This is a selection taken from the stories I wrote between 2003 and 2011. Nearly all of them have been previously published, many in publications no longer extant. Where they are still available in existing books or magazines, sufficient time has elapsed to permit their re-publication without fear of ethical impropriety or breach of contractual terms. Check the Blog Archive at the bottom of the page for individual titles.

Please be aware that each story was written by the person I was at the time. In a sense, therefore, each one was written by somebody different. None of them was written by the person I am now.

Anybody wanting to view my novel Odyssey can do so here. I’ve set the price very low because I’m more interested in the story being read than in making money out of it. It’s about a goddess and her rabbit companion taking a mortal man on a journey to teach him a few lessons about the nature of reality and higher consciousness, and it's probably more entertaining than I make it sound. I never was any good at selling myself. The Gift Horse, a story of reincarnation and karmic balancing, is also now available at the same place.

March 30, 2012

Hand in Hand.

The story of the hairy hand of Dartmoor was told to me when I was seventeen by somebody who came from that area. It purports to be true. The rest was vaguely inspired by a modern legend from the Black Forest in Germany – a creepier story than this, in my opinion, but one I’m not about to tell since why would I want to upstage myself?

It was first published by Misanthrope Press in their anthology A Rustle of Dark Leaves in March 2012.

Approximate reading time: 20 minutes.

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There are those who claim that hands are second only to the eyes as the most defining part of a person. I have known women who claimed to be able to assess the character of a man from his hands, even to the point of deciding, with little or no further corroboration, whether or not he could be trusted. They say it’s a matter of intuition.

Maybe it’s simply a matter of archetypes. Slender hands indicate artistic leanings; broad hands with short, stubby fingers belong to the labourer; the rich businessman has heavy, sweaty hands, with bloated fingers ideally suited to wrapping themselves possessively around fat cigars.

Whilst reality is obviously not that simple, the fact is that hands are as individual as their owners, and do appear to reflect something about their characters. As such, they have provided a rich source of inspiration for film scripts, romantic songs and stories down the years. Some of the stories even claim to be true, such as the one that a young man told his new wife as they drove towards their honeymoon destination through the picturesque lowlands of southern Scotland.

*  *  *

David and Deborah Pearce had been married the day before at a registry office in the south of England. They were both in their early thirties and had both been married before. David was a successful accountant, and Debbie had a mundane but solid career as a checkout supervisor with one of the supermarket chains.

They were made for each other. Both were comfortably off, steadfast in their pursuit of suburban, middle class values, and stolidly unimaginative in the pragmatism of their habits and outlook. But this was their honeymoon and Debbie was feeling adventurous.

“Tell me a story,” she demanded playfully as they drove north along a quiet road near Dumfries. They were on the final leg of their journey to a self-catering cottage that would be home for the next two weeks.

“A story? What sort of a story?”

“A ghost story,” said Debbie decisively, enthused by the glorious wooded landscape and the close proximity of the Southern Upland.

She had never been to Scotland before. It was a rugged looking place, quite different from what she was used to in the civilised south. It had an air of the unknowable about it, and she decided that it would suit a ghost story.

“Don’t know any ghost stories,” said her husband.

Stories weren’t David’s forte. The implications to the economy of a change in interest rates or tax thresholds, maybe. But not stories, and especially not ghost stories.

“Oh, come on,” said Debbie, “you must have heard some sort of a creepy story some time in your life. Think.”

David looked at her and shrugged.

“Hang on,” he said, “I think this is the turn.”

They were approaching a wide track that ran off to the right of the main road. David slowed and turned onto it, then stopped the car.

“Let’s see the directions,” he said.

Debbie took a brochure from her bag and passed it to him. He looked at it for a while and declared that it must be the right one. There appeared to be no other major tracks for miles.

“Shouldn’t it be signposted?” asked his wife.

“Not necessarily,” said David. “This is the barbaric north. Maybe they’re not really into signposts yet.”

The track was a wide one, on which two cars could have passed comfortably. The surface was laid with gravel chippings and it was obviously intended to carry vehicles. David decided to trust his judgement and drove on.

