Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Horror at Gladly Cove

If I am quiet they may think that I have escaped. However, I fear the only escape left to me is my own death. If you are reading these words, I want you to know that I am truly sorry for my part in what has come to pass. If I had listened to my sister perhaps this disaster could have been averted. If you are reading this, then perhaps it has been. There may still be time. But as the rain beats harder and harder against the walls of this lighthouse, and the ones outside beat harder and harder against the door, I find it hard to believe that there is any salvation to be had.

And to my sister, my dear Beatrice, I can only tell you how sorry I am. I did not believe you, and through my inaction I have doomed us all.

I have included in these pages her diary which gives perhaps the fullest possible account of what has happened here. There is much that I do not understand, but I do not think that what has entered this world today allows much understanding.

I must extinguish this lamp. But I cannot tear myself away from the window. And this storm grows worse. The words below are my poor sister’s. I hope that she can forgive me.

The Diary of Beatrice Webster

November 2nd

I am writing these pages while looking at the sea from my window. How funny to think that yesterday the view would have shown me the tiled roof of the tannery. A new start was what my brother said I needed, and a new start is what I have.

I am determined to get better. I want this bracing sea air to clear the cobwebs from my mind. I cannot thank my brother George enough for bringing me here. He knew how vehemently opposed I was to another stay in the Dunwich sanatorium, and it was he who heard about this independent “house of mental restoration” on the coast. I am told that it was built two years ago for the very purpose of assisting those with a similar condition to mine. It is too early to tell, I have been here for two hours only, and only one of those without my brother by my side, but I have a good feeling about this place. Even the name, Gladly Cove, inspires such a feeling of warmth in my soul that is quite at odds with the wind outside!

George accompanied me here, and we were both met by the married couple who act as both doctors and innkeepers. Their names are Sebastian and Lilly Duchamp. As they escorted us to my room they told us a little of how they had spent much of their lives travelling together, treating men and women suffering illnesses of the mind throughout the world. Having seen how poorly these lost souls had been treated in the further reaches of civilisation, they decided that they would settle here and create a safe haven where those in need could convalesce. There are paintings and sculptures all over the home that they have collected on the travels. Some are really quite extraordinary, with several paintings of what I can only assume to be a pagan god. At some point I hope they will tell me the stories behind them, I am sure that there are some fascinating tales.

My clothes and my books are the only things I have brought with me from London. I felt no need for other keepsakes or memories of the terrible last few years. A new start, Beatrice. A new start.

I must put down my pen as I am expected to take my evening meal with the other residents. George tells me that they are at full capacity so I am sure to find somebody to talk to. I am determined to make a good friend here. I believe that things will be much better from now on.

November 2nd, later

I can barely keep my eyes open but I had to write this down. I have made a friend. Her name is Lucy and she is a year younger than I am. We talked all through dinner and have agreed to go for a walk tomorrow morning, weather permitting. How my heart swells with happiness!

November 3rd

I woke early, with the sun shining through my window. I dressed quickly for breakfast and sat next to Lucy at the same table as last night, but she seems in worse humour than yesterday. She snapped at me when I asked why she looked so downcast, but apologised quickly. She had slept badly, she said. She said that she could hear raised voices in the night but when she went to find the source she could not locate it. However, she told me that she would still very much like to join me for a walk, which was a great relief. I put on my walking shoes and watched as she tied her laces laboriously. Poor girl, her exhaustion was plain.

We set off along the cliffs. I had imagined that Lucy would lead our walk as she had been here for a couple of days longer than I but she moved without any sort of enthusiasm or sense of direction. I didn’t much mind; it gave me the chance to explore. However, as the clouds loomed on the horizon I asked her gently to walk a little quicker so as to make the most of our time outside before the rain started. She made no answer but she matched my pace.

“How long have you been here?” I asked her. She shrugged. “Come now, Lucy. Surely your sleepless night has not deprived you of your memory as well as your energy?”

“I lose track,” she said.

