Her

(Yes, this is a re-post, the original was taken down and expanded for a writing contest which I didn’t win.)

The house felt cold, not just because it was autumn and the sun lost its warmth by three in the afternoon.  It was more than that.  It was the cold of emptiness, the lack of human spirit.  There was no talking or laughing now, no mess, no annoying little habits to silently curse at as he went about his day.  Just quiet and stillness and the cold.

The moment the police had come to tell him of Her accident was still as fresh and clear in his mind as if it had just happened.   The moment it felt as though the world had somehow shifted slightly.  The moment his world crumbled.  And he couldn’t understand it. Her driving had always been a source for jokes and teasing.  So slow and cautious, he’d called Her a granny at the wheel.  Erratic and speeding just didn’t sound like Her at all.

He had packed up Her clothes and personal belongings, but hadn’t had the heart to get rid of them yet.  It helped not being able to see them, to not come across little pieces of Her as he went through his daily routines and break down crying – again.  It made Her not being there anymore feel more real.

He hadn’t made any changes to the house.  People kept telling him he should, make it his own, instead of theirs.  But he couldn’t, and anyway, he liked it the way it was.  It suited his needs and they had decorated it together.  It was as much his choices, his style, as Hers.

Sometimes, in the morning, when he was just waking up, he was sure he could hear Her, sense Her moving around in the kitchen and he’d wait for Her to appear beside the bed with a cup of tea, as was Her way.  And then reality would dawn on him.  He sometimes wondered if there was another reality, close by, that he could almost reach in those drowsy, waking moments, where it was Her, where Her accident hadn’t happened.  He’d even started to discuss alternate reality theories with his colleagues.

At other times he was sure he could still feel Her presence close by.  He’d shake his head and remind himself that he didn’t believe in ghosts, but still…  And why not? It was no more bizarre than some of the theories their work involved.  Thoughts and ideas would come to him in Her voice and he knew it was probably just wishful thinking.  His imagination willing Her to still be near, still looking out for him.  But what if it wasn’t?

He sat in his study unable to work.  He missed Her, missed everything about Her.  He hadn’t yet been able to return to the office, not without Her there, but he decided he must work.  He must try to occupy his mind.  He turned to his desk, looking for his pen.  It was nowhere to be found.  ‘Blast! Where the bloody hell is it,’ he said under his breath.  A breeze shifted a pile of papers even though there was no window, no source for the moving air.  There was his pen.  That was one of Her talents.  Knowing where he had left things.  Always there with just what he needed, just when he needed it.  He smiled to himself.  It couldn’t be, could it?

****************************************

She’d watched the car slam into the back of the truck.  It had all happened so quickly, but now thinking about it again, it all seemed to happen in slow motion.  She’d thought of fleeing, of driving away as fast as she could, but then she’d realised there was no need to.  There was no one to know she had been following Her, no one to make the connection between them.  She’d be just another witness with no idea why the car had been going so fast, so frantically, so erratically.

It was a coincidence, a happy accident (bad choice of words, huh?), that she had been following Her.  She had seen Her by chance and was curious as to Her life and what made Her better, what made him want Her.  She knew he was the love of a lifetime the first time she had met him and she thought they had been happy.  They were happy, until he met Her.  Then everything changed, life was shattered.  She was shattered.

They’d certainly been an odd couple.  He was so different to the men she usually ended up with. He was sweet and gentle and so, so smart that she’d felt smarter just by being with him.  And she was so, so beautiful, he was punching well above his weight there, but maybe that’s why it had worked.  They had balanced each other out.  Beauty and brains.  And then he’d said that they needed to talk and she well and truly knew what that meant.  He’d said that it was over.  That he needed more.  How dare he be the one to end it, the one to need more.  And for some reason that she still couldn’t fathom, he’d found it with Her.  Why did he suddenly want Her, plain, and seemingly ordinary?

Following Her to the hairdressers, she had waited and watched.  Then she found she was following Her everywhere, to the supermarket, the shops and the post office.  Boring, ordinary tasks, what was so special about Her?  At some point she’d been noticed and it occurred to Her that she was following.  Then the panic, the speeding and the crash.

