Selfie

There’s a man who takes pictures of me.

I’m assuming he’s a man, I don’t really know – I haven’t ever seen him. But it sounds like a thing a man would do, right? He left the first picture he took of me – or the first he wanted to share with me anyway – in my locker at work. It was just slipped in the side; you know that part of the door that doesn’t quite touch the frame? I thought it was a joke. I laughed. I looked good. And then another one came. And another. It was weird. I was always smiling. Every photo, I was smiling.

Until the one he posted through my front door.

In that one, I was crying.

It was my mother’s wake. She died of ovarian cancer. Short, definitely not sweet, but we had time to say goodbye and she was in no pain. She’d seen the signs but hadn’t went to the doctor. What you going to do? It was hard, sure, but I got to say goodbye and how many people get to do that? I was standing hearing condolences from my Psychology lecturer when a bright pink envelope caught my eye. I excused myself and went to it.

There was no stamp on the front. No address. Just my name in thick, bold capitals.

“Oh hey, I found that on your welcome matt when I was letting in the neighbours. Hope you don’t mind,” my best friend said before dashing off to shout at someone for not using a coaster on some cheap wood coffee table my mum had bought from IKEA thirty years ago.

I opened the back of the envelope, careful not to rip what was inside. I’d spent all day seeing nothing but black dresses, white shirts and somber faces – the pink caught my eye like the red balloon in Schindler’s List. Was there a balloon in that film? Seems a weird thing to have in a concentration camp but, hey, Nazis, right?

I knew what was inside before I saw it. As soon as the envelope was open I knew that this wasn’t a bereavement card. I slid the photo free and looked at it. It was me. Crying. My head pressed against my car window. But that didn’t make any sense. I’d only cried once in the past few months and that was when…

And then it clicked.

I brushed it off. What else was I supposed to do? My mother had just died. No brothers. No sisters. A dad – if you wanted to call him that, which I did not – somewhere down south. I couldn’t deal with this. Not then, not ever. So I ignored it. And the guy stopped. Gave me a break from his creepiness. He may have went to Bali for the summer, who knows? Not me. All I know is that they came through my front door now – not posted into my locker.

I know people say they’re scared to look through their mail, but I think most people are anaesthetized to it now. Bills, sure. Credit card statements, heck yeah brother. Some people even get nice things in the mail that make them laugh because of how nervous they were. Like big fat tax rebates from HMRC. I woke up for eighteen mornings in a row – I thought I was pregnant, so I counted, because that was all I needed: a dead mother, a creepy stalker and a baby out of wed lock – not quite sure why I felt so ill. And then there it was. A pink envelope lying on my welcome matt. This time I was buying bananas.

I’ve never seen my face look so stern. So angry. My lips are pouted into a petulant rose on my face and the strip lighting above does nothing but wonders for the deep black shadows under my eyes. I’m so angry at that goddamned banana that I laugh as I clutch the photo. It’s only when the hysteria begins to dampen that the chill runs up my spine and I twist the key in the lock.

I hadn’t locked the door last night.

“Welcome to Police Scotland, how can I help you this morning?”

“Hi, someone keeps taking pictures of me.”

“Oh are you famous?” the woman asked, laughing. “Or is it one of these new internet challenges?”

“No, it’s, I dunno. Someone keeps taking pictures of me and posting them through my letter box.”

“Are these photos accompanied by any threatening messages?” the woman asks, taking me more seriously now. Like she can hear the fear in my voice.

“No, they’re just, um, on their own. Oh, apart from the pink envelopes.”

“Pink envelopes?”

“Yeah, he sends them in pink envelopes.”

“He? Do you know who this person is?” the woman says, happy now. Like Miss Marple had sussed the case. “Is it an old boyfriend?”
“I’m a lesbian,” I said. I’m not. And I shouldn’t pretend. It’s not right. But she sounds so patronizing that I want to throw her off.

“Well I’m sorry, miss,” she hisses the last word. “But until a crime has been committed, there’s nothing we can do.”

“Oh. OK. Er, bye then.”

And I hung up.