I was about to ask exactly what she meant by that but before I could she looked up and began to walk with great purpose down the path that led to the beach. I struggled to keep up and told her so. She gave no indication of having heard me. I decided to take things at my own pace and picked my way carefully down towards the sand. The path was not without obstacles but they did not seem to present any problem to Lucy. Before very long she was on the beach and still moving quickly.

Then she stopped abruptly, and made a left turn towards the sea. I called out to her to be careful; she would get her dress wet. Evidently this did not concern her. She waded into the waves until the water came up to her waist. The she plunged her hand under. I watched, at a loss as to what to do, but after a moment she pulled her hand out, clenched around an object that I could not make out.

She walked back towards me. As she approached, I saw her eyes were unfocused, she was staring into the middle distance. I was afraid that this was some part of her condition and that perhaps, by bringing her outside, I had triggered some sort of relapse. I reached out to take arm. She cried out and recoiled. The sound startled me and instinctively I took a step away from her, but her expression softened and it was as if she only now recognised me.

“Beatrice?” she asked. I nodded, at a loss for words. “I’m so cold.”

I got her back to the house as quickly as I could. I didn’t ask any questions, and I never got a clear look at what she had pulled from the water. All I could see was that it was a rock of some kind, truly pitch black.

The rain started soon after we returned to the house. There was not much prelude to it, it was as if someone had upturned a bucket of water over Gladly Cove. I found Mrs Duchamp making lunch and told her what had happened. When she had found Mr Duchamp the two of them took Lucy to her room. I was told to wait outside, which I agreed to reluctantly. They came out a few minutes later and closed the door behind them before I could get a look at my friend. They told me that she was resting and that she had a mild fever. I hope that is all it is.

The rain has not stopped.

November 4th

I had a terrible dream last night.

I dreamt I was on the beach again with Lucy, watching her go towards the sea. I called out to her to stop. I knew that something was wrong, that something was different this time. The wind took my words or perhaps I did not speak them at all. Lucy stepped into the waves, and the water came forward to greet her. The sky grew darker and the noise of the waves almost deafening. Then as Lucy plunged her hand into the water, the noise stopped. I waited with bated breath to see what she what pull out this time.

But she did not take her hand out of the water. Instead, a dark shape broke the surface and wrapped itself around her arm, moving slowly up towards her shoulder. I could hear the sound it made as it pushed itself over her skin, the wet smacking sound as it lifted part of itself free to propel the whole upwards.

I saw that the water further out was growing darker too. The ground beneath me began to shake. I turned to shout to Lucy but she was gone. All I saw was the tip of the shape drop beneath the water and at that moment I knew that it was part of a larger whole beneath the waves. I was terrified that whatever it was would soon reveal itself and as I opened my mouth to scream I awoke.

When I went downstairs for breakfast I asked Mrs Duchamp if Lucy was feeling any better. I was told that she was still resting, and that a doctor had been sent for. It was good to hear that they were taking her condition seriously but I am afraid for her. Perhaps I should have stopped her yesterday. I am guilty of letting her risk her physical health, which will almost certainly have an effect on her mental health.

I spent the rest of the day inside reading my books and watching the rain through my window. It hasn’t stopped yet. The only consolation is that my brother will be visiting tomorrow to say goodbye before he returns to London. It will be good to see a friendly face, if only to bid farewell to it.

November 4th, later

Thank God my brother is coming tomorrow. I fear it may already be too late. Something terrible is happening here that I do not fully understand.

After I went to bed I heard a terrible moan. I recognised the voice as Lucy’s. Her room is on the floor above mine, somehow it was loud enough to get through the thick stone from which the house is built. I rose quickly and put on my robe but leaving my room I somehow knew that it was important to proceed quietly. I wrapped my robe tightly around my shoulders and crept up the stairs. I could see Lucy’s room ahead of me, and a flickering light from inside it told me that a candle had been lit.

