The Black Sails of Aran House

I’m swallowed by the mouth of night and sit inside to be digested

A cavern filled with shipwrecked souls yet, strangely, I am rested

As above shall be below for seraphim and nephilim

I leave no footprints in my wake just the tapered tail of Djinn

Foreign fields have grown up fast around this sober judge

Presiding over rituals that score the canticles of hell

My eyes have left the physical yet look across their failing stretch

To nooks where sigils predicate the Devil’s reign and goodness quelled

This house of grinding wheels that dusts the ground to snowfall’s china white

Like tea that’s steeped and ages fleet and things that pique the hush of night

The summer’s clemency departs for autumn winds to muster strength

That turn the black sails of the mill with cold and taut malevolence

The house of Aran’s history is sworn by death in confidence

And bones laid out in saraband unbridled in their sideways dance

Here wings of ebony catch winds and chime the threshold’s witching bells

So superstitious proles can brew their lies for vicious tongues to tell

This house of terror’s umbra catches subtleties in moonlight’s flair

Wedded to the goddess cast from sylvan whorls and churning air

Longmarsh flats a battlefield whose dead became a solid ground

And in the pockets of the walls is where their final prayers are found

This house of grinding wheels that mills the bones for baking bread

Like flesh that creeps and lost lambs bleat and things that feed upon the dead

The grey that’s winter’s pallor and the rattle of a failing breath

The black sails in procession turn like carriage wheels transporting death

When you break your daily bread and break the fast inside your homes

Be sure it is not Aran’s fayre risen from the dust of murdered bones.

The Lantern of Blackscarrow

If the pages of the scriptures were lit and razed to ash

Then built into an effigy of death’s emphatic dread

The eyes would be distinguished, that of lunatic messiah

Despised by guards and overlords yet secretly desired

Its robes made out loathing spun into a hollow cry

Flakes of the cremated are the threads of its design

And in its grip a lantern that was Solomon’s to light

A sober truth to blast into the drunken ooze of night

The nether to the hither is its corridor of power

Signalling to journeymen the flame reveals their fate

It is the Lord Blackscarrow with his hanging judge fixed stare

Omens swarm like starlings in the

bleary morbid air

Look behind the candle’s veil of luminosity

Drawn into the astral as blood in the syringe

The Lord stands at the crossroads where the truth and lie divided us

The righteous join the gilded throng

The rest join him as dust

The strange account of Darquer Challis.

When a soul leaves the body, it retains the shape but carries a scent of geraniums with its frayed appearance akin to a bride walking up a moonlit aisle.

The features appear gradually like an unearthed silver coin having the dirt carefully wiped away from the face of an indignant monarch. The atmosphere, covered by a heavy tapestry hung on a castle wall then quickly removed to arctic temperatures, creates the supernatural electric halo.

But it is the silence that has the balcony seat.

The ears are enveloped in a velvet hush and their introduction to a nether world as startling as bursting stars in terrified eyes.

They are tethered to the world by a profound loss, enacting a final scene as the silent balcony looks on through the ages.

Only love can cut the ropes and let loose a completed life, content that the light above is brighter than that burning in their broken hearts.

Nostalgia is the ghost.

Nestled in a sprawling wood, close to foreboding hills, was Gauntcrief Mortuary.

This Jacobean pile, with its two turrets, one at either end, its tall leaded windows and striking crimson door, appeared as a demon’s head bursting forth from the leafless winter sticks.

The local villages hummed with tales of the horrors within and those that lurked in the sylvan darkness around.

It was said that the infamous witches of Salem were sent here in sherry barrels to be embalmed with Myrrh and Myrtle then buried deep beneath the eldest of the oak trees – their left hand and feet removed, their mouths filled up with fingers and toes and their heads held fast in scolds bridles made from melted silver crucifixes.

This place writhed with dancing spiky shadows, rung with curious half heard sentences and reeked of ill conceived slander.

It rained during the day and cleared to a transparent night as though the heavens had no pores to sweat the labours of the sun.

It was at night that the gas lamps shone out through the windows, giving the demon head glowing eyes and keeping the curious far from there.

Inside its thick walls lined with prayer stuffed crevices and down a long corridor was the room of the dead. This room was out of bounds to all except the mortician, Darquer Challis. Darquer was a tall, wiry man dressed at all times in a dark green suit and matching apron with black leather gloves and a crimson beret. His shoes were the same colour as his beret, but with soles thick with a lifetime of blackened blood and sprigs of holly woven into the laces – to surprise the devils in the floorboards!

When he left the room to conduct business in the parlour, he wore a tall red hat with sprigs of holly – to surprise the devils in the rafters!

His family had lived in the gamekeepers cottage at the end of the path but one by one, like an excruciating domino drop, they succumbed to the dreaded cholera outbreak.

They shrivelled in his arms like the flowers taken inside the mortuary, losing all moisture, all plump goodness becoming the exhumed. These desiccated, cooled coals from the fire in winding sheets with smiles for the counting saint, were his legacy lost to the great scythe.

In his weightless grief, he took from each of them a long bone, either the leg or the arm and carved nine miniature coffins with lids and nine figures of his beloved to rest inside of them, arms neatly folded and drops of gold, from a molten hammered noble, for eyes.

A year danced through the dark ballroom of his mourning, brushing past the drapes to release memories from deep folds. These brief excerpts melted into bitter chocolate shadows around Darquer who performed his duties like a clown spent of mirth.

But late in the evening, after work was completed, he lovingly laid each coffin upon their respective seats in the parlour and lifted the lids. He revealed the tiny figures before taking his own seat, lighting the huge candle next to their portraits on the occasional table and rang a little bell placed to the side. As the wick crackled with balls of flame, sweet violet orbs lifted from the figures and lit the shapes of his family in their places, still and cold yet they filled him with an enveloping warmth.

He would tell them about his day and bless each of them before they retired to their bones and golden eyed slumber.

Each night lovingly recreated and each night his shrivelled heart inflated a little more.

Darquer was content with his lot.

That was until New Year’s Eve, when a storm rolled in from the hills presided over by a blood moon. The woods shook with the high boughs clashing and tearing apart, splitting nine trees open to reveal silver bridles, lank blue black limbs and curses muttered through mouths filled with sheared appendages. Skeletal leaves danced in circles beneath their feet as the nine moved like swaying kelp through a treacle darkness buffeted by tempestuous winds and sharp debris. In their rotted sockets, golden yellow eyes sparked into life and drails of violet smoke snaked behind their insidious procession.

That night, nine evil spirits, looking to be freed, was to descend on the house of the departed.

Darquer lit the candle and rang the bell but no lights appeared. He rang the bell again and still nothing. The whole day had closed in around him filling his bones and blood with dread and he decided to keep his tall red hat on with the holly sprigs.

Suddenly, the windows and doors burst open and nine clouds of swirling leaves with silver bridles set with crucifixes, protruding from the top, shattered his panacea with the stench of calumny.

“What blasphemy is this? You were bound to the woods by ritual, brides of beelzebub. Begone from my house of eternal rest.”

