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A Dozen Dark Dimensions By T H Davis

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A Dozen Dark Dimensions By T H Davis

  1. 1. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions 1
  2. 2. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions ABO U T T HE AUT H O R T. H. Davis was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1986. A life-long fan of horror and supernatural fiction, he grew up reading books by his heroes Stephen King, James Herbert, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, and others. Never an academic type, Thomas moved more towards his darker side, honing his talents rather than his grades. A brand new name in the world of horror, Thomas has created a small, but loyal buzz on the internet, and his short stories have been read by thousands of people worldwide. Now you hold in your hands (or, on your computer screens) the first collection of short stories from the author, each story a new journey into the darkest realms of a mind, hence the title. In time, this collection will become a gem, as many are sure that the name T. H. Davis will be a much heard name in the future. 2
  3. 3. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions This book is a work of fiction. The characters and events are all fictitious, and created entirely by the author. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2009 by T. H. Davis Published as a PDF ebook format for sale, with permission of the author, on the internet. All websites who sell this material, do so with permission of the author. This ebook is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re- sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the author's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Cover illustration: "Dante's Inferno" Gustave Doré Visit T. H. Davis at www.myspace.com/undercroftstories 3
  4. 4. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions Contents Introduction – A Gathering of Tales It Brings A Nightmare Klever Larry's Run Shrewsingran The Graves Unmarked The Man Who Typed Too Fast Blind Faith An Evil Green Lake The Four Stones Black House Bateeviel Treasa 4
  5. 5. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions A Dozen Dark Dimensions 5
  6. 6. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions Introduction – A Gathering of Tales So here we are, reading my first collection of short stories, and I know that sounds like it should be a rip off, since these stories have already been read world-wide from my website, but this is not the case. In this volume you'll find new things, like this introduction, and also a note from me on most of the stories – some at the end of each story; some at the beginning. Some of the stories have reasons for being (inspiration, etc.) that I'm sure my fans will be interested to know about. Most of the stories are pointless however in the grand scheme of things, and ergo are devoid of deep reasons, but some have interesting back stories. Mostly I just want you to enjoy my dark dimensions, and I thought this the perfect opportunity to wrap all of these stories up with a little bow and present them to you here, with all the trimmings, as a nice little volume of my work, that I'm sure you will enjoy, and that I hope you get oodles of pleasure from reading. Faithfully yours, T. H. Davis. Cavan, Ireland. 14 October, 2009. 6
  7. 7. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions It Brings A Nightmare Kitty was watching TV when Mick came home. He had been away playing guitar all day in Grafton Street. He would do this every Saturday. It was more for fun than for the actual money, but sometimes he could earn quite a bit, and he was pretty good. He could imitate John Lennon so well that people would stop and watch him play a whole set, dropping fives and tens into his guitar case when he finished. It was almost 6 PM when Kitty heard the front door unlock. Mick came down the hallway towards the living room in his typical clumsy way: each foot coming down hard before the next as he stumbled to avoid random objects that weren't actually in his way. He came into the living room and smiled at her, his smile more of a grin – it was the kind of grin that a man shows his wife when he's made a decision without asking, or when he has news and knows there's a chance his wife won't like it. Kitty watched him walk into the living room, setting his guitar case down. He kissed her and said hello, then disappeared into the hallway, still wearing that childish grin. 'What have you done?' Kitty asked, curious and slightly worried at what the grin was for. 'I haven't done anything,' he said from the hall, laughing. 'Okay . . . What are you planning on doing?' 'Okay, okay . . . I got something today,' he said coming back into the living room. This time he was holding a soft guitar case. 'It's a guitar.' 7
  8. 8. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions 'Really? Is it?' Kitty said, smiling sarcastically. 'So, what's the damage? Just tell me you made some money today, and spent that instead of your wages.' 'I made just under a hundred, and I bought this with it.' He thought for a moment as he unzipped the case. 'Well actually, the guitar was only fifty quid, so it's all good.' He smiled at her again and she watched him opening the case and taking out a blood red electric guitar. He lifted it onto his lap, dropping the case to the floor, and stroked the fretboard. 'Isn't she a beaut?' 'Oh, yeah . . . gorgeous,' Kitty answered, staring at the guitar. 'You do realise you don't have an amplifier, don't you?' Mick looked at her thoughtfully. 'Yeah, but between what I have left from today, and whatever I get next Saturday, I'll have enough.' 'Okay, where did you get it? I mean, fifty sounds a bit too good to be true. It looks expensive.' Mick's grin widened, as if he had some kind of huge secret. 'Well, I was playing my set, and this guy was watching me. He had this on his back and he was watching my set and smiling, getting into it. Weird looking guy though, but he seemed okay. He was wearing all black and had long black hair. He was probably one of those goth people.' 'Right, so you playing, freaky guy, goth people,' Kitty said, watching him carefully. 'Then what?' 'Well, at the end of the set, I was taking a break, and he came over. He says, "That was a really good set", so I said "Thanks", then he said, "I'm trying to sell this guitar", and I asked him "How much?", and he says "Fifty". So I was almost sold right then, and then he showed it to me, and I just fell in love.' 'Okay,' Kitty said, still unsure, but feeling a little better. 'As long as it's nothing illegal or anything.' 'Nah, it's not hot, and even if it was, there's no way to trace a guitar.' Mick was shaking his head to reinforce what he was saying. 'Well, next week I'm getting an amp and then I'll be like Hendrix, only better!' He stuck his tongue out, grabbing the guitar and striking a pose. 'Sure thing, Mr Page,' Kitty said, laughing. 'Hey, call me Jimmy,' Mick said, winking at Kitty. 'Mr Page was my daddy.' Later that night, after they'd had dinner, and while Kitty was in the kitchen working on a large crossword, Mick sat in the living room, admiring his new guitar as it sat in the corner of the room. He played gentle chords on his acoustic, and watched the setting sun shine through the window, 8
  9. 9. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions lighting up the red paintwork on the electric guitar. He was playing Beatles songs absently while wondering about the guitar's previous owner, and what had made him sell the guitar for so little money. It was a beautiful instrument, with shark-tooth mother-of-pearl fret-markers, chrome hardware, a Floyd Rose bridge, and locking nuts. The guitar had to be worth ten times what he had given the man, but Mick didn't mind; a bargain was a bargain, and he guessed that the guy must have really needed the money. There was no other reason, and he knew he'd been in that position before: tempted to sell his guitars in the past so that he could put food on the table. He put the acoustic guitar gently on the couch and walked over to the electric, running his fingers over its glossy finish and loving every part of it. He had never owned an electric guitar before, although he had friends who did, and he had played them from time to time. Mostly, he preferred acoustic, always opting for the natural, woody sound, rather than the emulated sound of steel that came from an electric guitar. But he didn't care anymore. He was in love. 'Mick,' Kitty called from the kitchen, but Mick hadn't heard her. 'Mick!' Her voice was urgent, and the second time she called out he looked up and in the direction of the kitchen. 'Yeah?' 'Come here, Mick,' she said, her voice sounding worried now – scared almost. 'Okay,' he said, standing up from the guitar, but watching it lovingly as he walked into the kitchen. 'What's up?' Kitty looked up at him, her face calm, the cap of her pen hanging, semi-masticated, from her mouth. 'Um . . . nothing,' she said. 'You called me just there,' he said, his face a puzzled expression. 'You sounded worried, so what's up, are you okay?' 'Ye-es . . . I'm having a hard time with the crossword, but apart from that I'm fine. Are you?' 'Yeah, but that was kinda weird,' he said, scratching the back of his head, and wondering how he'd heard her voice. 'Must've been someone outside calling another Mick.' 'Must've been,' Kitty said concerned. 'Anyway, you want tea?' 'Yeah, I'll make it,' he said, walking towards the kettle. 'Nope.' Kitty jumped up and intercepted him, getting to the kettle first. 'I'll make it. You go admire your new toy, and I'll bring it in.' She smiled and then kissed him. Mick didn't say another word, he just turned and walked out of the kitchen. When he got into the 9
  10. 10. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions living room, he found that one of the strings on the electric guitar had broken – the high E string. He stooped down to it and watched the tiny string bob up and down. His eyebrows performed a whole range of movements as he considered the string, wondering how he hadn't heard it break. Breaking strings generally make a lot of noise, but he could only assume that it was a quieter death on an electric guitar than on an acoustic. He stood up and walked over to the window, looking out at the street, watching the housing estate they lived on. He was watching people coming to and from the estate. He was watching kids playing gleefully, and dogs running here and there, barking at one another. He wished he had a cigarette right then. He had quit five years before, more out of necessity than a genuine will to quit. It had been one of those occasions where money was a seldom seen thing in his life and he had had no choice but to stop. But right there, standing at the window, thinking about the electric guitar – even though he didn't particularly want to – he could have smoked the crap right out of a cigarette. The sun kept its downwards progress, slowly changing the colour of the sky as day began its metamorphosis into night. Here and there a street-light came on and he stared at them, his eyes occasionally jumping from one to the other as his mind went off on its own course and he considered all manner of things that he normally wouldn't. After a while, when the sky had darkened and the children and dogs began to dissipate, he came out of his trance and looked up at the sky, wondering how long he'd been standing there. Ten minutes? Fifteen? More? He couldn't tell, and he didn't care – he just wanted that cup of tea. He turned around and moved towards the living room door, and as he did he saw a full cup of tea sitting on the little coffee table in front of the couch. He stared at it for a long time, curious as to how he hadn't heard Kitty come in with the tea, and why she hadn't said anything to him while she'd been there. Maybe she thought I wanted to be alone, he thought, smiling weakly and picking up the cup. When he picked up the cup, it was almost too hot to hold and he had to switch to the handle, but when he put it to his mouth to take a sip he made a face as though he'd just taken a mouthful of lemon. The tea was icy cold. He looked disdainfully at it, and then tasted it again, just to make sure. Again he recoiled at the freezing cold temperature of the liquid. He walked into the kitchen, intending to complain to Kitty about the cold tea. She was still doing the crossword, and didn't look up when he came in. 'Did you forget to boil the kettle?' he said, putting the cup down on the table beside her. 'No, why?' she answered, looking at the cup. The tea had developed a thick skin on top. 10
