The Indie Collaboration Presents
Tales from Even Darker Places
16^th^ November 2016
Edited by Chris P. Raven
Copyright retained by the Authors
Cover Art by Book Birdy Designs
The Indie Collaboration grew out of a group of independent authors who decided to show the world how great works of fiction can be, without the involvement of any large publishing companies, by creating a direct channel between themselves and their readers. Each author in this anthology has freely donated their time and work and are committed to the Indie Collaboration’s cause:
“We offer the best of indie writing in bite size pieces and wherever possible, for free.”
We hope you enjoy our books.
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Guardians by Ray Foster
On The Right Side by Dani J Caile
Theatre of the Macabre By Chris Raven
One Rainy Night by Priya Bhardwaj
The Class of Miss Griselda Sparrow by Chris Raven
The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Dee
The Night Surely Can’t Last by Chris Raven
About The Authors
Other Publications by The Indie Collaboration
By Ray Foster
1, Final Entry of the journal of Gladys Atkins
My time is done.
The mask is slowly peeling away.
None shall believe that a woman born in 1844 could have endured through two world wars but the words in this journal are true.
In reality my life came to an end in 1914, just two months before the outbreak of the First World War. That was when George came to me; he held, softly, my hand in his as he explained to me what will be.
When God cast out Lucifer and his followers He did not leave our world to be ruled by evil. He sent angels to stand guard over us.
For us we are trapped…our lives balanced…. neither good nor evil. Decisions made with right intentions but for the wrong reasons. Sometimes vice versa. Lives not perfect…yet is so.
When I ran away from the child who had been crushed beneath the wheels of a coal wagon it was easy to blame the fog. To say that I had not seen the accident was far easier. I convinced myself that it had never happened; shut it away whereas in truth I had no idea what to do.
The 14-18 war changed all that. I served in France as a nurse, a career that I followed through with and ending up as a Matron, a promotion that came as a result of the Second World War’s London Blitz.
But my new life began on the brutal battlefields of that horrendous war when the flower of British youth was decimated amidst the poppies and mud of Flanders’ Fields,
It was there within the sounds of distant artillery fire that I tended a young man with wounds to both his legs. He was worried that he might lose them. He told me that his grandfather had lost both his legs when he had fallen beneath the wheels of a coal wagon – I looked into his eyes as the memory rushed back. Again, I wanted to run but I could not for I had a duty to perform. The young man did not lose his legs or his life but went on to enjoy a full life as a shoemaker as his father and grandfather had done before him.
Now, as I look into the mirror I see the woman I once was. The wrinkles have returned and my eyesight is fading. The arthritis has returned and age is beginning to weary me. Yet, I remember the lives I saved and the evil I destroyed. In this day and age, we would be ranked amongst the superheroes.
I look down and reach out to touch the hand of the man stretched out on the marble slab. He takes a deep breath; tears spill from eyes that open and stare at me. A question begins to form on his lips, but I touch his mouth with a slender finger and quieten him.
There is still time for me to explain what is happening…. what is expected of him.
He rises from the slab, legs sliding over to the ground. The grey hair and beard begin to fade; the stooped form straightens until a young man stands in his place. In his mind he is seventy odd but there is still a shock to come when he first comes face to face with himself. I lead him away from the mirror. I am envious, if I had only been allowed my youth for just a while longer; I cannot stop myself from gazing upon his naked body. Still I had the forethought (as George had for me) to bring some clothes upon which he looked with some disgust. I had only brought attire that was the current fashion but he just looked kind of ghostly as he put on the grey hoodie and jogging bottoms.
It is time to go.
My final entry is done.
The story belongs to him now.
2, The New Journal Starts
My name is Nick Ingram.
I was born in North London – North Finchley to be exact – in 1944.
Today is February 6th 2016.
I am sitting by the pond, staring to my right to where the bog should be. When I was a kid it had been a muddy marsh which we were told was dangerous because the mud could suck you down like quicksand. We kids knew different for we waded ankle deep in the mud looking for toads, frogs and newts. No one ever disappeared in that bog nor did anyone have to be rescued. Now it was all grassed over – and I’m thinking what a waste.
I often come here because the Sandpits (as the park was known) is one of my favourite places. This is where my life began….and has again and with it comes a wonderful world of memories.
I trained as a brickie and worked my way up. Had my own building firm and retired at the right time so lost nothing in the recession. My sons took over the business and found ways and means to keep their heads above water.
I wonder what they would think if they could see me now. I’m younger than the youngest and two years older than my eldest granddaughter.
It’s crazy – Gladys explained everything that I needed to know about this ‘born again’ experience. I can’t fathom it out why I was chosen but here I am getting a second chance.
In truth, I moved away from here many years ago. It was, I believed, for the best as I could not live with the memories of my first wife.
As children we had lived in different parts of Finchley – she in Ingleway and me in a cramped flat in Limes Avenue. Distance didn’t bother us then for I would always see Maggie whenever I visited my grandparents. Sometimes I would stay over and we would talk to each other through our respective bedroom windows. People would walk by and smile as they spotted our heads poking out.
There was two years between us and, although I was about seven when we first met, it was not unusual for me to walk through the High Street to my grandparents. How safe the streets seemed to be in those days compared to now.
Yes, they were good times when we played in the street games like ‘What’s The Time Mr Wolf?’ and ‘Simon Says’.
Fond memories of a time that was.
I went to see Maggie – or rather her grave in Hendon Cemetery. I stood there thinking about the way that I had neglected her. I laid my hand on the headstone and knelt down to read the inscription but I was distracted by a restless feeling as a fresh wave of guilt encompassed me. I wanted to say ‘sorry’ – not for the decaying state of the grave – but for how young she had died.
I had a business to build and I worked all hours to ensure that our life together was secure. Meanwhile, Maggie ran with the old gang and I didn’t mind because my best friend, Terry Harvey, would look out for her.
Terry and I were of an age. We lived opposite each other, went to the same schools and were typecast as soldiers in the various school plays. As the years past so we graduated from bicycles to motorbikes but while I had just the one girlfriend it was Terry who played the field.
When Maggie died I moved away and, after a few years, met my second wife.
