• The End is Nigh…

    Is this the end, dear reader? For you, of course, not for me. For, last week I left you facing a truly awful scene. And when I say truly awful, I again mean for you because, for me, the excitement is about to begin. For, although I have shown you the knives, the circular saw and the wood-chipper, that doesn’t mean this is the fate I have chosen for you. Of course it could, but, then again, my torturer may decide on something completely different. I could even remove you from the situation completely, but, let’s face it, where’s the fun in that?

    The fun for you, surely, is in not knowing when, or even if, I’ll remove you? The fun for me, obviously, is in the torture; is in the fear; is in the anticipation; is in the trepidation; and is in the pain I can create and make you feel…

    So, I left you staring at what you believed to be a rather gruesome end for you and it still might be, except my mad doctor has been whining all week, as he’d really like to play with you first. He has promised me it will be worth it and, well, I told him to fill his boots. I’d say don’t worry, but…well…I wouldn’t be being honest then, would I?

    Remember the scalpel? No? Oh well, you soon will. Enjoy.

    You feel a scratch on your neck, followed by some pressure and then an acute burning sensation, which makes you cry out. Your vision starts to cloud and drool begins to form in the corners of your mouth. You feel your body go limp, like jelly; the only thing holding you upright being the restraints. Your eyelids close and you succumb to the darkness.

    You blink rapidly and try and pull away from the harsh light, burning its mark into your corneas.

    ‘Ah, good, you’re awake. It’s better for you to be awake. For me, anyway.’ You hear him say. You try and speak, but you can’t. You have something stuffed into your mouth; something which tastes of a familiar smell – cloves.

    ‘I need you awake, dearie, but I need peace for my work,’ he says to you and pats you on the forehead. You try and pull away from him; his touch making you shudder, but you can’t. Once again, he has subdued you – head, wrists and ankles.

    One thing is new though, you realise in horror, as he traces his finger along your torso, over your pubic area and down your left leg. You are naked; no clothes; no underwear; no shoes; nothing.

    You try and cry out, forgetting your clove sodden gag, and almost swallow the cloth as you inhale. Your gag reflex kicks in as your body tries to clear the blockage in your throat and tears stream from the corners of your eyes, blurring your vision.

    ‘Now, now, dearie. I don’t want you dying on me. Not yet. It would spoil my fun,’ he says and plucks the rag from your mouth. You cough and gasp for air at the same time, exacerbating your coughing fit. He doesn’t offer you water; he doesn’t offer your assistance; he simply waits until you are calm again.

    Barely have you brought your breathing back under control, than he shoves the cloth back in your mouth.

    ‘And now to begin,’ he says and your eyes widen at the sight of the raised scalpel, glinting in the glaring light.

    You feel the incision start around your left nipple and you cry out, into the rag, and try and twist your body away from him; away from his scalpel; away from his torture, but you can’t.

    All you can do is watch. You watch as he slowly cuts away and removes each of your nipples; you watch as a scowl spreads across his face; you watch as he turns and picks up a tub of white crystals and rubs a pinch into your flesh, where your nipples were. It is here you cease to watch. For tears fill your eyes and you howl against the pain, almost choking on the rag again. This time he doesn’t help you, though; this time he is focused on rubbing salt into your wounds.

    You fight to cough the rag out of your throat as the nerve endings in your torso start to go numb. You feel him stop rubbing and you relax, but only for a moment; the moment it takes for him to pick up his scalpel and start working again.

    You are crying now as you mentally follow the strokes of his scalpel; part of your brain curious to know what he is doing; part of your brain never wanting to know. You will your nerves to numb; you will your senses to shut down. Then it stops. You open your eyes and feel your face relax; you hadn’t even realised you were tensing it up.

    You are starting to feel woozy and your un-severed nerve endings inform you that you are losing blood. This only serves to kick start your adrenalin and make your heart pump faster – fight or flight – which is not what you need.

    You close your eyes and focus, intent on survival – your basic human instinct – and will your heart to slow down; will your body to respond. Just as you think you are taking control, you hear a switch being flicked and then a rasping noise – staccato – as though something is trying to start.

    Your body responds before your brain. Adrenalin starts pumping again and your heart thuds in your chest. Something wet lands with a slap on your cheek. You open your eyes and stare straight up at the rotating blade of the circular saw.

    Again, you try and pull away; try to curl up and make your body as small as possible; try to get out of the way of the saw. But you can’t, you are bound too tightly; yet still you try. It’s human nature.

    A thousand thoughts are racing through your mind as he reaches up and drags the saw away from your head and down your body to your waist. Your gaze follows him and you cannot even contemplate what he is going to do, until he moves the saw to the left and then you know.

    You go to ball you hand into a fist, but he stops you. How? By hammering a nail through the back of your hand into a block of wood you hadn’t noticed he’d put there. You cry out and start choking on your gag.

    The trauma to your hand makes the muscles and tendons release and your fingers splay out. The choking means your attention is now elsewhere. That’s all he needs. He has you in position.

    Before you can process what is happening, he pulls the saw down and very slowly, very carefully, he starts to cut through your fingers.

    Your eyes roll back in your head and nausea sweeps through you. You open your mouth and gag as your body tries to expel the rag and the vomit that has been triggered. Black and white dots begin to form before your eyes and the sound of the saw takes on that hollowness that all things do just before you faint.

    As the sounds in the room get further away and the white spiralling starts against the black background of your vision, you are vaguely aware that he has moved further down your body…….to your feet.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • Dead Man Walking….

    Your mouth goes dry as you stare at the plaque. It can’t be your name. How does this lunatic know your name? You shift your gaze to the other heads and look at them; really look at them. They’re not real. They’re fake; made of wax or something. They have to be, don’t they? But then you look into their eyes; eyes which are not made of glass; eyes which reflect the horror of what each of them went through.

    Where is he? What is he doing? You strain your eyes to extend your peripheral vision, but it doesn’t help. He has bound you too tight; you are not going anywhere. The only thing you can see are the six heads mounted on the wall in front of you. They are all different – different sex; different race; different ages; different eye colour; different hair colour. In fact, they have nothing obvious in common at all, except they are all missing their body….

    The body! You feel your heart constrict and a sheen of sweat break out across your skin. What has he done with the bodies? You close your eyes and try and picture the room as it was when you were dragged across it, but you can’t; it is just a blur.

    You take a deep breath to try and calm yourself. You need to pull yourself together; you need to think. There has to be a way out of this; there always is – in the films – always. But the films are not my mind, dear reader, and in my mind a happy ending is not a given. You’d be wise to remember that.

    Aware that you can’t see beyond your audience, you realise that you need to tap into your other senses; those that may be of use to you – hearing and smell.

    You tune into your surroundings, using your second dominant sense. You strain your ears for the slightest sign of movement, but you don’t hear anything. Where can he have gone? You don’t recall hearing him leave, but, then again, you were a bit preoccupied with your new companions. But surely you’d have heard him leave? Surely you’d have heard a door close? Maybe he hasn’t left. Maybe he is standing at the back of the room, watching to see what you do. Maybe he is standing behind you; behind the chair, scalpel in hand, deciding what he is going to do to you.

    You feel panic rise within you as this thought takes over your mind, growing in intensity, until all you can see is him looming over you, huge knife in hand, manic look in his eyes. You twist your body, trying to move your limbs; trying to turn around. You have to see what’s behind you; you have to know if he’s there; you have to. But you can’t. The straps hold you firm. All you have succeeded in doing is drawing blood. You feel it as it starts to run down your wrists and your ankles – a warm, thick liquid.

    You inhale. Why? Are you seeing if you can smell your own blood? Can you? Doubtful, as you would need to lose considerably more to really smell it. But you do smell blood. Or, should I say, you smell flesh, rotting flesh; the smell that can only come from a body that is decomposing; a body that is putrefying. But how do you know that’s what it is? You’ve never smelt a dead body; you haven’t even seen one. Not in real life, anyway. Yet, somehow you know. Your senses tell you; your body tells you; your mind tells you. What you are smelling is one of your own; one of the six, or, more likely, all of the six.

