Unformatted text preview: 2 Volume One Edited by Andrew Hannon Cloontubrid Press Easkey Castle Books 3 Published by Cloontubrid Press
A division of Easkey Castle Books
Copyright © 2010 Edited by Andrew Hannon
All rights reserved
The right of Andrew Hannon to be identified as the editor of this work has been
asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
With the exception of having their stories published under Thirteen, the economic
rights to the short stories in this anthology are those of the individual respective
authors, including the right to authorize the reproduction of the work in any form
(Article 9, Berne Convention). Furthermore, the perpetual moral right to be
identified as the author of the work and the right to object to any distortion or
mutilation of the work which would be prejudicial to his or her honour or reputation
remains with the individual respective authors. First published in the United States in 2010
This edition published in the United Kingdom
ISBN 978-1-4466-9486-2 It is a criminal offence to distribute this work in Italy unless the first short story has
been physically removed. 4 CONTENTS___________________________________________________ The 113 Stories
The Magic, Darran York Page 13 Joshua’s Room, Lee Betteridge Page 15 One Night In the Graveyard, Anita Bissoo Page 17 Shift, Matthew Batham Page 19 Day Trip, Christopher Staples Page 22 The Stranger the Lie, David Christopher Page 23 Sick Puppy, Lee Betteridge Page 26 Checking, Craig Dutton Page 31 The Undertaker, Andrew Hannon Page 32 The Cluster, Todd Langley Page 36 Ghost Writer, Lee Betteridge Page 39 Express Delivery, Robert Bell Page 43 Pigeon Morning, Matthew Batham Page 46 The Storm, Leisa Parker Page 50 Jokerman, Hilda Stringer Page 52 Random, Thomas Gilbert Page 53 Hell, Andrew Hannon Page 54 Bete Noir, Pádraig Ó Méalóid Page 58 5 That First Cup of Joe, Leisa Parker Page 61 All Aboard The Love Train, James Cooper Page 63 Last Meal, Ibrahim Amin Page 70 Weight, David Christopher Page 72 Powers, James Doggett Page 74 The Assassin, Lavie Tidhar Page 77 Bobby Moon, Lee Betteridge Page 79 The Cemetery, Susan Conway Page 84 The Tokoloshe, Paul Crilley Page 86 Friends Of The Earth, James Cooper Page 93 Big Mice, Robert Neilson Page 98 Looking Back, Mark Patrick Lynch Page 103 The Perfect Spot, Matthew Batham Page 107 The Show, Thomas Gilbert Page 113 Thanks For Watching, Claire Shevlin Page 117 See How They Dance, Tyler Keevil Page 119 Mr Thirteen, Robert Nielson Page 124 Boxing Clever, Mark Patrick Lynch Page 132 The Toll Of Finnegan’s Bridge , Brian Showers Page 134 6 Samuel, Rebecca Billings Page 140 Doggy, Roger Freedman Page 143 When She Grew Old, Mark Patrick Lynch Page 145 Frozen On Film, Kevin Roach Page 150 Cobbled Connely, Matthew Ward Page 152 Warts And All, Colin Mulhern Page 153 Fucking Vampires, Erik Tomblin Page 155 Steve, John Lee Page 157 Drop Dead Gorgeous, James Bernthal Page 159 The Tomb, Leila Eadie Page 161 Pandora’s Box, Stephen Owen Page 164 Bon Appetit, Ernest DeVore Page 169 The A.C.I., Julian Urquhart Page 173 Brief Future, John Lee Page 176 The Steps Where I Sinned, J. G. Craig Page 180 All Sales Final, Phllip Tinkler Page 182 A New Life, Stephen Tyson Page 188 One Night Stand, Michael O’Connor Page 190 Alone in the Cataloochee Valley, Lee Clark Zumpe Page 192 7 Faux Paw, Nancy