With the past left behind I was able to move on – or so I believed. The guilt of Maggie’s death and the reason for it still haunted me. I could have done more but I was trapped by the code that no one grassed up their friends.
Loneliness had made an addict out of Maggie and Terry had supplied whatever she needed until the day that she overdosed. The post-mortem revealed that she had taken something that had been doctored – and that her death had been just another caused by the same batch.
The police interviewed me to discover what I knew but I knew nothing. Even so I did confront Terry who said he was sorry before turning everything on me. If I had been around; if I had paid her more attention, then Maggie would not have needed drugs to keep her going.
It was my fault and the guilt that I felt allowed a killer to go free.
Terry Harvey, today, is a wealthy man. He built an empire out of drugs, property, prostitution – in fact, you name it Terry has been involved. The police have tried to bring him down but failed for one reason or another. Witness intimidation wasn’t ruled out; jury tampering was suspected but not proven.
He still lives in Finchley closer to Totteridge but within walking distance to both Brook Farm and the Sandpits. It is a replica of the house he owns in Spain so it is unusual for him to be here at this time of year. As it happens there are many events taking place this year like his granddaughter’s wedding, the christening of a great grandson and a celebration of his own seventy second birthday.
Of course there is the added attraction of his granddaughter’s friend, Gemma, who makes him feel so young. Gemma who will do anything – and I do mean anything – if it means that she will become the third Mrs. Harvey. She expects an announcement tonight.
These are the expectations as I ride a brand new Triumph motorbike through the high, impressive ornamental gates and up the paved driveway to park out front. A bouncer who, from the looks of him, spends a lot of time both in the gym and on steroids stands guard on the open front door.
Nothing changes, even as kids the front door to the Harvey home was always open for visitors who were, rarely, discouraged.
I walked straight in and, nearly, into the shapely Gemma who had two good reasons on show as why Terry was so attracted. She looked me up and down with impressed, interested eyes then with a wink and a promise she was gone.
Looking into the room from which she had emerged I saw Terry, looking a little flushed, as he sat behind a walnut, red leather topped desk.
“Still got it then, Tel,” I mentioned, closing the door behind me.
Startled he looked up: “No one calls me, Tel.” He thundered before he gained control as he tried to work out how I had invaded his territory. “How’d you get in here? Who let you in?”
“I just walked through the door, Tel,” I pointed out the obvious. “Mind you the feller at the front door looked like he was more interested in my bike than me.”
“ I told you -,” he said, angrily, thrusting a stabbing forefinger in my direction.
“No one calls you, Tel,” I acknowledged, picking up a chair that I set down to one side of the desk’s knee hole. I sat down, crossed my legs and stared at him. “By the way, Happy Birthday, mate.”
“Thank you,” it was an automatic response but the situation sobered him. “But you ain’t here to wish me any Happy Returns.”
I waved a finger at him: “You got me wrong there, Tel, my wishes are well-intentioned. It’s just that you and I need to settle some things.”
“What things?” he asked, suspiciously, while observing that both my hands were in plain view.
As he said that I spotted a framed set of school photographs on the wall. Slowly, I stood up to take a closer look. All our history was there from primary through to secondary school – St. John’s to Hillside.
“Takes you back don’t it Tel,” I reminisced without looking at him. “You were taught sewing in that first year – you did a Christmas doily for your mum. And cheese and potato pie – you’d be first in the queue for seconds. Empire Day – Tel – you remember Empire Day? All done up like an Indian in a turban and blacked up with brown boot polish.”
“ Don’t remind me -,” he blurted out. “Shit I went as the wrong type of Indian.” Then his face scrunched up. “How’d you know all this? Who the fuck are you?”
“I could tell you,” I said, softly. “I mean I could do that scene from ‘Once Upon a Time in The West’ – you know the one where Charles Bronson gives Henry Fonda the names of people that had died? But I won’t – so put your vanity to one side and get your glasses out of that centre drawer; put them on and focus.”
Bemused, Terry did as he was told but when he focused he went a very pale colour.
“O.K. Tel?” I asked, sitting down again.
“I – I think so,” he stumbled. “But you ain’t him – you ain’t Nick. You look like him but you can’t be him. He’s dead – there was a thing – an announcement. An announcement that he’d died. So who are you –his son? Grandson?”
I looked back up at the photographs and pointed to them. He followed my finger as comprehension began to dawn.
“No one saw you come in here, did they?” he had turned a whiter shade of pale; sweat began to sheen his skin as he clutched the edge of the desk with trembling hands.
“No,” I admitted. “Well, Gemma did – I think I’m on for a promise there.”
“Why?” he blurted out, as a numb pain crept up his arm and his head began to pound. “Why have you –“
“Maggie,” I told him, bluntly. “I should’ve shopped you. Maybe killed you for what you did to her. But no – I was loyal to my mate Tel. I let you go unpunished – moved away – but because of that others died.”
“So what now?” he gasped, clutching at his chest while the ghosts of those who had died at his hand rose around him. “You plan to kill me?”
His fear, at that moment, was palpable as he stared up at the faces that loomed in front of him. They crowded around, penning him in as the ghosts of his past began to haunt him. Tears stung his eyes and tried to look away as Maggie’s face came close to his watching as his life ebbed away.
I shook my head as the ghosts stepped back to watch a fiery portal open up to receive Terry’s black soul. As it disappeared so the ghosts began to depart until only Maggie and I were left.
No words passed between us – there was no need for them – the lifeless form of Terry Harvey slumped behind his desk was enough. As Maggie faded away I knew that she could now rest in peace.
© 2016 Ray Foster
On The Right Side
by Dani J Caile
Officer Bobby Simms smashed the door down and stormed into the unlit apartment in the rundown motel with his gun held in both hands. The suspect he’d been following led him here after zig-zagging through the streets for hours. After a moment of acclimatising himself to the dark, Simms saw a man sitting in an armchair next to an unkept bed in the tiny room. There was a small bathroom in the back, separated by a kicked in folding screen.
“Look who stopped by,” said the man, taking a puff from his cigarette. “It’s the man in blue.”