“We can always turn round if we come to a dead end,” he said.

“I suppose so,” mused Debbie. “But I don’t fancy being in here too long. It’s getting dark”.

The late autumn sun had already sunk below the western horizon and they were now travelling east towards the darkest part of the sky. They were also entering a densely packed, mature conifer plantation, and the tall spruces blocked off a large part of what daylight there was left. It was already dark enough for David to switch on the headlights.

“So where’s my ghost story then?” repeated Debbie when they were underway.

“I’ve told you, I don’t know any ghost stories,” said her husband impatiently. “Besides, I thought you were frightened of the dark.”

“Not when you’re here. Anyway, I’m feeling brave and it’ll match the atmosphere. I know, what was that one you told me once - about a hand on the moor or something? You said you heard it when you were a kid in Devon.”

“Oh, that one. The Hairy Hand of Dartmoor, you mean? I’d forgotten about that.” His tone suggested that he wished Debbie had forgotten it too.

“Tell it to me again. And make it good.”

David looked at Deborah and resigned himself to the task. He knew he wasn’t very good at telling stories, but supposed he’d better indulge her as she could be petulant if she didn’t get her own way.

“OK, if you insist.

“There’s a road on Dartmoor that runs near the old prison at Princeton. I went walking near there once and it’s a pretty wild and desolate spot. It’s windy and bleak even in hot spells in the summer. And the weather’s constantly changing - rain one minute, then sun, then fog. You can get nearly everything in the space of an hour or two.

“There’s an old legend that tells of the road being haunted by a disembodied hand that grabs people, pulls them to the ground, and then disappears again. Nobody knows how old the legend is or who the hand is supposed to have belonged to, though some say it’s the hand of a man who had it cut off by the local squire for stealing his sheep.

“At some point in the fifties or sixties there was a spate of fatal accidents on that road involving both cars and motorbikes. Nobody could understand why, since the road is straight at that point and there were never any other vehicles involved. All the accidents happened at night and to people travelling alone, and all the drivers were dead by the time the emergency services got there so they were never able to get any proper account of what had happened.

“One day, an ambulance arrived at the scene of a crash involving a motorbike to find the rider still alive and conscious. Despite his injuries, he was able to tell them he’d been driving along and spotted something in his headlight, apparently hovering a few feet above the road. As he got closer he saw that it was a hand held upright, as though ordering him to stop.

“Before he had time to react, the hand shot forward and took hold of the handlebars. He saw that it was a large, man’s hand covered with black hair. Suddenly, it pulled the handlebars over and the bike went off the road and tumbled across the moor, throwing him against a rock. He was seriously injured and died later in hospital.

“It made the local press and, as far as I know, the hand has never been seen since. The locals, needless to say, reckon it’s just a matter of time before it appears again. Load of old cobblers if you ask me.”

“Good story,” said Debbie. “Bit short though. Don’t you know any more?”

“No.”

Debbie fell silent for a while as they drove along the track that pursued an unerringly straight line through the densely packed trees. The atmosphere was certainly conducive to matters macabre, and Debbie was definitely in the mood. After a few minutes she spoke.

“Powerful things aren’t they, hands? Especially disembodied ones. There’ve been lots of horror films made about them. Hands that play the piano in the dead of night, hands that crawl up people’s bedclothes, hands that strangle people...”

She walked her fingers slowly along her husband’s shoulder as she spoke. He was unimpressed and declined to comment. He didn’t watch horror films.

The light continued to fall as they drove deeper into the wood, and the trees seemed to be closing in on them. At first, David thought it was an optical illusion caused by the encroaching darkness, but he soon realised that the track was becoming narrower. A few seconds later he saw that the road ahead was barred by a locked gate. Two narrower tracks ran off at right angles each side and it was obvious that they had been driving along an access road for forestry vehicles. It didn’t go anywhere except further into the wood.

“Damn,” said David. “I could have sworn this was the right road. Told you this place was bloody barbaric, didn’t I? If I turned the engine off, we’d probably hear the jungle drums. ‘Yum, yum. English folks for dinner. Bags I the best bits.’ We should have gone to Cornwall.”