  11. 11. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions 'It's freezing . . . When did you come in with it?' 'Just now,' she said. 'I just came back in, less than a minute ago. Here.' She handed him her cup. It was almost full, and hot when he took a sip. 'Okay, I'm going to bed,' he said, rubbing his forehead. 'I think I'm getting a headache.' 'Why? What's up with you today?' 'I don't know, love. Just one of those weird days I think.' He left the kitchen and went into the living room to put the acoustic guitar back in its case. When he walked back over to the electric guitar, he saw that the top string had broken and now hung lifeless beside the other broken string. 'What . . . ?' His mouth hung open in disbelief. Electric guitar or not, he knew he should have heard that string break. He watched the string and then switched his stare to the other broken string. 'Old strings,' he said, after much thought, and picked the guitar up by the neck. He walked into the hall and turned towards the bedrooms. As he passed the bathroom, he noticed a smell coming from within, only faint at first but growing stronger as he walked towards the door. He pushed the door back, the stench beginning to sting his nose. He couldn't place the smell; it wasn't normal toilet smell, and it didn't smell like anything that a person might do in a toilet. It smelled like rot and decay. It was bitter, and brought up a gag reflex in him, growing steadily stronger, and making him want to vomit. He put the electric guitar down outside the bathroom and walked slowly in, covering his nose with his sleeve and approaching the toilet bowl slowly, and with nauseous anticipation. He looked at the toilet seat, preparing to pull it up and see a dead rat. But how long would it have to be there to smell so badly? Decomposition like that took days in hot weather. But what else could it be? He didn't try to imagine, and just hoped that the septic tank had backed up. That would be no less a disgusting problem, but toxic gasses coming out of the toilet might explain the weirdness of the evening, and the oncoming headache. He lifted the lid of the toilet seat, bracing himself for whatever was there. But when the lid was up and he looked down inside, all he saw was crystal clear water. It was clean and free of dead things. Not even a hint of yellow. Nothing. And then the smell was gone, just like that. It disappeared as quickly as it had come, and he took his hand down from his face, still looking into the toilet bowl, as though expecting to see some horrible spider crawl out from under the rim. But there really was nothing there, and the smell was now gone, leaving no trace of itself. 11
  12. 12. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions He walked back out into the hallway, his acoustic guitar still in hand (he had thought about using it as a weapon, just in case), and picked up the electric guitar, walking into the bedroom, and completely unaware that while he had been in the bathroom, another string had broken. He put both guitars in the corner of the room – the acoustic first, and then the electric leaning against it, facing the room. He walked around to his side of the bed and sat on the edge, looking out the window through the gap in the curtains and really wishing he had a cigarette. The pain in his head was growing still, throbbing rhythmically behind his eyes and in his temples. He thought about the smell and the man with the long black hair and sunglasses, all dressed in black and smiling as he handed over the electric guitar. Had he been wearing sunglasses? Mick tried to picture the man, but couldn't. But he was sure the guy had been wearing black sunglasses, because he couldn't remember seeing the guy's eyes. He could remember thinking to himself, as he handed over the money, that he didn't want to imagine what those eyes looked like. He didn't want the guy to take off the sunglasses, because he didn't think he'd like what he saw in those eyes. But he could feel them, even now, as he got undressed, he could feel them looking at him, studying his face. When he was undressed, he got into the bed, shivering slightly at the chill that had crept into the room. He looked up at the window, and through the curtains, he could see that it was almost dark outside, and the window was shut and locked. There was no way it could be open and letting the cold night air in. And even if it was, this wasn't cold night air he was feeling. It was an unnatural chill. His thoughts drifted off soon, and his eyes shut rapidly as sleep took over. He didn't notice the temperature in the room fall by another ten degrees. He didn't see the clouds of vaporous breath that escaped him and lingered like frozen clouds in the air above his face. He didn't see the fourth string break on the guitar, snapping in two and springing around silently in the darkness of the room. The room looked pitch black when his eyes opened. He stared at the ceiling for a moment, wondering why it was so cold and wondering whether he had had any dreams. Mostly he wondered what time it was. Beside him, he could feel Kitty, her warm body felt comfortable against him, and he could hear her light breathing. He looked at the window and could see the familiar orange glow of street-lights between the curtains. He turned his eyes back to the ceiling then, his vision slowly adjusting to the darkness of the room. He turned over towards Kitty, putting his arm around her and closing his eyes to fall back into 12
  13. 13. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions sleep against her warmth. As he did he thought about the electric guitar and looked over into the corner of the room. For a moment his entire body broke out in a sudden sweat, and a warm, sickly lump formed in his throat. He felt a shiver run through him as terror filled his mind. He could only stare at the thing he saw hunched beside the guitar. He could only watch it, moving its hand over the neck and the fretboard. He watched its hands – claws – gently scratch the paint. And then his mind descended further into abysmal terror when the thing seemed to turn and look at him. It was a black shape, that was all – like a shadow that was darker than dark, evil and riddled with malignant intent. It stared constantly at Mick, penetrating his thoughts with its darkness. Then it moved, only slightly, turning towards the bed. Mick began to hear whispers, dozens of voices, all speaking in languages he could not begin to understand. They sounded hateful and angry, and they spoke to him from within his own head, tearing at his sanity like a thousand razor sharp teeth. The shadow, the thing, was moving slowly towards the bed, and as it got closer, the voices within his head got louder, until he could hear nothing else. The thing was still approaching him and as it did the fifth string on the guitar snapped and sprang away from the body. Not that Mick noticed: he was concerned with the huge black shape that was crawling closer to him. He wanted to escape, or wake up from this horrible nightmare. He wanted to wake Kitty, to warn her of the thing in their bedroom, but he couldn't move – he was frozen with terror – and still the thing advanced, and still the wretched voices within his mind battered his thoughts with their vitriolic babbling. The thing was getting closer now, feet away. Then he noticed that its attention had turned to Kitty, and it watched her with invisible eyes, considering her form in the bed, and slowly moving towards her. Mick found himself powerless against the fear he felt and he prayed to God to stop the thing. He prayed hard and closed his eyes, managing to hear his muffled prayer through the voices in his mind. The voices stopped then and he opened his eyes. A silent scream left his open mouth and his eyes, wide with fear, fell upon the black shape of the creature, standing directly beside him, inches from his face. The creature watched him silently, and suddenly he heard its voice speaking to him. Not in the room, and not out loud, but directly into his mind. FUCK YOUR GOD!! The room went dark and his eyes snapped shut. He wondered if he had died, but then realised that if he had died, he could not wonder if he was dead. No, he was dreaming, and in his dream, he was 13
  14. 14. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions on a dirt path that wound up a steep hill. On either side of the path there was dense and dark forest, evil and destructive and calling him to enter. But he didn't, because he knew that there were demons in there, hidden amongst the trees. He could hear those voices, by the dozen, speaking in tongues and spitting and cursing at him. He could see a small cottage with a thatched roof and white-wash walls at the top of the hill, and he knew that that was safety. The cottage was safety and he had to get to it. He looked back into the trees and bushes and saw the leaves and branches begin to shake. He started up the hill, terrified by the things that spoke to him from either side, and watched him with pale yellow eyes. His walk turned into a jog, and that became a run, his footfall and his will to reach the cottage growing more frantic with every step he took. But the beasts in the forest kept up with his pace easily, laughing at his attempts to escape. He heard them on either side, and he could see the cottage getting closer and closer. It was fifty yards away . . . forty . . . thirty. He kept running, his lungs and his legs burning and his mind terrorized by the evil in the forest. But he thought he might make it. He could see the cottage getting closer and closer and he thought he might make it. He would be safe then, once he got inside, and they would not be able to touch him. His face became an expression of agonising terror and pain when he felt a sharp, cracking pain on his back. He fell forward, still looking at the cottage. The door was only five feet away now and he crawled on his hands and knees towards it. He felt the cracking pain again, running along his spine and knocking him onto his stomach. He cried out in pain and turned over onto his back. The sky was blue and cloudless and he looked intensely at it as he felt the crack again, on his ribs this time. He almost doubled up in pain and looked around for his assailants but he could see nothing. He felt the pain again as he was struck on the side of his head. He fell sideways and was punched in the mouth. He watched the spray of blood that came from his open mouth and saw teeth, shattered, landing on the path. He felt the pain again, on his legs this time, and he screamed out horribly, but his screams were muffled by an invisible force over his mouth. He felt a barrage of claws, ripping and punching his chest. His clothes were torn to shreds and the ground was slowly drenched in his blood. He could only cry silently now, as the invisible hand covered his mouth and nose and the others battered his body. The cottage sat only feet away, and he reached out to it in vain, crying helplessly and thinking of Kitty. He felt an enormous weight on his arm and he heard the snapping sound as his upper arm was shattered to pieces. He closed his eyes, the agony becoming slowly more dull. He turned over, only 14
