“Do come in.”  Victor stepped aside to admit his visitor.  “Excuse the um,” he gestured at his grubby lab coat.  “Haven’t been able to put a wash on for a while.”

The visitor nodded, causing the feathers hanging around the brim of his hat to wave as though in greeting.  He stepped over the threshold and wiped his feet on the mat.

“I don’t usually – um,” Victor closed the door.  “I mean, I’m a scientist.  I believe in the rational, the measurable, the observable.  But I’m desperate, sir – What do I call you?  Is ‘sir’ OK?  Or do you have some title?  I mean, I’ve never employed a shaman before but –” Victor’s shoulders slumped in defeat.  “I’m desperate.”

The shaman looked around.  A thump rattled the ceiling.  The light fixture wobbled.

“Oh, that,” said Victor, with a dismissive gesture.  “That’s nothing.  If you’d come through to the kitchen…”

He ushered the shaman along the hall.  The kitchen was tiny and dominated by huge coils of copper that let off lazy sparks.  Slabs of batteries were stacked on the draining board.  The low buzz of electricity filled the air.  Victor’s hair stood on end and the shaman’s feathers stood to attention. From above, another thump and a growl.

“Ignore that,” Victor tried to smile.  “That’s not why you’re here.”

The shaman peered at papers, heaped on the kitchen table.  Weather forecasts, charts and projections.  The outlook was fair.  It was a mild winter.

“That’s it – what do you reckon?” Victor chewed his thumbnail.  “I suppose some kind of explanation is in order.”  He waved at the equipment.  “You can appreciate the need to find other sources of fuel.  Renewable, I mean.  So, I’ve been harnessing electricity from lightning.  Hence all the doodads and thingumabobs that have taken over the kitchen.  Otherwise I’d offer you a cup of tea – Do you drink tea?  I don’t have any peyote – or am I being racist there?  Sorry.  The thing is: I stored enough lightning power to get the washing machine up and running.  I was between loads when the cat got in – he likes the warm, you see.  He curls up in the drum.  I always have to check – don’t want a drowned cat!  Who does?  Anyway, while I was pegging out one batch, Thomas got in.  It began to rain so I had to get everything in again, sharpish, and then there was a bolt of lightning, straight to the conductor and I heard the washing machine start up and there was a yowl and a roar.  I dropped all the clothes and dashed inside.  Instead of Thomas, there was this – thing in the kitchen, with slavering jaws and claws as long as my forearm.  Well, I managed to lure it upstairs and lock it in the bedroom – I shinned down the drainpipe, barely got away with my life.”

Victor turned to show the back of his lab coat, slashed to tatters and stained with his own blood.

“Oh, please, sir!” he seized the shaman’s hand.  “Call up a storm.  I’ve rigged the whole house.  Call down as much lightning as you can.  I don’t know how many bolts it will take but I want my Thomas back again.”

The shaman wrested free of the mad scientist’s grasp.  His eyes darted around the room.  On the floor, heaped among the washing, he spotted a dog collar, a mitre, a star of David and a prayer mat.  Clearly, he was not the first non-scientist the madman had tried.

Upstairs, the thing that used to be Thomas growled hungrily.

Steeling himself, the shaman lifted his hands to the skies and began to chant.  As though his life depended on it.


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“And there’s nothing else missing?”

Derek Bradley scowled at the policeman.  “I don’t care if anything else is missing.  They can take the whole bloody house if they want.  But the one thing – the only thing they took was the one thing I cannot do without.”

The policeman tapped his biro on his notepad, adding to Bradley’s irritation.

“And you’re sure it just hasn’t been misplaced.  It’s not going to turn up somewhere.”

“Of course it bloody isn’t!” Bradley snapped.  “How many exams did you have to fail to get your bloody job?”

The policeman gave a patient smile.  Men like Derek Bradley didn’t need reminding to keep a civil tongue in his head.  That would have the same effect as poking him with a sharpened stick.

