Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Forever Faithful

Those bastards drove right past me. It was dark, but I had a torch, waving it madly from the side of the road as they approached. It didn’t matter, because they drove right past me, and now, they’ll get what they deserve.

I just needed a ride into the village. It wouldn’t have been too far. They were going that way anyway, but the trouble with people today is that they’ve got no kindness in them.

If they’d pulled over and let me in from the rain, I would have told them about Luna.

We all know about her round here, but they were from the city. Probably here for the wedding, I imagine. We always get weddings here, because the church is pretty and makes for great photos. The local hotel loves it because they always host the reception, and it makes money for the rest of the local businesses too, so we can’t complain, but Luna doesn’t like it.

They say that she was due to get married. It was back in the 40’s, just after the war. Luna was the most beautiful girl in the village, and her family were loaded too. They owned the hotel, and she was the only child, so everything was destined to go to her one day. Her parents wanted her to marry a rich man, even a Lord, but Luna fell in love with a local shop boy, and as young people tend to do, she thought she knew better and wouldn’t marry, unless it was to him.

It was quite the scandal, but her parents relented eventually, and a date was set. The whole village turned out for it, with the exception of the groom, and one of the chambermaids from the hotel. As it all turns out, Luna’s love had already given his heart to somebody else, and after making off with as much of Luna’s fortune as he could carry, they ran away to the coast, leaving Luna in tears at the alter.

She ran from the wedding, humiliated and heartbroken, and she was never seen again… Not in the state she left the wedding, anyway. Some think she was hit by a car, or drowned in the lake, but the truth was so much worse.

A few weeks later, the shop boy and his maid mistress were found dead in the forest that surrounded the village. Their bodies were mangled, torn to pieces, and it took a while for the police to even identify them, but eventually, they realised it was them. Somebody, or something had lured them back to the forest and massacred them.

Nobody would say, but everyone got the feeling it was Luna, and assuming that she’d had her pound of flesh, they began to breathe a little easier.

The trouble was, Luna hadn’t quite had her fill. Something bad happened to her out in those woods, something horrible. Not by the hand of man, oh no. Luna was killed by nature. She was walking through the forest, blinded by tears and lost her way. She called out for help but in the thick forest, nobody could hear her. It gets so dark in there. Even in the daytime, you’d swear it was night.

Nobody came to rescue her, so she was lost to the elements. She almost made it, bless her heart, she crawled out, hungry and thirsty, covered in dirt and rainwater. She made it onto the side of the road, but all the cars just drove past. They didn’t see her. They just drove past.

That’s where she died, where you just picked me up. People say that if you listen, you can still hear her by the side of the road, crawling on the floor from the forest, pleading for somebody to drive her up to the hotel. Anyone who’s smart will stop, and take her home. She’s always grateful, gives them a sweet smile from her swollen, rotting face as she leaves the car and runs up the path to the hotel.

Those two weren’t smart though. See that car up ahead? They came down for the wedding, just got engaged themselves, but they’re not going to make it down the aisle.

You see, Luna doesn’t like people that don’t stop to give her a ride, and she dislikes couples even more. I suppose it’s a bit of a sore subject for her, with all she’s been through.

Slow down a second…

They’re about to swerve off the road, just watch.

Don’t get out and check on them! Luna doesn’t like that! Just keep driving. Luna will take care of them.

Aren’t you glad you picked me up, eh?

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Spooky Season, Trick Or Trick, Writing

Trick Or Trick – Part Two

“Come on out Brent!” Brent burrowed his head under his pillow to avoid the voice of his next door neighbour Elizabeth. “You know they won’t go away until you do.” Brent shook his head, throwing his duvet across his body and shuddering beneath it, his body chilled by fear.

“We’re not doing this for another year Brent!” The neighbours began to bang on the door, their hurried screams setting Brent on edge. “Just let them in and it will be over.” Brent lifted the duvet, glancing around the room gingerly. “They’ve got our children.”

Brent felt guilt wash over him, his throat pinched by the memories he had made a great effort to forget. Truthfully, he did know why the Baxter family would visit, and why he was always top of the list for their torment, and now, it was time for him to make amends.

