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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Cottage in the Woods

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Sam sat in the pub alone, his beer didn’t taste the same without conversation. He looked at his watch. Dirk was thirty minutes late, never been late before.

Lily, the waitress, came over with a menu. “Eating alone today Sam?”

“No, I’m waiting for Dirk, not sure where he is, he’s never late.”

“Oh you missed him, he was here earlier, dressed up special he was. I asked him if he was going on a date or something. He cleans up well.”

“What time was he here?”

“A little after one I think”

“Did he say where he was going?” Sam asked.

“No, I didn’t ask either, we were really busy. Didn’t eat, just had a beer and a Whiskey chaser. Seemed in a good mood, really chirpy he was. I’d best be getting on, are you ready to order?”

Sam shook his head, “No Lily, I’m not hungry anymore, thanks though.”

Sam sat for a while and thought about what Lily said. He’d know if Dirk was sweet on someone, the old fool couldn’t keep a secret, or so he thought. He was wrong though, Dirk did have a secret. Where had he gone? Then it dawned on him! 

Sweet Jesus he’s gone to see the old hag in the woods, he wants to be young again!

He finished his pint in one gulp and hurried out of the pub. He took the path by the river towards the old woods. Dark clouds gathered, and the first drops of rain fell as Sam took the path that forked left, away from the river. The trees seemed closer together than normal and very little light penetrated their thick branches. Day light turned to darkness in just a few short steps. Sam shivered.

Sammie, come on, hurry. I’m waiting for you Sammie!

“Sadie, is that you.”

He knew it couldn’t be, she was long dead, but he heard her voice clearly.

“I’m coming.”

He quickened his pace and walked deeper into the woods, it was quiet, too quiet. Sam didn’t notice though, Sadie’s voice echoed in his head. It was enticing. His heart ached, he’s missed her so much.

He aroma of a log fire tickled his nostrils. The smell made him nostalgic. They’d spent their honeymoon in a cabin in the New Forest. A November wedding had meant it was cold and they’d snuggled together by the log fire, young and in love. A lifetime ago.

Sammie, I’m cold, come and keep me warm!

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

If you like my blogs, support a budding artist by watching out for my upcoming book, which is a compilation of short stories and will be available soon on Amazon. Watch out for  “Ghosts on the Sand and other Chilling Tales”

My first book is available on Amazon by clicking on the following link.

Dead of July – Amazon

 

 

Shadows on the wall

2

Sam teased Dirk, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was distracted, excited and even a little giddy. Sam enjoyed seeing his old friend look so happy, but he was afraid it would end badly. The old witch had obviously drugged him and made him believe things. Could she really still be alive?

Sam sat alone in front of the fire in his little two up two down home. The home he’d lived in for fifty years. He’d bought it just after he and Sadie were married, raised the twins there. He didn’t want to be young again, not without his wife, life was lonely without her. Cancer had taken her ten years ago and now the only thing that kept him going was her memory. His heart ached when he thought about her, he was ready to leave this world and join her on the other side. Maybe then they’d both be young again and live in eternal bliss.

Sam, Sammie, wake up

“What? Who said that?”

Sam shivered, the fire had died and was nothing but glowing embers. It was dark. He was disoriented, sure he’d heard his wife’s voice, she was the only person who ever called him Sammie.

“You’ve had too much to drink old man.” he said to himself as he climbed the stairs to his bedroom, “and that old fool filled your head with witchcraft.”

He got into bed and pulled the blankets tightly around him, he was cold, deathly cold. Shadows danced on the wall. Shadows that looked like long bony fingers. Fingers that wanted to reach out and probe him, delve into his parchment thin skin.

Take a life, give a life! 

“What, who said that?”

Sammie, Sammie…

Sam closed his eyes and thought of Sadie, he missed her.

Witch in the Wood

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Sam and Dirk sat at a table by the window in the White Swan, or the Mucky Duck as they lovingly called it. Sam looked a Dirk’s face, his blue piercing eyes were full of excitement. He’d seen that look before, but not for a long time.

“You really believe the old hag is a Witch?” Sam asked.

“Old Hag? There’s nothing old about her, and she’s not a hag, she’s a vision of beauty?”

“I haven’t seen her since we were kids, I’m surprised she’s still alive.”

Dirk sat back in his chair. “I was mushrooming a couple of days ago. I wandered into the woods, better mushrooms in there, best I’ve ever seen. Didn’t realize how far I’d gone. Thats when I saw here. She was out gathering herbs.”