  15. 15. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions semi-conscious and watched the sky as thousands of invisible things beat him to death. Kitty awoke suddenly, sitting up and looking over at Mick. He was jumping violently in the bed, but she couldn't see him clearly. Soon, her eyes began to adjust to the darkness, but by then he had stopped moving. Her eyes widened with terror when she could see the battered, bloody corpse of her husband. A scream filled her mouth but was stopped by the sight of the black shape that watched her from the corner of the room, by the electric guitar. She could see the final string on the guitar breaking with a muted twang, and as she stared, the dark shape approached her, staring intently all the way. As it neared her, she could hear a thousand evil voices, whispering wretchedly inside her mind. Then she fell asleep and woke on a dirt path in her dreams, a cottage ahead of her, and a feeling of evil from the trees on either side. Outside the house, and outside Kitty's dreams, a man stood on the street, watching the bedroom window. He wore all black and had long black hair which drifted eerily in the light breeze. He wore a pair of dark sunglasses but he took them off as he watched the window, and revealed a pair of burning yellow eyes. 'My baby needs a new set of strings,' he said, approaching the house with a grin. Author's Note: It Brings a Nightmare was inspired by true events. Ten or so years ago, my uncle was staying with us, and he – being a busker – brought home a guitar one day, a red electric guitar. Not wanting it damaged by the kids, he left it in my parents' bedroom, and that night, my mother experienced almost exactly the same thing that Mick did in the story (except for the dying part!). I decided to write it as a story, more than likely out of boredom, but I like it, and because it has some basis in reality, I think it probably has a bigger, stronger impact. Well, I hope it does, anyway. 15
  16. 16. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions Klever Author's Note: I'm going to be completely honest here: Klever was always meant to be my "IT". It was my reaction to the great Stephen King work. Nothing more, nothing less, just a weird juggler with no talent for the application of make-up. Enjoy! Eric flicked through the yellow pages. His wife, Martha sat at the other end of the kitchen table, sipping a coffee and watching her husband with amusement. She always loved watching him try to organise things. Right now, he was organising his own 50th birthday party. She would have been happy to do it for him, and had even offered to put the whole thing together. But Eric, being a typical alpha-male, had declined her offer, telling her that if he could put together detailed statistic reports on the personal finances of Ireland's wealthy men and women, then he could surely put together a small party for his own birthday. Now, as he moved from one page of the phone book to the next, and as the look of vexation hardened on his face, Martha's smile grew steadily wider, becoming a grin. He looked up at her and his face softened. 'I'm on top of it, love,' he said. 'Oh, I'm sure,' she said, trying not to giggle. 'Find anything you want yet?' 'Nope . . . not yet, but I will -' He stopped on a page and looked closer, inspecting the entries. 'A- 16
  17. 17. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions ha!' he almost shouted. 'I've got it!' He stuck out his tongue at Martha. His victory dance. 'Very good, love. What is it?' Martha asked, standing up to join him. 'It's not a bouncy castle, is it?' 'Oh, very funny, but not far wrong,' Eric answered. 'Look.' Martha took the book and studied the page. For a moment, she said nothing, only looked at him in disbelief. 'You can't be serious, Eric.' 'Why not? It's my birthday, isn't it? Why can't I have a juggler?' 'You really want a juggler to come to your fiftieth birthday party? A juggler, Eric.' 'Yes, and he looks good, too. Says here: "the eyes are the windows to the soul, and you won't believe yours when you see me juggle."' Eric smiled at her. 'Eric, you realise that that makes absolutely no sense?' 'Oh, poppycock, it makes perfect sense, Martha, my dear. It means, he looks cheap, and it'll be something new and different and unique.' For a moment, Martha just looked at him, wondering if he was playing a joke. When he didn't start laughing she gave in. 'Okay, Eric. It's your party I suppose. Maybe it will be fun.' 'Great,' Eric said, 'I'll just grab the phone and call him . . .' He looked at the picture which displayed an odd looking man wearing white make-up. '. . . It.' Eric picked up the phone and dialled in the number, consulting the advertisement before placing the call. It began to ring. Once, twice, three times. He looked up at the ceiling, considering hanging up, but then the phone was answered. For a moment there was silence. Eric's mind went blank. 'Hello-oo?' a voice came from down the line. 'Anybody the-ere? How may I he-elp you?' 'Oh, um, yes, is this Klever, the juggler?' Eric asked, his voice finally coming back to him. 'It is Klever! Who arth thou?' 'Ah . . . My name is Eric Munroe, I saw your advertisement in the yellow pages. I'm having a party next week, my birthday, and I'd like to know if you're available?' 'I'm always available,' the voice of Klever, the juggler, said. Once Eric had organised the business side of things and had given the juggler directions to the house, he hung up. At once he felt an overwhelming sense of relief. There had been something weird about the voice. It had felt cold, like a block of ice whispering into his ear. Such a strange feeling. But the odd feeling wore off as the day progressed, and every now and then he would go to the 17
  18. 18. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions advertisement to see the picture of Klever. He couldn't stop himself. He had to keep checking the picture to stare at it for a few minutes at a time. It was as if he was checking to make sure the ad, and the picture, would still be there. The days passed by and Saturday soon arrived. The party day. Eric and Martha woke at 10 AM, and Eric quickly got to setting the house up: stocking the fridge with wine and beer, and filling the kitchen with snacks and finger food. Martha was taking care of the majority of the food, and once or twice she had to kick Eric out of the kitchen. He eventually got around to the garden. He was to erect the marquee, and get the barbecue ready. He was to put down mats and organise deck chairs and tables. He had his work cut out for him, but the guests wouldn't start arriving until perhaps 6 PM. Thinking about the guests arriving made him think about Klever. Klever was to arrive at half five, to be ready for when the guests got there. Eric looked at his watch, reading the time carefully, and then checking it twice. It was nearly three now and he was almost done. The sun was shining brightly and he smiled when he stepped away from the garden to admire his handiwork. 'The birthday boy did well,' Martha's voice came from behind him, and he jumped as he turned around. 'What's up with you?' Martha asked. 'Oh, nothing, love, I'm sorry. It's this Klever person. The juggler.' 'What about him? Can't he show?' Martha feigned disappointment, but only to appear empathetic. 'Oh, no, it's not that,' Eric answered and then stopped talking, thinking silently and studying the concrete patio. 'It's just . . . don't you think he's a little . . . creepy?' 'Oh, I think he's very creepy,' Martha said and winked. 'But it's your party, remember?' She turned and walked back into the house. Eric stayed outside, thinking while he smoked a cigarette. The closer it got to Klever arriving, the more he wanted to call the juggler and cancel. But he didn't, and five-thirty got there faster than he wanted. Eric was at the side of the house when the black car pulled up outside. It was a hearse. Eric couldn't believe his eyes when he saw it, and knew exactly who it was. He looked at his wristwatch. 'Exactly five-thirty,' he said under his breath, 'and he comes in a bloody hearse. I should have known . . . I've hired a freak.' He walked towards the car, and noticed that the windows were all tinted. He got closer to it but no one got out. The engine was off, but still Klever had not emerged from the ugly thing. Eric looked back at the house, and then back at the vehicle, scrutinizing it with a little more than doubt in his 18
  19. 19. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions mind. He felt something else too, only slightly, but still it was there. Fear. 'Hello?' he said, standing five feet from the driver side window, and not feeling the need to get any closer. 'Hello?' he repeated, growing more apprehensive about the juggler. The door opened suddenly, and Eric was glad he hadn't moved closer, because it opened with force. A man jumped out of the car – this was clearly his big entrance – and he was wretched looking. He wore a black suit that looked about fifty years old, and his face was a mask of rough and generous applications of make up. Mostly white. His hair was long and black and greasy, and fell around in large, furry clumps by his face. He looked at Eric with what Eric could only describe as an abnormally wide grin. 'Hello!' Klever screamed, and Eric almost took a step back. Every bone in his body wanted to tell Klever to go away. He would give Klever money, so as to not anger him, and then he would tell him to go away. He could be okay with a normal party. Why did I have to be so bloody uppity? he thought as he watched the man. 'You're . . . Eric!' Klever said, pointing at Eric. 'You're the birthday boy, correct? Am I correct? Do I win a prize, eh? Eh? Haha!' Eric could only watch the man, stunned, and wondering if the weirdo was high on something. 'Ah . . . um . . . Eric, the birthday boy, right?' Klever repeated, waving his hand in Eric's vision. 'Yes. Yes that's me, yes,' Eric answered, and looked back at the house. 'You're . . . Klever, I assume?' he asked and then looked around at the other houses on the estate. He was hoping no one would see the man, and at the same time hoping someone would come out and save him. Save him from what? 'How old are ya, Eric?' Klever asked, and scratched his face. A lump of white make up caked up and came away with his fingers. He wiped them on his suit jacket, and left a white smudge across the lapel. 'Fifty? Sixty? Hah! A hundred? Huh?' 'I'm . . . I'm fifty, actually.' 'Ya look older, dude. Fucking ancient, actually. Yep.' What had begun as fear was now transforming into anger, and Eric looked at the man straight into his eyes. 'Excuse me?' 'You know how much I cost, right? Gonna get that off your pension, huh?' Klever then turned his head to the left and spat on the ground. Eric followed with his eyes and watched as the man spat. His anger was bubbling up and he 19
