The Dinosaurs

A big dinosaur and a little dinosaur were walking through the swamp together.

“God, you’re so small,” the big dinosaur said to the little dinosaur. “So small and tiny and pathetic.”

Although he only said that last part to himself rather than out loud. You never say those bits out loud.

“And you’re so big,” the little dinosaur said to the big dinosaur. “So big and huge and amazing!”

The little dinosaur was so excited he even said that last part out loud. He couldn’t help himself. Everyone knew it was true. Big dinosaurs were brilliant. All the stories said so. Big dinosaurs went on exciting adventures and had all this amazing fun together and all their friends were beautiful and they lived in the biggest caves and everything. It was so cool.

The only stories anyone ever told about little dinosaurs were ones where everyone was miserable and dying and ugly and dead. Who’d ever want to listen to those?

“I wish I was as big as you,” the little dinosaur said. “I wish I was bigger than everyone!”

“Well, you just need to put the work in,” said the big dinosaur, magnanimously. “That’s what I did. I didn’t get this big by lazing around all day doing nothing! I did it by working my bloody arse off!”

“I work hard,” said the little dinosaur. “I catch and eat a fish every single week!”

“That’s not work,” snorted the big dinosaur. “I eat a thousand pounds of swamp grass every single day! That’s the sort of work you need to put in if you want to move up in the world. No fucking lazing around in the sun for weeks at a time. ‘Oooh, oooh, look at me, I’m metabolising my food!’ Pathetic. You don’t see us big dinosaurs napping on the job. No, we fucking digest our food while we eat it. We don’t even stop eating while we talk. I’m eating right now! See! See!”

The big dinosaur bent down and took another big mouthful of swamp grass, spitting great lumps of it in the little dinosaurs face as he fantasised about shouting at the stupid pathetic lazy workshy little arsehole. Fucking little bastard! As if you could ever be as big as me! Bigger! What a fucking cheek!

The little dinosaur ran away and cried a bit probably and then resolved to improve itself in the face of adversity, because that’s what little dinosaurs always do in the stories. So much bloody crying. And resolving. Always resolving. Resolving to do this and that and the other and whatever. Fuck them. Little shits.

Anyway the next day the big dinosaur came back and found the little dinosaur was already in the swamp. The little dinosaur was lying on its side and its stomach had burst open and blood and swamp grass and even a little bit of undigested fish leaked out of it all over the marsh.

“Hah!” the big dinosaur laughed down at the little dinosaur. “Less than day of hard work and you’re already sleeping on the job. Typical!”

Later on a group of medium dinosaurs appeared and fought with each other over who would get to eat the little dinosaur but no one was watching by then because honestly what would be the fucking point.

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Notes:

1. Written on March 7th, 2021
2. While still in bed
3. Before getting up
4. I did not feel well
5. Please forgive me

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Building

My father was building things in the garden again. It’d been a while. Once he started he would not stop, no matter what. Not until it was finished. Not until he’d made you look, made you comment, made you evaluate its worth.

Whatever it was. Whatever it turned out to be.

That was the problem, really. You never quite knew what was coming. You never quite knew what you were in for.

Sometimes they were things of quiet beauty, wistful sculptures, delicate carvings, a phrase etched in chalk, as fleeting as thought. Abstract structures as moving as anything Henry Moore ever carved out of dead stone.

Other times they were impracticalities, intrusions, wastes of materials and resources, space, time. Not just his time but ours as well, as we were forced in vain to try and conjure up some validation of his over engineered creations, his cumbersome designs, his broken visions. If you can’t even tell whether it’s a bench or a cage or a new gazebo you’re evaluating, it’s pretty difficult to form an opinion as to his success.

But then there were the nightmares. The horrors only he could conjure. Once he spent six months building a hole. A hole in nothing. Just a hole. Floating there. Inert. Unbounded.

Another time, My mother lost her mind one summer, trying to visualise some casual violation of geometry he’d forced into being. Now she rejects every dimension beyond the three.

And I myself spent six years lost in the fractalising inner spaces of a shed he’d misconceived. Six years! No one even noticed I was gone. I only survived because the roof lekaed incessantly, and the snails proliferated down there in the damp and the mould.

So now I try not to look out of the windows of my room. Try not to listen too closely to the sounds of his tools. Try to escape the looming presence of his coming words.

But this year there’s no escape. There’s nowhere else for me to go. Except to make my way out into the garden, and into his domain. To stand there by his side, and answer that question.

