Lucy Gallacher: The Glove

The glove. He’d left it in the ticket office as he ran out. Maybe they wouldn’t notice; after all, to them it would be nothing more than two pieces of brown leather stitched together and at least every man in the city owned a pair just like them, there was no way it could be traced back to him. Or could it? Because then again, if stitching is picked it can loosen the leather letting everything fall, just as one slip could unravel all his secrets.

He was normally more careful in situations like this, even going as far as to wipe the fingerprints off a glass of wine before leaving a restaurant. In his profession you could never be too careful. He had been following Case 29 for many years; it had led him through the generations. It had all started just after the war in ‘46. Smith had joined the intelligence in 45 after two years fighting on the front; because of this, not only did he have intel on the soldiers, but after what he had experienced he figured he could handle anything.

The Berlin air was cold as Smith ran to catch up with the lady in the navy blue coat coat. She was the newest edition to Case 29: tall, thin, with jet black hair pulled tightly into a bun. She wore large tortoise-shell sunglasses that covered her face, and her coat was embellished with three white letters: NHS. Smith presumed they stood for Nazi Headquarters Saldenburg, which is where the lady was heading. Throughout the years Smith had been able to pick up on details such as the brief case she was carrying: Bottega Venetia. That’s how she could not be mistaken: ever since the brand was founded it had been a trusty transporter of the Germans’ plans and files, and another reason she could not be mistaken was the fact that the briefcase could cost about two and a half grand. The women he was following was pretty and in her early 30’s; possibly a new recruit to the Nazi organisation. In his younger days, Smith would have maybe gone for her but now he was on a mission.

Smith had been informed by his colleagues that the briefcase contained the blueprints for the next attack from the German Troop 87 on the British troops at the western front. If Smith could reach these in time, he could report back to the station and compromise the mission so the British soldiers would have more time to react. His role was vitally important to save the lives of thousands.

By this point he had followed the lady with the jet black hair outside a cafe where she was then greeted by another lady in the same navy coat, again embellished with NHS. This lady had dirty blonde hair that rested gently past her shoulders; she was about the same age, still thin but smaller. They began to talk as the lady with the blonde hair lit a cigarette. Some people think you should be seen and not heard, others heard and but not seen. Smith disagreed with both: in his job he had to be completely in the shadows, therefore he stood a couple of yards away from the two women. They kept mentioning “The Doctor”. Smith figured this was the nickname of the man the two ladies were working for. Smith glanced at his watch: it read 8:39. He looked back at the two women: the blonde one caught his eye, then the two women hurried away in the opposite direction.

Damn! thought Smith; they had seen him. He decided that the most likely way to complete Case 29 was to follow the two women to wherever they were going. He began to run after them. After several minutes he reached a large, modern, white, square building. It was multi-storey and had lots of windows. Many people gathered around it, probably discussing the organisation’s business. The two women had made it to the entrance, but before he could follow, each of the women pulled out some form of ticket and scanned it on some piece of technology he did not recognise. After all, this was a secret organisation. Trust the Germans to have the highest equipment, thought Smith.

Smith had grown up in a very poor area of Manchester, therefore he had had to learn ways to survive. One of the greatest skills he had gained was pick-pocketing and now there was another chance for it to come in handy. Smith looked around for the unsuspecting bait. He spotted him: an older gentleman in a camel coat. There was no way on earth he did not work for the organisation: he had a narrow, bleary eyed stare but other than that, blankness spread across his face like ice over a lake as he lit his cigar.

“Excuse me” Smith said in his best German, “your lace is undone”. As soon as the man reached down to check, Smith swooped in to his pocket, grabbed the ticket and swiftly walked away. Child’s play, he thought to himself.

Getting in to the Headquarters with the pass was surprisingly easily: it was navigating the women with the blueprints that was hard. Luckily the woman with the dirty blonde hair was a bit of a loudmouth, and led Smith directly to them. He had reached a corridor with five or six small rooms in it; the walls were white and the bright lighting hurt his head, but finally he spotted it: in one of the rooms, on the corner of a table, lay the Bottega Venetia brief case. Smith secured the pocket-knife hidden up the inside arm of his shirt, as he did not know what he would encounter in the room. He stepped inside.

The room was strange: it wasn’t really a room, more of a cell and the only light that entered was that from the corridor. The strangest thing of all was that the walls were padded and covered with a white leather. Boom. Before Smith could think any more, he turned around to face to men wearing white masks that covered their noses and mouths, probably to conceal their identity. “Dammit,” Smith thought. He’d been trapped by the Nazi organisation. He tried frantically to figure his way out, but there was nothing! No window, no door handle. All he could think to do was rattle the small double glaze window and scream “Help!” “Help!” “Help!”