  20. 20. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions turned back to face the man. 'What do you think you're doing, spitting on my bloody property?' 'Eh, I think you just answered your own question, dipshit!' Klever howled. 'You know what, get the hell off my property, or I'm calling the guards!' Eric yelled. He wanted to turn and walk away then, but for some reason he didn't. His legs wouldn't work. Instead, he kept staring at Klever. The juggler remained silent for a moment. Then he turned and reached into the car. A moment later he stood up again, and Eric could see that he was now holding three glass balls. The man began to juggle them, performing a three ball cascade that moved constantly and effortlessly from hand to hand. The balls kept their movement, and Eric kept his eyes locked on them. Soon, all else began to blur out of existence as Eric became more and more entranced by the three balls. He no longer saw the wide, insane grin that Klever wore. One of the balls left the cascade and rose through the air. Eric realised that it was coming down towards him. Instinctively, he reached out to catch it, and it landed with a thud in his hands. He looked at Klever, but Klever was silent, and only nodded to the ball. Eric looked back at it, and saw in it his own reflection. He almost shrieked in terror at what he saw, and wanted to drop the clear, reflective orb, but couldn't. It was glued to his hands and he was forced to look; to see his own reflection. Except that it wasn't his reflection. Not really. In the ball, he saw himself lying in a funeral parlour. He was lying in the coffin, and Martha was beside him. There was someone standing behind Martha, holding her shoulders and smiling while she wept for her husband. He honed in on that figure and saw that it was Klever. It was the juggler. The juggler had killed him with his evil, and in the reflection Eric knew he would kill Martha too. He would kill the whole world. Eric strained against the orb, and fought hard to pull his eyes from the reflection. But the image was stronger and it fixed him with its power. He could feel Klever's gaze on him, and he could feel his own strength leave his body. The image changed then, and the figure in the coffin began to rise, floating upwards, like a ghost. But not a ghost. A soul. His soul was rising in the image, and his soul was leaving as he watched. 'Stop . . . stop it,' Eric tried to shout, but it came out as only a whisper. 'There's no stopping it now, Eric. The eyes are the windows to the soul, remember? And your soul is mine now, Eric.' Klever laughed hard before speaking again. 'Besides, you've had fifty good 20
  21. 21. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions years, man! What more do you need?' Eric could feel his strength waning, but still he held the ball. His eyes were locked on it, and he had given up trying to fight. His soul was leaving, and with it his will to live. 'Now, come with me, Eric,' Klever said. 'N-no . . .' 'Oh, don't argue, old man.' Eric could feel his legs buckle, and he hit the ground, semi conscious. He could still see Klever standing over him, but now there was a second person standing silently above him. At first, he thought it was a neighbour, but as he watched, he saw that it was himself, his soul, standing above him, having left his body. Klever looked at the ghostly copy of Eric, and directed it to the car. Eric dropped the glass ball and it smashed on the pavement, creating a thousand shards of glass. Klever looked down at him, and smiled. Then he was gone, the juggler. He had gotten into his hearse and driven away. But he had stolen Eric's soul. Eric lay on the pavement, sinking into the depths of depression. He could barely move or speak, and all he could do was cry. His tears streamed down his cheeks and splashed on the concrete. He could hear them. He looked down at them and saw the smashed glass ball. He reached slowly over and picked up one of the razor sharp shards, still crying, and unable to think or speak. All he could see was Klever, the juggler, taking his soul and driving away. Laughing all the way. He put the shard of glass to his neck, pressing it slowly and pulling it across. The pain was enormous, but with it came release. Death would come soon and he would leave the pain behind. Darkness came as his eyes slowly closed. He died fast, his life's blood pouring like a stream onto the pavement. When Eric opened his eyes again, he found himself in a new darkness. His vision was blurred and his neck hurt, as though it had a rash. He scratched it absently. He looked forward, realising he was in a car, and saw someone sitting in the driver's seat. 'Hello?' he said in a whisper. There was no answer, the figure remained quiet. Eric looked out the window to his left, and all he could see was red fire and flames. 'You would have died eventually, Eric,' the driver said, and looked over his shoulder. It was 21
  22. 22. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions Klever. 'I can't really take your soul. That belongs to the big man.' He pointed upwards. 'But I can make you . . . y'know . . . kill yourself . . . and that's a sure-fire way to make sure you end up down here.' He cackled, and Eric turned back to the window, watching the flames licking the hearse. Klever, eh? 22
  23. 23. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions Larry's Run He stooped down, resting on one knee while he tied the lace on his left running sneaker. He pulled the dirty white lace hard on both sides, his knuckles turning white and each phalanx of his fingers standing out like glowing red beacons. Once he had tied the lace he switched sides, but the other one was already tied in a sturdy double knot that he hadn't been able to open in two weeks. I'll have to put a fork in it, he thought absently, standing up and preparing for his pre-run stretching exercises. He cast a quick glance at the estate around him, wondering if any of the neighbours were watching him through their curtains. He tugged at the leg of his tracksuit bottoms, feeling suddenly very self conscious. He moved around to the back garden where no one would see him struggling to touch his toes. As he bent over, his whole body straining and his lungs emitting a loud, wheezing sigh, he wondered why he should feel embarrassed, or self conscious. He was Larry Cullen, he was thirty- eight, and he was getting fit. He was working hard to get into some kind of good physical condition after an almost forty year stint of not-giving-a-shit. It was more than Marty across the street was doing. He raised his head, hoping a pressure headache wouldn't come, and stretched his vision to see to Marty's house. He could just about see the white net curtain, and he could have sworn he saw 23
  24. 24. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions it shake slightly. They're watching me, he thought, with what started out as embarrassment, but turned quickly into pride. They're watching me, and that fat bastard is wishing he was out here stretching out his hamstrings. He stood up, happy with his fifty or so seconds of warm up. He then jogged on the spot. His movements were slow and drawn out: full of effort. He was still very unfit, and he knew he had a long way to go until he would be happy. He had a long way to go before Doctor Lynch would be happy. As he jogged, watching himself in the reflection in the kitchen window, formed by the fading light of twilight, he reflected on Doctor Lynch. Larry liked Lynch. The guy was a no-bullshit, straight down the line kinda guy. He told it to you straight, just the way you wanted to hear it. If you had a cold the guy would tell you to go to bed, and not to give him any lip. If you had diabetes, the doctor would nearly stick you with insulin himself. Larry had often wondered what the man would be like in one of those "I'm sorry, we couldn't save her" situations. He was sure Lynch wouldn't come down the hall, all dramatic and do the slow, soft-focus head shake thing. No, he'd come down and just give it to you. He'd just give you the bad news. No bullshit. He had done that with Larry, after all. And Larry could remember it, too. He could remember sitting in the waiting room of Lynch's private practice. Lynch had come out and called him in. Larry had walked in, leaving Celine – his wife – in the waiting room. Then, Lynch had just . . . told him, just like that. Christ, Larry hadn't even had a chance to sit down and Lynch had blurted it out. Even thinking about it made Larry's heart sink. He stopped jogging, shaking out his limbs and silently reflecting on things. As he began to jog, taking off around the side of the house at a light pace, he couldn't help but remember all the reasons he was jogging in the first place. He couldn't help but go through the chain of events that led from one thing to another until he ended up in the hospital, and then in Lynch's office, and then here, jogging and exercising to keep bad things from happening all over again. He left the driveway, looking casually over at Marty's house and then turning his attention back to the footpath. He turned right at the end of the pavement and descended a gentle hill. All the way concentrating on those things, those bad things that had affected his body so much; so fundamentally. This was his ritual. Self flagellation. His memories were his whip, and he lashed himself every night for two kilometres. The burgers and takeaway food. The beer and cigarettes. The sugary crap 24
  25. 25. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions and laziness. The heart attack they all landed him with. The heart attack. He shuddered thinking about it, almost forgetting to look as he crossed the road onto the footpath that led into Killykeen Forest Park. The painful, agonising heart attack. When he had suffered a heart attack, he had gained an almost completely new view on all things in the world. For weeks after, he would look at his hands; he would stare at them for ten minutes straight in absolute wonder at their construction. Appreciation, that was what he had been given. A second chance at a life, and a barrel load of appreciation to make sure he didn't forget. Not long after the heart attack, he had been called into the doctor's office, and Lynch had told him – no bullshit included – that, if he didn't change his lifestyle, the next heart attack would be his last. And it would be soon. Well, that was as good as saying: "You're dead, buddy. You're brown fuckin bread, my friend." And now here he was, jogging along the main road that led into Cavan town, entering the darkening forest, and feeling so new and transformed that the thoughts of his former life repulsed him. He hadn't touched a burger, or a chip. He hadn't smoked a cigarette, or drank a single beer. For two months he'd been clean, so to speak. And his body was thanking him; he could feel it. He could actually feel it. Was there anything more amazing? He could actually feel the blood, burning with health and life through his veins. He was a living, breathing thing, and he wasn't going to be having a heart attack any time soon. 'Not a hope in hell,' he puffed, picking up his pace, flanked by tall pine trees on either side. The night was coming fast, and the darkness grew with his confidence. The feeling of newness was comparable to a miracle. He loved it. But still he wasn't complete, and the stitch stinging in his side was the cold reminder of that fact. It was a tiny entity screaming at him: I'm in control here, fucker! But still he ran. Not content to give in. He had been reading up on fitness training, and he knew well enough that if you wanted to increase your level of fitness, pushing yourself a little more all the time was the only way to do it. That was fine by him; he could go all night, as it were. Except, he couldn't go all night. Something was bugging him now. Had that gnawing thought been there before? Had that strange sensation been there? He slowed his pace slightly to check his thoughts. The feeling he was experiencing was the kind of feeling you get when you're in a strange house and someone tells you that the guest bedroom was the scene of a murder spree. It's the feeling you would imagine a man or woman gets just before the devil arrives to collect their soul. He was Faustus . . . but where was Mephistopheles? 25
