Category Archives: Fiction

Don’t Let Him in (part 10)

A spooky tale which is being serialised, see the menu for all the earlier episodes)

It was the usual helter-skelter rush getting ready for school.  Mum and Dad were still worried about Lulu because, unfortunately, she wasn’t showing signs of improvement.  Dad was on the phone to get her a Doctor’s appointment as J slammed the door, in a hurry to get to Alex’s house.  Alex was already on the path, waiting, so they set off at a brisk pace, talking as they walked.  J described the pitiful small boy he dreamed of, the most recent victim of the hypnotic menace.

“Why do you dream about it though?” Alex questioned.

J shrugged. “No idea, I’ve been wondering that myself.  I wake at almost 3 am too, it always happens at the same time.”

“We could Google that.  We also need to watch Danny closely, get an idea of his movements and who he hangs around with. I have a free period before lunch, I’ll do some scouting then.  Meet you in the canteen!”  Shrugging his backpack further onto his shoulder, Alex hustled off to form.

J pushed through double doors, moving with the flow of pupils to their classrooms, keeping his eyes peeled for Katie or Laurie, filled with concern for their wellbeing.  As morning lessons progressed, J’s mind continued to puzzle over what would motivate Danny to control the willpower of the young people he was hypnotising.  Finding the answer to this might influence his next worrying question – how to stop him? 

J’s last lesson before lunch was maths. As Laurie moved into his classroom J’s stomach lurched with shock and fear.  Laurie looked so gaunt and emaciated, his skin was chalky and unhealthy and his movements were slow and shuffling, as if his body was too heavy for him to animate.  His hair looked greasy and uncared for and his eyes were fixed on the floor as he moved to an empty desk.  J felt very uneasy and anxious from his close proximity and he noticed other students casting similar, furtive looks at Laurie.  Once the lesson began the difference was even more marked, as Laurie (once the star maths pupil, widely tipped as an Oxbridge candidate) did not participate at all, he just sat listlessly with his head hanging, like a moving toy with the batteries removed.

J was really troubled by this. It seemed as if Laurie’s life force or spark was gone. Could this be the root of Danny’s motivation? Perhaps stealing from young, vibrant children somehow added to his power.  It was no more crazy than entertaining the idea that an actual vampire went to their school!  

He needed to run the idea by Alex so that they could consider how this would help them tackle him and reverse his influence.  He scraped his books into a pile, dumped them in a backpack and flowed with the rest of the students out of the classroom and towards the dining hall.

He didn’t know how Alex did it, but he was already at a table shovelling food into his mouth with enthusiasm.  J slid into a seat opposite him and shared his latest revelation.  Alex took it in his stride, years of watching the sci-fi channel and reading Marvel comics meant nothing much surprised him.  

“What did you discover?” J asked as he forked up shepherds pie and chewed.

“Danny mostly hangs about with those 2 goth girls in year 13 … and the drama group are putting on a show at the end of term. There are a lot of rehearsals for that going on, meaning he stays after school several nights a week.”

J knew the girls Alex meant, they looked like something out of the Addams Family wearing their hair straight in an unnatural shade of black.  Their chalk white faces with heavy eyeliner and their choice of clothes made them appear as if they were on their way to a rather dramatic funeral. He had a feeling they were both studying textiles, so were probably involved with the costumes for the show.  

J wondered if they knew what Danny was capable of, and if so did they help him?  Would he need to factor them in when he tackled Danny to make him release his hold over the children? He and Alex needed to divide the tasks to tackle this without delay.  He decided he would visit the library for books on hypnotism or auto-suggestion. Alex would continue to scout around to learn more about Danny’s habits and timetable.  

J headed off down the corridor and up the stairs to the library where he began to browse science books, tilting his head to one side to read the titles on their spines.He wasn’t seeing any material which related to his specific problem. He began to feel agitated, as if there was a timer in operation, the sand constantly leaking through the narrow gap between the upper chamber and the lower, with his sister’s life in the balance.  

In desperation he pulled out a book called The Mask of Time by Joan Forman and flicked through it’s pages.  His eyes were drawn to one passage:

When a human organism dies, the matter, the physical body, is seen to change and known to decay.  But a human organism is also energy, electrical, gravitational, magnetic, and on physical death, it ceases to operate through the material structure with which it has been associated.  If energy cannot be destroyed it must therefore remove elsewhere where it may continue to operate according to the laws governing it.

This seemed to support his theory of an ‘energy’ which could be taken from a person, but unfortunately it made him more afraid for the lives of Danny’s victims.  He slammed the book shut and pushed it back into its slot on the crammed shelves. 

[To be continued …]

Don’t Let Him In (9)

This is part of an ongoing chilling series, to read from the beginning, start here.

[4 minute read]

Alex was still at rugby practice when J hurried past his house with his head down.  Unlocking his front door, he went straight to his Dad’s study to find out how Lulu was feeling.

“No change unfortunately. She isn’t eating and has slept most of the day, but she has no temperature. I’ve an appointment to take her to the doctor tomorrow.” 

J had a sinking feeling this wouldn’t help. He really needed to talk to Alex, to plan how to force Danny to break the hypnotic trance his sister was under.  He retired to his room with a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea. With his laptop on, he began trying to find new intel on hypnotism and meditation in the hope of identifying a ‘key’ to free the entranced children.

He face-timed Alex and up-dated his friend with what he had pieced together; with music on in the background he successfully masked their conversation.

“Who’d have thought? … Danny?  All the plays I’ve seen him in …” Alex shook his head.

“But that’s probably how he did it! Working with Katie, rehearsing with her, he’d have plenty of opportunities to gaze into her eyes or use a pendulum and hypnotise her” J said.

“What’s with them all saying ‘they let him in’? That really fits with my vampire theories, but Danny looks the same as us.  Do you think he is a vampire?”

J shrugged, he’d never given it serious consideration because he hadn’t believed vampires existed, but he tapped at his keyboard, Googling vampires and the legends surrounding them, he excitedly read one entry aloud.“Glamouring!  Vampire hypnotism is called glamouring, they use eye contact to make their victims happy and relaxed about having their blood sucked.  Perhaps Danny has glamoured them all.”

