Annie On Writing

June 22, 2016

Norfolk by Christopher Stanley

Filed under: Twisted Tales,Writing Tools — Annie Evett @ 11:30 pm
We arrive at the bungalow after midnight, Eddie snoring in his booster seat and Happisburgh lighthouse winking in the distance. It’s exactly as I remember it from my childhood, with waves crunching beyond the dunes and the salty tang of the sea breeze. This is it, I think, as I unpack my travel-weary limbs from the car. Eccles-on-Sea, on the North Norfolk coast, is where I’m going to find the horror story that resurrects my career.

I’m supposed to be an author but I haven’t sold a book in half a decade, not since my wife, Rosemary, gave birth to a boy-flavoured bundle of toothless smiles and Godless nappies. Eddie wasn’t planned and it’s hard not to blame him for my aborted career. The only reason I brought him with me is because Rosemary insisted I learn to write with him in the room. I tried to argue, pleading the need for authorial solitude, but he’s here and she’s not.

Half of Eccles was stolen by the sea some centuries ago and what’s left is barely a ghost town. They say a storm once shifted so much sand from the beach it uncovered the old graveyard, tearing open coffins and scattering skeletons up the coast. ‘With history like that,’ said Rosemary, ‘who needs horror?’

I fall asleep listening to the wind tugging at the dunes. In my dreams, the spirits of the dead crawl from the water to steal Eddie away, their fleshless fingers prising him from my grasp. I’m glad they’re taking him but I’m compelled to ask why. One word comes hissing back:

‘Innocent.’

I’m startled into consciousness by something clawing at my face. When I switch on the bedside light, Eddie’s on top of me, saying he had a nightmare in which hollow-eyed ghosts crossed the dunes and descended on our bungalow. ‘They took me away from you,’ he whispers, unaware of how similar our dreams were.

Outside, the shed creaks in the wind while rain pelts the windows. And there’s something else, something more deliberate. I hold Eddie tight, telling him there are no ghosts, only stories, but something is thumping the walls of the bungalow. The look on Eddie’s face says it all. The spirits have come for him; our dreams are coming true.

‘I’ll try not to let them get you, Eddie.’

‘You have to!’

For a moment, I’m confused, but then I remember that Eddie woke me up mid-dream. ‘In your nightmare,’ I say, ‘where did the ghosts take you?’

‘To the safe place.’

It isn’t rain hitting the windows; it’s spray from the rising sea. And the thumping sound is water. Somewhere in the bungalow a window shatters, and then another. The two halves of Eccles are going to be reunited, tonight. I cling desperately to Eddie, promising him I’ll never let go.

‘I’ll really miss you, Daddy,’ he says, pushing me away. ‘But I’ll tell everyone what happened and I’m sure they’ll buy your books again.’

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The F word by Keith Gillison

Filed under: Twisted Tales,Writing Tools — Annie Evett @ 11:13 pm
Steve stared at Paula across the breakfast table.

“More tea, dear?”

“No thank you.”

The feigned politeness hid Steve’s anger; he still hadn’t calmed down from their argument the previous evening. He watched as Paula cleared the table and put the dirty dishes into the sink. She used to be beautiful. Now he could barely bring himself to look at her. The weight; how many rows had they had about Paula’s weight? Last night he’d sneaked into the bathroom while she was on the scales. When he saw the number he lost it; “Just look at you! How on earth can you weigh that?”

He’d gone too far. Too many nights had been spent like this in recent weeks – Steve in the spare room and both of them crying themselves to sleep. Something had to give.

Steve checked his watch; it was time to leave for work. He fetched his coat and scarf and walked over to Paula.

“I’m sorry about last night,” he said softly, holding her hands. “I just want things to be the way they were when we first met.”

“I am trying,” Paula replied. A tear escaped the corner of her eye.

“I know. Why don’t I knock off early tonight and take you out somewhere nice?”

Paula smiled. “I’d like that.”

They kissed and Steve left for work. He drove for a few minutes when a thought presented itself.

***

Steve crept up his driveway and opened the door. He pictured Paula’s beaming face when he revealed the dozen roses hidden behind his back. There was no sign of her downstairs. Maybe she’s gone back to bed, he thought. Can’t blame her after last night. As he tiptoed up the stairs, an unfamiliar voice came from the bedroom.

“That’s it, now bend down. More, come on I want to see more.”

Preparing himself for the worst, Steve crept to the top of the stairs, took a deep breath and flung the door open.

“Where is he?”

Panting from her exertions, a startled Paula turned to face Steve.
“Please, it’s not what you think,” she pleaded, arms spread in front of the wardrobe.

“Who’s in there?”

“Nobody,” Paula blushed.

A struggle ensued and it took Steve several attempts to push her aside. When he succeeded and opened the wardrobe, he gasped in shock. Paula threw herself onto the bed in floods of tears.

“I’m sorry,” she sobbed.

“What the hell?”

Steve stared at the small television and DVD combination at the back of the wardrobe. It was playing a DVD.

“That’s it, work those thighs,” the aerobics instructor implored.

Underneath the television was a small fridge. Against its side rested a false panel removed from the back of the wardrobe. Steve opened the fridge. He stared, mouth agape, at the celery, Weight Watchers meals and fat-free yoghurts. The life drained from his body and he slumped onto the end of the bed.

“How could you?”

“I’m fat, Steve,” Paula replied, adjusting her pink leotard and wiping away the tears, “and I don’t want to be anymore. I want to be beautiful.”

“How dare you use the F word! Didn’t I always tell you how beautiful you were?”

Paula sighed and put her arm around Steve.

“I loved that you never cared about my size. It’s not enough anymore, though. I don’t love myself.”

“Is this really what you want?”

“Yes. Can you live with that? If you love me size shouldn’t matter.”

Steve cupped her cheeks and kissed her on the lips.

“It does, though.” And with that, he turned and left Paula, left her to her future of calorie counting and smaller dress sizes. He could never change; big was beautiful – and it always would be.

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