Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

A Trip To Terrorland

Daniel was a good kid. He’d just finished school for the summer and wanted to earn a little cash to help out his parents, so he started working here at Terrorland, a struggling little amusement park in the Kent countryside.

Years ago, they built the park in a tiny village with a strange history. The original village was built across miles of Saxon graves, and now, the park rests upon the restless souls. It was basically on top of the village, with only the old manor house left standing.

Villagers were more than happy to sell their homes and land to the developers, but the developers kept the manor house standing, because it already belonged to the future owner of the park, Jonathan Frank.

The manor house had been empty for decades. It was built in the 1800’s, and was passed down through the Frank family until it reached Jonathan. He would give the same speech to all the new recruits, about how the house had always terrified him as a kid, so when it finally became his, he turned it into a horror themed amusement park. We never knew if it was true or not, but I suppose it didn’t matter to us at the time.

The manor house had nothing in it, apart from the sound system. It was at the centre of the park, so you could see it from the whole park, and it was rigged up to make weird noises, howling, screaming, gargling and so on, to freak out the customers. Jonathan would stand outside it and just glare at it some days, and I could never work out whether it really scared him, or whether it was all part of the act.

I suppose it’s smart to profit from your childhood phobias, and it gave me a job, so I didn’t think much of it, but the park had a lot of problems. We were hard for the public to reach, so getting customers was a challenge and even when we had customers, there were only a few rides really.

There were the teacups, the waltzers, the big slide, a very disappointing rollercoaster and, of course, the ghost train, all splashed with tacky, supposedly spooky decor. There wasn’t much for the customers to do so they didn’t tend to stay very long.

Jonathan would try his best. He’d wander the park, telling bored guests about the village’s history, all about the graveyards and the many villagers who had convinced themselves that they’d been haunted. It didn’t help much, but he tried, I guess.

We also had high staff turnover, for a number of reasons. The wages weren’t good, Jonathan was a pain to work for, and some of the staff would buy into his silly stories, so they’d only last a few months before they left.

Sometimes, I’d hear weird noises when nobody else was around, or I’d see a shadow out of the corner of my eye, and it would freak me out for a second, before I calmed myself down and realised that ghosts, ghouls and monsters weren’t real. Some of my colleagues hadn’t managed to get to that point, but I’d gotten used to the weird atmosphere of the park. That was all it was after all, a weird atmosphere.

I’d been at the park for about a year before Daniel arrived, and I was allocated to him as a mentor. I didn’t mind, because, like I said, he was a good kid. He was eager to learn and he cared about giving the customers a great day out, so I was happy to work with him.

I showed him around the park, and even though I shouldn’t have, I let him have a look inside the Manor House. When I’d given him the tour, I bought him lunch and we sat on the steps of the manor with chips and milkshakes, watching the park fill with guests.

He was a little freaked out by the guy in the window, on the top floor, but I reassured him that it was just a cutout, or some kind of hologram.

I’d never been sure of how Jonathan actually did it, but he had never paid me enough to wonder.

At first, we were paired together at the refreshments kiosk. It was pretty easy work, frying up chips, preparing ice creams, pouring drinks and keeping the guests fed and watered when they weren’t on the rides, so I had no complaints.

We’d chat about life outside of work, movies, tv shows and stuff like that, and it was fine, as long as we didn’t get too busy. It was a hot summer’s day, and an unusually busy day in the park when things changed. I suppose that I didn’t know at the time what was about to happen, nobody did, but both of our lives were about to change, forever.

Jonathan approached the kiosk, pushing past the long line of customers who were impatiently waiting to order ice cream and poked his head through the counter.

“Sophie’s just quit, so I need someone to cover the ghost train.” He turned to Daniel and gestured behind him, towards the entrance of the ghost train. “You’re up newbie.” Daniel smiled enthusiastically, removing his apron and heading for the door of the kiosk. “You’re alright here on your own, right Chloe?” I nodded as Daniel left the kiosk, with a jolly little wave, and ran excitedly towards the ghost train.

I’d worked on the ghost train before, but I’d never been on it myself. As brave as I often pretended to be, it had always freaked me out a little. Every few trips, the worker needs to inspect it, and as crazy as it sounds, I could swear to you, I saw somebody or something in there. It was right at the end of the ride, on the edge of the track, just a shadow up ahead of me, not saying a word, not moving, just… staring.

Maybe it was just my imagination, maybe it was one of the animatronics, but whatever it was, it always seemed to be there. It wasn’t on the schematics of the ride, and nobody else had ever mentioned it, so I just tried to tell myself it was a shadow, or something.

With each inspection, I dreaded reaching the final room before the exit and seeing the strange shadow. As time went on, it seemed to get clearer. Maybe it was just my eyes adjusting to the darkness, but whatever it was seemed like it wanted me to see it.

Its skin was grey and covered mostly by black robes, and it’s thin, spindly fingers were clutched around a lever. Thick, long black hair covered it’s face, but beneath a few strands was a smile, beaming and bright.

I know that it’s cowardly, but in the end, I stopped going as far into the ride to check it. As boring as the rides were, they were well made, so the inspections felt a little redundant. There hadn’t been many issues, so I didn’t feel too bad about my choice, in the end.

Daniel seemed to really enjoy it. He came over to the kiosk during his lunch break to tell me how much fun he’d been having while I slaved away behind the kiosk, and I couldn’t help but smile, happy to see him getting on so well. I didn’t see him as often after that, but we were still friendly. I’d watch the guests go in and out of the ghost train as I worked, and sometimes I’d wonder what it was that made their faces so pale when they got off the ride. I didn’t know then, but I would find out the truth sooner, rather than later.

Daniel had been working on the ghost train for about a week when he came to me, his eyes wide, and his face pale, just like the guests. I’d only just arrived for my shift, but he’d been working a few hours.

“They disappeared!” He cried, grabbing my arm and pulling me along after him, in the direction of the ghost train. “I talked to Jonathan and he doesn’t believe me, but they’re gone!” We came to a stop just outside the ghost train, and Daniel leant against the walls of the control cubicle, breathless. “All of them Chloe, every single one of them vanished.”

