The Wife

He was dead.  There was no doubt about it.  The blood pool had stopped spreading, but was till roughly the size of a bathroom mat.  It was going to take a lot of bleach and elbow grease to clean that up.

Mary was sitting at the kitchen table, looking down at her husband’s lifeless body.  She couldn’t believe what she had done, but she didn’t regret it.  It had been a long time coming.  Just one more slap was all that was needed for her to take her iron and bash it over Frank’s skull.  The iron had still been hot and the stench of burnt hair had invaded Mary’s nostrils, but that had merely spurred her on.  Again, and again she had hit him, even when he was on his knees, gazing up at her as though he had never seen her before, she swung that iron until she thought her arm would pop out of its socket.

She fumbled around in her handbag and fished out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter.  She smoked in private, out of the house and as far away from it as she dared to go.  Frank didn’t like her to smoke, in fact forbade her from smoking.  The last time he had caught her puffing on a ciggie was two years ago, at a friend’s 50th birthday party.  Mary had been having a wonderful time and was feeling pleasantly merry after a few wines that she forgot herself and lit a cigarette.  She hadn’t noticed at the time, but Frank had stopped engaging with their friends at that moment and simply glowered at her for the remainder of the evening, clenching his fists so tight that his fingernails left indentations in his palms.  

Once they’d returned home, Mary had opened her mouth to comment on the night, but Frank punched her mouth, smashing her lips against her teeth.  Before she could recover, Frank had grabbed her hair and tossed her back against the wall.  She’d slid to the floor and put a shaky hand to her mouth, it came away sticky with bright red blood.  Frank crouched down in front of her and she had held up her bloody hand to ward him off.  He’d snatched her wrist and squeezed it tight.

      “You fucking stink of smoke,” he’d hissed, mere inches from her wincing face, “If I catch you sucking on one of those rancid sticks again, I’ll smash your mouth so bad you’ll need to suck your dinner through a straw.”

That alone should have been enough to make Mary quit there and then, but smoking was the only pleasure she had in her life.  So, she waited until Frank went to work every morning, then took two buses until she was several miles away from home, at a park where she wouldn’t bump into anyone she knew, and enjoyed her one and only smoke of the day.

She pulled over her tea cup and tapped the ash from the cigarette into it.  She looked back down at Frank and wondered what she was going to do with him.  This hadn’t been premeditated.  She didn’t have a plan, she’d just had enough.

Like every night after work, Frank had gone to the pub.  He usually spent a couple of hours there then came home any time after 7pm, drunk and sometimes angry or sometimes horny.  Mary hated him either way, but could deal with him when he was angry.  Taking a few hits was nothing compared to the utter humiliation and pain she felt when he forced himself on her.

The first time it had happened was on their wedding night, and Mary had known from that moment that her life would never be the fairy tale that she thought it would be.

Mary had met Frank when she was 17 and working in a news agents in town.  Frank would come into the shop every lunch time and buy a newspaper.  He was tall, over six feet, with broad shoulders and a small waist.  His hair was black and thick with curls and blue eyes stared out at Mary from a permanent furrowed brow.  He was dark and brooding and Mary looked forward to his visits every day.  At the beginning, he never said a word to her, simply picked up his paper, put the correct change on the counter and left.  A few times Mary would try to strike up a conversation by commenting on inoffensive things such as the weather, but each time Frank would simply grunt in acknowledgment and leave.

Mary began to think that he wasn’t interested or maybe already had a girlfriend, so gave up trying to talk to him.  Then, one day around six weeks after their first encounter, Frank came into the shop carrying a bunch of flowers.  He placed them on the counter and fixed his piercing blue eyes on Mary.  Her legs instantly turned to jelly and it was all she could do not to collapse in a heap on the floor.

“Do you want to go for dinner with me?” he asked.  He was so confident in his manner that Mary was certain that this was a man who nobody said no to, and that excited her.  This was a man who would get things done and would never let anything stand in his way.  This was a man who would look after his own, whose children would want for nothing, and whose wife would be treated like a queen.

Although this had been completely unexpected, Mary didn’t hesitate to say yes.

After then Mary’s life had been like a dream.  Frank was the perfect gentleman, the type of man every girl wants to take home to her parents.  He devoted all his time to her.  When he finished work at 4pm he would walk round to her shop and wait for her to finish at 5pm.  Then he would either take her home or for dinner in one of the fancy restaurants that Mary had only ever dreamed of dining in.  Every weekend they would have plans together.  Frank would buy them theatre tickets, book seats at the cinema, make lunch or dinner reservations, whisk her away for an overnight stay in the country, or simply spend time with her and her parents.

He wanted to be with her all the time and Mary couldn’t feel more loved.  This strapping, handsome man had chosen her out of all the girls in the city, and he enjoyed her company.  As a young girl, Mary had always worried that she would never find a man.  She had lank fair hair that couldn’t hold a curl no matter how much hairspray she used, her hips were wide and her thighs so thick that they looked like sausages in trousers and forced her to constantly wear floaty skirts, she was very pale, but with dark eyes that gave the impression that she never slept, and she was awkward in the company of others.

Boys hadn’t looked twice at her in school and her parents had stopped asking if she had a boyfriend, had probably come to accept that their socially inept daughter would die a spinster.  So, when she had brought Frank home for the first time they had been so excited that he could’ve had two heads and they wouldn’t have cared.

Mary didn’t see much of her friends once Frank had come into her life.  She would occasionally talk to them on the phone, but she was usually too busy with Frank.  He was just so devoted to her that she never had time to go out with the girls.  By the time they had been going out for six months, Mary didn’t have any interaction with her friends, but Frank was all that she needed.  He often whispered into her ear as they cuddled together on the couch that it need only be the two of them, that he wanted only her in his life and no one else mattered.  He made her feel so important and loved, that she never questioned him.  Everything he said and did was how she lived her life now and she was deliriously happy.

One thing that she insisted upon, however, was that they wouldn’t have sex before they were married.  Mary wasn’t religious, but she had some old-fashioned values, and Frank shared them.  She had been nervous bringing the subject to him.  As unexperienced with boys as she was, she knew that they all expected their girls to put out eventually.  Frank had never tried to grope Mary, but as their relationship had developed she knew that he would be looking for something more soon. 

Frank had simply taken her face in his hands, planted a soft kiss on her lips, and told her that he would wait as long as she wanted.  Could this man be any more wonderful?

      After a year of dating, Frank proposed.  He asked Mary’s father for her hand in marriage, then took her out for a meal in the restaurant where they’d had their first date.  He didn’t get down on one knee, he wasn’t ostentatious.  Instead, he clasped her hands over the table, looked deep in her eyes and said:

“Mary, will you marry me?”

She cried, but softly, Frank wouldn’t want her to make a scene.  He placed the ring on her finger; diamonds and emeralds (her birth stone) and she cried some more as she nodded her head vigorously.  This was it.  She was going to get her fairy tale.  No longer did it matter that she hadn’t had a boyfriend at school, who cares that she’d lost touch with her friends?  She had found her Prince Charming and they were going to be together forever.

The wedding was small, but perfect.  They were married in the town hall with only close family in attendance.  Mary wore a floor length white satin dress, with long floaty sleeves and high collar.  Frank wore a dark grey suit and his pensive furrowed brow.  Afterwards, they had dinner at a local hotel where the married couple were to stay the night.  Mary had champagne for the first time ever and the bubbles went straight to her head.  The fuzzy feeling wasn’t unpleasant, but she knew that if she had too much she would regret it the next day.  She did notice, however, that Frank was throwing back the pints as though they were going out of fashion.  His usual reserved demeanour changed to loud and raucous.  He laughed with her father and his own, smoked cigars with his uncles, and charmed her mother.

She had never seen him drink before and was surprised at how much he could put away and at how much it changed him, but today was a celebration.  He was obviously happy and enjoying himself.

Their room for the night was your bog standard double room, but the hotel had provided a bottle of champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries for the still celebrating couple.  Mary had had enough to drink and nibbled on the fruit, whilst Frank cracked open the bottle and poured himself a large glass.  He downed the drink and looked at Mary.

Her stomach did an involuntary flip.  Frank wasn’t looking at her in his usual sombre way.  No, he leered at her, drawing his eyes over her body in its tight dress, lingering on her breasts.  It was a way he hadn’t looked at her before and it made her uncomfortable.  She put down the strawberries and moved towards the bathroom, announcing that she was going to get ready for bed.

He grabbed hold of her waist.

“Come to bed just now.” He said

“I need to get my pyjamas on.” She said, heart hammering in her chest.

“You don’t need pyjamas,” Frank said and pulled her close.  He smelled of cigars and lager and Mary almost gagged when her thrust his tongue into her mouth.

She pushed him away, “Let’s just go to sleep, Frank, it’s been a long day.”

Without warning Frank grabbed her face with his hand, squeezing her cheeks so hard her lips pursed.

“It’s been a long year waiting for you to spread your legs,” he sneered, “So get on that bed right fucking now.”

He shoved Mary back on the bed and clambered on top of her.  He tore at her beautiful wedding dress until her bare breasts were exposed then proceeded to suck and bite them.  Mary let out a shriek and Frank placed a hand over her mouth.

“You make another noise,” he whispered, “and I’ll bite off a nipple.”