“You’re under arrest!” shouted Simms, pointing his gun at the man.
“Hey, hey, relax, Bobby,” he said. How did he know his name? “We’re old buddies, you and me. Don’t you remember? I used to bounce you on my knee.”
This man, suspected of holding up a local store a few hours ago, knew him? “How… how do you know my name?”
“Ah, you were only about two at the time, Bobby, when I knew your father, when anyone knew your father before he was given the death penalty,” said the man, half-hidden in his own smoke.
“What? What do you know about my father?” said Simms, lowering his gun slightly.
“What everyone knew. And more. What was it? Fifteen, the ‘official’ count?” asked the man. Simms’ father had murdered fifteen people in the state before being caught and convicted of his crimes. They gave him the electric chair. Simms was only three at the time. There was no mention of an accomplice.
“Fifteen, ha! There were more, a lot more. I never got my kicks from the killing, though, that was his thing. My fun was always the chase.” His cigarette glowed as he took down a large toke. “Like this one.”
“What? You robbed a store! I followed you,” said Simms, raising his gun once again.
“You followed me? Or did I bring you here?” There was a moment of silence until Simms’ radio clicked in. Back-up was coming. “You know, looking at you, Bobby, you did right,” said the man, stubbing out his cigarette on the side of his chair.
“How do you mean?” Who was this guy who knew his father? Or said he did?
“Well, they say a child is a mirror of their parents, both their good parts and bad, and the same mistakes happen again and again. But I think it’s the duty of every kid to realise that and overcome them.”
“Is that what you did? Robbing the local store? Helping my father out all those years ago?” asked Simms. He took a step and glanced over to the bathroom to see if they were alone. No movement. Nobody else was here.
“My father was a drunk. He beat the shit out of me until I could stand up on my own two feet and leave. But your father…ha! We’ve both moved on, hey, Bobby?” The man checked his cigarette packet, found it empty and threw it away amongst the rest of the trash littering the floor. “I’m out. Have you got any?”
“I don’t smoke.”
“Good for you, that’s the right thing to do, these things suck the life out of you.” The man looked Simms up and down. “Not exactly sharp, are you? But you’re a good man of society, I guess, not like your father. Is that why you joined the boys in blue, eh? To right the wrongs?” As he laughed, flem filled his lungs and he coughed it out onto the dog-haired carpet in front of him.
Sirens wailed outside as Simms back-up arrived, though they were still a block or two away. “I’ve got a proposition for you, Bob…” One squeeze of the trigger silenced the man, now with a hole in his chest. “Wha…? What did you do that for?” he said, falling back into the armchair in shock.
“Resisting arrest, I shot you while you were trying to escape,” said Simms, walking closer, gun raised.
“Resisting arrest? When was I…?” The man slumped down, blood began pouring across his faded Hawaiian T-shirt, awareness draining from his eyes. “Bobby, look…”
“You’re right, of course, whoever you are. I have learned from my father’s mistakes.” Simms smiled, but the man grimaced. “I’m on the right side of the law.” Another bullet to the head silenced his victim.
© 2016 Dani J Caile
Theatre of the Macabre
By Chris Raven
“Hold on! Hold on! I’m coming,” The Old Man complained as he slowly made his way down the dusty corridor towards the theatre’s side entrance. He had only just heard the frantic banging from his office, barely noticeable above the storm that raged outside, dancing a whistling waltz with the air raid sirens. “Keep your hair on won’t you,” he called out, “I’m coming as fast as I can.” He listened to the faint ‘booms’ and guessed they were coming from the docks. “Don’t panic, they’re miles off yet.”
He reached the side door, which rattled in its frame with every urgent knock, faint wisps of dust escaped from the cracks in its ancient wood.
“All right! All right! I’m here, aren’t I?” The Old Man pulled back the observation slot and peered out into the stormy night.
Two people looked up at him through the rain. An American army officer in a drenched and dishevelled uniform, early forties The Old Man guessed, and a young woman, about twenty years his junior, her blond wet rattails plastered to her face as she huddled under the American’s trench coat. ‘Bloody Yank,’ he thought as the soldier continued to pound the door with the side of his fist.
“For the love of God man, open this door,” the soldier yelled, angry and frustrated. The woman looked almost in tears as she stood there shivering.
“Alright, alright, I had to check who was there didn’t I,” The Old Man grumbled as he started pulling back the bolts.
“Please hurry,” The woman pleaded, an English accent, “I’m so cold and there’s an air raid and…” A quick glance at the soldier”… I’m pregnant.”
The Old Man showed his guests into a small dimly lit kitchen, the woman grateful and relieved, the man silent. He put the kettle on and turned to examine his guests. The soldier glanced around studying the room, a whimsical half smile appeared briefly on his face, reminding The Old Man of somebody from his past.
The woman took off the trench coat and looked around, not sure what to do with it. The Old Man noticed her swollen belly and dragged a wooden hard backed chair towards the paraffin heater, the room’s only source of heat.
“Drape it over that,” he told her and then invited her to sit in his old brown armchair. He watched her as she struggled to sit, her hair wet and damp around the shoulders of her navy-blue woollen maternity dress.
“I suppose I had better find you some towels,” he announced, adding that the kettle was on and they could help themselves to tea and the little sugar he had. “I have a bit of milk on the cold shelf upstairs,” he told them as he left the office, “I’ll bring it with me when I bring down the towels.”
The Old Man studied his unexpected guests as they sat beneath raggedy blankets around his old dented paraffin heater. Warming their hands around tin cups of strong sweet tea, they listened to the heavy booms of distant bombing accompanied by the fast falsetto of the Ack-Ack guns and the rhythmic swirls of the wind as the storm continued its performance.
“They’re really putting the docks through it,” the soldier observed. East coast and educated The Old Man assumed from the accent. No drawl at any rate, not a southerner.
“Aye,” he agreed, “giving them a right old pounding I’m sure. Which begs the question, what brings you out in all this?” The woman looked up and smiled.
“We are lost, aren’t we darling.” Her husband nodded and offered his hand.
“Victor Oswald,” The soldier introduced himself, “and this is my wife, Rita.” The Old Man wasn’t having any of it.