    Is this the way animals can sense when one of their own is dead, dying or even wounded? Is this how they know to leave or, if a predator, to know which is the weakest?

    You inhale again, more deeply, gagging at the putrid smell. You are sure you smell something else though; something more familiar; something that reminds you of home. Citrus. Lemon. Bleach. You can’t be sure, but it is something like that; like the kitchen cleaner you use at home.

    It is then you hear it. The swish of something being wiped across the floor. It sounds like a backward and forward motion and then it stops and you hear a metallic grating sound and the sound of water draining, followed by a wet slap and then the swishing sound again. Is he mopping the floor?

    You buck your body against the metal chair to see if that works. Why? How many times do you have to try the same thing before you realise that the outcome remains the same. You are not getting out of the chair; not until he releases you; not until I release you.

    The mopping stops and you hear footsteps moving towards you. You scream as warm fetid breath caresses your ear.

    ‘Not long now, dearie,’ he whispers and you feel the tip of his tongue trace the outline of your ear. You shudder, swallowing back down the vomit that has finally made its move.

    ‘Just need to finish cleaning up after Johnny boy and then I’m all yours.’

    You drag your gaze back to the display in front of you and scan four of the plaques until you find dear Johnny. You squeeze your eyes shut, to quell your tears and to block out his pre-pubescent features; his innocence; and the look of broken trust, firmly etched into his soft brown eyes.

    What the hell is he going to do to me? You ask yourself this, not because of the inevitable outcome, for the empty plaque spells that out for you, loud and clear. You ask yourself this, because there may well be a long and excruciating journey to what you have no doubt will be nirvana.

    ‘Ready for you now, dearie,’ he says, making you jump. He spins the chair around so you can see the rest of the room; the picture you longed to see earlier, but now? Now you wish he hadn’t shown you. Your bowels release and your heart constricts so tightly, you think you might actually die right there, right then. Oh, how you wish you could.

    Before you lies a steel table; an autopsy table. Next to it stands a smaller metal table, adorned with an array of knives and tools. Above the table, suspended on a pulley system, enabling its multiple use, hangs a circular saw, its blade clearly forgotten in the recent clean up.

    But it is the device at the foot of the autopsy table that draws your focus; that draws your fear; that draws your revulsion; that draws your reaction. For, you remember, many years ago, hiring one of these yourself; hiring one to dispose of the trees you had cut down to fashion your garden; hiring one of these, with a view to recycling; with a view to making your own bark chip.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • Try Not to Lose Your Head

    So, what is it that scares you? What is it that leaves you quaking in your boots? What is it that keeps you awake at night? What is it that fills the pit of your stomach with a sense of dread?

    Could it be that the thought of accompanying your horror loving girlfriend to the latest supernatural chiller, is making you sick with apprehension?

    Could it be that the unlit shortcut is luring you in, despite your better judgement?

    Could it be the horrific events on our very own streets, fill you with a sense of foreboding for the future?

    Whatever it is, one thing is for sure; it is personal to you. What scares me (which is very little, by the way) may not scare you and vice versa.

    Fear is different for everyone. Fear manifests itself in many guises and creates in you an emotional response that becomes ingrained and comes to the fore when you are faced with a specific set of circumstances.

    My job, dear reader, is to try and instil that element of fear in you. My aim is to provoke that emotional response every time you see a closed door. My objective is, as always, to scare the hell out of you.

    Sometimes I may fail, sometimes I may succeed, but what I hope, is to create that uncertainty; that possibility; that opportunity.

    And so you stand back in the corridor, still in shock at how you were deprived of your escape; so cruelly deprived. You stare at the wallpapered over door, your mouth still agape, when you catch movement out of the corner of your eye.

    Your stomach goes hollow and your skin prickles as your brain registers the fact that you are not alone. Something has crossed the boundary between the worlds; something has invaded your corridor, your safe haven.

    Did you honestly think it was only you who could cross between worlds?

    You turn your head to see with whom you now share this dark dank space and you feel your body relax and your breath release as relief floods through you. Is it the white coat that calms you? Is it the sight of a man rather than a creature? Whatever it is, you feel a smile tugging at the corners of your mouth, as you stare at the back of this man; this doctor. For, that is what the white coat means to you.

    Oh, that I were to understand this sense of trust you have in this uniform. Oh, that I could understand why you would presume this man to be benign. Yet you do, despite wandering the halls of my mind. I am touched, though, that you still think you will find some good in there.

    ‘Hello? Excuse me?’ you say and the man raises his head, but keeps his back to you. He does, however, drop his hands to his sides.

    You step forward, hand outstretched, ready to introduce yourself, when the light from a lantern catches whatever is in his left hand, sending a harsh flash in your direction. He starts to turn and your voice catches in your throat as your gaze settles on the metal object clutched in his fist; a shiny metal object with a dangerous edge; a scalpel.

    You start to back away, your gaze now fixed on his face. A grin decorates his angular features as he looks up at you, his chin tucked in to his chest, a manic look in his eyes. He doesn’t follow you, though. Instead, he stops outside a new door and reaches his right hand towards it, gesturing for you to open it.

    You shake your head, but stop your retreat. You squint in the half light from the lantern. Is that blood you see speckling the front of his coat? You lean forward to get a better look. What a stupid thing to do.

    Grasping you by the throat, he drags you forward until you are face to face; until you can smell the stale sweat and death that clings to his clothing; until you can see deep into his eyes; eyes that look through you; eyes that look passed you; eyes that look at something else; something you could be; something he wants you to be.

    He forces you forward, the door swinging back under your weight and crashing against the wall. You struggle to keep upright as this man, who doesn’t look capable of lifting a chair, drags you across the room and throws you into a metal chair.

    You cry out as your spine connects with the unyielding metal and you close your eyes to quell the dizziness resulting from the back of your head slamming against the headrest.

    You feel restraints tightening around your ankles and try to kick out, but you are held firm. You reach forward, intent on freeing yourself, only to meet with a punch to the sternum, which sends you crashing against the back of the chair, winding you. As you fight to recover, he straps your wrists down before finally securing a strap around your forehead, holding you at such an angle, so as to expose your neck whilst still enabling you with forward vision.

    He stands before you now and cackles; the laughter sending shivers down your spine. Your eyes, wide and staring, are fixed on the scalpel, which now dances before your face.

    ‘Before we begin,’ he says, his voice rasping. ‘I’d like to introduce you to some new friends.’

    He steps out of your field of vision, bowing as he does so.

    This time, your scream isn’t a reaction to the pain he has inflicted, it is a precursor to what is to come. For, before you, mounted on the wall like game, hang the severed heads of six people, all identical to yourself.

    The sinew and tissue hang from the base of the neck, as though the head has been torn from the body; the look in their now glassy eyes, haunting. At the centre of this macabre display hangs a board still bare, except for the plaque at its base; a plaque engraved with your name.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • A Haunting Melody

    You blink, the light burning your irises as your eyes try to acclimatise. It isn’t a harsh light, it is a subtle light; a flickering light; a familiar light.

    You roll over onto your side and groan as pains shoot through your body. You feel like you’ve been in a fight; feel like you’ve been beaten to within an inch of your life. You have.

    You push yourself up onto all fours, steadying yourself as the dizziness threatens to send you to the floor once more.

    You cough and blood spatters the floor underneath you; the metallic taste causing you to retch.

    With care, you push yourself back on your haunches and allow yourself to take stock of your surroundings.

    You are back in the dungeons of my mind once more. Back in the familiar corridor. Back in a place of safety, with its cold, dank walls and stone floor; with its oil filled lanterns and its array of closed doors.

    You look down at your shirt and see a multitude of holes; holes with charred edges. You lift your shirt up and find your torso is covered in angry red welts; the source of your pain. At the centre of each is what looks like a black hole.

    Your breath held, you raise your hand and tentatively touch one of the holes. It is solid; hard; scabbed. You lower you shirt to find the holes lining up perfectly with the wounds on your body. Synapses start firing.

    Your mind flashes to images of your bedroom; the mirror; the backwards alphabet; the wolf; the woods; the zombies; the camp; the moon; the smell of blood; the taste of flesh; and the gunshots. You shudder as you feel the bullets hit you again. How have you got back here? How indeed?