* * * * *

A tall, thin women with jet black hair pulled tightly into a bun stands outside the cell door. She holds a file that reads: ‘Bert Smith, patient, Heartwood Mental Institution.’

“Poor thing,” the nurse turns to the doctor and says, “fought in WW2, diagnosed with dementia and PTSD from fighting, still thinks he’s in Germany sometimes.”

“Let’s keep him in solitary until he calms down” says the doctor. “They found him with a knife and he was very distressed, shouting for help and everything.”

The Apocalypse in Frigidaire – Orla Morrow

Chapter 1

It was a beautiful morning as the sun lit up the sky around the village of Frigidaire. The gentle hum of the wind passing by was quiet and calm. Raindrops of water were scattered along the village pavements and a few still trickled down the walls of the neighbourhood’s houses. ‘Must have been a cold one last night’, Graham thought to himself, scratching his head. He clambered out of his bed, reaching for his glasses by the bedside, his green tartan quilt still wrapped around his large frame, contrasting against his milk-white skin.

He stood up and started towards the grand oak mirror standing opposite his wardrobe. This was where Graham would decide what freshly ironed shirt to wear and what colour of tweed jacket to match, and of course, which Cap to finish the look. You see, Graham was a very important ingredient when it came to the mix of the village. He always had to look fresh and presentable when he was around the villagers.

“I’ll top it off with a green cap today,” he announced cheerily to the fat reflection looking back at him through the mirror.

Graham was very tall, bulky and always wanted to look his best. Sometimes, he wished he was more tanned than his natural pale skin, but he was proud of it nevertheless. With a final nod of approval towards the mirror, Graham grabbed his keys and headed out the front door.

He stepped out onto the cobblestone walkway in the garden. The  wind whooshed around him, harsh and chilling, the air like shards of glass against his face. Unlike me and you, these villagers always had to live in a cold environment and enjoyed the freezing weather.

A sudden blast of wind hit Graham, causing his cap to fly off and dance in the air, almost as if it were performing right before him. It took its final bow and  gracefully landed in the Pineapple Patch in Mrs. Muller’s front garden.

“Good Heavens!” A thick German voice from the rose bush squeaked.

“I am so terribly sorry, Mrs Muller,” Graham cried, “ But I seem to have  misplaced my cap.”

“That’s quite alright, Mr Mayor.”

Slowly, a small and slender figure emerged from behind the roses, holding the escaped cap. This was the famous garden of Anna Muller. She spent a lot of her time outdoors. She loved flowers. Anna was particularly well known as the villages’ Green Grocer. From the fattest peaches to the sweetest strawberries, her garden was the main source of fresh fruit that every villager was desperate to eat from. Anna would open shop in the morning with  fruit baskets all  lined up and every basket would be empty before noon, Graham was in a privileged position, not only with having the advantage of being the charming mayor whom everyone adored, but also with having the pleasure of being Anna’s next door neighbour.

“Any exciting news for us today?” She asked, polishing the deep red apples that hung above her head.

“Oh no no, nothing too important. I’m just going off for my daily walk around the village, making sure everything is intact,” he responded, eyeing up the plump blueberries that were beginning to be picked off their stem, ready to fill another fruit basket.

“Well, it would be a sin if I let you go hungry.” She scooped up a dozen fresh blueberries into a cloth and handed them over to Graham.

“That is ever so kind of you, Mrs Muller. Your fruit never disappoints.”

Anna, bashful from the compliment, waved him off as he began his journey in the village.

Chapter 2

Graham was the most respected and admired person in Frigidaire. Everyone idolised their Mayor. His daily walk around the village would consist of constant smiles, waves and “How are you today, Mr Mayor?” He would never admit to it, but Graham loved the attention and the feeling of power it brought .

‘Okay, lets get started,” he thought to himself, nibbling on a blueberry. As Mayor of Frigidaire, he felt it was his duty to make sure he had seen every house, street, road sign and crack on the pavement before he arrived at ‘Cartone Inc’ . This was where Graham worked,  in the centre of the village.

His first stop was Brie K. Racker’s house.

Brie was an old friend of Graham’s, a soft person on both the inside and out , but with a sharp tongue when required. The Mayor strolled over to the front gate and let himself in.

“I see you are hard at work over there” he declared, looking round to see Brie standing in a big Vat, stomping down on hundreds of grapes.

“Well hi, Graham!” She grinned up at him, while continuing her stomping.

Graham smiled. Brie was the only member of the village who ever called him by his first name. Although he liked the feeling of importance the title ‘Mr. Mayor’ gave him, he also liked the feeling of love and welcome when he was called by his real name.

Graham cocked his head to the side in interest, reaching  for another blueberry.

“So, how is the wine coming along”

“business is booming, I seem to be selling bottles every 5 minutes! It’s never been better!” Brie responded.

“That’s great! I am extremely happy for you,” he laughed.

