Fright Night IIDavid Smith / Horror
FRIGHT NIGHT II
Stories for Halloween
The Tunbridge Wells Writers
Published by Tunbridge Wells Writers Publications
Copyright © (2016) for individual stories remains that of the named author.
All rights reserved.
While offered freely for personal use the stories in this collection should not be reproduced without the permission of the relevant author(s). All unauthorised commercial use is expressly prohibited. Links for the Tunbridge Wells Writers website and social media pages can be found in the introduction to this book.
Cover image: “Castle” by Streamline69. Used with kind permission under Creative Commons License 3. Available for non commercial use from DeviantArt.com
Tunbridge Wells Writers: An Introduction
A Brief Outline of the FRIGHT NIGHT II Project
The Stairwell – Sue Marlow
All Souls’ Eve – Philip Holden
Blackberries – David Smith
The Lost – Karen Tucker
Pet Food – David Hensley
The Dead of Winter – Peter Tonkin
The Flowing Finger – Paul Bright
Through the Door – Carolyn Gray
This is Where I Died – David Burrows
The Letter – Philip Holden
Trick and Treat – David Smith
The Three Tales – Sue Marlow
The Gnome of Doom – Karen Tucker
Further Reading from the Tunbridge Wells Writers.
TUNBRIDGE WELLS WRITERS
Tunbridge Wells Writers is a small collective of aspiring writers living in and around the much-maligned town of Tunbridge Wells in Kent. We meet once a fortnight to discuss all aspects of writing, to offer mutual support and encouragement, to swap ideas and writing tips, and, on occasion, to work together on group projects like this one. Several of us, in the great writer tradition, also like to take the opportunity to down a few glasses of wine and/or beer, which is one of the reasons we meet in a local pub.
Neither a fondness for alcohol nor residence in Tunbridge Wells are prerequisites for membership of the group, however, so if you, dear reader, have similar literary ambitions but prefer soft drinks or live elsewhere please feel free to join us either in the flesh or through our website or Facebook page which are found -
And on social media: https://www.facebook.com/groups/twellswriters/ and https://twitter.com/TWWriters
A Brief Outline of the FRIGHT NIGHT II Project
Each year, on or around October 31st, The Tunbridge Wells Writers gather together to share dark tales of haunts and horror and other fiendish goings on to honour the spirit(s) of Halloween. Fright Night II, as you have undoubtedly already surmised, is the second collection of stories to come from these events. Sadly, ghosts in the machine and gremlins in the works (or possibly a hard drive failure in tandem with a somewhat lackadaisical approach to document backups) have seen the past two year’s worth of stories reduced to the slim volume of thirteen tales now clutched in your virtual hand. We hope you enjoy them.
This year’s FRIGHT NIGHT event will, spirits willing, be taking place on November 1st 2016 at our usual meeting place of St John’s Yard, where, to paraphrase Bela Lugosi’s / Tod Browning’s Count Dracula, we will bid welcome all comers, whether readers or listeners. The new stories shared during the evening will, in readiness for next year’s festivities, make their way into a Fright Night III, so don’t forget to check back next year, and collect your free copy. And while you’re at it, why not browse to the links at the end of this volume for the first Fright Night collection and our other free e-books.
She hated this car park. Unlike the one in the centre of the town where the levels led into the shopping precinct this one stood in isolation with an air of menace. The few small shops at its base had long been empty. Through the grime of the windows, fading posters and crumpled paper could be seen strewn on the floors and spider webs swung from dust covered counters and empty shelves.
It was only because she had something heavy to carry from a shop at this end of the town that she had been forced to park here. She would not be long.
There were few cars parked on the first level and as she returned from the ticket machine she noticed that most of them had something bright yellow stuck on the windscreens. She stopped to look and saw it was a parking ticket. How odd she thought; the traffic warden must have been pleased with himself to find so many victims. But then she wondered if the ticket machine was faulty and was printing the time incorrectly. She looked at hers and checked her watch... no it all seemed fine.
She didn’t like the smell in this place. It was always here and hung with malevolence, ever enduring. Whatever the weather outside the atmosphere inside was always the same: cold, dank and with a strange pungent tinge. Taking extra care to leave her ticket in a visible place she walked towards the exit and the lift and stairs. She never took the lift. On the rare occasion it was being used she could hear the pulleys straining and groaning as if being tortured and the huge double doors that concealed their pain were battered and dirty. She was grateful for its silence and walked by towards the stairwell.
That smell that she found so unpleasant began to strengthen as she approached. There was a tiny window at eye height and the door opened inward. She didn’t want to touch it with her hand. The doorplate was black with grease and the paintwork around it was peeled and grimy. She glanced through the window and then gave the door a heavy kick with her foot, slipping through the gap quickly before it swung shut like a jaw closing with a bone-shattering snap.
Her eyes stung with the stench and she blinked trying to clear her blurred vision and adjust to the grimness of the lighting. What little there was had been encased in cheap plastic shades, their bases dusted with the disintegrating remains of insects and moths. She could not bear the idea of breathing in, of this foulness coating her lungs in a suffocating film, so she held her breath and moved quickly downwards hoping to reach the door out onto the street before she needed to inhale deeply. But in her hurry perhaps she had miscounted the flights of stairs for she did not arrive at the exit door in time and had to draw breath with a gasp, her pulse quickening nervously. She carried on down another few flights of stairs and still no door. A flicker of fear and confusion welled up within her; she turned and began to count the flights of stairs as she climbed them upwards. She knew how many there were between floors, she had counted them so often in the past. But after four flights there was no exit door. In her hurry to escape this awful place she had taken the steps quickly and her heart was pounding. But it was more than the exertion, waves of anxiety writhed through her, crippling her thoughts and movements. Where was the door, where was the door? It had vanished!