She hadn’t intended that, or any harm at all, but she wasn’t sorry either.  She could now bump into him somewhere, accidentally (oops, there’s that word again) of course, and she could play the supportive old friend.  Perhaps he would see all that he had given up, what he had thrown away for Her, and they would get back together.  Maybe now, she could be happy again.

****************************************

It is always assumed that ghosts haunt houses, places, but they don’t.  They attach to people, those who loved them, those they loved.  Her attachment was to him and it was Her intention to protect him wherever he went.  Now, here she was in Her house, playing the understanding counsellor.  Helping him through the hardest time in his life.  Surely she hadn’t planned it, an accident that was no accident?  She hadn’t coped well with the break up, but surely she wasn’t driven to murder? Still, she couldn’t have him, especially now, when he was so vulnerable, so lonely and grief stricken.  Surely he knew he wasn’t alone, that he still had Her.  It seemed to Her that he did feel Her presence, notice Her helping him out when possible and it appeared to Her that he needed Her help again now.  If she could drive Her to Her death, what would she do to him, especially if she were rejected – again.

It would be Her biggest task yet.  It had taken Her ages to master the small things.  The breezes, moving little things, suggesting ideas so that he could never quite decide if they had occurred to him naturally or come to him from somewhere else.  This would take practice, timing and all of Her tricks.  It was up to Her to do something so that she would leave him alone.

He was going through their wedding album, when she had turned up.  He made tea while she sat scowling at the open book.  The pages were heavy, it took Her such effort to turn them, but it had the desired effect.  She screamed.

‘Are you ok?’ he said rushing into the room.

‘The page turned by itself,’ she said shakily, standing staring down at the album on the coffee table.

He laughed.  ‘Don’t worry about it.  Her presence won’t hurt you.’

‘What are you talking about?’ she said, eyes wide.

‘It’s just Her way, being helpful,’ he said returning to the kitchen for the mugs of tea.

‘You mean it’s Her?’ she said pointing at the album.

‘Well, who else would it be?’ he said smiling down at the photos as he placed the mugs on the table.

‘You’re mad,’ she said sitting down once more.  ‘You need me more than I thought.  Your grief has driven you mad.’

It was too much for Her, it was time for something drastic.  Using all Her might, the mug of hot tea flew off the table and she cried out in pain as the scalding liquid soaked into jeans, jumper and shoes.  She jumped up, eyes wild.  ‘It is Her!’ she cried.  ‘I didn’t mean it, don’t let Her hurt me.  Don’t let Her take Her revenge,’ and she ran from the house.  He didn’t know what she meant.  Revenge for what?  Anyway, he knew revenge wasn’t Her thing, nor jealousy, but he knew there would be a reason for Her actions.

The job was done, she wouldn’t be back, she wouldn’t dare, knowing she would be at Her mercy.  One day he would meet someone who would be right for him, and it would give Her pleasure to see him move on.  Until then, he had Her to watch over him.

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Animal

Animal –

Millions of years of evolution,

From swamp and ocean to land,

 

Animal –

Breed, interbreed, out-breed,

Mutate, keep the best genes,

Only the strongest survive,

 

Animal –

Clever, resourceful, adaptable,

Specialise to the environment,

Conquer the land, the water, the air,

 

Animal –

Top of the food chain, apex predator,

Killer instinct, brutal, merciless,

Will even kill its own kind,

 

Animal –

Nurture’s its young,

Teaches them well,

Dominates,

 

Animal – Human.

The Walk (short story – Gothic)

Cemetery 1 - Copy (805x1024)Andrea often cut through the cemetery on her afternoon walks, it meant she could walk further and then take the short cut home.  She also enjoyed it.  If you ignored the graves, it was like walking through the park of a great house.  It was over a hundred years old, and the same principles of a manor house’s garden had been used in the cemetery’s layout.  There were tree lined avenues, stands of native and exotic trees, manicured lawns and formal gardens.  Andrea didn’t ignore the graves, in fact she liked them.  They added another, peaceful aspect to the place.  On her regular strolls, she had come to be familiar with the names on many of the stones, and she regarded them as she did neighbours, friends to acknowledge as she passed.  In spring it was awash with colour and the scent from the many blooms, both growing and left on grave sites, and she often took her camera to capture the flowers, birds and bunnies that were plentiful.

