Something Spooky this Way Comes...
Dark Greetings children of the night (and day) who have wandered into my domain here (well blogpost). Be warned monsters lurk within these dark pages. Behold!
Well not really. We tried dressing up the cats for Halloween. Mario as a super scary pumpkin and Luigi as a bat. As you can see we didn't really succeed. Alack! My desire to put the fluffy boys in silly/adorable costumes has will never be realised. They are just not keen on them.
Not that either Beth or I are very bothered with Halloween. True we like dressing up, and I particularly like chocolate but this doesn’t extend to this spooky holiday. Neither of our families were that keen on it either so we never built up any real affection for it. We’re Christmas people we are. Neither of us have been trick or treating. The furthest I got when I was young were doing cute little Halloween parties with doughnuts hanging from ropes and bobbing for apples. I did enter a costume contest once, coming second to someone who was using a recycled Santa costume to be an uninspiring Zombie variant. I was rightly cross with the outcome.
Neither of us do well with horror either. Beth is terrified of the ghosts from Muppets’ Christmas Carol while I once spent a whole night reading a Horrible Histories book, getting not a fragment of sleep, having just seen The Women in Black on stage. I however do suffer from bouts of being utterly fascinated with the genre. Not gory slasher films or games. I know if I watch any my overactive imagination will latch onto ideas and create new horrific musings which inevitably spook all over. Most recently there have been a glut of janky indie Japanese horror games, and I can’t get enough of watching playthroughs on Youtube. The same fascination gripped me with the (first 3) 5 Night’s at Freddies’s games. I’ve tried playing a couple but I never really do well. For example in Alien Isolation, at around the 30% mark I decided to make a hiding locker a forever home. Still I have found from my writing that I enjoy writing horror. Build the tension, setting the creepy atmosphere to new levels, and creating nightmarish monsters and villains. Yes I find it all so thrilling. As such on this Halloween 2022 I offer up the first chapter of a recent Horror Short story WIP. Whether I continue with it I don’t know yet. But please bare in mind this is very much a work in progress and any suggestions and feedback would be very much appreciated. Anyway without further ado let me present “Untitled Horro Short Story”. Woooooooooo… spooky name….
The rain kept falling. Down and down it came. No end in sight. Merciless, relentless, cold. Just rain falling from dark clouds, choking out the sky and the sun like thick billows of polluted smoke. Darkness on a late April day. The rain rattled on the rooftops and paving slabs of the streets. The parked cars and the lampposts. Bins overstuffed and forgotten, and across the windows. Little but the sound of…
as the down pour continued on and on, with no sign of reprieve. No mercy in sight.
The streets were empty. There were no signs of life save the dull flickering of lights from homes and shops. Pools of water collected and formed into small ponds between holes in the tarmac. It filled drains to bursting like overstuffed sausages ripping forth, their pinkish brown sludge of reformed flesh gasping free. The buildings were stained and damp, their colour washing away, their surfaces sodden grey and hard, standing like old tombstones in serried ranks. Traffic lights changed, their colours punching through the dreary malaise, but few vehicles responded to their commands. No they were veritably empty. Even a main road such as St. Mary’s Road stood empty. Still. Almost lifeless. Like an empty mournful dirge punctuated by the constant sound of...
And Yusef lay in a restless sleep, locked away, hiding himself obediently within his small apartment that sat in the corner of a long reconverted industrial building that sat upon St. Mary’s Road. A rectangular thing, with a mostly flat roof. Originally cheaply made, it was then cheaply converted into habitable accommodation with all the general amenities required of a modern home. The bottom floors had been converted into a row of shops, while above them rested two floors worth of apartments. Their small windows the only portal through which to witness the complex desperate lives within. The people who had diligently locked themselves away once lockdown had been announced. Pandemic had gripped the country and staying at home seemed alright and good – if you had the space, money, and comfort to do so. But this set of apartments, all small in size possessed none of these qualities. Still they sat just 3 minutes’ walk from a major train station with links to the capital. And of course you could increase the rent for such a luxury.
