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Authors: Amy Cross

The Writer

13 Nights of Horror:

The Writer

by Amy Cross

Kindle Edition

 

Copyright Amy Cross, All Rights Reserved

Published by ACBT Books

First published: October 2014

This is book #1 in the

13 Nights of Horror series

 

http://amycrossbooks.wordpress.com

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. If you enjoy it and wish to share it with others, please consider buying them their own copy. Feedback is always welcome. The author reserves all rights in respect of this work.

ALSO BY AMY CROSS

Horror

 

Asylum

American Coven

The Night Girl

Devil’s Briar

Ward Z

The Devil’s Photographer

The House We Haunted and Other Stories

Darper Danver series 1

Hugo: The Lockton Downs Haunting (Novella)

 

Fantasy / Horror

 

Dark Season series 1, 2 & 3

The Hollow Church (Abby Hart 1)

Vampire Asylum (Abby Hart 2)

Lupine Howl series 1, 2, 3 & 4

Grave Girl

Graver Girl (Grave Girl 2)

Ghosts

The Library

Journey to the Library (The Library 2)

The Ghosts of London

The Vampire’s Grave

The Werewolf’s Curse

 

Thriller

 

Ophelia

The Dead City (Ophelia 2)

The Girl Who Never Came Back

The Dead and the Dying (Joanna Mason 1)

The House of Broken Backs (Joanna Mason 2)

The Return (Sophie Ash 1)

Other People’s Bodies

 

Dystopia / Science Fiction

 

The Shades

Finality series 1

Mass Extinction Event series 1, 2 & 3

 

Erotica

 

Broken Blue

Broken White

One

 

“Beth, wake up! It’s Hannah! She’s not moving, I think something’s wrong with her!”

Opening my eyes, I stare up into the gloom and see that David is leaning over the bed. There’s fear in his eyes – pure, unadulterated fear, the kind that can only strike when a parent fears for a child.

“Did you hear me?” he continues, nudging my arm. “You need to wake up, something’s wrong with Hannah! She isn’t breathing!”

“Okay,” I reply, trying to gather my thoughts as I sit up in the dark room. Glancing at the bedside clock, I see that it’s 4:02am. Of course it is. It’s always 4:02am when this happens.

“Beth, we need to do something!”

“I know, I know, I…” Taking a deep breath, I try to stay calm, even though my heart is racing so fast that I feel as if my chest might explode. “Just… wait here. I’ll go.”

“Should I call an ambulance?”

“Yeah,” I reply, grabbing my dressing gown as I stumble to the door. “Sure. Call them.”

As I head out into the corridor, I can hear David already shouting frantically to someone on the phone. Making my way toward Hannah’s room, I see that the door up ahead is ajar. I swear I shut it earlier, but although I brace myself for the worst when I look through at her bed, I’m strangely relieved when I see my five-year-old daughter on her side, staring at me with a pained look on her face. It’s her. It’s really her. She’s in pain, she looks upset, but
it’s her
.

“Mummy?” she whimpers. “What’s wrong with me?”

I swallow hard. This can’t be real. It’s not fair.

“Mummy? It hurts…”

“Everything’s okay,” I tell her, staying by the door. “Uh… Daddy’s on the phone to the ambulance people now, okay? They’ll be here in a couple of minutes.”

“That’s too long!”

“No, it’s not.” I swallow hard, forcing myself to stay strong, to not go to her. “Just wait, sweetheart.”

“Please, Mummy,” she continues, reaching her hand out toward me, with her fingers spread wide like the spokes of a star. “It hurts so much…”

“I know, honey,” I reply, with tears in my eyes. “Just be brave and -”

Before I can finish, I realize that there’s a ragged patch of torn skin on the palm of her hand. Before I can even process this fact, however, I spot something dark dripping down the side of her bed, and after a moment I see that there’s a torrent of blood flowing freely from under the duvet and spreading slowly across the floor. Looking down at my bare feet, I realize that there are large shards of broken glass everywhere.

“Mummy, it really hurts,” she whimpers, her voice filled with tears. “Please, Mummy, make it stop!”

“I will,” I tell her, “I… Just wait here. I’ll just be a minute.”

“Mummy!”