Jackson Page 196 Gordy Starts On Days, Lee Betteridge Page 198 Perhaps I’m Not Dark Enough, Stephanie Simpson-Woods Page 204 Sorry, Charlie, Greg Vest Page 206 Last Season’s Ghost, Mike Beeman Page 212 How To Know A Body, Stephen Francis Decky Page 217 By The Shore, Matthew Brolly Page 222 Death Of The Apostrophe, Pamela K. Kinney Page 228 The Lidenbrock Duty, Martyn Prince Page 231 The Bed, Kelli Lowry Page 234 Family Ties, Lavie Tidhar Page 235 The Makeshift, Gary McMahon Page 237 Deadline, Joseph Paul Haines Page 240 A Mother’s Love, Andrew Hand Page 243 Calendar Girl, Robert Bell Page 245 Freeing The Prisoner, Darryl Slater Page 253 Just In Case, Edward Rodosek Page 258 Falling In Love Again, Dawn Wingfield Page 261 The Accident, Leisa Parker Page 264 8 Grallabelle, Philip Tinkler Page 268 In Your Grocer’s Freezer, Roger Dale Trexler Page 275 Appendix, Sara Joan Berniker Page 278 451208: A Man Like Any Other, Lee Betteridge Page 281 Death to the Switchblade Queen, James Bennett Page 287 The Healthy Man, Jane Mackenzie Page 293 Her Little Secret. William I Lengeman III Page 295 Possession, Steven Southworth Page 296 Hell Inside, Nate Southard Page 297 Shelby’s Witch, Kenneth Ryan Page 304 Presence of Mind, James Lane Page 309 The Magician, Gareth Fry Page 314 Night Tiger, Donia Carey Page 316 The Tower, Matthew Batham Page 318 The Snow Came Softly Down, Brian Showers Page 330 The Art Of Eula Mae, Bonnie J. Glover Page 341 Vigilante Man, Nigel Atkinson Page 348 Balance of the Devils, Christopher Cathrine Page 354 Playtime, Aliya Whiteley Page 368 9 Klaus, Matthew King Page 372 Swept Away, Richard Hipson Page 374 The Cockroach Collector, Ben Repton Page 375 Catalyst, Brian Dowell Page 378 Lester, Steven Southworth Page 382 Me, Marc and It, Matthew Batham Page 384 In Her Place, M.S. Hart Page 388 Whitecaps, Thea Atkinson Page 389 The Eulogy Pills, Ken Goldman Page 392 Laughter in the Dark, Joseph Wakeling Page 397 The True Master of the Desert, Sean M. Foster Page 399 Chicken List, Zoe Lea Page 402 The Asylum & The Sundowner Captain, James Field Page 405 The Urge, Bryan Woolf Page 407 Thoughtform, Dee Weaver Page 413 Appetite for Destruction, John Glass Page 415 Sidewalks, Joshua Scribner Page 419 Darkness, Bill West Page 424 Two Faced, Paul McAvoy Page 425 10 The Thirteen Editorials
January Page 432 February Page 434 March Page 435 April Page 436 May Page 437 June Page 438 July Page 439 August Page 440 September Page 441 October Page 442 Hallowe'en Page 443 November Page 444 December Page 445 11 12 THE MAGIC
Have you ever read something and enjoyed it so much you wished you’d never
read it, just so you could read it again for the first time? The first time is magical,
right? It doesn’t matter how many times you read it again, it’s never quite as
This is your chance to read something truly amazing for the first time. You’ll
only get this chance once, so don’t blow it. I want you to get the most out of this,
so you’re going to have to trust me. Do exactly as you’re told.
If you’re not alone right now then put this away immediately. Magic - real
magic - is shy of company. It’s not going to happen if you’re reading this in a
crowded coffee shop or sat on a packed train.
Only read from here if you’re alone.
Good. We’ve started.
Now I need you to do a few more things for me - just a few small things.