  26. 26. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions He picked up his speed again, shrugging off the negativity. He had suffered a lot of that since restructuring his life. In his past life – the one leading to a sure death – he had known nothing else, and so he had been able to maintain a positive outlook. But now . . . now he was living, really living, and like they say: the more options you have, the more depressed you're apt to become. But still that nagging feeling wouldn't lift, and it was beginning to feel less and less like the normal negative feelings he was getting used to. It was beginning to feel like unnecessary fear. He couldn't understand it. Sure, the forest was creepy at night, but so was every other forest. Outside, on the main road, he knew the light still hadn't disappeared. But in here, under the thick canopy of tall trees, night had come in swift and dark. The stitch in his side was still there too; growing worse. He would need to stop soon for a rest, and a breather. He could see an ancient stone wall ahead. It was the only remaining part of a long gone mansion that had once been the beautiful home of some local family. Time and neglect had ravaged it though and all that remained was a tall brick wall with a single doorway. The doorway had been bricked up at some unknown point in history, and outside sat a huge tree stump. He would rest there, then turn back and complete the jog. He reached the tree stump fast, coming to a slow stop and opening his mouth in what looked like a silent scream – gasping for air. His eyes shut tightly: the outward representation of his body fighting against the burning lack of oxygen in his lungs. If the forest was dark, then the space between his eyeballs and his eyelids was pitch-black. He liked it though. It was like at night when he went to bed early, just to close his eyes and think. Darkness was good sometimes. But not now. That feeling was back. Still his eyes remained closed, as though having a will of their own and not wanting to open. Then, in his mind's eye, he could see the wall and the stump and the doorway. But in his mind, the doorway was open, and through it lay an absolute darkness. Not just a literal darkness, but a darkness of the mind – someone's mind. His eyelids remained shut, glued together. He couldn't fathom why they wouldn't open, or why the new image of the wall and doorway was coming to mind. He could only guess that it was an after effect of seeing the door as he approached. He knew this wasn't true though, because the doorway in his mind was open and clear, and there was something standing in it. It was a dark figure, dressed in black, or having black skin that hung and sagged by its sides. Its long bony limbs hung loosely too, and it regarded Larry with hatred. Was it looking at him? Was this real? He couldn't tell; didn't want to. The bad, bad feelings had come in full force now and battered his senses relentlessly. He wanted to open his eyes; to pry them open and prove to himself 26
  27. 27. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions that it was all in his head. But he couldn't – wouldn't. He hadn't the strength to do it, because something inside him knew that when he opened his eyes, it would be there. It would be standing in the doorway, like a sentry at the gate to hell, watching him and preparing to eat his soul. Finally, the muscles in his eyes relaxed, and they began to open. But this was against his will and he struggled to keep them shut, the feeling of what he might see growing stronger. He took an unsure step back, but in his confusion had lost his direction and had to stop in case he fell into a ditch. If he fell into a ditch in this darkness, he wouldn't get up again. He tried to turn, to redirect himself, but it was useless, and still his eyes continued to open. Still the feeling of horrible dread crept into his soul. At last they were open, but he couldn't see, his vision was blurred. He scratched his eyes with his knuckles and opened them again. He found that he had turned his direction and now faced the ditch directly opposite the wall. He could feel it now, that thing he had seen in his mind. He could feel its presence behind him, like a cold, wet thing, watching him solidly and with malignant intent. Slowly and reluctantly, he began to turn. He needed to see it; to know if it was real. The ditch disappeared from view, gradually fading into his periphery as the dirt path became the centre of his focus. His head and eyes remained straight forward while his fear stricken body turned. The ditch was gone, and a new periphery arrived. The wall. The bricks. The ivy covered bricks. The doorway. Is it bricked up? Is it bricked up? Is that thing there? He stopped moving, his eyes wide. A new feeling was being born in his body. It was a familiar one. Not evil, but bad. Worse than any other feeling. It was a lightning bolt of pain that shot quickly and with rapid efficacy up the left side of his chest. It struck his neck and coiled, like a snake, around his head, engulfing his skull in bursting sprays of pain. His body felt as though it were being torn into two pieces, and his skin began to crawl and tighten, like his heart. His blood shuddered and jumped as the valves in his chest that pumped his life began to fail. They struggled, like an old car, and spluttered horribly throughout his body. Adrenaline coursed through him, but this only heightened the sensations. His hands and face twitched, and his eyes rolled around wildly in his skull. The pain was ferocious and ceaseless and screamed through his flesh like a quiet murderer. The heart attack lasted forever. But less than five seconds passed by. And when his legs gave out and he buckled to his knees, looking up and staring at the dark presence that stood silent in the doorway, he knew that this was the end. Death . . . it's so dark . . . this room's uncomfortable . . . death. His thoughts had sunk into mindless rambling while his entire body fought, like the crew of a 27
  28. 28. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions battleship, to save itself. In the last few seconds of his life, he saw the thing in the doorway slink back into the hell it came from. He saw the doorway fill with bricks, and grow a fresh layer of mature ivy. Then his eyes closed and he passed away. A jogger found Larry the next morning. She had screamed and ran from his bloated, pale corpse. She had alerted the police, and they, along with Doctor Lynch, had come down to remove the man. Doctor Lynch had been able to tell straight away that Larry had died from a massive heart attack. And that was the general belief, considering his medical history. But not one of them would have suspected that a dark thing might have crawled from an ancient doorway and given him death with its hidden eyes. Not one of them knew the evil that had chased the life from his body, only feet from where he drew his last breath. Author's Note: I like this story. It's one of those short, sweet pieces that just seemed to drift out of my mind and onto the screen. The wall with the doorway is a real thing, just down the road from my mother's house in Cavan. It is creepy, but maybe not as creepy as in the story. Yet, I can't help but think about what might be behind that walled up doorway every time I pass it. 28
  29. 29. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions Shrewsingran Evil must come from somewhere. There has got to be a starting point; a driving force. - Anonymous. The house was beautiful. Damien loved it, and he knew Kerri would too. She'd love it mostly because it was located in a nice out-of-the-way part of the countryside. She'd also love it because surrounding the house was field after field of tall, wild grass, untended by anyone. He stood on the doorstep, waving as the agent drove away, stuffing her cheque into the pocket of her red blazer. Had she seemed on edge? his thoughts wondered. To his left, the south and Dublin in that direction, were tall green hills that Damien couldn't wait to climb. The hills looked as old as time itself, probably unchanged for millions of years. The same hills that the first settlers in Ireland – more than ten-thousand years before – had climbed, passing through dense forest that no longer existed to find a new home. He turned right, facing north, and a forest in the distance that looked large and mature. Those trees were full of life and wisdom somehow, a whole new territory that looked like a place seldom seen by human eyes; a place few people had ever gone into. 29
  30. 30. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions Directly in front of him was a field of that wild countryside grass, and the smell of wild garlic that wafted up to his nostrils, clearing his mind as he watched the main road that cut through the countryside like a never-ending black snake, a white stripe down the centre of its back. It was wild as the countryside through which it calmly slithered. He had had a look around the back of the old two storey house earlier in the day, just to see what was around there, and found a steep hill with a grey, ragged rock face, perhaps fifty feet to the top and capped with wild grass and a cluster of old looking trees: his very own little forest. He smiled, taking out his mobile phone to call Kerri. She was still in the city, tying up a few loose ends before following him out. The smell of wild garlic was mixing with wild summer flowers and creating a natural potpourri that filled his mind wi - He crawled backwards, tears streaming from his eyes, his heart beating hard in his chest. THUMP- THUMP-THUMP! He was unaware of the blood on his face and chest. He couldn't see it, the whole place was dark. The whole place was darker than dark. Like a two storey coffin. He heard it again and yelped, then covered his mouth with the palm of his hand to quiet himself, staring into the darkness, unable to see it, and not wanting it to hear him. When he had calmed himself so that he wouldn't scream, he continued moving backwards, pushing as quietly as possible with his feet while he pulled himself along the floorboards with his hands. The noise came again, the scratching, clicking sound of nails walking on bare floorboards. How far away? Ten feet? Two feet? How far? His mind clamoured for sanity, the fear drowning out logical thought in a blaze of white, flashing terror. It's there! his thoughts screamed, and tried to flee his body. It's . . . there! There! In front of me! He stopped moving, trying not to breath, and taking quick little jets of air into his lungs, the dizziness creeping over his head like a snake coiling around its helpless victim; slowly crushing the life out of it. Could the thing see him? Could it see in the dark? The absolute darkness . . . The maddening impenetrable darkness. Not night time darkness; not like any darkness he had ever seen before. Not even in the countryside. Not a house for miles, he had said earlier. He had loved the idea then, but not now. Now he needed a house. He needed help. He put the phone to his ear as he turned to the house and faced the front door. Kerri's phone seemed to ring forever before she picked it up, and when she finally answered there was nothing but static 30