“The description you gave,” he glanced at his notes, “About the size of a fist, you said, grey like pencil lead and porous like a pumice stone…”

“Yes,” sighed Bradley.  “How many more times/.  Surely by now you should be out there making an arrest.”

“The item has value then?”

“Beyond measure!” Bradley cried.  “Oh, I don’t mean money.  Rare as it is, it’s not the money.”

“Sentimental value then.”

“Well, no… well, yes.  Yes and no.  Without it – the moonrock – my marriage will fall apart.”

“Your wife will be cross?”

Bradley emitted a bitter laugh.  “Oh, you don’t know the half of it, mate.  Cross?  She’ll bite my bloody head off.”

“I see…”  Although it was clear from the policeman’s tone that he didn’t.  “And your wife has access to the alarm code?”

“Of course she does!”

“Anyone else?”

“No!  No, I’m very strict about that kind of thing.  Just me and Anoushka.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Mrs Bradley.”

“And she won’t have moved it – the moonrock.  Taken it to show someone, perhaps?”

“No, no!  She wouldn’t – she couldn’t!  You see, my wife is unable to touch the moonrock.  It’s just not possible.”

The policeman rubbed his eyes.  “Mr Bradley.  There is no sign of forced entry.  The alarm has not been tampered with and all that’s missing is some lump of rock.”

But Bradley wasn’t listening.  He was chewing his thumbnail and pacing the carpet, casting anxious glances at the clock.

“It’ll be dark soon.  If Anoushka comes back and the moonrock’s not here…”

He opened the door and tried to usher the policeman through it.  “You had better go now while there’s still time.”

“Do you want the theft reported or not?”

“Just go!  Please!”

But the policeman remained in his seat and folded his arms.  “I think, Mr Bradley, you had better tell me exactly what is going on.”

While Derek Bradley jabbered on, ever conscious of the impending twilight, several miles away on a coastal clifftop, Mrs Anoushka Bradley tossed a grey object the size of her husband’s fist into the sea.

At once she felt better.  She pulled off the lead-lined gauntlets she’d ordered off the internet and chucked them off the cliff too.

As she drove home, she wondered how Derek was getting on with the policeman.  He’s bound to have told him all about me by now, she reckoned.  My Transylvanian background.  My dependence on the moonrock to keep my human form…

Well, there’d be no more of that.  No more of Derek controlling my every move.

She put her foot down.  If she timed it right, she could be home as night fell and there’d be two men to sink her fangs in and not just her measly husband.

As the sky darkened, Anoushka threw back her head and howled, and for the first time since her wedding day, her fur began to sprout.




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Fish Face

“What is the meaning of this?” Sly bashed at the roof of the carriage with the silver top of his cane.  “We appear to have deviated from our customary route home.  Chesterton!  Chesterton, damn your eyes!  I order you to turn around at once!”

The driver showed no signs of altering their course or of even hearing his master.  The carriage continued to pelt down the backstreets of Wapping, the horses’ hooves thundering on cobblestones.  Sly heard the protests of pedestrians as the wheels splashed them with filth from the puddles.
“Chesterton!  What in hell’s name has possessed you?”  Sly thrust his head through the window and tried to beat the man with his cane.  “Chesterton!”
The blows had no effect.  Hunched at the dashboard, in his shapeless overcoat and flattened top hat, his face bound in a muffler, the driver cracked the reins, whipping the horses into a frenzied gallop.  The streets were alarmingly narrow; Sly had to withdraw his head a few times lest it be struck off by overhanging tavern signs and the like.  On they plunged, bumps in the road lifting the wheels.  Sly had to hold onto his hat with one hand and his seat with the other.
At last, they came to a sudden, jarring halt.  Sly was unseated by the jolt.  Cursing, he righted himself.  The carriage door opened.  Chesterton waited to assist the master.  Sly waved away the offered hand and stepped out into mud.  “I trust you have come to your senses at last,” he grumbled.  “I shall have your hide for this, I -”