It was two days later when I threw up in the kitchen sink. Another pink envelope was on my matt and I shook a little as I picked this one up. Call it woman’s intuition, call it psychic ability, call me Mystic Fucking Meg, but I knew this one was different. I slid open the envelope and pulled out a picture of myself the night before, pulling out the big black bins for collection this morning. The bin men were outside now. A big burly man with a piss poor moustache smattered with grey was singing as he slammed his meaty paw down on the button that pulled the bins from the street and emptied them into the churning guts of the bin lorry. He turned and saw me at my kitchen window. He smiled and waved as if I was just a woman pulling a sickie from work, coming through for a second bowl of cornflakes while Homes Under the Hammer did that boring auction segment.

The photo was in my right hand. I turned the tap on with my left to wash away the chunks from last night’s pizza. I was wearing my Mr Men pyjamas and talking on the phone. I could see the light from my mobile – that blueish light from the screen – illuminating the right side of my face. My stomach convulsed again. It was like, you know when you almost step out in front of a car, but something stops you from stepping off the kerb and the car whizzes past, horn blaring if they’re a dick head, and your heart swells in gratitude? You’re so grateful that you weren’t such a nincompoop that you stepped out in front of a car, but it’s more than that. You’re so grateful because you know fine well that a hundred people a day – all smarter and less nincompoopy than you – do step out in front of that car and they do die. But you, well your heart swells because the universe protected you. Your heart swells because you realise how lucky you were. Then you feel sick. You feel sick because you realise just how close to danger you were in that split second. That’s how I felt looking at this photo. Sick at how close to danger I was.

My face is lit up by my mobile phone screen. I’m wearing my Mr Men pyjamas and I know that it was Rachel I was talking to and not Stephanie – though I switched between both all night – because the picture shows it clearly. Rachel and I standing in front of a big elephant at the zoo. The camera was that close to me when it took the picture that I can read the digits of her phone number on my screen. And then I see it. The little lump of wall that we never tore up when we replaced it with hedge because I said Miss Maisie – my imaginary pet mouse – lived there. We couldn’t tear it up. Where would she live? And so my mum had left it for Miss Maisie and, unless she had taken up a recent interest in photography – and the Ghost school of learning how to touch things despite being incorporeal – someone had been hiding behind that lump of wall and taken a picture of me.

And I’d walked right past him.

I couldn’t sleep for three days. Or nights. Just sun up, sun down. Not leaving the house, not eating, barely breathing (inoutinoutinoutinoutinout) and staring at the photo of myself on the phone. The man barely a few yards away. I checked the doors were locked constantly.

“You need to sleep,” Rachel said as if I were overreacting. “It will be some idiot playing a joke. Remember next door kept putting glue in my locks? If it was more serious, the police would have been involved, right? I hear you nodding. Mhmm. You need to sleep. How about you go to sleep and we will go CCTV shopping tomorrow? Didn’t Dr Ryzin give you some sleeping tablets after your mum died? Take some. You’re exhausted. And stressed. Take the pills, go to sleep and I’ll be over tomorrow.”
“You’re sure you can’t come now?” I say as I check the door is locked for the eighty fifth time this phone call.

“I would if I could. Tomorrow. Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

And then I’m alone.

The pills are in a neat little tray, weirdly spread out in a jagged diagonal line. Maybe the factory worker responsible got bored. Maybe the person they employed to decide how the pills should sit in their packaging was in a wacky mood. Regardless. I pop one from the silver foil and reach for the glass of water I brought from downstairs. Then I think better of it and pop another. I swirl them off my tongue with a big gulp of cool water and swallow them both down. I’m asleep before I even remember crawling into bed.

I wake up to the sound of buzzing. In my dreamy state I think it’s a bee and try and jolt myself awake. I hate bees. Honey or no, I hate them. The bee gets louder and louder, or bigger and bigger until I realise that I’m just growing more and more coherent. My head is swampy. My tongue thick and heavy in my mouth. I feel like I’m recovering from the worst hangover and the best nap at the same time. Dr Ryzin packs a punch. And hey, since I’m probably fired for not going to work anyway, I might even get a good price for them down at the corner shop. That’s where drug dealers sell there stuff, ri…

There’s a pink envelope on my bed sheets.

Prettily, like a blond little girl with high pig tails and a lollipop in her mouth, its sits there. Sweetly, almost. Unassuming. I rub my eyes and hope I’m dreaming but it’s still there. Maybe a little close in fact. As if it slithered forward when I wasn’t looking. The little girl edging forward. But she’s no little girl. I know she’s not. She’s a demon. A demon with a big fucking knife and a poor attitude to match.

