Posts Tagged ‘Short Story’

This week saw a rare event, and one that gives me the opportunity to flex my reviewing muscles.   I have children, 2 small boys that require a great deal of time.  We don’t have babysitters, mostly because family are too far away and we just have not found a suitable sitter.  So, we rarely go out.  My boys, this week, had a little holiday and went to stay with their grandparents.  We had a whole day and night off.  And we were not going top waste the opportunity!

A busy day was planned.  Our first port of call was to the Medieval cathedral town of Salisbury.  Driving up the A-338 north towards the town you drive through some stunning and inspiring country.  Rolling hills, green fields and suddenly, coming over the crest of the hill you see the spire of the cathedral.  As your elevation increases as does the stunning scene of the monumental cathedral as it is revealed to you.   It is magnificent and a wonder to behold, it dominates the skyline and is simply breathtaking.  But, that is not why we were there.   We were there to follow the Barons Charter trail. 

This might not mean a lot to you.  It is a charitable ordination that has created 25 statues that have been uniquely decorated.  The Barons Charter was a group of landed gentry who were intent on enforcing the laws of King John, including the Magna Carta. It is the anniversary of the Magna Carta this year, 800 years since it was signed, and this is part of the commemoration.   It seems to be a strange thing to try to visit, and something that may not hold much interest, except for one statue.  Decorated by Paul Kidby, Discworld Illustrator, he created a baron that memorialized and represented the life and work of Sir Terry Pratchett.  As many of you know he is one of my favourite authors, and I felt obliged to visit this as a memorial to the prolific and comedic author.  

To learn more of the barons visit the website here:

Part 2 of our day off was to leave Salisbury and head to Bournemouth.  I love Bournemouth, I have lived there and it is a wonderful place.   We walked on the beach, had a paddle.  It is something I have to do.  I love the sea.  I love the smell of the briny ocean, I love the feel of the sand between my toes.   I cannot express how much the beach and the sea means to me.  I have an attachment to it.  Although, oddly i prefer to be in it than on it.  I don’t get seasick I just don’t like boats particularly.  Much rather be in or under the sea.   It was a nice sunny afternoon, the sun was hot, the water cool.  Lovely!

But the evening was a departure from our routine, we went to the cinema.  We have not been to the cinema since before the boys were born and I was so excited to see Jurassic World.  Here is my review:

Jurassic World is exactly what you would expect.  The Park has grown into a successful and profitable attraction and from that respect is amazing.  It is great to see what it could have been following the first film.  Expectedly the dinosaurs escape and eat people.  This is all it needed to be.  There are subtle undertones of corporate greed, military interference and conspiracy and also the risks of genetic manipulation.  It has all the themes that Michael Crichton warned of in his original novel.  unfortunately it was all there in short supply during the film. 

What was missing was characterisation.  It was effect heavy and unfortunately the characters were wooden and predictable.  Which is not to say it wasnt a good film, it is what it is.  It was enjoyable and vast in its scope.  The 3-D was some of the best I have seen.  Not a bad effort, but it has very little relation to Crichton’s superb original work. 

My review in a word:  Passable.

Which is not to say that it was not an enjoyable film. it has many subtleties to the plot.  It just felt that some of the characters did not come across well and is just a cash cow for the studio.  A shame as there could have been so much more to it, perhaps the next one will have more substance.

And to Top things off an update on the writing front.  I have been working hard on submissions for the Hodderscape open submission window and also a few short stories which I think are working well.  But I am having a bit of a rethink.  It has been often said to me that my historical fiction is better than my Sci-Fi, I have a style akin to Ken Follett.  I studied History at university and have an in-depth and working knowledge.  I was always criticised in my essays at uni for being too literary in my writing.  Perhaps this is a way to go? 

I have an idea that utilises my knowledge and passion for the subject.   I have been criticised that I am not finishing projects, I get stuck and move on to the next one.  This is disheartening for me.  I lose the thread and the impetus and lose the momentum because I feel that it is not working.  It is a curse I have.  Frustration takes over.  Very annoying for me.  I know have new ideas pinging around my head and it detracts from the ideas I was running with.  My time is very limited I work a lot of hours in a week and my writing time is short .  I try to write when I can but do struggle when I am tired.  so, I need to sit and finish a project, them start a new one.  Arrgghh it is so very frustrating and I spiral into lack of production as a result .  im sure it is an affliction that affects all writers.  I hold out hope that other great and prolific writers took years to produce work, to find their own style and voice.  Time, that is what I need, Time!



An experiment!

Posted: April 8, 2015 in Geek, Ghost, Writing
Tags: , ,

This week I have a new toy!  I was previously doing all my writing on a net pad.  It was a great thing served me well but now it is neither portable nor practical to use as the memory just ground to a halt and the battery won’t hold a charge so had to used only when plugged in.  So I have made a rash, perhaps ambitious purchase and got myself an iPad.  It is my intention to use the iPad to write, research and hopefully be more productive than I was with my net pad.  

