Oh great, someone else is trying to chuck a book together. Yep. That someone is me.
I’ve made it part way through the book so far, but the problem is I’m doing it in a vacuum. I’m writing it to myself, and I think I just need someone to either tell me to carry on or jack it in for being rubbish.
It was @Luke_T_Spear who suggested I post up a sample chapter to get feedback. Thinking about it – and as I’m between writing briefs at the moment – I thought I would.
So, here it is, wannabe writer lobs a bit of a book out. I hope you enjoy:
The Man Who Killed Ghosts
One – Night Work
“Odd name, Thane,” the security guard commented as she looked at my pass.
“I think it’s Scottish,” I said.
“Are you Scottish?”
I looked up at the highrise block. It was imposing against the dusky September evening. Even though there was a warmth in the air, a gust had blown up. The plastic sheeting hung like banners, flapping and fluttering as they were caught by the wind.
The building was still incomplete, needing cosmetic fascias and glass for the windows to complete its modern look. It had been built among the decaying, run down flats in one of Lambeth’s areas earmarked for regeneration.
“You’re here for pest control or something then?” the security guard ventured.
“Yes, something like that. Can I go in?”
“No problem. Here’s the fob. Just hold it over the sensor of the main door.”
I thanked her and walked to the modern double doors. As instructed, I held the fob over the sensor. A green light indicated that I could enter.
The lobby smelled of fresh carpeting and paint. The lighting panels in the ceiling burnt with a fluorescent harshness. I blinked while my eyes became accustomed to the changes from the dying sunlight outside. I checked my phone for the message that came through earlier.
“Peaceland development. Lambeth. Block B. Basement”
“Basement. Typical.” I muttered to myself.
I decided against the lift and took the stairs. In my line of work, taking the lift is just asking for trouble. It wasn’t just the pranks of playful spirits that could trap you, but unfinished elevator mechanisms.
Being a modern development, it wasn’t a basement as such, not in the traditional sense, but an underground carpark and area for bins. There was little in the way of light. Only two striplights were working to illuminate the middle of the concrete forum I’d found myself in. Any other light was provided by the orange glow of the street lamps that had picked out the edges of walls and equipment, which now lay silent after a day’s work.
Initially, I felt nothing there. Nothing at all.
I’d never been misled by Will Tagler – my contact at the company – before. Maybe he was wrong this time.
I jumped slightly as a battered drinks can clattered along the concrete floor as it was taken by the wind. I’m always slightly annoyed when I jump at the most innocuous of things. Ironically, I never usually jump at anything supernatural. I always sense it before it appears.
Then I did.
Within seconds of the feeling of pressure around my head, it manifested.
A hunched over figure hovered around two feet above the ground. It was garbed in a dress… no robes. A monk? The body was completely covered, except for two twisted, long-nailed hands that extended from the roughly-hewn sleeves. The hands reached up to the hood, folding it back to reveal the full horror of the face underneath.
I was unable to tell if the ghost was once male or female, so wizened were its features. It had piercing, white eyes in sunken sockets. Under the face’s hooked nose was a row of rotten, broken teeth. The jaw was completely gone, and the tongue hung uselessly against the neck.
It shrieked in a completely inhuman way. The chilling pitch was delivered with a burbling timbre, no doubt as a result of the missing jaw that had been taken before death.
I held my ground. Already I could feel the energies in my body begin to coalesce. The static tingle ran up my arms, sparking and connecting like tiny, electrical roots that joined with the glow that formed in my chest.
The glow began to pulse from my hands, picking out every grotesque detail of the phantom that hung in the air. I could see it making a move.
It came straight for me, screaming in its vile, half gurgling, half shrieking cadence.
A death bogle.
Damn it, why didn’t Tagler warn me?
The creature seemed to hold its position, merely a few feet from me. If its hands touched me, I would be cursed to suffer and die in anything from a day to a year. It could be longer, but it’s really not something you want to experience anyway. Whatever the circumstances of its indecision, I wasn’t going to lose the advantage.