“How did you get there?” I ask it like I’m Mary Fucking Poppins and it’s going to answer me. It would sing, no doubt. Sing a song of a wizarding school, a lotto win or a letter from my dead mother telling me she loves me still. If it wasn’t for the pink colour, I might have even been able to convince myself of that for long enough to reach over and grab my now silent phone. But the pink was a taunt. A firm, bullying taunt that I just couldn’t resist.

I opened the envelope and ignored the instinct in my gut that was tearing its hair out screaming, “you stupid white girl, get out of the fucking house.”

I pulled the photo free and turned it over in my hand.

It was a picture of me. Not smiling. Not angry. Not crying. But sleeping. It was a picture of me sleeping and a giant grin spread out gloriously right beside my face.

The Flat Above the Street

I live alone.

The TV always plays what I want it to. I can walk around in nothing but a smile and talk to myself, about myself, at myself in the mirror. I can put on voices and shout “DOVAGHERIS” like I am Danaerys Targaryen. I can cry on the hall floor when I come home from work. I can make southern fried chicken at half three in the morning. No one can judge me. No one knows. I can watch the couple across the street without anyone’s interference. Without anyone calling me weird. I’m not weird. I’m not. I just like to watch. To remind myself that there’s a world outside midnight feasts and crying. A world with rules. I like rules but I don’t have any. Sick people get away with everything, anything, all things.

I see her wake up in the morning. I sit by my window, three stories up, and pretend to read a book while she opens her blinds. I usually like to walk around the house in a blanket. Sometimes draped around me like I am Anne Boleyn, freshly coronated Queen of all England. Other times I wear it like a cloak around my head and I am Anakin Skywalker marching into the Jedi Temple. But I don’t wear it while I’m at the window. She might notice me then. And if she saw me she’d know I was watching. And people that know they’re being watched don’t act like they’re invisible. They don’t wear blankets over their heads.

She disappears into the kitchen or bathroom or whatever rooms face the opposite street. I see the light flicker on as a bulb reaches the end of its life. I can see her shadow move across the floor, the gentle absence of light an indication where she is and what she’s doing. I imagine her filling a kettle with water from the tap. She places it in its nest and flicks on its tail. I bet she has a coloured one. I have a coloured one. Purple. Hers would be red. Or maybe amber. She reaches into the fridge as the water begins to bubble. A lemon, yellow as a daffodil and shaped like an egg. Slice, slice, slice. She…

She’s back.

She’s clutching a family bag of crisps in her arms and a large bottle of coke. Piggy bitch. Could she not just have green tea? Maybe her boyfriend wouldn’t tote around that thin, blonde girl if she switched to tea.

That was mean. No. I shouldn’t have said that.

“I am kind. I am grateful. I am nice.”

“I am kind. I am grateful. I am nice.”

Once more?

“I am kind. I am grateful. I am nice.”

I pretend to read my book. But I peek at her over and over. Eventually she stands up and closes the blinds. But she hasn’t noticed me. She couldn’t have. She’s just going to watch a film. Yeah, that’s it. A film. A film in the dark.

I stand up and go to take my meds. I need them. I see it again. Moving just outside where I can see. A little dark rabbit that laughs at me while I sleep.

“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run,” I sing as I go towards the kitchen.

There!

It moved, slipping into the bedroom.

“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run.”

I open the biscuit cupboard where I keep the rattling tub and feel something watching me. “BANG!” I turn and stick my fingers out like guns.

“Bang goes the farmer with his gun, gun, gun. He’ll get by, without his rabbit pie,” the bottle lid falls off and I shake the hard little pellet into the palm of my hand. “So run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run.”

The bin stinks. I can smell it from here. I let last week’s chicken go bad and haven’t taken it down to the black bins outside yet. I have to. I can’t bear it anymore. I march to it, soldiers on either flank, no rabbit following me this time, and pull the bin liner up and out. I ignore the clang of half a dozen wine bottles – I’m not supposed to drink, you see, not good with the antipsychotics – and tie it up tight. I’m in pyjamas, bright blue and obvious, but I don’t care. I grab my keys and shove my bare feet into dirty trainers and head downstairs. Wait. No. Leave the blanket. And I’m off again.