His wife tutted disapprovingly.

“OK,” he admitted, “I was wrong. Nobody’s perfect. Better turn the car round and get back to the main road.”

He turned onto the track that ran to the right and then backed into the opposite one. As the car was coming to a stop, they felt a hard jolt and the offside wing lifted a foot into the air.

“Oh, bloody hell,” exclaimed David when he realised what had happened.

He opened the glove compartment angrily, extracted a torch and got out of the car. He came back and announced that the nearside rear wheel had slipped into a gully at the side of the track. The sill in front of the wheel was resting on the edge of the drop and there was no possibility of driving the car out. It would have to be towed.

“I’ll have to ring the breakdown people,” he said. “Give me their number, would you.”

Debbie reached under the dash and took out the relevant documents. She dictated the emergency callout number as David tapped it into his mobile phone. He listened for a few seconds, and then looked at the display.

“Shit,” he hissed. “There’s no bloody signal. Wonderful. The romance of Scotland, eh? The locals probably send messages by carrier sheep or something.”

“It could have something to do with us being in a forest,” Debbie offered reasonably.

David wasn’t interested in being reasonable.

“I’m going to have to walk back to the main road,” he said. “Find a phone box or garage or something. Bugger! How long have we been driving along this road?”

“Not long. About ten minutes probably.”

David did a quick mental calculation, allowing for the time spent manoeuvring the car and checking for damage.

“Must be five or six miles,” he announced. “It’ll take me an hour and a half just to get to the main road, and it’s nearly dark now. What do you want to do, come with me or lock the doors and stay here?”

Debbie hadn’t realised how long the exercise would take and was shaken at the prospect that lay before her. As a child she had found the story of Little Red Riding Hood quite terrifying and had, as a result, developed something of a phobia about woods at night. She tried to imagine both possibilities by way of selecting the lesser of the two evils.

Eventually she decided to stay with the car. She couldn’t face walking between those dark trees once night had fallen completely, even with her husband, and felt more comfortable with modern technology. She would keep the doors locked.

“OK,” said David, “I’d better get on with it. Put the radio on or something. I’ll be back as soon as possible.”

Debbie watched as he set off with the torch and eventually disappeared into the deepening gloom. Once he was out of sight she felt frighteningly alone. The closest trees looked massive and intimidating, and beyond them lay a forest of unknown proportions but full of the potential for unseen menace. She began to think that she had made the wrong decision. She considered jumping out of the car and running after her husband, but that would have meant running the gauntlet of the trees unprotected. She was indecisive and eventually realised that David would be too far away. She would have to stay put and find ways of keeping her rational mind in control of her irrational fears.

She wished she hadn’t insisted on hearing the story of the hand. The atmosphere was a bit too real now. And she wished she hadn’t mentioned horror stories. Things like this sometimes happen in horror stories.

She turned on the radio and reached for a sweet in the bag under the dash. They were mints and she didn’t really like mints. She unwrapped one anyway and sat back, straining her eyes to see some semblance of detail in the ever-darkening road and the black mass of menacing trees.

Soon it was completely dark and she felt cocooned in the body of the car. Beyond it there was only impenetrable blackness, and the silence was so profound as to seem unreal. She knew that the growing sense of being watched was just a nervous reaction and had to be kept under control.

“C’mon Debbie, you mustn’t think that way,” she said out loud. “There is nothing out there that can harm you in any way. Say it again. There is nothing out there that can harm me in any way. Good. You’re right. Of course there isn’t.”

She felt defiant, but only briefly. She heard a crack above the sound of the music on the car radio. It startled her and she turned the radio off. She listened intensely, but there was no repetition. She was nervous, but told herself that it was nothing more than a branch snapping under its own weight. Did branches do that sort of thing? Must do, she thought optimistically. Or it might have been some small, inoffensive animal stepping on a twig. The noise was a bit loud for that. Perhaps it was close to the car. Sounds always seem louder at night. She made herself imagine small, inoffensive animals – rabbits with twitching noses were favourite – and felt better.

