Schools out!

The day started like any other; bright, crisp, sunny but cold. Shelagh pulled her scarf tight around her face and pushed on to get to school. She couldn’t be late, not today, as her exams were scheduled. She had been trying so hard, with dreams of being a midwife consuming her every thought. She had stopped going out, stopped sitting with the family at the dinner table and even stopped scouring social media on her phone, much preferring eating a sandwich while hunched over a pile of books on her desk. She had learnt so much that her brain threatened to melt. As she entered the doors of the school, she felt ready. Prepared. Her future started today.

The bell rang. 9am. The silent crowds grew loud with the noise of mundane conversations and giggles as the weekends events were discussed and analysed. Shelagh stayed in her seat, sat bolt upright and watched the other students come in to the room. They all looked so relaxed that Shelagh found it hard not to be envious. The knot in her stomach got bigger and bigger as 9.30 approached. Trixie practically bounced through the door, her shock white hair almost a person in its own right. She sat next to Shelagh, put one stocking-ed leg over the other and leaned back. She looked like a pin up model, the only thing missing was a cigarette!

“Good morning baby girl” she beamed at Shelagh who scowled in return. God she hated that nickname. Trixie had called her that since her ill-fated dummy craze in junior year. The dummies were long gone but the nickname had persevered.

“Morning” Shelagh replied. She was curter than she meant to be, but she was struggling to keep anything down.

“God, you look awful! Have you slept at all?”

“I’ll sleep when I’ve secured my future. You look bright and bubbly as ever!”

“All make up, I assure you” Trixie winked “I was up all night with Tommy and feel ghastly this morning”

“Have you studied for this mock at all?” Shelagh was actually angry. How could she be so nonchalant about the future.

Trixie rolled her eyes. “God Shelagh relax. Its maths. What we know, we know and what we don’t..well we can’t change can we”

“I guess not” Shelagh didn’t believe it, she just wanted Trixie to shut up. She tried to stop herself launching into a lecture about responsibility, that was Trixie’s mums job.

Bang.

A faint thud in the distance, like someone kicking in a door followed by screaming. The students in the exam hall thought nothing off it, assuming it was another childish prank by the six form boys. Could they not behave for one minute.

Pop! Pop! Pop!

Had they let off firecrackers in the halls? Shelagh rolled her eyes at the idiocy. Didn’t they know there was an exam going on today. She needed to focus. The examiner was in the room now and all mobiles had been put in a tray and moved away to another room. Shelagh assumed it was to stop cheating but did feel surprisingly naked without it.

Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!

More screaming came. Shelagh suddenly felt uneasy, something was wrong. “Can’t you do something about that Mrs Dash? I won’t be able to concentrate”

Mrs Dash walked through the double doors of the exam room and the noise started again. People discussing potential questions, how they felt and what they were going to do once school ended. Trixie was strangely quiet, the nerves of the exam finally getting to her. Shelagh couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for her, maths was never her strong point. Why hadn’t she taken her up on her offers to study?

Mrs Dash came running back into the room, her breath shallow and beads of sweat running down her face. Was she really that unfit? The hallway wasn’t that long. Shelagh readjusted in her seat, preparing for the exam when the words she never thought she would hear was said.

“Shooter, in the hallway. Everybody down.”

What? A Shooter? In school? Shelagh’s mind raced almost as fast as her heart. She looked at Trixie and true panic set in. She was on all fours under her desk, stripped of her normally cool exterior and doe eyed.

Mrs Dash raised her voice now “GET DOWN NOW!” She stopped for a second, frozen in her spot before coming back to reality with a jolt.

“Archie, Dylan.. come help me move this desk against the door. Keep low and be quick”

Pop! Pop! Pop!

Why had they handed their phones over? They needed to call the police and get help but how. Shelagh tried to rationalise in her head. Surely another student would have already rang them? If any of them were alive. Help was on the way! She just knew it. A whole scenario of situations played through her mind; they would all die seemed to be a prominent theme throughout. She mentally mapped the hallways and tried to think of an escape route but all of them meant leaving through the one door and not everyone would get through before they were spotted.

POP! POP! BANG! POP!