“Well, I just came by to check that everything was running smoothly and it seems that it is!” Graham looked down at his watch, suddenly realising  he was running behind schedule.

“Oh! I’m so sorry but I must be off. It was lovely seeing you.” He began towards the front gate.

“Wait! Wait!” Brie jumped out of the Vat and ran over with a glass in her hand, “take this with you, I want to know if it tastes good enough to start selling.”

With a quick sip of the wine, Graham nodded in approval and tossed one of Anna’s famous blueberries to Brie.

“Those new grapes really seem to be doing the job.” He shouted over his shoulder as he continued his walk.

Brie smiled to herself, jumped back into the Vat, and started stomping again.

The rest of the journey went rather quickly. A short hello with Tom Ketch, An exchange of waves with Colonel Colman and  and a quick catch up at Betty Anchor’s bungalow.

Finally, Graham arrived at Cartone Inc. where he was ready to finally sit down and rest. He looked forward to  having a quick cup of tea and devouring the remaining blueberries in his pocket before tackling his paperwork.

However, unknown to him , in his office there waited the bearer of news which would alter his plans for a lazy day.

“Mr Mayor! Finally, you’re here!” A voice cried from behind the office chair.

There stood Evan Boil, the village’s investigative reporter who’s job was to travel around the area, bringing news back to the mayor of any local events. Evan Boil worked for Graham. He was the most reliable source of information about what was happening outside Frigidaire. His news was usually very boring, mainly just the weekend weather forecast. Graham was fond of Evan, he could always crack him up with a good joke.

“Evan, what seems to be the problem?”

It seemed he had something more important than ‘rough winds’ to inform the mayor about today.

“ It’s terrible. Terrible!” he announced, holding back tears, “It started in Freezaires in the village of Solero. I was going there to do a report and it all happened so fast, everyone screaming. I barely made it out in one piec-“

“ Okay, okay! Calm down Evan.”

Graham tried to reassure him by sitting him down on the couch. “Don’t get into such a scramble. Now, tell me what is going on.” He nibbled nervously on a blueberry, waiting for Evan to respond.

“The sky went black. It was as if the sun had melted into nothingness. It was so strange. Despite the sun being gone, it felt as though someone had set fire to that village. People were collapsing everywhere I looked because of the heat.”

Evan paused, a long silence filling the air. His head turning both ways to make sure no one else was around. His eyes slowly traveled to Grahams’, and prepared himself for what he was about to say.

“Frigidaire,” he whispered, “Is next.”

Graham stood still  for a moment, his mind racing. He jumped up and started rummaging through his file cabinet, desperately trying to figure out what exactly this meant.

He pulled out a pale grey folder, marked : ‘Natural Disasters’

“An.. Apocalypse” He read aloud. Evan cracked his knuckles loudly. It was a nervous habit of his. “What does this mean?” He asked.

“Call a village meeting in the Cartone Hall immediately.” Graham declared.

He picked up the final blueberry and popped it in his mouth before racing out the office door.

Chapter 3

As usual, in Frigidaire, news had spread like wildfire and everyone rushed to the hastily arranged village meeting in the Cartone Hall.

“Settle down please. Now please, settle.” Graham announced over the worried voices filling the Hall.

“Why is this happening now?” Karen K.ale shouted from the crowd.

“Is Frigidaire going to be destroyed?” Mary Hellman, another scared voice, called out.

“Are we going to melt like everyone in Freezaires?”

What about the children?”

“Why aren’t you fixing this, Mayor?”

Questions were being fired at him from every direction and the frantic voices grew increasingly loud.

“Alright!” Graham yelled, shocked silence descended as no one had ever heard him raise his voice before.

“I understand you are feeling confused and scared. However, due to the circumstances of this situation and the information I have been given about this particular..erm.. event.. There is nothing in our power that we can do at this moment in time.”

An angry outcry arose filling the air.

“What do you mean there’s ‘nothing in your power’?”

“You’re our Mayor- start acting like it!”

The crowd began to get angry and frustrated. This was not going well for Graham.

“Surely this won’t kill us all?”

“ Now now, we cannot confirm any outcome of This.. um.. event.. but-“

“What is this so called ‘event’

Graham froze. He knew if he divulged the news Evan had brought him, there would be whole scale panic.. He couldn’t have everyone in turmoil. He needed everything to be intact and running smoothly at all times. Telling them this would ruin everything he had ever worked for. All the admiration and respect he once had would be lost. But he knew he could not keep this from them.They had a right to know what was going to happen. He took a deep breath, and leaned into the microphone.

“An Apocalypse”

His head slumped in defeat. It was his job to protect his people, and he felt he was failing them. Everyone was screaming and yelling at him for walking away. There was nothing he could do, it was out of his control, but as mayor, he had no choice but to take the blame.

