Resplendent consumption

Though the dark spreads doubt and fear.
It is in the light where she creeps near.
For shadows and gloom she leaves in her wake.
With mournful tunes and deathly ache.
The light is what she needs to feed.
A pulsing urge, like a sprouting weed.
She sucks the light like marrow from bone.
And crawls inside that place called home.
She splits the joy and hope in two.
Suckles each like morning due.
Savouring each fantastic pleasure.
That shrivels for you, but to her is treasure.
This dark and heavy visiting member.
Will drain the light to a dying ember.
And leave you feeling almost dead.
While she licks these words inside your head.
That if darkness fades and you feel lighter.
If hope does spread and things feel brighter.
She will return, like a rolling cloud.
To kill the light with her consuming shroud.

Conjured darkness III

PART IPART II


The small wooden cross Mary had on her wall had slipped, tumbling free from the crooked nail which was driven into her dark small cottage. She noticed it now in the candlelight, her attention brought to that empty space on the wall by a reason she could not place. She went across and picked it up, holding it in her hands, remembering her mother who had fashioned it from the wood that surrounded them there in the village. Her mother, so capable. Cooking creating, tilling, mending. She did it all, for it were her and her children only. Mary, now half her mother’s age when she died, looked at the small cross, her thoughts snatching a prayer somewhere in her mind.

It was then she heard it.

Going to her small window, she looked up into the sky at first, the screeching wails sounding like birds fighting. In the night it was odd, maybe owls she thought. It came again, this time lower and more awful, drifting over the trees which lay all around. A candle flickered to life in her neighbour’s house, the village being awoken by a noise that seem to come from another world. Mary saw it then, a dark stain in the sky looming over Pollux Hall. It was like a smudge in the sky, a dark oil seeming to leak and spread from the tip of the tower, the only part visible from where she was in the village. She clutched the cross tighter, the evils of the world now loose in the land it seemed.

A thump on the door startled her, and she called out in alarm.

“Who is there?”

No answer returned, but the sturdy wooden door suddenly swung forth revealing Jacob, out of breath and eyes wide, hovering on the threshold.

“Mary, it is time.” He heaved as he tried to catch his breath. He had run from the church, the wolves following him. His eyes were darting all around, but he did not enter her house.

“Jacob, come inside. There is death in the air tonight.” Mary said, coming towards him. Jacob ducked inside and slammed the door, the sound of a wolf howling nearby followed him inside.

“Wolves?!” Mary asked, surprised. Jacob nodded.

“Did you hear the sound before?” He asked her, his eyes fixing on the cross then back to her eyes.

“Yes, and look, Pollux Hall.” She said, drawing him over to the window where the darkness swirled above the tower.

“It is time Mary, it is tonight. I’ve seen them all, I watched them gather. They go to free Agatha from the hall.” He said, almost gleefully.

“All of them?” Mary asked, a gasp in her words.

“All of them, tonight is the night. We must hurry though. They must be there already and who knows what is happening with those men in the mix up there.” He added. She stood for a moment, as if unsure of what to do next. The darkness spluttering over her candle and her mind taken to many places all at once. She then put the cross on the side and went across to the small cupboard in the corner.

“It is ready, though?” Jacob asked her.

“Yes, it is ready.” Mary replied and took out a black sack from the cupboard.

“We must be quick; the wolves are thirsty for more than just our blood.” He said. She nodded, taking a cloak from a peg.

“I know what will help.” And she took down from above her door some sprigs of flowers and herbs, intertwined with twigs and string. She handed them to him, and he smiled.

“I hope so.” He said, and they both left quickly, their path hastened as they made their way towards the hall through the village. The wolves, watching, but kept at bay.

He rubbed his eyes, the glass that had showered down had covered them all. He felt a sharp pain, a piece of glass caught at the corner of his eye, his vision on one side flooded with a crimson lens.

The room suddenly froze, the temperature dropping like snowfall. A sound and wind flurried inside, scratching at their minds and souls.

Agatha stood, her bonds now gone, and her stare fixed upon those men before her.

A blackness began to pour inside through the broken windows, a thick oozing smog as dark as charcoal flooded all around them. Some of the men tried for the door, but it would not yield, and in the trapped panic thye left-out yells of fear and weakness.