“Check Lulu’s neck Dude!  See if she’s got fang marks on it.”

“Aargh! Don’t say that!  I can’t even deal with the thought of that!” J was shocked and disgusted at the idea, but he knew it made sense.  It would certainly explain the pale and listless appearance of all the victims.  He planned to take a look at Lulu’s neck sometime that evening, but he needed to avoid raising his parents’ suspicions.

An opportunity presented itself quite innocently, Dad had made a snack of toast and marmite with a drink for Lulu, which J offered to take up to her room. While Dad put the finishing touches on the family’s meal, J cracked the door open and tiptoed into Lulu’s room.  

She was cocooned in her duvet and facing the wall. Murmuring soothing things he gently stroked her hair off his sister’s cheek and away from her neck and peered closely, feeling tense about finding puncture wounds, but there were none. Thank goodness, her neck was unmarked. Her skin was clammy and cool but no bite marks.

“Lulu, do you want a drink?  Or some marmite soldiers?” J used a coaxing tone and pulled her shoulder a little so that she rolled over.  She didn’t rouse out of her sleep but he was able to look at her neck on the other side … phew!  It was also unmarked. J’s relief at this discovery was intense, but looking at her sleeping form he felt sad, and a little scared, what if they couldn’t get her back to normal?

He ate supper with his parents, Then, with the excuse of pressing studies, returned to his room, where he let Alex know that he had found no sinister marks on his sister’s neck.

“Another contradiction to the idea of Danny as a vampire, is that he walks about in the daylight.  He’s not burned or harmed by the sun,” Alex pointed out.

“That rule doesn’t apply in Twilight.  Those guys avoid the sun because it would show their skin is sparkly.” J countered.

“Seriously? Man that’s so weird!  Let’s try to look closely at him in school.” Alex was thoughtful for a moment. “I’ve never noticed his skin glittering.” Then he piped up, “Hey, Twilight’s a chick film?  What’re you watching that for?”

“Hard to avoid it!” J laughed. “They’re always playing the Twilight trilogy on Film4, and my Mum’s a huge vampire fan.”  J felt sure she wouldn’t be a fan if she thought a vamp had been anywhere near Lulu.  

Lulu in the clutches of an undead blood sucker was unthinkable, but he reassured himself no puncture wounds on her neck was a positive thing. Catching a glimpse of the time, he wound up his call with Alex. He still had an English essay to write before he went to bed.

Somehow J was less startled when he snapped out of sleep at 3 am that night. It was becoming a grim routine, so he lay still allowing his senses to ‘feel’ the pressing darkness and whoever or whatever was out there.  His eyes began to focus on the front of a house he didn’t recognise. The streetlight pooled a yellowy glow in its front garden and he could see a gate to the right. This was not latched shut, so it banged softly in the breeze. The darkness had a menace to it, was it possible that Danny was still here? J moved soundlessly, and with dread, through the gate and round the back of the property. He could see in through the conservatory as the occupants kept tropical fish in aquariums, which lit up the room with an eerie glow.  

Pressing his face to a window, and with all his senses on alert, J peered around the interior.  At first he thought there was nobody there, then he spotted a young boy in cartoon pyjamas. His blonde hair stuck up in all directions, as often happens with restless sleepers.  The boy had an unhappy hunch to his body language. He stood repeatedly banging his head against the wall. Hearing his sobs made J’s heart twist, so he tried the handle of the door, but it was locked.  His attempts to gain entry didn’t distract the child and the mournful crying continued.  

His heart was heavy that another young person had fallen under the evil influence. J speculated that this boy had wanted an entertainer for his party and so Danny had visited the house, “let in” by the boy’s unwitting parents.  Danny would give no clue regarding his sinister nature when he called round to make plans about performing as a clown.  

J had never trusted clowns, they gave him the heebie-jeebies!  As a young boy he’d found their thick make up, especially the painted on smile and eye expressions, highly suspect.  He’d swerved invitations to attend any party with a clown on the agenda for just that reason. How ironic that his immature suspicions had truth behind them!  Looking at the distressed boy, who he couldn’t get close enough to comfort, J knew he would be a pale and listless trance-induced state by morning, he wished fervently that he would not be proved right.

[To be continued …]

A Witch in Time (2)

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

This concludes a story written in by my mother under the pen name Emma Payne. It’s pitched at the YA market and pre-dates the Harry Potter inspired flurry of supernatural tales. Previously 10-year-old Melina began to suspect that the things which made her mum perfect might have a catch, what if she was a witch! Start with Part 1 or read from here.

The final straw came when Miss Jeffers started to cast the form play. I had hoped to be the Princess, but Miss Jeffers chose Lucy Merkon. I was given the part of a lady in waiting, and Lucy’s understudy.

Lucy and I were old enemies, which made it worse. She turned round, her face a mixture of triumph and spite and poked her tongue out. I was furious and when I got home I told Mum.

“That Lucy Merkon! I’ve never liked her,” Mum said, “you’d make a far better princess. It would serve Lucy right if she fell ill and you took over.”

“She never so much as catches a cold,” I said gloomily.

“She might catch something worse,” Mum said darkly.

I thought no more about it until Mum was proved right, as usual. Lucy developed a rash and a fever after just three rehearsals, so I took over the part.

When I told Mum that Miss Jeffers said the doctor was baffled by Lucy’s symptoms, I caught her smiling and it gave me a horrible thought. Had Mum cast a spell on Lucy?

Next day when Mum was at the shops, I went into the kitchen to look at the strange book again: I wanted to compare the words with the witches’ scene in Macbeth. ‘Grockle the muncheon and slowly plebide the turlow’ did not sound much like ‘eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and toe of dog,” but then, perhaps Shakespeare had been guessing.

The book wasn’t on the shelf, so I began to rummage in other drawers in the kitchen. At the back of the knife drawer I found a strange little figure sculpted in pastry and embedded with seeds that made it look horribly spotty. I picked it up and tied round its neck with green embroidery silk was a label which read Lucy Merkon.

