Virgin Mary In The Bathroom

OK, so yesterday, my husband and I had a friend staying with us. We’ve known him for a good few years now, and so know that not only does he wear glasses, but that without them, he is incredibly myopic. He himself has often said that without his glasses, he wouldn’t be able to see the nose on his face. However, a hilarious incident yesterday evening brought fully into focus (pardon the pun) just how bad his eyesight is. (Before I go any further, I feel I should point out that I am in no way making fun of him. I wear glasses and contact lenses myself and without them, I have trouble making out detail, which is one reason why I found the aforementioned incident quite so funny).

The incident in question took place yesterday evening as we all prepared to retire to bed. We only have one bathroom and so seeing as he was our guest, we said that he should use it first. I had just finished putting my nightie on and came out of my bedroom, putting my arms into the sleeves of my dressing gown as I did so, only to see our friend (sans glasses) coming out of the bathroom looking a little puzzled.

“Everything OK?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, “I just didn’t expect to see the Virgin Mary looking at me while I was having a pee.”

I laughed, thinking at this point that the flavourful wine he had kindly brought with him, must have gone to his head.

“I didn’t think you were religious” he went on.

“I’m not,” I replied.

“So why do you have a statue of the Virgin Mary in the bathroom?” he asked.

“I don’t”

“Yes, you do. I was taking a pee and I looked to my right and saw the Virgin Mary, all dressed in her blue and white, looking at me.”

At this point, I must have looked incredibly perplexed. In my head I couldn’t work out whether he was drunk, imagining things, or both! Seeing the look on my face, he said, “Come here, I’ll show you.”

Now I’m not in the habit of following men into bathrooms, whether they are friends of mine or not, but I was truly curious as to just what it was he was claiming to have seen.

Upon entering the bathroom, he walked towards the toilet and then turned to his right, pointed to a spot just underneath the bathroom cupboards and said, “There!”

I immediately burst out laughing!

“What’s so funny?” he asked. Now it was his turn to look perplexed.

I composed myself as much as I could and said, “That’s my iron!”

It’s true, dear friends. Without his glasses, my friend had looked at my slimline, blue and white iron which sits on its little stand just underneath my bathroom cupboards, and thought it was a statue of the Virgin Mary!

He clapped his hands to his face and his shoulders began to jig up and down, before he took a deep breath and literally roared with laughter. Meanwhile, my husband – who had just appeared at the doorway – saw us pointing at the iron, laughing hysterically and thought we had both taken leave of our senses.

Once serenity had finally been restored, we bade each other goodnight and went to our rooms. I was still giggling a little as I closed my eyes. Just as a drifted off to sleep, I remember thinking that it put a whole new spin on the song “Let It Be” by Paul McCartney.

“When I find myself in times of trouble

Mother Mary comes to me

Whispering through the laundry,

Iron me.”

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A Busy Old Time

It’s been a busy old time of late. In fact, I should probably have gone with “hectic” as opposed to “busy”; I’m sure that would have been far more accurate.

Having had some health issues of late, I had rather hoped that my medical travails were behind me. Mother Nature on the other hand, had other ideas. After a few weeks of irritability, mood swings, waking up in the middle of the night feeling so hot that even the devil would have asked if he could open a window, I went to see a female GP at my local surgery. Imagine my delight (you may need a towel to mop up the dripping sarcasm here) at being told that I was now perimenopausal! I’m 41, for god’s sake! How can I be perimenopausal? I’m too young…aren’t I? Apparently not. The doctor was extremely sympathetic as I sat, a sobbing, snotty, blotchy-faced wreck, in front of her. Through gulps and sobs I managed to ask “So what do I do?”

The doctor smiled and said, “Well, you can either knuckle down and tough it out for the next ten years or so, or you can take one of these little pills every day and you should start to feel better. Plus, you won’t feel as old. You’re too young to feel old.” As she handed me the prescription, I damned near ripped in two snatching it from her.

Then, tragedy. Two of my beloved cats died within a couple of weeks of each other. The first one, George, was around 18 years old and showing signs of dementia. He would wander from room to room, miaowing as if he didn’t recognise things. On the last day, he seemed as if he was struggling to recognise me. I did the last nice thing that I could do for him and asked the vet to let him sleep.

