Short Stories, Uncategorized

Local Halloween Short Story Competition Entry – Tumbleweed

During October, my local library ran a short story competition on the theme of Halloween. Having had the beginnings of a ghost story on my laptop for over a year, I decided to work on it some more and enter it into the competition. It was just a bit of fun while I’m in the throws of editing, and having never won a writing competition before (I’ve always been runner-up), I never thought I’d win. So I was very surprised when I actually did.

I have very mixed feelings about winning, as I know most people who enter only write as a hobby, and because I’m technically an author, I had the sudden thought that entering was unfair to everyone else, as really, writing is something I’m supposed to be good at. Yet I am also delighted, as I don’t usually write ghost stories or much aimed at adults, so winning did give my imposter syndrome a much-needed kick.

I also wish there were more people in attendance when the winners were announced on Halloween night, as the library had obviously gone through a lot of trouble to make it a fun event – all the staff were dressed up and they read out all the winning and running up entries for everyone to listen to, before giving out prizes (my own was a lovely notebook and quill set). My favourite story was actually the winner of the children’s category, which featured creepy porcelain dolls.

Anyway, I thought I’d share my entry here for anyone interested. It’s rather silly, being inspired partly by The Frighteners and Stardust, but I had fun with it:

Tumbleweed

‘I think this one might have a chance.’

‘Oh?’ Alphonse said, glancing at his brother. ‘Looks like an idiot to me. No different from the others.’ He shifted his buttocks into a more comfortable groove on top of the bookshelf, staring down at the rest of the detective’s office.

The detective himself was busy reading through pages of notes about the case, oblivious to Alphonse and Wesley watching his every move. They were hardly there by choice, though. For some reason, they couldn’t leave the block where they’d died, so it was either observe the investigation or float around aimlessly in the hope that the gateway would open again. Which they knew it wouldn’t, until their murderer was found, and they had even less of an idea of who it was than the police did. Which was saying something.

So far, all the detectives put on the case had gone crazy after only a few days, regardless of how determined or level-headed they’d appeared to be. Word around the department was that the case was cursed.

Still, this detective had taken the case without so much as a tremble.

‘I think this guy’s strange in the head. He doesn’t look like a detective – if it wasn’t for the badge on his desk, I’d have thought he was nothing but a nosy caretaker. He’s even wearing overalls,’ Alphonse complained.

A knock sounded at the door, startling the man so much his flailing hand caught a cup of half-drunk coffee and sent it cascading across the desk, soaking every sheet of paper it could.

The sergeant who appeared a second later was hit with a barrage of profanities and scarpered before she’d uttered a word.

‘You know, brother, I’m not sure I even know the meaning of some of those,’ Wesley said, scratching his translucent chin with an equally translucent hand.

‘Well, you were always naïve. I doubt having your head chopped off improved things much,’ Alphonse jibed.

‘I was trying to save you. It was the right thing to do.’

‘The stupid thing, more like. I was already dying when you got there. You had every available chance to get away. But no, you decided to stay and play hero. Now look at you.’

‘At least I died wearing trousers,’ Wesley pointed out.

Alphonse glanced self-consciously at the strawberry-print boxer shorts he was sporting. ‘Had I have known some maniac would plant an axe in my spine while I was in bed, I would have dressed for the occasion,’ he countered. ‘And as I recall, you were done in from behind without even a glimpse of our attacker. No use at all!’

‘Shh!’ Wesley said as the detective stopped mopping up the mess on his desk and turned to stare right at them.

‘Relax, you know Bloods can’t see us.’

‘What about psychics?’

‘What about psychics? They’re notorious for making up nonsense. Praying on the bereaved and tricking them into emptying their pockets. There’s not an ounce of supernatural ability among them.’

‘Are you sure?’ Wesley pressed. ‘This guy is certainly acting odd for someone who can’t see us.’

The detective was now moving towards them, his expression curious but reserved. Standing next to the bookshelf, level with their legs, he jumped up and plunged his arm straight through Wesley’s stomach.

