Perseverance Terrace

 ‘Wildwood’, the last house standing in Perseverance Terrace, is a solitary gravestone in a desert of broken bricks, rubble, dumped rubbish and smouldering bonfires and has become refuge to generations of ghosts who were born, lived and died there. 

Inside Wildwood, the kitchen is crammed full of ghosts; had they needed to breathe, many would have suffocated. Erasmus, their elected leader, explains, The only reason our home has survived this long is because of superstition. It only needs one man not to fear the retribution of ghosts and we’re gone, our safe haven lost. 

Lester Field, a mortal, enters the kitchen. 
Invader! The ghosts cry out. Alien! 
I’m no alien. I’m just a man looking for help, Lester says. Goodness, there are hundreds of you in here.
Who are you? Erasmus asks. How can you see us?
I’m Lester Field and blessed, or cursed, with the gift of seeing your world as well as mine. 
Why are you here?
I need a ghost. 
Why? Erasmus asks.
To take revenge. I discovered that Thacker, leader of the Council, received huge backhanders for selling off public land. I tried to get it on the news. I got fired. But I have an idea. Thacker’s son, Henry, died in mysterious circumstances, I want to find Henry’s ghost and the truth about his death. Can any of you help me find him? Lester asks.
The ghosts shimmer and groan.
Erasmus explains, They’re afraid that if they leave here there’ll be no coming back and they’ll be lost forever in time and space.
Are they right? Lester asks.
I don’t know. Do you think you can get Thacker to stop demolishing Wildwood?
I do.
Then I’ll come with you, Erasmus says.

Thacker, at home, sits in his snug sipping whisky when the door bangs open and his wife bursts in. It’s our boy, she cries. Henry’s back. 
You’re off your head, Lucy. He’s dead. 
His ghost isn’t, Lester says from the doorway. He’s told me the truth about his abuse and how he died.
What? Lucy demands. What abuse?
Henry enters.
What did your father do to you, darling? 
It’s a trick; there’s no such thing as ghosts, Thacker protests.
I’m here, aren’t I? Henry asks. You stop knocking down Wildwood, or I’ll tell Mum how I died.
You little shit! Thacker says.
And pay me the salary you owe me, Lester adds. Or I’ll tell the police.

It’s early morning as Lester, Erasmus and Henry cross the wasteland.
A giant wrecking ball swings from a crane and thunders into Wildwood. Thacker, standing by his Mercedes, smiles as he watches the demolition.
He lied, Henry says.
The ghosts erupt from Wildwood flying like wasps flung hither and thither in a maelstrom of roaring anger engulfing Thacker. His cries of agony pierce the eerie silence of the wasteland. The wailing ghosts vanish into the sky. Thacker lies dead on Wildwood’s threshold. 
Erasmus grips Lester’s hand. Something of a Pyrrhic Victory, I think.

I hope you enjoyed this story. Please feel free to pass it on to others who may be interested. You can read my previous 500 word stories on my website under ‘Writing’.>>>More

© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

Below Stairs

Jed and his wife, Margie, are taking breakfast in the kitchen. There’ll be thunder today, she says, I can always feel it coming.
Just like a dog. Jed is unaware of Margie’s look of contempt as he continues, If this arthritis pain in my fingers gets worse I won’t be able to use my shotgun.
The rabbits will be pleased. 
That’s all you can say? I’m suffering.
Might it all be in your head? Margie suggests.
That’s rich coming from you, hiding in the understairs cupboard afeared of thunder and lightning.
The doctor says it’s an abnormal hysterical reaction.
More like guilt.
The GP says I need therapy. 
Therapy? Bunkum, Jed says. I’m off to the auction at Louth market.
You mean you’re going to the Boar’s Head to get pissed again?
What’s it to you?
Nothing anymore.

Alone, and hearing thunder in the distance, Margie goes to a kitchen cupboard, removes writing paper and a ballpoint pen. She writes.

When we married we were full of hope and excitement. Then we had our son, John, and we were happy. Too soon, it all changed one night with that freak summer storm of thunder, lightning and torrential rain. The noise was terrifying. Our baby, our John, was splashing in the bath. All the windows and the kitchen door were open. Rain was just pouring in on that expensive carpet you’d bought for our bedroom. I should have taken him with me but I thought he’d be ok for just a few minutes. As I ran back to the bathroom, I knew everything was wrong. He’d drowned. I tried to kiss him back to life. The lightning kept flashing like God was pointing at me. You called me a murderer. The verdict was accidental death. You’ve never forgiven me. He was your boy. You’ve forgotten he was my boy too. I agree, I’m guilty.
What’s the point of going on? There isn’t one – not without John and being trapped in your hate as a skivvy. 

