Tag Archives: horror

Meanwhile at the campsite…

Robert couldn’t sleep.  Beside him, Tony snored like a warthog trying to start a motorboat.  Robert pulled his sleeping bag up over his chin, eyes wide in the darkness.  Outside the tent, something rustled.  Robert held his breath.  What was it?  A plastic bag scurrying in the wind?  A badger snuffling for worms?  Or a psychopathic killer whose shoes didn’t fit?

Robert gasped.  It was a killer, had to be!  The campsite was spotless, there was no litter at all.  And there were probably no badgers for miles – they’d all been culled, hadn’t they?  So, it could only be a psycho on the prowl.  It stood to reason.

Holding his breath was proving impossible.  Robert was certain he could be heard right across the field at the toilet block.  Tony had insisted they pitch the tent in the farthest corner so that ‘we won’t be troubled by drunks stumbling back and forth all night’.  Cheers for that, Tone.  Now Robert’s bladder was brimming and he would have to unzip, crawl out, slip his boots on and traipse across to the breezeblock hovel.  Putting my life at risk.  Bound to get caught by the killer as soon as I open the flaps.  And I’ll piss myself into the bargain.  I’ll be found with my head off and my pants full of piss.  How mortifying!

Or perhaps he’ll catch me while I’m standing at the bucket that passes for a urinal.  Attack me from behind like they do in the films.  And then I’ll spray everywhere, blood from one end, piss from the other.  Robert was amused by the thought.  But there was nothing else for it: when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.

Gingerly, Robert unzipped the bag.  He tipped his boots upside down and shook them.  In case of spiders or scorpions or whatever else might be lurking inside.  He slipped them on, not bothering to lace them up, unzipped the flaps and crawled out.  He stood but remained hunched in order to present a smaller target and protect his vulnerable areas.  He hurried toward the sodium glow of the solitary light outside the toilet block, bootlaces swishing around his ankles.

Come on, come on, come on… With every step away from the tent, attack seemed more likely.  Robert whimpered with terror.  And then the rough walls of the block were in front of him, solid and real, and rasping beneath his fingertips.  Robert breathed out.

Bladder empty, his return to the tent was more confident, as though a corresponding weight had been lifted from his mind.  He walked tall, striding across the grass, past the tents of others, shadowy forms of all shapes and sizes.  It was quiet.  Too quiet?  Robert’s imagination set to work again.  They could all be dead!  Lying on their inflatable mattresses with their throats cut.  The killer could be working his way across the site and our tent is the last in line!

Tony!

Robert froze.  To run toward or away from the tent that contained his best friend?

A man was looming over the tent, standing straight, a silhouette, silver-edged in the moonlight.  Blood dripped darkly from the blade of his axe.

“Oh, you’re back are you?” the man grinned, eyes and teeth glinting.

“T-Tony?” Robert backed away.

“I thought you’d never go for a piss,” Tony approached, both hands on the axe handle.  “Here’s the plan.  I’m going to make it look like you did this, you went on a spree, killed all these people, and then I got you in self-defence.”  He shrugged.  “Sorry, mate, but it’s how I get away with it.”

Robert fled.  His bootlaces lashed out like snakes, coiling around his ankles and tripping him up.  He rolled onto his back as Tony raised the bloodied axe over his head, and the last thing Robert felt was the warm sensation of his underwear filling with piss as his bladder miraculously found one last load to let go.

orange-tent-md

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RIP Raffles

“Hello, Timmy,” David grinned on the doorstep.  “Thought you might need some company?”

Timmy looked puzzled.  “Why?”

“Because – you know – Raffles.”

Timmy nodded.  He beckoned David in.  “I’m all right,” he said.  “Raffles is in a better place, Mummy says.”

“Oh, what’s this?”  Timmy’s mother emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.  “Talking about me behind my back!  Hello, David.  Staying for dinner?”

“Um…”

“You’re very welcome.  There’s more than enough.  Now, you two go up to Timmy’s room and play quietly.  I’ll call you down when it’s ready.”

“Thanks, Mum!” Timmy pounded up the stairs.

David lingered in the hall.  “Is he all right, Mrs Farrell?  I thought he’d be sad.”

“You’re a good friend,” Mrs Farrell smiled.  “And losing a pet can be tough.  Did you know, Raffles was as old as Timmy?  That’s quite old for a dog.”

David did the mental arithmetic.  “Raffles was 70!”

“Yes.  But he’s not in pain any more.  Now, you run along.”

She went back to the kitchen.  David caught a whiff of the dinner to come.  It smelled delicious.