I stared at him blankly, looking around at the park. It wasn’t busy, but it was hardly empty.

“Who vanished Daniel?” He didn’t answer, reaching through the window of the control cubicle and pulling out a teddy bear. “Who do you mean?”

He pressed the small bear into my hands as he got his breath back.

“I put the guests on the train, they all went in…” His voice dimmed to a hushed whisper as he placed his hands on my shoulders and stared intently into my eyes. “When the ride was done, all the carriages came out empty.” I stared back, before glancing over his shoulder at the ghost train, empty and still. “The only thing I found inside was this bear. Everyone was gone.”

It didn’t make sense, but he seemed sure.

“That’s impossible, they couldn’t get to the inspection entrance without the key, and…” He shrugged, grabbing my hand and pulling me towards the inspection entrance. “Oh no! Daniel no!” He ignored my protests and began unlocking the door. “I’m not going in there!” He turned towards me, his face fixed with a puzzled frown. “I just… don’t like it.” He rolled his eyes, throwing the inspection door open and yanked me through it.

The inside of the ride was quiet and still. Darkness stretched across the tracks as we wandered the trail that the ride took, and I tried not to think too much about how uncomfortable I was.

“They must be in here somewhere.” Daniel grumbled, striding ahead of me and peeking behind each animatronic and jump scare mechanism as we went. “Did anything like this happen while you were on the train?” I shook my head, clutching the teddy bear close to my chest. “Chloe?” It suddenly occurred to me that we were in the dark, so he likely hadn’t seen my nod.

“Oh… no, nothing like this.” We were beginning to reach the end of the track, and I dug my nails into the bear and shuffled nervously behind him.

“Did you ever see something at the end of the ride?” I stopped, the bear crushed against my chest as I stared at the door up ahead that led to the last section of the ride. “Like a weird smiling guy?” I didn’t know how to respond, but at the very least, I knew that I hadn’t imagined it. Daniel turned back to me, a nervous look on his face. “What happens if you pull the lever?” I wasn’t sure, as I never had, but Daniel looked like he really needed an answer, so I tried to think of something to reassure him.

“I’m sure it will be fine, mate.” I did my best to seem calm, putting my hand on his shoulder and smiling up at him, but he still looked anxious, and if I was being honest, I felt how he looked. “I mean, it’s probably just something to spook the guests, so, I wouldn’t…”

The door behind us suddenly flew open, the lights around us burst into life, flashing manically as the air filled with howls and screams. We both stared around us, horrified as the ride seemingly activated.

“Chloe! Move!” Daniel yelled, shoving me from the track, as a carriage headed our way. It just missed us and sped past, down through the next door. We sat on the floor by the edge of the track, breathless and confused. “We’ll need to head back and turn it off.” I nodded, not sure how it had been turned on in the first place, when we had the keys. “It must be malfunctioning, or something.” I nodded again, getting to my feet and offering him my hand to help him up.

“We should get Jonathan, something weird is going on.” I whispered, pulling him from the floor. “The guests might have stolen the spare keys to mess around with.” We began walking back towards the inspection door when I heard keys jangling behind me.

“I keep both sets on me, to make sure they don’t get pinched.” I turned back to Daniel, watching him dangle both sets of keys with a confused expression. “So how did they…” Over his shoulder was a smile, hidden behind thick, long black hair, I looked up, my heart pounding as I saw the creature from the end of the ride, one of his skeletal hands landing softly on Daniel’s shoulder. He jumped letting out a panicked yelp. I tried to grab his hand, but felt my own being pulled away.

The lights began flickering again as a crowd of pale, skeletal soldiers descended on me, their armour clinked as they marched towards me, pulling me back from the track as Daniel struggled helplessly against the creature.

“Daniel!” I called out to him but it was no use. The door behind us opened and a carriage burst through. The creature bundled Daniel into it, and they set off through the next door. The cloaked figures dashed after them, and slipped through the door before it slammed shut.

Daniel’s helpless screams faded as the carriage got further away, and I scratched and clawed at the door, desperately trying to get it open but heartbroken as I realised it wasn’t possible.

I wandered back through the rest of the ride, tears in my eyes, jumping at every sound and shadow until I reached the entrance, crawling through the door and falling down onto the ground, exhausted and terrified.

I thought I’d never see Daniel again, but as I looked up from the floor, to the windows of the manor, I saw a crowd of people pounding against the glass, silent screams across their faces, and in the middle, reaching out a hand to me with a frightened stare was Daniel.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Forever Young

The ocean’s wild and untamed waves harmonised with the relentless wind as night fell. Night arrived so much earlier in winter and Hamish found it unsettling. There was a lot that Hamish found unsettling, and if he had things his way, he would never have joined the family business with his older brother.

Hamish had always hated the sea. He longed for the land every second that he was trapped by his duty in the lighthouse. High up in the sky, surrounded by the ocean, he watched life carry on for everyone but him. He would watch the sailors, bonded by their adventures out at sea, tourists coming and going to the islands on ferries, couples and families strolling along the hills on sunny days when the storms were at bay. Everything was so close, but Hamish was locked away in lighthouse, guilted into the family business, with no hope of getting out.

He had always been a dreamer, spending all of his spare time fantasising about going to the mainland as a child. There was nothing wrong with life on Stornoway, of course, it was a beautiful place to live, with lots to see, but he had heard tales from the sailors, and like a caged animal, he was itching to explore all that the rest of the world had to offer.

The second great war was over, and Europe was beginning to buzz again as it recovered from the horror of conflict, but Europe was a bit big for his dreams, and so, his dreams were as small as his bounds, and really just involved tasting a little of life on the mainland.

The kettle shook as it boiled, tearing Hamish from his fantasies of escape, and he placed two cups before it with a quiet sigh. The storm had been difficult, as storms tended to be, but this one felt troubling to him, as if nature was furious and was taking it out on him specifically.

“How about mash with the sausages?” Cameron, the older of the brothers asked, entering the kitchen and falling into one of the empty seats at the table. “It’s as close to Mum’s cooking as you can get up here.” Hamish nodded as the thunder roared outside, followed closely by lightning baring its teeth through the window.