He then unbuckled his trousers and yanked up her dress so that the skirt was practically covering Mary’s face.  She lay there, frozen, too scared to move, too scared to make a sound as her new husband thrust himself violently inside her for the next ten minutes.

This was how Mary spent her wedding night, but it would only be the first time her husband raped her.

* * * *

For the next 35 years Mary was raped in her own home frequently.  The youngest of her three sons was a product of rape, but not the only pregnancy that resulted.

When Frank had returned home from the pub tonight, he’d had that same lecherous look on his face as he’d had on their wedding night and Mary had known what was coming.  And for the first time she’d decided to stop it.

He’d come for her – stinking of sweat and booze, the smell she always associated with sex.  He’d tugged at her jumper and she’d shrugged him off.  Then he’d stuck his hand up her skirt and pulled at her tights.  She’d slapped his hand away and he’s spun her round to back-hand her across the face.  Mary had fallen back against the ironing board, but managed to keep her balance.  Behind her Frank had slurred abuse.  Calling her ugly, useless, only good for a shag. Everything that she’d heard before.  He’d beaten her down so much with his cruel words that she was numb to them now, but tonight something inside her snapped.  She snatched up the hot iron and pressed it against his face.

At first Frank simply stared at her with wide eyes, then he screamed like a little boy and she yanked the iron from his face, pulling melted skin with it, then brought it crashing down on his skull.  He instantly shut up and swayed a bit.  Mary watched him, iron held high, and when he took a step toward her she hit him again and again until he fell to the floor.

      The iron had cracked his skull open at his left temple and blood poured out onto the linoleum.  His left cheek sagged and blistered, giving him the look of a comic book villain.  He stared up at Mary, but didn’t see her.  He was dead.  She’d killed her abusive, rapist husband.

She finished the cigarette and looked up at the clock.  It was only 8:40pm although Mary felt as though the whole evening had passed.  She got up from her seat and stood over Frank’s body.  She couldn’t leave him here on her kitchen floor, but she had no way to get rid of him.  They had a car, but Frank had never allowed her to learn how to drive.  He would have to stay in the house until she thought up a plan.

She looked around until her eyes settled on the cellar door.  He could stay down there for the time being.  She opened the door and switched on the light.  The cellar was sparse, Frank had no time for clutter.  All that was down there was Frank’s tools, a chest freezer, Christmas decorations, and spare dining room chairs.  Mary walked over to Frank and grabbed him by his ankles.  Mary might have been in her fifties and Frank over 6ft, but many a night she would have to support his drunken dead weight up the stairs to bed.  The strain had taken its toll on her back over the years, but she was fit and secretly proud of her strength, no matter the reason for it.

Shuffling backwards she dragged Frank’s body over to the cellar.  She backed down a few steps so that his legs were resting over the top few treads, then she moved around to his head.  She didn’t want to touch his blood, but she really had no choice.  Bending over she took hold of Frank’s shoulders and shimmied him forward until he was in a sitting position at the top of the stairs, and then, with an all mighty heave, Mary pushed her dead husband down the stairs.  She watched as he tumbled arse over elbow all the way to the cement floor.  He landed in a heap, head and an arm at an odd angle.  Mary turned off the light and closed the door.

She looked down at the blood on her hands and sleeves and felt her stomach lurch.  Nope, nope, don’t throw up now, she thought, you’ve still got a lot of cleaning up to do.  Get that done then you can throw up in the shower.

There was a bucket, bleach and cloths under the kitchen sink and a mop in the alcove by the fridge.  She fetched all these things along with paper towels.  She left the bucket to fill up in the sink and scattered paper towels over the floor until the blood was mostly covered – she used these to soak up as much blood as they could before she washed the floor.  Once she’d placed the bloodied towels in the bin bag she retrieved the bucket from the sink.  It was filled to the brim and hot water sloshed out, soaking the front of her jumper.  She squirted some bleach in then got to work mopping up the rest of the blood.

The linoleum became slippery and several times Mary had to grab the mob tight to stop from falling.  Once she was finished, she emptied the bucket down the sink and poured neat bleach all over the kitchen floor.  The blood was gone, it was clean, but Mary knew it had been there and no amount of cleaning would be enough to convince her that the blood was gone.  Maybe she should get new linoleum?  In time.  Right now, she just had to ensure that there was no trace of blood anywhere.

She noticed some spots on the wall by the door and scrubbed away at them with more bleach and a scouring pad.  Her eyes and nostrils burned with the strong fumes, but she welcomed its clean burn until she began to feel lightheaded and knew it was time to get fresh air.  She couldn’t go outside in her blood drenched clothes so she headed upstairs to the bathroom where she stuck her head out of the window and gulped in the cool air.

      It was quiet outside.  The neighbours still had some lights on and Mary imagined the families all sitting together watching t.v., wee ones tucked up safe in bed, lovers in each other’s arms.  Oh, how they were blissfully unaware of the horror that had taken place in Mary McDonald’s house.  Not that Mary’s house was particularly pleasant on any other night, but tonight certainly exceeded the level of heinousness these four walls had witnessed over the years.  And Mary didn’t feel a thing.  She felt no remorse for what she had done, just revulsion at the sight of his blood.  It was peculiar really, she’d seen her own blood many, many times and was never sick, but the sight of someone else’s caused her stomach to lurch.  Even when her sons were little and cut their knees, it was all Mary could do not to throw up over them when cleaning them up.

She closed the window then ran the shower.  Her boys; Kevin, Liam and Christopher.  Horrid, selfish brutes who had looked up to their father as though he was some kind of God.  She understood that small boys idolised their father, but she’d also tried to teach them compassion and kindness, but all they’d learned in this house was how to beat a woman until she was nothing more than soft putty.  Soft putty that could be moulded and manipulated anyway that they wanted.

Kevin and Liam both had wives (she’d always suspected that Christopher was gay, and suppressing it was the core to his anger problems) and the few times Mary had met them had been harrowing.  They were both mousy little things who hung onto their husbands every word, were at their beck and call and Mary just wanted to take hold of them and scream at them to run. Run far away and never look back.  Live the life of a single woman and be happy.  She wanted to tell Liam’s wife, Laura, that she wasn’t a punchbag, and no matter what Liam said, she didn’t look like a beached whale.  She wanted to tell Sue, Kevin’s wife, that she wasn’t worthless, that she was smart and not a disappointment.  She wanted to help these women like she’d wished someone had helped her . . . but she didn’t.  Of course, she didn’t, because she was one of them. She, too, was worthless and a human punchbag, how could she possibly help anyone else when she couldn’t even help herself?  She would just sit there and watch as her two eldest beasts belittled their wives in her company as her youngest laughed and joined in.

As she stood under the trickling water she wondered what she would tell them?  She had a few days to worry about it.  In the past Frank had gone missing for days on end on drinking binges.  He was known to the local police who had stopped taking Mary’s missing person reports seriously after the third occasion.  As time went on his disappearing stints went on for longer, but he always found his way back home.  Mary figured she had at least five days until she’d have to involve the authorities and boys.  This was plenty of time to get rid of the body. . . but how?

Once she was all washed and changed into clean pyjamas, Mary stuffed her dirty clothes into the binbag with the paper towels.  She would throw this in a bin far away from her house, maybe even take it to some waste ground and burn it.  For now, she left it under the kitchen sink, made herself some hot sweet tea and went to her bedroom.

She wasn’t tired and sat poker straight on the edge of the bed.  Her room was covered in photographs of her family.  Her, Frank and the boys when they were young at the beach, in her parents’ house, on Christmas day; her and Frank on their wedding day, and the boys with their wives on their wedding days.  They looked as happy as Mary had felt on her special day.  Had they been duped, too, or had they known what they were signing up for?  Had they thought that they could change their man once they had become his wife?

Looking at these photographs gave Mary an idea of how to dispose of Frank’s body and, secretly, pay back her sons at the same time.

* * * *

The next day Mary got on with her usual chores.  She had some bills to pay so she walked to the bank in the morning, then to the post office to post some letters.  She then went to the shop and bought more bleach, bin bags, disposable aprons, washing up gloves, bread and milk and then headed home.

There was still a basket full of ironing to finish, so she erected the ironing board up in the living room and ironed as she watched day-time t.v. – something that she had never done.  When it started to get dark, and Mary had finished all her chores, she took everything she’d bought at the shop – minus the bread and milk – down to the cellar.  Frank was still where she’d left him – of course he was.  His neck was broken, his head twisted at 180º and his glassy eyes stared lifelessly up at her.

She stepped over him and busied herself placing bin bags all over the floor.  She then looped one of the disposable aprons over her head and fastened it around her wait.  She was wearing leggings and a tatty old jumper, but she wanted to keep mess to a minimal.  Frank’s tools were stored neatly away in a large tool box which Mary rummaged around in now until she found a pair of safety goggles and a large saw and shears.  She placed these on the bin bags along with her gloves.

