(950 words) “Sorry, you’re the first person I’ve spoken to in ten years.” Her voice was cracked, dry like an empty pitcher left out to desiccate in the sun. Jack Whitney looked down at the bedraggled young woman. Her hair was long and matted, perhaps once a dark blonde. Her face could be attractive, he thought, if it weren’t stained with dirt and what looked like tears, judging from her swollen eyes. He steadied himself against the swaying cabin door. “What’s your name?”
(1000 words) “Where’s the key for the wardrobe in the spare room?” “What … why?” My wife, Jane, looked down at the carpet. “Oh, uh, I just fancied looking inside. Who knows what’s in there?” She gave an unconvincing laugh. “What’s Lucy been saying?” “What?” “Come on, what’s that girl been imagining this time?” “Look, Tony, I’m worried about her. First there was that nonsense about Roman soldiers under the bed, now this.” “Now what?” “Well, she said not to tell you, that you’d be cross.” I felt a twinge of guilt. Perhaps I had been less than sympathetic over the soldier episode. But Lucy was eleven, for heaven’s sake. “Come on, out with it.” I smiled. “I won’t be cross, promise.” “Well, she said she heard whispering from it.” “What?" “She said it said ‘Let me out, it’s dark in here.’”
(850 words) Windsor Great Park was my destination, somewhere I’d never been before. I drove my little silver Toyota through the busy streets of Windsor, noticing in the distance a red flag flying above the famous Round Tower of ‘the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world,’ signifying that the Queen was in residence. I followed the signs and found myself on less manic roads, finally pulling up at an impressive lodge, beyond which lay green fields and trees. A manservant in an antiquated purple robe came out. “Hello, Madam, may I help you?” “I’m Sylvia Williamson, I’ve come to look at your ghost.” His aged face betrayed no surprise. “Ah, yes, come this way please.” He led me into the sumptuously furnished building and along corridors, where faces of unrecognisable royal personages glared at me through the cracked glaze of ancient oil paintings, mounted in enormous gilded frames.
(550 words) Any evening you’ll find me walking round my village, a brisk half-hour’s walk. It’s much later tonight, gone eleven. I got waylaid sorting out books in my library, sifting through collections of Daphne Du Maurer and Victor Canning first editions. I pass occasional houses, farms and cottages. Is anyone awake? Alive even?! The sporadic street light casts its orange glow but windows are dark, silent, and secretive.
(500 words) Hannah smiled at her reflection, realizing that she could see herself for the first time whilst having her hair cut. With embarrassment, she noticed a touch of silver along the parting of her straight black bob. She winked and admired her vibrant grey eyes in the mirror. Hearing a yap, she patted a small pug-nosed dog. “Hello, Boris.” Moisture from the dog’s cold nose smeared her hand. She’d entered the small salon - one sink and two chairs - in Sue’s house, Copperwood, gratefully inhaling the indefinable chemical odour associated with hairdressing. Sue had been on the phone. “Hello love, take a seat, I won’t be a mo,” then she’d left the room.
(1000 words) December 22nd 10.37 a.m. Jenny opened the trapdoor and climbed into a forgotten world. The attic was eerily dark, lit only by the occasional shaft of sunlight penetrating through the roof, in which sparkling dust particles gyrated. Draped furniture in the gloom seemed ominous and ghoul-like. The air smelt both musty and mouldy, like the decaying air-raid shelters she’d played in as a child, cold and silent even on a summer’s day.
(100 words) Sitting up, disoriented, she gazed at the glowing coals. The room, dark-panelled and dimly lit, was silent save for the tick of the grandfather clock