• Looks Can Be Deceptive

    You know it to be true, dear reader, as do I. How many people have you misjudged – rightly or wrongly – because of the way they look?

    Someone once said to me, ‘you look all sweet and innocent, like an angel, but you have the imagination of a seriously disturbed individual’. Now, those of you who know me will either be laughing hysterically (at the angel part) or nodding sagely at the wisdom of these words. For my part, I took these words as a compliment.

    The point, dear reader, is to illustrate the fact that looks most certainly can be deceptive and people are not always as innocent as they may seem.

    In the work of horror and fantasy, the perfect example of this is the vampire. For me, vampires are, by definition, enigmas. An enigma, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is ‘a person, thing or situation that is mysterious, puzzling or ambiguous’.

    A vampire is elusive, endearing, engaging, enigmatic and erotic. But, at the same time, a vampire is also dangerous, destructive, deadly and devious. Vampires seduce you; they draw you in; they overpower you; they take over your mind; they take away your willpower. And they do all this, just by looking at you. Yet, how do they do it?

    They have allure, they have charm and they have their looks. Now, I’m not talking about they’re physical looks – though this does help (check out Gerard Butler in Dracula 2000 to see what I mean!) – but more the look that they have about them. It is almost like a presence, or an aura, that you are powerless to resist. It’s like a drug; a need; a desire so strong, that you are incapable of fighting against its draw.

    It is because of this that, for me, vampires are the most enduring of all. They are also the most erotic (but that’s for another blog – maybe) and, above all else, they are the most romantic.

    You may be staring at the screen, appalled, right now, but think about it. Don’t think about the Hammer vampires or even some of the more recent concoctions. The birth of true love, for me, started many moons ago, when Bram Stoker penned my favourite book of all time. Dracula IS, without compare, THE best love story ever written. A man so distraught by the loss of the woman he loves; transcends time to find her again. Yet, when he does, when he has the chance to make her his for eternity, what does he do? He says probably the most heart wrenching words ever uttered:

    ‘I can’t. I love you too much’

    He lets her go; he walks away; he sacrifices his own happiness for hers. If this doesn’t epitomise true love, then I don’t know what does. Is this where the phrase ‘if you love someone, let them go’ comes from? Perhaps.

    This isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, blog in which I’ve mentioned vampires. Last week I invited you to start exploring the dark and dangerous recesses of my mind, and you may recall a little girl? A little girl sitting on a bench; a little girl in a red wool coat with black tights and black patent leather Mary Jane’s; a little girl with blonde ringlets; a little girl who goes by the name of Emily.

    Emily came to me one night and asked me to share with you her story and so, here it is. I hope you take heed, dear reader.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.



    ‘Hello. What’s your name?’

    Emily looked up at the man, through her tears. He was smiling at her; a warm smile; a friendly smile.

    ‘Emily,’ she said, as she gulped back a sob.

    ‘Hello, Emily, my name’s Jack,’ he said and extended his right hand towards her. It was a large hand; tanned and calloused, with short blunt nails. He must work with his hands, Emily thought. Her gaze traced the thick blue veins that criss-crossed the back of his hand, before they disappeared under the cuff of his jumper.

    She extended her own small, delicate hand from within the safety of her black fur muffler. She placed it in his, feeling its roughness against her own soft skin, and shook it formerly.

    ‘Do you mind if I sit down?’

    Emily shook her head. He sat down next to her, careful to leave some space between them. Maybe so as not to frighten me, she thought and smiled to herself. He rubbed his hands together vigorously and turned towards her. The air was particularly cold this November night.

    ‘Are you all right?’ he said, his voice tinged with concern.

    Emily looked up into his eyes, so warm and friendly, and nodded. She wiped the remaining tears away with the back of her hand and sniffed.

    ‘Here, use this,’ Jack said, pulling a clean cotton handkerchief out of his pocket.

    ‘Thank you.’ Emily put the handkerchief to her nose and inhaled. ‘This smells nice. All clean and fresh, like the trees,’ she said and smiled at him. He smiled back and glanced at his watch.

    ‘What’s the matter? Do you have to go already?’  Emily said, her eyes filling with tears.

    ‘Hey, hey, don’t cry again, sweetheart. I don’t have to go yet. I need to get you home first, don’t I? Are you lost?’

    Emily didn’t answer him. She was watching the vein pulsing in the side of his neck. She reached out to touch it; to feel the blood move beneath her fingertips. Jack pulled back as though he had been scalded.

    ‘Jesus! Your hands are freezing. Put them back inside your muffler; to keep them warm.’

    Emily smiled at this, but did as he asked. She clasped her other hand inside the muffler. Both were like ice, despite the warmth it provided.

    ‘Emily, I asked you a question. Are you lost? Is that why you are crying?’

    ‘No, Jack, I’m not lost,’ she said, in a tone that belied her years.

    ‘Then why are you here?’

    ‘I always come here.’

    ‘What? On your own?’

    ‘Yes. I like to come here. It’s where I meet people. It’s where I help people.’

    ‘What do you mean?’

    Emily shrugged. ‘People come to me; to talk. It helps them. I help them. Just like I’m helping you, Jack.’

    ‘What do you mean, “helping me”? I’m talking to you because I’m worried about you, out here on your own, so late at night. You might get hurt.’

    Emily smiled at this. She liked Jack. His kindness and his innocence set him apart from the others. Maybe she’d keep him. He would be good company.

    ‘Where do you live? It’s time I took you home.’

    She didn’t answer him. He sighed and slumped back against the bench. Emily shuffled across to be closer to him. She could feel the warmth radiating from his body.

    ‘Emily, answer me. Where do you live?’

    Still, she didn’t answer. She wasn’t listening to his voice. She was listening to his heart beating strongly in his chest. She was listening to his blood flowing through his veins. She was tracing the veins on his hand with her tiny finger.

    Jack shifted, as though dislodging an unwelcome pet and, placing his hands on her shoulders, turned her to face him.

    ‘Emily, you should not be out here on your own, in the freezing cold, at this time of night. It’s not safe. Anything could happen to you.’

    ‘Will you walk me home then?’ she said, pushing herself off the bench and holding her hand out to him.

    At last, Jack thought. What the hell was a kid her age doing in a park so late?Some people didn’t deserve to be parents. He hoped she lived close by; he needed to be back around ten, but he also wanted to give her parents a piece of his mind.

    He looked down at her as she led him through the park. She was so tiny and delicate. She looked like an angel.

    He was so glad he’d found her. The last thing he needed was for her to get caught up in this. Tonight was his chance to catch him. Fifteen men had gone missing here; their bodies having been discovered a couple of days later, in the bushes behind the bench she’d been sitting on.

    They had been runners; walkers; dog owners; cyclists; single; married; fathers; grandfathers; teenagers. There was no real pattern, except that they were all men and that their bodies had all looked the same – grey and empty; a look of surprise evident in their eyes.

    Jack looked at his watch again – nine thirty – it was going to be tight. The timing was crucial. It had to look natural.

    His radio crackled to life then, making them both jump. God, which part of “no contact” didn’t they understand!

    ‘Yeah,’ he said into the mouthpiece. He listened for a few minutes and then switched it off; to make sure it didn’t disturb him again.

    ‘What was that?’ Emily said, staring up at him; her forehead creased in concern; her mouth set in a line.

    ‘Just the station checking up on me. I’m a policeman,’ he said, hoping to put her mind at rest.

    Emily was not happy. She had liked Jack. Not now though; not now she knew what he was. Tears filled her eyes again. She had liked him so much, much more than the others, but he had disappointed her. He had made her sad and she didn’t like to feel sad. She stopped abruptly.

    ‘I’m tired. Will you carry me?’ she stared up at him, a pout decorating her rosebud lips.

