First published in Gscene July 2020
For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.
For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being Read more
More to Me Than HIV is a project that aims to breakdown the stigma that has historically been attached to this virus.
When I saw my piece in last months Gscene to promote the More to Me Than HIV project, I was extremely proud, but a small part of me was filled with anxiety; but why should I feel this way? I have been on effective antiretroviral therapy since the Read more
For last years World AIDS Day I put together a public project of work joining other people living with an HIV+ diagnoses at Jubilee library.
For the project I spoke openly about my journey having being diagnosed HIV+ 32 years previous. Back then there was no treatment and a lot of fear and misinformation concerning how HIV was transmitted. As such stigma was rife, Read more
I’ve always loved horror stories. Skeletons have been at the forefront. I had a full size paper, glow in the dark skeleton and then a bit later the poster on the opposite side of my bed was of a skeleton on a motorbike, which I thought was great! I think i got it after seeing th esketon riding a motoabike in the Hammer Horror, Doctor, Terrors, House of Horrors, an all time favourite of my sister and mine.
I liked the skeletons that grew out of the monsters teeth in Jason and the Argonauts and seemed to always find those plastic skeletons either on a key ring or the like while on seaside holidays.
My sister had some great gothic children’s books, one was a collection of the original Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, with great illustrations. My favourite was the Sea Witch from the little mermaid, she was the stuff of nightmares! The other book my sister had was about dwarfs and giants. The one story I liked my sister to read to me was about a group of dwarfs who kidnap a princess. The scene that will never leave my brain is when the princess complains that the carriage seat is too hard, the dwarf jumps out of the carriage, plucks out his eye, throws it in the air and sees a filed of wheat…poor princess!
From their I discovered the Pan Books of Horror. I loved the covers and the blurb on the back as much as I liked the stories themselves.
The very first horror story I wrote was at school and leant the first rule of horror is you need to build the tension, let the feeling of dread creep in. Of course once you have mastered this then you can experiment every which way.
A couple more years passed and I was looking for a project to learn something new when my husband Keir spotted a creative writing class at Brighton City College. My tutors, Ruth and Maria said, for your first project we don’t want you to write we would like you to draw a rough plan of the street you grew up in, followed by us naming who lived in each house. From there grew my collection of short horror stories called Blanche Street.
Blanche Street, where all the neighbours are a nightmare. My friend Andrew Nimmo Helped me upload my e-book onto Amazon, while my friend Linus created a brilliant webpage advertising the type of synopsise of my ten tales in the style of the ones I admire from PBH.
My late mother-in-law, Hazel Bottrill created some brilliant art work for the stories, The Fall of Derrick Houser, Dead Famous, and the book cover. My other talented friends also contributed some brilliant images to go with the Blanche Street Tales, Angus Stewart: Filth, and publicity photo for back cover, Davey Sutherland: Frank, Sarah Prades and Kristan Akerman and three new pieces from Darren Menezes: Sugar Almonds, The Nightmare and Some Mother’s Son.
Finally, I found online a great editor, Jenny Prince, who through fresh eyes and is at present getting the book in shape for its (self publishing) into paperback.
More information to follow.
The taste of blood slid across Howard’s tongue as the Norwich to Ipswich train rattled along the track. For the last half hour he had nervously bitten his nails, all in the pursuit of the latest high. Howard’s best mate, Kes, (everyone called him Kes, because he was always high as a kite) had raved about the mind blowing time he’d had the other night at the Caribbean Club. Some bloke had offered Kes a new kind of high at the club toilet and he said he was off his head all night, “It’s called Trish. Think ecstasy, crossed with a trip and dib-dab of speed.”
Even before Kes had finished yabbering, Howard was hooked. Kes had said he was going to meet up with a guy called Chef and get some Trish for the weekend. That had been a couple of days ago. With no job worries, Kes will still be off his face on Trish, thought Howard.
As the train pulled into Ipswich’s train station, Howard pulled out the crumpled piece of paper from his jeans pocket on which Kes had scrawled.
9 Blanche Street, Ipswich. Ask for Chef. Say, “I love Trish.”
When the train finally pulled in to Ipswich, the seasoned travellers rushed from the platform and grabbed the waiting taxies. With no sign of a bus, Howard began walking towards what he hoped was the town centre. Half way he bumped into a young couple and asked if they knew where Blanche Street was. The woman shrugged her shoulders, as the bloke said, “You sure you want that part of town mate?”
Howard nodded while trying to ignore his growling stomach, all he wanted was to grab his stash of Trish and get back to his bedsit in Norwich.
Recognising the nervousness pouring out of Howard’s body, the man shrugged his shudders and said, “It’s no more than ten minutes away, just off Cemetery Road.”
Having followed the man’s directions, Howard turned into Blanche Street and instantly understood what the man had meant. The street was a row of pre-war dilapidated terraced houses. As he walked down the street, Howard’s stomach tightened; with most of the street lights broken it was difficult to make out the door numbers.
As he crept past one house he heard a man shout, “Madeline, Madeleine!” which caused Howard to quicken his step. Each house he passed seemed to be more decrepit than the last: that was until he reached number seven. The bottom half of the door had been boarded up. Bare wires hung where the doorbell had once been and the upstairs windows were smashed.
Again Howard felt his gut jolt, but there was no way he was going back home empty handed. Taking a deep breath he raised his hand to knock on the door, only for it to suddenly fly open. A dark silhouette of a very, very big man filled the door frame.
“Y,y,y,you Chef? Said Howard?
With no ready response, Howard tried to steady his voice without much success and said, “I,I,I,I,I love Trish.”
The man stepped back and nodded for Howard to enter the gloomy lit front room.