Brent was pulled from his thoughts by the sound of smashing glass filling his small flat. He sat up with a start, jumping from his bed and rushing towards his bedroom door. There was another crash, and as he poked his head round the door, he could see a crowd of his neighbours forcing their way through his broken living room window, the Baxter family stood behind them, in smiling silence.

“Okay!” He called out, throwing open the bedroom door and walking towards them. “I’ll let them in.” The crowd froze and Brent weaved through them, his heart heavier with each step as he advanced towards the front door.

“Where’s my daughter?” Mrs Baxter stepped forward as Brent opened the door, the lights of his flat showing the true horror of the matriarch, her flesh falling from her bones, and her eyes, nothing but empty sockets.

“I didn’t think anyone would mind, because it was so old and…” Brent began, but her bare stare made him fall silent. She pushed past him, barging into the flat, followed by the elder son, Samuel, his skin, sallow as his bones jutted through and shone in the moonlight. “I kept meaning to put it back, but…” The smallest of the Baxters, little William followed his older brother into the flat, staring up at Brent with empty eyes and a mouth full of worms and maggots.

“Her.” He whispered. Brent stared back at the small boy, shuddering as the child raised a skeletal finger, the last remains of skin hanging from the tip. “I want my sister back.”

Brent gulped, nodding as the family stepped closer.

“Okay, I’ll just go and get it.” The family glared at him, stepping ever closer and he smiled nervously. “I mean, her. I’ll go and get her.” He sprinted back towards his bedroom, diving under the bed, frantically searching until his hands came upon a small black box. He scrambled out from under the bed, lifting the lid and staring down at the small skull, all that remained of little Wendy Baxter.

“Bring her to me!” Her mother cried as Brent rushed back towards the living room, thrusting the box at her and stepping back out of her reach. Mrs Baxter sighed, cradling the skull in her arms, the box it had lay in discarded on the floor. “Now my baby can rest.” Tears fell from her empty eyes as a small girl, transparent and timid emerged behind her mother’s skirt, embraced in an instant by the twin who had missed her for an eternity.

“Wendy!” William exclaimed, clutching the sister that had been stolen from him. The two children shared a smile, before linking hands and motioning to the surrounding crowd who began to follow them to the front door.

“You take these nice people to their children, little ones.” Mrs Baxter said, waving at her youngest children as the crowd trailed after them into the dark night. “Mummy has something to take care off.” She rounded on Brent, Samuel crossing the room and slamming the front door with a wicked smile.

“Look, it was an accident, okay?” Brent whispered, stumbling back as the undead mother and son advanced on him with wrathful stares. “I just wanted something cool as a decoration, and it was just lying on the cemetery floor…” He tripped, clattering to the floor, helpless as they got closer.

“Liar!” Samuel snarled, pinning Brent to the floor. “You dug her up.” Brent tried to fight back, but he was powerless, watching in terror as Mrs Baxter knelt beside his body and wrapped her flayed hands around his neck.

“You’re coming with us.” She spat with a smirk as the world faded to darkness around Brent.

The people of Norman Court moved on, happy that October was now just another month, and the Baxter family rested happily in their graves, reunited once more.

As for Brent, he was never seen again. Nobody mentioned his name. His flat was let out again, and was taken on by a nice couple who had no idea of Norman Court’s reputation. It was as if he had never existed, except on Halloween.

Some say that when night falls on October 31st, you can see Brent Hutton wandering the halls and stairways of Norman Court, watching his neighbours from the balcony with a frenzied, seething stare, never able to forget how they helped the Baxter’s to take their revenge.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Spooky Season, Trick Or Trick, Writing

Trick Or Trick – Part One

Brent Hutton had lived in Norman Court for most of his life. It was a collection of grey tower blocks that cast a long shadow across the town, and was avoided by most of the surrounding townspeople.

Norman Court had a rough, and in Brent’s mind unearned reputation. There was crime on the council estate that he called home, but there was crime everywhere, and for every difficult incident, there was twice as much community spirit, so Brent had never considered himself unlucky to live in Norman Court, except, of course, during October.

October was a rough time for the residents of Norman Court, but nobody had it quite as bad as Brent, and as he counted down the days on the calendar, watching the worst month of the year creep closer, he couldn’t help but feel anxious.

