Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Horror  ➡  Ghost  ➡  Occult

The Ghost of Clothes

 

 

The Ghost of Clothes

 

Copyright © 2015, David E. Gates

Cover Artwork Copyright: © Bruce Wagstaff

Published by Shelley Show Productions

 

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted by any means - whether auditory, graphic, mechanical, or electronic -without written permission of both publisher and author.

Unauthorised reproduction of any part of this work is illegal and is punishable by law.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

 

Also available from David E. Gates

 

 

Access Denied – A True Story

 

The Roots of Evil

 

Omonolidee

 

 

 

Dedication

For Everyone

 

 

 

Special Thanks to:

 

Graham Wheatley

 

 

 

The Ghost of Clothes

Times were hard. Harder than they’d ever been for me. Some poor life-decisions over a long period and a frivolous life were to blame. No-one else’s fault but my own. Gambling, drinking, child-maintenance and some poor purchases like two motorcycles on credit and a wealth of other things I bought without having the money to buy them, contributed to the state I was in now. I was, it has to be said, not good with money.

I’d been on a debt-management plan for years. It got the creditors off my back but I’d instigated it too late. If I’d done it earlier, I wouldn’t have lost the house and would have been out of debt by now.

Hindsight, such a wonderful thing.

But then I learnt. I learnt to live within a budget. Shopping at discount stores and only buying what I needed instead of what I wanted. Every decision was thought through. Even down to having a coffee from a local coffee-shop.

“Tea is free at work and home.” I’d tell myself. It stopped me spending money frivolously, even down to that level.

And things weren’t all bad. I rented a nice place and had just enough money from my job to pay all my bills and have a little left over for some minor luxuries. It was short-lived though. There was always something that would come along to deny me those.

Car tax, insurance, unexpected household bills. Just when I thought I was getting back on my feet, or things were improving, something would come along to thwart my brief excursion into a “normal” life.

Then the taxman came and wanted his pound of flesh too. I’d been employed all my life yet, somehow, he’d determined that despite being on Pay as You Earn, I had somehow incurred a huge debt for unpaid tax. I was already paying back a debt to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs when I got the bill for the year before. The figures seemed to match up but, not being an accountant, tax expert or mathematician, I had no true idea whether it was right or not. I couldn’t afford an accountant to take a look either, as I simply had no money left to pay for the services of one.

I tried arguing with them but despite them taking some things into account, like my pension contributions, the total amount didn’t change by much.

The money was due. And the taxman doesn’t fuck about. If you owe it, they want it and double-quick too. I worked out that repaying the debt at the current rate I was paying the other money owed back would take me six and two-third years. 6.66 years in other words. It suggested the taxman was an agent of the devil.

A belt, already tightened to the point of strangling what it held within, had to be tightened further.

I’d already sold most of my surplus belongings to bridge the gap between my previous salary and the slightly improved one I was on now. There really wasn’t much left. A few bits of tat that I might be able to get rid of at a car-boot sale. I’d given boxes of DVD’s and PlayStation games and accessories to my parents to sell at those. I should have gotten around a hundred quid for the lot. My parents “gave” it all away for twenty pounds.

Someone was laughing at me. Though I wasn’t finding it funny.

I was at the lowest point, financially, that I’d ever been. Even as a student I was still able to spend every night in the pub. Now I couldn’t even afford a pack of beer. All my money was “consumed” by bills or other living costs. I was living on the very basics, especially food-wise. I tried the “value” goods at the supermarket. Man, some of that shit is foul. Raw sewage probably has more of a flavour than the bland shit they put in some of those packages.

Something had to change. I knew if I went back to the profession I previously worked in, I’d burn out from the pressure before I would earn enough money to be comfortable again. I’d done it once whilst in my current role but had the safety net of being able to return there within six months if things hadn’t worked out. I wasn’t sure, and to be honest thought it was very unlikely, that they’d let me leave and return again.

It was a hard decision as I really loved the job I was in. Chase the money and be comfortable again or do something worthwhile and enjoyable with good people but for half the money? Enter the rat-race and put myself under intense pressure to sell, sell, SELL or have an easy nine-to-five, and be well, well, WELL? It has to be said, I enjoyed my Monday-to-Friday work/life balance which gave me every weekend off. It was a relatively happy existence I had in my current job and it was going to be difficult to give that up.

If I were to make the leap again, I’d have to be one-hundred percent certain that the new position was right for me. I’d previously made that mistake and, despite my efforts to overcome the situation, found myself very uncomfortable with that job. I’d always worked for larger companies – the size of this one and the people they employed were so different to what I had become accustomed – that it was impossible to get anything done. People didn’t engage with each other or with the workload. They’d brought me in to improve their processes and procedures but then continually ignored any suggestions I’d made. When any kind of emergency reared its ugly head, they even disregarded the procedures already in place! And the commute was awful.

I left after four months, having tried to stretch it out as long as I could to make the most of the money they were paying me. I was “called in” for a discussion. I knew that I was due to be dismissed but was able to resign before they had the chance to sack me. It would prove to be a wise decision in the end as, had I stuck it out for another two months, I would have lost my right to return to my previous job. The company was likely to have suffered shortly after anyway, due to its main business supplier going bankrupt. Eighty percent of their business came from one company which was shut-down just five months after I left.

Everything happens for a reason I guess.

So, here I was, thinking about chasing another job. I uploaded my Curriculum Vitae to the various job-search websites. The initial response was great though most weren’t relevant to my skills – did agencies ever read what you sent them when “matching” you to a job? It didn’t appear so.

And then I got referred to what was, on the face of it, the perfect job for me. A discussion with the agent around terms and conditions and whether or not I was actually suited to it followed and I was selected for interview. I always did well in interviews and it appeared there were few candidates, if any, that were so perfectly suited. It was a shoe-in, surely?

A date and time for the interview the following week was set. I began preparing.