“So, what do you think?”

I can already feel the tears rolling down my cheeks as I try to think of something to say. Already feel that anxiety building in my long since emptied heart as he ushers me through the door, and into his new dream.

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Notes:

1. Written in December 2020

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There Was A Forest Here. It’s Gone Now

When I was about five, I got lost in the woods.

I still remember the panic rising in me as I realised I was alone. This all consuming terror that filled me up until all I could do was run and scream and weep.

Flashbacks of the clothes I was wearing, shimmering blue nylon shorts, some plain coloured t-shirt, cheap white trainers, neon socks.

Yet is any of that true? If I was sent back there, to watch from afar, would that be what I was wearing. Would the sun be as bright, the trees as dense, the woods as empty…

And would my screams be as loud as they are in my dreams? If I was passing by, would I even register that that child – that child that was me – was even, in that moment, in distress? Have I externalised, in these long years since, what was always then internalised, taken those silent screams, those blinked back tears, and given them voice, amplified them in the hauntings of my mind.

Eventually I found my parents. Sprinted into their arms across the clearing. Wrapped my arms round my mum’s legs, wept into her dress. Lost myself in the folds of it, the depth of it, the warmth and the comfort of her endless kindness.

As we made our way back to the car, I looked up finally, my tears wiped away on my mother’s clothes, my eyes too young for glasses, my vision as clear as it would ever be. 

I did not recognise my parents at all.

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Notes:

1. Written in September 2020
2. The title’s a Silent Hill reference
3. (obviously)

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Gifts

That market stall was there again. The one that sells broken junk from other dimensions.

Sometimes in other dimensions too, 4 or 5 or 7 or 9 of them, extending out in all these directions beyond what we could see, beyond what were even directions really, but something else, something beyond our understanding, so there’s no hard edges, nothing you can hold on to, no possibility of containment, so your hand passes clean through after you’ve paid.

And the shopkeeper laughs as you realise you’ve just wasted your money on something that might as well be a hologram, or a ghost, or a memory, a thought.

It’s only then they offer you the use of their spacial manipulator, so you can get it home, and of course there’s a fee for that, a large fee, a very large fee, an astronomical fucking fee. But you pay it anyway. You have to. You don’t want to, but you have to. You don’t want to think you’ve wasted your money on some shit you can’t even take home.

So now of course I’ve got a whole shelf of things like that at home, shimmering and undulating and ululating and shivering, pulsing and trembling as the aspects of their intersections with our limited world shift and move as they through the universes they inhabit, utterly unconcerned with ours.

They’re never the same. Not even for a second. From my limited understanding of the mathematics involved, it’d be impossible for them to ever be the same again. No rotational symmetries. Not even the usual 1. None.

So sometimes they’re beautiful, so beautiful they make you want to cry. Other times they’re so alien there’s no comprehension of them at all in your mind. Visual noise that hurts to look like.

Somehow pictures never capture them at all. As if they don’t even interact with light, not how we understand it, anyway.

Although, in that case, how our eyes catch these glimpses of them, I do not know.

But they didn’t have anything like that today. Everything was three dimensional and solid and safe.

That’s not to say there was nothing interesting amongst their wares, just that there wasn’t anything so immediately, obviously, horrifyingly, enticingly , irresistibly wrong, either. At least on first glance.

“I haven’t seen you here before?” they said, with a questioning look.

They say this every time I come in. I think they’re trying to undermine my confidence. Not that it needs much undermining.

But I’m used to it now. And I am distinctly unmemorable. It’s the same everywhere I go. “And your name, sir?” After a while it barely even feels insulting.

“What’s this?” I said, pointing to the inert half of a strangulated pulsometer. It’s always good to ask a question you know the answer to first. Sometimes they lie. Sometimes everybody lies. At least this way you can calibrate their honesty.

“It’s the inert half of a strangulated pulsometer,” they informed me, correctly. “Not a very interesting piece on its own. If you’ve got a throbbing crystalline heart, it’s probably worth the price, but otherwise…”

They shrugged extravagantly, in the theatrical style.

“My heart’s throbless, unfortunately,” I said. “And diffuse in structure.”

I moved my attentions to the other pieces on display, picking up a jar filled with some sort of mimification jelly and pulling faces at it to test its responsiveness. It could cope with smiles and laughter, but turned my screams and scowls into giggles and blushes. It was very cute.