The second cat, Carino, had only been with me for a couple of years. I found him one January, totally wild and foaming so much at the mouth that I thought he may have rabies. After trapping him in my hallway, and struggling with him until we were both exhausted, I managed to get him into a box and took him to the vet. Under sedation, she found that he had a terrible problem with his mouth. What few teeth he had were rotten through to the roots and he had an open ulcer on his tongue. I couldn’t imagine the pain he must have been in. Without a doubt, he was unable to eat. A blood test showed that he had Feline AIDS. Still, he’d only be a danger to other cats if he bred with them or bit them. He was already castrated so there was no risk of him breeding. And when it came to his mouth, the vet performed a miracle. She operated, took out his rotten teeth and roots, gave him strong antibiotics for the ulcer, and within a week, I was looking at a different cat. For two years he was pain free and a happy cat. Sadly, though, the Feline AIDS began to take its toll and he began to develop open sores around his mouth that did not heal or respond to treatment. Eventually, the ulcer on his tongue returned. There was no way I was going to let him be in that kind of pain again, and the vet agreed it was kinder to let him sleep.

I’m now three weeks into my perimenopause medication and I am indeed beginning to feel a little better. I’m still in the grip of mood flashes and hot swings (or is it the other way around?), but I feel that there’s light at the end of the tunnel…I just hope it’s not a sodding train!

Then, in the midst of all the physical and emotional upheaval, I decided that my life needed a change of pace. A new challenge, perhaps. Cue applying for multiple teaching jobs in a variety of countries, being offered an extremely lucrative job in China (I politely declined) and being approached with a request to write someone’s biography. I know I said I’d like a change of pace, but could you at least form an orderly queue?

I have spent today writing to 43 schools to see if they would like to hire a perimenopausal English teacher (I didn’t put it quite like that on my resumé) and am now sitting at my desk having a well earned cup of tea and a biscuit or six.

What will the future hold, I wonder?

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Drug Induced Horror

OK, so I may have been a tad melodramatic with my title. Still, I’m guessing it got your attention, right?

Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that I have been somewhat quiet for the past six weeks or so. The truth of the matter is that I have had some health issues, the treatment of which have left me feeling sleepy to the point of being unable to stay awake, as well as mild depression which, let’s face it, does little for your energy and motivation levels. The other side effect of the treatment was to induce some rather bizarre dreams, not to mention firing the darker side of my imagination. Fortunately, I am now on the road to recovery and am extremely glad that I had the foresight to write down my dreams and imaginings, no matter how tired or low I happened to be feeling. Given the overwhelmingly positive comments to my previous short horror stories, I thought I would take the liberty in indulging in a couple more, not least to give you all an idea of the dark turns my road to recovery took.

This first one is along similar lines to Sweet Child Of Mine.

Charlotte was an only child. She was solitary, but bright and intelligent, and although you couldn’t say she was manipulative, she did know how to get the most attention from the adults around her. 

One night, she ran screaming down the hallway to her parents’ room. She had been awoken by a strange sound coming either from under the bed or in the closet, she wasn’t sure which. 

“Mummy! Daddy!” she screamed.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” said her Dad, scooping her up onto his knee. 

“I heard a monster” she sobbed. 

Immediately, her Mum and Dad jumped up and raced to her bedroom. Once there, they checked under the bed, opened the closet, threw back the bedsheets, made sure the window was firmly locked. They inspected and searched every inch of the room. Naturally, they found nothing and tucked their little girl back up in her bed. 

The next night, the same thing happened. Charlotte heard a noise and ran crying to her parents, who immediately began a thorough search of the room. Nothing was ever found, but that didn’t stop Charlotte liking the attention, nor did it stop her liking how seriously her parents took her cries. Eventually, she began running to them whether she had heard a noise or not, and would hide her smile behind her tears as night after night, she would wake her parents and watch as they raced to her room and performed their thorough search. 

On one such night, her Dad fell over while inspecting the top of the curtain rail, and Charlotte was unable to hide her laughter. As if a monster could fit up there anyway, she thought. 

“What’s so funny?” her Dad asked. 

“I’m sorry, Daddy, but I’ve been making it up. The first night I did hear something, but after that, I just kept making it up. I kept expecting you not to believe me but you always did.”

Strangely, her Dad wasn’t angry. He just looked at her Mum with an overwhelming sense of remorse filling his eyes and then said, “And we’ll always believe you, sweetie. You see, once … just once … we didn’t believe your brother.”

