Part 28 by Emma Dawson

Mary, in a flurry of confusion and determination turned the car round, heading towards the woods she had seen on the way to the house. She was driving deeper into the woods now, deeper into the descending madness.

Was she just an unfortunate victim of circumstance? Was it the cruel nature of coincidence that she decided today was the day she wanted to make an acquaintance with he long lost Father , a jigsaw piece missing in her life that she was so eager to find to make herself complete ? To form the full picture of her life. How she came to be.

Or was it fate? Did whatever omniscient being that controlled this world make these sorry events occur on purpose? Was there some beautiful truth to come from all this, some great test of human strength?

Mary hadn’t the time to ponder over such questions. She had her heart set on finding these children. As unknown to her as her own Father, these children were strangers too, yet she felt some sort of strange obligation to them. To save their innocence.

She sped down the rough tarmac road toward the woods, gritting her teeth to prevent the ugly sound of her squealing to convince her she wasn’t ready. She was fighting back tears now. She thought that if the tears didn’t fall, maybe she wasn’t crying after all.

Mary then slowed the car to a steady halt, parallel against the evergreen backdrop. It was disorientating how similar all the tall, leafy trees looked. As if the same trees just repeated and repeated into eternity. She wondered how she could find her way around such a bewildering place, nowhere to use for a marker, only to be swallowed up into the maze of trunks, needles and leaves.

There was no formal entrance to the woods, only narrow gaps between trunks to squeeze through. Mary forced herself between one of the larger gaps, surrounded by the smell of wet grass, the scent of autumn. Her hair caught on one of the fragile branches behind her. She let out a high pitched scream, cutting the air and making the birds nesting high in the tree tops to flee in fright. Panicked, she thought someone had grabbed her and anxiously through her fists in front of her reddened face.

“Who’s there” she cried, trying to assert some authority, but it came out like some weak cry, laden with fear. Like the murmur of the woman she had found in the house.

Moments slowly passed before she realized it was safe. Mary breathed a welcome sigh of relief and trudged through the swamp of mud at her feet into the center of the wood , further and further away from the road. Deeper into insanity.

She thought for a moment that she could hear a voice, a quiet squeal, a childlike cry.

At first she doubted her ears. After all, how much could she trust her mind?

It was only when the voice grew louder and more powerful, that she realized that it was coming from directly behind her.

Part 27 by Laura Leck

The scintillating sun stirs the disquiet of Joseph’s unconscious mind. The shards of sunlight piercing through the sparse thicket, he heaves upright recoiling from the flattened earth the same way his brother would when William mashed his bawled fist against the switch, the intrusive 60 watt flickering into life. The imp would lurch and fluster in his yellowed sheets, his eyes scurrying to align with his tormentor in each rude awakening.
The irksome glare startled Joseph in such a way that his lungs would retract as he grasped for a sharp breath of air. He brushes the flakes of crusty red up and away from his chin, as he holds and stretches his marred jaw, straightens out his rigid side in a wavering stretch, assumes a weary position and scans his surroundings regrettably in search for his tyrant. Exhausted and apparently alone his mind begins to wander, where could his brother be? The unusual environment he finds himself in is worryingly vast and unfamiliar. The sounds of small, hurried footsteps reverberate through the denser trees, his dirtied pyjama bottoms drag and tug around his around ankles. He hoped that his brother would be standing in front, concealed between the tall pines gripping and wrenching at the bark with his new found blade.
On rainy days Joseph would find himself wrestling and containing his brother, doing his best not to alert William. His brother’s mood would turn against him every so often, especially when he was scared. He was most demanding when he was scared, but Joseph knew that his hostility would not best that of William, and confining his infantile brother was often an arduous task. Heavy rain made his brother agitated and uneasy, he hated the way the water lashed and echoed as it struck against the house, the way the windows clicked and adjusted as the wind and water knocked the rotting frames, the faint noises passing through the ominous third floor. This reaction was unfitting of Sam, his compact frame would rock and sway lopsidedly on the soiled single bed. That was the most complex mixture of emotions Joseph would ever see his brother show, and it would distress him when he couldn’t treat the issue. He couldn’t find a subtle way to soothe the commotion in Sam’s mind, the same way a loving parent might, he had never learnt how. Of course he wanted to avoid the resulting uproar and fury if his brother got in William’s way, he hated the sight of him cornered or smothered by his eternal oppressor, the way his large hands would grip and shake, followed by shrieks and dampened wails. Every so often William would enforce what he called ‘tough love’ upon the imp: Such odd words coming from his mouth considering he epitomised neither. And now his brother had enforced his own measures, with such profound acts of terror.
He felt guilty for leading his brother away, but maybe Sam was meant to be hidden.

