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

Grave Digger

it approaches,

dusk creeping into my skin

but i’m not ready to sleep yet.

i can’t be petrified and forget

the smell of petrichor

as i walk through the long grass

in the mornings.

if it were another’s words

there would be no question that i would fight

but the fractal, small measurement of tar

blocking my ability

to raise fists,

forces me to kneel down and weep

as earth is piled over me.

Poetry

Naming day

Is a name really a sound of yourself?

Is it a sound to swap around, change everyday

like putting on a clean top?

Can a stranger see you through your name?

Or only see your name,

bold, italic, underlined. A title.

A head and shoulders of letters, signatures,

a stamp of approval,

a certificate of achievement.

And what of money?

Is your name built of it?

Do people claw and maul,

trying to steal just a little piece?

Or is your name part of your skin,

a map of your life.

Connected, always.

You. Truly, simply, you?

Poetry

Little monster

We all have that monster eating us up inside. Yes, you know the one. I’ve named mine Calm. It seems to like it. Whenever someone asks when my book will be published, or ‘how’s that story going you’ve been working on for yonks?’, and I hear Calm start to stir – that’s when I say, ‘Calm, down! Don’t give them the satisfaction of making you bitter.’ Then it grumbles and goes back to sleep, and I can get back to work, unafraid that the little monster of self-doubt will sneak out.

Poetry

That wobbling seed

I can hold your hand. I’m always here for you.

Yes, in your hour

of need

 

I’ll be watching

I’ll be waving

I’ll be waiting.

 

Let me take your hand, you know I’m here

always. For you.

That’s

 

the problem, isn’t it?

You do know

it’s me

 

niggling

niggling

niggling

 

in your mind, casting those shadows

around you. Wait.

 

You think

I should be ashamed?

 

I’d say I’m rather proud of what I do.

You’d just take happiness

for granted

 

if I wasn’t here.

Poetry

Shoulder-hugger

Dot. Stamp. Dot. Stamp.

Tapping lightly,

the marbled paper bleeds. Rivulets

of perspiration; precipitation from the mind.

Tick. Tick. Cross. Tick.

Scathing, scarring acid nails

scrape the skin. That little demon.

Shrug it off. Away, down the river.

Beaten with adrenaline.

Uncategorized

Do you buy books more from bookshops, or online?

While pondering whether to stick with my plan of querying agents for six months (a plan formed on the advice of a literary agent who I had the chance to have a short one-to-one with about the publishing industry; she suggested that I query twelve agents a month for half a year, and then consider my options after that time if I was unsuccessful) or to simply save up and self-publish/ try a small press, I  keep thinking about where I want my book to be sold.

I love the idea of walking into a bookshop and seeing my work, but the reality is that unless I do hook an agent, and then if the agent hooks one of the big six, that idea is nothing but a fantasy. Then I think to myself, if my book (however it’s eventually published) sells well online, does it really matter if it’s not in brick and mortar shops?

I certainly know that while I like to mooch around in a bookshop for several hours, I tend to only find the ‘popular’ books by authors I like (such as Diana Wynne Jones’ ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’- whenever I check my local Waterstones, that’s the only book of hers I find), and so I end up ordering the rest online.

So the question is, should I really be worried about only seeing my book for sale online? After all, it wouldn’t make me any less of an author…would it?