Dark Woods: A Short Story

In the latest edition of Inspired, my collaborative series, I have had the privilege of working with the incredibly talented Brian Easlon.  Brian is a tattoo artist from Cornelius, Oregon in the United States.  If you like his work as much as I do, you can see more on his Instagram.

Dark wood art

Dark Woods

Forests are notoriously dangerous places, especially for little children, and especially at night. So, if you were a young girl, you would be inclined to avoid such places. Unless, like Agatha, you call such places your home. Agatha’s kind are known as many things, fairies or wood nymphs or sprites, but what they all have in common, is the image that they conjure. When you hear these names, you picture beautiful children, tiny and perfect, with wings spun from gold and glitter on their faces. The kind of being made of magic and dreams, who grant the deepest wishes of poor downtrodden servant girls and lost boys alike. Except, fairies are none of those things. They are nasty, mischievous little creatures, who gain pleasure from the pain and misfortune of others.

They are also neither beautiful nor glittering. They have the wings of moths, not butterflies, and to the human eye, they appear as a normal insect, brown and mottled, distinct only by the large, black eyes staring from their wings and the distinct skull shaped spot on their large bodies. They are beautiful in their own way, but nothing like the watercolour illustrations of ‘fairy tale’ books we read as children.

Over time, they have grown to hate humans. We destroy their homes to build our own, we chop down trees and burn them, and the plants we call weeds, which we kill with chemicals, are some of their favourite food. And so, when a human is unfortunate enough to wonder into their lair, they waste no time in commencing a punishment which they see fit.

In the heart of Ireland there lies such a lair. A small wood on the edge of a village, filled with dark shadows and watching eyes. For centuries, people have entered those woods, having lost their way, or to seek shelter from a storm under it’s thick, leafy canopy, only to disappear without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again. It is said the trees within, move and walk, in order to confuse and trap you, and that the thorns can claw and grab at you like arms, ensnaring you within their jagged trap. The local people never go there anymore. After losing Grandparents and parents and siblings and friends over many generations, they learned the hard way that such places can never be tamed. After decades without foot steps or felling, the trees grew denser and darker, and the eyes within grew impatient for their prey.

This is the place Agatha calls home. For decades she has lived within those woods, watching the planes flying overhead and the cars driving by in the distance and she grew resentful. The humans had an entire world in which to exist and explore, yet they showed it no respect. They were ungrateful and spoiled. How could they not see how lucky they were? She had lived nearly a century in the same small forest, and now, she wanted out.


Lyndsey was a photographer, or at least, she dreamed of becoming one. She would carry her father’s old camera everywhere she went, snapping whatever caught her eye. She preferred the dark room to the modern digital prints, and every time she developed a picture, it was like giving birth, each picture a piece of her. Her forte was nature photography. Every weekend, she would drive to a part of the country she had never been, and snap the local wildlife. This weekend, she was travelling to a little village further south. It was so small it didn’t feature on her Sat Nav, and it took her longer to arrive than she thought. It would begin to get dark soon.

She passed a patch of woodland, a few minutes walk from the road. It looked wild and untouched, perfect for her project. She parked the car at the side of the road, and began walking through the fields. When she reached the edge, she could not find a path, and so had to create one, forcing down the plants with her feet, breaking tree branches. She would not be able to go too far in unfortunately. She stopped to take a picture of spider web, one of the largest she had ever seen, strung between two large oak trees. Little drops of water from that mornings rain, clung to it and sparkled as it danced slowly in the breeze. It was like a beautiful, delicate piece of jewellery.

Something moved in her peripheral vision. She started, and turned to see a large moth landing gracefully on a nearby log. It was far larger than the ones she had at home, which swooped and played around her light bulbs. It was at least four inches wide, with large brown mottled wings. On each wing, was a large black spot, with hints of red and burnt orange. They looked like angry eyes staring out at you. On the thick body, there was a white mark, distinct and terrible. A skull, watching her along with the eyes. It was beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. Lyndsey moved to photograph it, when it flew, suddenly, straight at her face. She fell backwards on reflex, trying to avoid it, but something was wrong. She fell, expecting to reach the ground quickly, but the impact never came. Instead she kept falling, down and down. Suddenly everything went dark, but she could feel she was still falling.

