Monday, November 29, 2010

What doesn't kill you.

"WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU" - Anthony Cowin

The child was at the foot of his bed again. Every night since Sadie finally left him she appeared. The first couple of nights he hid under the duvet and waited for the sun to bleach out the vision. By the fourth day he was sent home from work for sleeping at his desk. His life was crumbling around him and the last thing he needed was this kid, this thing coming to haunt him each night.

He finally plucked up the courage to speak to it. But when he opened his mouth the thing disappeared. Outside all the streetlights blew and every car alarm screeched into action. He ran to the bathroom and threw up. He had to sort this out.

He stepped into the church like a naughty child that had been caught stealing, or more accurately bullying. The priest was no use. Told him he should consider getting help to stay sober.
‘This ghost you see is only in your head.’ The priest told him.

‘What about the Holy bloody Spirit?’ He shouted back. ‘Is he in your head?’

Father Roland grabbed him by his dirty shirt collar and pulled him hard against his chest. ‘Look man whatever you are seeing is a result of that stink on your breath and something you’re keeping inside. The only ghosts in this world are the ones we create.’

‘But she’s real, as real as you are right now.’ He began sobbing. Father Roland had to stop him from crumbling to the floor.

‘You have a cancer eating you up. Once you deal with that you deal with this spirit. Understand?’

He loosened his grip and let him fall onto the pews. When he looked up she was there. The little girl, six years old, dressed all in black with tight pigtails and a blank expression on her white face. His screams went unheard. The priest had done an Elvis and left the building.

The girl smiled at him and held out her hand. Against all his natural instincts he took it. The sun burnt through the stained glass windows saturating the church with vivid colours. He saw who she was for the first time; he recognised the eyes. A church is as good a place as any to die, he thought. When he woke up he was in Heaven.

Only it wasn’t Heaven. He’d mistaken the crisp white rooms and glowing neon lights of the hospital for God’s pad in the sky. She was there at the end of the bed. There was no escaping her, he realised that now.

‘I don’t understand what you want from me. Why can’t you leave me alone?’

The girl smiled and looked at the door. It swung open. It was Sadie, come with flowers and grapes like cliché. He was so relieved to see her beautiful face again.

‘They rang me at work. Oh Steven what has happened to you?’ She couldn’t believe the difference in him after only one week. He looked ten years older, his hair was greying and his eyes seemed hollow. She'd wanted him to hurt when she left but not like this.

‘Sadie I saw. I mean there’s this girl…’

‘I knew it. You can’t help yourself can you? You’ll never change.’ She stood to leave but he grabbed her wrist.

‘No, a kid. A little girl.’ He tried to sit up but found he couldn’t move. He saw the drip at the side of the bed. Maybe it would have been better if they had left him to die.

Sadie sat down and took his hand from her wrist. She held it and he felt real for the first time in a long time. He explained what had been happening and what the priest had told him about ghosts being a cancer, like guilt. When he finished he looked up and told her who the girl was.

‘Oh Steve no, that’s impossible. Please don’t say that.’

‘Is it true Sadie, please tell me? If you do I promise I’ll leave you alone forever, you’ll never have to see my face again or worry about what I may do to hurt you.’

She began crying. She’d waited to let the tears out for a long time but was too afraid she may never stop once she did. ‘Last month, in this very hospital. Steve I’m so sorry but I knew I couldn’t stay with you. The baby would have given you an excuse to harass me for the rest of my life. I wanted you gone, gone for good and I didn’t want to put a child in that danger.’

The girl was sitting on the chair by the window, the evening light highlighting her features. She looked so much like Sadie, so beautiful and innocent. But it was her eyes that scared him. She had her daddy’s eyes. He wasn’t a murderer but he felt like one at that point. He was so horrible and so violent that a woman he loved and who had once loved him back decided to have an abortion rather than bring his child into this world.

He let go of Sadie’s hand and smiled at the girl. The ghost was a cancer alright and he decided he needed the cure. He’d never hold his daughter now. It was too late for that. It was too late to win Sadie back too but he thought she’d be better off without him anyway. He just hoped he had time enough for himself.

Every now and then he falls behind a little, falls off the wagon, too. But he sees her there. Not the same girl but her eyes looking at him through other children. And when he wanders the streets he notices how many children have those eyes.

He sees what others can’t. He sees all the lost children walking amongst us who also have their daddies’ eyes. There’s no cure for that cancer.

