A seance at the Grange

Image: CJ Pixabay

I’m away from my laptop this week, so I’ve scheduled this snippet. I’ll catch up with comments next weekend. Have a great week, all.

***

The dining room door was slightly ajar. That would be his mother, Elizabeth – she liked him to listen to the chatter, gauge the tone of the evening before his big entrance. The voices were hushed, barely raised above a whisper. One male voice – a bass drone –  his mother’s choppy alto, then a twitter of sopranos he guessed were the spinster sisters, the unsuspecting guests of honour.

Beyond the door was Elizabeth’s world of candlelight and earnest conversation, the shy chink of wine glasses. Behind him was the entrance hall with its expanse of cracked floor tiles, the doors with their mottled brass plaques – billiard room, library, study – empty titles for unused spaces.

What his mother and the spinsters and the bass voiced man didn’t realise was that darkness was as full of colour and noise as daylight. If only they’d pay attention.

Somewhere upstairs a door thumped open and shut, caught in the draught from an open window. Goose bumps roughened his arms to shark skin. The dead were gathering around him, brushing against him, waiting for him to speak for them.

The grandfather clock struck, eight chimes that echoed in his chest.

“Matthew?”   

It was time.

***

Bit of practice writing around characters from the current WIP.

Matt is a sixteen-year-old psychic, he and his mother Elizabeth make money from wealthy, bereaved clients. And Matt usually calls his mother by her first name.

What Pegman Saw: The grieving widow

The room was unassuming, the furnishings plain but clean, old but well kept, very much like the landlady, Mrs Hollis.

‘A month’s rent in advance,’ she said. ‘No lady visitors in the rooms, please. We’ve had unpleasant moments. In the past.’

My gaze lingered over the sloped ceiling, the low window that looked over a square of clipped lawn, gaudy sentries of begonias and geraniums.

I paused, feeling her watching me, enjoying her confidence shift into uncertainty.

‘Is everything to your satisfaction?’

‘Everything, Mrs Hollis? No, not everything. But the room? Yes.’

A little sigh escaped her and I felt glad I’d made her wait for my approval.

‘May I ask, is there a Mr Hollis?’

‘He passed.’ She shook her bowed head. Not a bad imitation of a grieving widow, though I’ve seen better.

I turned my attention to the shadow behind the door.

Mr Hollis, I presume.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its inspiration. This week we visit Delaware.

I tried to be inspired by the location itself, read about Maryland and Delaware and this house – Great Oak Manor – that has been host to John F. Kennedy and Ernest Hemmingway in its time.

I’m afraid, though, my mind is too tied up with ghosts to shake them off and Mr Hollis jumped out at me at the last moment.

What Pegman Saw: The Desert Kin

Image: Google Street View

The shack had been the post office of a mining town, now deserted. Sunbleached boards across the windows, tiles missing from the roof like a reptile shedding scales.

‘This it?’ Roddy’s usual cocky smile had slipped as we’d driven further into the desert. Now he was a fifteen-year-old boy again, arms tight folded, fear skulking behind his eyes.

‘It’s okay, kid,’ I said, smiling. ‘Soon have a fire going. Go fetch the bedrolls from the pickup, would you?’

I scanned the plain, the distant ridge of smoke grey hills. At least we’d see someone coming. Any vehicle would kick up a dust trail and as long as we were vigilant –

Something cold brushed the back of my hand. Instinct made me look, but there was nothing. Of course not. You don’t see the Desert Kin. Not unless they want you to.

‘Roddy, I’ll take first watch,’ I called.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Cloverdale, New Mexico. See here to join in.

What Pegman Saw: Underneath the bridge

Image: Google Street View

‘Meet by the Green Wood,’ we’d say and share a smile.

A smile cos there was nothing green or wooded about that spot under the bridge on Greenwood.

The concrete was pitted, iron bars showing like bones through broken skin. We’d joke about bodies in the pillars, old gangsters and drug dealers who’d been holding up the road since the bridge was built in the sixties.

‘Putting something back into the community,’ Manny would say.

Con always laughed too hard at that, spluttering into his can of beer, making a show of wiping the spray from his face, his stone washed jeans.

But Con would always meet up with someone else on his way to the Green Wood, say he was passing Gerry’s anyway, running errands in Hop’s neighbourhood. Never would be there alone.

The place was always filled with voices, even when no one was speaking.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as a starting point. See here to join in.

Note

I confess, I clicked straight on the prompt image and wrote this story before reading Josh’s guidance about the horrifying events of 1921. I shall try to write another, more fitting, post.

Friday Fictioneers: Through a Glass Darkly


PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson
***

On every window pane in every room we found two horizontal strips of black tape, the lower one always slightly wider than the one above.

After two days of packing up my late Aunt’s house, I had to know. ‘Mum, what do they mean?’

