Twisted Tales: The Doctor

Gordon Ramona had been obsessed with death since that day when he walked home from school and witnessed a man being thrown over the roof of a car. Passers-by had screamed and rushed to the man, who lay on the road with his head twisted at an impossible angle. Apart from the trickle of blood running from his nose, he barely looked injured. Gordon had knelt down to talk to the man and he had twitched, lifted one of his arms, then let out a long, rattling groan. The dead man’s eyes had stared back at him, glassy, unmoving, yet his body remained unchanged. Gordon had stared at the man until the ambulance had arrived and the paramedics had pulled him back and wrapped him in a blanket. He never forgot those eyes. That moment when the light behind them had grown fainter and fainter like someone turning down a dimmer switch.

Gordon left school with straight ‘A’s but no friends. He wanted to become a doctor. His school work, and the endless hours of spare-time research into mortality had left him cast out from the crowd, branded a ‘freak’ and a ‘weirdo’. But all he wanted was to find away to stop people from dying. Medical researchers spent years trying to crack the code of eternal life, and Gordon wanted to be the one to make the breakthrough. He took an elective year in Africa, working with the sick and the poor and the hopeless. Studying them, watching them die. Taking samples of their blood to analyse their DNA and find out some way to switch off the death gene. It was on a three-month stint in Haiti that he met the infamous Doctor Davis…

First published at The Black Flag.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Short Story: The Chair

They’ve taped him to the chair using three rolls of duct tape. It’s wound tightly around his hairy chest, holding him upright against the back of the chair, then around each of his bare legs, fixing them to the two front legs of the chair. It’s gonna hurt like fuck when they pull it off; if they ever do. His arms are pulled tightly behind him, bound together and secured to the two back legs of the chair with yet more tape. The fourth roll of tape from the multipack that Steve found in Kev’s shed has been used to attach flattened crisp boxes to all of the windows, both to keep prying eyes out and to keep them enclosed in near darkness inside. The only light comes from the torches that they both hold, which they occasionally shine in the man’s eyes when they hear him whimper.

They didn’t plan this. Well, not seriously, and definitely not today. But the man had pushed his luck and now it was time for him to pay. Now that they’ve started, they have to carry on. A couple of times, Kev has protested, saying they’ve gone far enough, they should stop now. But Steve is in the zone.

‘We need to teach this bastard a lesson,’ Steve says. He walks slowly round the bound figure, flashing the torch-light into his eyes. ‘What’ll we do first, Kev?’

Kev sighs. ‘Dishcloth?’

‘Yes!’ Steve says. He loves the dishcloth. Their old man was a champion at the dishcloth and especially liked to use it on Steve, often leaving him with painful bleeding wounds on his bare legs when he’d gone a bit over the top.

Kev dampens the cloth under the kitchen tap and throws it to Steve, who catches it easily in one hand, despite the near darkness. Kev shines the torch into the bound man’s face and watches his eyes light up with fear as he realises what they’re about to do. He can hear rather than see what Steve is doing; he’s spinning the dishcloth into a tight rope.

Flick.

‘Mnnaaaggh!’ the bound man squeals. It’s muffled, coming through the rolled up sock they’ve stuffed into his mouth.

Flick.

Kev shines the torch into the man’s eyes and watches as tears roll down his face, soaking into the makeshift gag. He directs the torch down to the man’s thighs, now sporting angry red welts, and he remembers their dad; he doesn’t want to catch Steve’s eye. ‘That’s enough now, Steve,’ he says.

‘You’re right,’ Steve says. ‘I’m getting bored with this… What’s next? Teaspoon?’

Kev says nothing, just goes through to the kitchen and switches on the kettle.

‘Pleeessh,’ the man says, through the sock.

‘What was that?’ Steve says, poking the man in the ribs. ‘You want another flick, do ya?’

‘Nnnngg!’ the man says, and Steve just cackles.

