Niamh Stevenson: Project – Afton

Tam was in the back of the van with nothing to keep him company but his thoughts. He knew he should have snuck out the back door, but there were police at every exit, so maybe he would have been caught either way. He had messed it up nonetheless, and now he was going to have to face the consequences.

Crash!

Tam was jolted from his thoughts and thrown from his seat. He was lying on the ceiling of the dingy police van, looking out of an open door. This was his last chance to complete his unfinished business, before he was confined to a cell for the next 10 years.

He got up, stumbling. The blood was pouring down his face and he felt dizzy, but that didn’t stop him. Without thinking, he sprang over the barrier on the motorway and dashed towards the wooded area on the other side of the road. It was barely bright enough to see and the tall, thick trees only made it worse. The cold chill down his spine made him nervous. Tam knew that the police weren’t far behind him: they were bound to spot him at some point.

A few metres ahead, he ducked behind a thick tree and held his breath. ‘Where’d he go?’ He heard footsteps gradually getting quieter and he sunk down onto the ground: his breath was sharp and the sweat was dripping profusely down his face. When the coast was clear, he got up and ran away.

The sun was starting to come up, which made him hotter and sweatier than he already was, but the trees blocked out the light and occasionally he would trip over his own feet, or a large twig. Worst of all, his stomach was beginning to growl like a lion, and his throat was as rough as sandpaper. He hadn’t eaten since the night before.

He kept going for what seemed like hours until he came to a large town. He began to look around and found what he was looking for: “The O’Shanter Medical Research Laboratory”. Tam’s face was glowing. He snuck into the medical lab to the left of the main entrance.

It was nowhere to be seen. In a few hours, he would be too late. Then he spotted a clear bottle at the back of the cabinet containing a green liquid. The label on the front read: “Sweet Afton”. Tam picked up the bottle cautiously, examining the label: “Warning: still to be tested, only to be handled under supervision, can kill”. This was what he had been looking for. From the desk drawer, Tam removed a syringe and began to transfer the liquid. Once it was full, he put it in his pocket and dashed out of the front door. When he got outside, he tried to figure out which direction he had to travel in. He prayed that he was going the right way and hurried off.

He was almost there and started looking for number 34. He was on the right side of the street. 28…30…32…34! He ran up the stone path and stood in front of the wooden door. Tam removed keys from under the mat, but couldn’t find the right one. Everything seemed to be delaying him.

He burst through the door and bolted it shut. A tall, thin lady came running into the hall and pointed at a door to the right of the stairs. She looked frightened, but also relieved to see him. There was a banging on the front door and the hinges and locks were wailing with the strain. Tam hurried into the small room and headed towards a little girl lying in bed. He whispered under his breath, “Don’t be too late, don’t be too late.”

He took the syringe out of his pocket and rolled up one of the little girl’s sleeves. The front door gave in and two officers stumbled in just as Tam injected the liquid into the girl. The officers raced into the bedroom: one snatched the syringe and examined it while the other forced Tam’s hands behind his back.

‘We’re too late,’ the officer said, shaking his head. Then he turned to Tam and said, ‘what did you do?’

As he was led reluctantly away, Tam could hear the creaking of the bed as the girl sat up. ‘Dad?’

He spun around, a mixed look of disbelief and the beginning of hope on his face. The girl continued to speak. ‘How did you get the medicine? Mum told me the police caught you.’ ‘Dad? Medicine? What is this?’ the officer cried out, turning to look at the other in confusion. His partner displayed an equally confused expression on his face. ‘She was ill, really ill,’ began Tam, ‘but we didn’t have enough money to get the medication she needed to survive.

Both officers were now wearing looks of guilt on their faces, having realised the true motive of Tam’s escape.

‘Give us a moment’ one said and they began whispering to one another. Eventually, they turned around. ‘You need to come with us.’

Tam was in the back of the van, again, with nothing to keep him company but his thoughts. But this time, he was content in the knowledge that he had saved his daughter.

Juliet McKay: The Striped Paper Bag

The taxi pulled up as the rain poured down. The door slid open and a spindly woman was helped out by the disheveled driver. It was cold yet she was wearing a thin dress and was dressed entirely in black. She opened a large umbrella which I didn’t think necessary as her wide brimmed hat caught every water droplet that fell from the sky. None of the woman’s skin was showing including her face which was shrouded by a black veil.