“How much for this?” I asked.

“The Caricreature?” they said. “It’s quite expensive. Very expensive. Very expensive indeed.”

They laughed expansively, in the evil style.

“Oh that’s a shame,” I said. “So how about that?”

I pointed at something entirely at random. It looked like a polyp. A polyp from some strange realm, obviously, not a polyp from ours. Totally different styles and textures.

But it looked like a polyp all the same. I assumed it was some sort of seed, from which something terrible and confusing might sprout or spurt or seep.

“That’s not for sale,” they said. “That’s lunch.”

They picked it up and bit it in half. Chocolate oozed out from inside, mingling with the blood from the raw flesh of its shell.

“You want to try,” they asked. “Highly addictive. Like a Tunnock’s Teacake.”

I shook my head, and picked up the mimicking thing again.

“So, how much was this again?”

“33.3333333333333333333333333333%.”

“33.3333333333333333333333333333% of what?”

“33.3333333333333333333333333333% of your soul,” they laughed, in the ominous style. Well, in the ominous and evil style. And the theatrical.

To be fair, there’s probably no other way to laugh when discussing the purchasing of souls.

“Ah, that’s not too bad,” I said. “I’m pretty sure I can afford that.”

I chuckled to myself, as I transferred that tiny sliver of a sliver of a remnant of my heart to their eager paw. The good thing about percentage pricing is that things get cheaper every time.

“And, actually, I don’t mind spending a little extra today anyway,” I explained. “It’s a gift.”

“A gift!?” they shouted, suddenly startled. “Is that really appropriate?”

“Er, yes?” I said. “I mean, I haven’t even told you who it’s for yet.”

“It’s the principle of the matter,” they said. “Haven’t you seen Gremlins?”

“No,” I said. “Anyway that’s just a film. It’s not real. It’s just a film. A film!”

They did not agree. They tried to take the jar back, but it was too late. I’d already paid.

That market stall was there again. The one that sells broken junk from other dimensions.

Sometimes in other dimensions too, 2 or 1 or 3/4s or 0 of them, contracting down in ways that made no sense, limited this way or that, or occluded by our reality completely, in ways difficult to understand, so there’s no depth, or width, no possibility of escape from the constraints of their limits, no possibility of life, of synthesis and fusion.

And the shopkeeper sympathises with you as you realise you’ve just wasted your money on something that’s as inert as and useless as some semi-solid lump of xenon.

It’s only then they offer you the use of their hologrammatic projector, so you can expand their appearance into enough dimensions to perceive, and of course there’s a fee for that, a small fee, a tiny fee, an infinitesimal fee. You don’t mind paying it, not really, you just wonder why it wasn’t included in the original price, why they rang it up separately like this.

So now of course I’ve got a drawer full of things like that at home, three dimensional projections of these zero dimensional shapes, sitting as still and dead and pathetic as they can, existing, if they can even be said to be existing, in their own limited dimensions, utterly uncomprehending ours.

They’re always the same. They never interact with anything. From my limited understanding of the physics involved, it’d be impossible for them to ever interact with anything. Simplified chemistries, based upon a periodic table without periods.

They’re never beautiful. They’re never repulsive. They’re just this constant unending blandness of conformity. It’s painful to look at, sometimes. Like a generic supermarket food brand made flesh.

A simple picture captures everything about them. You don’t need to see the real thing. What’s the point? They have no substance of their own.

Although, in that case, how I ever managed to carry them home, I do not know..

But they didn’t have anything like that today. Everything was three dimensional and solid and real.

That’s not to say there was nothing uninteresting amongst their wares, just that there wasn’t anything so obviously, depressingly, dispiritingly, abjectly, all-encompassingly bland, either. At least on first glance.

“Nice to see you again,” they said, with a welcoming look.

They say this every time I come in. I think they’re trying to bolster my confidence. God knows it needs it sometimes..

But it’s lost its effectiveness now. Compliments wither through use. It’s the same everywhere I go. “It’s so nice to see you.” After a while you don’t even hear it.

“What’s this?” I said, pointing to… something. It’s always good to ask a question you don’t know the answer to first. Sometimes they don’t know what they’re talking about. At least this way you can assess their knowledge.

“It’s the irregularlly fissioning half of a strangulated pulsometer,” they informed me. “Not a very interesting piece on its own. If you’ve got a desiccated liver, it’s probably worth the price, but otherwise, you know, not so much…”

They shrugged extravagantly, in the theatrical style.

