Henshaw Short Story Competition
    Henshaw Short Story Competition

             June 2022 Results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  June 2022 Competition Winners are: - 

 

 

 

First Prize:

 

Valerie Hoare of Southbourne

for

‘Eyes on the Moon’

 

 

 

Second Prize:

 

Steven Burford of Malvern Link

for

‘Remembering Frank’

 

 

 

Third Prize:

 

Denarii Peters of Kings Lynn

for

‘How to Murder a Ghost’

 

 

 

 

 

******

                        

 

 

 

 

 

‘Eyes on the Moon’

 

by

 

Valerie Hoare

 

 

 

                        

 

“This can’t be happening.”

 

Her voice startled me, she sounded disbelieving, angry. I’d been waiting in silence, almost dozing, for ten minutes. I’d listened to the wind hurl itself around the wooden shelter, rattling the clear side panels.

 

“What’s that?” I asked.

 

She looked at me, her face was very pale. I saw fear in her eyes,

 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to speak out loud,” she said.

 

Her voice was raspy, like her throat was sore.

 

I’ve never been one to hold my tongue, it’s not in my nature. And anyway, I know how people see me. I’m just a nosy old woman.

 

“Can I help?”

 

She looked at me again, then as if deciding I was probably harmless, she slid along the seat until she was a little closer. Her eyes were dark green pools, teary and wide. She looked out to sea silently.

 

The promenade was nearly empty, the few people who passed us were dog walkers, hurrying to get out of the cold. It wasn’t the time of year for the seaside. A large gull drifted in on the wind and landed heavily in front of the shelter. It looked at me, eye to eye.

 

“He came home today,” she said abruptly. “My fiance, Ryan, he’s in the Navy.”

 

“That’s lovely, isn’t it?”

 

She shook her head. Her auburn hair fell loose from its clips as she did but she didn’t notice. It was beginning to get dark, the winter sun set early. I could just see the ships passing on the horizon as I looked out to sea, like tiny bath toys in the distance. In another five minutes the light would be gone completely. The gull waited, hoping for scraps.

 

“I promised to be there to meet him,” she said, then burst into tears.

 

Her shoulders shook but she made no sound. I moved closer and tried to take her hand. It was very cold, I noticed, before she pulled away from me.

 

“You mustn’t get too close, I might still be infectious.”

 

Her look told me she knew the drill.

 

“You don’t have a mask,” she said

.

“Don’t fret, I’m immune.”

 

“Still, it’s risky,” she warned, “you can’t be sure.”

 

I’ve worn enough masks in my time, one way and another, to know they don’t always help, or hide. But I didn’t argue, I moved away from her.

 

“Why can’t you meet him?” I asked.

 

“I’ve been ill, I can’t risk giving it to him.”

 

“Can’t you call him? Everyone has a pocket telephone now, don’t they?”

She frowned at me, confused, then patted her pockets.

 

 I may have said the wrong thing, used the wrong words. I do that sometimes.

 

“I had one,” she said, “but they must’ve taken it away.” She sniffed back the tears that threatened to start again.

 

“Well, he’ll come to find you, won’t he? If he cares for you?”

 

She nodded.

 

“But I won’t be there,” she said sadly. Her face scrunched up as she collapsed in tears again. This time she couldn’t hold back, she let out a wail of grief.

 

I looked around, alarmed. But there was no one about to hear, only the gull.

 

“There, now,” I said, reaching out to hold her close. She didn’t resist.

 

“What’s your name?” I asked, hoping to calm her.

 

“Kaylee,” she stammered.

 

“I’m Rose.”

 

I held her, noticing her bony shoulders, even through her thick coat. She shivered as agust of wind swirled off the sea into the shelter. I don’t seem to feel the cold anymore, not like I used to. My coat’s not as thick as hers but it was all I could get when I bought it and it's old now. The gull wandered off in search of supper.

 

“Why won’t you be there, it’s quite close, isn’t it, where the ships come in?”

 

She nodded but still shuddered with each sob that overtook her.

