Saturday, 19 December 2015


I saw my first ghost yesterday. First ever. I was sitting at my desk at the end of my bedroom, trying to decide whether to go to sleep or have another glass of wine, and out of the corner of my eye I saw this, this figure, staring at me. I say figure, it was a bloke, standing in the corner of my room. Just by the door where the standing lamp is. My first reaction was obviously panic. Strange man in my room, no idea how he got in there. My second reaction was a quick scrabble to see what I could use to hit him with. By the time I’d grabbed a hardback book he was gone.

The longer I sat there with my copy of The Goldfinch and an empty wineglass, the more convinced I was that he’d been a ghost. A proper spirit. He’d been wearing a suit. Three-piece, I think. I couldn’t tell you if it was black or dark blue but he was definitely formal. A formal fucking ghost, with his grey hair slicked back like he’d used a great  dollop of Brylcreem. His expression? Well, I mean, he didn’t look happy. He looked at me just before he vanished and I could tell that the feeling he was feeling was…well, sadness. Melancholy might be a better word. Yeah, melancholy.

Now, I might have put all of this down to the wine, because, if we’re being totally honest with each other, I’d had more than a few glasses before the old fella chose to apparate beside my standing lamp, if apparate’s a word. In fact, that night I lay down and I spent a good hour trying to convince myself that I hadn’t seen anything. That it had just been a shiraz-driven trick of the light, combined with the spirit of the season. Well, everyone thinks about these things around Christmas, don’t they? I don’t know if it’s the shortened days, or all the talk of miracle babies, or just all the festive cheer, but you can start to wonder about what you’re actually doing with yourself. Anyway.

Anyway. Yes, so the second ghost, the second ghost I saw the next morning. This morning, in fact. I was in the shower, with the heat about as high as I can bear it to try to drum some kind of sense into me. It’s not great, the shower in my flat, it dribbles when you want it to hammer, but…sorry, I’m getting off topic. The girl.

She stood at the other end of the tub, standing there in some kind of green…I want to say ball-gown, I don’t know dresses. I shouted and spun, nearly fell out of the shower completely. But I got a hold of myself, and I’m glad that I did, because this girl had something to tell me. And I knew that she was a ghost, you see, because all this amazing long black hair that she had, it wasn’t getting wet. And that green ball-gown thing, it was fucking immaculate. And she looked at me with these bright blue eyes and she pointed at me.

You know, when a ghost points at you, it’s hard to imagine that the situation’s going to be good. You think the hour of the final judgment is at hand, or at least I did. So I stood there, trying to blink the shampoo out of my eyes, my hands covering my bits, and just dreading whatever was going to come next. I thought, in the moment or two before she opened her mouth, that maybe the old bloke had been a harbinger. An early warning system. But what would have been the point of that? To tell me not to go to sleep? Anyway.

Anyway, she pointed at me and she spoke to me, and I tell you, I heard her words clear as day. They rang through that steamy bathroom like a fucking church bell at a state function. She said “Sort yourself out.”

“Sort yourself out.” That was it. She nodded at me once and she was gone. I was in my shower, by myself, having been given a message by someone from beyond. Insanity, right? Surely. You know what kind of accent she had? Brummie. Why would I make that up? A beautiful Brummie ghost in a ball-gown. In my shower.

Third ghost? Yeah, I know, it’s Christmas, and ghosts come in threes. And yeah, there was a third one as a matter of fact. Earlier tonight. I was expecting another one, like you were, after the first two. Same reasons. I thought they’d probably come back to hammer it home. They always do.

I was packing up to go home from work when I saw him, standing on the other side of the door. Now, the other two had been strangers. Never seen them before in my life, so I really didn’t expect the last one to be someone I knew so well. My best friend, as a matter of fact, Peter. He died in an accident last year. Somewhere outside of Leeds, I think. He was driving north for Christmas and got hit by a lorry driver who’d fallen asleep. 

Sorry, that all got a bit heavy, didn’t it? Don’t want to bring the mood down. Not at a Christmas party, eh?


No, it was great actually. It was lovely. I’d not really realised how much I’d missed him, or I just hadn’t admitted it to myself, as they say. You remember how the other two were all dolled up? Pete was dressed up just as sharp, in this lovely suit he’d worn at his wedding, and he grinned at me when I came through the door to greet him.

I kept thinking he’d disappear but he asked me how I was, and he walked down the stairs with me and out into the street. I decided to push my luck. I kept walking, kept talking to him, I felt like I needed to keep him engaged. He suggested that we pop into the shop and pick up some cans, and then we walked down to the beach. Daft, I know, in late December, but he was there with me every step of the way. We just walked and talked for a bit. Went down to the end of the pier to look and went back again. After a bit he was gone, I didn’t see him leave. But hearing his voice, seeing his face, it was…fuck, I don’t know. It was something special. Something special.


The blog is alive. On an unrelated note, Merry Christmas, and a huge thank you for reading.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Night Before

The most embarrassing, most horrible, most brutally awkward night I’ve spent with a girl was with Marie Stahlman at the end of the first semester of university, on Christmas Eve. If I’m being honest, that night was just a sequence of truly awful events that I’d like to take back.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Leaving feelings and when not to express them aside, I suppose the moral of this story, or the start of the story at least, is: Never approach a man with a dead cat, even if you’re drunk and it’s Christmas. Probably a given, I know, but maybe it bears repeating.

Marie Stahlman, to my knowledge, had never owned a cat. However, my knowledge of Marie Stahlman was limited owing to the fact that, before the night in question, I’d spoken to her once and it was limited to a garbled “Hello.” She was studying Medicine, I was studying English, and I’m not even sure if she realised that we lived in the same halls of residence or if she just assumed that I was following her everywhere like some terrible stalker.

I certainly wanted to talk to her. She was…well, she was stunning. With her long dark red hair and a consistently amazing not-quite-vintage wardrobe, she looked like she should be the mysterious bassist in the kind of band that I would pretend to have heard of. Of course, given that she lived two floors up from me, we had some friends in common who informed me that she was generally a brilliant person. I was encouraged to just talk to her and stop being a lurking menace but after three months I still hadn’t really introduced myself beyond a shy smile and an awkward jock nod when we passed each other at the front door. I told my friends and myself that I hadn’t found the right time to talk to her properly but I didn’t know who I was fooling. Almost certainly no one.

Anyway, this terrible night happened at the very start of our first Christmas holiday. I still don’t get on with Christmas now, but I used to hate Christmas for a much more obvious reason: Everyone goes home. If you’ve got a family to go home to, that’s great, but I didn’t have that luxury. So after we’d had the exams, the very drunken Christmas parties and the only slightly less drunken Christmas dinner, I watched my friends pack up their bags and head back to wherever they’d sprung from for the holidays.