“My liver’s wet, unfortunately,” I said. “And filled with blood.”

I moved my attentions to the other pieces on display, picking up a jar filled with some sort of mimification jelly and pulling faces at it to test its responsiveness. It could cope with screams and insults, but turned my laughter and smiles into endless haunting despair. It was distressing.

“How much for this?” I asked.

“The Caricreature?” they said. “It’s quite cheap. Very cheap. Very cheap indeed.”

They laughed expansively, in the evil style.

“Oh that’s a shame,” I said. “So, how about that?”

I pointed at the one thing I couldn’t take my eyes off. It looked like a polyp. A polyp from our dimension, rather than a polyp from some strange dimension.

It looked out of place among the marvels of their wares. I had no idea what it was for. Maybe they’d had it removed during some recent medical procedure.

“That’s not for sale,” they said. “That’s tea.”

They picked it up and bit it in third. Blood oozed out from inside, mingling with the chocolate from the crumbling, delicacy of its shell.

“You want the rest,” they asked. “Disappointing. Like Turkish Delight.”

I shook my head, and picked up the mimicking thing again.

“So, how much was this again?”

“33.3333333333333333333333333333%.”

“33.3333333333333333333333333333% of what?”

“33.3333333333333333333333333333% of your soul,” they whispered, in the ominous style. Well, in the evil and ominous style. And the terrifying.

To be fair, there’s probably no other way to whisper when discussing the selling of souls.

“Ah, that’s higher than I’d have liked,” I said. “But I can just about afford it.”

I moaned to myself, as I transferred that great wedge of my heart to their trembling hand. The trouble about percentage pricing is that it seems cheap at first. But it isn’t long before it’s not.

“And, you know, I don’t have any choice but to spend big today,” I explained. “It’s a gift.”

“A gift!?” they laughed, suddenly amused. “You’ll regret it!”

“Er, what?” I said. “I mean, I haven’t even told you who it’s for yet.”

“It’s the heart of the matter,” they said. “Haven’t you seen Gremlins?”

“Yes,” I said. “Oh, god. Is that a warning? Are you warning me? What is this thing?”

They would not say. I tried to hand the jar back, but it was too late. I’d already paid.

_________

Notes:

1. Written in early August, 2020
2. This was surprisingly annoying to format correctly
3. Mostly because the formatting here is slightly different from the format in my word processor
4. And also even know it’s still probably unreadable if you’re on mobile
5. Or your browser screen is slightly less wide or slightly more wide than mine.
6. So, er, maybe it’ll just be easier if you read it as a pdf
7. Words I’d never thought I’d say there.
8. But such is the horror of modern life, etc
9. So here’s a link to it as a pdf: Gifts (pdf)
10. Now let us never speak of this again.

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If you like the things you've read here please consider subscribing to my patreon. Subscribers get not just early access to content and also the occasional gift, but also my eternal gratitude. Which I'm not sure is very useful, but is certainly very real. Thank you.

An Intolerable Mess

I was brought to the master of the house, who was in his study, to explain to him what I had seen. He did not look at me while I spoke, preferring instead to watch an old horse through the window, which stood trembling and incontinent in the yard.

“I have been informed that it was you who witnessed the… occurrence with your own eyes,” he said.

“I did, m’Lord,” I replied.

“And?” he said pointedly. “I would very much like to hear an explanation of what you saw, rather than simply a curt confirmation of my inquiry. Please, leave nothing out.”

He did not turn when he spoke, and for this I was glad, though it was obviously intended as some sort of rebuke. But in his refusal to even acknowledge my presence with the merest politeness, it meant, at least, that he could not see me as I stood there, sweating profusely, wringing my hands together nervously as I tried to overcome my anxieties, and somehow summon up the words from inside me to describe what it was I saw the evening before.

“Of course, m’Lord” I said. “It was late last night, though I don’t know how late, for there’s no clock in my chamber, sir, and I never thought to look, though Miss Grace tells me today it was just past two when I woke her with my cries.”

“It was forty three minutes past two,” the master of the house said, without turning round. “When you woke me with your screams.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry m’Lord. But it really was quite a fright I had,” I said. “Quite a fright indeed. So, it was about half past two in the morning, I suppose, then, sir, when I first heard the noise, and I hadn’t got any sleep, for the sound of the rain outside was incredible, and the wind kept rattling the panes of my window, and I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the sound of thunder, that I was sure would come, and which frightens me so terribly, so much so that even the anticipation of it is enough to keep me awake, all trembling in my nightgown, like I’m some tiny little dog quivering beneath the sheets.

