For Halloween…A Few Very Short Stories from the Archives

The Hanging Tree

Every night at midnight, the hanging tree creaked as if a very large weight attached to a rope had just been dropped from one it’s thick, sturdy branches.  Then a shadow would descend.  Legend said anyone touched by it would be found hanging from the tree when the sun rose.


Darkness

The darkness covered everything like a dense blanket.  It was suffocating.  Disorienting.

I could hear noises in the distance.  The sound of pursuit.

Panic spurred me on, but I lost my way.  I had strayed into the Deathwoods.  No one survived the ancient woodlands alone.  My fate was sealed.


Spirit Talk

The upturned glass moved around the board, unbidden, as it began to spell something out.

Until this point it had only been a game.

The lights flickered.

Someone screamed.

Still the glass moved.

The air went cold.

I shivered as I realised what had been spelt out.

My name.


The Abbey Ruins

The full moon cast an eerie glow over the abbey ruins, lighting up the yellow stone work in shades of pale gold.

Through the empty doorway a shadow moved, indistinct, but with purpose, an unfulfilled mission, centuries old, repeated each night, over and over, on a quest for peace.


Gifted

They weaved in and out of his perception, as they had always done.  But he had struggled and fought to control it, ignore it.  Them.

He didn’t want to see the dead, nor hear them.  He didn’t need them.

But they had other ideas.  They needed him.  They always would.

The Glimmering – a piece of flash fiction

The Fae

I didn’t really know I was Fae…well, that’s not exactly true.  What I suppose I mean is that I had never done anything that was particularly Fae.  I had spent the first thirty years of my life living as a normal person, and to be honest I was happy living that way.  If I had had the choice, I would never have found out, but then things never work out the way you intend, do they?

I was twenty-one when I found out about my…strange ancestry.  As soon as the rather uncomfortable words were spoken, I did my best to forget about them.  That meant that I avoided my family as much as I could.  I moved abroad, living in six different countries for almost ten years.

But then I got homesick.  I was more surprised by this than anyone.

On the eve of my thirtieth birthday I landed back in England.  The weather was appalling…naturally.  Drizzle, fog; an impenetrable greyness.  I had missed it all.

I got a taxi from the airport to the train station, and then took the overnight train across country.  Urban landscapes, hardly varying between one place and the next, eventually gave way to the darkness of the country.  Even though I could hardly see out of my window, I knew what was to be found on the other side of the glass…gently rolling hills, circles of stone, ancient forests, mysterious lakes and pools…If I was out there, out in the magic of the natural world, I would see it sparkle in iridescent light, in faery dust.  I was as certain of it as I was that day would follow night.

You see, since the day that my fae background was revealed to me, things had started to change.  The way I see the world and the people in it had started to change.

I tried to sleep, knowing that I had hardly closed my eyes except to blink for the last twenty-four hours, but rest eluded me.  A knot of excitement was growing within me with every second that passed; intricately linked to it was a confidence I had lacked the last time I was in the country of my birth.  I had been a shy, nervous girl, driven to do the unthinkable…runaway from the protection of my close but extensive family.  And now I was home.  Older, wiser, stronger.

I had no idea as to what kind of reception I could expect.  When I had left, for some reason, one I cannot quite recall as I am sitting on the train, I had completely severed all ties.  I had packed my things when no one was looking.  I had a written a note.  Then I had gone.  Looking back I knew it was such a wicked thing to do, but I had done it all the same.

A few hours later, the train pulled in to the station.  I collected the few bags I had brought with me and got off.  Looking up and down the dimly-lit platform, I was surprised by how busy it was.

The cab pulled up where I indicated; close to a break in the forest’s edge.  The driver glanced at me a couple of times, unsure as if this could really be my destination but he didn’t say a word.  I was glad;  I didn’t want to explain anything.

I alighted from the taxi, and walked up the long, narrow path towards the house.  I never really understood why we didn’t have a driveway so that you could drive a car right up to the house, like normal people.  But then I suppose, we were not normal people.

Nothing had changed, I noted.  Sprawling ferns beneath the tree canopy eventually gave way to lavender bushes flanking the path; in between each one, what I assumed to be solar lights, would guide the visitor towards the front door safely in the dark.  The front of the house was a single story cottage, built out of irregular blocks of local grey stone.  However, the rear of the house had been extended and expanded by it seemed an innumerable number of generations.

For a moment, I simply stared at the door.  I hadn’t given much thought as to what I was going to say, as to how I was going to explain such a long and silent absence, and while I stood there, the words I thought would just magically appear in my mind and fall out of my mouth when I saw my family again remained hidden to me.

The excitement in my tummy very quickly turned to nerves and then fear.

Surely they wouldn’t turn me away would they?  I suppose it’s the least I deserve after what I’ve put them through.  I turned away and made to retrace my steps back down the path but my feet wouldn’t move.