The iPad a obviously comes with its challenges, and primary of those is the lack of a keyboard.  Still this is not necessarily a hindered efforts as I am, even now, typing the blog on the touchscreen keyboard.  So far, so good!  The other challenge is getting used to using it as a practical writing tool.  The laptop and netpad were excellent, multiple screens, easy to save and retrieve data, and now I a, hoping the iPad can do the same tasks, and hopefully more.  I am certainly going to need a period of adjustment. Mind you the biggest obstacle in writing on the iPad is me! And I say that as i am no spring chicken, not old either, but I am getting to the age where i am a little bit technologically challenged.  I am not down with the kids, I have no idea what snapchat is, I barely acknowledge the existence of Instagram.  But I am excited to have projects being worked on this new bit of kit.

So, what are the new projects?  I said last week that I was writing a paranormal short story, this is still in the works and I have another idea to add to the 3 I have already started.  But, another opportunity has presented itself and I am using my research to write articles of paranormal interest for a website.  I am a skeptic, let’s get that clear I know not what lies beyond this life, whether there is another life, a nirvana, or existence as a disembodied entity or even just nothing.  No that is what attracts me to the age old question.  After all so many people have seen similar spectral beings.  Possibly the most common being the ‘Grey ‘Lady’.  So I a going to write about the legends, myths and haunting’s that have been recorded in my region.  I am excited by this and look forward to sending off my first article shortly.  Details, if and when it’s published will be posted here.

But before it can be published it must be written and that means I must close off the blog for today.  Are you affected by any of the issues raised in tonight’s blog? If so than do comment for help and assistance from like minded and equally warped individuals….namely me!

I am once again hitting the competition trail. It has been a little while since I have composed short stories for anything other than myself. I will be honest I am a little rusty. Unphased I open my arms to the challenge and beat my chest and scream my war cry! If only it was that dramatic, generally that entails opening my notepad and see what comes out. I am focusing upon a paranormal short story competition for one of the writing magazines. I love writing tales to chill the spine, i love the suspense and drama of a ghost story but most of all I love the human aspect of it. So, my discussion this evening focuses on how to write a ghost story, what makes it so spine tingling entertaining, and why do we enjoy them so.

I have often written about the ethereal plain in various guises, from a fictional narrative to historical representations, it has interested me. I have done my research and analysed the great spooky storytellers and I shall discuss my findings. firstly what makes a good ghost story:

Firstly, it must be insidious in nature, it must have a rhythm to it that builds from a little event to a culminating conclusion that confounds and chills. A great example of this is Charles Dickens and his story ‘The Signalman’ a creepy tale of impending doom, and I am trying not to spoil the story by giving away the twist but it builds from such humble beginnings of a discussion between the narrator and the erstwhile signalman working alone on the railways, to his eventual and shocking demise. Dickens takes such a simple premise of a ghostly train and drip feeds clues to the conclusion. It is a perfect example of insidious tension within a story…wonderful!

Secondly, the human touch! what do I mean, one must engage with the character. A believable character that one can relate too is essential for any ghostly short story. Susan Hill is one of the best for this, in the ‘Woman in Black’ we are drawn in to the story by the humanizing and relatable character of Mr Kipps, a lone parent with a drinking problem following the death of his wife during childbirth, job in jeopardy, money worries and a family to support it is this attachment that makes the story a classic tale of terror.

Ad finally, less is more. A classic creepy tale doe not need to macabre or graphically violent. The rhythmic devices and metaphors do not need to focus on the violence of someones death or need to explain every gory details. to insinuate is often just as, if not more, scary than puddles of blood and viscera. As is told in so many ‘How to…’ books the best way is to show not tell. With a ghost story i disagree with this, should not show or tell but to allude and insinuate. the unseen is scarier than the seen, the big reveal only works if you haven’t shown your hand already. An example of this is Peter Benchley’s Jaws. A fantastic example of insinuation and humanization leading to a tale of terror that has shocked so many, and Spielberg absolutely did the book justice with the movie.

So these are my rules for writing a tale of terror. I have read so many, MR James, Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King (who I think may just be the best short story writer out there) and I am really struggling to meet the expectations in my own writings. I have previously published on this blog my spooky story ‘Reflections’ nd for those that are new to the blog perhaps have a recap of that story. But I am struggling with this short story for a competition. It is not from lack of ideas mind, I have started 3 separate stories. the first I abandoned because I couldn’t get the device and style right. the second because it turned into a much larger project and would work as a novella, so not abandoned just paused, and the third I am still working on. It is all a matter of perspective really. For a 1500-1700 word short story I feel it needs to be first person, I know people would disagree but being in the first person adds the human element very quickly, it’s just how you insert the other two elements. Having said that ideas are running with the force of a poltergeist. So away I go to do battle with the spirits, in a very metaphorical and hopefully productive way.

As with all my posts on the blog I invite comments, please drop a line if you agree/disagree!

