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Also available from David E. Gates
Access Denied – A True Story
The Roots of Evil
The Ghost of Clothes
The Christmas Carol
Denny Dickson contemplated his existence. He’d lived for twenty-nine years but had felt, particularly for the last three years, that he was running out of time.
Ordinarily, a mid-life crisis would strike when you reached your fortieth birthday, but Denny’s was absurdly early. His thirtieth was just a week away. There was no way he was going to complete all the things he’d wanted to do by the time he’d died.
He’d wanted to travel. To Japan, New Zealand, base camp at Everest and to step foot within the Arctic Circle. He’d managed to get to Europe, Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Belgium, but the farther-flung countries had eluded him. Mostly due to budget.
His role as an Information Technology Operations Analyst sounded much grander than what it was. In short, he was nothing more glamourous than a basic computer operator. Checking printers had enough paper and ink, replacing peripherals when they broke, logging calls to higher levels of support when his remit didn’t allow him to resolve things directly for fear, from management mostly, that he might “mess things up”.
His salary was reflective of his level. Whilst it was more than a lot of other jobs he could have found himself doing, being lumbered with a mortgage for a house he’d bought with a woman he didn’t love who left him shortly after she’d found out his feelings for her weren’t as mutual as hers for him, meant his disposable income was tiny. Only by living on Super Noodles and breakfast cereals for weeks on end was he able to save the money to fund the trips to Europe.
It took months to save enough money to pay for the excursions to the continent. The slow pace of his savings plan would occasionally be tested further as emergencies, such as electrical repairs or replacement for life’s necessities, intruded on his already meagre reserves.
And so, he’d decided, to end it all. He was tortured with the wanting and frustrated with the struggle to achieve. The harder he tried, the more effort he put into bettering himself, the further he fell into the abyss of depression that recycled itself with each rejection.
He would end the feeling of helplessness. He would bring an end to his life and thus the anguish and suffering he was enduring. And he would do it in a unique and curious style. To baffle and confound those who would come to find his remains.
He left the lounge area, where he’d sat thinking about his situation and determined his demise and moved along the corridor to the door of a small room, on the ground floor of the house he hated, set between the lounge and stairs.
On opening the door, he allowed himself a moment to let his eyes adjust to the relative darkness and then peered into the room. He’d used it to store his bicycle and a metal cantilever box that contained the few tools he’d amassed over the years since he’d been lumbered with the property. It was about five feet across, with a depth of around eight or nine feet he’d estimated as he allowed his vision to permeate the dim interior.
He removed the bike and tool-box and placed them in the corridor, taking a screwdriver from the assortment and jumble of tools that were contained within the latter.
Kneeling, screwdriver in hand, he shuffled into the room, feeling the edges of the floorboards beneath him. He slid the screwdriver in between the two ends of the boards in the middle of the room and pushed it back and forth until the floorboard he was leveraging began to lift. Once its edge had cleared the floor level, he lifted it further with his free hand. The board creaked as it was wrenched from its fastenings to the floor joists below. The metal of the nails that had held it in place screeched against their removal from the thick wooden supports beneath.
Once it was relieved of its position, Denny placed the board to one side and repeated the process of leveraging the next one beside the gap he’d created. It lifted with relative ease compared to the first, though the noise from the nails being torn from the same position they’d occupied for years was none the less turgid in its volume or exaggeration.
Within minutes, Denny had cleared the base of the room from all the floorboards at its centre. A few boards, the opposite ends of which extended into the areas beneath the base of the adjoining walls and therefore could not be extricated easily, remained in place. But the main body of the room was now floor-less.
The wood of the supporting cross-beams showed glimpses of white, clean oak where its surface, dusty and dark, had been torn from it. A few nails, their lengths misshapen by the violent wrenching of the boards they previously held in place, remained. Denny grabbed his hook-hammer from the tool-box in the corridor and set about either removing them, tossing them onto the dirt that lay a foot beneath the beams, or straightening those which had no head to offer grip to the hammer’s hook-end before hammering them fully into the wood.
Denny wiped the sweat from his brow. Although he’d only been working in the room for an hour, the exertion he’d made had been more than he’d expected. He moved the loose boards into the hallway before adjourning to the kitchen and drinking two full pints of water to refresh himself.
Whilst at the kitchen sink, he looked out of the window and was reminded of further tools required to complete the job. His pitchfork stood at an angle against the fence that separated his property from the one beside it, its prongs half-in and half-out of the ground. His shovel, its plate rusted and the fastening which held it in place against the rod of the handle loose to the point that it barely held the shovel’s blade in place, was discarded on the nearby path.
He entered the garden, cursing at the broken lock on the back door which hindered his smooth exit of the kitchen. He picked up the spade and pitch-fork, surveyed the extent of the damage to the shovel and returned to the house.
Back inside, Denny set about making a repair to the shovel. He nailed the metal cone that extended from the plate of the shovel’s blade to the rod of the handle from various angles to strengthen it as best he could. It was a makeshift repair at best though he hoped it would last for the task he intended for it.