She moaned again and I was about to rush into the room when I heard a man speaking, muttering in a language that I didn’t understand. I didn’t recognise the voice at first but when I heard a woman’s voice answer I realised that the Duchamps were inside.

I crept closer to the door. By an incredible stroke of luck it had been left open a crack, and I brought myself as close as I dared. I was desperate to see what was going on inside.

The Duchamps stood by Lucy’s bed. She lay on her back, her face slick with sweat. Her eyes were closed. Mr Duchamp bowed his head and held out his hand over her face. It took me a moment to realise what he was holding. It was the black piece of rock that Lucy had pulled from the sea. As the candle flickered it illuminated it briefly, and I saw that it was covered in elaborate carvings that I had not noticed before.

As I watched, Lucy arched her back and opened her mouth. At first I thought that her tongue had turned black. But as it curled and arched towards the rock I saw that it was more a tentacle than tongue. It reached for the black rock, caressing it lovingly. A deep cooing sound of pleasure issued from Lucy. I gasped and the thing retracted into Lucy’s mouth as all three turned towards the door, Lucy’s eyes still firmly shut.

I ran back down the stairs to my room and locked the door. I put my back against it, sure that they would hurry after me and punish me for what I had seen. But nothing happened. There were no footsteps. There were no sounds at all.

So I have sat awake. I thought of running, but in this storm I am as likely to run off the edge of the cliff as I am to find rescue. I must stay awake and wait for George to arrive, and then I will tell him everything. I only hope that he will believe me.

November 5th

How did I come to be in my bed? I fell asleep in the chair by the window.

The door is unlocked. My God, what have they done to me? This nausea…

I hear my brother downstairs. I must reach him before they do.

November 5th, later

I should not have expected him to believe me. The tale is too bizarre; I can scarcely believe it myself. But I had hoped that he would have enough faith in me to….But I know now that I cannot count on his help in this.

I told him what I had seen, and he spent a moment or two in silence. He turned his hat in his hands and looked at me carefully.

“Beatrice,” he said, “I thought we agreed that these fantasies of yours were to stop. That you would put them from your mind. I have paid a great deal of money to install you here, and yet I find you more distressed than ever.”

“George, these are no fantasies. I saw last night, with my own eyes, something is…inside Lucy. Some animal, some monster. And these two in whom you have invested so much money and trust, are party to it. Whatever ungodliness is going on here, they are helping to bring it forth.”

He rose from his seat  and I was afraid of his temper. I didn’t want to drive him away; I only wanted him to help me. At that moment there was a knocking on my door and Mrs Duchamp entered holding a steaming cup.

“Forgive my intrusion, Mr Webster, but I have brought Beatrice something to soothe her.”

“I have no desire to be soothed, Mrs Duchamp,” I spat, but George shushed me. The woman smiled and placed the cup in his hands.

“I believe that I can shed some light on what Beatrice thinks she may have seen last night. In our travels, my husband and I were witness to several shamanic rituals designed to help those convinced that they were possessed by an unclean spirit or demon. Of course, such belief is nonsense, but there is a great deal to be said for the willingness of the patient to believe the absurd. We set up an elaborate show to convince poor Miss Lucy that she was having an evil creature pulled out of her. We even used a weathered rock she found in the sea as part of the illusion.”

I did not believe her for a moment. I knew what I had seen. But George was stroking his chin and muttering “Fascinating.” I wanted to scream but I did not want to offer further proof of my instability. Then, to my horror, George handed me the steaming cup. “You will drink this,” he said. “And you will stop this nonsense about monsters.”

I drank it. God help me, I drank it.

The drowsiness started. I was vaguely aware of George leaving. I fell asleep before I realised that I was tired.

I dreamt I was on the beach again. But this time I was much closer to the water. The sun was going down over the horizon, shining through the clouds and turning the sky a sickly shade of yellow. I waded into the waves without knowing why. I plunged my hand into the cold water because I knew that there was no choice. I was not in control here. And when the tentacle slithered its way around my wrist and up my arm I was not unduly alarmed because I knew that was what happened. As it did so the great dark shape further out in the sea seemed to grow closer, and I felt my legs grow weak.