“You’re him,” he announced, his guests looked back inquiringly. “You might have changed your name,” The Old Man continued, but you’re still him, or you’re related to him.” The soldier began to protest but The Old Man interrupted him. “Been nigh on twenty-five years but I don’t forget a face, so what are you? His son?” The woman looked between him and her husband and then explained that this was her husband’s first trip to England and that he must be mistaken.
“Na!” The Old Man insisted, “It’s him alright or his offspring. Am I right?” The soldier looked apologetically at his wife and told The Old Man that he was.
“His father owned this theatre, back in the day,” The Old Man told her, who anxiously looked back and forth between the two men. “I worked for him, a younger man then of course but I stayed on after, as caretaker.”
“Victor?” The woman asked, “Do you know what he is talking about?”
“He knows,” The Old Man continued, “I take it you’ve come back for the plays.”
“You have them still?” The soldier asked excitedly and The Old Man nodded.
“Your father asked me to look after them, so I’ve looked after them.”
“Victor, I don’t understand,” the woman struggled to her feet, pushing herself up with one arm whist cradling her swollen belly with the other. Her husband ignored her as he greedily stared at The Old Man.
“Where are they?” He demanded.
The Old Man led his guests to a storeroom and showed them an old sealed tea chest covered by a large sheet of brown tarpaulin. He pulled the tarp off and levered open the chest’s lid with a heavy screwdriver.
“They’re all here,” The Old Man said as he took out the topmost manuscript, which like those bellow, was wrapped in wax paper. The Old Man carefully peeled it away. “I remember this one, ‘The Dead That Shamble.” The Old Man handed the script to the soldier and took another from the chest. “And here, another one,” he said excitedly tearing away at the wax paper, “The Electric Creature from the Ether.” He handed the second manuscript to the soldier, who was still staring in awe at the first.
“You kept them all?” He managed to stammer, “All this time?”
“Was the last thing your Father said to me before he buggered off to America,” The Old Man said proudly. The solder carefully handed the two plays to his wife and holding The Old Man firmly by his shoulders, he moved him aside and started to delve into the tea chest himself.
The Old Man and the woman returned to his room for more tea and a warm up. The soldier remained in the cupboard, almost trance like, as he pulled play after play from the ancient tea chest. The woman was frightened and upset, the distant sound of bombing had grown louder and as far as her husband was concerned, she no longer existed. He just passed her script after script as he searched through the chest, her tears merely annoying him. The Old Man had thought it best to lead the woman away.
The soldier had obviously not told her anything, so he tried to explain it himself. He thought it might help her to make sense of what was happening and maybe even distract her from the growing sound of the air raid.
“Your husband’s father owned this theatre,” he told her, once she had settled back into his comfy chair, half a dozen play scripts on her lap and a fresh cuppa in her hands. “His family still does,” he continued. “It’s held in trust by a legal firm here in the city and managed by Lauren Buildings and Security, which is also owned by his family. It’s them who employ me as caretaker.”
The Old Man told her that it had all been set up about twenty-five years ago, when her husband’s father had set off to tutor at an American University. “I open it up now and then,” he explained, “when there’s some do or other. It doesn’t happen often. We had the Combined Services Entertainment lot in here last week.”
“My husband owns this theatre?” The woman quietly asked and The Old Man told her that in a way, he did.
“This theatre was a going concern once,” he told her. “I got my first job here working back stage, a young man then, around the turn of the century. I’ve worked here ever since.” He told her about the theatre in its heyday, when it had the kind of following film stars have today, when it was famous for staging gothic plays of horror and suspense.
“Your husband’s father, Victor Coldwell,” The Old Man continued, “he was a notorious occultist and he claimed he could weave evil enchantments into the scripts he wrote and produced. ‘The Strange Dream-Quest of Trefor Brice’, ‘Melpomene’s Love’, ‘Trefor and the Amazon Queen’, all of them famous in their time, all billed as darkly occult and mystical.”
The woman looked down uneasily at the scripts laying on her lap.
“How did it all end?” she asked.
“He was pushed out by his enemies of course,” The Old Man explained, “someone like that? He had many of them.”
When the soldier returned to the kitchen he held a single manuscript rolled up in his hand saying he had found it. The final play, the one into which all the dark magical energy from the theatre, the power from all the dark magician’s previous works, had been channelled.
“All collected into one place and hidden,” the soldier explained, “safe from my enemies, most of them gone and forgotten now, like those idiots in The Order, only that fool Rooksley is left, and those other meddlers of course, Dunston and Vakovlev. With this city constantly blitzed, I had to come back, I couldn’t risk waiting, risk losing the source of my power under tons and tons of bricks and rubble. Besides, what can three old men do to me now?”
Something had changed, the yank’s energy, his excitement, how he spoke. There was something different. That’s it The Old Man thought, the soldier had lost his accent.
“You’re a Brit!” He accused, causing the woman to gasp and stare at her husband.
“Victor?” she stammered, “Your voice, I don’t understand.”
“Bugger being his son,” The Old Man said, “You’re him, you’re Victor Coldwell himself, returned from America and no older than the day he left.”
“Yes my old friend,” the soldier confirmed, ignoring his wife’s pleas. Coldwell had returned and the script in his hand was one component to a spell they had tried to cast together, so many times, so many years before.
“Welcome home master,” The Old Man said, bowing his head. The soldier laughed and affectionately patted him on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry my friend,” he assured him, “no need to be so formal, all those years in the states has left me quite the egalitarian.”
Victor Coldwell will always be my master, The Old Man thought as he listened to the soldier’s plans. It was no surprise, the plan was the same as it had always been, the same old obsession with immortality. The Master had learned, many years ago, how to use the salts and powders to extend his life, he had even claimed to have the power to bring himself back from the dead, but that had never been enough. Despite the long years, death still haunted him, chasing him down, ever threatening to take back the time he had stolen. The Master had tried to cast the spell before and despite his loyalty, The Old Man had always found the price very steep. The spell’s other component, the focus for its supernatural power, was life itself. To banish death, one must first fuel the spell with life. It had been the murders committed to that end that had drawn the attention of two amateur sleuths. The two meddlers who had forced the experiments to stop. They were getting nowhere at the time anyway, The Old Man remembered, The Master always blaming the lack of purity within their victims.