The first thing to hit him was the overwhelming stench of stale cigarette smoke, greasy takeaway food and something else, something rotten. While trying to manoeuvre passed the minefield of beer cans and overflowing ashtrays, Howard knocked a half-eaten takeaway box off the oversized leather armchair: spilling its contents onto the threadbare carpet. Dropping to his hands and knees, Howard went to clear up the partly chewed, greasy chicken bones only for Chef to yell, “Fucking leave it, get your arse in the back.”
Howard jumped to his feet, brushed the grease from his hands on to his jeans and then followed the man through the middle room, into the kitchen.
Hanging from the centre of the kitchen celling was a bare light bulb highlighting the cobwebs that strung from every corner, the floor felt sticky beneath his feet. Howard glanced round the near barren kitchen. The only other furniture was a tatty pine wooden table, either side sat two mismatched chairs and a bar stool. Chef nodded at Howard and grunted, “Sit.”
Like a well trained mongrel, Howard quickly obeyed, pulled out the chair and sat himself down.
Chef flung open the fridge door and said, “Beer?”
Howard stared at the man’s huge hands that gripped the rusting fridge door, his fingernails caked with black grime. A trickle of bile shot from Howard’s empty stomach into his throat causing him to nod as he tried his best to swallow his sick.
Grabbing two cans from the fridge, Chef slammed one can down in front of Howard, cracked open his own and drained the contents before Howard had even opened his.
“Get that down yah, it will stop you from being so fucking jumpy.”
Howard tried his best to stop his hands from shaking as he opened his can, only for the contents to spray all over his face.
Howard slurped at the frothing can as Chef laughed while he grabbed another two beers from the fridge. As he sat down at the table he said, “So, how’d you hear about me, was it London Tony?”
nun with a skull face by:Skull Illustrations by Laurie Lipton
All the posh kids had done very well in their education and each went on to make their own mark in their chosen field all thanks to the ongoing dedication from their teacher, Miss Hickory who through her own promotional career allowed her to not only encourage and push but also keep an eye her murderous brood. Unfortunately for Miss Hickory, soon after the children had moved on, her illicit affair became public knowledge forcing her to move away from the school she loved and ended up resettling in Ipswich, where she struggled to find a job and any true meaningful relationship. Eventually Miss Hickory turned to booze and drugs and became a shadow of her former self.
One night while she was nursing a large scotch on the rocks and a joint, her doorbell rang. Miss Hickory tried to look at the clock and through her bleary eyes saw it was 12:55 a.m.
Wondering who could be possibly calling on her at such a late hour, Miss Hickory pulled herself out of her chair and went to the front-door and peered through the spy hole. To her surprise, she saw a nun standing on her doorstep. Curiosity got the better of her and so she opened the door and slurred, “Do you know what time it is sister?”
With the street lights off and only a trickle of light creeping into the hallway from behind, Miss Hickory could not see the nun’s face. With her head bowed down, the Nun spoke very gently, “I’m so sorry Miss Hickory, I know it’s an unnatural time to be making such a call but I must speak to you, may I come in?”
Cherry Blossom came downstairs stretching and yawning, picked up her mail and toddled into the kitchen to make herself a much needed cup of coffee, having been up till late in the night editing a twelve page spread about new hot designer, Max Calender-Queen.
As she waited for the kettle to boil she flicked on the TV and went to scan through her mail when suddenly a face from her past filled the TV screen, making her stop in her tracks. Cherry then sat down with her hand over her mouth as the picture of Miss Hickory was replaced by a solemn looking news reader.
“Police are baffled at the seemingly motiveless murder of a Miss Hickory, who lived in Dickory Road, by Ipswich’s dock. According to neighbours it was their postman who made the grizzly discovery on his rounds this morning. Police have confirmed that Miss Hickory was killed with a single blow to the head by her own brass clock that had stopped at 1 a.m. precisely. As there was no sign of a break-in police are assuming that Miss Hickory knew her attacker and let them into her home. As we speak, police have begun a house to house enquiry and are urging anyone who may have heard or seen anyone acting suspiciously within the Dickory Road area to get in touch”.
With her heart pounding hard in her chest, Cherry switched the television off and wondered who could have done such a thing to Miss Hickory, “She was so nice.” Thought Cherry to herself as she picked up the phone and told her assistant-editor that she would not be into day.
After a long hot shower, Cherry tried to control the feeling of unease that flowed through her body. As she dried herself off, a long forgotten memory tried to break through the wall she had built inside her mind from many years ago but the same surname, Flynn, Flynn, Flynn kept tapping at her unconscious mind.
If Cherry had allowed the wall in her mind to come down then maybe she would have remembered that terrible day by the mineshaft when poor little Johnny Flynn lost his life. However dear reader, Cherry’s guilt had buried that memory so very deep that it was unable to save her; if only she had not allowed herself to become so harden to life, she might have been able to save herself from the horror to come by remembering what she and her friends had done many years back on that fateful day.
Eventually Cherry decided the surname that kept bugging her had something to do with Errol Flynn and so she got herself dressed and made her way back downstairs and started her day again by picking up her mail and seeing the usual invites: a fashion show in Paris, a celebrity lunch in Chelsea and a charity plea from some far off country that Cherry had never heard of.
Cherry was about to throw all the letters in the bin, when a handwritten envelop with the Coalville postcode caught her eye. Upon opening the letter a smile crept across Cherry’s face as happier memories flooded her mind.
Dear Cherry Blossom, As you may have read on the World Wide Web the popularity of school reunions are now back in vogue big time. As someone who has always had their finger on the pulse of the next big thing we really hope you can join your, Big-Steps, Wide Strides class of 84. You will be delighted to know that many of your classmates have already excepted our invitation and are looking forward to getting together to reflect on the past and celebrate all that the future may bring. The gathering is taking place this weekend at a beautiful house just on the outskirts of Coalville. All catering and entertainment have been taken care off; please find enclosed a map. We very much look forward to seeing you on the Friday night. Yours most sincerely, Schools’ reunited.