A small pin hole of light broke the darkness, moving towards her, increasing in size as it did until she was surrounded by the light. It took her a minute to focus her eyes. She was still in the forest, the same trees, the same dull beams of light just penetrating the darkness, now fading with the hour. Except, something was wrong. It was the same place, but from a different angle. She looked around, but she couldn’t feel her neck. She went to touch it, but she had no hands. She began to panic, a silent scream filling her head, as she realised she could not speak.

Then she saw it, or more accurately, she saw herself, walking towards her. Same hair, same face, same clothes, it was definitely her body, but it was huge and giant, towering above her now. It was as if she had shrunk, a twisted version of Alice’s adventures. But who was this copy? It smiled at her, and held up the large camera lens to her face, or at least where she thought her face was, and in it’s reflection, she saw the moth. It hit her. She hadn’t shrunk, she had swapped. How was this possible? This can’t be real. Horror filled her. She wanted to do something, say something, somehow stop it, change it back, but how, she did not know.

“Smile for the camera.”

It laughed, and snapped a picture.

“That’s a keeper.”

She started to try to ask what was happening, to beg for mercy, but no voice came out.

“I can imagine what’s going on in that little mind of yours, and so, as a courtesy, I’ll sum up. I have taken your body. It’s mine now. You are inside mine, and there you shall stay. I will explore the world, and you, can stay here, trapped in an immortal form, pondering and weeping over what happened for the rest of time. It’s nothing against you specifically, just your kind. I have a general disdain for human beings, but I require one as a vessel to leave this God forsaken place. You happened to be the first to venture here. Wrong place, wrong time, that’s all. There’s nothing you can do about it, and I can assure you, I will not change my mind. Goodbye human.”

She appeared satisfied with her explanation, and with that, she watched herself turn and walk towards the make shift path she had formed earlier, and disappear from her view. It was a nightmare, it had to be. But sadly, it was not.

A New You: A Collaborative Short Story.

In the latest edition of Inspired, I have had the privilege of working with the incredibly talented Jason Franks.  Jason is an illustrator from Leyland, UK and he very recently worked alongside 20th Century Fox to create some truly terrifying Alien art for the release of Alien: Covenant.  If you like his stuff as much as me, you can see more of his work on his Facebook and Instagram

A New You

1She stared at her body in the mirror, lines drawn across it, dissecting every sad and saggy piece of skin, a road map of her flaws. She had been beautiful once, but time has plans for us all. Over many years, she had watched her body bloom and blossom, rose pink and splendid, before seeing it wither and wilt before her eyes. She was a husk now. A hollow piece of wood. In a world where appearance was everything, where beauty meant more than intellect or creativity, she was merely an unwanted reminder to the young, of their own mortality. She saw how they looked at her, like they had suddenly smelled something rotting. At one time, she was marvelled at. Her face adorned the front of magazines and on billboards and advertisements all over the world. She was admired, adored. Now, she was ignored, forgotten. She was nothing.

She had tried everything to stop the inevitable decline; creams, lotions, botox, Chinese2 herbs, crystals, she had even visited a priest. But no amount of money or connections could turn back the hands of time. She had almost given up hope, when she heard about Dr Volo. It was said, that in his skilled and steady hands, he could take off twenty years, maybe more. He was her miracle. He was her last chance. He had been incredibly difficult to employ, but then all the best surgeons are. After pulling strings, blackmail, bribery and spending most of her fortune, she had got a consultation with the man himself.

3He had not been what she expected. Usually, the surgeons were as fabricated as their clients, all shiny, orange skin and stone faces. Not Dr Volo. He wore his lined face with pride. He was a tall, delicate man, with sharp eyes and thin lips. He wore his jet black hair slicked back and shiny, and a thin moustache underlined his crooked nose. He spoke with a melodic, European accent, although she was unsure exactly where he was from originally and when he stared at her with his green eyes, she felt like he was reading those very lines she hated; her life story etched in flesh, her desires and fears, her longing to renew. He had sketched his art on her body’s canvas, and these black inked lines represented how he would wield his scalpel like a brush and paint her anew.


There was a gentle knock at the door. She quickly put on the paper gown which had been laid out for her, and placed herself delicately onto the gurney. Excitement and nerves mixed and churned within her, the combination causing her skin to erupt in goosebumps.

“How are we feeling Helen?”

She hadn’t even noticed him come in, never mind cross the room to her side. He moved so quietly that no footsteps were ever heard. It was the one thing about him which disconcerted her.

“Fine Dr. A few nervous butterflies, but I’m excited.”

“Before we do, I just wanted to make sure this was what you wanted?”