The woman’s head turned towards me. Although I couldn’t see her eyes I knew she was staring right at me. Her hand reached down into her deep pocket reappearing holding a red and white striped paper bag. Peppermints. They were my favourite and they always had been. She held out the bag. As I reached forward I noticed that her sleeve had slightly pushed back and I peeked at the first visible bit of her skin. It looked grey and lifeless, how you imagine the skin of a rotting corpse. Something felt terribly wrong yet I still reached out for the sweets.

The woman bent her long legs to be down at the same height as me. If it weren’t for the veil we would be eye to eye. She dropped her umbrella which clattered as it hit the wet pavement. Still crouching, she lifted her free arm and gripped my shoulder. I looked down at her wrist. On it was a wristwatch. The glass was smashed and the hands weren’t moving yet it still made a small ticking sound.

She dangled the bag between my eyes. I grabbed it. For a brief moment our hands brushed against each other and my hand was filled with a cold sensation that spread up my arm. I took a step back, shaking her bony grasp off my shoulder. I took another step then another, then I turned and started to run as fast as I could. The rain got heavier as I ran and I could almost see the fog appear. The mist grew so thick in a matter of minutes that I could no longer see the paper bag of sweets I held in front of me. Then out of the fog I heard my name being shouted. I followed the disembodied voice through the thick grey clouds. As I blindly walked further I seemed to hear more voices. I walked backwards hands over my ears. The voices were deep inside my head and I couldn’t get them out. I could hear them closing in on me. I sprinted.

I blindly turned down random streets and quietly searched for my own house. I finally got there and slammed the door behind me. I stood, back hard against the wood, for a second steadying my breathing, still in shock and disbelief.

“Are you ok sweetie?”

I looked up and saw my concerned mum standing in the hall. She then glanced down at my right hand.

“Where did you get that bag of peppermints?”

“What? How did you know what was in here?”

“Who gave these to you?” she said her face a mixture of anger and worry.

“Just this nice woman in town..”

“Wearing all black?” My mum interrupted.

I nodded slowly still confused.

“Upstairs, now!” She said snatching the striped bag from my hand.

“Lock the door and do not let anyone in! I will tell you when it’s safe.”

I did as she said, frightened and confused. All of a sudden the temperature in my room dropped. It felt like a gust of freezing air had passed right through. I checked the windows but they were tightly shut. I went into my drawers to get a blanket and noticed a familiar leather strap. I lifted it and saw the dreaded cracked face and unmoving hands. I heard the strangely innocent ticking of the wristwatch. I shook the broken watch in a feeble attempt at getting it to work. A small bit of paper fell out of the back. Once unfolded it seemed to be a letter.

‘She’s coming for me and if you are reading this she’s coming for you too. I took her peppermints. She is sure to be here soon. You are in grave danger, it is too late for but I wish you the best of luck. Please keep in mind that if she can help it Zakara never loses a victim. Remember, no matter how tempted do not open the door. The letter worried me and left me with many questions. Who was Zakara? I went over to the window to close the curtains. She was there. The veil had been lifted and her grey skin was pressed right up against the glass. Her white eyes stared right into mine. I quickly closed the curtains. Shocked and dazed I sat on my bed. Then the thumping started. It began quietly and got louder as it continued. The window panes shook with every thud. I covered my ears and hid under my covers. I felt a single droplet of salty water run down my cheek. The tears rolled faster as I sobbed harder into my pillow.

I didn’t remember falling asleep but when I woke up the thumps had stopped. The silence was comforting. Then there was a knock at my door.

“Sweetie, come out, its all safe now!” My mum’s voice called out. I was relieved and walked towards the towards the door. As I walked closer the letter on the floor caught my eye. “Remember, do not open the door” I looked through the keyhole to see the abnormally slim waist of a woman wearing all black. I took a step back. Behind the door was some scratching and a single peppermint slid under the door. The door handle started to turn. There was no escape.

Elise Keenan: Meat is Murder

Douglas was an ordinary lad, who lived in Aberdeen with his dad Hamish, who was a pig farmer. As for his mum Morag, she and Hamish argued constantly. Morag was vegan, she would rant about how animals will one day take revenge. Douglas and his dad often ignored what she was saying, which had caused many of their arguments. Deep down Douglas knew they weren’t right for each other. They argued over the littlest things: who would get the groceries? Who drank all of the soy milk? One day the arguing stopped. She was gone by the time Douglas had woken up. Douglas and his dad were distraught for a while but they quickly adjusted to being a family of two. The one thing Douglas hated about his mother going away was having to meet all the women his dad had met on Muddymatches.com.