I retrieved my best shoes which actually turned out to be somewhat past their ‘best’. Holes in the soles and the upper showing severe weathering on the surface made them look a sorry state. Broken or worn, tattered, frayed and split shoelaces and eyeholes completed the suggestion they should have been thrown away a long time ago.

“You can tell a lot about a man by his shoes.” I recalled someone had once said. If anyone saw me in these, they’d think I was some kind of vagrant. I tossed them in the bin.

Upstairs, I checked if I had a suitable shirt and tie and to see what condition my suit, which hadn’t been worn in years, was.

I pulled open the doors to the tall-boy. A relic of times past, antique almost certainly, a large wardrobe with drawers set into the base. It had been left in the house I now rented and it seemed a pity not to utilise it. Despite being dilapidated, with peeling veneer and a musty smell that was almost overpowering when the wardrobe was opened, it was functional. If it had been in better condition, it would have been a contender for the Antiques’ Roadshow! My current job enabled me to wear t-shirts and jeans rather than formal office-wear and so I hadn’t needed to open it in a long time – I was struggling to remember exactly what was inside!

A thin coat-hanger pole that ran the entire width of the wardrobe portion had sagged downwards with the weight of the items suspended from it. There were a number of shirts and my suit in its protective bag.

I swept my hand over the tops of the shirts, to remove the gossamer-like threads of spider-web that had accumulated there, and wiped my hand on the torn jeans I was wearing.

I pulled one of the plain shirts that hung in the wardrobe from its place on the rail. When it had first been purchased, it was brilliant white. Now it was several shades darker and reminded me of nicotine-stained ceilings from houses which were host to heavy smokers. The shirt was clearly another thing I should have binned a long time ago.

I grabbed a striped shirt. Not quite as business-like as I’d prefer, but it would serve a purpose. As I pulled it from the cupboard, I heard something rip. On investigation, I saw the shirt had caught on a long splintered piece of wood from the back-panel of the wardrobe. Along half the length of the right sleeve, there was a gaping hole. It was irreparable.

“Damn!” I said aloud. “For fuck’s sake! Give me a break!”

Almost as soon as I’d said it, the wardrobe creaked. It was as if it settled slightly following my tugging the shirt from its place in it. Just for a moment, I felt uneasy but I wasn’t sure if it was the sudden noise, my imagination or the musty atmosphere emanating from the cupboard that was making me feel that way.

I could have probably worn it, hiding it beneath my suit. But if things went well and I ended up having to take off my suit jacket, my scruffy attire would be revealed and it could create a poor impression. I couldn’t risk that.

I grabbed another hanger holding another shirt. The least suitable of the three but at least it was a shirt. As it passed into the light, I could see an issue with this one too. Holes. Lots of holes. Moth-eaten in the extreme. God knows how it was hanging together. And things were crawling over it. Minute insects, weevil-like, covered it almost entirely.

“Urgh” I uttered, disgusted by the infestation that covered it.

I gingerly held it above the bin in the corner, which was lined with a carrier-bag from a supermarket down the road. I undid the top button of the shirt and let the garment slide from the hanger into the bin. I placed the empty hanger back in the wardrobe, not realising a number of bugs were also crawling over the wooden section of it.

There was one shirt left. I cautiously and carefully pulled it from the rack. It looked okay, save for a missing button or two which I knew I could supplement from one of the other shirts. I examined it carefully. No bugs apparent. I guessed it must have been made from a different material to that which the bugs on the other shirt had found so tasty.

I pulled off my t-shirt, removed the dress-shirt from the hanger and undid the buttons before shaking it vigorously to remove any bugs that might be resident inside or upon it. I pulled it over my shoulders and almost immediately I could tell that it was too small. It was extremely tight over my upper arms and the cuffs were half-way up my forearms. There was no way it was going to fit me. I couldn’t even get the buttons that were present on the shirt to reach the button-holes as I tried to stretch the garment across my belly.

“Fuck!” I said angrily. The wardrobe seemed to shudder slightly when I spoke the profanity. Though I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t due to a passing truck which was travelling at speed down the road outside at the same time.

I would need to obtain a new shirt, having exhausted all the possibilities within the wardrobe itself.

I checked the numerous ties hanging from a rack hanger that had multiple “slots” to feed each one through so they hung loosely and kept their shape. Most were dirty or worn, but one was still in top condition and I pulled that from the miniature racking and hung it over the rail within the tallboy.

I hoped my suit would be more preserved, given it was sealed within a suit-bag. I lifted the suit-bag from the rail and hung it over the top lip of the open cupboard. I undid the zip and pulled the protective bag down and off of the enclosed suit.

The smell made me gag. I reeled back to try and get away from it. I put my hand to my mouth and nose to try and block out the foul stench. It smelt like the cleaning fluid from an old jerry lamp’s wick mixed with excrement. I pushed open a window to try and ventilate the room.

I stepped back toward the wardrobe. The suit was swaying gently in the breeze coming through the open window. I got as close as I dared and looked at it.

Covering the suit was mould. Green, brown and, in some places, pitch-black algae had grown and covered almost the entire material surface of the suit. The buttons, silver-coloured and shiny were bright within a sea of moss and the only part of the suit seemingly unaffected by the invading organisms. I grabbed the empty hanger I’d previously placed back onto the rail and used it to open the suit up to examine the interior.

Over the silky lining there were gelatinous globules, droplets of clear liquid, each about the size of a raindrop, which sparkled brightly in the sunlight which was pervading the room. They covered the entire innards of the suit, making it look like an inside-out Pearly-King or Queen’s outfit.

I brushed some of the drops with the edge of the hanger. They resisted slightly but then burst, each one yielding a small amount of sticky, glue-like substance which hung briefly before dropping onto the floor of the wardrobe where they resumed their drop-like shape. If the floor of the wardrobe had been a hard surface left out in a rain-shower, it wouldn’t have looked much different.

Something within the suit bag must have reacted with the material in the suit or maybe it had been put away damp and, left unchecked for so long, had promoted the growth of mould and the other substances that now covered it.