‘Kettle’s boiled,’ Kev shouts through from the kitchen.

‘Your turn,’ Steve shouts back. ‘Hurry up!’

Kev appears, brandishing a teaspoon he’s just dipped in the water from the boiled kettle, and while Steve shines the torch in the man’s face, Kev presses the back of the spoon into the soft skin just below the man’s ear.

‘Nggggaaahh!’ the man says. Kev laughs now, getting into it.

‘Heat it up again,’ Steve says.

They do it another couple of times with the teaspoon, before Steve complains he’s getting bored again. He asks Kev what they should do next.

‘Well,’ Kev says, ‘I read this thing about pouring ice cold water right into an ear… Apparently it hurts like fuck and leaves no trace…’

‘Brilliant,’ Steve says. He goes through to the kitchen, and Kev hears him rustling about in the freezer, looking for ice.

The man starts rocking the chair from side to side, making more noise through the sock. ‘Oi!’ Kev says. ‘Shut it! Stop wriggling, you’ll only make it worse!’

Steve appears back in the room just as the man crashes to the floor on his side, whimpering. He holds his torch towards the jug of water and ice that he’s carrying, showing Kev what’s he’s got. ‘Perfect,’ he says. ‘Idiot’s just made it easier for us to pour this in… stupid bas−’

He stops mid-sentence at the sound of a key in the lock. The front door opens wide, bathing them all in a bright ray of outside light. Julia, Kev’s wife, is standing in the doorway, her arms filled with shopping bags and her mouth hanging open in shock.

‘Kev? Steve? Jesus Christ, what the hell are you two doing?’

‘It’s not what you think, babe….’ Kev says.

‘Yes it is!’ Steve butts in. ‘He fucking deserves it, giving you that third ticket… for parking outside your own house, for fuck’s sake…’

Julia’s expression changes. She walks fully into the house and kicks the door shut behind her. Her initial shock at seeing the naked Traffic Warden taped to one of her new dining room chairs had thrown her at first, but she recovers quickly, dropping the bags of shopping on the floor.

‘Ok then,’ she says, grinning at them. ‘Have you done the dishcloth?’

The man in the chair groans.

Kev and Steve hold their torches up under their chins and grin back.

* * *

First posted at The Black Flag

Asylum: A Ghost Story

He stared at his watch for the third time and fumbled with a box of matches as he attempted to light another cigarette using fingers that had frozen into useless lolly sticks. He gave the gate an angry shake and the padlock clanged against it with a hollow metallic echo. Where the fuck was Parker? He was about to give up and walk back to the car when a sudden gust of wind whipped up a pile of fallen leaves and stopped him in his tracks. An old man stood on the other side of the gate. Marcus almost leapt out of his Timberlands.

‘Jesus Christ, you nearly gave me a heart attack!’

‘Sorry,’ the old man muttered. He was fiddling with a bunch of ancient looking black keys.

‘Never mind,’ said Marcus. He stamped his feet and blew on his hands to try and warm himself up, then he picked up his briefcase and rifled through it for the property particulars that Parker had given him. He thrust the papers towards the old man. The old man just nodded; the gate was open now and he ushered Marcus through. Marcus tried again. ‘I’m Marcus Skelton,’ he said, stuffing the papers back into his briefcase and now imposing his hand on the old man to shake.

The old man ignored him and started walking. More tired than pissed off now, Marcus followed. In the fading autumn light, the building looked dark and brooding. Only a few windows remained intact. Some were boarded up; others stared down at him with an empty blackness. The grounds were unkempt, and some of the outside walls had already succumbed to the clutches of the trailing vine weed. Marcus shivered. The kid at the estate agents – Parker – had told him the place was creepy; which was probably why he hadn’t bothered to show up. The old man hadn’t spoken since they were at the gate, and now, as they stood outside the front entrance of the building that had once been an asylum, and in its latter years, an orphanage, Marcus felt uneasy.