She was completely taken aback by the question. She had been to three separate consultations, paid the fees, signed the consent forms and was now a human doodle wearing a paper dress with her ass hanging out. What exactly indicated she may have changed her mind? He seemed to see her thoughts forming in the lines of her furrowed brow.

“I know it may seem like a silly question, but I just like to make sure my clients are one hundred percent sure about going through this process. This is a big decision to make, and it carries risks. I know we have been through this, and you have signed all of the relevant wavers, but I have to ask you one more question. What exactly is it you want?”

At first, she was speechless. They had had dozens of conversations about exactly what she wanted, detailed discussions about every nip, every tuck, every slice. Now, he was asking her what she wanted? She thought the answer to that question was fairly obvious.

“I want to be beautiful again. I want to look young. I want to be a new woman.”

His thin lips curled up into a smile which unsettled her slightly.

“That, I can do.”

5Before another word could be spoken, identical nurses in identical white uniforms and stockings shuffled into the room, and a gas mask was placed over her mouth. She was asked by one to count to ten, but only made it to three before everything blurred and darkened. The last thing she saw before she succumbed to the void, was Dr Volo’s smiling face.

8When she awoke, her eyes were dry and it took her a while to adjust to the light. When the world came into focus, instead of the hospital light, she found herself beneath a bare bulb, flickering slightly. She raised her arm up to rub her eyes, expecting to feel pain and to be restricted by dressings or a medical drip, but she felt nothing.                         In fact, not only was her arm free of bandages or wounds, but her skin was soft and supple. There was no sagging, no age marks, just perfect skin. She checked the other arm as well, and found it to be the same. She became so excited to inspect her own body, she didn’t notice that the crisp white hospital sheets had been replaced by a grey wool blanket, old and washed a thousand times. Her legs were the same, young and strong.

She clambered off the bed and ran to the mirror screwed above the sink opposite her bed. Her face was not that of her own in youth, but it was certainly young and very definitely beautiful. Her cheeks were plump where they had once been sallow, her forehead was taut where it had once been lined, her lips were plump and full where they had once been thin and listless. Even her hair was new. Instead of thinning grey and lifeless, it was a lush chestnut brown, which caught even the light of the dull bulb overhead. She smiled, her teeth perfectly white and her gums no longer receding. She did not look at all like herself, and she could not have been happier. She looked young, and beautiful, and nothing else mattered.

She had to speak with the Dr, to congratulate him, to hug him, and kiss him and sing his praises. He had delivered everything he had promised, plus so much more. Not only was she glowing with a youthful exuberance, but she could see no scars, no cuts, no wounds. She was changed and she was healed. How, she could not even comprehend, but whatever his methods, he was a genius. She turned to press the call button for one of the stepford nurses, when she finally noticed her surroundings.


Just as with her body, the room was also transformed. She had fallen asleep in a white room, with crisp white bedding on a shiny metal trolley bed. One entire wall was taken up by a large silver mirror, which reflected the white light of the crystal chandelier over head, and sent tiny rainbows across the white carpet. There had been a white arm chair, and a white screen to change behind. She had not expected to wake up in that room of course. She had expected to wake up in a ward, with green fabric screens and hospital machines, and rubber tiled floors. But this, this was something different altogether.

The room in which she now stood, would be better described as a cell. The walls were bare brick, painted in a dull grey and the floor was bare concrete with a sad little threadbare rug directly beside the bed. A striped mattress lay on top, covered in bedding which was once white, but after thousands of washes, now took on the same grey tinge as the walls. There was a desk, also attached to the wall, without a chair, and a black leather bible sat on it’s surface. The only other contents of the room was the sink, and the mirror she had been staring into without realising it was made of plastic. Something close to panic began to rise within her, as her eyes fell on the door. It was a heavy one, with only a small barred window, and no handle on her side.

She wondered if this was a drug induced nightmare. Anaesthetic had played with people’s minds in the past; she had read of people wide awake and aware of every slice into their flesh, but unable to move or cry out in pain. Perhaps, her reaction would be vivid hallucinations, yes that was it, it was just a dream. She closed her eyes hard, concentrating on waking up, but when she opened them again, she found herself staring at the same sad little room. She tried again, this time closing her eyes so tightly it hurt, and sent blurred shapes across her vision when she once again opened them to find her situation unchanged. A thought occurred to her, a rule of thumb which everyone knew to be true: you cannot feel pain in a dream. So, she grabbed a chunk of her new, supple flesh and nipped and twisted it as hard as she could. Pain shot down as the skin reddened.