She switched on the interior light but that made her feel even more exposed. The car would stand out like a beacon with the light on and attract anything that might be out there. She imagined herself looking through the eyes of some native of the forest, out on its nocturnal patrol. This unfamiliar sight would be intriguing. It would want to look inside. Even now, countless eyes might be turned towards her, countless noses sniffing the air, countless sharp claws flexing, and countless jaws slavering. As much as she tried to tell herself that there was nothing out there, she decided to take no chances and turned the light off again. She felt the same way about the radio and left that off too.

And so she sat for half an hour or more, protected from the unseen menace by a metal shell and six windows. She began to rap her fingers on her leg, and then unwrapped another sweet to give them some alternative occupation. She forced herself to think about checkouts and customers, piped music and bread wrappers. And then she heard the second noise, a mournful, eerie screech that startled her again. She identified it quickly as an owl. Even she knew what owls sounded like.

Her nervousness began to subside, but her relief was short-lived. Almost immediately there was a sudden clattering sound, followed by a loud scratching on the roof of the car. Terror leapt up from the pit of her stomach as the scratching moved quickly from the rear part of the roof to the front and back again.

She had the presence of mind to remember that she had heard it before, on the roof of a house that she had lived in as a child. Her older sister had told her it was just a bird moving across the tiles. Maybe this was the same thing. She banged on the roof of the car and the scratching stopped. She felt relieved as she heard the beating of wings fade into the darkness.

She laughed to herself, but it was nervous laughter. The realisation that the banging must have been highly audible in the silence of the wood stirred her imagination again. She could almost hear the deep growls of anticipation as the watchers identified a victim and contemplated a kill. She wished she hadn’t been so impetuous and had let the bird fly away in its own time.

She was beginning to feel drained, and cursed her decision not to accompany David to the main road. He would be well on his way by now and would soon be among streetlights and traffic. The world of people and technology has much to commend it when you feel a million miles away and trapped in a metal cage deep in the dark, primeval woods.

Her attempts to stay calm and rational had only limited success. Her imagination was strong and well fed by her lonely situation. She looked at the front passenger window and imagined she saw something appear above the bottom edge. First there was a mop of dishevelled hair. As it continued to rise slowly, a furrowed brow appeared, human-like but bigger and more bulbous. Then a set of bloodshot eyes, stretched wide and staring directly into hers. The nose was flattened and broad, and then the mouth appeared. Thick, leathery lips parted to reveal teeth like tombstones with massive canines, like those of a big cat – or a wolf.

“Stop it, you idiot,” she said out loud as she fought back a growing urge to cry.

She re-doubled her efforts to remain calm and rational. But what could she do? She couldn’t turn the light on, couldn’t listen to the radio, couldn’t talk or sing to herself. All these things might expose her position to any dark menace that hadn’t already seen her.

Her only protection was the shell of the car, and that was starting to seem flimsy. Her only refuge was the space inside her own mind. A battle was raging there between the forces of light and reason which saw trees as just trees, and an army of dark, faceless ogres that could make whatever she found most terrifying become real. She breathed deeply and closed her eyes in an attempt to calm her nerves.

She opened them suddenly when the rustling started. At first it was indiscriminate, but then took on a more regular rhythm that she fancied sounded like footsteps. She listened intensely and the fear began to well up again. The noise was coming from somewhere in front of the car, but whether on the narrow track or among the trees it was impossible to tell.

She reached for the headlight switch and turned them on. She felt a mild shock at the sight of the track and trees suddenly lit by the glare of the halogen lamps, and she didn’t much like what she saw. Nothing moved, but the trees looked eerie and menacing bathed in the bright light, and the darkness between them held the promise of untold horrors.

Her imagination took hold once more and she felt unable to contemplate the prospect of something hideous emerging from the gaps between the tree trunks.  She switched off the headlights quickly, but felt no relief as the outside world was plunged into darkness again. And then she realised that the shuffling noise had stopped.

There was silence for a while and then a light breeze began to stir the branches. That was, at least, a familiar sound and her fear gradually subsided to a more tolerable level.