I dropped the figure back into the drawer as if it were red hot. That did it! Mum’s witchcraft was really out of hand now. Mrs Bearman had been talking wildly about witches and spells recently, she’d also been giving Mum strange looks. I didn’t think anyone believed in witchcraft nowadays, but the part of East Anglia where we lived historically had a strong witch tradition. It must have been closer to the surface than I knew, for that afternoon in the playground, Will Gandy said, “I hear your mother’s put a spell on my aunt and her dog. She’d better take it off or I’ll make you suffer. You’re a witch’s child.”

His friends began to chant, “Witch’s child, witch’s child,” and soon a menacing group had gathered. I was scared and began to cry, frightened as much for Mum as for myself. I burst out of the circle, through the school gate and ran home, where I threw myself sobbing into Mum’s arms. I told her what they had said.

“And don’t try to tell me it isn’t true, because I know it is.” I managed to say between hiccoughing sobs.

She hugged me tightly. “I’m not a bad witch, Melina.”

“But you are,” I wailed. “There’s Harold and Mrs Bearman and now Lucy.” I told her I’d found the strange book and the pastry person. “How come you’re a witch?” 

“It’s complicated, but I’ll try to explain. Have you ever thought what would have happened if some important event in history had turned out differently? If Richard III had won the battle of Bosworth, there would have been no Tudor kings.  Supposed America hadn’t fought the War of Independence and it had remained English, history would tell a different story, wouldn’t it?”

I nodded, I loved history, but I couldn’t see where this was leading us.

“Imagine time is like a huge tree, with the creation of the world the thick part of the trunk at the bottom. Each time an event occurs, that could have two possible outcomes, the tree branches so the two results exist as branches of equal thickness. Then when another crisis moment comes, the tree branches again.

“Each of those branches is another world or timeline. Beside the world where William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings, there is an alternative world where King Harold won.

“My world had the same history as yours until 1590. In that year Elizabeth I was queen of England and James VI king of Scotland. James had not yet married and his heir was Francis Stuart, earl of Bothwell, who was secretly leader of the Scottish witches. Have you ever heard of the Plot of the North Berwick witches?”

I shook my head.

“No? Well it’s only a footnote in your history books because it failed in your timeline, but in mine it succeeded. Three covens of witches, under Francis Stuart’s guidance, raised a storm that drowned the King as he was bringing his new queen home from Denmark. So in my world Bothwell became King Francis I and witchcraft became an accepted way of life.

“People with second sight and people who could harness magic were encouraged, instead of being hunted down and burned as they were in your timeline. We developed communication by mind-power and human energy instead of electricity. Transport was achieved by focussing minds instead of using engines. People learned to work with animals. America was colonised by traders rather than persecuted religious minorities. Hosts of other things were different.

“I’m not saying my world was perfect, trouble was caused by greed and fear because humanity is fallible, but I liked my world better than this one.”

“If you liked it so much, what made you leave?” I asked.

Mum laughed. “I didn’t mean to. It happened by mistake. I was working on a space-travel project that involved the pooling of mind power. I was using my technical manual (the ‘spell’ book you found) and was endeavouring to add the force of my mind to that of many others. Accidentally I turned over two pages, saying half of one formula and half of another. That sent me sideways in time and into your world. While I was trying to figure out how to get back, I had to blend into this world. Then I met your dad and fell in love, so I stopped searching for a way back. When you were born my decision to stay in this world was made.

“At first I tried to live by this world’s rules, but a little bit of witchcraft made life so much easier. I used my powers sparingly and thought no-one would know. But I didn’t fool you and it seems I’ve now made other people suspicious. I need to think how to correct this.

“Why don’t you reverse the spells, Mum? That would take the pressure off.”

Her eyes lit up. “I can do better than that, I’ll make them forget and we can start afresh.”

“Wonderful,” I said “and you must promise not to use spells any more.”

“Not even to help in the house?” she said wistfully.

“We-ell ,” I said wavering, “little spells for cooking and cleaning should go unnoticed.”

“Perfect,” she said smiling, “and I can teach you spells, you’d be easy to train, being half witch.”

“No thanks, I prefer to stay the way I am.”

Mum laughed and went off to undo the magical mayhem she’d caused, while I went upstairs to do my homework. I’d forgotten, until I opened my bedroom door, that I’d rushed out that morning and left my room looking as if a tornado had struck.

“Oh fiddlesticks,” I said to myself, “I wish I could use a little magic to tidy this mess.”

There was a noise like a rushing wind and my clothes lifted off the floor and bed to arranged themselves tidily in the open wardrobe. Books floated back onto shelves and the duvet shook itself and spread neatly on the bed.

I sat down, overcome by shock. I was stunned, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. They say blood will out and I was, after all, a witch’s daughter.

THE END

A Witch in Time

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

I’ve mentioned in my ‘why write’ page that my mother was a writer, so I’ll share with you s a story she wrote under her pen name Emma Payne. It’s pitched at the YA market and was written before Harry Potter influenced so many authors of fiction. I’ve made a couple of tiny tweaks to keep the plot current. Part 1 is here, the conclusion will follow.

My mother was a witch, but I had no clue until I was ten. Up to that age, children expect their parents to be all powerful, but after that, they begin to question.

Mind you, she was a fantastic mother, she never said “not now dear, I’m busy,” and she was brilliant at inventing games. She could tidy up in a snap as if by magic (which  is probably how she did it) and she ran the house without any fuss or bother. She was a great companion and she always took my side in any quarrels. She kept her promises and her forecasts always came true. I thought she was perfect until the fateful day I discovered her secret.

It was an autumn afternoon when Miss Jeffers sent us home from school early because she had a sick headache. On the way home, scuffing through piles of dead leaves, I planned to play a trick on Mum.

I opened the door soundlessly. The smell of freshly baked cakes drifted through the kitchen door, which was ajar. I crept across the hall and peeped in. Where was Mum? I saw a basin on the counter with a wooden spoon stirring vigorously, but no-one was holding it! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Then I saw her: she was floating in the  air just below the ceiling, totally relaxed as if she was lying down. Jason, our cat was floating beside her, washing his paws. I watched in disbelief as a tray of cakes wafted out of the oven and arranged themselves on a wire tray, while Mum drifted above them. That was my first clue that she was a witch!