“How do you know it was her?”

“I didn’t think at first, she was a mere slip of a girl, long black hair. I was quiet as a mouse, watching her. I could see the old witches cottage in the distance, smoke coming from the chimney. I thought it was the old hag’s granddaughter. Don’t know how she knew I was there, she didn’t even turn around, just spoke.”

Hi Dirk, I haven’t seen you in I long time. 

Sam started laughing, “I think you were picking magic mushrooms, how many did you eat?”

Dirk continued,  “I took a step closer to her and she turned around and looked at me. She was a vision. If only I was 20 years younger?”

“That would make you fifty, still too old.”

Derek seemed not to hear Sam mocking him, “She looked me in the eye and I felt young, alive. She smiled at me.”

Not scared of me anymore? You used to run when I looked at you. 

“She took a step closer and I could feel her breath on my face. It smelled of the forest. She stroked my cheek and my skin tingled.

Dirk turned his face, “Look Sam, look at my cheek.”

Sam’s vision wasn’t what it used to be, so he took his spectacles out of his top pocket to take a closer look. Sam’s cheek appeared to have a scar on it, only it wasn’t a scar, it was a strip of perfectly soft, clear unwrinkled skin.

“Do you see it Sam, do you see what she did?”

Death Memory

522891-murder”Why does it feel warm?”

She undid the popper that kept the camera case closed. The clicking had stopped, but camera vibrated. It was processing something. Barbara shuddered.

“I don’t like the way it feels, it feels warm alive.”

“Here, give it to me,” Lucy said, “this whole thing might be some sort of joke, lets see what on its memory.”

Barbara looked around uncomfortably; they were surrounded by darkness and silence. It wasn’t a good place to be at night. Lucy gasped.

“Oh sweet Jesus. Oh dear God.”

“What is it?”

Lucy turned stood next to her friend and showed her the secrets captured in the camera’s memory. Barbara turned around and hung on to the branch of a tree while she threw up.

Legacy of the Lake

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The pregnancy hadn’t been a good one. Juliet had been bedridden for most of it. The birth was a struggle too.  Afterwards she barely found strength to hold Sacha. The beautiful baby girl was named after Jake’s grandmother.

“Do you want me to go? I can leave you to get some sleep if you like.” Jake asked.

He worried as he looked at her exhausted pale face, and the dark rings under her eyes.

“No, stay. Dad will be here soon, stay until he leaves. Talk to him for me. I’m just so tired, but I want him here, I want him to see Sacha.” her voice trembled, “Wish mum was still here.”

Jake reached out and put his hand over Juliet’s. “She’s here, she’s watching you.”

“But I don’t feel her. How do I know?” She shivered. “It’s so cold in here.”

Jake took another blanket from the closet and tucked her in. There that should keep you warm. “I’ll be back in a second,”

He found a nurse “Whats wrong with her? Why is she so weak? It’s 24 hours since she had the baby, shouldn’t she start to feel better? I’m worried, I don’t want to lose her.”

“We’ll watch her, she’ll get better everything looks fine, but she’s exhausted. The trauma of losing her mother isn’t helping. Did the police ever figure out what happened? Was it suicide?”

Jake hung his head. “Can’t see she’d kill herself, but why would she get so close to the lake in her wheelchair? Tragic accident is what they’re saying.”

The shadows in Juliet’s room gathered unseen around the crib. Sacha slept, swaddled in blankets as a dozen eyes looked down at her. She’s perfect they whispered she’ll be ours soon. The keeper of the lake.

Juliet didn’t hear them, she was slipping away into a drug induced haven, blocking out a terror she didn’t yet know, just like her mother before her. The family legacy continued and Sacha was next in line.

 

Nice Day for a Wet Wedding!

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Juliet discovered she was pregnant a month before the wedding. It wasn’t a problem, unless morning sickness spoiled the big day. She was happy, and so was Jake. Pregnancy meant no wild hen party (or bachelorette party as her American friends called it), but that was OK, she could put it on hold until after the baby was born, something to look froward to.