The woman screamed at a particularly loud explosion, the air raid was drawing much closer. Both men had momentarily forgotten all about her.
“We’ve not much time,” Coldwell told him, “tie her up.”
With The Master holding her down and using an old frayed rope from his tidy draw, The Old Man managed to tie the woman to one of the hard-backed chairs. She had struggled at first, finally succumbing to the superior strength of the two men. He guessed she also stopped struggling for fear of hurting her unborn child. She just sat there now, quietly sobbing, any fight having left her, washed away with her tears.
“That was the problem my old friend,” The Master shouted wildly above the noise outside, “it was the purity factor. I have had many years to think upon it, no one was ever quite pure enough for the spell to work.
“You said so at the time,” The Old Man shouted back over the sirens and explosions that competed with each other. He was scared now; the air raid was on top of them and they had left it too late to find a shelter. He suggested they go under the stage for greater protection but The Master ignored him.
“You are born and then you sin,” he continued to rant, it was the same rhetoric from twenty-five years ago, the result of countless kidnappings and failed sacrifices. “You enter this world hungry and selfish,” The Master continued.
Just like his master, The Old Man also had many years to think on all those sacrifices, the suffering the two of them had caused and he now understood them for what they were, nothing more than murders, pure and simple. They had justified them at the time, for knowledge and the supposed greater good, but they were murders never-the-less. He had almost felt relieved when Dunston and Vakovlev had started poking around, lead on no doubt by Rooksley, The Master’s arch-rival. Luckily, they never knew the part The Old Man had played in those grisly murders so many years ago, had overlooked him in their pursuit of Coldwell. Could he really do this all over again? Murder innocent people in the vain hope for immortality? But what choice did he have, The Master’s fate and his had been tied together for decades.
“So you see, it’s obvious,” The Master explained, “for the energy to be pure, we must sacrifice a preborn.”
“But Master,” The Old Man protested, slowly realising the horror of Coldwell’s plan, “That’ll mean killing your own child, won’t it?”
“Yes, my sacred blood flows through that unborn infant’s veins, just think how powerful that is. Both potency and purity, my friend, how can we fail? Not this time.”
The Old Man looked at the woman, who was beyond any sense now, oblivious to the fate that awaited her and her child.
“Right then,” The Old Man sighed, resigned to what must be done, “but before we kill her, I think we should have one more cup of tea.”
The Old Man took the heavy water laden kettle from the hob and started towards the sink, ignoring his master’s incredulous look.
“This really isn’t the time for…” Coldwell began to protest, but was suddenly struck dumb as The Old Man swung the heavy brass kettle around at arm’s length, striking his Master across the side of his head with a satisfying thwack. Coldwell’s legs buckled beneath him and he dropped unconscious to the now soaking wet floor. The Old Man, now drenched in tepid water, quickly set to work untying the woman.
“Listen,” he said urgently, “you need to get out of here before your husband wakes up.” She didn’t seem to hear him, she just looked into space, but was gratefully no longer crying. The Old Man slapped her hard across the face, making her jump. Blinking, she started to focus as The Old Man awkwardly crouched down beside her. She slowly raised a hand to her cheek to touch the read welt that was forming there.
“Listen,” The Old Man repeated, “you must get up. You have to go.” He started pulling her to her feet. “Take your chances in the air raid,” he advised, “your husband plans to kill you.” Her frightened eyes darted to her husband lying on the floor and widened still, when he let out a long deep groan. The Old Man quickly supported her to step over his prone body, warning her to mind the wet floor. Coldwell groaned again, his eyes flickering open. As the woman froze in shock, The Old Man quickly took one of the high-backed chairs and pinned Coldwell to the floor with it, wedging his thin body between the wooden legs. Coldwell grimaced in pain as The Old Man sat heavily down upon it. The Old Man’s eyes met the woman’s as Coldwell started to weakly writhe. As the chair rocked with Coldwell’s growing struggles. Fear welling up from his stomach, The Old Man warned her that he wouldn’t be able to hold her husband down for much longer.
“Run!” He screamed.
The Limehill Chronical
23rd February 1944
A concentrated air raid all but completely destroyed the Limehill business district last night, with high explosive and incendiary bombs disrupting gas and water supplies and starting several fires. Damaged buildings include the famous Limehill Repertory Theatre, which was razed to the ground with two unfortunate fatalities, the theatre’s caretaker and a United States Army Captain, Victor Oswald. Captain Oswald was sheltering in the theatre with his wife Rita. Mrs Oswald, a British citizen, told our reporter that the caretaker, an elderly local man, had fallen while assisting her from the building. Mrs Oswald, who was expecting a baby at the time, told us that her husband had returned to the theatre for the care taker after leaving her sheltering on the stairs of the gentleman’s convenience on Leaver Street. Just seconds later the building received a direct hit from a high explosive bomb which collapsed the ceiling and most of the upper walls. No bodies were recovered. Mrs Oswald has since given birth to a healthy son, one month premature.
© 2016 Chris Raven
One Rainy Night
By Priya Bhardwaj
I wake up to a loud thunder instantly shaking wondering what had happened, looking around I notice something shining in a distance looking familiar. I gather my thoughts and open my eyes properly to see it’s my table lamp.
I hear a loud thunder again followed by heavy rain and wild wind; it almost feels like a thunder storm. I get off my bed to grab a glass of water as I am walking towards my kitchen; I hear a loud bang on my front door. I rule that as just something random and continue walking towards my kitchen. I walk towards the fridge to grab a chilled bottle of water. Opening the fridge door, I grab a bottle and start walking back to my room as I hear a second bang on my door and this time it was louder than the last. Getting a little nervous, I look at the wall clock right above the fridge; I can hardly make out what time it but somehow manage to see its 1am. I choose to ignore the bang again thinking if it was someone looking for me they would rather call my name than bang the door. Ignoring, I continue walking towards my bed room and as I am about to enter I hear someone knock on my front door 4 times straight loudly and rushed.