A much needed flood of warmth swept over Cherry, meeting up with her class mates was just the thing she needed, it would be good to know that they were all okay and to talk about poor Miss Hickory’s untimely demise. She began to wonder if any of them would know why she could not stop thinking about Errol Flynn. Cherry made a quick call to her assistant-editor telling him that the magazine was ready to publish and that she would not be available until after the weekend.
Unbeknown to Cherry, her old class mates, Bella Donna, May Flower, Rose Petal and Dan De-Lion had all received the same letter on the same day. Unlike Cherry, the other’s were looking forward to gloat at the lesser successful classmates who had been unable to escape from Coalville. What they didn’t know of course was that this was to be a very special, select reunion.
On the day of the arrival of her guests at the retreat in Coalville a woman in her late fifties, dressed in a black and white maids outfit walked into each of the guest bedrooms, checking that everything was in place. As she patted each of the single beds she found herself singing the nursery rhyme over and over again. “Ring a ring o’roses, a pocketful of posies, ah-tishoo,ah-tishoo, we all fall down.
A smile spread across her face as she heard a car drive with speed up the long gravel road leading to the house. As she made her way down the stairs, she wondered which of the troublesome brood would be the first to arrive. Stepping onto the porch, the woman shielded her eyes from the glowing sun and saw a tall slender woman dressed in a long flowing white dress and a wide brimmed white hat.
Cherry had been to enough social events to not feel nervous, but for some reason as she walked towards the maid she had a real feeling of apprehension, but that quickly dissolved when the maid gave a welcoming smile and said, “Hello my dear, you’re the first to arrive, let me help with your baggage, we’ll soon have it unloaded.”
Cherry looked again at the maid and asked if she had worked in London as she was sure they had met before.
The maid shook her head, “No my dear, I’ve only ever known Coalville as my home, so it must be someone else you are thinking off.”
Cherry wrinkled her nose as if a bad smell had wafted past her and said, “Oh you poor thing, I’m so lucky to have escaped Coalville. I now live a fabulous life in London, I’m chief editor of the nation top women’s magazine, Hi-Yah. You must have read it, I’m sure even in Coalville they would stock it.
As she carried Cherry’s cases the maid nodded towards the lift and said, “I’m sorry my dear, I can’t say I have.”
Cherry wrinkled her nose again, “Oh, how awful for you, don’t worry I have brought a few back copies in the boot of the car, you can collect them for me after you have shown me to my room”.
The maid smiled again and pressed the lift button to the second floor.
Cheery tried to hide her disappointment at the plainness of her room. The single bed had a simple white duvet with a bedside cabinet by the side. On the facing wall stood a chest of drawers, while in the corner was a small wardrobe.
The maid placed Cherry’s bag on the bed and said, “There’s a shower and W.C. adjacent to your room”.
Cherry was a little perturbed and the thought of having to share the bathroom, but before she could say anything the maid added, “We’ll be having Champagne at four, I’m sure the remaining guests will have all arrived by then”.
Cherry said, “Thank you,” as the maid left and closed the door. It was only then that Cherry noticed a tapestry, in a frame, screwed to the wall above her bed. As she took a closer look she saw it was the nursery rhyme, There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly. Below the rhyme the same artist had stitched a picture of a woman with a fly diving into her mouth.
“How weird is that!” Said Cherry out loud. “Bloody weird” came a reply from behind her. Cherry Spun round to see a tall elegant woman dressed all in black. Her face was pale, made all the more striking by her bright red lipstick. Cherry took a moment to register who it was and then said, “Bella! Is that you?”
Bella winked and said, “Yes Darling, don’t I look fabulous?” She then stepped forward and both women gave each other an air kiss on each cheek, knowing full well they had each taken much precision and care having their makeup done.
Bella then looked around the room and said, “Pity, your room is just as much of a dump as mine, if it had been better I would have got you to move”.
Cherry suddenly remembered just what a bully Bella had been, but she was an adult now, she could handle Bella. Sensing that she had successfully rattled Cherry with such ease, Bella continued, “Of course my room does have its own ensuite bathroom so I guess my room is better than yours”.
Cherry nearly chocked, “Ensuite! Really! Well, I’m going to have to get a room with one as well.”
Bella laughed out loud, “Oh darling, it’s so good to know you are as gullible as ever. Of course there’s no ensuite in this dump, I’m just hoping that there no one else in the rooms on my floor. I did ask that woman who took the bags if there was a penthouse suite on the floor above me but she said the two room above were crippled with damp and as such locked. Of course I pushed her further, well you know me darling and asked about the other rooms but she informed me that many of the rooms are being renovated and that our rooms are of the identical highest standards. Both women let out a little laugh as they looked round the plain room. Bella continued, “Well, I had to tell that servant woman that I disagreed on what she thought were high standards compared to the luxury I am used too, but then she mentioned a champagne gathering at four and so I thought I’ll stay for that, then go”.
Cherry took another look at the nursery rhyme on the wall and asked Bella if she had one in her room. Bella put her finger to he mouth and pretended to gag, “Ugh, yes darling, Little Miss Muffet would you believe, what is worse is there a picture of a huge spider in the corner of the bloody thing. Who ever done it has to be sick as they have stitched in a Brazilian Wandering Spider, just like the one that nearly killed my second husband on our honeymoon. I did try and unscrew it from the wall with my nail-file, but it’s stuck fast, so i’ve draped my Gucci scarf over it instead. Besides, I think after the champagne meet and greet I’ll just say my goodbyes and get out of this godforsaken town”.
Cherry wanted to ask which husband she was on to now when she noticed her watch said 3:30, “Come on let’s go downstairs and see who else has arrived”.