The witches stepped out of their conjured maelstroms and formed a circle around Darquer.

“Thou bereft and scooped out varlet. Didst thou believe the pocked mouth judges that we wouldst stay tied to thy puny rituals? We are loose’d to make good on our promise to the cast out Prince.”

The circle moved in closer around him and Darquer reached into his apron with a wry smile. Below him the floor began to crack and break apart and licks of flame brushed his crimson shoes.

“I have for each of you a gift. Do not deny a condemned man his last wish. Open your right palms and be grateful.”

Darquer placed one of his precious figures into each bloated clawed right hand and closed it up with an amen.

From inside of the clenched fists, a beautiful white light burst like a comet in a summer sky and, one by one, the witches were engulfed in a blinding magnesium flash as huge flames engulfed the smiling mortician, eyes shut and arms open wide.

Dawn broke through the tall leaded windows to a chilled parlour.

On the table nine coffins, with lids beside them, lay empty and on the floor two sprigs of holly smouldered in the orange light. The sprig from the hat was for the dreams and hopes for the future and the sprig from the shoes for the march to realise these dreams and beyond to realise more besides. They were the sun and the moon in eternal struggle.

Every night, at three, the parlour has ten lights on their seats with no bell to ring and no candle flame to summon them from their golden eyed slumber.

In the Stoking Eyes of Rooks

Behind the sneer of charlatans

Is hate like boiling tar

But it is a salve when pit against

the burning stare of rooks

The rot removed by surgeon’s knife

That seethes in its discard

Is gilded cups of springtime blooms compared to damning looks

In the stoking eyes of terror

The famished glare of sin

Turkish coffee poured onto a scrying glass of dread

The lips and skin of autopsies

That cannot tell nor flush

Are silver glow when they’re compared

to guardians of the dead

Ousted by society

A thing that’s most reviled

Pales in insignificance when the swindling bird locks eyes

A gristle cawed marauder

Clad in hanging judge attire

The thunder nips it’s voice in fear when taking to the skies

Sent from heaven’s doorway

To hell with all the damned

Are comforts of Bohemia when held to Corvid’s glance

This onyx soul collector

The abyss could not contain

Is crueller than all nature’s spite and nothing left to chance.

The Blind Man and the Black Dog

The sky is a pastry crust lava lamp boneyard rust

Crackle glazed into the hook of a sun

It blisters as gull screams call stars waiting for it

To smoulder in violet welts

daylight is done

Blankets of souls stitched to black wool and bush fires

Are nomadic clouds in a caravan’s trip

Diaphanous wisps play as silk made of moisture

Round chalk dusted buildings like breath from the crypt

Trees are the sketches of art nouveau masters

With tendrils like kiss curls and flourishing script

Lining the streets in their liquorice shimmer

They lust after black space that life never lit

What is the tapping like beaks on a cracked skull?

A cane for a blind man whose pictures are sound

His streets are the canyons that colour in breezes

They bled for the savage and cheered for the crown

His daydreams are symphonies blazing through wheat fields

Up into mountains and out to the seas

Riding the slipstreams of sky gods and tin birds

Not waking to underwhelmed reality

Walking beside him a beast from the nightmares

Of children that ventured too far in the trees

A hound made from pitch and fraught deathbed confessions

And a fireside tall tales menagerie

It lopes by his side as a faithful companion

Eyes of a tempest and teeth temple stones

Its pelt is a piper that lures in a mist

To a padded room silence from the benthic zone

He tells his protector a new tale on each walk

Imagined as though it was screened in his mind

Elaborate stories with the darkest of threads

And a Halloween pumpkin’s gruesome design

It listens intently with hackles full raised

As the words corkscrew plots to a frosted conclusion

Growling approval and sated for frights

Their friendship, not witnessed, could be an illusion?

“Thank you for walking with me, my dear friend.”

Is all that he utters when reaching his door

The mist is a cloak in a magicians act

As the beast in a blink is not there any more

The symphonic dreams are a flight into nightmares

Discovering tales in the eyes of his mind

They’re red rust and welts and a blanket of stitched souls

Meant only for him and legendary hound.

The Scarecrow Shield.

“Tell me how you are feeling today, Cherie?” gushed Clover in her soothing masseuse voice. Her wind blown grey locks trailed down to an armour plating of talisman necklaces resting on a tie dyed blouse. A pale lugubrious face, set with bloodhound eyes, betrayed a torrid life spent fleeing catastrophic relationships and never healing bruises.

Her calling was to stand in the maelstrom of other people’s madness and pluck shreds of comfort out of the chaos.

The tiny office, in the back of the walk in centre, was a perfect metaphor for how seriously society viewed mental health and sandalwood incense barely covered the musty mildew stink from the damp carpet and walls.

“I’m thinking of killing again…this time from a bell tower and just social workers!” Cherie leered at Clover, her black eyes bubbling as her equally black humour jabbed at the beleaguered woman with a hat pin dipped in defensive sarcasm.

“Why don’t you ask my mother, BeelzeBabs how I’ve been? She’s insured for my shit and, although it’s purely out of a sense of duty, she keeps a close watch on me when…when…”

“When what, Cherie…?”

“When THEY try to hijack my soul and replace me.”

The hat pin, had it been a real thing, could have burst the bubble of stunned silence. Instead, the scribbling of a ballpoint pen articulated her aspirations of normality. Cherie imagined herself confined to a cell, her shaved head repeatedly banging against a tiny window like a moth on a strip light.

“They called me The Reaper and stuck my head in the toilet and I couldn’t breathe. I could feel myself going into the stars and then there he was.

The Scarecrow.

He handed me his shield made of crow wings and mice skulls and tongues and fingernails stuck around the edges with blood and skin and in the middle…in the middle, the eye. The black fire eye looking up from hell. It told me to cut out their bad intentions.

It was so real, too real!

The school won’t take me back after I…” Cherie cupped her slight face with long slender fingers and grimaced at Clover, betraying a rare glimpse of vulnerability.

“We are making progress, Cherie. The closed doors are opening and we can walk through them togeth…”



Cherie had left her chair and moved to the corner of the room, her arms outstretched and a timid voice was ramped up to a roar straight at Clover and the disbelievers she represented.

“You didn’t kill them, Cherie. You stabbed them in the arms and legs. They recovered and are back bullying other girls.

So no lesson learned there.

But you are moving forward and we need to address the Scarecrow and his shield. Do you want to talk about them?”

Cherie moved out from the corner and wrapped her arms around her neck, linking fingers at the back and crossing two for protection.

“You see what you know is real and what society tells you is an acceptable truth, Clover. But when society and its towers of boxes to place people into doesn’t matter at all, then he comes to you out of the very black shadows.

I know him as Doombral.

He was made by a brother and sister who lived on farm at the edge of a great forest. It was just after the ships found the new lands and the wilderness was a continent wide. They would walk to the edge of the trees every night and wave the candle into the blackness to hail lost souls to their company. One night, after the frost had set hard, a black fire appeared in the trees and came forward to meet them.