The Baxter family were impossible to avoid for the residents of Norman Court, but they had a particular fascination with Brent, and he’d never been able to figure out why.

It always started with a knock at the door on the first of October. Brent had stopped answering, knowing that nothing would be there, except a reminder that the Baxter’s had returned for another year to torment him. They’d knock again and again and he’d cower behind the couch, watching the front door with frightened eyes, praying for the noise to stop for the night.

For the first nine days, all that they’d do is knock on the door, travelling up and down the rows of flats to pay each one a visit, but on the tenth day of October, they began to pay special attention to Brent.

On the tenth of October, it was little William Baxter’s birthday, and he’d always pay a visit to Brent’s flat to celebrate. The small boy would stand by the front window, his hands and face pressed up against the glass, glaring with glassy, dark eyes into the living room.

He wouldn’t move, or speak, he’d just stare from the moment the sun rose, until it set, and then he’d give Brent a little wave before turning, heading down the stairs and vanishing into the night.

He wouldn’t be gone long. As the night wore on, the boy called out Brent’s name, his cries creeping closer and closer as the hours ticked by.

On the eleventh of October, the whole family would begin to visit Brent, knocking on his windows and howling into the air as the hours slipped by.

They would visit him every day until sundown on October 30th, and as the sun fell on the day before Halloween, Brent would dread the dawn that approached the next day.

Today, we find Brent in his bedroom, staring at his alarm clock as Halloween creeps closer. In a few hours, the true terror of the Baxter family will be unleashed, and it will start with one more knock at the door.

All of Brent’s neighbours were gathered by his front door, the Baxter family leant against the bannisters of the stairway with the same sinister smile.

The minutes melted into hours and the clock echoed through his bedroom as little William Baxter raised a fist to the front door and knocked.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Spooky Season, Writing

Flashback – Stay Away

Jamie had never been a petty person, or so she told herself, and she had gone through life accepting what fate gave her, without being too concerned about clawing back something she felt she was owed. She was humble, not feeling entitled to anything, until of course, she, like many people do, day after day and mistake after mistake, she fell for someone she shouldn’t have.

She had never been petty, but she had always been shy, and as you can imagine, this can cause all kinds of problems for someone who is struggling to navigate through a busy college corridor. As Jamie was knocked to the ground, an almost daily occurrence that she had just about accepted, the group of students continued on, as if she hadn’t been there at all. She began to collect her books, and strewn glasses, when another pair of hands joined her own. It was a cliché, she knew that, and she cringed every time she recalled the moment, but for the first time, she felt welcoming to what fate had given her, instead of disgruntled indifference.

She didn’t say a word to him as he helped her gather her possessions, and she couldn’t even push a thank you from her throat as he walked her to her dorm room. It had been embarrassing to simply point and nod, as if playing a ridiculously timed game of charades, but she was sure that if she opened her mouth in the presence of those piercing blue eyes (again, the girl loves a good cliché), that she would say something worthy of a restraining order.

He told her his name was Bradley, and ever the mistress of her own bodily reactions, she sighed without meaning to, and almost slid down her own front door. Composing herself, she managed to tell him her own name, before he wished her well and sauntered down the staircase, and out of sight.

They talked more and more, or rather he talked and she smiled, and nodded, while fantasising their future conversations, before the present had even finished. In her reality, they were deeply in love. The kissing, the touching, the actual public proclamation of their love for each other, that was all a formality, because for Jamie, he said it (prepare for another cliché) with his eyes.

Unfortunately for Jamie, this was not the case at all. Bradley was a narcissist who enjoyed the sound of his own voice, and had finally found a quiet and appreciative audience for it. He didn’t view Jamie with any malice, of course, he was fond of her, even if it was just for the fact that she listened and responded positively to everything he said, which in Bradley’s eyes made her the very best a person could be, but he certainly wasn’t in love with her.

However, Jamie had been raised on romantic films and poorly thought out advice pages from magazines, that told her that the second a man opens up and talks to you without hesitation, you ought to buy your mother a new hat, because you’ll be taking a trip down the aisle very soon.