Outside is weird and horrible. It’s wet, which I like, but there are people walking up and down the street, junkies with Chihuahuas chasing them as they stumble along the pavement and students wearing shorts and grinning big stupid fucking grins. Idiots.

“Hey,” I hear someone call. “Hey you. Pervert.”

I hear the boyfriend hush the girl, telling her he’ll sort me out. I laugh. Honey, if you could sort me out then you deserve a…

“I’m talking to you. Come here.”

I laugh again. And so I walk across the street, quite unbothered of the ranty little man, ready to ask him all about the blonde girl. That’ll show him. Though do I want to hurt Piggy like that? Happy people don’t have crisps and coke for breakfast.

His face is red and scrunched with self-righteousness. His hair is wet with rain and damp on his forehead. She’s hiding behind him in the close. Her eyes afraid. Much more afraid than she should be. Maybe she has a rabbit too?

“Hey, you and your friend better stop looking in on us.”

That catches me short.

“My friend?”

“Yeah. You and your fucking friend better stop watching us. Pair of poofy creeps.”

“What do you mean friend?” I hear myself say but the familiar dread darts like a hare up my spine.

Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run.

“Him,” the girl says as her boyfriend looks at me like I’m crazy. He’s not so tough now.  She’s pointing upwards. I follow her finger and turn towards my flat. My little slice of somewhere safe in such an unsafe world. And I see it. The fingers disappearing behind the curtains as they pull themselves out of sight.

“But…” I say as the rain grows heavier, “I live alone.”

 

Mara Shawl and Doctor Barklish

“Tell me, Mara,” the psychiatrist tried to speak slowly and clearly for her, “why are you still not sleeping?”

She pushed the tousled and dirty hair from her face and looked at him with those dead eyes that haunted him sometimes. When he was alone, working in the office or brushing his teeth at night, it was those eyes he saw staring at him from the shadows that lurked in the corners. Mara Shawl’s dead and terrifying eyes.

Mara stayed silent.

“Are you not going to speak today?” he asked her for the fourth day in a row. He had never had such a high maintenance patient before. In fact, since he graduated, almost thirty years ago now, the job at Puddleridge Mental Health Secure Unit had seemed too good to be true. His most challenging case had been a habitual self-harmer named Derek who, by his own admission, only wanted to hurt himself.

Yet here was Mara, a young girl accused of murdering her parents almost seven years ago, sitting cross-legged on the leather couch in front of him. When it rains, it pours – or so the old saying goes.

“Mara, we have allowed for you to be unrestrained during these sessions as an act of goodwill,” Dr Barklish bargained, “the least you could do is answer my question.”

“I had the dream again, Doctor,” her voice was raspy, yet confident.

“And what dream is that, Miss Shawl?” instantly he knew what he’d done wrong.

“Don’t you dare call me THAT!” she shouted. The guard that stood by the door burst in and looked as if he was ready to launch himself at the patient.

“No need,” he addressed the guard, sending him back out into the hall. “I’m sorry Mara, please, tell me about your dream.”

Calmer now, her shoulders still hunched around her ears, she breathed lightly. She always looked like she had a hand squeezing on her shoulder the way it was twisted and tensed covering her neck.

“I’m still in the dark room,” she began, fear loitering over every syllable, “but I can hear a voice. An angry voice somewhere in the gloom.”

“Is this the voice of uncle Bezzlebub?” Barklish probed.

“No, at least, not to begin with,” her lips lifted in disgust. “The concrete, you know, the floor I’m sitting on, in the dream, is wet. It’s wet and its sticky and it smells … burny.”

“Burny? What do you mean burny, Mara?”

“It smells like, like daddy’s drink. It smells like whiskey,” she recollected.

Instantly, without intending too, the Doctor’s eyes took a quick glance at the bottom drawer of his desk. Inside was a beautifully aged MaCallan whiskey. The bottle, given as a present on his wedding day, was almost empty. Swigs in between appointments for the past few weeks had taken their toll on the old Scottish drink. As had the turmoil of the past few weeks …

“Are you listening, Doctor?” Mara looked at him with her dead, black eyes and made him shudder.

“Yes, Mara. Sorry, please continue,” he coughed lightly. The swig he had taken before Mara had arrived – well, more like a few large gulps – was beginning to make his head swim.

It’s her eyes, he thought to himself, if it wasn’t for her fucking eyes I wouldn’t have even bothered to drink!