Part 26 by Erin Young

Mary gripped tight onto the steering wheel as though it were a lifeline. She didn’t know where she was going, but she was determined that she was not going to stop until she found those children. She thought back to the utter carnage that she encountered back at that damned house. She couldn’t comprehend how something like that had happened, what the children must have witnessed when she could hardly stand to witness the aftermath. There was so much blood, the stench of death was pungent and overpowering. And that… woman, how did she come to be like that – a mangled mess of flesh and bone? Mary wanted answers, but her priority was finding the children.


Mary drove around for what seemed to her like hours. She was on the verge of tears; the area was completely unknown to her, she didn’t have a clue where a child would go to seek refuge from such horrors. Then she heard it again; that whisper. She let out a strangled sob, frantically searching the interior of her car. Someone was here, she knew it, but it seemed that there was no one in the car with her.


“I’m going crazy…” She whimpered to herself, “I’m hearing things, I’m going fucking crazy!” Mary slammed the brakes down suddenly, her breaths were coming out in short laboured pants. She wanted to scream, wanted to tear her hair out. She wished she had never come here, wished that her curiosity hadn’t lead her to attempt to find her father. What difference would finding him after thirty four unfulfilling years have made? He didn’t care for one child out of the countless he likely fathered. Yet she came here, she found herself in this mess and she had no one to blame but herself.


With a vice like grip on the steering wheel, Mary ducked her head and sobbed, the whispering was insistent now, incoherent murmurs in her ear. Helpless, all she could do was beg for the voice to stop tormenting her. But it did not relent, it wanted to be heard; it was like it wanted Mary to hear what it was saying.


Eventually Mary’s sobs were reduced to quiet whimpers. The voice was still there. She was still pleading, but she was so so tired, and the voice was stubborn. Maybe she was really losing her sanity, but the voice became louder, clearer. Words began to form.




Mary suddenly sat bolt upright. Did she hear that right? Woods? Was this voice trying to tell her something? Perhaps those children were in the woods… And thinking back on it, she did remember driving past a wooded area. She felt like she was grasping at straws, but she had nowhere else to turn, nowhere else to look. She figured it was worth a shot.

Part 25 by Anna Geddes, Student

Mary’s breath caught in her throat as she tried to grasp the hideous image in front of her and she dropped her phone. Despite the stench of uncleaned wounds and the dark scars of a terrifying mutilation, she felt a strange form of empathy for the creature which cowered in the corner trying to shield from the light. Slowing her heart rate with deep breaths, she edged towards the thing that used to be a person who continued to beckon with reddened, swollen fingers and Mary winced as her eyes found the deep gashes around its wrists and feet.