I have in recent posts lamented the loss of original works, what gives me the right to do so?  Well I am a writer! So, in an attempt to prove my worth I offer this tale.  It is a supernatural tale that is designed to scare.  As always I like to get responses so, please, feel free to comment, share, link or retweet.  If you don’t like it, then perhaps offer me constructive criticism?  So, for your consideration here is my short story,


Lawrence was haunted.  Haunted by the ghosts of his past, haunted by his decisions that cost him his family, haunted by the house that cost him his future,  but most of all haunted by the reflection in the mirror.  Everything he had done he did out of a desire to give his wife and twin sons the best life possible.  He never expected that it would cost him his children, his wife and ultimately his own life, but it did.  The coroner’s inquest ruled it as a suicide. No one believed it, no one believed that he would break an antique mirror and cut his own throat with the shards.  Yet the evidence suggested that was exactly what had happened.  His wife, Sally, gave evidence at the inquest stating that they were indeed separated but they were reconciling and she would have been shortly returning to him, reuniting their family, he was so close to having his family back, it made no sense for him to kill himself.  Lawrence was happy and was working hard to ensure their return.  She declared that she did not have an affair, that there was never anyone else.  The only reason they were separated was the house, the money trap.  His determination to restore and rebuild the old manor house nearly brought them to the shores of bankruptcy.  Sally had to think of the children, make sure they were safe and secure, they were still a family and they just lived in separate places.  The court still ruled it a suicide.

. . .

The staff of the maternity unit could always tell if a couple were first time parents from the look of sheer panic on the faces as they sat waiting for the twelfth week scan.  It would be the first time they would see their baby, the first time they would know if all was well with the pregnancy.  It did not matter whether the baby was planned, whether it was an accident, natural conception or assisted, every first time parent had a mix of excitement and blind fear.  Lawrence had that feeling, but it was worse for him as he could not support his wife.  He was stuck at work, unable to find cover for his shift.  The guilt he felt compounded the anxiety and time slowed to a crawl the closer it got to the 11 am appointment.  He paced and paced as the clock crawled around past 11, then 11:30 then 12, his anxiety grew and grew.  He convinced himself that something was wrong as the clock passed 12:30.  He could not bear the wait.  Lawrence jumped when the phone finally rang.
“I think you had better sit down!” Sally said, Lawrence could hear the nerves in her voice.
“What’s wrong?”
“Well, they did the scan and then had to get someone to check it.”
“OK, what’s wrong?”
“After several ‘Hmms’ and ‘Ahhhs’ and rescans they finally showed me our babies!”
“OK, so what’s wrong? Wait, What?  Did you say babies?”
“Oh you noticed that, yeah, we are having twins!”

The next 6 months flew by in a flash. Lawrence and Sally soon found themselves with two beautiful bouncing baby boys, identical twins, Joshua and Samuel.  Lawrence was overjoyed, he walked on air; he never thought he wanted children until he had them and after he couldn’t imagine life without them.  When they gave up their small city flat he thought that the rural two-bedroomed semi would be ample space for his growing brood.  But after the first few months there he soon realised that space would rapidly become an issue.  Lawrence worked hard, he worked long in order to provide for his family.  He sacrificed time with the boys and his wife in order to keep the wage coming in.  His happiness soon left him and was replaced by worry.

That was when he saw the old manor house up for auction.  It was big, very big, it would have plenty of space for his family.  The only problem was it was falling apart.  It was a wreck, it should have been torn down, but because of preservation orders and historic building listings it could not be, nor could it be significantly altered, only restored and renewed.  The developers all left it alone; they saw no profit in the endeavour.  Lawrence was as surprised as most when he snapped up the building for the price of a 3 bed new build.  Sally was reluctant about the purchase, but Lawrence saw opportunity within those walls, Sally heard alarm bells and saw danger, yet Lawrence went ahead regardless.  All he saw was what it could be, what it will be.  Sally survived for six months there with sporadic heat and hot water, the constant struggle of renovating the property as well as living in it began to take its toll.  Eventually living day in and day out in a building site was too much and Sally took the heart wrenching decision to take the children away.  They moved out and Lawrence was left alone in the house, despondent.  His decision was beginning to haunt him, the spectre of memory hanging over him, his dreams of a happy home shattered!

Lawrence did not give up; he was driven to complete the house.  He was convinced that if he could create the home he dreamed of he would get his family back.  He worked day and night to finish one room at a time.  The manor house stood facing south.  It towered high and was, in its day, magnificent.   The grounds that once surrounded the property have slowly disappeared, the encroaching tide of property development spawning housing estates where pastures and fields once were.  Now only the south lawn remained as a garden.  The front of the house there was a small courtyard where the garage block, once a stable was.  Another housing estate advanced as close as it could.  The manor stood on three floors.  The second floor was 3 small bedrooms and a bathroom; these were once servant’s quarters.  The first floor the master bedroom, a library and a study, with another bathroom set beneath the one upstairs.  The ground floor had a rustic kitchen, a large lounge that opened up onto the south lawn through three sets of French doors and finally a grand lobby that housed the big oak staircase.  Lawrence worked tirelessly spilling his soul, his sweat and his blood in crafting the home.  After months of exhaustive efforts the ground floor was complete, he had a place where he could comfortably live while he renovated the rest of the house.  His airbed now upgraded to a sofa, the books housed in bookcases and magnificent oak panelling throughout.  The lounge felt dark, the stained oak absorbing all the light that came through the large doors.  Lawrence was no interior designer but he knew that the room needed something to give it a lift, to brighten the gloomy atmosphere.