When Mary had woken up this morning there was a niggle at the small of her back and the tops of her arms ached.  She knew this was from shifting Frank’s dead weight and furiously scrubbing the kitchen, but the hard work wasn’t over yet.  She looked over at Frank now and sighed, it was time to move him again.  She grabbed him by the ankles once more and slowly dragged him onto the bags.  He felt heavier today and Mary’s back screamed in protest.  She ignored it and vowed to take pain killers and apply a heat pack once she’d done what she had to do.  Next step was to put on the goggles and gloves.  She stood looking down at her dead husband.  Should she strip him? It would probably be easier if he had no clothes on.  After a few seconds thought, she took off the gloves and goggles and began to unbutton Frank’s shirt and unfasten his trousers.  She decided to leave his vest and boxers on, she didn’t want to see his penis or pigeon chest if she could help it.  She put his clothes, socks and shoes on the bottom step then put the goggles and gloves back on.

Kneeling beside the body, Mary picked up the saw and took hold of Frank’s right arm.  Where to start?  The wrist?  Or the shoulder, just take off the whole arm?  It was a bit awkward to get to so Mary opted for the elbow.

There’s no going back now, Mary thought as she placed the saw against his skin, this is it.  You’re going to do this.  Do it.

Mary began to saw.

                          * * * *

For the next four nights Mary spent her evenings cutting up her dead husband.  She tried to saw his limbs as small as she could so that she could place them in plastic bags and store them in her chest freezer.  There was never really much food in that freezer, it was just handy to have come Christmas time when she had no room in her fridge-freezer for the turkey and other festive foods.

Once she’d finished with Frank’s limbs she planned to move onto his organs and store them in separate bags, but she found it difficult to build up the courage to start.  This part was going to be messy and Mary had already vomited in a bucket twice since starting.  She had no choice, though, so she opened his torso with a large butcher’s knife and fished around inside for his liver, kidneys, heart, and whatever else she could yank out.  When she’d bagged everything, and placed it all in the freezer she stopped for the night.  The stench of blood and flesh was making her feel sick and her body ached.  She knew she had to finish before Frank became too . . . spoiled, but her back begged for her to rest.

      She cleaned herself up, popped two paracetamol in her mouth and lay down with a heat pack and hot water bottle.  The first part was nearly over, soon she could move onto the second part of her plan.  All she had to do was keep her nerve and get on with it.  

The next two days she spent hacking up the rest of Frank’s body into chunks until she was only left with his head.  His ugly, swollen putrid head.  She wanted it out of her house, but there was nowhere she could take it where it wouldn’t be found.  And she didn’t fancy carrying it around with her in the street.  In the end, it went in the freezer with the rest of him – right at the bottom.  She wasn’t done yet, though.  All week she had been cleaning as she’d been working, but now she gave the whole cellar a deep clean like she had in the kitchen that first night so long ago.  The bin bags with all the bloody rags and bags could get dumped in the skip down the road – she had heard her neighbour mention that it was being lifted tomorrow, so everything would be away from her and her home by the time she put part two of her plan into action.  But first she was going to have a well-deserved bath and a couple more paracetamol.  She had a feeling she would sleep well tonight.

                  * * * *

“He’s not been back since and I haven’t heard from him.”

Mary sat on the couch and watched as the male police officer scribbled what she’d been saying down on his pad.  The female officer put down her tea cup and looked at Mary with a kind and sympathetic face.

“I understand that Frank’s gone missing in the past?” she said.

“Oh, yes, but not for this long,” Mary said, “I held off reporting him missing because he’s done it before, but I’m really worried now.”

Mary fidgeted with the tissue she held in her hands.  She’d managed to squeeze out a few tears and noisily blew her nose for the benefit of the officers.

“Have you spoken to any of his friends or been down to his local” the female asked.

“Going to the pub was Frank’s thing.  I don’t know any of his drinking mates.  And I don’t know what pub he goes to, either.” This wasn’t true.  Frank frequented The Black Goose which was a good twenty-minute bus ride away.  Frank preferred it to his local because he shared the same sexist and misogynistic views as the rest of its clientele.  There was no way Mary was going down there.

“We’ll check out the local pubs ourselves,” the female said, “If he frequents one more than the others then no doubt someone would have seen him on Sunday.  In the meantime, we’ll file a missing person report.  Please try not to worry, Mrs McDonald, I’m sure he’ll turn up.”

Mary thanked the officers and seen them out.  She leaned her forehead against the front door and allowed herself a sigh of relief.  So far so good.  Parts one and two of her plan had went without a hitch, now she just had to execute part three, which she had been looking forward to the least.

       In the hall bureau Mary kept her phonebook.  She fished it out and looked up Liam’s number.  She didn’t know any of her son’s phone numbers by heart, she didn’t call them much and they didn’t call her much.  Taking a deep breath, she called Liam and waited for him to answer.

        “Hello?”

         It was Laura.  Mary hesitated.  As relieved as she felt that her son hadn’t answered, she was certain that Laura wouldn’t accept her invitation.  She could hang up and try again later, but the sound of Laura’s small childlike voice as she said hello again stirred something inside of Mary and she felt she should converse with her daughter-in-law.

        “Hello, Laura, it’s Mary.”

          “Mary?” Laura’s small voice squeaked with surprise, “Liam’s not here.”

         “That’s okay, Laura, can you pass on a message?” 

          “Em . . . yeah, okay.” Laura said, but didn’t sound entirely sure.

          “Could you please tell him that you are both invited round to mine for dinner tomorrow night?” Mary said.

          “Em. . .”

          “I know it’s short notice,” Mary quickly added, “but I need to talk to all of you about Frank.”

          The other end of the line was quiet and Mary waited patiently for Laura to reply.  She knew the young wife was wondering if she could remember all of the message exactly and if relaying it to her husband would mean hassle for her.

         “Yeah . . . yes, okay, I’ll tell him.” She finally said.

         Mary sighed with relief, “Thank you, Laura.  Tomorrow night at seven.”

        “Okay.  Bye.”

         Laura hung up before Mary could reply.

         One son down, two to go.

         Next, she phoned Christopher who made no effort to hide his annoyance at her phone call.  With grunts, sighs and monosyllabic words, he eventually agreed to dinner.  Mary’s heart pounded in her chest as she dialled Kevin’s number.  If Kevin wouldn’t come then Mary would have to reschedule, which meant less chance of the boys all agreeing to come together.

       “Hello?”

      “Kevin?  It’s your Mum.”

       “I know.”

       “Can you and Sue come to dinner tomorrow night at seven?”

       “Why?”

       “Well, I haven’t seen you all in so long . . . and we need to talk about your Dad.”

       Silence at the other end.  Mary tensed, waiting for Kevin to ask what was wrong with Frank.  She wasn’t sure what to say.  She didn’t want to worry him too soon so that he ended up coming around right away, but she didn’t want to play it down either.

       “What we having?” Kevin asked.

        Mary had never been so pleased to have such a heartless child.

         “Pies.”

        “Okay.  See you tomorrow.” He said then hung up.

        Mary exhaled deeply.  That had gone as well as she could have hoped, now she just had to pray that they would all turn up.  But, there was no point in worrying about it just now.  She had to get all the ingredients for dinner and start to prepare it.  So, Mary put on her coat and, for the second time that week, went to the shops.

                       * * * *

Mary finished setting the table in the kitchen.  It was nearly 7pm and, so far, she hadn’t heard from any of the boys saying they had to cancel . . . in all honesty, though, Mary’s selfish offspring just wouldn’t show up if they didn’t want to come.

Despite this, Mary had spent the rest of yesterday making homemade meat and gravy pies and three spinach and ricotta quiches.  Six of the pastries were currently in the oven and potatoes and vegetables were boiling on the hob.  Everything was ready, she just had to wait now.

The doorbell rang making Mary jump.  She smoothed down her skirt and went to answer it.  Liam, Christopher and Laura all stood in the doorway.  The boys pushed their way inside without looking at their mother and Laura hung back looking uneasy.

“Come in, Laura,” Mary said, “It’s good to see you.”

Laura entered and gave Mary a tentative kiss on the cheek.  Mary noticed faded bruising around the young woman’s neck.

“Kev not here yet?” Christopher called from the living room.

“No,” Mary said as she and Laura entered the room, “But I’m sure he’s coming.”

“He’d better,” Christopher said, reclining on the couch and putting his dirty boots up on the coffee table, “Wee bastard owes me 20 quid.”

Mary was curious as to why, but she knew better than to ask.  She would just get a mouthful of cheek about minding her own business.  Sometimes they would set her up just to verbally abuse her.  Nothing made them feel bigger than seeing a stricken woman.

“He’d better fucking turn up or I’m leaving,” Liam growled and Mary felt Laura flinch beside her, “If he’s not here then I don’t see why I should be.”

Christopher laughed, loud and throaty.

“Well I . . . I need to talk to you all about your Dad,” Mary said, “so -”

“What’s the old git done now?” Christopher groaned.

“I would rather wait for Kevin -” Mary began before a knock at the door interrupted her, “Oh, that’ll be him now.”

She rushed to the door and yanked it open.  There was Kevin with a face like thunder and, behind him, Sue was snivelling into a handkerchief.

“We would’ve been here earlier if it wasn’t for her.” Kevin said thrusting a thumb over his shoulder.  He went straight into the living room where the three brothers greeted each other with profanity and Christopher harped on about that “20 quid”.

Mary took Sue’s arm and pulled her gently into the house.  She noticed Laura watching them with large eyes, so Mary took her hand and guided both of her daughters-in-law into the kitchen

“Come, girls, let’s get dinner ready.”