As they stepped out into the hall, they were greeted by the maid who told them that the rest of the guests had arrived and were waiting for them to join them. Cherry opened the lift door and went to step in when Bella pulled her back. Cherry let out a gasp as she looked down into the depths of the lift shaft. The maid let out a little chuckle and said, “I’m sorry my dear, this building is so very old and the lift can be very temperamental. For some reason the lift will always return to the ground floor so do be extra careful during your stay.”
With that the maid, pulled the lift door shut and pressed the call button which re-engaged the lift as its mechanism cranked and churned its way up.
As the three women stepped into the lift, Bella took a closer look at the maid and asked if they had met before. The maid smiled, and said, “I must have a familiar face, your friend was asking the same thing, but no I do not believe we have had the pleasure in being aquatinted”.
Bella looked at the maid again, and said, “Hmmm, What did you say your name was?”
As the lift clunked to the ground floor, the maid said, “Trisha Steers”, then pulled the lift door open and stepped out into the hall and saw their old school friends. May Flower was dressed in a smart, charcoal grey two piece suit, Rose Petal had multicoloured, hippy style frock on and to Cherry and Bella’s surprise, Dan De-lion looked quite buff in a pair of tight leather jeans and leather waste coat, with a tight white t-shirt underneath. Bella marched up to the table where the champagne was, grabbed herself a glass and went over to Dan and said, “I always knew you were a poof.”
Dan gave Bella a quick look up and down and replied, “Only a true fag-hag would have spotted the signs Darling.”
The pair clinked their champagne flutes, gave each other an air kiss and downed their drinks in one then spun round to talk to whoever was infront of them.
In no time the group of friends were chatting as if it was only yesterday, each secretly pleased that none of the other students from their school had made it to the reunion as they all cooed and arrhed at how well each of them had done since leaving Coalville.
Rose Petal had her own fashion company, Cherry Blossom was chief editor of Hi-Yah magazine, Bella Donna was now married to her forth a millionaire, May Flower bred and exported pedigree Shih Tzu’s to film stars for a living, and Dan De-lion had his own leather and rubber fetish company.
After the conversation had run the gauntlet of back-patting and to a small extent backstabbing, the gang eventually talked about the terrible demise of Miss Hickory.
“It was such a shock,” said Cherry, close to tears.
Bella then piped up, “What, that she was a dyke? I thought we all knew about that”.
May shook her head, “You don’t have to always be such a bitch all the time Bella, the poor woman was murdered. If it wasn’t for her, then maybe none of us would be as successful as we are now”.
Bella, puffed on her cigarette, and said, “I didn’t need that lezza to find me a rich old men with dodgy tickers to make my fortune. She then looked at her watch and said, I think it will soon be time for husband number five”.
May was about to say something she would probably regret, when Cherry piped up again and said, “Please can we talk about something else?”
Much to Cherry’s relive, Rose stepped in and said, has anyone else got one of those dreadful nursery rhymes in their room? I’ve got Humpty Dumpty in mine”.
Unable to stop herself, Bella said, Well darling, by the size of your hips these days I’d say who ever put you in that room got it spot on!
Cherry, slapped Bella’s arm, “For goodness sake Bella, can you please stop being a bitch for just five minutes, Please!”
Everyone stopped and waited for Bella to slap Cherry back and were greatly relived when she just shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sure, I’ll give that a ago.”
Dan, who was a little disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a big fight, said, “Well, that will be a challenge” only for Rose to give him a look that made him add, “I’ve got Doctor Foster, what about you Rose?”
“Orange and Lemons, I wonder why we should have then in all the rooms, it’s a little bit odd don’t you think.”
Everyone jumped when Trisha suddenly reappeared and said, “This place used to be an orphanage, the nursery rhymes were apparently very popular with the unwanted children who lived within these walls and so the management have decided to keep that little bit of history for this lovely housing retreat, don’t you think?”
Bella, always ready to stir things up, said, “Well I for one think its stupid idea, as does this reunion, I only came to let you know that I’m still so much more fabulous then you lot will ever be.”
“Me too,” added Dan, “I was hoping that there would have been a few of those plebs from our year here too so we could have had some sport knocking them down like we used to do.”
Dan then turned to Trisha Steers and said, “Who exactly organised this god awful weekend, was it you?”
Trisha shook her head, “Oh no my dear, I’m just here hosting the event, now why don’t you all come through to the main room where dinner has been prepared.”
The party, who were all ready for some distraction made there way into the dinning room and were pleasantly surprised to see a lavish table complete with silver candelabra on the table and silverware, fine china plates and linen napkins. As they got closer they saw each had their names elegantly written on crisp white cards.
Dan walked over to the table and gave a long whistle as he picked up a bottle of vintage red wine, “Whoever set up this reunion, has very good taste”. He then looked over at Bella and said, “Come on Bella, let’s just chill a bit and enjoy the spoils we’ve had put out for us.”
Bella snorted at the very idea, turned on her heel sand made her way to the lift.
Cherry went to run after her, but May pulled her back, “Don’t get so upset about her, Cherry, it’s just what she is hoping you will do”.
Rose poured Cherry a glass of wine, pulled out a seat and said, “May’s right, let her stew it over, she won’t be able to bear sitting up in her room on her own”.
Back in her room, Bella shut the door and rummaged through the back of her suitcase and pulled out a silver flask and a small velvet purse. After taking a swig of brandy from the flask she then opened up the purple purse and took out the silver bullet shape case and mirror. As she tapped out two lines of coke on the mirror she felt herself relax. “After a little stardust, I’m going to get out of this shit hole and go back home.”
Bella then rolled up a crisp fifty pound note and snorted the white dust that gave each nostril a very satisfying sting. “”Fan-fucking-tatsic”, said Bella. She went to put the purse away, but decided she deserved another hit and so tapped out another two lines and snorted those, quickly followed by another swig of brandy.
