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Stroke Of Midnight: A Halloween Short Story

IN THE October 30 ISSUE

FROM THE 2012 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Leah Harris

Enjoy another scary mystery short story for this Halloween season. You can find the rest of the stories, and more from last year, in our Terrific Tales section. This is an original never before published short story by Leah Harris from the UK.

“Come on Uncle Jack give me something. I’ll do the lamest stuff. Just let me prove I can do it. Please Uncle Jack.”

Sandy Lane was a curvy thirty something who had eventually decided on a career in journalism. Writing was her way to go. Persuading her Uncle Jack was her first line of attack.

Sitting across from him she could use her doe-eyed expression to twist him around her little finger.

“Fine you want in? You spend the night in the old Carmarthen house. Poke around; find a story, write me something. I’ll take a look, if it’s good I’ll publish.”

“You’re kidding! Not that old ghost house! That house gives me the ghoulies. I always cross the street to go past it. Come on Uncle Jack. Just because it’s Halloween, give me a break, I’ll do anything except that. Cute puppies; babies, even obituaries, not the Carmarthen house. The devil eats you in there starting with your eyeballs. Please Uncle Jack.”

“Sweetie there’s plenty worse things to be scared of in this business. You want in, bring me a story from inside the Carmarthen house or don’t ask again.” Sandy left the office in a funk, leaving Uncle Jack to lean back in his £5,000 chair and smile.

*

Night was a scary thing to begin with, at least for Sandy.

The old house was perched high up like a Roman fortress. Standing in front of it Sandy could hardly see the fence for overgrown shrubbery. It was a lost world in there. A world no-one entered.

“Hey, toots, what ya doing standing there? Thinking of going in?” Bobby Harris, an old boyfriend and still one of her best friends, laughed as he walked up to her smiling. As it turned out he was gay. No wonder she’d never gotten very far. He hadn’t been around for a while, seeing him walk down that street was good.

“I am. Uncle Jack says I have to go in, get a story, stay the night and he’d give me a job.”

“That be why you’re shivering like that then? It ain’t even December. You serious? No-one ever goes in there. No jobs worth that.”

She pulled her jacket tighter, and the pink cashmere made her feel a little warmer.

“I’m very serious. At least your smiles warmed me up a bit. Ah well here I go. If you don’t see me by morning, I’m dead.” She smiled and pushed open the gate, taking the first step into that other world in what seemed a hundred years.

“Tell you what, why don’t I come keep you company?”

“You don’t have to. Were you not going somewhere?” she asked surprised at his offer.

“Na! Besides it might be good for my soul.” He stepped up behind her and into that other world.

*

The overgrown garden blocked out any hint of street light making the house darker than expected. Sandy switched on her flashlight, sweeping the beam over the hallway. Cobwebs as big as Aunt Susie’s ass hung in the corners, and the dust, sheesh. She had her sleeping bag; note pad, recorder and a stack of pens to keep her busy.

There was a creak and a knock. She turned but couldn’t see Bobby.

“Hey, where are you?” Her pitch was a little higher than it had been before entering the house.

“I’m here, just got my jacket caught on something.”

“You sure it’s not the devil trying to eat you?” she asked.

“Na, not unless he looks like a rusty old nail,” said Bobby, she heard the rip of cloth then saw Bobby coming out of the darkness. His ‘Damn.’ echoing around the hall. Then it began, a door slammed shut. Then another, and another.

Something moved along the top landing. She swung the flashlight. A red ball bounced down the stairs.

Her fingers were white knuckled around the torch.

“Sweet Holy Hannah. Bobby you sound like a girl.”

“We have to leave before they eat us. Come on.” Bobby shivered and hurried to the door.

“It ain’t budging, Sandy. Dear god we’re locked in.”

“Just pull harder!” She urged.

“Well you try G.I Jane.” Bobby sounded exasperated. “Let’s pull together,” he whined.

Sandy huffed. “Not even a squeak.”

“Well, looks like we’re here for the night. Come on let’s go play catch with Casper.”

She walked over to the ball, throwing it back up the stairs. It thwumped off the wall. She expected it to come bouncing back to her again. It didn’t. Instead it bounced back along the landing, stopping somewhere in the darkness.

“Can you hear that Bobby? It sounds like a child singing,” she spoke in a muted voice, then the darkness enveloped her.

“Damn batteries. They should have been fully loaded. I just bought the damned things. Have you got a light Bobby? Bobby, do you have a light?”

In the flickering dying light she couldn’t find Bobby anywhere. Her backlit watch told her it was almost midnight.

She started for the stairs. A dumb thing to do, to go where the ghosties where, but, at least there might be a window she could smash and yell for help if needs be. The boards whimpered at her every touch. She didn’t use the hand rail to go upstairs, it was thick of dust and she didn’t do dust.

