Short Stories

New Story Inspired by the new Movie “Ouija: Origin of Evil

Morgana´s Book Box

Holy guacamole! 

Wattpad writer, Lindsey Clarke ( a.k.a. LittleCinnamon ) has been commissioned by Wattpad and Universal  Pictures to write a story inspired by the new and upcoming movie,  Ouija: Origin of Evil.   

I´ve been a fan of writer Lindsey Clarke for a some time now and judging by her previous works she´s one hell of a storyteller! Fans of Horror and dark fiction will absolutely LOVE what this author has created with `Between Screams and Silence`.

Story Description

Following the traumatic birth of her daughter, Kathleen-Anne spirals into depression and struggles to cope with her newborn baby.
Desperate to put some life back into the wife he adores, husband Rheemus suggests that she takes some time out to have some fun with her friends and Kathleen-Anne reluctantly finds herself at the home of Barbara Arden, the town medium.
Invited to take part in a séance with the spiritualist…

View original post 366 more words

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Short Stories · Wattpad

Everything Will Be Dark / The Returned

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A second blog post from me in two days….I know, right? I’m clearly high on Easter eggs and Ben-Hur.

A couple of months ago, one of the lovely people from Wattpad HQ contacted me and asked whether I would be interested in writing a story inspired by the A&E television network’s new series, The Returned.

‘We need about 15,000 words,’ they said. ‘And we’ll need weekly instalments every week for four weeks. You’ll be asked to sign a contract and if you don’t meet all the contractual agreements, we’ll send the boys round to cut off body parts and stick your head on a pike.’

Okay, so the last bit might be a lie and I might just have been watching too much Game of Thrones, but to be fair, being asked to write to order, seemed almost like putting my head on the block. I was about to start writing the third book in my Wattpad series The Whitechapel Chronicles AND I was pretty stressed out at work and the last thing I needed was to put myself under any additional pressure.

‘We’ll pay you!’ Wattpad said.

‘SHOW ME THE MONEY, you crazy Canadians!’ I replied with gusto. Yes. Gusto.

And so, I found myself signing up for my first PAID writing job. AND they were going to pay me in actual real money. REAL MONEY. Not that Monopoly stuff my older brother used to pretend was real money when we were kids (and that he used to steal from the bank whenever we played – YES, I STILL REMEMBER THAT BROTHER!)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not all about the dosh. I’ve been more than happy to write for free on Wattpad for the past three years but to get the opportunity to earn a one-off salary for writing a 15,000 word short story, well, I wasn’t about to turn that down.

Not only that, but the story itself was to be commissioned by the A&E Network and that was an opportunity I knew I’d be insane to turn down.

I’m sure many people think it must be easy to write knowing you’re going to get paid for it, right? WRONG. It was hellish. I struggled with every chapter. The pressure was immense. The first chapter went down really well and then the pressure built to the point where I might have cried a little. Okay, I may have even sobbed. I almost missed the final deadline. The final chapter screwed with readers heads so I sobbed some more. It wasn’t pretty. All in all, it was much, much tougher than I ever imagined it would be.

But…if asked, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Call me a masochist, if you will, but I really would. And no, not just because of the money (although getting paid for creating stories is always a bonus) but because it was an experience I will never forget and one that I was really proud to be involved in. I was honoured to be asked by Wattpad because to me, it meant the great powers at HQ knew who I was and trusted me enough as a writer to do a decent job. On a site with 35 million users, it’s not easy to get noticed. But somehow that’s what happened, and now my story entitled Everything Will be Dark has amassed close to 90,000 reads, which is way more than most of my other short stories, barring The Fan and it reached the top three in the mystery/thriller list.

If you fancy checking out just what made me sob like a baby for four weeks, here it is.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/32744515

Thank you,

Linz xxx

 

Short Stories · Wattpad

I’m Your Biggest Fan

Back in February 2014 I published a short story on Wattpad about a drug-addled rock star who gets stuck in an elevator with an obsessed fan. It was a story about obsession, paranoia and how people react in extreme situations. 

If I’m honest, I never expected it to amount to much. I’d posted short stories on Wattpad before but they had tended to attract a much smaller audience than my paranormal romance series Dark Sanctuary and far less interest my dark fantasy series The Whitechapel Chronicles. I get why that happened. For a start, you either like short stories or you don’t. I never started reading shorties until I picked up a Stephen King collection that had been languishing on my bookshelf for months and although I loved it, even now I’d pick a full-length novel over a short any day. Secondly, my short stories find their roots more in horror than in dark fantasy or paranormal and to be fair, most of my followers on Wattpad are there for the vampires – not for the zombies, the serial killers and the the guy who flips and chokes his wife on her own lovingly-made cupcakes. 

So when I posted The Fan, I figured it would go the same way as the others and accumulate maybe five thousand reads or if I was lucky, ten thousand at a push. Feedback was pretty good, people seemed to like the story but most of the reads were from my loyal bunch of regulars as opposed to new readers. 

Then in March 2014 Wattpad made the decision to add The Fan to their Featured list and what I thought was just a little short story that would most likely drift into obscurity, suddenly took upon a life of it’s own. Those five thousand reads turned into ten, fifty, hundred and it continued to snowball until today where it’s now sitting just above the four hundred thousand mark.

Of course, getting Featured brings some demons your way – if you’ve ever been Featured on Wattpad you might just understand where I’m coming from with that!  I’ve been plagued with comments from readers who were clearly expecting some kind of Fanfiction and discovered it was anything BUT that, which often makes me chuckle when they reach the end and you can just imagine their jaws dropping and mouthing ‘WTF???’ over and over in disgust. I’ve been chastised for using swear words too much (I swear too much? Well fuck, I never knew that!). AND I got dragged over the coals by American teens who had no idea that another version of the English language existed and accused me of not knowing how to spell (Hey author, FYI it’s gray not grey!) *inserts Ace Ventura WELL REAAAALLLLLLLLLY gif*. However despite all that guff, there’s no doubt that without that helping hand, The Fan wouldn’t be well on its way to the half a million mark. 