 

I knew she was probably the one I’d been sent to fetch, the directions aren’t usually far wrong. Why else would I be sitting in a seafront shelter in winter? But to be sure, I needed her to answer me properly.

 

“Is there something else wrong with you,” I asked plainly.

 

Her voice was a whisper.

 

“Yes.”

 

She looked straight at me, as if trying to make up her mind about something.

 

“You’ll think I’m crazy,” she said at last.

 

I suppose there could be another reason why she was here now, another good excuse. But the empty feeling coming from her made me think she was the one. I tried a different tack.

 

“I was meant to meet my young man here, years ago, when he came back from the war.” I hadn’t spoken about that time for too long, I’d tried not to think of it.

 

There was a spell of complete quiet then, the wind dropped away and no people passed. In the dark sky a few scattered stars appeared, pinheads of light.

 

Kaylee was watching my face, I felt her eyes on me.

 

“Which war was that? she asked suspiciously. “My granddad was in the last big one. He died when I was at school, it can’t have been then. I’m not stupid.

My mind wanted to relive the awful days, I had to drag myself back.

 

“No, not that one. The Great War, 1914 to 1918.”

 

I hardly knew my voice, I sounded really young again. I let the memory pull me in.

 

“That’s even further back,” she said. “You can’t be that old.”

 

I smiled at her. In my head I was still Rose, the volunteer nurse. Kaylee’s probably older now than I was then.

 

Gilbert was away, like all the young men, facing the unimaginable. I had no idea if he would come back, the least I could do was help the wounded lads who did. I couldn’t tell Kaylee about Grace, though.

 

We were nursing together, me and Grace, at the Cottage hospital. We got very close.

 

She was different from the other girls I knew, solid and determined, sure of what she wanted. Before I knew it, I was in love with her. I’d never even thought of another girl in that way before.

 

She felt the same for me, she said. She asked me to promise I’d be hers alone. She had no doubts about our future but I was torn. I couldn’t just drop Gilbert, though, not while he was away. I couldn’t be that cruel, I loved him too.

 

Grace and I shared everything for months; our food, our work, our happy moments. Our love. We had to keep that secret, no-one knew. I still wrote to Gilbert but his letters back were few. I began to think he might not come home.

 

Kaylee was watching me, I could see the curiosity on her face. I had to shake my memories aside again.

 

“Some days I look younger than others,” I said, “but I am that old, really.”

 

I waited for her to take that in, perhaps she was doing the sums in her head.

 

“What was his name?” she asked.

 

“Gilbert.”

 

She’d stopped crying now, I’d got her attention. I went on.

 

“He went to France, doing his duty. I was proud of him but scared he’d be killed.”

 

Kaylee held my hand tight now, the worry of infection had faded.

 

“Did he die?” She spoke quietly, I think she’d started to see the point of my story.

 

“No, he made it home, just like we’d dreamed of.” I answered slowly, remembering.

 

“But…”

 

“But I wasn’t there to meet him.”

 

I looked at her young face and saw myself.

 

“We had a sickness then, too, Kaylee,” I said, “every bit as bad as this one and we didn’t know how to stop it.”

 

That was when the hospital was overtaken by the Spanish Flu, I remembered. The soldiers came back with it and it soon spread to us nurses. Grace got ill first. I was frantic, trying to tend to her and the other patients at the same time. She was young, strong and healthy before but it didn’t help. She only lasted two days. She died holding my hand one windy night, still telling me how she loved me.

 

I hadn’t lasted long without Grace. By the end of the week I was sick too. I asked them to write to Gilbert, to tell him. I think they did but the letter never reached him. I was long gone when he came home.

 

It was getting hard to keep my mind on my work. I’d drifted back to the old days again and had to remember why I was in the shelter now.

 

“I caught the Flu and…

 

“You didn’t survive,” Kaylee finished my sentence.

 

I nodded, sad now at the memory.

 

“Like me,” she said simply.

 

I smiled at her.

 

“Like you. You understand it’s time to go, don’t you?”

 

She nodded.

 

“I didn’t want to believe it. That’s why I came out here. I thought if I could meet Ryan, like we promised, it would mean I was going to be ok.”