The auction was busy.  The hustle and bustle of people looking for a bargain, a mix of private individuals and trade buyers, families furnishing their first homes cheaply and shop keepers looking for stock.  He had viewed the sale the day before and he immediately saw what he needed.  Behind the glass display cabinets on the wall at the back of the room hung a large gilt framed mirror.  The frame was intricately carved with faceless gothic figures.  However, Lawrence was not concerned by the frame it was the size he liked.  It spanned 3 metres by 2 metres and demanded a large room to do it justice.  He bid and won it cheaply, because of its size no one else was interested.  He was pleased, it was just what the room needed.  He arranged for delivery that very afternoon and the porters that delivered it helped him hang it on the wall. He stood back and gazed in wonderment at the behemoth mirror.   He noticed that it reflected the light into every dark corner of the room and made the lounge look so much bigger.

Lawrence was overjoyed that his wife and sons visited that day.  He missed them terribly and saw them when he could, but they were just far enough away that daily visits were impossible and that broke his heart.  Throughout the visit Sally reassured Lawrence constantly that she still loved him and that there was no one else.  Sally knew that Lawrence was a jealous type and given too much time alone his mind became paranoid.  Sally packed the kids back into the car, it was time they went.  Lawrence was sad, depression gripped him, every time they left or he left them it got worse, but Sally reassured him and told him that once the house was finished they would move back.  It was the best news he could possibly have hoped for.  Lawrence missed his family; once they had gone he stood in front of the mirror and wept.  His cries resounded around the room, echoed, rebounded and echoed again.  He had never noticed it before.  He wondered whether a mirror of that size could change the acoustics of a room that much.  In the end he assumed it could, he pulled himself together, wiped the tears from his eyes and returned to work.

Lawrence was upstairs on the second floor when he heard the wailing.  He stopped hammering and listened intently.  The cry was feint but audible.  He crept gingerly on to the landing.  There it was again, slightly louder this time a moaning, a distressed upset wail.  The large oak steps creaked as he crept; each step down bought the cry louder.  Lawrence attempted to go towards the noise quietly which on the big, creaking oak steps was a virtual impossibility.  He thought they were a great security measure as no could sneak up on him as the noise would forewarn of any intruder.  They were perfectly safe, they were strong just noisy.  He managed to reach the bottom and the sobbing persisted and he could hear it quite distinctly.  It was coming from the lounge.  He reached the door and realised that he was still holding the hammer; he took a deep breath, raised the hammer over his head and burst in!

He looked around the empty room.  Nothing, there was nobody there.  The wailing he heard from upstairs had stopped.  He searched the room, and the adjoining dining room and kitchen, nothing! Lawrence did not understand he had heard it, he was sure he had heard someone crying, but there was no one there.  He walked over to the mirror.  He gazed deeply into it, he could see everything behind him, every corner, every nook and cranny was clearly reflected.  He was so very pleased with his purchase and even more pleased about the bargain price paid.  When he first viewed it he had not really examined the frame, why would he, after all it was something he would mostly view from further away, but as he stood by the fireplace, the mirror above the mantle he really looked.  He noticed the carved figures all round, covered in gold gilt, but it was the corner’s that intrigued him, 3 of the corners were faceless, the forth was a face sobbing.  He thought it strange that only one corner was carved but ultimately dismissed it.
“Maybe it was you crying?” Lawrence said chuckling to himself.

He walked out of the room and went back upstairs; he had much to do on the second floor.  It was to be the boy’s bedrooms, one each with a playroom in the middle.  It was ideal Lawrence and Sally could hear when they were awake from the master bedroom, an advantage of an old house with creaky floors and stairs.  He worked hard hammering plasterboard on to stud work, laying floorboards.  It was his intention to get the room ready to plaster, then all would be required is decoration and carpets and the boys floor would be done.  All the structural works had been done in the previous 6 months, it was now done to the finishing touches and the cosmetic decorating that needed to be finished, structural, electrical and plumbing all finished, bathrooms finished just so much more to do before it is habitable.  He worked until his watch read 3:05am and the tiredness hit him like his hammer struck the nails.  He wanted to collapse where he was, but he thought better of it.  He dragged himself down to the sofa which had become a makeshift bed; he covered himself with a blanket and fell quickly into a deep slumber.

Lawrence awoke late the next morning, even working late the night before he never really slept in, yet he did so today.  Despite sleeping for seven hours he still felt tired.  No, not tired, drained!  The kind of tired one gets when they have been through something very stressful or traumatic and you just can’t take any more.   He washed and drank coffee and began to feel himself once more.  It was Sunday and although he had two weeks off of work he did not allow himself to rest, he saw the unassailable mountain of DIY in front of him and decided that no matter how tired he got, what stress he was under, he was going to make the house habitable, no, more than habitable, he was going to make the house a home.  Although there was a great deal left to do, it was achievable in the time he set out, as long as he did not sit on his heels.  He had to graft, he had to work and he had to get his family back.  He could feel that the good times would soon be here again, so why did he feel so tired?