But Yusef, a young man of 26 years, had found himself somehow, someway, halfway across the world from his home, having fled war and tragedy, and found himself in 112b on St Mary’s Road, alone with only his nightmares for company. With little in the way of money, company, or belongings he spent most of his time asleep with his restless dreams. Of explosions, blood, corpses, rubble. Starving children, and the screams of friends as their skin melted, their lungs burnt to ash, as they were tortured by weaponized chemicals and poisons. The stuff of nightmares. He had travelled alone with little but these images and memories for company. And they visited him once again as he slept. His heart pounded as he thrashed upon his mattress. His bedding flung either side of him. Sweat formed on his forehead, strained gargles thrashed within his throat. In his mind were scenes of death. Seas of bloody entrails, mountains of corpses and skulls. And there in front of him was a familiar ghastly image. A figure all in rags, stained crimson, misshapen and sickly, with skeletal limbs. Fingernails sharpened into grubby claws, and the skull of a goat for a head, its sandy bleached bone cracked texture was blackened and burnt. Two eyes full of pain gazed through this head – red and bloodshot. Anger, hatred, agony. Suffering. Nothing more. And with one bony claw it reached out and once again took Yusef by the shoulder while the other was forced into his mouth and down his throat, choking him violently. The same nightmare. It was always this way. In his sleep he thrashed desperately, his limbs going taut. A pain like wood splintering tensed down his legs. Further and further the claw was pushed, its rough barbed texture shredding the inside of his throat into bloody ribbons. Poor Yusef once again was brought to an agonising, pitiful death. Thrashing, and spluttering. Desperate, helpless and full of agony.
“let go of me! Let go of me!!!!” came a voice.
And with that Yusef was awake. The creature was gone once again, along with the hellish world that haunted his dreams. He was back in his own reality, in his room with its high white washed ceilings. He panted for a moment, every inch of him cooling under a layer of dreadful sweat. He blinked, brushed the damp fibres of his dark beard and refocused. Yes he had escaped once more. All was normal again. He had escaped back into the dreary grey empty darkness of his bedroom. And he lay there in relief as reality struck once more, his chest heaving still, but slowly subsiding. The world around him silent save for his own panting and the steady sound of…
It was still raining. It hadn’t stopped. Through the gloom he could see the damp water stains on the ceiling. They seemed larger. The air around him seemed damper. One of the patches had a dark clump. Mould. More of it. The damp always brought it, and then it never left. Unable to escape the unrelenting damp. No time to dry. No time to find any taste of relief or escape from the moisture. But it was still a relatively small patch. The ones in the living room and kitchenette were much worse.
There was a low thumping. A recognisable sound of feet marching and stamping. This was followed by a murmur. More bickering from the neighbours directly next to him. The walls were thin and though he had never met the family, he knew much about them from the frequent arguments they had, the loud music they played, the television and films they put on. He could hear it all through those thin cheap walls. A family. Two children at least, always having arguments. He never completely knew what they were about. His basic grasp of English meant he could never fully translate it. What he did know was that they were loud and unhappy.
“Stop it! Fucks sake! Get offa me!” came the voice once again, shrill and unsteady, voice cracking.