His words dried up as he took in his surroundings.  They were at the river’s edge.  The great Thames, brown and greasy, crawled sluggishly ahead.  Far across, on the opposite bank, lights of taverns and brothels twinkled dimly, signs of city life beyond his reach.  On this side, there was no one, no one at all.  No one save the brute Chesterton and the horses.
Sly clutched his cane, preparing to defend himself should the brute have any untoward ideas in his lumpish head.  He glared at the man.  Where was his deference, damn it?
“Why have you brought me here, God rot you?” Sly’s voice betrayed his fear.
Above the muffler and beneath the brim of the hat, the driver’s eyes flashed, eerily green.  An arm extended and a hand in a roughly-made glove pointed at the water.
Sly understood.  He backed away, shaking his head.
“No, no!  Please!  I need more time!  You must grant me more time!  There is so much I have yet to accomplish, so much I want to do.”
The hulking figure was impassive, deaf to all pleas.
He took off his hat and dropped it into the mud.  He unwound the muffler, slowly revealing a face that was gaunt and wan, like that of a fish from the deepest recesses of the ocean,the mouth a gaping circle of needle-sharp teeth.
Sly screamed and, dropping to his knees, sobbed.
“I beg you, please!  I’ll do anything – anything at all!”
It was too late.  He could feel it happening.  He could feel himself shrinking within his fine clothes until they were smothering him.  Tiny now, Sly flopped and flapped, gasping, panicking.  Dying.
Chesterton picked up the clothes and put them on, then with the silver-topped cane he batted the little green-eyed fish into the river.
He turned to the horses and gave them a pat.  They would soon get used to seeing him with the master’s face.  The first thing he would have to do when he got back to the house on Grosvenor Square would be to hire a new driver.

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Table 13

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”

Millie looked up from her Kindle and into the steely grey eyes of a tall man in a black suit.  “Yes – I mean, no,” she waved him away.  She dropped her gaze to her Maeve Binchy but she was aware that both man and empty chair remained where they were.

“Most kind,” said the man, pulling out the chair and sitting on it, “To let me join you.”

Millie frowned.  The café was bustling, the air full with the buzz of conversation, the rattle of spoon against china, and the aroma of freshly roast coffee.  Joining her at table 13 was the man’s only option.

The man must have seen the frown; he half stood.  “I’m sorry; were you expecting someone?”

Millie met his gaze again and heard herself say, “No, no.  I never am.”

The man smiled and sat down.  “Read a lot, do you?” he nodded at her device.

“When I get the chance,” she replied tartly, her lips a thin line.

The man laughed.  “You come here often.”

It was a statement rather than the clichéd opening gambit of an unimaginative chatter-upper.

Yet again, Millie found herself gazing into those eyes, like twin gun barrels.  Silver, they were, rather than grey.

“You always order the same.  A skinny flat and an apricot tart.  Something of a contradiction!”

He smirked to see Millie’s frown plough its furrow between her eyes.

“And there’s never been anyone special, has there?  No one at all, in all these years.”

Millie stared at the man – this intruder with his impertinence and his questions and his – She looked beyond his eyes to take in the rest of his features.  Fine cheekbones, he had, and a strong, angular jaw.  His hair was black to the point of blue, swept back from his smooth forehead like a sea of wheat, waving in a field, awaiting the reaper’s scythe.

He was handsome, she’d give him that.  In a peculiar, almost eerie way.

“Oh, there was once…” she said wistfully, her voice trailing into reverie, as thoughts of Charlie floated to the surface of her mind for the first time in twenty years.  Charlie, with his broad grin and the splash of freckles across his nose and cheeks as though he were perpetually decorating.  Charlie, with his shock of golden hair and his eyes like turquoise stones.  Charlie, who could make her laugh, and who had made her cry when he stood her up for their date at the Odeon.  It had been weeks before she learned he had been killed, knocked off his bicycle on the ring road on his way to meet her.