The people who ran the flats had agreed to let me stay over the holidays. They’d stressed the loneliness that I would feel, especially given that we were a campus university half an hour from civilisation. I don’t know if it helped that I assured them that I wouldn’t kill myself. Probably not. Anyway, by the time Christmas Eve rolled around I had one friend left and I’d gone with him into town to have a farewell drink at the pub before he caught his train. One farewell drink had turned into many farewell drinks and as he finished the plate of chips that I’d ordered, Andy looked up at me and gave me a sleepy wink.

“You know that Marie is staying in the flat tonight, don’t you?” he asked. “Lucy told me that she’s leaving tomorrow morning. You should go and talk to her when you get back.”

“It’s late,” I countered. “She’s not going to want to talk to me when it’s late and drunk.”

“Always excuses with you, isn’t it?” he muttered and stood up. “Confidence, Rob. Confidence.” 

After Andy had caught his train I’d stayed for a few more self-pitying Buddha-shaped bottles of beer than I should have done while thinking about how miserable the holiday season was and how I would never be the kind of person to have the nerve to go and see if Marie Stahlman fancied a nightcap. It was a miracle that I caught the last bus back to campus but my night would have been less horrifying if I’d just passed out in the toilet.

As the University bus steered its way out of town and into the night I struggled to stay awake. After my head had nodded nearly to my chin a couple of times more than was safe I looked around for any fellow passengers. I couldn’t be the only lonely idiot spending Christmas Eve alone. I turned to look behind me and sure enough there was someone else, but he didn’t look like a student. He sat slumped forward, long white tufts of what could have been hair or a beard tumbling out from the hood of his red coat. Gnarled, yellow-tinged fingers gripped the handles of a blue plastic bag between his feet. Every time the bus slowed he almost fell forward. I was wondering where he could be going when he reached out his hand and gripped the railing, pulling himself to his feet. He lurched forward, slid his hand down the pole to press the bell and continued lurching. It wasn’t until he got to the door that I noticed he’d left his bag.

“’scuse me…” I slurred, trying to both get his attention and gesture to the bag he’d left. He looked down at me. What little of his face I could see past the hair and the hood was bearded, but it seemed expressionless. His bloodshot eyes seemed to look through me before he moved on past me and stepped through the doors and off the bus. What I did next was very stupid. As the bus started moving again I got up and walked over to where he had sat, where the bag still sat on the floor. Why did I? What did I think would be in there? Was I hoping for another drink? I honestly don’t know. I did look, though. I looked in the bag.

It took me a moment or two to make sense of what I was looking at. It was a mass of something, a shape. At first I couldn’t identify any one particular element that would define what it was. In my drunken state, I picked it up to bring it closer to my face in an attempt at clarity. As it swam into focus so did the deep cuts in its side, the claws on its feet and the whiskers springing from its scratched nose. It was a cat. A most definitely dead cat.

I let out a gargled cry and dropped the bag on the floor. As it landed with a thud the bus took a turn, sharper than I expected, and my balance was lost. I threw my hands out to steady myself as I tumbled to the floor but rather than finding a railing, they found the cat.

I knew they'd connected with something because of the sudden sharp pain in my left hand. I looked over to see what could be causing it and saw that the matted, bloodied ball of fur had somehow grown teeth and that they had latched onto the patch of flesh between my thumb and forefinger. I cried out and waved my hand furiously around in an attempt to shake the creature off. Predictably, this only seemed to make it more determined to cling on. The driver hadn’t seemed to notice anything and the bus kept moving despite my yelling. Finally, in an act of desperation, I slammed my hand, cat first, into the side of the bus. There was a loud crunch and the cat stopped moving.

Cautiously at first, in case it was somehow still alive, I grabbed the animal with my free hand and forced its mouth open, pulling the teeth free. It offered a little resistance but I decided to put this down to rigor mortis that was either early or delayed, I had no idea. The bite marks on my hand were jagged and angry but they didn’t seem to be bleeding too badly. I thought if I could just get back to my room, I could put some antiseptic on it; maybe a plaster or two, and it would be alright. I was wrong.

We finally arrived at the campus bus station and I hobbled off, mumbling insults and waving my bloody hand at the driver, who either didn’t notice or didn’t care. It was a ten minute walk back to my halls of residence and the cold air, combined with the pain, did a decent job of sobering me up. As I walked past the dark Arts Centre and the shuttered Student Union, I began muttering about what had happened to me. What the chances of my being attacked by a dead cat were. Why this would never happen to any of my friends. Why it would only ever be me. As I hustled along the pavement, I slipped on a patch of ice by the library, the patch that everyone knew to avoid, and fell. Without thinking, I put my hands out to steady myself. This was another mistake. I landed on my mangled hand first and a jolt of pain shot from my fingertips, along my arm and emerged from my mouth as a full-blooded scream.

The pain was so intense that I was sure I had broken something. Once again, I cautiously lifted my hand to my face. Under the yellow glow of the streetlight I saw that the wound had not stopped bleeding. The bites were oozing a combination of a clear fluid that I hoped was pus and a thick sludge that looked too black, too heavy to be blood. The skin around the tears in my hand had gone horribly dark, a vivid purple that looked very, very wrong. For a moment I forgot about the pain and focused on the fear. This wasn’t normal. This wasn’t good. TCP would not fix this.

I was panicking as the names for various animal-carried diseases that I didn’t fully understand whirred through my brain. I clambered to my feet and began hurrying as fast as I could back to my building. With my good hand I dug in my pocket for my mobile and let out another anguished yell when I realised that it wasn’t there. It could have fallen anywhere in between the pub and here. As I reached my flat I realised that I only had one option.

Rather than opening the front door, I hit the button for the third floor. I pushed it over and over again and held it down until I heard the sound of the phone being lifted from the cradle and a sleepy, angry voice asked me “Who is it?”

“Marie?” I burbled. “It’s Robert. Robert Campbell from downstairs. I’m really, really sorry but I need your help!”

“Did you forget your keys?” she asked. I let out a little cry of pain as my hand convulsed, somehow tightening. I didn’t want to know what it was doing.

“No!” I shouted. “I…I need your help! I need your doctor help! My hand is…I need your help!”

The front door buzzer sounded and I hurried inside, stepping on a festive balloon that burst as I crashed into the stairwell. I looked up and saw Marie in her glasses and green dressing gown, peering down at me from the third floor through the carefully-arrange pound-shop Christmas decorations. “What happened?” she called down. I began climbing the stairs while trying to order some kind of explanation. I didn’t want to start with the pub in case she jumped to conclusions about my story about the man on the bus and the dead cat, but when I reached the top of the stairs I saw a revolted expression on her face that made me apologise profusely for waking her up.