What an almost total disaster. I had just a few quid left and had to buy a new suit, shirt and shoes with the meagre cash I had.

At least I had a tie. I reached into the wardrobe to grab the tie but as I did so I nudged the mould-infested suit which in turn struck one of the shirts within the wardrobe. This shirt then moved about its axis on the hanger and hit the hanging tie which slivered, like a snake moving from a branch of a tree to a jungle floor, with the impact. I tried to grab it as it fell, my fingers touching the smaller end of it as it dropped to the bottom of the wardrobe, straight into the pool of sticky bubbles that had gathered there from the lining of the suit.

“Fuck!” I said. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!”

The wardrobe groaned. It definitely seemed to groan at my outburst. I heard it but then noticed the right-hand door drifting back and forth slightly in the soft breeze which was also making the curtains to the window flap as if a maniac were waving them. As the door moved, its hinges creaked and the groaning sound could be heard again.

I sighed and shut the doors to the wardrobe.

Now it was a complete disaster.

There was nothing for it. I needed a new outfit suitable for impressing, or at least showing I had made some kind of effort, at an interview board.

Gathering the few quid I had left, along with a mountain of loose change retrieved from jars in the kitchen and from down the back of the sofa, which I bagged up into respective units of currency to make it easier to count, I left the house and made my way to the town centre, specifically to a part where I knew there were a large number of charity shops.

These had proliferated following the economic failure which forced many regular businesses into receivership once the spending boom had ended and the period of austerity had kicked in. I wasn’t the only one to be suffering hard times it seemed.

I’d always had a reluctance to buy almost anything from a charity shop. The only time I had done so was when I was having to resource props or clothing and accessories for fancy dress, for a friend’s party or a work’s do, on a budget.

The first shop I entered, which gave proceeds to an animal charity, had plenty of women’s clothes but hardly anything suitable for men to wear, especially for an interview.

The second, a cancer charity shop, had a better range but the clothes were either too small or too old-fashioned. Maybe they were a reflection of what the people donating them had suffered from. Some were downright garish and barely suitable for party wear, let alone for wearing at an event where you’re trying to secure a job!

The third shop was much better. A good range which seemed to have clothes mostly suited to the larger gentleman.

Being relatively poor means not being able to afford the kinds of foods which are filling and also good for you. Most of my diet included bread, potatoes and rice mainly because they are cheap and last a long time. However, starchy carbohydrate-rich foods are not good for the waistline. Not that the shirt from my wardrobe which hadn’t suffered with mould, rips or other calamity inflicted by the musty atmosphere of the cupboard would have fitted anyway.

I browsed the items on the circular racking and found a shirt. A light blue, plain design which looked like it might fit. I slipped it on over my t-shirt to check it was suitable in size and was pleased it was ample. It was almost brand new in feel and appearance too, which was probably why the price seemed so high given that some supermarket ranges do basic clothing for around the same money.

The assistant, an older lady of retirement age, asked me if I needed any help. She probably feared I was going to run out of the shop wearing the shirt. I explained to her I needed a full outfit for a job interview.

“I’ve got an interview for the job of my dreams,” I told her, “Next week. But I have nothing to wear to it and little money and am rather desperate to find something suitable.”

I was hoping she’d be sympathetic to my situation.

“I’m sure we can find you something.” She said and busied herself amongst a rack towards the rear of the shop. I reviewed a selection of ties which were mostly old school ties or those with ex-forces insignia upon them. Whilst they looked smart, I didn’t want something which would suggest I was something I wasn’t, so I moved on past those.

The lady returned a few moments later, clutching a full suit, including waistcoat, and a tie that perfectly matched both the suit and the shirt which I still had on.

“How about this?” She asked.

“Wow.” I said. “That looks perfect.”

“Try it on.” The woman said, nodding towards some changing rooms to one side. I didn’t even realise charity shops had those.

“Thank you.” I said, taking the clothes from her and walking towards a cubicle.

“What shoe-size are you? I take it you’ll be needing shoes as well?” She asked.

“I’m a size ten.” I told her as I pulled back the loose curtain that revealed a small booth with a simple hook and a small bench.

As I entered and pulled back the curtain to conceal myself within the secretive chamber, I saw the lady dart back towards the front of the shop.

I removed my beaten trainers and scruffy jeans and pulled the suit trousers on, followed by the waistcoat and jacket. I secured the buttons to the shirt and wrapped the tie around under the collar and tied it in the only knot I knew.

When I looked up and into the mirror which was full length and hanging on the wall of the changing room, it was as if I was looking through a window rather than a mirror. For a split second, I didn’t recognise myself. Just for a moment, it was as if someone else was standing there and I was looking through their eyes at their reflection rather than my own. I shivered.

“How you getting on?” The lady called shrilly from the shop, snapping me out of the brief distraction. I pulled open the curtain and stepped out to show myself off.

“My goodness!” She said. “What a transformation.”

“It looks alright, doesn’t it?” I said, seeking confirmation.

“You look splendid. Reminds me of my late husband. He always looked dapper in that.” She informed me.

I suddenly felt sick inside. I was wearing a dead-man’s clothes. The woman obviously detected my reaction.

“Oh, don’t worry,” She said. “It was thoroughly cleaned after he passed. We wouldn’t be able to sell it otherwise.”

“What did he die of?” I asked. I don’t know why I needed to know, but if it had been of some terrible communicable disease, I didn’t want to run any risk by coming into contact with something he’d been so intimately connected to, even though by now it could have been too late anyway.

“Natural causes. Died in his sleep.” She said. “Terribly young when it happened. Not much older than you I’d say.”

I felt a little more comfortable. And having dredged through three shops already, I didn’t feel as if I had the luxury of time to try and find something else.

“I only really need it for the interview. I could return it after.” I offered, feeling somewhat guilty at taking her late husband’s belongings from her.

“No need.” She said. “It’s good that it could be put to some use.”

“Well, if you’re sure?” I asked. She ignored my question.