He joined Timmy in his room for a quick game of superheroes, bashing action figures into each other and doing all the sound effects with their mouths.

“Timmy…” said David, toying with a figure of Wonder Hound.  “It’s OK, you know.  If you want to talk about Raffles.”

Timmy scrunched his nose.  “What for?”

“Perhaps you could write it down.  Then you could bury it.  With him.  With Raffles.”

Timmy looked aghast.

“It could help you.  That’s what funerals do.  They help people.  When my gran –”

But Timmy wasn’t listening.  He bombarded Mr Terrific into Blast-o-path, making noises like explosions.  David sat back and watched his friend.  Bottling things up; that’s what Timmy is doing, David diagnosed.  And that’s never good – not according to David’s mother’s magazines, anyway.

Mrs Farrell called them from the foot of the stairs.  Dinner was ready.

“Looks delicious, Mrs Farrell,” David tucked a napkin under the collar of his Fabulous Five T-shirt.  “And it smells – like heaven!”

Mrs Farrell grinned.  “I’m glad you approve, David.  It’s nice to get a compliment.”  She sent a meaningful glare across the table to her husband, who was already tucking in.  “Roger,” she hissed.  “The prayer!”

David dropped his knife and fork.  He had forgotten that Timmy’s family were quite religious and did things David and his family did not do at home.  He decided the best thing would be to close his eyes and bow his head.

“We thank Raffles for the time he shared with us and the love he gave,” Timmy’s father intoned.  David thought he heard Timmy sniff back a tear.  “And we say our final farewell to him with this commemorative repast.  So be it.”

“So be it,” echoed Mrs Farrell.

“So be it!” said Timmy enthusiastically.  “Come on, David.  Don’t let your dinner go cold!”

David looked up.  The Farrells were all smiles.  They made enthusiastic noises as they devoured the meal Mrs Farrell had prepared.  David tried a forkful of the mashed potato.  It was the creamiest, smoothest he had tasted.  Even the peas – and he had never been a fan of peas – were sweet and – and – minty!  David’s mother would never put mint in the peas.  She would dismiss it as yet another of the Farrells’ odd ways.

“Something wrong, David?”  Mrs Farrell gave him a look of concern.  “You haven’t touched your meat.”

“It’s the best part,” said Mr Farrell.

“I always save it until last,” said David.

“Some people have funny ideas!” Mr Farrell rolled his eyes.  “Get it down you.”

Not wishing to appear rude, David sliced the end off his portion of meat.  It was thick and succulent.  It seemed to melt in his mouth.  But – but – there was something else.  David coughed and spluttered.  Mrs Farrell sprang to her feet and began to pat his back.  David pulled a clump of hair from his mouth.  Long, red hair that reminded him of Raffles.

“Perhaps we should let him choke, love,” chuckled Mr Farrell from the head of the table.  “Lad like him would keep us in dinners for a fortnight.”

dog

 

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The Refugee

Brother Almo shuffled along the paved walkway.  Even through the soles of his sandals, he could feel the coolness of the stone slabs.  He thrust his hands into the wide sleeves of his habit and, huddled against the breeze, hurried to the front gates.  The caller was pulling the bell rope with mounting impatience – and no wonder at it, thought Brother Almo, on an inhospitable night such as this, I can fully appreciate the desire to be inside and warm.

He pushed back the heavy bolts and lifted the bar that lay across the doors’ centre.  He pulled open the gate and peered into the night.

“Good evening, stranger?” he called, although he could see no one there.

Old fool!  Had he imagined it?  Had he dozed off during his watch and imagined the bell?  Father Krimp would laugh with dismay when he heard about this…

But then –

“Help me,” gasped a small voice from the shadows.  Brother Almo squinted and could just about discern a hooded figure, about three feet tall in the darkness.

The figure sounded weak, struggling for breath.  Brother Almo stepped out just in time to catch the stranger, who collapsed into his arms.

Brother Almo backed over the threshold, pulling the stranger with him.  “Ho!”  he cried.  “What ho, within!”

Minutes later, other members of the order came running, barefoot, pulling on their habits, rubbing their eyes and yawning.

“What is it now?” complained one.

“It’s Almo,” said another, as though that explained everything.

“Brother Almo!” boomed Father Krimp, suddenly arriving and towering over the scene.  “What is the meaning of this brouhaha?”

Brother Almo gestured to the stranger, slumped against the wall, face hidden by a hood.

Father Krimp gestured urgently to the others to keep back.  “Brother Almo,” his voice was low and filled with foreboding, “What.  Have.  You.  Done?”

