ghost story

Fifteen Nightingale Road – Extract 2

The unveiling of the dinosaurs… 

 (Please note this has not been edited.)

Jenna covered Ben’s eyes as she led him down the hallway to his bedroom. Joel and Pete were walking just ahead of them, and she couldn’t help noticing the protective way Pete had his arm round her brother’s shoulder. She missed having someone to do that for her, to be strong when she felt weak.

“You too, Jen,” Joel said, his hand resting on the door handle. “Eyes closed.”

“What?”

“You heard me. If your eyes are open too soon, you’ll spoil the magic.”

“Yeah, Mummy, don’t spoil the magic!” Ben admonished her.

Jenna sighed and rolled her eyes at Joel, but closed them without saying anything further. The murky colours that floated behind her eyelids filled her vision, and she felt a moment of disorientation before someone took her arm and she heard the door being opened.

She felt the grip on her arm lead her into the room and she pushed Ben gently in front of her, hands still over his face. When she had taken four or five stumbling steps, she heard Joel’s voice.

“Okay, stop there! Right, ready? Open your eyes.”

Blinking in the warm light, Jenna found herself face to face with a stegosaurus. It was painted on the back wall, just as Ben had requested, its tail raised as if to attack. Its cold, reptilian eye stared at her, sizing her up.

“Oh wow,” Ben murmured. “Wow!” The last word came out in a long drawn out breath.

“I take it you like it, then?” Joel asked. He was standing behind her, but Jenna could hear the grin in his voice. “It’s not all finished yet, but anything we don’t get done today, I think we can trust your mum to do.”

“If your head swells any more you’re not going to be able to get out the door,” Jenna said drily, but she was impressed. She could handle a pencil or brush reasonably well, but Joel had always been the one with the real talent.

The stegosaurus was not the only inhabitant of the room. There were a pair of velociraptors stalking an ankylosaurus on the wall with the window and on the other wall was a triceratops standing by a nest filled with eggs. There was even a pterodactyl on the ceiling. Not everything was fully coloured in and detailed, but everything had an outline and a face at least.

“What do you say?” she prompted Ben, who was still staring at the room with his mouth open.

“Thanks, Uncle Joel!” Ben threw his arms around Joel’s waist, hugging him so hard he was nearly knocked off his feet. “They’re the best dinosaurs. I don’t even mind that velociraptors wouldn’t have actually hunted ankylosaurus.”

Joel blushed slightly and rubbed the back of his head. “Ah, sorry, Ben. I’m not really much of a dinosaur expert. I just painted the ones I knew. Your mum said I wasn’t allowed to do any of the big scary ones. She didn’t say anything about the little scary ones.” He gave Jenna a wink.

“If either of us has nightmares about being eaten, I’m phoning you in the middle of the night,” Jenna promised.

“I won’t have nightmares, I promised,” Ben said. “And don’t worry, Uncle Joel, I don’t mind a bit. They’re all really cool.”

“I’m glad you like it. Don’t forget to thank Pete, too. He helped lots.”

“I don’t know about lots,” Pete admitted. “I’m not much of an artist. I did the grass, though.”

“It’s very good grass, love,” Joel said, leaning over to kiss his ear.

“Yeah, it’s the best! Thanks, Uncle Pete!” Ben could not stand still. He hopped from foot to foot, his gaze darting around the room, drinking in the sight, taking in every detail. His eyes were the widest Jenna had ever seen them, and his mouth would flap when he spotted something new. A gentle breeze from the open window ruffled his hair occasionally, like a friendly caress.

“Is there anything for lunch, Jen?” Joel asked. “All this excitement is making me hungry.”

“I’m sure I can find something,” she replied. “What about you, Ben?” He said nothing, staring intently at a space near the stegosaurus’ tail. “Ben?”

“I think we’ve lost him to the age of the dinosaurs.” Joel grinned. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and Jenna saw Ben jump and then blink as he had just woken up. “What do you want for lunch, little palaeontologist? Brontosaurus burger?”

“There’s no such thing as a brontosaurus, Uncle Joel. Can I have a cheese sandwich, Mum?”

“That’s the second time I’ve been schooled by a seven year old today,” Joel admitted as they headed downstairs. “I’m just going to stop talking.”