                      * * * *

With her five guests sitting around the table, Mary busied herself pouring gravy over the meat pies.  She blocked out the noise behind her; she wasn’t interested in the many “women” Christopher had shagged, she didn’t care about Liam thumping a work colleague for daring to question his authority, and she couldn’t listen to Kevin telling Sue to “stop crying like a little bitch”.  She had to make sure that this meal was perfect, that the boys would find it delicious enough to take home the spare pies that Mary had in the fridge.

“God’s sake, Ma, we’re starving,” Liam cried, “Hurry the fuck up.”

Mary plastered a smile on her face, picked up two of the meat pie dishes, and turned to face everyone.

“Dinner is served.”

She gave the boys theirs first then served Sue, Laura and herself the quiche dishes.

“What is this?” Christopher asked, pushing the vegetables off his plate and onto the table with his fork.

“Meat and gravy pies,” Mary said, “Homemade.”

“Aye, but what kind of pies?”

Mary cleared her throat, “A bit of everything, really.  The supermarket had loads of fresh meat reduced, so I stocked up the cellar freezer with as much as I could.  There’s liver, kidneys, rump -”

“Aye, alright, Ma,” Kevin put in, “we don’t need your life story.”

Christopher erupted with laughter.

The boys all picked up their cutlery and just as they were about to dig in, Mary held up her hands.

“Be . . . before we eat, I need to tell you something about your Dad.” She said.

Kevin groaned and let his knife and fork drop on the table with a loud clatter.  He turned blazing eyes on his mother and shrugged, “Well, what is it?”

“Aye, where is he?” Liam asked, as though he’d only just noticed that his Dad wasn’t there.

Mary took a deep breath, “I don’t know.”

       Everyone at the table turned their gaze on Mary.

“What the fuck do you mean you don’t know?” Kevin asked.

       “He didn’t come home on Sunday night.”

Everyone continued to stare at her and Mary felt herself begin to sweat.  She’d held it together so far, but Kevin’s pensive stare made her feel that he could see right through her lies.

“I . . . I’ve told the police,” she continued, “they came around yesterday morning and I filed a missing person’s report.  They’re going to visit all the local pubs and ask around . . . hopefully someone knows where he is.”

She trailed off and looked at her three boys in turn.  Christopher wore his usual smirk that Mary had always wanted to wipe off his face, Liam looked confused and turned to Kevin, the older brother, whose lead the other two had always followed.  Kevin looked angry, but he always did.  Mary couldn’t tell what her sons were thinking so she continued to sit quietly as a drip of sweat ran down her spine.

Kevin heaved a deep sigh and pulled a face, “He’s fucked off before.  He’ll come back . . . or maybe he won’t.  Who the fuck cares?  You’ve wasted the police’s time.”

“Aye,” Liam piped in, nodding, “The old bastard’s probably just on a week-long bender.”

“Or shacked up with some wrinkly tart.” Christopher said then threw his head back laughing.

Wanting to seem concerned about her husband, Mary continued, “But he’s never been gone this long.  What if something’s happened to him?”

       Again, Kevin shrugged, “What if?  He’s old enough and ugly enough to look after himself.”

Christopher slammed his hand down on the table, making Sue and Laura jump, “Nobody would mess with Da.  He’d knock them out!”

Mary thought about the hot iron melting Frank’s skin.

“You’re right,” she said and smiled, “I’m sure he’s fine.”

       “Can we eat now?” Kevin asked.

Mary nodded and watched, heart hammering in her chest, as her three boys, the three children that she had borne and raised as best she could, the three sons who had bitterly disappointed her, cut into the overfilled pies that Mary had made, from scratch, the night before.  The pies that were jam packed with the meat from the downstairs freezer.

Liam and Christopher shovelled the pies into their mouths, barely bothering to chew before swallowing.  Laura picked at her dinner and Sue just pushed the food around her plate.  Only Kevin looked thoughtful as he slowly chewed the meat.  He caught his mother’s eye and Mary felt her blood run cold.

  He knows.

“This actually tastes alright, Ma.” He said taking another bite.

“There’s more in the fridge for you to take home,” Mary said, then quickly added, “I don’t think Sue and Laura will like them, though.  Too meaty.”

“Think they get enough meat at home.” Christopher sniggered.

Kevin was nodding, “Keep some back for Da, for when he comes back.  He’ll like them.”

        Looking at the lumps of meat swimming in the thick brown gravy on Kevin’s plate. Mary smiled and said;

“I’ve made plenty.  He’ll be stuffed with pie when he gets home.”

What I’ve been watching #1

Since the new year there have been a lot of great shows on the telly . . . whether they’re Netflix Originals or BBC dramas, there’s no denying we’ve all been entertained since January.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months now, but I have been concentrating on my creative writing recently so the blog has been on the back burner.  However, I want to get back into regular blogging and share with you some of the programmes I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and think you will, too.

The O.A.

This is a beautifully written and passionately acted Netflix Original about a girl who returns to her parents 7 years after going missing.  The intriguing thing about Prairie Johnson’s return is that she has somehow regained her sight, having been blind from a young age.

Despite questions from the police and her parents, Prairie refuses to discuss how her sight became restored or what happened to her during the 7 years she was gone.  What they don’t realise is that Prairie does want to tell her story, but only to a certain chosen few.  Five local people, mostly high school students and each living their own anguished lives, meet with Prairie – who now refers to herself as The OA – every night to listen to her amazing and emotional tale.

I was sucked right into this show from the get go.  It’s slow moving, but with so much depth and intrigue it keeps you gripped and constantly guessing as to what exactly is going on.  The acting is incredible, with the writer Brit Marling taking on the role of OA, one, which is obvious from the very beginning, that she is completely invested in.  OA is a complex and ethereal character that only creator Marling could bring to life.

As with any show, you know that you’ll reach an explosive – and hopefully satisfying – series finale, but I was completely blown away with The OA’s climax.  It initially seemed that it had came completely out of left field, but I believe that it was always heading that way, OA and the five just didn’t realise it.

I cried uncontrollably at the end and have watched the final scene many times on YouTube, it’s incredibly powerful and moving.

If you’ve scrolled past this show on Netflix, unsure if you should devote any of your time to it, do me a favour and give it a shot.  But have your hankies at the ready.

No Offence

It’s been two years since the 1st season of this exciting drama aired on Channel 4 and I had been waiting impatiently for season 2, but it was worth the wait.

The show follows the Friday Street police station and it’s unconventional detectives, particularly DC Dinah Kowalska, DS Joy Freers and, their boss, Detective Inspector Viv Deering.

Season 1 focused on the team trying to solve the murders of girls with Down’s syndrome, and was a great introduction to the predominantly female cast. DI Deering and her gang of gutsy girls are a force to be reckoned with and leave you punching the air at their awesome show of girl power.

The shocking twist at the end of Season 1 caught me totally off guard, but left me wanting more and Season 2 delivered. This time the detectives have to investigate a Manchester crime boss called Nora Attah, and with more twists and turns than a roller coaster you’re never quite sure if Nora is fully aware of the atrocities taking place within her criminal world, until the very end.

The writing and acting on this show is impeccable, and although the subject matters are very serious, the show isn’t afraid to pull out a few laughs and poke fun at its characters. 

If you like police shows that are a wee bit different, then check out No Offence and let me know what you think.

The Moorside

You may all be very familiar with the case of 9 year old Shannon Matthews who dissappeared for 24 days in 2008.  She was last seen outside of her school at the end of the school day, but didn’t make it home.

After a huge manhunt and lots of publicity, Shannon was found concealed under the bed in a flat owned by Michael Donovan – the uncle of Shannon’s mothers boyfriend. It later transpired that Michael and Shannon’s mother, Karen Matthews, had orchestrated the whole thing hoping to pocket thousands of pounds generated from the publicity of Shannon’s “kidnap”.

The nation was shocked and disgusted by this so-called Mother’s actions, but no more than the community where the family lived.

This BBC drama tells the story of Shannon from the point of view of all Karen Matthew’s friends and neighbours, who all rallied together to find the little girl.  They searched the streets, they comforted Karen, they campaigned publicly – never wanting the country to forget poor Shannon . . . their lives revolved around Shannon Matthews and reuniting her with her poor mother, and then they had to face the sickening realisation that they had been duped.

I found this show very interesting and we’ll executed. With most true crime programmes, the focus is mainly the victim and criminal, with very little detail on those close to the people involved. The Moorside not only featured the community’s tenacious spirit in helping others, but also the fallout in being deceived so cruelly, with one couples’ marriage falling apart thanks to Karen’s lies.

It shows the ripple effect ones actions can have and how there can be no coming back from it.

Keep smiling x

March Favourites ’17

Oops, posting my March Favourites blog on the very last week of April isn’t ideal, and I am fully aware that I have been slacking this month and promise to be better next month!

Please grab yourself a drink and read on for what products I enjoyed last month.

Emite Make Up Lip and Cheek tint:

I have many different lipsticks in my makeup collection, all different shades – or variations of the same shade – but I tend not to wear lipstick on a daily basis.

I feel that it can be too heavy on my lips and I am aware that I am wearing it, which can be bothersome. However, I do like a dash of colour on my lips and that is where a lip tint is perfection.