It was getting closer, the sound so loud it was almost as if it was on top of them. Shelagh closed her eyes and tried to steady her breath. Trixie had her hands over her mouth, trying to stifle the sobs. In a moment of clarity, Shelagh couldn’t help but think how right Trixie was, the revision meant nothing. Not now. Everyone was united in fear. Another crash came through the wall, Shelagh could picture the shooter hunting like a predator. Gun in hand while he looked for more victims. Eerily there was no screams now, the school was silent. They had either escaped or were dead. She flicked through various faces to see if she could pick out anyone who could be the shooter but her mind went blank.

Thud! Thud! Thud!

The double doors shook at the force of the shooter kicks. The desk held firm but it wouldn’t be long. Mrs Dash signalled for the students to stand against the wall as flat as they could so they wouldn’t be seen. Surely they already knew they were there cause the doors were locked? Shelagh shut her eyes but stayed put. Could she hear sirens in the background or was that her imagination? She was going to be ok. They were coming for her and …

A smash interrupted her thoughts. The shooter had shattered the glass and fired a spray of bullets blindly, hitting a few students who were trying to get to the wall. They fell to the floor and chaos descended. Screams came from every direction as the desk finally gave up the ghost and let the shooter in. Everything slowed as Shelagh opened her eyes under the desk. The sounds of bullets being fired was deafening, stifling the screams of her fellow students. The only relief was the 30 seconds as he reloaded. This person knew guns. They were trained. Shelagh looked over at Trixie, the terror in her eyes threatened to push her over the edge. She gestured to Shelagh that they should run for the door. Shelagh shook her head so hard that it actually hurt her neck but Trixie was already standing up. Taking one last glance for the shooter, who was moving towards the back of the room after taking out the wall of students like a firing squad. She barely got 5 steps when she fell in front of Shelagh, her face unrecognizable with a hole through it. Biting down on her hand, Shelagh stiffled a scream and laid still. Maybe she could play dead? Moving very slowly forward, she shakily edged towards Trixie and a student she didn’t recognise who was lying in a puddle of their own blood. Or was it other students? She laid down in it, swallowing repeatedly to stop vomit from forcing it’s way up.

Suddenly it was silent. No bullets, no screaming, nothing. Just Shelaghs breath that, to her, sounded so loud he was bound to hear it. Slow, calculated footsteps came from behind her, getting louder with each step. She held her breath as he passed until her lungs burned and black flecks pushed at the corner of her eyes. He passed her and headed towards the door. When he stopped at the door, she glanced up. Fear, confusion, shock and anger cursed through her body. She knew him. She loved him. She lived with him.. as he put the gun to his temple she tried to get up, to get to him but she just wasn’t fast enough. As the final bullet rung out, she called out to him.

“Danny!”

He fell to the floor at the same time as Shelagh fell to her knees. How was she going to explain to mum that her son was the killer…

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Sin City Pizza…can I take your order?

Blair sat in his car, the glowing embers at the end of his cigarette the only light on the dark street. He took another sip of his luke warm coffee and turned down the radio. Michael Jackson’s Thriller was playing on the radio; the narration of Vincent Price fitted the stormy weather perfectly. The rain was falling so hard that it was drowning out the radio. Blair sighed as he looked at number 25. He was going to have brave the storm and deliver the pizza to Khloe with a K. He didn’t know her surname; she never gave it in all the time she had been ordering from him. A sizzler with special sauce and Mexicana cheese stuffed pizza crust with extra jalapeños. She liked pizza spicy and that drove his imagination wild.

He delivered the pizza with the normal banter and light flirting before returning to the car to keep watching. He had watched them all through the years; learning their schedules, routines, habits and lifestyle. He watched for so long that he would guess their personalities from what they watched. Khloe loved Ru Paul’s Drag Race and Worse cooks in America yet he had never seen her cook and her makeup was minimal. He watched as she sat at the kitchen table and plated her pizza before eating it with a knife and fork. She was always so well-behaved, so put together. In the months he had been serving her pizza, he had never seen her in ‘slobs’. She always had heels, pencil skirt or wiggle dress and looked neat and tidy.

The sound of AC/DC rang through the night air like a siren, making Blair jump and his heart race so fast that it actually hurt. The screen flashed Simon and Blair hesitated for just a second, once he answered the phone, Khloe’s time was numbered. The screen went black as the call rang out and Blair returned to watching. Khloe had finished her pizza and disappeared into the kitchen. She would be gone for a good 20 minutes now as she washed and wiped up before pouring herself a glass of wine and settling on the sofa. She had pulled her hair back into a bun, a sign of a bad working day. It was only going to get worse. The phone rang out again; Blair sighed but hit the green button.