 

Her green eyes were wide again with the shock of the memory.

 

“He couldn’t see me, he walked straight past. Then I knew.”

 

I had to force my mind back to Kaylee and her story. I wouldn’t tell her how I had struggled at first to accept my fate. I remembered how much it hurt. I still wouldn’t share my other secret either, even after so long, not everyone would understand that. I wanted to reassure her, to comfort her but time was short. I was under orders.

 

I’ve seen Grace, and Gilbert, a few times since we went up. But we all have our jobs, our places to be, it’s not always easy to be where we’d like. I pushed down my longing.

 

“It’ll be alright, you’ll see. Look at me, I’ve come through so many years. It’s not so bad really, you just have to adjust and relax.

 

Kaylee stood and pulled me up from the hard seat.

 

“I can’t change it, can I?” She sounded bold, resigned now.

 

“No, it’s done.”

 

She tucked her arm through mine. I felt the warmth of her touch through my sleeve.

 

“Where do we go?” she said. “Show me the way.”

 

“Just keep your eyes on the moon and let yourself fly,” I said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

 

‘Remembering Frank’

 

by

 

Steven Burford

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry. I must look a right state. I’ll be all right in a minute. Pull myself back together. It’s just, I’ve been remembering Frank.

 

It’s not like I’ve ever forgotten him, of course. You don’t forget your big brother. But, well, time goes on doesn’t it? And it’s right what they say. At first, all you can feel is the sadness, and you don’t think that will ever go away. But then it does, and you’re left with the good memories to take with you for the rest of your life. Years and years. So strange to think that Frank would be in his eighties now if he was still with us.

 

It’s not as if Jeff looks like him.

 

I went along with it when Carol said, “Look Mum. He’s the spitting image of Uncle Frank.”

 

But he wasn’t really. He didn’t look like him then and he certainly doesn’t look like him now, and he's about the same age now as Frank was when he died. Funny. That hadn’t struck me before. 

 

He’s been a good grandson has Jeff. Cards at Christmas, visits on my birthday and lovely thank you letters for any presents I sent him, though I think our Carol was behind a lot of those, and they have dried up a bit lately. Well, no-one writes letters any more, do they? I was a bit surprised though when he phoned up out of the blue to say he was going to be dropping by today, and was it all right if he brought a friend, Ceri?

 

“Of course it is,” I said, “though Tuesday is my shopping day.”

 

I wondered if Ceri might be his girlfriend. I’d never seen any of his girlfriends, so I thought perhaps this one might be a bit special. I thought Ceri was a girl’s name.

 

Less than half an hour after that, Carol rings. We get the usual out of the way and then she says Jeff’s going to be calling on me.

 

“I know,” I say.

 

She tells me he’ll have someone with him, and I say I know that too.

 

“He’s a good lad,” she says, and I presume she means Jeff. She says her goodbyes and goes, and I remember thinking it was a bit of an odd call. 

 

Of course, when Jeff turned up, I saw straight away that Ceri was a boy. Young man, I should say. They get touchy about that, young fellas, don’t they? Tall, skinny lad. Very pale, with blonde hair and glasses. The sort of lad our dad would have called a long drink of water. He seemed nice enough. Bit nervous but I’ve noticed that with some kids when they meet someone old. It’s as if they’re scared we might do something odd. Die maybe. 

 

I make them tea and say sorry there isn't any cake or biscuits, but like I said, Tuesday is my shopping day, so at the moment I’m all out of stuff.

 

Jeff laughs and says that’s, “No problem,” and we all sit and drink our tea and chat, mostly about what he's been up to (“Not much”) and what I’ve been up to (“Even less”).

 

Then he tells me. “Thing is Gran. I’m gay and Ceri is my boyfriend.”

 

“Oh, right.”

 

I nod at Ceri, smile and raise my tea cup a little as if I’m toasting him. But inside I’m thinking, Did I hear him right? Is he joking? What does it mean? Does that mean what it used to mean? What does he want me to say? What does he want me to do?

 

 “Does your mum know?” I say.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Of course she did. That was why she’d rung me.

