Short Stories

The Lane

During the winter months, the lane took upon a whole new atmosphere; one that wouldn’t have been out of place in a spooky movie. Popular with dog-walkers and local residents who wanted to talk a leisurely walk through woodland, once the light faded and the darkness began creeping through the trees that lined the pathway, it became something quite different.

Johnny wrapped his arms around himself, pulling his thick coat in tighter to his body and feeling incredibly grateful for the warm-lined leather gloves he had put on before he had left his studio flat that morning. His layers of clothing and sturdy lace-up boots kept him pretty warm; so warm in fact he could feel moisture gathering under his arms and he knew he would definitely need that shower when he got home. Walking amongst the trees and bushes, he could see his breath leaving his mouth in cloudy patterns, tracing frozen italics in the cold morning air.

It was December and the sun refused to appear much before seven-thirty. The snow was yet to put in an appearance as the winter had been pretty mild so far but Johnny knew the weather was due a change. The mornings were particularly cold now and ice was a regular occurrence on the pavements and car windows. Lying in his single bed every morning, Johnny had gotten used to the sound of car engines running longer than usual and the scraping noise of many people desperately trying to rid their windscreens of thick ice.

Today he would miss that noise that was so synonymous with the harsh winter months. The lane was somewhere that Johnny loved to go and he had decided that today he would get up extra early and head out to breathe in the freezing, but beautifully fresh morning air. Walking through the woodland, he felt the carpet of frozen vegetation crunching under his boots. He felt every twig snap and every leaf crumble. He focused on the sounds of the woods, which were much quieter at this time of the year with many of the birds having already taken flight to warmer climes and the animals hiding in hibernation mode, but still Johnny could hear noises echoing through the trees of the creatures who liked to brave the cold and that were already up and ready to start their day; just like Johnny.

As a child he had loved this place. The lane, its entrance almost hidden from the main road, meandered through the woodland that bordered the housing estate where Johnny used to live and it ended maybe a mile away at a very sturdy gate that marked the entrance to a field belonging to the local farmer.  It’s true to say that the lane was a child’s dream; or at least it had been when Johnny had been young. Local children had flocked here but then again that was a time when children used to play outside and video games were nothing but the work of a futuristic fantasy mind. Forget Zelda. Forget Harry Potter. Adventures were yours to create. You were your own hero, battling an army of monsters and great hoards of demons that lived in your own imagination and out here in the woodlands, with their playground of trees and cubby holes in which to hide, you could fight great battles with your friends.

Well, at least that’s what Johnny would have done if he had had any friends. Robert, the one friend he had in middle school, soon got tired of being a target because of his friendship with Johnny and by high school, he too had drifted away; avoiding his gaze whenever their paths crossed in the school corridors or lunch hall.

Screw him, Johnny had thought at the time, screw ALL of them!

And so, he had kept himself to himself, playing out his adventures down at the lane with only the woodland creatures to keep him company. He tried not to let it bother him. None of them knew the woods like him anyway. None of them knew all the great places to hide. None of them knew the best trees to climb. Sometimes, in his favourite high spot in his favourite tree, Johnny had watched some of them as they played hide and seek amongst the trees. He was always tempted to shout out and alert the seeker to someone’s hiding place but he didn’t want to attract their attention; couldn’t bear the thought of their strange looks and even more, couldn’t bear the idea of sitting there in his favourite place, watching them all as they ran away, leaving him again to the empty companionship of the birds and other woodland critters.

You need to make more of an effort!, his father had urged him, Join the scouts or a sports team! You will make friends in no time.

His very brief foray into the school football team has been a disaster, of course and the scars created were still visible to this very day but at least Johnny could prove to his father that he had tried; he had done what his father had asked; he had tried to make him happy. Not that his father had seen it that way. Johnny had never forgotten the way his dad had looked at him that evening, having been escorted home by Mr Williams, the P.E teacher. He had sat perched on the edge of the sofa and his father and Mr Williams had stood by the doorway, as if they didn’t want to get too near him and every now and then they shot him odd looks as if his very presence made them feel uncomfortable. Eventually Mr Williams had gone and his father had left him sitting in the living room, until the evening light had faded into nothing and there Johnny remained, staring out the window watching the faulty street light flickering in the darkness.