The brothers were used to storms. It was just another chapter in the story of life at sea, but this storm was particularly vicious. The rain whipped at the windows and their bones shook with the cold of the icy winds.

Life was cold and lonely in the lighthouse, but the two brothers had each other for company. As their father had been, for many years before his death, Hamish and his brother were lighthouse keepers. They trimmed the wicks, cleaned the lenses, kept the flames of the lamp burning and kept sailors safe from the perils of nature.

Their father had died in a storm like the one Hamish found himself in, and try as he might, Hamish couldn’t quite keep his mind off of that fact. All that he knew was that the storm had hit, and his father had never been seen again. Hamish had just turned sixteen, and went from dreaming of the freedom that finishing school gave to stepping into his father’s shoes with his brother. The shoes were big, and they were didn’t feel like the right fit for him, but he had no choice. In a way, he felt it was unfair, but Hamish had spent a lot of time in the lighthouse and had come to the conclusion that perhaps, life was just unfair.

It wasn’t an ideal life, but he was fed, sheltered, and got to spend time with his brother, so he couldn’t complain, and would only really consider complaining if he found himself close to his father’s fate. The storm raged on around him, and Hamish considered that tonight may, at last, be one of the times when complaining was justified.

The brothers had grown used to the thunder, and the endless drumming of the rain against the windows, but as he closed the oven door with a weary sigh beyond his years, Hamish heard a sound that he hadn’t heard in years.

There was a knock at the door.

The knock was curt, short and sharp but shocking. The lighthouse was a lonely place, and not the kind of place where you’d hear knocks at the door. The brothers looked at each other, shock across their faces as the room fell silent again. Cameron pointed at the door, rising from his seat and slowly walking towards it. Hamish shook his head, grabbing his brother to try and hold him back, but failing to stop him before he swung the door open.

Wind whipped through the lighthouse, howling as it flew around the brothers. The hallway was empty, with no sign of life and no shadows before them. The brothers stared at each other, confused and in all honesty, frightened, both stepping out into the hallway to inspect the darkness, but finding nothing that could explain the knock.

The rest of the night went without incident, and without explanation for the phantom knock, and while the brothers tried to forget about it, they were both still chilled by the odd knock in the kitchen.

Hamish fell into a shallow sleep, and found himself dreaming of the lighthouse, haunted by loud, impatient knocks at a door that he didn’t dare to open. As he awoke the next morning, he lay in bed for a moment, trying to shake off the nightmares that had followed him as he slept.

The storm continued, and so did Hamish’s nervousness. He had tried to take his mind off of the knock, the storm, his memories of his father, but as he went about his duties, they were all that played on his mind.

As the day wound down and Hamish watched Cameron prepare dinner, he wrote a letter to his mother, not mentioning his anxieties, of course, but he was unable to keep himself from saying “I wish you were here.” He made a plan to post it as soon as the storm cleared up, and tried to focus his thoughts on that, rather than the sense of dread that was circling him as the evening crept closer.

As the brothers ate in silence, surrounded by the sound of the storm, Hamish found himself daydreaming again of a life outside of the lighthouse. His dreams were always simple. A little house in a city somewhere far away, a busy job, a friend that wasn’t a blood relative, a drink in a pub where nobody knew his name, and in his wildest dreams, a wife to love and cherish.

That night was a night in which he delved into his wildest dreams. He pictured the fantasy as he chewed and swallowed the bland stew before him. She had eyes as blue as an ocean, soft lips that he ached to kiss, and thick, yellow curls that framed her gorgeous face.

He had never met a woman like that in his nineteen years on the Earth, and in fact, had not met many women at all, but in his dreams, this woman would fall in love with him, and as the night went on, he imagined that she would be waiting in the cold, itchy sheets of his lonely bed.

As he dreamed the evening away, he was pulled back into reality by another knock on the door. He dropped his spoon to the table with a start, looking up at Cameron and then towards the door. The knock repeated, echoing through the kitchen as the wind screeched outside.

Hamish stood from the table, shaking as he approached the door, Cameron following close behind. His nightmares flashed to the front of his mind, and the air around him felt cold.

“Hello?” The brothers called out, almost in unison. There were no words spoken on the other side of the door, just another knock, somehow more insistent, joined by another and another, until the sound of the knocking was deafening.

Paralysed by fear, Hamish watched in horror as his brother pushed past him, unbolted the door and threw it open.

Hamish was speechless, unable to believe his eyes, as his fantasy stood before him.

Dripping in rainwater and shivering from the cold, but undeniably stunning was a girl that set his heart racing. She gazed up at him, with her sapphire eyes, peering through damp curls with a smile that took his breath away.

“Can you help me?” She whispered, reaching out a hand to the silent siblings. “I got lost in the…” She gestured out the window behind them with a slight giggle. Hamish was enchanted, unable to take his eyes away from the visitor, nodding enthusiastically as he pushed his brother aside and stepped in front of the girl.

“Of course!” His words were lost in a sigh, as he grabbed her hand and pulled her into the room, guiding her into a chair. “You must be freezing!” He rushed through to the bathroom, and returned shortly after with a towel, wrapping it around her shoulders, breathless as their eyes met.

“What were you doing out there?” Cameron asked, leaning against the kitchen counter with an inquisitive stare at the beautiful stranger.

“I was searching for my Mother.” She said softly, not taking her eyes off of Hamish as she spoke. “She went out yesterday to get the ferry to the mainland to get some shopping, and…” She paused, her smile fading as she stared at Hamish, her eyes sad and suddenly full of fear. “And she never came back.”

Hamish clutched her hand tightly, gazing into her eyes and trying his best to look like the hero she clearly needed him to be.

“We’ll help you find her.” She smiled again, her soft fingers brushing his own tenderly, and for a moment, Hamish was in heaven, but as was often the case, he was quickly torn from his dreams and sped back to reality.

The storm rattled against the lighthouse as Cameron pulled him away from the girl and bundled him into the cramped hallway with a frown.