6Tears began to form, as she ran at the door, pounding her fists and screaming as loud as she could. The room was too small, and it was definitely getting smaller, closing in around her, trapping her within her own fears. She was awake, she knew this with every painful thump of her fists on the steel door. She stopped, hearing a set of keys jingling in a lock, a movement of cogs and parts, as the door unlocked and squeaked open. It was Dr Volo accompanied by one of his pert blonde nurses. She fell into his arms, grateful to see something, someone familiar. He would sort this out, he would help her.



“Oh Doctor, thank God! I thought…I don’t know what I thought! I was so frightened, when I woke up here. What’s happening? Where am I? What is this place?”

“This is your room, within Lakeview psychiatric hospital. You’ve asked me this same question a dozen times Eva, and the answer is always the same.”

“Eva? Who is Eva? What are you talking about? A psychiatric hospital?”

“Eva, we can’t keep going in circles like this, at some point you have to accept..”


She screamed it so loud, she startled even herself. Both Doctor and nurse fell silent, their faces crumpled with a mixture of concern and pity.

“My name is Helen, Helen Ford. I was a model, I was an actress, I was famous. I came to Lakeview medical clinic for plastic surgery to be young again, to stop looking sixty. There is no psychiatric hospital here. Why are you saying this? Why are you lying to me?”

She felt tears land on her chest and make their way between her now pert breasts. This had to be some kind of sick joke. Maybe this was one of those prank shows she had heard about, a special episode where they pranked the old stars. Or was it the drugs? She had taken plenty in her lifetime, both legal and illegal, but they were always coming up with something new.

“Your name is Eva Giles. You are twenty years old. You were never a model or actress, 7you were just a normal high school student. You always suffered from mental health issues, which gradually increased in severity and volatility, resulting in you burning down your family home, killing everyone inside; your parents, your Grandmother and your little brother Paul. You were committed here when you were deemed unfit for trial. You know all of this Eva. You repeatedly invent new personalities, new people to be, so you don’t have to be yourself, so you don’t have to face up to what you did and avoid the guilt which tears at you. You’re sick. I thought we were making progress, I thought…it’s fine. You’ll be fine, but you have to let us help you.”

She caught her reflection in the plastic mirror, a scared, young girl staring back at her, so different from the face she had known, or at least, thought she had known. Was it true? Was this all in her head? No! She shook the thoughts from her mind. She could remember a lifetime, sixty years of faces and rooms. She could remember the men she had loved, and the fights which drove them apart. She could remember a mother, bitter and twisted by the space left by her father. She could see her face when she was a girl, hitting her for some minor error, and older, weaker, wheezing in a hospital bed attached to tubes and wires, machines beeping and then a sheet pulled over a still face. She saw her brother, the only man she had never grown to hate. She remembered her devastation when he had died drunk behind the wheel of a burning car. She could taste her first kiss, remember the weight of the many men she had known over sixty years on earth. She saw her wedding day, both of them, in vivid colour, just as she could see the ink of her signature drying on her divorce papers. No, she was Helen Ford, and nothing they said could shake that certainty.

She ran at them, pushing the nurse with all her strength, sending her hard into the wall. She went to run past her through the gap her absence created, but she felt two strong arms bear hug her from behind, tightening as both bodies slid to the floor.

“Nurse, get a sedative, quickly.”

The nurse, blonde hair now sticking out from her hat, pulled herself up and ran out of view. Helen kicked and lashed and even tried to bite the Doctor, using every ounce of strength she could to escape.

“Now, is that any way to treat the man who made you young again Helen?”

She froze, breathing heavily from the exertion. He had called her by her real name. She knew she wasn’t mad, but then what was this? She felt him loosen his grip enough for her to turn and look into his dark, pitiless eyes.


“Why? Because you asked me to. You wanted to be young, you wanted to be beautiful. Well, you have your wish Helen…you’re a whole new woman.”

10His lips curled into that same snide smile, and she again tried to break free, lashing out, screaming for help. But he was so strong, and soon the nurse returned, needle in hand. She felt a sharp pain in her thigh, before her strength began to fail her, and the room started to melt and blur. Soon, she lay immobilised on the cold concrete floor, the world around her fading into black, her eyelids heavy and insistent despite her best efforts to fight, to flee. But the drugs overcame her will power, her body limp, her mind shutting down.