    Jack stooped to pick her up and was surprised by how heavy she was. She nestled into his shoulder, her arms around his neck; twining her fingers in his hair.

    ‘How much further?’ Jack said.

    ‘Not much. There’s a way out of the park, behind that bench up ahead.’

    Jack picked up the pace and was soon wading through the long grass behind the bench.

    ‘Wait a minute,’ he said, stopping and looking around. ‘We’re back where we started.’

    As realisation dawned, he felt a cold sweat swathe his skin and a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. He tried to release her, but she was too quick for him. He winced as he felt her teeth puncture the delicate skin of his neck, and fought to push her away, but she was too strong. His neck felt like it was on fire and the pulling sensation against his flesh was becoming unbearable. He felt the delayed kick of adrenalin and pushed against her with all his strength, but to no avail. She had clamped herself to him like a limpet.

    Exhausted by the effort and weakened by the loss of blood, he slumped to his knees. Emily let go of him and stepped back. Jack looked up at her, only to find her delicate features transformed into those of a monster; blood smeared across her lily-white skin.

    He watched, helpless, as her face morphed back into the angel he had met on the park bench. The angel of death. He could hear his pulse slowing; could feel his heart strain to find the strength to beat. The black and white dots started to form before his eyes and his breathing became laboured and ragged. He had no reserves left to draw on. He let the darkness embrace him.

    Emily smiled to herself and returned to the bench; a little girl of four feet in height, with blonde ringlets, green eyes and un-naturally pale skin; a little girl of eight years of age, who was so much older; a little girl so full of innocence.


    © Marie Anne Cope 2005 (Updated 2013)

  • Do Be Afraid of The Dark

    What is it about the dark that has had most, if not all, of us (yes, including me) in fits of panic at one time or another? You know the symptoms – clammy skin; racing heart; eyes darting this way and that; breathing short and sharp. But why? That darkness may only be your living room in the early hours of the morning, when you’ve nipped downstairs for a glass of water. The answer, dear reader, lies once again in the power of the imagination.

    For, it is your imagination that transforms your otherwise benign house, in daylight hours, into a hotbed of evil and malicious activity after dark. There are the wicked downstairs dwelling creatures, which try and get your ankles as you race back upstairs after getting your glass of water; intent on dragging you back down and into their lair. Next, you have to run the gauntlet of the sadistic upstairs dwelling demons, who lie in wait under your bed (whether there is room or not), waiting to grab at you – to wound or maim – as you try and get back into bed. It’s surprising how quickly you can get all your limbs tightly wrapped, and out of sight, in the duvet, isn’t it?

    The danger, however, is far from over. For, as you lie there, willing your heart rate to slow down, chastising yourself for being down right ridiculous, you are invariably staring up at the ceiling, where the shadow monsters lurk. As you stare, you feel your breath catch once more, for didn’t that shadow just move? Isn’t it morphing into a shape, its tendrils reaching out towards you? You pull the duvet over your head, scrunching your eyes shut tight, willing it to go away. After a few minutes, breathing becomes an issue, the temperature under the duvet is increasing and you decide that ‘enough is enough’; ‘there is nothing lurking in the shadows’; ‘my eyes are just playing tricks on me’. Yet, you don’t throw the duvet off, gulp in a lungful of air and relish in the coolness, do you? No, you slowly poke the top of your head out, scanning the ceiling for the demon that was trying to grab you. You might be brave and uncover your nose, just so you can get some air in, but you are still scanning – ever watchful. You think it’s gone so you allow the duvet to drop back and you take a big sigh. You lie there, staring once again at the ceiling, your mind elsewhere, when the shadows move again. You stare harder and, sure enough, the ceiling monsters are back, gliding towards you. This can go on for hours, believe me. Eventually though, through sheer exhaustion, you fall asleep.

    If the darkness in your own home can do that, then what about the darkness outside?

    Picture this. You’re walking home after a night out. There is no one else about. You are exhausted, the heavens have just opened and you have no coat or umbrella. You have two choices – the well-lit street which will take you twice as long OR the short cut; the dark, narrow, unlit short cut. Which do you choose? I’ll bet it’s not the short cut which, by day, you use all the time. What is it that we think resides there after dark? Does a portal open between the worlds, releasing all sorts of foes into the shadows?

    It’s not the obvious that you fear (and arguably should) when you stand, impotent, as your mind wrestles with a decision for which there is only one answer. No, it’s not the drunk, the mugger, the rapist or even the murderer that you fear. It’s the creatures of your imagination. Those fiends you mock in books and laugh heartily at on celluloid, but now, in the harshness of reality, it is exactly these manifestations that you envision in the darkness, lying in wait. And it is this fear that sends you the long way home.

    Darkness. It is something so basic; something so natural; the opposite of light. Yet, its associations are far from basic; far from natural. All things evil; all things supernatural; and all things mystical have associations with darkness. Nothing cute or fluffy comes from the darkness; not without teeth and claws, anyway. It is this association that, despite knowing that nothing will happen to you, makes you stop and think. How many of you have paused before entering a haunted house or before stepping onto a ghost train at a fair? This may not be a physical pause, but your mind will have registered a pause and your body will have responded – hairs on the back of your neck raised; heart skipping a beat; clammy palms; breath quickened. Whether you believe it or not, it will happen, because no matter how cheesy these things may be in reality, the thought of stepping into darkness will always prompt you to pause and wonder ‘what if’.

    Yet, it is the darkness that fascinates, dear reader, for however much you may fear it, a part of you is drawn to it – craving, wondering – after all, how bad can it be?

    Let’s go on a trip, a window shopping trip if you will, into the recesses of my mind. It’s not a trip for the faint hearted, so arm yourselves well, for I will not help you against the foes that you will meet. You might want to wrap up warm and wear sturdy shoes, for the deeper we go, the colder it will get and the less certain your footing will be.

    The dungeon is cold and dark; the steps slick with water and mould; a smell of decay pervades the air and the constant dripping of water makes you shiver. A lantern hangs on a hook at the bottom of the steps, casting a faint glow into the abyss beyond. You take the lantern and, holding it above your head, you take your first tentative steps into the bowels of my mind.

    A door comes into the light and you pause in front of it. Do you dare to open it? Are you brave enough to find out what is behind it? For you know that once that door is opened, it can never be closed again, not really. You hold the lantern up high to see if there are any more, but the pale light goes no further than the one in front of you. You take a deep breath, reach out to grasp the handle and close your eyes as you open the door.

    No sound greets you; just silence. You open your eyes. In an antique wooden chair sits a doll; a doll with a porcelain face and hands; a doll with blonde ringlets and a scarlet rosebud mouth; a doll wearing a greying pinafore, smudged with a rusty looking substance. You can feel the hairs rise on the back of your neck. You spin round, casting the dim glow all around you, but no one is there. So, why do you feel like someone is watching you? You shiver and turn back to the doll. Does a hint of a smile now tug at the rosebud mouth? You lean in for a closer look. Its eyes seem to follow you. You hold the light closer and faint rust coloured tracks become visible on the alabaster cheeks. You hold the light up close. Your breath catches. Did the pupils dilate? You step back; away; out of reach. You swing the lantern round in the gloom, for you sense you are not alone. You hear a sob and your heart lurches. You swing the lantern back round, illuminating the doll once more. You step back, away, banging into the wall behind you as you stare, wide eyed, the lamplight shuddering to your beat. In front of you, tears now streak the doll’s face; red tears; blood tears. Your gaze fixed on the doll, you brace yourself against the wall and, stretching your leg out, you kick the door closed.