    You push yourself to your feet and turn to head back out the way you came in; enough is enough. But then you hear it. From somewhere behind you, echoes the soft melancholy sounds of a harp.

    You turn around and look down the corridor, but you don’t see any new doors. You turn back again, telling yourself to ignore it; willing yourself onwards to daylight, to freedom. But, as you take a step, the strains of the harp pluck at you heartstrings once again.

    You turn and walk back down the corridor, passed the door you have just woken up in front of. You reach you hand out to touch the wall – cold, wet, slimy. You shudder again, but keep your hand there as you walk, allowing your fingers to trace its contours, searching for imperfections.

    The texture changes and you look up – wallpaper. What the..? You place both hands on the wall, running them along the surface until you find a gap. You dig your nails into the gap, tearing at the paper, ripping it from the wall.

    You stand back and stare. An old oak panelled door, with a polished brass knob, faces you; the only thing standing between you and the music beyond.

    The haunting sound draws you on and you grasp the doorknob and turn. The door swings open without a sound, revealing a hallway beyond. You stand away from the doorway, determined to stay on this side of the door this time.

    The hallway is oak panelled; polished and shining; a navy blue carpet running down the centre and continuing up the staircase to the first landing. A huge stained glass window casts a kaleidoscope of colour onto the carpet and rainbows shimmering up the wood panelled walls.

    The sound of laughter and running footsteps catches your attention and you look to your left. There is a doorway, but from where you are standing you can’t see inside the room. You shift over to the right and lean on the doorframe, trying to angle your view without crossing the threshold.

    It is then that you notice the music has stopped.

    The laughter sounds again; a child’s laughter; a boy’s laughter. You lean a bit further in and see a young boy, about 5 or 6, sitting cross legged in the room. You watch and notice how he is moving his hands and nodding his head and, every so often, laughing. It is as though he is playing with someone, but you cannot see who.

    You clear your throat and the boy stops what he is doing. You hold your breath and wait. Sure enough, curiosity having got the better of him, the young boy appears in the doorway. He has tousled blonde hair and brown eyes; freckles dusting his pale skin. He is wearing a shirt and three quarter length trousers; his feet wrapped in outdoor boots, even though he is indoors. He watches you and then looks behind him before bursting out laughing again and running up the stairs to the first landing; the light from the window casting him in an ethereal glow.

    He stops there and turns. You feel your heart lurch as he beckons for you to follow him. You hesitate; past experience finally making you think before you act. But he is insistent. He places the index finger of his other hand to his lips and beckons you forward again.

    You obey, crossing the hallway on your tiptoes. You pause a moment and decide to see who he was playing with. The room is empty; the fire burning in the stone fireplace; family photos lining the mantelpiece.

    You hear the harp again – soft, melodic, enchanting, and hypnotising – and it draws you back to the stairway. The boy is gone. You climb the stairs, following the curve round until you step onto the second landing. The landing turns into a hallway; a hallway lined with doors; closed doors, except for one.

    Right at the end, facing you, a door stands ajar. It is from this open doorway that the music drifts. You tiptoe down the corridor, not wanting to disturb whoever may be about. When you reach the door, you push it open and a gust of wind rushes passed you. You take a step inside the room and stop, a shiver running down your spine.

    Moth-eaten nets billow in the wind from the broken window panes. Sunlight streams through the ceiling where the plaster has fallen and the rafters are bare. The wooden floor, once polished and shining, is now scuffed and broken. You walk further into the room and you see the harp; forlorn and forgotten in the corner, its strings having given up a long time ago. A rocking horse rocks back and forth before the window, lost and found as the net curtains swirl around it.

    In the centre of the room stands a four poster bed, its emerald velvet drapes laden with dust. You step forward and reach out; you can’t help yourself. Taking hold of one of the heavy curtains, you pull it to one side. A scream catches in your throat as the dust motes settle and you see what the drapes have been protecting.

    The frail body makes barely a ripple in the bedding, his arms laid on top of covers that were once drawn up to keep him warm. The flesh, long since rotted away, has left its indelible mark on the fabric. His skull, so small against the huge comforter, is surrounded by a halo of sandy blonde hair.

    You let the curtain drop, a sob catching in your throat, tears rimming your eyes, and stumble back towards the door. You lean against the frame to compose yourself. You look up and your heart skips a beat, as you feel that hollow feeling start in the pit of your stomach.

    The beautiful ornate corridor is no more. The pigeons are flying in and out of the skeletal roof; the thick carpet now rotten and threadbare; the floorboards scarce.

    You stumble forwards. You have to get out of here. You reach the top of the stairs and as your foot connects with a bare board, it collapses. You reach out and grasp the bannister, just in time to see the floorboard crash through the ceiling into the room below. Your heart thudding in your chest, you pick your way down the stairs, the wobbly bannisters your only support.

    As you reach the bottom, you see that the front door is wide open and, beyond it, you see freedom – the real world. Your fear forgotten, relief flooding your veins, you run the last few steps and burst through the door into the sunlight. You turn your face to the sun, welcoming its warmth, but it doesn’t come.

    You open your eyes and find yourself back in the dungeon corridor. You turn around to find the door closed, the wallpaper covering it – unbroken – and the faint melodic strains of the harp coming from beyond.

    There is no escape from the recesses of my mind. Not yet. Not until I set you free.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • Who’s the Scariest of Them All?

    Frederick Charles ‘Freddy’ Kreuger

    Mr Kreuger is the primary antagonist in the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ franchise of films and hails from Springwood. His occupation is mass murderer and his weapon of choice is a bladed glove. His claim to fame is that he was voted 14th greatest villain by Wizard Magazine.

    His modus operandi is to appear, as a vengeful spirit, to teenagers in their dreams. He pursues them, terrifies them, tortures them and eventually kills them. This rather ingenious way of stalking his prey, renders them deceased in real life too.

    His appearance is quite startling and definitely makes him stand out from his peers. His facial disfigurement, due to burning, and his bold choice of colour, in his red and green striped jumper, certainly make him memorable. But it is his brown fedora – an ode to a former existence maybe – and, more importantly, his brown leather glove, the fingers trimmed with deadly metal blades, that he is most remembered for.

    His case for his behaviour is that he was a child killer, who was set on fire by the parents of his victims after he escaped prosecution on a technicality. Although he died of his injuries, the youthful minds of the teenagers of Springwood help to keep his spirit alive, by dreaming about him. Clearly, the kids miss having him around and so it’s only fair that he keeps the terror alive long after he is dead.

    His weakness? Well, it seems that by bringing him into the real world, he develops normal human vulnerabilities and, as such, can be killed. Or, can he?

    Now, I like Freddy. Yes, he is a bad guy and yes, he got what he deserved, but, in a sense, his reason for coming back makes sense. He is seeking vengeance against his own death, by punishing the parents of Springwood.

    In creating Freddy as a vengeful spirit, it makes his constant reincarnation more believable, as he isn’t corporeal in the first place. He is a supernatural being and, as such, a believable supernatural world can be created; one in which people will trust and one which people will fear. For, the supernatural is the unknown and the unknown is difficult, if not impossible, to conquer.

    Jason Voorhees

    Mr Voorhees is the primary antagonist in the ‘Friday 13th’ franchise of films and hails from Camp Crystal Lake. His occupation is mass murderer and his weapon of choice is a machete.

    His M.O. is to stalk his prey and hack them to death. His prey tend to be couples partaking in immoral acts that assail his moral upbringing. He also has a tendency to act as a psychological threat to certain characters, without actually killing them.

    His appearance is rather non-descript, except for the hockey-goalie mask he stole from one of his victims. This was definitely a good move, as it catapulted him into the serious psycho camp, whereas wearing a cloth sack over his head, didn’t really render him a serious contender, because it looked too farcical. The mask, though a definite for any self-respecting psycho not blessed with a scary visage, was functional, as it enabled him to hide his facial deformity, which had always been a source of ridicule.