It was only after the second dose that Bella’s head felt foggy and her legs buckled beneath her. Luckily she was able to manoeuvre herself away from the bedside cabinet and flopped down on the bed. As she lay their she looked up at the picture on the wall. “What twisted fuck thought that was okay for a children’s orphanage?”
Bela then tried to sit up, but all she could do was raise her head from the pillow, the rest of her body was completely paralysed. It was only then that Bella realised that what she had snorted was not her brand of coke, but that made no sense, she’d had a toot earlier before creeping up on that old sap, Cherry.
Again Bella tried to lift herself off the bed, but found it impossible to do so. With all her might she tried a third time and managed to just lift her neck and shoulders up. It was then she saw a nun standing in the door way with her head bent downwards. Bella tried to speak, to tell Dan that his sick joke just wasn’t that funny when the nun slowly lifted her head, to reveal a grinning skulls face.
Bella’s head and shoulders became too heavy and she felt her self flop back down on the bed. Unable to move or close her mouth, Bella watched on in horror as the skull faced nun came up to her bed, reached into the bedside cabinet and pulled out a small packet and showed it to Bella. through her bleary eyes Bella could just make out the words on the package, Rohypnol. With her tongue as disabled as the rest of her body, Bella found that not only could she not move but she could not even drum up a scream.
Panic filled Bella’s body as she watched the nun bend down, reach under he bed and pull out a large wooden box. The skull faced nun then shook the box, causing whatever was inside it to scratch around angrily. For the first time in her life Bella tried to shut her eyes and pray for someone to burst into the room and stop this madness, but even her eyelids refused to obey her. With no choice, Bella watched on in horror as the skull faced nun flicked the latch on the box, lifted the lid and emptied a three Brazilian Wandering Spiders onto Bella’s chest. Bella was well aware of just how venomous these spiders were, having used one to bump off husband number two. The scream was loud and clear inside Bella’s head, but no noise escaped from her mouth as the spiders scurried up towards her open mouth.
The nun watched on in fascination as Bella’s bowels let out a gush of piss down her leg as the fear raged hard throughout her body. As the spiders hairy feet explored Bella’s face and its collective eyes stared down at her terrified face, Bella felt her heart pounding hard against her ribs. The nun moved closer, looked down at Bella and removed the mask. With her eyes wide, she took in her killer’s face who took great delight in pushing her boney fingers past Bella’s lips and widening Bella’s mouth, allowing enough room for one of the spiders to explore the inside of her cheeks.Bella then felt a mix of horror and relive as the spider pulled itself back then plunged its fangs into the soft side of her cheeks; the poison seeped into Bella’s blood stream and raged through her body. For Bella, the pain was agonising as the venom seared through her veins, shutting down her organs one by one. Gradually she felt her throat close up and darkness fill the room as the nun stood patiently waiting for Bella to take her final breath.
I started my creative writing journey in earnest by joining a creative writing class at Brighton City College. It was in the second class that my tutor, Ruth Glen set us a task by showing us two photos. The first was of a woman in black headdress, the other photo was of a flowing river that looked golden in colour. As I was sitting at the very back of the class I mistook the headdress to be a black balaclava. My imagination then decided the balaclava was made of rubber (kinky!) and the river was polluted (political!) From these two ideas my story, Food for Thought, an ecological disaster warning story was quickly written. After many rewrites, those two main images that sparked my story were played with; the head to toe rubber outfits stayed, but the polluted river was cut as I wanted to create an enclosed environment.
Food For Thought is my favourite story out of all of the collection for many reasons, with the main one being that it allowed me to create a story well away from Blanche Street and into a different time realm altogether.
With no time to stop he grabbed some toast from the table, kissed his mum on the cheek while grappling to open the front door. As his foot hit the floor, Adam nearly slipped. Looking down he saw that the familiar grubby slab stones of Blanche Street had transformed in to a highly polished white floor. Spinning on his heels, Adam found the front door had gone and was replaced by a large white door: its single porthole staring menacingly back at him.
From here, both Adam and the reader are asked to take a leap of faith as they are dropped into a world where comedy and horror sit happily side by side as the true meaning of this ecological disaster story unfolds.
As with all my stories I think carefully about the names I give my character’s to suit the story; as Food for Thought is an ecological warning tale I decided to give all the main characters ‘earthy’ names: Adam, Dale and Ainsley. According to the Old testament’s story, God created Adam, the first man, from clay. Adam’s new work colleague’s name, Dale, means valley while the person at the end of the story who clears up Adam’s mystery of where he, is called, Ainsley which means meadow or clearing.
I was particularly interested in writing an ecological based tale as at the time of writing the first draft there were many stories in the press that were (and still are) real cause for concern. These included the return of foot and mouth disease, mad cow disease, bird flu and the threat posed by Frankenstein Food aka GM crops. All of these things were rich pickings for me, but I also wanted to have some fun spiked within the horror and so I turned to Dolly the Sheep for some inspired inspiration which allowed me to clone the much more iconic Dolly Parton. I included Dolly Parton and Whitney Huston as I had read there was a bit of a spat between these two gay icons over who sang, I Will Always Love You, best. Dolly wasn’t so bothered as she gained huge royalties, but I did enjoy giving that supposed row a bit of an airing. Before Dolly and Whitney make their appearance I introduce the readers to three brilliant Carry-On comedy icons in the shape of a rubber clad Barbra Windsor, Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howard. For extra scares a clone of Anne Widdecombe make an unsavory appearance.
I did have Dolly singing a bit of that famous song both her and Whitney share in common but after a little research I discovered that is a breech of copyright, but song titles are allowed.
Another big no, no in fiction is to wrap up any story with “it was all a dream”. This may be okay for classics like Alice in Wonderland, but readers tend to throw their arms up in the air accompanied by a long, “Nooooo!” With this in mind I didn’t want to have Adam waking up in his bed, in Blanche Street and so I put all the blame on Oliver Reed…. want to know more? then please download the book at amazon.co.uk/Blanche Street: Where all the Neigbours are a Nightmare. at the bargain price £3.59
Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure
Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.
