“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.
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.
It had been a long day and Maria was exhausted. She hated having to travel for work conferences, but the one highlight was always the hotel. Her employer may be making her travel across the country for days of pointless meetings and panels at the conference, but at the very least, they spared no expense when it came to her hotel, and during the week, Maria had made use of the accommodation provided to her. She had started every morning with a fruit salad by the pool and had fallen asleep every night in the comfiest of beds.
With her dinner half finished on the bedside table, she felt herself drifting off to sleep, trying to forget the early meeting she had booked for the next day as her eyes became heavy. There was a storm getting started outside, thunder rumbling softly in the distance as the rain began to lash the window panes. Its soft rhythm helped her to relax, and as she pulled the blankets over her body and closed her eyes, she found herself enjoying the luxury of the soft sheets and fluffy pillows.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Maria’s eyes snapped open, but there was silence again. She was so sure she’d heard a noise, but it was after midnight, and there was no reason for there to be a knock at her door, so she closed her eyes again and tried to relax again, sighing as she heard her mobile phone buzz beside her on the bedside table.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Maria sat up in bed, far more alert than she’d like for that time of night. She wasn’t expecting anyone, and it was so late, that the sound was a little unsettling.
“Hello?” She called out, but there was no response. She was certain that she’d heard someone at the door, so she grabbed her dressing gown and decided to check. As she approached the door, there was more knocking, and Maria tried to sound confident as she called out again, but a tinge of fear slipped into her voice as she spoke. “What do you want?”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
As she raised her closed eyes to the peephole, she took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves with reassurances that it would just be a member of staff, or a silly prankster. She felt around in the darkness for the door handle and took another breath before opening her eyes. Her breath caught in her throat as she finally allowed herself to look.
There was a crowd of children, each wearing the same unsettling smile and a set of blood red robes. No older than seven or eight, with some as young as toddlers, they just stared at the door with those unmoving, unnerving smiles. They peered up at the door, their eyes still as the child in the centre raised a fist to the wood again.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Maria jumped back, clutching her hand to her mouth. She could barely understand what she’d seen, but she knew that she wanted no part of it. Her eyes fell down to the small crack between the bottom of the door and the carpet, where a small glimmer of light flooded through, accompanied by the shadows of the children’s feet, still as the sound came again from the door.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
She slowly stepped backwards towards the bedside table, reaching for her mobile phone, her heart sinking when she saw that there was no signal to make calls. As she glanced down at her home screen, she noticed that there was an unread text message sent a few minutes before she had begun to prepare for bed. She hadn’t noticed it before, and even if she had, she wasn’t sure that it would have helped her to be aware of it. It was a simple, spine chilling message, and she had no choice but to assume it was from the children.
“We’d like to take your photograph, Maria.” She read the words over and over, her breath hurried and panicked as she tried to make sense of what was happening. There was silence for a moment, before the children reminded her of their presence again.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
She glanced down at the text, her heart racing as the knock echoed around the room. The phone buzzed in her hand as the signal briefly returned, allowing another message to arrive, before it dropped once more. Maria tapped against the screen, hoping with everything that she had that the signal would reactivate and that she would be able to call for help, but it was no use. The words repeated in her head again and again, as the children, growing impatient, knocked again.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
She clicked the latest message notification, unsure of whether she wanted to see but clicking anyway.
There was no text, just a picture. The children were gathered around a man, beaten and bloody. He reached out an arm, his face sullen and screaming, and Maria shuddered, unable to shake the feeling that he was reaching out to her. The children smiled widely around him, beaming up at the camera, their faces covered in blood that could only belong to the man.
She felt sick but she couldn’t take her eyes off the image. Each time she looked, it disturbed her more.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
She almost dropped her phone in shock, but the interruption took her eyes from the man, and allowed them to fall upon the landline phone on her bedside table, and as quietly as she could, she placed her mobile phone in her pocket and reached for the receiver of the landline, hoping to call for help. Raising it to her ear, she was alarmed to hear no dial tone. The line was almost silent, but when she listened, she could hear soft, gentle breathing.