As previously mentioned, Bradley was not in love with Jamie, and Jamie had barely been able to talk in front of him, so had no way of telling him that she wished he was, and so Bradley thought nothing of confiding in his new friend about his girlfriend, and the dilemma of how he should proceed with valentine’s day.
At first, Jamie was distracted by Bradley’s eyes, and his lips, and all sorts of things she had decided made him worthy of the alarming amount of clichés she used to describe him in her diary, but after a few moments, the gravity of his words, and the knowledge that another had already stolen the heart she had earmarked as her own came crashing through her fantasy, and left her again on the floor, with her books all over the place, and her glasses not only strewn out of reach, but crushed by the size twelves of fate.

Self pity rose through her body and threatened to leak from her eyes any moment, and for the first time, she spoke without effort, quietly excusing herself, and running from his dorm room to hide in her own, with a tub of ice cream, and all of her regrettable diary entries.
She poured over them for hours, unsure of how she could have misread the signs so badly. If she was being honest, she hadn’t really listened to Bradley all that much, so it was pretty easy to ignore that he had a girlfriend, and if she was to be even more honest, she wasn’t sure that she liked Bradley for anything other than the fact he acknowledged her existence and had been raised with enough decorum to help someone pick up their possessions if they dropped them.

Politeness and general acknowledgement weren’t quite enough to build a marriage on, and if that had been everything, she would have happily settled the matter and learned from her mistake, but fate hadn’t quite finished with Jamie yet.

She slept for a few hours, to try and rid herself of the tear induced headache, and awoke to a phone call from Bradley. At first, she thought about ignoring it, but while she didn’t listen to Bradley all that much, she enjoyed giving the illusion that she did, as it gave her someone to spend time with.

They spoke, with her feeling free to for the first time, and when she was sure he was satisfied with the lie that she had left due to feeling unwell, as opposed to the truth, she agreed to meet with him ‪the next day and hung up the phone.

She tried to sleep again that night, but couldn’t. She knew, deep down that Bradley wasn’t in love with her, and yet, the fact that he had called, the fact that he had worried enough to check on her after she left set her mind racing, as she imagined a scenario in which he was in love with her. She tossed and turned for hours, her heart saying that he could be feeling the same torment, and her head telling her to shut up and go to sleep. While she listened to her head and gave into sleep, she couldn’t resist dreaming of Bradley all night.

When she awoke, she heard knocking at the door. Gathering herself together, and covering herself up as best she could, she approached the door of her dorm room and opened it slowly.

“Jamie!” Bradley looked handsome, and Jamie wished she didn’t think so. She silently stood aside, allowing him in, and watched with a heavier heart than she would have liked as he sighed and fell down onto her bed, throwing his bag on the floor. “Oh Jamie, I need your help.” It was Jamie’s turn to sigh. She had awoken sure that her feelings for Bradley meant nothing, and that she could continue life as his echo chamber in exchange for having seats saved at lunch and someone to be with on lonely nights, but seeing him made her remember the concern in his voice as he called the night before, and left her clinging desperately to the idea he might in fact have deeply buried feelings for her, despite his girlfriend sitting atop his heart, swinging what Jamie was sure were long, tanned, beautiful legs.

“My girlfriend is mad at me.” There it was. “She’s upset that we’ve been talking, and now she won’t speak to me.” Jamie tried to show concern, but an ugly part of her had surfaced, and enjoyed knowing that she could get at the ominous girlfriend, that she had grown to resent over the last twenty four hours.

Jamie wouldn’t normally sink to this level, and preferred to get her kicks from high test scores, cat memes and pound a pint nights, but love, or at least very strong lust with a hint of bitterness had given her a new edge, and nothing could thrill her like the sadness of a perceived enemy.

“I could talk to her, if you want.” Jamie said, her voice laced with sympathy as she sat on the bed next to Bradley, stroking his auburn curls. “I could tell her that she doesn’t need to worry.” Bradley beamed up at her.

“I knew I could count on you.” He whispered, taking one of her hands in his own and kissing it gently.

Jamie wished things could stay as they were, Bradley snuggled close to her, without a care in the world, however, life wasn’t always easy, and sometimes, it was just ridiculous. This was one of those ridiculous times.