Advertisements

Fifteen Nightingale Road – Extract 1

Jenna’s brother uncovers some strange things in the attic of her new home…

 (Please note this has not been edited.)

They returned to the house with a rainbow of paint cans. Ben had stared at the sample cards intently for what felt like hours before deciding on a shade called Cerulean Delight. It was the exact same colour as the sky on a warm July morning. It would be perfect for the little room, cheerful and light.

Jenna had chosen a green so pale it was almost white for the lounge, and slate blue for the kitchen. There was terracotta for the hall, and a dusky rose colour for her bedroom. They had not decided yet on what colour to do the spare room, but there was no hurry on that. They had to live in the house themselves before they could consider having guests over to stay.

She took the paint cans in and set them down in the hallway. Ben carried the selection of brushes and rollers she had picked up. She had bought far more than they were likely to need, but she couldn’t help it. It had been hard to resist buying lampshades and new taps and a hundred other things while they were shopping. She’d felt like a child in a toy shop.

The house seemed quiet, almost as if it were still and sleeping. There was no sign of her brother.

“Joel?”

“I’m up here, Jen.” His voice drifted down the stairs, sounding muffled.

“What are you doing up there?” She started up the stairs and heard his footsteps on the metal of the ladder. Jenna reached the landing at the same time as Joel made it down from the attic.

“Sorry, I found your torch when I was sorting through the boxes and I really wanted to take a peek up there. Looks like this place wasn’t cleared out properly when the last owners left. There’s still a bunch of stuff up there.” He sounded excited, slightly breathless.

“Bunch of stuff? That’s descriptive!” She reached out and pulled a cobweb out of his blond curls. There was a smear of dirt on his cheek that looked like a scar.

“We have an attic?” Ben asked, awe colouring his voice. “Cool! Can I go up there?”

“No, you can not,” Jenna told him firmly. “I’m not having you fall off the ladder and I don’t know how strong the floor is in there. Besides, it’s clearly filthy and probably full of spiders.”

“It doesn’t look…” Joel started, then caught his sister’s eye. “Yeah, it looks quite…er…wobbly. Best you stay on solid ground, Ben.”

Jenna saw disappointment pass over her son’s face like a cloud. She was glad there was no way he would be able to reach the cord to open the door. Ben was not normally a rebellious child, but the lure of the attic had been strong enough to ensnare Joel, and he was twenty-five, not seven.

“So, what did you find?” she asked, turning back to her brother. As soon as the words were out of her mouth she felt the curiosity building up within her. It was as if she was a child again on Christmas morning, poking her stocking for hints about what lay inside.

“Oh, right.” He disappeared up the ladder again, and then came down, a couple of items clutched against his chest, smearing dark dust over his t-shirt. “There are lots of boxes, but I found these just sitting on the boards. Here.”

He handed the first one to her, a black metal case, with a handle and a lock. It looked like a briefcase, only hard and square. When she took it from him, she could hear paper moving inside. He handed Ben the other object.

“A doll?” Ben’s tone was part confusion, part disgust. “I don’t want a doll, Uncle Joel.”

Joel laughed and took it back. “That’s probably more your mum’s thing as well, isn’t it? Sorry, Ben, I couldn’t find any dinosaurs up there. I looked around as much as I could, but it was getting hard to breathe with all that dust.”

Jenna took the doll from her brother. It was quite heavy, the head, hands and feet made from china. The body, though fabric, was firmly stuffed so it could sit up and hold that position. It was dressed in an elaborate pink silk dress, thick with ruffles and white lace, and had a matching bonnet over its long black curls. Its eyes were dark blue and when she tilted the head, the eyelids slipped down, making it seem like the doll was asleep.

“Looks old,” Joel commented, looking at it over her shoulder. “Might even be worth something.”

“Might be, might just be junk. It will look nice in my bedroom, though.”

“You can’t seriously want to sleep with something like that watching you in the night?” Joel protested. “Your mother’s crazy!” he muttered to Ben, tapping his temple repeatedly. Ben gave him a long-suffering nod.

“Knock it off, you two. Come on, this house isn’t going to paint itself.”

She set the doll on the windowsill of her room. The head slumped forward and the eyelids slipped down. It looked peaceful and content, the sunlight glinting off the dark curls. Jenna folded the doll’s hands on her lap and set the metal briefcase down on the floor near it.