The candle flame was blown out and the fire ball set itself in front of them and flickered in the chill.

The girl asked the first question.

“Are you from god or the devil?”

It whispered to her.

“I am neither and I am both. What I shepherd is your enemies. They are my crops and your bounty is the privelidge of peace. Do you have the clean space in your soul that needs a shield from the filth of the world?”

The girl stayed silent and open mouthed.

Then the boy asked his question.

“Can you make a monster to afear the scavengers from our bounty in the fields?”

“Indeed I can. Hold out your hand, boy child and I will draw upon your skin the means to make such a thing and you shall call it Doombral. It is that which is made in the darkest dark.”

The boy held out his hand and the fire dipped and touched his palm for a count of three. No sooner had it completed the third count but it cooled and dropped to the floor as the shield. The boy began to change and grow. He twisted and cracked as his bones and skin became leaf and twig and black branch. His face puffed into pitted mouldy pumpkin skin adorned with quills and fangs of hunting creatures. When he stood upright it was more than three barrels high and a fearsome beast was he.

The little girl smiled at her brother, the monster and ushered him close to her.

“Doombral, guard our lands and keep the filth from the clean spaces. Protect those who most need it. Go Doombral!”

Cherie moved closer to Clover and growled eerily,

“That little girl was my great great great grandma and she became rich and powerful. But she shared a monster’s dream and the monster travelled in her lineage. We are all monsters under this paper suit.”

“Cherie, you are not a monster. You just snapped. We can all snap from time to time. We bend only so far and then…we…snap!”

Clover lifted her left hand up to her face and smiled a deep, dark grin. One by one her yellow teeth were flicked out, landing at Cherie’s feet. Shuddering as though an ice cube had fallen down her shirt, Cherie gawped at the slavering toothless Clover in horrified disbelief. Her skin was buckling and folding, filling the room with the musty smell of damp straw and swamp wood. Long spindly fingers, shedding the rings and bracelets, cracked and twisted. The fingernails sprung into the acoustic foam ceiling like assassins daggers and her deep green eyes receded into leathery bulging sockets. In a matter of moments, Clover had become a huge beast, snarling and lurching above the petrified Cherie.

“My great great great grand niece. You realise who I am and how I have protected you and all our family as I have our fields. The story was not quite true as my brother did not become Doombral but was lost in the woods. I prayed to God but he was absent in the stars. So I prayed…elsewhere. The rest is black fire and filth. Always filth and not a spot left clean.

I have a gift for you.”

The creature, now evident as Doombral, reached inside its belly and wrenched out the shield as she had seen it in the bathroom in the flushing toilet water. He handed it to her before vaporising into huge plumes of black smoke.

“Thank You Doombral. I am the heiress to the black fire. I am the monster maker.

Who needs a shield?”


Indelible are the screaming texts of history

Bonded with the fibres of the vellum

we forget the long since dried

And smudge the fresh ink to hide dark and nasty truths

But are they recorded in vino veritas or did we always drive snakes between the syllables?

Only the watching dead shall know

Their tongues sea mist and skin moon glow

Peripheral guardians there then not

Even scares from sudden blasts cannot punch the heart as hard as judging eyes

So the land not dwelt nor stolen from keeps the mercurial things

In its madness patterns that are not calculated for the debt of man

Live beasts that flee from waking dreams

Live chimney blackened ghouls in between the smithy’s coals and screams

And back to silence in the dark folds of the robes of science

Each leaf and blade is its own godhead striking the gong of first light

Banishing jealous spectres to temple antiquity or the trail of abandoned satellites

And all of the poisons in fangs and statesmen’s pens are barely enough to hinder a revolution

This damned earth rich at the pointed tip craves endless retribution

It turns with winds and charts of wealth above the offended dead in their boxes

It endures through extinction and resurrection, time and again with new mistakes to correct

It bleeds and heals beneath mountains of embryonic fire and the marching feet of oppression

Until the Mercury that made madness and hats alike slithers between the joy of salvation and the threat of damnation

To right the wrongs and write the rights of all things equal in the eye that oversaw


The Room Behind the Mirror.

“Charles, the walls are whispering to the furniture again. They’re conspiring to deprive us of comfort!” Millie enjoyed throwing her brother off balance with her wild imagination. She revelled in his befuddled face and the fear in his eyes as he tried to rationalise her nonsense, likening her to the desperate cuckoo darting out of the clock face.

“Millicent, for the last time, can you try to walk through the door marked ‘normal’ in the morning?”

The brother and sister lived in a beautiful red brick town house on the corner of a park festooned with cherry blossom trees and triumphant bulges of hydrangea.

Their days were spent exploring and finding adventures to new worlds, gently mixed with what they knew of the real world like a delicate cake mix.

The idyllic childhood was theirs to enjoy, riding the clouds of imagination as if they were on the back of a marauding dragon or narwhale plummeting the depths.

“Charles, I found a letter in the red room under the floorboards. I can’t tell the language but the writing is reddy black, it has weird shapes in the margins and it smells funny. Perhaps it’s a bible addressed to the mice warning them about worshipping cheese?”

Charles slinked down the stairs and across to the drawing room, his sarcastic frown, permanently painted onto his face, was curling upwards like a stale sandwich.

“Millicent, how did you find this little room? I never realised there was a door behind the full length mirror. It’s so odd that we haven’t found it until now.”

“Everything is red and there’s a huge star on the floor, little winged men with horns and a big rams face and I think they kept chickens in those cages – the feathers are lovely colours.”

Millicent took a gulp of air after her long sentence. She pulled at the tiny latch in the corner of the mirror and it swung open from right to left with a deep throated creak, releasing stale gusts into the light room.

The pair gawped at the tiny room daubed in thick, maroon paint and odd symbols from floor to ceiling. A solitary book lay on the shelf sideways with the title, ‘The book of the Lore’. White dust had collected in the corners and the eyes of the big ram, inside the star, seemed to follow them everywhere. The room smelled like old fish and on the ceiling was a triangle with a swirling eye in the centre. Flashes of lightening emanated from the eye, jabbing into terrifying faces.

In the corner, next to the chicken cages, was a splintered trapdoor with a latch that was a devil pushing out a long tongue.

After about ten minutes of frantic whispering, they both decided to look inside the trapdoor even though they were scared out of their wits.

The latch clicked and it heaved upwards revealing a dark blue staircase leading into the darkness of the wardrobe at night.

Or the corners without eyes and teeth.

Milly stood staring into a pantheon of imagined monsters and muttered to Charles.

“I can’t see the floor. Maybe there is no floor? Maybe it’s a staircase to the bottom of the world and through another trap door to space and we have to swim through the stars forever?”

Charles ignored his babbling sister and lit a long black candle, set with silver sevens, he found on a stone plinth then started down the steps.

“Are you coming to explore or are you going to stand there like a tailor’s dummy thinking up rubbish to make my ears burn?”

Snapped Charles, his eyes flashing at her with disapproval.