I slammed the front door and stamped noisily. When I entered the kitchen, Mum was standing by the cakes spooning icing over them while Jason rubbed himself against her legs.

Mum turned round with a welcoming smile. She offered me a cake to try while I explained about Miss Jeffers.

“Never mind, Melina,” she said. “I guarantee she’ll be well tomorrow.”

[“How?” I wanted to yell, “by magic?”]

After that I began to watch her more closely.

That evening she and Dad and I were sitting round the fireplace. We were arguing about the age of different types of rock. Dad said sandstone was older than chalk, but Mum disagreed. I just sat there like a spectator at a tennis match.

“Best not to argue with her Dad,” I warned, “she’s always right.”

Dad grinned. “I bet a box of those fancy chocolates you love to a tub of my favourite ice cream that I’m right.”

Mum almost purred. “Mmm, I can practically taste those chocolates. Melina run and get your tablet so that we can settle this. You left it beside the cook books.”

On the side in the kitchen, when I went to get my iPad, I saw that a thin book had almost slipped off the shelf. As I rescued it, I noticed it had a strange iridescent cover and the pages were smoother and shinier than paper, but it was the text that stopped me in my tracks.

‘After this,’ (it said) ‘grockle the muncheon and slowly plebide the turlow; this should create a smooth felox without unsightly veblons.’

It had to be a spell! This confirmed my suspicious, she was a witch.

At that moment she called out. “Having trouble, Melina?”

I jumped guiltily, and grabbed my tablet. “It’s OK, I’ve found it.”

I don’t remember the outcome of the argument, I went to bed early to think about my awful discovery.  There might be a simple explanation but I was strangely shy about asking. As she only did good things, I concluded it didn’t really matter; but I had to think again next day.

Mrs Bearman, our next door neighbour had a rather fat pug called Harold, who was the darling of her heart. Jason, our cat, teased him by using their garden as a shortcut, knowing he could outrun the breathless, overfed pug. However, on this occasion Jason misjudged his advantage and the pug’s snapping teeth connected with the tip of Jason’s tail. Jason howled and ran to Mum for comfort. She soothed the cat while saying dreadful things about the pug.

Soon after this, Harold lost his voice. When he barked, no sounds came out. I heard Mrs Bearman telling another neighbour that Harold seemed to be bewitched.

Bewitched! If that was the case I knew who had cast the spell, and was frantic in case Mrs Bearman guessed too. When I went into the kitchen to try and persuade Mum to remove the spell by hinting to her, I’m almost sure the potatoes were taking off their own skins, but I looked again and saw Mum had a potato peeler in her hand.

“Mrs Bearman can’t hear Harold barking any more, she says it’s as if he were bewitched.”

“Nonsense,” said Mum, “she’s just getting a little deaf.” And then she looked out of the window as if struck by a thought.

I sighed and went to help Dad rake up piles of leaves for a bonfire.

“Tell Mrs Bearman I’m planning a bonfire,” he said. “Don’t want to be blamed for getting smuts on her washing.”

She answered the door drying her hands. “Good morning, Melina.”

“Hi,” I was filled with the usual awkwardness at having to hold a conversation with an adult I didn’t know well. “I came to warn you we’re having a bonfire.”

“No, I am not in the choir,” she said haughtily.

She must have misheard. “Dad is having a fire, do you mind?” I said, a little louder.

“No, I do not mind that I am not in the choir. Why are you asking me this?”

“Fire!” I shouted, “fire not choir.”

“Fire?” said Mrs Bearman, alarmed. “Where is the fire? I must fetch Harold.”

I grabbed her hand. Slowly and clearly, with 100% eye contact, I said “Dad – is – having – a – bonfire.”

“Oh,” she was embarrassed. “How silly of me, I misunderstood.”

“How is Harold?” I asked, “is he better?”

“Letter?” she was off again. “Harold didn’t get a letter, who would write to a dog?”

She looked at me pityingly, but it was I who pitied her. I could only blame Mum for her deafness.

[To be continued …]

Don’t Let Him In (8)

A spooky tale being told in chilling installments: read the previous episode here or use the menu to access the full series.

[3.5 min read]

J’s thoughts kept circling round a central idea. If they could identify what the victims of the menacing entity had in common, this could lead them to the zombie-maker.  Lulu becoming the latest victim seemed almost personal, driving J to find a solution.  He couldn’t leave his sister and the other children as mindless shells, especially as they did not care to eat so were likely to get ill soon.  

He and Alex parted ways for morning lessons, but planned to meet at  lunch to mindmap theories.  Gloom weighed heavy on J, he couldn’t bear to recollect how frightened and upset Lulu had been in his dream. He also worried that the trance she was in could be irreversible.

He remembered that he’d seen Laurie going into the drama annexe off the main school building so resolved to investigate what could have drawn him there, even in his zombie state.  Some strong need or obedience to instruction was in operation; this was likely to be a vital clue.  When the bell rang he quickly scraped his books together then hustled to the annexe to nose around.  

One notice board featured a display on the latest school play – photos of cast, programmes and performance times.  Further towards the music rooms he saw information about a forthcoming talent show. Pupils who learned guitar and drums were getting bands together, there were ‘celebrity’ judges and that’s when another puzzle piece fell into place.  Katie was impersonating ‘Sharon Osbourne’, and the lighting technician was Laurie – so they would have been rehearsing together!  Boom!  Sadly J came up blank as to how his sister fitted into this pattern, but it was a start.  He unpinned one of the fliers and hurried off to the canteen, where Alex had almost finished eating.

“Brilliant!” Alex exclaimed, through a mouthful of chocolate chip cookie, as he examined the leaflet “this totally explains how Katie knows a nerd like Laurie!”

J made a ‘Shhh’ face at Alex. He liked Laurie and found the term nerd disrespectful.  “What about Lulu Alex?  How did she come into contact with these guys?”

“Babysitting?” Alex guessed, “has Katie ever come to your house to babysit for her?  No, scrub that, I think you’d have said if a fit girl like Katie came round to yours while your parents were out!”  Alex snorted with laughter and took another big bite of his biscuit.