“I’ll have to give her a name,” she muttered to herself.

“Her name is Marie Antoinette,” Ben said suddenly from the doorway. He pronounced it as Marie Anty-net. “You know, like that queen who had her head cut off.”

Jenna turned to him in surprise. She hadn’t expected anyone to have heard her, and she certainly wasn’t expecting Ben to come up with a suggestion like that.

“That’s an interesting name, Ben. What made you think of Marie Antoinette? Have you been studying the French Revolution at school?”

He shook his head. “That’s her name,” he said simply.

Jenna glanced at Joel, who shrugged, looking as bemused by the exchange as she was.

“Very well, Marie Antoinette it is.”

Apple – Extract 2

Trapped in Cavington Hall, Apple wakes to a strange sound.

I wake in darkness, drenched in sweat and shaking. I must have been thrashing about in my sleep as I am completely tangled up in the blanket. Unwinding it from my ankle, I wrap it round my shoulders. I won’t be able to get back to sleep while I am as tense as this; I’m still trembling from the dream. In the gloom I can make out the shape of my brother on the bed, so I hold his hand to help me calm down.

Thump-thump

My blood runs cold. It is the sound from my dream, I am certain of it! I pinch myself just to make certain and wince quietly from the sharp pain. No solace there.

Thump-thump

There’s no denying it now. I definitely heard that noise and it sounds horribly close. I grip Skye’s hand tightly, silently begging him to wake up and protect me. Still holding on, I wiggle under the bed and lie there, quivering like a mouse. My heart beats faster as I hold my breath, listening. Under the bed is very dusty and I can feel my nose itching. I pray desperately not to sneeze.

Thump-thump

I try to think rationally. Skye said there was no such thing as ghosts, and he was right about the owl in the woods. Surely there were no such things as monsters? It must just be George banging around downstairs, or the doctor doing some work? Right? As hard as I try, in the enveloping darkness of the strange house it is very hard to think rationally.

I think of my father’s ghost stories, of the woman alone in the graveyard and the unseen thing pursuing her. It was scary enough then, wrapped in the blanket with Skye awake and teasing me. Now the very thought of it turns my muscles to jelly. I try to push back the memories, but they rush through, unstoppable, like the cloud of bats that emerges from the forbidden cave in his tales.

Thump-thump

I let out a quiet whimper, unable to suppress it completely. The noise sounds louder now, as if it is right outside the door. I let go of Skye’s hand, and move further under the bed, curling myself up into a tiny ball. If I keep really quiet, really still, maybe it won’t notice me. I wrap my hands around my knees, trying to prevent them from knocking together as they shake. It doesn’t really sound like footsteps, not human ones at least. What creature moves with a sound like that? Nothing normal comes to mind.

Thump-thump

Skye! I realise I have almost forgotten about him. If there is something out there then he is defenceless, lying above me. I force myself to crawl out from under the bed and stand up, holding on to the post. It takes a while for me to be certain my legs won’t give out beneath me. I take his arm and try to pull him off the bed, but he’s very heavy and my hands are slick with sweat. The mattress is old and has a deep indent in the centre where Skye is lying. After a few struggling attempts, I reluctantly give up.

Thump-thump

The sound has not gotten any louder, maybe it has stopped moving? I look at the welcoming darkness under the bed, wanting to hide myself away again. No. I can’t do that. If there is something out there, then I need to be able to protect my brother. It’s my turn to be the strong one. There is no tinder box in the room as George lights the candles in the evening by himself. I pick up the candle-stick though, as it has a reasonable weight for a weapon.

Taking a deep breath I tighten my grip around my weapon.

“Don’t worry, Skye,” I whisper as quietly as I can. “I’ll protect you.”

Being brave for Skye helps me to be brave for myself and I open the bedroom door a crack. Peering out, I can see moonlight flooding in through one window, bathing the corridor with its ethereal light. Nothing moves, not even a spider.

Thump-thump

It’s coming from the nursery across the hall, I realise. I tense, memories of the doctor’s reaction flooding back. I almost turn back. He locked the door; I saw him. If there’s anything in there, it won’t be able to get out. But as well as fear, there is a morbid curiosity that grips at me. What on earth is making that noise?