And just when I thought that maybe the story was dead, Wattpad have again revived it like the proverbial Franenstein’s monster that it is and have added it to their promotional list in conjunction with the new film Unfriended. Overnight the reads have spiked once again and suddenly the little short story that I thought would never amount to anything, is alive and kicking, with a shiny new promotional sticker to boot. 

So huge thanks to Wattpad for continuing to support my out-of-control little shortie and thanks to those who have read, voted and commented. Yes, even  you guys who told me to stop swearing. I fucking love you all. 

http://www.wattpad.com/story/12686127-the-fan-featured-by-wattpad-2014

  

Short Stories · Writing

Rock stars, Hashtags and Fanfiction

Hey WordPress,

It’s been a while hasn’t it? I decide to post for the first time in ages and find that the WordPress app has completely changed and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing but hey, what’s new?

Anyway, my first post of the year (yes I’m aware it’s February) is all about my new short story The Fan.

I don’t often write short stories but they tend to come in handy when I’m stuck writing the full-length novels. It’s just a great way to break free by focusing on something completely different for a change and tends to motivate me to dig myself out of the writer’s block oubliette.

This story was something that had been floating around in my head for a while, inspired by Misery by Stephen King and also by Channel 4’s fabulous ‘what-if’ drama Blackout.

I think I’ve said before how much I love writing horror, particularly psychological horror and so to see The Fan already hit #12 in the horror charts on Wattpad probably makes me prouder than seeing Playing Dead hit the #1 spot on the vampire chart. Not that there is anything wrong with the vampire chart you understand *coughs*. It’s just great to hit the charts in a genre very close to my twisted old heart.

Please do go along and give The Fan a read and maybe give it a little vote and comment if you love it.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/12686127-the-fan

Thanks
Linz x

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Random stuff · Short Stories

Cupid Inc.

At the beginning of November, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise. Now usually, I would just let that unknown number wander into the lost realms of voicemail but I fortunately remembered that I was due to receive a phone call; from someone that I knew of, but had never spoken to before. I answered it desperately hoping it was who I expected it to be, and not just some random crazy phone perv.
Luckily, it wasn’t a random perv but the boyfriend of one of my best friends, Bek.
Rewind two days previous and Bek’s sis, Victoria had contacted me to ask if she could give Matt my number as he had something to ask me.
Ah, I thought, it’s Bek’s birthday coming up. Maybe he wants to arrange a party? Leaving it a bit late mind you, but oh well.
I was wrong about the party. Well, sort of.
As it turned out, Matt didn’t want to arrange a party, he wanted to propose to Bek! After I collapsed in shock and them danced around the kitchen with glee, Matt explained he was enlisting the help of Bek’s family and friends. He wanted us to help him write a book and not just any book but A Book of Questions.
Each person was to write a short story, any story about any subject however the first letter of the first word in every story would spell out WILL YOU MARRY ME? The book would then be published and given to Bek by way of proposal.
Yeah. I know. Awesome idea.
Once I recovered from the complete awesomeness of it, the next question was, what to write? I was pretty sure that paranormal or horror fiction wouldn’t be welcome as part of a marriage proposal, so I had to come up with something a little bit different to what I would usually write. Not as easy as you might think. Just because you’re a writer, it doesn’t mean you can necessarily lend your hand (and your pen) to any genre.
Anyway, below is the story that I came up with. It’s full of love. Warm squishy stuff. Hearts. You get the picture. Oh and a slightly chubby, curly-haired match-maker called Arthur.