“I answered a cry for help,” Brother Almo swallowed hard.  “Is it not written that –”

Father Krimp cut him off with an imperious hand.  “It may not be too late.  Turn this – thing – outdoors and pray for your soul!  Do it!”

“But – but –” Brother Almo protested.  “We are bounden to do what is charitable.  We must take in the infirm and the needy.”

Father Krimp shook his head.  “You have brought a stranger within our walls.  At night!  You know of the creatures that infest this area.  You know how they take advantage of the weak and simple-minded, how they take human form and finagle their way into people’s homes.”

Brother Almo scoffed.  “Foolish, superstitious claptrap!”

Father Krimp bristled and drew himself up to his full height.  “You will remove the thing from the premises at once.  If it – he or she – is still there in the morning, then you may take it to our hospice.  You know the rules.”

He turned and marched back indoors.  The other brothers followed, some of them smirking over their shoulders.  Others sent Brother Almo looks of concern.  But they all left him to it, just the same.

Alone with the figure, Brother Almo dithered.  What to do?  If he turfed the stranger out again, the morning might be too late.  But if he disobeyed Father Krimp – if Father Krimp was correct… Brother Almo had let a hellacious creature into the monastery, endangering the lives and immortal souls of everyone in it.

He stooped to peer closely at the refugee.

What am I going to do with you?

monk

 

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Teacher’s Pet

“Mum!” Sophie slammed the front door behind her.  “I’m home!  We’re home!”

In the kitchen, Sophie’s mother wiped her hands on a tea towel and went to intercept her eight-year-old daughter in the hall.  But instead of her ex-husband, she found only Sophie, her arms struggling to hold a bulky object covered with a blanket.

“Where’s your dad?  Scarpered again, I suppose.”

Sophie was too excited to answer the question.  “Isn’t it wonderful, Mummy?  It’s my turn.  The whole half term!  I got lucky.  Most people only get him for a weekend.”

Sophie’s mother grunted.  Lucky was perhaps not the word she would have chosen.

“Remember what we agreed, love.  You are responsible for it.  You will do all the feeding, all the cleaning out.”

“Yes, yes,” Sophie rolled her eyes.  She pushed past her mother and lifted the object onto the kitchen table.

“Sophie!” Mum wailed behind her.  “It can’t stop there.  I’m making tea.”

“Oh, it’s just for a moment.  He’ll stay in my room, silly.”

Mum was about to upbraid the little girl for her attitude but she held her tongue.  It was good to see her so excited, so determined.  Perhaps bringing the class pet home would encourage her to be more responsible, more grown-up. It was Miss Taylor’s policy.  Everyone in her class took a turn in looking after the school pet, no matter how disruptive or obnoxious their behaviour.  Perhaps those kids needed it the most and, truth be told, Sophie was no angel.  She could be a proper little madam.

“Well, let’s have a look at it, then,” Mum reached for a corner of the blanket.

Sophie slapped her hand away.  “No, Mummy!  That’s what you must never do.  You’ll scare him.  He doesn’t like artificial light.”

“I think,” Mum spoke in measured tones, “you’d better take your little friend upstairs right this minute, young lady.  Before I lose my temper.”

Sophie rolled her eyes again.  She’s not eight, she’s a teenager already, Mum thought, watching her daughter manhandle the covered cage up the stairs, cooing to it.

Mum carried on peeling potatoes.  A thud from upstairs made her look at the ceiling.  A scream.  Sophie called for her mother.  A growling, a horrible, guttural growling.

Mum bounded up the stairs, armed with the peeler.  She pushed her daughter’s door aside.

“Sophie…?”

The cage lay open on the floor.  Sophie was sprawled on the rug, reaching a hand to her mother.

Mum was just in time to see a greasy, grey tentacle slip into her daughter’s ear.

Sophie blinked and sat up straight.

“It’s all right now, Mummy,” she intoned, staring blankly.  “Miss Taylor says I won’t be any more trouble from now on.”

tentacle

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Moonrock

“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.

moon

 

 

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Dolly

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.

“…Sophie?”

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

dolly

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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 squeezed 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.

snow-man-killer

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Cecily’s Father

I had not seen Cecily for weeks and so I headed out of London with the express purpose of confronting her father and having it out with him once and for all.  I was certain he was keeping her from me and although my beloved had warned me he might take news of his only daughter’s betrothal badly, I hadn’t expected the blighter to lock her away in their country residence.

A cab took me from the railway station to the gates of the property.  The fellow left me to walk the long drive under my own steam, as it were.  “Well, you needn’t think you shall be getting a tip!” I waved my fist but the carriage was already receding down the lane.

