Saturday, November 28, 2015

Stony Faced


Saturday 28 November 2015

Sunny periods 15 degrees

Someone on FB asked for short stories for a collection she was putting together.  Seeing as how I have earned a whole euro a year from the two years that my short story collection has been on Amazon, I sent her a few.  I re read them after sending.  The language is rather choice.  I was in angry mode back then and wrote about people getting it in the neck.  She got back to me and said she had read the first and it was brilliant and so much better than the rest.  She said the other stories were very flowery.  I don't do flowery.  It would be lovely to make a living from writing though I couldn't do the circuits and promote them and have people asking what I meant by ..... 

Here is one I wrote after watching an episode of Dr Who, with scary statues.

STONY FACED


The rain fell steadily.  It drummed on the corrugated metal of the flat rooves and gushed out of the ancient drainpipes.  It sluiced down the mullioned windows and leaked surreptitiously under the sashes and trickled down the faded roses of the wallpaper.  The trees in the garden drooped and dripped.  

Sylvie pressed her nose onto the glass and sighed.  The air next to the window was cold and the glass immediately fogged up.  She drew a pattern with her finger, tracing the buried bubbles and feeling the ridges and hollows.  She wrapped herself up in the heavy brocade curtain and buried her nose into its felty depths.  It smelled of must and damp and the silk lining was powdered and disintegrating.

The door of the room opened and a lady came in, carrying logs for the fire.  She set them down briskly in the basket and started to rake out the cinders.  Sylvie poked her head out from around the curtain.

‘Heavens, child!  You made me jump’.

‘Sorry, Aunty May’ said Sylvie, detaching herself from the curtain and coming over to sit on the carpet in front of the fire.  ‘I was just watching the rain’.

‘I didn’t expect anyone to be up this early.  I hope you won’t be bored – the weather forecast isn’t that good’.  Her voice trailed off and she looked brightly over the top of her glasses.

‘So, let’s get this fire made!’

She broke up some small twigs and set them in a tepee shape over a firelighter and Sylvie lit the match and they watched the small flame take hold and the wood start to hiss and spit. They overlaid it with larger pieces of wood and then carefully placed pieces of coal on top. The next part was the bit Sylvie liked the best.  Her aunt took a double sheet of newspaper and held it over the fireplace to get the fire going.  The crackling and spitting increased in volume and the paper was sucked in as air rushed in through the bottom of the grate.  Sylvie and her aunt held the opposite sides of the paper and suddenly, with a whoosh, the fire burst into life.  They took the paper away and admired the bright yellow and red flames.

A sudden noise made them start.  The wind had got up and a rain laden branch was scraping at the window.  It was an eerie sound.  Her aunt was staring through the glass as if she had seen something.  Sylvie pointed at the fire.  ‘One match did all that’

Her aunt was still looking at the window.  Her former jolliness had vanished.  She folded up the paper and put it into the basket.  ‘It doesn’t take a lot to set things en route’. She stood up and wiped her hands on her apron. ‘Breakfast time, I think’

………………………………………………………………………………………………

It was 11 o’clock before the others came down.  Sylvie was making bread with her aunt. Her mother started feeding the baby and her father buried himself in the Financial Times.   Her brother Toby slumped down on the bench and helped himself to coffee and toast.  His eyes were puffy and full of sleep and his bushy red hair looked like a herd of rhinoceros had trampled through it.  He was still in his PJ’s and had topped them off with a fancy gentleman’s dressing gown that he had found in the armoire.

‘Where’s Daisy?’ enquired his father from behind the paper.

‘Top bedroom’ muttered Toby ‘it’s the only place she can get on Facebook’

‘Tell her to come down and have breakfast’

Toby picked up the Travel section of the Sunday paper, flicked through the exotic holiday destinations and chewed miserably on his toast.  ‘Seb’s gone to Bali.’   He turned a page ‘Martial is down in Oz’.

His father’s paper rattled disapprovingly and the baby slurped and burped.  ‘Well they found themselves a job didn’t they?  They didn’t wait for their parents to fork out.’  

Aunty May turned the dough mix out onto the counter and handed a piece to Sylvie.  She started to knead it, burying in her knuckles and stretching out the fibres.  Flour puffed out over the newspapers. 

‘For God’s sake’ muttered the father, gathering up the pile and stomping out of the room.

‘It’s hit him hard, losing his job like that’ said May.

Sylvie’s mum sighed and rubbed the baby’s back.  ‘It is a big strain on all of us.  I thought a break would do us good.’  Her voice trailed off and she looked at her youngest daughter, thumping ten bells out of the bread dough.  ‘Good work, sweetie’ she murmured.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

In the top bedroom Daisy was having trouble getting Internet reception.  She stalked slowly around the room, phone in hand.  The tiny bars remained unlit.  She arrived at the window and, finally, one bar lit up and then another and the phone connected and texts started arriving.  She linked to Face book and saw Ellie was still on line.