“You miss him,” the man said, and Millie wasn’t sure how many of her thoughts she had spoken out loud.

Those eyes – no, they weren’t grey or silver, they were turquoise – seemed to look right into her and read her like a book – like a Kindle!  Millie laughed, and the man reached across the table and took her hand.

And she gasped to see the freckles appear on his face, and his thick, golden hair fall from his brow.

“You’ll come with me, then,” the man whispered, and Millie found herself nodding and getting to her feet, and walking out of the café, leaving behind her bag, her coat, and even her precious Kindle.

Hours later, the waitress approached table 13 and put down a saucer with a curl of paper.  “Closing now.  Your bill, love.”

The woman did not respond.  In her hand, her Kindle flashed, its battery low, before winking out completely.

“Love?” said the waitress, reaching for the woman’s shoulder.  The woman fell forward, face down onto her uneaten apricot tart.  The waitress screamed.

“No need for that,” said the manager, coming over.  “See?  She died with a smile on her face.”


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Bobby ran to his mother’s room, sobbing.  Janet wrapped her arms around him until the storm subsided.

“He was there again!  That man!” Bobby sniffed.  “Standing there, watching me while I was in bed.”

Janet smoothed the boy’s hair.  “I’m sure it’s just a dream, darling.  Nothing but a dream.”

“But I wasn’t sleeping.  I sat up and I watched him, watching me.  He looks so sad, so sad.  I wish I could help him and then perhaps he’d go away.”

“Now, darling; you must stop this nonsense.  From now on, you shall sleep in here and I shall take your room.  Let him show his face to me, this man of yours!  I’ll give him a piece of my mind.”

“He’s not scary, not really.  Just sad.”

“Hah!” said Janet bitterly.

“Who is he, Mummy?  Why does he keep coming back?”

“Never you mind,” Janet tucked Bobby into her bed.  She pulled on her dressing gown and kissed him on the forehead.  “I’ll go to your room; you’ll be all right.  He won’t dare to come in here!”

In Bobby’s room, the man sat on the bed and sobbed, burying his face in his hands.  Sometimes he could sense his son’s presence.  The room was exactly how it had been before –

Sometimes, there was a definite chill in the air – like now.  As if some malevolent entity had come in.

“If that’s you, Janet,” he spoke to the empty room, “I’ll never forgive you!”

There was no answer.  The man went down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea to dispel the chill in his bones.

I ought to leave, he thought for the thousandth time.  But how can I?

It was in this house my wife killed our boy and then herself.  And I will never leave him alone with her again.


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The Man in the Spotted Tie

“Yes?” Mrs Fliss opened the door and frowned at the man on her doorstep.  He was holding a key and scowling at it.

“Sorry, darling,” he said.  “My key doesn’t seem to work.”

“Why should it?  Look, whatever it is you’re selling, I’m not interested.”  Mrs Fliss tried to close the door but, laughing the man, pushed his way in.  His puckered lips aimed for her cheek but she dodged them just in time.

“I’ve always loved you for your sense of humour,” the man laughed.  He dropped his briefcase at the foot of the stairs and, loosening his spotted tie, headed for the living room.

“Excuse me!” Mrs Fliss scuttled after him.  “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

The man was on the sofa, kicking off his shoes.  “What’s it look like I’m doing?”

“It looks like you’re making yourself at home on my sofa; that’s what it looks like.”

“No flies on you, Susan.”

Mrs Fliss bristled.  “How did you know my name?”

“Any tea going?” the man sat back.  He aimed the remote at the television.

“Get out of my house,” Mrs Fliss growled.  “Or I’m calling the police.”

The man turned up the volume.  On screen, a green triangle moved along a row of rectangles.

Then, he pressed ‘mute’ and a graphic showing a loudspeaker with a line through it appeared.

