Tag Archives: horror

Close Season

“So all we have to do is pull down the shutters, turn off the lights and that’s it for another season.”  Jeff, hands on hips, turned to his teenaged apprentice, who didn’t appear to be particularly interested.  At least he had taken out his ear-pod things.  This counted as progress, in Jeff’s view.

“And then what?” Toby grunted.  Jeff’s eyebrows raised: showing an interest!  Progress indeed!

“And then we get to go home until the spring,” said Jeff.  “That is, if they decide they want to reopen the place next year.”

“Why wouldn’t they?” Toby glanced around.  “This place is kinda cool.”

Jeff chuckled.  “I knew you’d like it.  You kids are into all this, aren’t you?  Serial killers.  What do you call them, flashers?”

“Slashers!” Toby rolled his eyes but the curve of his lips showed he was amused.  “And yeah.  I mean, it’s not the murders.  It’s part of local history, isn’t it?  Heritage and what not?”

“You’re right.”

“So, why would they want to close the place down?  And who are ‘they’ anyway?”

“They are the town council.  And, to tell you the truth, business hasn’t been great for a couple of years now.  The victims are all but forgotten.  Footfall has dropped considerably.  We are nowhere near back to where we were before the pandemic fucked everything up for the industry.”

Toby nodded.  He looked around.  The gift shop, in shadows, boasted tea-towels with a likeness of the killer’s mask, his name slashed in red diagonals.

Demon Blade.

There were Demon Blade pencils, bookmarks, and statuettes made of resin.  There was even an alarm clock that played the theme from Psycho to get you out of bed in the morning.

Out there, beyond the windows they were about to shutter, was the site of the murders.  A massacre, really.  Twenty-two teenagers cut to ribbons during one night’s rampage through the campsite.  It was like a film.

But that was a long time ago.  Interest had waned.  Demon Blade had long since disappeared.  He’d be a geriatric by now, if he was still around.  He could be anyone.  The elderly neighbour shuffling to the end of his path to pick up his newspaper.  The old guy at the bar, complaining about kids today and the weather.  Or he could have gone to meet his maker long since.

“Give me a hand?” Jeff stretched up to pull down a shutter.  “Hand me that pole.”

Toby turned around.  Leaning against the wall was a long pole with a hook on the end.  The curve of metal glinted suggestively in a beam of sunlight.  Its intended use was to pull down the metal shutters which could then be padlocked to the floor.

It would be a crying shame if those shutters were never to be raised again…but if there were more murders, another killing spree, the tourists would come flocking…

“Today would be nice,” Jeff prompted impatiently.  “Earth to Toby…”

Toby shook himself and handed over the pole.  He didn’t know what had prompted such dark thoughts.  He shivered.  Perhaps the ghost of Demon Blade had whispered in his ear.

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Age Difference

Aggie surveyed the spread before her and suppressed a sigh.  The table was piled high with presents and bottles of champagne.  The centrepiece was a massive cake bearing only one candle.  Beside the table, Josh stood blushing, nervously biting his lip.

Impatience got the better of him.  “Well?” he prompted.

Aggie smiled but her eyes were sad.  “You needn’t have gone to all this trouble.”

“You’re worth it!” Josh took her leathery hands in his.  “Nothing’s too much trouble for my best girl.”

Aggie pulled away.  “Don’t be silly.”

“And I know you don’t celebrate birthdays any more but I had to mark the occasion somehow.”

This time, the sigh did escape Aggie’s lips.  She heaved herself onto a chair, bones creaking, and reached for the nearest present.  It was small and square.  Her arthritic fingers clawed at the wrapping paper.  “What’s this?”

“Open it!”

“I’m trying!”

Josh reached over to help.  He slid a CD from the shiny paper.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a compact disc,” he said, rather patronisingly.  “It’s got music on it.”

“Oh?” Aggie scowled.  She held the CD up to her ear.  “I think it’s faulty.”

“No –” Then Josh saw she was teasing him.  She peered at the lettering.

“Songs from the war… What makes you think I’d want to hear them?”


But Aggie was reaching for the next present.  “A biography of Vera Lynn…”

“My nan loves her!”

Aggie fixed him with a glare.  “I am not your nan!”

“No, no!” Josh spluttered.  “I didn’t mean –”

“Is that why you took up with me?  Because I remind you of your old nan?”