“Are you with her?” he sounded pissed.

“Hello Simon, how are you? I’m fine thank you. No, no I don’t need a coffee or anything thanks you”. Blair knew it would just make him angrier but, frankly, he didn’t care. Ask stupid questions and you will get stupid answers.

The phone was dead silent.

“Yes, of course I am with her. Where else would I be?” Blair didn’t need this shit, especially from the idiot Simon. He was one of those people who you just wanted to slap before he opened his mouth. He was always so smug. He tuned him out as he went on his tangent, watching Khloe kick off her heels and curl up on the sofa. She looked so sad, so lonely. Blair felt a twinge of regret, of sadness. He had made her laugh when he delivered the pizza, maybe he could make her laugh again.

“Blair…” Simon carried on in the background

Blair watched Khloe for just a little bit longer, studying the lines of her face when he found himself turning on the car. Perhaps he could leave her, just this once.

“Blair! Blair! Stop ignoring me and turn that damn car off right now. We have been working on this for months. Blair! You have a job to do so just do it. Is she alone?”

Blair hesitated for another second. Simon was right. There was a lot riding on this and they had worked for months to ensure Khloe was the right person. From the third or fourth order of their singles special meal deal, the hunt had begun. They had worked through her social media, googled her name, even looked on the deep dark web to see if there were any secrets out there. They did this with all of the girls, to ensure no one would miss them.

“She’s ready” Blair dropped his eyes to the ground for a second as guilt overwhelmed him. “I unlocked the back door when I was in her house earlier. She doesn’t seem to have noticed or relocked it so you should be fine”

The line went dead. It had begun.

It didn’t take long. The kitchen light came on seconds after the shadows flickered across the kitchen window. Khloe hadn’t noticed, her TV facing the other way. Blair lent forward in the car so far that he felt the pain of the steering wheel pushing against his ribcage. He needed a better view. He could just about see Khloe dodging the first blow – he knew she would put up a fight. Her social media was full of selfies of her at the gym but that meant they knew too. She didn’t fight long as Charlie blocked her off at the bottom of the stairs. Blair drove off as the first splatter of blood hit the window. He didn’t need to see what happened next, he already knew. Monique, his first kill, flashed through his mind. She had screamed so much that 15 years later, Blair still heard it every time he closed his eyes. Of course that was long before he had opened up Sin City Slices, he was way too busy to be burying people off of the M1. Or was it the M6? It had been so long, and there had been so many, that he had honestly started to forget.

The rain had already eased off by the time that Blair had returned to the restaurant but the sky was so dark that the Sin City sign seemed to be glairy rather than neon. He took a glance at himself in the mirror and was surprised to see tears. He hadn’t felt them. It had never happened before, with any of the girls. Maybe he was losing his edge; he was definitely losing his excitement for the chase. He had become so good that it was easy now, almost methodical. He walked through the front of the restaurant, saying hello to the staff and customers before entering the back room and locking the door. He put on Huey Lewis and the News as he began to prep the room. It was just him being paranoid, especially as the room was soundproofed, but tools made a lot of noise and they didn’t want to attract unwanted attention. Khloe arrived just as the pot of sauce had come to the boil.

“God timing” Blair said nothing else as they put her on the table in front of him. She was barely recognisable and hardly conscious. He slid the anaesthetic into her arm, just enough to put her under, he didn’t her to feel a thing. He added a cannulae and drained the blood into pots that would be slowly added to the secret sauce later.  They never added a lot, the coppery taste of blood was so recognisable and overwhelming, but Khloe’s blood would be kept until this time next year when they would do it again. They were like Sweeney Todd but without the madness. The killed annually, not. Blair stripped his apron and gloves off before turning towards the door. His job was done; he didn’t do the actual killing. He didn’t have the stomach for it. He was the watcher and the cook that was it. He took a final look at Khloe as he left the room, she really was so beautiful. The door closed behind him as the sound of the saw started up, Blair swallowed some vomit back down.