“We can’t go out there, we’ll get as lost as her mother.” He argued, his face as thunderous as the storm that waited for them outside.

“We have to do something Cameron!” Hamish pleaded, but Cameron shook his head with a sigh. “What if it was our mother?”

Cameron sighed again, rolling his eyes at his younger brother.

“The ferry got back fine, she probably just stayed on the mainland and forgot to call.” His voice was weathered, and Hamish found his brother’s lack of urgency about the matter frustrating. “She can stay tonight, and we’ll go and check at the port tomorrow if the storm clears up.” Hamish wasn’t entirely convinced by the compromise, but he knew that his brother was an honest man, so decided to trust him.

“Okay, fair enough.” Hamish said with a nod, opening the door and hurrying back to the stranger, unable to hide his excitement as he sat before her with a huge grin. “It’s a bit dangerous to go out now, but you can stay here and we’ll look for her in the morning.” She returned his smile, and as their eyes met, Hamish could swear that there was electricity in the air.

“Thank you.” Her voice was soft, tender like her enchanting eyes, and try as he might (he didn’t actually try very hard), Hamish could not resist imagining the beginnings of a love story for the two of them. “I’m Allison, by the way.” She said, as Hamish held her hands in his own, rubbing them gently to warm them.

“Hamish.” He sighed, absolutely enchanted and charmed by the girl. He melted under her gaze, hopelessly lost in a fantasy.

“I’m Cameron.” The older brother said with another roll of his eyes, fully aware that nobody was listening to him. “And I’m going to bloody bed.”

As the night unfolded and the two lovebirds found themselves alone in Hamish’s bedroom, Hamish and Allison did a lot of lovesick staring.

Despite his lack of experience with women, Hamish found himself falling into the role of Romeo relatively quickly. They talked for hours, their hands tightly intertwined, and at about three in the morning, when they could barely keep their eyes open, they shared a gentle kiss before she fell into his arms and they fell into a deep, sweet sleep.

His dreams were a rose tinted affair, and as he woke up with a beautiful girl in his arms, he found it hard to believe that he was actually awake, but as he looked down at Allison and pinched his arm to be sure, he realised that he was truly the luckiest man in the Outer Hebrides.

The storm continued to batter the lighthouse with little promise of slowing down and as Hamish made breakfast for the two of them, he hoped that there would be relief from the weather soon, but was secretly pleased that they had nothing to do but cuddle.

“Can we go and look for Mother now?” Hamish tried to hide his disappointment and smiled down at the girl, wishing he could have more time in his happy little fantasy, but accepting that a promise had been made. “I thought we could try the caves, in case she went in there for shelter?” Hamish nodded, kissing her forehead with a smile as Cameron strode in from the direction of his bedroom.

“We do have jobs, you know.” He grumbled, snatching some toast from the table with a scowl towards the young lovers. “She can stay up here, but we have to work.” Hamish shook his head, standing from the table and taking Allison’s hand.

“We’re going to try the caves and see if we can find her Mother.” He said, trying his best to sound assertive, and feeling as if he accomplished it as Allison beamed up at him. Reality dropped back into the picture within seconds as Cameron grabbed his arm and began pulling him towards the hallway.

Piling into the claustrophobic hallway once again, the brothers glared at each other, arguing in their quietest, most aggressive whispers.

“You promised me that we could go and look for her mother today.” Cameron rolled his eyes again at his brother, frustration building at the boy losing his mind over a stranger.

“If the storm cleared up, yes, but it’s still mad out there!” It was Hamish’s turn to roll his eyes. He stared daggers into his older brother.

“I don’t care, I’m going.” He snapped, forgetting to whisper as he stormed from the hallway back towards the kitchen.

“Hamish, don’t be an idiot!” It was too late. Hamish had heard enough, and was determined to help their guest, with or without his brother’s help. He turned away from his brother and walked back towards the kitchen, ready to tell Allison about his plan (which wasn’t actually THAT fleshed out yet…) only to find that she was gone.

It was impossible. The only way out would have been past the two brothers and down the staircase, but he was certain that he hadn’t seen her. The windows were still closed and locked, but Allison was nowhere to be found.

Hamish looked desperately around the empty kitchen, running between the bathroom and small bedrooms. It didn’t make any sense, but he was too panicked by her sudden disappearance to care.

His heart raced as he searched the small space of the lighthouse for her, to no avail.

“Don’t be stupid.” Cameron cried as he followed his brother into the kitchen, shocked to see him standing alone by the door. “Hey, where did she go?” Hamish was silent, gesturing to the impossibility of the empty room around him, and the disappearance of Allison, his face pale as he reached for the door. “Hamish, no…” The younger brother did not reply, and he didn’t look back, opening the door and grabbing his coat as he began running through the small hallway and down the spiralling staircase towards the waiting, wailing storm. “Hamish!” Cameron yelled, with frustration across his face as he tore down the stairs after his brother, pulling his coat around his shoulders as he finally caught up to Hamish.

Lightning flashed across the dark, dismal sky as the youngest of the brothers began walking, his boots clung to by the mud and soaked in rain water. Cameron chased after him, almost falling as he, like the mud, clung to the headstrong, lovestruck idiot and tried to pull him back to the safety of the lighthouse.

“How the hell are you going to find her in this?” He cried, drowned out by the storm and barely audible. Hamish ignored his brother, rushing ahead and heading towards the caves by the ocean. Lightning stretched across the sky, chased by thunder and try as he might, Cameron could not stop his brother from marching ahead towards the shore. “Please Hamish, will you just think?” He bellowed, reaching out again to his brother but slipping, and collapsing down into the mud.

Hamish did not look back, breaking into a run with only one thing on his mind. He had to get to Allison, and he had to keep his promise, even if his brother was too much of a coward to join him. Hamish had never felt such determination, and in his naive, unfortunate state, he believed that he was powered by love, but the truth was as far from love as it could get, and something he was yet to discover.

He could hear his brother calling out to him, but as he ran and got closer to the caves, Cameron’s voice fell away into the roaring wind and all he could hear was the storm around him.