    His case for his behaviour stems largely from the fact that a group of teenagers tried to drown him in Camp Crystal Lake, when he was a child. Their reasoning? None really. He was mentally disabled and facially disfigured and they thought it would be fun to see if he could swim, as teenagers do… Not only that, but he also witnessed the murder of his own mother, who had taken it upon herself to avenge his near death, by killing the camp counsellors, who she believed were to blame. Subsequent to all this, Mr Voorhees had to grow up alone, in the woods, with no one to teach him right from wrong; with no one to look after him; and with no one to tell him that killing people isn’t the way to live his life. Basically, he had no carer and no role model.

    His weakness? The lake that almost took his life when he was a boy. He is rendered helpless if he becomes trapped beneath its surface.

    Now, Jason has a valid case for his actions. He was almost drowned by teenagers and his mother was murdered because she was seeking vengeance for what those teenagers did to him. My main bugbear with Jason is, why he errs towards couples having sex? In reality, any teenager should flip his switch, but it is copulating couples that are his target. This may be to do with his upbringing or it may be to do with his immature mind, due to his disability. We will never know, as Mr Voorhees declines to speak.

    Unlike Freddy, I find Jason a rather unbelievable character. He is human after all and yet, he cannot be killed. He has the resurrection abilities of an immortal being, which he is not and, as such, I find the continual re-incarnation farcical. If you want to make your character seemingly indestructible, create another world; a world where such beings exist. Don’t pick an almost murdered, disabled child and turn him into an indestructible hulk of a man, because it just doesn’t ring true and, hence, turns people off.

    Michael Myers

    Mr Myers is the main antagonist of the ‘Halloween’ franchise of films (except Halloween III) and hails from Haddonfield. His occupation is mass murderer and his weapon of choice is the kitchen knife.

    His M.O., like Mr Voorhees, is to basically hack people to death. Unlike the others, who have specific targets, Mr Myers will kill anyone who stands in the way of him getting to and killing his family. His first kill was his sister Judith, when he was at the tender age of about 10.

    His appearance, again like Mr Voorhees, is rather non-descript, in that he wears a boiler suit and a white rubber mask with scruffy hair. The mask is quite eerie in itself, as it is a reflection of his countenance – empty, lifeless and devoid of human emotion. It is a mask he wore for his very first kill and so, maybe, it holds a special connection for him.

    His case for his behaviour is slightly unclear as, like Mr Voorhees, he will not speak. Some believe he was driven to kill his sister, Judith, due to the verbal abuse he suffered at the hands of her and her boyfriend. Others say he was obsessed with her and it was jealousy that fuelled his killing. If the latter is true, then Mr Myers’ crimes could be crimes of passion. Neither of these, though, explain why he then became obsessed with hunting down and killing his younger sister, Laurie, and later her daughter and so on. He has an obsession with annihilating his family, which isn’t clearly understood. Some have suggested it is a link to a Cult – the Cult of Thorn – and the curse that is linked to this cult. I think this is just a tad too far-fetched.

    Unlike the others, Mr Myers does not appear to have a weakness. He is indestructible. It is mainly for this reason that I find Mr Myers the least believable of the three. I can accept the fact that he has no real motivation, as some people don’t, they just kill, but even people who behave in this way have a clear M.O. and a reason for doing what they do. If all his subsequent victims resembled Judith, then this would be a valid M.O. and a valid reason for his serial killing, but they don’t. He kills indiscriminately.

    Maybe it is the lack of motivation; the lack of focus to his killings, that renders him so popular as a character. He has been ranked as the ‘embodiment of pure evil’ in a study by the Media Psychology Lab of California State University. Why? The reasoning seems to be that he embodies something that lives in all of us – that ability to ‘snap and kill someone’.

    I think that he is insane. His stint in the Sanatorium after the slaying of his sister, hinted at this. Insanity would explain his lack of selection; his lack of anything. Michael Myers basically kills anyone who gets in his way.

    The big failing with Michael though, as with Jason, is that he cannot be killed. This renders him an unbelievable character because, when all is said and done, he is human.

    I think you all know where I stand on the question I posed at the start of this blog, but how about you? Is it Freddy that plagues your nightmares, Jason who haunts your camping trips, or Michael who stakes out your house? Whichever one it is for you, try not to have nightmares, try to sleep well.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • The Cadaver Business

    You stand, immobile, contemplating your options, a drop of rain running down the back of your neck, having finally found a way in. You look to your left, at the lamp-lit street, veiled by the driving rain. You look straight ahead, through the iron railings, into the darkness beyond.

    You shiver as the rain advances down your back, your coat no longer strong enough to keep it out. Soon the fabric is suctioned to your back, just as your trousers are to your legs and your socks to your feet. You look left again, your brain urging you on. You rationalise that if you walk fast, it won’t take you that long. You’re wet through anyway, so what does it matter? You look forward again, into the darkness; into the shelter of the trees; into the cemetery.

    You make your decision.

    The old gate groans as you lean you bodyweight against it, and you slip through the gap into the solitude. The drumming of the rain is muted by the expansive canopies of the yew trees, which seem to absorb the sound, just as they absorb the sadness of the ground they guard.

    The path is even, if unlit, and you know that providing you keep focused on the ground in front of you, you will not stray onto the uneven pitted lawns, where the stones have fallen like soldiers in battle and the tombs have collapsed in on themselves. You shudder at this thought; at what might await you should you stray from the path. It never ends well.

    The weight of the rain is too much for the yews and, in patches, the raindrops weep through, like the tears of a mourner, making a pattering sound on the path. You tune into the sound as its rhythm becomes hypnotic; soporific.

    Then the rhythm changes and you stop, straining your ears to hear. Sure enough, there is another rhythm – footsteps – but more than one set. You spin around, but cannot see through the blanket of darkness.

    ‘Hello?’ you call, but there is no reply. The footsteps continue, moving towards you.

    ‘Who’s there?’ you call again, but still no one answers.

    You turn back the way you were heading and pick up the pace. That’s when you feel your legs kicked out from under you. You land, hard, on your back; the air being forced from your lungs on impact.

    Before you have a chance to sit up, a weight lands on your chest, pinning your arms to your sides. You struggle, trying to dislodge the owner of one set of the footsteps, but you are held firm.

    You start to scream, but your jaw is forced shut, causing you to bite your tongue, bringing tears to your eyes. Another hand is clamped over your nose and mouth, making it impossible for you to get any air into your lungs.

    You thrash around; adrenalin coursing through your veins as your body demands that you fight. You brace your feet on the floor and buck your body, trying to dislodge your assailants, but they are too strong; their hold on you too tight.

    You toss from side to side, the movements getting slower and slower as your muscles scream for oxygen. Your hearing is becoming dull and echo-like, as though you are under water. You are becoming light headed; black and white dots forming before your eyes. You feel woozy, like you do when you are going to faint and, as the rushing feeling starts in your body – a feeling like you are being dragged at high speed – an image of the lamp lit street comes into your mind.

    You allow your body to go limp; allow the blackness to overtake. What choice do you have? You have been burked.

    As I stood there that night, shivering in the cold dark cemetery, barely recovered from the tale of premature burial, another tale my guide did weave. ‘A local tale’, she said and smiled. Was that pride I detected in her voice; saw in her smile?

    Whilst the tale was indeed a local one, the perpetrators were not. The West Port murders didn’t start out this way; didn’t start out as murders for two immigrant Irishmen, William Burke and William Hare. No, it all started out as a simple transaction to recoup money that was owed to them. But before we go into the details, let me set the scene.

    It was Edinburgh in 1828, a time when medical science was taking off; a time when understanding human anatomy was so pervasive, that anatomy courses were packed out; and a time when the demand for bodies to dissect was high, whilst the legal supply of such bodies was too low. Why, you may ask? One reason was that the bodies of executed criminals, the prime source for medical cadavers, was drying up due to a reduction in the number of executions being carried out.

    As with any supply and demand imbalance, it soon became very lucrative to supply corpses to medical schools in Edinburgh and it didn’t take long for the body snatchers to spring up. Despite the public revulsion, this trade flourished.