 

“Right. Well, I hope you’ll be very happy together.” 

 

Ceri looked startled. Jeff laughed. “We’re not getting married, Gran.”

 

“I was married when I wasn’t much older than you.” I don’t know why I said that either. 

 

“Times change, Gran.”

 

Yes, they certainly do.

 

“Well then. I’ll go and get my shopping bags, shall I?”

 

I can’t begin to work out how many times I’ve walked up and down our high street. There’s fewer and fewer people there that I know as the years go by, but I still manage to bump into a fair few most days. I hoped I wouldn’t see any of them today. We weren’t talking about it, but I was still trying to think about what Jeff had told me. Trying to ‘process it’ -  that’s what they say nowadays, isn't it?

 

Sure enough though, I clocked Maisie Davis on the opposite side of the road in the first two minutes.

 

“I’m just popping into here,” I said to Jeff and Ceri.

 

They looked surprised, and I couldn’t blame them. We were outside a petshop, and heaven only knows what I would have had to buy if I’d gone in. But, I was too slow.

 

“Maureen,” Maisie called out, and she came trotting across the road. If it hadn’t recently been made one way, she’d have been knocked down on the spot.

 

“Hello love. How you doing then? And who’s these two handsome men holding your bags?”

 

“This is my grandson Jeff, our Carol’s boy,” I said. “You’ve heard me talk about him.”

 

“Oh yes. Hello love.”

 

Maise nodded and smiled at Jeff. Then she looked at Ceri and waited.

 

“And this is his friend.”

 

There was a bit of a pause.

 

“Well, nice to meet you too,” Maisie said.

 

“Anyway, I’d better dash. See you later in the week?”

 

“You going in then, Gran?” Jeff pointed at the pet shop after Maisie had gone. 

 

I pretended to look at my list.

 

“Actually, we can leave that for the minute, love. On to the baker’s”

 

We walked on, Jeff and Ceri smiling, Jeff pointing out the places he's known since he was a kid. They didn’t look annoyed with me. But I was annoyed with me. I was remembering Frank. And Derek.

 

I’d always assumed Frank and Derek had been at school together. Looking back, that seems unlikely. Softly-spoken, bookish Derek wasn’t anything like the other boys from Frank’s secondary modern. He wasn’t much like Frank either. But for a while, they were inseparable. They’d go walking together, like Jeff and Ceri, side by side.

  

“Hello Maureen.” It was Freda.

 

I’ve known her since we had our kids at much the same time. I’ll often have a coffee with her of a Tuesday.

 

“Hello Freda, love. Can’t stop. Bit of a rush. See you later in the week?”

 

“Oh. All right.” Freda looked at the lads. “Nice to see you’ve got a bit of a hand today.”

 

“This is my grandson, Jeff. Our Carol’s boy.”

 

“Hello Jeff.” She waited.

 

“And this is Ceri. He's Jeff’s friend.”

 

“Hello Ceri. Well, see you later Maur. Bye.”

 

We walked on, and I thought about Derek. That was what he had been: Frank’s ‘friend’.

 

“Jeff’s friend Derek is coming round for tea,” Mum would say.

 

“Are you seeing your friend Derek tonight, love?” she'd ask Frank.

 

Dad didn’t call him that. Dad didn’t talk about him at all, not until that night when Frank told them that he and Derek were going on holiday together. Cornwall, I think it was. Or maybe Devon. I know I’d wanted to go with them but Frank had laughed and said,

 

“Not this time, Maur.”

 

That had been when there’d been the big argument. Dad had been so angry. I’d never seen him that furious. Mum had cried and cried. I’d thought it was because Frank was going on holiday for the first time without us, and Mum and Dad had wanted to go too like I did. I thought perhaps Dad was jealous of Derek. I could tell he didn’t like Derek, even though he'd never said it out loud. But that was just the way Dad was. Men were different in those days. You didn’t expect them to like everyone.

 

Frank went on holiday, and I thought that was that. But soon after he came back, Frank moved out. I cried then, but Frank said it was okay and that I could come and visit him, when I was a little older. But he was killed not long after. Knocked down in a street much like this one. They didn’t let me go to the funeral. They said I was too young. I wonder now if they let Derek go. I hope so. I never saw him again after that.