“Let me put my hand on your shoulder, Charles. It’s so I’m safe from the clutches of Professor Midnight.”

The Professor was Milly’s arch nemesis at bedtime and she would be awake long into the early hours trying to discern his willowy figure from the branches waving in the lamplight outside.

“Just stay close, Millicent and not a peep. If Nanny Gravestock finds us in here she’ll tell Uncle Ernest and we’ll get the buckle end of the strap.”

Uncle Ernest had kindly taken the children in when their parents were killed in a motorway pile up which saw them roasted to death in the debris. They did not get the chance to see them buried and Charles suspected that Milly’s quirks were protection from the overwhelming grief.

As they reached the bottom step, a wave of dread filled their hearts. With the thumping of blood making a death march in their ears, they entered a room exactly as the one above but the floor and ceiling designs were switched around. In the centre of the room were two coffins on trestle tables draped with silver trimmed red cloths.

“Charles, maybe they’re umpires?”

“Millicent, that’s vampires! They are for the dead and not the undead. We are going back up the stairs and…”

The candle blew out and the trap door slammed shut leaving them swallowed by blackness and utterly terrified.

“Charles…Charles…Please answer me!”

Silence was abruptly punctuated by two heavy thumps on the floor followed by dragging and the horrifying wheezing of laboured breath.

Not one, but two and loaded with gravel.

Milly dragged herself to the steps and began to crawl up slowly. Her heart almost jumped out of her chest when she felt two hands upon her shoulders and she clambered to the trap door. Pushing as hard as she could, the sprung door popped open and slammed onto the floor. She bolted to the door of the red room and, looking back briefly, she caught a bleary glimpse of two cooked corpses carrying her screaming brother.

Milly fell to the floor and tried to crawl out of the room before terror gripped her delicate senses.

“Professor Midnight, not you – not you!”

Already her vision was through the bottom of a wine glass and her brother was having his skin removed by one of the charred ghouls whilst the other had reached into his chest cavity, tearing his heart out through the gaping wound. Huge blood bubbles spattered the walls as roars and screams exploded from beneath the floor. Milly gasped as several brightly coloured cockerels scurried out of the trapdoor and began feasting on errant flesh scattered around the big ram’s head.

Finally, Milly succumbed to the numbing of her senses. She closed her tear streaked eyes just as a huge black shape lumbered up the stairs from the darkness below.

“Nati sunt autem videtis me adhuc Virgo cordibus vestris.”

(Virgin hearts will see me born again.)

Her dreams were a string of disjointed scenarios culminating in the skinned and mutilated Charles offering her his heart, perched upon a huge blue and silver seat atop writhing filth and horrifying shadows. Suddenly from behind it, a giant ram peered round with piercing yellow eyes and hissed,

“You are my new suit, child.”

A shaggy claw snatched the heart from Charles’ hands and bit into it with long fangs that gleamed when set against a purple black tongue. With a chilling cockerels cry, Charles then burst into flames and white dust blasted into her eyes. The white out cleared into black stars and white stars emerged from black shapes. Finally, two charred bodies, hands and feet tied with sticks in their mouths, sunk to their knees before the ram. The book on the shelf opened with a lion’s roar and the entire scene was sucked into its pages only to be silenced by the cover slamming shut.

Her uncle, clad in a deep blue cowl, picked up the book and winked at her through a sneer.

When she woke, Milly was in the master bedroom bathed in golden evening light. The ornate coving and cornices around the ceiling shone in their metallic coats and the room had the heady scent of cotton lavender to soothe her furrowed brow.

“Nanny, is that you? Nanny where’s Charles? I had such an awful dream. Where is he? Did the burned people take him?”

“Shhhh…Millicent. Try not to speak. You’ve had a nasty fall. Have a sip of water and rest. Your Uncle Ernest had the doctor look you over and he…”

“They screamed out the children’s names when the fire began to roast their lungs. Little orphans alone in the wicked world with the smell of burned flesh in their noses. Dear Nanny, with your secret trysts, you were never loved and never kissed in that way.”

Milly sat leering at her horrified carer. The sweet scent of the lavender had curdled to an acrid stench and, as a deep grey cloud passed in front of the sun, the shadow of her form sunk into a deep green hue and ludicrously curled rams horns grew steadily from her head. The windows splintered into frosted shards and an eerie gloom descended on the room like a blanket being thrown over a fire.

“My dearest Coleen, faithful nanny to the darling children, where do your thoughts wander when you are alone at night? Do they wander with your body to Ernest’s room to be humiliated? We know him and his ways. He aspires to be with us in legion and made bloody murder in that accident he arranged. There are no worse monsters than those who conspire to be one by design. The lies are smeared into the darkness like salt into stab wounds. Run along now, nanny Coleen, he can’t wait for too long with his weakened manhood.”

Leaping three stairs at a time, the nanny landed at the foot of the staircase with a sickening crunch as her right foot twisted round and her ankle bone sheared through her tattoo, folding it like a limp turkey neck onto the side of her foot. Her agonising yelp was fired into the front door as she scrambled for the latch and fell onto the road outside, her head resting on the kerb stone. It was only a moment later that a bus stopped beside her and, as it set off from alighting two oblivious passengers, her hair caught in the wheel and she was dragged under the huge tyres to become a clotted jam smear across the damp Tarmac.

Milly descended the staircase like thistledown on a breeze and crouched down to lick the blood pool and droplets trailing to the door. Rising from the hardwood floor, her blue tipped toes squeaked as they slid along up to the long mirror and stopped still. She stared longingly at her fluctuating reflection smiling as her eyes changed from powder blue to a fiery yellow. Long blue veins snaked up under her skin and across her body with blisters and lesions swelling to a head and weeping bile coloured pus into a pool beneath her feet. Her nails split with putrid black razors springing out like cat claws and, as the evening light cowered behind an awful darkness, she reached forward and rapped three times on the mirror.

The whole house began to shudder, the pipes knocked loudly, glass splintered into frosted panes and the temperature plummeted to visible curls of evil breath seeping from cracked lips and a vesicle pocked tongue.

Her three knocks on the mirror were answered from the other side and the glass became transparent to reveal a huge shaggy goat with large arms and talons, a jaw full of jagged teeth and eyes that matched hers in colour and intensity.

“I am you now, child. I have seeped into your bones and skin and run through your blood. My fall into the depths was an eternity ago. Now I have a soul and my despair shall be broadcast like seed in the fields. I shall kill their hope and hang it on the roadside for the carrion to feast upon. Enter my domain, child.”

She passed through the mirror and into the red room to find the two immolated figures feasting on Charles’ heart.

“Welcome, Millicent – our second born.”

Milly drifted over and took a slice of her brother’s heart, shredding it with her sharpened teeth and hideous talons.

“We gave our lives to reach Abadzrael and he made his choice when you found the scarlet letter. Humanity is ripe now to turn on their faulted god. Go forth and mystify, child. Your uncle Ernest is the key to the power on earth. Kill him then take the helm of his empire.”