Arthur J. Erosmus was having a bad week. Jenny in Accounts had completely blanked him at the photocopier and in the lift, the boss Mr Jupitus had pulled him up about not wearing a tie and to top it off he was now fifteen percent down on target. To make matters worse, his colleague, Reginald Amores had hit target yesterday and now Arthur only had the rest of today to make up his fifteen percent and quite frankly, it wasn’t looking promising.
Arthur’s desk faced the Employee of the Month wall and the last thing he wanted was to have to look at Reginald’s face every day, smiling down at him, all snidey and laminated. It was bad enough hearing his high-pitched laughter as it squealed through the office, making Arthur wince as Reginald howled at some terrible joke, usually one of his own. But if he had to sit there and look at him too….well, Arthur didn’t think he could bear it. And there was no point pretending the picture wasn’t there. The eyes would bore into him, forcing him to look up and take notice of Reginald with his immaculately side-parted hair and those bloody irritating ties, like the one with the Superman pattern or the one with Homer Simpson giving a big stupid thumbs up.
Arthur ran his fingers through his sun-tinged curls and wondered how the hell he was going to miraculously reach his target by the end of the day. No matter how much he pondered on it, he thought the only thing that would work would have to be a miracle itself.
Bethany Abrams was proving to be his most difficult client yet, and Arthur had had his fair share of tricky customers. But Bethany; well, she seemed to be in a class of her own where stubbornness and obstinacy were concerned.
They were either too talkative or too quiet, they lacked drive or they were too ambitious. They were too domineering or too much of a doormat. If she could find a reason – any reason – rest assured, she would find it. Take the last one for instance. On paper, he had seemed pretty much perfect. Of course he wasn’t one hundred percent perfect, after all, nobody was, but he ticked most of the boxes more than adequately.
Or so Arthur had thought.
Just when he thought he had finally nailed it and the deal was but a hypothetical hand-shake away, Bethany decided to back out.
“His teeth were just too……too white!” she had shrugged, flushing at the lame excuse. Because, lets face it, both Arthur and Bethany knew it was lame. It was more than lame. It was verging on exasperating.
But now, Arthur was sure he had cracked it. He was certain this one was The One. He’d been working on this new one for weeks now, examining the case file with a fine-toothed comb, looking for something – anything – that Bethany might find fault with. And so far, there had been nothing that Bethany could object to; in fact, if anything, she seemed brighter, happier and with a definite spring in her step that was nothing to do with another new pair of shoes. Yet something still wasn’t quite right. There had been a handful of dates – very successful dates for that matter – and yet something was still holding Bethany back and Arthur just couldn’t fathom what on earth it could be. The longer he looked at the files, the more it perplexed him until he was ready to bash his head against the desk in frustration.
It had to be here somewhere, staring him in the face, he knew it!
Feeling the need for a break, Arthur shambled over to the kitchen, hesitating at the door when he saw Reginald and Jenny near the microwave, looking all cosy over a pot noodle. Jenny flushed when she saw him, whereas Reginald looked over and smirked. Arthur nodded a hello and busied himself making a very large and very strong coffee.
“Still busting a gut over that Bethany Abrams case, Arty?” Reginald said, raising a clearly amused eyebrow and his smirk growing wider and more irritating.
Arthur, thought Arthur, not bloody Arty.
He smiled confidently, although inside he felt anything but. “Almost there actually,” he replied. “Today’s the day I reckon.”
“Bit optimistic aren’t we?” laughed Reginald. “I’ve give up if I were you. She’s a tough one, that girl.”
He elbowed Jenny, expecting her to join in his laughter, but Jenny had the good grace to look a little irritated herself. She gave Arthur a small, encouraging smile.
“Don’t give up, Arthur, I’m sure you can do it. Everyone needs a bit of love in their life, even the tough ones.”
Arthur stared at her, amazed. Reginald looked suitably disgruntled and went back to his pot noodle, spilling some down one of his equally putrid ties.
Back at his desk, Arthur took a big swig of coffee and smiled. He was going to do this. Whatever it was, he knew it was there. Scanning the files for what seemed the hundredth time, Arthur cross-referenced all the relevant details, likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests yet still the key alluded him. He glanced at his watch, seeing the little hand tick round and he felt the panic begin to set in with beads of perspiration dotting his forehead. Leaning back in his chair, he spun around and then banged his head against the desk in frustration. When he opened his eyes, he realised his head was now laying on his latest rental from Mr Jupitus’ vast library, a copy of Ovid’s Art of Love.
His eyes widened. That’s it!
In the bookshop, customers browsed the shelves in peace, glad to find some moments of calm and tranquility from the hustle and bustle of the crowded shopping mall outside. Bethany ran her fingers across the spines of the books and released a small sigh of contentment as she breathed in the smell of freshly-printed pages. She loved it here, Arthur knew that she never missed a visit to the bookshop every time she made a trip to the mall. He also knew that Mark, her latest suitor, also happened to love it here and oh look, here he was now.
From his vantage point on the other side of the long book shelf, Arthur skulked in the romance section, peeking over surreptitiously every now and then, waiting for the moment; that one moment.
Bethany, lost in a world of book covers and book blurbs, wandered aimlessly in the crime fiction section, picking up a book here and there, searching for that one which would capture her unwavering interest. From the other side of the section, Mark meandered along the shelf, eyes covering the spines from top to bottom, also searching.
As they drew closer to the middle, Arthur knew this was his moment. Concentrating very hard, he reached forward and poke his finger at one book in particular, dislodging it from its home on the shelf and letting it drop to the floor between Bethany and Mark.
Instinctively, they both bent down to pick it up at the same time.
“Oh!” they both said, surprised to see each other at the same spot, their favourite shelf, in their favourite section of their favourite bookstore.
They looked down, both noting the Sherlock Holmes book in their hands. Their fingers touched, igniting the spark that Arthur had been waiting for.
“Bingo!” he cried and reached for one of the gold-tipped arrows in the quiver on his back and carefully took aim with his bow.
As the arrow flew across the store, Arthur smiled and gave a silent prayer to Jupitus that it would be his laminated portrait up on the Employee of the Month wall at Cupid Inc. yet again this time, and not Reginald and his bloody awful ties.

Random stuff · Short Stories

The Body

1.

She felt the thudding bass of the music through her feet as she moved from the dance floor. The flashing lights combined with the beat, making her feel a little giddy. She made her way through the suffocating club crowd towards the ladies toilets. It was the only place in this club that you could find a bit of space! Three teenage-looking girls stood at the mirrors applying their make-up and laughing together.

She entered a cubicle, locked the door and undid her trousers. The three girls left, still laughing. The toilets were quiet.

“Michelle”. It was a man’s voice.

She jumped at the voice, but smiled to herself.

“Is that you, Taylor? You shouldn’t bloody be in here you dirty perv!”

“Michelle”. A whisper now, it sounded like it was right on the other side of the door.

She quickly pulled up her trousers, flushed the chain and yanked open the door.

“Taylor, you arsehole!”

There was no one there. She turned to face the cubicles behind her. They looked empty. She pushed the door of the cubicle next to the one she had been in. It was empty. So was the next one. And the next. All the cubicles were empty.

“Shit, think I’d better lay off that vodka,” she giggled.

She turned to face the mirror on the wall behind her, looking down to take her lipstick from her bag. Looking up, lipstick in hand, she saw him.

Standing behind her. Smiling.

She felt her heart shoot to the top of her chest as she gasped, dropping her lipstick onto the counter. The case shattered, spraying small pieces of jagged frosted plastic into the basin.

Whirling around, pressing herself against the counter, she gasped again, louder this time, because there was no one there.

Not daring to move, barely able to breathe, she let her eyes dart around the room. The cubicles still looked empty. He couldn’t have hidden in one of them, as she hadn’t taken her eyes off of him, from the moment she had seen him in the mirror.

Had she looked down, watching her lipstick as it fell towards the counter? She could still hear the sound of the plastic hitting the enamel. No, she hadn’t looked away. She had kept her eyes on him, right on him.

A door creaked from the cubicles on her left. He had to be hiding in one of them.

Why? Why would he hide? He could get her now; the toilets were empty. Where was everyone? You couldn’t usually keep the girls away from the ladies, but she realised that no one had come in since the three teenage girls left. Panic started to creep into her throat.