As she leaves her letter leaning on the teapot on the kitchen table, the juggernaut of thunder crashes towards Margie; her skin prickles with fear.

Inside the large understairs cupboard she sits on a small wooden chair that Jed made for when his son was older. Jed’s loaded shotgun rests across Margie’s thighs. The thunder is ever nearer. Bright lightning flashes beneath the cupboard door. Her bitten lower lip bleeds. Massive claps of thunder shake the house. She imagines nursing John’s wet body. She picks up the shotgun, puts both barrels in her mouth but as she strains to reach the triggers, the door flies open. Jed leans into the cupboard waving her letter. This a suicide note? He shouts. Maggie swings toward him and fires both barrels at point blank range removing the top of his head. Covered in blood, brain and bone, she thinks, I just need one shell for me. Then I’ll be free.

No one hears the shot.

I hope you enjoyed this story. Please feel free to pass it on to others who may be interested. You can read my previous 500 word stories on my website under ‘Writing’.>>>More

© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

Kith and Kin

In 1968, when David is twenty-two, his mother, Bethany, a single parent, dies. Among her effects he finds a letter, ‘To my dearest David.’ Until then, all David knew was that his father, Richard, died before he was born. He had no idea that Reg, his father’s brother, had murdered him. Shock throws David into a rage of an intensity he never thought possible. He finally understands why he hasn’t an extended family and why he and his mother took on the world alone. David has no one to ask why the murder took place. 

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Sugar Loaf Mountain

Andrew, Fay and their five-year-old daughter, Sylvie, are travelling along the A40, when Sylvie looks out of the window, and asks, What’s that funny pointed hill thing?
That’s Sugar Loaf Mountain, Andrew replies.
Is it sugar? Sylvie asks.
Might be, Andrew laughs. 
Fay smiles as she drives. Are you feeling better? she asks Andrew.
Just indigestion. It’ll be those pasties we had for lunch.
Why’s it called Sugar Loaf Mountain? Sylvie asks.
Maybe Daddy can tell you a story about it at bedtime, Fay says.
Will you, Daddy? Will you?

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School’s out

In 1972, Ahmad was training to be a teacher in London where he was nourished by the many galleries and museums. Today, officially retired, Ahmad is a volunteer teacher in Tiaz, once the cultural capital of the Yemen and now on the front-line in the civil war between Saudi-backed government forces and Huthi rebels. From a distance, he stares at ‘his’ bombed out school. 

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A snicket leads out of the rear of a cul-de-sac of 1930s semi-detached houses. Robert, aged seventy-five, has lived in number 17 for years. Recently an elderly man has been loitering in the snicket and each time Robert has tried to speak to him he’s vanished. Robert’s not alarmed but intrigued.

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Marley Lives

The south-facing elevation of Sonya’s eighteenth century house is festooned with white roses. The garden is the most visible expression of all that she holds dear as custodian of her family’s heritage. Her visiting grandchildren, Nick and Jane, play football on the immaculate lawn, and invariably but accidentally, damage her meticulously ordered herbaceous borders. Bored by Sonya’s endless carping at their lack of respect for her delphiniums, Nick and Jane refuse to visit her. She misses them and has a vivid memory of her daughter, Clair, telling her grandchildren that Granny is mad as a hatter. Sonya’s reached the point where she’s trapped in her own sad history of appearing to love objects more than people. 

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The Escape

This is my 100th 500 word story from the collection 
‘Behind the Plague Door’

It’s early morning. The sky is black. Maritime pine and eucalyptus emerge, ghostlike, from swirling clouds of white smoke which precede the imminent arrival of the fire. A high wind drives the inferno towards a large white walled and red tiled villa. 

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The Jacket

Geoffrey is proud of the home he and his late wife, Isabella, created, for themselves and their daughter, Anita. In the ten months since Isabella’s death he’s kept the three promises he made her: he’s kept a close eye on Anita, eaten three meals a day and kept himself ‘respectable’.

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