K-chik: the lock gave two distinct metallic clicks and we entered the holiday cottage. Outside the day was dying and a streak of orange pasted the horizon above the town. The cottage was nothing more than a tiny one-bedroomed terrace, but from the window lay the estuary, sparkling a rainbow of lights reflecting from the water-front restaurants, stretching out into the vast and darkening sea.
I don't believe in vampires
“So, you don’t believe in vampires?” I shrugged nonchalantly: did he really expect me to believe in vampires? This was the 21st century. “And do you believe in God?” The old man was getting tiresome. This job was going to be more tedious than I’d anticipated. “No I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe in vampires.” “Yet you seek them out?” He turned and patted one of the two bloodhounds sitting by his side. “I’m interested in contemporary cultural phenomena. I’m a journalist, doing a story on cult groups, hence my interest in your Primave Society, Mr Faust.” “I see.” I took out my notebook and pencil. “Does Primave have a meaning? Is there some Italian connection?” “All things have meaning, young man.” “And is Nero Faust a pseudonym? It’s not your real name, is it?” “Names are just convenient labels. And all names are chosen, the only question is by whom. Take your name, for example. A famous, dare I say, notorious one: Mr William Van Helsing.” “I inherited my name, Mr Faust. It’s useful: my editor lets me write about all things spooky, weird and wonderful.” “Yes, the name intrigued me and I must confess it is why I accepted your request: we do not in normal circumstances allow outsiders to partake in the gatherings of the Primave.” He paused a moment. “So, are you the grandchild of the famed Professor Abraham Van Helsing?” “Grandchild? A great, great, great grandchild, I think. He’s been dead a hundred years.” And then Nero Faust did something strange: he leant towards me and with a long fingernail moved the hair that hung down over my forehead to one side, and started at me intensely. “Yes, I see the resemblance...”
If the public don't have the discipline to watch what they put into their mouths then the state is just going to have to do it for them... "The lines are always long but no one ever complains about that. It’s to be expected. After all, this service is provided by the government. More than that, it’s for our own good.I shuffle along in the queue. The girl behind the plexi-glass window sees me out the corner of her eye and continues to monitor her customer’s products but I know she is thinking about me. The way she purses her lips gives away her disgust. The buzzer sounds and customer 4572 inserts his card into the payment slot. No unauthorised items. His units are deducted, his items are dispatched into suitable biodegradable packaging and off he goes. Relief obvious on his jowly face."
The Green Man
Looking for a fresh start, Maison moves to a remote country village. But instead of finding the peace and tranquility she'd hoped for, she discovers something rather more sinister in the shadows of England's green and pleasant land. "She let go of the tree then looked at it closely. It was gnarly and seeping sap but just a tree. She moved around the trunk, her boots sinking into the soft earth. As she touched the ridges and bumps she expected to feel the reassurance that the tree was ordinary and the same as all the others, but instead she felt sick, a wave of revulsion washing over her as she moved away from it. Instinctively she wiped her hand on her parka. At first she didn’t understand what she was feeling but then she saw it. Gouged deep into the wood was the outline of a face, eyes fixed down and staring directly at her."
More Than Cold
Some things are better left unfound. "Mark yawned, sipped his fourth cup of coffee of the night and found that familiarity was breeding contempt. This instant shit was just about tolerable out on the rigs, but he’d hoped for more from his first night of leave in over six weeks. Some company would have been a start. Kate was supposed to have been there well before him, making the place homely, stocking the cupboards with fresh food, good wine, good beer and he had hoped, good coffee. Not that he gave a shit about groceries at the moment. She was late. Really late. The supposedly cosy interior of their rented cottage was seeming lonelier by the minute and the empty chair on the other side of the kitchen table just amplified the effect. The nature of his work meant they had to deal with long periods of separation at times but it was an agreed rule that neither of them would ever lengthen that absence if it could be avoided. More than that, the thing that was really nagging at him was that generally Kate, like many so others he supposed, was barely able to let a minute pass without checking for or sending a text, yet she was now some ten hours late and he still hadn’t heard a thing. He glanced at his phone again, just in case, and tried not to notice that the clock on his phone read a little past four am. There was currently no signal. Not even the single rogue bar that had been teasing him throughout the night. A flash of thigh here, the promise of mobile coverage there. He traced the grain of the table with his finger and once again tried to run through the list of benign yet logical reasons as to why his darling wife was almost half a day late. Traffic was an obvious possibility or perhaps she’d got lost and decided to stop off somewhere for the night. Maybe the car had broken down and a kindly AA employee was at this very moment organising a replacement so that this lovers’ reunion wouldn’t be ruined. And then came the drunk drivers, faulty brakes, crazed hitchhikers and multiple car pile ups..."
Countdown and Other Horror Stories
A date from hell; a camping trip with freshly-caught meat on the menu; a Spanish lesson concerning the futility of life; an alcohol-fuelled dream or was it reality?; a secret assignation at a graveyard; the nosy neighbour who found more than he expected; the hair of the dog that wasn't a cure; the effects of the moon on a near-empty beach; exploring an alien landscape - a new collection of nine stories with a theme of horror running through them.
The Wandering Woman
The spray of the sea brushed his face like the soft caressing fingertips of a beautiful woman. His ship, the Red Shadow, was making good time as it cut through the sea’s waves, sending up small geysers of salty water. The open sea, a brilliant cascade of sparkling azure gems, lay before him and a healthy gust of wind was filling his sails.
Danny Mac Cullough
Ted Woods awoke, perspiration pouring from his brow. He quickly looked around the bedroom, nothing had changed. The room was as it was before he went to sleep the previous night. It was seven in the morning, too early to get up, so he turned over and went back to sleep. It was then his nightmare began....
Just an Ordinary Shed
R. G. Tooth
When you were a child were you told to be good or the bogeyman would come and get you? Susan was, and it left a great impact on her life. Now she has to clear her dead mother's house and face up to her childhood fear. This story shared Third Prize at the Ingrid Pitt Queen of Horror Festival, Hastings, in 2012.
J A Pritchard
A macabre and dark psychological thriller, ‘The Shadows’ tells the story of Jack, a young and disturbed mobster, living in a hellish world where he is fighting to find answers, fighting to find out what happened in a past that he dare not speak of. With rivals wanting him dead, and his grip on reality ever weakening, Jack must seek to save his life and save his mind before he descends into madness or is buried in his grave. “This is not a normal time, and this is not a normal place . . .”
Amber didn't like the house. The frontage faced north and two large conifers cast a sterile shadow. The beams were faded, the chimneys pointed to the sky like accusing fingers, and the roofing oppressed the aged dormer windows that sat in their rimless sockets gazing out a shadowed world through leaded frames. Yet she'd never really had a particular reason to dislike it, until that is she saw the woman with the baby at the window and heard its feeble, sickly cry.