            “In the darkness, the voice begins to get louder and louder,” she continued.

“What is it saying, Mara? This voice in your dream.”

“Fuck her! Fuck that bitch! Listen, cunt, I told you she was a fucking liar. HOW MANY MORE TIMES DO YOU NEED TO BE TOLD!” Mara’s voice became deep and foreboding as she shouted the words. The chill that ran up Dr Barklish’s spine nearly made him drop his pen. He just sat, in the plush leather of his swivel chair, and gawked at the girl with the dead eyes.

“What happens next?” there was no politeness in his tone anymore.

Slap, Slap, Slap, Slap!, Mara clapped her hands together.

“And … and, tell me Mara, do you know who’s voice this is?” his palms were impossibly sweaty for a man who’s mouth was so dry. He almost choked when he asked whose voice it was, because he already knew.

“It was you, Doctor,” she said it so simply, as if it were normal to know of her psychiatrist’s affair and his domestic violence towards his wife.

“How do you know this, Mara?” the fear laced his tone like a constrictor, wrapping its scaly body around a dead tree.

“I told you, Doctor. It was in my dream.”

“And do you know what happens … you know – after?”

She nodded her head slowly.

“Will you tell me, Mara? Will you tell me what happens? Please?” he added, almost as an afterthought.

“I’ll show you,” was it just him, or did Mara’s eyes seem to sparkle a bit now?

“Turn in your chair, Doctor. And face the wall behind you.”

Maybe he was in shock? Or maybe he was drunker than he thought but, without much hesitation, Doctor Barklish swiveled around and turned to face the wall.

He had a slight headache; the pills he had taken earlier on must have worn off. I’ll need to write myself another prescription, he thought to himself instinctively before he felt the hand, it gripped into his shoulder. It’s palm felt wide and hot, much too large for a girl Mara’s age. The nails too felt long and sharp where hers were trimmed short weekly.

What was more prevalent, however, was the feeling of being in the presence of something beyond reasonable explanation.

Beyond evil.

Beyond humanity.

“M-M-Mara?”

“No.”