It was dusk and tiny insects plagued my face at every step.  I waved them away, like some determined and intrepid jungle adventurer – and I was reminded Cecily’s old man did something in that line, didn’t he?  Exploration of foreign climes.  Indeed, it was while he was away in deepest, darkest Africa or somewhere equally beastly that Cecily and I had formed our alliance, an attachment that had grown to the extent that I was going to let nothing stand in the way of our marriage.

As I approached the house I noticed what a rundown, shabby old pile it was.  The abundant splashes of ivy seemed to be what was holding the place together!  Cecily had said something about letting the staff go while her papa was away but even so, the building was falling into wrack and ruin.  I saw a way in – to her father’s affections, I mean.  When Cecily and I are wed, my not-inconsiderable fortune will be allied with hers and I would be rather keen to spend whatever it took to get the family seat restored to whatever glory it must once have had.

Cheered by this thought, I approached the wide front doors.  A door knocker fashioned to look like a ring in a lion’s mouth glared at me but I would not be deterred.  I knocked as loud and as assertively as I could then I stood back and waited.

No one came.

After quite an interval had passed, I skirted around to the rear.  Perhaps a kitchen door would permit me ingress.  Aware that this unconventional entry could only cause Cecily’s father’s hackles to rise, I took my chance, slipping in through an unremarkable doorway and into almost total darkness.

Loath to call out, I explored the ground floor, seeking signs of occupancy.  Beneath the grand staircase and a dusty chandelier resplendent with cobwebs, I found a door ajar and voices coming from beyond.  I peered through the crack and saw steps leading down to a cellar and the dim glow of lamplight.

“But Papa,” I recognised my betrothed’s dulcet voice at once, “Algernon is an upright, young gentleman!”

I blushed to hear her speak of me so favourably.

Her father’s harrumph indicated his opinion of her appraisal all too clearly.  “Be that as it way,” he said with a sniff, “he is not the man for you – or rather, you are not the girl for him.”

I almost stormed down the steps to join them in the cellar.  Surely a fellow must be permitted to decide for himself whether a girl is for him and, certainly, without question, Cecily is the girl for me.

But my darling’s next words gave me pause and I remained where I was, keen to hear more.

“And the remedy, Papa?  Are you no closer to finding it?”

“I am afraid not, child,” her father sighed; it was enough to crack my heart.  “My last expedition proved fruitless and I have not strength enough to embark on another.  And that is why I cannot permit your marriage to this man, whatever you perceive his qualities to be.  He will not understand and, think on this, it is unfair of you to expect it of him.”

My entire being was flushed with indignation and love for my darling Cecily.  I stormed down the stairs determined to avow that whatever condition, bar or impediment may be the cause of his objection, it would not stand in our way.

“Algernon!” my beloved cried.  She put a hand to her mouth in shock – and I saw then it was not a hand – the hand for which I had come to ask! – but a suckered tentacle extending from the lacy sleeve of her blouse.

Before her stood a creature, hunched and hideous, part-man, part-octopus.  A large, wet eye rolled to meet my horrified gaze.  A revolting sucking sound emitted from its scaly beak.

“Papa, no!” Cecily screamed but already his tentacles were snaking around my waist.

tentacle

 

 

 

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Rosemary’s Dinner Party

Dennis froze as the lowermost stair creaked under his foot.  The landing lit up as the bedroom light came on.  Holding his shoes, Dennis felt foolish.  What was he afraid of?  It’s only the wife.  What can she do?

And there she was, at the top of the stairs, arms folded, brow knitted, eyes glaring.

“Sorry, love,” he offered a smile.  “I was trying to be quiet.”

“Where the hell have you been?” Dennis’s wife snapped.  “And what time do you call this?”

Dennis didn’t know which question to answer first so he merely shrugged.  His wife marched down the stairs and nudged past him.  She barged into the kitchen – to fetch a rolling pin?  Dennis swallowed hard.  He put his shoes by the front door and padded after her, ready to face the music.

“Rosemary, love…” he began.   She was at the sink, filling the kettle.  At the sound of his voice, her shoulders stiffened.  “I’m sorry.”

“Oh, that makes it all right then, does it?” she pushed the words through tightened lips.  “You do know what tonight was, don’t you?”

Dennis wracked his mind.  It wasn’t their wedding anniversary; he knew that much.  He cast a glance around the kitchen.  The used wine glasses on the counter, the dishwasher humming away like a busy bee…

Oh.  Oh, shit.

“I’m sorry,” he moved closer, put his hands on her shoulders. She shrugged him off and shoved him out of the way so she could plug in the kettle.