Ignoring her outstretched hand, I hurry along the corridor and through to the kitchen. Forcing myself to not look back, I make my way to the door, turn the key and then pull it open. I pause for a moment, trying to work out if I can really do this: shouldn’t I head back to her room and try to console her, to help with her pain, even if none of this is real? For just a fraction of a second, my mind is made up and I turn to go back to her, but finally – with tears in my eyes - I force myself to be strong. It’s not her. It can’t be. No matter how much I want this, none of it’s real.

Once I’m outside, I hurry barefoot across the damp grass until I reach the gate. I know I shouldn’t turn to look at the house, but I can’t help myself as I slip out onto the street. Sure enough, Hannah’s bedroom light is on now, even though I didn’t touch the switch. Again, I feel the urge to go back to her, to step through the broken glass and comfort my daughter. What kind of a woman am I, that I can just leave her like that, even though…

“Please God,” I whisper, “please, just make it stop…”

Running along the pavement, I hurry into the neighbor’s garden and race to his back door. Although I hate to wake him so late, I have nowhere else to go so I start banging to get his attention, and after just a few seconds I hear movement inside, almost as if he was already up. It takes a moment for him to unlock the door, but finally he swings it open and - still tying his dressing gown closed - he stares at me with an expression of half-awake shock.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him, with tears running down my face, “I didn’t know where else to go! It’s happening again!”

***

“When David and Hannah died two years ago,” John says, placing two steaming mugs of tea on the table between us, “were you offered any kind of counseling?”

“I think so,” I reply, warming my hands on one of the mugs. “Maybe. I’m not sure. I don’t really remember, there was so much happening at the time…”

“I’m sure you were,” he continues, taking a seat opposite. He scratches the white and black stubble on his chin for a moment, as if he’s lost in thought. “It’s standard procedure when something like this happens. Believe me, I’ve done a lot of research into grief counseling for my books.” He pauses, his eyes fixed on me with an expression of concern. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Beth, but maybe you should have taken them up on it. You don’t seem to be…”

His voice trails off.

“Too late now,” I mutter after a moment.

“It’s never too late.”

I force a faint smile. The truth is, John always tries to push the counseling angle, which is sweet of him, but I can’t tell him the truth. The last thing I want is to ‘get over’ what happened. I just want to be able to live without these constant reminders, and these regular visits. I want to have a normal life again, even though I barely remember a time when my life wasn’t awash with chaos. The time before the accident feels like another country, another lifetime.

“So was it the same as before?” he asks.

I nod.

“The same as
every
time?”

“It’s like there’s a tape playing in my life,” I tell him, “and it’s stuck on a loop. The same things, over and over again even though they’re not…” I look down at my hands, which are busy picking apart the tear-soaked tissue I’ve been holding for the past few minutes. My bottom lip trembles briefly, but I manage to hold back the compulsion to cry. “Everything’s on repeat.”

“And you heard their voices?”

“David woke me up,” I explain, my voice tense as I struggle to stay strong. “He used to do that sometimes, when it was his turn to get up for Hannah but he didn’t know what to do with her. He was always scared of doing something wrong, it used to drive me up the wall but…” I pause for a moment, running through that moment over and over in my mind, replaying it a thousand times in just a couple of seconds. “Ever since the car crash, I’ve had trouble sleeping. Most nights I can’t manage more than an hour or two, and then if I actually…”

My voice trails off again.

“I think you’re suffering from some kind of shock disorder,” he replies. “Obviously I’m no psychiatrist, Beth, I’m just a writer who’s done a lot of research into this kind of thing for his novels, but… Have you considered getting treatment for PTSD? It’s not just soldiers who suffer, you know. Modern life is tough and there are plenty of walking wounded among the civilian population. I happen to know a guy who specializes in this sort of thing. Do you want me to give you his number?”

I shake my head.

“Please?” he continues. “Won’t you at least consider it?”

I shake my head again, as the next wave of lip-trembling sorrow rushes through me and then passes.

He pauses, as if he’s waiting for me to cave in and agree to get checked out. “Tell me something,” he continues. “The phone call you received when you were at work two years ago, telling you about the crash… How many times a day do you relive that in your mind?”

“Not too often,” I reply cautiously, still staring at the tissue. “Just… the right number of times.”

“So you’re completely healthy and you’re coping just fine?”

“I… think so, kind of.”

“And yet here you are at half four in the morning, having just run out of your house because you think your dead husband woke you up to tell you that there’s something wrong with your dead daughter.”