When I woke the Duchamps were standing over my bed. I wanted to scream but a gag had been placed in my mouth.

“Not long now, child, and your job will be done,” she said.

“You’ve done so well. We’re so proud of you and Lucy,” he said.

“She carries the body, you carry the blood,” she said.

“And tomorrow night, we will all go down to the beach to call him together,” he said. They turned to look out of the window. I could hear the rain hammering against the glass. I knew that they were looking at the sea. Then he turned and grabbed my mouth, pulling it open. Before I had time to struggle, Mrs Duchamp was pouring a liquid down my throat from a china cup. I recognised it as the same tea they had given to subdue me earlier that day.

“Carry the blood, Beatrice,” she said.

The blood of what?

They turned and removed my restraints. They locked the door behind them, but it was a pointless act, I am too weak to go anywhere. Writing this down has taken all the energy I have. I am afraid to sleep but I cannot keep my eyes open.

November 6th

I must be quick. I have to hide this once I have finished. They are coming to take me to the beach, and poor Lucy as well.

I know what will happen, I saw it last night. I dreamt that we four stood waist deep in the water. The Duchamps were chanting in unison, holding hands and calling to the sea. Lucy stood, eyes still shut, her whole body convulsing.

As for me, my skin felt as though it were on fire. I wanted desperately to sink under the water to extinguish this burning but I knew what waited for me underneath. As I watched my companions I suddenly realised what was expected of me. I walked over to Lucy and took her shaking hand. I led her through the water towards the dark shape that waited for us there. She shook harder and harder, and holding onto her hand took nearly all of my strength. The sky darkened as the water reached our shoulders. I knew that we would not return.

There was a terrible crack as the ground opened beneath us. But instead of sinking we were propelled upwards into the sky. I couldn’t believe how high we flew. I could see the house below us, perched on the cliff, it was so small. As I started to fall I closed my eyes. Not because I feared the ground that rushed to meet me. But because I feared to even glimpse whatever had thrown me to the heavens.
When I woke the door was locked. There is no escape.

I close this journal now. I can hear them coming up the stairs. I can hear Lucy’s moans. I do not know about the other residents here. I do not know if they are aware of what has been happening, if they have all played a part in this. If they have, I hope that whatever comes out of the sea tonight is punishment enough.

I pray God’s forgiveness for whatever part I have played in this. And to my brother George, I forgive you. How could you have known? I can hear them at the door. The key is in the lock. I must hide this.

Poor Lucy! How foolish and heartless I was to dismiss her so!

I returned to Gladly Cove tonight, I felt that something was terribly wrong. My heart told me that I should have paid more attention to what Beatrice was saying. Since the accident took our parents I have been all she has left to hold on to.

I had brought me Doctor Clarence Myeern, an acquaintance from my club and an expert on tribal medicine. I thought he would be very interested in talking to the Duchamps, and might be able to shed a bit more light on those paintings hanging around the house. When I had described them to him he had grown very excited and had almost insisted on coming along.

When we arrived at the house I went to Beatrice’s room. I cannot tell you why, but I was somehow drawn to open the drawer of the desk by the window. There was a thick envelope with my name on it, written in Beatrice’s hand. I had barely picked it up when a twitching red-headed woman appeared to tell me that the Duchamps had taken Beatrice and her friend Lucy to the beach for some fresh air. Doctor Myeern agreed to accompany me, telling me that he would welcome the opportunity to stretch his legs after the long journey.

We retrieved our sticks from the coach and walked out along the cliff top to meet my sister and her physicians. We had begun to discuss the importance of misdirection in shamanic ceremonies when I saw something that could have been no magic trick.

Beatrice’s dream was...accurate. I cannot begin to describe the thing that rose from the water. The stench of death rushed towards us like a tidal wave. I could not bear to face it; I turned my head, clenched my eyes shut, and screamed. Some minutes had passed before I was able to open my eyes again. Doctor Myeern sat next to me. I attempted to ask for his help, his opinion on what should be done.