“Oh, god.  I’m so sorry.  It’s happened again, hasn’t it?”  He fumbled his shoes back on and hurried from the house.  He left the front door open behind him and ran down the path.

By the time Mrs Fliss got to the doorstep, he was gone.  She closed the door.  It was only then she realised he had left behind his briefcase.

“Oh,” she said.  She stood looking at it, chewing her lip, and deciding what to do.  Perhaps there would be something in it that said who he was.  Perhaps she’d be able to phone him to tell him he’d left it…

The briefcase was stuffed with files.  Mrs Fliss looked at the first page of the first folder:

ROBERT FLISS – Slipping between universes, a scientific proposal.

She flicked through the papers and could make neither head nor tail of the diagrams and endlessly complex mathematical calculations.  She was still poring over the folders when a key turned in the lock and her husband let himself in.

“Hello, darling,” he said, loosening his spotted tie.  “I’m home.”




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Sophie woke up screaming.  Within seconds, Mummy was there, flicking on the big light.  She sat on the bed and hugged her daughter, patting her back and stroking her sweat-soaked hair.

“There, there, darling,” she cooed.  “It’s all right, it’s all right.  It was just a dream.”

Sophie’s tears seeped through her mother’s nightie.  She sniffed wetly and shook her head.

“No, no, it wasn’t, it wasn’t!” she sobbed.  She pointed a finger across the room to the rocking chair in the corner.  Propped against a cushion was a curly-haired doll, staring back implacably.  One of its eyelids was jammed half-closed, giving the doll a sinister, calculating expression.

“It was Dolly!  It was Dolly!” Sophie repeated, becoming hysterical.

“Ssh, darling!”  Mummy grabbed the doll by its arm and presented it to her daughter.  “Dolly’s here for you.  It’s all right.”

Sophie screamed.   The doll dropped to the floor.  Its lazy eye winked slowly.  Sophie screamed again.

Mummy could feel her patience ebbing away at a rate of knots.  She got to her feet.   “Lie down now, darling,” she snapped.  “Lights out.”

“No!  Mummy, please!” Sophie’s face was red, tears coursing down her cheeks from eyes wide, imploring, beseeching.  “Don’t leave me with her, don’t leave me with her!”

“Enough nonsense now!” Mummy roared.  “Go back to sleep, you silly girl.”

She snapped off the light and stormed out, slamming the door.

Sophie snivelled.  She hugged her knees and wept.

“Good girl,” came a voice from the floor.  A tiny plastic hand reached up to the bedsheet.  “Keep still and it will all be over very soon.”

The next morning, Mummy barged in, bad-tempered from interrupted sleep.  “I’ve told you twice,” she growled.  “Your breakfast is ready.  Get dressed now!”

But Sophie wasn’t in her bed.

“Oh, you are up!” Mummy’s hands were on her hips, a sure sign she was cross.

Sophie was in the rocking chair, propped up by a cushion.  She was staring blankly ahead and one of her eyelids was half-closed.  Behind her, the curtains fluttered at the open window.


But there was no response, and of Dolly, Sophie’s favourite toy, there was no sign.


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Meanwhile at the Palace…

The Prime Minister was greeted at the door by the Chamberlain who told her that the weekly audience with the Queen was cancelled.  Her Majesty was under the weather, he said.  The Prime Minister heaved out a sigh.  Her Majesty was under the weather a lot lately.  Mind you, she was over a hundred years old and had been on the throne since the age of three.

“Can’t be helped,” said the Prime Minister.  “There was only one matter I wished to discuss.  I’ll leave the report with you; perhaps Her Majesty will be kind enough to peruse it at her leisure.  When she’s up to it, of course.”

The Chamberlain glanced at the first page.  “The Depletion of Helium supplies and its impact on the Health Service.”