The second story is altogether different.

Have you ever walked into a room and found a vampire? 

I’m not talking about the sexy kind – there’s no schmaltzy Twilight saga here. I’m talking about a foul creature, with limbs like skin-covered bone and a complexion like death. Have you ever walked into a room and seen it snarl like a beast, ready to pounce? Has it rooted you to the spot with sunken, but hypnotic eyes, leaving you frozen and petrified as it uncoils itself from the shadows? Have you felt time grind by impossibly slowly as the creature crosses the room to you in the time it takes you to blink? 

Have you remained motionless through fear as the creature placed a hand, its nails like talons, on top of your head, while the other hand slid under your chin, tilting your head upwards and backwards, exposing your neck? Have you felt its hot breath keenly against your skin, as its rough, grey tongue slides down across your cheek and over your jaw, before resting on your throat? Has its tongue lingered there, as if savouring the moment? Have you experienced the sinking, all-consuming darkness as you realise that this vampire does not feed on blood … but on memories?

Well? Have you? I’m guessing that you answered “no”. So let me rephrase the question.

Have you ever found yourself standing in a room, unable to remember why you came in?

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Sail Away

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I want to sail away upon the sea

Sail away – my cats and me.

We’ll find an island in the sun,

To swim and play, relax, have fun.

I want to sail away upon the sea,

And ride the winds, so wild and free.

By day, I’d watch the clouds roll by,

Before nighttime stars adorn the sky.

I want to sail away upon the sea,

To live my truth, to just be me.

See the world in all its glory,

And write my own, unique story.

Will I ever sail away upon the sea?

Will I ever know what it is to be me?

I have my dream, I have my youth,

I need only the courage to live my truth.

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Little Miss Magpie

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A friend of mine once told me that when it comes to people, she thought of me as something of a magpie. By that, she meant that I collect people – characters to be precise. Now, before you go getting it into your heads that I am some kind of narcissist who constantly needs people around me, or craves attention, let me attempt to qualify what she meant by her statement.

Last year, I wrote a piece entitled “Doctor Who and the Epitome of Exaggeration“. It concerned the fact that, as a writer, I am prone to jot down interesting snippets of overheard conversations. These can often be as gold dust to a writer. The other thing that I am prone to do, is people watch. I can sit for hours in a cafe or train station, or outside on a terrace, just watching the world go by and making mental notes of the curious characters that make up the every day. This is what my friend meant in calling me a magpie. I collect conversations and characters with which to adorn my work.

And yet, I felt compelled to correct her. For you see, a magpie generally collects shiny things, glittering objects that glint and reflect the light around them. I don’t just collect those shiny characters, however. To me, there is a great fascination in the darker, dirtier, more unseemly side of life.

Take, if you will, the example from today. Whilst shopping in my local supermarket, I stopped my the meat counter. I was thinking of making chilli meatballs for dinner tonight, and I noticed that the minced beef that they had looked particularly appealing. Behind the counter stood two men, both engaged in conversation. One of them quite clearly had a cold, and kept blowing his nose on a handkerchief as he talked. Seeing that I was standing by the counter, the guy with the cold looked up, smiled and asked if he could help me. I smiled back and said that I would like a kilo of the minced beef, please. Without missing a beat, he put his handkerchief down onto the meat counter, before proceeding to grab a handful of the minced beef with his ungloved, unwashed hand! I stopped him before he could go any further, and asked him if he thought that what he had just done was either (a) hygienic and (b) appropriate. The look on his face couldn’t have been more befuddled than if I had happened to have grown two heads! No matter how many times I explained to him why what he had done was wrong, he seemed totally incapable of grasping it. Eventually, the penny dropped for him, but rather than apologise, he simply responded with, “Oh, and I suppose you do everything perfectly in your kitchen?”

“Not necessarily,” I replied, “but I’m not inviting people in to come and pay for food.” I walked off to find the manager, who, I feel it is only fair to say, was most apologetic and agreed wholeheartedly that it should not have happened. He promised to go and speak to him about it right away.

I paid for my groceries and left the supermarket. A few minutes later, as I sat in my car in the car park, I jotted down what had happened, together with the words “Revolting butcher. Fat, greasy, unhygienic – sneezes on the food before he wraps it.” Another character was born.