BIO: Anthony Cowin writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry. His work has been published in print anthologies as well as on-line. He is currently working on his debut novel. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010


"COUNTDOWN" - Alexis Grey

Death’s clammy fist beats loudly upon my weather beaten and padlocked wooden door,
Its hoarse voice vibrates at my windows and disturbs the patterned teacups
shaking on shelves, rattling my false teeth in the bedside tumbler,
“Go away,” I sob feebly from beneath hand crocheted covers
where I remain tucked so securely in, curled up
tight, counting down the long black hours until
the shiny signs of daybreak come creeping
underneath slim cracks to chase away
the ominous clawed threat that
nightly calls on me
in the dark
when I’m

BIO:  Alexis Grey lives in an old farm house in the New Zealand countryside where her imagination is free to take flight. She has had her poetry published in numerous anthologies and is currently working on a book of poetry for children. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Run, Mortal, Run

The first cab off the ranks in our eerie poetry department is this felicitous offering from Baz L. Zebub. We welcome Baz aboard and know you'll enjoy his scarily poetic voice.  

"RUN, MORTAL, RUN" - Baz L. Zebub

Deep within that darkest hour
When vampires leave their eerie towers,
Banshees’ howling fills the night,
The undead rise, a fearful sight…

You mortals scatter far and wide,
So desperate to find a hide,
Footsteps echo close behind,
Terror fills your tiny mind…

On you run, eyes wide with fear,
The swirling mist creeps ever near,
You slip and slide across the mud,
Shadows chasing for your blood…

Cross a bridge, through the trees,
You trip and fall on hands and knees,
Your lungs are burning, out of breath,
And all around, the stench of death…

Hear the moaning of the ghouls,
The wailing of tormented souls,
Feel the draught of leathered wings,
The touch of putrid, gruesome things…

Legs so heavy, on you lurch,
Sanctuary, a gothic church,
Stumble on toward the nave,
Stagger past an open grave…

Icy fingers grasp your legs,
You fall, you scream, you sob, you beg,
You kick and claw for all you’re worth
But can’t escape that pull to earth…

Then on your neck, the foetid hiss
Of Nosferatu’s deadly kiss,
The gargoyles grin and dip their heads,
They count... the seconds…‘til…you’re...dead...

BIO: You can read this poem again and much, much more on the very talented and mysterious B.L. Zebub's own blogsite by clicking here.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Forever England

We would like to set aside this auspicious moment to thank Dorothy for her exciting and very appropriately ethereal contribution to our new pages. With her brilliant story representing the iconic bottle of champagne, we ceremoniously tap it against the hull of our ship and officially launch our blog into the stratosphere. Welcome all, to Spook City, and may peace go with all who sail in her.

"FOREVER ENGLAND" - Dorothy Davies 

As you came soft footing down the road, what did you see?  Damaged gates with broken hinges, bound by weeds against low walls? You would not have seen the once proud lettering which spelled out BRITISH CEMETERY.
Now gone, worn away by wind, rain and vandals.  You are not a vandal, are you?
As you came striding down the long sloping weed-encrusted drive, you found the gates either side of the railway line open for you, did you not?  The lines are rusting in the ground, leading to nowhere.  You did ignore the warning sign, did you not? It has been a long time since there were trains.
As you crossed the lines, did you walk easy on the consecrated ground?  The dead are only sleeping, after all.  Beware those snatched from life before their time, taken by accident, by nature, by design, for they are not resting easy and will not be disturbed without revenge.
But you know that, don’t you? And still you come.           
As you come tip-toeing round the large house with its sloping roof, take care you do not disturb the memories of the caretakers long gone from this cherished ground. See the chapels? Once proud, now fallen into disrepair. See the tilting lying gravestones?  Pious messages scarce readable after the work of time.  Come: see the war graves, neat in line, each the same as its neighbour, each carrying the message that war is insane, that countries are insane to give up their youth to the ever-open hands of Death.
But you know that, don’t you? Why else are you here? Will you stay tonight?
Let me tell you.  A sly fox slunk through the gates one night, rooted among the graves, pawed at the ground, barked his disappointment at a distant moon which heard nothing.
At night, most nights, dogs come to lift their legs against headstones, scrape and claw at the earth, seeking bones, howling their frustration at the same uncaring unhearing moon.
Rats venture forth, twitching whiskers and tails, but the dead are tight sealed in brick and mortar tombs.  It is good to see that for rats, there is nothing.
If you stay.  And it would be good to stay. I can tell you how beautiful this place is in Spring. Wild flowers grow on neglected graves, nodding at the words on the headstones, lifting their faces to the sun.  Grass pushes through exposed crevices, softening, cushioning.
Let me tell you how beautiful this place is in summer, when the stones are white under the sun, when insects burrow and buzz, when birds come to peck at seeds, when the house settles under the weight of heat.
Let me tell you how beautiful this place is in winter, frost sparkles on each grave at dawn, winds crash and tear at the wall surrounding us, when cold bites into the very bones deep in their brick-lined tombs.  Sometimes there is snow. Gravestones wear white caps, slabs are buried deep in whiteness and grass lays down to await the spring.
See the war memorial over there? Imagine that with shoulders of snow.  Once a priest stood there, poppy wreath in hand, out-shouting a London jet with his prayers. It is a long time since there were jets.
Or priests.