Mary hid her eyes from the light glazing through a dirty netted curtain and tried to fix them upon something which could resemble a face. Wet, glistening eyes met hers, though after a second it shuddered and looked back to the floor. Mary shook herself, it wasn’t an it. A hoarse but feminine whisper croaked but the words were incomprehensible.
“What has happened to you?” Mary noticed the dust covered sheet pulled around the woman and took off her coat, reaching out with it.
“Take it.”
Gingerly, she took the coat and turned away to cover her dignity and she pulled the coat on. Mary looked away and grimaced as she heard small groans of pain as the material was pulled over raw skin. Suddenly, coarse, cracked hands were clasping Mary’s in a way of thanks and a face-what was now clearly a woman- was within inches of hers, dry lips moved to try and convey speech.
“Water- I’ll get water.” Mary began to turn, but the woman grasped her wrist desperately, with a surprisingly tight grip for someone who should appeared weak and vulnerable. The women pointed to the bloody trails of children’s feet Mary had noticed before and her hand shook. Salty tears began to fall. Mary turned and grasped the woman, being careful not to hurt her sores.
“Do you know where they are?” The woman’s eyes said everything. Mary looked at the bodies strewn across the floor, ” We need to call the police.”
“No.” The horse whisper made Mary shiver, and she couldn’t meet the woman’s eye.
“Why? This is so fucking messed up. How many people are dead in this house? What the hell happened?” She ran a hand through her hair and realised her forehead was dripping with slick sweat. It felt good to voice her emotions.
“No.” The woman repeated. A deathly seriousness was in her voice, a one of such gravitas that couldn’t be ignored despite her disfigurements.

Mary slammed her car door and rested her head on the steering wheel. She couldn’t fully comprehend what had happened since the entered that damned house. Mary had been waiting for this day for years. The moment when she would knock on her father’s door. Would he know who she was just by looking at her? She had been hoping he would- how would she have explained otherwise? All she had found in that house was death and darkness. Mary blinked and sat up, realising it was more than likely one of the dead men in that house was her father.

She needed to get those children back, but she had no idea where they were. A whisper erupted from behind her and she jumped, raising her hands to protect her face, but when she turned, the car was eerily empty. Mary took a deep breath and started the car.

Part 24 by Bamboo (Jessica Govan), Student

The cool night’s wind grazed Joseph’s skin like a tumble weed through a dusty old ally. The kind you see in a western when the streets collect memories and dilapidated shutters bang against wooden frames, reminding you that you’re the only one there and what you feel is emptiness. 

Joseph felt this as he gazed into Sam’s pasty face:he had rings round his eyes the colour of purple bruises and his hair contained matted blood, all congealed and entangled in his fluffy brown curls. Sam was sleeping a deep, hypnotic slumber, the blood covered knife was the pendulum motion which hypnotised him, each vicious swipe pushed his sanity ever so slowly away from him.

Joseph wasn’t angry at Sam, he was worried. All his life Joseph had witnessed people laugh or smirk when Sam would talk, as he would laugh at the mundane events in life. They assumed Sam was missing out on life. That he was a prisoner in his own body, not able to ‘enjoy’ what other people saw was a necessity in life. But Joseph had decided he would rather Sam laughed and savoured life’s beauties, than judge and critique the world, like the rest of society.

Sam slept in a foetal position, he must have been freezing laying on the soil. The damp crushed leaves, which once held dew, were now all mashed and misshapen were soft under Sam’s heavy body, supporting his deep breaths. Joseph kept thinking about Sam asleep down there. Sleeping is a natural drug to pause life’s niggles, letting you escape from the over-baring sense of responsibility and loneliness which lingers in every quiet bus ride or the last three minutes at the end of a film. Except when you sleep, that black screen is just a shutter or blind, guarding you as you rest and all the feelings of regret are erased to reveal a new day with new feelings. 

With this in mind, Joseph climbed down from the tree.The pressure from where the bark had indented into his chest was lifted. As his bones clicked and groaned from his uncomfortable sleeping arrangement, his bare feet slipped on the leaves. Joseph lay down beside Sam, knowing that if he felt lost and worried then Sam must feel this too, and  he hoped his thoughts were right, for his sake, that when Sam opened his eyes it was not William’s rusty old face overrun with rivers of guilt and regret, but his brother. His brother was caught in purgatory; trying to grow into a man in a world which itself is neither man nor child, yet defines and controls the means in which a young boy becomes a man.

With the fresh smell of oak, and the essence which lingers after rainfall consuming the air with its musk, Joseph closed his eyes beside Sam, wishing for a sleep to cleanse his mind and for eyelids to recoil in the morning with clearer perspectives.