MARA SHAWL – PROLOGUE

EDITED – This story was missing parts when first published.   **something fell from the drawers behind me as I wrote this and I nearly died of fright. I hope you enjoy. Feel fee to share.**   I met him in the park.   I sat by the swings picking at the daisies peeking through the grass. I noticed him as he looked like he didn’t belong.   His clothes looked torn and dirty. The summer sun beat down on the play park, yet he was wearing a coat that was more suited to winter.   He was staring at me.   I smiled at him and he stood up and walked towards me. He stared straight ahead and his shoulders were hunched up around his ears. He looked as if he was walking along a dark alley at night – scared of the shadows behind him.   “Hi,” he said, his shadow casting itself over me. The daisies seemed to shirk away from this strange boy. But I didn’t care.   “Hello,” I said formally, trying to act like a lady. Just as my mother taught me. She sat not far away on a bench chatting to the other mums, her grown up book by her side.   “What’s your name?” he asked.   “Mara, my name is Mara Shawl,” I smiled again.   “Pleasure to meet you Miss Shaw,” he said, his grubby face finally smiling back. His shoulders didn’t move an inch though.   “Why are you wearing a heavy coat in this weather?” I asked.   “It’s all I have,” his smile faded.   “Can you not leave it with you mum?”   “She’s, um, she’s not here anymore,” I listened as his voice nearly cracked. My young girls mind finding it uncomfortable that he was at a park on his own.   “Who are you here with then?”   “My Uncle Beezle,” he said, comforting me as he did. Children weren’t allowed at the park on their own – my mum had told me so. You never knew who was lurking behind your back.   “Do you want to play?” I asked.   We spent the afternoon playing on the swings and sliding down the chute. He knew a game called ‘Cowboys and Indians’ (which he pronounced “Injuns”) that he seemed to go cagey over when I asked where that was from. No one around here played that. It was similar to ‘Cops and Robbers’ but if it was the same then why not call it so?   Eventually the sun began to set and as the sky turned a shade of orange I saw my mum pack up her things and I knew it was time to go.   “I have to go home now,” I said panting. I had never run so much in my life.   “Do you- I mean do you have too? Can we not just stay and play all night?” he asked, his eyes looked sad – almost scared.   “Don’t be silly,” I laughed, “it’s scary out here at night. Don’t you get scared?”   “I’m scared all the time,” he said. He turned and ran away, his heavy coat seemingly not weighing him down at all, along a path leading into the woods.   I saw him drop a small wooden soldier from his pocket. I reached over and picked it up from the grass.   I could still shout him back, I thought but decided not too.   Stealing was bad but finder’s keepers, I tried to convince myself as I walked to my mum.   “Who were you playing with?” my mum asked as she gave me a capri sun to drink.   “I didn’t ask his name,” I said realizing that he hadn’t offered it either.   “An imaginary friend without a name? You’re an odd one Mara,” she said chuckling.   Imaginary?   ***   I woke in the night with the moon streaming through a crack in the curtains. I didn’t know what time it was as I couldn’t tell time yet but I knew it was very late.   Very, very late actually.   I didn’t know what had disturbed me as I lay under my duvet trying to collect my thoughts. It must have been next door’s dog Rossco, I comforted myself with.   I looked at my Polly Pocket nightlight and felt a sense of comfort wash through me. Dad said that Polly Pocket was a powerful Hero, designed to protect little girl from scary thoughts. THUD.  I heard coming from the staircase just beyond my bedroom door. I didn’t let my dad shut the door completely but it wasn’t open wide enough to see out. I sat paralyzed beneath the sheets as my heart began to race.   I imagined it, I must have. I tried to convince myself. THUD.  It sounded again. This time ever so slightly closer.   It was then a blind panic ran through me and stifled the scream that was building in my throat.   Whatever it was that was making that dull noise was climbing up the stairs.   Mrs Murvin six doors down was burgled in the night a few months ago. We were being robbed, I knew it, my small hands shook as I tried to think what to do. THUD. I heard it again and it was definitely getting closer.   “Mara,” someone whispered three stairs from the bottom.   “Maraaa,” whoever it was seemed to linger on the last syllable. “Mara are you home?”   “Maraaa, its me! From the park,” I heard the boy in the heavy coat say.   “Mara I’m coming up the stairs!” he said, happy than he had been that afternoon.   “And I’m bringing my uncle Beezle,” he said maliciously.   “One step, two step, three step, four,” he sang, “creeping closer to Mara’s door.”   THUD, THUD, THUD, THUD.   “Five step, six step, seven step more,” his small voice rang throughout the silent house.   THUD, THUD, THUD.   “It’s time for Mara and Beezle to play. Singing, dancing, hiding all day,” his voice sounded so sure now, nothing like it had that afternoon.   “Mara likes to play with boys, Mara likes to steal boys toys,” that line sent a shiver of ice down my spine as I snatched a glimpse at the wooden soldier I had stolen that now sat on my chest of drawers.   “Mara, Mara, stealings baaaadd,” he said not far from my door now.   “So now we’ll kill your mum and dad,” he said as a rush of footsteps ran past my door and a shadow passed through the light that spilled in from the hall.   I whimpered as tears began to fall from my eyes. I couldn’t hear anything as I strained my ears to listen to what would happen.   Shout out, I said to myself.   Do SOMETHING warn them!   SHOUT FOR GOODNESS SAKE.   The house sat silent as I lay in my bed. I could hear the wind whip past the window and the TV from next door playing. Canned laughter came from the TV show and I wondered how something so scary could be happening to me without them even knowing.   “Mara,” I heard the voice whisper outside my door. I hadn’t heard them come close and I didn’t believe I had heard it until the shadow reappeared, blocking out all light apart from my Polly Pocket nightlight and the moon beyond my curtains.   “Mara, you stole, your bad Mara. You’re a very bad girl,” the boys voice said.   “Uncle Beezle likes bad girls Mara. Uncle Beezle wants to come in and say hello. Shall I open the door Mara? Shall I?”   “No,” I whispered, “I don’t want to meet Uncle Bee-“   “DON’T!” he shouted, startling me.   “Don’t make Uncle Beezle angry, he’s already taken your mum and dad. Don’t make him take you too.”   “Please don’t hurt my mum and dad,” I said, crying as I spoke.   “You should have said something before,” the boys voice said, “you kept quiet, we thought it was ok.”   “Please God, please, please don’t-“   “Turn out the nightlight, Mara,” his sinister voice seemed to sting my ears as the words wound their way into my head.   “Turn out the lights and we’ll play a game. Turn out the light and you wont be to blame,” it sang at me.   “You’ll make sure my mum and dad are ok if I turn out the light?” I begged.   “Of course Mara, Uncle Beezle can do anything. He’ll fix them right up. He’ll sow their bellies back up and put their teeth back in. Just turn out the light, I’ll come in and take back my soldier and we can all play a game until morning.”   I reached out from beneath the covers, terrified that a monster would snatch my wrist from under the bed. My fingers were slick with sweat and it slipped from the button a few times before the click took away my last wall of protection.   I snapped my hand back under the covers as the door slowly began to let the light back in.   “Good girl Mara, we just want to play,” the little boys shadow said as it crept across the carpet.   The door banged against the chest of drawers as I slowly opened my eyes. I hadn’t even realized I had shut them until I realized how tightly I was clamping them together.   “It’s me Mara,” the boy in the heavy coat said to me. I sat up from my pillow and turned towards the door to get a better look at him but something was off. His skin looked a lot paler this time. His eyes seemed less alive, as if the light had been taken from them. I scanned down his body and snapped my mouth shut so quickly I bit my tongue.   Blood engulfed my mouth as I saw that he was torn open. The flaps that had once been his belly hung loosely apart and the grey muck that was once his guts stared back at me.   I swallowed the blood and tasted its copper horribleness fall down into my own, intact, belly.   “What’s wrong with your stomach?” I asked, praying he would tell me that there was nothing wrong, that I was imagining it.   “I made Uncle Beezle angry,” he said solemnly, “He likes to tear apart things that make him angry.” He smiled and I saw that most of his teeth were missing. His gums were black and puss dripped from several fresh wounds.   “He doesn’t like back chat or crying either,” he said closing his lips.   “Is your Uncle Beezle here?” I nearly choked as I spat the blood out.   “Of course he is here. He followed you home.”   I said nothing. I couldn’t say anything. Every hair on my body was on edge as the fear romped its way through my body unchecked.   “Meet Uncle Beezle,” the boy said as he vanished before my eyes. I had no time to wonder how he had done it.   From behind me I felt a hand rest on my shoulder. It closed its fingers into my soft flesh as a shadow, cast by the moon, spread itself towards my bedroom door.