Think of this as an instruction manual, a process you have to follow if you want a
thing to work. I’m not trying to be pushy or boss you around just for the sake of it.
I just want this to work for you.
Go somewhere you can close the door behind you and read this without
being disturbed. It doesn’t matter where - your bedroom will do, or a toilet.
Anywhere you can go without someone walking in on you. And like I said, close
the door after you.
Maybe some of you are reading this and haven’t done as you’ve been
instructed. Do you wish you’d played along? I guarantee you, it’s better to be a
part of this than to simply eavesdrop on the magic. It mightn’t be too late though. I
can’t promise anything but if you go to a quiet place now and close the door... I’ll
see what I can do.
So, here we are. Or rather, there you are. I really hope you’re enjoying this
so far. I know nothing has actually happened yet, but aren’t you excited? Is your
curiosity growing larger and larger? Enjoy this. This is the only time you can feel
what you are feeling now. The wonder of what’s going to happen, the half-formed
conclusions some of you may already have made - all of this can only happen
once, can only happen now, can only happen the first time.
Some of the magic has begun already. You are alone in a room, true, but you
are also unified with all the people who have ever done this before you, and all of
those who will do it after you. Can you feel each other? Perhaps you feel silly
about this whole thing, or maybe you feel privileged. You are each a part of an
invisible crowd, gathered together outside of time, reading the same words.
Don’t worry, that’s not the punch of it, and this certainly isn’t a joke. I’m not
here to waste your time with talk of the metaphysical. And to prove it, we’ll move
I take it there’s light in your chosen room or you wouldn’t be able to read this,
Come on, you can answer me if I ask you a question! In fact you have to
answer me if you want this to work. I’ll ask you again. Answer this time. Loud and
clear, don’t be afraid. Just say, “Right”.
Now, now, everybody, let’s all play along. All I want is one little spoken word
in exchange for all the words I’ve given you so far. Remember, I’m doing this for
you - this is the only chance you’ll get and I want it to work.
Answer my question.
Well done! You might have felt silly saying it aloud but there’s nobody here to
hear you and what harm has been done? Now you can continue to enjoy this,
knowing that you’ve followed the instructions perfectly. And when you follow 13 instructions perfectly, things tend to work.
Do whatever it takes to get your room as dark as possible so that there’s just
enough light for you to still make out these words. Draw the curtains closed, turn
off the main light and put on a side-light. Better still, light a candle or read with the
flame from a cigarette lighter. I hate to keep reminding you, but it really will be
worth it if you do as I say. It would be such a shame for you to miss out having
already come as far as you have.
Allow me to describe your scene. That’s kind of strange, isn’t it? Shall we
take a moment to consider that? Usually when you read something the scene is
described for you so that you can picture it in your mind, but here you are reading
your very own scene, in which you are sat in a dark room, all alone, reading from
wherever you chanced upon this magic. What mighty implications! When you
were younger, did you ever pretend to yourself that you were a character in a
book or a film and that millions of people read about you and watched what you
did? Perhaps the pretence was real?
Don’t worry, though, that’s not the magic I spoke of earlier.
Enjoy this moment. Here it comes. Here comes the magic.
Very quickly, get up off your bed or chair or place against the wall. Get up
and walk over to the door you closed behind you a few minutes ago. Put your ear
against the door and listen. Hold your breath.
I wonder if you can hear me.
Let me expand on the scene I described a moment ago. You remember, the
one with you in the dark room, reading. Yes, well, outside of that room, on the
other side of that closed door, someone you can’t see is standing. It’s me. I
wonder if you can guess my name. The slightly autistic among you may have
already registered the first letters of the last five paragraphs and what they spell.
It’s the closest I have to a name.
Can you hear me breathe? No? Perhaps I’m holding my breath too, with an
ear pressed up against the door, trying to hear you.
Or perhaps there is one last step, one last instruction you must follow in
order to make this magic work.
Invite me in.