Jonathan watched through the only eye that could now see, his mouth mumbling prayers and sacred words which he hoped would protect him and the others there. God was not listening it seemed as a demon like figure began to mass there in the tower, the smoke filling into a being that sucked the light from the room. Outside they heard yells and calls, the others being attacked and laid upon by the other witches who had travelled there that night. Their identities still hidden, even in those dying moments of breath to those guards.

Inside the tower a voice began to utter the foulest words to those righteous men. It seemed to creep out of the walls and all over their skin, echoing in the chambers of their mind. It spoke to them of a reckoning, of a day which had come to pass when all would see for what truth was abound in the land.

Margellwood hunched over Agatha, a towering figure now behind her, seeming to fill the space they shared. Jonathan slumped against the wall, the others in their panic and fear huddled on the other side, clutching tightly to their crosses. The voice rang out still, the rain now pouring in from the window and splattering the wooden floor with rainy tears.

“And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words.” Jonathan said, an anger rising in him.

Margellwood stopped suddenly, flicking her head towards him.

“He speaks now does he, he acts now against his own demise.” She coughed, the words sticky and heavy.

“You have no power here, and you will not banish us into the dark. You mistake your actions here for power.” He bravely retorted. Margellwood laughed, her cackle fading to a hiss.

“You are not important, and you will not succeed. I can wither your heart Jonathan Prose, splinter your bones and send you mad with voices. But now, you will watch as what you hope for the most to disappear, and for you to lose.” The Witch said, placing her hand upon Agatha.

“You are the mistaken and forsaken one.” He said, and he pulled out his book and began to recite lines from it. The air swirled and hummed, a greyness suddenly buckling the light in the room. With a snarl Margellwood vomited out a sludge, hissing words bubbling and exploding out of it. It oozed and rose up off the floor, floating towards the men and coating the walls. The words seemed to battle one another, caught in a fight to overrun and devour.

Agatha turned, she looked up to the creature that Margellwood had risen into. She found her eyes and searched there, for only a moment. She turned and looked at the room, seeking something that seemed to be missing.

“Come, we must go.” She suddenly said to the witch, and she clapped three times and the room burst into flames, the darkness slithering out of the high window above like steam leaving a dead body in the cold.

Jacob and Mary could see the tower now, fire licking out of the high windows, illuminating the dead night’s sky. They ran on further up the hill, the trees clustering around them like lost souls coming together. They stopped suddenly seeing the dark shapes appear from the air in front of them.

They hadn’t been seen, and they ducked down low, a thicket at the side of the path covering them. They heard the voices now; it was Agatha and Margellwood. Mary took Jacob’s hand, not out of fear, but to steady his heart.

“You came.” Agatha said, her voice sweet and low, almost a whisper.

“They are done taking. Tonight, it all ends.” Margellwood said, running her hand through the woman’s hair gently.

Around them, coming out of the trees and with pops of black smoke the other witches appeared. Hooting and wailing, clicking their fingers in rhythmic unison.

“Tonight, we shall dominate and lay a waste to this rotten land!” Margellwood called, seeing the others appearing around them.

Mary and Jacob felt a kick behind them, and they both fell forward out of the thicket and back onto the road. They both stumbled to their feet, and the witches encircled them, leeringly.

Agatha came towards them, her eyes wide with an unusual light dancing in them. Off into the tree the howl of wolves was heard, and as the tower behind them burnt, the screams of men rattled through the sky.

“Over. It is over.” Agatha said. The other witches began to chant, a horrible, gurgled incantation that they rumbled and shouted. Some of them leaping into the air, the space now alive with movement and sound.

Jacob clutched Mary’s hand and they stood forth defiantly.

“You are not lost to us cousin.” Mary said, her free hand outstretched.

“Death shall take you master Jacob, Mary death will spirit you off tonight.” Margellwood hissed, coming up behind Agatha. “To see your sister, down in the ground.”

“Keep your vile mouth shut you witch.” Jacob roared.

The all laughed around him, bar Agatha. She looked at the small sack that Mary had at her waist. Her eyes flashing there in a moment of realisation.

“It won’t work, it would be folly to try.” Agatha said suddenly, stepping backwards in alarm.

Mary caught her stare and realised she had understood. She snatched at the sack, and Jacob reached quickly into his pocket.

“Tricks and toys is it?” Margellwood snarled, mockingly.

Agatha turned and ran, back up the path towards the hall. Margellwood turned, watching her, a confusion now spreading across her face like a setting sun.