Were did u go?

I told you wen it rains no Internet this place is a fxxxng nitemare 

Wot’s it like?  How long r u staying?

Don’t know.  Mum sez she needs a break.  Dad in bad mood ALL of the time.  I might as well be dead.  Anty May house like really old and creepy – like REALLY

R there ghosts?

There culd be.  I wouldn’t want to live here on my own.  So now I am not going to be able to sleep 

listening for ghosts

R neighbour talks to ghosts

No way!

She has séances and my mum went once.  Dad sez its all bxxxxcks so she didn’t tell him she was going

N wot happened?

She sed Gran was there and to tell mum that she had left some money in the cellar

Cool!

She didn’t find anything and Dad kept asking why she was always in the cellar.

Kk   wish mine wud find a job and get off r backs.  Toby hates it here 2

How did she speak to Gran

She had a weegie board with like letters in a circle and Mum said there was a glass in the middle and 

they all put there fingers and Maggie then said is anyone there.

N then wot?

The glass moved to the letters and Maggie spelled out the words.  They all sed they weren’t pushing it



The bars on the telephone suddenly blanked out and the screen froze.

‘No!’ wailed Daisy ‘shit!’

She threw herself down on the bed and put a pillow over her head.  Perhaps she could sleep her way through this holiday.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

The house was quiet when she woke up and wandered downstairs.  There was a note on the kitchen table.  Daisy darling we have gone to do some shopping with Aunt May.  Back soon.  Mum xx  

Daisy made herself some fresh coffee and toast and sat down on the squashy and dilapidated sofa.  May’s huge ginger cat came and sat with her and purred.  Daisy tickled the cat’s ears and thought about ghosts and Ouija boards. She looked around the room, so familiar yet full of things she had never really noticed before.  Alongside the teapots and cups were wooden and ivory carvings of cats, covered in a language she didn’t recognise. In amongst the cook books were volumes on World religions and spiritualism.  Daisy realised that she didn’t know much about May at all, except that she wasn’t actually their Aunt.  Intrigued, Daisy got up, wiped her hands on a tea towel and went to explore.

She climbed the huge oak staircase and jumped when she heard a creaking noise behind her.  It was just the cat, following behind.  His eyes glowed ginger in the dim light.  Daisy realised she was holding her breath.  It was really weird being on her own.  The door to May’s bedroom was shut and Daisy opened it quietly, as if someone was listening.

The room smelled of her Aunt; a mix of talcum powder and lavender.  The bed was covered in a lacy cover and the curtains were of the same material.  An Indian wool rug rested on the bitter chocolate stained oak floor.  Between the two bay windows stood an antique dressing table.  Daisy smelled the various perfumes and tried out a lipstick.  Yuk, old lady colour.  

On impulse, she opened the top drawer of the dresser.  It was full of letters and bills and, at the back, a large rectangular box.  Daisy pulled it out and saw the same unfamiliar writing that was on the kitchen carvings.  Goose bumps came up on her arms and her hands were shaking as she opened the box.  In a bed of pink velvet lay a key; a very old key with an elaborate swirled metal work head and massive shank and teeth.  It was covered in green lichen and yet the teeth bore scratches, as if it had been used recently.  It was 
slightly damp to her touch.  

The doorbell rang and Daisy went to the window.  It was the postman.  

She ran down and signed for a package and placed it on the kitchen table.  The key was still in her hand and she tried it in the front door.  It was too big.  The sun had come out.  Daisy put on some galoshes that were standing in the hallway and headed out into the garden. She had an idea of where the key might fit.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

In the far corner of the garden was a mausoleum.  May had told them it had been built by the owners of the house and they were all buried there.  Daisy had asked May if she would be buried there and she had smiled and said she was just the guardian.  Daisy opened the metal gate and stepped gingerly down the slimy, wet steps.  The entrance was covered in green ivy and she had to rip away several metres of vine to get at the door beneath.  The key slipped into the lock like a dream and, to her surprise, turned easily.  The door swung open, revealing more steps.  There was a torch hanging on a hook and Daisy flicked it on and descended into the tomb.

The air was stale and the floor underfoot was crunchy with droppings and mouse carcasses.  She looked back up the stairs to check that the door was still open, and saw the cat sitting at the entrance.  The torch light lit up the face of a marble statue.  His arms were outstretched and he seemed to be leaning forward.  She flicked the torch around – the room was full of statues.  She backed uneasily towards the steps.  There was the noise of a car and she turned and ran out, stuffing the key into her pocket.  Toby was unpacking the car.  

