The Engineer

Two young women drinking tea --- Image by © SuperStock/Corbis

The Engineer lived just outside a small village in Lombardy, Northern Italy. He’d lived there all of his life. In fact, he’d lived there as long as anyone could remember. He never seemed to age.

“Dye’s his hair of course” my mum said.

“But he hasn’t aged, Phoebe, no wrinkles, no liver spots. He still looks the same as he did when I was a little girl”

Mum and Betsy sipped their tea silently. I was only seven and didn’t know the Engineer very well. He scared me a little bit. He was very nice enough, gave me sweets sometimes, but his eyes were dark and cold. His jet black hair and mustache showed no signs of grey. I guessed his height to be a little under six feet because he was a little shorter than my brother, and my brother was six foot two. Words weren’t his thing and he used them as little as possible. A tight smile was his only humorous expression, but the smile didn’t touch his eyes.

“Has he ever been married?” Betsy asked mum.

“Not that I know of, I think he dated once, for a year or so, but the she disappeared. Never saw her again.”

“Maybe its a good thing, not sure he’s make a good dad if kids came along. I wonder if he wears make-up. His eyebrows are perfect.”

“Could be gay! That would explain the marriage thing!”

A loud rapping on the door startled us all.

“Its him!” Mum said.

“Don’t be silly Phoebe. Why would he be knocking at your front door?”

“My boiler is playing up. Sometimes we have no hot water.”

“Did you call him” Betsy asked.

“No! I never call him, he just seems to know when something needs fixing.”

Mum’s voice was quiet, she sounded scared. Her hand shook slightly as she put her tea-cup down. “Betsy, come to the door with me.”

I watched as they opened the door. The engineer stood on the step, a tight-lipped smile on his face. He wore jeans, perfectly pressed with a crease down the front and a blue denim shirt. His fashionable shoes were highly polished. A draft blew in from behind him, or perhaps it came from him. I shivered.

“Good Morning Ladies, Phoebe I understand you have a faulty boiler.”

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Horror on the Lake

8A tranquil cottage perched on the edge of a lake, far from civilization. A writer called Jane lived there. She was a recluse. Occasionally Jane took part in radio interviews and podcasts, but never interviewed live. One of her novels, “Hidden Horrors” became a best seller, but she declined book signings.

“Jane, your book sales would go through the roof if you appeared in person. Don’t you want to be a millionaire?” her agent asked, but Jane remained in her cottage by the lake. Her vast garden made her almost self-sufficient. A new cell tower gave her mobile phone a signal. She submitted all manuscripts electronically. The royalties from her novels more than provided for the rustic life she lived. Her mail was delivered weekly, along with dried goods and meat.

Jane watched the late morning sun dancing on the ripples in the water.

“Mummy look, who’s that over there?”

Jason was six years old now, he was a slow developer, but could talk well. Jane looked across the lake to where he pointed and saw the bulky shape of his father. The shape retreated into the shadows.

“Its nothing to worry about sweetie, maybe just a bear or something. I’ll keep my eyes on it. The bears don’t bother us.”

“Maybe we should get a dog mummy, to scare the bears away.”

Jane shivered as she remembered what happened to Penny. “Yes, maybe one day we’ll get a dog.”

Jason turned round and looked at her. From the back her child could have been any other six-year-old. His face told a different story. His huge green eyes almost met over the bridge of his nose. His mouth was wide, way too wide, and those huge teeth! Jane shuddered. She should have never given birth to the child, but she didn’t have a choice. Her pregnancy lasted only three months, and it was painful. The creature who raped her, never left her side until the abomination was born. He was gentle, and tended to her, but only as a vessel to continue his dying legacy. Now he sat across the lake and watched, making sure nothing happened to his offspring.

Jason ran to her on all fours, looking more and more like his father every day. He jumped up and hugged her. At six years old he so strong he knocked her on her back, bruising her face. She was terrified of him! Felt no love or affection, but needed to play the role of loving mother in the hopes that one day she’d escape.

She worked hard for the money

We sat in silence, the car engine idling. “Where did it go? How can a truck just disappear?”

“It was a dark color Jack. All they had to do was pull off the road and switch off the lights and it would just blend into the night. What shall we do?”

“Drive slowly back up the dirt road as far as my house, maybe its prostitute_in_newyorkone of the driveways.”