Jamie could barely believe when Bradley excitedly pulled his bag onto the bed and threw a spirit board in her direction, or when he babbled on about his dead girlfriend. The whole thing felt like a prank, but just in case it wasn’t, Jamie decided to go along with it. She realised that she had a great opportunity. She could simply tell Bradley that his “ghost” girlfriend was breaking up with him for good, and she would have him all to herself. It was a flawless plan, as far as she was concerned, and she couldn’t wait to get started.

She had decided to take a nap first, but as she awoke, she wished she hadn’t. She had slept a lot longer than she intended, and was dripping in what she hoped was sweat. Her sleep was a mess of nightmares, all revolving around Bradley’s ominous girlfriend taking her revenge as Jamie took her man. She tried to convince herself that she didn’t believe what Bradley had told her, and that it was all just a game, but she felt compelled to apologise to the spirit, in the hopes of getting a good night’s sleep.

She knew that she shouldn’t be alone, but Jamie didn’t have anyone else she could have invited along. Attempting to contact spirits wasn’t the top of the to do list for her small circle of friends, and so she tucked her hair behind her ear, did her best to fight past her nerves and took a deep breath, before opening her eyes. Everything was as she had left it before. The unlit candle on her left, a note pad and pencil on her right, and the spirit board, looming in front of her.

She took another breath, looking around at the well lit room and trying to force herself to laugh at her own paranoia. She had yet to summon or approach anything, and even when she would later try, there was no promise that any of it would work. The panic must all be in her head, she decided, taking another breath, and shaking off another shudder that the room had taken against her will.

She lit the candle, exactly as she had seen in the YouTube tutorial (they make those for EVERYTHING these days), and took another breath.

“Is anyone here?” There was silence. Jamie kept her eyes focused on the spirit board, as the coolness of the room edged down her spine. With every second, she was convinced that the whole story had been a prank. Bradley seemed relatively well adjusted, so it was unlikely that he truly believed his ghost girlfriend was desperate for a heart to heart over candlelight.

After what felt like hours, but was only in fact a few moments, Jamie finally laughed to herself, and blew out the candle. She would mark it up to experience, and forget about Bradley, and his alleged ghost girlfriend. She packed the spirit board in it’s box, and left it outside of Bradley’s room before heading to bed, and hoping she would dream of something a little less strange.

She awoke early, when the darkness still lay outside, to see a single candle lit on her desk. She was positive that she had extinguished it before taking the board back to Bradley, but as she stood and examined the candle, she noticed the board was open on her desk.

She tore her eyes from the scene, her body submerged in icy fear, and saw her door was still locked, as she had left it, and as she turned to the board, she couldn’t understand how it had appeared, unless of course, Bradley had been telling the truth, and a pissed off ghost wanted a conversation with her.
She watched in silent horror as the board spelled out a single word.

SIT

She fell into the waiting chair, despite desperately wanting to run, but unable to move an inch. She thought about praying but she wouldn’t even know how to explain this situation, or what kind of help to ask for. Her eyes followed the planchette as it continued to move.

STAY AWAY

She nodded, unable to say a word, and hoped the spirit understood that she had won. No man was worth this, at all. As she tried to find the strength to speak, she could see the spirit continue, and after taking a few seconds to figure out the words she was spelling out, she wished that she hadn’t.

YOU WILL DIE

There was a knock at the door, but she didn’t dare move. The candle flickered as the planchette continued across the board, and while she recognised Bradley’s voice from the other side of the door, his words didn’t register in her mind, as it was too full of the spirit, and what she had to say.

HE WILL KILL YOU LIKE HE KILLED ME

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Beach Boy Blues

Aaron was still looking for a way out of the holiday as the plane touched down in Hawaii. Most people would be thrilled at the prospect of two weeks on one of the most beautiful islands in the world, but Aaron looked out of the window of the aeroplane, to the bright sunshine and welcoming Hawaiian skyline, and felt an unstoppable desire to disappear.

It was nothing personal to the people of Hawaii of course. He was sure that they were just as lovely as everybody had always said they were, but Aaron was not in the right frame of mind to enjoy a luxury holiday, and he wasn’t sure that he ever would be again. His head pounded from the four bottles of cider he had sunk on the plane and he wasn’t in the mood for being pampered, but, alas, the people of Hawaii were excellent hosts, even to the drunk and belligerent. As he watched the pink sky paint itself a warmer red and the sun set a little lower, Aaron stepped off of the plane with the others, shielding his eyes as he felt them sting from the surviving sunlight.