She felt a pain in her hand and looked down to see that she had gripped the counter edge so hard that her knuckles were white and she could see the veins starting to protrude.

He must have closed the door, trying to conceal himself. If she ran past she could probably reach the door before him. Probably. Oh god, she thought, I really, really don’t want to go past the cubicle.

The toilets were quiet. All she could hear was the rasping sound of her breath as it tried to fight its way up her dry throat and force its way out of her open mouth.

Slowly, she released her grip on the counter and edged one foot forward barely an inch. She leaned her body forward, reluctantly, almost as if she would be safer if she remained attached to the counter.

In the silence of the toilets, she thought she could hear him breathing. She knew that he was waiting, listening to her as she fought the panic that was building, making her head pound with tension.

Looking down, she saw the gap under the cubicles. If she bent down, she could see if he was standing on the floor or on the toilet seat. If he was on the toilet seat, then he might not be so quick to get down and chase her. However if she did bend down, he could charge from the cubicle and catch her before she was ready to flee.

Curiosity got the better of her. She moved back towards the far wall, so she could get more space between herself and him. Cocking her head on its side, she bent to look under the gap, placing her hands on the cold tiled floor.

She couldn’t see his feet. Then and there, she made her decision. She would run. She could see the door at the end of the room. She could make it.

With a push against the back wall to propel her forward, she ran, feeling every step like she was wading through water. In her head, she saw the cubicle door opening, an arm reaching out, fingers touching her elbow.

She had reached the door, her hand grasped the handle and for one moment she was sure that it was locked. It opened, letting in the bumping beat of the music and the flashing neon of the dance floor. Everything was as it had been before.

But she didn’t go through the door.

Looking behind her, with the safety of the crowds before her, she realised that the cubicle door hadn’t moved. He had not jumped out, arms outstretched. She had imagined it all. But she knew she had not imagined him. He had been there, with that smile of his, staring at her in the mirror.

Still no sound came.

She looked back at the dance floor, hardly understanding what she was doing as she let go of the door handle.

She had to check. She had to see if he was there, or whether his face had just crept out from the dark place in her head.

Striding forward with a confidence that before had seemed to desert her, she slammed the door back on its hinges. The toilet echoed with the bang.

The cubicle was empty.

Angry now, more at herself than anything, she stomped along the line of cubicles, slamming back each door in turn. Nobody. Nothing. The cubicles were all empty.

Turning back to the mirror, she saw her face in the glass, flushed and eyes blazing.

Jesus, she thought, just look at yourself, most definitely too much vodka tonight.

She laughed out loud and headed back to the door and out into the club.

Behind her, in the toilets, a cubicle door creaked open wide.

 

2.

The body was found at approximately half-past three in the afternoon on a quiet, chilled Sunday in November.

Mrs Ethel Carwardine, or rather Ethel’s border collie, Sammy, found it face down, submerged in the murky shallows of the park pond.

The body was icy tinged, with patterns of purple-black bruising contorting the skin surface. The hair, matted with grass, reed and dirt, floated gently in the water. A thin eternity band engraved ‘for luck’ was worn on the third finger of the right hand. One diamante earring remained in the left earlobe. The right earlobe was torn, probably from the forceful removal of the lost earring. Blue toes and fingers showed the remains of fuschia-coloured nail polish. Scratches and bite marks decorated the back and thighs. No item of clothing remained.

Sammy’s well-chewed ball landed with a slap bang in the middle of the back and rolled off into the gap between the right arm and the ribs. The body bobbed up and down in the shallows causing mud to stir from the banks and cloud the already gloomy water.

Sammy, already in pursuit of her favourite toy, reached the corner of the pond, ten feet away from the body. Tentatively, she placed one sodden paw into the chilly water; lent forward with one leg paused in mid-step and sniffed at the air. Usually Sammy did not mind the pond, although she took great care not to go too deep, she enjoyed wading in the cooling water after a long exhaustive walk, but today something was different.

The dog whined softly as the new smell in the pond reached her nose.

She spotted the ball but did not attempt to retrieve it. Instead she lowered her head, growling, then turned and pelted back through the long grass.

On discovering the dog without the ball, Ethel (plain ‘Nel’ to her friends at the bingo hall) went in search of the toy herself, muttering under her breath about her ‘damn, lazy old mutt’. Picking her way through the waist-high grass and the bushes, she winced as the lower branches snapped against her shins. On breaking through, she bent down to inspect the branches’ handiwork, noting with disdain the numerous snags in her tights, bought only the day before.

‘Bugger’ she said. And then saw the body.

Short Stories

The Stairwell

‘Yesterday, upon the stair,

I met a man who wasn’t there

He wasn’t there again today

I wish, I wish he’d go away…’

Antigonish – Hughes Mearns

 

Shaun stumbled out of the cab, tripped and hit the concrete much harder than he would have wished.

“Shit,” he hissed, feeling asphalt imprints on his palms and a sharp pain wrench his knee. Behind him, in the eight-seater mini-bus, his friends cackled and whooped.

“Shaaaaaauny you fucking loser,” howled Daz, his head appearing in the light emanating from the open door. “Fucking lightweight, can’t handle your beer, son!”

“He fell over, he fell over,” chanted Dave and Bubble before collapsing into hysterical laughter and banging on the sides of the taxi.

Shaun stood up, trying to pretend his palms didn’t sting like hell and brushing down his jeans. Was that a hole torn in the knee? Fuck. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a crumpled five-pound note and threw it at Daz.

“There you go, geezer, that’s my share for the cab. Or you can give it to you mum and tell her here’s that fiver I owe her for that shag the other night,” he smirked and ducked out of Daz’s reach as his mate tried to swing a playful punch at him. Dave and Bubble howled even louder and as the cab began to pull away, Daz shouted out the door. “I’ll fucking have you next time, son!”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever mate,” Shaun called, but the cab was already pulling out of the car park and he could just about see his friends faces, flashes of pale pressed up against the window, as they turned the corner and out of sight.