Aggie pushed away from the table and tottered away on her walking stick.  “It’s – This —  Between us, it’s not working.  I want to break up.”

“NO!” Josh cried, tears brimming.  “Let’s talk about this.  I love you!”

“Love?” Aggie scoffed.  “You don’t even know me.  Songs from the war?  Fuck off.  Songs from the Peloponnese War would be more appropriate.”


“Vera Lynn?  Vera fucking Lynn!”

“I can take it back!  I’ve kept the receipt.”

“Oh, you stupid fool.  You stupid young fool.  Did you really think you and I were together?  A love match?”

“I – I thought things were going that way…”

“Oh, my poor, sweet, stupid boy.”  Aggie reached up to cup his cheek.  The gesture turned to a slap, but a gentle one.  “I was just using you.  For my rebirth.”


Aggie dropped her walking stick.  Her spine straightened.  She grew, her limbs elongating, until she had to stoop, her neck pressing against the ceiling. Wings sprouted from her shoulder blades and stretched to opposite corners.  Josh cowered in terror.

“The time has come!” Aggie announced, her voice booming, no longer the scratchy squawk he was used to.  She lashed out a claw, a real claw not an arthritic facsimile.  Josh’s throat opened in a red gash.  He dropped to his knees.  Her second swipe took off his head.

“And that is why, you young fool, you should only go out with girls your own age.”

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Dinner with Dennis

Dennis whistled as he walked from the bus stop.  His shopping bag was brimming with a dozen red roses and bulging with a bottle of champagne.  Tucked under his arm were fancy chocolates in a heart-shaped box.  While the bubbly’s chilling, he reckoned, I can make a start on dinner.  There’ll be soft music tinkling in the background.  Candlelight…

He turned the key in his front door.  The house was in darkness.

“Hello?” Dennis called into the gloom of the hallway.  “Darling, I’m home!”

There was no answer.  Dennis shut the door and bolted it.  He breezed through to the kitchen-diner and lay the champagne in the fridge.  He ransacked a drawer until he unearthed a box of matches.  Singing to himself, he skipped around the house, lighting scented candles.

A shuffling sound came from above.  The bedroom.  Dennis vaulted up the stairs, two, sometimes three at a time.  He arrived just as there was a thud.

“Oh, dear, oh, dear,” he shook his head.  He helped the man up from the bedside rug and lay him back on the duvet.  “Someone’s over-excited, aren’t they?”

The man, naked apart from a pink sash diagonal across his torso, and a red paper heart over his privates, said nothing.  Dennis leant over him, searching his big brown eyes.

“Be patient, my darling,” Dennis breathed.  “I’m going to make us a lovely romantic dinner.  This is going to be the best Valentine’s date ever.”

He pecked the naked man on the forehead and went back downstairs to chop vegetables.

An hour or so later, Dennis climbed the stairs, balancing a tray, two champagne flutes.  The bottle was cold in his armpit.

“Here we are, darling!” he sang out.  “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

The man on the bed tried to recoil but he was tied so tightly to the bedposts he could not move in any direction.

Dennis sat on the edge of the bed.  “Would you like me to cut your meat?”

The man’s eyes widened in terror.  Blood spilled from his lips.  He could only grunt inarticulate sounds since Dennis had sliced his tongue out.

“Here comes the aeroplane!” Dennis brandished a fork with a Jersey potato impaled on its tines.  The naked man groaned in terror and kept his lips clamped together.

“Don’t be silly, darling,” Dennis scolded.  “I’ve gone to a lot of trouble.”

The man turned his face away in painful defiance.

“Come on,” Dennis cajoled, the potato booping the man’s chin.  “Don’t make me take you back to the cellar.  Don’t make me swap you for one of the others!”

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The First of Us

It wasn’t me; I wasn’t the first of us.  That honour went to Bobo.  Bobo was a howler monkey we kept in the lab.  He was there when I started five years ago as a humble tech assistant.  He’d been there so long, he was like one of the team.  No one would dream of including Bobo among the test subjects.

Now, before you go all ethical and animal rights on me, it wasn’t part of my remit to perform the experiments on the monkeys and rabbits.  Like I mentioned, I was merely a tech assistant.  I kept the IT up and running.