Part 23 by Anthony Morgan

Far away in the silent darkness, far beyond the swirling lights and the cacophony of voices, something sinister began to stir. A powerful force that had lain silent for aeons; a being that should never have been disturbed.

The words once spoken rose and twisted, dissolving into the shadows. Echoing through the mists they sang their black song, calling its name, promising a new life,  summoning it back to fulfil its destiny. The time had come and as the words found their mark, the demon started to wake.

Malice. Samuel grinned. He liked these new sensations. Why had he not felt them before? Finally inside was something real, something that made him feel alive. Sitting still he listened, aware that his thoughts had subsided and that in their place was a deep heavy calm. His mind roamed. Freed from its prison it travelled far and wide, touching, feeling and sensing everything. Fear. Somewhere a terrible tempest was rising, promising to drench the landscape in blood. He could taste it.  Samuel licked his lips and in the corner of his eye, the knife winked at him.


 ‘Come to me my darling. Come and be with me. Remember the good times? Our times? Let me show you what to do, how things have to be. We can be together again, just you and me. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?’ The words travelled across an ocean of time and space to be with her. Calm, solid dependable, reassuring. The voice she knew. The man she had loved. Once. In the background the sounds of the forgotten decades grated on her soul. Why wouldn’t they leave her alone; alone to die in peace. ‘Well?’ he said. ‘Will you help me? I can make everything better.’ He explained exactly what she needed to do to secure her release. There had been a mistake. Something unexpected had occurred and she had to put it right. She thought for a moment and then in gentle compliance she spoke. ‘Yes my darling.’

Something made Mary turn around. It sounded like somebody trying to speak. But who? Not the man on the floor, someone else. A woman? A man? She couldn’t tell. It was rough and grating, almost like an animal. Was she imagining it, or was it real? She was hearing things, that’s what it was. And no wonder, she had discovered a blood bath. She felt the sickness rising again and then the compelling urge to run. She had to get away, far away, anywhere but here. Perspiring and terrified Mary started up preparing to flee, but she  remained motionless. Her feet were stuck, rooted to the spot. Again the voice called, a sickly penetrating rasp and this time she was sure it wasn’t her imagination. She turned around.

The thing that was scarcely human had stood up and was beckoning to her.

Part 22 by Simon Cove

Joseph lunged blind but his hand only grabbed dirt.  In terror he withdrew seeing a flash of silver as the blade arced like a dagger and hit the ground where his hand had just been.  The blade splintered upon impact, shards driving into Sam’s bunched fist.Joseph turned away stumbling around the tree leaving the screaming Sam trailing in his wake.  Sobbing, he crashed through the first bush, then the second and third pumping his legs, feeling the blood rushing through his ears.  He could hear grunts as Sam pursued him, the crashing getting closer and closer.  Sam was wider if not taller than Joseph,  “He’s stronger but I’m smarter” kept drumming in his head “Smarter, smarter”.  As Joseph entered the clearing he spied a large stick and with a despairing throw hurled it towards a group of saplings to his right and rounded a tree to the left.  The tree was obliging and he leapt up into the lower branches and hugged himself against the trunk as Sam crashed into the clearing.  Joseph heard Sam grunt and then charge towards the saplings, crashing through the undergrowth. 


Joseph scrambled higher up the tree reaching a branch halfway up which was relatively wide.  He lay there face-down with his fingers jammed into the grooves of the barkhis body shaking with fear and exhaustion.  He just wanted to go home and find Dad and Sam as it had been before…  his thoughts leapt to his mother lying abused and disfigured in the attic.  With a shock he realised that she must still be there without anyone to look after her.  His mind raced with thoughts as he cried himself to sleep,“Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf” was a book on the bookshelf at home, he had not know what it meant but the vision of the spine of the book kept repeating in his head as he fell into a fitful sleep.