‘So, are you the caretaker, or something?’

The old man sighed and led them inside. It was colder inside than out. The old man produced a couple of gas lamps, handed one to Marcus. ‘No ‘lectrics,’ he said.

Marcus stared at the lamp. The old man was already making his way down a corridor that in the flickering light of the gas lamps, with the eerie jumping shadows, had instantly become the last place on earth that Marcus wanted to be. But he’d already started walking, and all he could see in the distance was the fuzzy yellow light of the old man’s lamp, and in the other direction he could see nothing. He liked to think he didn’t scare easily, but in the middle of this dark labyrinth he now regretted not taking the early morning appointment that Parker had suggested.

Shit.

He hurried down the corridor in the direction of the lamp, but after a few fast steps, he realised he couldn’t see it anymore.

Fuck!

Marcus stopped, listening for footsteps, trying to work out what to do. He was pretty sure if he just about turned and walked back exactly the same way he’d come, he would make it back to the front door, but the lack of light in the narrow corridor was disorientating and when he turned round, each way seemed to be blacker and more confusing than the other. He felt his heart begin to pick up pace.

‘Hello?’ he called. The sound of his voice echoed down the corridor. ‘Hello?’ he tried again. His heart was thudding now. Then he heard another sound; an intermittent squeak and step. Like the sound of someone wheeling a rusty bicycle. ‘Who’s there?’ he said.

Another squeak, followed by laughter; a child’s voice.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. ‘Co…come on now,’ he stammered. ‘This isn’t funny.’ Another burst of laughter. Marcus stood still, held his breath, waited for another sound, but the sound of his own heart threatening to burst through his chest was almost deafening. He lifted his lamp higher, trying to cast a wider arc of light. The light flickered.

‘Oh no… no…’ Marcus whimpered as the light flickered once more before going out. He leant back against the wall, panting. With shaking hands, he pulled his matches from his coat pocket and managed to strike one on the second attempt. As he held the flame to the wick, the lamp flared bright and Marcus came to the sudden realisation that he was no longer alone.

He couldn’t move.

Pinned to the wall by fear, he surveyed the faces of the children that stood around him. One of them was leaning on a small red bike. The frame was bent out of shape and it looked like one of the tyres was flat. The children stared at him; their dirty faces streaked with silent tears. A small girl with a smattering of blonde curls looked up at him, and as he leant instinctively to touch her, she crumbled into dust. Then from somewhere nearby, came a piercing scream that flipped Marcus out of his trance and suddenly he was running; running faster than he thought he could ever run, blood pounding in his ears, his heart in his throat, away; away from the scream that carried on and on and on until he burst out of the front door when suddenly, it stopped.

His knees buckled and he fell onto the grass, clutching his head in his hands. He heard the crunch of tyres on gravel and eventually, he looked up. A car was pulling in behind his; the lights on full beam illuminating the building that Marcus had stupidly thought would make a great development of luxury flats. He pulled himself to his feet and realised that at some point he’d pissed himself. Cold air whipped at his wet trousers as he ambled slowly towards the gate, the adrenaline that had swept his body already dissipating through his veins.

‘How the hell did you get in there?’ said Parker, from behind the locked gate. He was brandishing a shiny set of keys.

‘Care…taker,’ managed Marcus, his voice shook.

Parker swung the gate open and gave him a puzzled look. ‘But there’s no caretaker,’ he said. Parker glanced around and Marcus followed his gaze. They both saw the abandoned red bike that lay on the grass behind the gate. Another, smaller, one leant against the gatepost. It was pink.

Marcus felt sick. He placed his hands on his knees, tried to steady himself. ‘But… I−’

‘Been no one near this place since… that… that… thing…’ Parker interrupted, struggling with his words as he stared at Marcus with a face that couldn’t disguise his own terror. ‘You ok, mate?’ He took a couple of steps towards him. ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

* * *

Originally posted at The Black Flag