“Yes, I know,” the Prime Minister read his expression.  “Dry as hell but it’s vital.  Without helium to cool the magnets or something, those MRI scanner thingies can’t do their job.  People will die.”

“And what do you expect the Queen to do about it?”

The Prime Minister shrugged.  “Damned if I know.  But with her birthday coming up, she could set an example.  No more helium-filled balloons.  That stuff just escapes into space, you know.  The world is running out.”

The Chamberlain scowled.  He took the Prime Minister by the elbow and steered her into a nearby storage cupboard.

“Now, listen here,” he hissed.  The Prime Minister recoiled from a spray of hot spittle.  “Nothing is going to mar Her Majesty’s birthday celebrations.  It could well be her last.”

“We’ve been saying that for twenty years but the old bird keeps hanging on.”

“This time I’m serious,” the Chamberlain’s jaw set grimly.  “No one outside the palace knows but Her Majesty had a fall, incurring a head injury.  We don’t know the scale of it yet.  We’re awaiting test results.”

The Prime Minister nodded.  “An MRI scan…”

“Exactly.  We’re keeping this quiet.  What with all the bad news lately, it is felt that the country couldn’t take a Royal death at this point.  And so, you must oversee the national celebrations to keep morale high.”

The Prime Minister wailed.  “Why me?  She hates me; I’ve always known it.”

“Nonsense.  Her Majesty would not let any personal opinions affect her duty and neither should you.  I suggest you use the time freed up to you by the cancellation of your audience to make a start on the party plans.”  He thrust the helium report into the Prime Minister’s hands.

“Right,” said the Prime Minister.

She returned to Downing Street, chewing her thin lip all the way.  The country was falling into wrack and ruin and that stuck-up snot of a Chamberlain thought all that was needed was a shindig on the grand scale.  Bet that old trout put him up to it.  Just after we stumped up the cash for a new yacht and refurbishments of three of her residences.  How much longer was she going to be a drain on the public purse?  Why doesn’t she kick the bucket already?  Let her son and heir have a go.  The Prime Minister knew he was already more sympathetic to environmental concerns.  Silly cow!  With no helium left, she won’t be able to get her head looked at!

She paced the floor of her office.  Her eyes fell on the report.  She snatched it up and fed it into the shredder and then pressed a button on the intercom.

“Lionel,” she addressed her P.A.  “Call a press conference.  I want to make it known that for the Queen’s birthday everyone in the land is to be given a helium-filled balloon.”


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Nick & Pete

“Not this again!” Nicholas sighed.  “Shift over.”

Peter groaned but he moved from the driving seat, sulking in sullen resentment.  Nicholas climbed into the sleigh.  “Cheer up,” he snapped.  “It’s Christmas.”

Peter grunted and told Nicholas where he could stick his Christmas cheer.

Nicholas cracked the reins.  Four pairs of reindeer began to trot.  Seconds later, the sleigh lifted into the sunset-streaked sky.

“Look,” Nicholas said, “it has to be like this.  It’s tradition.  I drive the sleigh.  I give out toys to the good ones; you give out coal to the bad.”

“Huh,” Peter crossed his arms.  “Just once, I would like a change.”

“Tradition forbids it,” Nicholas said smugly.  Using the stars to navigate, he steered the sleigh south.  They would work their way up the country and be back home in the north in time for breakfast.

“Tradition, my black arse,” Peter complained.  “Just once, I want to leave the toys and you can leave the coal.”

“Not going to happen,” said Nicholas.  “Now, cheer up, and let’s have a good night of it.”

But Peter had a piece to say and would not rest until he had said it.  “Tradition!  Tradition says you reward the well-behaved, and I punish the bad.  I know it’s supposed to introduce the kids to the idea of eternal reward, heaven and hell and all that malarkey, but you keep undermining my role.  You leave toys for every kid no matter what they’ve been up to.  I never get to leave a single piece of coal.”

“Well,” Nicholas shrugged.  “It’s Christmas.”