“Now, shoes!” She exclaimed. “Though I think we’ll need some socks as well no?” She said as she surveyed my footwear. White socks which were stained and worn through almost to the point of breaking the material which seemed to be clinging together against all the odds.

“Er, yes.” I said, nervous at the prospect of having to wear second-hand socks. I was just glad I didn’t need underwear as well.

“Don’t worry,” She said. “We don’t sell second-hand socks. But these shoes should be just right for you.” She held a pair of brogues in front of me.

“Were these your husband’s too?” I asked.

“No. He had tiny feet. Which was strange as he was big elsewhere.” I was surprised at her candid description of her husband.

“Broad shoulders?” I surmised from the comfort of the suit jacket.

“No.” She said, and winked at me. I knew what she meant. I smiled and she smiled back. It was the first time I’d actually seen her smile properly and it brought a youthfulness to her features. For her age, she was quite an attractive woman really.

I took the shoes from her and slipped them on. They fitted perfectly. Apart from some new socks, as wearing sports-white ones wouldn’t be appropriate, I had all I needed.

“I always think the waistcoat adds a touch of class.” She told me. “You can take the jacket off in the interview and the waistcoat will show them you still mean business, even though you’re relaxed or confident enough to remove your ‘outer’ skin.”

“And those shoes are perfect. Make sure you get some decent socks though. You can pick up some for just a pound at the supermarket.” Her kindness and advice was welcomed.

“You can tell the mark of a man by his shoes.” She said.

“How much do I owe you?” I asked. She looked up and down the shop then stood thoughtfully for a second.

“I can let you have the suit for free,” She said. “As it was mine, or rather my husband’s, to give away anyway. But I will need to charge you for the shirt, tie and shoes.”

Suddenly, she grabbed my right hand and pulled it towards her. Her touch was soft, but firm and warm. She lifted my hand towards her face. I felt giddy in my stomach for a moment at the prospect of what she might do but relaxed immediately when I saw her pull the price tag connected to the shirt’s cuff button-hole and examined the price written on it.

“Six pounds!” She uttered in shock. “Oh no, that’s not right.”

“Is it more than that?” I asked.

“Okay, shoes for two pounds, shirt for a pound and the tie for fifty pence. How’s that sound?”

I was ecstatic. ‘What a bargain’ I thought, but tried to remain as reserved as possible.

“That would be great. Three pound-fifty. Perfect.” I agreed.

“There’s one condition though.” She said, her demeanour becoming almost menacing. But then she smiled again and I felt drawn to her once more.

“What is it?” I asked, nervously.

“You must come back and tell me how you got on at the interview.” She informed me, smiling as she did so. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Yes, absolutely. You’ve been so kind.” I told her.

I took the jacket off and made my way back to the changing room. Once inside, I removed the “new” clothes and hung them back on their original hangers. I put my own trousers and trainers back on and made my way back to the till, where the lady waited with a large bag which had the suit jacket inside to take the remaining parts of my outfit from me. As she placed these in the bag with the jacket, I pulled my money from my jeans pocket.

As she handed me the now full bag, I handed her the cash we’d agreed on. I really was lucky to have gotten such a great deal.

“Thank you. I will definitely let you know how I get on.” I said.

“I’ll look forward to it. Good luck!” She said as I left the shop.

I made my way home and immediately hung the shirt and suit up over the back of the lounge door rather than in the wardrobe to avoid the need to iron it and to prevent contamination from what was inside the tallboy.

Now all that was left to do was to research the company in preparation for the interview.

After staring at a computer screen for six hours, surveying dozens of websites for information about the company, my eyes started to close involuntarily. I’d already been “seeing” things in my peripheral vision which I put down to my tired and exhausted state.

Shadows in the doorway, small creatures such as a spider or mouse running across the floor, manifesting themselves in my visual periphery as sleep tried to take over from my waking state.

I switched the computer off after saving my work, made my way to the bathroom, urinated whilst simultaneously brushing my teeth and then got into bed. Almost as soon as I laid my head on the pillow, checking the time as I lay down and seeing it at just past midnight, sleep came and took me far away from the taxman and my other woes.

I was woken at what seemed hours later by a banging from downstairs. I looked at the clock. The display showed 02:15.

I sat up and listened. The banging which had woken me had stopped. Anxious that a burglar might be trying to break in, I got out of bed and made my way downstairs. As I tried to enter the lounge, I found something behind the door was restricting my opening it.

“Hello?” I called out meekly.

I waited a moment before trying to push the door forward again. It opened a little further, enough for me to get the upper half of my body around, and I saw the cause of the blockage. My interview outfit was crumpled up on the floor behind the door. Somehow, the hanger had dislodged and the suit, along with the shirt, had fallen to the floor. The metal part of the hanger was wedged tightly under the door preventing me from opening it further.

I squeezed myself through and wearily picked up the clothes and hanger. I switched on the main light and checked the suit. Luckily, barring a few extra creases, there was no further damage.

I hung the suit back over the door, ensured it was secure and returned to bed. When I entered the bedroom, the musty smell I’d experienced when I opened the tall-boy earlier that day permeated the room. I found the right-hand door to the cupboard slightly ajar and pushed it closed. I determined I would have to do something about the clothes in the tallboy and maybe even get rid of the wardrobe itself.

The following day I was able to relax. My research into the company was completed during the morning which meant I could spend the afternoon watching movies. I decided that the next day I would finalise my research and shave in preparation for the interview the following day.

Having watched several movies back-to-back, I decided to get an early night. I got into bed following my ablutions at around ten-thirty and watched a bit of comedy on television before switching everything off and bedding down for the night, just before eleven o’clock.

I had a fitful sleep. In one of my dreams I questioned the assistant from the charity shop.

“Who did the shoes belong to?”

She looked even younger and more attractive in my dream but she wouldn’t tell me. I’d become angry at her for keeping this information from me but still she wouldn’t disclose the owner of the shoes.