“Coward!”

“You’re No Mayor!”

“You’ve gone Sour!”

So much noise blaring behind him, but he couldn’t hear them. All he could hear, were his own thoughts,

The village is going to be destroyed. People will suffer in the sweltering heat and pitch darkness. And the worst thing is …

there’s nothing I can do.

Chapter 4

Graham hid in his house for the rest of the day, too embarrassed to come out. He knew he would have to at some point. But not yet. He decided he was going to keep an account of all the strange things happening around him.

Day 1

Temperature : Normal

Light : Normal

It’s the first day of the apocalypse. I have been in my house for the past 24 hours. Nothing too bad has happened. Yet.

 It still seems cool enough to go outside and begin my daily walk, but I don’t think anyone will want to see me. They say I’ve grown sour and mean for not doing anything, but this whole situation is completely out of my control. I really hope Brie isn’t angry with me- or Anna for that matter. It’s pretty Incredible, all this is happening and there she is, still out In her garden.  

The sun is still out, which I suppose Is a good thing. I wonder how long It will take for the heat to travel from Freezaires to Frigidaire.

It all seems so unreal. Nothing like this has ever happened before, why now?

Graham woke up during the middle of the night, sweating. He put his hand to his forehead and scrunched his face in confusion.

“What is this?” He asked, “Is this.. sweat?” The mayor leaped up out of bed, in  horror at the thought.

“No, no this doesn’t happen. This isn’t normal..” He shuffled over to his bedroom window and opened it cautiously, sticking one chubby arm out.

“ It’s.. humid?”

Graham reached for his diary and started scribbling.

Day 2

Temperature : Humid?

Light : darker

I just woke up in a sweat! this doesn’t make sense. It’s supposed to be cool in Frigidaire and now it’s getting warmer. I can’t tell whether it’s night or day. I really hope the sky lights up again.

I fear the Apocalypse will begin soon. I just pray it doesn’t get any hotter.

I wonder how the villagers are holding up. Anna is still out in her garden, she appears more tired than usual. Why on earth would she be gardening during the night? or at least I think it’s night. I’m not sure. Anyways,  I will continue logging in regularly to update on the current situation at hand. In the mean time, I need to get back to sleep.

Once again, Graham woke up, hungrier than last time.

“Still dark?” he thought. His stomach grumbled. He stood up and reached for his coat.

Crash! The next thing he knew, he was lying on the bedroom floor.

He whimpered in shock and fright as he tried to drag himself up.

“it must be getting warmer now.” He groaned.

He propped himself against the mirror, panting in the heat, and began writing once more.

Day 3? or 4?

Temperature : hot

Light : almost out

Dear diary, I fell this morning getting out of bed. I feel so faint from this heat. i sense a bitter, spoilt taste in my mouth. I feel like such a lump. I’m also really hungry. Maybe I can ask Anna for some fruit, maybe an orange could help freshen me up. However, I can’t see her in her garden anywhere. I’ll just sneak in and take one. Hopefully she doesn’t notice. I really must go now, if I don’t I’ll starve to death.

Graham chucked his diary back onto his bed and struggled his way to the door, knocking a blue cap off its hook.

As he stepped outside, the heat intensified.

“How can it possibly get warmer!” he exclaimed. He looked at the ground. No raindrops. He looked at his garden wall. Not a single drop trickling down.

‘This can’t be good’ he concluded.

And then, his attention drifted from the dry wall to a rather peculiar sound. he looked up from the wall to see a terrible sight.

Chapter 5

“Mrs Muller!” he clamoured, running over to her garden. Anna was kneeling on the grass holding her blueberries, sobbing.

“What’s happened? Are you hurt?” He inquired as he knelt next to her.

“It’s ruined, all of it” She motioned to her garden. “ The peaches, the oranges, the berries, the apples, everything!”

Graham lifted up one of the apples, its once deep red now a bland grey. He examined it in shock as he saw that the inside was black.

“They’re rotting from the inside out.” She stuttered through tears. “my beautiful garden is dead.”

She collapsed into his arms, crying uncontrollably. He wiped her eyes and gave her a hug, trying to reassure her. After sitting in silence for a while, he told her to stay inside, out of the heat. As she went to leave, The mayor stood up, becoming dizzy in doing so.

He waved her off and began to walk back to his house.

Just as Graham was reaching for his keys, he froze. At that moment, he thought to himself,

‘If something like this has happened to Anna Muller.. What has happened to everyone else?” Graham swerved back towards the street, and began to take his daily route through the village.

“This is a bad idea” Graham stammered as he swayed along the pavement. At this point, It was very, very warm outside and it was dangerous for him to be walking around the village.

He came to a sudden halt, as he saw Brie K.Rackers, pacing angrily in her garden.

“What’s the matter, Brie?” he asked with concern.