“What’s thou….”  But in that moment an engulfing light had sprung from the black sack and the words that followed from Jacob seized all of those present in a captured state. The skin on the witches became taught, and they rigidly creaked and cracked as if water were being squeezed from dead wood. Their faces contorted, spasms of anger and horror flashed across them until they all collapsed to the floor. All except Margellwood who seemed to be trying to resist the most. Jacob pressed on., reading aloud from a small book he held in his hand. The light and the sound now coming from the sack danced and glided around them, bathing them in an ethereal glow. The sound, at trumpeting call of another world, seemed to kiss upon the skin.

Margellwood snarled, her eyes leaking a blackness now. Oily tears staining her face. She fell to her knees finally and dove her hands into the earth and seemed to be pleading, begging for something. In a final move she had bitten off part of her tongue which flopped from her mouth now as the rest of her body crumpled to the ground. The witches all now lay about the road and by the trees, still but not dead, a change overtaking them as their souls silently came back. Mary looked at Jacob and smiled, they had succeeded.

Agatha ran, her heart pulsing now in her chest. She could hear the blood in her head, the river of red rushing around her mind. She ran up to the hall, the tower now completely engulfed in the flames which reached up towards heaven. She could see shapes moving in the courtyard below, dark images seeming to smoulder in the cold air. She ran onwards, past the hall and down through the garden to the stream which flowed at the back. She stopped by the banks, looking all around, hoping not to find what she was looking for.

It was there though, across the stream. It’s hunched shape dark and threatening. She fell to her knees and closed her eyes. Little spots of white floating in the space before her as she heard the flames, the voices of the men and the sound of a trumpet away from where she rested. She bit her lip, to feel something, to see where she was still and if it were really true. Opening her eyes she felt a warm feeling across her cheek, like sunshine catching her skin. The creature beyond stood, a rotting smell seeming to float across the water towards her from it.

“I take it back.” She threw the line out to the figure. Her words quiet and having much less weight than she’d hoped.

The figure looked at her, saying nothing.

“I can do that, I can choose!” She said again, desperately.

The figure took a step towards her, a groan emitting from it’s very centre. Agatha clutched her chest, frightened now and loosing hope. She closed her eyes again, despite the figure moving towards her, a ghostly groaning heaving out of it. Her hand still on her chest, she sighed. Light tears coming to her eyes.

“I am sorry.” She said, meaning those words more then any she had meant in her life. Repeating them unknowingly, waiting for the fade.

The village was bright as the sun speckled the thatched roofs withs it’s afternoon rays. A light rain had just fallen, and the sunshine shimmered off like beautiful diamonds. Though the market town nearby was the great hub of activity for selling wares, the village now bustled with the same energy with many people passing through and stopping to gather by the church and small the circled area in the centre of the village. Colourful ribbons were hung about, and the place had a May festival feel to it with laughter easily heard above the chatter from those who lingered. The church’s doors were wide open, and music flowed out of the huge wooden box, luring people towards it with the promise of food, entertainment and joy.

Mary and Jacob stood by the door, bundling little sprigs of heather together and handing them out to those who wanted them. Inside the church, the pews had gone, leaving the space open, where people came and went. In the far corner Agatha sat on a stool next to an old man, the sleaves on his arm rolled up. She was shaking something in a small vile, watching the amber liquid separate from the water within. He grimaced as he looked at the bench next to them, all manner of instruments and potions set forth. She caught his stare, and patted his hand reassuringly, he smiled back at her as she popped the lid from the vile and got to work.

Outside in the cemetery, fresh graves had been dug and recently occupied. Those who had not survived the events had been buried with rites and a service not before seen in the village. With their passing though, came a peace it seemed. One of the graves, not far from that of Jacob’s sister which sported fresh heather and flowers, was large and it too bore fresh flowers. Milada Margellwood, now at peace. A swirling triquetra symbol proudly, and almost defiantly, pride of place on her grave marker. Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

END


 

Intimate horror

At the door there comes a rapping.
On hallowed ground you hear a tapping.
The pumpkin trail that led them there.
To trick or treat, and scream and scare.
Hobgoblins and witches together in groups.
Angels and a devils, leading the troops.
To smile and laugh at the seasonal tricks.
Grabbing candy and lollipops for furious licks.
So do not wonder what Jesus would do.
Or Mohammed, Buddhist or secular Jews.
For of this season we can take much notice.
Of sharing light or the sacred lotus.
For though they take, of that we give.
It’s Halloween that’s all inclusive.