As the argument escalated, she screamed. I hadn’t touched her but she’d seen something behind me which had caused her to yell out. I spun around and in doing so physically turned over in the bed and opened my eyes to see the clock display. It was showing 02:15 again.

I sat up. In the dim light, I could see the tall boy stood across from where I sat in bed, both its doors wide open. I leapt out of bed and marched toward it quickly. The smell, which had emanated previously, was so strong I felt nauseous as I grabbed both doors and forced them shut.

As I turned to return to bed, I felt something sticky underfoot. I reached for the light and switched it on. Covering the floor in front of the tall-boy was a pool of the same sticky droplets I’d seen on the inner lining of the jacket in the wardrobe. They glistened brightly except for the area in which I’d trodden.

“Oh, shit!” I said aloud. Behind me, the wardrobe groaned and I turned my head towards it as it did so. The doors looked as if they were being pushed out from something inside.

“What the…” I said to myself as I turned fully to face it. Before I could utter the word “Fuck!” both doors flew open, causing me to jump backwards. I landed on the foot of the bed, staring in disbelief at the tall-boy.

The smell was so pungent now I started to feel disoriented. I stood up and reached towards the tall-boy again. I wanted to shut the doors but was terrified of some supernatural force preventing me from doing so. After a few seconds, I realised I was being ridiculous and I grabbed both doors once more, momentarily holding them to be sure nothing untoward was going to occur.

I pushed the left one shut first, reaching in to push the lock that sat on its inside into the slot in the top lip of the cupboard. I’d never had to use the lock before but figured that maybe my opening the tall-boy after such a long time had caused some strain on the doors and they’d subsequently moved and this was what had caused them to open so suddenly. I pushed the right hand door closed and was glad to hear the click as the ball-bearing set into the top of the door edge clicked home.

I entered the bathroom and wiped my feet with a towel. Taking the same towel, I returned to the bedroom and mopped up as much of the gooey fluid in front of the tall-boy as I could. I tossed the sodden and soiled towel into the shower. I’d sort it out later.

By the time I returned to bed, the clock showed 02:45.

The next day, I checked the time it would take me to get to the interview. Ordinarily, it would take an hour. I knew that the route could sometimes experience significant delays and wanted to give myself double the time to get there. I made an entry in my calendar to remind me to leave two hours before I was due to attend the company’s offices.

I retrieved the towel I’d used to wipe my feet and mop up the mess in front of the tall-boy from the shower and rinsed it thoroughly in a sink of hot water. As the hot water came into contact with the globules that had not burst and which still resembled perfect, transparent, shiny spheres, there was a high-pitched, shrill sound emitted from each before their external “shells” melted and the sticky substance inside was released. I delighted in the destruction of each of the “souls” that I imagined were contained within.

I hung the towel up to dry and grabbed a large empty polythene bag which I’d brought up from the kitchen earlier. I opened the tall-boy and removed the shirts therein and placed them in the bag. Following this, I set the bag on the floor, opening it as wide as possible, as I took the hanger holding the mouldy suit from the cupboard. I carefully placed the suit, along with the hanger, into the bag which I then pulled up and around the contents, sealing it by tying the bag into a knot at its opening. I used toilet roll to clean the remainder of the goo from the floor of the cupboard and then flushed the paper down the lavatory.

Having started something of a cleaning frenzy in the bedroom, I moved on to cleaning and vacuuming the entire house. By the time I’d finished, it was getting dark outside.

I gathered everything I’d need for my interview together in one place, ready to take with me the next day. I didn’t want to run the risk of running behind-time for my interview the next day so showered and shaved before getting another early night.

I lay in bed awake from ten until midnight, listening to BD’s Rock Show on Express FM, a local radio station broadcast which had two funny presenters, “BD” and “Thrashman” who chatted about all manner of things and who also played some rather excellent music.

When the show had finished, I switched off both the clock-radio and the light and lay on my side with my eyes closed, trying to get to sleep. The thought of waking up late had pervaded my mind and made me all the more anxious as I struggled to get to sleep. I kept looking at the clock from time to time. When I first looked, it showed the time as 00:25. The next time, 00:45 even though it felt like more than an hour had passed. The third time I rolled over and looked at it, it said 01:05.

The next time I looked at it was following my being woken by a voice. Slightly above a whisper, the voice seemed remarkably close to my ear. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d not dreamt it.

But then it repeated.

“You can tell the mark of a man by his shoes.” The disembodied voice said.

I sat up, switching on the light urgently, seeing the clock displaying 02:15 as I looked around the room for the source of the voice.

There was nothing there. I sat, my breath coming in short, sharp gasps, as I tried to reconcile what had just happened.

“Fuck!” I panted.

Then, from inside the tall-boy, there came a noise. At first it was just a light scratching sound. As I leaned forward to listen more intently, there was suddenly a loud bang from within.

“Jesus Fucking Christ!” I said aloud. “Who the fuck is there?” I asked.

I saw the tall-boy shake. It visibly shook, as if something within it was moving left-to-right and back and forth to try and make the furniture item move. Then it came forward. Towards me. Towards the bed. I screamed. It stopped momentarily then, as if on inertia, toppled forward. As it did so, I saw the doors open as gravity overtook them. And, just for a moment, I could swear I saw a face inside!

The tall-boy landed with a thundering crash and the top splintered and cracked as it came into contact with the solid wood base of the edge of the bed. The doors swung loosely back and forth, their hinges creaking as the wardrobe groaned, its panels bending back into their original shape and position.

I waited. I tried to stifle the noise my breath was making by breathing shallower so I could hear for any movement. There was none that I could determine but I still felt unable to move.

After a few moments, I moved gingerly around the edge of the bed. When I drew alongside the cupboard, laying slanted with its top end supported by the edge of the bed, I kicked out at the side of it. It moved, enough to allow it to slide off the bed fully. As it did so, the doors were forced back into the closed position under it and it lay on the floor motionless. I listened intently for any sounds of scratching or movement within. Only when my legs and back ached from being strained over and listening did I believe it was safe.

‘What the hell had caused it to fall like that?’ I wondered. I looked over the back of it.