Their younger child from what Yusef could tell. It was the usual routine. The usual round of screaming, bickering, and stomping. There was the sound of thumping once again. And the voice was joined by sneers and giggles. Yusef did little but lay there on the old mattress and listened as the young voices continued on and then finally disappeared as another older and tired voice summoned them. The sound of feet stamped off into the distance and all was quiet again. Yusef was left with but the constant drum of…
A new cool dampness clung to his brown skin. It was his sweat cooling between the prickled bumps on his arms and legs. A cold queasy shiver still rattled through his flesh. He had escaped his nightmares yes, but an element lingered on. Following him through into his reality like a shadow cast through a window or a crack in a wall. It was then, even in the gloom of his bedroom that he could feel a lingering presence. A figure, little more than a conjuration of his mind, standing in the corner, watching him. It made him feel queasy and cold but little else. He knew what it was. Simply the creation of his ravaged scrambled sickly mind. Rather he had come to expect its company after such a nightmarish episode. He called him Muhammad. Tradition states you always have to name your first son Muhammad. Plus it reminded him of his brother – skulking in the corners of rooms at gatherings, awkward and staring. His counsellor said it would help things. And to a degree it did. He no longer feared the spectre from his nightmares. Reminded him that it was little but the creation of his broken mind. And a reminder he needed to take his medication. The queasy sensation that lingered in his arms and legs had never improved. He needed to get out of bed.
The rain carried on. Yusef ignored it. He had grown used to it. It existing as a simple background malaise. He nodded over to the spectre in the corner with a tired smile on his face, as if greeting an old unwelcome relative. He pulled himself up to his feet from the mattress. His legs shook for a moment, unsteady and unsure. But his feet found their way and clasped onto the synthetic wooden panels beneath him, steadying the rest of him as if they were remembering how to function. The shadow lingered, its empty eyes staring into him. He waved jokingly at the vision. But it remained. He rubbed his forehead. It rattled and rolled, a queasy sensation taking over. He couldn’t put up with Muhammad’s company for too long. He had to take his medication.
With heavy, clumsy feet he pushed himself out through his bedroom door. At first he rubbed his eyes and forehead, but then as the sloshing in his head grew worse he used his arms to steady himself as he moved. He knew the walls of the little corridor well. Knew every scratch in the paintwork, the bumps in the white washed plastering. He pushed forward through that small gap, looking briefly upwards at the attic hatch. It was little but a white painted square panel on top of a scuffed wooden border. There it sat as it always did, closed and dull. The landlord had forbidden him from going up there, no matter how much it rained and how large the damp patches grew. Sometimes droplets would snake down the rope pull of the bathroom light switch. But no, despite his prior knowledge and the urges that came with it, he would not allow himself up there to investigate or fix anything. He was forbidden to. There could be anything up in that attic. Rats, great holes in the roof, a bed. But no, the landlord had told him in hard clear words not to venture up there and he shuddered at the thought of getting in any trouble. He would be quiet and do what he was told.
The spectre lingered in the corner to his left in that tight square shaped corridor. Muhammad stared at him as he rubbed his forehead once again, trying to massage the first flickers of a headache away, before pushing on and through the bathroom door. This was another white painted box, with a shower on one side and the toilet and sink on the other. Large dirty brow stains with misshapen black splodges blighted the ceiling. A droplet trailed down the rope of the light switch again. He didn’t dare pull it. Instead he shuffled to the sink, and when he was close enough slouched onto it, his hands and arms holding him upright as the cheap porcelain took his weight. His eyes glanced up at the mirrored cabinet in front of him. For a moment he saw Muhammad lurking in the shower behind him. The thought of this spectre having a wash brought a smile to his face. Yes it did help at times. Maybe he was actually the bad one barging in on his friend during his shower. Either way he swung the cabinet door open, grabbed the small plastic clear tub and pooped it open. Almost habitually he rolled a pill onto his palm and then swung the hand up to his mouth. Then almost in one motion he swung his head down, flipped the tap on, and with his mouth open and thirsty gulped both the pill and water down. With a firm press he pushed the lever down and the sound of running water ended abruptly. After placing the pot back in its cabinet he closed the door. He stared into that mirror, droplets of cold water falling from his damp beard. Muhammad still lurked behind him in the shower. But slowly, gradually, as his pill took affect he faded away out of existence. The clammy prickling of his skin subsided while the queasiness faded away into a distant echo. It took some time but he waited, leaning on that bathroom sink, as all returned to stillness and peace once more. He was all alone, his apartment, empty, lonely, and cold. His only company being the steady beat of his heart as it rediscovered its usual rhythm, and the constant…
as the rain kept falling.