    You stand awhile, supported by the damp walls; steadying your breathing; steadying your mind. You laugh out loud at your reaction. It was only a doll. You think about opening the door again, but as you raise the lantern, you notice another door further down; a door that wasn’t there before. You move towards it, reach out and pause awhile, your hand on the doorknob, before you turn it and open the door, stepping back quickly as you do so.

    Mist swirls out of the open doorway, dissipating amongst the air of the corridor. As it clears, light filters through and a scene comes into focus. It must be twilight, for the sky has that bright glow as it passes from day into night. A streetlamp illuminates a bench; its light unseen against the glow of the sky. You shiver as the coldness rolls through the doorway. You can see a shape on the bench and you find yourself squinting, shielding your eyes to get a better look. You gasp and glance back at the other door. It remains shut.

    You look back through the doorway, stepping forward now to get a better look. A little girl is sitting on the bench. Her head is bowed, her blonde ringlets falling down around her face. She is wearing a ruby red wool coat, double buttoned down the front; her hands are hidden inside a black fur muffler; her legs are wrapped in black woolly tights; and her feet are clasped in black patent leather Mary Jane’s. There is something so familiar about her; something pulling at your memory. You watch her as she sits, swinging her legs. You step forward, close to the threshold, drawn by her isolation and the growing darkness. She hears you and looks up. You see tears running down her cheeks; her bottom lip quivering. You reach out to her and take a step forward, hovering over the threshold. Something is stopping you, but what? Is it the hint of a smile that you think you’ve just seen on her angelic face? Is it that you’ve remembered where you are and that nothing is as it seems?

    You look up and make eye contact with her. Her tears have stopped; her mouth is set in a grim line. You start to withdraw, but in an instant she is in the doorway, holding your wrist in a vice like grip. You scream, but no one can hear you; no one that cares. You try to pull your arm away, but she won’t let go. She opens her mouth and you see her fangs. With all the strength you can muster, you yank your arm backwards. You catch her off guard. She crosses the threshold and you hear a fizzing noise as she screams. She releases you and withdraws back to her bench, her hair and skin charred in places. You kick the door shut and slump down on the floor, massaging your wrist; the bruises visible already.

    Once your breathing has returned to normal, you hold the lantern up again. Another door has appeared further down the corridor. You push yourself to your feet and start forward, but then you stop and pause. You look back at the two doors you have already looked behind and you look down at your throbbing, and now swollen, wrist. You look at the stairs leading out of the dungeon; stairs to daylight; stairs to freedom. You look back at the new door that has just appeared.

    You make your choice.

    To be continued……

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • Sometimes it’s Best to Leave it to Your Imagination

    Imagination, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is ‘the faculty or action of producing ideas, especially images, of what is not present or has not been experienced’.

    Imagination is such a wonderful thing. It allows us to create, to dream, to fantasise and, best of all, it allows us to scare ourselves silly.

    My imagination is a dark and dangerous tool, dear reader. It leads me down paths I am still unsure you are ready to experience. To open the iron door into the bowels of my mind is to release something that I cannot ever take back. For once the darkness is released, it will take over; it will consume; it will pervade your senses and, for some of you, it will be too much.

    I could, instead, keep the door closed and remain on this side, locked in the dungeon; a place with its own darkness and foreboding; but a place more amenable to your sensibilities. The dilemma then, for a dilemma is what I have, is whether to be true – to myself, to my imagination and to you.

    Imagination can open up a whole new world of possibility if you let it. Yet many people choose not to. Too caught up in the drudgery and grind of everyday life, their imagination is left to rot; to wither and die; to shrivel and become desiccated until, one day, there is nothing left.

    Yet, what are we without our imagination? I tender that we are nothing, for it is imagination, or the depth of it, that dictates who we are and which path we will choose to follow. Everyone’s imagination is different, creating a unique viewpoint on any given scenario. In light of this, dear reader, allow me to present you with a scene:

    ‘The air is cool and crisp; the season on the cusp of winter. The path, lithe and snakelike, stretches before me, disappearing over the ridge in the terrain. All around me the flora is sleeping; nestled in the warmth of the earth, awaiting the first signs of spring, when it will burst forth and bathe these flatlands in a rainbow of colour.’

    What does your imagination conjure as you read? Hold that thought; that image. I will now add to the scene:

    ‘The moon, full and bright in the naked sky, casts an eerie glow across the barren moorland. I shiver. Shadows dance in the distance, teasing my vision. I stop and listen. Nothing breaks the silence; nothing but my staccato breathing. I start moving again, my footsteps crunching on the frozen ground.’

    How is your imagination doing? Is the image changing? Is your body responding to what you are reading? Allow me to continue:

    ‘A sheen of sweat spreads across my skin and the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. I stop again, my breath catching. Behind me I hear the frost crackle; ragged breathing echoes through the night air; and a fetid stench pervades my nostrils. I spin around, my heart hammering in my chest………’

    Now, where has your imagination taken you? Has your initial view changed as each new passage has been added? Or, like me, did your imagination run rampant from the outset?

    I’m not going to tell you who or what is behind my protagonist because what my mind, or more accurately what my imagination, has created may be far different from yours.

    A lot of the time it is perfectly fine to show us what is there. After all, what would ‘The Walking Dead’ be if we didn’t see the zombies; what would ‘Dracula’ be without seeing a vampire; and what would ‘Dog Soldiers’ be without seeing the werewolves? These are known villains, if you will; the difference in their image being down to the film-maker and how s/he wants to portray them on screen. At a base level, they are familiar to us – a zombie will always be decaying, have a vacant expression and eat flesh; a vampire will always have fangs, be immortal and drink blood; and a werewolf will always metamorphose, have a need to kill and be attuned to the lunar cycle. Different writers/film-makers will, however, play with their weaknesses; their means of creation and their means of destruction, but, in essence, these fiends are what they are and images of them will be fairly consistent.

    There are films and stories, however, where the monster isn’t an accepted/known image, but something new; something thought up by the writer/film-maker. Should this new monster be shown to us, though? I don’t believe so. How many horror films have you been to see where you’re really enjoying it, your imagination has created something frightening and then the monster is revealed and you go, ‘Oh, that’s not what I imagined’? Don’t you find it disappointing, a let-down, and maybe a fraud? Doesn’t it change your view of the film from ‘great’ to ‘OK’ or worse?

    Three films stand out for me on this front – ‘Jeepers Creepers’, ‘Insidious’ and ‘Don’t be Afraid of the Dark’ – all great films and all films which fell flat when the monster was unveiled. Maybe I just like my monsters with fur and fangs. Scaly creatures with hooked noses, weird eyes and wings just don’t do it for my imagination.

    At the other end of the scale are the films which don’t show you anything at all. For me, there can only be one winner in this category, I’m afraid, and that is ‘The Blair Witch Project’. I found this film so dull and lacking in anything, dear reader, that I fell asleep…..in the cinema. It wasn’t until the camera hit the floor and noises could be heard that I rubbed my hands together and got excited that the film was finally starting. How wrong could I be? That was the end.

    Now, I considered the possibility that I may be more warped than I thought – given everyone else looked terrified – until a chap stood up and shouted, ‘This film is crap. I want my money back’. I smiled and took solace in the fact that it wasn’t just me then.

    I think the key to success with such ‘new’ monsters lies in the power of suggestion – the shadows, the silhouettes, the sounds, the eyes glowing in the dark, the flash of claws or teeth, and the smells – and to leave the audience to create their own demons.

    For those people without imagination, who need it gift wrapped and placed in front of them, I offer my deepest condolences, for the imagination, dear reader, is far scarier than reality ever will be.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


    P.S. I am keen to learn what my protagonist turned to face in your imagination, so please leave a comment and let me know. Who knows where it might lead. M

  • The End of The World as We Know It?

    What if the end of the 13th b’ak’tun really had been the end of the road?