Next, he took a saw from the tool-box. He’d tried to look after the saw by placing its slip-sleeve over it to protect the teeth from the elements but some showed some signs of rust on their pointed edges. He used the base of a candle to rub wax onto the sides of the saw, a trick he’d seen someone use to enable the saw to operate more smoothly. The plastic handle was solid and he was glad of the investment he’d made in not purchasing the cheapest one when he’d bought it many years before.
He returned to the room and set about removing the joists. Sitting on the remaining portions of floorboards, his legs either side of a joist, he started to saw across the end as close to the edge of the hole he’d made in removing the floorboards. The angle at which he was forced to hold the saw and cut across his body caused him discomfort and he would soon shift to being on just one side of the joist, his feet upon the earth beneath, bent over and sawing as hard and fast as he could to cut through the first support.
When he finally broke through one end of the joist, the pressure upon it was released as it dangled deeper into the hole, there was an audible groaning sound. Denny put this down to the building or wall shifting slightly because of the removal of the support. He set about cutting into the other end of the joist, which gave easily once he was half-way through, its weight assisting in it splintering and coming away from the portion that disappeared beneath the boards.
The sawing was hard work. It would be a further two hours before all the joists were removed and all that was left was a gaping hole in the middle of the room. The house continued to moan after each joist came away from its position but Denny paid it no heed.
Denny took a break, refreshing himself with water both in drink and by splashing upon his face and neck to clear the sweat which had accumulated around his collar. He stood at the kitchen sink, looking out into the garden and observed a black cat nonchalantly strolling across his lawn. He knew it was likely the cat would defecate in his flower-beds and ordinarily he’d have tapped on the window to frighten the feline off but the exhaustion of the previous few hours and the meaningless result of the action persuaded him to let the animal be.
Arranging the floorboards across the lounge carpet, Denny determined the sitting room was the best place to work on the next phase of his exit of this world.
He took each floorboard and sawed it in half. Then, he took two of the halves he’d created and cut them in half also. Using nails procured from his tool-box, and the hammer he’d utilised earlier, he assembled two three-sided boxes using the resized floorboards. Though rough in design, they would be functional for what Denny intended them for. The opening at one end of the length and the top would facilitate the storage and flow for the earth he would remove from the hole.
Back in the room, he took three of the joists and nailed them together at one end in a triangular arrangement, like that of an Indian tepee tent frame. He placed each of the frames, on the remaining portions of floor, at either end of the room. They each stood about five foot high.
Denny returned to the lounge and grabbed one of the three-sided boxes he’d assembled earlier and re-entered the room he was in the process of destroying. He stood thinking for a short time, trying to work out how he was going to achieve that which he wanted to in design.
He placed the three-sided box upon the top of the triangular frame at the far end of the room, supporting it with his hands as he worked out what he needed to hold it in place. It needed to be held securely but also needed to be moveable when the time was right. He lifted the box from its position and grabbed hold of one of the spare joists. He returned the box to the top of the frame and nestled the joist under the open end of the box. Whilst it stood in place, whenever Denny moved the vibration caused the support to fail and the box and joist tumbled to the floor.
There was something else he needed. He left the room, ran upstairs, entered the master bedroom and pulled open the curtains. He removed the net curtains that sat between them and the glass of the window, unhooking the wire from the eyelet fastenings in the window frame. He pulled the wire that ran through the top of the net fabric taking care not to damage the hooks at either end and discarded the netting material. He went to the bedroom at the rear of the property and retrieved the wire from the net curtains there also.
Back in the room, he hooked one end of one of the wires to a nail he’d embedded in the base at the opening of the box. He ran the wire up and over the rear of the box, and placed the box on the top of the tepee frame. After moving it back and forth, he found he could hold the box in place using the tension of the wire alone. He secured the other end of the wire to a headless nail in the lower part of one of the struts of the frame itself. The weight and tension seemed to make it even more secure. He grabbed the second box and repeated the process for it with the other frame. There was a gap, between the bottom of both boxes, of around a foot, but the bizarre assembly was in place and ready for the next phase.
Denny procured a bowl from the kitchen and retrieved the shovel and pitchfork and began to loosen the soil in the hole. The dirt was dry and barren and came apart easily under the prongs of the tool. After loosening around half of the surface, he took the shovel and began carefully scooping up the loose earth into the bowl. The earlier repairs to the shovel held up.
When the bowl was full, he carefully exited the hole and stood, his legs wide across the opening, in front of the box and frame at the far end of the room. He lifted the bowl carefully and began pouring earth into it slowly. He watched the wire supporting it, to be sure of no movement that would cause the structure to come crashing down. Within a few moments, the bowl was empty, its previous contents in the open-ended box. The frame was holding and the box hadn’t moved. It was all working as it should.
He repeated the back-breaking work until the box being held aloft was full, then moved to the opposite end of the hole to dig, loosen and place the soil within it into the other box.
When both boxes were full, the hole was an impressive depth. Denny had managed to remove a few feet of earth which was now suspended above him.
He gingerly left the hole, being sure to not cause any vibration to upset the delicate structure before he was ready for his coup de grâce.