But Doctor Myeern merely rocked back and forth, repeating the same word over and over again. I cannot spell it, but it was not of any language that I recognised. I realised with the slow stupidity that comes with shock that his hair had turned white. The fright had clearly driven him out of his mind. I am ashamed to say that when I realised that I could not get through to the poor man, I ran.

I found the lighthouse and entered, seeking only the safety of a door I could lock behind me. I opened the envelope and found the diary you have just read. I don’t know what would have happened if I had simply taken Beatrice away with me, or if I had never brought her here in the first place.

I can hear something moving outside. Whatever it is, there are more than one of them. They hammer at the door, making a sort of squelching noise as they do so. After the first blow to the door I let out a cry of alarm, which was followed by a low gurgling noise from outside. I can only describe it as laughter.

I don’t know how long the door will hold. Forgive me, Beatrice.

My God, they are inside.


Hello there,

Right, so this is my attempt at a Lovecraft-type story. It's a bit silly and it doesn't really make any sense, but then that was sort of what I was going for. There's a bit of Cthulu, a bit of Dagon, and it ended up being a bit more of a Poe rip-off in places as well, but then H.P. was guilty of a bit of that in his time.

I wrote this for David Hayes, who has been a consistent supporter of the blog (Hello, David). I hope he enjoyed it.

Here a couple of songs that have been in my head recently!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Flailing Quizmistress

The rain was easing off and Joe was calming down. He looked over at Shelly. She had her arms folded across her chest and was staring daggers through the windscreen. Joe took a deep breath.

“Do you know where we are?” he asked. He knew that she didn’t. She had thrown the map at him five minutes ago and told him that he should read it if he thought that she was doing such a terrible job. Shelly didn’t give any indication that she had heard him. He scratched at his beard and knew what he had to say.

“I’m sorry.” He waited to see if it had any effect, then said it again. She turned to face him.

“You’re an arsehole, you know that?”

He nodded.

“No, I don’t know where we are. It’s getting late, Joe. We should really stop somewhere.”

Joe agreed with that. His eyes were getting tired and he didn’t want to still be out here if the rain started up again. He arched his spine as much as the seat allowed and wondered how much longer he could cope.

So it was a stroke of luck when the headlights picked out a sign on the side of the road. A wooden sign with a statement written in black paint.


He turned to look at Shelly, who was cracking each of her knuckles one by one.

“What do you think,” he asked. “Too good to be true?”

“Somehow I doubt it,” she replied.

So, he thought. She was still angry. She got this way on an empty stomach. They hadn’t had anything to eat since they’d stopped for an early lunch outside of York. Now that he thought about it, his stomach was rumbling too. He hoped that The Quizmistress was open.

He took the next left and felt the difference in road surface almost instantly. He slowed right down and took things carefully, and before long they had parked in front of The Quizmistress. It looked like any old country pub but a laminated notice had been hung under the sign that swung in the wind, with ROOMS AVAILABLE printed in Times New Roman font. Joe wondered how they changed it if rooms were ever taken.

He poured himself out of the car and was surprised at how quickly Shelly was out and on her feet. They grabbed the bags from the back seat and headed inside, moving quickly to get out of the biting wind.

The inside of The Quizmistress certainly smelled like a country pub. The scent of decades of spilled stale bitter and the faint memory of cigarette smoke greeted them as they opened the door. A stick-thin young woman with bad skin and short black hair wearing a stained white kitchen t-shirt that was much too big for her looked up as the door slammed behind them. She turned and muttered into the open door behind her and an elderly bald man in thick-rimmed glasses and a red cardigan pottered out to greet them. He walked straight past them, wiping his hands on a checked tea towel and came to a halt behind the front desk. He took a moment to arrange himself, cleared his throat, and then looked up at them through his spectacles.

“Yes please, how can I help?”

“We’d like a room, if there’s one going.”