The caves loomed before him, dark and unfriendly and the wind whistled and whipped all around him as he strode towards the entrance.

“Allison!” He screamed, fighting against the noise of the storm as he sprinted inside, trying to ignore the cold against his bones, and the fear that slowly rose through his body as he found himself alone in the cave. He slowed down, walking through the cave, his eyes darting around in the darkness as he searched for any sign of Allison. “Allison, are you here?” As he journeyed deeper inside the cave, it grew quiet, with nothing but his echoed cries and footsteps. “Can you hear me?”

He began to regret his decision to enter the cave, and wondered why he had ran away from Cameron. As he continued into the cave, it was almost as if he sobered up, realising that he had made a series of, frankly, ridiculous decisions, wandering into a dark, abandoned cave, in the middle of a storm, on the off chance that a girl he had just met was somewhere inside. As he stood still for a second, thinking it over, he had to admit, he would never normally be so reckless, and he turned back towards the path he had taken, wondering if he should turn back and head home, to the lighthouse.

“Hamish!” The few moments of sensible thinking ended and Hamish felt his heart flutter at the sound of Allison’s voice. He ran towards it, not seeming to notice that he was running deeper and deeper into the twists and turns of the cave. “Hamish, please help me!” As if under a spell, he raced further into the cave, chasing the sweet voice as it seemed to bounce all over the cave. “Hamish, I’m so thirsty.” Her voice seemed weak and frail, which only spurred him on, his doubts were far behind him, and all he could do was run towards her.

There was a loud crash behind him, and for a moment, Hamish turned back, stunned to see the ceiling above collapsing and clattering to the floor as rocks formed a barrier between him and the outside world. It stopped him in his tracks and Hamish felt his heart pounding in his chest, suddenly panicking and revisiting the doubts that had plagued his mind moments before he heard Allison’s voice.

He was trapped. He was lost in a cave and completely trapped, in the middle of a storm, with nobody but his brother to look for him. His heart sank as he imagined that Cameron might not even want to look for him after how he had behaved. Leaning up against the wall as he caught his breath and stared in dismay at the wall of rocks and dust that blocked his path home, he once again felt filled with doubt.

“Hamish, I’m right here.” His mind went blank, and then went right back to Allison, as if she had heard his thoughts and knew he was wavering. He was suddenly back under her spell and running towards her voice, bursting down a passage way and coming out in a much larger clearing, where to his delight, behind a well in the centre of the ground, he saw a shadow that could only be his love.

“Allison, thank God.” He sighed, walking towards the shadow with a bright smile.

“I am the Mother of the Gods.” The voice was like Allison’s but with a weary, almost angry grit to it. It seemed to fill the entire cave, and it gave him pause, as he stopped before the well, now slightly apprehensive about approaching the shadow. “I am the Mother of the mountains.” The voice continued as the familiar doubt began to fill his mind once again. “I am the Mother of the storms and the seas.” Hamish stepped back slowly as the shadow moved a little closer, still cloaked in the darkness but much closer to him than he’d like. “I am the Mother of the Gods that you have long forgotten.” The shadow let out a low whistle and the well between them began to glow with light. “And I am the Goddess that your father stole from.”

The shadow stepped into the light and Hamish fell back in shock, backing away from the sight before him. A tall hag, her skin, haggard and worn. “To steal from a Goddess is a crime that can never be forgiven, Hamish.” She snarled, advancing on him as he begged his legs to let him stand, but found himself grounded by fear. Her thick, white hair flowed behind her as she walked, and as Hamish gaped in horror, he noticed her eyes. Despite the rest of her appearance, her eyes were instantly recognisable to him. Soft and sapphire blue. Allison’s eyes.

“I… I don’t understand.” He stammered, desperately searching around him for a way out as she stood over him with a wicked smile.

“This land is mine, but I shared it with you mortals.” She continued, kneeling down beside his frozen body. “All that I asked was that the well of my youth stay pure, so that I could drink, and care for what I had created.” Hamish glanced up at the well, and for a moment, as crazy as it sounded, he was sure that he could see his father, standing by the well, his face forlorn. “Your father stole the water, and made it impure.” She snarled, leaning so close that he could feel her breath against his cheeks. “So you will give me the youth he took from me.”

The light from the well swelled out into the room and pain shot through Hamish’s body as the hag stood, striding towards the well as the light strobed and flickered before him. He tried to run. He thought of nothing else, but his body was no longer his own, and as he cried out in agony, he felt himself crawling after the hag, following her shadow towards the well.

“Perhaps now your family will learn not to steal from a Goddess.” The voice cried out as he approached the well on his hands and knees.

“I’m sorry.” Hamish sobbed, looking down and seeing his hands covered in wrinkles, the skin, achingly thin and tinged a soft, icy blue. His hands under the power of the hag, he propped himself up against the wall of the well, pain purging every other feeling in his body as he looked down at his reflection, and saw a sight that he had never truly been able to imagine, and one that no human can ever really bear to face. He saw the last moments of a dying man. His breath, weak and ragged as tears fell from his eyes and got lost in the many lines that had appeared in his once handsome face.

“You were delicious, Hamish.” Said the voice, softer again, as Allison’s beautiful face joined his doom in the reflection below. “Just delicious.” In his last moments, he took one last look into the eyes that had led him down the path of his doom, and wondered if his father had been enchanted in the same way. He thought of his brother, and the heartbreak of his mother, who was about to lose another piece of her heart, and the tears fell, as he collapsed to the ground, falling to dust as he hit the hard dirt of the floor, never to be seen or heard from again.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

The Butterflies Are Coming

She is going to die. My girlfriend is going to die. I’m not going to kill her, it will be the butterflies. It is happening tonight. I know this now. I have been trying to find a way to stop it, but I think it is impossible. It’s too late for her, but maybe, it won’t be too late for you. I have my doubts though.

Fiona is going to die tonight. The butterflies told me so.

They will speak to you too, and when they do, you have to listen. You won’t want to, but you must. You have to accept it. It hurts but there’s nothing else you can do. Sometimes, it’s just somebody’s time.