A few scraps of old newspaper, discoloured and torn, clung to the edges of the rear panel where they had been placed previously. I presumed they had been wrapped around the tall-boy to protect the surface from scratches. Old advertisements, for vacuums with bags that would revolutionise cleaning and cigarettes first caught my eye mainly as these items weren’t advertised any longer. On one sliver of paper, there was the ominous title of the section I recalled my Mother always liked reading for some macabre reason. “Births, Deaths and” the torn piece of paper yielded, the “Marriages” portion having been long removed or lost.

“Hatches, Matches and Despatches.” I said, recalling what my Mother affectionately called the section that heralded new arrivals to the planet, recent couplings and those lost.

I looked down the column. There was just one birth.

“Tristan Hopton-Smyth.” I read aloud. What a ridiculous name I thought. “Born 10th February 1901.” Jesus, how old was this thing? Maybe the tall-boy itself wasn’t that old, I surmised, and it was just the newspaper that was aged. There were no dates visible on any of the sections indicating when the paper was published that I could find. The next section had the initial couple of words removed from the piece of paper it was printed upon.

“…celebrate the marriage of Dennis Dingle and Dorothy Watkins.” It continued. Underneath this was another marriage being announced. “George Albert Moore and Karen McEvoy.”

Part of a photo was underneath this. George looked like a brute of a man. Something in his eyes belying his smile. Something smarmy and ultimately unlikeable was the impression I got from the black and white photo, which was now in sepia tones due to the fading of the paper’s colour. The young woman, presumably Karen, looked stunning. Considering the time the photo was taken, she looked modern in her appearance. Long brown hair and eyes that were soft, almost sad, maybe telling something of an underlying emotion at having to marry the slimy fellow beside her.

Beneath this section were the deaths. “William John Dingle.” I scanned back up the page. Hadn’t someone else called Dingle just got married? I saw it there again. “Dennis Dingle and Dorothy Watkins.”

“Weird.” I said aloud, commenting on the strange coincidence. I wondered if they were related to the poor fellow that had died. “Taken too soon.” The short paragraph detailed.

I realised whilst I had been studying the newspaper cuttings that I hadn’t heard another sound from the tall-boy. I stood up fully and gave it another kick with the side of my foot. There was no sound forthcoming. I bent down to try and lift the wardrobe back onto its feet. I squeezed my fingers underneath the side nearest me, close to the top of the cupboard, and lifted. It was heavy but not unmanageable and once it was moving I was able to get myself in front of it to push it fully back into an upright position.

The draws set in the base had moved out slightly, each one from the bottom up progressively further out than the others in a reversed step configuration. I pushed them back into place.

I surveyed the cupboard and there didn’t appear to be anything untoward. I nervously moved towards the doors and pulled them open quickly, being sure to make my grip on them as solid as possible should I need to thrust them closed again. The inside was empty save for the rail that had become dislodged in the fall and was stuck diagonally across the back of the wardrobe, wedged in-between the panelling and edges of the cupboard.

I pulled it at one end but it wouldn’t budge. I grabbed hold of the middle of the wooden pole and pulled again. This time it was released, but somewhat quicker than I expected. It snapped with the force that I’d exerted on it. One piece fell noisily to the bottom of the cupboard but the piece that was remaining in my hand slipped and the broken, splintered edge of it plunged into the palm of my hand as I reacted to not letting it fall. Blood immediately gushed forth and I screamed in pain. In seconds my hand was dripping claret corpuscles onto the bottom of the wardrobe innards. I pulled the damaged pole from my hand, wincing as the rough edge rasped against the torn skin. I held my damaged hand in my good one and ran to the bathroom. I pushed the wound directly under the tap and turned on the water. As the cool liquid splashed onto the gash, I gnashed my teeth together in pain.

“Fuuuuuck!” I yelled out loud. It was agony. Once the wound was relatively clean, I examined it, pulling out two more splinters which had remained attached to the soft inner flesh. I rinsed it again trying to push the edges of the wound together to stop the bleeding. I grabbed the towel I’d previously used to clear up the sticky mess from the wardrobe and wrapped it around my hand as tightly as I could. I gripped it as hard as I could to try and keep pressure on the gaping hole to stop the bleeding.

I pushed the lid of the toilet down and sat on it. I was breathing heavily. I felt done in. Exhausted.

“This was all I needed just before my interview.” I said to myself.

I waited for several minutes until my breathing had calmed and I felt the injury was slightly healed. I pulled the towel away from my hand gently and saw the edges of skin along the one-inch long wound had started to become meshed together. It was looking far better than I expected for such a short space of time to have passed. It wasn’t fully healed and I was careful to ensure I didn’t flatten my palm fully which, had I done so, would have reopened the wound. I discarded the towel and turned my hand over to check the back of it. As I did so, one of the spherical droplets that I’d seen earlier rolled across the back of my hand. It had come from the towel, I surmised.

‘I couldn’t have rinsed them all away’ I thought. I turned my hand over quickly to prevent it from falling to the floor and it rolled into the centre of my palm. When it came into contact with my scar tissue, it burst and the gel within it appeared to melt into the wounded area of my skin. I gently tapped the area but there was no stickiness, no gel or anything to suggest it had ever been there.

“Weird.” I said aloud. I checked the bleeding had stopped before I turned my attention to the bloody mess that stained the inside of the sink bowl, and turned the taps on full, sloshing the water around the porcelain to rinse the blood away.

After cleaning the sink bowl, I checked my hand once more. The bleeding had stopped completely and the wound looked like barely a scratch.

I returned to bed, ensuring the tall-boy was “secure” as I did so.

I lay in bed, the throbbing in my hand keeping me awake for what seemed like hours. I must have drifted off eventually, despite the pain, because when I next awoke there was bright sunshine invading the room. I immediately leapt up, fearing I was late. I looked at the clock. It was showing 02:15 and, curiously, the display was flashing. The display would flash following a power-cut and I put it down to this for the state the clock-radio was in. I pressed the TIME SET button on the device to stop the clock from flashing. As I removed my hand, I brushed the RADIO ON button and the wireless burst into life.