I did as Jack told me, but worried what we’d do if we actually found it. “If we see the truck what do we do? We don’t know who’s driving it. I’m guessing we’d be no match if it came down to a fight.”  I needn’t have worried. The truck was gone. I pulled up on Jack’s drive way again, thinking we’d maybe wait in his house, hoping she’s find her way back.

“Lets go to the Stagecoach! She’s expecting us to be there.” Jack said.

“Great idea. All of those big burly bikers! They’ll look out for us.”

Jack laughed. “I think the big burly bikers are only weekend visitors. On a week night its full of locals who stop for a drink and a bite to eat on their way home from work.” He was right of course, but at least we’d have witnesses if anything did happen.

There weren’t many cars outside the Saloon when we arrived, but there were a few. Jack and I found a seat at the bar.

“Want anything to eat?” Jack asked.

I shook my head, food was the last thing on my mind.

Bonnie appeared from the kitchen. “Hi, I was thinking of you. Someone was in here earlier asking about a young girl. They showed me a photo. It looked like that girl we saw the other night. The one who lost the pendant. Have you seen anymore of her.”

Jack and I froze!

“Who was looking for her?” Jack asked.

Bonnie looked from me to him. “It was a guy. Maybe in his forties, rough looking. Big! Had a young girl with him, probably late teens. She was bruised up, swollen lip.”

“How long ago?” I asked.

She looked at the clock behind the bar. “Maybe an hour, maybe a little more.”

“Damn!” Jack put his head in his hands.

“Whats the deal” Bonnie asked.

“Long story, but I think the young girl is homeless. We don’t know her story yet. She was living in the old barn. Have you seen this guy before? Would you recognize…..” I didn’t finish my sentence.

“I’ve seen him before!”

I looked around. It was one of the old guys I’d seen many times in the Stagecoach. “He hangs out at a bar on Colfax. Sleazy place. I play poker there every once in a while. Rough place.”

We all looked at him. “Whats the guy do there?”

“Not sure you want to know.”

Jack and I looked at each other. “What now?” I said.

“Could you show us where this place is?” Jack asked.

“I could take you there, but I don’t think you should go alone.”

“Hey guys, think about this.” Bonnie said. “Doesn’t sound like a good place to be.”

“We have to help her. We can’t just turn our backs on her now.”

“Lets call the police!” I said.

“And tell them what? What can we say? We met a stranger, tried to help her and now she’s gone. I don’t think they’ll do anything.”

I said nothing. He ordered a shot of whiskey. I sipped a glass of wine.

The old guy sitting at the bar spoke again. “Do either of you play poker?”

“I do.” Jack said.

“OK, I’ll try to get a game down there tomorrow night. You need to keep your mouth shut though. It’s a rough place. I want to leave by the front door, not feet first in a fucking coffin!”

 

The Ghost of a Pendant!

JOY1690.0LThe Stagecoach was less than a five-minute drive, but walking was out of the question on a dark monday evening in winter. There was no sidewalk on the busy road and no lights on the dirt road that led to my house! Country living has its drawbacks!

When I arrived I was greeted by familiar welcoming faces. I didn’t know everyone’s name, but they were regulars, I felt safe there. A glass of Chardonnay was waiting for me when I sat at the bar. They knew me well. No English pub had ever been so welcoming.

“We don’t usually see you on a Monday night”

“I know, Les is Ohio and I wasn’t in the mood for being alone.”

“Menu?”

“No thanks, not tonight”

Bonnie was a star act in the Stagecoach. She was quick and witty, but also drop dead gorgeous with her blue eyes and black hair. She rode a crotch rocket, and not in a girly way.

She bantered with one or two other customers and then came back to me.

“Its quiet even for a monday, everyone’s probably recovering after Christmas. That old guy was in earlier, the one you were asking me about on New Years eve. He looked worse than usual. Kept putting his hands over his ears like he was trying to block something out. He sure has some daemons to deal with.”

Well now I know why he wasn’t home! Someone was in his house though, I felt it. I hope they hadn’t followed me.

The door opened allowing a freezing gust of cold January air into the bar. Bonnie looked over, prepared to greet someone, but no one entered.

“Maybe I didn’t shut the door properly before I came in,” I said, noting the question mark on her face.