    Friday 21st December 2012 has been dubbed the ‘worst apocalypse ever’ (although I have to say, I would like to meet whoever has survived one to come up with this comparison!), with the Mayans being accused of getting it oh so very wrong.

    The fact is though, dear reader, they didn’t get it wrong; we did.

    21st December 2012 marked the end of the 13th b’ak’tun and the end of a 5,125 year long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar. It represented changes in human consciousness, not the end of humanity, and the idea that the Long Count Calendar ended in 2012 misrepresented Mayan history.

    Mayan inscriptions frequently referred to dates beyond the end of the 13thb’ak’tun and in 2012, researchers announced the discovery of a series of Mayan astronomical tables in Xultun, Guatemala, which plot the movements of the moon and other astronomical bodies over the course of 17 b’ak’tuns.

    According to one of the archaeologists at Xultun, ‘the ancient Maya predicted the world would continue – that 7,000 years from now, things would be exactly like this. We keep looking for endings. The Maya were actually looking for guarantees that nothing would change.’

    The ‘2012 Phenomenon’, as it became known, was a belief that cataclysmic or transformative events would occur around 21st December 2012; that the Mayan calendar prophesised an apocalypse and that mankind would face Armageddon.

    So, what is it with our preoccupation with the end of the world? Why do people obsess about the arrival of the next solar maximum (an interaction between the earth and the black hole); or with the earth’s collision with a planet called Nibiru (Planet X)? Are we, as a race, so pessimistic and Doomsday obsessed?

    So it would seem, but, for a change, it isn’t a modern day disorder. At the turn of the Sixteenth Century, Christopher Columbus believed that his discovery of ‘most distant’ lands (including the Maya themselves) was prophesised and would bring about the Apocalypse.

    In the early 1900s, German scholar Ernst Forstemann interpreted the last page of the Dresden Codex as a representation of the end of the world in a cataclysmic flood, although he made no reference to the 13th b’ak’tun or to 2012.

    The link to the Mayan calendar was made in 1966 when Michael D Coe wrote, in The Maya, ‘there is a suggestion…that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13thb’ak’tun. Thus our present universe would be annihilated in December 2012 when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion.’

    Coe’s statement was repeated many times by other scholars, but later researchers said that the end of the 13th b’ak’tun was a cause for celebration as, for the Maya, getting to the end of a whole cycle warranted such festivities. It certainly didn’t mark the end of the calendar.

    On a creative level, our fascination with the end of the world knows no bounds and a multitude of films have been made on the subject over the years.

    Whether the cause of the apocalypse be viral (Daybreakers, 28 Days Later, I am Legend); climatic (2012, The Day AfterTomorrow, Waterworld); or the result of a nuclear attack (Threads), it is apparent that since the early days of cinema, the subject of the world ending has been forefront in the minds of film makers.

    One of the earliest examples of this is a 1916 Danish science fiction drama called ‘The End of the World’, which tells of a world wide catastrophe due to an errant comet passing close to earth, causing natural disasters and social unrest. A more recent venture, the rather aptly named ‘2012’, includes references to the Maya, the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar and the 2012 phenomenon, with the apocalypse being brought on by changes in solar activity, causing cataclysmic earthquakes and tsunamis.

    Whichever the disaster movie and whatever the cause of the disaster, they all have one thing in common – an enemy. This enemy may be zombies (28 days Later); vampires (Daybreakers); mutated human beings (I am Legend); pirates (Waterworld); the ‘list’ (2012); or nuclear fallout (Threads), but there is always an enemy. Quite often though, this enemy is far from sinister or scary, but simply your fellow man, fighting to survive in a world that is no longer recognisable.

    So, with this in mind, what if the end of the 13th b’ak’tun really had been the end of the road? How many of you will admit to wondering, just a tiny little bit? How many of you will admit to holding back on your Christmas shopping?

    If there HAD been an apocalyptic event on Friday 21st December 2012, what kind of new year would those of us lucky (or unlucky, depending on your viewpoint) enough to survive be facing now?

    Let’s take the scenario of a great flood, referred to above. It is kind of feasible that this could happen. After all, we have had an unprecedented amount of rain recently, the planet is warming up and, if the bible is to be believed (and I am not saying that it is), it has happened before – ask Noah.

    Imagine then, it is Saturday 22nd December 2012 and you get up and open your front door. All around you, as far as you can see, is water. What do you do? Depending on where you live, will depend on your answer. But, I ask you, dear reader, to imagine you live on the top of a hill. If all you can see is water, then it is a safe bet to assume that everyone and everything living at a lower altitude is dead or dying; all the shops where you could potentially get provisions are under water; any vegetables etc. that you have grown yourself have been destroyed. All you have is what is in your house and you need to protect that to survive.

    You think about leaving the house. You need to see if anyone else has survived – it’s human nature – but why? Why do you need to see if others have survived? Chances are they will have, but will they welcome you with open arms? Think about it. They may only have what’s in their house to survive on, or they may have nothing. Either way, they will be looking to protect what’s theirs or steal what isn’t. Fellow survivors are not necessarily your friend; they are more likely to be your enemy. So, if you are going to leave, you need to secure what’s yours and you need to arm yourself. Now, in the UK, we don’t have guns (well most of us don’t) and so you will need to turn to your kitchen knives or other tools for protection.

    So, you’re armed and you’ve secured your house and you are determined to see what’s out there. How do you propose to do that? It is highly unlikely you have a boat or even the means to build a raft. You think about swimming, but you have no idea how far you will need to swim and you have no idea what is in the water.

    The water that surrounds you is also your enemy. In it float the decomposing bodies of people you may have known; carcasses of animals; dangerous predators that were once confined to the sea or to rivers (depending on where in the world you are) and what about fallen electricity cables? It is unlikely any would still be live, but do you take that risk?

    As you stand on your doorstep, questions flood your mind – What am I going to do? Where am I going to go? How long can I survive on what I have? Then what – starve to death or adapt?

    Human beings have a phenomenal capacity to survive against the odds, but not everyone is a survivor.

    So, dear reader, I ask you to ponder this – as you stand on your doorstep staring at the sea that surrounds you, what will you do? Do you have what it takes to survive the end of the world?

    Sobering thinking, isn’t it?

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas……

    …..and I thought, dear reader, that I would bring you a dose of Scary Ramblings a little earlier this week. It is Christmas after all.

    In keeping with the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve, I thought I’d pen a little spiritual tale myself.

    The tradition is said to stem from Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, where Scrooge is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve – Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future – all seeking to get him to remember what was, to change what is and to influence what will be.

    Is this the earliest that this tradition started? No-one has really managed to prove one way or the other, nor the reason why such stories are told. Are they told because Christmas is the time when people gather and tell each other tales? Are they told because it is the time of year when night is longer than day and the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest? Or are they told because, during the severely cold winters of Dickens’ childhood, the eerie silence and luminous glow cast by the snow, lent itself to tales of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night?

    It is said that MR James, the originator of the antiquarian ghost story, used to write his tales so that they could be told around the fire on Christmas Eve. In Henry James’ chilling novella, ‘The Turn of the Screw’, a narrator tells of a former Christmas Eve gathering, in an old house, where guests told each other ghost stories.

    So, in keeping with the old ways, dear reader, I set before you a ghostly tale for you to read, By Candlelight, if you dare.

    Wishing you all a Scary Christmas and a Fearful New Year.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.



    By Candlelight

    ‘That’s ‘im, innit?’


    ‘That one what lost ‘is son, just ‘fore Christmas, donkies years ago.’

    ‘Nah, it ain’t, is it?’

    ‘Yer, never forget a face, me.’