She thought about speaking, but kept quiet, her eyes fixed on the door as the caller on the other end cleared their throat and began to speak.
“We’d like to take your photograph, Maria.” The voice was young, almost innocent, but with an edge that frightened her. She sat on the bed, keeping her eyes locked on the door, the shadows of the children still visible underneath it, as they waited, in vain for her to join them. “We just want to play.” She could hear other children in the background shuffling and trying to get hold of the phone as she spoke.
“Why?” The children laughed in response. She could hear it down the phone, but even louder outside, their gleeful laughter echoing down the hall.
“It’s just a game.” The line went dead as Maria sat, paralysed with fear among the sheets and blankets.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Another knock rattled through the room as Maria placed the receiver down on the phone and stood from the bed. She didn’t know what she was going to do, but she knew that she couldn’t just wait to find out what the children had planned for her.
Her phone buzzed again, and she opened the picture message right away. Recoiling in horror at what she saw.
The children were gathered in a circle around a young girl, their little faces lit up with smiles, and gripped tightly in her little hands was the head of the man from before. His eyes were open, wide and full of terror, his face captured in a scream that would never end.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Maria locked her phone, trying to come up with a plan, as she found the courage to keep walking towards the door, to find out what the children were doing.
Approaching the door, she leant against it, her eyes meeting the glass of the peephole.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
There seemed to be more of the children than before, all dressed in red, smiling up at the door.
She watched one of the children knock again on the door, her big, blue eyes gazing up with the sweetest smile as her hand slipped under her cloak for a moment. Maria wanted to look away, but she couldn’t take her eyes off of them.
She spotted the man’s head in the hands of one of the children further back in the crowd and felt a pant of nausea deep in her stomach.
“Maria…” Cooed the little girl, standing back as the children fanned out all around her to form a circle. Maria was frozen, stuck in place as the seconds ticked by. “We’d like to take your photograph.”
The other children giggled and pointed as the girl pulled a key from underneath her cloak with a wicked, wretched grin, and it was then that Maria knew that there was no escape.
The children would make her the star of their next photograph.
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.
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.
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.
It started with a row about the invitation. Marsaili and I don’t have any secrets, so, unsurprisingly, the first time I kept one, it swirled into a cyclone that I couldn’t control.
I hid the invitation, neatly decorated with both of our names, at the bottom of the recycling, hoping that I could wish it away, and for a few days, I forgot all about it. I lived in my usual bliss until Marsaili took out the recycling, and stormed back in a few minutes later with a face like thunder and that stupid slip of paper in her hand.
We fought. Insecurity, madness and shame spilling out into the once quiet living room. She thought I was ashamed of her. I thought I couldn’t face going back. She cried. I held her in my arms as the tempest tapered, and I cried too, quietly as she crumpled into my chest.
It was just a school reunion. What harm could come from a school reunion? Who wouldn’t want to return to the hallways and classrooms where the everlasting mental scars were scratched and clawed into my soul?
It was just a school reunion, but I hated school. I liked to learn, but nobody I was learning with liked me. I’d walk through the gates every day, clutching my books and brushing down my skirt in the hopes that I looked good enough to get through the day without bother, but a day like that never came.
On paper, I should have been popular. I had the means to be fashionable. I was beautiful. I did well in my studies. I was charismatic. This all sounds very vain, but it’s all true. I was, on paper, the coolest girl in school, but everybody hated me.. I had a big house, with a pool, and organised parties every summer, but nobody ever showed up, except Marsaili. She had been my only friend, and after the hellish experience we had both had, I was surprised that she wanted to go back.
I could never figure out what they saw that made them hate me so much, but now, going back as an adult, I had another aspect of me that would make me a target.
They didn’t really bother her, but they’d all hated me. It was like they knew what I was before I did. There were rumours, of course, there always will be when two girls are close like we were, and now, we would be returning to the scene of the crime, where we had the audacity to fall in love, and they’d all know that the rumours had been true after all.