He was relieved when the phone rang and picked it up with a shaky hand. It was a customer, the front desk phones must be ringing off the hook:

“Sin City Pizza, Blair speaking”

“Hi, can I order a pizza please?” he recognised that voice. It was Naomi.

“Hey Naomi, is it the normal? Deep pan mighty meaty with special sauce” Blair opened up the laptop in front of him as Naomi giggled.

“Am I that predictable?

“No, no. Of course not but it’s the third time you’ve order from us in the last two weeks.” The blue glare of Facebook and Twitter lit Blair’s face as he spoke. “Is it the personal size you want?”

“Yes please. My address is…”

“119 Windsor Street. It’ll be about an hour” Blair hung up and sent the order through to the front of house while looking on Facebook. Maybe one more wouldn’t hurt…

 

 

 

The witching hour…

Although her eyes were close, Sheena was very aware of her surroundings and could hear the distant chimes of a clock, did it really just strike 13? It did! Excited that the witching hour was upon her, Sheena sat up in her bed and tried to calm her nerves. Every witch came of age at 18, when the moon was red and the clock stuck 13 times, but she felt no different? She corrected her position, rested her upright palms on her knees and waited for the rush of power that she expected but, as the chimes ceased and the house went still, she was still waiting. Perhaps she wasn’t a witch after all, but how can that be? She’d been raised in a house of women, a coven, all were related and all were witches. Could it really be that she was merely normal?

She looked at the room around her, trying to focus on something in an attempt to stop a panic attack taking hold but everything reminded her of magic. Her desk was straining under the weight of all the spell books she had borrowed in preparation for today. She was ready to impress everyone with her magical abilities and knowledge – she’d dreamt of nothing else since she her Aunt had first told her she was from a long line of witches.  She got out of bed, her legs feeling unusually heavy under the weight suddenly on her shoulders, and walked over to the desk. After a few minutes of searching she found what she was looking for, pen and paper, she would write a letter to her Aunt Willow explaining what had happened and ask her how to rectify it. Willow was just down the hall; she’d slip it under her door and run back to the room before she woke up. Dearest  Aunt – too formal, To Willow – too casual. The bin quickly filled with screwed up paper as Sheena attempted to explain but each scenario was worse than the next. There was no way this would end well.

Her attempts to calm her nerves had failed and she had fallen into a full-blown panic attack. Sheen a kicked off the duvet as an unrelenting heat enveloped her, her breathing was shallow and her chest was becoming so tight that her ribs hurt whenever she tried to take a deep breath,  her vision blurred before her and all sound was replaced by a whooshing in her ears. She would have to move out; she couldn’t live in a house of magic if she wasn’t magical herself. The looks of pity, secretive whispers and shame would simply be too much. But where could she go? She had no family outside the magical world and friends, well, there were none. She’d never really ventured outside the grounds of the coven because she hadn’t needed too. Now she would be alone, vulnerable and without all she had relied on throughout her life.  How would she survive without money? With no skills? She couldn’t even boil an egg and now she would have to survive all alone. She’d have to get a job, perhaps waitressing, but she’d never been good at maths so would muck up a lot. The boss would probably be patient with her at first but slowly he would lose his temper and with that she would lose her only income. She would be forced to live in a park and beg for food from mortals.

By the time Aunt Willow walked through the bedroom door; followed by her cousins Mina and Charlie, Uncle Andreas and other coven members, Sheena was rocking in the corner of the room with tears streaming down her face. Aunt Willow approached her cautiously, her hand out like she was approaching a feral creature poised to attack rather than her niece.

“Sheena! What is the matter? What’s happened? Are you hurt?” She spoke in hush tones, concern dripping from every word. Sheena sobbed harder, what a great birthday!

“I…I tried…13 strikes on the clock…” Sheena struggled to get the words out and, after looking around at the worried faces of her family, she gave up. Summoning every piece of strength she had Sheena jumped up, startling Aunt Willow, and ran straight across the bed and into the bathroom. She slammed the door behind her, run the tap and simply sat. She barely had time to dry her tears and catch her breath before the banging started.

“Sheena, are you ok? Sick? It’s normal to feel nervous, we’ve all been there, but we’re here to support you. We’ll show you the way, we’re your sisters” Willow sounded concerned which only made Sheila cry harder.