The man flipped open what Joe correctly guessed to be “The Book” and traced an invisible line down the page. He stopped suddenly, clucking his tongue. Then he looked up, grinning.

“There certainly is, there certainly is. You’re our only guests tonight!” He went about listing the various requirements for staying the night before pausing.

“Now I assume, since you’re here, you’ll be wanting Room 3, right?” he asked. Joe looked at Shelly and shrugged. The man leaned forward. “Room 3, her room. The room? Don’t tell me you’ve not heard the story.”

Shelly was grinning. Joe could tell without looking at her that she was grinning. The man was looking back and forth between them, like a puppy waiting to fetch a ball. Joe slowly shook his head and the man slapped his palm down on the desk, causing a cap-less biro to slide down the book and fall to the floor.

“Haven’t heard the story and you still found your way here? Well how about that! Did you hear that, Tess?” He grinned wide, displaying the yellow teeth of a smoker who took his smoking seriously. Tess made no response, having disappeared from sight. He pushed his shoulders back with visible effort and cracked his knuckles. He belonged on a stage, or at least he thought he did.

“My name’s Eli. I’m the owner here, and I’ll tell you the same story that they told me when I came into it, sixty years ago. Sixty…You don’t know how the Quizmistress got its name? The place was built at the end of the 19th century. Older than it looks, eh? Anyway, some bright spark saw some money in it, apparently because so many travellers seemed to end up getting lost around here. There used to be all sorts of stories about that too. A strange light leading them astray, a mysterious siren lady who promised them all sorts of unearthly delights if they would only leave the road. Utter rubbish, of course, no one’s ever proved it. But the inn got its name because they’d hold games nights to attract people who weren’t lost as well as the soaked and bedraggled. Oh yes, they’d have cards, they’d have darts, and they’d have the quiz night.

Might not sound like anything now but back then, it was quite the draw. Now, a big part of that draw was the Quizmistress herself. Miss Annabelle Moor was the lady in charge. Beautiful woman. Long red hair, always wore a bright blue dress, enjoyed a drink or two as she read the questions. She was as much of an attraction as the night itself. The place got a reputation. A good one.

Then one night a pair of travellers, Mr and Mrs Creverly, arrived to find the place deathly quiet. They came in through the front door and weren’t greeted by anybody. They walked through into the dining hall looking for someone to take their bags and found the bloodied corpses of the inn’s clientele. They were stacked in piles of three, lying across each other. The floorboards were slick and slippery. The woman stayed downstairs while her husband went upstairs to check for survivors. When she heard him scream she ran out of the inn and into the road. By some incredible stroke of luck she found a passing patrolman who listened to her story, looked her up and down and went for reinforcements.

They found Annabelle Moore in room number three upstairs. She stood by the window, staring out at the night. The man’s body lay on the floor, cut to ribbons. They said that she turned when she heard them come in. They said that they were more scared by the look on her face than the bloody knife in her hands. She started to scream, flailing her hands in the air, running towards them…”

Eli stopped, leaning back with his hands on the desk like a preacher in the pulpit.

“Then what?” asked Shelly. He raised his eyebrows.

“Then they killed her. Only way to bring her down, they said. The woman said that she saw them carry Annabelle Moor’s body down the stairs and out of the inn in a procession. She said that Annabelle’s knife hand was still twitching.

It was a year later that anybody saw Annabelle again. The inn had changed hands three times, with many a coat of paint sitting on top of all that blood. So when a bedraggled traveller came along and the innkeepers saw that rooms one and two were occupied, they thought nothing of giving them room three.

Until he ran screaming down the stairs in the middle of night. He’d seen Annabelle Moor, stood by the window. When he got the courage to sit up in bed she turned, flailing with that kitchen knife, running towards him.

Everyone who’s ever spent the night in that room has seen her. And no one has ever spent the whole night, to this very day.”

Joe glanced at Shelly. The look on her face was just too precious not to indulge her.

“We’ll take room three,” he told the man, who grinned back at him.