 

“You don’t half know a lot of people, Gran,” said Jeff.

 

“That’s the way it is, when you’re old.”

 

“That must be nice,” said Ceri. “No-one talks to anyone where I was brought up. I’d like to live somewhere where people say hello as you walk down the street.”

 

Frank had been like that. Always a cheery wave and a hello. Used to drive us mad, it did.

 

We nearly made it back to the car, but then Ralph and Eileen came round the corner.

 

 “Hello there Maureen. Couple of young servants with you today?”

 

Jeff and Ceri were smiling, waiting for me to say something vague so that we could get on. I nearly did, but I was still thinking of Frank, open, honest Frank, and all the friends he should have had.

 

“This is my grandson, Jeff, our Carol’s son.”

 

Silly really, but then I took a deep breath.

 

“And this is his boyfriend, Ceri.”

 

I looked at Ralph and I looked at Eileen. I suddenly felt as though I might have done something much bigger than seemed possible with so few words. I felt a bit scared. I felt a bit sad. But I felt right.

 

Eileen smiled. “Hello,” she said to Jeff and Ceri. “Nice to meet you.”

 

“Hello,” said Bill and he reached out and shook both boys’ hands.

 

Back home, we unpacked my bags. I put the kettle on and insisted the boys stayed for a ‘proper’ cup of tea with a piece of cake. There was something I wanted to show them.

 

“This is Jeff, just after he was born,”

 

I said, handing over one of the framed photos I keep on the Welsh dresser.

 

“Gran!”

 

Jeff protested, though he was grinning.

 

Ceri had to put his cake and coffee down to take it. “Aw! He’s so cute.”

 

I took the picture off him, and handed him the one I really wanted him to see. “And this is his great uncle Frank, my brother. He'd have been about your age when this was taken.” Ceri took the picture. I could tell he was puzzled as to why I was showing it to him.

 

“His mother used to say that Jeff looked like him,” I said, as if that was an explanation.

 

Ceri frowned as he studied the picture. “I’m not sure I can see it,” he said, obviously trying not to hurt my feelings. “Perhaps a bit about the eyes. Good-looking man though.” He looked up at me. “Sorry, I hope you don’t mind my saying that.”

 

“Not at all, love.” I laughed “And I never thought Jeff much looked like him either.”

 

The boys looked a bit confused, but they both laughed. Well, you’ve got to humour your batty old relatives, haven’t you? They left not long after that. Jeff said they’d both be around again soon to give me another hand with the shopping, but I don’t suppose I’ll see either of them this side of Christmas.

 

So, there you go. Funny old day. I’m guessing that, by now Eileen will have told Freda who will tell Maisie all about Ceri. So, I won’t have to do that again. Except I want to. I pick up the picture of my lovely, handsome, brave older brother, and I rest one finger on his cheek. I want to tell them about Frank too. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

 

        ‘How to Murder a Ghost’

 

by

 

Denarii Peters

 

 

 

 

 

I never knew it was possible for a ghost to be as afraid as I am right now.

 

        A shiver passes through me. The words which will end me are being uttered. I can't escape. There is nowhere to go. The man in the chapel, ringing his little bell, waving his book by the light of a guttering candle means me no harm. He wants to free a trapped soul. He believes I am in torment but he is wrong. I don't want to cease to exist but I am already fading. I should never have come to...

 

        “...Ackland Hall, ladies and gentlemen, the country seat of Lord and Lady Ackland, reputed to have no less than seven ghosts in residence. One of the most haunted sites in the country, which...”

 

        I tuned out the tour guide's monotonous voice. He had no idea what he was talking about. This house might once have been as he described it but not any longer. It was almost deserted. No, not by the tourists. They come by the coachload to sit in the cafe and eat the scones cooked to “the original Victorian recipe created by Mrs. Grey, the original Victorian cook”. Yeah, right. She nipped down to Sainsbury's for them too, did she? In fact I was the only ghost in the house. Three never existed in the first place, being the inventions of guides over the years, and the remaining three have all been murdered in cold blood by the man in the chapel wielding bell, book and candle.