“It’s heavy and shuts on its own. You don’t need to shut it. That’s the third time its done that tonight. The folks sitting at the table near the door moved because of it. Weird!”

Yup, it’s a freaky Monday for sure. I drank my first glass of Chardonnay in no time at all. Bonnie placed another on the bar without being asked.

The wine did its trick, finally I relaxed. I glanced around the saloon to make sure I wasn’t ignoring any one I usually talked to, and noticed a young girl sitting alone at one of the tall tables by the dart board. She had no drink in front of her and sat with her head in her hands, long matted hair covering her face.

“Hey Bonnie, who’s that? She wasn’t there a minute ago.”

Bonnie followed my eyes. “I never saw her come in either. She looks like she’s been dragged through a hedge backwards.”

“Ha, you’re starting to use British phrases, you’ll be using my accent soon.”

Bonnie laughed as she walked over to the table to serve the young lady, looking back over her shoulder she shouted, “No, you’ll be talking like me soon.”

By the time she got to the table, it was empty. The young girl had disappeared into thin air. Bonnie shrugged and then picked something up.

“Did you see her leave?” Bonnie asked.

“No, maybe she was a ghost!” I wasn’t joking.

“She must be in the bathroom!”

Bonnie dropped a heart-shaped pendant on the bar in front of me.

“She left something behind.”

“The pendant was easily opened and revealed a worn photo of a child, cute as a button and laughing for the camera. The image changed before my eyes. It became a solemn young girl, then a serious looking teenager. Finally I couldn’t see the face that looked back at me, it was covered with long matted hair. I dropped the pendant on the bar and ran outside, looking for the young girl who’d dropped it. A bitter wind chilled me to the bone, but there was no one out there.

“Who are you and where did you go?”

The cold darkness revealed no secrets.

Haunted House!

DSC07093

photo from davidstillman.blogspot.com

All I could think about was the sad face that haunted my dreams at night, and my thoughts all day. The face that was taking over my life. Why? I didn’t know her. If it was the old man’s daughter, she was long since dead. My day at work was painfully slow. Finally, eager to talk to the old man, I made and excuse to leave early.

January dusk soon fell, cold and uninviting. I was grateful for my heated car seat after being chilled to the bone walking across the parking lot. It was dark when I pulled onto the drive way of the ranch. There wasn’t a light to be seen in anywhere in the house either. Wishing I’d brought a flashlight I opened the car door. The breeze was no longer gentle.

Watching my step I walked in the direction of the huge shadow which loomed ahead of me. It’s all I could see of the house. I approached the front door and tapped on it nervously, feeling like an intruder smothered in a blanket of darkness.

The door swung open slowly, creaking as it did so. Doors always creaked in these situations.

“Hello, is anyone home?”

No answer, no movement. The air was deadly still. I took a step forward into the house. The temperature dropped several degrees when I did so. How could it be colder inside than out. My breath formed a cloud in front of my face.

“Hello.” I said softly.

A floorboard creaked. The sound came from above. I looked in the direction of the stairs, but thought the better of going up there.

What if he’s dead? 

Standing just inside the doorway I wondered what to do next. I had no business walking around the house uninvited. People did that in movies and it always ended badly. Turning around I pulled the door shut and walked back to the car. Should I leave a note?

Footsteps crunched on the gravel drive way and I looked up expecting to see the old man. The steps continued, but there was no one to be seen. Instinctively I locked the car door. Footsteps crunched past me, stepping onto the porch. Looking in my rearview mirror, I watched the front door open and close on its own.

Time to get out of Dodge! 

I started the car and floored the accelerator, pebble dashing the front of the house with gravel as I left.

Thank God I didn’t go upstairs! 

Evil Dead!

evil faceThe silence didn’t last long. A strong wind blew. It was icy cold. A weak, fading glow danced in the darkness. The tinkling bells grew silent. I knew I had to do something, but I didn’t know what!

“Lucky Heather?”

The voice was close to my ear. I turned quickly, expecting to see another restless spirit, but instead I came face-to-face with the old Gypsy I’d seen a couple of days earlier. I touched her wrinkled cheek. It was warm. She was real. She grinned a toothless grin and pushed a sprig of purple heather into my hand. My skin tingled at its touch. I remembered the heather that filled my living room a few days earlier.