After ten minutes or so of welcome peace, even her dark imaginings returned to the background and she began to feel that the wait must be nearly over. David should have reached the road by now and it wouldn’t be long before the headlights of a breakdown truck would appear to rescue her.

Her new found sense of optimism made her feel better, and she shifted her position to be more comfortable. The slight rise of the front wing meant that the car tilted a little, and she had been leaning unconsciously against the passenger door for something over an hour. She moved her body around to relieve the numbness that was beginning to affect her left arm. This was much better; physical discomfort was easy to deal with.

Her thoughts became more practical. She hoped they wouldn’t have trouble taking possession of the cottage. They should have been there by six and it was well after that now. She began to think of what they would have for supper once they were settled in. She began to plan the days ahead - the walks in the hills, the trips to castles and abbeys, the visits to friendly tea shops, and the buying of Scottish mementoes to take home to their little house in Basingstoke. Mostly, she hoped that the breakdown people were on the ball in this part of the world and that she would soon be getting on with the holiday.

And then she felt the car move.

Panic returned in an instant and her muscles stiffened. This was not imagination; the movement had been unmistakeable. The rising front wing had dipped sharply and then returned. She clung to the seat and cold fear gripped the nape of her neck.

She waited for several minutes, squeezing the edges of the front seats tightly. She began to hope that she might have imagined it. She knew she hadn’t. The rustling sound started again and the wing dipped a second time, but it didn’t return to its risen position. Instead, it moved up and down, as though being rocked by an unseen hand.

She remembered David’s story and wished again that she had never heard it. Her mind’s eye saw a large, hideous hand covered in black hair gripping the axle and pulling it up and down. Her imagination was going into overdrive. There was a scraping sound on the bulkhead in front of her feet. Something was in the engine compartment; it was trying to get at her that way.

She pulled her legs up onto the seat and tried to imagine how the bulkhead was constructed. Were there gaps in it? Was it weaker than the body shell? She knew nothing about cars and could only imagine powerful claws ripping though to take possession of her. She was on the verge of screaming when she felt the car lift again and heard the scrabbling noise outside. It faded away and silence returned.

She felt silly. It was obvious that some “small, inoffensive animal” had climbed onto the axle and investigated the engine compartment. And then it had jumped off and gone on its way. She would remember that the next time she watched one of those wildlife documentaries about cute nocturnal creatures. She did wonder what indigenous wild animal would be big enough to make a heavy car rock, but decided that it must be a question of balance. What next, she thought, bats on the windscreen wipers? Snakes up the exhaust pipe?

Even so, the irrational fears were still uncomfortably close and she began to will David to get a move on. She looked right, in the direction of the road he had taken only a couple of hours before. It felt like days ago. There was still only darkness, no comfort of rescue yet.

“Oh come on David,” she exclaimed desperately. “You must have found a phone by now. Come on.

She knew she was being unfair. No doubt he was doing his best, wherever he was.

The minutes wore on and impatience began to replace imagination. And then she saw something out of the corner of her eye. She looked along the road again. Was it a light? It was very small and she narrowed her eyes to focus on it. It was there all right. And it was definitely a light of some sort.

Gradually, very gradually, it grew bigger. She was certain it was a torch. The wait was agonising, but eventually she could see the road illuminated by the beam. The light was getting closer. It must be David. No breakdown truck yet, but that would be close behind, no doubt.

The torch and the pool of light in front of it grew steadily bigger until her joy was complete. In a few minutes she would be reunited with her husband. Breakdown truck or no breakdown truck, at least she wouldn’t be alone any more.

On and on it came until she could hear the footsteps of the carrier crunching on the gravel surface, and could see a vague, dark shape behind the torch. The light moved closer and closer until it was only a matter of a few yards from the car. She was about to reach out and unlock the driver’s door when the figure stopped. The beam of the torch lifted slowly until it was shining directly into her eyes.

She hesitated. Why had he stopped? Why was he shining the torch at her? Didn’t he know, stupid man, how frightened she had been and that this really wasn’t funny? She realised that she might have been too hasty in her assumption Perhaps it wasn’t David, but someone else out in the wood at night. She wasn’t about to unlock the door until she was certain. Still the figure stood unmoving, pointing the torch relentlessly at the car.