    And now I will resume my story, as it was to this trade that Messrs Burke and Hare turned, when a tenant died, owing them £4 in back rent. Instead of taking it on the chin, they filled his coffin with bark and sold his body to Dr Robert Knox, at Edinburgh University, for £7.10s, making £3.10s profit. Not a bad way to earn a living, they did think. The trouble was, people didn’t just die in their boarding house and they didn’t feel the need to resort to grave robbing, when they had a few ideas of their own.

    So, instead of following in the footsteps of any self-respecting Edinburgh body snatcher, Burke and Hare decided to take matters into their own hands. Their first victim was a sick tenant, whom they plied with alcohol and then smothered, by sitting on his chest, forcing his jaw closed and then covering his nose and mouth so he couldn’t breathe.

    With no other sick tenants at their disposal, they modified their M.O. and started to lure people in off the street. All in all they murdered 16 people, receiving between £7 and £10 per body. They were finally caught when a lodger found the body of Mary Docherty hidden under her bed.

    Hare was persuaded to turn King’s evidence against Burke, their partnership suddenly as inconsequential as the lives they’d snuffed out.

    Burke was charged with three of the murders and convicted on Christmas Day 1828 for the murder of Mary Docherty. He was hanged on 28 January 1829 in front of a crowd of between 20,000 and 25,000 people. His body, as part of his sentence, was publicly dissected the following day (an eye for an eye?), with riots only being averted after one of the university professors allowed people in, fifty at a time, to view the corpse.

    The skeleton of William Burke remains on display today, in the University of Edinburgh Anatomy Museum, while his death mask and items made from his tanned skin are on exhibition at Surgeon’s Hall. A calling card case, also made from his skin, can be found on display at the Police Information Centre in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

    Hare was finally released from prison in February 1829 and was escorted out of Edinburgh. He is believed to have eventually fled to England, where his trail disappears.

    The Anatomy Act of 1832, finally put an end to body snatching, by expanding the legal supply of medical cadavers, encouraging those with legal custody of dead bodies, to send them to medical schools before burial, so they might be used for study of anatomy and practise of surgery. Many people leave their bodies to medical science today, for just this purpose. The act also ended anatomising, as part of the death sentence for murder.

    To burke is defined as ‘to murder in such a way as to leave no marks on the body, usually by suffocation’ OR ‘to get rid of, silence, or suppress’ and the name is attributed to the M.O. of Messr(s) Burke (and Hare).

    And that is the key to their crimes; there were no marks. In fact, if it wasn’t for Ann Grey, Mary Docherty may well have ended up on Dr Knox’s table and Messrs Burke and Hare may well have continued in business for many years to come.

    So, take heed, dear reader, and keep your ears alerted at all times. For, if you hear someone use the word burke (and indeed they well might), then keep a watchful eye on your loved ones, just in case the cadaver business has re-opened its doors.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • When The Dead Come Calling

    Twas on a cold and stormy night, as the clock struck midnight and the wind did moan, that I was chilled through to my very core. But, though you may presume this chill to be due to the weather, you would be, ‘tis said, only half right. For, the real reason that the cold hand of fear had hold of my heart, as I stood in a desolate churchyard – its graves uneven; its ground pitted and broken – was the tale that was being woven by my guide.

    For, dear reader, not only did that tale make me shudder at its everyday reality, but it brought to life, for me, that very vivid nightmare; that very thing I fear the most – being buried alive.

    Now, we’ve talked about the reality of this in Haitian culture in ‘Zombie Slave….Myth or Reality?’, but to hear of it in this country, as part of everyday life so very long ago, with no voodoo involvement, well, it gave me cause to let my fear take over – for just a little while, that is.

    And so the tale was told, that during the cholera epidemics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was quite common for people to be buried prematurely. The sheer numbers of people dead and dying probably led to physicians being overstretched and, in all honesty, not being able to conduct as thorough an examination as they should have done. This, coupled with the fear of the spread of the disease, meant that people were buried more quickly.

    How it was discovered that premature burial was actually taking place is not known, but there are many accounts of bodies being found, on exhumation, face down in their coffins; of scratch marks on the inside of the lid; and, in one case – John Duns Scotus – of being found outside his coffin with his hands torn and bloody, after trying to escape.

    The fear of being buried alive was all consuming and was exacerbated by doctors’ reports and accounts in literature and in newspapers. In 1844, Edgar Allan Poe wrote ‘The Premature Burial’, which contained accounts of supposedly true cases, as well as the narrator’s own (perceived) burial, whilst still alive.

    Whilst a horrifying thought for people at this time, there were, as is always the case, beneficiaries to this mass hysteria – the coffin makers – who took full advantage of this public fear and cashed in on it.

    From fear was borne invention and these inventions took the form, either of safety devices fitted to ordinary coffins, or safety coffins themselves.

    In the former case, devices were attached to enable the ‘deceased’ to communicate with the outside world. An example of this are cords running from various parts of the deceased’s body, up a tube and attaching to a bell above ground. This bell soon became covered, after several false alarms where insects and rainwater had activated the bell. Little did people at this time realise, but the body shifts as it decomposes and, more often than not, it was this shift that triggered the bell, resulting in many false alarms and inappropriate exhumations.

    But, what about the genuine cases? Is it really feasible to believe that there would be someone about in the cemetery, twenty four hours a day, on the off chance that a bell may tinkle? Well, these were the days when night watchmen patrolled and, in theory, they would hear the bell and would go to the grave, insert a tube into the coffin and, using a bellows, pump air in, enabling the person to breathe until the casket could be exhumed.

    That’s all well and good, if the bell rings at night. But, what about the daytime? And, more importantly, what if the night watchman didn’t actually hear the bell? Granted, it is quieter at night and sound carries more clearly, but how big is the cemetery? How does he work out where the tinkling is coming from, as silence can disorientate? And, what if there isn’t silence? What if the cemetery is close to a noisy part of town or there is a storm or another disturbance? What then? For, the designers at this time initially forgot to include one vital piece of equipment in their safety package – that of a breathing tube. Of course, this oversight was later corrected, but at what cost?

    PG Pessler, a German priest, in 1798, suggested that the cords should be attached to the church bells. Although a highly impractical idea, you could see where he was going with this. At least it would be heard, for whom the bells tolled.

    Then there were the safety coffins. These contraptions included ladders, an escape hatch and even a feeding tube. How anyone would know you were alive to feed you, though, is anyone’s guess. Yet, still, with all these ideas, a simple way of allowing air into the coffin to allow the occupant to breathe, was frequently overlooked.

    Germany, in the 1820s, saw the use of the ‘portable death chamber’, which incorporated a bell for signalling life and a window for viewing the body. This chamber was constructed over the grave and enabled the night watchman to view the body for signs of life or decomposition. If the bell was rung and the night watchman observed life, then the body would be removed. If, on the other hand, the body was decomposing nicely, then a trapdoor would be opened to allow the body to drop into the grave. A panel was then slid over the grave and the chamber reused.

    Even as recently as 1995, safety coffins were still being designed. Fabrizio Caselli patented one to include an emergency alarm, intercom system, torch, breathing apparatus (he remembered!!) and a heart monitor and stimulator.

    Despite the pervasiveness of this fear, there were no documented cases of anyone being saved by a safety coffin. Is this an indication that they didn’t do what it said on the tin; that no one heard the bells tinkling; that the escapes routes didn’t work; or that they suffocated due to the oversight of breathing tubes? Or, is it simply that no one was ever actually buried alive?

    I know which one you would probably prefer it to be, dear reader, but the answer is more likely to be the former. I have no doubt that people were buried alive. My doubts lie in the success of all these contraptions to detect said life and to rescue the poor soul. For, as I say time and time again, these stories must come from somewhere. Just imagine…..

    You wake; coughing; something causing your breathing to be laboured; something causing you to wheeze. Strange, you think, for you don’t suffer from asthma or hay fever and your room is always well ventilated.

    You open your eyes, but see nothing. It is dark; pitch dark. You turn your head towards the window; towards that crack of lightness that always shows around the edges of the window, no matter how hard you’ve tried to block it out. There is no break in the darkness. It is whole; it is all encompassing; it is closing in.

    Synapses start firing in your brain and you feel changes in your body. Your heart starts to beat faster; your breathing becomes quicker; and a sheen of sweat breaks out across your skin.