“My grapes, every bunch of them have gone sour! I don’t know how this could have happened they were growing so well!” she roared. Graham had never liked this intense bitter side of Brie, It made him forget about the soft, good part of her.

“I cannot believe this has happened” she snapped, swaying from the heat.

“I hate this stupid apocalypse. I hate the heat. I hate the darkness” She ranted,  “ And I hate you, for not doing anything about it!” She turned her back to him. This hit Graham hard. Brie would never say such a horrid thing. He could feel tears welling up. He blinked furiously, refusing to show her how hurt he was.

“Just get out of my garden, before you spoil anything else.”

He obeyed her orders and left.

Everything was falling apart.Graham was hopeless . What kind of a Mayor would let something as dreadful as this happen. As he stumbled along the pavement, he saw Betty Anchor collapse. He sprinted over and tried to revive her.

“ Please, Help me.” She whispered, drained of all energy . He looked at her, completely helpless, as she melted in his arms. He looked up to call for help, only to find more villagers begin to drop to the ground.

Graham was running. He rarely did that. He never enjoyed sports, but that would have to change. At least for now. His heart was pounding and his mind was racing as he turned the corner into Quality Street, trying to figure out what on earth to do. He was the Mayor. It was his duty to ensure all his villagers were safe.

He  was blind in the darkness. There was a horrible smell of rotting in the air. His villagers were dying. All of his friends were near death.

“There’s, Too, Many, People” he gasped between heavy breaths. His head had gone fuzzy and his vision blurry.

“W-what’s happening?” He yelled in terror.

He looked down at his fingers, they appeared to be morphing into something different.

‘I’m- Hallucinating’ a voice in his head whispered. Everything in his vision started to spin, every shape morphing. He couldn’t hear anyone’s cries or see anyone’s burning faces anymore. Just as he thought this couldn’t get any worse, He was blinded by a bright , white light..

And then everything went black.

Chapter 6

Graham slowly opened his eyes, trying to adjust them to the new environment.  His body felt stiff and uncomfortable, he couldn’t move.

‘Am I dead?’ he wondered. He looked around to find 4 white walls surrounding him. He looked down and saw his arms and legs were gone. There was a green label wrapped around him that read In big white letters

‘ Graham’s’

Before he could figure out what to do next, a thunderous voice boomed from behind him.

Suddenly, one of the 4 walls opened up, revealing a petrifying sight. A colossal creature stood there, its face the size of Graham’s body.

‘What is that.. thing?’ he thought in alarm.

The creature frowned and scrunched up their nose.

“Mum!” The creature roared , “The Power went out!” Graham was paralysed by both fear and shock as he looked closer at what was around him. His house was no where to be found. The village had vanished.

The ground shook as another larger creature arrived. It reached into the box next to him.

“ Oh no, all the Soleros  have melted!”

‘Soleros ?’ he thought, ‘that’s the name of the village in Freezaires’

Graham looked closer at his surroundings and recognised several items around him.

“There’s Anna Muller!” he exclaimed as he saw a tall slender figure. “she looks very different.”

The wild hand reached for Anna and yanked her out of the box.

“Hey!” Graham screamed, “Stop!” But the creatures couldn’t hear him. “Let her go!”

“Ugh, my Yogurt is all lumpy!” The taller creature bellowed, “ I was excited to eat that. It came with blueberries !” And with that, the creature threw Anna into a black hole.

“No!” Graham cried.

One by one, all of the villagers were being plucked from the box.

Graham watched in horror ;

“This butter is completely melted!” – Betty Anchor Disappeared .

“Mum, This cheese is mouldy !” – Brie K.Rackers Vanished.

“ Yuck! This kale is all wilted!” – Karen K.ale was snatched.

“ Those eggs have gone rotten!” – Evan Boil floated away.

“Oh no, the condiments are nearly empty. Let’s replace them.” – Mary Hellman, Colonel Colman and Tom Ketch, all lifted away.

Graham was left in the box, all alone.

Then the massive hand reached for Graham and he squeezed his eyes shut, afraid of what was going to happen next. The pink, squishy flesh wrapped around his large frame and twisted his green cap off.

“Ew!” The smaller creature squealed looking into the Carton , “The milk has gone off. It’s all sour and lumpy!” And with that, Graham was tossed away to join his friends in the deep dark hole as he fell he heard the creatures speak…..

“I can’t believe the power cut. All the food is spoilt.” The smaller creature squeaked.

The taller creature shook its head and rolled its eyes, “That’s the last time we buy a fridge from ‘Frigidaire’.”

“Let’s try Samsung next time.”