“What is that smell?” she asked, looking me up and down. I started to tell her that I’d had a few beers but she shook her head. “Not that, no, that smell, it’s something like…it’s rotten. Like something’s rotten. Never mind, did you say it’s your hand?”

I had been cradling my hand in my coat and gingerly withdrew it to show her. She leaned in close before taking a step back. “Fuck me, Robert, what the fuck is that?”

Whatever had been oozing out of my hand hadn’t stopped. It dripped onto the weathered red carpet and she wasn’t wrong. It smelled vile, like chicken left at the back of the fridge for too long. The bite marks weren’t as livid as before but they had shrunk, tightened with the rest of my skin as my hand seemed to have grown smaller. It seemed as though it, whatever it was, was consuming the soft parts and pushing them out through the opening the cat’s teeth had made. The word 'excreting' rang through my head like an alarm bell. “I don’t know!” I stammered. “I…I was bitten by a cat, I thought it was dead but it bit me, and now…this! Please help me.”

Marie opened the door to the flat and ushered me in, along the tinsel-lined corridor to the kitchen. “Sit down,” she said, and cleared wrapping paper and bottles from the table. “Set it down there.” She leaned over me and took a closer look at my hand, pushing her glasses up her nose. “It’s spreading,” she said quietly. The dark purple patch had reached my wrist and when I rolled up my sleeve I saw raised black lines like branches reaching up my arm. “Are those…Are those my veins? Is it in my fucking veins?” I jabbered.

“Fuck this,” she said firmly. “I’m calling an ambulance.” She ran out and into her room, returning a moment later with her mobile phone but as she began dialling she stopped and looked at me. “The campus medical centre is closed, isn’t it?” I nodded furiously. “And the nearest hospital is fifteen minutes away.” I nodded again. “It’s taken, what, five minutes to get from your thumb to…Jesus; it’s nearly at your elbow.”

“What do you suggest then?” I asked, trying not to sound too impatient. Another convulsion pushed down my arm and a fresh spurt of stinking black sludge squirted onto the table. “Sorry!” I moaned. “Jesus, that’s disgusting, I’m so sorry.”

She took a seat next to me and looked straight at me. I tried not to think about the fact that she had never done that before and to listen to what she was saying. “Robert, I honestly don’t know what this is but that…gunge that’s coming out of you stinks like death. It’s like some kind of hyperactive fucking gangrene or something and all I know is that you don’t want that reaching your chest.”

First year medical student she might have been, but she was making a lot of sense to me. “So what do we do?” I asked.

She got up, walked over to the sink and pulled a pair of Marigolds from the drying rack. “We need to cut your arm off.”

I took surprisingly little convincing. At this point I didn’t think that the pain could get any worse and I was terrified by what was happening to my arm getting any further. I could see ripples in my skin as whatever was in there seemed to be pushing, working its way up and pumping that sludge back out through the open wound in my hand. I was more worried about the mess that I was making in her kitchen than how much losing a limb would hurt. Somehow, beneath all the pain and terror, there was a part of me that was just hugely embarrassed my all of this.

Marie got the preparations going quickly. She found an unopened box of wine in one of the cupboards and gave it to me. “Drink as much of this as you can,” she said. “Sorry, all the whisky and stuff went at the Christmas party.” I made an unhappy noise and got to work on it while trying to ignore the rattling sounds as she hunted through drawers. She tied leggings around my arm just below the shoulder. “It’s moving quickly and I don’t want to do this more than once,” she explained. “Now finish that wine and close your eyes.”

I did as she told me but not before I saw what she was holding. “What kind of knife is that?” I asked.

“Kitchen knife,” she said. “We used it to carve the turkey.”

It turned out that the pain could get worse, and it did. The sensation of a kitchen knife cutting through your skin, then into the meat of your arm, is agony, to put it simply. To make it worse, whatever was in my arm seemed to realise what was going on. The convulsions got more powerful and I could feel it twisting and worming around, trying to find a way through, trying to move faster. I screamed. I screamed with my whole body. I said some words that I was raised not to say in front of a girl, especially one that you like. As Marie’s kitchen knife hit bone, I vomited. A spray of box wine and Buddha beer sick hit the kitchen table with a wet smack and I sobbed an apology.

“This is no good,” shouted Marie. “You’re moving around too much.” As I began trying to get another apology out I saw her lift a frying pan from the washing up rack. “I’m really sorry,” I ranted. “I’m really sorry about all of this. I really like you and I meant to tell you before but…”

The rest is blackness. She hit me hard on the head with the frying pan and I don’t know what happened next. I came to briefly when she cauterised my stump with the same frying pan she’d knocked me out with and I quickly passed out again.

When I woke up it, sunshine was streaming though the decorations that covered the window. I could still smell cooking meat and vomit, although the most dominant odour was air freshener. The kitchen had been tidied and there was no trace of the various fluids I’d left. My shoulder was wrapped in bandages and a couple of tea towels, and there was an incomprehensible space where my left arm should have been. 

I got up carefully and stuck my head under the tap, gulping down cold water for as long as I could stand to. When I turned around I saw that a note had been left for me on the table and that a black bin bag sat ominously in the doorway. I realised that she had gone and that I wouldn’t have to face her like this. The relief was enormous.

The note told me to go to the hospital as soon as I woke up. It told me that I had been given a huge quantity of painkillers that she had found during the night, and it apologised for the fact that she hadn’t found them sooner. It told me to take the bin bag out and make sure I put some other bags on top of it to stop any animals getting at it. It told me in no uncertain terms not to tell anyone that she had been involved. It told me not to worry about thanking her, and that in fact, she would prefer it if we just pretended that this had never happened. It made no mention of the awkward revelation about my feelings, which seemed fair. It ended by telling me not to open the bag, and finally by wishing me a merry Christmas.

I picked up the bag with my one remaining hand and walked slowly downstairs, and I heard the door to her flat close and lock as I left. The bright sunshine made me squint as I stepped out into the cold Christmas morning. I would put my arm in the bins, I would have a cup of tea, and then I would find a way to get to the hospital that wouldn’t involve an embarrassing ambulance ride. I would try to live down the terrible events of the night before. I would hope that she could somehow forgive the disgusting, revolting things that I had put her through. I really hoped that we could just move past it. As I lifted the lid of the non-recycling bin and dropped my withered, rotten arm inside, I wondered if it would be inappropriate to post a Merry Christmas message on her Facebook page.