Was she trying to help me?

Looking into her eyes, I saw strength, and wisdom. I looked back at the fading glow of the young gypsy girl and my heart began to ache.

“Don’t go!” I pleaded in a voice that didn’t sound like mine.

The smoking man appeared behind her, reaching out his arms, trying to hold her, but she was barely visible.

Laughter bubbled from behind me. It was nasty and malevolent. I turned around almost losing my balance, and looked upon pure evil, in the form of a man. Horns were all he needed to make him look like the devil itself. I knew he was long dead, I could see it in his eyes, but he looked strong. The smirk on his face was terrifying.

“You can’t help them, they’re my playthings.”

I tried to speak, but my mouth wouldn’t open.

His laughter surrounded me.

“Every year they suffer. It’s what they deserve. He took her from me. He took her from the Romany way of life. Stole her. Common thief that he is.” He spat on the ground. The grass died around him and the air turned putrid. “I’m going to take you too. Every year I add a wonton creature like yourself to my collection. Young girls who fall under his spell, all too stupid to resist his pathetic charms. I get them all in the end.”

There was movement behind him. A dozen or more young girls huddled together. Some naked, all unhappy! Snatched from life and made to suffer by this evil, restless spirit. I didn’t want to be one of them.

“Why do you want me? Let me go. What good can I do?” I whispered, trying to sound brave.

“I don’t want you, I didn’t want any of these pathetic creatures,” as he spoke he turned around. They all cowered away from him. Could he still hurt them in death?

“I want her! I’ll give them all to him, in exchange for her. ”

I looked back at the fading light that was the beautiful young gypsy girl. I could barely see her now.

Another voice came from the darkness. I’d forgotten about the old woman.

“She’ll never be yours Luca. She didn’t love you.”

Her voice brought a look of fury to the ugly face. A bird fell to the ground at his feet.

“I didn’t want her love. I wanted her body! Love is nothing. I needed her beside me to bear my children.” His voice boomed like thunder. He smiled an awful smile and licked his lips, “I wanted to play with her a little too.”

“People like you should never be allowed to breed. If you’d given her a child it would have died in her womb.” The old girl cackled. Her voice was strong.

“I’d have torn it from her body before that happened.”

More birds fell to the ground behind him. I could smell fire. Maybe it was the fires of Hell. Somewhere close by a tree fell smoldering to the ground.

The heather I held tightly in my hand became so warm I wanted to drop it.

A voice from deep within my head whispered to me.

Make him angry now. Distract him! Let Mala escape. Let him focus his anger on you and me.

“I’m scared.” I answered. “He’ll kill me!”

A pain ripped through my skull.

“Be quiet you old Hag, I hear you”

 

Am I Alive or am I Dead? Where am I?

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Speeding through the darkness.

I see no one!

My body tingles with excitement.

Out of control!

Help!

A hand lightly touches my thigh. A cold hand.

Shivering, shaking, freezing.

Leaning forward I smell leather.

Someone pulls my hair?

Digs nails into my neck?

Screeching in my ear.

Who’s there?

Leave me alone.

I’m cold!

So very cold.

Getting colder.

Where am I?

Am I still alive?

A Radio Possessed – Messages from the Dead!

Cindy arrived at work to find me on my knees mopping coffee from the floor with paper towels. The coffee was mixed with blood where I’d cut hand picking up the shattered pieces of my favorite coffee cup.

“Not a good way to start the day!” She said.

“Is it five o clock yet?” I asked, trying to make light of it.

“Oh you have a long way to go yet! We have a lot to do too. I’d have been here sooner, but there’s something going on at the building site up the road. Some sort of accident.”

I froze!

“What?”

“I had to pull over and allow an ambulance to pass me. It stopped by the entrance to the construction site…”

I dropped the cloth and ran. Dear God don’t let this be my fault. Wait a minute, why would it be?

Confused and scared, I walked as fast as the steep cobbled hill of Frenchgate would allow me. I saw the flashing lights of the ambulance, parked near the Ship Tavern. A nurse was fussing over a man sitting on the bench just inside. She looked up “Hello, can I help you?”

Her patient turned around to face me. “Mick, is that you?” His face was covered with blood, but it was a face I knew well. Everyone knows everyone in Richmond I suppose, but Mick and I had been pretty close for a while.