    I could hear them talking. That’s the trouble with small villages. Everyone knows everything about everyone. How? Because they talk at full volume like these two. The trouble is no-one knows the truth. No, that’s a lie, they do know the truth; they heard me tell it at my trial. Problem was, no-one believed me. They said I’d taken leave of my senses; had a psychotic break; and they locked me up.

    That day was a day, just like this one – cold and crisp; clear and bright. Tom was so excited to be finally going up Wratner’s Peak.

    ‘Whoa, slow down there, young man,’ I said, grabbing him by the arm as he shot out of the car. ‘You’ve got a long climb ahead of you. Have you taken your inhaler?’

    ‘Yes, Dad,’ Tom said, rolling his eyes.

    ‘Okay, okay, just checking. Right, let’s go.’ I locked the car and hugged Tom to me as we walked towards the start of the trail.

    The climb was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Not a cloud disturbed the sky when we first set out and I relaxed a little at having put my faith in the forecast. Tom marvelled at the hawks and buzzards that floated on the thermals, for what seemed like eons, before diving down and swooping back up, their prey clasped firmly in their claws. Few flowers bloomed due to the lateness of the year, but this just sought to add a touch of drama to the landscape.

    About halfway up the mountain, I noticed the clouds had started circling. I remember thinking then, that they looked like snow clouds – big, silvery and grey. I pushed this thought from my mind.

    Tom was so excited when he reached the top that he jumped up and down, whooping and punching the air with his fist, making me laugh out loud. He never thought he’d be able to do it, not with his asthma as bad as it was, but he did and I was so proud. Well, you would be, wouldn’t you?

    Unfortunately, the exertion of the climb triggered his asthma, so I thought it would be best if we sat tight for a while and took in the stunning scenery. It was only until the tightness in his chest eased and he could catch his breath normally again.

    As we ate a late lunch, I looked to the sky once more. The clouds were almost upon us; the temperature had risen slightly and the light was starting to change to that eerie half light you get before the snow comes.

    ‘Come on, we need to start back down,’ I said, trying to keep my voice normal, even though inside I was churning.

    ‘Can’t we stay a bit longer?’ Tom pleaded, flashing me that smile that usually got him whatever he wanted.

    ‘Nope, come on, young man, let’s go. We might still have time for the cinema if we go now.’ That did it. He was on his feet in a flash.

    We’d barely found the path back down before the snow started to fall, slowly at first; so slow in fact that we could watch the snowflakes as they floated passed us – big, beautiful and intricately constructed. Tom tried to catch them on his glove, to study them more closely, but they disappeared into the fabric, their story never to be repeated.

    Soon, though, it was falling thick and fast, blurring the path; surrounding us; enclosing us in a cocoon, where light and sound barely filtered through. The silence was all encompassing. We stopped and I tied a rope to Tom’s belt and then onto mine, linking us together. I couldn’t bear to lose him.

    I chided myself for not packing a tent and sleeping bags. My gut had told me I should, but I’d ignored it and placed my trust in the forecast. We were never going to get down this mountain tonight though; not in this weather; not without the path. I looked down at the ground in front of me. It all looked the same now; coated in a thick blanket of white. I didn’t know if we were still on the path. I didn’t know if we were going in the right direction. The terrain had flattened out a while ago, but we weren’t at the bottom, I knew that; we hadn’t been walking long enough.

    ‘I’m really cold, Dad, how much further?’ Tom said.

    ‘Clap your hands together and stamp your feet as you walk, it’s not much further.’ The lie rolled so easily off my tongue that I almost believed it.

    I was sweating now; my heart pounding; a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. What the hell were we going to do? We couldn’t keep walking, but we couldn’t stop either, we’d get hypothermia.

    ‘What’s that?’ Tom said, pointing. I followed the line of his finger and could see an intermittent yellow glow through the veil of snow.

    ‘I don’t know,’ I said, dumbly.

    ‘It’s a light. It has to be. We should head towards it. It might be a house.’

    I followed my son, the synapses in my brain snapping, trying to pinpoint our location. There were no houses on Wratner’s Peak; not inhabited ones, anyway. There was a dilapidated cottage about halfway down, but that hadn’t been lived in for over a hundred years. It didn’t even have a roof. Then the thought crossed my mind that it was probably another group of hikers, duped by the forecasters. I picked up my pace. They may have camping gear.

    The silence enveloped us; the snow making barely a whisper as it fell. Snow had this effect. It was like it singled you out and cut you off from civilisation; placing you in your own little world, completely alone.


    ‘You okay, son?’

    ‘Yep, I just walked into the gate. I couldn’t see it.’

    Gate? What gate? There shouldn’t be a gate here. I looked up and a soft orange glow shone from somewhere over my head, as if suspended in mid air. I felt a jolt at my waist and stumbled forward as Tom marched through the gate, the rope dragging me behind him.

    ‘Tom, wait!’ I called, the hairs on the back of my neck on full alert, my gut churning. My words, though, were absorbed by the snow. I quickened my pace and reached out to grab his shoulder, just as we were blinded by a rich golden light. I threw both my hands up to shield my eyes and squinted into the glare. As I angled my hands, I caught a glimpse of a wide open doorway and, beyond it, a kitchen with a roaring fire. Another jolt around my waist snapped me out of my brief daze.

    ‘Tom, no. You can’t…’

    ‘It’s quite all right, you know. I invited him in and you too. Now, come on out of the snow. You’ll put the fire out letting all this cold air in.’

    I crossed the threshold and turned to meet our benefactor, as she slammed and bolted the door behind us.

    ‘Take your boots and outdoor clothes off, if you don’t mind. You can hang them by the door.’

    ‘We won’t intrude. We just need directions back down the mountain. We must have strayed further from the path than we thought. I don’t remember there being a house on this mountain,’ I said, a puddle of melting snow collecting at my feet.

    ‘Nonsense! There’s always been a house here. As to you going back out, I won’t hear of it. You’ll get even more lost in this weather. No, you’ll stay here the night.’

    ‘No, no, we couldn’t possibly…’

    ‘Where else do you plan to go? You’ll freeze to death out there.’

    ‘Thank you,’ I said, lamely, as I watched her almost glide over to the stove, like a ghost. I shivered and chided myself. It was just the long dress she wore, giving that illusion.

    ‘Hurry up, then. Dinner is ready.’

    I turned around and took in the single room and the wooden table in the middle, laid for three.

    ‘Are you not waiting for the others?’ I said, indicating the table.

    ‘There are no others,’ she said and started ladling what looked like soup into the bowls on the table.

    ‘Quick, quick,’ she said and both Tom and I shed our outer clothing and sat down at the table. My stomach growled, which was strange, as we hadn’t long eaten.

    ‘Hep yourselves to bread and butter,’ she said, nodding towards a huge loaf of homemade bread. ‘And there’s plenty more broth if you want it.’

    ‘Where’s your husband?’ Tom piped up; causing me to almost choke on the hunk of bread I’d just stuffed into my mouth.

    ‘Tom!’ I said, crumbs scattering the table. ‘I’m so sorry.’ I felt the flush creep into my cheeks.

    ‘He’s dead, as is my boy. Two score years and ten. Lost on a night just like this.’

    ‘I’m sorry,’ I said again.

    ‘It was a long time ago. Time heals, as they say.’

    ‘Why was the table set for three, then?’

    ‘Tom, please….’

    ‘Habit; comfort; hope. They never found my boy. Albert, that’s my husband, was found the next day, but not my boy. So, every year I set a place, just in case.’

    ‘That’s just weird,’ Tom said.

    ‘That’s enough. Now apologise to Mrs…’

    ‘No apology necessary, young man. My William was about your age when he disappeared,’ she said and patted Tom on the shoulder as she got up.

    ‘Let me,’ I said and pushed my chair away, as she started to clear the table.