Hello there. So, this is the first story I've posted in ages. I have been working on something longer that is moving ahead very slowly but when it comes to the short stories, the short version is that it's been a long time since I've written anything I felt happy enough with to finish. An awkward combination of being busy and not being very happy with anything I was writing led to not really writing very much, which led to general frustration and not much productivity,
I've been feeling better about writing lately, however, and this was fun to get down. It started with the idea of how embarrassing it would be to have to ask someone to cut your arm off and went from there. 
I'm hoping to have more stories up on here in the New Year and the longer thing is moving ahead since I approached it from a  different angle, so fingers crossed. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 13 June 2013


My boyfriend works at the brothel called Galilee. You’ve probably seen it. It looks like a pub from the outside. You might have even been inside it. It's got beer, dangerously low ceiling beams and a dog that will moult hair all over your coat. But pub it is not. Brothel it is. You won’t see a sign outside but go on upstairs and ask for it, and you’ll find it. There might be balm in Gilead but there is spunk in Galilee. And that’s where my boyfriend works. Well, worked.

It’s a place for a wealthy clientele of a certain persuasion. Anyone who needs to feel the hand of God when they’re doing something sinful can find what they’re looking for at Galilee. From what I’ve been told, most of the scenarios these people conjure up aren’t their own fantasies at all. Instead, they go in for the recreation of paintings. My boyfriend told me he’s seen everything from Rembrandt’s Belshazzar’s Feast to Bosch’s vision of hell being recreated in that place’s upstairs function room. Like some kind of fine art karaoke. But with fucking.

My boyfriend is, as he puts it, a background whore. His name is Laurence. My name is Ruth. For two years we’ve been together, and for two years I’ve known what he did for a living. I never judged him for it. At least, I never judged him in any way that he would notice. It was what he was doing when I met him. He told me it was a job, but not just a job. I asked him if he wanted to give it up and he told me that he didn’t. He answered any questions that I had and he never lied to me. Sometimes I wanted to know and when I didn’t, I didn’t ask. His life in Galilee was as separate as I wanted it to be.

Then he asked me to join him. Just for one night, he said. I wouldn’t even have to do anything. All I would have to do was background movement. Put on a white robe, look like I was having a good time, and then, when the time came, I had to scream. He told me that I would be paid the same as him. A last minute replacement got the same amount as a seasoned player. And I wouldn’t even have to do anything. All I had to be was background colour. He wanted me to do it. And I would be lying if, even as I told him I wasn’t sure, I didn’t want to do it as well. Just to see what went on at the top of the stairs. I was curious.

He told me to arrive at seven. I was met at the bar by a woman in her late forties called Hazel. Her hair was black, her eyes were green. “Family name?” I asked. She smiled and told me that she was very grateful for my assistance. The usual woman had contracted a case of gastric flu and they had very strict policies about what exactly went out and in and in what fashion at Galilee. I smiled back and told her that it was my pleasure. She directed me to the stairs and told me that I would be met at the top by someone who would get me into my clothes.

I was helped into a white shift by a slender dark-haired boy called Joshua and a red-haired girl who told me she was named Ruth. I told her that was my name too and she scowled at me. “Not tonight. Day players don’t get a name.” Which settled that problem. I was anxious to see where Laurence was but he only found me as Ruth hustled me along the corridor to a narrow space covered in sand behind a huge red curtain. He pressed a leash into my hand and smiled at me.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “They do this all the time.”

The curtain went down. The space was much bigger than I expected. Impossibly bigger. There was no way that we could be in the same building. I looked up and saw the night sky through the glass ceiling I had never known was there. Then the noises started.

I hadn’t seen the clientele. They’d been holding still until everything was ready. Men and women dressed in robes that looked like they could be torn off very easily. They wouldn’t even need Velcro.

Once we’d all lined up and got into position, they started enjoying themselves. I’m not going to say I didn’t look. These people were entertaining themselves in ways that I hadn’t really considered before, at least not in any great detail. And there it was in front of me. I just had to stand there in my toga, holding a leash, while others were putting things into places and making all kinds of noises. The use I was getting out of my leash paled in significance to what they would have done with it, I’ll tell you that. I felt a tug on the leather and glanced down. A sheep looked back up at me, looking about as useless as I felt. I assumed that it was part of the background decoration like me. At least, I hoped it was.

I don’t know exactly how long I stood there, trying not to look directly at the various parts of human anatomy on display. It might have been an hour, it might have been less. I had drifted off and started staring up at the sky, wondering what a satellite would pick up if it looked down at Galilee. I was startled when Laurence grabbed my shoulder. “Time to go,” he said. I nodded, but something in the corner of the room caught my eye. A small fire had started. I hissed at Laurence but he pushed me towards the door. “It’s part of the show. Just start moving slowly.”

There was a roar of what I assume was the fire catching, then the screaming started. And it hit me. Sodom and Gomorrah. Of course. I should have known. I knew exactly what I had been brought there to be and it should have broken my heart.

“Look, Ruth! Open your eyes!”

I did no such thing. I wondered how hurt I should have been as he pawed at the back of my neck, telling me to turn around, to open my eyes and look. Instead I tuned him out and listened to the screams of the poor fornicators who I assumed were well on their way to ash. He told me he loved his job. This was his job. It wasn’t mine.

The heat from the flames was becoming unbearable but it gave me a good indicator of where I didn’t want to go. When I walked away from it and felt a hand on my arm I knew where Laurence was. So I turned around, I grabbed that arm, and I pushed at the body it was attached to.

The scream let me know that Laurence had gone where I wanted him to. When it didn’t stop I knew that I could keep walking. I hoped the sheep would keep up.


It's been months since the last story. Bloody months. I've been busy but I'm hoping to get some more stuff up here soon. I'm planning a couple of things. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this. Here's some music.

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Night My Heart Exploded

It’s not a metaphor. Or a simile, or a fucking allegory, or whatever the word is. My heart. Exploded. And it wasn't because a pretty girl walked into the library where I work and told me that she needed my help. She caused it; she made it happen with malice of bloody forethought. At least she didn’t kill me. I suppose that’s something to be thankful for.

I’d been left alone to lock up for the night. I was in the middle of returning the children’s section to something approaching acceptable when she walked in. That’s always the easiest part of the lock-up. I mean, yes, you have to deal with whatever disgusting things they’ve left behind, from slobbery pacifiers to slobbery teddy bears, but the beauty of tidying the children’s section is that it’s never going to be tidy for more than five minutes after you open. And the manager never comes in for at least an hour after that, so basically it’s a non-job.

Anyway, back to that night. I was hurling the SpongeBob cushions into the corner when this girl walked in. Was she attractive? Yes. Would I have behaved more cautiously had she not been? I don’t know. It’s a moot point. She wasn’t and I didn’t. Is that right? Anyway, this girl stood there, dressed quite smart in a dark blue suit, dark hair done in a ponytail, with these big, bulky headphones around her neck. She asked me if I could help her with something.