    You listen, trying to pick up the drone of traffic that is your usual nocturnal lullaby, but there is only silence. You strain your ears to listen harder, but all you end up doing is triggering that annoying ringing sound that happens when things are way too quiet.

    A knot starts to form in the pit of your stomach and your mouth has gone dry. You sit up abruptly to try and orientate yourself, but only succeed in smashing your head on something hard, sending you straight back down again.

    Adrenalin is pumping now and you can hear your blood thundering in your ears, as your body starts to react to your predicament – already well aware of what is happening, while your mind is still processing it.

    You reach your hand above your head and feel a hard surface less than a foot above you. You reach out sideways, connecting with the same hard surface. You reach behind you; you kick your legs up; you shuffle down as far as you can go, but find nothing but walls.

    It is then that your mind catches up with your body; it is then that you realise that you are in an enclosed space; it is then that all sense leaves you as you allow yourself to be overtaken by emotion, by panic. You scream; you thump; you kick; you claw; you throw yourself against the sides of your tomb; you try and get leverage to use your weight to break your binds.

    Why? Deep down, you know your worst nightmare has come true. So, why do it? Because you can’t help it. Your body is wired to send you into fight or flight mode when it feels threatened. You have nowhere to run, so your body dictates that you should fight. But fight against what? An enemy that cannot be beaten?

    After a while, when your limbs are bloody and sore; when your voice is hoarse; when your brain and your body realise that there is no point anymore, you lapse into silence. This is not a fight you are going to win; there is no way out of this. Your air supply has been severely depleted; your brain cannot comprehend what is happening; your heart starts to feel constricted; and you can’t get your breath.

    You slip into a daze – shock – for you know that no one will find you. No one knows where you are. You don’t know where you are. You are trapped. You are helpless. You are suffocating. You are alone.

    It is said by many that the terms ‘saved by the bell’, ‘dead ringer’ and ‘graveyard shift’, all stem from the history of the safety coffin, but none of it has been proved. Instead, these beliefs have been dispelled as urban myths.

    Myths or not, though, the terms do represent the fear of an era; a fear that I have no doubt, plays on the minds of many people, especially in an age of organ donation; when harvesting needs to occur within a finite timeline after death.

    If being buried alive doesn’t fill you with trepidation, then I’m sure that having your organs removed, from your still living body, will.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • Owls – A Word to the Wise

    It was just before Christmas, when I was driving back from Hawkshead in the gathering dusk, that I noticed a shadowy object sitting in the middle of the road. I drew the car to a stop and my headlights captured a large, tawny coloured owl resting, nonchalantly, on the centre line of the darkening, windy country lane. Thinking the bird hurt, I went to get out of the car, but as I did so, the owl turned its head and fixed me with its glowing yellow stare; rose up onto its feet; stretched its wings almost the width of my car; and launched itself gracefully and silently into the trees above.

    I sat there for quite a while, mesmerised by what I had seen. What an amazing sight to behold. How many people have ever been lucky enough to experience such an event?

    Was it really lucky, though? I certainly believed that’s what an encounter with an owl represented, but looking back at the things that have gone wrong since that momentous event, I am not so sure. And, to be honest, if I hadn’t snapped out of my trance when I did and carried on my journey, I doubt I would be here now to tell this tale. For, dear reader, not everyone takes heed of what is on or in the road as they drive.

    Owls. Such majestic, ghostlike, formidable, eerie, breath-taking creatures, but do they actually bring us luck when we cross paths with them or, are they really omens of things to come? Do we believe the wise old owl interpretation, which allows our young girls to be watched over by Brown Owl, Tawny Owl and Snowy Owl? Or, should we pay more attention to the mythology and folklore surrounding the owl, which points to more of a portentous meaning to these stunning birds?

    Owls. Owners of the night; stalkers of the dusk and the dawn; and sometimes thieves of the daylight. It isn’t difficult to see where their dark and sinister reputation comes from. For, whilst we humans stumble blindly through the darkness, the owl sweeps silently through the air; all-seeing of what is on earth and in the heavens. Our innate fear of the dark and the feeling of impotence it evokes, leads us to hold both in awe and in fear, any creature without such disabilities.

    Like vampires; like werewolves; like ghosts, owls are, in essence, creatures of the night. To see an owl sweep passed you in the darkness, is to shudder at the phantom or the vampire that stalks you; to hear a hoot or a screech as you walk alone along that path, is to evoke in you the same cold dread that the howl of the werewolf would bring.

    So, where does this duality come from? How is it, that one creature can evoke two very different beliefs about its symbolism? I guess it boils down to what happened or took place around the time an owl was seen or heard. After all, isn’t this how all legends and folklore begin and are kept alive; the constant retelling handed down through generations?

    In Ancient Greece, the owl was seen as good fortune and it may be here that the legend of the ‘wise’ owl was borne. For, it was here, in Athens, amongst the nesting Little Owls in the Acropolis, that Athena, goddess of wisdom, found her new mascot; crow having been banished for his pranks. The Greeks believed that the owl was all seeing and all knowing; that the owl could see what others couldn’t, which, in essence, is true wisdom. Mythology has it that the owl revealed unseen truths to Athena, thus enabling her to always speak the whole truth, rather than half-truths.

    The owl was seen as a protector by the Ancient Greeks. It accompanied armies to war, to provide inspiration, and it was believed that if the owl flew over the Greek soldiers before battle, then they would be victorious. The owl also kept a watchful eye on Greek trade and commerce, being the image on the reverse side of the coin bearing Athena’s portrait.

    The owl, according to Roman mythology, however, held a whole different meaning. Roman armies saw the owl as a sign of impending disaster and defeat and the hoot of an owl was said to have presaged imminent death, with those of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Commodus Aurelius and Agrippa, being the more well known.

    The Romans believed that by nailing an owl to the door of a house, it would avert the evil it had caused there earlier. Travellers believed that to dream of an owl, meant they would be robbed or shipwrecked on their journey. It was also a Roman superstition that witches transformed into owls and sucked the blood of babies.

    Some of these beliefs carried into English folklore, in some form or other. For the English, though, it was the Barn Owl that had the most sinister reputation. This fear was borne due to the Barn Owl being a bird of darkness and darkness being associated with death. After all, medically speaking, most deaths do, apparently, occur at night.

    The English believed that the screech of an owl, flying passed the window of a sick person, meant imminent death for that soul. They also used the screeching as a forecast for cold weather or an approaching storm. Coincidentally, if the screeching was heard during bad weather, then a change was due.

    The nailing of owls to doors in English folklore, tended to be to barn doors, where livestock was kept, as it was believed to ward off evil spirits and lightning strikes, which would cause fire and, hence, burn down the barn.

    The link to magic lay in the use of owl medicine. A raw owl egg was said to cure alcoholism and, if given to a child, protected it from drunkenness. Eggs, cooked to ashes, were used in potions to improve eyesight, while owl broth was given to children to cure Whooping cough.

    In Europe, owls were see as harbingers of bad tidings and doom and were symbols for death and destruction. An Appalachian mountain legend tells that, the hoot of an owl heard at midnight, signified that death was coming. Should a person see an owl circling during the day, then bad news would befall someone nearby. Some areas also believed that owls flew down on Samhain night to eat the souls of the dead.

    Most Native American tribes saw the owl as a very bad omen. The Hopi had the Burrowing Owl as their god of the dead and hence the protector of the underworld and all things that grew in the earth, which, in a way, contradicts the bad omen philosophy. The Cherokee shamans valued the Screech Owl, believing it could bring on sickness and punishment. The Apache believed that dreaming of an owl signified approaching death, while the Cree believed that the whistle of the Boreal Owl was a summons from the spirits. If a person answered, but received no reply, then that person would soon die.

    As the eighteenth century wore on and zoological studies demystified owls, the superstitions started to die out and, as the twentieth century came into being, people were more inclined to see the owl as a symbol of wisdom again, just as the Ancient Greeks had.

    You have to wonder, though, dear reader, for, as I always say, these stories have to start somewhere. So, I ask you to think back, as I have, to a time when you have encountered an owl. Think how awed you felt; how touched; and how lucky you thought you were, to have such a majestic creature grant you a moment of its time. Then, dear reader, think hard about the events that happened in the days, weeks, or even months that followed.