  31. 31. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions on the other end. Every now and then her voice would crackle down the line, and Damien could catch small fragments of a word here and there. 'Hello?' he said, walking out onto the lawn to find coverage. 'Kerri? Hello? The reception here is . . . Kerri, the reception here is terrible . . . Kerri, I'll call you right back! Okay? If you can hear me, don't call me, I'll call you.' He hung up, looking at the phone to see how many bars of coverage were on the screen. The coverage was full. He pressed "3" – Kerri on speed dial – and soon her phone was ringing again. 'Damien!' she shouted into the phone. 'Heya, hon. How's the house?' 'Yeah, sorry about that, the coverage was . . . acting up. The house is fi -' 'Sorry about what?' she asked, her voice genuinely confused. 'The phone call a few seconds ago. The coverage was playing around and all I was getting was static.' He had walked back to the house and now paced the long timber porch. 'You've lost me, Damien,' Kerri said, and Damien could hear her chuckling down the phone. 'You . . . you never called me.' Then she was laughing. 'You probably called a wrong number!' For a moment, Damien was scared, and he couldn't understand why. The static he had heard on the phone, and the revelation that it had not been Kerri that had picked up were weird, but not enough to warrant the strange fear he was feeling. 'Yeah . . . probably,' he said thoughtfully. 'So-oo? How's our new home? Is it beautiful?' 'Yes! It is, it's really amazing! Breath taking! Really breath ta - He struggled to take breaths as shallow as possible, afraid that the sound of the air passing into his lungs would give away his location to . . . to it. It? What was it? He had only barely seen it before the lights all went out. He had only barely known what was happening, and then . . . then . . . . . . it had flashed across the hallway. Yes, it had moved into his vision, more in his periphery than in his direct line of sight. A black thing. Long, and dark, and moving in quick jerking bursts across the hall. Moving horribly across the hall. He looked around to his right. He had come to an open door in his crawling along the hallway, and now he was looking into the thick darkness of a bedroom. Which one? On which side of the house? He saw a solid square of dark blue light coming into the room from what seemed like miles away. A window, with night outside, and the night was brighter by several shades than the hallways and rooms of the house. His vision was adjusting slowly to the darkness, and that terrified him, 31
  32. 32. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions because then he might see it. If his vision got any better, he might see it. It might be right in front of his face, looking down at him with dark, soulless eyes. Preparing to attack; to rend him limb from limb. To . . . to . . . He could see a shape in the small room. An outline of a bed, bathed in the light that came from the window. The bed was small; perfect for a child. Perfect for a child! his thoughts roared, remembering the wander he had taken around the house that morning. He had gone into the room, the estate agent never far behind, and had looked down at the miniature bed and thought: Perfect for a child! The room was . . . on the west side. The west side faced the road – the long, winding snake road that slithered away to safety. He looked at the window in desperation then, wanting nothing more than to be on that road, slithering stealthily to safety. The noise again, grinding, clacking, clicking, scraping. Moving closer. He had not looked back down the hall; his eyes were locked on the window – the portal through which he could escape, if he could only get to it. Tears began to flow again, and he still did not notice the blood. The blood from where he had fallen against the wall and his forehead had struck the skirting board. It had moved towards him, its mouth open and its blank, black eyes considering him with hideous evil. It had come at him, its long, thin, black limbs outstretched and grasping for him; trying to hold him and . . . . . . and he had stepped back, run back, and lost his footing somehow, on a small object. The small object had not been able to bare his weight and moved, and he lost his balance and fell and struck his head. He had blacked out, and when he came to . . . darkness. Nothing but darkness. And the noise, the scraping noise that sent wave after wave of nauseating fear and panic through him. The noise! his thoughts squealed and whined. The noise coming closer! Scraping closer! He moved back a little more, edging slowly into the small bedroom, with the bed that would be perfect for a chil - The house wasn't dirty, and had very little furniture, so he didn't have much to do in the way of cleaning. But there were several boxes and bags and other loose items in his van. There was the sofa too, and the TV, the kitchen table . . . Other things he couldn't remember right now. He went back out to the van and opened the passenger side door. He had put the kettle, a cup, teabags and sugar all in a bag on the floor – the most important things. There was a breeze blowing as he walked back to the house and through the front door. 32
  33. 33. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions He had his tea made in a few minutes, and as he lit a cigarette he prepared himself for the tedious job of unloading th - What is it? his thoughts wondered madly. What is it? Where did it come from? What does it want? He could barely think straight, much less come up with logical answers to these questions. All he could do was stare longingly at the window in the bedroom he had come to. All he could do was watch the dark night outside and want to be there. He looked back down the hallway. His vision had improved, and that terrified him. Now he could see the hallway, and the left turn it took as it moved towards the stairs. He stared at the hallway, unable to tear his eyes away from it now that he could see. The whole house went silent, horribly silent, as though the noise had been sucked out into the night. No noise. No scraping from the other end of the hallway. No sound as he took shallow breaths. No clicking as the thing tread the landing floorboards. No creaking floorboards as he shifted position, trying constantly to get into the room. Nothing. A vast emptiness of darkness and horrible silence. He stared and stared, afraid to blink; afraid it might attack him if he did. He continued to stare, waiting for it. This was it. It was there. It was right there, just around the corner, and it knew where he was, and it was ready to get him and drag him away. Away to the woods! Like in the poem! He saw something, and a shock of electrified terror waved over him and up through his veins, burning them and making him shudder. His hair lifted, but there was no wind. His neck was touched by an invisible hand. Dark fingers, blended with his surroundings, played delicately over his body, and gooseflesh stood up all over him. He saw it, creeping slowly around the corner, tall and disgusting and frail looking, like a blackened skeleton of pure evil. It's Shrewsingran! Run! Run! Ru - He finished his tea and cigarette and switched the kettle back on as he left the house to start unloading the van. 'TV first,' he said. It was an expensive LCD TV and he wanted to get that out of the way. He opened the back of the van, swinging both doors around to the sides and locking them there. Then he lifted the TV out, a hand on either side, careful not to get a bad grip and drop it. He hoisted 33
  34. 34. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions it so that the screen faced outwards and the back of the TV rested on his chest, then brought it into the house and set it down in the living room, just to the right inside the front door. He looked down at it, watching it try to free stand on the floor. He looked around for something to prop it against and found an armchair. He pushed the TV against a wall, leaning it gently over, then dragged the armchair over to it for support. On his way back out of the room, he was looking down at the floor where the armchair had been and wondering how long it had been there. There was a thick layer of dust in the shape of the bottom of the chair. But there was something else there: a shape, outlined by the dust, and only a little thicker than the dust itself. He picked it up, brushing it off, sending a cloud of fine dust particles into the air that floated and caught the light from the window magnificently. It was a book he was holding, old and thin and crumbling. On the cover of the book was a house, and it looked almost identical to the one he was in, with a hill behind and a dense patch of trees above it. As he was about to turn the page to see inside he noticed something about the cover that sent a trickling of fear through him. Behind the house, standing in the trees, was a tall, dark and frail figure, watching the house. But when he turn back for a second look, it was gone; blended into the shadow between the trees themselves. He chuckled nervously. 'Just an optical illusi -' The thing seemed to just watch him, silent from the corner of the hallway. It hovered there, dark against the dark, scrutinizing him with evil eyes – yellow slits that glowed dimly and watched him like a predator watches its prey. He was frozen with fear, lying on the floor in the doorway to the bedroom and staring blankly at the thing. Terror had consumed his entire body; his mind. He wanted to run, to try to escape, but his body wouldn't allow it. As though he had to keep staring at the thing. As though it was waiting for him to move. Can it see me? Can it really see me? Those yellow slits that shone down the length of the hallway, projecting absolute badness, and blinking every now and then like a pair of tiny lighthouses, leading the ships into the cliffs and not away. I have to try . . . try to get away! I have to try! His hands and feet felt cold and numb. The blood and adrenaline pumped in waves through his 34
  35. 35. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions body. The sweat drenched his clothes and made them heavy. He moved then, just a little, just his feet. He was preparing himself to stand. He looked closely at the thing, but it hadn't moved. Can it . . . can it see? Can it even see? The thing continued to watch the hallway, and the man lying in the doorway. Damien almost shrieked when its arm rose, but calmed himself and saw that it was resting its hand on the wall. It was biding its time. Watching him, and just waiting. Those yellow eyes. He moved again, this time a little more as bravery – or self-preservation – kicked in and forced him to do something rather than just lie there and wait for it. He planted his arm against the door frame behind him and slowly pushed with his feet, balancing himself with his hands as he rose to his feet. He stared constantly at the thing and could see its eyes rise along with him. Still watching. Why doesn't it do something? What's it waiting for? Confusion washed over him, adding to the already boiling terror, and making him want to just dash towards the window. The poem! The poem! What does the poem say? Wha - He read the book aloud as he walked back out into the daylight and the warm summer day. '"There was a man named Shrewsingran, who used to own this house. Now Shrewsingran was indeed a man, but quiet as a mouse. Shrewsingran went out one day, to ramble in the woods. While he was out, some men came round, and took away his goods. And "goods" was just a name he used, a pet name for his daughter. Well, men came round and took his goods, and brought her to the slaughter."' He stopped reading, not sure if he wanted to continue. It was pretty macabre, he thought, and from the cover he had assumed it was a children's book. Eventually, curiosity got the better of him, and he continued. '"Shewsingran went to the woods and cried his heart away. His goods, his goods, not in the woods, but taken far away. He made a pledge, an evil pact was set in stone. Carved on trees and signed in blood and what was done was done."' '"He stayed up there and slowly died but never left this place. He watches still the road below, with yellow eyes and blackened face. He waits for you the visitor, to come and take his goods. And when you come you never leave for Shrewsingran's in the woods. But if he sees you, in his house, and thinks to take your life. There is a way to stay his might and live throughout the night."' 35