                Today, she was out walking later than usual.  It had been overcast and dark, with rain well into the afternoon.  She had decided to venture out when it had finally started to clear, but now she realised her mistake.  In the middle of winter it was almost dark by five pm even on a sunny day, but on a day like today with the heavy cloud cover, it was now nearly black as night.  She hurried on, anxiety rising as she noted that in the darkening light, the cemetery wasn’t such a pleasant place to be.  The dark shapes of trees and tombstones took on a sinister air, especially those stones topped by large crosses, looking like figures with arms spread wide.  Even the usually cute rabbits, which would dart between graves at her approaching footfalls, unnerved her now.  Headlights from cars in the streets outside would occasionally bounce across wet, polished marble, putting Andrea in mind of demented fire flies and it was easy to imagine unseen horrors lurking in the darkness.

                She normally followed the long sweeping main roads that wound from one side of the cemetery to the other, but now she decided it would be quicker if she cut through some of the grave areas and followed the smaller, mostly unsealed roads.  She knew she would have to watch her step – rabbit diggings could twist an ankle if she wasn’t careful, and as her unease increased, she stepped up on to curb and hurried between graves.  It wasn’t long before, with an overwhelming wave of panic, she realised her second mistake.  Off the main roads it was easy to lose your bearings.  Landscapes and landmarks, so familiar in daylight, were unrecognisable in the ever increasing darkness.  She thought she was completely lost for several minutes, until, managing to slow her breath and calm herself a little, she recognised the billowing shape of the willow trees that lined the little creek that flowed through the park.  All she had to do was follow along the bank until she came to one of the main roads and the stone bridge that would cross it.

                It was almost pitch black under the long tendrils of willow, waving in the wind.  She kept to the very edge of the tree-line, the sound of the rustling leaves filling her ears, and tried not to let her imagination run away with her.  Finally, ahead, she could make out the clear space of a roadway, and she quickened her pace.  Stepping out into the road, she saw that the bridge wasn’t much brighter than her walk beside the creek, the huge willows towering over each side of it.  She moved to walk out in the middle of the path, it felt safer somehow, and hurried across the ancient stone spanning trickling water.

                Suddenly, a scuttling sound behind her made her turn, and she expected to see a rabbit, but could make nothing out in the gloom.  Fear once more increasing, she hurried along the road but she was still completely lost.  Nevertheless, she knew if she kept on this path it would eventually lead back to the road she usually took.  Again, a noise behind her made her jump.  She turned and this time, something moved in the shadows.  ‘Hello?’ she called.  ‘Is someone there?’  There were often gardeners and maintenance workers out in the park and she hoped it was someone to help her find her way, but no. Only silence.  Perhaps it was a rabbit after all.  She continued to walk again, but now she felt as though she were being watched.  She glanced behind her and caught a glimpse of movement. Just a dark shape, too big to be a rabbit.  A fox perhaps?  She knew they lived here too.  As she watched, a shadow peeled away from those around it and moved towards her.  Panic gripped her now, and she hurried her steps.  There was definitely something there in the darkness, not only watching, but following. She could hear it moving now.  Did foxes attack people? Or was that only wolves.  She braved another look over her shoulder, and the shape seemed to change and shift as she watched.  Now it was too big to be a fox, and she was sure she could see yellow eyes glinting in the darkness.  Complete panic engulfed her.  What was it?  Nothing good, that’s for sure and she knew now she had to run.

                With feet and heart pounding, she knew she had to keep to the road, the risk of falling too great if she again headed among the graves.  Glancing back every now and then when she dared, she could see the dark shape moving among the gravestones, and with each glimpse she knew it was getting closer.  Several times, a large shape loomed beside her and fear tightened its grip until the form resolved into a stone Christ, or an angel with wings outstretched.  She didn’t know how much longer she could run, surely she should have come to the road she knew by now?  How long had she been lost? Would they have locked the gates yet? If she did find the right road, would she be able to escape.