And so it is with my life. Little Miss Magpie, collecting characters, keeping them safe until they are ready to come to life in some tale or other. The world is full of stories. I just need the time to write them!

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I Didn’t Know We Had A Choice

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I love quotes. I collect them like some people collect stamps, or butterflies, or rare antique coins. Quotes can be a great spark to get the fire of conversation going, and they are wonderful for after dinner speeches (not that I have ever given an after dinner speech, but if I did, I would definitely include a quote or two).

My favourite source of quotes is Oscar Wilde. I delight in his fascinating mental celerity and humorous charm, and some of his witticisms are rather apt for our modern day. Take a look at the America’s Trump administration and it is difficult not to think of Wilde’s observation that “I think that God, in creating Man, somewhat overestimated his abilities.” Wilde even had a quote that is applicable to the subject of this post – “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”

Recently, however, I came across several quotes from Winston Churchill. If ever there was a man who was a master of insults and witty comebacks, it was Winston Churchill. Take, for example, his reply when he was disturbed whilst on the toilet in the House of Commons. A messenger had been dispatched to inform him that the Lord Privy Seal wished to see him, to which Churchill replied, “Tell the Privy Seal that I am sealed in the privy and I can only deal with one shit at a time.” Yet even this remarkable retort pales in the witty glow of Churchill’s interaction with Lady Nancy Astor. The pair often came to blows, and at a dinner party at Nancy Astor’s home, a frustrated Nancy declared, “Sir, if you were my husband, I’d put rat poison in your coffee!” to which Churchill, without missing a beat, retorted, “Madam, if I were your husband, I’d drink it!” 

My most favourite Churchill quote so far though has to this. While at a dinner reception in Canada, Churchill found himself seated next to a Methodist minister. At the end of the dinner, a waitress came around, bearing a tray of glasses filled with sherry. Churchill took one and then the tray was offered to the minister, who indignantly declared, “I would rather commit adultery than take an alcoholic drink!” As the waitress walked away, Churchill called to her, “Come back Miss, I didn’t realise we had a choice.” 

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Transient Dawn

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To me, this photo represents transience.

I had woken early one morning last summer. As is my habit, I had stepped outside to check the mail, and paused to breathe in the cool morning air, the kind that is slightly humid as the fallen dew evaporates under the warm fingers of sunlight. At that moment, a dragonfly alighted upon the aerial of my car. For a moment, I held my breath. There was something so ethereally beautiful about the scene in front of me. The hazy sunlight breaching the top of the roof, catching the gossamer, silver wings of the delicate dragonfly as it paused for a moment.

All too soon, this would be gone, never to be seen again. Never again would I see the sun in exactly this spot. Soon, the dragonfly would have completed its cycle of life, so perhaps never again would I see this beautiful creature, shimmering in a perfect point of light. I felt quite emotional as I reflected on what was before me; a depiction of the transience of life. For isn’t that what life is? A series of perfectly placed moments that will never come again?

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Paper Dolls

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. It was hot and humid, the cooling fan wasn’t working, and the minute I opened the window, the entire cast of “A Bug’s Life” flew in for a reunion! By 02:30 a.m. I had all but given up, and so got out of bed and went to the living room. Not wanting to put on the main lights, I instead flicked on a small table lamp in the far corner, before going to the kitchen to get a cool drink. On my return, I was startled by how strange and eerie the living room appeared, lit by the single bulb of a small lamp. As I sat on the sofa, I started to think of something that Soul Gifts said to me in a comment on my short horror story Awake, in that things can appear so scarily different in the nighttime. In that moment, the line “Ethereal shadows playing tricks with the light” came into my mind, and from there, this following poem was born. 

Paper Dolls

Ethereal shadows playing tricks with the light,

Inanimate objects come to life in the still quiet of the night.

Scary is as scary does, are the thoughts that weave and wind,

In never ending circles in the recess of my mind.

The light fades ever further, and over in the corner,

A shadow moves – I’m sure it did – and a voice says “You should warn her”

“Warn me? Why?” I think out loud, as the rising ebony mass,

Unfolds itself from the shadows and preens in the looking-glass.

I hold my breath, my mouth goes dry; perhaps too scared to swallow,

And in my midnight fancy I hear a voice so deep and hollow.