If I leave now, without even trying to speak with them I won’t know how they feel, will I?  I turned back again to the door and leaned over to pull the chain that rang the bell, but before I reached it the door swung open.  Standing in the doorway was my sister.

‘Well that took you long enough,’ she said rolling her eyes just like I remembered.  She looked over her shoulder and called out, ‘Ellie’s here.  The Glimmering’s finally kicked in.’  She moved aside to allow me through.

As I crossed the threshold, I noted that nothing had changed inside either.  I turned back to my sister.  ‘Glimmering?  What do you mean glimmering?’

‘Well if you hadn’t run off all crazy and waited for the explanation that followed you would know, wouldn’t you?’  That wasn’t much of an explanation.  After a dramatic pause, she continued.  ‘It’s what makes us…us.  It’s what makes us…special.  It’s the magic.’

‘It’s more than just magic,’ a familiar voice said from the doorway behind me, the one that led to the kitchen.

‘Mum, I’m so sorry,’ I said really quietly, my eyes filling up with tears.

Soon I was in the middle of the biggest, tightest embrace I had could remember.  ‘The Glimmering is who we are.  It’s us, it’s the world, it’s our purpose.  And it’s power is beyond the ken of words.  Only with acceptance and experience will you understand.  You have had long enough to think about what you want.  Are you home for good?’

It was a loaded question.  Concealed within it were other, more important questions.  Do you accept who you are?  Do you accept who we are?  And, do you understand that if you leave again, that’s it?

I took a deep breath.  I wanted my mother to know that I wasn’t making this decision on a whim, a decision I would go back on and regret in a few days.  ‘I am ready.  There is no place I would rather be,’ I whispered.

The Thinning of The Veil – A Samhain Short Story

The VeilAnother short story for Sindy’s Spooky Writing Challenge 2014.  My first piece, The Cellars – A Halloween Short Story can be found here.

The Veil thinned each year because She willed it.  It was that simple.  When She no longer wished spirits to cross from one side of it to the other, She would cease it’s thinning.

Her preparations for this year’s Veil crossing had begun with the passing of the Equinox, when Her sister, the Lady of the Heavens, lost her grip on the precarious balance of light and dark she had wrought.  And with that passing, She, the Lady of the Veil, gained in strength.

Each day She watched as the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead changed from hard stone to threads of gossamer, and as they approached the days out of time, the days between the years, it was more akin to wispy, insubstantial smoke.

Her magic was working.  It would not be long now.

Around her She gathered Her people of Spirit, who had spent the days since the last Thinning in the Summerlands, a place of mist, a place of magic, and on occasion, a place of mischief also, for the dead like to interfere in things that don’t concern them just as much as the living.

She knew it was time, knew when her spell had worked, when the Veil was no longer visible, even to her Divine eyes.  Then, and only then, could they cross.

In silence they waited, full of anticipation.

Many would soon be reunited with loved ones, even if it was for only a short time.  An evening spent in the comfort of the hearth and home they had been forced by nature to leave behind was not only something to look forward to, but something to celebrate, for it was on this one night of the year that they could achieve true interaction with the living, whether the individual was attuned to the energies of Spirit or not.

However, there were others present and awaiting the Crossing with darker thoughts on their mind.  Although one could meddle with the living from the Summerlands, one could not really satisfy feelings of vengeance from there.  That too required the thinning of the veil if it was to be done…properly.

A Fairy Price to Pay

I wandered a year and a day in the wildlands, never meeting another living soul on my travels.

Through the wastelands I journeyed; an unforgiving land that told me those who ventured to be there were closer to the world of Spirit, for I could not see any other merit in it.  I saw evidence of their existence, these strange people, but never once did I see them.

After that I came to the land of water.  Streams, rivers, ditches, ponds, lakes, meres…all manner of watercourses bisected the land.  It was treacherous, travelling through these parts, for it was never completely steady beneath your feet.

When the boggy ground became more firm, I reached the open land between the water and the forest.  It took many days to reach the woodlands edge, but when I did so, what I found disturbed me more than anything I had yet encountered and its discovery would have lasting consequences.

I had been walking beneath the tree canopy, day having started its slow descent into night many hours before, when up ahead I saw the twinkling of lights through the branches.  I was eager to see people, to talk, to have human company, if only for a matter of minutes, so I proceeded recklessly.  My isolation had made me drop my guard.

Brazenly, without caution or fear, I pushed my way through the undergrowth and that’s when I saw them, dancing in circles, laughing and singing as they spun round and round.  I don’t know how long had passed with my just standing there, mouth agape.  I knew what was before me.  A company of the Fair-Folk, making merry in the woods in the moonlight.

I should have moved on, crept away while there was still a chance, but I stood there, motionless, transfixed.

As one they noticed an outsider in their midst.  I knew the penalty of intruding upon the secret rites of the Fair Folk.  I knew what they did to those not invited, who lay their eyes upon their Fairy Rings.

The music stopped.  The lights went out.  An ominous, unnatural silence sprung up in the forest.  I was seized before I could even turn around to run.

