Modern Tales of Horror, by Matt McAvoy
Description: A trio of dark and chilling tales by Matt McAvoy, each with a distinctively contemporary undertone; available individually for download.
“THE BLACK LINE”
The author’s first foray into supernatural horror.
Modern day London – a proud day for a very proud man, and why shouldn’t he be? Boris has worked so very hard, and is now launching his new driver-less tube train on the pioneering Tower Line. But while some consider the line a triumph, not all are as pleased; in fact some, the more spiritually-attuned perhaps, are downright terrified.
For the line, along with its creators, hides a secret… a secret darker than the tunnels under the Thames, and darker than the stories around the bodies buried there. As dark as the blackest evil of which man is capable. Bear witness – in the tunnel there is no way out.
WARNING – ADULTS ONLY
Imagine you’re falling; flipping over and over through the sky – not in a dream, but in startling reality. A loud bang then nothing… nothing but the wind rushing past you and the sound of your own terrified screaming.
You pray, desperately pray for salvation – death, madness, or a miracle in that welcoming bed of clouds.
Scream and pray – you have nothing else.
Meet Ollie. Well-educated and spoilt – a rich kid, fun-loving party-goer and brutal sociopath.
Ruthlessly arrogant Ollie takes what he wants, when he wants it. But Ollie’s going to learn, the hard way, that for every action there’s a consequence, and for every bounty a price.
Because living with Granjy isn’t the bed of roses he thought it was going to be; the blind old lady sees everything – sees him – and most of all sees the monster he is becoming, in a way that nobody else can. And that strange and terrible perception that surely only she has frightens Ollie more than he’ll ever admit.
It was she that spoilt him rotten-to-the-core, and now his payment is due. Granjy will teach him new meaning of the word ‘remorse’.
Granjy’s eyes punish.
They threaten, warn, scold and torment me. Blind and blinding, milky-white like acetylene, they cut deep into me; the agony is every bit as excruciating.
I’m the only one that can see them, as clear as day – as clearly as I see that light-switch, or that chair, or those curtains. I see them all the time.
Nobody else even knows they’re there – nobody sees them; but one day, maybe soon, maybe not so, they will. They’ll all see them, and they’ll know, just like Granjy’s eyes know, and always did; they’ll know everything. They’ll know me.
You may think I’m melodramatic, but it isn’t my imagination. They are there, those eyes, and they speak, without words.
Suffer, they tell me, with harsh intent. Suffer.
I always loved the old lady; I was always her favourite. She was an absolute diamond of a woman, and I loved my Granjy to bits.
She’s cared for me my whole life; she always looked out for me and I know she’ll always be watching over me. When nobody else would, she stuck by me through thick and thin, good and bad. And that’s a lot of bad… a lot.
I think perhaps some of my first memories were of Granjy – funny, the first, the last, and everything in between. Profound that as a child I could remember very little except playing with my sister on that shiny plastic slide while Granjy brought out Ribena and home-made cakes made especially for us.
She’s my grandmother – her name is Georgina. I always called her “Granjy” from when I was as young as I can remember. When I had two nans (and may still have – haven’t seen the other one in years and don’t particularly care to) I called them “Granny-G” and “Granny-M” (it doesn’t matter what the M stands for – forget the other one); this became “Granjy”. My grandfather died young, having made a fortune in antiques, and I never really knew him.
Happy days they were, and happy families in that beautiful great garden of hers that I never fell out of love with – with Granjy the happiest of all.
My sister and I adored that big garden, though probably me more; it was a boy’s paradise – twenty acres or so, full of brooks and nooks, trees to climb and archways to run through. When we were children we would spend hours playing in it, splashing around, making things and marvelling at the wildlife. We would fib to each other about the animals we’d seen, and I learnt the names of every species of bird that lived there. Granjy loved gardening, and she was very good at it.
You would never really know if she was in a bad mood – she certainly never let on to us. She just spoilt us, cuddled us, stood up for us if we were being told off and generally made us happy.