It started when Hargreaves let Bobo out of his pen during lunch.  He should have known better than to tease the creature.  Bobo was quick to rile up.

“Just give him the damned banana!” I scolded from across the breakout room.  Hargreaves turned to award me his best simian scowl, his finest monkey man impression, complete with ‘oo-oo’ noises and armpit scratches.

Just as Doctor Klang exited the secure area.

Bobo saw his chance and took it.  With a furious screech, he darted between Klang’s legs and into the secure area before the doors could seal.  Instant uproar!  Lab assistants recoiled in panic as Bobo, whipped up into a frenzy by now, lashed out in all directions.  I could see their faces, visors pressed against the window, their gloves scrabbling for a way out.

“Who the fuck let that monkey out?” Krang screamed, activating the alarm.  Sirens wailed and blared while pulses of red light flared and died, flared and died.

Inside the secure area, the staff were turning on each other, ripping and tearing out throats, bared teeth sinking into soft flesh.

“My work!” Krang mourned.

Before Hargreaves and I could stop him, he was unsealing the doors.  The mad bastard was trying to retrieve the last remaining phial of his life’s endeavours.

“No!” we yelled, our voices drowned by the sirens.

Bobo launched himself at Klang, his fangs shredding the haz-mat suit.

Hargreaves scrambled to the exit, but I tackled him to the floor and sat on him.  He wriggled and writhed until I slapped his face.

“We have to contain it,” I told him.  “Nothing or no one can leave this building.”

Hargreaves wasn’t paying attention.  His eyes widened as the howler monkey dropped onto my back.  Distracted, I let Hargreaves scuttle out from under me.  He didn’t reach the door.  Our colleagues, erupting from the secure area like a nest of spiders, pounced.  They tore him limb from limb.

Me, they left alone. I suppose Bobo’s bite rendered me immune to their predations. And all I can think of now as my mad blood stirs and a mindless rage consumes me, is how many people there are in the world beyond the laboratory door and how they must all be bitten and made the same as us.

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The Waiver

As David hurried along the midnight streets, unseen hands pulled him into an alley.  He was thrown roughly against a wall.  A cloaked and shadowy figure loomed over him, pinning him to the cold bricks.  Breath like an open grave blew into his face.  He soon found there was no use wriggling and writhing.  The other was too strong, unnaturally so.

“Good evening,” breathed a voice like a creaking door.

David tried to avert his face from the noisome exhalations.

A claw tightened around his throat.  Bright red eyes glowed in the gloom.  The other took a sniff, the tip of his long and pointed nose catching a spot of moonlight.

“Been to the pub, have you?  Well, have you?”

David nodded rapidly.

The other took a deeper sniff.

“Lager with a…whisky chaser?”


“And,” Sniff! “more than a handful of peanuts.  From a packet or a bowl on the bar?”

“A p—pp—packet.”

The other found this answer satisfactory.  “One can never be too careful with peanuts from a bowl.  So many unwashed hands, dipping in.”

“Wh – what do you want?  I have no cash on me but there’s a machine around the corner.”

Another wash of breath.

“And you have had your jabs?”


“Inoculations.  Vaccinations.  Against influenza.  Coronavirus.  Smallpox, all the rest of them.”

“Well, yes.  The flu one was just last week.  And the Covid booster the week before that.”

“That is satisfactory.  The beer and whisky I can handle.  Secondary boozing is the closest I get.  And you have no conditions I should know about?”


“Haemophilia, for instance.  Diabetes.  HIV?”


“A clean bill of health then!”  Fangs flashed.  A sharp tongue licked at narrow lips.  “Do you have a pen?”

“A –”

“You know, for writing with.”

“Um, in my pocket.”

“Good man.”

A roll of parchment was waved in David’s face.

“If you could just sign this waiver…”


“Saying you enter into this transaction willingly and to the best of your knowledge you have no diseases of the blood that might debilitate or otherwise afflict me.”

“What?  Blood?  Transaction?  What are you talking about?”

“I suppose ‘transfusion’ might be more accurate.  It’s just a formality.”

“I’m not signing anything.”

“Oh, don’t be stubborn.  Things can get messy – legally speaking if you don’t disclose anything that could come back to bite you at a later date.”