There were no lights in the lane; just the dim glow of the oncoming dawn desperately trying to break through the trees. It never seemed to put off the dog walkers though. Johnny thought that many local residents, having grown up and still living here, still clung onto the notion of the lane as a good place; one filled with children’s laughter, dogs barking and foraging through the undergrowth; birds singing and the distant sound of the farmer’s tractor as it trundled through the field. It was a place they played in when they were children. It was a place where they let their children play, albeit these days under their supervision.

Can’t be too careful these days, thought Johnny.

Just as the thought popped into his head, a Golden Retriever appeared from around the bend in the lane, excitedly bounding through the bushes and looking behind to make sure it’s owner was following. She appeared not far behind, swinging the lead back and forth. An older lady, maybe in her late sixties, walking briskly up the lane in Johnny’s direction; she was dressed to combat the chilly morning air with a pink angora beret pulled down over her ears, matching scarf wrapped tightly around her neck and green wellington boots protecting her feet. The dog padded towards her, tail wagging and she bent down to pick up a saliva-slick ball that the dog had dropped at her feet. Throwing the ball ahead of them, she smiled a she watched the dog chase manically after the ball, barking in joy as it ran.

Watching them pass, from his position in his favourite spot in his favourite tree, Johnny couldn’t help but smile also.

No. Definitely can’t be too careful, he thought climbing down and un-sheathing the knife that he had been hiding in his coat pocket.

Johnny loved the lane.

Dark Sanctuary

Sanctuary excerpt from Chapter 8……Meet Bourne

I went in, trying to stop my hands from shaking as I closed the door behind me and rested up against it for a few seconds, breathing deeply.

The living room door was slightly ajar, just a couple of inches maybe, and I could hear the television buzzing from within.

I also felt a familiar buzzing across my shoulder blades.

I stood, feeling the panic rise within my chest and my breathing became short and shallow. I opened the door hesitantly and saw the blood immediately.

My mother lay on the floor by the side of her armchair. One of her legs was twisted at an unnatural angle underneath her, her eyes were wide open staring up at the ceiling and her face, neck and torso were painted scarlet. The blood had spattered the carpet, the sofa, the arm chair and had even reached the walls in certain places.

Sat in my mother’s armchair, with legs crossed and delicately dabbing at the corners of his mouth with his handkerchief (presumably laundered or new) was the vampire I had met just three weeks previously. He had been watching the television as I walked in, and slowly turned his head to look at me as if disturbed from a day dream.

‘And just what time do you call this, young lady?’ he said, with a smirk dancing at the corners of his mouth.

He did not get up from his seat. My mother’s seat.  It did not matter, because if he had pounced at me, I doubt my legs would have let me move from that spot. He could have done his worst at that very moment and I would have stood, immobile and let him finish me.

‘Your mother and I have been waiting for you. You were meant to be home an hour ago. I can’t tell you how worried we have both been’

He folded the handkerchief, once, then again and placed it back inside his jacket pocket and rested both hands on the arms of the chair, surveying me up and down.

 ‘So, Sarah, what do you have to say for yourself? Let’s start with an apology shall we?’

I was struck dumb. Have you ever had one of them dreams, when something so terrible is happening and you want to scream, but you can’t? You open your mouth, but try all you might, no sound escapes. I wanted to scream so badly, but all I could do was stand there, frozen solid and look back at him. I could barely breathe, let alone speak. The vampire shook his head, mock-scolding me.

‘Really, this attitude of yours has to stop. It’s really very tiresome indeed. I mean, look at your poor mother. She is absolutely exhausted of all your antics’

He looked down at my mother’s body and then back at me, amusement in his eyes. As he stood up slowly from the chair, I felt the fear twist in my stomach and couldn’t prevent a gasp of terror from escaping my lips. But he didn’t approach me. He bent down to crouch by my mother. Like a lover, he tenderly stroked a few strands of hair off her face and traced a finger gently down her cheek and across her lips, smearing blood with his fingertips. I didn’t want him to touch her. I couldn’t bear to watch him put his hands on her. And not like that. It seemed obscene. As if what he had already done, wasn’t horrifically obscene enough.

‘What a beauty your mother was’, he sighed, and looked almost sad for a second.

He placed a hand under her chin and turned her head so that her face was turned towards his, and then he bent down to kiss her on the lips. It was a lingering, sickening kiss that made me want to retch. I suddenly found my voice.

‘Stop! Don’t! Don’t touch her!’

The vampire looked at me, and raised his eyebrows quizzically.

‘But she is dead, Sarah, I really don’t think she minds’

Copyright (c) Lindsey Clarke 2010 all rights reserved