Beneath the Surface – Eva Pryce

Mandy gracefully swooped in and out of the looming darkness, blissfully unaware, like all the others, of the grinning spindly shadow following her. She twisted her way through street lamps and drunks, her final destination unknown. All she felt was a powerful desire to continue on with no real idea of why or where she was going. She slipped through a barely visible gap in between two sizeable hedges and, all at once, vanished. To even the most attentive of onlookers, she seemed to disappear into thin air, with the shadow quickly following.

The shadow, dear reader, was obviously her own. This is not a tale of fantasy or whimsy. This is truth. It is a warning to every woman on Earth. You are never safe. There is no escape when fear is masquerading as hope and evil is hiding behind justice.

There seemed to be no good left in the world. This thought lingered in Thomas’ mind as he gazed around at his colleagues, moving swiftly though the bar (as if 5 minutes would make a difference to this case). They slipped between sticky tables and puddles of god-knows-what on the floor; Thomas couldn’t even bring himself to enter the toilet, where there were undoubtedly enough germs and poor decisions made, to cause Satan to turn on his heel. The cops had disgusted looks on their faces as they frantically searched for…. For what? He knew they wouldn’t find anything. It was a footling waste of time. There was no evidence. There were no witnesses. There were no leads. There was no hope. Only fear. These poor women who disappear like smoke in the wind. The pain they could be suffering. The terror gripping them. Then Thomas felt a hand tap his shoulder and he turned to greet his, rather over enthusiastic constable, William.

However, when Thomas turned, William was horrified. For a split second, he saw a terrible smirk strewn across his mentor’s face but it melted into his usual stony features immediately. William assumed that it had been nothing more than a trick of the light and promptly informed Thomas that they had found something.

William scanned the detective’s face, expecting to see shock, possibly even elation at the possibility that they were one step closer to catching the “Maiden Murderer” (the wit of the media apparently knows no bounds) but all William saw was fury.

“This isn’t in keeping with his M.O.”, groaned Thomas, “It is most likely a trick. He’s never done anything like this before.” Thomas’ steely gaze fixed upon William. “Well. What is it?”

William handed Thomas a slip of old-fashion parchment and relief spread across Thomas’ entire stature.

“Pfft. Another wannabe Shakespeare. Talk about living up the cliches.” As Thomas unfurled the crumpled parchment (which had been left at the bar the previous night) he read aloud,

“In a lake of eternal sleep,

Every last one of these women,

Do I keep.

Their weak minds always bend to my will,

And no, I’ve not yet had my fill.”

Nothing. Nothing to work with, no clues. Simply, nothing. You’d think that saying “lake” would’ve made the deflated policemen somewhat optimistic, but having already sent divers into every river, pond and puddle they knew of, it only served to annoy.

“There were no prints on the paper sir,” muttered William, “The others at the bar saw a young girl matching the description of our missing lady with an older gentleman, at around 9:30pm last night. Her boyfriend reported her missing when she didn’t return home last night and none of her relatives and friends have heard anything. The only detail they remember about the man who was with her was..

“Let me guess.” interrupted Thomas. It was almost funny how the singular detail people remembered of this man was possibly the most intriguing. A beautiful gold watch on a metal chain. Thomas believed that this man was hypnotising the young brunettes into traipsing towards their deaths, without any knowledge of what they were actually doing or why. Of course, his narrow minded colleagues had laughed and laughed and insisted that he get out more, when they heard this, but Thomas was sure. Very, very sure.

It was almost too hilarious, seeing the desks of the two policemen side by side. Thomas had turned his office into a base hub for the investigation and so had moved beside William. Thomas’ desk was practically invisible under a mountain of papers and had just one, wilted and depressing plant on it. William’s desk was neat as a pin (a trait he appeared to have picked up from his late wife) and decorated with ornamental gold fish and pictures of his family, who were the resident “psychics” of a travelling circus. Thomas had long since realised that his trusted companion’s family were all con men and frauds, albeit exceedingly good ones.

“We’ve just had the results back,” said William, “The DNA on the note isn’t on file and the bar was covered in dozens of prints that would take months to trace.”

“Another dead end.” said an increasingly worn out Thomas.

All of a sudden every office in the room seemed to sit up perfectly straight, as the commissioner waddled into the room. With a large moustache and horrible grey suit, the commissioner appeared to be part walrus (a fact that lead to many sniggers between Sergeants around the water cooler).  If there were ever a person, thought Thomas, that I would frame for murder, this pompous idiot is definitely first in line.

“Officers Chalmers and Ray. I am here to personally inform you that we will be handing the.. em.. “maiden murderer” case, over to MI7, effective immediately. It was never really in your league, was it?”

If it weren’t for William’s quick thinking, Thomas may have beaten the living day lights out of the walrus.

“You stupid, arrogant excuse for a human being!” screeched Thomas. “They’ll never find him. We have the experience to take him down. He’s a genius and has been five steps ahead of us every inch of the way! If he were ever going to be caught, it would be by someone who has been with this case from the very beginning and not some young upstart with a high tech gadget permanently glued to his hand. You’re an idiot every day of the week but couldn’t you have taken a day off for once?”