“I have no diseases.  I’m clean!  I just went for a couple of pints with some friends from work.  It’s Julie from Accounts’s birthday.”

“How dull your mortal lives must be!”

“Look, if you’re going to drink my blood, just get it over with.  I’ve got an early start in the morning and I’d like to get home.”

“The waiver?”

“Let’s make a gentleman’s agreement.  Just get a move on.”

The fangs glinted again.  There was a sound like teeth sinking into an apple.  David grimaced.  The other sucked at his neck, raising memories of teenage love bites, of fumbles in the park.  David felt he might pass out.

But then the other staggered back, releasing him.  David slumped to the ground.  The other was stamping and spitting, coughing and spluttering.

“What have you done to me?” he gasped, as his skin turned grey and crumbled like ash from a cigarette.  His cloak and suit collapsed into a heap.

“Oops,” said David, giving the evacuated clothes a kick.  “Forgot to mention, I’ve been taking capsules from the health shop for weeks. Colourless and odourless, but with all the benefits of fresh garlic. Sorry.”

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The Last Stop

It had been a rough shift but it was almost over.  Ernie just had to get the bus back to the depot and then he could clock off for the night.  It would be too late for a pint in the pub with the lads, but that was OK.  He just wanted to get home.

Heavy rain continued to lash the bus from all sides.  The windscreen wipers were doing their valiant best but Ernie was having difficulty seeing the road ahead.  He slowed a little, but not by much; the promise of getting home was too tantalising.

Ahead a shadow loomed at the side of the road.  Lightning cracked the sky casting the figure into stark relief.  An old woman hunched at the kerb, waiting hopefully for the last bus.  Ernie’s heart sank.  He didn’t want to face any more passengers.  He’d had enough with those rowdy teenagers who had terrorised everyone else with their loud music and louder catcalls.  He had begun to think they’d never get off, but they did, mouthing threats and making menacing gestures. 

And now, this old biddy.  She’d probably want to complain about the weather.  They always do.  Ernie would have to continue along the prescribed route rather than take the shortcut to the depot.  But if he didn’t pick her up, she’d report him to the company… Or would she?  Ernie reckoned it was too dark for her to see the bus number.  And if there was any comeback, he could claim it had been too dark for him to see her in the bus shelter, oops, my bad, never mind.

He pressed down on the accelerator.  The front tyres dipped into a puddle in the gutter, raising a swell of spray that drenched the old biddy.  It probably knocked her off her feet, for all Ernie knew.  Very soon, the shelter, the old woman, the street, were receding in his mirror.

Sorry, love, Ernie thought.  Blame those kids.  If they hadn’t got me so wound up…

Twenty minutes later, Ernie’s car pulled onto his drive.  He got out and hurried to his front door.  The rain was showing no signs of letting up.  Well, let it come down.  He’d soon be in bed, safe and snug under the covers, and he had always found the sound of rain somewhat soothing, when he was cosily tucked up, of course.

But, lying in bed, he could find no peace.  He kept seeing the swell of water engulfing the old woman, repeating like a gif in his mind.  Why did I do that?  Why didn’t I stop and pick her up?  His conscience continued to needle him, keeping sleep at bay.  Eventually, he had to get out of bed and go to the bathroom.

While he was pissing, the shower curtain drew back, seemingly of its own accord.  Ernie froze.  Slowly, he turned his head, fully expecting to see the spectral form of the old woman, pale and waterlogged, her skin blue, a craggy finger pointing its accusation.

But, instead of a vengeful ghost, a pair of teenagers sprang from the bathtub, brandishing knives.

It was almost a relief as Ernie sank to his knees, blood spurting from his slashed throat.  Far better to be murdered by real, live delinquents than a geriatric phantom.  Ernie faceplanted the bathmat.  His final thought: This is my stop.

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The Old House

“No way!  I’m not going in there.”  Bobby turned his bicycle around but did not ride away.

“Chicken!” Thomas bent his arms and flapped them like stunted wings.

Bobby’s face flushed.  “Am not!  I just… I just have to get home for tea.”

Thomas chuckled scornfully.  “What are you having?  Chicken?”

Bobby scowled.  “Have you been in?  I bet you haven’t, have you?”

Thomas laughed.  “I’ve been in there lots of times.  There’s nothing to it.”