She looked upward but could only see the stair rails and a dim glow of discoloured light. She leaned over, looking downwards. Below appeared flight after flight of steps that eventually vanished into darkness. She had never felt so terrified. And yet she would not allow herself to make a sound or cry for help. She felt like prey!
Standing in a palpitating silence she began to sway. The walls seemed to pulsate and throb, pressure pounded against her head, demanding entry. She stepped back from the rail and stood shaking. Cowering in a corner her eyes began to follow the path of a stain of dark liquid that had trickled down the wall opposite. A viscid pool had collected on the step that intersected its journey downwards until it had found a crack between ground and wall and had seeped through to continue on its course. Raising her eyes she could see many of these dried rivulets breaking through from the floor above.
Her breathing was strained, her heart felt clamped and she feared the air was being sucked out of the stairwell. Then in a sudden flash of hope she remembered her phone and hand trembling she scrabbled in her bag trying to find it. She felt the cold case and relief swept over her. Shaking she pressed the key to unlock it. No signal! She gasped in silence, then looked upwards again – perhaps if she went higher? She began to climb, step after step, flight after flight until the pain in her legs and the thud in her chest forced her to stop. The glow of light above her was as distant as it had been when she had first looked.
She slumped down and the cold of the floor seeped into her body and infiltrated every cell. How long before someone realised she had not returned home? How long before they came looking? How long before they found her car?
And then she remembered all the yellow parking tickets.
All Souls’ Eve
It was supposedly a tradition in Lancashire on Halloween, for people to go from door to door demanding food, a “soul cake”, in a song. This is the song reimagined.
When you closed the door, you were no longer there.
When the light was extinguished and you refused to speak.
You were not there.
A soul, a soul, a soul cake!
Mixed and proved and baked and cooled.
You were once, and now you are not there.
When you left the house to work, you were not there.
When you hid behind a book or ghosted into TV-land,
you were no longer there.
A soul, a soul, a draught of wine.
Grown and picked and pressed and kept.
You were once, and now you are not there.
When you sang and soared,
became another, you were no longer there.
When you stayed away; when you travelled far.
You were not here or there
A soul, a soul, a catch of song.
Plucked from the air and pinned to the stave,
flung from string into echo.
You were - once: you are no longer.
When you stopped, you breathed no more.
When you closed your eyes and refused to speak, you were not there
A soul, a soul, a soul-shell.
Born and mixed and raised and pressed and pinned
and flung and kept and cooled.
You were not there, you were not there
For none of us are here or seen or heard,
Unless we are here and seen and heard.
God it hurts it hurts it hurts this leg it hurts so much oh Christ it hurts it won’t move fuck…
Sarah never swore, at least not the f word or that really bad one beginning with c, but she thought them sometimes and that was usually exciting and cool. But not today. Today was the first time she had thought about the f word and known its true power. Today she used the f word to describe her pain, and that pain was so bad that when she tried to move or touch her unresponsive leg there was no other word big enough to encompass it. The pain was so huge it blocked out everything. The pain was so huge it was black, then red, then black again, and the second wave of black swallowed everything.
Later, sounds started to emerge again from the darkness. Sarah could hear two kinds of water: swirling water somewhere below and occasional drips of water falling from above. She couldn’t hear their source, but the wet pops when the droplets hit were unmistakable, especially when they landed on her skin.
The pain in her leg had receded a little. In school assembly they’d had a talk by a lady from the St. John Ambulance Brigade. She’d told them about “shock”, and Sarah thought that was what was happening with her leg. She was shivering, though whether from her wet clothes or the shock or a mix of both she didn’t know.
She did know her leg was broken. She knew this from the funny angle it was bent at and from the lump in her jeans between the knee and ankle. She thought the lump was probably a bone sticking through the flesh and that the extra wetness around it was blood, but she was afraid to touch it again to check because the pain when she had before had made her black out.
She called for Lucy but heard only her own echo. Sarah knew Lucy had fallen with her, and the lack of any response was terrifying; more so even than the darkness.
Sarah could remember the ground opening up beneath them but not the fall. The absence of light suggested they had fallen a long way and that the descent had been angled, the turns blocking the sunlight from above. Either that, or she had been unconscious for far longer than she realised and it was now night. It had been sunny mid-afternoon when they’d started their hike, and only an hour or so past teatime when the ground opened and swallowed them. Crompton Moor was rumoured to be riddled with old mineshafts, but apart from one story about a dog falling down a well the girls had heard nothing official confirming this. They thought all the shafts had been capped years ago, before the council started promoting the area as a hiker’s heaven.
They’d left the footpath to pick blackberries, laying their rucksacks on the verge. They carried a Tupperware lunchbox each for the berries. The grass in front of the bush had seemed spongy underfoot, but not remarkably so. It was only when the two girls came together that their combined weight broke through the thin crust of soil and rotten wood. Lucy had fallen first, Sarah just making the side of the pit where she managed to hold on for a few seconds before gravity took her. She had fallen with tufts of grass and clods of loose earth still clutched in her hands.