It’s the final day of the challenge already?! Let’s make sure we end it with a bang — or, in our case, with some furious collective tapping on our keyboards. For this final assignment, lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you.
A family heirloom, a flea market find, a childhood memento — all are fair game. What matters is that, through your writing, you breathe life into that object, moving your readers enough to understand its value.
Ipswich, Felixstowe, Hadleigh, Suffolk, Norwich, Norfolk, Brighton, East Sussex, Bremerhaven, Germany, New York, Amsterdam, my bear has visited them all.
I’m not a hoarder, or into collecting things. In the past people have tried, most notably skulls, which relate to my love of all things Gothic and the many skulls I have incorporated into my tattoos. At one point I hid all the skulls in a patch of garden outside my flat but I removed them when two children told their mum they had found a mass grave; thankfully the mum saw the funny side of it. Those skulls have now found new homes.
Skulls, skulls, skulls
The only possession from my childhood days to be my constant companion has been my teddybear that my Nana bought me when I was born. Now, this is no Steiff bear, far from it; in reality it has absolutely no monetary worth at all, but to me it is priceless.
When I left home, aged seventeen I didn’t have that many belongings to take with me except my Hazel O Connor scrapbook and poster with everything else, including my bear, in a little black case (So Bronski Beat) and headed off to the bright lights of….Felixstowe!
After a short period of commuting via my moped I ended up renting a room in a very big house. My landlady was very strange and I later found out she was nicking my food! This came about when I had decided not to go home to visit my Nana one weekend. While laying in bed with my bear I saw my bedroom door open and in walked my landlady, with her grandson in her arms; not realising I was there she said, “Let’s see what cereals we have.” She then turned, looked at me and my bear and just walked out again.
My next adventure for me and my bear was a move to a little town called Hadleigh, Suffolk where I got a job as a trainee baker. To begin with I once again commuted on my trustee moped, getting up at 11 pm for a midnight start. On one of those evenings my moped packed in before I even got onto the main road and so I packed my bike in the town centre, called up my sister, Dawn and asked her to drive me to work; her reward was a day old Eccles cake!
After my shift I hitched a lift back home. Now, I was very aware that there are all kinds of stranger danger and this I was to find out to be true when I was picked up by a man who talked about his work in computers. I was ready to commit murder by the time he dropped me off!
Now, the thing is when travelling in the middle of the night it was cold and so i was dressed in my duffle coat and scarf, by the time I had finished my shift it was baking hot and everyone else were dressed in shorts and tee-shirts. To make matters worse my moped was now surrounded by a load of really big motorbikes, with all the bikers sitting around in their cut off denim jackets and jeans. I tried my very best to get my bike without much fuss but ended up knocking one bike over which had a domino effect and so all the other bikes crashed over. I think because I looked so odd I was saved a beating as they shook their heads while picking their bikes up.
A bakers life was not really for me and with the help of a man called Tim, I moved from Felixstowe to Norwich and retrained as a chef and silver service waiter at Norwich Hotel School. Here I moved into the college dorm where my bear and I where very happy. It was here I was to get my first taste of homophobia. I tried setting up a Gaysoc, but only one guy, called ‘Lumpy Head Steve’ applied and so that never really got off the ground. BTW, Steve got his nickname after two friends decided to give him a hair cut, taking a side each and the hair cut got shorter and shorter until they had to give him a skinhead….
I digress; On my doorplate I had my name under which someone had written “Is gay” to which I added, “So?”
I really can’t be doing with people who try to intimidate me, such bullies are just cowards.
After two years of study it was time to move on once more. Two of my Norwich mates, Davey and Trevor had moved to Brighton and said I should give the town a go and so I upped sticks, got a job at The Bedford Hotel, quickly followed by the Grand when it reopened. I can clearly remember Margaret Thatcher greeting us all when what I really wanted to do was to rush over to the other side of the road and join the throng of anti-Tory protestors.
The Grand was good fun, but there was more adventures to be had when the QE2 relaunched and so I grabbed my bear and took to the high seas. However, for the first month the ship was still in dry dock in Bremerhaven Germany. Each night all staff were given four cans of beer and four cans of coke a cola. Most of the waiters went to the local bar to sing ‘New York, New York’ on loop. For the first week I stayed in my cabin until my bear was kidnapped! I came back to my cabin to find a ransom note, “Come to the bar with your cans of beer or you’ll never see your bear again.”
I went to the bar, paid my ransom and got my bear back!
Since then my bear has been to Amsterdam and back after an ill thought through flight of fancy of a new life over there. And now he sits high up on my shelf with the other bears enjoying a quite retirement.
My mother at 18 months old through a divorce, my cat Sooty through either Sooty getting fed up of being dressed up in dolls cloths or he died. Loss of animals, budgies, rabbits, gold fish. Nearly losing the school tortoises who was penned in with the homemade rabbit run (chicken wire and canes, but found a hole and could move at some speed for at tortoise. Losing the fights against a group of bullies at school, which only came to an end when I left school, losing out to jobs and not knowing where to go next. Went back to College to stud catering. Lost my inhibitions on the dance floor when I move Norwich (to study at Norwich Hotel School). Lost my Ipswich accent when I moved to Brighton. Lost any longing to move back to my home town when I realised Brighton was the place I was meant to live. Lost the need to work at The Bedford Hotel when The Grand Hotel reopened after massive refit following the Brighton bombing, lost the need to work at The Grand when I got a job as a steward on the newly revitalised QE2. Lost more inhibitions when I teamed up with my mate Mark on the QE2 and formed a cabaret style show for the crew, which was so successful we were asked to perform regular shows for the passengers too. Lost in time and missed the QE2 in New York, stranded, but got home safely. Lost the number of times I have laughed till it hurts with my mates. Lost the urge to work in catering, started working and retrained with adults with severe learning difficulties. Lost the urge to work with adults with learning difficulties, retrained as a reflexologist. never really lost the urge to give help with reflexology, but moved on to retrain to be a writer.