It began a week ago. We were in the garden, enjoying the summer sun when a butterfly, with wings as black as the night’s sky landed on her arm. It was harmless. Butterflies just flutter around, living their lives and nobody pays much attention, but that was a warning, something that we couldn’t quite understand at the time, but would learn to be terrified of, as time went on.

It lingered on her arm, flapping its wings as she gazed down with a smile.

“It tickles.” She whispered, pointing at it with her free hand, and I returned her smile. “Quick, take a picture.” I raised my phone up, swiping into the camera app and snapped a picture. It should have been beautiful. Fiona and her new friend. A beautiful girl, with a beautiful butterfly. “Let me see.” I opened the image up, and gasped, my breath caught in my throat as the phone fell to the grass. “Come on Steph, let me see!” She insisted as the butterfly, bored of her arm, took flight and disappeared into the sunlit sky.

“No.” I shook my head, snatching the phone away as she went to grab it, flinching as the photo caught my eye again. There she was, cross legged in the sun, with her new friend on her arm, but her face was drained and void of life, blood staining the soft grass, her eyes, glassy and gone as the knife in her neck shone in the sunlight.

“Did you use a silly filter?” She said, with a frown, pouting as she reached for the phone again. I shook my head, but she wouldn’t give in, pushing me on the grass playfully, pulling the phone from me. Her face fell as she saw the photo. She stared in silent horror, tears forming in her eyes. “Did you do this? It’s really fucked up.” She threw the phone back in my direction, turning away from me, sniffling as the tears began to fall. I didn’t have an explanation, only the certainty that I hadn’t edited the photo.

“I didn’t, I swear.” I whispered, shocked at the accusation, putting my arms around her. “Let’s just take another one.” I kissed her cheek softly, relieved as she nodded, holding up her own phone, and smiling at our image on the screen. I wiped the tears from her face as we focused our eyes on the screen and smiled, holding it as she clicked the capture button.

“What the fuck?” Her voice shook as she opened the photo. Her body was lifeless in my arms, the knife jutting from her neck as my tear stained, blood soaked face looked on in terror. We stared in shocked silence at the image, not knowing how it had come to be, or what it meant, and just as I was about to speak, I noticed that there were now two butterflies resting on her arm in the photograph.

She was hysterical, understandably. I held her close to me as she cried, confused and horrified by what she had seen, and for the rest of the day, she was fragile, barely saying a word. When she had gone to bed, I stared down at both of our phones, fiddling with the settings to see if I could find any explanation, but it was fruitless, so, of course, as anyone would do, I turned to the internet.

It was a long and boring search, at first. I focused on camera glitches, hacking and explanations based in reality, but that was my mistake. This thing, this curse, it doesn’t recognise our reality. It doesn’t play by our rules. I was up all night, but at about 4am, I found something that made me feel like I wasn’t losing my mind. Someone else had experienced the same thing, but it wasn’t the phones, or a technical issue, it was the butterflies.

You may see butterflies in your life, of all colours and patterns, but it’s the black butterflies you have to watch out for. Pitch black, with no markings, travelling down from the sky to tell you a secret. When they arrive, you’ll know what we know now.

You are on borrowed time.

It was just one person’s account at first. She had tried to take a cute selfie as a butterfly landed on her shoulder, but every photo she took was horrifying. Blood, violence, visions of her own death. Soon, it wasn’t just the photos. She would see her death in the mirror, the butterfly perched on her shoulder, soon joined by more, as the days went by. She posted, in panic on an occult Reddit sub for about six days, before she vanished and was never heard from again.

Her last post was the one that bothered me most. She said that the photo she had taken was so disturbing that she was afraid to post it, and that there was a horrifying feeling all across her body that she couldn’t shake off. She knew she was about to die, and her last line was simple but chilling.

“They’re eating me alive.”

As I reached the end of her testimony, I stared at the end of the screen in silence. I checked her post and comment history again and again, finding no trace of her online after that day, but I did find a response to one of her earlier comments from another user that offered a small ray of hope.

“You can find some peace in water.” It was vague, but it was a chance, something that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else, so I ran with it, focusing my search on water. I didn’t find much else, except for another vague, small ray of hope from a user.

“The butterflies take longer to find you in the water.”

I ran a bath, waking Fiona and leading her to the bathroom. She grumbled, tired, and still reeling from what she’d seen earlier that day, but she stepped into the bath, relaxing in the water and looking at peace for the first time since it had all begun.

I raised my phone to take a picture and she shook her head, snapping up from her peace to cover her naked body.

“Stephanie, what are you doing?” She squeaked, glaring at me.

“Just trust me…” I whispered, pressing the capture button regardless of her protests. “I have an idea.” She rolled her eyes as I opened the picture, and to my astonishment, there was nothing but my naked, and completely alive girlfriend. I showed her, flashing the phone in front of her face with a wide smile. “Look! You’re alive!” She looked up from the phone in bewilderment.

“But… how?” I sat on the edge of the bathtub, puzzled but pleased with our progress.

“I don’t know, but it’s something, isn’t it?” She nodded, still not looking convinced but obviously relieved that we were getting somewhere.

“Oh sure, if I stay in the bath for the rest of my life, everything will be fine.” She muttered, with a pout. I cupped her face in my hands and stared into her emerald eyes, with the most reassuring smile I could offer.

“I know it isn’t ideal, but it’s a start.”

She spent most of her time in the bath over the next few days, only leaving to use the toilet or to take quick breaks to stretch her legs. It was impractical, and to the outside eye, ridiculous, but it was the only hope we had of keeping her safe.

At first, it worked, and we tried to forget how unsustainable it was. I’d sleep on the bathroom floor beside her, and we lived our lives for six whole days as a mermaid and her faithful companion.

I continued my research from the bathroom, scrolling through so many websites and blog posts about butterflies. I didn’t learn much in the beginning, except that black butterflies symbolise death, but as I went on, I found something useful.

There was a rumour, an old folk tale about black butterflies, and their Master, Death. The tale goes that the butterflies would accompany Death to collect souls when it was their time to go, and that they worked as his servants, taking the soon to be departed to their demise, and into the peaceful afterlife.