Nemesis (Story reading)


Silence came only when she closed her eyes. When she could visually shut the world up for a moment. She had practised to do this, years of trying to silence the noises and the demands of all around her. Her world was her own when her eyes were wide shut. These weren’t flights of fancy into different realms, or some grapple with mental tectonic plates. She had a quiet space and peaceful world in her head which was the copy of the world around her.

It was just devoid of others.

Other people troubled, angered, confronted, demanded and taxed her. They played on her time and patience, milking off her generosity as if it were an endless source. How much should she have to contend with? What was a reasonable demand on her each day that she woke, roamed and entertained this thing called life? Must she always be left reduced by a need to give…..


Taken from ‘Dislocated’ – out now

The Hawthorne Project (out now)

The neighborhood of west Hawthorne Drive in quiet Greenfield Wisconsin is filled with dark stories and darker rumors. There’s the haunting by a faceless creature. They’ve all seen it. They’ve all experienced its presence. On the one hand, it seems to desire the life of mortals, on the other, it befriends a small boy. It both mocks and assists. Runs away and stands face-to-faceless face.

And not to mention the mysterious death of the street’s namesake, Jim Hawthorne. His strange and reclusive widow peers from behind her drawn curtains, rarely leaving her home, but to walk her little dog or tend her manicured gardens… yet she’s not one for giving up any of the cul-de-sac’s secrets.

But in the days leading up to Halloween, events take a more sinister turn, including strange visitations, an eerie violet haze in the sky, attempting murder, breaking-and-entering, and multiple police check-ins… until not one of the residents can deny: something or someone is here to stay.

Featured authors:

  • River Dixon
  • Chisto Healy
  • Tristan Drue Rogers & Sarah Anne Rogers
  • Lou Rasmus
  • Mark Ryan
  • Mark Towse
  • Joshua Marsella
  • Darren Diarmuid
  • Robert Birkhofer
  • Jeremiah Fox

OUT NOW


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Conjured darkness I

The night loomed like a blanket of opportunity, the dying sun snuffed out hours ago to make way for the moon and mischief. They had all been called, they had all answered in their own ways. Creatures carrying messages, slithering in the dark spaces so the people of the village would not see. The answers quick and decisive. It had been long enough; they had waited too long. Now was the time.

They came like puffs of brown smoke, the dirt and the earth puffing out in a cough. Misshapen things with rough hands and suspicious eyes. Dark features with tongues that clicked, the idling hands of late, eager to begin. Twenty of them in this seemingly small space, yet they seemed to suck the world in further in their placement around the barn. The horses were outside, braying and huffing to the activity which now disturbed their night-time.

Witches gathered.

They had come with one intent, one thing only brought them together. Their coven strong, but usually displaced. This power concentrated for too long brought about strange energies which alerted many to their location. They had been hunted of course, many of them escaping the iron wrath of the witchfinder general which pummelled the land. It had taken a lot of their power to evade him, and they were cautious to gather in such a mass, their own limitations to the power they craved ever evident; for Lucifer gave only what he wanted and never too much to be disadvantaged. His kisses were tinged with a poison which held the knowing and forgetting of all. Which is what many sought. To forget.

The candle hissed and three loud knocks on the ground quietened them all. They were gathered in a circle, as was customary, the croaks and silent screams of their souls hushed as the caller of the event moved into the centre.

“We know why we are here. And we know what we must do.” She breathed, a coldness hanging down now from the rafters where two little eyes watched.

“About time!” A voice came from the group, flicked out from a forked tongue.

“Time is no consequence. But it is indeed the hour in which they must fall. He has said to me not to be afraid.” She said, to which the group reacted loudly.

“Afraid!”

“Fear?”

“Cowardly.”

A disgruntled ripple came from these words. The two eyes in the rafters watched on, belonging to a little boy no older than eleven.

“You are fools to not be afraid. We have given the souls of our being, but there are dangers which lie in an empty vessel. Do not let it flood you now, do not waver from the road into the woods. They will pick you out, they will trap you with their words of heaven. He has warned me that some of you are weak in this regard. Be afraid of this and be guarded.” She said, her eye scanning the barn as if knowing the weaker links. This seemed to settle them though, some nodding in agreement.