Working hard when you feel tired is a horrible thing.  Mentally one gets drained as the concentration required is more that the exhaustion will allow.  Lawrence’s fatigue was getting worse, yet his determination to regain his happiness overrode all over concerns.  It was not long before the walls had plasterboards on them and the floorboards were in place.  The second floor was ready for plaster, skirting boards, decorating and carpets.  His son’s rooms were nearly ready.  Lawrence was so tired, if he could have afforded it he would have paid someone to complete the work but he had sunk every spare penny into the house.  The rest of his money went to support his family; even though they were not together they were still his priority.   The sun had long since set and the dark, moonless sky created an encircling vale of black.  Lawrence poured himself a whisky, it was the one treat he allowed himself and he sat in the lounge holding the glass.  He was weary and slowly drifted off, glass still in hand, he awoke with a jolt.  The room was bright, the light reflecting brightly in the mirror, he needed to sleep.  He switched the light off, a minute later the room went dark.  Lawrence thought that very strange that there was a delay, but thought that his mind was playing tricks on him and accepted the invitation to the abyss of slumber; he embraced the dark calm of sleep.

The warming radiance of the gentle light woke Lawrence from his sleep.  He felt he had only just fallen asleep he could not believe that it was day time already.  He stretched, he still felt shattered as he looked at his watch it was 4 o’clock.  He couldn’t have slept the whole day, could he?  He dozily went to the window and opened the curtains, it was still dark, still night and he had woken at 4am.  Lawrence, still half asleep, reasoned that he must have left the light on.  He walked to the switch by the door and flipped it, nothing happened, neither darkness nor brightness, just nothing.  He was now awake, his stomach tightening as he began to feel afraid; he turned and saw the source of the light. It radiated from the mirror.  He stood frozen; he could not comprehend how the mirror was reflecting light when there was none in the room.  Lawrence stood staring; he could see the whole room in the mirror, everything except one thing, himself.

Lawrence managed to unfreeze himself and made himself flat with his back against the wall.  With his eyes transfixed on the mirror he sidled around the walls, until he was beside the mirror.  The room was full of flickering shadows, the type you get when you burn a candle. The shadows danced and swayed.   Lawrence drew a deep breath and stepped in front of the mirror.  He saw himself; he was there, his mind playing tricks on him after all. As he saw himself he chuckled, he raised his right hand and then his left and his reflection did likewise.  Lawrence started to relax he was messing around with his reflection, he started dancing, the reflection mimicked him exactly.  He was dancing and turned his back on the mirror.  Lawrence turned back to face the mirror.  He put both hands on the mantle.  He dropped his gaze.
“BOO!” The reflection screamed.

Lawrence staggered backwards tripping on the coffee table.  He went down and smacked his head on the hardwood floor and lost consciousness.  As the darkness enveloped him he thought he could hear laughter.
He stirred at the sound of his voice.
“You alright nipper?”
He recognised the twang in his father’s voice.
“What’s going on?” Lawrence asked.
“Looks like you’ve taken a tumble lad, easy now let me help you up.”

Lawrence’s father helped him onto the sofa; Lawrence saw the collapsed coffee table, the smashed crystal tumbler and also the pool of dried blood on the floor.  He instinctively reached for his head and felt the dried blood that had formed a crust from the gash in his head.
“Looks like a nasty fall, I think we should have that cut looked at, come on I will take you down to the emergency room.”

Lawrence was weary, his head pounding.  The hospital cleaned up his wound and put some glue on to close the cut.  They checked him thoroughly and after finding no lasting effects sent him on his way.  Once they returned to the manor house his father cleaned away the coffee table and glass, mopped up the blood and made a cup of tea.
“What happened son?” He asked Lawrence.
“I don’t know Dad, I was looking in the mirror and…” Lawrence’s voice drifted off, he couldn’t say what he thought had happened; someone would have him locked up.
“I woke up with you there.  I guess I must have been more tired than I thought.  I have been pushing really hard to get Sally and the boys back, must have overdone it.”
“Why don’t you have a good rest and I will come get the place ready with you.  I have next week off so we can crack on.  Besides I have seen your attempts at decorating and it’s awful.  You get as much as you can done between now and Friday and I will come over Saturday for the week?  Yeah?”
Lawrence nodded acceptance.
“Good, now get some rest boy.” His father waved a farewell and left.