“Say one more word Chalmers, and you’ll be suspended for slurring the name of a very superior officer. Ray, take the detective home.”

After a wearing and awkward car ride, William dropped Thomas off at his apartment. Thomas practically jumped out of the car whilst it was still moving. He ran up the stairs, got changed into a new suit and trench coat, grabbed his numerous keys and left once again, slamming the door behind him. He had taken the first ever call about a missing woman. This was his case, his job, his life. No part walrus, arrogant numskull, was going to stand in his way.

Meanwhile, William had returned to his mansion. This was a result of his wife having been filthy rich. She had gone missing some years before but was officially pronounced dead after 7 years (this was the law). William had married the beautiful daughter of a wealthy oil tycoon who had left his entire estate to his only child. William and Katrina genuinely seemed to love each other and this was why people assumed that William never seemed to be able to keep a relationship going for long. The women always seemed to end up moving away or just stop showing up for dates. In fact, it was a source of great confusion to many of his colleagues, as to why William continued to work a thankless job, when he had enough money to never need to work another day in his life.

William poured himself a glass of expensive whisky (the kind that was far too good to be wasted on other people) and wandered up the stairs to a gargantuan master bedroom. He opened the door of a beautiful mahogany cupboard and deposited a single lock of brown hair that he had acquired, in a locked box, which he placed deep inside the expansive cupboard, once more.

Seeing the good weather, and taking into account the fact that he had nothing else to do, William sauntered out of the house, into his back garden and strolled over to a deep and murky pond, that he had always loved.

“Don’t worry my love,” he said reaching his hand towards the pond, “we’ll find some more friends soon. This is just a minor setback. It will still be easy for that moron of a detective to appear in the frame of suspects. We’re too smart for them. All of them.”

A single foot drifted towards the surface of the water.

Into the Valley – Mbikwa Sitembo

I sat on the cliff, my legs dangling off the edge. I looked down at the valley surrounded by tall rock walls built by Mother Nature herself; in a day my dream would become a reality.

I lay back on the soft, green grass. The wind blew gently, making all the plants shift, and the clouds; all sorts of shapes sailed across the blue sky. I reached in my jacket pocket and took out the neatly handwritten letter.

Into the valley where I shall go,

Where no one else does do know,

No turning back,

On the track,

Goodbye, goodbye,

In case I do…”

With a heavy sigh at the torn part of the letter, I folded the paper and put it back in my pocket.

In case of what, dad?

I got up and looked once again at the valley; its colourful flowers stood merrily, its trees tall and sturdy and the grass wilder than the grass where I stood.

 I’ll come and find you in the valley..

Reluctantly, I turned my back to the valley and headed into the woodland. Before going home I stopped at a willow tree and checked its hollow to make sure the rope was still there. After patting my compadre – the willow tree – I headed home.

The sun was setting as I hastily climbed the fence that separated the town from the woodlands. My feet touched the ground, I breathed in relief as I hadn’t been caught then “Willow!” A voice yelled from behind me. I felt the blood drain from my face as I slowly turned. The sheriff stood there and my mother next to him – looking even more furious and worried than the last time that I had been caught. “Willow! What did I tell you about the woodlands?!” She sobbed more than shouted. It hurt to see my mother crying because of me, but this was an exception, it was something I couldn’t avoid.

“Willow!” She yelled, she realised I was blocking out her voice. “You’re grounded and banned from going to the woodlands!” This time I listened, I clenched my fists.

“What!” I said

“You’re never going to the woodlands again!” She exclaimed. Anger boiled within me, my nails dug into my palms, tears threatening to surface. “You — You don’t know anything!” I yelled then ran.

“Willow!” My mother called but I ignored and kept running, wiping the tears from my face.

She doesn’t get it, I need to find Dad

I found myself in front of my house. The little cottage-like house at the far end of the street. No smoke puffed from the chimney, meaning my mother was not home yet. With a sigh, I unlocked the front door using my keys. After I had entered the house, I locked the door behind me. The house was dark and empty. I made my way upstairs to my room then slammed the door shut and switched the light on. There was silence as I stood still, then I got my school bag and flung my school books out. I packed a sweater, jeans, a hair brush, spare shoes, gloves, socks and a woolly hat and scarf. I breathed heavily then got up and collapsed into my bed. I stared at the ceiling of my room, the spiral patterns swirled like mini tornadoes. With a reach into my pocket I took out the ripped letter, and read it again.