    ‘Nonsense. You two sit by the fire and warm yourselves up. You must be near chilled to the bone after being out in the snow for so long.’

    ‘It’s only been snowing a couple of hours. It started just after lunch.’

    ‘That it did and it’s a quarter after nine now. So, you’ve been in it more than a couple of hours.’ I looked down at my watch and, sure enough, it was nine fifteen.

    ‘How the hell..?’

    ‘Language! I will not have talk like that in my house,’

    ‘I’m sorry, Mrs…’

    ‘Evelyn. Just call me Evelyn.’

    Tom and I sat in silence for a while, listening to the noises as Evelyn cleared up. My mind was racing. How had so much time passed? We hadn’t been walking for that long. I looked over at Tom, who was sound asleep, completely unphased by the experience.

    ‘Do you have a blanket I could throw over Tom, by any chance?’

    ‘I have better. I have a bed. He can sleep in William’s bed tonight. You’ll have to make do with the chair by the fire, though, I’m afraid.’

    ‘That’s fine,’ I said. ‘Thank you so much for taking us in.’

    ‘Yes, well, maybe if someone had done the same for my boys then…’ She left the sentence unfinished, picked a candle up off the dresser, and indicated for me to follow her. I gathered Tom, as gently as I could, in my arms and followed Evelyn upstairs.

    ‘He’ll be safe in here,’ she said and put the candle on a small table next to the bed. I laid Tom on the bed and Evelyn pulled several blankets over him.

    ‘Off you go,’ she said. ‘I’ll see to him, now.’

    I backed out of the room, ever so weary all of a sudden, and headed back downstairs. I dragged the wooden rocking chair as close to the fire as I dared and wrapped the blanket tightly around me. I stared into the flames; their dancing almost hypnotic as they lulled me to sleep.

    I jolted awake with a sneeze and immediately regretted it, as every muscle in my body screamed. I shivered and tried to uncoil myself from the foetal position I was in. I could barely move. It was as if I was trying to unfold a Christmas tree after it had been stored in a box all year.  I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes, or the end of my nose for that matter. Christ that fire hadn’t lasted very long. The room felt as though it had never had a fire in it; not for a very long time.

    My eyelids were stuck together and I had to use my senseless fingers to try and pry them apart, but it was too painful. I cupped my palms over my mouth and blew warmer air into them and then placed them over my frozen eyes. It took a while, but finally I felt my eyelashes relinquish their hold on my cheeks.

    To this day, I wish I hadn’t.

    Snow carpeted the floor of the once cosy kitchen; the fireplace was barren, an abandoned bird’s nest the only sign of former life. I spun around in the chair I was huddled in, to be greeted by the splintering of wood and a sensation of falling, as the chair finally gave way. As I landed in the snow, I stared up though the skeletal remains of the roof rafters and into the brilliant blue sky beyond.

    ‘Tom!’ I screamed at the top of my lungs, as I shot to my feet, my stiffness forgotten as adrenalin coursed though my body. I ran to the staircase, but there was nothing there – no staircase, no stairs, no second floor. I whirled around and ran towards the doorway, bare of a front door, and out into the garden.

    ‘Tom!’ I screamed again, but there was no sound; no movement; no nothing. He was gone.

    I scoured the mountain that day, but he was nowhere to be found. He was gone; vanished. Some hikers found me – delirious; dehydrated and hypothermic. The police came to see me in hospital. I told them my story. They didn’t believe me. They didn’t even write it down. They did look for Tom. For weeks they searched, even long after the snow had gone, but they never found him.

    One of the policewomen, tasked with keeping an eye on me while I was in hospital, must have felt sorry for me. She told me she believed me. She told me the ghost of Evelyn Wratner had taken Tom. She had me then, so I listened.

    She told me the story of how Evelyn’s son had failed to come home one night, just before Christmas, and that Albert, her husband, had gone out to look for him, but he too had been lost in the snow. Albert’s body had been found the next day, buried in the snow, where he’d tried to carve a shelter. They had never found William.

    She told me how Evelyn had never set foot outside the house from that day on, convinced that one day William would come home. She told me that every year, on the anniversary of his disappearance; Evelyn had burned a candle in the upstairs window, hoping it would guide him home.

    She told me how the grief had driven Evelyn insane and, eventually, to take her own life. The house had never sold; the history had been too gruesome for most people. The locals, instead, had left the house to rot and had named the mountain after the Wratner’s; as a memorial.

    She told me that local legend goes that, on a certain day just before Christmas, in the right conditions, for the right people, a candle still burns in that upstairs window, guiding them safely to her door.

    She told me that, over the years, several children had gone missing, never to be found – all boys; all aged around nine or ten. The fathers had all reported a similar story.

    ‘Why have they never been connected?’ I said.

    ‘Because they are over twenty years apart and buried in the sea of unsolved cases in the bowels of the archives,’ she said.

    ‘But can’t you…’

    ‘I’ve tried, but they won’t listen to me.’

    ‘Give me the files. I’ll make them listen.’ She just smiled at me then, like a mother would smile at an impossible child.

    Of course, they hadn’t listened, not then anyway, but now they are. Thanks to my doctors, they are ‘indulging me’, in the hope that a dose of reality will snap me out of my delusion. It’s not them that‘s waited this long, though, it’s me. I had to wait for everything to be right and today, everything was perfect.

    ‘Hello, Jim, it’s nice to see you again.’ I looked up and saw Dr Dickinson standing before me. I smiled at him, before turning my attention to his companion.

    ‘This is Tim.’

    ‘Hello, Tim,’ I said, smiling at the young boy, so like his father.

    ‘All set, then?’ Dr Dickinson said, hugging Tim to him. I nodded and stood, my police escort rising with me.


    © Marie Anne Cope 2012

  • Impossible to Believe or Improbable it Would Happen?

    Welcome to my world, dear reader. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. But, most of all, believe. This is my wish and the wish of all fiction writers – for you to believe. If the truth be told, however, many fail to achieve it.

    In all works of fiction you are often expected to believe the impossible. This is especially true in horror, fantasy and sci-fi, because as well as being asked to believe in creatures that don’t exist, you are also being asked to stray from the path; to venture into the dark woods; to cross over the threshold into another world – into my world; into my mind and to trust that I will lead you safely through.

    In asking this, am I asking you to suspend your disbelief or to believe in a secondary reality?

    Suspension of disbelief was coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817. He said that if a writer could infuse a ‘human interest and a semblance of truth’ into a fantastic tale, then the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative (1).

    In other words, you are asked to ignore what is real in everyday life and ‘accept’ as real, for the duration of the book/story/film/TV show, what is told in the story.

    In CSI, for example, you are asked to believe that forensic results are almost instantaneous and that the CSIs themselves investigate all aspects of a crime. In reality, neither of these is true.

    In vampire stories, you are asked to accept that vampires are immortal and do not age. In reality, both these things are impossible. The existence of vampires, however? Well, history has linked vampirism to both anaemia and porphyria, due to similarities between the conditions. I’ll leave it to you, as to what you choose to believe.

    So, why is suspension of disbelief important? I believe it is because fiction is read  for escapism; to experience the thrills and fears you wouldn’t encounter in your everyday life; to put yourself in danger, knowing no real harm can come to you. If fictional stories became too ‘accurate’, shall we say, then you would get bored and put the book down/change the channel. Using CSI as an example again, if the show made you wait the several months it usually takes to get most forensic results, would you still watch it? Probably not, as the pace and the story would be too slow and would not pique your interest. If you want reality, watch the news or read non-fiction.

    If you want to read fiction, however, be prepared to believe the impossible; be prepared to face your fears and trust the author will see you through safely…….or not……for this is the thrill of fiction, especially horror and fantasy – you just don’t know.