Scared and nervous wondering who could it be at this time of the night, I start walking towards my front door. As I am far enough with a weak voice I ask – who is it?
I hear no one reply to my question. I ask once again but this time with a loud and strong voice – WHO IS IT?
Hearing nothing makes me more nervous and I start contemplating if I should open the door this late at night?
Would it be wise?
What if someone was waiting for me to open the door?
With every passing minute of having no response I start to panic a little more. I gather my voice again to ask for the last time if someone was indeed standing outside.
“Is someone outside??”
I don’t get any response; nervously I head towards the side table near the front door and open the second drawer in the hope to find some candles.
It is pitch dark and I cannot see anything so I try and turn the lights in the room on but to my surprise there is no power. The fish tank in the room seems to be working fine as it lit the two gold fishes that were given to me by my grandmother.
With the limited light of the fish tank I try and find some candles in the drawers again but have no luck. I check the third drawer and find a torch. I switch the torch on and start walking towards the door to see what is causing the sudden door bangs and knocks.
As I unlock the door, the moonlight fills the rooms for a second or two before the dark clouds take over. I start walking outside the door flashing the torch to the right and then to the left to see if some is hiding away but there is no one around. I walk towards the balcony to see if there could be someone standing or walking out the ground floor.
As I see no one, my heart starts to beat a little faster and I start doubting what I could have assumed a knock or a bang could actually be the wind or a thunder?
Putting my thoughts to rest I raise my hand reaching outside for the clear sky to feel the rain and to my absolute shock the sky is clear and there isn’t a single drop of water on the floor or anything dripping from the rooftop.
I am pretty sure I heard heavy rainfall before I opened the door but as I look around and on the floor or at the sky – there is nothing. NOTHING.
I suddenly have chills running all over my body and a sense of fear starts kicking in. What is going on? I ask myself confused. Am I hearing things? This cannot be possible.
I am so sure I heard heavy rains, thunder storms and wind.
This is not real, this cannot be happening. Lost in my thoughts confused and scared I quickly walk inside my house properly locking the doors as quickly as I can.
As I start to walk away from the door I hear footsteps outside the door again and really faint noises as if someone was whispering. Confused and Scared I shout once again asking “WHO IS OUTSIDE? WHOSOEVER IT IS, IT IS REALLY NOT FUNNY!”
I get no response to my questions scared and worried I slap myself to see if I am dreaming but I am not.
Panicking, I walk to my room locking the doors; I go to the windows in my room making sure they are locked too. I sit down on my bed taking a deep breath to make sense of what was going on?
I get up from my bed to switch my rooms lights on but as I press the light switch nothing changes. It’s still dark and there is no power in my room. The table lamp in the room was still on but there was no power otherwise.
I started getting an unsettling feeling that something was really wrong and something bad is going to happen.
Pushing my slippers aside and putting the torch next to my bed I quickly jump back in bed and pull my quilt over my head.
As I stretch my legs under my quits, it feels like the sheet on the lower half of the bed is wet and it’s sticky.
At first I thought it could be something I stepped in the dark but when I move my legs around it appears as if the entire lower half of the bed sheet is wet.
Without wasting a second, I pick up my torch switching it on and flashing it towards the bottom of the sheet to see if the bed was really wet or could I just be feeling something that wasn’t there all over again.
As I flashed the light on the lower half of the bed sheet I notice my legs, feet and sheet covered with blood. I freak out at this point and jump right out my bed.
I instantly start feeling short of breath and I get a really bad feeling of something choking me. This is so insane there is no one in the room and I cannot explain what is happening to me.
I try and scream for help but nothing comes out of my mouth. My panic and fear takes over me as I frantically try and get out of the grip of whatever was trying to choke me.
I am shivering and shaking frantically as I slid down the bed trying to grasp for air and trying to make sense of what is going on. I couldn’t do either and all I could feel was something with a tight grip holding on to my neck and squeezing it.
Everything went silent, still and cold as I lost my vision.
I was woken up by a loud ring, I looked at my phone and I had missed a call from my friend with no intentions to call her back. I check what time it was.
It was just after 11am. I placed my phone down on the side table and sat up on my bed.
As I was trying to gather my thoughts it hits me – Wait!
Did something happen last night? Or Was I dreaming?
The last thing I remember was sitting across my bed on the floor when someone was trying to suck all the air out of my body.
How did I get back on the bed?
This was all so confusing, I looked at my side table and my torch light was resting right next to my phone. If this was all a dream how did the torch get here?
Struggling to find answers to what had happened was becoming difficult by every passing minute. As I walked into my bathroom and turned looking into the mirror – I instantly notice a couple big red marks on my neck. It hits me then, I felt like someone was trying to choke me in my dream, if that was a dream how the hell did I get these marks on my neck?
Having no answers to the what could have happened last night, I get dressed and pack a little carry bag to stay with my friend only to comeback when I could make a sense of everything.
This is a true incident, I cannot figure out what had happened to me that night. I saw several witch doctors and priests and all they could tell me was that something bad was following me. I never went back to that apartment and I got my friends to help me get packed and moved to a new place. I haven’t had any other incidents since that night.
© 2016 Priya Bhardwaj
The Class of Miss Griselda Sparrow
By Chris Raven
Griselda Sparrow looked up from her book. The irritating bastards were still there, heads down in study. How the hell did she end up with this bunch of studious, well-behaved swots?
That was Penny Dumfries, the worst of the whole bloody bunch, red faced and excited, arm bolt upright, hand stretched wide. She was actually wiggling in her seat.
Miss Sparrow pulled her horn-rimmed glasses down along her thin, slightly crooked nose and stared at the irksome little schoolgirl before sighing, “what is it dear?”
“I have the answer Miss.”
“Of course you do dear.”
Griselda Sparrow missed her old school, a rundown inner-city comprehensive. Granted, the kids were rude, unruly and rebellious, but they were also challenging and most of all, they were interesting.
“Do you want to hear my answer miss?”
“Yes dear, if you like.”