Then the big day came. May 15th. She was awoken by someone tapping on her bedroom door.
“Is the bride ready for breakfast?”
“Come on in dad, I’m awake”
He dad carried a tray laden with goodies. Fruit, coffee, brioche, jam.
“You’re the best dad in the world!”
“I just want to spoil my little girl while I can. Why are you crying? Don’t cry. You still want to get married don’t you?”
“I’m crying because I’m happy!”
The quiet moment didn’t last long. The doorbell rang constantly after that as caterers, family, friends and neighbors showed up to help prepare for the big event. Juliet drank her coffee and nibbled some fruit, but was far too excited to eat more. She was marrying the man she loved. Life was good.

Stretching she slid out of bed and walked across to the window. The large marquee was set up out front and was bustling with activity. There were flowers, balloons, lights, tables, ribbons. Everything a girl could ask for and more. The sky was a perfect blue.
I’m so lucky, nothing could spoil this moment.

Juliet was wrong!

As she slipped into her beautiful white wedding dress thunder rumbled, and it wasn’t in the distance, it was right overhead. She shivered! Please don’t rain on my wedding day! By the time the bridesmaids had fixed her veil the first big drops of rain splattered on the ground.
“I hope the marquee is waterproof.” she joked, but she wasn’t laughing inside. Something bothered her. When she saw Jake waiting for her in the marquee, she stopped worrying. The sight of him filled her with happiness. His hair was cut shorter than normal and made him look like a school boy again. She remembered their first prom together and smiled and walked towards him.

As the ceremony began, the intensity of the rain increased. By the time they exchanged vows they had to shout to be heard.

The happy couple said I do, kissed and then turned to face their guests. They were finally man and wife!

Something caught Julia’s eye at by the entrance at the side. A woman stood dripping with water. She was dressed in black. A dark veil covered her face. Juliet stopped smiling when she saw her. Something was wrong, something tugged at her memory. Who is that? The woman lifted her veil revealing her face.

Juliet’s face.

Jake tried to hold onto his bride, but she fell to her knees.

Juliet fainted.

Where are you Juliet?

lake sunset

Gasping for breath, Jake sat up. He was cold! Where am I?
Are you okay?”
Juliet looked at him, concern in her big brown eyes.
“I must have fallen asleep. I had a weird dream.”
He put his arms around his new fiancée and hugged her close, kissing the top of her head. She smelled good. The mists of his nightmare faded as she lifted her face and kissed him again.
“What did you dream?” she asked.
“I can’t really remember, I think I was drowning!”
“Well there isn’t much chance of that happening is there”? You were the champion of the swim team in high school. No drowning for you Jake”
He smiled at her and kissed her again, pulling her close, feeling the warmth of her body close to him.
“When shall we get married. I want to wake up next to you every morning for the rest of my life.”
“Next June,” Juliet replied, “everyone loves a June wedding.”
She stood up and walked down to the lake, dipping her toes into the cool clear water. Jake shivered, but he didn’t know why. Juliet turned and reached out to him, here
come sit by the water for a while, it feels good. They sat with their toes in the water, the sunset and fading light turning the lake’s surface red.
It looks like Hell!
“I’ve never told anyone this before, but I got a bad scare down here one night. I thought I saw a lady in the middle of the lake.” Juliet said as she gazed into the distance.
“What, you mean in a boat or something?”
“No, it was weird and scary she was just hovering there. Half of her body was under the water. She had long hair. I know it was just the light playing tricks with me, but it scared the crap out of me. I thought it was a ghost.”
“Did you ever see her again?” Jake could hardly get the words out of his mouth as his dream flooded his brain. The sun was gone and the remaining light played tricks with the shadows. He began to shiver. He took hold of Juliet’s hand. It was as cold as ice. When he looked at their reflection in the still water he froze.
He was alone!

Ghosts on the Sand

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The sun slid behind a cloak of darkness while I cowered on the sand terrified and alone. A flaming ball of fire burned a path through the darkened sky tumbling towards me. Closing my eyes, I waited to die. An earth-shattering explosion rocked the beach. A volcano of hot gushing water erupted from the waves. Angry flames reached out hungrily, looking for something to devour. Strangers emerged from thin air, running towards the fire, shouting to one another in a language I didn’t understand. The watery inferno illuminated their fear stricken faces. Shadowy figures floated slowly towards the shore, bobbing up and down grotesquely in the shallow water. Trembling I closed my eyes and prayed. Was this a nightmare?

My new book is almost ready for the first round of editing. Here’s a small preview from “Ghosts on the Sand”

This story will feature in a compilation with three other short stories. I’m aiming to release it at the end of the year.