As he watched, Jacob ran his finger around and around the red string on his wrist. His eyes alive, but his hand fidgeting in fright. He had known they would come here, being close enough to the village but hidden by the clump of woods which curled around the north side where the church was. He tried not to breathe as he watched those below, swaying and naying like the horses which usually stood in the same spot. He had come, because he had known. Watching one of the witches for some time, her best efforts on protection falling to his superior senses and cleaner soul. He’d trapped her familiar, a horrible grey cat with one eye which prowled the village, extracting what he needed and releasing it, none the wiser, to carry on its deceitful deeds.

Now he was here, and despite his good intent; he was but afraid.

“We must bind ourselves first, it has been too long since we have all been present.” One of the witches offered, her crippled hand reaching out into the space in front of her. The witch in the centre nodded.

“So be it, come.” And she knelt down on the spot, and reached her hands out, the others quickly following suit. As the words tumbled out of her mouth, the candles around them seemed to grow low, a horrible sense of death and despair creeping inside the barn, swirling around like the breath of a corpse. A vine, thorned and rotten, sprung forth from the outstretched arms in the centre, quickly ensnaring the witch directly in front. It coiled around her arms and leapt to the one next to her, doing the same and proceeding quickly around the circle. The words came in their awfulness and the binding of the witches seemed complete as it plunged into the ground, making the spot where it entered dark like soot, and evaporating from around their wrists.

“This commitment to the coven binds us all, so tread warily. Our deeds are pure in their deceit, but do not stray from the black blood which now binds us. If one falls, we all shall. But as we rise and grow more powerful, so too will all of you. It is done.” The centre witch said, concluding the spell and standing once more. She clicked her neck awkwardly, the sound of broken twigs cracking around the barn, and she began to stretch upwards, growing slightly larger than she had been previously. The bones in her hand cracked and she pulled at her fingers, breaking them and stretching them forth abnormally. The sound was horrible to Jacob, it reminded him of his grandmother cracking nuts by the fire. That awful woman.

“They come and go with their sheep like minds. They breed and die, bringing others to our land. They swill the poetry from the trough of that church, washing it down into the land. It tries to bleed into our bones. The othering that we chose, the distancing of self is always besieged by their self-concluded righteousness. Sisters we have seen hang and burn. Stripped naked for them, poked and violated. Our ways are dark and dangerous, but they are our own. Yes, he has his plan, but it is all written, even in their own books.” The voice seemed more human this time to Jacob, despite the abnormal appearance of the witch now in the middle of the group. He noted their names of course, all but her; she still alluded him. She was someone he did not know…. yet.

“Agatha. You know whom I speak of.” A large exhale seemed to come from them all. The reason they knew they were there.

“Agatha. They took her, as you know. They did not burn or hang her. The fools who think that destroys us inside. They took her, and she was strong, she told them nothing of us. They tried of course to trick, to tease the information out of her. Beauty in their eyes is betwixting. Agatha’s bones do not lie in some place, scorched and dismissed. They took from me….” Here her voice cracked. “…us, a sister who they keep to themselves. In the house beyond the rise of Drample hill.” At the name, many of those present spat on the floor.

“She will return to us; we will bring her back. We have the means.” Said a witch who stood close to one of the candles, the silhouetted figure seemed to dance in the candle flame. They all hissed with agreement.

“Yes, she will. And yes, we do. But we must go beyond retrieving our sister this time. We must come out of the shadows, into their awful light of delusion. We must teach them this time that we will not be plucked, fucked or destroyed. This time, this land will all be ours to come and go freely. This is the time for our great aftermath.” She said, her hands rising upwards much like the preacher would in the church not far from where the barn stood.

They all cheered in their own witchy ways, some thumping the floor with their feet bringing up dust and disorder. The noise startled one of the magpies which had sat quietly on a beam next to his master, the familiar took flight suddenly up into the rafters, coming to rest on a beam just by Jacob. It’s eyes finding the boy, it’s call yet to cry out.

Something to stay awake for – Grace & Josh

Listen to this episode.


It had rained all morning and a small stream of water now ran down the slope of the playground outside. Miss Carbine stole a look out of the darkened window from the warm classroom she inhabited, seeing the water hammering down the pane. She sighed to herself knowing they would have to have the lunch break inside today. Her class were currently in pairs, going through the textbooks that she had put out that morning, hoping the eager minds would devour them greedily.