“I can’t do this”

“Of course you can, you’re from a long line of witches, it is in your blood”

“I’m not a witch”

“Oh now you’re just being silly!” Sheena heard the muffling sounds of talking coming from the other side of the door before her cousin Mina came through the door. Literally through it.

“You know the rule about using doors Mina, just because you can walk through walls doesn’t mean you should. Doesn’t privacy mean anything in this house?!?”

“Oh do stop being overdramatic. You wouldn’t answer your aunt and have childishly locked yourself away rather than talk to us. What else were we supposed to do?” Mina sat on the baths edge and grabbed Sheena’s hand between hers. She stroked it soothingly. “You’re clearly upset!”

“There’s nothing you, or I, can do about it so why bother you”

“There’s the Killian stubborn streak we all seem to have but you don’t have to face whatever this is alone. That’s the benefit of living in a house with 14 people” she laughed before becoming serious again “whatever it is, I will help you work through it”

Sheena kept her gaze fixed solidly on the ground, refusing to look Mina in the eye through fear of her tears starting up again. Also, she wasn’t sure she would be able to face the pity that would inevitably cover her face the minute the words came out. “I’m not a witch. I have no magic and now I will have to move out, be homeless and live on the street with the stray dogs” Once Sheena had started, she couldn’t stop “How can I not be a witch? I was raised by witches, all I’ve known is magic and now I’ve got to go out into the real world with no skills. WHY DID YOU GUYS NOT SHOW ME HOW TO BOIL AN EGG!!?” Mina, who had tried to hold it together, was now laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her face. This only incensed Sheena more. “I’m serious. In all the years you were telling me about the big thing that happens on my 18th birthday; the power I would have, the feelings I would get and that I’d officially be inaugurated into the coven. You didn’t warn me that there was a chance it wouldn’t happen, that I may sit there listening to the damn clock strike 13 and feel nothing”

Mina stopped laughing and tried her hardest to compose herself: “Sheena, you heard the 13 strikes of the clock. That’s the sign. What were you expecting?”

“A surge of power, a bright light, anything!”

“You watch too many movies my girl. The rush of energy that flows through you will happen at your inauguration rather than now. You do not simply get power, you have to earn it”

“So, I don’t need to move out?”

“Only if you’d want too and, with all of us around, why would you?” She headed through the door “clean yourself up and let’s see what you can do”

Splashing cold water over her face, Sheena waited for the angry red puffiness surrounding her eyes to go down slightly. Outside, the murmurs had become quite loud. Mina would be telling them what happened. Brushing her hair and applying a new layer of lip-gloss, Sheena attempted to get herself camera ready before the onslaught of celebratory pictures began. She had looked truly awful in some of the pictures taken over the year and she was determined that these would not be another one. Before leaving Sheena flushed the toilet. Not that she’d been but appearances must always be upheld. With a final deep breath Sheena opened the door and stepped outside, straight into the gaze of a coven of concerned girls. Sensing her discomfort, Willow came straight over to her, put her arm over Sheena’s shoulder and guided her to the middle of the coven. Using a hug as a cover, she whispered in her ear “you’ll be fine, trust me”. Stepping back, Willow’s face became serious as she took Sheena’s hand in hers own.

“Sheena Killian. This eve marks your 18th birthday and your rebirth into the world of magic, creation and wonder. You have been lucky enough to be raised by witches, in particular a pretty awesome aunt” she winked and giggled to herself before continuing “so you know how powerful magic can be and how destructive it can be if used wrongly. By initiating yourself into the Autina coven, you pledge that you’ll only use your magic in good, selfless ways or risk banishment. Do you accept these rules?”

“I do” Sheena managed to sound confident, if only she could stop her hands shaking.

All formality dropped from Willow’s face and she smiled broadly. “See, that wasn’t so hard was it?”

“So when do I get my powers, get to practice, I can’t….” Sheena was cut off by Willow.

“You have to go and train with a different coven. It makes no sense but it is the rules” Willow looked stern again. Her lips were so tightly pursed together that Sheena couldn’t see them and, much to her amusement, she wasn’t blinking.

“Before I tell you your coven, you need to know something very important” She hesitated again. Sheena’s humour was quickly dwindling as fear set in. The girls surrounded her, each giving her the same pitiful look. “Your coming of age was something I both longed for a dreaded. I love you so much and am so proud of the young witch you’ve become but it’s not without its risks”

“Risks, what risks? We all go through this, right?” Sheena couldn’t get rid of the knot in her stomach or the bile in her throat. Something was telling her to run.