On the plane, he had been plagued by nightmares. He couldn’t remember much as he awoke, and simply had a nervous energy pulsing through his body, and the faint scent of something that disturbed him deeply lingering in his nostrils. Burning flesh.

“Aloha Aaron!” A voice cried before him. A strand of orchids fell around his neck and he was pulled into a hug, too tired to resist, but just awake enough to curse himself for forgetting to cancel the Lei greeting. The greeter pulled away with a bright smile, that faded slightly when he looked at the second Lei in his hands and noticed that Aaron had travelled alone. “Let’s get you to a taxi…” The greeter mumbled, and Aaron nodded, trying to return his smile, but only managing a grimace.

This was a repeated incident as Hawaii said “Aloha” to Aaron. He had planned the trip with his husband, for their anniversary, so he had spent a long time ensuring it was the most romantic trip the two of them had ever taken. Dual lei greetings, a dreamy suite full of roses and candles, and intimate dinners booked at beachside restaurants. Every aspect of the trip seemed to remind Aaron that his husband was nowhere to be seen. He had waited at the airport until the flight was about to leave, even arguing with the unfortunate desk clerk who had the misfortune to be faced with his furious attempts to have the plane delayed, but his husband didn’t show up, and after spending thousands on the trip, Aaron glumly headed off on holiday, with a broken heart.

As he ordered another cider, slumped against the hotel bar, he let out a loud sigh. He couldn’t remember why his husband had left. Perhaps it was the drink clouding his memory? Perhaps his drinking had been the issue in the first place? He didn’t remember himself being a big drinker before he headed off to Hawaii, but a lot of what came before was a blur, so he couldn’t be sure.

All that seemed to matter was his next drink, and a desperate need to forget. The good news was that Aaron appeared to have succeeded at forgetting, but the bad news was, not remembering the reasons for his sadness just gave him a greater sense of sadness.

“Cheer up, cousin.” Aaron didn’t look up as the cheery voice beside him spoke, staring down at his wedding ring with a loud sigh. “You’re in Hawaii, not hell.” Pressing the bottle to his lips and guzzling down more nectar, Aaron nodded. He had to admit that the stranger had a point. Looking up, he glanced to his left and spotted a smartly dressed but very small boy. “I’m Milu, and I’m going to be your guide.” The boy extended a hand to Aaron, who was puzzled and a little unsure of how to respond.

“Aren’t you like, twelve?” Aaron slurred with an inquisitive look at the boy. Milu remained polite, politer than Aaron deserved anyway, and continued to smile, still holding out his hand to Aaron.

“You need help, and I’m here to help you.” Aaron felt a little humbled by the boy’s kindness, even in the face of his own rudeness and finally took Milu’s hand, shaking it with a smile.

“You’re right on that, mate.”

That night, they drank and talked about Aaron’s troubles. He was feeling a little lost, and frankly a little unsure of how he’d made it to Hawaii. The trip had been booked for months, and while he could recall the long, lonesome wait in the airport, everything before that, beyond the longing for his lover was a little fuzzy.

By the end of the night, Aaron had no answers to the many questions that ran through his mind, but he did have plans for a tour of the volcanoes the next day with Milu, so as he walked back to his hotel room after saying goodbye to his new friend, he felt a little lighter.

The streets were quiet, with the island lost in dreams as the clock struck two, and Aaron could see his hotel in the distance. If he had been sober, perhaps Aaron would have looked around him and seen the danger, but alas, dear reader, the young doctor stumbled forward with only the soft sheets of his bed on his mind, oblivious to the shadows cast across his path as several figures crept up behind him.

He walked into the lonely lobby, walking through to the elevator and headed to his room, with the beginnings of a headache. Falling into his bed with a sigh, he closed his eyes, unable to see that from all corners of the room, he was being watched.

Within a few minutes, Aaron slipped away from consciousness and into dark, disturbing dreams. His heart raced as he sunk deeper into the dream. A long, winding hallway, fluorescent lights above that flickered and flashed as he walked, under someone else’s power, pushed forward towards sobbing that seemed to get louder with every step he took.