Come now, don’t be bashful! You already spoke to me earlier when you
answered my question about the light. All you have to do is ask me to come in.
You see. I know you’re alone in there, all by yourself in the dark. And I want to
prove to you that the magic works. 14 JOSHUA’S ROOM
Daniel grabbed the TV remote control off the settee beside him and stabbed at
the mute button. The newsreader fell silent and continued to mouth the evening’s
headlines wordlessly. Daniel glared at the BabySafe intercom that sat on the
sideboard. He was sure he’d heard the baby stir. He strained his ears, listening.
He heard the rain against the conservatory roof. He heard the wind whistling over
the chimney. He heard the constant hum of the heater in the bathroom where
Caroline was having a bath. A bead of sweat ran from his temple, down his face.
He could hear the baby softly gurgling to itself.
Daniel gave the newsreader his voice back and turned the volume up
slightly. He felt sweat run down his side under his dressing gown, and a chill
passed through him. He took a swig of the lager bottle he cradled in his hand and
it slid down his throat like ice. He shivered again.
The baby let out a cry; a troubled yelp that had a slightly static quality to it as
it came from the intercom. Daniel thought of unplugging it, but then thought better
of it. He’d done that once before and Caroline had yelled at him. She’d really lost
her temper, sobbing and crying and screaming. He left the intercom on, but
turned the fire up an extra bar. Despite the sweat that leaked out of his skin,
Daniel felt chilled to the bone.
He sat back in his place on the settee and heard a high-pitched squeak.
Standing backup, he lifted the cushion he’d just sat on and pulled out the toy that
had made the noise. It was a rubber giraffe that squeaked when you squeezed it.
He tossed it into Joshua’s toy box and sat down again.
The baby let out another cry. Daniel glared at the intercom. There was
another cry, then a sob. Daniel drank some Carlsberg. The baby started to cry.
Daniel felt sick. The crying coming from the intercom was shrill and piercing and
he turned the volume up even further on the TV. The weatherman was smiling
like an idiot now while he told of the gales of rain, sleet and snow that were
heading for the area. Daniel finished his beer. The baby’s cries started to sound
more desperate, more anxious.
Daniel went into the kitchen, and after dropping the empty beer bottle into the
bin, he took another from the fridge. He stood in the kitchen for a while after
closing the fridge door. Sweat ran from under his arms and down his face, yet he
felt cold. He walked back into the living room.
Joshua was still crying, screaming almost. Daniel knew he should go to the
baby’s room but he couldn’t. He couldn’t bring himself to go into the hallway, up
the stairs, open the door with the little ‘Joshua’s Room’ sign. He couldn’t do it.
He sat down with his beer and watched the sports news. He could hardly
hear what the reporter was saying. Joshua’s screaming was too loud now. He
wailed and screamed, wave after wave of piercing noise coming from the
intercom. Sweat ran from Daniel’s body. Shivers wracked him as he tried to
ignore the baby and listen to the football results. Joshua screamed and cried.
Daniel sweated and shivered. He couldn’t take it anymore. He had to turn the
Caroline walked into the room just before Daniel had time to stand up. She
wore her dressing gown and one of the bathroom towels tied up in a bundle on
top of her head. She glared at Daniel fiercely.
“Can’t you hear that?” snapped Caroline, pointing at the intercom. “Are you
deaf? He’s screaming for God sake.”
Daniel just looked at her. Tears welled up in his eyes.
“You could have gone up to him Daniel. You are his father, you know. It
shouldn’t all be up to me.” The baby’s screaming continued. 15 Tears started to roll down Daniel’s cheek and he whimpered, “... I can’t.”
Caroline gave him another severe glance and then she was out in the hall.
Daniel jumped to his feet.
“Wait!” he gasped as he followed her out of the living room. She stomped up
the stairs, and as Daniel started up them he experienced a strange sensation.