He returned moments later having washed his hands and face, and dressed in a shirt and tie and carrying a sleeping bag and ball of twine.
Again, he entered the hole being careful not to disturb anything aloft. He laid the sleeping bag in the bottom of the hole, unzipping the long edge and pulling open the entrance as wide as the hole would permit.
Taking the twine, he wound one end of it cautiously through and around the hooks of the wires that were attached to the strut of each tepee frame. He ran out the string as he knelt within the hole, placing it to one side as he slipped himself into the sleeping bag. He reached down to pull the zip up, so only his head, shoulders and arms were exposed. He lay in the bottom of the hole and took hold of the ball of twine, pulling in any slack.
Denny lay there for a moment, his eyes studying the work he’d completed from a new angle. He felt proud of his achievement. He smiled and pulled the ball of twine upwards as hard as he could, closing his eyes with the effort to do so.
He heard the ping of each of the hooks releasing themselves from the nails that previously held them in place. There was a moment thereafter where nothing happened. He opened his eyes. The weight of the soil seemed to be holding the boxes in place. But this was only a fleeting reprieve. Slowly, deliberately, the weight in each box overcoming the fulcrum of its position, the boxes fell open-end first, releasing their cargo of soil, and then themselves, into the hole and onto Denny. He gasped at the sudden weight that was thrust upon him, the air being forced from him as he was winded then smothered by the falling dirt.
He tried to grab air with his open mouth but the falling dirt fell into it choking him. He felt his saliva mix with it, turning it into a congealed mud that only served to suffocate him further as the grainy and sour-tasting viscous fluid was forced into his throat.
Panic and survival instinct kicked in and he tried to lift himself. The soil held him firmly in place. He felt his chest being crushed beneath the weight of it and, with each gasp, it fell further until it was compressed and could expand no more. His eyes stung with the acidity of the dirt that fell into and upon them and, as life left him, a stark whiteness replaced the dim darkness he recalled of the room which now imprisoned him.
David E. Gates has published several books and short-stories. He recently won the SILVER prize in the AuthorsDB 2016 Cover Contest for The Ghost of Clothes and won best HORROR Novel Logline for 2016 for The Roots of Evil. His poem, Terminators, was selected for promotion by the Festival for Poetry in 2017.
He has previously won first prize (Gold) for The Roots of Evil and third prize (Bronze) for Access Denied in the 2015 AuthorsDB Cover Contest, and has made a film about the battlefield memorials in Ypres, Belgium called Ypres – The Battlefield Tours (available at ).
David has previously written film reviews for Starburst and Samhain magazines and interviewed the likes of Clive Barker, Terry Pratchett, James Herbert and many others. He has also written a number of short stories, a full-length motion picture screenplay, the screenplay to a short film and in his spare time hosts a rock radio show.
“The self-publishing phenomenon enabled me to publish my first book, Access Denied, at the end of 2013. It’s a true story. A deeply personal and heart-wrenching account of my becoming a father and then finding out several years later that my daughter wasn’t mine.”
David’s story and the effect this had on him, his family and loved ones is moving and tragic and is already getting great feedback. With 100% positive reviews Access Denied is, as one reader put it, “A well told, quite extraordinary true story that stays with you. A must read for both men and women alike.”
Access Denied is available in all formats from all good online bookstores.
“Since then, I’ve published my first horror novel, The Roots of Evil – a graphic, violent, intense and gore-laden horror story. Quite different from my first book.”
The original short-stories, one a branch “off” of The Roots of Evil trilogy, called The Ghost of Clothes and another called The Christmas Carol are available from online bookstores.
David previously won a competition to write the second part of a short horror story, called Savages. The first and last parts were written by the famous horror writer Shaun Hutson and are hosted on Shaun’s website. David is also working on two sequels to his first horror novel.
“In July 2015, I published a selection of travelogues called Omonolidee (I’m on Holiday). It’s a unique, funny and (very) candid collection of my experiences when I travelled to Florida, Egypt, Tenerife and other places.”
David’s third book, Omonolidee (I’m on Holiday) – is already receiving great reviews. Omonolidee (I’m on Holiday) is available in three different versions, Full Colour Illustrated and Black and White Illustrated & Text-Only versions via all good online bookstores.
“Back in October 2014, my poem, Remembrance, inspired by the thoughts I had during the 100th year anniversary of the start of World War I, was read aloud in front of an audience at the Museum of the Royal Navy. The video of this was subsequently displayed on the big screen in the Guildhall Square. I was invited to read it again in front of a specially-invited audience later in the year. The film I made in 2011, Ypres – The Battlefields Tours, was also selected for screening at a film festival in Portsmouth and my World War I poems are on display at the World War I Remembrance Centre at Fort Widley on Portsdown Hill near Portsmouth.”
“I’m currently working on a full-length novel called The Climbing Frame, publishing a movie script, producing a short film, developing the sequels to The Roots of Evil and am putting together another collection of short stories and poems.”
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The Roots of Evil
The Ghost of Clothes
The Christmas Carol
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