It wasn’t too big a class, and she found she was able to manage the five- and six-year olds reasonably well with her wispy ways and mild manners. They hadn’t yet lost the awe of having a teacher, that special entity that was there to bestow wonders upon them. Indeed, many still seemed to want to impress, which she cherished as all too soon this seemed to fade.

Grace had been reading her book with Josh, going through the story of Finders the dog and his adventure in the supermarket. She was a good reader and was able to point out to Josh where she felt he was going wrong. Josh was slow and he didn’t much care for the stupid dog or why it was even in a supermarket. He’d only ever seen one dog in a shop before himself, guiding a man around who his mum told him couldn’t see.

The dog buying cereal seemed stupid to him and he lost interest quickly and began to pinch Grace as she tried to read. If they had spoken more about the story, Grace would have agreed with Josh. The anthropomorphic antics of Finders seemed stupid to her also, and she did question its applicability to their development, further wondering if Miss Carbine; who was busy checking her phone, had given them the correct course book that morning. But she persevered and tried to ignore Josh as he pinched her, pushing him away and trying to finish the story for them both.

The rest of the class didn’t seem to have any problems with the book or Finders, indeed some seemed to be enjoying it. Before long though they had all finished and it was time for lunch. As it would be indoors today, they were allowed to sit on the carpet and have their food. An indoor picnic Miss Carbine suggested, helping them retrieve their lunchboxes from the tidy trays and bags. Grace went to the hallway where her bag was and retrieved a cup from the side also for some water. Josh had pushed passed her, knocking her into the wall as he attempted to put something down Amanda Hartly’s back. She scowled at him as she steadied herself, a small red mark appearing on her elbow where she’d banged into the wall.

With her lunch and water Grace sat on the carpet, eager to begin her food as her stomach growled. She heard the rain outside their classroom and watched it drip down the glass like a hose had been aimed at it. Her best friend Michael was not in today, and Miss Carbine had told them he was unwell. She looked at her teacher now, who was helping Robert with his lunchbox that wouldn’t open, missing Michael.

She had just started to tuck into her sandwich when she felt water pouring all over her. She momentarily thought the windows had smashed open, the storm breaching the small stronghold their tiny school offered. Then the laughter rose about her, coming strong from behind. Josh stood there, with an empty jug in his hand having poured the contents all over her. His fat face sporting a smile that reached from one chubby cheek to the other.

​“Oh, Josh Devonport what do you think you’re doing!” Miss Carbine yelled, stepping the short way across the carpet to where he stood.

“That’s horrible Josh. You’re so mean.” Amy Standhall said, who was sat next to Grace but had escaped the projectile of the water. Grace sat there, the water pooling in her dress as she sat crossed leg. Her sandwich now a sodden mess and a cold chill slithering over her body.

“Get over there right now!” Miss Carbine said, ordering the boy away from where the others sat. Miss Carbine, lovely as she was, was not really prepared for the antics of children. She had the priorities of the situation confused, and though she acted with Josh; she somewhat neglected Grace as she sat there with the water in her knickers and the fat boy laughing on at the other side of the room. Amy got Grace to stand up and shake off the water and she even went with her to the bathroom to help her dry off. Grace watched Josh as she left the room being reprimanded by Miss Carbine. She doubted he really cared.

A while later Miss Carbine appeared in the bathroom and helped Grace dry off completely, asking her if she was okay and not to worry about her dress; or her lunch for that matter. She would see to it that some food would arrive. But Grace was no longer hungry. She was wet, cold and angry at being humiliated.

She returned to the classroom where everyone had carried on with their lunches. Some of the kids had finished and were playing with the building blocks near the blackboard. Josh had been ordered to get some paper towels and was mopping up the water that he spilt on the floor where Grace had quietly sat waiting to eat her lunch. He smiled at her as she came back into the room. The taunting face of someone who would do the same thing again.

Teddy Evans came up to her and asked if she was okay, she nodded in reply; thankful that all boys weren’t as horrid as Josh. Miss Carbine suddenly whisked herself away to go get Grace some food, despite her protest. While the others played, Grace went to the back of the class where the storage cupboard was. She opened the door quietly and went inside. The small cupboard was stacked high with boxes and games equipment. They weren’t really allowed to go in there on their own, but everything was stored safely and there was no real danger. Silly rules to keep them in place she guessed. Unless you were locked in with the light off perhaps. Grace found what she was looking for quickly, and a few minutes later slipped out of the cupboard and approached Josh.