Joshua’s screaming came from upstairs and from the intercom on the sideboard
in the living room at the same time. It was strange - real-life stereo - and he went
dizzy. He tried to catch up with Caroline.
At the top of the stairs she walked straight through the door marked
‘Joshua’s Room’ without any hesitation, and he heard her softly cooing. The
screams halted slightly, then proceeded, but quieter than before.
Daniel reached the top of the stairs and stood in the doorway, watching his
wife sat in the rocking chair. She was softly saying, “Its OK honey-bunny.
Mummy’s here, I’m here. You’re all right now...
The icy cold of the room chilled Daniel straight to the bone and made the hair
on his arms bristle up, but Caroline didn’t seem to notice. Daniel looked at the
empty cot and started to sob. Caroline continued to talk softly to her empty arms,
held as if cradling an infant, her breath making a mist in front of her. The sobbing
of the baby that surrounded them, the sobbing that came from everywhere in the
room but from nowhere in particular, became quieter and sleepier.
Daniel sobbed into his hands, then slumped down to his knees and cried in
despair. As Caroline talked to the baby that was no longer there, he remembered
little Josh’s beautiful hands, his tiny feet and beautiful ears. And he remembered
the doctor saying that cot death was just one of those horrible but unavoidable
things that happened. There was nothing that could be done, and it was so, so
sad. Daniel sobbed into his hands as Caroline talked into the empty room and her
empty arms. The baby’s cries softened to just a gurgle again. 16 ONE NIGHT IN THE GRAVEYARD
The two ghosts smiled at each other in the moonlit graveyard. One of them was
dressed in a naval uniform, a cheeky but likeable shine emanating from his face
as he leaned against his gravestone.
“Hello, mate!” he chirped at the other ghost, who had been wandering rather
aimlessly among the tombs and faded headstones.
“Hi,” he answered softly.
“Didn’t expect to see anyone else out on a night like this, but pleased to meet
you. I ain’t seen you before - new boy, are ya?”
“Erm... yeah. Yeah, I... I think so.”
“Well, that proves it! All new ‘uns have the bad memories to begin with. Bet
you can’t remember how you got here, either.”
The other ghost looked down at his feet. He looked like an embarrassed
schoolboy forced to stand in front of a new class and introduce himself.
“No. I can’t.”
“Don’t worry `bout that, mate. It’ll come to ya. It might take a while, but it
always comes to ya in the end.”
A sudden flash of lightning lit up the sky over to the east, followed shortly by
a slow rumble of thunder.
“It’s funny,” started the naval ghost, “how quiet this place gets when it rains.
When I was a kid I thought ghosts would love the rain.”
“So... so we are ghosts then?”
The naval ghost laughed, but not maliciously.
“Of course we are, mate! Of course we are!”
A look of pity crossed the naval ghost’s face.
“Look, why don’t ya take a seat? I remember how confused I was when I
arrived here. Thought I was off me bleedin’ head, I tell ya.”
The other ghost accepted the invitation and sat down on the damp grass.
“How long have you been here?”
The ghost smiled sadly.
“A long time.”
Lightning flashed again, and the thunder came quicker this time. “And you
remember... you can recall...”
“How I died? Yeah. I can remember.”
“Died at sea, but not in the heroic way. Blimey, no, not like a hero.”
“Was it during the war?”
“The First World War? The Second?”
“Oh, those! No, I missed them, thank God. Only heard about them through
“Your brother? Is he here too?”
“No, no, he used to come and visit me. He was a sailor too. Always looked
after me when we was kids and always came to me grave on me birthday. I’m
sure he’s long dead now. Said he was moving to America after the second one of
them wars. Must be over there now.”
“But, if we’re all dead, isn’t there somewhere you can meet?”
“How’d ya mean?”
“Well, I don’t know. Like Heaven or something?”
“Nope, at least not as far as I know. Haven’t got my invite yet, anyway!”
The naval ghost laughed at this, a loud, good-natured laugh that made ...
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