Slowly, I cross the corridor, my bare feet making almost no sound as I move. The air is bitterly cold out here and I can see my breath coming out in a ghostly cloud. Shivering violently, I bend down and prepare to peer through the keyhole. My traitorously vivid imagination pictures an eyeball staring back at me. I close my eyes for a moment and count to ten.

Thump-thump

I look though. Something moves by the window. I don’t see it so much as I see the change in the pattern of moonlight, but there was definite movement. Something is in there! My whole body tenses, and my heart beats so fast it’s painful. My hand brushes the doorknob and the door moves. The door is not locked. And if I can get in, whatever is inside can get out.

I want to run and get help, but I don’t know where George or the doctor sleep. And if I just shout for them then I will attract the attention of whatever is in there. I want to run. I want to hide. I want my big brother. But I just have me: Apple and the candle-stick against whatever creeping horror lies inside. And I can’t let whatever it is hurt either of us. I take a deep breath, tighten my grip on the weapon in my hand, and think of Skye.

Then I throw open the door.

It slams against the inside wall with a bang and I hold my breath. Inside the room is complete still. The curtains are open and the moonlight paints a silver highlight on all the surfaces. The wooden horse stands proud on its runners, and the chests of toys sit quiet on the floor, their lids open showing off their treasures. There are no monsters, no demons, no things that go thump in the night. As I stand there looking around, I grow braver and eventually summon the courage to throw open the wardrobe and drawers.

Nothing. Not a rat or a mouse or a spider.

I feel relieved, but also somewhat deflated, as all the tension runs out of me. I take a last look at the rocking horse, the moonlight turning the horsehair to liquid silver. In the distance, I hear a sound, like children laughing. My nerves break and I sprint all the way back to Skye’s room, not bothering to shut the nursery door behind me. Let the doctor punish me in the morning. At least he’s made of flesh and blood.

Panting, I throw myself into my nest of blankets. I pull a pillow over my head and sob quietly until sleep overcomes me.

FIFTEEN NIGHTINGALE ROAD

Synopsis:

Following the death of her husband, Jenna Winters has been wandering aimlessly though life, too afraid to put down roots in case they ripped up again. When she sees the house on Nightingale road, though, she falls in love with it. The house is perfect for her and her young son, Ben.

It’s home.

But when her brother finds a creepy doll in the attic, and things start moving on their own, it soon becomes clear that the house is harbouring secrets and that not all of the skeletons are in the closet. Something wants her out of the house, permanently. The question is: who. And why?

Status:

Incomplete. On hiatus.

Reviews:

I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to read this but man the second I read the first chapter I was hooked I couldn’t stop reading I had to stop everything read the whole thing in one go it was sooo good! – Caiusreece, Figment

This is a great story. The characters have life, quirks, personalities and thought processes that make them real. I like the secondary plots that show real life and time still passing. Its beautifully constructed and I’ll def be sticking around til its finished. – Threeslipsofpaper, Figment

Wow, I love this. Especially since I’m really into the paranormal stuff, and reading about a story is so much more interesting. I love your usage of words, and how you arrange them. I’m loving the character progression throughout the story, and how much it makes sense. With Ben coping with his father’s death in a child-like manner (if you know what I mean). And how Jenna is trying to cope with the death of her husband also. When Ben mentioned the little girl in the window, I literally got goose bumps all over!! – Sarah, Figment

Where to read:

Figment – the first draft is available here.

APPLE

front

Synopsis:

Enter a gothic story of madness and cruelty, where the bonds of sibling loyalty are tested to the grave and beyond. High on the hill, Cavington Hall lurks like a beast surveying its territory. Spoken of in hushed whispers, it is home to Doctor Charles Cavington, last of a family cursed by genius and insanity in equal parts. It has now become home to twelve year old Apple. A run-away, she is forced into the doctor’s service as payment for saving her brother’s life.

While Apple struggles to cope with her loneliness and isolation, the mysteries surrounding Doctor Cavington are growing. What exactly is his interest in the two siblings? Is there any truth to his strange tales of Guardians and Reapers, ethereal figures he claims are responsible for dealing with the souls of the dead?

And what is making that thumping noise in the locked nursery at night?