A male presenter was speaking. In my half-awake state, I heard him say something which forced me to stand bolt upright.

“You can tell the mark of a man by his shoes.” The presenter said.

“You can indeed Darren.” A second voice said, followed by laughter from both presenters before the second presenter continued.

“And coming up on the Darren Gamblen breakfast show today, an interview with hypnotherapist, James Holmes, but, before then, this is Transvision Vamp.” The sound of “I Want Your Love” started blaring out of the clock-radio’s speaker.

I stood, staring at the clock-radio. This was too much of a coincidence. I’d heard that phrase in my sleep, at the charity shop and now on the radio. ‘What the hell was going on?’ I wondered.

“I must be going mad. “ I said to myself aloud. “Just coincidence.” I tried to convince myself.

“Shit!” I said. “Time!” I scrabbled across the bed and room to the sideboard to check my watch. I couldn’t afford to be late for my interview.

I grabbed my watch. It was 08:15. I had better get a move on. I had less than two hours to get dressed and arrive there. Even though the journey should only take an hour, I didn’t want to cut it too fine and turn up all flustered, or worse, late. I had to be there by 10:00.

I rushed to the bathroom and splashed water onto my face. I sat on the toilet and tried to piss as I simultaneously brushed my teeth. Nothing came though so I wiped myself and returned to the sink to spit out the accumulated froth of toothpaste and saliva that had gathered in my mouth from the brushing.

As I looked up from the sink, I screamed. In the mirror, reflected back at me, was the figure of a man. Smartly dressed in a suit and waistcoat, identical to the one I’d gotten from the charity shop, and looking right at me. And smiling. I blinked and the image was gone.

‘Was I seeing things now as well as hearing them?’ I thought. I looked around the room, feeling foolish for doing so when it was obvious I was the only one present.

“Jesus.” I said, placing my hands on the edge of the sink and examining the mirror. “Stress.” I told myself. So much was relying on the interview, I figured I was just experiencing a high degree of stress in relation to it.

“Calm down.” I told myself. I took several deep breaths and after convincing myself that nothing, or no-one, was there with me, I moved into the bedroom. I put on my underwear and then, after switching the clock-radio off, went downstairs to complete getting dressed in the lounge, where my suit, shirt and tie were left hanging.

I pushed open the lounge door but, again, something appeared to be stopping it from opening fully. I squeezed around as before and found the suit and shirt on the floor once more.

“For fuck’s sake!” I said.

I lifted it from the floor and dusted it off. As I held the hanger holding it above me, to ensure it was as clean as possible, the sleeves of the jacket rested on my shoulders. As I pulled it away, the sleeves brushed my neck and it felt as if hands followed behind them, one of which felt as if it touched the bottom of my left ear lobe. I yelped involuntarily as I experienced the contact, but when the sleeves fell in front of me, there was nothing protruding from them.

I quickly hung the suit on the top of the door and went into the kitchen. I poured some cereal into a bowl, along with some milk, grabbed a spoon and walked back into the living room. The suit was no longer on the back of the door. I dropped the cereal bowl as I saw that it was lying, flat on the floor behind the door, the sleeves crossed over the chest. If there had been a body inside it, it would have looked much like someone lying in state.

Reaching down and grabbing the hanger again, I lifted the entire suit back up. I laid it down over the back of a chair this time and looked at the mess of cereal and milk strewn across the floor.

“God! Can just one thing go right today please?” I said, looking upwards.

I grabbed some paper towels from the kitchen and started sweeping the congealed cereal and milk back into the bowl. Once I’d cleaned the mess as best I could, I placed the bowl and towels in a heap on the kitchen worktop and returned to the lounge to get dressed.

Unbuttoning the suit and the waistcoat that was beneath it, I removed the shirt and pulled it on. It felt warm and comfortable and I was pleased that I didn’t have to struggle with the top button against my large neck.

I pulled the tie around my collar and fastened it as best I could with still the only knot I knew.

Sitting on the chair which the suit was hung over, I pulled the trousers from the hanger slowly as not to cause any snags. They came free and I pulled them on, standing to complete the dressing of them on my lower-half and fastening the button and clip around my waist. It was nice to have found a pair of trousers that didn’t need a belt.

I pushed my hand under the suit jacket and worked the waistcoat off, leaving the jacket supported upon the hanger. I put the waistcoat on and immediately felt well dressed. There was something about the tight and cosy feeling the waistcoat gave that made you feel good.

Next, I reached down and grabbed the shoes placing them on the floor in front of me. I slid each foot into the left and right shoe respectively and tied the laces on each one.

I stood up and checked myself up and down. All looked good. I lifted the hanger and removed the jacket. I put it on and it slid over my shoulders easily.

I grabbed my wallet and keys and pushed them into the inside pocket of the jacket.

As I walked across the lounge, my right foot came into contact with the still-damp carpet and the smooth under sole slipped and I lost my footing, falling hard onto my back, banging my head on the side table. As I struggled to move myself upright, I felt dizzy and my vision blurred. I shook my head to and fro as if to settle my eyes down. As I did so, I thought I caught a glimpse of someone standing, to my side, looking over me, dressed in a suit similar to mine. I reached up and rubbed my eyes and looked again but there was no-one there.

I managed to get to my feet and gingerly walked across the damp area. The back of the shirt, and presumably the back of the jacket, were a little damp where contact was made with the residue of cereal on the floor.

In the hallway, I seemed to stagger from side to side as I tried to reach the front door. I decided to sit down on the stairs and give myself a moment to let the dizziness pass.

Whilst sitting there, I saw a shadow pass by the front door. I watched, waiting for the figure to return in front of the door again, given there was nothing and no exit in the direction the shadow moved toward, they would have to re-appear.