The last thing she saw before she succumbed to the void, was Dr Volo’s smiling face.

The 9th Life of Louis Drax: Book Review

Hello everyone!  It’s Sunday again, which means most of us will be getting ready for another working week, which I won’t lie to you, generally sucks.  Why can’t us bookworms be allowed to read, create and eat snacks all day?  Is that too much to ask?  Anyway, to cheer you all up, I have a book review for you, as well as the announcement of the next book club pick.  Happy Reading…

louis drax

So let’s remind ourselves of the story:

Nine-year-old Louis Drax is a problem child: bright, precocious, deceitful- and dangerously, disturbingly, disaster prone.  When he falls off a cliff into a ravine, the accident seems almost predestined.  Louis miraculously survives- but the family has been shattered.  Louis’ father has vanished, his mother is paralysed by shock, and Louis lies in a deep coma from which he may never emerge.  In a clinic in Provence, Dr Pascal Dannachet tries to coax Louis back to consciousness.  But the boy defies medical logic, startling Dannachet out of his safe preconceptions, and drawing him inexorably into the dark heart of Louis’ buried world.  Only Louis holds the key to the mystery surrounding his fall- and he can’t communicate.  Or can he?

This is an incredibly original read, and genuinely like nothing I have ever read before.  The chapters alternate between Dr Pascal’s perspective and Louis’, creating a constant shift in the focus of the novel.  The author has an amazing way of capturing a character’s voice.  When you read Louis’ chapters, you can hear a child speak and you really get his personality.  Same with Dr Pascal’s chapters, when it’s obvious we have shifted to the thoughts of an adult, a confused and lonely adult, dedicated to his job, to an unhealthy level perhaps.  The chapters which take place inside Louis’ mind are imaginative and fantastical without being cliched or overdone, and the fictional character that dwells there, Gustav, the man with no face, is beautifully creepy and reassuring at the same time.  By creating a sound board for Louis, we have his story told to us in his words, at his pace, revealing the events which lead to his coma in a dramatic and interesting way.

All positive so far, however, whilst the voices and characters are clearly defined and easily imagined, they are also slightly unlikeable.  Louis is precocious and intelligent and a little odd, normally things I would love in a child, but honestly he just comes across as bratty.  Dr Pascal, the protagonist of this piece, is frankly pathetic.  He is clearly so dedicated to his job, and through it does wonderful things, but he appears so willing to risk all of that over a pretty face.  Same with his marriage…ok, it’s not perfect, and due to choosing his job more often over his wife, they appear to live almost separate lives, but after so many years, two children, a home together and a woman he still clearly loves and respects, he appears quite happy to chuck it all in for a younger, prettier model.  Add to that the fact that, despite him supposedly being this genius medical practitioner, he is so easily duped by this woman.  Apparently, if you pout your lips at him, he’ll believe anything.  The movie adaptation addresses this by making the consequences of his decisions less physical, and more specific to his job and marriage, the very things he put at risk.

The pace of the novel seems off as well.  Dr Pascal seems to fall almost instantly in love with Mrs Drax, with no real development to their relationship, or natural pace for attraction.  I understand that there is lightening bolt, love at first sight in this world, but this doesn’t appear to be that either.  Frankly, it’s as if Dr Pascal simply resigns to his fate with regards Mrs Drax.  It’s the same with the pace at which the telepathic connection between Dr Pascall and Louis is revealed.  It seems like Dr Pascall jumps to this incredibly far fetched conclusion a little too quickly, ‘I sleep walked a couple of times, as I did many times in my past, and I wrote some weird stuff down.  It must be the boy in a coma taking over my body through a psychic link.’  Similarly, Dr Pascall, Louis’ therapist, seems perfectly contented to jump straight to this (frankly insane sounding) conclusion.  Are these men genuinely medical professionals?  Again, this is addressed in the movie version, where Dr Pascall represents the cynical voice of reason.

Perhaps, I’m too cynical, but whilst I am perfectly willing to suspend reality when entering the universe created by a book, and accept all of the alternative realities and terms of that universe, I think it needs to make sense within the confines of the universe created.  Yes, there is a psychic link between the comatose boy and his Doctor, I accept that, but from my perspective, there should have been more instances and examples of this connection, or a more gradual realisation for the characters of it’s existence.  An opinion clearly shared by the writers who adapted the book for screen.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel.  It wasn’t the best thing I have ever read, but it was unique and entertaining.  It’s not particularly long or taxing, so I definitely think it’s worth a go! I would give it three stars.