“We do but we aren’t all as” hesitation again “special as you. Nor do we have the choice you have to make, no girl should. We were born to good witches, many of which are still in this coven. We have an inner goodness that clearly manifests itself through our powers. You have come to us through a different path, a darker path and one that makes your future a little rocky.”

“Dark path. What are you on about?” Sheena rubbed little circles next to her eyes.

“God this is harder than I ever thought” Willowo rose to her feet, pacing the room and rubbing the centre of the palm, a telltale twitch that let Sheena know she was going to hate the next sentence that came out of her mouth.

“Ladies can you give us a minute” The rest of the witches left the room, whispering under their breath and giving sideways glances full of uncertainty and fear. Sheena shifted uncomfortably in her bed, sat bolt upright and took a deep breath.

“You know you were adopted, we have never lied to you about it. What you don’t know is the story of how you came to us in the first place.”

“My mum left me here when I was a baby, it was all very Harry Potter” Sheena laughed. Willow didn’t and the room descended into a deadly silence. She could hear the clattering of cups and kettles as tea was made.

“That is very true. Your mum did leave you here when you were a baby” Willow glanced at the clock. Again. “But it wasn’t because she wanted to, she had to. Your father was out of control and you weren’t safe. She just wanted you to have a normal childhood, a family, choices. She didn’t know where to go and she has never contacted you since, I don’t even know if she is still alive.”

Confused, Sheena said nothing. Her heart pounded in her chest, the sound of blood pumping drowning out any sound. Her mother was dead? Despite never seeing her, Sheena felt lost and tears started to roll down her cheeks. Willow, who normally was ever so comforting, looked away.

“Your dad is called Levi. He was born over a thousand years ago…”

Sheena burst in to giggles, a sense of relief washing over her “my god Willow! Do you know how nervous you got me. I thought you were being serious like I was part of some underground cult. My heart was beating so fast” Sheena couldn’t stop laughing, getting more and more hysterical until she realised Willow wasn’t joining in. She was staring at the alarm clock. It was 2.17am

“I’m deadly serious. You need to listen because we don’t have much time. Your dad is the ruler of the Underworld. He didn’t want it and he wasn’t in line for it when he met your mother. His older brother, your Uncle Dan was, but he was killed in a motorcycle accident. At 2.33am, the time of your birth, you will officially be 18 and come into your powers. The cloaking and binding spell put on you as a baby will wear off. You will come into more power than any witch before you”

Something warm and wet hit Sheena’ s arm, breaking her concentration. She looked down to see a pool of drool on her arm where she had forgotten to swallow. Her mind was having a fight between reality and fantasy. She knew Willow wouldn’t lie to her, why would she, but this was just so nonsensical. She was nothing special, certainly not the ruler of the underworld, and she wasn’t evil. How could she run hell when she couldn’t even see harm come to a spider. Seriously, she found paper and a cup and led them outside. She felt bad every time she accidentally stepped on one and thought about them for days. Now she is the descendant of some big bad beasty called Levi. LEVI. What a stupid name for the devil. Willow shook her, stopping her train of thought for a split second.

“This is really important. We don’t know when he is going to come or what he is going to do. He has no reason to want you alive as you are a bigger threat to him while you are breathing. We are powerful as a coven but we can’t protect you, only hold him off. He is too strong. You are going to have to run, and run far, to a more powerful coven.”

“The silent sisters! That’s who you were talking to the other day.”

“Exactly. I’ve packed your bag but you must go now. Take the car.”

Sheena stood up and pulled leggings over her nightgown. It wasn’t comfortable or fashionable but the night was cold and she had a long way to drive. She scooped the contents of her desk into a bag and slung it on her shoulder. Adrenaline coursed through her; making her breathless but energised at the same time, as she took in her surroundings. Grabbing the door handle, she hesitated.

“How did mum die?”

“We haven’t got time for this Sheena” Willow was packing bath essentials and anything else she could find, whether she needed it or not.