Milly waved her arm and the trapdoor flew open allowing her parents to return to under the red room and rest for eternity.

Gliding through the mirror, she dragged the black chill of frozen space behind her and the laughter of the Professor.

Milly was the beast in shadow form but her body remained that of a child.

As she ascended the stairs, the paper on the walls peeled and split and the pictures bubbled in their glass frames, the smiling faces inside wilting to sadness. Her talons dug deep into the bannister rail, curling lacquered wood upwards with the squeal of a flailing mouse in the fangs of a huge spider. Her skin was now cyan which made her eyes burn bright in their sunken sockets and green vapour grew in wisps from her mouth and nose. Hellish shapes flanked her form, creeping up the walls and across the ceiling as frost pricked at the fibres on the carpet beneath.

“Eeeeerrrrrnesssssssssst! I seek the lascivious captain of industry. I am the queen of cups and will fill yours to overflowing with the horrors of artists dreams .”

Three hard knocks blasted into his bedroom door and Ernest woke from a slumber, staring intensely into the gloom. The doorknob rattled and the key dropped to the floor.

“Hide under your flimsy sheets, old man and I will slither between your toes, up your leg, across your belly and sit upon your chest to nip your breath.”

The door began to shake violently and a strange green miasma wafted beneath it and through the keyhole. It crept across the floor and up the walls, carving a hideous face on the opaque window.

Outside the orange street lights began to flicker as though moths were gathered around them and all at once they were extinguished to muted blackness.

Slowly, the door creaked opened and a chorus of shrieking mice, thick with spider venom, bounced around the room.

Ernest was aghast at the shadows edging in and across the walls as a faint crescent moon, behind rain clouds, provided a hint of the invader.

His heart was squeezing blood through his ears and two deep yellow eyes lit up in the dark doorway sending a cavalcade of dread up a crooked spine.

“Wh-at d-do y-you want with me?” He crowed, indignation braving the terror in his voice.

“I’m here to get what was promised to me in your little red shrine, Ernest Caulfield. You and your acolytes reached out to me in the void and I saw my resurrection in your little Millicent. I want your power and influence amongst the earthly devils in their suits and position. You are no more than bacteria that spoils the gut. Your perversions remain in this darkness and your rube nanny is a dead thing now.

You found the key by accident in the teachings and I was released. You have served to me a vessel and it must be rid of you…and it!”

Ernest reached into his night stand and pulled out a small pistol, aimed it between the eyes and pulled the trigger. The screeching roar that emanated from the darkness was followed by the soft gasp of a small voice.

“I built my empire from a run down store. Screw you if you think you’re just taking it.” Ernest placed the gun into his nightstand and looked towards the door just as long nails dug into his face and slammed his head against the headboard.

“I am impervious, you deviant! I shall be renewed by sunrise after I have eaten your putrid little cowardly heart.”

The bed slammed and tipped forward throwing Ernest across the floor and into the doorway. He scrambled to the corner by the window and choked at the sight of a little girl being raised from the floor, floating towards him and gradually flanked by black spectres. The frost was creeping up his body and the sight of her yellow eyes in a battered body with long talons and green breath, was too much and he grasped his chest in agony.

“Heart giving out, Ernest? Here, let me help you with that!”

He flipped over and arched his back as sinew and bone snapped and popped. His agonised screams were mocked by the creature until his rib cage was forced out through his thin skin and it snapped back like a bear trap being tripped. His organs bubbled out and slopped onto the floor and he was pulled up in front of the window by his hair. His last view was a slender arm with black talons reaching into his chest and wrenching out the heart. The window shattered onto the floor and his body flew out across the street and landed in the park. Within seconds a pack of stray dogs were furiously ripping it apart like a rag doll then scattering in all directions to feast on pallid chunks.

The child returned to the room behind the mirror to feast on the heart of the old man. Her natural colour was returning to her body and her eyes glistened a powder blue.

Swallowing the last mouthful, she reached into her night dress and pulled out the scarlet letter found in the red room.

Opening it up, a broad smile with straight white teeth flashed across her face and she began to laugh, ascending octaves to her natural voice.

The letter had become a last will and testament of Ernest Caulfield who bequeathed his fortune and position on the board to his darling Millicent.

She climbed onto his bed and curled up to sleep, eyes open wide and broad grin stretched from ear to ear.

“Tomorrow is the first day of the descent of man and the shadow world will come forth against him.

Power corrupts and absolute power is the ultimate corruption.”

From out of the shadows, the Professor stepped lightly and pulled the sheets over her.

“Goodnight, Millicent and may god receive what is his and reject what is not.”

The pillow beneath her crumpled over her face and she twitched violently until the stillness inside mirrored the night beyond.

The Professor raised his charred hand and waved.

“Goodnight, Milly, daddy loves you.”


“YOU CUT ME UP YOU LITTLE BASTARD!” I screamed through the screen at a boy racer in a Volkswagen with a giant spoiler and windows full of fire stickers. This new job was a ham fisted gardener tearing the plants from the ground and hastily replanting without any nourishment whatsoever.

All along the black sky journey, past winter husk and huddle, the clock had moved backwards rubbing salt into my wounded career. Being downsized, downgraded then moved to the back of beyond is a mighty kick in the balls for twenty three years of mindless obedience and loyal service.

But this is the new world where managers are more disposable than staff and ascending graphs and returns are the making or breaking of them!

So the little rented white van, filled with my life so far, pulled into the sleepy hamlet of Truckle View where the sat nav drew a blank with unnerving silence.

I tapped it to check it was still working but the dot faded and the voice became static put through an effects loop:



Then eerie silence.

The acoustics inside a tin can are madness inducing as metallic pops of rain bounced around, assaulting my already shredded nerves. The main road into Truckle View slowed histrionic, weaving traffic down to a lonesome rider moseying into town in some Western, being preempted by tumble weed and peering townsfolk.

“If I see one kid sat on a doorstep with a banjo…!” I quipped out loud whilst sitting in the torrent at a flared, red traffic light.

Suddenly, a gulp of air was sucked into my body by a sucker punch of fright.

Shadows of people crossing the road walking through one another, as though they were grey smoke from a dying camp fire, plucked a dissonant chord in my jangling senses.

The strangeness of the scene made my vision blurry until the blast of a horn behind jolted me to the urgency of an impatient green light.

I scoured the lanes until, at last, my apartment block shone through the dappled screen like King Arthur’s sword rising from the lake.

“Finally here and only five hours and twenty two minutes of rain.” I grumbled under my breath, opening the heavy van doors for the first, carefully boxed installment of my life.

The path to the front entrance was cobbled in spiral patterns with nine large white stones either side, five on one and four on the other.

“Strange big things amongst the small ones. They’re smooth and oval with cracks running across the length. They look just like…”

Before I could complete my muttered sentence, a large husky voice through a broad grin greeted me from the doorway.

“New blood to pollute the pool, I guess? Salutations to you, stranger. You must be the manager-to-be of the big store. I am Mrs. Clavell-Clarke, the building owner and Mayoress of our humble little one horse town of Truckle View. Come on inside out of the rain and we’ll get better acquainted, so to speak.”