Shaun laughed softly, giggling at his own joke and knowing he would definitely be on the end of one of Daz’s pranks next time they went out. Still, he was a big man, he could take it.

Turning, he looked up at the block of flats behind him, rising out of the ground like some black monolithic beast. Lights were dotted here and there over the face of the beast showing that not everyone in this rank building were asleep.

I bet that fucker next door is still awake, playing his fucking shitty metal music all bloody night, thought Shaun, glancing up to see if his neighbours light was still on. Not that he had any chance of seeing anything from here. The fifteenth floor was out of sight from where Shaun was standing.

God how he hated this place. And he hated Gail more for forcing him to live in a shit-hole like this. If it wasn’t for her and that slimy fucker she was now dropping her knickers for, Shaun would still have been living in her nice house out in the suburbs. Instead now Slimebag ate meals at the table where Shaun should have been eating, slept in the comfy bed where Shaun should have been sleeping and screwed the woman who Shaun should have been screwing.

“I can’t do it anymore, Shaun,” Gail had said, that sickening self-pity in her eyes as if it wasn’t her who had been fucking someone else. “I can’t cope with the drinking, and the lies and having to do everything around here. I’m tired of paying for everything and I’m tired of your bloody idiot mates.”

And so that had been that. Out with Shaun and in with Stephen The Slimebag, who had probably been poisoning Gail’s head for months at work, complimenting her on her hair, buying her lunch and telling her how she could do better. Sly fucker.

Fuck him, thought Shaun, and fuck her too. He walked over to the entrance to the flats, shaking his head when he realised the security lock was busted yet again; the keypad was hanging from exposed wires and giving anyone access to the building. He went in, making a mental note to call the caretaker in the morning, although little good it would do as the security system had been vandalised four times since Shaun had moved in three months before. Cutting across the entrance lobby he pressed the call-button on the lift and waited, leaning his head against the wall and closing his eyes, praying for the alcohol haze to disappear soon. A few seconds passed and he realised there was no sound coming from the lift shaft, so he stepped back to check the light. Dimly lit numbers showed the lift was still on floor fourteen.

“Come on!” Shaun groaned and hammered at the call button with his fist. When still nothing happened, he cursed and aimed a kick at the lift doors. “Doesn’t anything work in this fucking building?”

He stomped over to the stairwell, grimacing as he opened the door and a strong stench of urine hit him full on in the face. Shaun hated having to take the stairs. Not only did he have to try to climb his way up endless flights of steps, the stairwell was poorly lit and only had very small, narrow windows all of which had been covered with spray paint.

Shaking his head and muttering curses to Gail, Shaun started up the stairs, gripping the handrail to steady himself. He avoided looking into the dark corners, where dank puddles of piss and rain water pooled together, reaching out across the floor with watery tendrils threatening to grab at his ankles.

By the time he reached the fifth floor, Shaun was already out of breath. The booze wasn’t helping either. He felt the woozy storm cloud infesting his head and he stopped for a moment, praying for it to fade but knowing that nothing but a good few hours sleep was going to lift this feeling. Gritting his teeth, he carried on, feeling the weight of each step bearing down upon him.

Just as he reached the tenth floor and he thought he was about to burst a lung, the light above him began to flicker. Shit, he thought and then all the lights in the stairwell went out completely, plunging him into darkness. He waited in the gloom, hoping that they would flicker back on. Suddenly he heard footsteps from somewhere above in the stairwell and he felt his heart skip in panic. He didn’t really like coming across the building’s other inhabitants during daylight, let alone on a darkened stairwell where anyone could and probably would pull a knife on him. The estate was rife with gangs, and the Dalston Boyz – named after the apartment block, Dalston House – were notorious for hanging around and intimidating the residents, despite being little more than teenagers.

A light from one of the floors above flickered back on and Shaun looked up through the gap in the middle of the stairwell. For a moment he thought he saw a shadow pass overhead, then more footsteps echoed down.

“Hello?” he called up and regretted it immediately. Way to go Shaun you prick, he cursed himself, why don’t you just announce that you’re on your way up, give whoever it is ample opportunity to jump you? He was definitely in no fit state to defend himself.

Creeping halfway up the staircase, he stopped and craned his neck to look upwards, listening intently for any signs of movement coming from the floors above. In a split second and appearing so quickly it made Shaun cry out, a hooded figure flashed into his line of sight, before the lights went out again and the stairwell was shrouded in darkness once more.

Shaun shrank back against the wall. Fuck-fuck-fuck!  He hadn’t been able to see clearly enough to tell whether it had been a kid or a man, the lights we just too dim and all he had seen was someone wearing a dark hoody. He hadn’t even been able to see the hoodie’s face. He waited, with his back up against the wall and heart hammering in his chest. With a buzz, the light on the tenth floor flickered back into life, making Shaun jump and he stumbled and fell back on the steps. He lay there for a moment, trying to catch his breath which seemed stuck in his throat before exhaling deeply and letting out a low giggle.

Fucking idiot, he thought, shaking his head at himself for getting spooked so easily. If the fellas could see him now they would literally be pissing in their own pants. He would never live this one down, not in a million years.

He struggled to get up and glanced up the stairs, straining to listen for any signs of movement from the floors above. He was going to just have to front whoever it was. If it was just one kid, surely he could look after himself, drunk or not? Creeping as stealthily as his alcohol intake would allow, Shaun carried on up the stairs with the lights now flickering sporadically, lighting up the stairwell for mere seconds before throwing it back into darkness.