This cheek and lip tint from the brand Emite Makeup is very lightweight without being watery.  It dries fairly quickly and, although the intensity of the shade fades over time, your lips retain a lovely plummy-red that could almost pass as natural.

I’m on the hunt for other lip tints so if you have a favourite, please let me know.

L’Oréal Volume Million Lashes Fatale:

I’m not sure if i have mentioned this before, but I am not a huge mascara fan. Most I have used in the past have irritated my eyes and I think it’s a pain to remove.

The only one I’ve liked so far is Mac Haute & Naughty Waterproof Lash mascara, but I wanted to find a decent high street mascara that’s easier on my purse to renew.

I purchased L’Oréal Volume Million Lashes Fatale mascara and am very impressed.  It makes my eyelashes look thicker, longer and darker. It can be clumpy when more than one coat is applied, but that doesn’t really bother me.

The only time I wear mascara is when I have a night out and it’s needed to finish off whichever eyelook I’m going for, and aswell as adding a dramatic flair to my look, this mascara is affordable for those of us who don’t want to fork out too much on a product they don’t use a lot of.

Clinique Superbalanced Foundation 03 Ivory:

Moving on from a high street product to a highend product. Clinique isn’t a brand I tend to buy from, but they do sell my most favourite foundation; the Superbalanced Foundation in shade 03 Ivory.

Many years ago I was gifted this and just fell in love with it.  It’s creamy yet gives a medium coverage, a little goes a long way and it leaves you skin looking flawless.  As much as I loved it, I didn’t repurchase it until a couple of years ago to use as part of my wedding makeup, due to it being pricey.

If you want to treat yourself then I highly recommend this foundation.  I may start asking for it every Christmas.

Keep smiling x

20 things about me

As you may already know, my last blog post was a short story called Only in the Night.  I don’t normally let people read my work, so it was a big deal for me to share it with you.  Luckily, it seemed to go down well and I may share another short story in a couple of weeks.

Sharing one of my stories was a bit like sharing a part of me (1, 2, 3 . . . awwww), which has now led me to write this blog post.  Don’t expect any deep confessions, this is just for fun . . . I don’t want to get into trouble with the law!

Just kidding . . .

  1. I played the saxophone for a few months in school. I always fancied myself as a bit of a Lisa Simpson, but when I had to choose between Music and Art in school . . . I chose Art, which meant I had to quit the sax. I was forced to study French which I wasn’t interested in, but had to give up something I truely enjoyed. Sometimes you have ever to wonder about the education system *shakes head.
  2. I hate avocado. I just don’t understand what the big deal is about it?
  3. I never went to any of my secondary school discos. It wasn’t me. I had no interest in going so I literally stayed in and read books.
  4. I have never been in a fight. Plenty of arguments, but never fisticuffs.
  5. I had my first kiss at age 13. And it was bleurgh!
  6. I correctly chose the Man of The Match during an Old Firm Game. I won 3rd price for guessing Chris Sutton in 2002 (or 2003, can’t remember), but never received my price! Boooo!
  7. I had a pet Dalmatian called Levi. He was fat and lazy and I loved him.
  8. I have read just about all of Stephen King’s books. He will always be the greatest.
  9. I think His Dark Materials is better than the Harry Potter series. I’m a Potterhead, but still think Philip Pullman’s work is far superior. 
  10. Queen are my favourite band. And I have a tattoo to prove it.
  11. I got my first tattoo at age 16. It’s a tramp stamp, but tasteful. 
  12. I have 5 tattoos and 10 piercings. All the piercings are in my ears.
  13. The only Valentine’s cards I have ever received are from my husband. I was a bit of a loser growing up. Maybe if I’d went to a few school discos . . .?
  14. When I was a toddler I escaped from my house and ran three streets away to the chip shop in just my nappy. I’m still a grubber.
  15. I prefer white bread to brown bread. It toasts better.
  16. My family and friends took me to Amsterdam for my hen do. And it was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had.
  17. As I write this I am watching Designated Survivor. I love Keifer Sunderland. 
  18. I could happily watch horror movies all day long. Was scared of my own shadow growing up, but have always had a morbid curiosity.
  19. I won awards for both college courses I completed. I can be a swot if I put my mind to it.
  20.  I’ve been on radio. Granted, it was a supermarket radio station, but it still counts.

    And there you have it! Twenty not-so-interesting facts about me. I could list more, but you’re probably bored already. 

    Tell me something interesting, or not-so-interesting, about you.

    Keep smiling x 

    Gran’s House

     

    There it is, the sound of Gran’s snoring coming through the wall. That means it’s only a matter of time now.  I shift around on the bed until I’m lying smack bang in the middle and pull the covers right up to my chin, no arms or legs hanging out the sides, everything tucked in and safe.  It’s been five years since I last stayed over with Gran, but I haven’t forgotten the steps I must take to stay safe at night.

     

                I was seven the last time I slept in this bed, in this room.  It hasn’t changed.  The furniture is still old and ugly.  A single wardrobe made from depressing dark plywood stands on the right-hand side of the bed, and directly across from the bed is a dressing table made from the same dull wood.  A large swivel mirror sits atop the table, reflecting the wardrobe and the bed’s high headboard.  The curtains are a deep red and made from a heavy material, matching the red bedspread.  Everything in Gran’s house is dark and dismal, it just seems to repel light.

     

                And then she comes out at night and everything changes from dark and dismal to dark and terrifying.

     

                I would hear her every night I stayed here, but would just hide under the covers and fall asleep.  She would leave me alone then.  She didn’t come under the covers to get me, she didn’t even climb onto the bed, the bed was my haven and kept her away.

     

                That last night I stayed here, when I was seven, I didn’t quite tuck myself into the covers properly.  They had bunched up on my left-hand side and formed a small gap that I could see out of . . . and that she could see in.  But by the time I realised, it was too late.  I could hear her raspy breathing behind me and when I slowly turned around there was one wide bloodshot eye, staring in at me.

     

               I screamed and pulled the covers close, blocking her view.  My Gran is practically deaf, so by the time she’d heard my muffled cries and shuffled to my room, she was gone.

     

                I never stayed over at my Gran’s house again after that night.  No one believed what I’d seen, but I made such a fuss and became so hysterical at the mere mention of Gran’s house, that my parents eventually gave up.  If ever they needed a babysitter, they would ask my Mum’s friend Sharon.

     

                But Sharon died last year, and Mum and Dad haven’t had a night out in months.

     

                “You’re 12 years old now, Alice,” Dad had said to me, “You shouldn’t be scared of ghosts or the dark anymore.”

     

                “But she’s not a ghost, Dad, she’s real!” came my protest.

     

                “So, an old woman comes into your bedroom at night?” Dad said, then thought for a moment, “Are you sure it’s not your Gran?”

     

                “No!  She’s a witch!” I had screamed, and Mum had grabbed both my arms.

     

                “Alice . . . Alice, you are staying with your Gran tonight and that’s that,” she’d said calmly, but her eyes were ablaze with anger and she stared me down, daring me to argue with her.  In the end, I’d sobbed quietly in the back of the car, both parents ignoring me as though I was a silly spoilt wee girl.  They didn’t even see me in, Gran met me on the street and, before they drove away, Mum and Dad told me to “behave” and “grow up”.

     

                I can hear it now; the cellar door groaning as it opens.  It’s in the hall – just under the stairs, and the sound echoes around the quiet house.

     

                I begin to sweat; after all these years, it’s still the same.  She’s been here all this time . . . waiting for me.  I pull the covers up higher until only my eyes peer over the edge.  My breathing is shallow and fast as my heartbeat quickens.

     

                Then comes the creaking of the floorboards as she climbs the stairs.  Slowly.  Always slowly, as though to prolong the agony of my fear.

     

                Creak, creak.

     

    I’m too hot.  I need air.  I need water, but I dare not move.  If I get out of this bed or stick out my hand to get my water bottle off the nightstand, she’ll get me.

     

                Creak, creak.

     

                She’s at the top of the stairs now.  I can hear her shuffling along the landing . . . I imagine her crawling, dragging her decrepit body awkwardly along the landing. The sound stops outside my room.

     

                My bedroom door opens, hinges squeaking quietly.  I duck my head under the covers and wait.  Wait for her to go away.  Wait for this to be over.

     

                She scurries quickly across the floor toward my bed.  Her increased speed makes me squeeze my eyes shut and hold my breath.

     

                She can’t get me in here.  She can’t get me in here.

     

                Everything’s quiet.  All I can hear is the blood thumping in my ears.  I lie stalk still.  I do not move.  She knows I’m here.  She knows I’m back and she wants me.  And what do witches do with children?  They eat them.  She’s been waiting in the cellar all these years for me to come back.  And now she’s in my room, and if I leave this bed, she’s going to get me.

     

                “Alice.”

     

                The croaky whisper makes me jump.  I tighten my grip on the covers and freeze.

     

                “Where have you been, Alice?”

     

                She’d never spoken before.  Her voice sounds like a normal old woman’s voice, throaty and quivery, but the way she stresses my name is sinister.

     

                “I’ve been waiting for you, Alice.”

     

                It’s too hot under the covers.  I’m struggling to breath and my heart is hammering in my chest.  I need air, but I must stay where I am.

     

                “Alice.”

     

                Every time she whispers my name my stomach tightens.  The cramping makes me squirm involuntarily and the covers begin to feel heavy on my chest.