“It’s getting so bad that I’m being edged out of the picture.  Lots of kids have never even heard of me.  So don’t talk to me about tradition.  You’ve whitewashed me out of it.”

“Bloody hell,” Nicholas rolled his eyes.  Crystals of ice where forming in his bushy white beard but they only served to accentuate the twinkle in his eyes.  “Stick to the plan.  I’m reward and you’re punishment.  That’s why I’m dressed like a pope and you’re done up like a devil.  You can’t tamper with that – it would give out a mixed message.”

“Bah,” Peter grunted.  He remained in the sleigh, muttering to himself while Nicholas made his deliveries, climbing in and out of chimneys and humming Jingle Bells.

Their final stop of the night was an isolated cottage, deep in the northern forest.  An old woman lived there, her children long since moved away, her grandchildren in the city strangers to her.

“Bottle of sherry, I think,” said Nicholas, “that should keep the old dear warm.”

But before he could reach it from his sack on the backseat, Peter sprang from the sleigh, his own sack on his shoulder.  He skipped across the roof and tipped his whole supply of coal down the chimney.  Black stones rained into the old woman’s fireplace.

Peter strolled back to the sleigh, whistling Jingle Bells.  He folded his empty sack and put it in his pocket.  He dusted his hands together and leapt into his seat.

“How’s that for a mixed message?” he laughed.


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Killer in the Snow

“And that is why you must never build a snowman in our backyard,” Trevor looked serious.  He was perched on the edge of his little brother’s bed.  Pulling the covers up tight to his chin, Timothy shivered, his eyes wide with fear.

“Goodnight!  Sweet dreams!” Trevor jumped up.  He flicked out the light and went downstairs to enjoy an evening of gaming undisturbed.  Charged with babysitting duties while their parents were at the neighbours’ Christmas party, Trevor felt pretty pleased with himself for getting the little brat out of his hair early.  Little Timmy was scared good and proper.  There was no way he’d set foot out from under his duvet before morning.  Job done!

And, Trevor reflected, I’m pretty much a genius!  I should write it all down, the story I told him.   Yes, it was all based on fact, on actual events, and they didn’t take much embellishment to weave into a scary story.  It was well-known around the town that years ago, the house had belonged to an infamous serial killer.  It was the reason why his parents had bought the place so cheap.  Out there, in the backyard, the killer had been gunned down by the police, staining the white blanket of snow red – Trevor had been especially proud of that detail.  If you build a snowman in our backyard, it will be possessed by the spirit of the murderer and it will come into the house and add you to his list of victims…

Haha!  He wouldn’t hear a peep out of Timothy tonight!  Little kids could be so gullible, so credulous.  Evil snowmen!  Possessed by a serial killer!  Priceless!

Even so, Trevor drew the curtains.  A fresh fall of snow made the backyard pristine.  Beautiful, in fact.  Impossible to think that years ago, it had been the scene of such horror…

He went to the kitchen to gather snacks; he was hoping for a good few hours before Mom and Dad came back, during which he hoped to kill a few noobs and get to the end of the game.

Mom and Dad would be drunk.  They’d stagger in and of course they’d want to know how Timothy had behaved himself.  No trouble, Trevor would say, and they’d pay him the promised fee.  Mom would be extra soppy and try to hug him.  Embarrassing!  Trevor decided he needed fortifying against an onslaught of maternal affection.  He decided he was old enough and man enough to sample his father’s whisky.

Up in his room, Timothy heard his brother open the fridge, looking for ice cubes for his illicit drink.  Timothy held his breath and listened, straining his ears.

He heard Trevor scream and drop his glass.  Timothy heard his brother gasp and choke as arms made of snow reached out from the icebox and squeeze the life out of him.

As soon as his parents had told him he’d be left in the care of his bully of a big brother, Timothy had known he had to take steps to protect himself.  Half an hour gathering snow in the backyard before Trevor came home was now paying dividends.




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