He checked the little plastic tub again. It felt light. The rattling sound it made was hollow which meant there were hardly any left inside. He popped it open. 5 left. He’d need more soon. At his current rate in about 3 days’ time. The visions had become more frequent recently. They worked though. Though he felt groggy after each one Muhammad wouldn’t reappear for at least 12 hours. They worked, reliably so. But the trip to the pharmacy was never enjoyable. The long queues of coughing people. Their sad pale sullen faces as grey as the moody April weather. The stern strained looks of the exhausted pharmacy workers. The clusters of desperate sad people in masks. All light gone from their eyes, like old spectres lingering on. The pharmacy lights always bright and sharp. They made him feel uncomfortable. He never liked making those trips. But in a day or two he would have to go, if not sooner. No, he was confident that what he had left would keep him going. Only 1 every 12 hours except for extreme circumstances. He would be fine. Carefully he placed the little tub back into the cupboard, making sure the lid was securely fastened as he did so. Then opening the cupboard once more he checked again. They were still fine. He could feel the muscles in his body relax. His lungs had room to breathe again. Muhammad had gone entirely. A new blurry giddiness was swimming around his head. He felt a small yawn at the back of his throat. He knew this sensation. The grogginess was setting in. He needed a coffee.
He headed for the kitchen. He didn’t know what time it was. The gloom and rain made it impossible to tell. Not that it mattered with lockdown. Day and night seemed to merge together in a haze. He wasn’t planning to go to sleep anytime soon. So yes a coffee would be good. He shuffled back through the small corridor box in his old clothes. He only had two sets. One set – jeans, thick jumper, and hole riddled trainers with socks, that had survived the journey across and were dirty and ragged, smelling of his own distinct odour, and another similar outfit given him by some friendly charity people that was too big and had an old musky foreign smell to it. He might have fit in it before when he had more fat on himself, but not anymore. He generally wore his old clothes. That day was no different. The rain kept falling.
He passed under the attic hatch. He glanced up at it briefly. It was still in place. With surer steadier hands he swung open the door to the living room. Another high ceiling white washed room. A small old sofa sat in the middle of it, its leatherwork worn and faded, hidden under an old blanket. It faced a large square black and grey piece of artwork showing a city scene. Framed, it consumed almost two thirds of the wall it sat upon. Windows greeted him on the wall opposite the door, grey curtains hanging lazily on them, the dull murky light from outside creeping in through the gaps. Upon that wall between the windows sat a new, cheap looking clock that ticked away. The hands marked out 12.36. He had gotten up earlier than usual. Apart from these features the room was essentially empty save for the cardboard boxes that lined the available floor. None of these were his of course. They were all the landlords. He was using the space to store them. None had anything important inside of them. Well that’s what his landlord had told him. They were all taped up and Yusef had neither the inclination nor curiosity to investigate. After everything he had been through he didn’t want any more trouble in his life, especially over something as pointless as boxes. He stepped through these with habitual ease. Even with his grogginess he had no trouble and soon he had passed down one corridor to the small kitchenette that branched off the living room. There was the low sound of a car outside, driving through the puddles on the main road. Then all was quiet again save for his shuffling and the steady sound of…
The rain was getting stronger, harder. Not that it bothered him mind. He carried on in search of his coffee. The kitchenette was small but practical. It had everything, all in a reasonably good state too. An oven, microwave, hob. Not much cupboard space, but that didn’t matter. He had barely anything to fill them with. He had all that he needed, all that the exhausted looking charity people had given him. Some leftovers from the previous tenants too. The landlord too lazy or unbothered to get rid of them. There was a grubbiness to it all and the corners of some of the panelling was becoming cracked and dog eared. But Yusef did not care at all. He had been through much worse. Being in the presence of the shabby little kitchenette gave him a warm feeling in his chest. A reassuring semblance of comfort and stability in his otherwise unsettled world.