Eleventh-twelfth-thirteenth. No one lurked on these floors. Shaun felt his muscles slowly beginning to relax and his heart beat stopped racing as he passed by the door to the thirteenth floor. He climbed the next flight of steps, nose wrinkling in distaste as a sweet stench pervaded the air. On the mid-landing, the dark puddles had stretched out from the corners and reached almost to the top of the steps. Shaun grimaced as his feet squelched in fluid he didn’t even want to think about. Fucking great, he thought, he could see these shoes going straight in the bin together with his ripped jeans. Carefully stepping through the puddle, he stopped at the bottom of the staircase, immediately noting the wet, dark footprints leading up the steps. Following the trail with his eyes, Shaun jumped at the sight of a dark hooded figure standing on the next landing, right at the top of the steps and with his back to Shaun.

The hoodie didn’t move. If he had any idea that Shaun was literally just behind him, he didn’t show it. He just stood, perfectly still, with his hands by his side. He was fairly tall, but there was still no way of knowing whether he was a teen or man. Everything else about him was pretty nondescript; dark denim jeans, worn slightly baggy, white trainers although from the back Shaun couldn’t tell the make. That was it.

Shaun stared up at the hoodie, his lips moving wordlessly as he struggled to know what to say or do. He felt stunned into stillness himself, just standing there, with his wet shoes and now-ripped jeans, staring up at the immobile figure. Water dripped somewhere behind him and the noise of droplets spattering against the floor made Shaun blink. When the hoodie still didn’t move or acknowledge he knew Shaun was there, Shaun finally said the first thing that came into his head.

Oi, oi fella, y-you gonna get out of my way?” He had hoped for a voice of steely bravado, but in the cold, darkened stairwell it sounded small and weak. Still the hoodie didn’t move nor make any sound in response. Shaun could feel his guts flipping and his bladder twitching in fear. He could look after himself, but this was ….. just creepy. What the hell was this guy doing just standing there? And why didn’t he turn round and confront Shaun?

“I – I’ve got a blade you know,” Shaun stammered.

Suddenly the hoodie moved, making Shaun flinch, except instead of turning around and brandishing a real, not imaginary knife, the hoodie walked forwards across the fourteenth-floor landing and disappeared through the door leading to the flats. Shaun watched amazed as the hoodie simply walked away, before he scuttled up the steps to the landing and peered anxiously through the window that looked into the corridor beyond.

No one was there.

 

**************

The next day, Shaun was awoken by the shrill sound of his phone ringing, cutting through his head as if some demon animal was raking its claws over his skull. At first he couldn’t catch his bearings and feeling cold and wet, he half-wondered whether he had fallen asleep in the stairwell. Wrenching open his eyes, he realised he was cold because he was naked except for his underpants and lying curled up on the floor in his bedroom, with his back pushed up against the closed bedroom door and he was wet because he was drenched in his own sweat. Somewhere in the bedroom, the phone was still ringing.

Shivering and aching all over, Shaun tried to sit up, feeling waves of nausea swim in the pits of his stomach as he moved his head so he sat very still for a moment, clutching his temples and trying to fight off the sick feeling. Still the phone kept ringing.

Crawling very slowly across his bedroom floor, Shaun slithered in search of his phone and realised that the noise was coming from his jeans, that had been discarded next to his bed. Rifling through the pockets, he found his mobile just at the point when whoever it was decided to end the call.

“Fucking typical,” he groaned, checking the caller display and seeing Daz’s number on the screen. He hit the call button and Daz picked up straight away.

“Shauny you fucking lightweight, where are you? Thought you were going to meet us in time for kick-off?” Daz boomed down the line. Shaun could hear laughing and jumbled chat in the background.

“What?” grumbled Shaun, rubbing at his eyes and trying to focus on the alarm clock by his bed. “What time is it?”

“It’s bloody half three already. Don’t tell me you’re still in bed? Fucks sake, Shauny, you must be getting old, you really can’t handle it anymore can you?”

Raucous laughter, unmistakably coming from Bubble and Dave, drilled in Shaun’s ears and he held the phone away for a moment, feeling as if any more noise might make him throw up on the bedroom floor. It took a few seconds to realise that Daz was still talking, his voice sounding tinny in the receiver.

“What did you say, mate?” Shaun asked “Sorry, couldn’t hear above Bubble and Dave’s big gobs.”

Daz sighed. “I said, get down here fucking pronto, you loser, you’re missing the game. If you hurry, you might just make it in time for the second half.”

Shaun winced. He didn’t even know how he was going to stand up, let alone make it down the pub within half an hour. “Alright, alright, mate, be there as soon as I can.”

“Put your fucking knickers on, you big girl and just hurry the fuck up.”

The line went dead.

Shaun reached over for his jeans and then remembered tearing the knee out of them last night when he fell outside the cab. Oh yeah, fuck, he thought, before noticing his trainers lying underneath his crumpled jeans. Frowning, he grabbed one of them and lifted it up in front of his face, turning it over and examining the sole.

“What the …..” he gasped. Blood stained the entire sole of the shoe. He picked up the other one, noticing the same. It had also smeared up the sides as if he had just dipped them both into a vat of blood. Or a puddle of the stuff.

Unwanted images flashed into Shaun’s mind: a darkened stairwell, lights flickering above his head, feet squelching in a puddle of water and piss that had engulfed the mid-landing. Except it hadn’t been water and piss had it? Shaun shook his head.

“No,” he whispered. “No. No. No.” He threw the trainers, one after the other and they hit the bedroom wall, patterning the blue paintwork with dark red streaks. Feeling the tidal wave reaching up from his stomach and drowning his throat, Shaun stood up quickly and catapulted himself out of the room, only reaching the toilet just in time, where he threw himself down in front of the bowl and released a torrent of foul-smelling vomit against white porcelain. He retched and retched until long lines of bile and saliva hung from his open mouth and trailed across the toilet seat.

After the sickness had cleared, he showered quickly, relishing the sting of the hot water as it washed over his skin, then he dressed, grabbing anything that didn’t need ironing and shoved his phone and wallet into his jacket pocket. Putting the crumpled, ripped jeans and bloody trainers into a plain white carrier bag, Shaun left his apartment, with the intention of chucking the bag into the large communal bins outside Dalston House. He didn’t want those things anywhere near him and he couldn’t imagine anyone rifling through Dalston’s bins unless they wanted a used needle in their skin.