Moonlight streamed across the landing revealing three doors. She walked along the landing towards the one open door. Looking in she saw it was a child’s nursery. By the window stood a small boy maybe six or seven years old in period dress. He looked at her. He was almost transparent in the moonlight. Putting a finger to his lips she heard the quiet ‘shh’. Then in the blackness a clock struck midnight. A scream consumed the house. Sandy ran back to the stairs. Her hand gripped the rail, the dust forgotten. Her torch flicked on. Swamped by a feeling of terror she screamed. At the bottom of the stairs stood Bobby, pale faced and blood smeared, holding his head at an odd angle, his arm reaching up to her.

“Sandy, Sandy I need you, help me Sandy.”

His voice was cold. Behind him she saw an old woman, her face twisted and malicious looking.

“We don’t like visitors’ unless they stays for tea.” Her voice rasped like steel against stone.

“Come for tea Sandy. Won’t you come?” Bobby smiled as blood bubbled around the corners of his mouth and trickled down his chin.

“We don’t like visitors’ unless they stays for tea,” said a voice grating and guttural. A man stood on her left, dressed in blood smeared clothes. Sandy screamed. The butcher’s knife he held glinted in the moonlight. She couldn’t go down. She ran back the way she’d come. Screaming again as one of the other doors opened. Fleeing to the child’s nursery she picked up a small rocking chair and hurled it at the window. Glass shattered.

“Cut that’s a wrap.” Lights flooded the set. A dozen people began buzzing around picking up props and replacing items for tomorrow’s start, after all continuity was important.

“Great work kids. Al. We’ll need a few more close ups of you tomorrow, and kitty, you too. I need to see more horror on that pretty face of yours,” hollered the director from his chair, as he took off his headset.

“Sure thing Jack,” called his actors.

“Hey kitty, it’ll take about thirty minutes to get the crap off my face, wanna stick around? We can go for a drink, maybe get saucy after?”

Kitty walked back to the top of the stairs handing her blonde wig to a props person and shaking out her chestnut rich hair.

“Na. I got script stuff to do. Besides you been hanging with your grandmother again Al? Aren’t we past saucy?” She winked at him as he shrugged and walked off.

Kitty sat on the top step thumbing through the script for tomorrow, checking all the highlighted parts were hers. Al, had pulled that prank twice now when she wasn’t paying attention.

*
The script fell out of her hands making her start. She must have nodded off. Standing up, she breathed deep. She loved it here on set, the way they’d shipped in an actual haunted house one filled with a grizzly history, where people had been murdered the bodies never found. She’d had a blast. At least until the lights went out.

“Hey, I’m still here! Guys!” she shouted into the darkness. Somewhere in the obscurity of the night a clock struck midnight.

Moonlight streamed through the door of the nursery. Raspy breath tickled her naked neck. A shiver ran up her spine.

“We don’t like visitors’ unless they stays for tea.” The butcher’s knife winked in a silver ray, the little boy put his finger to his lips. It was midnight. Kitty Malone’s scream stopped before it had begun.

The moonlight faded out.

Leah Harris is 35 and has been a story teller for many years and is now starting to write them down. She is inspired by her surroundings, visual arts and her mother’s art and creative ideas.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gail FarrellyNo Gravatar
Twitter: @gailfarrelly
November 1, 2012 at 11:50pm

Well done, Leah! Hope to read many more of your stories.

Reply

2 kaye georgeNo Gravatar
Twitter: @https://twitter.com/KGeorgeMystery/
November 7, 2012 at 10:59am

Congratulations on this publication, Leah! Eerie story!

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3 nigelNo Gravatar
Twitter: @amouseandaman
November 7, 2012 at 11:28am

That’s a really good read. I really enjoyed the build up as it joined up all the right dots for me. Then came the twist and the double twist and I was humming. I love the way you’ve handled the ending and those two final lines are perfectly managed. Well done.
Curiously, I was told by my auntie at the weekend of what happened to her and to me when she babysat in a house that was haunted. My family lived there when I was about 2 or 3. Anyway, she had my blood chilling (other relatives have relayed similar tales in the past) and you managed to repeat some of that mood here, no mean feat. Thanks.
A recent post from nigel: One Man’s Opinion: THE FIRST CUT by JOHN KENYONMy Profile

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4 AJ HayesNo Gravatar November 7, 2012 at 12:22pm

What a great edit, Leigh. I likes it even if you don’t stay for tea. :) Great tale for these chilly October evenings. Loved it.
AJ

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5 AJ HayesNo Gravatar November 7, 2012 at 12:25pm

I’m sorry Leah. I do know how to spell your name. I’d better. It’s gonna be up in lights pretty quick.
AJ

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