     

                “I’m hungry, Alice.”

     

                I can’t take it anymore – I’m going to suffocate if I don’t move.  I yank the covers off my head and gulp in the cool air.  My hair is plastered to my head with sweat and my damp pyjama top makes me shiver.  I press my head back against the pillows and, moving just my eyes, search the room for her.

     

                Everything is as it should be.  She isn’t behind the curtains, or lurking in a dark corner.  Nor is she under the dressing table.  My eyes move up to the mirror and my mouth opens wide in a silent scream.  There is her reflection, staring down at me through the mirror as she crouches on top of the wardrobe.  The wardrobe that’s right next to my bed.  She grips onto the edge of the wardrobe and drags long dirty nails over the wood.  Her filthy grey hair hangs over her shoulders and she’s looking at me with a grin on her face that is both terrifying and demented.

     

                Panic hits me and before I have time to think, I throw off the covers and lunge for the door.  Once I’m on the landing I hear her drop to the floor and come scrambling after me.  I run past my Gran’s room – she can’t save me.  I hurl myself down the stairs – she’s right behind me.  I feel something sharp swipe at me ankle and a tug on my pyjama trousers.  I need to get out of this house.  The keys are dangling in the lock on the front door.  Can I do it?  Would I be able to unlock the door, pull it open and get out before she gets me?

     

    I leap from the third bottom step and bolt for the door.  As I grab the key I twist it, yank on the door handle . . .

     

                She catches hold of my ankle and pulls me off my feet.  Screaming, I’m dragged backwards toward the cellar.  My hands scramble for purchase and find the bottom step.  I thrash my legs around, kicking out so that she’ll lose her grip.  I’m not going into that cellar. She’s not eating me.

     

                Suddenly she lets go.  I spring to me feet and fly to the front door.  I’m screaming this whole time; screaming as I open the door; screaming as I sprint down the driveway and out onto the road.  Then my screams are mixed with squealing . . . the squealing of breaks.  I turn just in time to see the truck come crashing into me and, before everything goes dark, I sigh.    She’s not going to eat me.

     

    Only in the Night

    It starts as soon as it gets dark.  The noise; low at first then louder the darker it gets and the closer they come.  You grow used to it, but it’s still terrifying.

     

             I’ve lived with it all my life.  It’s all I’ve ever known.  The dark is to be respected and feared.  You always get home before it gets dark.  You never go out whilst it’s dark.  You bolt shut the doors and seal the shutters over the windows.  You keep the dark out.

     

    Or more accurately, you keep what’s lurking in the dark out.

     

    We call them Creepers and they own the night.  We’ll never get it back.

     

    It’s winter and the night comes at around 4pm.  During the months of the early nights, school finishes at 1pm and no one works later than 2pm.  Depending on how far you work from home depends on what time you finish.  Pay stays the same all year round.  The government can’t cut everyone’s pay just because of something that has evolved in nature . . . or does guilt control their actions?

     

    I arrive home before my parents, but I’m not worried.  Everyone is always home – or somewhere safe – for the night arriving.  Panic can settle in if you have to make a quick stop at the shop for something essential, like baby milk, and you end up with only fifteen minutes to get home.  Sprinting from your car to the front door, too scared to look round, but convinced you can see movement from the corner of your eye.  Hear hammering in your chest, not from the mad dash to safety, but from the dreadful gurgling and moaning filling the air.

     

    Yeah, panic can settle in if you’re close to death.  Luckily, no one in my town has been killed by a Creeper.  Everyone is careful and looks out for each other.  If you can’t make it to your own home in time then a neighbour is sure to take you in for the night.  Everyone looks out for each other when the night arrives.

     

    Truth be told, though, no one really knows what a Creeper would do if it got hold of you.  We know that they are fierce and tear animals to bits with their sharp claws, but they have never come face to face with a human.  We are always well hidden in our homes by the time they come out to feed. We’ve become masters of going under ground, so to speak.  Concealing ourselves from the ugliness of the night so thoroughly that the Creepers wander between our homes with no knowledge of our existence. 

     

    There’s beef stew in the slow cooker.  It smells delicious, but I have none.  I like for us to eat as a family each night.  Sitting around the table eating a warm hearty meal whilst discussing our day is a great way to take our minds off of the abominations lurking around outside.

     

    We have to be quiet, though.  If we are watching t.v. or listening to music, the volume has to be just above a whisper.  They’re attracted to noise, you see, and although all precautions to keep them out of our homes are taken, any loud noise can result in a long night of Creepers scratching at the doors; growling to be let in.

     

    One year, it was my 14th birthday and I had invited a few friends around for a sleepover.  My birthday is in July so the sun doesn’t set until somewhere between 9pm and 10pm.  I love the summer months.  Even though the school days are longer, there’s more time to hang out in the garden with friends.  That’s what we did that year for my birthday; had a barbeque and spent all of the evening in the back garden, listening to music and laughing loudly.

     

    About an hour before sunset, mum called us in.  We continued the party in my room, too full of giggles and childish antics to keep track of the time.  We had the music cranked up further than we should, turning it down whenever my mum complained only to turn it back up again when she’d gone back downstairs.

     

    I wasn’t the first to notice it; that was my friend Linzi.  She was sitting on the bed facing the window so she had a direct view.  Whilst we were in the crescendo of raucous laughter, Linzi’s face froze and she stared past all of us to my large bay window.  I followed her gaze and quickly flapped my hands, gesturing for the other girls to be quiet.

     

    Everyone was watching the window now.  My curtains were still drawn so we had a perfect view of my shutters.  Shutters that were slowly moving in and out as though someone, or something, was trying to pull them open.

     

    The music was still playing.  Forcing myself to move, I climbed quickly off of the bed and switched off my laptop.  Suddenly the shutters stopped moving.  We continued to stare at the window and I held my breath.

     

    The shutters began to violently rattle against the glass.  I cried out, but Linzi screamed bloody murder and bolted from my room.  The other girls huddled on the bed, whimpering into each other’s pyjamas.  I watched the shutters shake so furiously I was certain that they would be torn from their hinges, and then what?  If the Creepers could do that what’s to say they couldn’t break through the double-glazing?  And if they broke in would we be able to make it to the safety of the basement in time?

     

    The basement is our safe place.  There are sofa beds, food and bottled water down there to keep us going until we are rescued . . . or at least until daylight.  But Creepers don’t break into homes; they don’t know we’re here – unless we’re stupid enough to make too much noise.

     

    My parents arrived just in time to see a crack appear in the glass.  They quickly and quietly rounded up us girls and herded us downstairs.  There was Linzi, cowering in a corner of the hall, I rushed over and yanked her to her feet.  We ran down to the basement and spent the rest of the night on lumpy sofa beds, too afraid to sleep.

     

    When morning came we tentatively went back upstairs, expecting to see destruction and chaos, but the only evidence of last night’s episode was the crack in the window.  The shutters were still intact.

     

    My mum phoned all of my friends’ parents who swiftly came and picked them all up once they’d learned of the night’s events.  Linzi barely uttered two words before she left and wasn’t in school for the whole of the following week.  She’s fine now, but won’t sleep over at anyone’s home anymore.

     

    As for us, dad got my window replaced and bars installed on all of the windows.  This looks like an eyesore from the outside, but makes me feel safe on the inside.  Back to concealing ourselves, making little to no noise so that the Creepers would forget that there was anything in here and go back to wandering the streets for animals to eat.

     

    Just as I finish setting the table both my parents arrive home at the same time.  It’s half past three and already dull.  In another half an hour it will be completely pitch black outside.  We sit down for dinner and my parents speak briefly about their day.  Mum is a supervisor in a clothing store in a shopping centre and explains that they’d had a tough day dealing with a group of Creeper Lovers.  These folk go around preaching to all who will listen (and even those who won’t) that the Creepers have been sent by God to quell the evil amongst us, that we must sacrifice at least one wrong doer per night to satisfy the Creeper’s insatiable appetite for evil.

     

    They call themselves The Soldiers of Souls (to everyone else they’re the Creeper Lovers) and I often see groups of them in town bleating about sacrifice.  What really surprises me is that every time I see them the crowd surrounding them is bigger.

     

    Mum says there were around 15 of them following a group of four teenage boys and spouting nonsense about the will of God.  They reached mums shop before one of the boys got fed up and punched the closest Soldier.  Security from all nearby shops ran out, stopped the fight and the Creeper Lovers were kicked out of the centre. 

     

      It’s 6pm now and well and truly dark outside.  Mum and I go around closing all of the curtains then we all go to the living room to watch some television.  Mum and I watch some soap operas whilst dad does the crossword puzzles in the newspaper.  At around 9pm I decide to turn in.  I kiss my folks goodnight, head upstairs and get ready for bed.  Once I’ve brushed my teeth and changed into my jammies, I lie in my bed, in the dark, staring up at the ceiling.  Listening.

     

    This is my nightly ritual.  I can’t go to sleep until I hear them.  I don’t know why.  Does some part of me think that I won’t hear them?   Or is there some sick part of me that just wants to hear them?  Some morbid curiosity that needs satisfied before I’m able to rest?  Whatever it is, I cant close my eyes until I hear them.

     

                I don’t have to wait long.