The next book club book is ‘The Twelve’ by Stuart Neville, a fellow Norther Irish writer.  The blurb reads:

Gerry Fegan, a former paramilitary contract killer, is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he has slaughtered. Every night, on the point of losing his mind, he drowns their screams in drink. His solution is to kill those who engineered their deaths.

From the greedy politicians to the corrupt security forces, the street thugs to the complacent bystanders who let it happen, all are called to account. But when Fegan’s vendetta threatens to derail a hard-won truce and destabilise the government, old comrades and enemies alike want him dead.

This sounds like a genuinely gritty, dark and original read and I can’t wait to read it.  Why don’t you join my book club and read along with me?


Awake with eyes closed: A Poem.

Happy Sunday everyone!  Another week has passed us by in the blink of an eye, and I hope you all had a good one!  For tonight, I wanted to post something personal to me.  I have spoken before about struggling with depression and anxiety in my life, and this poem focuses on  depression, and the way I personally experienced it, namely as overwhelming apathy.  I often found that to be the most difficult part, the lack of feeling, and frankly I would have preferred to be sad.  I believe it is important to be open and honest about these things, because even in today’s society, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues.  In reality, a huge number of people suffer or have suffered from the same issues, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I honestly think that if everyone opens up about such things, we can remove that stigma, and more importantly, we can ensure that no one suffers alone, ashamed of asking for help.  I hope you like it, let me know in the comments section below, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all my posts!  Finally, if this seems familiar, or if you find yourself struggling more than usual, then I encourage you to speak to someone: your friends, your family, a charity or counsellor.  Don’t suffer alone!

Awake with eyes closed


Weighted, still,

Staring, blurred eyes.


unwilling, not unable.

What’s the point?

Life passing,

a waking sleep.

There are no dreams here,

just regrets.

It consumes you,

apathy, entropy

There are no dreams,

just regrets.

Cook: A short story.

For this instalment of the Inspired series, I have collaborated with the very talented Lee Harris.  I have placed his wonderful image, at the perfect point in my story below.  Lee is from South Shields, and earned a BA in Fine Art back in 2007 from Sunderland University.  He has had his work exhibited by the Samling Foundation, and has an upcoming group exhibition with the Customs House in South Shields.  He currently works in advertising.  If you like his work as much as I do, you can check out more on his Instagram.  He will also have his own website up and running soon, so keep an eye out!  If you are an artist, photographer, musician or generally creative soul, and you would like to collaborate, then get in touch!  In the mean time, happy reading…


She wiped the sweat from her brow, steam hitting her like a wall. Her kitchen was too small for this kind of cooking, but she had no other options. She considered the recipe carefully, checking and rechecking the quantity or weight of each ingredient. This was a delicate process. One wrong move, and the entire thing would be ruined. Some of the essential components were rare, and expensive. It would take months to reacquire them, time she dd not have. She had promised to host her group that evening, and she was determined for it to go well.

She would have five guests this evening, all as exacting as each other. They always met once a month, to discuss and work on whatever problems each was facing or struggling with; a difficult boss, a cheating husband, a noisy neighbour. She had come to rely on them over the years, they always knew what to do to make it better.

Her eyes began to water, adding the last of the ingredients. She hoped they’d like it strong. She had just finished when the door bell rang. Wiping her hands with a polka dot tea towel, she made her way down the hall to the front door.

“Something smells perfect.”

It was Edith, the oldest and wisest of their group. Whatever your problem, she had been there, whatever story you had, she had one better. She had lived a hundred lives, and had been quite wild back in the day. Behind her was Brenda, a school teacher and book lover. She was the font of all facts and knowledge for the group; very handy for a pub quiz.

“Hey Beth, nice evening for it.”

“It is indeed.”

Then came the others, one after the other, all nodding their heads and exchanging pleasantries. There was Jane, who swore like a sailor and fought like one too, Cheryl, who must have been the most fertile woman in the country with seven kids and counting, and finally Sandra, who owned the local green grocers and sourced most of the things they needed for these little gatherings. She had contacts everywhere, and always knew someone who knew someone who could get you what you needed, no matter how rare. She was a handy person to know.

“Beth honey, I’m afraid I don’t have long. Three of the kids have a vomiting bug, and Peter was already pulling his hair out when I left. I’m sorry. I’ll stay as long as I can.”