She punched him on the arm.  ‘Tobes, you are not going to believe what I’ve found!’

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The moon rose and lit up the pale stone of the tomb.  Its rays filtered through the ivy and a pale light illuminated the first steps.  The cat sat and crunched on a newly caught mouse. Suddenly, he pricked up his ears and listened.  His tail twitched and he dropped his kill and scampered back to the house.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The next day dawned clear and pale with wispy clouds banking up on the horizon and glowing pale crimson with the rising sun.  They were all gathered around the breakfast table and the window was open and a light breeze was playing its own rhythm on the net curtains. There was a crunching noise as someone walked up the gravel path.  Sylvie leaned out to see who it was.  She turned back

‘Mum, it’s the milkman’

Sylvie’s mum put the baby down in the pram.  May was buttering the toast.

‘I’ll go and get the milk’ 

There was the scrape of the front door opening and voices.  The milkman asked if he could be paid.May wiped her hands on her apron and went out to get her purse.  Sylvie could hear them talking on the doorstep when suddenly there was the crash of breaking glass and a terrible, piercing scream.

They all tore out of the room and found their shocked mother and the milkman staring down the long flight of stone steps.  At the bottom lay May’s body, twisted like a broken doll.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

The policeman and woman drank tea and asked the same questions over and over. Sylvie’s mum wrung her hands.  Her fingers fretted at a soaked handkerchief.  Her face was pale and blotchy and she was still in her dressing gown.

‘I don’t know why she fell’ she wailed in exasperation ‘are you accusing me of pushing her?  Why do you keep asking me the same questions?  I have told you;  we were on the doorstep, May got out her cash to pay the milkman and then she stopped and stared into the garden and went very pale.  She dropped the milk and it was if she had lost all power in her legs and she fell down those awful steps and now she is dead’.

She buried her face in a tea towel and her husband laid a protective arm around her shoulders.  

‘My wife is exhausted.  She has told you all she knows and she cannot tell you more.’  He glared at the policeman and woman who glanced at one another and stood up to leave.

‘Please stay in this house.  We will be contacting you again.’

Toby showed them to the door.  ‘Bastards’ he muttered, shutting it with a definitive bang.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The next day Sylvie and her parents left in the early afternoon to see the solicitor in Portree, a drive of over two hours.  

‘We won’t be back till after dark – are you sure you don’t want to come into town?’

Toby shook his head ‘don’t worry Mum, we’ll be fine’

They heard the car drive away and Toby turned to Daisy

‘So, what did you find then little Sis?’

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The door was still ajar and they pushed it open and stepped down into the first chamber.  Toby flashed his light on the walls and floors.  They walked on into the second room.  They were both empty, just the crunching of their feet reverberating around the stone walls.

‘I just don’t get it’ exploded Daisy ‘it was full of statues!’

Toby shone the flashlight on his face and grimaced, making Daisy jump.

‘Cut it out Tobes!’  

She played her flashlight on the floor.  It was covered in white striations which led towards the steps.

‘Look! They have been dragged out of here’

They ran back up the steps and went back into the house.  Toby made tea.

‘Should we ring the police?

Toby scowled ‘Do you want those dorks to come back here again?  Dad will go ape.  Just leave it.  

Besides how are you going to prove that they’ve been stolen?’

He leaned on the windowsill and slurped his tea.  He turned and pointed out of the window.

‘Did the statues look like those?’

Daisy looked and raised an eyebrow.  Someone was messing with her head.  She didn’t like it.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The statues were lined up on each side of the gravel driveway.  They counted six.  Daisy looked closely at the one with the outstretched arms 

‘This is the one I saw yesterday!’

The stone man looked down on her with bald alabaster eyes.  Lichen snaked over his head and cheeks like a bad birthmark.  He had a leering smile.  Daisy moved onto to the next statue.  It had Roman features and wore a laurel wreath and tiny horns peeped out from the stone curls.  His rigid fingers were clutching a small dog.  Its teeth were bared and it bore a terrified expression on its tiny face.

‘Awesome!’ exclaimed Toby, looking at a statue on his side of the path.  His statue was of a massive hound.  It head was lowered as if sniffing the ground.  Its tail stood stiffly to attention.  A chain leash hung from its ornate metal collar.  ‘This one is just like the dog that bit me!’

‘When?’

‘When I was ten.  We were on ramble with the local hikers and it just appeared and got hold of my 

arm.  The others beat it off with their walking sticks.’

‘Well it won’t be biting anyone anymore’ said Daisy definitively.  ‘Strange how it is still wearing its collar and lead.  She looked back at the first statue.  It looked back at her over its shoulder.  A gust of wind puffed up the piles of leaves and they swirled around the bases of the statues.  Daisy pulled her jumper sleeves over her hands and felt chilled to the bone. 