He grabbed his favourite mug from one of the cupboards. A colourful thing with what appeared to be the branding of an egg based chocolate confectionary plastered on it. “Crème Egg” it said. Ever since he first started using the mug and worked out what one of these eggs were, he promised to buy himself one. When he had the cash to spare that is. But that sadly never happened. With habitual ease, and almost without looking he filled the kettle, switched it on and then spooned coffee into his mug. It was the weird bitter instant stuff. Unlike anything at home. With a bit of sugar though it was good. The rain continued to fall, growing harder. He reached for another cupboard to retrieve the sugar when a new sound emerged. This one within the walls of his apartment.
There was a leak. It had happened before, but only when the rain fell hard enough. The downpour, he could hear it, was getting worse. He had to find the leak. He looked up at the ceiling. It was stained with huge damp marks. Large dirty brownish lumps, shapes, and circles that blotted the white painted ceiling. Some had a grimy orange hue, while others had black splodges and spots. It was mould brought on by the lingering moisture. It was far worse here in the kitchen living room than anywhere else in the flat. Most of it gathered along the front wall with its windows. Perhaps the roof was weaker around that section? Maybe the water just gathered there? He didn’t know. He had told his landlord many times before and each time he came round and declared it sorted, only for it to rain again and prove otherwise. If he could he’d go into the attic himself to investigate. Maybe even fix it. He knew what to do. He glanced over at the attic hatch, and thought of the spare ladder that rested in the communal cupboard, but then thought otherwise. He wasn’t allowed up there. The rain kept falling. No instead he scanned the ceiling again, searching for the dripping. He quickly found it. Drops emerged from a black spot falling into the corner of the kitchenette. With a sigh of defeat he did what he always did. The only thing he could do. He reached into another cupboard and grabbed one of the old metal cooking pots. Then finding the drip again he placed it under it and the apartment was soon filled with a new sound.
A metallic whisper as the water drops struck the pans interior. With a sigh he watched on for a moment as the droplets continued to fall in their little pattern. The rain kept falling outside and a new sound whispered through the living room.
It was only quiet. Little more than a whisper. But he knew what it was. Another leak and more droplets falling from the ceiling. It was hitting something too. Something different. He soon found the source. From a stain in the middle of the living room droplets fell, striking one of his landlord’s boxes. A white cardboard one. With a sigh he opened the cupboard, grabbed another cooking pot, and without really looking or thinking about it, placed it under the leak. The reassuring sound of
could be heard. This sound was deeper though. As if the pot was made of a harder metal or the droplets were thicker, or syrupy. But he paid it no attention and went back to his coffee with a low, almost joking groan. The kettle clicked off, steam rising from its spout, rumbling and rattled on its base. He searched the cupboards for his sugar. There was none left. Another groan rumbled, this time louder from the back of his throat. There was only one thing he could do. His neighbours below were friendly enough, he would ask them. They were an eastern European couple, generally very private, but one day after they had had a party they gifted him the leftover donuts. There were 11 in total. They weren’t cheap ones either. Yusef hadn’t tasted anything like them in ages and ate them quickly. He felt queasy for 2 days. But yes they were good sorts. More than happy to give him a cup of sugar. The only problem was that they sometimes played their music too loudly. But Yusef didn’t mind – it was no worse than his neighbours next to him. A new noise erupted through the walls. A stamping of angry feet and a strained adolescent voice...
“I’m going to kill you!”
Yes the neighbours below were much better than his other ones. So grabbing an empty mug, his keys, and mask, he left his own flat and headed downstairs. There were two short flights of stairs to reach them. The landing in between had a small room sized cupboard with but a collection of the landlords paints, tools, ladders, screws, and other odds and ends. He’d looked inside it before, but usually only when the door had swung open by itself. The frame was too big for it and the door mechanisms were badly done so the thing hung loose. But he passed this and headed further down to his neighbours and knocked on their door. With tired faces, hidden under masks they gave him his sugar and then nervously hid again, closing their door as soon as the last mumbled pleasantry was said. With his cup full of sugar he headed back upstairs, seemingly with new life. Eager for his bad cup of coffee. The rain kept falling and the two drips continued on with their tinny sound in his living room.