Griselda had transferred to Limehill Grammar about two months earlier. A move she soon learnt to regret as the weeks stretched laboriously on into months. Had she really needed that pay rise? Not really, her needs had always been quite simple, but after the incident with that poor unfortunate pupil four months earlier, she had felt it was as good a time as any to move on.
She remembered the interview she had with the grammar school’s head, a tall scrawny looking man who reminded her of dust. He had been particularly impressed by her views on discipline, and when she started at the new school, he had given her the most troublesome class to work with. They were considered a big problem at the time, a handful of gifted but difficult students, who had run rings around their former teachers. Pah! Look at them now, sitting quietly, eyes down, fixed on their work. It hadn’t taken her long at all to lick them into shape. That was something she regretted now, she should have taken more time and savoured the process more, but she was keen to impress her new head. Too late now.
Griselda listened to Penny’s perfect, if dull, analysis of the problem she had set the class.
“Very good dear,” she told her when she had finished and slid her glasses back up her nose If only one of them would speak out of place, she thought, lie, shout, laugh even, anything to break this monotony of good behaviour and endless perfect scores. She had done her job far too well.
Griselda glanced at her class, a sea of heads, all silent, all looking doggedly down. All that is, apart from Penny Dumfries. She seemed blissfully unaware of being the only student in class who ever dared draw attention to herself. She chose to ignore Thomas Bradshaw’s hissed whisper from behind her, urgently telling her to look down. It was unusually brave of Thomas, so it amused her. Unfortunately, Penny hadn’t done anything to warrant discipline yet, but that was only a matter of time.
Griselda thought again about her useless colleagues back at the comprehensive. She had no doubt whatsoever that they had celebrated after she had left. They would have been both relived and jealous about her new job, especially in view of the ‘incident’. It had been all over the local newspapers for weeks, it even hit the nationals briefly. The local community spent days searching, there were televised appeals, a reconstruction and the teachers and pupils were questioned again and again by the police. And yet, they never did find that poor missing child. Any one of her old colleagues would have been over the moon to have taken her place and get some distance themselves from the depressive cloud of fear and rumour that now hung over that particular failing school.
They’re all welcome to this job, Griselda thought, the whole bloody bunch of them. Not one, she suspected, had been the slightest bit sorry to see her go and that didn’t bother her at all. She knew she was difficult to get on with, stern and abrupt to the point of rudeness, and this didn’t bother her either. Despite her sixty plus years, she was still a formidable woman, with an unnerving presence in her dark old-fashioned dresses, tattoos sometimes just visible beneath the cuffs, and a trademark stare that could unsettle a bear. It had caused many a child and more than one teacher, to breakdown in tears. She was rumoured to own over twenty stay cats, which was not quite true, as she only had the one black one.
Miss Sparrow held Penny in her gaze for a long time and was still looking at her when she nervously looked up again. Seeing Miss Sparrow still staring at her, Penny gave a short almost inaudible squeal and quickly looked back down again. At last, she’s finally getting it. The rest of the class looked at Penny in horror and quickly returned to their work. Griselda’s gaze panned the room once again. Nope, they never did find that missing child did they, what a shame. They never will of course, she thought as her eyes drifted back to Penny again. She should really learn to keep her head down, she thought, licking her lips, thinking about it all again has made me feel quite hungry.
© 2016 Chris Raven
The Birds in the Sky
By Charlie Dee
The birds in the sky, the wisp in the wind,
Awakens the man, in fear of his sin.
He lays in the mud, his hands are clenched tight,
In sorrow and grief, his last tragic night.
Knows he won’t make it, he has to be quick,
How should he do it, a stone or a stick.
He cries and he weeps, has he become mad?
Wife with no husband, a boy with no dad.
What would they say, when they lay him to rest?
A diamond geezer, was one of the best?
Life of the party, a man about town,
His job and family now lay on the ground.
Fell to bad business, ill fate and trouble,
Karma hits hard, but so does a shovel.
Along comes a man, he screams at the sight,
A man has lain dead for more than a night.
Spots something shining, among the dead leaves,
A knife blunt and rusty, his little boy grieves.
A knife in his chest, words carved on his skin,
Regrets run so deep, now that I have sinned.
© 2016 Charlie Dee
The Night Surely Can’t Last
By Chris Raven
Left in the dark, the night surely can’t last,
The shrieking wind and wet footsteps since dusk,
Fear stalks my thoughts, is my fate really cast?
The floorboards creak, I can smell decay’s musk.
The shrieking wind and wet footsteps since dusk,
The night is long, and darkness cold and stark,
The floorboards creak, I can smell that sweet musk,
I strain my eyes, staring deep in the dark.
The night is long, and darkness cold and stark,
My hunter stalks me through old mouldered halls,
I strain my eyes and stare deep in the dark,
Hearing claws scratch along old panelled walls.
My hunter stalks me through old mouldered halls,
This beast is ancient, or so I ‘ve been told,
I hear its claw scratch along panelled walls,
And catch a glimpse of its eyes, dead and cold.
The beast is brutal, or so I ‘ve been told,
Panic wells up as I stifle cold fear,
Catching a glimpse of its eyes, dead and cold,
There in the dark, as it creeps ever near.
Panic wells up as I stifle cold fear,
It comes this night, which may well be my last,
Here in the dark, it creeps on ever near,
shuffling towards me, my fate’s surely cast.
© 2016 Chris Raven
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Dani J Caile
I was born in North Finchley and the places mentioned in this story are real. Back then both boys and girls were taught, in the first year of school, how to sew and embroider. Usually napkins but at Christmas it would be doily’s. So this piece of fiction is laced with a touch of autobiography.
Dani J Caile
After a lifetime of reading clones and a decade of proofreading coffee table books, Dani J Caile began writing in 2011 and has written many books, including ‘Man by a tree’, ‘The Bethlehem Fiasco’, ‘The Rage of Atlantis’, the infamous ‘Manna-X’ and his latest ‘How to Build a Castle in Seven Easy Steps’, published by Line by Lion Publications.
He has also self-published many short story compilations on Shakespir.com called ‘Dani’s Shorts’ available for free and based on the 500 word weekly Iron Writer Challenge, and some of his work can be found in other anthologies, such as ‘Circuits & Steam’, and publications from the Indie Collaboration. When not writing, teaching English and proofreading, he is busy with his loving and long-suffering family.