Mara Shawl

The first time I saw Mara Shawl I remember thinking ‘How can a girl so slight, have done something so horrific?’

She was sitting on a cold, metal police chair in a tiny cement box that the Boston P.D. deemed an integration room. She was slight and had red hair that hung down just past her shoulders. She had her hands gripping the metal table in front of her, her knuckles were white as she held on for dear life.

“Hello Miss Shawl,” I said in my best ‘I’m an attorney, appointed by the state, I’m your friend’ voice.

“Mara,” she whispered.

“Excuse me?” I asked as the door was flung open behind me.

“Welcome, Haubrey,” a rather stout police officer said.

He looked around mid forties and had a gut that hung over his uniform. His chocolate skin was in direct contrast to the late twenties police officer that came in behind him.

“Pleasure to meet you, Mr Haubrey,” she said. Her pretty blonde hair seemed to shine under the fluorescent strip lighting than hung above us. Her lips were full and her body was trim in her police uniform. She was gorgeous, a real babe. I took a mental snap, saving it for later.

“Interview, Shawl, Mara beginning at 21.09 on September fourteenth, 2014. I am Detective Bunton and this is Officer Minley,” he said, indicating to the stunning blonde at his side.

“Good evening Miss Shawl, would you like to tell us about what happened tonight?”

“Mara,” she repeated, just as quietly as she had whispered to me.

“Louder, please, for the tape,” the blonde officer said softly.

Mara’s shoulders seemed to tense up a little as looked up to the officers infront of her.

“Mara,” she said more clearly this time, “I prefer Mara to Miss Shawl.”

“O.K., Mara,” the male detective said, “would you like to enlighten us as to what happened to Miss Elessen and Miss Gurrter tonight?”

I was slightly stunned as to how confident her voice was and how well spoken she seemed to be. It was apparent that she was wise beyond her years. Fitting, for the crime she was being interrogated over.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said turning her face back down to her knees. The pale ivory dress she was wearing was covered in dirt and blood. Her face seemed freshly washed but small clumps of Earth still lingered in her hair.