Rushing along to the end of the corridor, Shaun smacked his palm against the call button and waited for the lift to make its way up to the fifteenth floor. His leg shook impatiently as he stood there.

“Come on,” he hissed. Suddenly the door at the end of the corridor swung open and Mick, Shaun’s metal-loving neighbour, huffed through the door, beads of sweat peppering his wide forehead. He sniffed when he saw Shaun standing in front of the lift.

“Not fucking working again, is it. Better take the stairs. Still at least you’re going down and not up. Those stairs are a fucking killer.”

Shaun stood back and let Mick pass, watching as his tall, burly neighbour stalked down the corridor, wheezing with every step. Seeing his neighbour in distress would usually raise a smile for Shaun, but not today. All he could think about was having to take the stairs again. He waited, staring at the door to the stairwell which was still swinging slightly from Mick’s entrance. In his jacket pocket, his phone rang again, the sudden noise making him jump. Fumbling to get it, Shaun saw Daz’s number flash up again. He stabbed at the receive button with his thumb.

“I’m on my way, stop bloody calling me.” He hit the end-call button before Daz could say another word and pushed at the door, shaking his head. If Mick had managed the stairs, then there was obviously no one hanging around out there, but Shaun did think it was strange Mick hadn’t mentioned seeing all the blood just before the fourteenth floor landing.

Fuck it, he thought, if Fat Mick can do it, so can I.

Pushing through the door, Shaun stopped on the landing, hearing nothing but the creaking of the swinging door behind him.  Were the lights out again or did they just not come on during the day? Shaun couldn’t remember for sure; all he knew was that the stairwell was dark, uncomfortably dark, and he didn’t remember noticing before how dark it was in the stairwell during the day. Cautiously he stepped forward, peering over the side and looking down. Everything was still and quiet. No shadows moved. No lights flickered.

Put your fucking knickers on, you big girl. Shaun could hear Daz’s words whispering in his ears and he shook his head and laughed to himself. If only the fellas could see him now. He could imagine their cackling and the tears streaming down their faces in hysterics at how scared and how stupid Shaun was feeling. He smiled, hating how false and tight it felt on his face.

Go quick. Don’t stop to look at anything. Just keep your eyes ahead and keep going, he thought, taking the first flight of steps two steps at a time. He glanced up momentarily as he reached the mid-landing and saw the door to the fourteenth floor below him.

Don’t stop. Keep going.

He clattered down to the fourteenth floor landing and refused to look through the window in the door to the corridor beyond, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on his feet and making sure he didn’t miss his footing in the gloom.

Oh god. Oh god. Please don’t let there be any blood. Please.

Treading carefully down the next flight of steps to the mid-landing, Shaun exhaled deeply when he looked down and saw the floor was free of blood. In fact, it was completely dry. No puddles of water or piss, although dark putrid smelling stains in the corner told him that someone had no doubt relieved themselves here. Still, he thought, smirking, it’s gotta be better than blood.

He almost skipped across the mid-landing, turned to go down the next flight of steps  and came face to face with the hoodie who stood at the top of the steps, head bowed and quite still, with his hands by his sides. Shaun gasped in surprise and horror, stumbling backwards, bag flying out of his hands and landing on the floor with a sharp crack to his lower back. He cried out in pain, but could not take his eyes off of the figure in front of him.

The figure slowly stepped up onto the landing and Shaun desperately tried to scramble away but found he could not move. Reaching down the figure touched Shaun’s leg and immediately Shaun felt his bladder loosen. Oh no, he thought, feeling the dampness soak through the material at his thighs and he looked up as the hoodie loomed over him.

Staring into the hood and seeing nothing but impenetrable blackness within, Shaun began to scream, and scream and scream.

 

*****************

Shaun’s eyelids fluttered. Somewhere far off he could hear banging. Constant, un-relentless banging that seems to resound around his head and make his teeth judder. He felt cold again. Really cold, as if his very core had been replaced with a block of ice that was freezing his innards and spreading out to touch its cold fingertips to bone and muscle. As his eyes finally flickered open and unable to ignore the banging any longer, Shaun ran his hands down his chest to find he was fully-clothed and not practically naked like the last time he had woken up freezing cold. When was that? Today? Yesterday? Last week? He struggled to remember but the memory was hazy and jumbled as if he had spent another night on the beer. Maybe that was it, maybe he had too much to drink again yesterday.

Gail was right. The thought spiked into his head, however he couldn’t quite think who Gail was. He could remember the name and he knew it was someone he should remember, but thinking about this Gail – whoever she was – made the pain blast across his temples as if his very skull was trying to burst through the skin.

Stumbling to his feet, Shaun found that he had thankfully passed out on his bed, although the dull ache in his body told him it had not been a very comfortable sleep. Following the sound of the banging, he shuffled towards the front door, seeing a dark shadow moving through the frosted glass. The shadow moved and this time hammered against the door so hard that Shaun could see the door moving in its frame. He stopped, closing his eyes and seeing flickers of images in his head; a dark shadow was reaching for him, he was on the floor and he couldn’t move and the shadow was touching him, actually wrapping its cold fingers around his leg and touching him. Shivering, Shaun’s eyes flew open, trying to banish the images from his mind. He didn’t want to open the door. He didn’t want to let the shadow in. He didn’t want it to touch him again.

“Shaun!” The shadow’s voice sounded muffled through the door. “Shaun, for fucks sake I know you’re there, I can fucking see you. Now open the bloody door will you!”

Daz! Shaun remembered the voice of his friend and pulled at the latch, opening the door slightly to see his friend’s face, eyebrows knitted together furiously and mouth set in a thin, grim line, before it softened visibly and the anger turned to one of clear shock.

“Fucking hell, mate, you look bloody awful,” Daz stared.

“What? Do I?” mumbled Shaun, rubbing his knuckles across his head as if he could massage the pain away.