                Finally, she saw that the road ahead branched in three directions. Which way should she turn? Left, right or straight ahead?  Which was the road home? Desperately, she searched the gloom for any familiar terrain, something she recognised.  Her lungs felt ready to burst, a stitch was tearing at her right side and still she could hear the rustling, scuttling noise behind her and occasionally glimpse the shifting, shadowy, menace.  Her gut told her to head to the left and without thinking, she ran that way.  She was beginning to slow now, her body heavy, muscles screaming and she knew she would have to stop.   Gasping for breath, she slackened to a fast walk, massaging the pain in her side.  She looked behind her, terrified, waiting for the shadow to pounce.  Again, the yellow eyes stared from the darkness and she cried out, and quickened her pace, jogging, stumbling and sobbing between laboured breaths.

            She looked ahead and her heart leapt.  She knew where she was now.  She recognised the shape of a date palm in its roundabout and the road leading to the gate she usually exited by.  The gate that led to a busy, main street.  The street that led home.  And luckily the gate was still open.  She was heartened enough to run again now, and as fast as she could.  The gate loomed closer and closer with each step and she could see headlights passing the opening to what she hoped would be safety.  Her heart pounding, she pushed her weary legs even harder.  Only a few more metres to go, only a few more minutes.  She began to allow the weight of fear to lift a little as she moved closer and closer to the gate, when suddenly a dark shape separated from one of the huge conifers by the side of the road and moved out into her path.  Terror and despair gripped her once more, but she was running too hard, too fast to stop.  She was upon the figure in seconds, slamming hard against the body of a man.  His strong arms gripped her tightly and he said, ‘My God, you’re white as ghost.  Whatever’s wrong?’

Eyes wide and heart thumping, she looked up into the face of Simon, her husband, and all fear dissipated as she melted into his arms.

‘Something’s following me,’ she gasped.

‘Something? Or someone?’

‘I don’t know. I couldn’t tell.’

Simon peered into the darkness over Andrea’s shoulder. ‘I can’t see anything.  Are you sure?’

‘Of course I’m sure.  I’m not imagining things.’

‘Well, you’re safe now.  I was worried, you being out so late, thought I’d come and wait for you.’

‘I’m so glad you did. Let’s get out of here,’ she said breathlessly and they turned and hurried, arm in arm, out into the street.

                  Behind them, in the cemetery, a shadow shifted and yellow eyes watched as they walked away.  Slowly separating itself from the darkness around it, a shape, huge one minute, smaller the next, made its way back to the creek and along the bank to the bridge. There it blended into the blackness beneath the stone arch and settled down for the night.  Another one would be along at some point. It could wait.

The Milky’s Cart (poetry/pantoum)

She rode on the back of the milky’s cart,

In her green pyjamas and Donald duck slippers,

The horse knew which way to go,

Around the town and back again.

 

In her green pyjamas and Donald duck slippers,

How did the horse know where to go?

Around the town and back again.

To nan and pop’s back gate.

 

How did the horse know where to go?

It had walked the route so many times,

To nan and pop’s back gate,

She thought the horse so clever.

 

It had walked the route so many times,

The horse knew which way to go,

She thought the horse so clever,

She rode on the back of the milky’s cart.

Fraud (poem/poetry)

Shhhhh! don’t tell, but I’m a fraud,

It makes me cringe when some applaud,

And praise me for what I have done,

Are they telling the truth, or just having fun?

‘Oh, poor love, she gave it a try,

So we’ll humour her with a lie.’

 

I look at things that others do,

And lament, ‘I’m not as good as you,’

But still, some see fit to commend,

As though I am on par with them,

It only serves to confuse,

Perhaps it’s all part of their ruse?

 

Imposter Syndrome is far too grand,

For the likes of who I am,

But an imposter is how I feel,

Just a pretender, nothing real,

Don’t use the writer/artist label,

For me ‘cause all I do is dabble.

 

With educated intellectuals,

My poor mind seems ineffectual,

Enlightened ones in all their wisdom,

I look like a cheap imitation,

Surely someone will discover,

The truth about me and tear me asunder.

 

Fake, Phoney, Charlatan, Sham,

Names I too well understand,

I’m just playing at being clever,

I wonder if I will ever,

Believe the compliments that some give me,

Or forever be burdened by this insecurity?