“We’re closed,” I told her.  If I’d been thinking, I would have wondered how she’d got past the locked front door. But thinking while working isn’t something I do very often. Since starting work there, I’d made a real effort to save my mental activity until I could share it with the people who I felt earned it and so far this girl had done nothing to prove she was worth anything more than a standard response. Apart from having a face like she did, I suppose.

“It’s very important,” she told me, like that would change everything. There was a tone in her voice, though. It wasn’t a tone like, “Oh god, I’ve been attacked!” It was more like “This is serious, listen to me.”

I thought about the possibility that she might be telling the truth. She did look worried; she looked like she wanted to be moving rather than standing by the door talking to me. So I walked over to her. I’m not a heartless person; I wouldn’t abandon someone who was in serious trouble. Oh, shit. Sorry about that. Pun not intended, but if I do it again, you can assume it is. Heartless.

“What’s going on?” I asked her. She turned to look at the front door. I don’t know if you’ve been there and seen the doors to the library, but they’re these two big, bulky wooden bastards. Substantial. And they were closed. She must have been satisfied because she turned back to me.

“Listen to this,” she said, and reached into her jacket pocket. Now, I’m wondering what’s going on. Maybe she’s going to pull a phone or MP3 player out; maybe she’s got a recording of something, I thought. You know the scene in Garden State, with Natalie Portman and The Shins? Maybe a small part of me thought that was happening. But no, it’s a matchbox. Cook’s Matches. She pops on her headphones and hands the box to me. “Open it,” she says. I know what you’re thinking. Why would you open it? But then, why wouldn’t you?

I open it. There’s something inside, I can’t tell what it is. It takes up most of the matchbox; it looks almost like a grey, moist fortune cookie from a Chinese restaurant, the way it’s curled up in there.  And then it uncurls. I almost drop it but before I can it starts vibrating and this noise comes out and it fills my head and everything just goes pink.

As I fell to the floor I felt like I was going in slow-motion. Which meant I could watch the arcing explosion coming out of my chest. It actually looked kind of beautiful. I saw some white bits that I assumed were shards of my ribs, or maybe just globs of fat that have been sticking around. Lots of blood, obviously. I could see it spattering the young adult section. And there were these vivid red chunks just flying out that I knew, that I understood were pieces of my heart which had just exploded.

So I’m on the floor. I’m lying there. My head’s tilted to the side; I’m looking at a misshapen hunk of my flesh that’s dripping off the book trolley. And I feel the girl take my hand.

“Get up,” she said.

It seemed ridiculous. How could I possibly get up? But she started pulling, so I thought that maybe it wasn’t so stupid. I tried, and it took some doing, but I just about got to my feet.

“What the hell was that?” I asked, in the kind of tone which I felt was justified.

“I don’t have time to explain,” she said. “There are some people coming. I need you to go outside and talk to them.”

I looked down at the hole in my chest, which was still bleeding a lot, by the way. I looked at the way my ribs have been blasted outwards. I felt like I was examining a crime scene. “I’m not sure I can go anywhere,” I told her. But to be honest, I felt OK. Had it not been for the evidence all over the floor, I wouldn’t have known anything had happened. She grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the front door. I kicked a chunk of something on the way and saw it skid under one of the history shelves. It would be a bastard to retrieve that. I don’t know who had to do that, some forensics guy I suppose.

She turned the lock in the front door and opened it a crack. “Go outside and tell them that it worked,” she said. When I asked what, she shook the matchbox. “This. Tell them the matchbox worked.”

Before I had time to register a complaint I was shoved outside. It was blowing a gale and I could feel little dangly bits around the edges of my wound flapping. It was…grim. But my eyes were drawn to the three large bald men in suits standing by a large black van a few feet away from me, who were all carrying shiny handguns. I assumed that these were the people I needed to talk to.

“Hello,” I said. “She says it works.”

The man in the middle took a step towards me. “Where’s the proof?” he asked. I gestured to my chest.

“I think I’m supposed to be the proof,” I told him. “The thing in the matchbox did this to me.” He moved closer and bent down to examine my wound. He used his pistol to move my shirt aside and get a better look. I thought it best to leave him to it, but looking at the blood dripping onto his weapon I couldn’t help but wonder how sanitary it was.

“Fair enough,” he said. “Is she inside?” I nodded, and he took a step back, taking his handgun out of me. “Laura? Is he telling the truth, then?”

“He is,” I heard her shout from behind me. She was poking her head out from behind the door. “I told you it would work, I just needed more time.” The man nodded.

“We may have been too hasty. What do you say to the idea of coming back?”

I turned and saw Laura take a cautious step towards us. “I say you spent the last hour trying to kill me.”

The man held his hands up. “We thought that you didn’t know what you were doing. We thought you were wasting our time, but clearly we were wrong. I apologise. I was too hasty and it won’t happen again. Besides, we need you to figure out why he’s still alive.”

Laura grinned. “I’ll expect a pay rise.” The man grinned back and nodded.

I’d been standing there, listening to this back and forth and wondering if I should say anything. I had hoped that I would be left out of it, but clearly, that wasn’t the case. As I was about to ask how they planned to find out why I was still alive, the man’s two friends picked me up and bundled me into the van.

No one said a word and I thought it best to keep my mouth shut. We drove for about twenty minutes, then a bag was put over my head and I was carried inside a building. I had no idea whether I was above ground or below but when the bag was removed I was in a cell. Not the worst cell imaginable, thankfully. It was clean, I had it to myself, there was a toilet. All things considered, it could have been much worse. My main worry was what to do about the hole in my chest. I did briefly consider filling it with wadded toilet paper but I’m sure you can deduce why I didn’t. Mushiness. Sorry, anyway, I didn’t think I needed to worry about infection. I just sat there and waited. I was sure someone would come and explain things to me eventually
Which brings me up to now. Two men I didn’t recognise opened the door and brought me here to talk to you ladies and gentlemen. Can I ask, have you figured it out yet? Why I’m not dead? Does it have something to do with the thing in the matchbox? Oh, how’s Laura?



Hope you enjoyed this one. It was fun to do something a bit different. Initially it was going to be another story with Elsie the ghost from She Wore Stripes, but this happened instead. I'd written a couple of quite grim things so it was nice to have a bit of fun with this.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Yesterday's Shoes

Robin nearly tripped over the shoes when she stepped out of the front door.

They hadn’t been there when she got home the night before. A pair of plain black shoes sat on her doormat, facing inwards. They didn’t look like the kind of shoes to be abandoned. They looked like they’d been polished to within an inch of their leather lives. But what were they doing there? Why would somebody leave a perfectly good…

She didn’t have time to think about it. She was going to be late and Robin was not a person who would allow herself to be late. She stepped over the unwelcome shoes and hurried off down the front path to work.
Her day was a busy one and she didn’t have a lot of time to think about what the shoes were doing there. 

Every now and again, however, she would find herself with a quiet moment to herself and she felt that there was something oddly familiar about those shoes. Which was ridiculous, of course. What could be familiar about a pair of plain black shoes?

How old are you now?

They were still there when she got back. Sitting on the front doorstep. Toes pointed towards the door. 

Whoever had left them there had not returned, which Robin thought was rather inconsiderate. Perhaps they were meant to be a gift. Perhaps one of her neighbours had left them for her. Maybe they thought she had a boyfriend, they were men’s shoes after all. Maybe she should ask. That’s what she would do.

The neighbours had not left them as a gift. In fact they seemed to find the notion that they would consider leaving her a gift quite bizarre in itself. Mrs Gleeson on the left explained a little too forcefully that she had no idea what Robin was talking about and that she certainly had no interest in any male visitors that she might have. Mr Kritz on the right apologised for no reason but hadn’t left the shoes there either and used the stewhe was cooking as a reason to close the door on her.

She didn’t need the shoes. She could take them to a charity shop, she supposed, but she didn’t have the time, not this week. After some consideration she moved the shoes down to the end of the path, by the front gate. Somebody would take them, a good pair of shoes like that. Whoever had left them might conceivably want them back and she would rather the gift-giver go no further than the gate. Although she supposed they must have done before.

Robin prepared a small supper for herself which she ate at the dining room table as she always did. Vegetable soup. She’d stopped buying meat a few years ago; she found that she’d simply lost the taste for it.

As she ate, the sound of her slurping accompanied only by the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece, she found her mind wandering back to the shoes. You heard about people being knocked out of their shoes, didn’t you? People who were hit by a lorry, although she knew that didn’t make sense. The man could have been struck by lightning and reduced to a pillar of dust, swept away by the wind. Maybe it was a Jehovah’s Witness who had been raptured. She giggled into her spoon and spatter minestrone on the tablecloth.

As she mopped up the mess she’d made she felt a chill. She thought she had better check the door. No reason, just to check.

The shoes were there. Toes pointed inwards. She peered out at the night. No one. She picked up the shoes and marched over the bin. It was rubbish collection day tomorrow. Let the bin men take the shoes and let whoever was bothering her stop it, just stop it. Time for bed now, Robin, work in the morning.

Bed time.

Mum was different that morning. She was trying hard to smile but Robin could tell she’d been crying. There was the smell of bacon frying. Mum never cooked bacon. When Robin came in she wiped her eyes and put a dirty yellow cloth on the table. A black shoe sat in her lap.

“Morning, sweetheart. Do you want some breakfast?”

“Watch that, you’re getting polish on the tablecloth!” The voice was cold and flat. Quiet, but she could tell he was angry.

Robin didn’t know who the man who had just told her mum off was but she knew she didn’t like him. He was looking at her, like he was trying to guess how much she weighed.

“Is this her, then?”

Mum nodded and kept that smile on her face. “That’s her. That’s Robin.”

“Hello, Robin,” said the man, and bent down to be face to face. His hair was slicked back over his skull and his eyes were dark like an animal’s. His breath smelt like old coffee.

“How old are you now?” he asked.

“She’s eleven, Alfie,” said Mum. She sounded scared. Robin knew why. The man had been here before. When he’d gone away things had got better. She’d stopped being scared at night.

“I don’t like you,” said Robin. Because it was true.

The man’s hand went back.

Robin woke up with the alarm. She had sweated profusely in the night and hurried into the shower. She hadn’t had a dream like that for years.

She went through her morning routine on autopilot. The kettle was boiled and she ate…something. She dressed and opened the front door.

She choked back a sob as she saw the shoes on her front door step. She looked out at the street, not sure what she was looking for. She picked up the shoes and hurled them into the road, ignoring the Mrs Gleeson’s twitching curtain.

The day went slowly. She didn’t speak to anyone in the office. On her lunch break she called her mum. The receptionist at the home put her through and Mum sounded surprised to hear from her. Robin tried to explain what was happening but didn’t know what to say. Finally she just asked.

“Mum…he’s dead, isn’t he?”

“Who’s dead, dear?”

“Dad. Dad’s dead, isn’t he?”

There was a pause. Long enough for Robin to think that maybe her mother was going to tell her no. But instead there was a deep sigh. “Of course he is, dear. You know he is. What’s this about?”

Robin hung up. When five o’clock came she practically ran out of the office. She stood by the doors on the bus ride home, and jumped off at her stop.

The shoes were there. Same exact spot. Same exact shine. She picked them up and walked back down the street. She walked all the way to the big supermarket with the skip round the back and she buried those shoes under the reeking, bulging black bags. She waited there while it got dark until one of the shop’s employees came outside and piled more bags on top. Then she left.

She could barely bring herself to walk up the garden path. She couldn’t take it if they were back. She thought that she would die. She nearly ran to the front door in the end, casting a look down as she slid the key into the lock.

Nothing. They were gone.

Of course they were. Just get inside.

She closed the front door behind her and let her coat drop to the floor. She shook her shoes off at the bottom of the stairs. She just needed calm. She just needed to relax. She filled a water glass and turned off the light. She slid under the duvet fully clothed and closed her eyes.

There was smoke. And there was shouting. And that was all she remembered.

She opened her eyes. There was someone else in the room. Somewhere behind her. She couldn’t bring herself to turn over. She was frozen on her side by the edge of the bed.

Then she saw them. Next to her water glass on the floor. Two black shoes. Polished to within an inch of their leather lives. She gasped as she felt warm breath on the back of her neck.

“I…I don’t…I don’t like…I don’t like…I don’t like you…I don’t”

“How old are you now?”


Hello there.

I hope you enjoyed the story, it took me a while to figure out how I wanted it to be. It was going to be more of a ghost story originally but I quite liked the idea of just focusing on Robin becoming increasingly distraught. I didn't want to make it any longer so I kept the explanations very vague, which I hope works. I wanted to imply what had happened rather than just come out and say it. I think it's a bit more grim as a result! Many thanks to @nolanzebra3 for the title. 

I think the next story will be The Night My Heart Exploded (title by @davidhayes4), which will be a return for Elsie the ghost, who I wrote about in She Wore Stripes

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

An Empty Space on the Bookshelf

“Why did you kill my cat?”

Edward had indeed killed Lucy’s cat. He’d done it with a copy of Ulysses.

He hadn’t meant to. He’d come home and found his girlfriend gone. A note had explained that she wasn’t sure how she felt about him but she wanted him to leave. The note had ended with a hopeful “for now” that implied a chance of reconciliation. Edward didn’t see how that was going to work if he wasn’t there. And that had made him angry.

He’d gone to look for the things that were his. The things he would not allow her to hold on to. He marched over to the bookshelf. He was sure the good books were his; she didn’t have any good ones. She wasn’t a reader. Scanning through the paperbacks he’d seen James Joyce’s Ulysses. They had found it in an Oxfam bookshop and had pooled their change to buy it. Lucy had never read it and he had only studied it. It had seemed like a good idea but he didn’t remember either of them picking it up once it was theirs. He picked it carefully, stroking the weathered spine. The price had been scrawled in pencil in the inside cover.

He’d thrown it across the room.  She would see it, splayed open on the carpet, and see how angry he was. But he hadn’t expected the snap he heard. Their cat, Isaac, lay on the floor. Splayed. The people at Battersea were right. They should have really thought very carefully about it.

Isaac twitched and gave a painful wheeze. Claws retracted and extended. As Edward stood, stunned, the poor tabby cat shuddered and finally froze. Edward stood, frozen by the bookcase, looking at the dead animal in front of him.

What does one do with a dead animal? It was an accident, it wasn’t murder. Manslaughter, catslaughter. Edward’s mind was racing. Should he carve it into pieces, dispose of it in different sites? That was ridiculous and worse than killing it. Could he put it in a black bag with the rest of the rubbish? That seemed cruel, he had liked that cat. There were times when they hadn’t got on but Isaac had generally been good company and deserved better than a cheap bin-liner. Finally, Edward did the only thing he could do. He left the cat on the floor and a note on the table.

“Very sorry but the cat is dead. I didn’t mean to.” He paused, lifting the biro clear from the post-it note to try and think of something good before writing “Very sorry” a second time. Then he left.

The bus ride home seemed to take forever. He worried that he would bump into Lucy or one of her friends, despite going in the opposite direction. He needn’t have worried. He got safely into his flat without having to talk to anyone. As he turned on the lights he thought about how lucky he was that he had kept onto the flat despite spending most of his time at her place. Then he remembered that it was Lucy who said it was a good idea to hold onto it, just in case. Had she planned this? How long had she been planning it for?

As he let his anger build, slowly swallowing the Isaac guilt, his mobile rang. Lucy. The anger fell away and was replaced by the dead weight of guilt. He stared at his phone for a moment, at the name on the screen, and went into the kitchen where the he knew the signal wouldn’t drop. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything, but Lucy spoke first.

“Why did you kill my cat?”

Edward wanted to explain, to tell her how ridiculous the whole thing was. He desperately felt that this was something that should not have happened. It was like knocking a mug of tea over on someone’s book, it was a simple mistake. Maybe a laptop was a better comparison, more expensive, less easily replaced. But he knew how it looked. It had taken on significance now.

Not just the fact that he done something awful. There was another concern. Edward wondered if she had taken it as a message. If he said the wrong thing it could certainly be construed as a message. Dump me and I’ll kill your cat. You think we should take some time off? I’ll kill your cat. That was not something that should be put around. Edward would never do anything like that. He did not deserve that kind of a reputation. It had been an accident, he was sure of it.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

There was a pause on the other end of the line. Edward fidgeted with the tied end of a pack of bread, tugging at the plastic. Finally she spoke.

“What happened?”

He told her the truth. He told her about finding the note, about going to the bookshelf, and about how Joyce’s magnum opus had snapped the neck of poor Isaac. He could hear her breathing as he babbled but she didn’t interject. When he stopped he could hear her clearing her throat.

“So it was an accident?”

“Of course!” he said. It had been a terrible accident but an accident nevertheless. She needed to know that, to understand it.

“You know, it’s weird,” she said. “I saw the empty space on the bookshelf first. Then I saw the book. I thought you’d decided to trash the place and I was getting really angry. I thought about how much of a dick you could be.” He heard her sniff. Was she crying? “And then I saw Isaac, how he’d curled up and he just looked all wrong and I thought…”

She was crying now. Edward felt like he should say something. Was it appropriate to console her? He was the perpetrator after all. Perpetrators apologise, they don’t console. But she was crying and old instincts overruled common sense.

“Hey, it’s OK,” he said in what he hoped was a soothing tone. The crying stopped with a kind of choking sound.

“It’s not OK, you fucking dick. You murdered my cat!” Edward realised his mistake and tried to backpedal. As he started to apologise again, Lucy interrupted. “You murdered my fucking cat and you leave a fucking note? This is exactly the kind of thing that I should expect from you, I don’t know why it came as such as a surprise. Why should I expect an easy break-up from you, one where nothing dies?”

“Well I’m sorry I’m not perfect!” shouted Edward. He knew this was the wrong approach but honestly, how much worse could he make things for himself. This was evidently a lost cause, why not try and shift as much of the blame onto her as possible? “Maybe if you were easier to talk to I wouldn’t have had to leave a note.”

“What?” screamed Lucy. “What has that got to do with the fact that you killed my cat?” Edward had a blinding flash of inspiration, the kind that only comes to those forced into a corner and the only escape is the illogical one.

“In fact, if you hadn’t left a note, I wouldn’t have lost my temper and Isaac wouldn’t be dead.” He let that final barb sit for a moment and there was a quiet on the line as Lucy attempted to digest it. Let her take that on board. All her fault after all. Maybe he wasn’t the one who should have Isaac’s death on his conscience.

“So you murdered my cat because I broke up with you,” she said flatly. Alarm bells went off in Edward’s head. She’d played the trump card. She had more friends than he did. Their mutual friends were better friends with her than they were with him. They’d take her word for it. This would be the thing he was known for. Cat-killer. Couldn’t take being dumped so he killed a cat. Everyone would know. He’d never date again.

“I didn’t…I didn’t mean that, I’m sorry. Look, Lucy, please…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. This is all…”

“Go fuck yourself, Edward.” The line went dead and Edward stared at his phone.

Well, that was it.

He’d have to move.


Hello, there. Thanks for reading.

Something a bit different this week, not a horror thing. The excellent title came from @andylonsdale21 so thank you very much to him. It's quite a serious title and initially this was going to be played completely seriously and the phone conversation was going to be a deep and moving discussion of how their relationship went so wrong. But, when it came down to it, I tried to be funny instead. I think that once I'd written the word "catslaughter" I couldn't take it entirely seriously anymore. Seriously.

It also occurred to me when I finished that it's quite similar to the scene in Re-Animator in which Herbert West puts Dan's cat in the fridge and doesn't leave a note. "What would a note say, Dan? Cat dead, details later?" 

Anyway, hope you enjoyed it. And I would like to reassure everyone that I have never killed a cat, intentionally or otherwise. But you should watch Re-Animator.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

She Wore Stripes

She hadn’t been dead long. That’s important. And she hadn’t made a mess of herself. A bit of blood around the nose, easy enough to wipe off. Some hot water and a wad of toilet paper would take care of that. And she was dressed all in stripes, looking a bit like Beetlejuice’s teenage sister, especially now that she’d snuffed it. I’d been wearing a dress a bit like that when I went. I got hit by a lorry, though, so those white stripes turned red very quickly. Ha.

For any ghost attempting possession of a corpse, it’s important that the body hasn’t been dead for very long. It’s important because being in a corpse as it goes through rigor mortis is about as much fun as dying. And once you’ve done either once you don’t really want to do it again. You’ve only got about three hours before it becomes noticeable. I can tell you that it’s difficult to explain to the dead person’s friend why your arm isn’t bending any more. Best to know your limits. And if you do hang around for rigor mortis, the livor mortis has already begun. Blood pooling in places. Not good. So yeah, unless you want to tell a barman why you can’t move as you feel yourself becoming a soggy sausage skin full of…keep an eye on the time.

My name’s Elsie and if you’re wondering if I just hang around waiting to people to die so I can walk around in their bodies, you’re not far off the truth. I mean, yes, you can possess the living but that takes weeks, sometimes months, of preparation and frankly it’s very rarely worth the hassle. The dead don’t fight you; the only thing working against you is the clock.

I come to The Worker’s Hearth quite often. It’s open late and you quite often find people stopping off for a last drink at three in the morning on their stumble home. Every now and then one of them dies and I walk them home instead. But I’d come along early tonight and I was glad I did. This girl, the one in stripes, had popped in with her friends for a round of cheap shots on the way into town and had gone, alone, to the loos for a pee and a snort. After thirty years as a ghost you start notice when people’s bodies are struggling to cope and this girl had all the warning signs. So I floated off after her.

Sure enough, as soon as she’d got it up her nose the bleeding started and her little heart fluttered and gave out. Her face hit the tiles and I got to work.

There’s not really an art to this. It’s pretty simple. The person dies. Their spirit leaves the body like a reflex. And in you pop. The best way to describe it is like climbing into a wetsuit. You’ve got to wiggle your way all the way down the arms and legs, make sure your fingers and toes are in properly. If you do it right you’ve got total control of the body in terms of movement, vocal chords and so forth. You can walk, talk, smile. Sadly, you don’t have any say over the body’s decomposition. You’ve got about an hour, maybe two before people start to notice that you look and smell terrible.

A word of advice. Always take the time to clean yourself up. People tend to notice if there’s a dreadful stink of shit coming from you, or worse, there might be a wound that you haven’t noticed. Claiming to be drunk will only get you so far if you haven’t spotted that the back of your head is open and dripping.

So, I cleaned the blood from her nose and got the arms and legs moving. No stiffness yet, everything seemed to be working as normal. And she hadn’t shat herself, which was a relief. Obviously, sometimes you have to clean up but when you don’t have a lot of time you don’t want to waste it in the stalls. I gave her face a bit of a touch-up with the make-up kit in her bag. Her being a bit of a druggie was a relief; her friends would be used to seeing her pale. The outfit wasn’t too bad. A damp patch from the floor but I could always blame that on busted taps; in a place like this the girls downstairs would believe it.

I went back downstairs, going carefully to get the hang of her pins. The people at the table looked happy to see me. I was accused of taking my sweet time, to which I answered that I’d had too much to drink. They called me Tania, which I made a note of. Then I downed my pint, left the pub, and got into a taxi with them. On the way there I didn’t say a lot. I tried to focus on the little things. Feeling fabric against Tania’s skin. The air from the open window on Tania’s face, rushing through Tania’s hair. The after-taste of watered-down lager on Tania’s tongue. These things make Elsie happy. Before I knew it we’d arrived at the club.

I don’t really know the best way to describe trying to dance with limbs that don’t have blood pumping through them anymore. You know the Thriller video? It’s fuck all like that. There’s much less coordination. You just try to move your limbs as much as possible, really. I think maybe it helps postpone the stiffness but I have no idea. It’s just nice to have the feeling that the body you’re in is responding to instructions. I’ve tried haunting an aerobics class but anyone who’s going to snuff it at the gym tends to so fairly publicly, everyone hovering around them. You want people to go privately.

I noticed a couple of guys checking me out and quickly discouraged them, sticking to the group of friends this girl had found for herself. I’m not stupid enough to attempt intercourse while inhabiting a corpse. That would be horrible and incredibly ill-advised. Well, I tried it once. Once. After six years of being dead I finally had to give it a try. It was as disastrous and disgusting as you’d assume, and we’ll say no more about it. There were…fluids. Jesus, I’m shuddering just thinking about it.

I’d kept an eye on the time and it was approaching midnight. Time to get going, but I still had a couple of minutes to think about it. How did I want people to find Tania? She had friends with her, most of them seemed nice. A girl called Sarah seemed to be closest to her, a slightly chubby freckly red-head who had asked if I was alright and had tried to make me laugh. She’d stayed on the dance floor with me and shown a similar disregard for people trying to dance with her. I wondered if they were together. However, I wasn’t going to find out. I could feel the changes starting to happen and I didn’t want to freak her out unnecessarily.

Now, when it comes to getting rid of your body you can go for the alley-drop but that always struck me as a bit cruel on the survivors. I didn’t really want Sarah feeling guilty because she’d let her drunk best friend wander off to expire alone in a dirty alley. So I considered the “I just died in your arms tonight” approach. She’d always remember that. She could call an ambulance. That would make her feel better, if she’d been proactive. She could tell herself that she’d tried to help. I went for it.

I stuck around in the body long enough to give the illusion that Tania was dying in Sarah’s panicking arms, a bit of light convulsing, eyelids fluttering, some shallow breathing . Once people starting yelling I left. You don’t want to hang around all that. That’s none of your business; it’s nothing to do with you. Best left alone. So off I went.

You probably think all of this is wrong. Maybe you think it’s immoral, that I’ll burn in hell for it. Well I’m not there yet. And when you’ve been stranded in spectral form for thirty years you can talk to me about it.


Hello there. I hope you enjoyed this one. I was worried at first that the voice was a little to similar to Eliza in Witch's Bile but I think Elsie's more disaffected than malicious. Anyway, she was a lot of fun to write and I have a plan for a second story with her where something actually happens, as opposed to this, which I think is just her normal Friday night.

Not sure which story will be next but it will be another week or two. The title from this story came from @merazad and I'm very grateful!