Today’s Prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
Nailing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance Number 5 on your alto sax. Making perfect pulled pork tacos. Drawing what you see. Or, writing a novel. Each requires that you make practice a habit.
Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.
Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.
Day 3 write for 15 minutes about a song that means something to you.
Hazel o Connor as been a constant songsters from the first time I saw her on top of teh pops singing D-days in a black bra. my sister’s friend, Lulu had bought the single but didn’t really like it so she gave it to me. My best mate, Gary also liked Hazel O Connor, that song reminds me of how we each had a scrapbook album dedicated to all things Hazel, I wish I still had it, it would be a real time capsule of that time. I can honestly say no other singer/songwriter has been as constant in my life.
Around this time Gary and I went to our firts pop concert to see Haze, she had a support band called Bumble and the Bees, Hazel had just released her third album, Cover Plus, I didn’t really know any of the words but sang a long anyway, there was a girl in front of me who scowled, but I didn’t care. There is a song from that album called Animal Farmwhich had the film playing in the background. I would later read that book because of that song and really loved it, I also read 1984 and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. Gary and I had a great trip to Norwich and met other Hazelnuts, as us fans are called. Hazel’s mum, Joyce was waiting for all of us, Gary and I had Hazel O’ Connor printed on T-shirts, I remember Joyce saying, “ohh, lovely
T-shirts. I had a badge over the ‘o’ in Connor as I had misspelt it as Conner.
We had a great day going round Norwich Museum. There was to be a bigger Hazelnut’s gathering the next year called “We’re All Grown Up”, i had bought tickets, but ended up cancelling it as I had met a guy called Tim Brown. When we met I had a cup of tea he had a coffee, guess which songI connect with him! He later made up for it by taking me to The Windmill Theatre in London to see Hazel in a play about a couple who end up in the underground after a nuclea bomb. Hazel’s onstage boyfriend was coerced into taking blame for the bomb and his suicide was televised. He had his blood drained from his arm while Hazel sang a song, very grim!
I really liked Hazel’s next Album, Smile but it was during a time when her work was not being promoted by her record company due to legal wrangling, but it’s a great album. There were a good few years between taht time when I though Hazel had stopped making music altogether, but that wasn’t the case. Years later When I was seeing a guy called Wayne he had got me tickets to see Hazel at a hall in Derby. he wasn’t feeling so great so we just sat and listened to the music. it was around this time I found Hazel had made two more albums for the German market, with on elf my favourite songs, My Friend Jack being made into a video.
I Love Trish.
I love Trish, it is one of my favourite tales from the Blanche Street Tales. This story was originally written as a trilogy, paying homage to those 1970’s style horror tales: Doctor Terrors house of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and the Karen Black classic, Trilogy of Terror. When I was putting this collection of Blanche Street Tales together I revisited this story which was about a group of friends taking a new street drug and each experiencing some mind bending horrors. As I began to rewrite the tale I decided for all the horrors to happen to one person, Howard.
From the very start I wanted to create an environment that would alienate my protagonist, and so I have Howard on a train journey from Norwich to Ipswich and then of course on to Blanche Street where he meets the main villain of the piece, Chef. In the same way that horror films have the audience shouting to the victim “Don’t go into the wood/attic/cellar” I want my readers to be shouting the same to Howard as he gets in ever deeper all in his pursuit of Trish.
I wanted to create a new street drug and chose Trish in the same way other street drugs are given moniker, like Charlie for cocaine. The drug I made up takes the user into another realm altogether, dependant on what’s on their mind.
(spoiler alert) Unfortunately for Howard he keeps thinking and seeing an animal that will lead to his horrible demise by the end of the tale.
Howard went to clear up the partly chewed, greasy chicken bones only for Chef to yell, “Fucking leave it, get your arse in the back.” (I Love Trish).
I remember reading an article around the same time about an 80’s pop star talking about his drug addiction to heroin. He felt that because he was snorting the drug his drug use wasn’t as hardcore as those who injected; for me this was an interesting paradox that I wanted to include in my story. So I have Howard continuing to get in an ever deeper situation with the reader looking on as a concerned bystander, hopeful urging him to just get on the train back home.
He then reached back into the sports bag and produced a sterile wrapped syringe. For Howard, the whole situation suddenly got turned on its head. “I, I, I, wasn’t thinking of injecting it, I, I, I, mean I’ve never done that before Kes never mentioned needles.” (I Love Trish).
Most of the Blanche Street tales interact with each other, giving some extra information to the reader. (Spoiler alert) In the previous story, The Fall of Derrick Houser, Derrick’s home is flooded by the Chefs rubbish which has a distinctive smell of rotting flesh. My hope is that this will get the reader to think that the last scene in I love Trish is not only a horrible hallucination, but that the Chef is in fact chopping his victims up for his dinner. Howard also hears the painful cries of Derrick calling out for his long dead sister, Madeline, as he passes number seven.
With his last ounce of energy, Howard threw his head to one side and stopped dead. The sound of a large kitchen knife being sharpened behind him became his soundtrack. (I Love Trish)
A filthy sheen from next door’s rubbish glistens on top of the water, filling the kitchen with a familiar stench. (The Fall of Derrick Houser)
From the point of Howard taking Trish, things get very strange, A strong influence comes from the hallucination scene in Trainspotting. A key scene in the film is when Renton has his nightmare as he goes cold turkey. I can still conjure up that scene very clearly now and wanted to have a go at creating a scene that the reader wouldn’t forget in a hurry. With feedback from fans of the book, I believe I achieved what I set out to do. *Throughout this story I wanted to pull the reader into a deeper, disturbing world which gets grimmer and grimmer as Howard spirals into his drug induced hallucination. For some reason at this stage I was reminded of Charlotte Bronte when in her novel Jane Eyer she address the reader directly: “Reader, I married him”, (Chapter 38) and it felt like a great device to use in this tale.
all he could manage was a flutter of his wings as he waited for his neck to be snapped. “If only dear reader, if only.” I Love Trish.