The floor was slippery, and as his eyes darted down, he saw blood smeared across the tiles. Screams had joined the sobbing, filling the air and as much as he wanted to run, he was drawn to them, his steps, slow but constant as a chilly wind wrapped around his shoulders, whistling and whispering in his ears as he got closer to the commotion.

He stumbled through a door, sunlight pouring through to greet him, and for a moment, just a few solitary seconds, there was peace as the scene fell quiet. Aaron peered into the bright light, his heart starting to calm as it faded away and his eyes trailed across the emergency room that was so familiar to him. He was glad to leave behind the creepy path he’d taken to where he’d found himself, and he had to admit, seeing something he knew so well was comforting.

He stepped forward, his feet moving with a little more freedom as he explored the empty emergency room. He had never seen it so quiet, and as he had that thought, his heart began to race again. Something wasn’t right.

He began running, past the reception desk, the cubicles and waiting area, looking for someone, anyone, who could make the dream a little less unsettling.

“It’s time to go, Aaron.” He froze, a chill slowly sliding down his spine as he turned towards the voice behind him. There was nobody there, and Aaron began to wish that he’d wake up, digging his nails into his palms but feeling nothing. “Aaron, you have to go now.” He shuddered, feeling an icy hand on his shoulder, watching in horror as the emergency room filled with people, flames spreading across the room, as the air ached with struggling, strangled screams again.

Aaron wanted to run, but he was cemented in place, watching the fire rip through the emergency room. The hand lifted from his shoulder, moving past his face and pointed to a bed at the back of the room. Aaron’s heart sank as he followed the hand and reluctantly looked over at the bed, seeing his own body, engulfed in flames. He felt sick, shaking as cold, clammy hands began clutching his skin. His mouth fell open as he watched his own face staring back at him, it’s own mouth open. No scream came from either of them, but they were surrounded by the sorrowful, pained howls of the inflamed crowd that were now running towards Aaron. He struggled, trying to run but finding himself frozen as they grasped for him, their hands charred and skeletal.

“Aaron.” He awoke to his name being called and a small hand shaking his shoulder. It was Milu. Aaron was still reeling from the nightmare and it took him a moment to adjust to the waking world. He was about to ask the boy how he’d got into his room when Milu continued, with a wide smile. “It was just a dream, Aaron.” He returned Milu’s smile and pushed the covers away from himself. “They’re right, though. You do have to go.” Aaron looked up, his breath caught in his throat as he stared at the boy, unsure of how to respond.

“Go where?” He stood from the bed, his eyes narrowing as he followed Milu across the room. Milu shook his head, gesturing Aaron towards the bathroom with a slight smile.

“All in good time, cousin.”

Aaron was uneasy as he showered and dressed, and to his dismay, the feeling seemed to grow as the day went on. He was sober now. Still without many of his memories, but very familiar with the dream he’d had the night before, and the new feeling that had followed him all day. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t quite work out what it was. He barely listened to Milu as they toured the volcanoes, troubled by the strange anxiety that was beginning to bubble in his chest. It was at dinner that he decided to ask Milu about the dream, unsure of how exactly a child was able to help, but desperate for some kind of peace.

“How did you know what I dreamed about?” Aaron blurted out as the waitress collected their dessert dishes. Milu glanced up from his lemonade, twirling the umbrella in his tiny fingers with a grin.

“Aaron, there’s something you need to understand, and…” Milu continued to talk, but Aaron had lost his focus, his eyes suddenly drawn to the television behind the bar. While the TV was muted, and miniscule in size, Aaron knew immediately what he was seeing. He stood from the table and walked closer, almost entranced, enchanted by the eyes on the screen, the soft curve of his lips as he spoke, his rosy cheeks, covered in tears. It was his husband, Joe.

“Turn it up.” Aaron barked, leaning against the bar, his heart fluttering as he gazed at the man he adored. The barman shook his head, raising a hand and pointing behind Aaron. Aaron shook his head, his eyes glued to the television, as his heart ached for Joe. “Please, that’s my husband.” He pleaded, trying to be polite, but worrying that he sounded a little demanding. I just want to hear what…” Aaron fell into silence as Joe stared down the camera, his green eyes piercing and chilling in a way they never had been before.