“That wasn’t very nice what you did you know.” She said to him, hoping to find remorse there in those fat brown eyes. Josh scoffed and pushed her away.

“Buzz off. You smell like a wet dog.” He said.

​“Aren’t you even sorry for doing what you did?” she asked him, giving him one more opportunity to apologise.

“I said buzz off!” He said again, pushing her hard. Grace stepped back; her eyes burning a hole through him. Then she smiled and said.

“You know with Miss Carbine away, there’s nothing stopping us getting the footballs and tennis balls out of the cupboard and playing quickly. Shame we didn’t get to go outside today, huh?” She said, innocently. She knew Josh wasn’t too stupid, but even at her young age she knew how to manipulate certain people. She had said the magic word too, football.

“Why me?” Josh asked, somewhat suspicious.

“Well, they’re on the high shelves aren’t they, I can’t reach them.” Grace replied, hoping the seed would manifest in Josh’s stodgy brain.

​“Right, outta the way then.” He said, reaching his own conclusion that the break time indoors was dull and kicking a ball around would be better. Grace knew Miss Carbine would be returning soon, but she watched as Josh went over to the cupboard where the sports equipment was and saw him go in.

It seemed that fate was eager to help Grace that rainy Wednesday while the other kids played in the classroom, and Miss Carbine chatted absently with one of the other teachers by the school kitchen.

​Once Josh had entered the small cupboard the sports boxes had tumbled onto him and the lights had gone out, plunging the whole school into darkness. No doubt the storm had downed a power line mile away, knocking the electricity off and unleashing chaos upon the small primary school. But the skipping ropes had found their way around Josh’s neck in the tumble of the boxes, their disordered storing knotting quickly and completely in the frantic blackness of the closet.

Her earlier placement up into the vent made it an inevitable trap Josh would not be able to escape from. When the power sprang back to life, Grace quietly flicked the switched outside the small cupboard which kicked the extractor fan on that resided within; left over from recent renovations when their classroom used to be part of the old bathrooms.

The ropes worked quickly around him, tightening hard around his fat little neck. He lifted slightly off his feet as the light bulb above him blinked in and out, mirroring his consciousness; the ropes choking him into regret.

Grace returned to the others, pretending to be scared by the lights and the storm. Secretly smiling to herself as his howls of help were drowned out by the chaos enveloping their class.


More fables here.

Something to stay awake for – Troll

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When a person or neighbour in your village cries out “troll”, lock your children inside the house and keep your hunting rifle by your side. I used to believe they were only children’s tales supposed to scare the kids from stepping deep into caves or under bridges. They had bright pink hair and you stuck them onto the end of your pencil. There was nothing to fear because they were nowhere to be seen.

This all changed a few years ago. I was walking Hunter through the forest on a warm Summer’s day. He was off the lead and jumping through bushes and hopping over streams and rarely waited for me. But when I stopped to tie my shoes I looked up and he was gone. There was nothing but the faint groans of pigs. I moved through the bushes closer to the noise and to stop Hunter from scaring the animals. Clearing through the bushes I saw what looked like three children all dressed in black. They were hopping around the front of a cave and throwing something between them. I stepped closer and noticed they were not children at all. Standing four-foot-tall and covered in wiry black fur.

They squatted at the entrance and squealed as they chucked something against the rocks. Stamping the ground and smashing their swollen grey hands down onto the item like they were pressing grapes for wine. Their faces were a mess of mangy hair and bulbous snout covered in warts. For a second, I caught sight of their small pebble black eyes scan the trees. I stood horrified as one flung the creature they had been stomping on to the other. Amidst all the blood I saw one of the trolls spinning Hunter’s collar between its fingers. They were throwing my German Shepherd around like he was nothing more than a wet towel. They squealed and painted their cave red with his blood. Only after some time had passed, they finally grew bored and lazily clambered back into the darkness. As I stood there paralysed in fear the last thing I heard where the echoed howls of twenty more.

When I returned to the village and told them of the trolls the older men looked at me displeased. They said they had warned us many times of the trolls, but no-one listened. It was several days later when I heard that they had built a fence around the cave and done nothing more. Looking back now I agree with how they handled it. It was too much of a risk to try and fight them as an angry troll will often follow you home and sniff out your loved ones. Best to let them lay in their caves and hope you don’t catch their eye.


Story by Harley Holland
More fables here.