I have omitted autumn.
Autumn means trees and surely by now you have seen there are no trees. Once there were pines here, two hundred and fifty of them, dropping needles on the grass and stones, offering shade, protection, shelter. But then, once there were ten acres here, taken under Government grant for the English and all other foreigners, for the burying of their dead.
Commercial greed, couched in the requirements of an airport, stole the ground and murdered the tall trees.
Did you hear about that?
Did it make the papers, that terrible murder that was done in the name of commerce?
I tell you.
They came with axes and chain saws, in lorries that damaged the tall proud gates of the Catholic section.  They came, those men with money in their hearts and attacked the trees.  The trees fell on graves, on other trees, on the attackers themselves.  The trees’ death-cry was in the crashing and smashing of branches and twigs, in sawdust which fell as tears from open wounds.  The attackers saw only money, not dead trees.
Ah, it is long done but not forgotten.
I still do not mention autumn?
Then let me tell you what it was like when the vandals came.
They came in autumn, when the grasses turn rusty and dry, when plants settle down for a long sleep, when leaves drifted in on cool sharp winds, reminding me of the time when there were trees here.
It was then, in the season of gold and cold that they came.  They marched six abreast, the line trailing back to the gates at the top of the drive when the leaders reached the sleeping rusting lines.  Rust flaked and quavered under their feet, birds left the house eaves, shrieking alarm and fear to a non-hearing world.  Rats ran for holes, dogs hid behind stones, the dead grew tense with anticipation and apprehension.
“Look at this, a ship’s cook! Poisoned himself with his own cooking, eh?”
Drunken laugher tore at the air as they walked narrow paths, reading headstones, making ribald and insulting comments.
You want examples? Do you not know how it hurts to tell?
I tell you.

“Look at this - killed by lightning! Hot stuff, eh?!
“Why didn’t we come here before? It’s great!”
This I tolerated, but not easily, you understand.  Definitely, it was not easy. I tolerated this, I who guard this English land.
You do not agree?
The trees were not English, the trees were here long before the English came, but the land, which was foreign, was fertilised with English blood, flesh and bones. Those who came to mourn watered the ground with English tears, the trees were transformed and I along with them. The pines were killed by the foreigners, those in whose land we are.  More than anything, this made me what I am.
But this is not completing the story, is it?
Don’t you want to hear, you who came soft footing into my territory?
They found the war graves.
The youth of this land, who have not known war, spat upon the graves of the brave, wrote obscenities on clean white stone, urinated against the Cross of Remembrance.
It was then I called up the spirits of the restless dead, called them to me to oust the intruders.
And they came.
The ship’s cook had not poisoned himself; he had drowned.  He came dripping in seaweed and salt water.  The long dead child, bearing the marks of the horse which ran it down. Car crash victims with mangled limbs and heads; people killed by lightning, burned and charred.  And all whose rest had been disturbed once too often, they came too, a large mass of hissing spitting angry spirits.  Beyond them I walked, tall as the tall pines, rustling leaves, snapping twigs, roaring with the voice of wind through branches of a hundred years.
Now you know who I am, the spirit of the murdered trees.
They ran, just as you are running now, afraid of what might be, afraid of what was. No soft footing now, loud thumping footsteps, anxious to be away.

Be careful, o rash visitor, for the sound of your running feet may well disturb those who rest even now uneasily in this corner of the world which is forever England...

This is a real place.  I know this cemetery well, as my parents were caretakers there for twelve years.  The ‘murder’ of the pines happened as described.
I leave it to you to decide whether the rest of the story is real or not.

BIO: Dorothy Davies, writer, editor, medium, lives on the Isle of Wight (Isle of Spirits) where she writes her strange stories and channels books direct from spirit authors.