 

        Yes, I was the last, except... I shouldn't have been there at all. I had answered an advert in Ghosts Abroad. It's an interesting publication. I've consulted it a few times. It lists haunt swaps available throughout the U.K. and Western Europe. The principle is simple. If you get bored with the place where you met your end, you exchange, for a limited period, with another spectre who is just as bored. We spirits have discovered by trial and error that, so long as both the ghosts are agreeable and swap places at the same time, there is no problem. However, you can't go to a place which has no resident ghost and you can't increase the number of ghosts in any location except by more untimely deaths. It's a bit restrictive but it does work.

 

        So, let me tell you about the advert. It had been placed by Lady Josephine Ackland. A spoilt, jilted debutante, she died by hurling herself off the mock battlements of her family's country estate. In the advert she listed the advantages of her place: lovely views, paintings to wobble, pottery to jiggle, draughts available in all main rooms, the perfect haunt for a summer holiday. All I had to offer in exchange was a first floor bedsit with an old, faulty heating system prone to giving off noxious fumes. No dramatic death for me, I'm sorry to say.

 

        I was surprised when she replied to my enquiry at once. She explained that after two hundred plus years of luxury she fancied slumming it for a month or two.

 

        Swap arranged, I told my best friend Sam about it. He was a chimney sweep when the tenement building was a bit grander. He got stuck and starved to death.

 

        He pulled a face, dislodging a few flakes of soot onto the bedsit carpet. I like it when he does that. It confuses the hell out of the current occupant.“There's something odd about Ackland Hall. I saw it in Dead News a few months ago.”

 

        “Well, what was it?”

 

        “Can't remember but I think it was about a swap being cancelled at the last minute because the ghost at the hall had suddenly become unavailable for some reason.”

 

        I didn't listen. I never do. I was dreaming of drifting round corridors in a long, white dress and standing on the battlements with the wind in my tresses. Lady Josephine had promised me the use of her wardrobe. She was a generous host... or so I thought.

 

        Our swap took place at midnight. They all do and I saw Josephine in passing.

 

        She called out to me, “Sorry about this. Try not to be too upset. It's nothing personal.”

 

        I shouted back, “Have a good time. See you in a month.”

 

        I arrived at the point from which she had departed. The battlements were rather high. I looked down over the edge but it was too dark and I couldn't see much. I wasn't afraid of falling. A ghost can't be hurt that way. Chances are I would have drifted down as though I were wearing a parachute but I wasn't about to try it. What I did want was to locate Josephine's wardrobe and get into some more appropriate gear. Who ever heard of an eighteenth century miss wearing Levis?

 

        As I made my way down the grand, central staircase a young girl in a maid's uniform appeared at the bottom.

 

        Her mouth fell open as she caught sight of me. “She did it, didn't she?”

 

        “Hello, I'm Claudia. I'm haunt swapping with...”

 

        “...Lady Josephine. I know but you must go back. You can't stay here. It's...

 

        She flickered. I can't think of any other way to describe it. She flickered again, becoming ever more transparent, like a breeze blowing through mist.

 

        “Josephine tricked you. There's a... an exorcist...” On the last,

 terrifying word she gave a howl and was gone.

 

        Shocked, I stared at the empty patch of air. I could hear a faint sound, not her but a chant.  Josephine had  provided a guide book along with the other paperwork involved in our exchange. I knew where each room was and I had no doubt the sound was coming from the old chapel.

 

        I may not be the most courageous of ghosts but there was nothing for it. I had to find out what was happening.

 

        I passed through the thick, oak door into what should have been an empty stone chamber, the pews and altar having been removed when the chapel was deconsecrated. The first thing I noticed was the acrid stench of sage. The room was strewn with it and bunches of it were suspended either side of a space in the centre. A group of six people knelt there in a rough line in front of a tall, dark haired man. He stood behind a table draped in white linen on top of which were a small brass bell, a large book and a thin, white candle in a silver holder. He wore a thick, grey habit with a hood but I could see the cuffs of jeans and a pair of expensive trainers peeking out from the bottom of it.