“Unfortunately, that’s not an option young lady,” the female officers voice had noticeably hardened. “A very serious incident occurred this evening and you are the only person found at the scene. We need to find out what happened to those two girls, your friends, and soon. We will ask you again,” she leaned in close to Mara, “what happened to Polly and Rita?”

“Woah,” I chimed in, “lets remember that Mara is a young girl herself. We have no idea what she’s seen or what she’s been through. Lets not treat her like a suspect, huh?”

“Of course, Haubrey,” he looked at me like he thought I was an idiot. To be fair I did sound like one. Of course she was a suspect.

“Mara,” he looked at me pointedly as he asked this next question, “how did you get covered in so much mud? And the blood, could you tell us where that came from?”

His point was made.

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” she looked dead ahead as she spoke. Not at the officers in front, I got the feeling that she wasn’t looking ahead so much as desperately trying not to look behind her.

“You haven’t spoke about it at all, Miss Shawl,” Officer Minley said sternly.

“Did I stutter bitch!” she slammed her hands on the table as she shouted at the stunned officer, “No I didn’t, why don’t you take your fucking questions to a cunt that gives a damn?” She started laughing manically before she regained her composure.

She looked stricken as she placed her hands back on the table.

“Sorry, sorry I didn’t mean to -,” she started to cry as her head rested on the table.

“Come on now, come ssshhh,” I said softly to her, the sight of a little girl in distress was not something I enjoyed. It evoked a usually dormant sentimental side of my personality. I reached over to put my hand on her shoulder and she snapped her head round in my direction and looked at me with such fear that I was frozen with my hand mid air.

She mouthed what looked like ‘Don’t touch my back’ before resting her forehead back onto the table in front.

“Mara, is something scaring you?” I asked.

She didn’t respond. I looked at the detective who seemed to be reaching the end of his tether.

The silence was solid but only for the humming of the tape recorder resting against the wall. I barely had time to question why such an old fashioned method of voice taping was being employed before a loud knock on the door shattered the relative silence around us.

“Come in!” Detective Bunton shouted to the closed door.

“You’re going to want to see this,” a large breasted brunette woman said as she poked her top half through the interrogation door.

I should have became a police officer if this is what the women look like.

“Interview pausing at 04.22 due to Officer Hyron calling at the door,” he spoke to the tape before pressing a button that paused the recording.

“Excuse me,” he said leaving Officer Hinley in the room with us.

I stayed quiet, trying to listen into the conversation beyond the door. Hinley seemed to be staring at something that she couldn’t quite see behind Mara. Mara’s eyes remained fixed on the wall behind the seat Bunton had just vacated.

My head began to ache. I’d just got over a severe cold recently but the migraines remained. I pulled some paracetamol from my pocket and popped two. No one in the room even seemed to notice that I had moved. I dry swallowed the pills as they left a bitter taste across my tongue.

Bunton came back in, his face a pale white – almost like chalk. He sat down with such force I thought he would break his chairs legs. Mara’s back straightened, we were about to find out something gruesome. And she knew.

“Let me tell you what I know, hmmm?” he said, “shall I Mara?”

“If you-“ she was interrupted.

“What I know is that two girls were murdered tonight. I know that they were in a tent in Rita’s back garden. I know that you went up to the tent in the middle of the night, you left footprints in the snow. I know that Rita’s mother heard a scuffle outside at around 01:02 am and she looked out her bedroom window and all she could see was you climbing over her garden fence, the tent ripped to shreds.

“I also know that I now have a morgue with two girls. Both of them almost torn apart, their faces cut and sliced so violently that there was almost no skin left on Polly’s face and Rita’s eyes were both punctured.

“However, do you know what I don’t know?” I heard him say as I felt the paracetamol nearly come back up. The bile was bubbling away and ready to surface at a moments notice.

“What I don’t know is how a girl of only eleven years old could carry out such an attack?” he leaned forward, “I also don’t know where the weapon is that was used to carry out the horror inflicted on those two young girls.”

“But do you know what I would really like to know Miss Shawl?” his hands were almost reaching out to her own. I saw as she flicked her eyes behind her, as if something was breathing on her neck. I could almost see the hairs move.

“What I don’t know, and would most like to find out, is who the footprints belong to that accompany yours in the snow? They lead up to the tent but, for some reason we can’t explain, only your footprints lead away.

“So tell me Miss Shawl, just who was with you in the snow when those girls were murdered?”