Of course you could say she spoilt us too much; with hindsight I would say undoubtedly. Most intelligent parents nowadays (though still, sadly, not enough) will reach consensus that such unconditional love and solidarity does not make for the child’s best development, and I think it’s probably fair to say that I came to take Granjy’s for granted. I didn’t really need it from my parents – didn’t really need it full-stop, in fact – but even at a very young age, I realized that punishment generally usually consists of deprivation of some sort – toys, pocket-money, whatever – so I welcomed Granjy’s adoration. I knew what side my bread was buttered, so to speak, and that she was the primary source of all these little bounties that would be conditionally denied by others; I knew that whatever I did wrong, she would never deprive me of anything. This went for material as well as emotional provision.
Put quite simply, the way Granjy spoilt me, I didn’t really need anybody else, and so I could pretty much get away with being as naughty as I liked.
So, later in life, when my family weren’t there, Granjy always was; when my friends and everybody else turned their backs on me, not her.
I remember one time when I was a kid, about eight or nine, I got caught stealing a Walkman off of the display in Rumbelows (this was before the days everything was electronically tagged in those places, and the Walkman was a tape one, not a CD). Well, I didn’t really get caught as such, at least not at the time anyway.
It’s just that everybody else had one – I think it was the film Back to the Future which really made them popular – all my friends, even my sister (another one who doesn’t keep in touch anymore). Presents bought for them by their parents, so their kids wouldn’t be deprived; keeping up with the neighbours and all that.
But not my parents. No, they would never buy me anything – always said I had to wait for Christmas or my birthday or some other sh**ty excuse, just like Big Sis’ had had to; said that money didn’t grow on trees and I had to learn the value of it. I wouldn’t have minded if we had been poor, but they had more money than all my friends put together – I remember when they bought their house in Surrey they said it cost around a quarter of a million, and this was in the eighties!
Unbelievable; so ironic that the kid the other parents were trying to keep up with was me, and I wasn’t even allowed one!
So anyway, I nicked it. Bold as brass in my school uniform, I saw it on display and just took it. You’ll find that’s always been a problem of mine: I just take what I want – it’s got me into several scrapes over the years, that’s for sure.
The mistake I made was leaving the Walkman lying around in my bedroom, still with the price-sticker on it. I couldn’t actually use it because I hadn’t got around to stealing the earphones yet. Well, when Mum found it she went nuts (she had some temper when she was angry); I lied and lied but I suppose I couldn’t convince her I’d managed to save up thirty-five quid.
So you know what the bitch did? She marched me down to Rumbelows to apologize and give the thing back, and even offered the taff manager her full support if he wanted to press charges. Luckily the guy didn’t want to – he said I’d probably learnt my lesson and “wouldn’t make that mistake again”. Laughing too while he said it, before banning me from the store. Laughing, at me! Well, I was the one laughing a few years later when I nicked a video recorder out of the same shop – not because I wanted to, but just for the hell of it.
Anyway, when Granjy heard what had happened she came down to the house and caused a bit of a scene – not with me, but with my parents. She reminded them how hard her husband had worked to make this money so they didn’t have to, and that his money, not theirs, had made it possible for them to live in this lovely house of theirs. She told them Oliver (that’s me) has as much right to his granddad’s wealth as they do. You know what she did then? She went down to Rumbelows and bought me a Walkman, brand-new and in the box – the forty-five pound model too. Said if Mum and Dad had a problem with this they should take it up with her. And I told them that too, in my manner – cocky little sod I was, always have been.
It wasn’t long after that they moved us deeper into Surrey, outside the M25, away from Granjy. After that they didn’t see as much of her – nowhere near in fact.
I’ve got a hundred stories like the Walkman one, and she always stood up for me; whenever I got into trouble, she helped me, whenever I wanted something, she bought it, if I needed money she handed it over. And always with a smile and a little kiss on the cheek. “Ollie Bear” she called me; I was always her favourite. Over the years she and I would become closer while my parents and I drifted further apart. I started to spend a lot of time with her.
We’ve shared this big old house now for some fifteen years, give or take, and even now she’s dead, she’s here with me. Of course, she knows more about me now; much more.