“Make time. My life has been thrown upside down tonight because you lied to me for 18 years.” She sat on the floor, cross-legged “Start talking”

“Fine but the  cliff notes version” Sheena fixed her a stern gaze “When they first met they were so in love. When your mum found out who Levi was, where he came from, she tried to stay away. To ignore him but he was relentless. Flowers, chocolates, messages, presents etc. It wore her down and she welcomed him back into her life and – you know what – things were going great. They moved in together, were talking about a future and of course had you. Then Levi’s brother died meaning Levi was the king of the underworld, a job he neither coveted or wanted, and yet a job you can’t escape. Make no mistake Sheena, you will be Queen of the Underworld if we can keep you alive. At first Levi did the bare minimum to get by; protecting the souls of as many people as he could but the job got too much. It corrupted him. He started enjoying torture, thinking of different ways to hurt people and give them the most painful deaths. Eventually, your mum tried to leave. She set fire to the house, with everyone inside. In the panic and the chaos, they never checked on your mum until it was too late. Or so she thought. She had just pushed you into the portal when he grabbed her from behind. She never stood a chance.”

Willow had stopped packing now and was crying. “I should have been there, I should have stopped him or stopped her going back to him in the first place”

Sheena felt dizzy. It was just too much to take in. Mum was a witch, Dad was a devil, what did that make her? Was she evil? Did she want to be evil? He killed her? Some big bad was going to hunt her every day of her damned life because she was who she was. Sheena felt like her brain had imploded.

Bang Bang

The thudding of the door came from downstairs. It was loud and frantic, something was coming in. Sheena looked at Willow, and then the clock. 2.34am. He was here.

Bang Bang Bang

Somethings you don’t want to know.

I froze as shock riveted through every bone in my body, turning them to steel. 327. His mind raced. How could 327 people have been killed in the house? My family home. We had only left GreenKing three years ago. The estate agent must have lied, it was the only explanation. It couldn’t have been a newly built home when they moved in. BUT the estate was still being built around them when they moved in so it couldn’t have been old either – not old enough for that many deaths. Mind still racing; Jacob pulled his hand off of the wall, the stat instantly disappeared as he forced his body to move the few steps to next doors house. Hesitantly he put his hand against the wall, immediately the stats flashed in his head.

‘Made 2014. 5 pets in the house, 4 buried in the garden. Cannot keep goldfish alive.’

He pulled his hand back, his heart racing. Little black flashing dots flied before his eyes so fast that they almost matched his heartbeat. Sliding down the wall, he took a few deep breaths to clear his mind and allow his vision to clear again. He came up with a million rationalisations and had convinced himself that it was his powers playing up but they weren’t. This proved it. It couldn’t have been the truth, there was no way his house was the scene of over 300 deaths. Still, his power had never been wrong before so why would it glitch now. The vomit that had been threatening to come up for the last 30 minutes erupted all over his neighbours garden. His throat and nose burned as the acidic vomit came through it with every heave. Jacob stared at it for longer than he should as he made a plan. He would have to ask his parents but it wasn’t really something you dropped into conversation over dinner.

Walking through the front door, Jacob placed his hand on the wall to make sure. The stat showed up again, there in black in white in front of him. It definitely happened. Jacob coughed and practiced speaking a few times in order to make his voice less shaky. It wasn’t great but it would have to do. Keeping up the appearances of normality, Jacob made his way into the kitchen. His mum looked just as she did every day. Her hair piled on top of her head with flour through it as she adjusted mid bake. Sitting at the breakfast bar, Jacob stared at her closer than he ever had before. Dark rings sat under her eyes,  making the white of her eyes stand out in an almost ghostly fashion. Her figure, which in his mind had always been curvy, seemed gaunt and withdrawn. Was it tiredness from her heavy workload over the wedding season or was it something else? Guilt maybe? Adrenaline coursing through his body seemed to heighten his senses as he suddenly became aware of all the weapons a kitchen holds. Next to his mum was a large knife that she used to shape the cakes before icing them. He had seen it 100 times before but right now, it seemed to be almost glowing.

 

“Mum”

“Yes love”. She looked up and smiled at him. Again, normally this would be reassuring but it just seemed sinister to him. She reached for the knife to start sculpting the cake in front of her but she seemed to point it at him for just a second. Whether he was imagining things or not, his mouth went dry and all words failed him.