It was then, as he passed into the kitchenette, that he noticed something. The damp stain from the leak in the living room, the one that struck one of his landlord’s boxes, was red. He rubbed his eyes for a moment and then gave it another look. His first impression was correct. The first few drops that had struck the white cardboard box were indeed a crimson colour. The droplets had trailed down the side of it, leaving a red streak. It was still damp. He lent down and touched it. It felt thicker, more cloying then water. A weird stickiness. It stained the tips of his fingers. It did not feel like water. Instinctively he brought his fingers up to his hand to smell this red substance. His chest tightened with dread. It smelt coppery. Metallic. A queasy sensation rumbled up his nostrils and then down through his body. Without thinking he looked in the metal pot. A small pool of thick crimson liquid rested inside. More fat droplets struck it with a hard metallic sound. It couldn’t be? Surely not?
But then his eyes swung upwards. The dripping was continuing from the ceiling. The droplets falling in the kitchenette had turned red as well. The sound that came as they hit their own metal kitchen pot had grown thicker and lower too. But that wasn’t all. The rain kept falling at its steady rate.
Now though it seemed to have a cruel mocking tone as he gazed at the ceiling. The damp stains were no longer their sandy dirty browns and oranges. No. They were a deep crimson. All of them. As if they had been soaked through with blood. Yusef’s heart pounded away and his chest tightened. A new anxiety attack seemed to be coming. He searched the room desperately. This was just another nightmarish hallucination. If he found Muhammad that would be all he would need to tell him that it was just another episode. Another ghastly vision. But try as he did he could not find his spectral acquaintance. He was on his own. Crimson droplets continued to fall from the ceiling. Each ting of the metal pots sent another painful shudder through his body, like shards of glass being dragged up and down his nerve endings rapidly. Desperately he grasped the sides of his head, almost tearing hair out in the process. His mind churned as his chest heaved. It had to be another vision. It had to be! He desperately tried to steady his breath and look away. He would take one of his pills and then he would find no sign of it. Just rain water. He could take them every 12 hours, 6 if an episode flared up, but never sooner than an hour. Yes, that would do it. Just a quick pill and that would be fine. He pulled his eyes away from the red droplets finally, and did his best to smother out the noise with his hands now pressing hard against his ears. His gaze fell upon the clock on the wall. It was 12.50. The last time he read it the hands said 12.36. That was just after his last dose. No. He couldn’t take anymore. His eyes widened. His panting grew. A new leak emerged from one of the red stains on the ceiling. The drops that fell were crimson too. Another joined it. 4 leaks soon turned into 5 and then 6 as more red liquid fell from the ceiling. His panting grew worse. A tightness took over his throat. A familiar choking. A terrified gurgle escaped him. It was blood. It couldn’t be anything else. It was only 12.50. Barely 15 minutes since his last dose.
It was then a droplet fell and struck him on the cheek. It trailed down his face, staining his brown skin. He dabbed it carefully away with shaking fingers. Yes. He knew that texture. It was blood. It felt so real. He had taken his last pill little more than fifteen minutes ago. It was still working on him. Muhammad wasn’t appearing. With a new dread taking over he finally accepted a ghastly truth. He looked up at the ceiling as droplets of blood fell from crimson stains at a steady pace. A scream tried to escape his throat but it was too tight. Instead came a desperate choking gargle. This was no vision. This was no nightmare. This was real.
Wooooooooooooo! Spooky... I mean errr... thank you for reading. As mentioned this is still a WIP so any comments, ideas, feedback, etc would be much appreciated. And of course Merry Halloweenmus to you all!
And with that it's bye for now. I'll be back soon. Jon