“I’m Tam Dees, m’am.” I raised the box I was holding a little as a salute to replace a polite handshake.

“Well, hurry and I will show you to your apartment in the gods, with a view above the gloom and out to Sarkle Hill, our landmark and site of the annual pig chase. We release the pig at the top and the runner that catches the swine before the river gets join the circle.”

“The Sarkle circle?” I quipped before receiving a dozen steel daggers fired from ice blue eyes behind horned rimmed spectacles.

“Please don’t mock our traditions beyond these walls, Mr. Dees. You will quickly find it is no laughing matter and your stay will be stymied. Now, here’s your apartment, number twelve. Feel free to come and go as you please and keep the shenanigans to a minimum. Other than that enjoy your stay here and find your true self in this corn dolly world.”

What an odd thing to say!

The double barreled matriarch ushered me through the door and into a clean, well appointed space with pristine white walls, a plain brown linoleum floor and a small, two seat sofa placed curiously in front of the window, facing out.

“Oh and Tam, you must have your first meal with me. One hour from now in apartment three. I won’t take no for an answer.”

Mrs. Clavell-Clarke’s voice was warm and free from the business brusque of earlier and shed my armour climbing the stairs.

I unpacked quickly and sat on the well sprung sofa staring at the hill that was awash with shadows from a cloudscape halo circling a retreating sun.

But something jarred my senses.

The clouds seemed to be chased by darker shadows as though they were playing ring o’ roses around the hill and across the rocks and bronzed grass. The dark shapes had limbs and passed in and out of the outcrops before being blasted by the evening sun, dissolving into the ground amid a rush of startled birds scattering skyward.

“What was tha…” I muttered under the bellow from two floors down.

“Tam, tea is on the table. When you’re ready?”

The silence between broken conversations was a glacial reprieve that cooled each mouthful of hot Chilli.

“So, Mrs. Clavell-Clarke…”

“Please, call me Celia. I’m the Mayoress, Council Leader, neighbourhood watch uber-snoop, Chamber of Commerce chair, town planning committee…basically, if it happens here, it goes through me…

It goes through me and stops at my will.”

She smiled a wry slanted half smile betraying a dullness of the eyes. A gloss free dullness that comes with a razure, a relationship so disastrous that she burned it and salted the earth after and placed a curse upon any thought of it after the paperwork had cooled.

Not one to cross this one.

“I see you admired the Nine Griefs as you entered the building, Tam”

Mrs. Clavell-Clarke removed her glasses placing them carefully on the table and stroked her throat just above the top button.

“Excuse me?”

“The nine white stones framing the cobbled swirls, they are the Nine Griefs? Large cobbles found on Sarkle Hill and brought here to pave the entrance to my home. Being the First Lady of Truckle View is a position that comes with unending perks.” She revelled in her piety and clawing sarcasm.

“But cobbles don’t have sutures, do they?” I quipped with a light barb.

“Sutures?” She snapped back with lightening speed.

“Yes, as in the growth lines in the skull. A big white cobble skull…”

The awkward moment was a balloon releasing air, both comedic and mildly threatening.

“Cobble skull poppycock! I think I made a tongue twister?”

We both enjoyed a relieved chuckle.

The scented candle finally smothered the cooking odours which subtlety signaled the end of a charming evening.

“Thank you for a tasty meal, Mrs. Clavell-Clarke. I’ve got a five o’clock rise to get a head start on the business.”

“Thank you, Tam it’s so refreshing to have new conversation as a civil tongue wears down like a dynamite fuse in this little place. Goodnight and sleep well…oh…and take this corn dolly for your door as it offers protection from dream phantoms.”

Wary of offending again, I held off laughter until she winked at me before making my way up the dark stairwell to the clinical apartment.

Opening the door in semi darkness, I noticed lights darting across the hill and hit the sofa clumsily to observe the activity.

The night sky was a shredded blanket pulled carelessly over the stars and beneath this was the distinct shape of Sarkle Hill being circled by a myriad of eerie, glowing wisps. They appeared then disappeared beneath it causing a supernatural strobing effect, reappearing larger as though re energized beneath the soil. Every so often the lights made a human shape and wafted down the hill and across the river towards town. It was when several passed through each other in the river that my mind was cast back to the traffic lights and I shuddered violently.

Sitting forward to take a closer look, a cold draught brushed my shoulder and I turned my head quickly to take in the naked shape of Mrs. Clavell-Clarke sitting next to me. She was drenched in blood with the head of the corn dolly where her own head should be and long spiny fingers covered in ash.

Then its eyes opened and the mouth uttered

“Run little curly tail

run little ham

run from the nine of them

Lest ye be damned!”

I managed a husky yelp when the alarm pierced the bubble and soapsuds residue of the nightmare blew into my face, waking me fully to shadows retreating into the dark corners and under the door.

The shop was a tedious Ma and Pa business that a school leaver could manage comfortably and my boredom etched face gazed longingly beyond the bargain spattered front window and onto the Truckle View high street. The regulars wore a groove to their usual brands and the profits trod water in a tea cup.

I would occasionally be an agent provocateur in local gossip which was my private middle finger to this slow death in the provinces. The spirit flattening dullness that passed for conversation here would might have seen me hanging by my corporate tie had it not been for the sunflower in a landscape of wilted weeds.

That was Shona.

She was the blithe spirit weaving brightly coloured threads between the sorrowful greys. She was the open window in the funeral home, a breath of fresh air with fresh ingredients, fresh flowers and a fresh conversation every time.

Still she saw me as thing of neglect gathering dust at the back of the shelf and gave me polite attention with a pang of hope drizzled into every “see you soon” cast backwards when exiting the shop.

Four months fled from my calendar and Shona caught the pig in the Sarkle race and moved up in the world, taking me from out of date to mouldy then decayed.

Each night, upon returning home, I’d have a tall glass of chilled beer and watch the Sarkle lights, wondering what was really up there?

Why the nine Griefs?

Why the lights?

Why the protection dolls and why the race?

This was getting into Wicker Man country.

So I decided to catch the pig and get into the inner sanctum of this town.

The evening before the race and Mrs. Clavell-Clarke invited me for a meal and to catch up on new events in the burg.

“I’ve made a lasagne with Chianti and Orkadian cheese. It will be fuel for the chase tomorrow.”

We ate and laughed at some of the crotchety characters that frequented the store and doused the dullness with a little alcoholic lustre.

“You’ve been here a good few months now, Tam and you’ve not met anyone special, have you? Excuse me for prying but I feel almost responsible being that it’s my town that’s kept you that way.”

She stared whilst cooing in a sympathetic dulcet tone.

“I’ve never had much luck with anyone really, Mrs. C…”

“Please, Tam, call me Celia”

“Thank you, Celia. I’ve been a silent observer my whole life and the more time has gone the more derelict my confidence became. Your self esteem evaporates and leaves you dried and crusty, unappealing even to the dating site dregs. And then one day you wake up and life is everything else but love.”