    Was your encounter wise and foretelling of good fortune? Or, did the wide staring eyes, piercing cry and demonic horned tufts of feathers on its head, signify an omen of bad luck; of illness; or maybe even of death?

    Whatever the mystical encounter meant for you, take heed. For, as you lie in bed at night and listen to the screech of an owl, be mindful of Shakespeare’s line, in the days preceding Caesar’s death:

    ‘And yesterday the bird of night did sit even at noon-day upon the market place, hooting and shrieking.’

    And, as you contemplate the meaning of such a call, be cognisant of this – the owl is said to be the only creature that can live with ghosts and so, think on, for the sound of an owl nearby could signify it’s nesting in a neighbouring house.

    So, dear reader, look around for that old abandoned house that no one will go near, or, go and check your own attic and roof because, know one thing – should you discover that most awe inspiring of creatures in residence;  rest assured that house is a haunted one.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

    As you stand there, staring at what you have become, my words start to break through the panic and the fog that surrounds your brain. Perhaps this isn’t so bad, after all. Yes, you are cursed, but you’ve seen the films; you’ve seen the TV shows. With this curse comes so much more; with this curse comes strength and speed; with this curse comes spidey senses; and with this curse comes power. Oh yes, the aphrodisiac of the masses; the luck of the few – power. Power to persuade; power to manipulate; power to control; and, above all else, power to kill.

    For, dear reader, be under no illusion about what you are. You are a killer.

    As the myriad of feelings and emotions course through your body – fear, hatred, loathing, excitement, arrogance, and invincibility – you see a door appear in the wall behind you. Escape!

    You rush towards it; you yank it open; you rush through…….will you never learn? For, no sooner have you done so, than you realise that this wasn’t the door you entered the room through. You turn back, but it is too late. The door is gone. You have crossed straight into another part of my mind. You have failed to cross back into the relative safety of the dungeon corridor; into reality. You have failed to be ‘cured’ of your affliction, should I have chosen to do that, of course.

    You have created a story within a story; a hybrid in my mind; a crossover of dark and sinister characters. But what will befall you in this world? You are better equipped to defend yourself this time, but defend yourself against what? For, as you look around you, all you can see are trees.

    You are in a forest. The air is cool due to the shade cast by the immense pine trees. You listen. Nothing. Not even birdsong breaks the canopy; not even insects break the cushion of needles. You raise your nose and sniff the air; you can’t help it; it is an instinctive action now. You smell it. You wrinkle your nose against the stench, but your saliva glands respond differently and your stomach rumbles. You have to go; you have no choice; you have no control; not yet.

    Your footsteps are silent; stealth like on the bed of needles. Nothing can hear you approach. But, then again, they don’t need to. Like you, it is their sense of smell that drives them. Unlike you, they have no choice; no control; ever. An inbuilt sensor tells them to seek out living flesh; to devour it; to leave nothing; whatever the risk; whatever the cost. Unlike you, they are dead.

    It is as you break the cover of the trees, in that split second before your living scent overpowers the slow decomposition of the corpse, that you realise your senses had both been correct. For, while your nostrils and your taste buds had picked up the scent of fresh meat and had triggered your hunger; your sense of smell had also fixed on the more overpowering odour of rotting flesh. But, not the decaying of the flayed corpse of the pre-pubescent girl in the clearing, but the advanced putrefaction of the animated corpses feeding on her. Zombies.

    You panic and start to back away, but it is too late for that. They sensed you while you were processing the scene. Their sensors redirected their focus to you and, as your brain struggles to comprehend the milky eyed, grey skinned, rotting corpses ambling towards you, your inner wolf; your survival instinct; your protector, kicks in.

    Your vision starts to change as a crimson mist sweeps across it. You find you’ve stopped retreating. Instead, you crouch, ready to attack, your head slowly turning so you can take in the scene; your brain now processing the relative speed and distance of your prey; calculating your strategy; deciding on your plan of attack.

    You launch forward, grasping two of your prey by the throat and ripping their heads clean off. You land and dig your back claws into the needles, skidding to a halt and rounding on them again. This time you launch straight for your prey, a former rugby player by the looks of it, and slam its body against the trunk of a tree, crushing its skull with your paw. You draw back as the pus that was once a brain oozes between the shattered skull fragments; the smell making you gag.

    You pull yourself together and turn, but it is too late for your planned attack. The last zombie is upon you. You have no choice. If you don’t, you risk being bitten or scratched. And, what will that mean? You’ve seen The Walking Dead. You lunge forward and sink your teeth into its throat. The taste is disgusting, like putrefied meat, and you fight the urge to let go; to disgorge the contents of your stomach; to cleanse your palate. You squeeze your jaws and twist your head from side to side, listening as the decaying flesh and sinew tear and the desiccated bones snap as you decapitate the last of your prey.

    You toss the head away and immediately throw up; your body wracked with convulsions until there is nothing coming up but acidic bile. You have to get that taste out of your mouth, but try as you might, you can’t. You need to rinse your mouth out. You need water. As you stand upright, you run your hand through your hair and that’s when you notice. During that base human desire to cleanse your system of the poison you had ingested, your body has morphed back to human.

    Your senses snap to attention as you pick up movement to your right. You turn to see a woman standing there, staring at you. Her gaze shifts to take in the carnage in the clearing and she emits a cry and rushes forward, collapsing over the mutilated body of the little girl.

    ‘My baby, my baby,’ she sobs. You say nothing. You stand there for what seems like hours, watching her as she mourns. Then, her crying stops. She stands and takes a deep breath before turning to face you.

    ‘Come,’ she says, indicating for you to follow her.

    ‘Shouldn’t we do something with her?’ you say, clumsily pointing to what you presume to have been her daughter.

    ‘There is nothing else to do,’ she says, jutting her chin forward. ‘She is dead.’

    ‘But won’t she turn into one of them if we don’t do something…err…to her head?’ you say and look at the floor, not wishing to look the woman in the eye.

    ‘No. She is dead. She will not rise. You have destroyed her killers. She has been avenged. But how? How did you dispose of them all?’

    You shrug.

    ‘No one has ever managed to do that. You will need to explain your method to our leader so we can learn. Come.’

    You follow the woman in silence, until you come to a thicket of thorny hedgerow; a barrier; a man-made one.

    ‘Who’s that?’ A voice sounds from the other side.

    ‘Emmy is dead. They got her. Whoever this is destroyed them all; avenged her. For that we owe shelter and a debt of gratitude, at the very least,’ the woman says.

    An opening appears in the thicket and you walk through, behind the woman. People let you pass, bowing almost as you do so. You look around, taking in your surroundings. Thirty or so tents are pitched throughout the site, joined by clothes lines of washing. People sit around in groups or walk between the tents; each focused on a task. The mood is sombre; joy absent. You see an area from which smoke rises and your senses pick up the smell of some sort of gruel being cooked. You recoil.

    ‘Here,’ the woman says, holding open the flap of a tent. ‘You can rest in here. I’ll make sure no one bothers you. Come out for food if you wish, otherwise you will meet with our leader in the morning.’ She leaves before you can respond.

    You go inside to see a cot and a washstand, both fashioned from branches and twigs. A jug stands on the floor next to the washstand and you seize it, gulping down its contents. No sooner has the water hit your stomach, than it comes straight back up again. It tastes almost as bad as your prey.

    You lie down on the cot and close your eyes. Where are you? How the hell will you get out of here? Who are these people? As the thoughts run through your head, the weight of exhaustion settles over you and you fall asleep.

    You wake to find your senses alert; your body once again morphed into that of the wolf from within. You can smell meat; fresh meat and lots of it. You pad to the entrance to your tent and look out. The camp is in darkness; silent, bathed in the light of the moon; a full moon; a wolf moon, to be precise.

    No one stirs as you make your way through the camp. Oh, where to start, you think as your tongue traces the sharpness of your teeth, the tantalising flavour of so many people captured by your taste buds.

