through the Welsh countryside.

He wouldn’t have made the trip at all, but his mother always insisted at Easter.

“Emlyn Robert White!” She’d cry. “I want this whole family together, just once.” Hearing the same demand every year made it seem a little less reasonable, if he was being honest, but nevertheless, he made the drive up (or down, depending on which way you hold the map) from London to his childhood home of Prestatyn.

He would have been there already, but as usual, Emlyn had dawdled and dithered, perhaps hoping to be late, to avoid the greeting chorus of “You never come to visit!” and “When am I getting a grandchild?” So, a four and a half hour drive had turned into twice that, and he was ready to get some rest at the hotel before finishing the last hour of the drive in the morning.

Emlyn would come to regret his dawdling and dithering, but as is often the case, he didn’t realise it yet, and that takes us back to the car, his heavy eyes, and the lonely night with just one, small light of hope before him.

He followed the sign down to a small side lane, and came across a house. It looked empty, with no lights in the windows. The door loomed large in front of him and there was no sign of life anywhere.

He checked his watch, hoping that ten fifteen wasn’t too late to check in. As he raised his hand to the door to knock on the door, a voice behind him stopped him in his tracks.

“Fy ngŵr!” Emlyn spun around, searching for the source of the shrill voice, but there was nobody to be found. He backed up against the door, breathless as he looked across the empty scene before him. There was his car, the lonesome road, and the slowly swaying trees. Nothing else. He must be tired, simply seeing (or hearing) things out of exhaustion.

“Get a hold of yourself…” Emlyn whispered to himself as he managed to get his breathing back to a sensible rhythm. He must have been imagining things. Voices don’t just appear in the Welsh countryside. Not as early as ten fifteen, anyway.

“Hello love.” Another voice behind him, Emlyn jumped in fright as the door opened and he fell into the hallway of the house. Staring up, he was greeted by the sweet smile of a woman that he could only assume was the aforementioned ‘Ruth’. Her eyes were kind and she reached out to help him to his feet. “Are you looking for a bed for the night?”

Emlyn nodded, gratefully and tried to return her smile. “Yes.” He muttered, brushing himself down. “Please.” He continued, remembering his manners. She guided him into the house, simply decorated but cozy and settled him down on the sofa.

“Do you want a drink, my love?” She asked, heading to the kitchen as he stared around the living room. It was a quaint little place, and he was grateful for a little warmth and comfort after hours in the car. The fireplace roared, and he stood to take a proper look around.

“Do you get a lot of visitors?” He called out, examining the many photos of Ruth with smiling guests that littered the mantelpiece.

“Oh yes, my love.” Her reply came from the kitchen. “It’s the kind of place people never leave for too long.” Emlyn nodded, looking down at his phone, and frowning at the lack of signal. “I’m sure you’ll be very comfortable here.” Ruth appeared from the kitchen, two mugs in hand, with a big smile.

“Do you have a phone I can use?” Emlyn asked, taking one of the mugs with a grateful smile. “My Mum will be worried about where I’ve got to.”

“Oh, of course!” Ruth placed her own mug on the coffee table and led Emlyn towards the phone, which was situated on a little table just by the stairs. “Your room is the one right at the top of the stairs, when you’re ready.”

Emlyn watched Ruth ascend the stairs as he dialled his Mother’s number. The dial tone was soon replaced by a voice, and while I wish, dear reader that I could tell you it was Emlyn’s Mother, alas, I cannot.

“Fy ngŵr!” Emlyn dropped the phone in shock. His eyes darting around the empty hallway, knowing he wouldn’t find anything but searching anyway. He hung up the phone, taking one deep breath, and then another, deciding that all he needed was some sleep.

Sadly, sleep would be in short supply for Emlyn. He took himself off to bed, but he just couldn’t quite get to sleep. His body was buzzing with anxiety, and just as he’d manage to quiet it, the voice would return to taunt him. The voice wouldn’t show itself, even after Emlyn pleaded. It just cried out those same words and wailed loudly, right in his ear.

“Fy ngŵr!” The voice cried out again, just as chilling as the first time he had heard it.

“I don’t speak bloody Welsh!” Emlyn whined in frustration, securing the pillow over his head to try and drown out the incessant weeping and wailing of the voice.

“Emlyn…” Now, that, he understand very clearly. He opened his eyes, slowly moving the pillow away and staring around the room. It still seemed normal, except the window, over on the far side of the room. It had been closed when he had gone to sleep, he was certain of it, but now, the curtains flitted in and out of the open window as moonlight poured in, and a shadow lurked behind, seemingly staring right at him.

Emlyn stayed up as long as he could, desperately trying to figure out what he should do. The voice began chanting those same words, over and over, again and again, and all Emlyn could do was… well, nothing. For hours, he sat on the bed, in a war of tired stares with the open window, and eventually, he lost, as he was always doomed to do.

At a little after three, Emlyn awoke again. The voice was quiet now, barely a whisper, just behind his left ear.

“Emlyn.” The whisper was so gentle, and though he tried to ignore it, he was certain that he could feel a cold, clammy hand, slowly stroking his cheek. “Perygl, fy ngŵr.” He just wanted freedom from the torment of this strange, horrid night, but it would never come.

“I don’t know what you want.” Emlyn sobbed. He didn’t even remember when he’d started to cry, his tears born of frustration and terror. It had to be a bad dream, he told himself. Oh, how I wish, dear reader, that I could tell you it was a bad dream, but alas.

“Fy ngŵr.” The voice seemed to be drifting away, fading out as it travelled across the room, and for a moment, he thought he might finally be alone.

Emlyn looked up from the pillow, as a long, spindly leg crept through the window, followed by another. The voice called out again, from the window as twisted, skeletal arms poked through.

“Fy ngŵr.”

Emlyn sat up, speechless and shaking as the creature towered before him. A hag, tall and thin with long, sharp claws and huge, black wings on it’s back stood across from him, the wings flexing and flapping with every breath that it took.

As the creature spoke, Emlyn observed that the creature’s mouth was full of sharp fangs “Perygl, fy ngŵr.” He shuddered, enthralled in it’s glassy gaze, unable to look away as it cried out to him again. “Perygl, fy ngŵr.”

The creature stood by the open window, staring over at Emlyn, with an almost sad expression. Speaking only two words, words that he would never understand.

“Fy ngŵr.”

The creature pointed towards the bedroom door, but Emlyn didn’t dare to look away from it, and as their eyes met again, he could swear he saw tears falling from the creature’s empty black eyes, down onto it’s pale, sunken cheeks.

The creature reached out a hand, whispering his name softly, as searing pain shot through his body. Emlyn finally broke the creature’s gaze and let his eyes drop. The sheets were slowly being painted with the story of his demise, his blood, seeping through the soft cotton as a shadow pushed him down onto the bed. He stared up, growing weaker by the second, Ruth’s manic face coming into focus, as she drove a knife into his chest, over and over. Just behind her, the weeping creature, it’s eyes streaming with tears as Emlyn struggled for breath.

Morning arrived slowly, but Emlyn didn’t greet it. You see, Ruth was right when she said that her humble little hotel was the kind of place you’d stay forever. She just didn’t mention that he wouldn’t have a choice.

Much like the erratic driver on the highway, tailgating you to tell you about the killer in your backseat, the mysterious creature that Emlyn feared had spent several, futile hours trying to tell him of his fate, but alas, dear reader, the language barrier was just too much to overcome.