*want to know what that scene was? Just download the book to find out: www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B00OWFK1SA.
I love Urban Myths/Urban Legends, those oh so familiar tales that are said to be based on true stories, but always happened to a friend of friend; from the fried rat found mixed in with the bucket of fried chicken and fries, to the cautionary tale of the young lovers, car broke down in the middle of no where then they hear on the radio of a mad man with a hook for a hand on the loose near to where they are parked. So when I head a story about candy-floss (to find out why candy-floss should be so horrifying, you’ll have to read the short story, Sugar Almonds) I knew I had a great story waiting to be written, but this one IS TRUE!
taking the template of young lovers out on a night out, I invented Robert and Juliette, (hey to call him Romeo would have been too much right?) and set the couple off on a romantic night that get’s a little bit drak when a gypsy tells Juliette,
“Alas my dear before the night is finished you’ll experience a horror like never before.”
As with most of the tales in Blanche Street, neighbours pop in and out of each others stories, with Jed from The Nightmare, literally staggering into Juliet and Robert’s story.
“Juliet squeezed Robert’s arm as a lanky drunk bloke came staggering towards them ”.
Although this story is written in a fairy tale way, just like a good fairy tale (and an urban myth) the pay off at the end of such cautionary tales are less gore and more down to the final image which will refuse to leave your mind for a long time. It was when I was told this story with the exact ending I have used in this story that I knew i had a great story for the Blanche Street collection. I don’t really feel there’s much need to go into the story any more without giving it all away, so why not troll over to amazon.co.uk and download the book: Blanche Street: where all the neighbours are a nightmare.
When I was a teenager I devoured the Pan Books of Horror series, loving the lurid covers as much as the stories inside. Back then I dreamed of writing my own horror stories, I had a couple of goes at school, but never really had the confidence to really go for it.
Fast forward to 2003 when I enrolled at Brighton City College and so begun my creative writing journey. the other day I dug out my work file and realised that it was then I wrote the first draft for my short story, Frank. My tutor, the brilliant Maria Ragusa set a task for us to create a character based on a part of the body; I was given a rotting tooth.Almost from the start, the character of Frank came to mind. His name was there from the start, a no nonsense man who believed his way was the only way and like the tooth he was rotten to the core.
This story is influenced by a whole host of books and films, including Pan Books of horror collection about a man who had died and gone to hell and was expecting an eternity of untold fear and punishment in the shape of fire and brimstone. Instead he was stuck in a windowless room, a bookshelf filled with outdated copies of Readers digest and a record-player,with one record playing several hours of Terry Wogan telling jokes, that was to be his hell. The Devil also appears as a really camp character who wipes his three prong folk with a silk hanky and calls the man “Ducky”, Christopher Fowler’s brilliant Faust based tale, Spanky which drove me on to write my own Faust type tale in which someone (usually a man), gives up his soul in exchange for his greatest desires and the segment from the Twilight Zone movie about a bigoted man who hates everything
With all these things in mind I created Frank, a bigoted skinhead who hates his wife kids, neighbours, Norwich football supporters and everybody else who steps into his path. The basic bones of the story wrote itself, with Frank being lured to a meeting place after reading a personal ad in the newspaper, by a man called Christopher.
“Are you a meathead? Tough-nut? Sadist?
Do you enjoy blood sports? Cruelty? Carnage?
Get in touch, let us make your favourite nightmares
Box number 19120114.”
The box numbers, 19,1,14,1,14 I put in to give a clue to who Christopher really was: 19 = S and so on. Throughout the tales in Blanche Street, other neighbours pop up in each other’s stories. In “Frank’ there’s a nod to Nettie, he’s nosey neighbour and also one of his magazines is written about Jed Savage, from the short story, The Nightmare.
“In the past he had been rewarded by obscure subscriptions to magazines such as, The Nightmare: Jed Savage, Alien Possession.
More about that story later.
I also wanted to play on Frank’s weaknesses, where as Frank wants the meeting place to be a war bunker, he is faced with something far more disturbing to him.
“ Instead of a castle or war bunker there stood a ridiculously pretty country cottage: complete with red roses around the door.”
As with all the tales in this book, there are some very disturbing horrors behind call the closed doors.
Also whereas Frank uses brawn and brawl to help him beat his victim, Christopher uses fancy words to disarm his victim.
“He then waved his hand at the cottage and said, “Don’t be put off by the quaint abode, it’s a short lease.”
From here I wanted to take the reader into Frank’s perverse world of celebrating all things Nazi. In the beginning Frank is thrilled to see objects from the Holocaust, but as the reality of the objects become more real, Frank begins to feel more and more uncomfortable, but because Frank is rotten to the core (the rotten tooth remember), he quickly pushes such thoughts to one side as if closing a book. And so it was important for the horror to be ranked up, which I won’t go into here as it will spoil the story. Some feedback has said this story made uncomfortble raeding dur to it’s subject matter, but that really is what horror is all about, to take the reader to dark places. At the time of writing this tale there was a cleraer voice about homosexual men who had been sent to the death camps, but for many years after the WW2 when being gay was still a criminal offence these victims voise was left unheard, somthing Christopher picks up on when he says to Frank,“This one is covered in many different stains. I always think it is nice to have the emblem intact, the pink ones are so often more faded.”
To find out Frank’s outcome pop on over to Amazon.co.uk
Blanche Street can be downloaded to your iphone, ipad and computer from Amazon for the great price of £3.08.