Celia leaned across the table and kissed my forehead gently.

“At least your heart is intact.”

My razure instinct was dead right.

“Thank you so much for dinner, Celia. I will have to invite you to mine for a bite to eat and we can watch the lights on Sarkle hill afterwards.” I smiled believing she was, as a long time resident, aware of the phenomenon.

“Lights, Tam? Lights on Sarkle Hill?

What lights are these?”

“The strange glow that roams around the hill at dusk and the shadow figures during the day when the sun is cloud covered. Surely you’ve seen them?”

“Indeed I have not. I must see these for myself. We must go to the hill tomorrow night and see them. I’m a huge paranormal enthusiast. I’m so excited. Come and get me at sun down tomorrow and we will take a walk over there. Thank you, Tam”

I trudged wearily up the stairs to my apartment and opened the door to complete darkness. The lights were gone and the sofa was facing into the room and towards the bedroom. I slowly turned from this sight to the doorway of my bedroom and froze.

There, inside my room, were lights in human form swirling round and round at great speed to create a zoetrope effect using my doorway as the aperture. I saw bodies dragged away, bodies screaming to be released and nine shadowy figures walking in procession carrying a huge corn doll upside down. Their heads were bone white and their feet were cloven. Slowly, I reached for the light switch and before the nine entered the main living space from the bedroom, I illuminated the scene causing the illusion to burst in my imagination like a distress flare at sea.

“Dear Lord, protect me!” I muttered glancing at the door where my corn doll gift from Celia was upside down with blood running down the frame. The blood tapered to a smear then beneath it nine oval shapes.

“I need to fly this cuckoo’s nest as soon as I can.” I thought, quickly remembering the last words of the HR director ringing in my ears.

“Make this a success, Tam or I’ll retire your shirt and you’ll be back to the apron and hair net.”

I must have checked underneath and inside everywhere twice before falling into bed exhausted.

My last thought before a dreamless sleep was “I must catch the pig.”

I missed the alarm and awoke to a pounding at my door, which startled me and I rolled out of bed onto the hard wooden floor. The pounding continued until I scrabbled to the door and opened it whilst trying to focus.

“What the hell’s all this?” Boomed Stavinsky, my trusted assistant who had come to wish me luck for the Sarkle chase that was due to take place in one hours’ time.

I spun round and choked with shock at the sight of a floor filled with headless corn dolls and on the sofa, piled in a tower, were nine shining white pig skulls with their teeth removed and dirt stuffed into their sockets.

“What kind of weird shit?”

“NOT ME, OKAY!” I yelled at him before he could finish his sarcastic sentence.

“I need to get over to the race and get that pig. I know if I do, this strange stuff will stop and I’ll get to see the big secret on the hill. I’ll change into my running gear and we’ll go in five, ok?”

Stavinsky was already taking snaps on his little camera he kept round his neck at all times.

The climb up Sarkle Hill, on a warm spring morning, was a blow torch to the lungs. All the competitors gathered in an irritable scrum at the top behind a tatty scarlet ribbon and the pig, a glistening black saddleback with a thick pink hoop around its neck, shrieked in terror.

It was then I noticed Shona, Mrs. Clavell-Clarke and a small group of people dressed in long flowing gowns all carrying corn dolls except Celia, who was carrying a large gong and striker.

“To the fiercest spirit that will capture the hog before the river flow shall be welcomed to the great hill’s heart and all at once shall be in the bosom of the fold!”

Then she struck the gong with a grunt and the crowd pelted down the hill behind the petrified swine. I edged forward thanks to twilight training sessions and bounced over a large tuft of grass above a cluster of rocks. Behind me folks were falling and screaming in agony, broken by jagged stone and deep trenches and I eagerly scanned the path ahead for pitfalls. It was then the pig stumbled and rolled and I seized the opportunity to be victorious. Leaping as a big cat would do, I landed on the large black belly and roared. The pig shrieked in agony as razor sharp shards of stone sliced through its hind quarters and it spat out bloody mucus with a guttural retch.

“I caught the pig, I caught the pig!”

I yelled back up the hill strewn with writhing losers and decorated atop with golden overlords.

The pig thrashed its back legs and caught my temple and it was lights out.



Then eerie silence.”

The sat nav in my van repeated what I had heard entering Truckle View as I roused from the forced slumber. My head was throbbing like the PA at a rock concert and my bleariness sharpened. I was inside a huge cavern lit sparsely by brass lanterns catching painted walls with figures and all manner of creatures that resembled a Brueghel hell depiction. The space was filled with a huge stone circle embracing nine seats at the centre. Under my feet, a channel in the rock fed to the centre. My first thought was blood sacrifice and my stomach churned with fear, sending reflux to flick the gag reflex.

“I’m going to die in this place. I’m going to become another shadow dancing across the hill.”

My mind was racing, as the urgency of loosening the bonds heightened with the sound of voices.

“Unto this place the nine shall appear!” Roared the familiar voice of Celia Clavell-Clarke, Mayoress of Truckle View and now, apparently, high priestess of the hill.

The whole circle began to tremble as the stone seats sank below view, rising again with huge hooded figures clutching corn dolls.

They were in my nightmare!

“Tam, wake up! Wake up and get out of bed, now!” I screamed but the dream was reality and, beneath the hill, the victorious catcher was about to be welcomed to the big secret.

“Behold the nine Griefs of Sarkle. All be thankful for their mercies and be as worms before their might.”

Celia’s voice filled the cavern as she and the other robed figures laid down on their stomachs to greet the supernatural beings, now standing over eight feet tall.

The hoods were gently removed by long talons coated in ash revealing the nine white stones that adorned the path to the apartment building, except these had runic symbols on the foreheads, large bulging eyes that once sat in the sockets of lizards, long teeth filed to razor points and the silent language of evil.

I looked around again and jumped, startled, as right in front of me was Celia Clavell-Clarke, straight out of my dream on the sofa, naked with the head of a corn dolly and long ashen fingers. Running them across my chest in neat ovals, she whispered a rhyme in an unintelligible language.

“Hello Tam. The pig saved me a job by knocking you out. You are the victorious catcher and deemed worthy to be a conduit of power. Your life force is strong but your life is singular and fruitless so won’t be mourned. I am the Clocker, the enticer of people. I bring them to these hallowed lands to be energy for the nine Griefs. They, in turn, govern the fruits of the land as their forebears did before the cross and the eagle turned bounty to scarcity with their strangle hold religion. The Nine Griefs have shown us the natural order, the yield and the sacrifice to weigh the scale. Your life force shall invigorate the Griefs and the cycle shall continue unbroken.”

“You mean I’m a bloody socket and they plug into me for power and the lights and shadows are pig catchers of past ages who are drained to grey spirits and left to wander Truckle View like smoke zombies?”

“Very perceptive, Tam and now the Griefs shall feast. Two shall feed upon the left arm, two upon the right

Two upon the left leg, two upon the right and the ninth grief shall drink in the elixir that cradles the brain.”