It all went without a hitch, until, of course, it didn’t. Life is just like that, and I suppose, nobody really escapes it. There was a King, rich and powerful, ruling over his subjects with impunity, as Kings often do, but when Death and his butterflies came knocking, he refused to go quietly. He set his men on Death, but it was no use, and all of them were slaughtered. The streets were a river of blood, but the King refused to give in, escaping his castle and travelling to the mountains on horseback with his most trusted advisors, pursued by Death and his army of butterflies.

He found a small coven that had been hiding in the mountains, forcing them to use their powers to destroy Death. At first, they refused, insistent that they would not meddle in the natural order of things, but the King, and his remaining men tortured the young witches, until one eventually gave in, agreeing to perform the curse, to save her sisters.

As promised, Death was destroyed, but the King was not free. The butterflies, driven mad by grief at the loss of their Master, and with no guidance from Death chased the King until they finally caught him, ripping him to shreds. It was said that the butterflies wandered the world aimlessly after that, stealing the souls of those unfortunate enough to catch their eye, always hoping to find their Master again, but never being successful.

I slipped into sleep after reading it, tormented by terrifying dreams of the butterflies, the King and the demise of Death, but I still had no answers on how to save my love.

I was asleep when they found her. The sound of their wings awoke me. So many wings, drowning out her screams as they flapped them endlessly, trying to take flight. My eyes snapped open at the bellow of their wings, and I reached up to the edge of the tub, my eyes, hopeless in the darkness. I felt the soft, velvet of wings beneath my fingers, recoiling in disgust as I leapt towards the door, pulling on the light string and blinking as the room flooded with a dim light, revealing the true horror of the scene.

They were everywhere. Black butterflies crowded the room. They were all over the tub, the sink, the lightbulb, the ceiling, and they were all over Fiona’s body. Her muffled cries could barely be heard over the furious sound of the butterflies flapping their wings all around us. I ran to her, trying to push them away so that she could breathe, but they were relentless. Every time I made a path to free her, more would swoop down, but I kept trying, no matter how hopeless it was.

“You have twenty four hours to say goodbye.” A voice whispered in my ear. I jumped back in shock, staring around the bathroom, and the cyclone of butterflies, but seeing nobody. “We will be back to collect her tomorrow.” With those final words, the butterflies vanished, and Fiona was freed, coughing and spluttering in the water as she reached for me.

Those twenty four hours are almost up. There’s only half of one left, and already, I’ve spotted butterflies around the house. I’ve let her sleep. There’s no point in her thinking about what’s to come. So, here I am, waiting alone, and telling you.

Why am I telling you? I don’t really know, because knowing all this won’t save you, just like it won’t save her. You can hide, for a little, but you’ll never truly be free of them if they decide that they want you, so, my best advice is to run, before they get a good look at you. If you see a black butterfly, run for your life, because if you don’t, they’ll take it. They cannot be reasoned with. They cannot be bargained with. You can only run, as fast as you can, and as long as you can.

They’re here.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Northlay Falls – Chapter Two

My mother didn’t say a word all day after that ominous mumble.

“He dined early this month.”

I followed her into the kitchen and watched her as she began washing the breakfast dishes, pouring the porridge she had made for Ray and I in the bin, just carrying on as if her son was just sleeping in, instead of dead.

I tried to speak to her a few times, but my questions couldn’t break through her catatonia, so I gave up, grabbing my own coat and heading towards the lake.

Mr Hithe was still wandering the village, wailing out his warnings to ignorant ears, and as I walked past the same old people, who carried on, just like my mother, he caught up with me.

“You saw it too, didn’t you.” I nodded as we walked briskly in the direction of the swaying trees up ahead. “And it took your brother.” I nodded again, grateful that someone else seemed to understand what was happening. “I’m sorry, Ivy.” We were approaching the forest, and I fell into his arms, sobbing as he held me to his shoulder and waited for the storm of my grief to pass. “They do believe you, they just don’t want to rock the boat.”

That was the moment I had my epiphany about the boats. I suddenly remembered the many times I’d seen them coming and going across the lake. All the kids would go and watch them in the summer, always staring at the boats, early in the morning, never looking at the lake.

We didn’t have much else to do.

“We could get help on the boats.” I whispered, looking up at him. “If we get across, we can find somebody to help us.” He nodded, wiping the tears from my eyes.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” He asked, glancing around to be sure nobody would hear us. “This is a big risk.”

We both knew the stakes, but we had both lost too much to be deterred.

That night, I didn’t get much sleep, but the few hours I did get were filled with visions of the beast. It’s bright, soulless eyes, sharp teeth and long, leathery wings followed me through restless nightmares.

The next morning, I snuck out, just as the sun was rising, meeting him at the farmhouse. We trekked up towards the lake in silence, until we reached the forest, and I couldn’t resist asking the question that had plagued my mind since I’d seen the creature.

“What is that thing?” Mr Hithe stopped in his tracks, leaning up against a tree and sighing deeply.

“My father told me about how this place came to be.” He said, solemnly. “It used to be free, back when my great grandfather farmed here, but things just stopped growing.” The wind whistled and ruffled the leaves of the trees as he continued. “Livestock started to disappear and the people began to starve.” I sat on a tree stump beside him as he continued. “Nobody could understand why, but they sent a group of young men out to try and find help in one of the neighbouring villages.” He sighed again. “But before they made it out of the forest, they met a man, who promised to fix all their problems.”

“What did he say?” I asked, struck by the rising fear across his face.

“He said that if the people stayed in the village and fed him, he would keep make sure they were never went hungry again.” He motioned for us to continue walking, and I stood, rushing to keep up with his long strides. “It was a trap, of course, but they agreed, because they were hungry and ready to believe anything.”

“Who was he?” I asked as we went deeper into the forest, falling back into darkness as we walked where the sun could not reach.

“He was that thing you saw in…” Mr Hithe suddenly fell silent, grabbing me close and raising a finger to his lips. The wind whipped against the trees, and I could hear a loud, piercing shriek above us. “He appeared as a man to trick them.” Mr Hithe whispered as I looked up at the trees. “My great grandfather was convinced that the beast destroyed the land and took the animals, so that people would have no choice but to make a deal with that particular devil.”