  36. 36. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions '"Just watch -"' His mind fumbled over the memory of the poem. He tried desperately to remember what it had said; what came next. Just watch . . . Watch what? He was still staring at those two yellow eyes. Is that . . . him? Is that Shrewsingran? He swallowed hard, afraid to look away and break eye contact. Still the dark, skeletal thing clung to the wall and watched him patiently. Waiting . . . Damien cleared his throat, and swallowed hard again. 'Are you . . .' His voice was no more than a whimper. 'Are you Shrewsingran?' A fresh wave of fear and panic swept through his body when he heard a loud, thin, shrieking scream come from the black thing. He screamed too and his fear broke into new terror and he turned and ran into the bedroom. He ran hard, feeling the thing behind him all the way. Feeling it touch his hair and swipe the flesh of his back. He reached the window and struck it with his elbow. But it was hard and didn't smash. Then it wasn't a window. It was a painting of a scenic view, with long fields of wild grass and a forest in the distance. It wasn't a window. There was no escape. And now he could feel it, standing behind him, living in the shadows and watching him with those yellow glowing eyes. 'Shrewsingran,' he whispered. The last verse of the poem came back to him, just as he felt the cold claws of Shrewsingran fall on his body. He could remember it now, but now was too late, and he recited it as darkness came over him and swallowed him whole. '"Just watch his eyes, and watch them long, and watch them 'till first light. Those yellow eyes will keep their distance, and slink off when its bright."' Author's Note: This story was written just for fun. Nothing more. I was exercising my word- muscles, as it where. The idea to play around with the time-line in the story was not pre-meditated, and just kind of . . . happened. Hope you didn't find it too confusing. Point of interest: the quote from anon at the start was actually conjured by me. But it wouldn't have looked good, had my name been there. 36
  37. 37. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions The Graves Unmarked It was March last year when I first approached Mr. Tobbins about the job. Mr. Tobbins was the current gravekeeper of the Catholic graveyard in Killeshandra. He was getting on in life though, and once or twice I had seen him put diesel in his petrol car: early signs of senility and my opportunity presenting itself. At the time, I had been working in the petrol station. It was just a small job, not paying much but keeping me in cigarettes, and that was all I really wanted at the time . . . Well, cigarettes and my writing. So I figured a job in a cemetery would be just the place to find the peace and quiet to practise my writing, and being that my main influences are the works of Poe, M. R. James, and Lovecraft, it seemed the perfect place to invoke all of my imagination. There, I could be surrounded by the dead and their decaying headstones, like so many rows of baby megaliths. In a graveyard I could conjure the necessary frame of mind to create. It would be perfect. So, one sunny day when I didn't have to pump stinking petrol into the cars of rich people, I took a walk down to the graveyard. I found Mr. Tobbins there, as usual, and I approached him about the job. "Why do you want to work here?" he asked me, watching me curiously as though expecting 37
  38. 38. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions hidden cameras to appear from behind headstones. I was reluctant to tell him the truth, so I told him instead that I wasn't getting along very well with the other employees at the petrol station, and I noticed that he might need the extra help. "Well, I'll have to say it to Father Broderick," he said after a deep sigh and a lot of thought. "That's okay," I replied. "Will I come back down tomorrow?" "Yes, you do that. I'll have a word with the boss tonight and if he says yes, then yes it is." He had stood up off the wall he had been leaning on and I could hear his spine crackle when he stretched. "God himself knows I need the help anyway, so I can imagine you'll have no problem getting the job." "Thank you," I said and turned to leave. "Hey," he called out and I turned back to him. "What's your name?" "Erin," I replied. "Erin . . ." He seemed to ponder my name for a moment. "You know it doesn't pay that well, and there's a lotta hard work. Every time someone pops their clogs, you need to do the diggin and the maintenance." "That's okay," I said, "hard work doesn't scare me at all." "Well, glad to hear it. But the hard work won't be what gets at you." Once he had made that last remark, he walked away, entering the house attached to the graveyard and leaving my fertile imagination to wonder what he had meant. All the way home, for the rest of the evening, and all that night in bed I analysed what he had said. The only explanation I could come to was that he was being a bit playful and trying to scare me. Wasn't that what the older men did in jobs? They filled you with tales of ghosts and spirits and other weird things and then you were afraid to go anywhere on your own. Of course, they'd get a great laugh at your expense, but that was the way it was. Wasn't it? The next day I got up early. Earlier than usual, anyway. I walked straight down to the graveyard, avoiding work in the petrol station. When I got there I couldn't see Mr. Tobbins anywhere. I searched the graveyard itself, then I walked to the little house he stayed in and knocked three times on the front door. There was no answer to my knocks, so I assumed that he must have been in the church, seeing the priest. When I entered the church, it was quiet and dimly lit; there were a few hundred of those little prayer candles lit by the alter, but they gave out only a tiny glow which barely lit the huge church. 38
  39. 39. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions Father Broderick was at the other side of the alter and I approached him. I told him who I was and that I had seen Mr. Tobbins the day before. I told him about the job and that Mr. Tobbins had said he would see about it. Father Broderick told me that Mr. Tobbins had been taken to hospital during the night with a suspected heart attack. He told me the man was going on eighty and that at that age any number of things could be wrong with his health. He was excited though as soon as I mentioned my wanting to work in the graveyard, and he began to insist that I do. He told me if I wanted I could take over from Mr. Tobbins – since the old grave keeper would likely be in hospital for a while, and other than him there was no one to take care of the graves. So I accepted the priest's offer and that was that. I had the job. On my way out of the church he called me back and gave me a key, saying it was for the little house attached to the graveyard and that I could use it if I wanted to. I took the key, with a shallow smile, and walked out of the church and over towards the graveyard. For a while I just wandered around, finding it astonishing the way one's perceptions of things can differ when circumstances change. In the space of a few minutes, I had gone from begin Erin, who works at the petrol station, to Erin, who is the sole keeper of the Catholic graveyard. And while this thought played in my mind, I viewed the headstones and various crypts and family vaults as more than just things. I suddenly saw them as more than just rotting commas in a long line of history, and began to see them as special things; things to be respected and looked after. I believe I became cemetery proud. Over the next few days, I glided smoothly, and with what I thought was spectacular ease, into the position. I tended to two burials. I swept and maintained the paths around the graves. I mowed grass and painted an unfinished length of wall. I walked through the graves, picking up random pieces of litter and smashed tokens left by family members – the tiny plastic figures of Jesus Christ having fallen and shattered to a hundred pieces on the multi-coloured pebbles people liked to use on graves. I felt good there; I felt special and unique. It's fair to say that, while I walked around those graves, viewing row after row of decrepit sepulchre and ancient tomb, I felt like how that Chinese emperor must have felt. Except that my army was made up of rotten corpses from as far back as 1724, and not Terracotta Warriors. During the day, when there was no work and when the sun was shining so brightly so as to render the body incapable of anything but the slightest movements, I wrote, or I read. Mostly I wrote 39
  40. 40. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions (reading, I liked to keep for my bedtime). I remember I got through almost two-thousands words per day in those first few days – it's a wonder how a person's surroundings can influence their imagination. At night, I stayed in the little house joined to the graveyard. The first night I wasn't extremely happy about this, as having the graveyard on one side (full of my legions or not), and the huge bastion of Catholic teaching on the other was more than a little creepy. But I think that that first day in the graveyard I had done more work than I had ever done before, and when it came to my bedtime, I was too tired to worry about what may or may not be watching in the dark. I didn't particularly care, or have the energy to care. I remember I fell asleep within two minutes of putting my head down. The two minutes spent in silent study of every dark, shadow filled corner of the room. The second day was pretty much a perfect mirror image of the first. Once I awoke and washed I went about my chores: cleaning, sweeping, maintenance, eating, and anything else I needed to do. By the time I had all of that done the twilight was coming in and my arms were sore, so I decided to call it a day and return to the little gravekeeper's house for the night. I wasn't as tired on the second night as I had been on the first, and when I got inside I flicked on the TV and watched as the news of the day was presented. I ate a ham sandwich while I watched, washing it down with a glass of milk and a few biscuits. At some point, I found myself staring out of the little living room window at the moon outside. It was full and it seemed almost to hover above the graveyard, lighting the graves like hundreds of those glowing prayer candles. Each one iridescent and illuminated and pointing lifelessly upwards. I rummaged around the house for a while, mostly trying to find some reading material, but partly out of nosiness. I found nothing but magazines and old newspapers – I had wondered if I would find a copy of Gravekeeper's Journal, and this made me laugh for a while. Then I found it: the green diary. I found it in a cupboard by the sink, and took it with me to the armchair in front of the TV. I was fascinated by it and it felt like if I read it I would be reading secrets (the darker the better, I thought, foolishly). I opened the small green volume and saw scrawled handwriting. Most of the writing was completely illegible and I found myself having to skim through most of the diary. There were entries in blue, black and red ink, and there were entries that looked clearer than others, as though it had been written by more than one person. I thought at the time that perhaps it was a journal kept by every gravekeeper, and added to periodically. I thought about writing in it, but then thought better of 40