‘Ha, so that’s where you were hiding all this time!’ he declared, holding a thick file triumphantly in his hand. He returned to his desk to flick through it.

Shaken, Wesley vomited ectoplasm into the air. Alphonse wafted bits of it away in disgust. ‘Can’t you control yourself?’ he snapped.

Wesley jerked as if he was about to vomit again, but clapped his hand to his mouth just in time. There was a pause in which he made a thick swallowing sound while tears grew in the corners of his eyes, then replied, ‘I’m sorry, but he just violated me! It felt—’ another judder ran through him, and Alphonse floated away through the wall before more ectoplasm could assault him.

Wesley slumped over. Losing ectoplasm was a tiring experience. ‘Why does it always happen to me?’ he murmured, putting his head in his hands.

From the desk came a thump as the detective suddenly collapsed onto it, followed by a whitish haze leaving his body and vanishing.

‘Well, that was the quickest ascension I’ve ever seen. He must’ve been in a hurry,’ Wesley said, hopping down to take a better look. As he got closer, Alphonse’s head popped out of the detective’s back. Wesley swore. ‘Please tell me you didn’t?’

‘Didn’t what?’ Alphonse said innocently, stepping out of the body altogether and shaking himself off. ‘I only spoke to his soul, that was all. Apparently, he’d bored the poor thing to a husk of itself, it was only too happy for me to help it get away. Besides, the idiot was getting on my nerves. He’d never have solved it. We’re better off doing it ourselves.’

‘We already tried that. You ran into a paranormal investigator and got caught on film, and I ended up being shredded by a lawnmower when you pushed me out of the way as he was running after you. We’re not doing that again.’

‘Spoilsport,’ Alphonse replied. ‘At least we can watch the rest of the Bloods scramble in and panic. It’s always fun to watch them make fools of themselves.’

‘Oh, yes. Terribly fun,’ Wesley said, pinching his nose as the body released an enormous amount of gas.

Poetry

Lignin

Walking across the threshold

my nose is affronted by dust and mustiness,

then underneath that vanilla extract scent comes.

The smell of old books, loved books, well-handled books,

books with broken spines and dog ears,

coffee stains on their covers

and notes from relatives:

‘Happy Birthday, love Aunt Mary’

‘Season’s Greetings, Frank! Christmas ’78’

‘To Mr Baldings, English Teacher Extraordinaire

upon your retirement.’

Love notes written in margins of epic romances,

the strict calculations of Vernians,

and the underlined and highlighted words

in a thousand textbooks read by a hundred thousand students

working towards their exams.

All books have a story,

not just the one printed on the page.

Uncategorized

New video: Libraries, Schools and Writing Influences

Today I recorded a new video, this time not about specific books but reading in general, and the importance of reading as a child, as I’ve seen and heard a lot of talk lately about schools being without librarians and thus without decent libraries.

You can watch it here.

Poetry, Uncategorized

Oh, it’s that section of the library, is it?

Books in court,

their words binding the defendant

to the table

wrapping the air with motive,

mystery,

evidence that is pure fiction,

until the jury

stands up and reads

aloud.

The books fall down

blown away,

scattered, pages billowing

like petticoats

in a stiff morning breeze.

Poetry

Tiny mite

Regarding Pip, the love-fruit dream of a bookish mind who haunts the dust speckles papering the bookcases – duck-egg pimples on the fingertips. It lurks, d r i f t i n g between SOLID TEXT and verse rising on inhales to nostrils intent on devouring must and ragged ink. Only to be sneezed out into the particle storm; sunlight is the only pair of spectacles strong enough to see them fight the plastic dinosaurs battling for shelf space on the brain.

Poetry

About a book

A sandwich, thick as a man’s wrist,

that once started

allows you to jump into

the imagination.

The smooth pebble is lifted

and whispers haunt your ears

as the dry, musty sheets

wrap around you,

stamping images into your mind.

Messages in the stone call out and

allow the doorway to be opened,

ready to melt the frozen life

buried inside.