“We are what we sow. What ye sow, so shall ye reap”

I turn my face to the pillow to hide the tears I silently weep.

The candle on the window-sill gutters; on the wall, shadows leap and dance

Like paper dolls in grotesque arabesques, as I pray for an end to this trance.

A breeze alights from the shutter, the candle flickers once more and then dies,

And I am plunged into darkness to await my fate, to come before the sunrise.

Seconds pass like minutes, the minutes tick by like hours,

I close my eyes and imagine a field filled with infinite flowers.

I pick one and inhale its perfume, as a voice says “The cockerel! He crows!”

And I open my eyes to the blessed sunrise, as the light through my window it flows.

The light emboldens my spirit; I raise myself from the bed,

To face the terrible ebony mass that had inflicted such fear and dread.

In spite of myself I cannot help but smile; a laugh takes the place of fright,

For there is naught to see but discarded clothes, and things that go bump in the night.

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Stand Together!

No-Intimidation

Earlier today, I read a story about a teenage girl called Maddi Runkles. Maddi was a high school senior, a straight-A student, president of the student council and a member of the school soccer team. She was also pregnant. And at her school, that was taboo. So taboo in fact, that the school barred her from attending her graduation ceremony, because, heaven forfend that school dignitaries should see a pregnant teenager. Maddi’s friends and loved ones ended up giving her her own graduation ceremony in a local church, and although she didn’t get to wear her cap and gown, she was overwhelmed by the effort that those who loved her had put into the day.

As if I were being pulled back through time, I recalled a very similar incident when I was at school…though it ended rather differently.

I can recall the incident as if it were yesterday. Three school friends – Michelle, Donna and myself – gathered around our tearful friend, Zoe. We were all 16. We had finished our exams, gotten our results (we were all thrilled by them), and were looking forward to the exam ceremony when we would get our exam certificates presented to us by the mayor. (For my dear non-UK friends, I should point out that in the UK, we attend high school from the age of 11 up to the age of 16. We can then choose to either stay on until 18 or go to college, or simply leave and go into work). The only fly in the ointment as far as the school was concerned, was that Zoe was 6 months pregnant. This meant that there was no hiding the fact. All you had to do was look at her. She was pregnant alright.

That morning, Zoe had been called to see both the headmaster, Mr Hill, and deputy headmistress, Mrs Laverock. They were a puritanical pair, and I don’t mind admitting that I had my own run-ins with them from time to time, but that’s a whole other story. When Zoe emerged from the meeting, she stumbled into the school-yard in tears. Mr Hill and Mrs Laverock had both told her that there was no way she would be allowed to attend the exam ceremony. It would “be an abomination for the mayor to see you in that state” they told her. To add insult to injury, they had told her that she could come to the school on the day of the ceremony and pick up her certificate from the headmaster’s office. Their treatment of her just felt so unfair. Zoe was a perfect student.. She had never been in trouble, never put a foot wrong, never been given school detention, nothing. And yet she made one personal error of judgement and she was being treated as a pariah.

I’m not entirely sure where it comes from, but I have always had a deep-rooted sense of standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Perhaps it comes from the fact that my Dad was a union man, or maybe that I was surrounded by strong women who absolutely refused to be walked over. Wherever it came from, it came rushing to the surface that day. So while Michelle and Donna put their arms around Zoe to comfort her, the words “Well if you can’t go, I’m not going” thrust their way from my lips. Zoe, Michelle and Donna looked at me, Zoe blinking away the tears as she said “How will you get your certificate then?”

I’ll come to the office with you and pick up mine at the same time.” I can remember saying it so matter-of-fact, as if it were the most natural response in the world. I hasten to add that I hadn’t given a moment’s thought as to what my parents would say! There was a moment of silence between us, before Donna and Michelle said “Well if you two aren’t going, we’re not going!”

Almost simultaneously, Michelle, Donna and myself got the same idea. What if, just what if, we could get more students in our year to join us? What if we could get them all to join us? Or even just most of them?

