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Halloween

In our build-up to Halloween 2021 – a time of the year that we at Edgeverse traditionally don’t give a shit about – we decided to publish a series of short stories that take traditional horror elements and give them a wobbly new spin.
We enjoyed writing these stories so much that we created a whole new collected work centred around them, titled, ‘The Bad Place.’
If slightly off-kilter horror is your cup of tea then why not take a dive into the absolutely free world of the weird and macabre world of our darkest writing?

Portent

By - Jack. And then Seth. And then Jack again... then a tiny bit more Seth.

He cracked open a brown-flecked shell and poured the egg into a blackened pan that sat on an open stove. It hissed at first and then settled into a sizzle, the clear albumen turning translucent before slowly growing white. The smell of eggs joined the smell of bacon and sausages he had procured from a local butcher who really knew what he was doing.

He gazed out through his window at the rolling hills that stretched out over the horizon, the soft greens melting into the clear blue skies above. It was all so idyllic, all so nearly perfect.

“I had a dream,” a voice said softly.

Jed reflexively closed his eyes and breathed a heavy sigh. His heart fluttered in his chest, for now he knew he could only wait for her to continue, as he always did. He opened his eyes and noticed he had jabbed a spatula into the egg, smashing it against the pan.

There were so many dreams.

“You had another dream, did you?” he said, doing his best to mask his rising fear.

His daughter—Diana—a tiny slip of a thing barely seven years of age, was stood behind him. Without turning, he knew she was standing up straight, a doll hanging limply by her left side. She had once drilled a hole in the top of its head and stuffed it full of paper notes—notes which nobody had ever managed to decipher. He had questioned her for hours about what was written on them, and all she would say was that they were ‘true things.’ When they pressed her as to why she had written them, she would only say that she hadn’t—not really.

She would be gazing up at him fixedly, her empty blue eyes the colour of the heavens above, yet ever more eternal.

“A man in black, I saw. He worked near here. He lived in a stone building and had a beard of purest fire. He listened to the sins of better men, and did shameful things himself when he thought nobody saw. But they saw.”

“Sam…” Jed sighed, and poked at the broken egg as it slowly burnt a dull brown. Old Sam was the town priest. He turned to drink after his son drowned in the lake, the day before he joined the order.

“I once dreamed his son,” she added.

Jed turned and nodded at her empty face, her expression open and innocent but somehow twisted and vile in his mind’s eye. “Dream his son you did,” he agreed. “You told old Sam all about it, the self-same day he snapped open the first of many a bottle.”

She shrugged her bony shoulders beneath her white bedclothes. “I see simply what is there to be seen, Daddy. I see the truth of what shall come to pass.”

Jed shook his head sadly.

“Writing, he had, on his left arm,” she continued, her voice a hollow echo of something deep beyond her. “His wife’s name. And his son’s.”

Jed closed his eyes. “His tattoo…” he said sadly. “I’ll make some calls after breakfast, see if his body’s been found. He lived alone.”

“He is not alone now,” Diana told him. “There are so many voices now. He is drowning in voices now.”

The Bishop sipped at a cup of tea and shook his head sadly. “Sam had nobody, you know? Just the church.”

“I know…” Jed sipped at his own mug and nodded. “This is a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s affairs. I’m sure if you went to the local store, they’d be able to tell you what I had for dinner last night.” He flashed a wry smile.

The Bishop smiled back and sighed. “Sam lived here ever since his wife died, did he not?”

Jed nodded. “Cancer, he told me. He raised his son here until the day he drowned. A terrible business, that was.”

“I heard,” he agreed. “It must have hit him hard.”

Jed nodded and sat back in his dining room chair in the kitchen of his old stone cottage. A cold chill hung on the air. “It hit us all, the death of a boy of that age. He was one of our own.”

“Of course,” The Bishop said, gazing awkwardly into the tea as it swirled in his slightly off-white mug. “Of course.”

“I had a dream,” came a voice from the doorway.

Jed clenched his eyes firmly shut and muttered, “No…” under his breath. “Not now…”

The Bishop forced a smile on his careworn old face and said, “Hello there, young lady.”

“Not in front of the Bishop,” Jed told her firmly.

“But it’s about the Bishop,” she said.

Jed’s blood seemed to turn to ice in his veins. He shot a glance at the late middle-aged man and then back to his daughter. “No,” he said. “He doesn’t want to know.”

The Bishop, clearly confused, looked awkwardly to the face of the man and said, “What?”

Diana continued, her voice hollow and distant, “A woman was cleaning. She had long, grey hair tied back in a knot that sits at the base of her skull. Wiry she was, but strong, and wore only black since her husband passed some two years earlier.”

Jed glared at her, but fear had stolen his resolve. He could do nothing to stem this tide.

“Alice?” The Bishop gazed at the little girl, and then back to Jed in concerned confusion. “My housemaid?”

Diana continued, “Her husband didn’t pass by the fickle hand of fate. Her guilt drove her to polish your toilet in the hope your God might forgive her actions. She knew he wouldn’t, for she could never forgive them herself.”

“Holy mother of God!” The Bishop uttered, gazing raptly at the frail little girl. “How can you possibly…”

“It’s so hot now. So hot that she can hear her own eyes hissing inside her bones. And it grows hotter every moment; it will always grow hotter, and it will never run out of moments.”

The Bishop’s face was drained of colour. He turned to the man, and gasped, “Jed?”

Jed shook his head as he gazed into his mug. All he could manage to say was, “Alice has gone, Sir. She’s gone.”

The Bishop stood in Jed’s kitchen and leaned heavily against an old oak table where they had once shared a pot of tea. The circumstances had been little better then.

Sergeant Pike looked around sadly with the eyes of a detective, missing nothing of the details. “Did you know old Jed well?”

The Bishop shrugged. “Well enough. I would drop in for a mug of tea from time to time. He once did some woodwork for us; we shared an interest in carvings and would often speak at length on the subject.”

“I see,” the officer said. “Speaking as a man of these parts, I knew him well enough too. He hung all the doors on our station-house last summer. Good man, I always thought. There was a darkness in his eyes though, a sadness.”

“His wife died in childbirth,” he told the policeman. “He was never the same after. Who would be?”

“Quite so…” he agreed. “A dreadful matter. Doesn’t bear thinking about.”

There was a moment of silent contemplation.

“And the girl?” said the Bishop. “What is to become of her?”

“We’re working on that,” he said with a sigh. “She seems oddly oblivious to all this right now. She’s just a slip of a thing. She doesn’t understand her father tore out his own wrists. No sense explaining that to her.”

The Bishop shuddered openly. “She understands…” he muttered.

“I dreamed this,” said Diana, shocking them both to silence. “I dreamed my father would pass with no blood left in his veins, his brain fading to oblivion as he drifted into the icy depths. I knew this would pass. I always know.”

The Bishop bit hard into his bottom lip, and turned away. The policeman just frowned. Perhaps he too had heard the stories?

“I had another dream…”

The two men’s eyes widened, meeting one another in horror. Neither was bold enough to bid the little girl to silence.

“I dreamed of a place far far away from our little town. A room there is, and in it a person: a person that thinks they are safe; a person who thinks that nothing can happen to them.”

The Bishop opened his mouth, but only a breath uttered forth.

“This person reads a tale of terrible happenings, and assures themselves it’s just a story. But it’s never just a story. This person is reading a tale from beyond the cloud, a story that could never come to pass—a story about a person, in a room, who will die while they read it.

“They’re telling themselves now it couldn’t be true, but they are afraid. Deep down, they know the end is coming. They know this is going to hurt…”

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