“Sheila?”

“You can come and sit by him if you want. I’m just dressing his wound. He’s lucky to be alive.”

Thank you God!

“What happened?”

“Damned if I know! I was on the scaffolding at the back of the house tossing debris into the skip below and out of the blue a radio started up. I was the only person there, so I wasn’t expecting it. Lost my bloody balance and the next thing I know, I was flat on my back on the ground. Luckily for me the landlord of the Ship next door saw me fall, he called 999.”

“He doesn’t know how lucky his is. He landed on a pile of insulation,” the nurse chirped in “if he hadn’t he’d be dead.”

“It was just delivered yesterday. I must have whacked my head on the way down though.”

“Yes, he needs stitches, and we’ll have to get his head x-rayed, but looks like he had a lucky escape.”

I tried to joke, “I always said you needed your head examining.”

Smashed

Mick laughed, but the nurse just glared at me. “This could have been much worse”

“Yes, I know, I’m sorry.”

The Ambulance driver appeared from the doorway of the house under construction. He had a transistor radio in his hand, my transistor radio. “I found this in the skip,” he said. “I don’t think this is where the music came from, bloody magical if it did, there’s no batteries in it.”

It burst into life again. “Will you still love me tomorrow?” He dropped it, shocked.

“Well I’ll be damned! It’s not magic, its possessed.”

Everyone looked at the radio, which now lay on the ground, its innards spewing out and rolling down the steep hill! The music was replaced by static, an ear-piercing, irritating noise that sounded like the television when you couldn’t get the antenna right. There was something else too,  through the static I swear I heard a motorcycle revving, followed by the screech of tyres.

The Ambulance driver looked perplexed. “You all heard that right, it wasn’t just me?”

I have to admit, I’m having fun with this story. It was supposed to be three of four blogs in length, but my imagination is running wild. Novels are fun to write, but these short bursts of imagination are an absolute BLAST! I hope you’re enjoying it too. Stop by again, love it when you do. 

I Heard it through the GRAPEVINE of my fantasies! Where are you bad boy?

BadboyIt took a lot of make-up to fix my face for work that day. Dark circles hung under my puffy eyes. That was one hell of a nightmare, but it wasn’t really a nightmare, nothing bad happened. It was a vivid dream. The bad boy from the car park and the pub triggered my imagination. I was fantasizing about him. Wait a minute; there was no bad boy! 

I bet you’re wonderin’ how I knew
‘Bout your plans to make me blue
With some other guy you knew before
Between the two of us guys
You know I loved you more
It took me by surprise I must say
When I found out yesterday
Don’t you know that I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Oh I heard it through the grapevine
Oh I’m just about to lose my mind

I started singing along to Marvin Gay and turned the radio up, maybe it would erase the images of my fantasy man. I liked the images that played in my head, but they were way too strong. I needed a dose of reality!

The DJ on the radio station chirped in, “yes, it’s that time of year again folks, the fair is on its way to Richmond. Candy floss, burgers, and the brutality of the waltzers to eject those divine, but bad treats from your stomach. Good times!”

I smiled; I loved the fair when it came to Richmond. The older locals hated the noise it brought, along with diesel fumes and food, but it brought money to the town so they tolerated it. Feeling a little better I grabbed my bag and set off to work. It was a good morning to walk. No frost this morning, just a slight mist hanging over the town. Once that burned off it would be a beautiful day.

Misty Richmond

I had the office to myself. Cindy had an early appointment and there was still no sign of Jan. I made myself a second cup of coffee, and while the computer booted up, gazed out of the window and down to the car park. That’s where it all began, that’s where I first saw you smoking man. Are you real?

Cigarette smoke tantalized my nostrils. I turned around quickly, almost spilling my coffee.

No one was in the room but me.

Somewhere a motorbike fired up!

I love Saturday mornings, its my time. I enjoy a second cappuccino as I blog. Loving my bad boy story. It brings back memories of my teenage years in Brompton on Swale and Richmond, North Yorkshire. Of course this is all fiction…or is it?

Give my first novel Dead of July a try. Available on Amazon for a mere $0.99. If you love it, let me know. If you don’t love it, let me know why.

Dead of July by Sandra Thompson