Joseph could hear the repeated chanting and moved his hand over his left ear.Why was he so cold?  He shifted slightly, the bed was damp, scratchy and hard.  His eyes briefly opened registering the damp, green pillow, the gentle wind cooling the back of his neck.  He turned his head to the other side as the chant reached a crescendo and then stopped. Something deep in his mind began to flicker, a little butterfly weaving its way across a meadow on a sunny day “But it’s too cold for butterflies”.  Joseph caught sight of the butterfly dancing on the insides of his eyes, he caught sight of it again but now it had metamorphosed into a ferocious hornet, “Too cold” he muttered, “No stingers yet…”.  As his eyes fully opened a moments peace descended before the recent memories welled up in his mind.  Joseph’s eyes snapped open in terror as the pounding started again in his chest.  He lifted his head and saw Sam sitting cross-legged 25 metres away in the clearing facing slightly away from Joseph.  Joseph could feel the fear clawing at his throat and all he wanted to do was run, keep running and never stop.  He dug his fingers back into the tree and gritted his teeth “Don’t look, don’t look” screamed though his mind as he lay as still as a stone.  Suddenly Sam started chanting again, the book lay open in front of him.  He was stripped to his waist, his skin smeared with earth and blood with the remains of the t-shirt wrapped around his wrist.  As the chant reached a crescendo, Sam’s voice changed becoming more hoarse and guttural.   With a final triumphant roar he threw his hands forward and Joseph saw the knife, it was embedded in a boulder with the handle pointing vertically towards the sky. 

Part 21 by Maili Lavin

Mary lurched forwards as her stomach heaved, only just managing to stop herself from spilling out her cheap continental breakfast onto the landing. She looked away from the horrific sight in front of her, her mind still trying to make sense of what it had seen.

There was blood, a lot of blood and somebody else hadn’t been as quick to react as her, their breakfast mingling into the deep red pool. There were two bodies. Or were there three? Two bodies and something.Something that looked more like a mass of oozing flesh than anything human.

She breathed heavily, trying to force her stomach to settle, filling her lungs with the thick metallic scent of warm blood. She could still hear something, someone calling out, though it sounded distant, as though it was coming from another room. As she brought her mind back to the present, to what was happening now, the noise became a little louder, a little nearer. It was a voice, definitely, but the sharp croaking echo of a voice that was failing. She thought she caught a name, Mike?…Mark?

She looked back, every part of her mind reeling, telling her not to, trying to make out which body- which person-the noise was coming from. Movement drew her gaze to the man- yes, it was definitely a man- to the right of her. He lay on his front, so she couldn’t see his face and the voice was muffled by the floor but his left arm was flung out, his hand clutching at another hand. The other hand was pale and still and Mary had to clap her own hand over her mouth until she could be sure she wasn’t going to vomit.

The hand-the living hand-twitched, the fingers opening and closing as if to ascertain what it was holding on to. The voice called out again, higher pitched this time, more strangled and edged with pain. He was alive, he was alive and she needed to get help.

Mary lurched to her feet, fumbling at her pocket, dislodging her phone. She just about managed to get her fingers around the hard black plastic and draw it out. Holding it in her shaking hands, it took her several attempts to type 999 in large green type and hit the call button. She held it up to her ear as it began to ring.

As she did this, she noticed that there were footprints on the floor. Not hers, leading away from the horror and back down the stairs. A trail of small bloody prints, much smaller than hers, children’s feet. She gasped, dropping her phone as a shocked spasm rocked her arm. She heard a loud smack, paired with a clinking kind of crack but she could still hear the ringing drifting up to her.

But she couldn’t think about the phone, couldn’t even think about the horror that lay behind her. There were children; probably hurt, probably scared, and she had to find them.

Part 20 by John Beresford, Systems Architect & Author

Sam sat in the hollow of the giant oak, his father’s book resting in his lap. The book that had so often called to him from its habitual home on the living room shelves. The book that his father had tried so hard, and so often, to make him read.


“Read it to me boy! I know you can understand it! Tell me what it says, or so help me God I’ll beat the living daylights out of you!”


His father’s words echoed around Sam’s unusual mind, awakening memories of the beatings and the shouting and the hate. He could never make sense of the book while his thoughts were focused on shutting out his father’s threats, or even if the hateful man was only lurking.