“You knew how much this meant to me,” Rosemary’s voice faltered.  “You knew I wanted to make the right impression.”

“Oh, love,” Dennis felt terrible.  “I’m sorry.  I truly am.  But I’m sure you did all right without me – probably better off, truth be told!”

She shook her head.  “Don’t try to play it down.  Where were you, you selfish bastard?  Probably down the pub as usual.”

Dennis reddened.  “I only popped in for a quick half – bit of courage, you know –  but you know how it is.  You get talking, someone buys you a pint so it’s only fair you stop to buy them one and –”

“I don’t want to hear it!”  She busied herself with a cup and a tea bag.  “Well, aren’t you going to ask me what they were like?”

“What were they like?”

“Oh, he was quiet.  She gave the impression of being in charge.  The one who wears the trousers.  Under the robes, I mean, of course.  The way she hypnotised the chicken – it was like something off the telly.  It lay there good as gold while he sharpened the dagger.  And – you’d have been proud – they let me lead the incantations.  Me!  My first time!  And I got all the words in the right order!  I thought I’d be tongue-tied but no.  I don’t know, it was like something took over me, some kind of trance.  It was… magical!”

Dennis saw his chance.  He slipped his arms around her waist and nuzzled her neck.

“Will it work, do you think?”

“I hope so, baby,” she kissed his chin.  Her hands clasped his over her belly.  “I think I can feel it.  The seed.  Growing within me.  How lucky we are to be chosen!  The Dark Prince is on his way!”

hen

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The Marine Biologist’s Wife

“Here we are then,” Alan pulled up in front of Marc’s house.  “You sure you won’t come to the party?  Put in an appearance?  Stay for a quick one?”

Marc made apologetic faces.  “Can’t.  Tess is coming back tonight.”

Alan nodded.  “The lovely Tess.  Well, no Marine Biologists’ Ball is going to entice you away from that happy reunion.  How long has she been gone?”

“Two months,” said Marc.  “Two long months.”

“That’s some spa treatment!  Must have cost you a fortune.”

“She’s worth it,” Marc opened the door.  “Have a great weekend.”

He got out.

“Won’t be a patch on yours!” Alan laughed.  He reversed and drove off.  Marc stood and watched his workmate go, waving even when there was no chance Alan could see him in the rear-view mirror.

Marc skirted around the lonely seafront property, making his way to the back door below ground level.  Overhead, clouds darkened the sky and beyond the boundaries of the garden, the sea rolled like molten slate.  Marc let himself in, making sure the door was locked and bolted behind him.

Automatic lighting sprang to life as he moved.  He checked readings on the equipment he had ‘borrowed’ from the lab over the past few months.  All being well, he should be able to start returning it, piece by piece, after the weekend.  His life’s work would be done and he – and Tess – would be able to enjoy the rest of their lives together in bliss beside the sea.

She had always been the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  He still couldn’t believe his luck, that she had agreed to marry him.  She could have been an international supermodel, with the world at her feet and the pick of the male population.  But no, she had chosen him.  Plain old Marc.  Who would have guessed marine biology could be such an aphrodisiac?

The experiment had been her idea.  After the boating accident that had disfigured her beauty, she had begged him to help her, to restore her face, to preserve her appearance for all time.

There are species of jellyfish that are to all extents and purposes immortal.  They do not age and they do not die – unless you kill them.  Make me like them, she had said, her voice rasping through the bandages.  Make me beautiful forever.

And so Marc had set to work, conducting research, carrying out trials.  Tess, in agony, had begged him to hurry up, but there was always one more test to do, always one more calculation to make.

Finally, she had taken matter into her own hands and injected herself with the serum he concocted before he agreed it was ready.  Wild, foolish Tess, whose vanity always got the better of her.

Now, home from work, Marc was as eager as she was to see the results.

He pressed his hand against the tank.  “I hope you’re not going to be disappointed, my love,” he said.  “But we must never give up.”

A womanly shape shimmered in the water.  Tess climbed from the tank, her hair drenched, plastered to her face.  She stood before her husband as he peeled her tresses from her cheeks.

“Is it…bad?” she stammered.

Marc’s eyes were round with wonder.  “You’re you again!” he gasped.  “You’re beautiful!  You’re a goddess!”

“Thanks to you, my clever darling,” Tess reached up to touch her face.  “We shall be rich beyond our wildest dreams.”

She drew him into an embrace, enfolding him in her arms.  Marc’s heart attack was instant and fatal.  His skin boiled and his flesh dropped from his bones.

He had forgotten about the sting.

jellyfish-md

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