My mother trailed a finger over one dark line, muttering, ‘Eyes.’ She stroked the line below. ‘Mouth.’

The house fell silent, as if listening.

‘Mum?’ I breathed.

She tugged her cardigan around her, suddenly chilled. ‘Perhaps your aunt thought if they were blind and mute, they couldn’t hurt her again. Seems she was wrong.’

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. Just sneaked in under the wire for last week’s prompt, but if you’d like to join in there’ll be another picture tomorrow. See here to join the fun.

Note

The title is a twist on both a thriller by Agatha Christie and a collection of Gothic tales by J Sheridan le Fanu.

Friday Fictioneers : The Hollow Girl


PHOTO PROMPT © Russell Gayer

‘How long has she been missing?’ Papa pulled on his boots, his braces still hanging loose, bouncing at his thighs.

‘An hour ago.’ But I was reading up in the attic before that, hiding from my sister, avoiding the grief that hung about her like a shadow. I stared up the hill, towards the foot of the glacier. ‘She wouldn’t go up there alone.’

The old Nancy wouldn’t, but this hollow girl that had replaced her, who drifted like mist through the house since the accident … Maybe.

‘If I’m not back by nightfall …’ The door slammed behind Papa’s back.

***************************

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See here to join in, read and comment.

What a happy place to be, back on Friday Fictioneers. And what a cracking, inspiring photo too. Thanks Russell.

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #4 : The old school house

CCC4

It’s quiet now, that clock, that bell that chimed the hours of our young lives away, that ticked the minutes off and struck the hours dead.

Ivy blinkers the windows, clogs the door that swallowed us each morning, that spewed us out just as the best of the day was done.

Here we learned of times tables and the alphabet, of continents and rivers, of brash kings and silent queens. Here too we learned of friendship, of power, of kind words and harsh words, the meaning of betrayal.

The world moves on and the pupils are grown, gone to practice what they learned within school’s rough walls.

***

What a great pleasure it is to join in Crimson Prose’s Creative Challenge #4. A wonderfully inspiring photograph. See here to learn how to join in.

What Pegman Saw : Always so cold …

Image : Google Street View 

‘They can’t be grave markers.’ Dr Stephanie Grayling crouched by the nearest stone.

‘Nonsense,’ said Professor Hill. ‘How many burial sites have you excavated in Ethiopia with the same style of carving, the same themes of weaponry and plant life?’ 

Grayling ran a finger over the grainy stone, felt the grooves mesh with the whorls in her skin. Always so cold, even on the hottest days … 

Hill must have heard the rumours circulating the dig team, but she’d worked with him often enough to know he never listened to chatter, only ever focusing on the facts as they presented themselves.

She stood beside him. ‘There are just too many, Craig.’ Thousands of markers sticking from the scrubby grass, accusing fingers of stone in every direction. She tried to fight off the panic, the feeling some had subtly shifted position since the day before.

‘We should never have come here.’

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as a jumping off point. This week we visit a fascinating archaeological site in Ethiopia. See here to join in, share, read and comment.

What Pegman Saw : Ghost girl

‘Why did we have to meet here?’

The leaves have long fallen, the creek’s fringed with ice. A wind cuts along the path, sneaking beneath my sweater, raising my skin to pimples.

‘You know why,’ snaps Flick, checking her phone signal.

There are still ribbons of police tape further along the track, tangled in the twigs like black and yellow bunting, the only sign remaining that anything happened here.

Madison and Lily are silent, Lily trailing behind as always. Madison’s gained weight since we last met – she always eats when she’s worried. And Lily … she’s a ghost girl. Silent, bony, big eyes staring like she’s seeing things that aren’t there. Maybe she’s sneaking some of her mom’s sleeping pills. I’m old enough to buy my own.

We’re together in this, a bond unbreakable.

Though I wish with all my heart I never had to lay eyes on these bitches again.

*******

Written for What Pegman Saw, the fantastic prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. Today, we are at Bridal Veil Falls, Utah. See here to join in, share, read and comment on others.

What Pegman Saw : The many in the one

 

I tell Mammy, “The church speaks to me.”

I don’t expect tears of joy, the kisses and blessings. I don’t expect to be trussed in my coat, my hat with the ear flaps, my scarf, my mittens and heavy boots until I’m muffled and leaden, a deep sea diver wading among the coral.

Mammy’s heels clip-clop on the cobbles, the sound echoing between staring houses.

It speaks again as we enter the churchyard. At first it’s like one voice, a wind sighing through narrow gaps. But then I hear the many in the one – crying, whispering, calling for help that never comes.

The rectory door bell rings. I shuffle on the step, aching to run but held by Mammy’s joy, her fierce pride that the Lord has chosen to speak to me.

The door swings wide. There’s the black shirt, the white collar.

One look and it’s clear – he knows.


Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we are in Stockholm, Sweden. See here to join in, to share, read and comment.