None of them were my friends, but we were all friends on Facebook (everybody is), and I watched their lives from a distance, noticing how different they were to mine. All the girls had husbands. All the boys had wives. I was the kind of girl that couldn’t follow the rules, and that was the route of my panic, and Marsaili’s incorrect assumption that I was ashamed.
It wasn’t shame. I haven’t felt shame in the longest time. It was a reluctance to allow others to shame me. I didn’t want to give them ammunition, but she needed a show of pride, so I swallowed mine, and confirmed that I’d be attending.
As the day got closer, I became more anxious, and as the day finally came and I pulled into the car park with her by my side, I felt sick with nerves. She gripped my hand tightly, smiling over at me, but it made no difference. All my ghosts had gathered, ready to point and stare, but I had no choice to parade myself for their perusal, in the name of love.
She gripped my shaking hand tightly as I opened the door to the hall, and she squeezed it, with a sympathetic look as every eye in the room landed on us, the room filling with gasps and whispers.
I stood silently for a moment, looking down at my shoes as the stares from around the room burned into me. Marsaili pulled gently on my arm, ushering me into the room as the door closed behind us, and I slowly stepped forward, daring to look up, and being unsurprised by the awestruck, somewhat disgusted faces looking back at me.
It had been a mistake. A stupid, naive mistake to believe that these people were capable of accepting us. I went to back away but Marsaili held me in place.
“We haven’t done anything wrong.” She whispered, her lips softly grazing my cheek as the stares before us became glares.
“Well, would you look at that.” Came a voice from the crowd. Eilidh, Marsaili’s twin sister. They hadn’t spoken in years, and Eilidh had always blamed me. She had terrorised me at school, as if I had somehow caused the distance between them, rather than it being a result of her homophobia. “It actually showed up.” Marsaili sank back behind me, slowly realising what I had already known for years, we weren’t welcome in this backwards little town, and we never would be. “Get that bitch.”
In an instant, the crowd began to advance on us. So many familiar faces, contorted by rage, running at us, as I grabbed Marsaili’s hand and dragged her back towards the door. It was too late. In an instant, we were pulled apart, screams filling the air as they forced me to the floor, Marsaili disappearing in the stampede as kicks and punches rained down on me from above.
For a moment, it felt pointless to resist. There were so many of them, so much hate and anger, but as I lay there, laid into by the horde, I thought of the fear in Marsaili’s face, and I knew that I had to get away, so that I could get her somewhere safe.
I began fighting back, punching, kicking, biting and scratching until I’d managed to push back a few and was able to make a run for it. I bolted out of the door, calling out Marsaili’s name into the night as they pursued me.
Eilidh caught up to me almost immediately. She ran at me, her fingers curling around my hair and almost ripping it from the root as she forced me to the ground.
“You bitch!” She screamed, launching on top of me and hitting everything she could see. “You took my sister away from me.” The others circled around us, cheering as she scratched and bit me, almost feral. “I’ll fucking kill you.” I pushed back against her, my head banging back and forth against the concrete as I started to lose the ability to stay conscious. “You selfish, jealous bitch!” Her accusations faded as the world around me began to blur. I think, if I hadn’t seen Marsaili running silently past the crowd, I would have let Eilidh kill me, but knowing that there was still hope, some kind of chance that I could help Marsaili spurred me on, and I fought through the pain, punching back until her nose was bloody and the crowd pulled her away.
“You fucking animal!” She screeched as I took my chance and pushed past the crowd and made another break for it, hearing Eilidh order them to follow me.
I ran past the car park up to the classrooms, dashing past the computer labs and calling out to Marsaili again, terror setting in as I realised that our chances of escape were slim. I tried a few doors as I ran, but couldn’t find anywhere that was open, so I returned to an old haunt, my usual hiding place when I had last wandered the lonely halls of Egerton High.
I hid behind some trees for a few moments, watching them run past in pursuit of me, and then I lost them behind the English building. A large, shadowy building with winding staircases and very few windows. I didn’t enjoy being in the building, but I always felt safe hiding out behind it, and as I turned the corner, spotting the familiar emptiness of the area behind it, I finally found her.