Through a gap in the leaves, I saw the creature, seeming to circle the forest. His eyes, huge, shining like rubies as his wings flexed and flapped, shaking the trees with their force.

“But why here?” I shook in Mr Hithe’s arms as I asked the question. I needed to know how things had ended up this way, but it terrified me. The creature shrieked from high above again. I’d heard it so many times, but we had always been told so many cover stories. It was birds, or it was leaky pipes. None of them made sense, when I thought about it, but we had no choice to believe.

“Nobody ever knew why he came here.” Mr Hithe muttered, after a little hesitation. “I think he just wanted a place to toy with, and we were remote enough that we couldn’t get help and stop him.”

“Until now.” I whispered, hopefully, watching the beast get further away as his growls and snarls faded into the wind.

“Yes.” He replied, with a slight smile. “Until now.”

There was a deafening crash up ahead, and I clutched Mr Hithe’s hand tightly, hiding behind him as the ground shook.

“He’s just going into the lake to rest.” He mumbled, taking another few, slow steps. “The boat will be here soon.” Again, I’d heard those crashes before, but we were always told that it was an accident at a far away factory, or rock slides, and we just believed it, because there was nothing else to do.

We made our way through the forest until we reached the clearing by the lake. I was about to step forward when he grabbed my shoulders and stopped me.

“Slow down.” I nodded, mirroring him as he crouched behind one of the many bushes that surrounded the shore. “The search party didn’t tell the rest of the village what they’d signed up for.” He said, with another weary sigh. “By the time he took the first sacrifice, it was too late to stop him.” I nodded, not taking my eyes off the still, silent lake. “Desperate people will do very stupid things.”

In the distance, I could see the water starting to ripple, as the sound of the boat’s engine travelled, faintly towards us. There were a pile of boxes and crates filled with empty bottles by the edge of the forest, waiting to be picked up by the boat men. It turns out, our captor is big on recycling.

“There’s something you should know Ivy…” He whispered, turning to me, with a solemn stare. “The search party… one of them was your great, great grandfather.” My heart sank. I’d always been bitter about being trapped in that place, but knowing that it was partly my family’s fault made it sting just a little bit more. “And the boatmen are more familiar than you think.”

The boat was approaching the shore, loud and clear before us, the crew with their eyes fixed on the cargo that crowded the deck.

As they stepped off the boat and began unloading boxes onto the bank, Mr Hithe motioned for me to stay quiet, and crept, slowly towards the sailor closest to us.

He pulled the man by his neck into the bush, covering his mouth with a hand, throwing him to the ground and pressing his weight against his body. The man struggled, trying his best to scream but coming up short.

“Willard, meet your great, great Grandaughter, Ivy.” I stared in shock, as the captured sailor wriggled and fought back against Mr Hithe. It seemed so impossible, but I lived in a village ruled by a winged demon, so perhaps it was a little naive to believe that anything could be impossible. “And that pile of bones on the bank is your great, great grandson Ray.” There was a sting in my chest at the mention of my brother. All he was now was bones, and that’s all he’d ever be.

“But he’d be dead…” I whispered, unable to stop my curious stares at the man, who I had to admit, had a striking resemblance to my Father.

“The search party was granted eternal life in exchange for agreeing to the monthly sacrifice.” I looked down at the man, my ancestor, in disgust, unable to fight back the forming tears as I thought of my brother. “They just didn’t know that the beast tricked them into an eternal life of servitude.” For these traitors to live forever, while my brother lay, without rest, without life, as a pile of bones at the bank was an injustice that I couldn’t accept.

“You have to help us onto one of the boats.” I spat at him, watching him continue to struggle against Mr Hithe’s grasp. “You owe us that at least.” He shook his head, scratching at Mr Hithe’s hand, until he finally managed to free his mouth.

“I’m sorry. I can’t.” He cried, breathlessly.

“Why not?” Mr Hithe aimed a kick at Willard’s ribs as he spoke. “It’s not like they can kill you.”

“Yeah!” I kicked him too, consumed by rage and grief as I remembered that all that remained of my brother was a pile of bones, a few feet away. “You’re immortal, what’s the worst they can do to you?”

“Okay!” Willard groaned, clutching his hands to his body and trying to back away from his. “I’ll help!” Blood was pouring from his nose as he struggled to his feet. “Meet me back here in three days, just the girl.”

He didn’t fear death, but I’ve thought about our meeting, and I think that Willard fears his guilty conscience getting any heavier. As he cleaned himself up, and returned the the crowd of sailors, he didn’t say a word, but he collected up the bones of my Brother, placing them in one of the empty boxes, and returned to the bush we were hiding in, laying them solemnly at my feet.

“Don’t drink from the pubs.” He said, quietly before he turned to leave. “It’s all tainted.” After that, he was gone, running back to the boat, leaving us with many questions and no answers.

We watched the boat creep away from the shore and off into the lake, and then we headed back to the village.

It was difficult to act normal, knowing all that I had come to know, but it was important, if I was ever going to free us all from the beast.

I had dinner, in silence, did my homework in silence, and went to bed in silence, but I barely slept, my mind, racing with thoughts of what would happen when I next saw Willard, and if I’d ever escape the village of the damned.

It was all up to me.

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Writing

Eyes In The Portrait

There’s a new ghost in my gallery,
peering from the frames of all my paintings,
her stare, so accusatory,
as she watches me with my wife’s soft hair,
twirled around troubled fingertips,
lips lost in a lullaby that lasts all night,
ignorant of the rising sun and the expectation for a woman’s place to be in the kitchen, rather than underneath the sheets and up to mischief.

She stares like I have done something wrong by moving on,
and I keep her in my conscience,
like I kept the photos of the trip we took to become women.
She wails through the walls,
thick, thundering chains around thin wrists,
and her wandering becomes a waltz,
loud and lavish as the sun rises and sets,
and her eyes follow me to places she can never go.