“And though that thunder eventually came, m’Lord, it wasn’t the thing that frightened me last night. Not at all. Not at all.

“But, sorry, sir, you don’t need to hear me rambling on like that, now, do you? You just want me to tell my story. And I will, m’Lord, I will. It’s just when I get nervous I can’t stop speaking, sir, and I’m nervous, sir, in your presence, though I know you don’t mean to scare me. But, well, it’s not usual for me to be in here sir, not when you’re in here, anyway.”

I paused then, hoping for some kindly reassurance, or some stern rebuke, but instead he offered neither, and the ominous silence felt so oppressive I found myself babbling out the rest of my tale in one long breath, or near enough, at least.

“So, I was lying there in my bed, sir, all restless and anxious and awake, when I realised I could hear a sound, a sort of dull thud, that recurred, rhythmically, every twenty seconds or so. And once I was aware of it I couldn’t stop hearing it, like how the ticking of the clock in the hallway seems to get louder and louder some days, once you’ve remembered it’s there, especially when you’re waiting, sir, and on your own, with nothing to do, yet, well, on most days, you don’t hear it at all, do you, sir? But it’s always ticking just the same.

“So I thought maybe this was just some obscure noise of the house, sir, like the way the pipes rattle when the water gets all cold, or all hot, or whatever it is that causes the pipes to rattle sometimes, in the night. But I couldn’t think what it could be, cause I’d never heard these sounds before, and well, I’ve heard all the sounds of the house before, sir. I’ve got nothing else to listen to most evenings, you know, and no one to talk to, not since Alice, well, since Alice left us sir, so now I’ve got that room all to myself at night and it’s awfully quiet in there and awfully lonely.

“But, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, sir, because I like it here, I do, sir.

“Now what these noises sounded most like to me was the plums falling from the tree, at the end of summer, unpicked, and overripe, and nearly rotting, as they dropped from the tree outside my window, or, at least, how they used to sound when they fell, until you had the tree chopped down, last summer, sir.”

“The mess they made was intolerable.”

“It was, m’Lord,” I agreed, though it had never been the master who had to pick them out from the gravel of the path. “But the weird thing was, I could tell the noise wasn’t coming from outside the house, but inside. And these dull thuds seemed so loud I was sure they must have woken everyone in the house, not just me, so at first I stayed there, because it wasn’t my duty to investigate them, which makes me sound wicked, and lazy, but it’s true.

“Now soon it became apparent that no one else in the house stirred, because you couldn’t hear the creaks of the floorboards, or the squeak of the hinges on the doors, or footsteps on the stairs, or nothing else, neither.

“So these noises kept getting louder and louder, and there was the rain outside, and my fear of thunder, and I was so tired I thought maybe I was asleep, and it was like a dream, sir, especially as I rose, and lit a candle, cause when I caught a glimpse of myself on the mirror I have set up on my nightstand, I looked like an apparition, in my white gown, my hair ablaze – in the light, I mean, I hadn’t actually set it on fire – and my face as pale as the moon. It gave me quite a fright, seeing myself like that, which sounds so silly, saying it out loud, but it did, sir. It did.

“After that shock, though, I thought, oh stop being silly, Lizzie, there’s no need to frighten yourself like that. If you can’t even look at yourself in the mirror you should just get back into bed and hide under the sheets like a big baby.

“And this seemed to do the trick, and my courage came back, sir, it really did, and I crept out of my room, and down the corridor, being as quiet as I could be, which is very quiet indeed, because the first thing we learn to do here, as girls, sir, is creep silently, so as not to wake you, m’Lord, in the night, nor anyone else, and so like this I slowly made my way around the house, big slow steps, making sure to keep my feet on the rugs, and to not stand on those places I know creak the most, and not to touch the walls, or the ornaments on the sideboards, or the chandeliers, where they hang down in places, by the stairs, mainly, low enough you can hit your head on them if you’re not careful, sir.

“And sometimes the noises faded a little, and other times they grew louder, and like this, like it was some childhood game, I slowly found my way to the, well, the source, sir, because it was clear by now that it came from one place, rather than all over, or from something moving around, and when I found out where that was, I’d made my way down all the way to the kitchen, and I stood there for a second, by the door, listening to those repeated thuds, which were accompanied now by some whispering hiss, in the aftermath, that sounded almost then like words, but not words that I could understand.

