I love a good ghost story at Christmas – I’m currently re-reading The Woman in Black. Here’s a spooky story with a quirky twist. I hope you like it!
The traffic slowed to a stop in the darkness. Jeremy sighed and stared through the windscreen at two lines of blurred car lights glowing in the pouring rain. A traffic report interrupted the song Driving Home for Christmas he’d been half-listening to on the radio.
‘The A30 southbound is partially blocked due to an accident at Okehampton. Emergency services are on their way,’ said the reporter.
Jeremy shook his head. The clock on the dashboard flashed 20.00hrs. He was still a good two hours’ drive away from his parents’ house in Lands’ End.
God knows when I’ll get there now, he thought.
He was at a junction, and in a moment of impulse indicated left and pulled off the dual carriageway. The Sat Nav told him to ‘take the 3rd right at the next roundabout.’
He passed through small towns with please drive slowly signs and then onto the wild, rugged moor. The so-called beast of Bodmin moor had been blamed for slaying livestock again. It was out there somewhere, watching, waiting, concealed by the night. The roads became narrower until they were only one car wide and Jeremy prayed not to meet another car, or worse a tractor, coming the other way. The windscreen wipers swished back and forth. Jeremy’s eyes stung from concentrating so hard on the road.
This is taking me miles off course, he thought. But Jeremy wasn’t going to admit defeat ─ he never did ─ and he kept going. He hoped he might come across a country pub to take a break from driving, but there hadn’t been a village for miles.
Just when he was thinking things couldn’t get any worse, he lost control of the car’s steering. Luckily, there was a lay-by nearby and he wrestled the car into it. He threw on his coat and climbed out to check the tyres. He expected to find one flat tyre, but not three.
He tried to call the AA for breakdown assistance. No signal.
Lightning flashed and thunder boomed only a split second apart. Momentarily, the sky lit a large, ivy-clad house set back on the other side of the road.
He hurried across, pushed open the creaking gate and zigzagged his way through a tangled garden to the house. Candle flames trembled in the windows and, oddly, the door had been left wide open.
Jeremy knocked on the door and called, ‘Hello.’
No-one appeared, but he could hear fast tapping coming from a room on the right.
‘Hello,’ he said more loudly. ‘My car’s broken down. I was wondering if I could possibly use your phone?’
The tapping stopped briefly and then continued.
He turned away from the door and looked for another house. Blackness had consumed the entire landscape.
He swivelled back, hesitated for a moment and then stepped inside.
‘Hell─ooo,’ he said again, as he wiped his squelching shoes on the doormat and then followed the tapping along the corridor. Even more oddly, the walls, staircase, ceiling and floor were all made entirely of books: old, new, hardback, paperback, a hotchpotch of colours and sizes.
A girl of about ten years had been making the tapping noise. She sat in a room behind a chunky, black typewriter with silver keys. The table the typewriter rested on was made of books too, as was her chair. She had long, blonde hair and wore a pale blue dress underneath a starched, white apron. A small glass bottle, containing purple liquid, had been left next to the typewriter. A brown label hung around its neck.
‘Is your mum or dad at home?’ asked Jeremy.
The girl didn’t answer, but kept hitting the keys.
He walked over to her and glanced at what she was writing. She had nearly reached the bottom of the page.
‘Are you making up a story?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ she replied without looking up.
‘Is it about a princess?’
She smirked and said, ‘No, it’s about you.’
‘Me!’ He looked closer at the page and read:
The traffic slowed to a stop in the darkness. Jeremy sighed and stared through the windscreen at two lines of blurred car lights glowing in the pouring rain. A traffic report interrupted the song Driving Home for Christmas…
‘You’re a new character,’ she explained. ‘I get most of my cast from the other stories.’
Jeremy only half heard her. He re-read the paragraph, unable to believe his eyes. It was as if she had been in the car with him, could read his thoughts. His skin prickled as if ants were crawling all over him.
‘I’m going,’ he said.
‘But we’re getting to the exciting bit now ─ the climax.’ She paused, her fingers suspended over the keys, and glanced up at the books that together made one of the walls: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Woman in Black, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, The Arabian Nights… She narrowed her ice-blue eyes. ‘Hmmm,’ she said and then resumed writing.
A vampire walked in through the door, his face white and glowing like a full moon. He still had blood smeared over his mouth from his last kill, but he was still hungry…
Jeremy’s head snapped towards the door. Just as she had written, a vampire appeared out of thin air and walked slowly and carefully towards him.
He scanned the room for a weapon but only saw books. How could he defend himself against a blood-thirsty vampire with Jane Austen? He moved in the opposite direction to the vampire, keeping his eyes locked on him. The girl’s typing grew faster and louder.
The typewriter! he thought (and she wrote).
He tried to pick it up, but it was unbelievably heavy. The vampire stepped too close for comfort and Jeremy grabbed the glass bottle instead. The label on the bottle brushed his hand, and he noticed the words: DRINK ME.
He knew the book it was from. Another quick glance at the girl confirmed to him that she had come out of the same book too. He lifted the bottle to his mouth, knowing its contents would make him huge or tiny, but then stopped. It wasn’t the answer to his problem. The writer would still decide what happened to him in the end.
‘You’ve forgotten to include something really important,’ Jeremy said to her.
‘No, I haven’t.’
‘You have, and it’s going to ruin the story.’ He kept moving in time with the vampire; it was like a strange macabre waltz. ‘A white rabbit hops into the room and disappears down a rabbit hole; the vampire stops to watch it and Alice follows it into Wonderland.’
She paused, wrinkled her brow and said, ‘That sounds familiar.’
She returned to typing the story.
Just then, a rabbit hopped through the door and disappeared into a hole at the base of the wall of books. Jeremy could see it led to a tunnel full of swirling sentences.
Alice jumped down from her chair and shouted, ‘Wait for me!’
The vampire froze in time.
Jeremy sat at the typewriter and used one finger to clunk the keys. He wrote:
Jeremy left the house and drove away in his new Porsche. He never went there again and lived happily ever after.
Thanks for reading my story. Wishing you a very happy Christmas. Kimx
Story by Kim Donovan. (c) copyright. All rights reserved. Image: pixabay.