Tomorrow was the day that the pigs were scheduled to go to the slaughterhouse all ready for the market season. Douglas hated the slaughterhouse almost as much as the pigs. The outside was black like death; inside it was empty except for the ‘slicer’ and the ‘mincer’ in the corner. ‘Drip, drip,’ the blood splattered all over the walls, occasionally fell into a puddle on the floor. If you listened closely you could hear the past shrieks of all the pigs as they were brutally sliced into bacon and sausage.

Although the pigs couldn’t speak Douglas believed that they knew how their ancestors had been brutally killed and how they were going to meet their end. Douglas thought of last year; he remembered one of the pigs more than the others: that pig was trembling with fear, as it got closer he could see water pouring out of its head almost like sweat.

That night Douglas had a peculiar dream, he dreamt that he was at his annual school fair, but he had no control over his legs. He felt bewitched. They led him over to a small black stall; from within some kind of green smoke seemed to be drifting out in clumps. He wanted to stop, his legs kept moving, and as he got closer a large, bony finger grabbed the back of his neck. His brain was telling him to scream and kick his captor, but his body failed to move. It was pitch black and silent except for the slight thud that the captor’s feet made and he dragged Douglas. Two seconds later he was falling down some kind of black tunnel, falling until he landed with a bang. He seemed to be in a witch’s lair, an enormous cauldron completely black except for the slimy green goo frothing out of it. There was something wrong with his body; again it seemed totally under a spell, forcing him to walk towards the cauldron, bend down and take a huge gulp of the liquid inside. It tasted like acid, surely burning his insides.

Suddenly he noticed he was shrinking rapidly. His hands turned into trotters; he was turning pink. Seconds later he had completely turned into a pig. Douglas awoke with a jump. ‘It was only a dream, it was only a dream’, he told himself. But it wasn’t. He rolled out of bed, and fell onto all fours, he tried to scream but all that came out was ‘Oink’.

It must have been a very loud ‘oink’ as his father had woken up quite startled, he was now standing outside Douglas’s room. He opened the door; at once he saw the pig, and not knowing it was Douglas, he grabbed it and put it outside in the barn with the other pigs, who were sleeping peacefully. Douglas tried to attract his father’s attention, but he couldn’t speak; all he could do was ‘oink’ hysterically.

Although he was a pig he had a human brain, so you could say he was the smartest pig in the world. Then it dawned on him: tomorrow was slaughter day for the pigs, and more importantly him. He was going to die. Yet there were 12 other pigs and he was the skinniest; maybe they’ll kill the fatter ones, he thought. At the back of his head he stopped fooling himself: he knew that there was no chance of his life being spared. He thought about running, but his trotters were no running material and although the skinniest of the pigs, he was still heavy. He managed to fall into a light sleep but still dreaded the next day. His mind was filled with possibilities: maybe his father would realise he was gone and would remember the pig he found in his room. Maybe he would recognise his bright blue eyes, different from all the brown-eyed pigs. Maybe he would turn back into a boy after a few hours. He vowed if this happened he would become vegan and never hurt another animal ever again.

The darkness became light; the night was now morning, Douglas was very tired as he hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep. His father came with the last feed for the pigs, he poured it into the trough, then left. Douglas didn’t feel like eating at all: he was far too nervous.

Soon all the pigs were on the conveyor belt that led to the slicer; his father was up above controlling it. Douglas stared up and his eyes met his father’s. Fear took over his body completely: his legs were shaking in terror, sweat was pouring out of his head. How he wished he had sided with his mum, he would be safe then. Douglas was at the end of the line, finally it his turn. He braced himself. ‘Slice.’ Douglas is now bacon and sausage.

Callum Thomas: Halloween

A full moon glowed through the mist, chillingly.

The eerie silence pressed in like a heavy blanket.

Pumpkins glared down, the faces of the long forgotten dead;

Ventriloquists’ dummies stared out of shop-fronts, twitching, moving;

A murder of crows huddled in a tree, cloaked, watching.

Rotting tree limbs reached out as if groping blindly for children to catch;

Skeletal figures stood silhouetted against dim flickering street-lamps.

In the cemetery, hunched figures hid watching, listening from the shadows.

Long dark shadows sprawled out, concealing the unknown.

This was a Halloween like no other!

Tiernan Blain: Halloween Poem

All darkness, except for the lights from the houses casting an orange glow down the street.

Silhouetted birds sat in the trees, like death himself.

The wind wailed as the leaves rustled around.

Jack-o-lanterns stared like dead dubious delinquents.

A cold breeze nipped my nose.

A million eyes stared at me.

As I stepped, the mud turned to stone.

Every sound seemed to echo around.

There was a crunch of gravel that I didn’t make; could it have been made by the one I loved?

She will go back to where she belongs

Tomorrow by night.