That crack in the ceiling has been getting worse for a while – I’ve been keeping a close eye on it; now I’ve noticed plaster has started crumbling away. I thought I’d done a good job at the time. Sub-standard materials I guess – never been much of a plasterer; should have used exterior rendering, made things to last, like Granjy always told me Grandad used to. As I look up at the crack, I can almost feel the pieces of it crumbling onto me, but I know that’s just my imagination.
Things that may seem trivial to some bother me a lot more now than they used to – now she’s gone. I find myself agonizing over the little disagreements we had; oh, we never really argued for the most part – she always had a smile for me and a little pinch on the cheek, even when I was totally out of order – but when you live with somebody for that long… well, inevitably the pressure will tell.
I’ve really found myself questioning some of the things I did when I was younger. They say guilt affects people in different ways, and they may not even associate it, but I can’t say it affected my behaviour at all before she died. And since? Well… I suppose “guilt” is as good a word as any.
Out of the corner of my eye I see that cat coming through the open window. That stupid old cat that just won’t die – God, I hate that f***ing thing. A black and white, noisy, smelly, smug, angry-looking pussy; it looks at me, judging. The cat hates me as much as I hate it, and always has.
It sits at my feet often, glaring at me, grinning and daring me to kick it. It knows I won’t, but still tempts me. Sometimes I flinch and it darts away.
Granjy adored the cat, absolutely adored it. It’s lived in this house longer than I have, so comes and goes as it pleases. It used to be on her lap, almost always, all day, purring lovingly as she stroked it. I often thought the cat was the only thing in the world she doted on more than me.
In the end that stupid, ugly cat was the only thing I inherited from Granjy. Well, unless, I suppose, you count this big house, that is.
Who left that window open anyway? I know I didn’t.
This house – people seem to come and go as they please. Not like before; I miss the old days, when it was just Granjy and me.
She used to look up at that big hole in the ceiling, where there used to be a Victorian brass chandelier – a great massive thing – that my granddad had salvaged in the blitz. That’s how he started – salvaging from big town-houses and antique shops destroyed in the war. I once asked Granjy if wasn’t that just in fact “looting” – it was a question I never asked again, because she just smiled at me in that freaky way she used to, and I didn’t like it.
Of course, over the past few years it had to go – the chandelier that is – along with everything else in the house, to pay for her care.
Anyway, she would sit in her worn-down cottage-style armchair and look up at the hole, about the size of a car-tyre, asking me when I was going to get around to filling it. By this stage of her life she was becoming somewhat disagreeable, and not just a little demanding, and the strain of the situation had started to tell on me.
She had lost her eyesight to diabetes long before the chandelier was sold, so obviously couldn’t see the hole when she faced upward to it, with a sombre look on her face. Perhaps it was for the best – she would probably prefer to remember how the brass light looked in its glory and picture it in her mind. I also think she was exaggerating her point when she “looked” up at the hole, shaking her head sadly – the point being: when will I pull my lazy finger out? I asked her once why she cared, considering she couldn’t see it. As always, she just smiled and said sweetly: “Oh, Ollie Bear.” I didn’t bother asking again, because I didn’t really understand this.
I thought about lying to her – telling her I had repaired it one day when she was at the hospital. I decided, however, that there were two problems with that – firstly: I was with her at every one of those f***ing appointments, and secondly: I suspected she could sense a draught. I couldn’t feel anything from it, but then I wasn’t blind; blind people have a heightened perception don’t they? Heightened senses – smell, taste, hearing and even extra-sensory; it’s a well-known fact. That fact was one I could never really get my head around, but more about that later.
There was no reason that she should have felt a draught – this is a solid old house and directly above the living-room is a bathroom with heavy oak parquet, sealed and lacquered with several coats. But Granjy got a chill from the hole, no doubt, or certainly made a show of such, facing up and shivering the way she did. At times it was irritating.
As I got older, and started to become a little more troublesome, my parents grew to despair of me, and then to even dislike me. I really felt that I could have done with their support at times, but all they wanted was for me to learn about life the hard way – as if they had ever had to! I didn’t consider that particularly fair.
It was always inevitable that I would end up living with my unconditionally loving Granjy.
Modern Tales of Horror, by Matt McAvoy