J finished his panini and drained his drink with a loud slurp.

“I still haven’t given up on the Librarian being involved somehow.  So I’m off to have a nose around, with the excuse of returning this.”  He held up the lacemaking book with a wry grin, then grabbed his tray and rose from the table.

J peered through the glass door into the Librarian’s office, his hand poised to knock, but it seemed she was absent. He tried the handle but it was locked.  Checking his watch, he decided to hang around for 5 minutes before abandoning his plan.  J kicked his heels, while racking his brains who could have visited his, Katie and Laurie’s houses, and for what dastardly purpose?  When the Librarian didn’t show, J deposited the book and went to class, which was art, presenting a good opportunity to observe Katie and possibly put more clues together.

Katie looked worse today than last time he saw her. With hair hanging in dull, greasy hanks, her complexion was chalky pale and her eye sockets were shadowed purple, giving her eyes a feverish glow.  She moved at half speed, not interacting with other classmates, although she responded to the teacher in a robotic way.  Watching, J felt overwhelmed with sadness and panic. Would his little sister be trapped in the same state? It was imperative to solve the mystery and break the evil influence she was under. 

The final bell of the day rang. Chairs scraped and bags were stuffed with books as pupils prepared to head home.  In the busy corridors, most of the pupil traffic was leaving the building, so it was easy to spot Danny moving in the opposite direction.  The oddest moment occurred when he got near Katie, they locked eyes and she was held in the mesmerizing beam of his gaze.  

Watching from 100 yards away, J felt slightly dazzled himself, then Danny blinked and the moment passed.  The older boy approached J but kept walking, leaving him puzzling over what he’d seen.  Alex had rugby practice after school so J set off up-hill solo, fishing the flyer about the talent show out of his pocket as he walked. If Katie was playing Sharon O, who was playing Simon Cowell? There it was, the ascerbic judge was being impersonated by Danny Randall!  Suddenly J was deafened by puzzle pieces falling into place!

The common factor had to be Danny Randall – he was working on the talent show and he had been the clown at his sister’s birthday party!  Hell fire! J could hardly wait to convey this break-through to Alex.

Don’t Let Him In (7)

This spooky story is told in installments, you can use the menu to locate earlier episodes.

[2.5 minute read]

When J opened the front door later that afternoon his ears were assaulted by the squeals and screams of hyper little girls from his sister’s class.  Her party was in full swing so everywhere he looked he saw princesses in pastel coloured party wear.  His Dad had laid on cakes and crisps, biscuits and sweet treats. The party-goers had emptied the plates and now there was crushed food on the laminate floor. 

Excitable girls were dancing around the living room and taking it in turns to use the karaoke machine.  J couldn’t handle the noise and frantic activity. He snagged some sandwiches, crisps and a couple of fairy cakes then scurried up to his room. The harassed dog followed close on his heels.

He fired up his laptop and spent an hour or so on his homework, with a few YouTube tabs open in the background.  He was still researching the hypnotism topic, but he was at a loss to understand who’d benefit from controlling the willpower of children.  Shortly the noise levels downstairs reduced, just a few cheers and whoops of excitement. Evidently the clown was keeping the girls spellbound.  

J continued to rack his brains; what was the link between arty, drama loving Katie and brainy top-set guy Laurie? He was pretty sure their schedules didn’t overlap for any classes and he knew  they hadn’t attended the same primary school.  Eventually, he decided to let his subconscious run through the possibilities while he got on with his maths homework.

J was jolted awake, the digital read-out said 2.58 am and, like the previous occasions, he sensed that something menacing was nearby.  From his bedroom, he moved onto the landing, pale silvery light streamed through the hall window making it easy to pad downstairs silently.  He scanned around the kitchen, nothing amiss there. The dog was breathing heavily and twitching his paws, but J still detected a creepy vibe.  

He moved along the hall, and that’s when he heard sniffing and whimpering, coming from the family room.  J peered around the door. He saw a hunched shape amongst the floor cushions.  He crept further in the room. With distress, he realised it was his little sister Lulu who was sobbing into the fabric.  He crouched closeby, careful not to startle her.

“Lulu … what’s the matter Lulu?”  

She continued crying and sniffing, but raised her head to look at him, her eyes as big as saucers.  

“He scared me,”  she whimpered, “he wasn’t nice.”

“Who Lulu?  Who was here?”

“They let him in.”  Lulu’s small body was again wracked with sobs. J sat there rubbing her back to console her. Logic had him puzzling who could have come into the house without  disturbing the dog.

“Did he hurt you sweetheart?” J felt very protective of his little sister. He was relieved when she mutely shook her head.  He reached forward and enveloped her in a hug.  

Suddenly his alarm clock started blurting and J surfaced from his dream with a shock. This was bad, really bad!  J leaped out of bed and hurtled down the stairs, but the only person there  was his Dad in the kitchen.

“Where’s Lulu?” he asked in a panic.

“Not up yet.” His Dad threw the reply over his shoulder, concentration fully on the eggs he was frying. He grabbed toast and laid one on each plate and then used a spatula to place an egg on top.  He put one in front of J, then went upstairs to call Lulu again.

J cut into his breakfast without much enthusiasm. Before long his Dad was downstairs again.

“She’s not very well.  I need to ring the school. She’s cold and clammy, I couldn’t even wake her properly.”  He stood at the counter and distractedly cut into the egg on toast he’d just put on a plate for Lulu.

Immediately J’s appetite was completely gone. The worst had happened, his little sister had joined the ranks of the zombies.  And he had dreamed it!  He could no longer deny that appearing in his dreams was part of the pattern.  J was deep in thought, hastening to prepare for school and get Alex’s take on this development.

Alex’s response was shock and upset. Lulu was like a little sister to him, he’d known her since she was a toddler.

“But who came into your house?”  Like J, he was struggling to imagine the intruder. 

“No idea mate.  There has to be some link to the other kids too, that makes it even harder to puzzle out.”

The boys trudged down the hill in silence, their brains churning through the possibilities.