Bobby looked again at the house, the creepy house with its creepy turret like something out of a fairy tale, the shuttered windows like squinting eyes, the ivy sprawling across its face like a disfiguring disease.  He swallowed his fear.  It was Halloween.  And if you couldn’t do something scary on Halloween, then when could you?

“I will – if you will,” he croaked.

“Good man!” Thomas clapped him on the shoulder.  Bobby dismounted his bike and let it drop to the pavement.  “This way!”

He strode toward the front door.  Bobby pulled at his T-shirt.

“You’re just going in?  Through the front door?”

“Why not?  There’s nobody home.”  He wiggled his eyebrows and grinned.  “Or is there?”

Bobby stammered.  “You – you don’t believe the stories, do you?  About Old Man Diggs?  Snatching kids off the street, taking them into this house, and – and they were never seen again?”

“Old Man Diggs died a long time ago.”

“Yes, but – There’s something… I don’t like it.”

“Are you going to chicken out after all?”

“No!  But shouldn’t we go around the back or something?  It’s like the house can see us coming.”

Thomas shook his head.  “All right.  If it will make you feel better.  Come on.”

He skirted around the side of the house, where a tumbledown fence failed to separate the front and back gardens.  Bobby followed, not wanting to be left alone with those squinting eyes watching him, judging him.  Holding his breath, he moved on tiptoes.  When he got around to the back of the house, Thomas was nowhere to be seen.

“Wh-where are you?” Bobby whispered as loudly as he dared.  “Stop messing around!”

The back door swung open with a creak, making Bobby jump.  He froze.  The door remained open, yawning an invitation.

“Thomas?  Are you in there?” The tremble in Bobby’s voice and the sweat trickling down his back betrayed his fear, but he couldn’t let the other boy call him a chicken again.  He forced himself to take a step toward the back door.

“You boy!  What the hell are you doing back here?  This place is dangerous.  The house is condemned.  It could fall down at any minute.”

Bobby turned to find a policeman towering over him.  He didn’t know whether to feel relieved or terrified.  What would Mum say about being caught trespassing?”

“I – I was looking for my friend.  I think he went inside.”

The policeman shook his head.  “Is that your bicycle out front?”

Bobby nodded.

“And your friend’s name wouldn’t happen to be Thomas, would it?”

Bobby brightened.  “Yes!  Yes!  That’s him.”

“And how do you know Thomas? From school?”

“Um…” Bobby’s forehead creased. “No, he… We just met. He said he liked my bike. Then we got talking.”

The policeman grabbed Bobby roughly by the arm and pulled him away from the house.

He put his face close to the boy’s and when he spoke, it was through gritted teeth.

“You’re going to run.  You’re going to run as fast as you can.  You’re going to get on that bike of yours and you’re going to pedal as fast as you can all the way home, and you’re not going to look back.  Do you understand me?”

Bobby nodded rapidly.  “Y-yes sir!”

The policeman sent him on his way with a shove.  Bobby scrambled away, stumbling over his own feet.   The policeman stayed put, shining his torch on what remained of the windowpanes.

“Not this time, Thomas Diggs,” he addressed the house.  “Tell your old man there’ll be no kids on the menu this Halloween.”


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Time of the Month

“Freddie?!” Irma was surprised to find her boyfriend on the front doorstep.  “What are you doing here?  I thought we agreed to go out at the weekend?”

Freddie’s face split in that adorable grin of his, the one he knew Irma found impossible to resist.  “It’s twenty years until then,” he wiggled his eyebrows.  “I need me some Irma loving.”

Irma closed her eyes in defence against the grin.  She shook her head.  “It’s only four days.  And think how much sweeter it will be to see each other then.”

Freddie’s grin dropped.  “But I’m here now!” he wheedled.  “You could at least offer me a cup of tea.  If everything else is off the menu.”

Against her better judgment, Irma stepped back into the hallway to let him in.

“One cup,” she warned.  “And then you’re on your way.”

“Sure, babe,” Freddie sauntered into the house.

Before she closed the door, Irma cast a nervous glance at the sky.  There were a couple of hours before sundown.  It should be fine.  One cup of tea and he was out of there.

She almost tripped over Freddie’s trousers.  Leading up the stairs was a trail of his clothes.  Irma snatched them up on her way to the bedroom.  There he was, stark naked on the bed, his eyebrows wiggling suggestively.

