Never be alone



By the time Diana reached home, night was snapping at her heels, the first fallen leaves of autum swirling in the wind.

What had her mother always said? Never be alone. Always be inside after nightfall. But despite her best efforts and being ‘striking’ in her youth (not beautiful, never that) she’d always lived alone.

Once inside the house, she locked and bolted the door, passed from room to room, closing the shutters on the darkness. Something warm pressed against her calf.

‘Hello, Grim.’

She lifted the cat into her arms, felt the rumble start in his throat as she ruffled the back of his neck. Not quite alone.


After dinner she lit the candles, three groups of three – earth, air and sky as mother had taught her – took a bowl of warm water to the dining table and began cleaning the toys she’d found at the allotment.

She didn’t bring objects home often but these had spoken to her. So much love poured into them, so many hopes and whispered promises. The dreams of a young heart had a potency that faded as people aged.

There were countless similar objects around the window and door frames, cluttering the fireplace. China dolls with missing limbs, brooches, rings, letters of love and loss and friendship, a fabric heart, hand-stitched, a token left for an orphan centuries before. Anything loved could work. Could ward them off.

Grim jumped to the window seat, eyes fixed on the shutter latch. Standing, Diana put aside the doll, its eyes rolling closed.

‘You okay, Grim?’

The cat leapt up, hissing, spitting, spinning on his claws, fur standing from his body like pins. The windows rattled, the glass chiming in the frames. Wind howled down the chimney puffed ash into the air. The floor shook beneath her feet, boards bucking, her chair falling.

She checked the candles, still alive in there holders … and watched in horror as they blew out one by one.

A moment of quiet. Ash fell like charred snow, the only sound her own breathing.

Three loud knocks on the shutter.


I wrote the first part of this for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers this week and the wonderfully talented Jane Dougherty asked me about the significance of the toys. That got me thinking. So here’s my answer.

The story that raised all the questions – Toy Soldiers – is here. And another tale of Grim the cat is here.

23 thoughts on “Never be alone

  1. Oh wow! You certainly answered the questions, and what we don’t know I’m happy not knowing! It’s very strange, but yesterday I wrote a story for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt, and it has uncanny echoes of yours. I’ll post it now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your story is fascinating. It leaves me wanting still more. You could write a book!!! I don’t know if you read the post that the photo originally came from or not. I found them buried in the dirt in Seattle’s Greenbelt and took them home and washed them. It was fun to see what they once were and to some extent became again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Karuna – what a terrifically kind and lovely comment. Made me smile to read it. Lovely to see the transformation of those sad, neglected toys to something closer to their once-loved selves. There is something terrifically mournful about seeing toys in that condition – our own memories of childhood come in to play and the thought of all that love poured into an object that is then discarded. The Toy Story effect, do you think? Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your photo 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, really no need to worry! I don’t read anyone’s blog – including your own – as much as I’d like. Too few hours in the day, sadly. If only the house would clean itself, the dinner cook itself … Thank you for reading 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Where is that black doll!? I need it! It belonged to my daughter, Laura, and was stolen when she was about 5. I bought it because my mum got me a similar one when I was small, to convey a message… Laura loved that doll – it was irreplaceable. We tried to find another like it, but only the white one was available. They were made by a quality German manufacturer in the 1980s, and her sister has since tried to find one for her on ebay, with no success.
    I love the story…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thank you Jane. Glad it brought back memories but what a shame the search for the doll has proved fruitless. I remember the dolls myself from years ago, though never had one. I had a Tiny Tears, but of course I ruined her by feeding her milk so her insides went sour and smelly! And I can’t tell you what I did to my Sindy doll – you’d be ashamed of me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha… I expect I’d be impressed with whatever you did to your Sindy doll – although they weren’t as bad as Barbie, I didn’t like them. I despised the suburbian marriage and 2.4 kids that they aspired to…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, then I can tell you. My lovely, crinoline clad Sindy had her hair cut into spikes and some very attractive punk make up (well, felt tip) applied. Vivian Westwood would have been proud 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a follow up to your first story! I hope I can sleep tonight! You’ve expanded the menace, and made it audible. I hope it won’t become tangible…
    It’s a fascinating idea that Diana collects once-precious items to ward off the things that she fears, and loneliness. I must think about the symbolism of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Penny. Glad you liked it. I’ve met a lot of people who collect things – seemingly useless, pointless tat – as if surrounding themselves, filling their lives and homes with stuff will somehow make things better, fill a void. An insulation against the world and its cruelties, perhaps. Though of course for Diana, the protection – and threat – are supernatural in nature and very real.

      Liked by 1 person

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