[To be Continued …]

Don’t Let Him In (6)

A chilling tale, told in installments

When J’s alarm began beeping the next morning, it was accompanied by smells of bacon & toast wafting upstairs. He felt light with relief that he hadn’t had a dream about anyone new being traumatised by the mystery ‘man’.  Yet this was the puzzle, his chief suspect was the new Librarian, who was a woman.  Was it possible that she wore a disguise when she took control of the minds of the children?  J suspected that if he could see a ‘pattern’ to those chosen as her victims, then maybe he could get a better handle on solving the mystery.  He made sure he had the hypnotism printouts tucked in his rucksack before heading out of the door to meet Alex.

Lulu waved goodbye from the back-seat of his Mum’s car. She was beaming from ear to ear with excitement, her party invitations clutched in her hand, twinkling with the holographic stickers she’d added the night before.  Sometimes, when he looked at his sister, he yearned for the simplicity of his days at primary school, but most of the time he was glad to have left the claustrophobia of that tiny school and its mostly spinster teachers behind.

J joined the steady stream of red blazers and black suits heading out of Cranberry Gardens towards St Ethelred’s, pleased to see Alex was already waiting for him outside his house.  They fell into step with one another. Alex was keen for an up-date, quizzing J as to whether he’d had one of his dreams the previous night.

“No, thank goodness! So maybe no new zombies today!  I did learn a lot about hypnotism though.” 

With that he passed Alex the pages which he’d recently downloaded from Google. Although impatient to discuss it, J needed to give his friend time to read and absorb the information, so he stayed quiet letting Alex read as he walked.

Finally J put forward his theory that perhaps the Librarian wore a disguise, which could be why the kids hypnotised so far kept talking about letting ‘him’ in.

“Vampire!” Alex butted in excitedly.  “A vampire can’t come into your home unless you invite them!”

This seemed an undisputed piece of vampire folklore, mentioned in all the vampire films the boys had ever watched.  They thrashed  this idea around as they continued down to the school gate. Somehow the idea of a vampire existing in their home town seemed too far fetched, surely they weren’t real?

“See you at lunch,” Alex called over his shoulder before he headed off to English class.

Still puzzling, J made his way to the language block for a double lesson of German.

When lunchtime rolled around, they picked up their conversation where they’d left off.  The vampire theory seemed less viable, instead J wanted to pursue the Librarian for more clues.

“Hey!  What if she’s a dude disguised as a woman?  Y’know, like in Mrs Doubtfire?!”   Alex was warming to his theme. “She is pretty old and caked in powdery make-up.  Her hair could easily be a wig!”  

J couldn’t help laughing at the idea.  However, the laughter died in his throat as Laurie walked past their table, looking pale and haggard.  The shadows under his eyes were pronounced and his movements were robotic. On his tray he carried an unopened carton of milk and a shrink wrapped pork pie, with which he sat down alone, at a remote, empty table.

The two friends watched him in silence, as he stared into space, making no move to eat the food he had purchased.

“That’s seriously weird,” remarked Alex, who was always hungry due to the amount of sports he played.

“Yeah,” J nodded, feeling guilty that he couldn’t think of a way to help.  “We’ve got to get to the bottom of this.  You still want to investigate the Coach?”  

He and Alex dumped their plates and trays at the hatch and spent the rest of their lunch break hanging round the pavilion trying to see in through the windows looking for clues amongst the stored sports equipment; they didn’t have much success.   Alex had Rugby practice after school, so he intended to try to get into the building on some sort of pretext then, offering to untangle the bibs or some such helpful tactic.

J made his way across the quad , heading for his next lesson, and that’s when he spied Laurie again.  He was at the heavy double doors into the main school building which housed Reception, the assembly hall and Drama, because they liked to utilise the stage.  The Music block was accessible from here too, several practice rooms and a couple of classrooms ran down the outside wall of the building.  

J was curious as to where Laurie was going, because as far as he knew Laurie studied neither music nor drama.  He didn’t have time to investigate, but his mind was turning over facts all afternoon looking for the pattern.  The last thing he wanted to acknowledge was that the common factor which was linking the trance-like children was him!

[To be continued …]

Don’t Let Him in (5)

A chilling tale, told in installments

In synchronised silence, Alex and J moved swiftly through the swing doors, J pointed to Alex then at the office, then indicated his own chest he gestured towards the computer. Each set off on their separate missions.  J moved stealthily and clicked the computer mouse. When it brought on screen what the Librarian had last been looking at, he shook his head at her casualness in not locking the computer when she stepped away, while being hugely grateful that she hadn’t! An inventory page loaded, she was in the process of placing an order for more books – nothing very surprising there. What had she minimised in the toolbar? A database of student names & their library pass codes, a timetable of classes using the Library for study sessions and internet explorer. What had she been researching on the internet? Opening it, he felt a jolt of excitement: hypnotists! She‘d been researching hypnotism in its many forms.

Just then J heard the squeak of the back office door as it swung open. Immediately he ducked low and sidled away from the desk. He didn’t straighten up till he was safely between two bookshelves crammed with paperbacks and hardbacks, all neatly ordered by category. He could hear Alex talking, but in that low voice people use in libraries, so J had no idea what he was saying. 

When the Librarian moved in his direction, her sensible shoes made a faint squeak on the parquet floor. J grabbed a random book off the crowded shelf. He took it over to her, fishing his library card out of his inside blazer pocket as he walked.

The Librarian tapped a few keys and moved the mouse. The printer sprang to life and whirred until a piece of paper came out. As she turned away to grab it, Alex delivered J a subtle wink.

“Thank you Miss. I’m sure my Library card is somewhere at home, but you’ll save my bacon if I can get some study books out for tonight.”

“This is valid for one week.” She observed him sternly over her glasses. “If you haven’t found your card by then, you had better see me to arrange a replacement.”

Alex took the temporary pass. She turned her attention to J, who proffered his book. As she entered the reference code she looked at him rather strangely – he kept his face blank. Not until they were a way down the corridor did he look at the book’s title. He burst out laughing,  “Lacemaking Through the Ages”. No surprise she wondered why he needed that!

“What did you find out?” J asked Alex. 