     

                A high-pitched cry sounds from far down my street.  I jump in my bed and pull the covers up closer to my chin.  Soon another cry follows, this one a little closer, then it goes quiet.  My heart is thudding in my chest and I gulp over a lump in my throat.

     

                Each night is different.  Sometimes two cries are all I hear before I fall asleep, and other times I have to wear earplugs to block out the screeching and growling.  Tonight all I hear is one more shriek before my heartbeat slows and I fall fast asleep.

     

     

     

    *   *   *

     

     

     

    Something’s wrong.  I wake up to the sound of screaming and jabbering.  The Creepers have woken me up before, fighting amongst themselves, but this sounds different.  They sound excited . . . almost as if it’s feeding time at the zoo.

     

                I sit up in bed and listen closely.  Car alarms ring as Creepers jumped onto car roofs, scrambling around to reach whatever is causing all the excitement.

     

    Just below the raucous sound of the Creepers I can hear what sounds like a car engine.  Impossible.  No one ever steps foot outside once night has fallen.  Not even to get in their car – it’s just not safe.

     

                Then there’s another sound, this one louder than the other two and more frightening. 

     

                “THIS IS THE SOLDIERS OF SOULS.  WE WISH TO ABSOLVE YOU ALL OF YOUR SINS.  TO GIVE UNTO JESUS A SACRIFICE SO THAT HE MAY BE HONOURED.”

     

                It’s a P.A. system and its blaring Creeper Lovers bullshit.  Nothing good can come from this and just as I climb out of bed, my room door swings open.  I cry out in surprise and both my parents motion for me to be quiet.

     

                “Are you okay?” mum asks.

     

                I nod, “What’s going on?”

     

                “I don’t know,” dad says, looking pensive.

     

                The three of us fall quiet as the P.A. system continues, each announcement getting closer and closer to our home.  The Creepers howl with excitement.

     

                “Is there any way we can see what’s going on?” mum asks.

     

                Dad looks horrified, “Why would you want to do that?”

     

                Mum’s unfazed by his shock, “Nothing like this has happened before.  I just want to see what’s going on.”

     

                I understand where mum is coming from.  Even after 17 years of being taught to fear and respect the Creepers, and even after my own near miss, I still wonder what the night is like.

     

                “Aren’t the shutters on the attic window on the inside?” I ask.

     

                “That’s right!” mum says, turning hopefully to dad.

     

                He opens his mouth, ready to protest, but I can see the visible change on his face as he realises that he is curious as well.

     

                “Alright, but listen,” he says, holding up a hand, “we need to be quiet at all times.  No matter what happens do not make a sound.  We go up there, have a quick look, and that’s it.  We secure the attic again then go straight back to bed.  Got it?”

     

                Mum and I both nod in agreement.  We follow dad out to the hall and he pulls on the toggle hanging from the ceiling.  The attic trap door falls open and the ladders slowly unfold down to the floor.  We climb up.

     

                When dad paid to get the bars installed, the joiner was unable to secure the shutters back onto the outside of the attic window.  In the end the joiner had fitted the shutters on the inside, stating that the Creepers might smash the window, but at least wouldn’t be able to get inside.

     

                We keep the lights off as we all tiptoe toward the window.   Dad unlatches the shutters then, with one last querying look at my mum, slowly pulls open them.

     

                The cacophony outside becomes louder.  The three of us kneel on the floor and peek over the window ledge and witness a horrifying sight.

     

                I have never seen a Creeper in the flesh before.  I know what they look like, there are pictures of them in all the school textbooks, but nothing could prepare me for seeing one in real life.

     

    There must be around twenty of them crawling around outside.  Tall, stick thin humanoid creatures moving around on all fours, they can stand up and move around on their legs, but favour all fours.  Their arms are unnaturally long compared to their short legs and they’re completely hairless except for tufts of wiry black hair on their shoulders. 

     

    They gather outside of my house, emerging from the darkness of gardens and nearby streets.  The sound of the P.A. system comes from our right and the Creepers faced toward it, like pointer dogs.

     

    Dad cranes his neck to get a better look.

     

    “It’s a van,” he says, “What the hell are they doing out there?”

     

    I can see it now, a white transit van with speakers on the roof.  The Creepers all stare in the direction of the van; some stalk still, others jumping up and down from cars in agitation.

     

    “THE TIME IS NIGH!” comes an announcement and, to our horror, the van stops just down the street.

     

    Mum grabs dads arm, “What are they doing, Phil?”

     

    Dad can only shake his head as the three of us stare at the van.  The Creepers are staring, too.  A pack of wild animals come face to face with an unknown threat.  They are all still now.  Watching.  Waiting.

     

    The side door of the van slides open.  In the gloom we can just make out the shape of a few figures scuffling in the back of the van.  Then one of them is shoved out onto the road.  The door is slammed shut.

     

    The figure on the ground lies perfectly still.  I begin to think that maybe he is dead.  Had maybe wacked his head on the road.  Slowly, though, he begins to move.  He pulls his hands in under his chest and pushes himself to all fours.  He raises his head and looks around.

     

    Mum gasps and recoils from the window.

     

    “What is it, mum?”

     

    She points down to the figure, “That’s one of the boys from the shop today.  Who were getting pestered off of the Creeper Lovers.  I recognise his jacket.”

     

    I turn back to the window.  The boy is wearing a dark jacket with distinguishable fluorescent patches around the arms.  He is looking towards the Creepers.  They haven’t moved yet.  Some have their noses in the air, smelling the boy.  Smelling his sweat and fear.  The boy can’t stay there; he’s a sitting duck.  He has to make a move soon.  As though he hears my thoughts, he scrambles back onto his feet and throws himself at the van.

     

                “Help!” he screams, pounding on the van, “Let me in!”

     

                His screams are shrill and shaky.  They hurt my head and I feel a tightening in my chest.  I close my eyes and will him to stop.

     

                Mum pushes away from the window and gets to her feet, “We have to help him.  We can’t leave him like that.”

     

                Dad stands up beside her, “There’s nothing we can do.”

     

                “BEHOLD YOUR SACRIFICE, OH LORD!”

     

                The booming voice makes me jump and I look out of the window.  The boy now has his back against the van, hands pressed against his ears as the P.A. continues.

     

                “THIS IS WHAT YOU DESIRE, OH LORD?  YOUNG BLOOD TO QUELL THE THIRST OF THE BEASTS YOU HAVE SENT HERE TO US?”

     

                Mum and dad are back crouching down beside me.  Mum whimpers as the boy slides down to the ground, his face twisted in grief and fear.

     

                “THIS IS YOUR WILL, LORD, THEN SO SHALL IT BE DONE!”

     

                At that the van’s headlights come on, momentarily blinding the Creepers.  This seems to snap them out of their weariness and they all emit a mixture of sounds.  Some growl, others chatter excitedly, but worst of all, they all begin to move.

     

                The boy is back on his feet, pounding on the van again, “Let me in! Let me in!”

     

                He spins away from the van; they aren’t going to help him.  A couple of the Creepers are no more than ten feet away from him, shoulder blades rising and falling as they move towards him; sleek as cats.

     

                “Help!” he screams, full panic has set in and he sounds hysterical, “Somebody! Please, help!”

     

                “I can’t handle this,” mum says, putting a hand over her eyes.

     

                I know I shouldn’t watch this, either.  It’s only going to go one way and from what we’ve been taught in school, Creepers are brutal in their killings.  This poor boy isn’t going to survive the next five minutes out there with these monsters, and I can’t stop watching.  It goes back to the morbid curiosity I get every night before I fall asleep, having to hear the Creepers, and now I just have to see what’s going to happen to this boy.

     

    He stops begging for help and instead, with one last-ditch attempt for safety, sprints for the nearest house.

     

                He’s fast, but the Creepers are faster.

     

                They catch up with him in a matter of seconds.  The closest pounces onto his back, sending him back down to the ground.  The rest are on him in no time.  They tug and pull on his body; yanking his limbs from their sockets to carry away and eat in peace.  They eat fast and furiously, as though their meal might be snatched away from them.  Is this their first taste of human flesh? Do they like it?

     

                Mum is sobbing gently beside me.  I put an arm around her and look at my dad.  His face is ashen as he stares down at the carnage below.  Then he utters a single word, Monsters, and I don’t think he’s talking about the Creepers.

     

    The lights go out in the van and the engines cranks into life.  The van begins to pull away, but one of the Creepers, that hadn’t quite been able to get at the body, turns toward the sound of the engine.  From the window I can see it’s ugly hairless face twist into a snarl, and then it launches itself at the van.

     

                It clings onto the roof then pulls itself up.  It begins to scratch and pound on the roof.  All the noise has caught the attention of several other Creepers.  They leave their place in the queue for food and dive at the van.  They all cling on, a couple on each side and one more at the back.  The Creeper already on the roof crawls down onto the bonnet and hammers with both fists on the windscreen.

     

                “Dear God!” dad breathes.

     

                I tighten my grip on my mums arm as we all watch the Creeper smash it’s way though the windscreen.  The van picks up speed as it swerves over the road.  Creepers scream and swing about as they cling on.  The van mounts the pavement and crashes through our fence.  Dad jumps to his feet, presses his forehead against the glass to get a better look as the van crashes into our front door.