    So I ask you, dear reader, to believe the impossible.

    JRR Tolkien, in his essay ‘On Fairy Stories’, refers to the reader accepting and stepping into a secondary reality. He said that for the narrative to work, the reader must believe that what he reads is true within the ‘secondary reality’ of the fictional world. By creating an internally consistent fictional world, the author makes secondary belief possible. Tolkien argued that suspension of disbelief is only necessary when the work has failed to create the secondary belief (1). Why? Because the spell is broken and so the reader is left with two choices – either to make a conscious effort to suspend disbelief or to put the story down and walk away.

    Personally, I lean towards Tolkien’s viewpoint. For me, as a reader/viewer, I must be able to believe in the world that has been created in a story. Only then can I can accept, as the law, what happens within that world.

    Expecting you, dear reader, to believe the impossible is one thing, but then creating an improbable storyline/character/scenario within that world, is quite another. Even within a secondary reality, the story needs to be believable and probable.

    Making it believable involves many things, but, in essence, it is about making up rules for your reality and sticking to them, ensuring consistency. It is about making characters in your secondary reality real, by giving them a life; a history; a personality; motivations and feelings.

    In BONDS, I may not ask you to step into an alternate reality as Tolkien does in Lord of the Rings, but I do ask you to step into a secondary reality. A reality where witches, warlocks and vampires exist and where the impact of their actions is all too real.

    How can I convince you, though, to believe? How can I encourage you to accept that Antony Cardover is a vampire, seeking to break the curse placed on him by a deceitful warlock?

    I have to make him ‘real’ for you. I have to evoke your sympathy or your disdain for him. I have to make you believe that, no matter how flawed he may be (as most of us are), in my reality, he is real. How do I do this? I show you his life; his personality; what people think of him; his weakness; his motivation; his naivety; his despair; his anger; his need to have his life back. In other words, I give him life. I create a three dimensional person who you believe can exist in the world I have created.

    The key, dear reader, is to imagine you are actually there; to imagine you are Antony Cardover or Becca Martin; to imagine that this is your reality, your nightmare. Only then can you truly believe the impossible.

    But beware, dear reader, for you risk blurring the line between the worlds and living in a realm where anything is possible; a land where vampires stalk and werewolves hunt; a reality where ghosts wander and zombies roam; a place where witches protect and warlocks curse; a world where what is real becomes less about what you know and see and more about how you feel and respond. Consider, therefore, dear reader, what you would do…

    In the dark of night, would you take the short cut through the cemetery to avoid being late or would you stick to the well lit path?

    On the night of the full moon, would you choose to stray from the time served path, knowing it is quicker, or would you follow the advice you’d been given?

    As the fog hangs thickly along the cobbled path, the gloom barely brightened by the lone street light, would you carry on passed the silhouetted presence of a stranger who stands in the shadows?

    On a rain sodden walk, as the weather closes in and night approaches, would you seek refuge in the dilapidated house where a solitary candle burns in an attic window?

    A mind grounded in realism wouldn’t give any of this a second thought, but a mind willing and able to suspend disbelief; to step into that secondary reality? Surely that mind would pause, even if only for a moment, and ask ‘what if…..?’

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • Do you Know who Hides in Your Past?

    Well, do you? I know I don’t. The broader question here, however, is do you want to know? If it were someone famous, like James Dean; or royal, like Henry VIII; or pioneering, like Charles Darwin, then yes, I think you’d want to know. But what if it wasn’t? What if whoever lurks in your past is dark and evil and what they did while they were alive was so heinous that they are remembered in history (or not) for their crimes? What if the person in your past is Vlad the Impaler, Adolf Hitler, Jack the Ripper (not that anyone really knows who he was) or Antony Cardover from BONDS? Would you still want to know? I would. To find out that I am descended from Vlad the Impaler would actually make my day. But then again, that’s me and I’m not ‘normal’ (apparently). I’m guessing, though, that most people would rather not know.

    Yet, in modern society, there is a fascination with the past; an almost obsessive compulsion to find out from where and from whom we come. Why? Are we looking for someone to blame for the way we’ve turned out? Are we trying to see if we’re doing better or worse than our ancestors? Or is it that we just want to know if there is someone famous in our genealogy; someone notorious?

    What would happen if you did find out something dark? What then? You can’t erase that knowledge. You can’t turn back time and choose a different path. You have to face it. You have to learn to accept it and you have to deal with the fallout.

    So, say you’ve just found out that you have a psychopathic serial killer in your bloodline. Is this where you get your anger issues from? Does this explain why you completely lose it for no reason? Quite probably. But does this mean that you could also be a psychopathic serial killer? The answer to that, I’m afraid, is……………….. possibly.

    It is said that, genetically, some people are predisposed to become psychopaths (the same is said of schizophrenics) and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It’s the way you are made; it’s in your blood; it’s in your bonds with your ancestors. However, and this is the crucial bit to remember, you may never end up committing mass murder, or sinking into a delusional world where you have to save the Queen from the evil Lord Slarth. Why? Because there needs to be a trigger; something to push you over the edge, so to speak. This could be a traumatic physical or emotional (or both) event or it could be an environmental trigger, but invariably there has to be one. Does this mean we are all ticking bombs, just waiting to go off? Maybe. I guess we’ll never know until it’s too late.

    BONDS is the title of my debut novel and bonds are what link us; what bind us, if you will, to other things and other people.

    Blood bonds are, arguably, the strongest bonds any of us have. They are what cause estranged families to come together in times of crisis; they are what move someone to side with their brother over their lover; they are what we are all made from. The blood that courses through our veins is the blood of our ancestors, as are our genes, and with them come aspects of our personalities; our looks; our behaviour; and our predisposition to the arts, academia or sport.

    Would it, therefore, stand to reason that less scientifically proven traits, such as clairvoyance and witchcraft, could also be passed down this way? I believe so and in BONDS, this is what has happened to the heroine, Becca.

    Becca is descended from a long line of powerful witches, but it is something she refuses to accept. She is already an outsider and has no desire to add to this by outing herself as a witch. But it is her gift which she is forced to turn to in order to protect herself from Antony Cardover. For, as well as her craft, Becca’s blood bonds mean she is a descendant of Isabella Cardover and, hence, the final thing standing in the way of Antony’s freedom.

    Four hundred years ago, Antony and Isabella form a bond when they are married. In those days, any betrayal of this bond was seen as a slight on the virility of a man and he would become the object of ridicule and often be forced to leave his home.

    Isabella commits the worst kind of betrayal by ‘laying’ with other men in the village. Antony becomes a laughing stock and his pride and humiliation drive him to form an unbreakable bond with a warlock. Antony trades his soul for the chance of vengeance. His price? An eternity as a monster – a man bearing a vampire curse.  To stop him, the curse must be broken. To break the curse, Isabella and all her descendants must be destroyed. The catch? Only Antony can break the curse.

    ‘With a flick of his wrist he snapped Isabella’s neck and let her body slump to the ground.’(BONDS: Prologue)

    Has he broken the curse? Will he be free to live his life as a man again?

    ‘Antony had felt nothing as he’d turned away from them both and had started to walk away. He’d wondered how long it would take before the monster would leave him, when he’d heard Anna’s chanting.

    He shouldn’t have underestimated her power. That had been his first mistake. His next had been his naivety. Why had he assumed Isabella had been barren? Arrogance? She’d certainly been with enough men to produce a child.

    As the vines had encircled his neck and his eyes had met Anna’s, he’d known the truth. He’d known the curse hadn’t been broken; nor would it be. Isabella had borne a child. The relief he’d seen in Anna’s eyes had said it all.’ (BONDS: Chapter25)

    This brings me to another type of bond, that of restraint or imprisonment. Antony could not be destroyed, so the only option was to imprison him. Anna Martindale, a witch shunned by the villagers, entombs Antony within a stone sarcophagus, bound by spells and buried in hallowed ground for the rest of time.