Cheryl was always the hardest to pin down, with her brood and their many extra curricular activities and sports teams. It was a wonder she knew what day it was given how many dates and times were floating round her head.

“Of course, I’ve finished in the kitchen, so we can get stuck right in.”

Edith, nodded, and automatically led us all out onto the patio. I grabbed the pot on the way past, along with a bottle of wine. Everything else we would need was already out there. It was me who had called for this little gathering, me who had the problem to solve.

It was a clear, mild evening in May, with a full moon casting white light over the motionless trees. The women gathered around the table, each pouring themselves a glass of wine, passing the bottle from person to person until it was drained.

“I called you here, because I need your help. Jack, well, not content with being a cheating scum bag, he is now being a lying, cheating, thieving scum bag. He has solicitors claiming all sorts of assets which were mine before our marriage; my house, my book collection. Hell, he’s even trying to get at my rare wines. Bastard doesn’t even drink it, he’s a beer man. I have tried to be civil, to be mature and talk it out, but he’s just impossible. It’s pay back for kicking him out, as if I should have believed his pathetic apologies after I caught him humping his secretary on his desk, like some dog who needs fixed. I’m at the end of my rope ladies. I…”

She trailed off, memories of happier times with Jack flashing inside her mind’s eye, muddying her hatred and anger with regret.

“Right,” Edith clipped,”I think we know what needs done, and since we only have Cheryl for a short time, I suggest we get stuck in.”

sketch-1498767735789They silently pulled up the hoods of their black cloaks, and placed the pentagrams dangling around their neck in their left hands, their right hands touching the pot before them. In unison, quietly at first, but building in volume, they repeated the spell:

Moon of white, and souls of black,

We call to you to punish Jack,

To bring ill fortune, illness and sorrow,

To chip at him until he’s hollow,

To make him fear and fret tomorrow,

To cripple, break, beat and attack.

We call to you to punish Jack.

As they spoke, their words building into a crescendo, the pot’s sticky black contents began to bubble and boil, smoke rising from it’s belly, surrounding them like a fog. When the spell was cast, and the deed done, the smoke cleared and the pot’s contents had boiled into a thick and tar like paste, stuck to the bottom of the pan. Edith, using a wooden spoon, scooped a large dollop of the paste into a small glass jar, and handed it to Beth.

“You know what to do; smear it on him, and the curse shall be complete.”

“I should go, I have six missed calls from Peter.”

Cheryl kissed Beth, and hurried out, the others milling behind her, each saying their goodbyes. Edith hung back, until Beth and her were alone. Beth stared at the jar in her hand. She was angry with Jack, that was true, but did she really hate him that much?

“He betrayed you.”

Edith had always been able to read the others like books, their feelings and fears displayed like words on a page.

“He betrayed you, your marriage, your vows. Worst of all, he took your love and discarded it like a piece of rubbish. Now, he tortures you, for what? Profit? Fun? Revenge? None of these prospects paint him in a decent light. He cursed himself with his deeds. You are merely finalising the details.”

She smiled before glugging the last of her wine, a red drop running down her chin, like a vampire who had just fed. She kissed her on the cheek and hugged her, before heading into the house to leave. Beth stood a moment, going over the details of her life with Jack. How they had met and fallen in love, their wedding, their marriage, the affairs, ignored, then forgiven, then too many to carry the weight of any longer. The fights, the break ups, the harsh words, the tears. She clasped the jar tight in her right hand, the glass warming from the contents within. This home was ancestral and had been in her family for generations, passed from mother to daughter. She had grown up here. It was her only place of solace, and she loved it with all her heart, and now he threatened to have it sold, divided like it was nothing, just bricks and mortar forming a financial gain. No, she would never let that happen, not just for her, but for the women who came before her, and who loved and cried within it’s walls just as she had. He would pay. He would pay for what he did to her, to all the women he used and discarded like garbage, to everyone he ever trampled on and hurt. He would pay and he deserved every bit of his punishment. What happens in life comes back on you three fold, this she knew, and on this occasion, she was happy to give karma a helping hand.

She placed the jar inside her cloak pocket, and began to gather the glasses to be washed. She would call him tomorrow, tell him she missed him, appeal to his ego, ask for a lunch. She would kiss him, one last time, and use that moment to place the potion on him and curse his life and world until he had paid for all his sins three fold. She smiled at this. Hell hath no fury like a witch scorned.