Irma chucked his clothes at his face.  “No, Freddie,” she said.  “Not today.  If you still want that cup of tea, I’ll be in the kitchen.  If you don’t, you can just get dressed and let yourself out.”

She stomped downstairs to fill the kettle.  Freddie, clothed again, joined her before it came to the boil.  His arms snaked around her waist and his nose nuzzled under her jaw.

“What’s the matter, babe?” he whispered.  “Every four weeks you become a No Freddie Zone.”  He straightened.  “There’s someone else!” he gasped.  “Someone who visits you once a month.  Who is it?  I’ll kill him!”

Irma looked pained.  “It’s not like that.  It’s just my cycle.  It’s never an easy time for me.  I look gross, I feel gross.  I need a few days until I feel like my old self again.”

Freddie nodded.  “I get it, babe.  But there’s other stuff we can do.  To accommodate for your…cycle.”  He pressed his nose against her neck again.  “Don’t send me away, babe.  Not tonight.”

“I said one cup,” Irma set her jaw.  She poured hot water onto a teabag.  “If you care about me, you’ll drink up and go.”

“And if you love me, you’ll let me stay,” Freddie countered.

Irma wailed.  “It’s because I love you that you have to go.  Look, on Saturday, I’ll tell you everything.  I need you to understand, so I’ll tell you.  Then.  Not now.”

“Babe, come on…”

Irma placed a packet of digestive biscuits on the table, to sweeten the moment.  “Please, Freddie.  You have to leave.”

Freddie let out a snort of disgust.  He stormed from the house, slamming the front door behind him.  Irma exhaled deeply.  She still had time.

She went down to the cellar and chained herself in.  Fur was already sprouting on her forearms.  Freddie had left just at the right time.

Freddie ran through the park, the full moon reflected in his yellow eyes.  He had been hoping to make Irma this month’s victim.  Their relationship had stalled and she was becoming increasingly secretive.  Best to nip things in the bud.

But for tonight, he would have to quench his bloodlust with the ducks on the pond.

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A Visit to the Sea Witch

The mermaid swam deeper and deeper.  Ahead, the shadowy mouth of a cavern yawned like a lazy shark.  A shudder ran through her, from the crown of her red-haired head to the tips of her fluttering tailfin.  She steeled herself.  No going back, she reminded herself.  It was now or never.

A pair of pale yellow eyes floated at the centre of the darkness, alive with malevolence.  The mermaid gasped as the eyes drew closer.  Two one-eyed eels slunk from the cavern and wound circles around the mermaid.

“Come in,” hissed one.

“You are expected,” added the other.  They swam back toward the entrance, the mermaid caught up in the eddy they created.  Darkness swallowed the mermaid.  The eels left her to her fate.

The mermaid shivered.

A voice, deep and teasing, surrounded her.  “Come closer, child.  I don’t bite!”

The mermaid’s eyes adjusted to the gloom.  She was able to determine a weak, phosphorescent glow ahead.  She swam toward it.  The dim light grew stronger.  A shadow flicked across it.

“Now,” the sea witch boomed from the shadows.  “What can I possibly do for you?”

The mermaid’s throat tightened.  Although she couldn’t see the sea witch, she could sense her presence, feel a pull in the water.  The sea witch must be massive.

“Er –” the mermaid faltered.

“Out with it!” the sea witch roared, but there was amusement in her voice.  “Or let me guess: you want me to take your beautiful voice in exchange for a pair of legs so you can go chasing after some land-dwelling hunk.”

Blushes turned the mermaid’s cheeks pink, like anemones opening their flowers.

“Oh, baby,” the sea witch moved in the darkness.  The mermaid got the impression of a huge tentacle unfurling, edging closer.  “Can’t you be a little more original?  Keep your voice.  Use it to call out this two-legged fool.  If he can’t love you for who and what you really are, he ain’t worth the effort.”

“But -”

“But nothing!” the sea witch snapped.  “Honestly, you girls come waltzing in here.  Change this, change that!  All for some air-head who doesn’t recognise your true beauty.  Tell this loser you’re serving fish and if he doesn’t like it, that’s his problem.  Get out of here, kid.  It’s coming up to lunch time and I’m on a seafood diet.”