     

                “Shit!” dad cries and dashes for the trap door, “Mary. Close the shutter!”

     

                Mum grabs the shutter and yanks it closed, but not before I notice a Creeper staring up at me from the front garden.  We race after my dad and find him half way down the stairs, transfixed on the front door.

     

                “It’s holding,” he whispers, “We’ll just have to wait this out.”

     

                From the other side of the door we can hear screaming, both human and not.  The sound of scratching on our wooden door becomes more frantic as the time passes.  The screaming gets louder and I cover my ears and bury my face in my mums arm.

     

    Suddenly, someone is shaking me.  I look up to see dad pointing at the bottom of the door.

     

                “Smoke.  The van’s on fire.” He says, then bolts upstairs.

     

                “Oh my God, what are we going to do?” I ask my mum.  Dad comes sprinting back down the stairs carrying soaking wet towels.  He throws them onto the floor and tucks what he can under the door.

     

                “This should stop the smoke getting in,” he says.

     

                “But what if the fire gets in, dad?” I ask, pulling on my pyjama top in agitation, “It’s wooden.  It’ll go right up.”

     

                “It’ll be fine,” dad says, but looks uncertain.

     

                The awful commotion continues outside our house, but seems to be louder.  I wonder if the rest of the Creepers haven’t finished their meal and now joined the others at our house.

     

                “I hate not knowing what they’re doing out there.” Mum says, biting her nails.

     

    Dad takes her in a tight embrace, “They’re not doing anything.  Once they realise they can’t get in they’ll leave and the fire will burn out.”

     

                I’m curious as to what’s going on out there, too, and am tempted to go back up to the attic to look, but I’m also too scared.  My curiosity has been satisfied enough tonight and I just want it all to be over.

     

     

     

    *   *   *

     

     

     

    Once the young boy had been picked clean, the rest of the Creepers made their way to the house.  They were curious about the big white machine that had produced such a delectable meal.  Perhaps there was more inside?

     

                As they clawed their way into the van, tearing at the humans inside, they never noticed that a fire was burning in the passenger side foot well.  A lit cigarette had been dropped in fear and was now smouldering on the foot matt.  The Creepers felt the heat and backed off, leaving the bodies in the van.  But that didn’t matter.  They knew there was more of that delicious meat inside the house, had seen it through the window, they just had to break down the door first.

     

                They worked fast, scratching away at the wood with their sharp claws.  When their hands got cut and bloodied, another Creeper would take over, and they continued in this way, working as a team and chattering with excitement.

     

                An ear-piercing scream filled the air and the Creepers turned to see one of their own jumping around the garden on fire.  The working Creepers leapt down from the van as the fire intensified and brayed into the night at their lost chance.

     

    *   *   *

     

     

     

    “Dad look!”

     

                I point at the front door as the white paint begins to blister and the smoke gets thicker.

     

                “Quick, get basins of water!” dad cries.

     

    We all run to the kitchen and fish basins from under the sink, but by the time we fill the first one the whole front door is on fire.

     

                “No!” mum screams.

     

                I can’t believe what’s happening before my very eyes.  My house is on fire, there are monsters outside, we’re trapped and going to die in our own home.

     

                The flames spread, catching onto the curtains drawn over the windows at either side of the door.  Dad takes hold of us both and guides us to the back door.  He goes to unlock it, but mum lunges for him, grabbing his hand.

     

                “We can’t go out there!” she screams.

     

                “We can’t stay here!” he screams back, then begins to cough, “We’re either going to suffocate or burn!”

     

                “Those monsters will get us!” mum says, coughing, too, “You’ve seen what they do!”

     

    Dad looks at me, but I don’t know what to say.  The acrid smoke burns my throat and my chest feels restricted.  I want fresh air, but know what can happen if we go outside.  I fall into a coughing fit and that seems to settle it for dad.

     

                “I’m going to unlock this door and as soon as I open it, we’re going to make a run for it.” Mum groans, but dad continues, “We’ll run round to the driveway, jump in the car and go.  Simple as that.”

     

                Mum and I look at each other.  What else can we do?  We look back at dad who nods then unlocks the back door.  He takes a deep breath then pulls open the door.  Mum and I cling to each other as we stare out into the darkness.  Dad sticks his head out, looks left then right.  He looks back at us and shakes his head; nothing there.

     

                He steps outside for a closer look then turns to face us.  In a whisper he says, “Coast’s clear.  I’m going to unlock the car then – ”

     

    He’s cut off as two long arms reach out from the right and grab him.  Mum and I both scream as dad is dragged out of sight.  Mum starts forward to help, but another Creeper appears in the doorway.

     

                Being so close to one is horrifying and fascinating all at once.  It’s features are somewhat human, but with obvious differences.  Its nose and mouth protrude in the form of a slight snout, it’s wide mouth snaps it’s row of tiny razor sharp teeth inches from my mums reaching fingers.  The tufts of hair on its shoulders sway in the breeze, whilst it’s sinewy muscles bulge through its thick grey skin.  It’s a hideous sight, but its stench hits my senses the worst, like old blood and rotten meat.

     

     I scream for my mum to get back, but it’s too late.  When mum turns the Creeper grabs the back of her head, its talons piercing through her scalp.  Blood squirts out in all directions.  Mums mouth forms an O and her eyes go wide as the Creeper digs its claws deeper into her skull.  Then, with surprising speed, it drags her backwards through the door.

     

                Screaming so hard my throat hurts, I spin on my heel and run back to the front door.  In my terror I forget about the fire.  The front door and wall are nothing but a wall of flame.  Smoke invades my open mouth, thick and acrid.  What am I going to do?  The sound of shrieking from the kitchen gets me moving again.  I grab onto the bannister and propel myself up the stairs.  I desperately look around.  I need somewhere to hide, but also air.  All the windows are shuttered from the outside.

     

                Except for the attic.

     

                I jump up and grab hold of the toggle.  With all my might I pull down the ladders and scramble up them.  I can hear the Creepers crashing about downstairs and pray they don’t find me up here.  Once in the attic I pull up the ladders, shrouding myself in darkness.

     

    I kneel on the floor, breathing heavily; sweat and tears run down my face.  I put my head in my hands and sob quietly.  Images of my mum and dad’s shocked and terrified faces as they were dragged to their deaths flash through my mind.  Why did this have to happen?  The Creepers aren’t supposed to act this way.  We leave them alone and they leave us alone.  We didn’t do anything!

     

                But the Creeper Lovers did.  They’re the reason my mum and dad are dead.  And I’m probably going to die, too.

     

                I begin to cough again, trying not to be too loud.  I get to my feet and stagger over to the window.  Maybe if I spend the rest of the night with my head at the window I won’t suffocate to death?  Maybe the sun will rise before the house burns down and someone will save me?  Maybe if dad hadn’t put bars over the windows I would have been able t

    o climb onto the roof and down the drainpipe?

     

    I unlatch the shutter and pull it open.

     

                A Creeper stares at me through the window then thrusts it arms through the bars, smashing the window.  Tiny fragments of glass fly into my face, but I barely notice.  The Creeper catches hold of my throat and digs it’s claws into the soft flesh.

     

                I scream, warm blood flows down my body, seeping through my top.  The pain is unbearable and the Creeper continues to dig it’s nails in deeper.  I’m getting light headed.  Darkness comes over me.  I think I stop screaming.  What’s the point? No one will save me.  No one goes out at night.  The night is theirs.  And no amount of sacrifice is going to change that.

     

    My first diary #1

    For the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading my old diaries and, boy, does it make for some interesting, embarrassing, and hilarious reading!

    My very first entry was on 28/12/1997 when I was 12 years old and in my first year of secondary school. That transition from carefree and fun Primary school to serious and oppressive Secondary School is a hard time for kids and I was a bit afraid to relive it, but reading about my first year wasn’t too bad.

    Okay, maybe not everyone found school “oppressive”, but I hated it so much it felt like a punishment just being there!

    It wasn’t all that bad, I suppose.  I did make wonderful friends for life, but I was never comfortable in my own skin and, at times, felt like I didn’t quite fit in.  I wasn’t popular and I wasn’t brainy . . . I guess you could call me an “inbetweener” – minus the comical sexual exploits, of course!

    Anyway, I found a rather mild entry that I can share with you – please ignore my spidery writing, terrible spelling, and use of expletives . . . I use them a lot.

    28/1/98
    Dear Diary, 

    Nothing much happened today and if something did happen I missed it, but I had my singing test today.  I got a one for that (a one’s the best).  Oh, today was sooooo boring it was unbelievable.  I’ve got Maths homework to do, but I can’t be f***ed.  I mean school is soooooooooooooooooooo crap I wish I could leave even though I’ve just started secondary school.

    Well, I’ll tell you my ambitions.  I want to become an author because I  (and a lot of other people) think I am brill at writing stories and i’m going to buy a large cottage!  God I’m bored !

    Goodnight, Deborah x 

    Only a few months into school and I want to leave already – that feeling only intensifies as the years go on! No modesty about my story writing skills, then – if only 31 year old Deborah was still as confident as 12 year old Deborah.

    I need to be picky about what I share – I don’t want to upset folk with what a 12 year old girl wrote in her most secret log –  and I moan a lot about things, especially school. 

    Keep a look out for my next entry. 

    Keep smiling x