Lawrence tried to sleep, he felt guilty that he had wasted a day, but his head hurt and his father was right, he needed rest.  Sleep was elusive, the night filled with thoughts of the mirror and his delusion from the night before. He questioned everything he could remember, had he imagined it?  He churned it all over in his mind.  Finally, Lawrence drifted off to sleep he was embraced by its welcoming open arms.  He awoke at about 10, he felt better, rested and his determination was renewed.  He worked all day barely stopping for food.  He felt better now the second floor was plastered.  The boys rooms just needed decorating, skirting boards and coving attaching and the sockets securing, then he could get the carpets laid and it was ready for them.   He was so pleased that they now had somewhere nice to sleep and play.  He had worked for 16 straight hours without a proper break.  His head had started to hurt, even his determination could not keep exhaustion at bay and Lawrence knew it was time to turn in.  The memory of the odd event with the mirror had all but been forgotten and once again enveloped him.
The room was bathed in a flickering light.
The voice hissed at him, but he was not quite awake.
He awoke with a jolt and looked around the room, he felt fears icy grip upon him, his heart pounding, his throat tightening and the veins in his head throbbed as the blood flowed fast.  He looked around for the source of the noise, he saw no one.  He was still on the sofa.  He looked up to the mirror, his jaw dropped.  The reflection he saw was not him on the sofa under the blanket as he had expected but, rather, it was him standing, his torso, shoulders and head stood staring back at him.  Fear gripped tighter as he saw his own hand in the mirror beckon him closer.  He sat rigid, unable to look away, unable to brake the penetrating stare that looked deep into his soul.  He heard the voice again, it did not come from the mirror but seem to resound from every surface in the room.
“Lawrence come closer.”
He did not feel in control of his body as he stood up, he did not want to go nearer, yet he was drawn in.  He stood staring at his reflection, it must have been minutes stood motionless, but it felt like hours.
“Who are you?” Lawrence asked the strain audible in his voice.  His question was met with laughter.  Again the reflection was motionless yet the cackle resounded around the room.
“What do you want?” Lawrence screamed and the laughter stopped.
“It is not what I want, it is what you want that’s important!” The voice replied.
“And what do I want?” Lawrence asked confused.
“You want to know the truth! You want to know what she is doing right now” The voice laughed again.

The surface of the mirror seemed to turn to liquid as his reflection and that of the room disappeared in the ripples.  The image became blurry, undefinable until the ripples ceased and Lawrence found himself looking into a bedroom.  He saw his wife in the arms of another, he saw her in the throes of passion with someone else.  He screamed, he broke his gaze and looked away but it was too late, the image was seared into his mind.  He looked back at the mirror angrily, but all he saw was him, the voice had gone and the room went dark.  Lawrence scrambled over to the door and to the light switch and flipped it on.  All was as it should be and the mirror showed exactly what it should.  He quickly found his mobile phone, he knew it was late but he had to know, the image vivid in his mind’s eye, he dialled and waited.
“Hello, its late, you OK?” Sally said sleepily.
“Hi, yeah I’m OK, I just needed to speak to you.” He replied.
“Lawrence, you sound funny, what’s wrong?”
“I guess it was just a bad dream, I dreamt you were with someone else.”
“Oh you silly thing!” She chuckled, “when would I have the time?”

“She is lying!”the voice said.

“Are you lying?”  Lawrence didn’t mean to ask her, it just slipped out.
“No! Of course not!” Sally said defensively.

“Why is she whispering?  He is there now!” The voice said.

“Why are you whispering then?” Lawrence asked, again he did not mean too.
“Because the boys are asleep, Lawrence stop being so paranoid.  I will speak to you in the morning when you’re sensible!” The phone went dead.

Lawrence did not know what to think, on the one hand he believed and trusted his wife implicitly, but the voice was so convincing, it affirmed what he thought anyway.  He had often worried he was not good enough for his beautiful wife and that every day was a struggle to keep her happy.   No matter what he did he could not shake the image, he was convinced.  He approached the mirror, in a way he was thankful, it had affirmed what he thought he already knew, his paranoia justified, he gazed long into it and looked intently at the frame.  Three of the corners now had a face; a crying man, a wounded man and a man in anguish.  Only one carving did not have form, what did it all mean?

The sunrise was beautiful, the red, orange and purple glorious in the dawn sky.  Lawrence did not know what the day would bring, what horrors lay ahead, for now he savoured the sunrise.  The new dawn bought a new day and Lawrence vowed to continue regardless, to carry on working hard, working to complete the house.  He did just that, with the second floor completed he moved his attentions the first floor, to the master bedroom, the study and the library.   He worked all day and did not notice the storm brewing; he did not see the thunderclouds approach.  As it drew nearer he heard the rumble of thunder but paid it no attention.  The wind began to howl, gaining strength and power, Lawrence worked on.  He ignored the thunderclaps that shook the house to its foundations, the wind at its pinnacle lifting trees by the roots, yet the job in hand was more important.  It was only when a tree struck the power cables did Lawrence notice that he was at the centre of a ‘once in a lifetime’ storm, when all the lights went out he noticed that he was alone, in the dark.

Lawrence found his way to the door of the master bedroom; he had been affixing plasterboards when the power went out.  He stood on the landing the house in pitch darkness, illuminated only by the intermittent lightening.  His fear returned as if one of the lightning bolts had struck him.  Despite there was no power in the house, from beneath the door to the lounge a flickering, beckoning light glowed.   To say that Lawrence was scared was understating the situation, he was petrified.  Every essence of his being was telling him to run away, run long and run far.  But he didn’t, he reached for the lounge door and went inside.