“But I couldn’t bear the thought of not knowing what it was now, and I knew I couldn’t just stand there all night, though I dearly wished, such was my terror by then, to turn and creep back to my bed, and hide again beneath the covers, and pretend I had been asleep all night, and heard nothing at all that was strange, nothing at all that was unsettling, nothing at all that was odd. Which was the second time I thought that, or the third, maybe, I’ve lost count. And the last, as it turned out.

“Anyway maybe I should have listened to myself. But I didn’t listen. I never listen to anyone, that’s my problem, that’s what Miss Grace always says, when I’ve done something wrong again, that I think too much for myself, and listen too little to others, although I notice she never says that when I do something right, which I do more often than I do anything wrong, I can tell you, sir, because if I didn’t, I’d have been sent packing long before now, cause not just Miss Grace but your Ladyship, too, she wouldn’t let no one stay here if they couldn’t do anything right.

“But I bet you know that better than me, m’Lord, seeing as how you’re married to her and all that.

“So I pushed the door open, slowly, like I said, so as not to make a sound, but as I did, the draught from the kitchen caused a gale to blow out into the hall, or so it seemed, and my hair all blew around, sir, and my nightgown fluttered like a sheet on the line, and my candle fluttered and blew out, and I couldn’t see anything suddenly, and all I could smell was the smoke from the wick.

“And it was so hot in the kitchen, sir, like someone had left the ovens on, and with the smell of smoke from my candle, and the smell, too, sir, which stunk like, well, it stunk, sir, and it was like I’d opened the doors to hell, m’Lord, it really was.

“Now I could hear the thudding even louder, like the noise of skulls cracking against the floor, and all the rotten meat inside splashing out. And then in the silence that followed there was like this whistling sort of whispering speech, that sounded like someone saying “twenty one”, in a way that made me shiver, all over, so unnatural it was, sir.

“And then there was a pause, and then it all repeated, sir, over and over again, thud, splat, silence, “twenty two”; thud, splat, silence, “twenty three”; and so on, until it got to like twenty nine. And all I could think was the devil was there, counting out our souls, sir, so as he knew which ones to take, when the time came.

“Now I think maybe the voice would have kept on counting, sir, but all of a sudden there was a flash of lightning from outside, and the whole room was illuminated, and there on the table I saw it sir, I saw this creature, this devil. It was squatting on the kitchen table, all bony spider-like limbs, bending backwards instead of forwards, and covered in white flesh, like some sort of dead fish, and these red eyes blazing out of some hollow skull, and hair like old gorse all round its head. And in its hand it had our basket of eggs, sir, and it was picking them up one by one, and hurling them down onto the floor, so that now the whole floor was dripping with slime, and so was the table top, and the hands of the hellish creature itself.

“And I must have seen all this in an instant sir, because lightning don’t even last a second, now, does it, sir, yet I saw it all as clear as day, sir, as clear as if it was an illustration in one of your books, one of those ones about the horrors from beyond the grave, or from down below, or from out of the night itself.

“But then it was all dark again, and now in the silence there was no sound at all, not from anywhere, except from the clock in the hall, sir, which i could hear ticking behind me, and I counted the ticks, m’Lord, like you told us to, once, so as to tell how far away the lightning was, and it was almost six miles, sir, being as it was twenty nine ticks till the thunder came.

“Which was just the same as how many souls that devil had counted out, sir, right there in front of me.

“And then I kept on counting and counting in the silence, and I got up to seventy one sir, before the next flash of lightning came. But by then the kitchen table was empty sir, and the basket of eggs was lying on the floor, and of the devil there was no sign. Then I counted, and counted, and counted, till the thunder came again, sir.

“And only then did I scream.”

As I finished this sentence, there was a sharp retort of gunfire from the yard, as if to punctuate the climax of my tale, and a strangled cry, followed inevitably by an unnerving thud.

“My mother is not well,” he said blandly. “I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive her. She knows not how she behaves.”

Only now did the master turn to look at me, and there were, I believe, tears welling in the corners of his eyes.

“I will personally see to it that she gets the help she so desperately needs.”

Behind him, through the window, I could see someone tying a noose around the dead beast’s neck, as they prepared to haul away the old nag’s remains to god knows where.

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Notes:

1. Written in June 2020

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