But the lurker was not here now. It was just Sam and the book. His book! It made a warm spot in his lap, almost as though the green leather binding retained some of the life of the animal that had died to create it. Blood had been spilled to make this book, and not only for the cover.


The Hidden Properties of Blood and the Shadows that Lie Beyond” read the cover. Sam could make out the words. He was not as backward as everyone thought. He was slow with some things, like the video recorder, but he listened. He watched. And he could learn. Never judge a book by its cover, he thought, smiling at his own joke as he opened the cover of his book with a sudden thrill of excitement.


A stillness fell over the woods, as if nature itself held its breath. Not a creature stirred, not a bird sang as Sam leafed carefully through the ancient pages. At first the unfamiliar words meant nothing to him, but Sam was his father’s son. Whether through some genetic inheritance, an infusion of natural power from the silence of his pastoral surroundings, or an unforeseen happenstance arising from the confused wiring of his brain, Sam found that he could divine the meaning behind the arcane text and the strange, spidery diagrams.


The more he read, the more he understood. He turned the pages faster, the meaning becoming clearer to him with every line, the alchemic intent of the long-dead author laid bare.


Sam knew what he needed to do. It was all here, in the book. Its secrets were his! His heart beat faster, his blood pulsed in his neck and roared in his ears. He would need blood to begin the task. His gaze fell on the gory breadknife, lying half-forgotten on the leaf litter beneath the tree. Perfect. But as he looked at the knife he caught a movement in the bushes beyond the tree. Someone was there! He snatched up the knife as an outstretched hand appeared at the entrance to the hollow, grasping at the space it had occupied only moments before. The smell of the blood, still fresh on the blade, filled his nostrils. Sam smiled.


Part 19 – Rosalind Mitchell, proofreader

Joseph’s mind had been turning over and over, trying to make sense of all the strange things that had happened all at once, it seemed, too many to take in, like the dreams that came to him sometimes, on the nights when Dad had that distant look in his eye and frightened him so. But now he was trying to keep as still as he could, watching Sam in the old den and waiting to see what he would do, he became aware for the first time of the cold seeping up through the soles of his bedroom slippers. The morning sun had not yet found a way through the canopy of leaves and he felt the goose pimples rise on his body under the thin bloodstained pyjamas as he shivered.
But Joseph couldn’t move, not even to warm himself up. His eyes were fixed on his brother in the den. Sam was at an angle to him and he couldn’t see all of Sam’s face, but there was something wild in the eye that he could see, something he’d never seen before. What could Sam see in Dad’s old book? He, Joseph, had taken the book down from the shelf once, when Dad was snoring off another bottle of whisky, and it had made no sense to him. The green binding felt greasy to the touch and was marked with brown stains. The pages were heavy and yellow and spotted with brown and they had ragged edges, they reminded him of his mother’s hands when he was very little, before… but he recoiled from that thought. The words printed on the pages were strange, not words he recognised. The whole thing smelt musty and dangerous.
The wood, this wood where he’d played happily for years, even the wood felt musty and dangerous today, full of the smell of decay and death.
And Sam, Sam was stupid wasn’t he? If he, Joseph, could make nothing of Dad’s book, what could Sam be finding there?
A tremor shot through his already trembling body like a lightning bolt reaching from the earth to the sky. It left in its wake a nauseous feeling in the pit of his stomach. What was up with Sam?
Blindly Joseph lurched towards the den, stumbling under the tendrils of bramble that guarded the entrance. As he did so he saw Sam become aware of him for the first time and raised his head from the book, his eyes, wide, green and unblinking as a cat’s, locked on to his own and a thin smile on his lips. Joseph’s heart was thumping.
From the corner of his eye he saw the knife, its blade still clouded with blood, lying the leaves close to Sam’s left hand. Something in his head whispered that he needed to get that knife before his brother did if he wanted to leave the woods ever again. He dived to his right, his outstretched arm reaching for the handle. His almost numb fingers closed around … emptiness.