Chris Raven was born in South London just over 50 years ago. He originally started out in Theatre in the 1980s but he became side-tracked by health and social care, where he has made his living for the past 25 years or so. More recently he has found his way back to the creative arts by contributing a number of short stories to the Indie collaboration’s series of free anthologies.
He has also contributed illustrations to other author’s works and has been coordinating a shared writing project with other new writers called ‘Tall Stories’.
Priya is living and working in Auckland, New Zealand from last 4 years. She is originally from Haryana, India. She has previously been a Choreographer and a Dancer. Her love for writing started at the age of 16 when she first wrote a poem for her mother and her best friend.
Loves Listening to Music, Watching Movies, Reading and is a big tech geek. Despite having varied interests, she enjoys writing and dancing the most. She has previously written for University Magazines, Blogs, newspaper columns, journals and university newspaper, now wishes to write her solo novels.
Charlie Dee has been writing poetry and inventing strange worlds since she was 8 years old. She can also be found in The Indie Collaboration’s Snips, Snails and Puppy Dog Tales.
OTHER PUBLICATIONS BY
THE INDIE COLLABORATION
TALES FROM DARK PLACES: THE HALLOWEEN COLLECTION
A selection of chilling stories from some of the best indie authors on the market. We dare you to venture into these pages of spine chilling tales and stories of ghosts and goblins. Freely donated by the authors themselves, these dark passages are a great example of their various, unique styles and imaginations. This is the first of a series of free topical collections brought to you by The Indie Collaboration.
YULETIDE TALES: A FESTIVE COLLECTIVE
A diverse collection of stories showcasing some of the best indie authors on the market. Filled with heart-warming romance, mysterious humour, sinister, supernatural thrills and tearful sorrow, this anthology has something for everyone. So snuggle up with a warm glass of mulled wine and join us for the festivities, while we lift your spirit, tickle your fancy and rattle your bones.
KISS AND TALES: A ROMANTIC COLLECTION
Another collection of free original tales brought to you by The Indie Collaboration. This time we present a chocolate box selection of love stories. Some are romantic, some funny, some sad and some mysterious. Whatever the style, there will be a story in here that will melt even the most hardened of hearts.
SNIPS, SNAILS & PUPPY DOG TALES: A CHILDREN’S STORY COLLECTION
Another collection of free poems and stories brought to you by The Indie Collaboration. This time we take you to a world of dreams. To far-away lands of magic and wonder, where ducks and children have adventures and learn about the world; where heroes help their friends and elephants get lost.
So pack your lunch box, grab your coat and shoes and join us in a land of make believe.
I can’t wait. Can you?
An eclectic collection of stories from various authors. From action filled Science Fiction to dark sinister chills, humorous mystery, and wild impish fun.
Ideal for relaxing in the summer sun.
A thrilling anthology of short stories by some of the rising stars in independent publishing. In this collection we bring you a ship’s locker full of great Science Fiction and Fantasy. There are tales about beautiful princesses and cunning thieves, intergalactic wars, cosmic energy beings, warriors and rocketship pilots.
So strap on your jet pack and grab your broadsword and come join us in exploring these ‘Spectacular Tales’.
TALES FROM DARKER PLACES
A selection of chilling stories from some of the best Indie authors on the market. We dare you to venture into these pages of spine chilling tales and stories of dark shadows & darker tidings, shifters, ancient warriors, zombies, & demons… See the world through the Ripper’s eyes, and so much more. So many dark, foul things wait for you between these pages. Freely donated by the authors themselves, these dark passages are a great example of their various, unique styles and imaginations.
Join us in Darker Places.
KISS and TALES 2
In 2014, The Indie Collaboration was happy to offer a diverse collection of free short stories and romantic poetry highlighting a wonderful group of authors from all over the world. This year they’re back with a new collection of romance and poetry for you to enjoy on Valentine’s Day.
Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice
Another collection of children’s stories and poems from The Indie Collaboration. Once again we take you to far-away lands of magic and moonbeams, wishes and daydreams, cookies and ice creams.
I can’t wait to go back. Can you?
Spectacular Tales II: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection
Another thrilling anthology of short stories by some of the rising stars in independent publishing. In this second collection of short Speculative Fiction we bring you another treasure chest of great Science Fiction and Fantasy. Here you will find stories of intergalactic policemen, virtual soldiers, spirited princesses, lonesome spacemen and even megalomaniac dogs and kleptomaniac goats.
So dust off your old suit of armour and grab your blaster pistol and come join us in exploring more ‘Spectacular Tales’.
Summer Shorts 2
In this second helping of summer fun, The Indie Collaboration comes up with yet another unique collection of original stories from the authors we have come to know so well. Now in our third year, The Indie Collaboration comes up with yet more exciting, enthralling and funny stories. Ideal for relaxing in the summer sun, just don’t get carried away and stay out too long.
Spectacular Tales III
More thrilling short stories by independent publishing’s rising stars. In this third SF collection of short fiction and poetry, The Indie Collaboration delves into the vaults of speculative fiction once more, again bringing you original and innovative Science Fiction and Fantasy stories.
Here you will find stories about Space Pirates and Barbarians, Survivors of plagues and a man doomed by time.
So done your space suit and come join us in exploring more ‘Spectacular Tales’.
The Indie Collaboration presents its thirteenth anthology of short stories, freely donated by independent writing's most ghoulish ghosts and gremlins. In this, our third annual Halloween collection, we serve up another sacrificial platter of chilling tales to keep you up at night. If you choose to read these tales of ancient evils and sinister sorcerers, of ghostly hauntings, witches, serial killers and avenging angels, then remember to keep a light on tonight and don't forget to check under the bed. The Indie Collaboration grew out of a group of independent authors who decided to show the world how great works of fiction can be, without the involvement of any large publishing companies, by creating a direct channel between themselves and their readers. Each author in this anthology has freely donated their time and work and are committed to the Indie Collaboration’s cause: “We offer the best of indie writing in bite size pieces and wherever possible, for free.” We hope you enjoy our books.