I’m pleased to host a chilling Halloween tale today by fellow Holmfirth Writer Vincent Johnson.


Banging shutters wake me, just as the hall clock is striking midnight, and the unresponsive light-switch tells me the electricity is off. Between fizzing strobe lightening, thunderclaps growl like gods tumbling down their stairs. I sense an intruder in the house. A violent gust bursts the lounge windows asunder, clattering shutters and snuffing both my candle and the memorial candle lit to remember my grandmother’s death, which normally burns on the mantelpiece throughout Halloween.

‘Always remember your dead kin and friends’ she had said to us all, a few days before she had died. ‘Forget us at your peril’….

Most of the older family have since passed on, and the younger ones moved away.  Now there’s just me, elderly and alone, shuffling around this old family home. Howling down the chimney, the brutal wind bellows the fire’s dying fumes and ash into the lounge. Then, another lightening flash ignites the billowing smoke, and for an instant,  I see an infernal hologram of Grandma’s stricken face caught in the flickering cloud, like some silent horror movie, her eyes brimming with knowing sorrow.

The house yaws like some great ship, its ivied walls, creaking floorboards and rafters, and rattling eaves and casements buffeted by the wailing sea wind that roars in the trees. Rats gnaw and scratch in the attic, Ash twigs claw the rooftiles, and I can hear slippered footsteps dragging across the upper floor….

Grandma’s very last words had been directed at me,  ‘I will come back for you my dear, I will come back when it’s time.’

Silvered in the next flash I see her, sitting in her rocking chair by the hearth, looking directly at me with that vacant and slightly menacing smile, her knobbled hands clasped on her lap. The smoky air is ice-cold, and the grandfather clock’s ponderous tock is getting louder and louder, along with the banging on the upstairs shutters.… and then, drenched in sweat I wake up in my bed to the sound of banging shutters. Midnight is chiming, and the electricity is off.

Come Back

Today I’m delighted to host a poem by fellow Holmfirth Writer Sally Brown, inspired by the landscape of Saddleworth Moor and the child victims buried there by the Moors Murderers. One of them, Keith Bennett, was the subject of a recent, sadly unsuccessful search. His family still leave flowers by the roadside even today.

Come Back
We meet for breakfast
cramped in the confines of the car.
Fried egg butty
and a flask of tea,
shared over a view of Wessenden
and the shrine to lost children
who lie deep in the peat
The wind flaps at withered flowers
as we gaze out over the moor.
How easily this landscape
absorbs the years of tears and searching,
moulding itself to the bodies,
covering the tracks of those
who know its secret places,
revealing nothing.
Heading north along the Pennine Way,
the path, well-worn and lonely,
leads us down
past reservoir and clough,
followed only by the grouse’s harsh ‘go back’.
Or is it a child’s cry
that catches in the breeze?
“I am here
beneath your feet.
Don’t leave me,
come back, come back.”


I’m excited to announce that I have a story in a forthcoming speculative fiction anthology, Light, to be published on Monday 10 October by Twisted Fate Publishing. A successor to Darkness (see this post), the anthology features, as well as several fine local writers, stories by Adrian Tchaikovsky (one of my favourite sci-fi writers) and fantasy crime writer Peter McLean.

The anthology is available to pre-order now via this link:

All profits from the sale of the book will go to the mental health charity, Mind.

My story in the anthology, The Choosing, is the second to be published from my slow-burning sci-fi project. This will get a significant boost now I have begun an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, which will be very much focused on the project.

Here’s a short extract from the story. Falathe has always aspired to become a priest. Now, she is on the point of achieving her dream …


The tunnel wound this way and that, sloping steadily downwards all the time, and Falathe began to notice a strange aroma that grew stronger and stronger as they descended.

                The passage finally opened into a larger chamber lit by several lamps. The priest motioned for Falathe to stand still, then joined two other robed figures who stood in the centre of the room. One of these took a step forward.

                “Falathe, daughter of Aravinte. Are you ready to join with the God?”

                “I am ready. My whole life has been no more than preparation for this moment.” The words came easily, without the need to think of them.

                “Will you serve the God, without question?”

                “I give myself to the God entirely. I offer my body and mind to it. They are no longer my own.”

                “Then drink this, and the God will accept your service.”

                The third priest handed her a bowl containing a thick blue liquid.

                “Swallow the liquid quickly: do not hesitate.”

                She did as she was ordered, fighting down the urge to gag as the bitter drink flowed through her mouth. Then she began to feel faint. Her legs gave way and she had a vague sense of the arms of the priests arresting her fall just before she lost consciousness.

                 Falathe’s dreams were visions of hell. She was roasting on a spit, then naked on a mountain of ice, then plunged into a lake of liquid metal. Monsters assailed her; priests wearing cowls that hid their faces solemnly urged her to remain strong.

                As a bizarre winged creature hurtled towards her, she lurched violently to one side to avoid it, and the sudden movement jerked her awake. Falathe looked around. She was in the same room, in a small bed against one of the walls. It was impossible to know how long she had been unconscious.

                A small window in the door rapped shut. The three priests she had met before entered the room. She arose and greeted them, feeling stronger than before but still faint and nauseous. One of the priests now opened a second door in the far side of the chamber and the others shepherded her towards it.

                “It is time for you to be taken into the presence of the God; time for you to see the Light.”

                The door led into a tunnel, which twisted downwards into a large, deep cavern. At the centre of the cavern was a great circular pit, in which lay a mass of some indescribable substance, bubbling and pulsating and overflowing the pit to form puddles and rivulets on the floor of the cave. It had a blue luminescence, filling the entire space with a pale, eerie light. This is the Light that we sing about in our hymns, Falathe realised. From the cavern roof above the pit, a dense mat of thin tendrils stretched down into the liquid. And the air was suffused with that astonishing, overpowering smell! Repellent, yet at the same time utterly intoxicating.

                This place must surely be the home of the God itself! Falathe felt an overwhelming, all-consuming love. “There is no love like love of the God,” she said, unprompted. The priests echoed her words. She felt euphoria, and a sense that everything was about to become clear to her.

                But there was something else. The feeling of nausea in her belly that had never quite gone away was bubbling up like the blue liquid in the pit and could no longer be denied. Falathe struggled against it for a few moments, then sank to her knees and emptied her stomach onto the floor. She knelt there, retching, for two or three minutes before she was finally able to get up. As she did so, the three priests confronted her. One of them spoke, in a voice that was calm but hard as stone.

                “We cannot continue with the ceremony. You must return to the antechamber.”

Cover pic: Richard Rowan.

Cave pic: Tycho ( Licensed under

The Earth Waits

I’m delighted to host a poem today from fellow Holmfirth Writer Liz Heywood.

The Earth Waits

Rivers run, clouds drift, rain falls
The mountains stand unmoving
Bedded in their rock
Looking up at the sky
Snow settles, icefields cold hard 
Horizon and sky melded in white
An icecap tumbles

Otherwhere sand is blown into rising folded hills
Wide emptiness under the sun
Shapes quivering in the heat

The sea moves, restless, enquiring
White capped impatience rolling to land
High above, wings catch the air, hold it, swoop
And turn, riding the waves above the waves
Spying down into the deep
Catching the flash of scaled movement
Far below

In forests leaves rustle 
Sunlight splinters the green
Roots reach, murmuring, 
The silent whispering of ancient knowledge
Ancient truth, messages, 

And we – puny noisy self-important scuttling things
Busy at our tiny preoccupations
We do not listen.

And the earth waits.