 

        “Go to your rest, Eliza!” He beamed at his audience.“It is done.

There is now only Lady Josephine Ackland left for us to help on her way. We will reconvene tomorrow at midnight.”

 

        His audience scrambled to their feet and left the room.

 

        He began packing his instruments of torture into a holdall. He stopped and looked at me.“ I know you're here. I can't see you but I can sense you. I've been a medium since I was born. Tomorrow, I promise I will help you. I will release your unhappy spirit and send you to your eternal rest. Poor, trapped ghost, I will free you.”

 

        Poor, trapped ghost? I was, wasn't I? Josephine had conned me into taking her place. I was going to be murdered and there was nothing I could do about it. I would cease to exist.

 

        The next morning I tried to contact Ghosts Abroad through the ether but it was the weekend and there was no-one available to help me. I wouldn't be able to leave the building unless I found some other poor sucker to replace me and I wouldn't have done that even if I could.

 

         I watched the tour party as they wandered round with their annoying guide. I had a half baked idea I might be able to find a psychic among them who could intercede. All I did manage to do was irritate a golden retriever who was busy guiding her blind mistress.

 

        The party ate their scones and left.

 

        It was five o'clock. In a couple of hours, though I did not want go, I would be drawn to the battlements and have to stay there for a while. It was one of the conditions of the swap. Every day, at the time the event occurred, I had to walk up and down around the spot where Josephine plunged to her death. Would this be the last time anyone did this? With no ghost in residence, Josephine could not return. Afterwards I drifted through the rooms. I hoped she felt guilty for what she was doing to me.

 

        As midnight approached I went to the chapel. The man was already there, setting up his table and setting out new bunches of sage. Busy, busy. I plucked at his sleeve but he didn't react. I blew into his face. happened. He wasn't as psychic as he thought he was. I couldn't get through to him Nothing at all. If he knew I was there, he gave no sign of it.

 

        I left the room and went down to the entrance hall. As each of his friends arrived I tried everything I could think of to attract their attention. They shivered with delight as I, frantic with fear, stirred the curtains, chilled them with icy breath and threw pottery from shelves so it smashed at their feet. Only one of them spoke to me and she was facing the wrong direction at the time.

 

        “Oh, sad little ghost, don't worry. Nick will soon release you from your torment.”

 

        There was nothing more I could do. My last hope was gone.

 

        The exorcism has begun. I knew the exact moment the chanting started. I was in the drawing room, standing before a portrait of Josephine. I made it fall off the wall but I knew it wasn't damaged. Petty of me but it was all I could do.

 

        Tomorrow the guide will tell his coach party it happened during the night and one of the seven ghosts was responsible. Some of them will go “Ooh!” and some “Ah!”. Some will not believe. They will say there are no ghosts at Ackland Hall...

 

 

 

           ...and they will be right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The June 2022 Competition Short List

 

For One Night Only by James Wood of Edinburgh

How to Murder a Ghost by Denarii Peters of Kings Lynn

Eyes on the Moon by Valerie Hoare of Southbourne

Accidental Flowers by Pat Riley of Cardiff

Remembering Frank by Steven Burford of Malvern Link

Lose the Flute by Louise Mulvey of Stockport

 

 

 

The June 2022 Competition Long List 

 

For One Night Only by James Wood of Edinburgh

How to Murder a Ghost by Denarii Peters of Kings Lynn

Rocking Robin by Andrew Clarke of London

Eyes on the Moon by Valerie Hoare of Southbourne

A Suitable Feast by Cath Barton of Abergavenny

Accidental Flowers by Pat Riley of Cardiff

Que Sera Sera by Cathy Hoyle of Coventry

Remembering Frank by Steven Burford of Malvern Link

Lose the Flute by Louise Mulvey of Stockport

Death, Death and Dying by Luke Murphy of Nottingham

 

 

 

The Short List will be published tomorrow and the Final Results later this week.

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Henshaw Press (inc Parlow Press)