    Why not start at the beginning? So, you do. You go from tent to tent, sinking your teeth into the jugular, quelling any sound before it is emitted, before eviscerating your victims; dragging their sweet, succulent organs out of their bodies. Who knew a kidney could taste so moist; a liver so sweet; a heart so tender. It must be the still pumping blood.

    A confidence in your hunt; an arrogance to your gait; blood matting the fur around your mouth, you rip open the last tent, when it hits you.

    You can’t see anything on account of the glaring light directed into your eyes. You can, however, hear the click of the bullet being loaded into the gun; you can hear the ratchet of the mechanism as it is chambered; you can hear the click of the trigger as it is pulled; you can hear the hiss of the bullet as it whizzes through the air; you can feel it as it explodes through your sternum and tears through your lungs; and you can hear the air whistling through the hole as you take your final breath.

    The moral of this tale, is that, eventually, your basic nature will betray itself.

    For, dear reader, one should always ‘beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves’ – Gospel of Matthew 7:15.

    A wolf in sheep’s clothing is an age old tale and an age old warning, to advise us to be on our guard, for people are not always what they seem. Never trust a situation simply based on what it looks like, for the most manipulative of ‘wolves’ will lure you in, by presenting an image which isn’t actually what it pertains to be.

    You may have been welcomed into that camp as an avenging angel almost; someone who knew how to kill the zombies; someone who could help them to survive in this horrific world. But, at the end of the day, as the full moon rose and reached its peak, your true nature came to the fore, as it had in the forest, and you became the killer you truly are. For, if the zombies hadn’t killed that little girl, you most certainly would have.

    In the words of Abstemius, from the fifteenth century, ‘people should be judged not by their outward demeanour, but by their works, for many in sheep’s clothing do the work of wolves.’

    You know who you are.

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.


  • Superstitiously Cursed

    Do you believe in curses, dear reader? Do you believe that curses are grounded in superstition or in reality? Can a person truly be cursed; to wander the earth searching for a cure? Or are curses really just a figment of folklore and used by storytellers throughout time to give their characters something to fight for, or fight against, as the case may be?

    I suppose, as with anything, it depends on what your belief system is based on and, for some of you, what you can be persuaded to base your belief system on. For, if I can create a believable world for you; a world where curses are real and freedom is sought, would you be prepared to believe then?

    In BONDS, I seek to do just this, for Antony Cardover, my flawed antagonist is cursed. In his wrath at his wife’s adultery, he 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, his wife, Isabella, and all her descendants must be destroyed. The catch? Only Antony can break the curse.

    But are curses a bad thing or could/should they be seen as blessings in disguise? I suppose it depends on how you view your situation.

    A curse, also known as a jinx or a hex, is defined as any express wish that some form of adversity or misfortune befall or attach itself to a person, place or thing. Such a curse is usually inflicted by supernatural powers and, to reverse it, usually requires supernatural rituals.

    A jinx, specifically, is often associated with people who suffer a string of bad luck; regardless of what it is they have done. Rather than a person being seen as ‘jinxed’, it is also common to refer to a person as a ‘jinx’ because they are seen to bring bad luck to others. Tempting fate by uttering statements like ‘we’re sure to win the competition’, is seen as a jinx, because tempting fate is seen as an almost certain harbinger of doom. Hands up who remembers saying jinx as a child, when you and your friend said the same thing at the same time. Mine is in the air, I can assure you.

    A hex is something that is mostly linked to witchcraft, due to the hexmark displayed on a person, place or object, being that of a pentagram.

    Although all three words mean largely the same thing, what is it about the word ‘curse’ that seems to imply an altogether more sinister outcome?

    There are many famous curses that have been immortalised over the years and handed down through the generations to claim their place in folklore. So, are curses just another form of superstition then? After all, it is a belief system based on stories, folklore and supernatural elements, such as witchcraft; or, are they actually real? As with superstitions, they must have come from somewhere; must be based on something that has happened to someone or something as a result of an action, mustn’t they? Surely, curses are not just completely fabricated to make something more valuable; to make a place more alluring; or as an excuse for a shocking losing streak, as the Boston Red Sox claimed following an eighty six year dry spell?

    So, what is it about curses that so enthrals; that so excites; that so terrifies; that so convinces, dear reader? I believe it is because, in most cases, a curse goes hand in hand with death and destruction and there is nothing more addictive than a trail of mysterious deaths linked to one person; one place; one object; or one act.

    Take ‘The Curse of the Pharaohs’. Everyone alive has heard of this curse, or should have. The curse refers to the ‘belief’ that ANY person who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person, especially a pharaoh, is placed under a curse. The curse may be bad luck; it may be illness; or it may even be death.

    Such curses were thought to have been written somewhere in the tomb. In reality, however, these curses were rare and tended to be linked to the Old Kingdom era. Any curses after this time, were even rarer and far more severe.

    Take for example, a curse from the Old Kingdom. On the tomb of Ankhtifi (9-10th dynasty) there is a warning, stating that ‘any ruler who…shall do evil or wickedness to this coffin…may Hemen (a local deity) not accept any goods he offers, and may his heir not inherit’. Fairly mild, really, wouldn’t you agree? Compare this to a later curse that Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist, quotes as an example – ‘Cursed be those who disturb the rest of the Pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by disease that no doctor can diagnose.’ Big difference, isn’t there?

    ‘The Curse of the Pharaohs’ was made famous following the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen, due to the number of mysterious deaths of people who had visited the newly discovered tomb. In reality, though, no actual written curse was ever found on his tomb. Around twelve deaths have been associated with the curse of King Tut, including that of Howard Carter, who actually died 16 years after he first opened the tomb!

    Are these deaths more than just a coincidence, though? Do you favour the mystery and portentousness of a curse; do you believe in the powers of the ancients and in the belief systems that were founded largely on magic and other supernatural powers? Or, do you favour the scientific approach that states that mould and other bacteria, trapped inside the tomb, was responsible? Or, dear reader, do you favour neither?

    The Hope Diamond, reputedly the most famous diamond in the world, is a whopping 45.52 carat, deep blue diamond and is reported to carry a curse. This curse is said to bring misfortune and tragedy to persons who own or wear it. The belief is that the curse was invented to enhance the stone’s mystery, as increased publicity usually led to an increase in its value.

    Whilst the ownership register for the diamond seems to err on the side of no curse, given that most of the owners lived long, if not prosperous, lives; the list of people who ‘handled’ the diamond tells a different story. For, every single one of these people; some owners, some not; met with a very sinister and gruesome end. Unfortunately, few of these stories have ever been confirmed. Surely, though, dear reader, these stories are based in fact rather than fiction…?

    I leave it to you to decide whether you believe in curses, but as you ponder the possibility, do bear in mind the following – how many times you have referred to something or even someone as being jinxed; how many times you have wondered aloud at what you did in a previous life to warrant the string of bad luck you are currently having (I know I am, at the moment); and how many times you have cited ‘Murphy’s Law’ when something has gone awry.

    So, are you ready to believe in curses or, at the very least, the possibility of curses? But, are curses such a bad thing? As I alluded to earlier, doesn’t every curse have its blessings?

    I take you back to the dungeon, dear reader, and to that last door; your bedroom door. I take you back to the mirror and I ask you to look, to really look, at what you see as you stand there. For, what looks back at you is a werewolf, yes, I agree. What looks back at you is a creature cursed to live out its days at the mercy of the lunar cycle; a creature cursed to crave the blood of others and be powerless to stop it; a creature forever persecuted by those who fear and don’t understand it; a creature that cannot be cured.

    Yes, a werewolf you may be, but with the curse of lycanthropy comes a multitude of blessings – super strength and speed; heightened senses and awareness; and above all else, power.

    You shouldn’t be afraid of what you see in the mirror, dear reader, you should embrace it; you should welcome it; you should celebrate it; and, above all else, you should take advantage of it.

    No, dear reader, it is not you who should be afraid, but everyone else who should be afraid of you or, more specifically, of what you can and, in all honesty, will do. For, dear reader, you will be powerless to stop it once your base instincts kick in. Oh, just think of all the fun you will have….

    May fear protect you when the darkness comes.

    Til next time.