After a few moments, when they failed to materialise, I stood wearily and went towards the door. Just as I reached it, there was a crashing sound from upstairs. ‘Was someone breaking in?’ I thought. I turned and ran up the stairs.

I reached the bedroom and saw the tall-boy with its doors flung wide open and all three drawers removed from it and scattered across the floor in front of it.

As I moved in front of it, I felt my chest tighten. It felt like the very air was being squeezed out of my lungs. I stepped back and the pressure eased momentarily. I placed my hand against my chest and moved forward again. The tightness returned though I tempered the restrictive feeling by pushing against my chest. I reached the tall-boy and looked inside. Nothing was there but the god-awful smell that was present previously.

Then my attention was drawn to the drawers. In the bottom of each, was a newspaper. Presumably placed as a lining in the bottom to prevent clothes coming into contact with the wood base. Stained and yellowed, their age beating the colour out of them, I saw headlines which proclaimed strikes, increases in taxes and, fearfully, a tragic death.

I leant down to read the story associated with the death. A train, it seemed, had derailed in a local village called Ropley. As a result, a man had been killed when the train ran over his body. His feet were cut off by the wheels of the train and his body pummelled into pieces by the force of the bodywork of the train striking him at speed.

Workers and attendees from the emergency services had commented how the feet had stopped, in the middle of the tracks, still in the shoes, which were polished and standing upright.

“You can tell the mark of a man by his shoes.” Ran one quote from an observer.

It suddenly became clear to me. Not only was I wearing a dead-man’s clothes, I also appeared to be wearing another dead-man’s shoes.

“Fuck!” I said.

Suddenly, the tightness in my chest returned. It was as if the very fabric of the clothes I was wearing had shrunk and were pushing hard against my chest, tighter and tighter with each breath I managed to squeeze in and then release. The closest I could approximate the feeling to be was one of being suffocated. But this was nothing like the feeling I had when I put a plastic bag over my face as a child and felt the clammy inside of it suck against my skin as the air was sucked out of it before I would rip it off. This felt like I was being suffocated from the inside.

I fell forward, gasping for air, landing half-on and half-off of the bed. I slid off, as I grappled with the buttons on the waistcoat, which seemed stuck fast. I pulled at the tie, to try and loosen the shirt, but the knot wouldn’t budge. I felt the amount of air I was able to intake reducing with each gasp as I let myself roll onto the floor. The muscles in my arms felt tight, straining against the shirt that felt like it was a couple of sizes too small for me, and the effort to raise them to the tie and shirt buttons became too much and I let them fall onto the floor beside me.

As my brain became starved of oxygen, I saw bright lights. A myriad kaleidoscope of colours that seemed to emanate from above the tall-boy which seemed to tower over me.

Then, a figure. Dark, indistinct but seemingly purposeful appeared. I couldn’t work out if it was above the tall-boy or was coming out of it.

I was somehow conscious and recalled how people having near-death experiences had hallucinated and assembled the room they were in from their memory and surrounding vision to give them a “view” of the room from above. But, in my case, it all seemed reversed. Everything, the bed, the tall-boy, the scattered drawers, seemed to be above me, though I could still feel the floor beneath my back.

I lay there, unable to move, struck still by something that had since loosened its grip on my lungs which now didn’t seem to be functioning. I wasn’t breathing. Or, at least, I felt like I wasn’t breathing. I tried to lift myself off the floor, but nothing in my body responded. I even tried to blink, but my eyelids remained open.

The figure that previously appeared to hover over, or was coming out of the tall-boy, became more distinct. A man, dressed all in black, was leaning over me. Then another joined him. They were looking at me. I tried to make a sound, to move, to make them hear me and let them know I could see them. But nothing functioned. Nothing responded.

Then I heard their voices.

“He’s been gone a while.” One of them said.

“Couple of days at least.” Said the other.

I couldn’t understand what they meant. This had all just happened. In the last few minutes. What were they talking about?

They both appeared alongside me, to my right, laying something wide and dark along the floor. I heard a long zipper being undone.

“No.” I yelled, but no sound came. “No!” I screamed, but no utterance came forth.

Then I was lifted. I felt a pair of hands around my ankles and another under my armpits as I was raised a few inches from the floor and moved a foot or so to the right.

Then the sound of the zipper again. I screamed but my voice remained silent. I saw the light of the room disappear and though their voices were muffled, I could still hear them.

“Nice suit.” One said.

“Yeah,” Said the other. “And did you see those shoes? Very nice.”

“Not my style.” The first voice said again. “I prefer something Italian.”

And then a woman’s voice. A voice I recognised. The woman from the charity shop. She was here.

“You can tell the mark of a man by his shoes.” She said.

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

For more spooky encounters, read

The Roots of Evil by David E. Gates

 

About the Author

David E. Gates has published a number of books and short-stories. He recently 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 www.shelleyshow.co.uk).

 

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.”

 

“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.”

 

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.

 

The Roots of Evil wins GOLD – 1st Prize, in the AuthorsDB.com 2015 Cover Contest!

 

Access Denied received 3rd Prize, Bronze, in the AuthorsDB.com 2015 Cover Contest!

 

Follow the author’s blog at www.davidegates.com

 

 

 

Other books by this author

 

Please visit your favorite ebook retailer to discover other books by David E. Gates:

 

The Roots of Evil

Access Denied

Omonolidee

 

 

 

 

Connect with David E. Gates

I really appreciate you reading my short story! Here are my social media coordinates:

 

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ davidegatesuk

Favourite my Shakespir page: https://www.Shakespir.com/profile/view/DavidEGates

Subscribe to my blog: http://www.davidegates.com

Visit my website: http://www.shelleyshow.co.uk

 

 

 

 


The Ghost of Clothes

A short story. A "branch" off of The Roots of Evil. A young man, already down on his luck, experiences a series of strange and mysterious events which escalate into a telling trauma.

  • ISBN: 9781310414404
  • Author: David E. Gates
  • Published: 2016-03-14 22:05:11
  • Words: 10819
The Ghost of Clothes The Ghost of Clothes