“Into the valley…” I murmured then I turned onto my side and closed my eyes, setting the letter down on the bed near me “…Where I shall go” I said, with a tune this time “Where no one does do know…” The sound of the front door creaking open rattled through the house. “No turning back, on the track”

“Willow?” My mother called

“Goodbye, goodbye” I ignored my mother’s voice “In case I do…”

The sun started to rise; light spilled into my room. I quickly got the school bag and went out into the hallway. Quietly, I made my way down the stairs and to the kitchen. I opened the cupboard for tinned food, took a three tins and stuffed them into my bag. Then I made my way to the bathroom and took a tube of toothpaste and one of the spare toothbrushes. “Willow?” I heard my mother call. I panickedly ran into the living room and looked around for a spot to hide my bag. “Willow!” Footsteps sounded from the stairs.

 The couch!!!

I put my bag behind the couch and sat on the couch to look as normal as possible. “Willow?” My mother said as she came into the living room. “Why weren’t you answering?”

“I – I…was asleep in the living room” I lied.

“But you were in your room last night.”

“I woke up to have breakfast, but I fell asleep on the couch.”

“Oh, alright… I’ll make pancakes then” she said, then left the living room.

After making sure my mother had gone into the kitchen, I got my bag and hurriedly run up the flight of stairs to my room, then pushed the bag under my bed.

 I woke up too late far too late

I sighed from disappointment then got up and headed down stairs.

After breakfast I made my way to my room – luckily avoiding my mum – and got my bag, then went downstairs.

“Willow?” My mother said looking at me. I nearly jumped when I saw her. She was standing between me and the front door.

“Darcy invited me to go shopping” I replied, I lied.

“Darcy?” My mother said. I walked past her and opened the front door.

“A friend from school” I said then I closed the door and walked calmly to the pavement then burst into a sprint down the street.

I ran and ran until I reached the fence. I scoped around before I flung my bag over and began to climb up the fence then I jumped over. With one last look at the town through the fence, I headed to the willow tree. Once I had arrived, I reached into the hollow and took out the rope “Thanks, compadre” I said as I put the rope on my shoulder. I continued in the direction of the valley. I stopped and looked down the cliff edge at the valley. Clouds started to form above. I went to the nearest tree and tied one end around the trunk of it. Droplets of rain started to shower down. I looped the middle of the rope around my waist twice then put the rest down the cliff.

The clouds roared with thunder.

“What’s with the weather?? Of all days, it had to be this one?” I said to the angry sky. The sound of rain and thunder continued on. I sighed heavily and looked at the sky once again then at the valley, I shook my head then began to go backwards towards the cliff.

 No, nothing is stopping me No turning back

I leaned backwards over the edge making sure the rope around the tree wouldn’t go loose. After a few seconds, I stepped on the side of the cliff, then another step.

 Don’t look down

I breathed to calm myself then took another step making me parallel to the ground on the cliff. My hands tightly held the rope, I moved back a few more steps. I stopped for a second, shivering from the rain. Each breath I took turned into a cloud of mist. I could feel my bag weighing me backwards towards the floor below. Cautiously, I looked down. A thick mist had formed below. With a sigh I took another step. Then came the dreaded sound of something tearing.

The rope suddenly jolted downward. Panic-stricken, I froze. Then I saw the tear on the rope at the cliff edge.

 No, no no no!

I pulled myself up and took a step towards the top, but this only caused it to tear more. My eyes widened as I realised how little of the rope was left. How little of what was keeping me from falling to my death was there. I should have stayed home, eating pancakes with my mother.

 My mother

She already had to bear losing dad, and now me. I had been so selfish that I didn’t think to ask how she felt after dad left. Again the sound that made me aware of what was awaiting me in the future came, the quiet yet frightening tearing.

Only three thin strings of the material were left. Tears formed in my eyes as I knew what would happen after those three strings tore. I took a breath shakily and closed my eyes then recited what would be my last words.

“Into the valley where I shall go,

Where no one else does do know,

No turning back,

On the track,

Goodbye, goodbye,

In case I do…”

The sound of the three strings tearing echoed through the empty valley, I felt my weight shift as I began to fall. “In case I do die” I finished.

 

The little girl was sitting on her chair “What do you mean you have to go??” she questioned. Her father’s face fell. “I have to go somewhere you can’t follow” he said with a weary smile. “But mummy said you’re not feeling well!” the girl said with a frown. “Yes, that’s why I must go to the valley. I won’t feel unwell there”

“You won’t?” The girl tilted her head in confusion.

“It’s a happy place, some people call it paradise. No one is sad or sick there. I call it the valley, because a valley is very peaceful.”

“Why can’t I come too?” The girl asked. A pained expression crossed her father’s face

“Only when it’s your time to go to the valley.”

 

“Willow!” A distant voice shouted.

“Willow!!” It drew nearer.

“Willow wake up!” This time it was next to me. Suddenly I opened my eyes. A spotlight of some sort was shining into my face.

Beep…Beep…Beep…