“It’s time to go Aaron.” Aaron fell back in shock, his jaw happened as Joe stared at him, his eyes empty of emotion. “Go!” He yelled from the screen. “Go!” Aaron glanced around, noticing that the patrons at the bar were now pointing behind him, along with the barman. “Aaron, you have to go now!” He thought about looking back, to see what they were pointing at, but the thought of what he might see tied his stomach into nervous knots.

“Aaron.” He jumped at a voice, right at his ear, gravelly and ominous. “It’s time to go.” He felt a hand on his shoulder, and his eyes darted frantically to the people that surrounded him, all pointing with blank faces. The air began to cool, and he could hear the crackle of flames behind him, his eyes filling with terrified tears. He surveyed the blank faces before him, their fingers pointing insistently towards him, and as he ran down the row of silent people, his jaw fell open as he spotted one, looking back at him, with the same horrified stare. Flames ate at his skin as he tried to scream, looking back at Aaron with his own, horrified, terrified face.

“Let’s get a drink.” Aaron shuddered as he felt his hand being snatched, breathing a touch easier as he looked down and spotted Milu. The boy grinned up at him and nodded towards the bar. Aaron cautiously looked up, relieved to see everything was normal. The TV was showing a baseball game, the patrons and barman were relaxed and chatting, and as he looked around him, everything had returned to how he’d hoped it would.

“What’s going on Milu?” Aaron asked, his voice shaking a little as the young boy handed a fistful of dollars to the barman. “Why can’t I remember anything before this?” Milu slid a glass over to Aaron with a friendly smile and Aaron immediately raised it to his lips, swallowing a few mouthfuls all at once before slamming it back down on the bar. “What were they pointing at?” Milu pondered the questions, signalling to the barman for more drinks as he swung his little legs against the bar stool.

“I thought you’d have figured it out by now, to be honest.” The boy sighed. “No offence, cousin, but I thought doctors were smart.” Without another word, Milu slid down from the stool and began walking down towards the beach. Aaron chased after him, his mind racing as fast as his legs with questions.

“Milu, wait.” He rushed past the busy, smiling holidaymakers, bolting towards the sea, where the small boy sat. Milu was waiting at the shore, seated in the sand, the soft waves lapping against his legs as he stared out into the ocean. “Milu, what is going on?”

“The sun is going down.” The boy whispered, reaching up to Aaron’s hand and gently pulling him down to the ground. “It’s nothing to fear, you know.” Milu squeezed Aaron’s hand gently, turning to him with a smile.

“Am I in hell?” Aaron mumbled, looking away from Milu as the young boy chuckled at the question. “The flames, the voices…” He whispered, trying to swallow the spectre of dread that was swirling in his stomach.

“The flames do not belong to the devil.” Aaron’s eyes fell on the sunset before him, and for the first time in the whole trip, he felt a soft, almost strange sense of peace washing over him. “The things you run from belong to you.” Aaron didn’t want to look away from the sun. It bowed behind the waves, still shimmering as it descended from the sky. “You’re hiding here, but you have to go.” Aaron felt a warmth throughout his body, and his eyes felt heavy. His fingers tingled as they tapped slowly against the sand before Milu took his hand again. “There’s nothing else to be done, cousin.” Aaron looked down at his hand, now held tightly in Milu’s own. Flames wrapped around them, slowly licking up Aaron’s arms, but he felt no pain. “You have to go.”

Aaron nodded, still a little unsure of what was unfolding but no longer able to summon the strength to fight back.

“Will you stay with me?” He whispered, falling to the sand, the blaze crawling across his body as the world seemed to fade.

“I’m right here.” Milu said softly, their hands still entwined as the sun fell behind the sea entirely.

Aaron heard the flames crackling softly, his mind full of the memories he had been searching for. His wedding day, hand in hand with Joe as they kissed tenderly outside the registry office. His smiling face as he held his doctorate high above his head on his graduation day. The two lovers, sharing a gentle kiss as Aaron clicked the confirmation button to book the trip of a lifetime, to beautiful Hawaii. His body was basked in warmth as his memories surrounded him.

Somewhere in the background was the hospital, the fire, the end, but in that moment, it didn’t matter. In the end, he was at peace, at last, finally finding his way as the sun set over the beautiful beach.