  41. 41. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions it, mostly because I had nothing interesting to write. While reading the diary, I came across some interesting facts about the graveyard. I found out that several people were murdered in the past and buried at random points – thrown in with fresh graves. I found out that people were buried there who were not meant to be, because they were criminals. Then I found out something that sent a shiver right through me and set me on a bad train of thought for the night. It made me want to have enough lights on in the house that there would be no dark corners. I can't remember it word for word, but this is what I can remember: If you go far enough back in time, you find that many people who lived here were poor: too poor to be able to afford decent headstones. What they got was rough wooden crosses, and even that cost a weeks wages at certain times. So, many people were buried with nothing more than a lump of wood to indicate who they were and when they had died. Well, over time the wood would rot and the graves would disappear into obscurity. Eventually they would become unknown and as the generations went on, all that remained of them were the random and numerous lumps that you can still feel under your feet when you walk through the graveyard. At night, you may still see some of those lost souls wandering the graveyard, searching for their graves. I have seen them, and they have seen me, and - I stopped reading at that point, so I can't even speculate – not that I'd want to – as to what was written after that. Although, had I read more of it, I doubt my night could have been any better than it turned out, and I doubt that the experience I had that night would have been any easier on me. Soon after reading the journal, and debating in my mind as to whether sleeping with the lights on would be a good idea. I left the lights on in the living room: only slightly comforted by the orange glow that came into the bedroom. At first, the diary's ominous words played on my mind and I doubted I would get much, if any, sleep that night. I kept my eyes on the window of the bedroom. It faced the graveyard and I was apprehensive about what might be peering through the glass at me while I slept. Fear or no fear, I managed to fall asleep very quickly and it was a deep, dreamless sleep. But my mind was still alert and I was awoken in the middle of the night by a noise outside. My eyes shot open and I was fully awake. I looked around the room, frozen with fear and unable to move so much as an inch. The room was in complete darkness and the only light was that which came glowing in from the living room. After a few minutes I worked up the courage to at least sit up in the bed, hoping to hear the source 41
  42. 42. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions of the noise. It was light tapping that seemed to be coming from outside, and although my mind was leaping through a whole range of weird and terrifying reasons for the noise, I knew just as well that it could have been a water tap or a rat. So I sat up and cocked my head to one side, listening carefully. The light from the living room, as low as it was, cast a shadow of my form against the wall to my left, and I could see my shadow in my periphery. Then, I saw something which made my heart jump firmly into my throat. Beside me, where my shadow was, there was a movement, only faint but definitely perceptible. I turned quickly to see and my skin tightened all over when I saw my own shadow on the wall, accompanied by a second shadow, as clear as my own, as though there was some invisible presence in the bed with me. For a long time all I could do was stare in horror at the shadow that seemed to rock lightly back and forth on the wall. I was too terrified to turn my head around and see the source of it. But I turned my head anyway, and when I did I saw nothing. Then the shadow was gone too and I began to wonder if my imagination had been acting up, or if the ham in my sandwich was playing with my thoughts. Suddenly, and as if to disprove any link with the shadow to my imagination, the living room light went out. My stomach began to churn when the whole room was blanketed in a deep darkness. All around me I could see shapes, moving and rocking to and fro. They may have been pieces of furniture, but I was too terrified to think with any kind of logic, and my first instinct – once I got over the initial terror – was to leave the house. I stayed there for a few seconds, too afraid to budge, but curious as to how long I had before the source of that shadow would make itself known to me. I threw back the blankets and watched, terrified, as they continued to fly through the air and strike the wall with considerable force on the other side of the room. I hadn't thrown them any further than the end of the bed, I was sure. I stared at the deep darkness of the room then, waiting for whatever was there to show itself, but it didn't. I put both feet on the floor and every nerve in my body jumped when I felt a cold wet on my ankles. Something underneath the bed was touching me. I took a quick step forward, cringing and shivering and filled with sick fear. This doubled again when I saw a figure, tall and frail and dark against the shadow, standing in the doorway of the room. I could only barely see it against the dark, but it was definitely there, and it was made of a deep, evil darkness that seemed endless and purely bad. It was gaunt and weedy and its limbs – those that I could see – hung limply by its side. Against the dark I saw two deep red eyes, unblinking and staring straight at me. I took a step back, my body awash with gooseflesh and my heart pounding 42
  43. 43. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions faster than I thought was safe. As I took a step backwards the thing at the door took a step forward. I took another step and it followed me. It made no other movements but I knew, I knew with no uncertainty, that the thing was going to kill me. It was going to make me die of fright. It's eyes peered right through me and pierced my palpitating heart. At some point I must have fainted, because just like that the black thing was gone and those red eyes ceased to peer into my heart. The next thing I knew I was awake, on the floor of the bedroom, and the time was 11 AM. The blanket and sheet from the bed lay strewn on the floor at the other side of the room: proof that it had all been real. I got dressed in a hurry and left the house, eager to get to my days work and forget about what had happened. I stayed on at the graveyard after that night, but I quit the house – too afraid to even set foot inside after seeing that evil thing. I had only one burial to tend to that week, and as I buried Mr. Tobbins, I quietly reassured him that his final resting place would not be forgotten. Author's Note: The Graves Unmarked was my first journey into this kind of writing. I have never like gratuitous gore, but have always leaned more towards the old ghost story. For fans of M. R. James, this story will remind them of his works. I like this style. 43
  44. 44. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions The Man Who Typed Too Fast Harry Dunphy woke quickly, his eyes springing open and his mind at once awake. He had had another one of his nightmares, and as usual, he had woken just before the inevitable ending. He let out a sigh of relief and stared at the ceiling, reflecting on the nightmare. It was an end-of-the-world nightmare; not like the usual – no nuclear bombs, or war. His end of the world nightmares were much simpler than war. They were nightmares in which he was alone in the world, wandering around empty streets and looking, in fearful amazement, at his surroundings. In his dreams, everything was intact: there was no looting or burning or craziness. Everything was as it would normally be, with one exception: there were no people. He would wander around the cities and towns and the countryside looking for people, zooming from one place to another, magically transported by his nightmare. He never found anyone, but they were there, and he knew it. Just ... not there, somehow. In the end – and this was the ending that always woke him, just before the finish – he would take a knife and put it to his own throat. Or it could be a gun in his mouth. Or he could be leaning over the edge of a tall building. It didn't matter what way it happened, but the outcome was always going to be the same. The world would end, people would simply vanish, and he would kill himself. Unable to live alone forever. 44
  45. 45. T. H. Davis A Dozen Dark Dimensions Ordinarily, a horror novelist would find this kind of dream to be pure gold, and they'd be jumping out of bed each morning to whack out another bunch of brilliant, nightmare inspired ideas. After all, wasn't that how Paul McCartney came up with Yesterday? But not Harry. He couldn't just get up and write about it. The dream had existed a long time before his writing career had. It had been there from childhood. It had been there when his first book sold; it was there now. It was always there and he knew it was always going to be there. He lay in bed, trying not to think about it, but thinking about it anyway. The sun shone beautifully through the open window, and a light breeze pushed the curtains into the room, like two red ghosts. He cocked his head to one side, listening. He was listening for Anne, his wife, and not hearing her. He sat up, pulling his jeans and t-shirt on. For the first time, he looked at the digital clock on the locker beside the bed and groaned when he saw the little red flashing digits. 12:34 PM He stepped into his slippers – the brown ones he had never liked but he wore anyway because Anne had bought them for him their first year together – and left the bedroom, hurrying downstairs. He was late. He always like to start writing at midday on the button, which meant being out of bed by ten in the morning, kissing Anne, having breakfast, having coffee, doing a little housework, and then heading to his study to sit in front of his computer. Today was no different from any other and he cursed himself as he descended the stairs and entered the kitchen. He looked around but Anne wasn't there. The kitchen was also the living room and the only other rooms were the bedroom upstairs, with an en suite bathroom; a bedroom downstairs, which had been converted into a study; and a utility room downstairs. He walked to the front door, thinking she might be out in the garden, but when he opened the door and looked out, he saw no sign of her. He noticed the car was gone though and assumed she must have went to town – they lived two miles outside of Dunshaughlin, on the Navan side. He closed the door and went back inside, yawning and stretching in the centre of the living room. He walked to the kitchen and found a warm pot of coffee. He poured himself a cup, and as he added milk and sugar, his mind was cast briefly back on the nightmare. The thought left him when he heard the crunching of gravel as a car pulled up outside. He took another cup down out of the press above the sink and filled it with coffee, making faces at the dark liquid (Anne liked hers black and he couldn't stomach it unless it had plenty of milk). Opposites attract, he thought happily. The front door of the house swung open and he turned around. There she was: his love, his life, 45

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