They were walking briskly, urgently needing to retrieve books from their lockers for afternoon lessons.

“Not much really. Too many posters & flyers obstructing the glass panels.” He shook his head. “She did look furtive. I saw her putting a big jar of pills into her handbag. Which, by the way, also looks like something from a museum! What did you find?”

“We may be onto something – she’d been researching hypnotism on the internet. I’ll run the same search at home tonight and see if I can get a bit more info.” 

J could tell Alex was impressed, but before they could talk more the bell rang, summoning them back to class.

When he got home from school, J was greeted by his sister Lulu, excitedly flapping a pink postcard at him.

“What’ve you got there Lulu?”

“A party invitation. MY PARTYYYYY!” she squealed and twirled round making her checked summer dress flare out like a bell.

J took the invitation from her hand to read.

“So Lulu, karaoke AND a clown?”

“Yes J. And there will be balloons and dancing and a Disney Princess cake.”

“Wow! Lucky you. Will you give the invitations out to your friends at school tomorrow?”

“Mmm hmm.” She followed him out to the kitchen and watched him make a sandwich. 

“Can I have a milkshake please J?”

He reached up to get a glass, then filled it with milk and added spoonfuls of strawberry powder. As he stirred it he looked at his little sister, at her thick blonde plaits and grey blue eyes, noticing an air of sweet innocence. He handed her the glass and she padded off down the hall, silent in white cotton socks. Seconds later he heard the blurt of the television as his sister settled down to watch cartoons.

J made himself a drink and took his sandwich upstairs. Passing his Dad’s study door he pushed it open. His Dad sat at the computer, but he wasn’t writing; he was drinking coffee and scrolling on his phone – it was OK to interrupt.

“How’s it going? Did you get much written today?”

“Yes. I had a bit of a breakthrough actually, I got a lot done. How about you? School good?”

“Er – guess so.” 

J flicked his fringe out of his eyes. He didn’t feel like sharing details of the recent weirdness with his Dad. Change of subject required.

“Lulu’s party sounds cool Dad.”

“I hope so. She wanted something none of her friends had done, and I saw the clown-guy’s card in the newsagent’s window. You might know him actually – he goes to your school. Danny something – Randall is it?” 

His Dad looked at him expectantly.

“Oh yeah. Does drama, year 12.” J nodded his head, he’d seen Danny in some school plays. 

Biting into his sandwich he moved off to his room. The dog got up from under his Dad’s desk and, having stretched followed J and his sandwich.

J opened his laptop, eating while he waited for his desktop to populate with various icons.  He chucked his crusts to the drooling dog, who caught them mid-air, then typed ‘Hypnosis’ into Google, checking Wikipedia first.

  • Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness and an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion. The term may also refer to an art, skill, or act of inducing hypnosis.
  • Theories explaining what occurs during hypnosis fall into two groups. Altered state theories see hypnosis as an altered state of mind or trance, marked by a level of awareness different from the ordinary conscious state.

J conceded that both Laurie & Katie seemed to be in an altered state of mind, blanking out their friends and exhibiting reduced emotional responses.  What puzzled him was how the Librarian was doing it, and for what purpose?  

He stroked the dog’s head absently. It snuffled around his desk hoping for more food, then plodded back down the hall to curl up on the dog bed in his Dad’s study.  As J clicked on more links he learned that hypnotism did not require the ‘subject’ to be sent to sleep. There were also more subtle ways to hypnotise than swinging a pendulum in front of someone’s eyes.  In fact it could work on the power of suggestion, and a normal conversation peppered with key command words could be used to trigger ‘mental obedience’. 

J printed off the most relevant passages to show to Alex tomorrow, then he cracked open his books and started on his German translation homework.

[To be continued]

Don’t Let Him In (4)

Don’t Let Him In (Part 4)

The bright daylight made J scrunch his eyes tight shut. Having opened the blind, his dad headed downstairs.

“Breakfast is on the table. We’re running late.”

J could hardly grasp that his vivid encounter with Katie, so real one moment, was gone the next, part of a dream. He scrambled through his morning routine, eager to see Alex and share his experiences.

His friend picked up on his urgency. Grabbing his rucksack he was out of the house in moments. They fell into step and Alex turned to look at J.

“Spill. I can tell you’ve had an idea.”

“Not an idea, another dream.”

“About Laurie? Did you see the creep he was talking about?”

“No, not Laurie. This time about a girl – do you know Katie Thompson?”

Alex shook his head, she had not hit his ‘radar’. “Is she fit?”

“Fit? I dunno. I’ve known her since infant school, I don’t think of her that way. I was at her house – in the dream I mean.”

J paused for a moment, watchful of 2 boys in red blazers waiting outside a friend’s house. Once they’d passed its glossy laurel hedge and walked far enough to be out of earshot, he took up the story again.

“She was crying and really upset. Saying the same sort of thing as Laurie. She said that he had been there, that someone had let him in.”

“Did she say who?”

“No – she wasn’t clear on that. She looked absolutely terrified – and that creeped me out.”

“So we’re no nearer to working out who they’ve seen,” Alex was puzzled, “or why you keep dreaming about it. Ever had dreams like this before?”

“No, never.”

The boys were nearly at the bottom of the hill now, where Tower Lane intersected with the High Street. Again they turned in through the school side gate. Agreeing to talk later, they  headed off in their separate directions, Alex straight for the gym. J took the path that led to the Science block, passing kids he knew only to nod or smile at. Snatches of conversations swirled around him, and that’s when he heard something to make his blood run cold. A redhead, whose name he didn’t know, had a nasal voice that reached him quite clearly.

“I can’t believe her, stuck up cow! Walked straight past me. Don’t I always wait for her at the corner of Gladstone Road? “ 

Her friend nodded assent.

“ She sailed straight past me like the flipping queen – never looked at me. I thought it was a joke at first, right? Thought she would turn round and tell me to ‘keep up’ or something. But no – miss fancy pants kept right on walking to school, didn’t look back once. Well she can stick it! I ain’t being made to look stupid.”

“Shhh,” the red-head’s companion obviously didn’t want the tirade heard by everyone.