“Ummm” he hesitated as he thought of an excuse, any excuse, to get the hell out of there. “Can I have dinner upstairs tonight? Huge project on the history of the house you live in. As this one was new when we moved in, I figure I’d do it on GreenKing. Its 50% of my grade so I really want to get started.”

“I don’t know love, does that count? Technically you don’t live at GreenKing anymore?” She had stopped talking to him at this point and was really talking to herself. Jacob took the opportunity to back out of the room, grabbing crisps on the way out. “Still this house is only 3 years old, so it won’t have much history so I could probably explain to your teacher why you’ve chosen the 170 year old house.”

He had made it half way up the stairs when his mother shouted.

“Be down at 6 Jacob, we don’t skip dinner in this house”

Closing the door behind him, Jacob sat perfectly still and took deep breaths to get his heartrate under control again. At this rate he was going to have a heart attack before he found out the truth. At first he could only hear the blood rushing around his body but, as the throbbing subsided, the sound of Alfie Boe came from the kitchen. His mum would be busy for a good few hours icing different cakes. Jacob logged onto his laptop, opened a few pages on GreenKing just incase she came in, before googling Hanmey Falls. The search results listed over 25 million results. Frustrated, Jacob typed in his address and the results made blood turn cold. Articles and articles of missing people in the area, all around his house and all in the last three years, flashed up. Jacob read all of them. Charlie 15, Susan 32, Fran 24, Brian 70. It was all so random, there was no pattern like in the moved. The earliest article he could find was about Meridith, a 30 year old that went missing in February 2014, just two weeks after he had moved in.

The front door slammed shut and Alfie was turned down. The muffled sounds of his father drifted through the bedroom floor. It was 5 o clock already! Jacob sat in his chair, holding his breath as he strained to hear what was being said. He felt like he was in a movie and the house was being broken into. He didn’t want to speak, move or make any noise that would bring attention to him. His parents were killers. It just didn’t make any sense. How? When? They were always busy, always working or looking after the house. They didn’t have time to pee let alone murder people. There had to be some explanation, some reason behind it all. Something that made any sense but he had been researching for hours, he had checked the history of the house incase it was built on a mass grave. Nothing. Everything he had read, and every sense in his body, told him that he was in danger. What to do now though? He couldn’t run, no one would believe him. He couldn’t ring the police; he had no proof and the only ‘evidence’ he had was his powers which no one knew he had. They would laugh him out of the station. After sitting in the chair for long enough that his bum had gone numb, Jacob had made up his mind. He would speak to his parents and make them see sense. Maybe they would turn themselves in? Hitting print, he got ready for dinner.

**** 6 months later ****

The moving truck had just left the street, the new couple across the road were taking in the last of the boxes from the lawn. Anna grabbed the freshly made muffins from the oven and placed them in a basket to cool down. It was a little ‘desperate housewives’ but Anna had always prided herself on her welcoming personality and, if she was honest to herself, it was her way of snooping on the neighbours. Looking in the mirror a final time, Anna adjusted her hair and straightened out her skirt. Perfect. Closing the door behind her, she made her way to meet the neighbours.

As she walked up their path, she could hear the sounds of Les Miserable coming from the kitchen. Oh how she loved Alfie Boe as Jean Val Jean – he couldn’t be beaten. She knocked on the door, took a step back, and poised herself. A woman opened the door. She was thin, tired looking with her hair secured on the top of her head by what looked like chopsticks. Flour covered her from top to bottom and she looked a little flustered.

“Hello, I’m Anna”

“Joyce. How can I help?” Anna was a little taken aback by her curtness.

“Oh no. I just came to welcome you to the neighbourhood. I made you some muffins but can see that you are baking” Anna chuckled to lighten the mood but did wonder how someone made such a mess while cooking.

“Oh” Joyce laughed and brushed a little flour off of her hand onto her skirt. “Sorry. I make wedding cakes for a living and I have just had a large rush order so it’s a bit manic, what with moving too.”

“How wonderful!” Anna hoped she didn’t sound fake. “Will your children be attending Hogfields? My children are prefects so could happily show them around and make them feel at home?”

“Oh no, we never had children. Too selfish I suppose.” Anna was unnerved and, not for the first time, a knot tightened in her stomach when Joyce said this. “Well I would love to chat but I have a busy order as I said but we will have to catch up soon.

 

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….

 

 

 

 

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.