“I…”

“Sorry if that was a little strong,” he adds, “I just… I’m worried about you, Beth.”

“How’s the new novel going?”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“Still got writer’s block?” I look at him and, through the tears, I force a faint smile. “Maybe I shouldn’t have come over. I should have just rolled over in bed, closed my eyes and ignored him.”

“That’s rather hard to do if you really believe he was there.” He pauses. “
Do
you really believe he was there?”

“You mean, like a ghost?”

“You know I don’t believe in that kind of thing,” he continues. “I write about them, but I sure as hell don’t think they’re real. I think ghosts are fascinating because of what they reveal about the human condition, and I think there are some very solid scientific reasons why mankind loves to scare itself to death with stories about the paranormal, but that’s all they are. Stories. Inventions.” He pauses. “But I know
you
believe, and if you believe, then it must seem very real to you when you think they appear.”

I open my mouth to reply, but the words stick.

“I suppose it might have just been a waking dream,” I say finally. “Like, something particularly vivid that carried over from while I was asleep. I thought I felt David nudging me awake, but maybe… I was still half-asleep, even after I got out of bed.”

“That would be the logical explanation,” he replies, “but is it the one you believe?”

“I didn’t go to her this time,” I continue, thinking back to the sight of Hannah in her bed. “Every other time, when Hannah reached out her hand, I went and held it. She was so cold, and I could feel the blood soaking through my dressing gown when I knelt next to her bed, and her hand was scratched, with pieces of gravel in the wound. I can still remember the touch of her hand and the…”

I pause as I realize that I can still smell her skin. A mother always recognizes her daughter’s scent, and I swear, tonight I smelled her again. Even if I imagined the sight and sound of her, how could I have imagined the smell?

“Beth?” John says after a moment. “Are you okay?”

“This time,” I continue, unable to keep myself from reliving everything that happened, “I forced myself not to go into the room. She was begging me, pleading with me and sobbing, but I knew it’d be a mistake. I mean, it can’t really be her, can it? It’s just an illusion, or an echo, or…” I pause, imagining what it would have been like for Hannah if that had really been her in the bed. “What if she’s just trying to contact me?” I ask finally. “What if she just wants me to touch her again, and I refused?”

“Whatever you saw,” he replies, “it was
not
your daughter.”

“You don’t know that!”

“I know that ghosts aren’t real,” he continues. “I also know that the human mind is a complicated and wonderful thing, and that it’s capable of doing things that we don’t quite understand.”

“Even projecting an image of my dead family, complete with voices?”

“Perhaps.”

“I hope you’re right,” I tell him, wiping tears from my cheeks. “I just…”

“I’ll tell you what I think,” he continues, getting to his feet and grabbing his coat from the hook on the wall. “I think you went through an enormous trauma when your husband and daughter died, and I don’t think you received the proper help. And I think the emotional damage has healed, to some extent, but it’s left some pretty tough scar tissue in your mind, and that scar tissue has taken the form of this set of memories that you keep replaying and reliving.” He heads to the back door. “I think this is exactly the kind of experience that people mistake for proof of paranormal activity. I have no doubt that people really believe these things are happening, but there’s always an explanation. That doesn’t make it any less traumatic, though. I can’t even begin to imagine what you went through tonight.”

“Where are you going?” I ask, alarmed by the idea that he might leave me alone.

“Where do you think?” He turns to me. “I’m going to go take a quick look in your place, just to make sure that it’s safe.”

“You don’t need to do that.”

“Someone needs to, and it can’t be you. You’ll be okay her for five minutes, won’t you? Nothing’s going to happen to you as long as you’re in my house.”

“I…” I take a deep breath, and for the first time since I arrived tonight I actually feel as if I’m becoming calmer. “Be careful.”

“Of what? Things that go bump in the night?” He smiles. “Wait right here. Get yourself some more tea if you like. I’ll be quick. You trust me, don’t you?”

I nod.

“Then just wait here. You’ll be fine, I promise.”

Once he’s gone, I head over to the kitchen counter and look out at my house. I can see John making his way along the path, and a moment later he opens the back door and steps inside. I wait, trying to imagine what he might find in there, but finally I realize that I’m holding my breath. The truth is, I know he’s going to come back and say he didn’t find anything, but that doesn’t stop me imagining David and Hannah watching him from the shadows. After all, why would they appear to him? It’s me, only me, that they want.

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