‘They are watching us’

They looked back at the dog.  It had raised its head and lowered its tail and seemed to be smiling at them.  Its sharp incisors were clearly visible.  There was a rustling sound and this time it wasn’t the leaves.  All of the statues heads were now turned towards them and they had moved closer.  

‘They move when you don’t look at them!’ wailed Daisy.  

Toby had stopped grinning.  He grabbed Daisy and pulled her towards him.  ‘Stay back to back.  Don’t take your eyes off of them.  Watch your three and I’ll watch mine!’  They started edging towards the gate.  

‘How many statues did you see in the tomb?  Were there only six?’

Daisy adjusted her head slightly and looked at the gate.  ‘There are seven of them’ she whispered.  

‘Run’ shouted Toby and he grabbed her hand.  

They raced around the side of the house.  There were statues on the flight of stairs.  They had the gate covered.  Daisy screamed.  Toby squeezed her hand.  

‘Come on, I know where they can’t go’.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The tomb door slammed shut and Toby locked it.  He peered out through the metal grill.  No sign of the statues.  

‘What the f….?  exclaimed Daisy.  

‘It figures’ said Toby.  ‘If they can’t get out of here then they can’t get in.  Ring Mum.’

Daisy fumbled in her pocket and checked.  There was signal.  Her mum’s face appeared on the screen as she called her number and Daisy felt immediately better.  The phone clicked onto message service.

‘Mum’ shouted Daisy ‘you have got to come back now.  We’ll tell you when we see you.  We are trapped in the tomb.  The statues are out.’ 

Daisy’s mum heard her phone ringing as she was getting back to the car.  She frowned as she listened to the message.  ‘Who is it?’ asked her husband.  ‘It is Daisy – sounds like she is in a cave – I can’t hear a word she is saying.’  She threw the phone back in her bag. ‘Probably nothing.’  She shut her eyes and sighed.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Hours passed and the light passing through the grill started to pale and fade.  

‘They could be hours and I am NOT stopping in her all night!  Ring 999’

‘And tell them that we are being chased by garden ornaments?’

‘Say we are trapped in a tomb!  Don’t tell them about the fucking statues…’

45 minutes later there was the sound of a large engine and heavy tyres drawing up outside the house.  Toby wrenched open the door.  

‘Stay here, it’s not safe to come out.  I’ll tell them it’s you that’s trapped.  Lock the door behind me!’

Toby’s legs disappeared up the steps.  She sighed with relief and checked her phone and replied to a few texts.  Ten minutes passed.  Daisy stood up and listened.  Water dripped slowly into a puddle in the darkened room behind her.  Otherwise there was absolute silence.  Daisy started to shiver uncontrollably.  Ten more minutes passed.  And then ten more.  She realised that she was completely alone.   She seized the key and turned it slowly and opened it a crack.  Nothing and no-one.  She crept up the steps and tiptoed towards the gate.  

The fire engine was parked just outside the entrance.  She reached the garden wall and started feeling her way along.  Her breath was coming in short bursts and she could hear the blood pumping in her ears.  A statue lay fallen at the entrance.  It was the Roman god. His face was cracked and his arms were jagged stumps of marble.  The little dog 
was gone.  

Daisy climbed up onto the top of the fire engine and scanned the garden.  

‘Toby! Is there anyone there?  HELP!’

A steady drizzle had started to fall.   She thought she saw something white out of the corner of her eye and twisted around sharply.  The roof was slick with moisture and, to her horror, she felt herself slipping.  Her feet shot up into the air and she tumbled backwards off the roof and hit the ground with a sickening thump.

She lay on the muddy ground with all of the breath knocked out of her lungs.  She felt no pain.  She felt nothing because her back was broken.  She heard movements and closed her eyes.  She felt the dog’s cold breath against her cheek.  She opened her eyes.  The statues were all around her.  Their eyes looked kind.  One of them reached out and caressed her hair.  Daisy thought of a life in a wheelchair.  She thought of not seeing her family again.  She felt her skin prickle and the blood freezing in her veins.  She felt her lungs constrict and petrify.  No more choices.  She exhaled her last breath and was gone.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The Estate Agent took out the For Sale sign and nailed it to the gate post.  She looked up at the house, empty now for over two years.  The grass was long and cherry tree blossom shone and danced in the breeze.  She noticed a small statue of a girl over by the fountain. The stone features were finely carved and its delicate fingers were caressing the neck of a giant hound.  The Estate Agent looked closer.  The statue seemed to be holding a mobile phone.  She shook her head and headed swiftly down the path.  She glanced back at the statue.  The girl and the dog were looking in her direction and they were smiling.