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(A short story of 4930 words)

Horror Story


by Paul Sutton Reeves

A boat trip on the fens with the ghost of Conrad.

We were holidaying on the river. The brochure had described it as a cruise. To be honest, it was really just a week long piss-up, downing tins of beer as we drifted between one riverside pub and the next. Well, what else was there to do? Our vessel required no especial skill to master. At the flick of a switch and a puff of black smoke, the engine would cough into life, like a smoker choking on his first fag of the day. The tiller appeared to be nothing more than a steering wheel transplanted from a car. Besides, it demanded very little attention – the convoy ahead ensured that you rarely travelled above five miles an hour and the channels for the most part were dead straight. And there was nothing to look at. The banks had been raised against the threat of flood and since the surrounding countryside was flat it was almost completely hidden from view. The occasional stunted willow or bungalow roof stuck its head above the trench, but that was all. The constant traffic had put flight to all the usual riverside fauna – ducks, water buffalo or whatever – and the oil residues had seen off anything that may have lurked in the water. So that was it, really. There was nothing to do but drink until we reached the dismal seaside resort to which all the waters seemed to flow. And when we arrived? There’d be nothing to do but drink…

We’d picked up the boat at one of those forlorn little towns by the river – dead out of season, comatose at its height...

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