He knew what to expect, the flickering dancing shadows, the autonomous reflection and when he looked he was not surprised.  The grinning figure that looked just like him stared back.  Lawrence approached, he was attempting to be brave as the fear ate him up inside.
“What do you want?” Lawrence asked, he was met with laughter.
“Who are you?”  This time he got a response.
“I am you!” The reflection answered.
“Lawrence, I am you, I am your sorrow, your pain, your paranoia and your fear!  You created me, you feed me, I know every thought you have and it sustains me!”
Lawrence stood disbelieving.
“I am not afraid!” Lawrence said defiantly.
“Don’t be foolish, I can taste your fear, I am fed by it! I am not here to hurt you.  You must finish the house, your family must return, their pain will be exquisite!”

Lawrence realised what this spirit wanted, he wanted his family, a cold shiver ran down his spine, the fear unquenchable and the horror written across his face.  The final featureless figure screamed as a face appeared, finally the frame was complete.  The golden glow shone from the gilt.  The four corners came to life in front of Lawrence.  The laughter bellowed from and around the room.  Lawrence feared for his family, he was scared, the fear gripped and wrenched tearing him apart.  He looked at himself in the mirror, his reflection laughing victoriously.  He felt the hammer still in his hand; he knew what he had to do.  He swung and caught his reflection on the forehead.   Shards of glass flew out from the mirror, the reflection vanished.  Suddenly the room went dark, the laughing gone and the reflection gone.  Lawrence sighed with relief, it was over.

As he stood in the dark, relieved, he looked around, at what he did not know as it was too dark to see anything.  It was too dark to see the decaying hands reach for his throat, it was too dark to see the festering and rotting head grow from within the wall.  He did not see it, but he certainly felt it as the icy grip closed around his throat.  The frame shone bright, brighter than it had before, it burnt his eyes and he stumbled backwards and fell to the floor, still with the assailant gripping tight.

“Thank you Lawrence, I knew I could count on you to release me from my prison, I am made real again, I can walk again, I can KILL again.  Your fear strengthens me, gives me power.  I shall enjoy destroying your family, you will know pain, you will know fear and I will be unstoppable!”

Lawrence screamed.  What had he unleashed, Lawrence may not have been the smartest person but he knew that he and the entity were linked.  As he laid on the floor, straddled by the decayed form that he created he knew what he must do.  He reached out and found what he was looking for, a large shard of mirror.
“If I created you, I can destroy you! For Sally, For Joshua! For Samuel!

A lone tear fell down his cheek, it was truly over.

Each month I buy ‘Writing Magazine’. It is full of hints and tips regarding the trade in which I am trying to break into. They also run a few competitions. I was very excited by there recent ‘First Line’ short story competition and I read quickly the information, picked up the pen and wrote, then typed, then edited. Once that was done, took all of one morning, I re-read the entry to fill out the application form. There I saw my crucial mistake! I initially read the closing date as 14th February. It was not, it was January. My Bad, so I have a short story written specifically for a competition. I think it was a good effort and interesting story and looked forward to having it critically examined.

So, I have decided to potentially invite very negative feedback by posting the story here. I invite you all to examine and give feedback, whether that be good, bad or indifferent. I want to know your opinions all I ask is that you try to keep it polite! so, here it is, ladies and gentlemen I present for your consideration, ‘The Bride’:

The Bride

The view from the hotel was breath-taking. The sea sprawled out as far as the eye could see. Miles of golden sandy beaches stretched left and right, lapped constantly by the rising and waning tide. A man stood in the hotel window, dressed smartly in a suit. He stood gazing, soaking in the view he thought to himself that it was almost enough to make one believe in God, after all only an intelligent creator could design something so beautiful. He turned away from the beauty to once again view the nightmare.
The hotel room was just like any other. On one wall was a flat-screen television, below it a dressing table that had tea and coffee making facilities and hotel information. There was a corridor leading towards the door before it a wardrobe and the door to the en-suite bathroom. Sat in the corner were an armchair and an occasional table placed strategically to overlook the gorgeous view. In the corner was a suitcase upon a stand, it was open with clothes neatly folded inside. The room was dominated by a huge bed, larger than any normal bed, just another attraction of this expensive seaside resort. The man could not understand why hotels insisted on fine white linen, it only accentuated the blood. The once ivory sheets were soaked red with blood, the source was a woman. She lay atop the bed, the white of her wedding dress stained pink from the blood as it seeped into the silk. The man stood staring at the horror. The woman was pretty, very pretty, in a classical way. He could not quite place his finger on the source of her beauty, some people you can say ‘it’s the eyes’ or ‘the cheekbones’ or ‘it’s your smile that lights up the face’, but this was an all-round beauty, even lifeless and pale as she is now. The man’s trained eye quickly spotted the wedding ring on her finger, he noted that it was a little bit too worn, too tarnished to be new, clearly she was not a newlywed.
His gaze was broken by the flash and click of the camera. The room was sealed off by blue tape reading ‘POLICE-DO NOT CROSS’. The detective stood silent, examining every aspect of the room, mentally dictating every possible snippet of information. He noticed the mobile phone on the bedside shelf, he noticed the laptop open on the occasional table and he also noticed the knife on the bed that was used to gouge the deep furrows into her wrists. If this was suicide, and he had not decided whether it was or not yet, if it was she knew what she was doing, this was no cry for help.
“Constable?” The detective shouted.
A uniformed police officer promptly appeared at the door.
“Yes sir?”
“Do you have the information I requested from reception?”
The detective quashed the emotion rising inside of him; he strained trying not to let his voice crack. He had seen dead bodies, lots of them! He had seen murders, accidents and suicides but something about this one struck him to his core. Maybe it was one too many.
“Yes sir!” the constable replied, “It would appear she booked in late last night, about 9, she used a credit card and the receptionist and CCTV confirm that she was alone, and received no visitors.”
“Thank you Constable!”
The detective moved around. The photographer was busy taking pictures of everything, every conceivable angle, every object.
“Right, I think I have it all now Sir. Is there anything else you want me to photograph?”
“No that’s fine, thank you.” The detective replied.
He was now alone with the body. He gazed at the corpse, still struck by her beauty; he could see the tracks of her tears and the lifeless eyes full of pain. He wondered what could have been so bad, what could have been so painful to lead her here. He concluded from the preliminary evidence that this was no locked room mystery, there was no murder, yet he was compelled to discover what the reason for this tragedy was. It was time to delve into her life; it was time to discover why! After his preliminary scan he could see that although the screen of the laptop was black it was still switched on, it was just on standby. The detective’s gloved hand moved the mouse and slowly the screen blinked into life. He found a word processing page, the text in bold:
To whomever finds me
Tell my husband I’m sorry for the pain. I never meant him to find out, really I didn’t! He was never home. I know he was a soldier but he left me with nothing. I had no choice. No money. I was lonely. I did what I had to do. Do not think less of me.
The detective examined the note over and over again. What did it mean? What did her husband, the absent soldier, discover that was so horrific? The detective noticed a flashing icon at the bottom of the screen, an internet page. He clicked on it and the note disappeared, replaced by a social media page. It was one that people could message each other in 140 characters or less. The profile picture was that of a woman, naked! It was a toned body, attractive and busty, the face was blanked out. Clearly it was her page and she wanted an element of anonymity. It appears she was having an affair, but the detective thought that that was not enough to lead here, people have affairs all the time, it is heart-breaking for all involved but they get over it. He did when his wife had an affair. They worked through the pain, they forgave. No, there was more to this. The detective examined the profile, read the information posted, perhaps there was further clues. He looked at the profile information, nothing except a link to another website. He clicked on it. ‘Women by the Hour’ came up on the screen, below the header was a profile page for the deceased, a profile page offering various services of a sexual nature. A loophole in prostitution law allowed women to offer themselves for a price but it only became illegal if the money that changed hands was for sex, if it was just for her to spend time with them and she chose to sleep with the person hiring them, then that was her choice. If sex was consensual and not part of the agreement then the law could be circumvented. They could even advertise their time in the newspaper. So she was having an affair, and by the look of her she was probably having several, with anyone who had deep enough pockets.
The detective sighed, he stood deflated, he just did not understand what would lead an attractive woman like this one down a path of vice, even more bemused as she was married and to a soldier. He examined the note again. If she was lonely why not just have an affair, it would have filled the void, why sell her herself? He was not really a religious man, he did not believe in damnation or paradise, but he did believe that people had a soul. Even if that soul is what gave us a sense of right and wrong, he could not fathom what this sort of life did to someone’s mental state, it must have eaten her up inside. He looked at the body. There were still so many questions. His initial deduction that this was suicide suddenly became doubtful. It is true it looked convincing; it had all the hallmarks of a typical suicide. But it just did not add up, something was missing. The wedding dress, probably symbolic, maybe she wanted to show that her marriage was important to her? Was it a commission, was that the right term? Maybe it was someone’s fantasy or fetish. Only she would know why, and she was in no position to answer. The detective called for the constable,
“I am not so convinced that this is a suicide! We may be looking at homicide, please examine all CCTV footage, I want to know if any male was here last night that was not a guest at the hotel? I want to know, if there was, where they went, what room and what time!”
“Yes Sir!” the constable responded and left quickly.
There was still a missing piece of the puzzle. The detective picked up the mobile phone. It was a smartphone with a touchscreen, He pressed the power button, it was long shot he was unsure whether it would reveal anything, but if it did it may have the number of who she was meeting, if indeed she did meet anyone, perhaps a schedule or diary, messages, emails anything. He was surprised to see a message on the screen. The phone kept the last message on the screen until read or deleted a stroke of luck, he gazed and realised this was the final puzzle piece, slammed firmly in place; he looked astonished as he read:
“I know what you have been doing! My God! One of my men showed me! Do you have any idea what this has done? I am being sent home. I am disgraced. I suggest you kill yourself before I kill you!”
The detective gawped at the message, he was baffled by it. Clearly he found the trigger, maybe this was suicide after all. The husband would have to be interviewed. The detective had an idea of what had happened, in a fit of anger the husband sent this ridiculous message, he probably did not mean her to take it seriously, probably just venting anger. Never-the-less she took it seriously, and now she is dead. Why? Why? Why won’t people think before they do things! Why? Why? Why won’t people think about what they say!