“David?” she said quietly. “Is that you? Please don’t mess about. This isn’t funny.”

The deathly quiet continued. The light from the torch continued to assault her eyes and the carrier still didn’t move. Debbie sat rigid and silent in the passenger seat, her anxiety rising with every impassive second.

She tried to think. Practical jokes were not David’s way; and if it wasn’t David, who the hell was it? There was no explaining this away as imagination. This was no bird or small, inoffensive animal. This was someone carrying a torch. She didn’t know who and she was a woman, alone in an unlit wood and miles from anywhere. Why was he standing there, not moving or saying anything? The wait went on and her fear grew to near breaking point.

Suddenly, the torch was hurled forward and slammed into the driver’s side window with a bang that would have woken everything for miles around. Debbie screamed in panic.

There was only darkness and silence again. The impact had extinguished the torch. She heard footsteps moving back down the road and sat there stunned with fear and disbelief. The floodgates opened and she sobbed violently, praying for the nightmare to end, for the daylight to come, and for her husband to knock on the window and tell her that everything was all right.

A few minutes later she heard the sound of an engine and the car was flooded with light again. She looked up to see a vehicle approaching along the main track. Within seconds a breakdown truck was pulling to a halt close by. The driver jumped out and walked over to the car. He knocked on the window and shouted a brief statement.

“Got a phone call about half an hour ago, from a guy using a phone box on the main road. Said you were stuck in a gully. I’m going to tow you out”.

In other circumstances Debbie might have been a little cautious but, given her experiences over the previous couple of hours, the patrolman was nothing short of an angel. She threw open the car door and breathed in the fresh night air. She got out and stood upright, stretching her back to ease the stiffness. Then she leaned against the car and stifled a fresh urge to cry.

“Are you OK?” asked the patrolman.

“Not really,” said Debbie, “but I can start getting better now.”

“I expected to see your husband on the track. I was going to pick him up. Control told me he’d be walking back to the car as they didn’t know how long it would take me to get here. He’s not back yet then?”

Debbie shook her head and felt anxious. Why wasn’t he on the track? And why hadn’t the patrolman seen the man who had been carrying the torch. He must have taken refuge in the trees. That proved he was up to no good. She began to wonder whether she was safe even with a fit young man for company. She looked around nervously and considered climbing back into the car

“I’m sure he’ll turn up,” said her rescuer optimistically. “He can’t have come to any harm on this road. Probably went into the trees to relieve himself just as I was passing. Bad timing, eh? Better get on with it.”

He moved back to get a general look at the car that was well illuminated by the truck’s headlights.

“Oh my God, what the hell’s that?”

“What?” asked Debbie anxiously, panicked by the patrolman’s tone of voice? She followed his horrified gaze which was directed at her feet.

She did not, as you might expect, scream at what she saw; she was too stunned for that. Instead, her mouth fell open and she held her breath.

Lying only inches from her feet was the broken torch that had been hurled at the window, and it was still held firmly in the grip of a man’s severed left hand. She didn’t need to examine the new wedding ring to identify its erstwhile owner. As I said, hands are a very defining feature. She made no sound, but stared blankly at it, paralysed by incomprehension. And then she fainted.

When she came to, she found herself lying on her back with her feet raised on the patrolman’s toolbox. He was sitting next to her on the grass. He saw her stir and raised himself to his knees.

“Just lie still,” he said. “You fainted. You’ll be OK in a minute. The police and ambulance are on the way.”

Debbie looked around as she returned to full consciousness. She saw the severed hand still lying by the car. She lifted a clenched fist to her mouth and broke into more sobbing, quietly at first but rising in intensity as the full horror came home to her.

The police were the first to arrive. They took a good look at the hand and quietly questioned Debbie regarding the circumstances. By that time an ambulance had joined the group and one of the policemen went over to the driver. He explained the situation quickly and said that they should waste no time in beginning the search as the victim would be losing blood rapidly. He radioed for assistance, and then the patrol car and ambulance went off to look for David while one paramedic stayed with Debbie.