In those brief moments, thoughts of my family, my home, my village, filled my mind whilst an ache beyond anything I thought I could bare ripped through my heart.  I knew I would never see any of them again; I would never be allowed to return.  I was going to spend the rest of my days, however many they may be, in the land of the Fey…in a land of magic.

The Cellars – A Halloween Short Story

This piece was written for Sindy’s Spooky Writing Challenge 2014

Tammy had the good fortune of working for one of the most prestigious law firms in the county, Clarke, Hawkins and Richardson. She was only a secretary to one of the minor partners, but she allowed herself to feel pride at rising this far when she had barely left school with any qualifications to her name.

The law firm was based in one of the oldest buildings in town, the floors below street level dating back all the way to the fifteenth century. Not that anyone went down there, unless they were searching through the firms archives, but even most of them had been computerised by now.

Tammy had only had one occasion to venture down to the cellars, as they were called, and that was on the day of her induction. It was part of a tour of the building. She had been in a group of five other new employees, and even in company, she hated it down there. More than once, a cold shiver had run up her spine as she got the distinct feeling that someone or something was watching her from the shadows. Since that day, she had refused point blank to go down the stairs.

One Halloween, however, that was set to change. James, a man from accounting, spent the day playing pranks on nearly everyone who had come in to work that day.

As the day drew to a close, Tammy thought, by some miracle, she must have gone unnoticed by him. That was until it was time to leave. She had been forced to stay late to rectify a clerical error a temp had made, so by the time she was ready to go home there couldn’t have been more than a handful of people left in the building. She went to grab her bag from her desk, only to find that it was missing. She needed her bag; it not only had her house key in it, but also the key to her car. She searched everywhere she could think of, but no bag materialised. Without her bag, she couldn’t go home. Without it she couldn’t get home.

As she patted down the pockets of her jacket, hoping against hope that for some reason that morning she had put her keys there instead of where they belonged, she found a note. Her heart sank. She had seen others receive the same missives from James all day. Her heart sank further when she read what it said:

If you want to go home, first your will need to make a little detour. Your handbag is awaiting collection in the cellar. It’s sitting atop the main desk in Archives. Of course, if you are too scared to go down there, give me a call and you can come home with me. James.

‘Like hell I will,’ Tammy said, sounding much more confident than she felt. It was no secret that she hated the cellars, but neither could she give in to James. She would never live it down.

Tammy switched off her computer and desk light and closed her office door behind her, before making her way towards the lifts. Once inside, she pressed the button for the ground floor. It was the lowest floor the lift had access to. After that she was going to have to take the stairs.

Nerves began fluttering in her stomach before she even reached the bottom of the staircase, but she forced herself to go on. No doubt James would check first thing in the morning whether she had managed to get her bag back, and she simply couldn’t face the humiliation of being teased. It would be like high school all over again. That thought alone drove her onwards.

She moved across the half a dozen paces between the final step and the door to the corridor beyond as fast as she could. Her heart was racing. She felt sick. She could never remember feeling like this before. As she touched the door handle, and pulled it towards her, she felt like she could pass out at any moment, but she stepped through all the same.

As the door swung closed behind her, a high-pitched squeaking told her that the hinges hadn’t been oiled for sometime. The sound set her even further on edge, if such a thing were possible, before she registered something far worse, something familiar: it was the same feeling she had recognised on her induction. Someone or something was watching her. She tried to strike the realisation from her mind before she became paralysed with fear, but it was an almost insurmountable task. Almost.

The main desk was only twenty feet in front of her. She could see her handbag sitting on it. At that moment it represented so much more than simply a purse; it symbolised safety. She wanted to run over grab and then run all the way out of the building, never stopping until she was safely locked in her car, but her feet were heavy like lead and didn’t want to move.

She swallowed hard, and tried to convince herself to go on. Twenty steps, she silently chanted. That’s all it is. Twenty steps. With all the strength she could muster she took one step forward. Tammy trained her eyes on the ground, terrified that if she should look up she might see something that she really didn’t want.

A noise, sounding like one of the boxes moving on a shelf just out of her sight, stopped her in her tracks.

‘Hello?’ she called out. ‘Is there anyone down here?’ But the echo of her words only served to tense her further.

‘James, if that’s you…’ she said, trying to hold back the tears that were forming in her eyes, before the words slowly trailed off into the suffocating silence. She knew it wasn’t James down there with her, but she desperately wished it was.

All of a sudden she felt a cold breath on the back of her neck, and she couldn’t help but let out a gasp, but it was all the motivation she needed to move. She charged across the room, clutched her bag before attempting to make good her escape.

But she tried the door and it wouldn’t open; she knew there was no other way out. A noise that sounded like a hiss or perhaps an indecipherable whisper came from somewhere deeper in the room. Tammy started screaming.

A moment, no more, passed and the lights overhead began flickering. Then they went out altogether, and Tammy was plunged into darkness.