“I won’t shush. She’s a moody piece of work that Katie Thompson.” The set of the red-head’s body was angry as she marched off, still talking.
“I bet it’s because I bought the same bag as her – I said I wouldn’t use it for school but she likes to be different.” She made the quotes gesture with her index fingers and flicked her hair back definitely. Her quiet friend huried them towards class.

J was struck with the urge to see Katie for himself, so he peered in the glass circle of each form-room door that he passed, hoping to locate her. No such luck, she wasn’t in any class-room on this corridor. All he achieved was getting himself marked late on the register by Miss Read.

The morning passed by without event. Each time he changed classes, J scanned the corridors, but he didn’t see Katie. 

When J and Alex met for lunch he recounted what he’d overheard.  Alex had picked up a rumour too, but it related a teacher, not to Katie.

“He’s evil J, I’m telling you!”

The canteen was serving pizza today,so Alex was chewing a huge mouthful noisily as he spoke.

“One kid said he was made to do 50 press ups and 10 laps around the sports field, just because he brought the wrong kit to school.”

“That’s rough,” J agreed. “But I think there’s more to this than a coach with an overdeveloped sense of discipline!”

Alex shook his head and tore off another bite of cheese and tomato. 

“I’m telling you mate, he won’t allow anyone in the sports pavilion since he started. All the equipment gets carried to the door, but only he can take it in to put it away. He’s hiding something, I bet.”

J didn’t think there was much cause for concern, but what made his theories better than Alex’s? No more fantastic for sure!  He’d found himself thinking along the lines of alien abduction – except that Laurie and Katie were not gone. He shook his head at his own craziness, and that’s when he saw her. 

Katie Thompson was outside in the quad, in conversation with an eccentric woman in a tweed suit. The staff member’s back was to the window, so J saw only her grey hair – not her face – but his view of Katie was clear. She looked drained and pale, her long hair looking lank and dishevelled.

“Who’s that?” he gestured at the woman lecturing Katie.

Alex looked up from his food

 “Who? The old biddy who looks like a 50s throwback?”

J nodded. He kept his eyes on Katie, who in turn stared unblinkingly at the older woman.

“That’s the new librarian – she took over from the one who went on maternity leave. Dunno her name though, who’s she ranting on at?” 

Alex craned round, and nearly fell off his chair.

“Whoa – is that Katie? The girl looks awful!

J shushed him when a couple of boys at a nearby table looked up from their meal.

“Exactly. It’s just like Laurie – they both look sort of … flat and lifeless.”

“You’re not kidding! I remember her now from the inter-house drama competition last year. She was hot in that murder mystery play! You remember, in the little tennis outfit?” He peered at her again. “I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Today she’s like a deflated balloon .”

“C’mon, let’s get closer.” 

J stacked his tray on the counter, before Alex could argue. The boys hurried outside into the quad. Katie had already gone, and they couldn’t tell where.

“What do we do now?” Alex wanted to know.

“Let’s check out the Library.”

They entered the English block and turned left, then stopped suddenly. Through the half-glazed doors they saw the tweed clad librarian standing by the large plastic container for pupils’ returned library books. Then she moved off to a door at the back of the Library which led to her tiny office. This was the ideal moment to get in there and snoop.

[To be continued]

Don’t Let Him In (3)

[Part 3]

In the school refectory, the clatter of lunchtime was loud. Alex and J slid their trays onto a table in the middle of the room. As they sat, J cast his eyes around looking for Laurie, before locating him sitting alone.

“Look at him,” J nodded in Laurie’s direction. 

Alex turned his head, but did not stop chewing macaroni cheese.

“What about him? Why the big interest in Laurie?” Alex continued shovelling the pasta into his mouth.

“Well he’s a popular guy sitting alone for one,” J counted off on his fingers. “He’s not eating… and he looks like a zombie today!”

This caught Alex’s attention. He turned to stare at Laurie.

“He does look odd, now you mention it … like ….. I dunno, like he’s zoned out.”

J picked at his baguette and studied Laurie. He couldn’t shake the idea that his behaviour today had a connection with what he had dreamed last night.

All through the school day J puzzled over the mystery of what might be wrong with Laurie, and whether his dream had any bearing on it. As he and Alex trudged home from school, he decided to confide in his friend. Describing the dream made him feel the the dread chill again, as cold and threatening as it had been last night. Alex was agog, but equally confused by what it could mean. 

They parted ways at Alex’s house, agreeing to discuss it more tomorrow at school. However, J did not get through the night without incident.

It was pitch black, the clock read 3.03 am. J was jolted awake by the same bad feeling. In the gloom he listened, but heard nothing. As he had the previous night, J cast his mind back in search of what had woken him.

This time J ‘found’ himself in a garden. There was a curved path glowing faintly silver in the moonlight which he followed towards a house. He wasn’t sure whose home it was, although it seemed familiar. As he got closer he saw that the glazed back door was slightly open and the hairs at the back of his neck began to prickle. He stood at the door to listen to the silence of the house… but it wasn’t silent. It was faint but he heard sounds of crying.

Despite badly wanting to run away, J stepped over the threshold and into the kitchen. Moving cautiously into the room, the sobbing noise continued, but seemed closer. Looking round the kitchen, lit by the glow from the oven’s digital clock as well as the moonlight, he could discern a hunched figure in the corner. J made out a pale nightdress and long dark hair. 

Drawing a little closer he put his hand out to touch the girl’s shoulder – and that’s when he remembered her. Katie Thomson – at Primary school they had become friends because J’s Mum and hers became friends the same time. He didn’t see her much around school, only in art class, but it explained the house being familiar.

As he touched her she whipped round. Her cheeks were streaked with tears and her expression was fearful.

Did you see him?” she was distraught.

Who?” J looked over his shoulder with dread.

Katie clutched his arm digging her fingers in painfully.

Him – he was here.” Her eyes scanned the shadowy room.

There’s no-one here but us. “ 

J wanted to reassure her, but she rose and went to the back door. She shut it, turning the key in the lock, before leaning with her back against it and holding the key tightly. 

“They let him in,” she said. Her shoulders shook with silent sobs.

[To be continued …]