Equipped with directional floodlights, it didn’t take the police long to locate David. He was lying in a ditch at the side of the track about a mile from the main road, his right hand still holding the bloody stump of his left wrist. He was dead. A substantial trail of blood could be discerned for a couple of hundred yards down the track from where his body lay. The end of the trail was evidently the point at which he had been attacked and was where the police concentrated their subsequent forensic examinations.

Debbie was informed of the discovery and taken to a nearby hotel for the night. She was inconsolable and wanted to be away from that awful place as soon as possible. After formally identifying David’s body, she returned home to await the outcome of the post mortem and police investigation.

It transpired that David had died of substantial haemorrhaging, but not a trace of forensic or any other evidence was ever found to identify the assailant. What the police did realise, but omitted to mention to Debbie since it would only have complicated matters, was that there was something incongruent about the timing of the events.

The hand had been thrown at the car a few minutes before the breakdown vehicle had reached her. The patrolman had said that the call had been made half an hour earlier, and David had subsequently walked from the telephone box to a point about a mile from the main road before he was attacked. That would have taken him a good twenty minutes. No human attacker could have made the three or four miles between the spot where the attack had taken place and Debbie’s car in the time remaining - not unless a vehicle had been used, and any vehicle would have passed the breakdown truck on the road. The patrolman had confirmed that there had been no such vehicle. It is, perhaps, merciful that Debbie never worked that out for herself.

She was also fortunate to be spared the opinion of those who say that certain places have a powerful, primeval energy about them, an energy so strong that it is capable of giving physical manifestation to vivid imaginings. If such a contention is true of anywhere, it would be true of the remoter parts of Scotland where the sense of something brooding, powerful and malevolent often presses itself remorselessly into the minds of the sensitive - especially at night.

Had she been aware of that, she might have been tempted to regret her demand to be told a ghost story in the dark, mysterious woods that fringe the Southern Upland. As it is, she will remain ignorant of the reason why David was attacked and the identity of the one who delivered his severed hand so terrifyingly to her.

But it is just possible that her husband was wrong about something. He thought he had no skill as a storyteller. Had he been right, or had Debbie not revelled so much in his telling of the tale, the two of them might now be living a contented life in the safe and sanitised suburbs of southern England.

7 comments:

Anthropomorphica said...

Hoo hoo, glad I'm no longer wandering Scottish woodlands Jeff. Thanks for the chill, I enjoyed that!!
You captured what I love about the forest, it's change in character after the sun has set.

JJ Beazley said...

Thank you, Mel. 'Whitesytch Wood' features a different sort of nocturnal woodland menace. I wrote them when I thought there was something unfriendly about trees at night. I don't any more.

And now you know the story of the Hairy Hand.

Ruwanthi Ileperuma said...

really enjoyed reading ur post.. most of all i liked ur self introduction you'd given..

JJ Beazley said...

Much appreciated, Ruwanthi. Thanks for visiting and 'getting' the intro.

Anonymous said...

Wishing you well Jeff. We'll miss your blog and you. Hope you change your mind. Madeline sends her best wishes.

Nancy



JJ Beazley said...

I have no 'spark' to write at the moment, Nancy. I've been swimming against a tide of negative stuff for two years now and it seems finally to be getting to me. Problem is, though, the blog is all I have to talk to on a daily basis, so I could do with rekindling the spark somehow. Tomorrow is another day, so we'll see. And thank you both.

Anonymous said...

Hope you feel better soon.
N.

About Me

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I've never had money because I've never been driven by money. I received little formal education beyond the age of sixteen, which isn't such a bad thing since you get a different angle on life that way. Learning what you want and need to learn often reveals things that the system's road keeps hidden.
JJ Beazley asserts his ownership of copyright in all works of fiction and non-fiction contained herein unless otherwise stated. Feel free to quote anything if you want to, but please don't nick a story and claim it for your own. That would compromise my chances of getting an anthology published and I'd be a bit miffed.



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