With an insidious grin, she struck the gong summoning the Griefs to feed upon me. They sank their fangs into my arms and legs and the ninth into the top of my head and the rush was exhilarating. I felt at peace as though I was high upon the hill on a summers day watching the blue and the green weave rainbows into my eyes. And all at once I was lifted on a breeze and swirled around the hill and under the rocks, into the cavern and rolled across the painted scenes of gods and men. The creatures they made and the monsters we imagined fighting for supremacy in the minds of men.

All at once I felt a huge jolt as if thrown through a windscreen after a high speed collision.

“Open your eyes, Tam!”

It was Shona.

She was standing in front of me in her flowing gown sprayed with fresh blood. All around the council members were lying face down with their throats torn out. At my feet were nine shattered skulls and disintegrating cowls and my bonds were severed.

“I lived, Tam and I beat them all!”

“My van! Quick, Shona we must leave. This cavern isn’t stable, we must go now.” I was so overwhelmed with the joy of freedom that I had no time to address the hope of love pounding in my chest at the sight of Shona. We made our way through the tunnel that lead to a narrow ridge and down to a path by the river. As we crossed, the earth trembled and, looking back only once, we saw the grand hill implode, folding inwards and burying the great secret of Truckle View forever.

“Tam, we must leave here right now and never look back, not once. Please Tam, right now!” Shona’s eyes were glistening with emotion and I wiped away a stray tear sliding towards her jaw.

“My van is over there. I’ll run upstairs and get my keys and we can be off”

“Please hurry, Tam. Please!”

I sprinted up the flights of stairs two and three at a time until I reached the open door of my apartment. Bursting in I found Stavinsky lying on the floor, his mouth and eyes wide open with sheer terror. All the corn dolls were gone from the floor as were the pile of skulls on the sofa and I rushed to the bedside table to get the keys. Grabbing them at lightening speed, I sprinted down the stairs as if chasing the pig and reached the lobby then stopped.

Silent and still in a moment of pure horror, I choked on a dry throated cough.

My van was surrounded by eight figures in dark robes and through the dirty windscreen I could see Shona in exquisite agony with the ninth figure sinking its long sharp teeth into her skull, spraying blood across the glass to obscure my view.

At that moment she fell forward onto the horn which blared out and, for a split second Shona became Celia Clavell-Clarke, releasing the figures into the ether, dropping their robes into a crumpled pile.

I stared in slack jawed horror at the van, at the screen and the bloody tufts of matted hair pressed into the dash board.

“My Shona, my beautiful Shona. Why? Why let us go only to do this?

She was my whole life ahead, you twisted bastards. I just want to get out of this hole in the earth and back to the world, no matter where I end up. Lord, help me.”

Out on the rain spotted road, the robes were moving, writhing as though a nest of vipers lay beneath. They moved together and merged then started to rise and unfold. There, in a light rain, was a figure with a corn doll head, long ashen talons and in one open palm, a gold ring. She breathed a heavy sigh and stepped forward until she was directly in front of me and I reached to remove the corn doll head.

“Shona!” I gasped.

“I was always Shona. The Celia you knew was their glamour. The illusion was created by the Griefs to bring them their power. You have returned to me, Tam. You came back to me. You moved away, escaped when I became theirs under the hill. But you’re here and they are now gone. Let us rebuild our lives.”

Dropping the ring into my palm, my ring that I left when I escaped, she smiled a broad grin.

“I’ll be upstairs making our meal.

Lasagne with Chianti?”


This is my last entry

The battery is almost dead

Darkness is closing in around me

If you find this camera

check the tapes and play them

It’s important you do this

The ghosts are real

The light is fading

Almost lost here

Something’s walking towards me

I can’t make it out

But I can hear the breath

It’s on my face now

I can’t breathe

The tyres of the police car crackled

On the loose grey gravel

Stopping outside the great front doors Strangostrath Hall

This disheveled sprawl

Red brick sanitarium and something more

Over the years it had become

A hotspot for the paranormal

It is here they come to reach the other side

With the spirits said to

Walk and crawl down corridors

Through the walls that were not built

In their remembered lives

The legend of the Hall

That keeps on reinventing

A Jacob’s Join of horrors only for the brave

The black hood spectres

Sending those attuned to their world

Running as they frantically pray

Sergeant Purcell pushed hard

On the huge green front doors

Staring unnerved at the weather worn plaque

Across the brass bloody smears

Spelling out May Day

Trailing down under the door as if

Someone was dragged


Where torture and murder and mayhem once thrived


Where devils in hoods and apothecaries plied

Agony lightning and limb twisting rapture

To pitiful nameless the state had revoked

Grievous disciples of sadistic practices

Bound and sedated, they never awoke

Cataclysmic and catastrophic

Stealing their aura and evermore life

Bones in the walls and just under the floor

A red mausoleum calls out for new life

All through the silent building

The stern policeman searched

Hoping that he’d find the pleading man alive

This place was an outpost

A sanctum for beasts

Where love had no foothold and faith was despised

The sense of dread was overwhelming

breathing in remembered agony

oxygen that burned like X-rays

And bleached the scope of seeing eyes

Hell was built from fractured minds

Scarlet walled infernal canvas

Where things of evil ran amok

As lithe as slight and slender dancers

Hanging from the tattered ceiling

Bodies drained of living colour

Missing lips and tongues and ears

But eyes moved from one to another

They were not held and fastened

But suspended in an aspic air

The gown of night swept past the window

The Sergeant fixed by deadly stares

This seemed like he was stuck in a nightmare

And all at once there came a call

A shrill and dulcet all at once

Callandria the sensitive

To route out what was here, ensconced

She found the Sergeant bound by spells

Encircled and consumed by awe

But awe that viewed obscenity

Through the keyhole of the door

“Lord that labours in the light place

This brick box is a chest of demons

It is a pot of sickness drawn

From purgatory’s bastard depths

The shadows are the murder monks

Whose god was none ‘ere written down

With blessings from the three above

The king revoked the prince’s crown

Thou shalt not covet from without

To line thy blackened lair within

This battle fought on barren soil

Between two armies breached by sin

My amulet I hold up high

That is the blood of sacrifice

It can command the charlatans

To kneel before its bold device

Illuminate this squalid tomb

Begone into your realms of naught

This is the word, the sacrament

Never more is this place sought

Rest the spirits tied to flesh

Seek the light, the river’s end

All of this shall end with love

Expulsior, Expulsior,


The Sergeant woke inside his car

Grasping tight the seer’s charm

The flames that belched out thunder clouds

Were close enough to cause him harm

She lay across the wide back seats

And wept with eyes shut to the end

The hall, ablaze and horror’s razed

Never more shall they offend

Then in a burst of clarity

Between the smoke and killing ash

The lost man stood there by the door

The evil finally unmasked

He smiled at the policeman

As he pulled a black hood over him

The car flew as a bat from hell

Evil will inhabit anybody’s skin

Evil will inhabit everybody’s skin.