I lunged forward. My hand contacted with the creature’s torso, illuminating it with a blue aura. For a moment the ineffectual lighting of the car park was overtaken by the glow from the bogle as it shook and screamed in the air. The blue glow burst within it and the entity was instantly destroyed. The remnants of its form were no more than tatters, raining softly over me onto the hard concrete below.
The car park fell back into half-darkness, offering no clue as to the event that had just taken place.
I walked back out onto the forecourt after taking a short time to rest, which I needed to do to tackle the stairs. The blustery wind seemed to have died down a little. Strolling over to the security hut, I took a deep breath. I was used to being given scant information when going out on a job, but I had told Tagler to at least warn me if I was facing something that dangerous.
That wasn’t just a run of the mill ghost. It was a death bogle. If those things even lay a finger on you, you’ve had it.
I handed the fob over to the security guard.
“How’s the pest problem?” she asked.
“Oh, I didn’t see you with any gear.” She didn’t press the point, and I wasn’t in the mood to go into details. Frankly, I never am. “Rats make me feel… Urgh!” She shuddered.
“Me too,” I smiled.
“How are you getting home?” the security guard asked. “Tube?”
“I’m only in Brixton,” I answered, “just a stroll.”
“Well, be careful. There’s all sorts out there.”
I smiled. “Understood. Take care.” I walked away as the security guard offered, “Goodnight!”
As I strolled away, I pulled my phone from my pocket, and read Tagler’s message again. I hit reply and tapped:
In future, tell me if it’s something really nasty. That was a bogle.
No more than five minutes later, my phone vibrated:
Hey, you’re the expert. To me it’s just a spook. It’s done?
I replied that it was. The response read:
Good man. Transferring money now.
At least the money was good. It took the edge of seeing some of the grimmest sights the supernatural world threw at me.
I toyed with the thought of what it would be like to have an ordinary job. For a moment, I couldn’t think of any. Well, there’s security guard, train driver… shop keeper. There’s whatever Will Tagler does, although I don’t think that’s probably all that ordinary.
The truth is, I had a skill that’s been with me for as long as I can remember.
My earliest recollection of being able to see ghosts was at the age of four.
I had been invited to Trisha Britten’s fifth birthday party. Trisha and her friends were all around a year older than me. I was a summer baby, but I had been enrolled into the term with a lot of older kids, so I always seemed a bit smaller than my classmates. This continued all through my school years. It was my mother who suggested I go to Trisha’s party after chatting with the girl’s mum at the school gates.
As with most of my memories of that time, I tend to remember things in flashes, like flicking through a photo album. When I think back to my mind’s snapshots of that day, it is as you’d imagine a child’s birthday party to be. I was on my own, shy and awkward, not really feeling comfortable around anyone, especially children my own age. I’m not sure how it happened, but I remember playing games with the other children and laughing. I think Trisha’s mum was kind, and had a knack for getting kids to play well together. Even the shy and quiet ones like me.
I do remember it being springtime. The air was cool and damp as we played, haphazard and silly in the garden. We ran, hither and thither, heedless of rules that we’d either forgotten or ignored.
As we played, I was struck with a sensation of pressure around my head. I never got headaches, and wondered if this was what Mum had felt when she talked about them. The pressure was coming from the dark shape of a man.
The man in the garden wasn’t at the party.
When I think of him, the memories become fuller, more involved. This recollection is less like mere stills and more like watching a film, albeit a film that had aged with the colours washed out.
He was so tall, taller than any other grown-up I’d seen. I took in every shred of his appearance. He was absolutely drenched from head to toe. Weathered work boots, worn trousers, a waist length, torn jacket wrapped around a dark, mottled shirt. My eyes met his. His face was pained, as though it was agony to speak. It felt like I stared for hours at this shambolic figure.
From nowhere, a ball hit me on the side of the head with hollow thunk. It didn’t hurt, but the shrill laughter of the other children shook me from that frozen moment. I looked to where the man had been standing, but he had gone.
I have a vague memory of asking Trisha’s mum who the man in the garden was, but I can’t remember her answer. I don’t think she had one.
There were no more invites to Trisha’s house after that.