“Of course, sir. We’ll wait to see how many hours you last before we bill you.”

Joe grinned. He was enjoying this. He hadn’t expected to be so entertained; the evening had started out so unpromisingly

“By the way, are you still serving food?” asked Shelly. The man nodded.

“Come down in an hour or so, we’ll make sure you don’t face the spirit of Annabelle Moor on an empty stomach. Tess, help them with their bags, then you can go.”

He gestured at the barmaid, who had emerged from behind the bar without their noticing. She didn’t look at them as she picked up their cases and led them up the stairs. As Joe closed the door on her, she coughed and slipped him a crumpled piece of paper. Before he could ask why she had turned and gone.

He shut the door and watched as Shelly started to unpack.

“Do you think it’s true?” he asked.

“Of course not,” replied Shelly without looking up. “It’s just a nice story to get the tourists in.”

“Hmm. I suppose you’re right. Seems like a nice enough room, doesn’t it”

“Of course it does. It’s just a room.”

“Look at this,” he said. “The barmaid slipped me a note.” He smoothed it out on the bed and read it. “‘Get out while you still can’ Wow, that’s a bit above and beyond, isn’t it?”

“How sweet of her to care. That’s all part of it, Joe. She’ll get a couple of quid extra from the old man tonight.”

“If it had worked, I think she would have. But it didn’t. Shall we go and eat?”

“Let’s. Are you ready?”

“I’m ready.”

They left their room and walked downstairs together.

As they entered the dining room it took Eli a moment to realise that something was wrong. But he did realise.

They chased him into the kitchen. After slamming through the door he careered into the oven, knocking a pot of soup off the hob and onto the floor, which he promptly slipped on. He went down hard onto the tiled surface, his jaw cracking.

Joe picked him up. Shelly swept the table clear and together they laid him down. Shelly tied his hands and legs, Joe chose a knife from the many options lying in front of him. When he had made his selection he picked a large skillet off a hook by the door, dropped a hunk of butter into it, and placed it on the hob.

“I love cooking with gas,” he murmured, as he turned the oven on and Eli started to cry.

“Is it really true,” asked Joe. “Is it really true about the ghost?”

“It’s all true,” said Eli. “It’s all true, I promise, I wouldn’t lie to you.”

“It’s all bullshit, Joe,” said Shelly. She was getting that tone in her voice again. She was hungry; Joe knew how she got when she was hungry. “It’s just tourism. Don’t you think someone would have come back to haunt us by now if there was a fucking afterlife?”

“She’s got a point,” said Joe to Eli. “Although the way we do it might make coming back a bit difficult.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said Eli, “But please don’t.”

“You’re a storyteller,” said Shelly, “so we’ll start with your tongue. Your throat. Then we’ll get to the heart, and all the rest. Butter’s burning, Joe.”

“I’ve got it under control,” he said. “Tell him to open wide.”

When they had eaten, they went back upstairs, peeled their soiled clothes from their bodies, and lay on the bed. They had wasted nothing. They had collected the bones and put them in the large saucepans. Joe had said he might make stock in the morning if they had time. Shelly rested her head on his chest.

“That was lovely,” she said.

“Most gratifying,” he said. “God, I can barely move. I’m such a pig, but it seemed a shame to waste anything.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” she said. She closed her eyes, and heard Joe’s breathing slow as she fell asleep.

When she woke up the room was freezing. She took a moment to realise that she hadn’t left the curtains open when she had fallen asleep and sat up straight.

A figure stood by the curtains. Shelly knew who it was. But it wasn’t looking out of the window. It was looking at her.

“You killed him,” it said. “You killed my Eli. He was mine. All these years, looking after him. He inherited this place from his father, and his father before him. Eli was different. Eli wasn’t scared of me. Eli would talk to me. From the time he could talk, Eli would creep into this room and talk to me. The one friend I’ve had in more than a century. And I swore that I would keep him safe from the dark. It never left. Hungry. Waiting. And I protected him. Eighty years spent keeping him safe from it. And then here you come, and you kill him. But I’m here now. I’m here.”