The high school grapevine is, by far, the most alacritous way of passing information. There is no quicker method known to man. Honestly, a lie can half way around the school before the truth has a chance to get its pants on! So, for the rest of the day, the three of us made it our goal to tell as many people as possible that as many people as we could think of weren’t attending the exam ceremony. Little white lies were told, sure. For example, we told several people that their best friends had said they weren’t going before we’d even spoken to them, and then told their best friends the same thing. By the end of the day, more than half of our student year had joined us, and, as we arrived at school the next morning, we were relieved to hear that practically the entire student year was on side. When we assembled in the yard at break time, we were missing just seven students. All that was left to do now was to go and tell the headmaster the good news.

Even now as I write this, I can see his face as he opened his office door and saw practically the entire final student year assembled in the corridor outside. “Mr Hill” I said, as confidently as I could, “we, that is, all of us, would like to put you on notice that if you do not allow Zoe (surname) to attend the exam ceremony, we, that is, all of us, won’t be attending either.”

For a moment, the blood drained from his face, before he finally regained his composure and told us all we were acting very foolishly. He then asked us whether we were all in agreement, and we all nodded. Perhaps emboldened by the seeming power shift, Michelle – who was standing next to me – said “What’s more embarrassing, sir…a pregnant Zoe or an empty school hall?”

I don’t actually remember his response to that, but I do recall that two days later, our student year was called into the school hall to be told that after taking advice from the school governors, Mr Hill and Mrs Laverock had decided that Zoe could attend the exam ceremony. We quietly and respectfully said, “Thank you, sir. Thank you, miss” although I know that I for one was tempted to shout, “Yes! In your face!”

Later that month, we all attended the exam ceremony and received our certificates from the mayor, who, didn’t even bat an eyelid when he saw Zoe.

I guess that was one of my first important life lessons, and one that I have carried with me ever since. You can intimidate one person, but they all stick together, you can’t intimidate everyone.

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Awake – (A Short Horror Story)

James was always a late sleeper. More often than not, his mother would put him to bed around 8 o’clock, and then, for the next few hours until she came to bed, he would lie awake, creating strange and fantastical stories in his head and occasionally whispering with his imaginary friend. Of course, whenever he heard his mother coming up the stairs to check on him, he would invariably pretend to be asleep. His door would open just a crack and his mother, silhouetted against the light of the landing, would peek her head around the door, see that he was asleep and then quietly close the door again as she left. James knew all this because whenever his mother would peek around the door, he would open one eye, just a fraction, so that he could see her. Until now, she had never guessed that he wasn’t asleep.

Then, one night, everything changed.

The night began as usual. James had finished watching his programs on TV and his mother, in her usual singsong voice had said “Come on little man, time for bed.” James yawned and stretched and then held up his arms so she would pick him up. She groaned as she hauled him onto her hip. “You’re going to be too big for this soon.” she said. Once upstairs, she tucked him snugly into bed and then turned to leave. “Straight to sleep now, James” she said.

Yes Mum” he replied, blowing her a kiss as she closed the door.

For a few hours, James lay in bed, dreaming about monsters and faraway lands and whispering to his imaginary friend about why his mother hadn’t peeked in to check on him yet.

Suddenly, he heard footsteps outside his door. Quickly, James closed his eyes just enough so that it would appear that he was asleep. Immediately, his bedroom door swung open. James stifled a gasp as he saw a large man framed in the door, holding the lifeless body of his mother in his arms. Still pretending to be asleep whilst looking as much as he dared, James watched as the man brought his mother’s body into the room and propped it up in the small rocking chair that stood in the corner. The man then glanced over at the bed, before turning and scrawling something on the wall. James closed his eyes tight, trying with all his might to act as if he were asleep, as he saw the man turn from the wall and head over to the bed.

For a few seconds he could sense the man’s presence next to the bed. Finally, he heard movement and, listening as hard as he could, he heard the man cross the room again and close the bedroom door. Unsure as to whether he had left or whether he was still in the room, James lay perfectly still.

Eventually, he summoned up enough courage to open his eyes a little. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he could just make out his mother’s form on the chair in the corner. Looking over to the wall on which he had seen the man write something, James tried to make out the words. It was no use; the room was just too dim to read what was written there. He still didn’t know whether the man was still in the room with him, so for what seemed like hours, he lay perfectly still, wondering what he should do.

Just then, outside, the moon came out from behind a cloud, illuminating the room through a crack in the curtain. With the aid of a little more light, James looked again at the wall. He gasped as his eyes focussed on the words – I know you’re awake. His eyes filled with tears and his breath caught in his throat, as under his bed, someone moved.

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