    Seventeenth century spells, however, are no match for twenty first century living. As local property developer, Ramply Homes, moves in, the church and churchyard cease to be consecrated. The spells that hold Antony break, leaving him free to finish what he started. Four hundred years ago he failed. He will not fail again.

    (BONDS will be available to buy from Amazon in early 2013. Why not click on any of the links for BONDS for a sneak peak at what lies in store for you…..or click on the page for BONDS at the top of the screen)

    Oh, what that I have a spell that I may cast, so that you are bound to buy BONDS. I must, however, content myself that my words are enough to entice; to enthral; and to encourage you to do just that.

    Remember, dear reader, that there are many bonds that bind us in this life, whether they are bonds of blood; of marriage; of friendship; or of restraint.

    How much you allow them to influence you and the way you live your life is down to you……………or is it?

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • Terrified by Something Horrible or Horrified by Something Terrible?

    Terror and horror are two nouns which are frequently confused and often taken to mean the same thing. Yet, should we take the verb formations – to terrorise and to horrify – then the difference becomes more self explanatory.

    It is the emotional and physical responses to being terrified and being horrified that have my dark and twisted subconscious bubbling with excitement – how to terrify? How to horrify? Is it two spoons of terror and one of horror or vice versa?

    To understand the mix, is to understand the meanings. Devendra Varma defined the difference perfectly in The Gothic Flame (1966) – ‘The difference between terror and horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realisation; between the smell of death and stumbling against a corpse.’

    Imagine, my dear reader, that you are trapped inside a dilapidated house, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by wolves (werewolves at that). Inside, your best friend and your girlfriend/boyfriend, all that is left of the group you were with, share your hiding place. Both have been wounded by the wolves. Both are ticking bombs. The beasts outside are closing in. You can hear them. Your best friend starts to change before your eyes. Tick tock. You hear a crash downstairs. They’re coming for you and you alone. You have three silver bullets and a rifle. There are three hours until dawn. What do you do? (Storyline from ‘Three Silver Bullets’ by Marie Anne Cope published by Thirteen Magazine in February 2005).

    Try and imagine how you would feel, if you really were in that situation. Only then will you understand the build up of terror – the apprehension; the anticipation. The horror comes when you have to face the wolves; face your best friend; and face your girlfriend/boyfriend.

    A story purely based on terror, however, is, quite frankly, exhausting. All that build up and no follow through……well, we all know how frustrating that can be, don’t we? You’re heart is racing; your blood is pumping; your breathing is laboured; your skin is covered in a soft sheen of sweat; your eyes are wide; you could hear a pin drop; the cold hand of fear and dread is squeezing the life right out of you………sound familiar? It is your body gearing you up for fight or flight. To be constantly brought to this state time and time again is agonising and you certainly wouldn’t be looking for a repeat performance. You need that release. You need to let it all go, whether it is to scream; to run; to fight for your life – you need it.

    Similarly, a story based solely on horror would bore the pants off you in no time. Just imagine; one person after another being hacked to pieces by an axe….yawn. OMG! I hear some of you cry. That is horrific, disgusting, repulsive, the worst thing I could ever see or read. I agree, it probably is (for some of you), but I can guarantee that after three or four such scenes, you will become numb to it, blasé even, and yes, you may very well yawn and fall asleep. You will certainly be looking at your watch wondering how much more of this drivel you have to endure. What you will cease to have is any response to what you are seeing or reading. There are many many horror films that illicit this response in me. I won’t name and shame, but suffice it to say that if the blood starts oozing (too much) then I start snoozing!!

    What on earth does it take to please me then? A lot, if truth be told. From a story point of view, however, not much. I just want a well crafted story that has the right amount of terror with the horrific reward. I want a werewolf attack when my character ignores the warnings and strays off the path. I expect a sadistic ghost when my character refuses to believe and stays in a haunted house for a night. I yearn for a vampire seduction when my character decides to break into the house of a man who sleeps all day. I crave a psycho when my character insists on investigating the banging noise in the pitch dark cellar. I hunger for a zombie attack when my character insists on walking alone and unarmed in a town full of ‘walkers’ (A term used in The Walking Dead on FX).

    You get the idea. After all, what is foreplay without an orgasm? Just fooling around.

    In BONDS, I seek to do just this – to build up your apprehension and anticipation and deliver you a monster.  BONDS has only one monster – Antony Cardover – and only one heroine – Becca Martin. How much of a monster Antony actually is will be for you to decide.

    Throughout BONDS, Becca is terrorised by Antony. Her dreams leave her wounded; her visions leave her traumatised; and his story leaves her scared for her life. When she finally confronts him, though, is it horror and revulsion she feels?

    Antony’s action – whether perceived or actual – drive terror through the souls of many, but will you love him or will you hate him? Will you sympathise with him or will you condemn him?

    Maybe it’s just me. Maybe that screw really should be tightened up, but it’s not unusual for me to fall for the monster. After all, it’s the climax we’re all really looking for, not just the anticipation.

    I will await your outpourings, dear reader, with bated breath.

    Remember, to fully appreciate the story, you must immerse yourself in it. It is you who is feeling it; who is experiencing it; who is facing the monster, if only you are brave enough to open the door. Only then can you appreciate the full impact of terror and the horror that lies in wait for you.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


    By the way, please feel free to add your comments. Who knows where or to what it might lead…

  • Scarygirl? More Like Scaredygirl!!

    What is fear?

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is ‘a feeling of apprehension, distress or alarm caused by impending danger or, pain.’ Wikipedia gives us a variation, describing fear as ‘an emotion induced by a perceived threat’ and goes on to say ‘fear is the ability to recognise danger, leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it.’

    In essence, fear is a basic survival instinct. It protects us by alerting us to danger and then preparing the body to respond to this danger. Yet, how often do we actually find ourselves in a life of death situation, where the fight or flight response is critical? For most of us, never. Instead, we find ourselves hanging back, dawdling, in a word – procrastinating. I welcome you to my dilemma.

    As I sit here now, my heart is racing, my breathing is quickening and my blood pressure is elevated. My body is preparing itself for physical action – to fight or to run. But why? A sabre toothed tiger doesn’t have me trapped in a cave; Freddie Kreuger isn’t plaguing my dreams and Michael Myers certainly isn’t my brother (I don’t think!). Yet I am afraid and my body responds in the same way, regardless of what it is I am afraid of.

    For the longest time I have wanted to write; to explore the deepest recesses of my mind, where monsters roam and evil lurks. But how deep do I go? Dare I push open the rusted iron door and step through into the blackness? Dare I explore the darkest and most despicable depths of my psyche, where a certain kind of magic has taken root? You cannot see it, you cannot touch it, but I assure you it is there. The voices whisper to me in the dark of the night, calling to me, drawing me to my journals, whilst the world sleeps on, oblivious to the danger that prowls inside.

    What I fear, is fear itself. Fear that my resolve will come crashing down. Fear that the walls I have built to protect me from the demons within, might crack and crumble as I impart the secrets that I hold. Welcome to my world.

    How much to share with you, I have yet to decide. How much I can trust you, can only be proven with the passage of time. Is this why it has taken me so long to write this blog? Perhaps. I want you to know me; to know my words, but are you ready? Are you brave enough to open yourself up to the whispers of a warped and twisted mind?

    Will we be bonded by what has been or what is to come? Will my ramblings entice you to linger, entice you to share? Oh, would that I have a spell that I may cast, so that I may but know your mind. I must, however, content myself that you have found my words.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Welcome to Scary Ramblings. Til next time.