“You’re real,” said Shelly.

“Yes,” she said. “Wake up your boyfriend.”

Shelly shook Joe awake. He came to, grunting and complaining, but fell silent when he saw the almost-transparent red-headed figure at the foot of the bed. She was weeping.

“I was no murderer. You need to understand that, you need to know that before what happens next. I could see what they could not. What killed my boys that night, only I could see it. It came for them that night, and I was so scared, I ran up the stairs, I ran to hide in this room. When they found me, it was still there, grinning at me, right behind them, they couldn’t see it. I was trying to save them, but they couldn’t see it. But I’ll make it visible to you. I don’t need to protect him anymore.”

The figure drew herself up to her full height, taller than Shelly could have thought possible. She seemed to fill the room from floor to ceiling. The bedroom door rattled on its hinges.

“Wake up, Eli.”

A sudden pain in her gut. Shelly grabbed at her stomach. This was not possible. The contents of her stomach weren’t just churning, they were moving. With purpose. Grasping at her innards. Pushing their way back upwards. She tried to shout but her throat was clogged with the half-digested flesh. Joe was making choking sounds, scratching uselessly at his chest.

“Just hold them still, Eli. Hold them still so they can see what’s coming.”

Annabelle moved to the door. She took a deep breath and smiled.

“Let’s see some flailing,” said Annabelle Moor, and flung the door open. As the floorboards creaked Joe and Shelly found themselves able to scream.


Hello there.

So, this was a horror one. And it was a bastard to write.

The title came from my Fohnhouse colleague and occasional nemesis Martin Parsons, after a reference to the certainly not flailing quizmistress of the New Empress Film Quiz, Helen Cox. I had an idea that it could be the name of a pub. Then, because I'm me, I thought, "Oh, how about a ghost story?"

Then I thought, how can I make a ghost story more interesting? Which is when I settled on the idea of having these three segments: the ghost story (a lot of fun to write), the nasty murder, and the mad ending. As usual, I toyed with the idea of making it gorier but I think that the ideas are nasty enough, to be honest. One day I'll write something with buckets of blood, but as I was writing it I wanted to make it as horrible as possible, and this was how I decided to do it.

The final final novel edit is waiting to be started. In the meantime, there's the grossly under-edited thing I called a novel a few years ago that I'm interested in getting back to, there's the Anna Land script I'm working on with Ben "Treppenwitz" Sheppard which is in dire need of a second draft, and there's a script-y thing I'm working on with that Martin Parsons which I'm quite excited about. They're all quite different writing experiences. Anna Land is a challenge because it shouldn't be dialogue heavy, it's all quite restrained, or it should be. So I can't go off on flowery monologues like I'd like to. The nameless Parsons collaboration needs to be attention-grabbing and will need to have plot, which is something I struggle with (though I'm getting more comfortable with it). The Lovely Creatures edit is tough because finalising anything is a difficult thing to do. And the previous "novel" was written so long ago I don't know whether it's worth saving yet.

But it's also all fun. And I feel a great compulsion to do it. So swings and roundabouts, really.

In my film journalism news, I did my first interview today. Sorry, Dave McKean. You could probably tell. In addition to the sites already mentioned, I'm also writing bits and pieces for Cinetalk, which is also aces.

This April's supposed to be the month when I'm sorting myself out a bit, so we'll see how that goes.

In the meantime, let me know any title suggestions and I'll see what I can do!

I hope you enjoyed the story. It's a bit of a mad odd mess but I quite like it.

Oh, finally, I know I'm prone to rambling and moaning but I was very touched by the people who let me know that they liked last week's story and the people who shared it. I write in a bit of a vacuum because there's really no other way but it means a lot to hear that someone's enjoyed a story of mine. So to everyone who Tweeted me (I'm easy to find) or Facebooked it, thank you very much. You guys are the best. For realzies.

Here's a song: