Not all monsters want humans!

I’m betting most of you have felt it. When lying in your bed. You wake in the night and want to get up, whether for a drink or to use the loo, but something stops you. A feeling that starts tiny, just a niggling feeling at the bottom of your stomach but quickly grows. Your fight or flight response is activated, something is there. You try to focus on your listening to your surroundings but your heart is beating so fast, and so loud, that its all that fills your ears. Your senses are heightened, little noises become warning signs to potential danger. The creaking floorboards of the house settling are actually creaking because someone stepped on them, the banging coming from the broken kitchen fridge is actually banging as someone breaks in. You tell yourself over and over again that it is nothing, that you are making it up but your instincts are telling you differently. Your sense of panic is growing.

You lie perfectly still; willing your eyes to remain shut because you don’t want to see the thing that is staring back at you. Minutes pass, they seem like hours before you build up the confidence to open them. There is nothing there. You let out a nervous giggle, a little to loud for comfort as you tell yourself for the hundredth time that you were being silly.

Rebekkah had that exact same feeling. Her partner, Jeremy, laid beside her sleeping. She sat up and took a minute to let her eyes adjust to the light. Slowly, the dark gave way to reveal the piles of washing strewn around the house; some clean, some dirty and some questionable. She made a mental note to clean the room in the morning before she left for work. A promise she told herself every night before bed. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, a cold breeze hit them making her very aware that it was the middle of the night. She put her feet on the carpet and stood up. Her head filled will fuzz, and for a minute, she thought she would fall back on the bed but it cleared quickly. She had just put her hand on the door handle when she heard it. The scuffle. The sound of dragging. She shook her head and ignored it, leaving the bedroom door open while peeing.

When she returned to the room, it felt… different. She couldn’t explain how or why but the hairs on the back of her neck stood on edge. Closing the door behind her as she always did, Rebekkah kept her eyes down although she didn’t know why. Just before she got to the edge of the bed she saw it, out of the corner of her eye. The edge of the sheet moved ever so slightly. Rebekkah hesitated for a minute. It could have been a draught but the windows were closed and the night was particularly cold so surely it would have been colder. She forced her legs to move, despite the blood seemingly being replaced with lead and crawled back into bed. Jeremy was warm beside her, his deep breathes having a calming influence on her and letting her get control of her breathing which had, once again, become out of control. Laying in bed, she closed her eyes and drew the cover up as far as she could. She laughed silently as she thought back to her childhood.

She must have been five or six and, of course, scared of the monsters under her bed. She had called out for her mum who had come running. Turning on the lights, she told her the story of the ‘cover of steel’. If ever she was scared, or thought she could see monsters, all she had to do was pull the covers up as high as they could go and nothing could get through it and to her. As long as she had her duvet, she would be safe.

Hugging the duvet as tightly as possible she focused on her hearing. There it was again, the scuffle. There was something under her bed and, worse of all, it was moving. Venturing out from the confinements of the bed. Rebekkah slid down under the  covers, the natural fold giving her a small peephole. She told herself not to look, that it was guaranteed to get her caught but she couldn’t help it. As the monster came into view, Rebekkah stifled a scream. Its shape was hardly discernible in the darkness but she could see that it was large. Not big but broad. It military crawled out from under the bed, almost painfully slow. Once his legs had became untangled from the bedding, it started to rise and its full height was revealed. Rebekkah looked up as high as her eyes would allow whilst lying on her side but the straining became painful before she got passed its shoulders. The monster started clicking, a deep rhythmic click like a sonar as it scanned the room. A strange calm came over Rebekkah as she watched him. Her. It.  It didn’t seem to be looking for her or Jeremy. It was hunched over, looking at the ground.

It seemed to be searching for eternity before it stopped suddenly. The clicking became louder and faster, as if it had found its prey. Although it wasn’t near the bed, Rebekkah held onto the cover a little tighter. It jumped high in the air before diving into the pile of washing so hard that the room shook – how was Jeremy sleeping through it all? Bits of washing were flying passed her eyeline; knickers, bras, trousers, t shirts and dressing gowns. Rebekkah moved the cover slightly so she had a better view of whatever it was that was searching through her clothes. The scales on its back shimmered as if glittering in the dark, its colours changing as it tried to camoflauge itself against the colours of the room and the different items of clothing. Suddenly it let out an excited shriek and stood victorious. In its hands were socks. Loads of socks. Rebekkah looked closely, none of them were pairs. Staring in awe, an involuntary smile spread across her face as she realised what she was looking at – was that really the sock monster her mum used to talk about?

Her mum used to tell her about the sock monster. It was the reason your socks never seemed to be in pairs. Why there were always odd ones laying about the house when you were sure you had a pair when you put them down. Surely that was a myth, monsters aren’t real? Or so she thought? But there it was, right in front of her, eating her socks!

She stared, not in fear but in awe now. Her childhood fear was standing right in front of her….eating her socks. Then, almost as suddenly as it started eating, it stopped. It was finished. Facing the bed, he started to slink back down to the floor but stopped midway. Rebekkah didn’t blink or move but it had seen her and was staring at her. The blood in her veins turned to ice in panic. Would it hurt her now to protect its secret? It approached the bed, as close as it could without disturbing the covers and came down to her eye level. She stared into its face; with its gold eyes, scaly, shimmery skin and extraordinarily large mouth. She should have been scared but she felt safe, it wasn’t going to hurt her. Its goofy mouth opened up in a broad smile with socks stuck between its teeth. Its breath reeked of stale socks and dirty clothes. Rebekkahs eyes teared up with the smell. It brought its talons up to its mouth, put one up and shhhhed her before disappearing back under the bed.

Rebekkah must have laid there for hours, trying to make sense of what she had just seen. As soon as the sun came up, Rebekkah managed to sum up the courage to look under the bed. Nothing. It was all as it was before but Rebekkah was sure there were more socks under there before….

 

 

 

 

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The fairground of the lost

Amira was lying in her bed, the threat of a history exam tomorrow preventing sleep from happening. She was going through the origins of the Battle of Hastings when she heard it. Faint music coming from the direction of the woods. Amira froze for a second, not daring to move as she strained her hearing to work out what it was. It couldn’t have been a car driving by, it wasn’t drifting away and there had been no engine sounds accompanying it. It was strong, consistent, and close. After what seemed like eternity listening, it clicked. It was fairground music. The annoying songs that play during the ride and then stay in your head for weeks afterwards; but there had been no signs for a fair. Amira kicked the covers back, the cold air hitting her legs and making her feel less groggy then she had been. She went to the window, threw open the curtains and looked for the source of the noise but couldn’t see anything. Closing the curtains again, Amira put some cotton wool in her ears and tucked herself back into bed; it didn’t take long for the pull of sleep to catch up with her.

Amira felt drunk when she woke the next morning, the lack of sleep making her head thump and eyes sting. She scraped her brown hair back into a bun, securing the stragglers with hundreds of little bobby pins. Covering the dark circles of her hazel eyes with foundation and concealer, she barely made herself look human before giving up. She dragged herself to the kitchen and flicked the switch on the kettle. While the aroma of coffee filled the air, she got her phone out. No fun fairs in town, none planned and no reports of music. Frustrated, she typed

‘Did any1 hear the music l8 last night? Since when is the fair in town?! #Fuckedoffandtired’.

She fired it off on all her social media, put her phone down, grabbed her study cards and quizzed herself while downing way too much coffee. She barely had a chance to say explain everything to her mum before she grabbed a burning hot pop tart and ran out of the house to meet the bus to college.

Four hours and an exam later, Amira came out of the hall. She had failed; there was no doubt in her mind. She couldn’t stop thinking about the fairground music last night. Checking her messages, she was amazed to find comments from her friends. “No music. Were you pissed again?” “I live by Stringholm Woods. There was nothing last night: S” ” Left the TV on downstairs” “Dreaming again? Gone crazy?”

Pissed off at herself for letting herself get distracted, and confused that she had no one else seemed to hear it, she headed home. She wasn’t crazy, she was sure of it. Her mum had cooked mac n cheese, her favourite as a treat for working so hard. Amira tried to not let the guilt eat at her as she tucked into garlic bread slices. She couldn’t bring herself to tell her mum she had failed and had resigned herself to the fact that she would see if she could take the test again or do extra credit to bring her grade up. This wouldn’t be the end of her but she couldn’t help thinking that she shouldn’t have let herself get distracted. She had purposefully got off the bus early to walk the long way around the woods, there was nothing unusual there; your typical dog walkers and couples trying to find a secluded spot. Defeated, cold and annoyed, she walked home. She could have sworn the music was coming from there. Avoiding an awkward conversation with her mum was not easy. They had always been incredibly close and the thought of lying to her was like a hot rock in Amira’s belly. She focused on a news story about a five year old who had gone missing last night. Kelly was last seen at the local park. Her mum had looked away to do her sons shoe up and when she looked up, Kelly was gone.

She took a sip of her drink and thought darkly to herself that she was probably distracted by the fair. Her mum asked her if she was ok for the 100th time. She couldn’t bring herself to tell her; plus she didn’t know where she would start. Instead she silently got up and went to her bedroom. She could hear her mum cleaning up downstairs but she never tried to follow her. Amira felt awful as she curled up under the covers for an early night. It was 1am when the music woke her again. It was louder than the night before, and now she had the repetitive tannoy of callers to the rides. Rage encompassed her as she threw the covers back. How could people not hear it? She opened her windows and pushed herself as far forward as she could to see if she could see anything. A faint flicker of lights came from the middle of the forest, catching her eye as she scrolled the landscape. Amira grabbed her phone and took her camera out. Pointing it at the fair. The screen stayed blank, showing only the faint streetlights of the path leading to the forest. She hit record, waited 30 seconds and then listened back. Nothing. No music, no lights, nothing. It must be too far away. Amira was determined to prove to people that she wasn’t crazy. Grabbing her hoodie and trainers, she headed out into the darkness.

It took all of 5 seconds to regret her decision. The cold night air hit her body like a boulder, making her breath catch in her chest. She saw what little air that managed to escape float in the air before her. She done the hoodie up and went into a light job, her phone firmly in her hand. The music changed to a faster tempo as she approached the edge of the woods. Looking towards the enveloping darkness before her, Amira hesitated for the first time. She strained her eyes to see anything moving, her love of horror movies throwing her imagination into overdrive. The forest that seemed so friendly from her bedroom window now seemed to breathe, an entity waiting to devour her and not release her. But what option did she have? People were sniggering in the hallway, making comments about her being crazy at lunch. She had to prove that the fun fair was real. She whispered ‘Lumos’ into her phone, turning the torch on and temporarily blinding her. For a second, even with the comfort of the white light guiding her way, Amira thought about turning around. The music boomed through the air, eliminating the sound of traffic roaring past the gate, and reinstating Amira’s determination. Swallowing her courage and trying to encourage her determination, she set into the woods, constantly looking over her shoulder and trying to ignore the feeling of being followed.

Her feet throbbed and cheeks stung with wind burn, she had been walking for hours. Her phone, which once had full signal, was now showing no signal and a dangerously low battery. Panic started to build up in her stomach at the thought of being stuck in the middle of the woods without a phone to call for help. Ignoring the background noises of the woods which, in reality, were twigs snapping but in her head were murderers coming to chase her, she kept trekking forward. She probably walked another thirty minutes before the funfair appeared before her. Amira was stunned; it had come out of nowhere but was huge. How did people not know it existed? How had it taken her so long to find it? She took her phone out, snapped some pictures and put her phone in her pocket. She approached the large gates; there were no signs about opening times or prices. Before she had a chance to peer inside, the gates swung open and the music surged again. Taking a few tenuous steps towards the entrance, Amira jumped as a man came out of the shadows. He was sharply dressed in a red tail coat, with embellishment on the collar, and a top hat.

Chuckling he opened his mouth; although he spoke quietly, his voice boomed in the night air “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you jump”

“Well, not coming out of the shadows is a good first start” Amira didn’t know why but her body screamed at her to run away as fast as she could.

“I was just wondering around my grounds, it was YOU who found us my dear. You entered the gates and I am so glad you did. As you’re here, why don’t you have a go on a few rides?”

He moved to one side, the fairground lights got blindingly bright as if calling to her.

“They are free”

The fairground seemingly came to life around her, youngsters of varying ages appearing around her at such a rapid rate she questioned if they had been there the whole time. Amira walked slowly, stiffly and scanned everything like a robot. A feeling of unease was growing in the pit of her stomach, she couldn’t put her finger on it but something was not right.

She sat inside one of the oversized cups on the waltz ride, taking advantage of the relatively easy ride to clear her head. A few rides, to be polite, and then she would go. As the cup started to spin around; a child, no more than eight, came round to help spin the cups faster. Amira watched as the child appeared and disappeared. She gasped, her breath stuck in her throat as she watched a slit slowly spread across the child’s neck and blood trickle down onto her dress. As the cup spun, she watched the girl lose so much blood, while still standing there as if nothing had happened. The little girl’s mouth opened as if she was going to try and say something but, before she could, the groundskeeper came up behind her and whispered something in her ear. The little girls eyes widened in fear before she ran out of sight. The ride came to a stop, Amira walked straight up to the groundskeeper.

“What was that? Who are you? What is this place? How…”

“Slow down my dear” the groundskeeper chuckled “catch your breath”

Amira ignored him and kept going, more to herself than anyone else.

“That little girl; there was blood….her throat…it was cut”

“Ok, clearly this is not working” the groundskeeper cleared his throat, clearly trying to hide his agitation.

Grabbing Amira by the shoulders, he lowered himself to her height. “My name is Spector. I run this fairground and keep all the machines running. We travel from town to town, whenever we are called, and stay a little while before moving on. Our time here is almost up but, when you arrived at our entry gates, we decided we had to stay a little while longer”

Spector held his hands in the air and clicked. A boy, no more than 14, came running immediately. “Get our guest a drink from the vending machine. Amira, any preferences?”

“No thanks.” Amira tried to smile but the world was spinning to fast around her. “I think I would like to go home”

She started towards the entrance gates again. The music around her became louder and louder, until she could barely hear the people around her. The lights became brighter and brighter until the whole grounds was flooded with light and Amira couldn’t see around her. She looked towards the ground, an old trick her mum taught her for when she was being blinded by car headlights. It didn’t help, she couldn’t see. Even when she blinked, patterns appeared behind her eyelids. She stumbled forward, loosely in the direction of the main entrance. Spectors booming voice seemed to surround her.

“I knew it! I knew it was you! You have no idea how long I have been waiting for you to arrive and now you are here!”

“W…What are you on about?” Amira tried to remain calm, to think logically but it wasn’t working. Panic was setting in.

“Can someone dim the lights and cut the music, please? I know she is here but I can’t hear myself think” The lights immediately dimmed. Amira opened her eyes and blinked ferociously until the flying spots stopped blurring her vision. Once it was clear, she picked someone in the crowd and focused until her eyesight became clear. When she could see properly, she screamed until her throat was raw.

All around her were kids of all ages; smiling and giggling, eating hot dogs and burgers, drinking and having a great time. Except these weren’t normal kids. There were slit throats, gunshot wounds, bruises so dark you couldn’t see the faces beneath them, burns, lips on some so blue it was like no oxygen was going around the body. Amira felt the world beneath her spin and, no matter how much she focused; she couldn’t stop herself from hitting the floor. She took deep gulping breaths to keep the vomit down.

“It’s a dream, just a dream” Amira repeated to herself. Slowly she gained the confidence to open her eyes and take another look. The moment she did, the scream escaped her lips again. She turned towards the entrance and ran as fast as she could. Her lungs burned, acid sat in her throats and tears streamed in her eyes but the entrance stayed the same distance away. She couldn’t escape. Spector appeared beside her, seemingly amused at her efforts.

“You done?” his eyebrows raised a smirk across his face.

“What have you done?” Amira managed the sentence after six attempts of breathlessness

“Me. I haven’t done anything my dear. You came to me, you entered my funfair. All I did was waiting for the guardian to arrive.”

“The what? Guardian who?

“I never thought they would choose someone so young but the only person who can hear the music, that can see the reality of what happened to these poor children is the one destined to spend their life looking after them.”

“Look buddy!” Amira was getting angry. “I don’t know who you are? Or what the hell you are on about but it’s not me. I’m no-one and I like it that way. You are going to let me go or I am going to call the police”

She pulled out her phone and waved it in Spector’s face, hoping he wouldn’t spot the no signal sign and call her bluff.

“I can’t let you go. I’m physically unable. The gates won’t open for you as they were made to contain you”

“How many ways can I say this? YOU. HAVE. THE. WRONG. GIRL”

“Oh but I don’t. Look around you look at all the children and you see their wounds. The evidence of how they passed. That’s the sign that you are who we are looking for. Each of these children died in violent ways at the hands of another. Alisha was shot in the head by her dad whilst in his custody, Johnny was picked up by a predator and left bleeding to death in a bush and Charlie was locked in a flat when the block went up. All these children are dead, none of them can move on until their bodies are found and laid to rest. We travel the world, following natural disasters or being summoned by an act of unexplainable violence. I’ve been watching over these kids since time began and I’m over it. I was starting to think we would never find you but then you just walked in.”

“Do they see each other?” Amira held back the tears but she wasn’t sure if it was fear or pity.

“They do see each other but not the wounds. As far as they are aware, there is nothing wrong. They are just hanging out at the fun fair. They know they are dead but it is really important NOT to tell them how. If, and when, they are found they will move on”

“I can’t watch over them. I’m alive.” She smiled brightly, apparently smug at the feeling that she had won. Amira was so intent on celebrating her victory and walking towards the gate that she didn’t see Spector bend down and pick up a log from the fairground floor. As she turned to walk away she felt a burning start at the back of her head and spread to the front while a warm trickle ran down her back. The kids came in and out of focus as her knees buckled beneath her; she took a look at Spector who leant down to meet her eyes. Before the world went black she heard him say “…for now!”

When she next opened her eyes, Amira found herself looking up at Spector from the ground. She took a second to assess her surroundings. It was bad. The older of the kids had grabbed her hands and legs, forcing her body on the ground despite her struggles. They were deceptively strong, never loosening their grip while she struggled until her wrists burned.

Spector spoke, his voice was calm but there was a clear edge to it. He was pissed.

“Did you really think that would work? That you would say your piece and then just saunter out of here like you were in some kind of fucking movie. I told you it wouldn’t work, the gates were designed to keep the guardian in. To keep you in.”

He took a breathe, composing himself before continuing. As he spoke, Amira got the feeling he was talking more to himself than her.

“You did make an interesting point though. Normally the Guardian is dead. It can’t be a mistake, all the signs are there. You ARE her. But you can’t watch over these for eternity if you are living. It would mean the next guardian wouldn’t be chosen when your body is found”

Body’ Amira took a deep breath. A few really as she tried not to panic. A strange calm of inevitability came over her. Surely she knew this was going to happen. She was never leaving here after seeing the little girl with her throat slit. Tears silently fell down the side of her face, pooling in her ears and tickling a little. Her mum would be beside herself.

Whilst her life flashed before her eyes, Amira failed to notice Spector picking up the log again. He knelt beside her, held it in the air and simply said “this will sting a little”

As the log hit her head for the first time, pain seared through her eyesocket and brought black dots into her vision. She felt the warm trickle of blood flow, she could just see Spector bringing the log down again before her body gave out.

…. Weeks later….

“Kelly….Kelly….Kelly!” Kelly opened her eyes and tried to take a deep breath. Her chest felt tight and burned whenever she breathed in. Before her was a girl with large hazel eyes and chestnut hair that framed her face, Kelly felt immediately more peaceful. She looked around and saw nothing familiar. Scared, she put her hand on the ground and felt a something soft and silky. She looked down and saw a suitcase, why was she in a suitcase. What happened? She started to cry, she was confused and wanted her mum.

“Hey, shhhhh. Don’t cry. We are going to have so much fun” the strange girl smiled as she spoke “my names Amira. I know this is strange but you are going to need to come with me.”

Careful what you wish for…

The sound of Bill and Ben, the Flower Pot Men, blasted through the air. Kevin groaned as he rolled over in his bed to look at the alarm clock. Not that he needed to. It was always the same time, these kids didn’t know how to sleep! Sure enough, the alarm clock glared 4.45am. He couldn’t blame them, they were just very excited. They were always excited.

“Sssshhhhh, you will wake your dad”. Kevin smiled as Donna’s voice drifted up the stairs. She was meant to be chastising them but you could hear the giggle in her voice. She never had been good at being the tough cop. He laid his head back on his pillow and just listened to them all playing downstairs. He closed his eyes and pictured them in his head. Emma’s copper coloured hair would be almost glistening in the light as she ran in and out of the light streaming through the window, trying to get the perfect light for a selfie. James was more active; very rarely staying in one place, preferring to run through the house until he was out of breath. Kevin’s smile broadened as the sound of Donna footsteps become louder, she was chasing James by the staircase and the sound rung out loud and clear through the empty house. Donna was, for lack of a better term, perfect. She was one of those mums who were the envy of everyone who saw her. She was always cool, composed and well put together. Never a hair out of place, never a stain or smudge on her clothes – despite raising two kids who were particularly messy growing up. Even he was in awe of her, especially as he had spent the first few years of James and Emma’s life smelling like stale milk.

‘What I wouldn’t give to go back to those days’ Kevin thought as he stretched out in bed.

The smile slipped from Kevin’s face as reality of life sunk in. He groaned as he swung his legs out of bed, he was not a young man anymore. His bones ached as much as his muscles and moving hurt. The pills didn’t help, the ravages of time far surpassing the science of a little pink pill. Opening the wardrobe, he took out a navy blue suit, crisp white shirt and blue tie, as always. Laughing, he remembered how the sales women had looked at him when he asked her for nine of the same outfit (it meant he could get them 7 of them dry cleaned on a Friday, ready for Monday, and still have something to wear). It didn’t matter what he wore. They never really paid attention to him and, yet, he still liked to put in the effort for Donna. With his clothes laid out, he hit the shower.  As the hot water of the shower hit his back, Kevin mentally prepared himself for the day ahead. By the time he would come back into the bedroom, he would be exhausted. A benefit of kids was that Kevin had never slept so well in his life. He laughed to himself as the phrase ‘they sleep like the dead’ crept into his mind.

All dressed and ready, Kevin took a deep breath, turned the knob of the bedroom door. The click of the latch retracting echoed through the house. The kids fell quiet. It was time. He took his time walking down the stairs, simply taking in the sounds of his children happier than they had ever been. The walls were full to bursting with pictures of their family through the years; trips to the zoo, holiday’s, birthdays etc. Every single picture had the whole family smiling, they were so happy. He was on the last step, there was no more room for hesitation and, by the sounds of footsteps, they were coming to him. He took a deep breath in and promised himself, again, that he wouldn’t scream or scare them. It hadn’t worked for the last 7000 or so days but today was a new day.

He stood in front of them, as he did daily, a scream catching in his throat. He thought of the irony. When the police had first come to the door and told him they had been killed, he begged to see them again. He would wander around the house aimlessly, praying to a God he suddenly believed in to see Emma laugh one more time or hear the pitter patter of James feet as he haphazardly ran along the corridor. Yet, for the past 20 years, they had visited him almost everyday. Never maliciously, never in anger, but they were slowly rotting. It was worse than the accident, he could see them transforming from young, vibrant people to decomposing bodies. He got down on his knees and prayed. Again. He wanted them to stop coming to visit him, to move on. But he knew, at 4:45am tomorrow morning, the sound of laughter would rise through the house again.

 

The Embalmer

Simon woke up to the smell of bacon filling his nostrils, god he loved weekends. As a hearse driver, he didn’t always get weekend mornings off so he wanted to make the most of it. As usual, his wife had been up for hours as he had a cup of coffee next to him and his newspaper. It was as much for her as it was for him, he had a tendency to be a bit grumpy in the morning so the thirty minutes in bed helped him wake up, kept him out of her hair and let his bad mood lift. Reaching for the paper, a smile crept across his face. No missing people reported today either. There had been a pandemic recently and the newspapers had really been hogging the headlines with them but it seemed to have quietened down. A great way to start the weekend.

“Simon, breakfast” his wife called from downstairs. That was his cue. Pulling on some trackies, Simon felt ready to face the chaos that would inevitably ensue once the bedroom door was opened. It was like a barrier. From when he closed it at night, to when he opened it in the morning, nothing outside of it mattered. If the kids cried out in the night, Claudia would see to them. She really was a fantastic mother and wife, Simon made a mental note to order her some flowers, or steal some leftover by grieving family members. Well, it would save him forty pounds and its not like the dead were going to miss them. Resolute in his decision to grab some today, Simon made his way downstairs. Although it was a weekend, there was a lot to be done before the funeral later that day. First, he stepped into the kitchen and kissed his family hello. Autumn and Kim were sat colouring in, their breakfast would have finished long ago and now Claudia was trying to keep them entertained. In the corner of his eye he could see the hearse. It was shining in the sunlight, freshly waxxed and ready to go. He just had to go and load the coffin.

“I’ll need to take the car for a spin before work” he took a bite of his breakfast. Bland. Everything was bland now salt was banned in the house. Thank god for McDonalds.

“Why? Its just been serviced, hasn’t it?” His wife asked, struggling with Kim who had decided she would rather colour the table than her paper.

“Yeah but I need to check the brakes. I don’t want to be driving and suddenly have Mrs. Curtis on my lap now do I?” He laughed morbidly and kissed his wife goodbye, heading to the door before she had time to protest. “Plus you know I like to give everything a once over before I work. Its a big day for my clients, almost as big as their wedding day, it has to be perfect.”

Closing the door behind him, Simon felt his heart start to race. The world around him transformed from a crisp, sharp, vibrant place to a blur with only the hearse in focus. He sat behind the wheel and turned the key, the soft hum of the generator whirred in the back and helped him get focused. He drove through the town, the excitement building within him until he could barely keep still. He turned up the radio and haphazardly sung along to whatever crap was playing on the local station. It wasn’t long before the 12 o clock news came on – politics, politics, murder etc. Simon was tuning out, simply enjoying driving the country lanes when something caught his attention

Another victim in Southgrove makes twenty two missing in just over a year. 50 year old Velma Grace from Turnstyle road has been reported missing after her family hadn’t heard from her in 3 days. She was last seen…’

Simon clicked the radio off. 22 victims? Was it really that many? Maybe he did have a problem. He giggled to himself, he knew exactly where Velma was. Of course he did. She was here, with him, in his car. He’d been driving for about an hour now so most of her blood would be in the tanks, replaced with embalming fluid while she slept. She had been his easiest victim to date; so relaxed, so happy to find someone to talk to that she hadn’t seen the chloroform coming. He had put her in the car and had her hooked up to his makeshift machine last night but his wife had wanted him home so he had to leave her in the boot. Still, the generator had kicked in as soon as he was driving, one machine draining her blood whilst the other simultaneously pumped her through of embalming fluid. It only took about 30 minutes for her to lose consciousness fully, despite being drugged, so he didn’t worry about her making noises. Driving to pick up the coffin for the funeral, Simon was pleased to read that today’s was a cremation with an internment to follow soon after. He whooped internally, that made it so much easier as their was no delay. Sliding the coffin onto the display platform, he opened the two little doors beneath it and checked on Velma. She was cold and lifeless but felt a weak pulse. It wouldn’t be long.

As he drove the procession, followed by the deceased family and friends, he was giddy. The kick of killing someone whilst surrounded by people was why he had been doing it so long. Of course, like any addict, he told himself he could stop any time he wanted. The 22 people that year meant otherwise. He clicked open the built in lighter and pushed down. He had transformed it into a switch years ago after a near miss with a nosey neighbour which led to him moving. This way, he could make the switch on the go and nobody would be any the wiser. While his assistant walked the first mile in front of the hearse, a small clicking started from the back. The bottom of the coffin slid open and Velma was pushed up into it. The creaking of the coffin let Simon know the job was done but it was a tight fit. He would have to be careful who he choose next time but part of the danger was whether they would fit or not. Another clunk let him know that the bottom had moved back into place. As his assistant stopped and started walking towards the car, Simon heard the whir of the makeshift drill screwing the bottom back into place. The last screw finished just as the passenger door clicked shut.

As the pallbearers paraded whoever was in the coffin into their service, Simon bowed his head out of respect. In just a day or two, all evidence of Velma would be gone. He had told himself she would be his last one but, as he got back in the hearse and drove to his next funeral, he found himself thinking about what he could do better next time…

Guardians of the Insculpo: Chapter 3.

Catch up on the prologue here and both Chapter one and two here.

Although she had forgotten the dream, the uneasy feeling had followed me around all day, casting a shadow over the day like a raincloud that threatened to rain, but never did. Millie, as always, acted like she couldn’t care less about the hardwork that mum and I had put in to making her day special. Determined not to let Millie put a damper on things, I kept my energy levels high with a constant stream of energy drink and worked tirelessly to put a positive spin on everything but it was hard to keep ignoring the flashes of hurt that spread across her mum’s face each time Millie gave a non committal grunt instead of a response to any suggestions. It was clear that she’d rather be anywhere else

“Who wants a cuppa?”  I asked in a desperate attempt to break the silence.  Passing mum, I placed my hand on her shoulders and squeezed as a sign that I was there for her. I hoped it was enough.
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Guardians of the Insculpo: Chapter 1 & 2.

Have you forgotten the prologue? Don’t worry, me too, but you can read it here!

I sat at the computer editing the book I’d been trying to complete for months. My latest attempt, which seemed like my millionth, was as bad as my first. At this rate I’d never get it finished. The ideas had flowed thick and fast when I first started but now, like most of my ideas recently, my inspiration was drying up. I bunched my hair up into a bun on top of my head and secured it with biros, a habit I’d picked up whilst at university, and downed another espresso in the vain hope that I would be inspired. Or at least caffeinated. With the rate at which I consumed them, I would have shares in Costa before the year was up. Why was this so hard? I had set myself a target of 2,000 words a day, a target I was determined to meet.  It shouldn’t be difficult, the bulk of the work was done; the first nine chapters were complete.  All I needed to do was edit and proof read it before sending it to mum to proof again before I put myself through the thankless task of sending it to potential agents for publication.

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The Mirrors.

I run the brush over my lips, the cold tickling me as my lipstick turns my pale lips a shocking shade of red. I kiss the mirror in front of me for luck, a superstition I do before every show and knock back the sherry in front of me to calm my nerves and steady my hands before pinning my hair back and continuing with my make-up.

A loud crash in the hallway makes me jump involuntarily. The mascara wand jolting into my eye and causing it to fill with water. Grabbing a tissue from my dresser, I hold it to my eye whilst listening to the panicked men who have now gathered in the hallway. Mumbled, unclear speech seeps through the walls and I can only make out a few words; ‘lighting’ ‘stage’ and ‘electrical fault’. Taking another sip of sherry, I count to ten before the knocking at the door begins.

“Come in” I call in my softest voice before the timid stage hand enters

“Sorry Miss Martin” he wavers, his voice barely audible. Good job I’ve heard this all before.

“Call me Virginia, please” I try to calm the poor boy, his looking like he’ll pass out but the prospect of calling me by my first name flusters him even more

“Sorry. V…Virginia. Right. Umm, it’s going to be a little while before you go on. The lighting, well it fell, and we’re working on it but it’s going to take some time.

The rising noise in the grand hall tells me that the crowd are growing impatient, restless in their wait for me. There’s nothing worse than 200 soldiers becoming bored in an enclosed space where alcohol is flowing freely. I spin my chair, years of practice make it flawless, and walk towards the stage hand, swinging the hips that have made me a household name. I won’t make it to the hall, I never do. So I have to get my fun somewhere. Dropping my robe, I smile as his mouth drops, “Well, best not keep them waiting. Maybe one of them will buy me a drink”

Closing the door behind me, I wait for it, the whooshing sound followed by the screams. A loud bang leaves a high pitch ringing in my ears. The screams drowned out only by the growing roar of a fire out of control. The stagehand runs past me and towards the noise, I am now completely alone. This had better work. I know there is nothing I can do but I can’t stop my panic rising as thick black smoke blankets the entrance to the grand hall and plunges the bright corridor into darkness. My throat burns as I inhale the acrid smoke, I get down on all fours, my continuous coughing burning my lungs. I try to think logically, to plan my escape but nothing comes. Confused and light headed, I try to see through the darkness. In front of my, the faint green glow of the fire exit brings a fleeting smile to my face – a chance. I crawl towards the light, my body screaming as my muscles are forced to pull my weight. With my last ounce of strength, I stand and throw my body weight at the door. As expected it’s sealed and with it my fate. Defeated, I fall to the floor and watch the fire rage towards me. It’s over. Flames lick at my skin, combining the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh with the already harmful smoke. I only have time to let out a silent scream before darkness descends.

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