“Yeah you do,” frowned Daz, shoving at the door and forcing Shaun to take a step back.  “What’s going on? You sick?”

Daz pushed into the hallway, closing the door behind him. Even the sound of the door shutting echoed against Shaun’s skull and he leaned back against the wall to steady himself. Daz stood back and studied him, his eyes wandering over Shaun’s face.

“So what’s going on? You had flu or something? You look fucking terrible.”

Shaun forced himself to focus on his friend’s words but his head was spinning in some deep whirlpool and he was sure he must still be horrifically drunk.

“Sick? Flu? No…..no…just, you know, too much to drink I guess,” he murmured. His tongue felt thick and dry in his mouth, making his words sound slurred.

“What?” Daz snapped “you mean you went out last night? With who and why the fuck didn’t you tell me? I’ve been trying to reach you all bloody week. Look at the state of you, Shaun.” His eyes narrowed. “Were you on something? Is that it? I fucking told you to go easy on that shit.”

He stalked off into the living room, muttering something under his breath and Shaun followed, hearing the sound of his feet shuffling along the carpeted floor. Every footstep felt  like he were wading through water.

Daz was standing in the living room, shaking his head as he looked all round. “Bloody hell, Shaun, look at this place. I knew you were a lazy sod, but this is just disgusting. How long have you been on the smack and who the fuck are you doing it with?”

Shaun just stared at Daz, puzzled. “What are you talking about? I’m not doing anything. I just had too much booze that’s all. I think you were right, I can’t handle it anymore.”

“That still doesn’t explain why you haven’t answered my calls? What’s going on?” Daz glared at him.

“Nothing’s going on, nothing at all,” Shaun said, suddenly feeling so tired he knew he would have to sit down before he fell down. Shuffling over to the nearest sofa, he collapsed onto it, frowning at the pile of clothes and newspapers stacked up across the cushions. Daz was right, this place was becoming a right shit-hole. If he still lived with whats-her-face then she would have cleared all this up. Who was that again? Shaun blinked, trying to picture her face. His mum? Yeah, that’s right, his mum. Although the thought still niggled at him as if he knew deep down that it wasn’t quite right.

“You expect me to believe that? I don’t hear from you all week and you say nothing’s going on? You were meant to meet us down the pub. I called you. You told me you were on your way but you never showed. What the fuck happened? Now I turn up here and you look like you’re at death’s fucking door or something and you tell me everything’s fine?”

Shaun looked up, confused. “What are you talking about? I did come and meet you. Didn’t I?” As soon as the words left his lips, Shaun knew that wasn’t right either. He remembered leaving the flat, remembered seeing Mick, remembered speaking to Daz on the phone…but the rest? Shaun desperately tried to reach into his head and unlock what was nothing but a dark blur. He must have met them. He must have.

“I don’t understand…” he began.

“No nor do I, but whatever it is you better fucking sort yourself out. I thought something had happened to you. We all tried calling you but you never answered. I even came round on Sunday night to see where you were but you must have been out, doing whatever it is you’ve been doing.”

“For the last fucking time, I haven’t been doing anything!” Shaun practically growled the words out and his voice didn’t sound like it was his own. It was deep and menacing and he immediately saw a flicker of fear pass across his friend’s face. “Sorry, sorry mate. I didn’t mean to….look I just don’t know what’s going on but I swear to you I haven’t touched anything. I just thought….I don’t know. Maybe I have been sick. Maybe that’s it, maybe I’ve had a fever or something?”

Daz bit on his bottom lip, eyes laced with uncertainty before shaking his head. “Well whatever it is, maybe you should go see a doctor or something. People just don’t lose a whole week from the flu. It’s not right. Just sort yourself out will you, Shaun?”

Shaun watched as his friend walked over to the door before turning and giving the room the once over again. “Get this place cleaned up. The council would have a field day if they came in and saw what a state you’ve made this place.”

He started to go before looking back at Shaun, his face a mixture of pity and disgust. “For god’s sake Shaun, get yourself cleaned up too. And stop wearing that fucking hoodie. You look like one of them little bastards from the estate.”

And then he was gone, leaving Shaun to stare down at what he was wearing; a dark blue hoodie, a hoodie that he didn’t remember ever buying, a hoodie that he didn’t even know he had. Somewhere, in the black recesses of his mind, a memory sparked into life; of someone else, something else wearing the very same hoodie and the sound of someone screaming, screaming, screaming. Shaun covered his ears with his hands and squeezed his eyes shut.

 

***************

 

When he opened them again, sometime later, he was foetal, curled up in a ball on the sofa, with the hood pulled up over his head. Sitting up, he looked around, taking in the jumbled piles of clothes, dirty dishes and crumpled up old newspapers. Frowning he stood up and wondered where the hell he was. He vaguely remembered someone else being here but couldn’t remember who. Maybe this was their flat? But he didn’t recognise anything and trying to remember just made his head explode with splinters of pain that made him want to collapse again. Probably better off not trying to remember, he thought.

Shuffling across the room, he stared into the mirror above the old fireplace. Inside the hood, his face looked dark and sallow. His skin looked almost grey and engrained circles shadowed his eyes. Did I always look like this? he wondered before feeling that now all too familiar agony pulse through him whenever he thought too hard about anything.

Stop thinking, stop thinking.

He looked round the room again, knowing that this wasn’t his place. If it ever was, he didn’t really care. He just knew he didn’t belong. He knew instinctively that another place waited for him now.

Heading out of the strange flat, he walked down the corridor, past the lift and ignoring the buzz and hum of the machinery as it pulled and pushed the lift up and down in the shaft. He pushed on the swinging door, ignoring the creak as it swished back and forth behind him. As he entered the stairwell, lights flickered overhead and from somewhere came the drip-drip-dripping of water in some dank corner.

Fourteen-fourteen-fourteen, he thought and for the first time in what seemed like an agonising eternity, the pain did not shatter through his skull. He pulled the hood down so it almost shrouded his face and smiled.