A tentacle pushed the mermaid away, gently but insistently.

The mermaid swam away as fast as she could, her face hot with embarrassment and indignation.  Perhaps the sea witch had a point.  Perhaps she shouldn’t seek to change herself for some human, no matter how handsome and kind he was.

The water became lighter and warmer.  Her head broke the surface and she tossed her mane of red hair in the sunlight.

She froze in terror as she spotted the Prince’s rowing boat bobbing nearby.  She approached, her heart racing.  She would have to tell him it was no good.  It was love me like I am or hit the road.

She lifted herself over the gunwale and peered into the boat.  There he was, lying back, his eyes staring sightlessly at the sky, his face waxy and pale.  Blood was everywhere.  The mermaid gasped to see what he had done, what he had tried to do.

From the waist down, a shark’s tail hung lifeless, useless.  In the Prince’s hand, the hooked needle with which he had tried to sew it to his torso.

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R. I. P.

“People are so kind.”  Tommy’s grandmother was browsing the floral tributes leaning against the crematorium wall.  At her side, Tommy was confused.  Why were people buying his mother flowers when his mother was no longer around to enjoy them?  Why were they addressing cards to her when she wasn’t there to read them?  His dad had sat him down and explained that Mum had gone away and was never coming back.  Perhaps Dad needed to sit a few more people down and give them the same talk.  They seemed to think Mum would come along and put all the flowers in vases and the cards on her mantelpiece, like it was her birthday.

“Granny,” Tommy tugged at her sleeve.  “What does RIP mean?  Why is it in all the cards?”

Granny gave him a sad smile and squeezed his hand.  “It means ‘rest in peace’, love.  It’s what we say when someone passes.”

“Passes what?  Some kind of test?”

“Passes away, love.”

Tommy frowned.  “I don’t get it.”

“When someone dies,” Granny’s voice dropped to mouth the word as if it was a bad one, “we say ‘rest in peace’.”

“But why?  What if nobody said it?  Would Mum come back?”

It was Granny’s turn to frown.  “Don’t be silly, Tommy.”

“But if nobody tells them to rest in peace, what will they do?”  Tommy’s cheeks paled and his lips began to tremble.  Visions of his mother waking up in her coffin, unable to rest, sprang up in his imagination.  And the coffin rolling into the flames, with his mother wide awake inside…

Tommy broke away and ran to a nearby shrub and threw up on it.

“I’d better take him home,” Tommy’s dad appeared.  “It’s too much for him.”

Granny nodded.  She wiped Tommy’s chin with a balled-up tissue.

“Bye, love,” she waved them off.  “Don’t forget to come for Sunday lunch.”

Tommy’s dad grunted, noncommittal.  He bundled Tommy into the car.

After that, things got worse for Tommy.  His dad, in his grief, turned to drink, neglecting the house, his work, and his son.  Whenever Tommy asked if he could visit Granny, Dad always had an excuse.  Months passed, stretching to a couple of years, and then five… Finally, the news came that Granny had been found on her kitchen floor.  The funeral would be tomorrow.

Before the service, Tommy inspected the wreaths and bouquets.  He removed all the cards, tearing them to shreds.  No one was going to tell his gran to rest in peace.  He needed to see her.  Longed to move in with her.  Yearned to get away from his cruel and grumpy father.

“What the hell are you doing?” Tommy’s dad roared, seizing him by the wrist.  “People have paid good money for those cards.  They’re not for you, you little shit.”

Tommy wriggled, trying to get free.  “I hate you!  I want Granny!”

“Well, she’s gone,” Dad sneered. Whisky fumes wafted across Tommy’s nose. “Nosey old bag. May she rest in peace!”

He spat on the ground.

Tommy gaped.  There it was!  Someone had said it.  Now he was sure he’d never see Granny again.  He gave Dad a swift kick in the shin and ran away.

Darker years followed.  Dad was invariably drunk and physically abusive.  At last, Tommy reached breaking point.  He smashed one of Dad’s many empty bottles against the kitchen counter and jabbed the jagged edge into his father’s neck.

At two a.m. he buried his father at the bottom of the garden.  No one saw it.  No one sent a card or a single flower.

There!  Tommy dusted the dirt from his hands.  You just lie there and squirm.

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