“Anna…” She whispered through tears, slumped against the back of the building. I ran to her, kneeling beside her and clutching her in my arms. “Anna, what have you done?” I hushed her, kissing her forehead and wincing as I tasted blood.
“It’s okay.” I pulled her a little closer, feeling her shaking in my arms as I spoke. “We just need to get out of here.” She shook her head, pushing against me. She was afraid, just like she was when we were kids, and though I knew it wasn’t the time, I felt a slight urge to tell her that coming back had been a mistake. “I’ll get us out of here.” Nothing else mattered to me like she did. That was how it had always been, since the second that I saw her, and I wasn’t going to let them take her from me.
“I don’t want to die.” She mumbled, pulling away and trying to stand. She fell back into my arms, and for the first time, I could see the wound on her head, pouring with blood that snaked down her pretty face and fell against the scratches that ran down her neck. There must have been more of them, dotted all over the school, just waiting to take us out, and they’d attacked her before she found her way to safety. They disgusted me. They called me an animal, but I was the most human person there.
“Please don’t let me die.” I could hear the mob advancing, and began looking around for something to fight our way past with. Marsaili wasn’t strong enough to defend herself, so I had no choice but to get us past them myself.
“What did they do to you?” Marsaili was silent, pushing her fingers against my lips as the voices of the crowd grew closer. I reached down and grabbed a stray branch, knowing that it would be the only thing standing between them and us when they arrived. “I’ll protect you.” I whispered, not sure that I could, but determined that she would believe, until the very end that I could.
“She will be behind there.” It was Eilidh. She’d found me, and her mob poured down the alley way, behind the building and to our hiding spot. “You know, she was still going to come back to visit from uni, right?” She spat, fighting to get to the front of the crowd and glaring at me. I stood, as menacingly as I could in front of Marsaili, gripping the stick in my hand and hoping that I could keep her safe. “But you took her.” She snarled, pushing the others back and rounding on me.
“She was gay Eilidh!” I was exhausted, exasperated and frankly, sick and tired of having to apologise for falling in love. Eilidh shook her head, looking at me with pure disgust on her face.
“Yeah, and she’s also dead.” I laughed, shaking my head as the rest of the crowd were silent. I turned to Marsaili with a smile and she just stared, blankly, her eyes full of fear. “You’re laughing? Did you think it was funny?” A few of the crowd held her back, but he struggled against them, clearly dying to get her hand on me again, which was a little ironic.
“Dead to you maybe, but still very much alive, you homophobic bitch.” I waved the stick in Marsaili’s direction while Eilidh struggled against her friends as they held her back.
“Your Dad’s wealthy lawyers made it seem like it was her fault.” She sobbed, her tears full of fury. I looked around, bemused by her insane ramblings. “She was so much smaller than you, there’s no way it was self defence.” She fought back against the arms that held her and finally broke free. I ran back to Marsaili, standing in front of her to protect her from her sister as she lunged at me again. “You’re a murderer!”
My head smacked against the ground and she spat and screamed as she attacked me, her crowd screaming abuse as she pulled at my hair and punched at my face. It was so loud, so violent, blood pouring from both of her bodies as the world began to blur again, but behind the crowd, and her insane sister, I saw Marsaili, slumped against the wall, her head pouring with blood, scratches down her neck as she faded from life. All I could hear was those last words from Eilidh.
“You’re a murderer.” As my eyes went in and out of focus, I saw Marsaili, lifeless against the wall, the shadow of the trees moving slowly across her cold body as her lips were stained red by the blood. It was so familiar.
As the world got darker, I felt the blood from her body leaking down onto the concrete, spilling onto my fingertips and there was a memory, somewhere in the distance. Something I couldn’t bear to recall. Something so dark, so sad, something twisted up inside of the back of my mind.
I think this is the end, because all love stories have to end, but I know that they’re wrong about us. I have loved Marsaili since I was twelve years old, and I will never, ever stop, no matter what they say. We don’t have any secrets, We don’t keep anything from each other, and she will always be mine. It’s just me and my girl against the world. It always has been, and it always will be.