Book: Six Scary Tales Vol. 2 - Creepy Horror Stories by Rayne Hall
|4.7 stars based on the 3 most helpful Amazon reviews|
Rayne Hallabout this book: Six creepy, spine-tingling short stories by Rayne Hall. Please note: these stories are also included in the collection THIRTY SCARY TALES.
Here's a sample. Enjoy. :-)
by Rayne Hall
While the stencils dried above the dado rail, Josie squatted on the carpet, eating her first breakfast in the new studio flat.
Three seagulls stood outside the window, white-feathered and silver-winged, their eyes yellow halos around death-dark cores. Every time Josie lifted a spoonful of muesli to her mouth, their greedy stares followed her hand.
According to the Welcome To Sussex pamphlet, European herring gulls were an endangered species, worthy of protection. On the brochure's cover, seagulls looked so pretty: white-feathered, silver-tipped, soaring serenely in an azure sky.
In close-up reality, they were ugly, unromantic beasts, from the wrinkled flat clawed feet and the grey-pink legs to the folded wings ending in feathers like black blades. Each thumb-long beak had a hole in the upper half, some weird kind of nose she supposed, a gap through which she could see the misty sky. Then there was the red, a splash of scarlet on each beak, as if they carried fresh innards from a slaughter feast.
A sudden screech, and they dropped their pretence at peacefulness. Big beaks were pecking at her miniature roses, ripping them out and apart, tossing green fragments.
Josie stormed to the window, waving the tea towel like a weapon. Three pairs of wings unfolded, filled the window, lifted off. Screeches of outrage tailed off into the distance.
Of the pretty pink roses she had planted with so much care yesterday, only stems and shreds remained. With delicate fingers and tender words, she pressed the roots back into the soil and gave them water to settle back in.
She returned to work, sponging the next layer of stencils, delicate blooms in pink which would go well with chiffon curtains.
At noon, she left the stencils to dry and prepared lunch - muesli again, since she had not had time to stock her cupboard.
The gulls were back. Sharp bills pointed at the muesli on her spoon, begrudging her every bite. The one with deep grooves on its chin knocked its beak against the window. Tap-tap, tap-tap. more fiercely: klacketeklacketeckacketeklack.
The oat-flakes stuck dry in Josie's throat.
The tallest of the gulls, with head feathers standing up like a punk's haircut, tilted its head back and trumpeted a shattering scream. Kreeeeee! Kreeeee! The white chest vibrated with screeches which could have brought down the walls of Jericho. Josie wasn't sure if the window glass trembled, but the shudders in her spine were real.
The gull closest to her had obscene red stains on its beak, like a vampire's bloodied lips. Josie tried not to look, but she had to. Their closeness sent chills up her back, even with the transparent safety of double-glazing shielding her from predatory beaks.
If only she had curtains in place, preferably something as thick and solid as the garish seventies drapes she'd left behind in the shared London flat.
The red-billed gull unfolded its wings, increasing its size to fill the large frame, and more. Josie ducked behind two unpacked suitcases, but still their stares followed her. The studio flat, which had appeared so spacious when she had first viewed it, now closed in on her.
Living by the sea had seemed such a good idea, especially in St Leonards, where the streets hummed with history. She had pictured herself in a dress of sprigged muslin, strolling along the promenade on the arm of a Mr Darcy. A grey bombazine gown and a Mr Rochester would be good, too.
The gulls clucked like hens, trumpeted like elephants, screamed like pigs at slaughter, the noise shrilling through the window-glass and echoing in the unfurnished room. Why had they sought her out?
She scanned the houses on the other side of the road, Regency terraces with elegant wrought-iron balconies and bow windows on pale, ornamented façades. No unwanted visitors plagued those windows, although some seagulls socialised on distant roof gables and chimney pots.
Josie thought of squirting them with water from the plant mist spray, but living in cliffs, gulls were used to splashes, and of pelting them with hazelnuts from the muesli box, but they might just let the missiles drop off their feathers and gobble up the food.
Resolutely, she pulled her floaty velvet coat from a suitcase and threw it full force against the window. The big gull stepped back and dropped off the ledge, but within moments it was back.
Josie retreated to the windowless bathroom, where she emptied a jar of perfumed crystals, a farewell gift from her flatmates, into the steaming tub. Like always, the scent of lavender soothed her. During the hot soak, she was able to view the seagulls' behaviour as a mere annoyance, and her own reaction as ridiculous.
How strange that the birds homed in on her, and how strange that she was so frightened of them. After all, they were only birds, kept out by a double panel of solid glass.
But then, she'd always been frightened easily. As a child, she feared the neighbour's dogs, just because they were big and fierce looking, while young children patted them with fond trust. She could not bring herself to go near the farmer's cows, or the ugly looking turkeys in the cage. All harmless animals, of course, and only a stupid child would be afraid of them. The other kids made fun of Josie's fears, teasing her without mercy until she despised herself.
She covered her legs in thick soapy foam and shaved them with deliberate slow strokes, a reassuring routine, and stayed in the bath until she had used up all the boiler's hot water.
By the time she had rubbed her skin dry, the gulls had departed, probably to the beach to snatch snacks from unsuspecting tourists. In the bright sun, the glass showed zigzagging white lines where beaks dribbled, and white faeces gleamed on the windowsill ledge.
With the monsters gone, she browsed the mail order catalogue for curtains and furniture, designing light-filled, romantic space with swathes of chiffon and Regency prints, and pondered what to wear when she started her new job on Monday.
During supper – more muesli - , the same three gulls returned. Klacklack klackeklack. All three, hammering against the glass. Josie recognized the grooved throat, the blood-stained beak, the punk-style feathered head.
They knocked the window by moving their heads forward and back. Even ghastlier, the small one kept the tip of its upper beak glued to the glass, and vibrated the lower one. The whole pane rattled in an angry staccato. Josie had heard that bridges collapsed when a unit of soldiers marched in synchronised steps. Would the window break under the persistent pecking?
For the first time, she wished she was still in London, in the soulless grey tower block with views of other soulless grey tower blocks, in a flat furnished with someone's hideous nineteen-eighties leftovers, with flatmates whose unwashed dishes stank up the kitchen and whose stereos thumped through the night. The flatmates would know what to do, or would at any rate drown out her fears with their loud laughter and roaring rap.
"Oh, go away, go away!" she shouted at the beasts. Without the slightest shift of a leg, blink of an eye, twitch of a wing, they sat and stared.
She grabbed a fistful of muesli. "If I give you this, will you go?"
Kreeee-kreeeeeee. Kreeee. Impatient foot-tapping, as if they knew what was in the box.
She turned the squeaking handle, tilted the window, and dropped the muesli on the sill. They snatched the crumbs as soon as they fell, three scimitar-sharp beaks devouring the raisins and oat-flakes faster than she could dip her hand back into the box. Kreee-kreee.
If she gave them enough to fill their stomach, they would not bother hanging around. She grabbed another fistful and pushed her hand through the gap.
Pain shot like a piercing nail through her flesh.
She pulled her hand back, slammed the window shut and twisted the lock. Dark red blood streamed from the wound, dripping thick blotches on the pristine white windowsill.
The gulls yelled in angry triumph.
Having neither antiseptic nor a first aid kit, Josie rinsed her hand under the tap and wrapped it with an embroidered handkerchief. She needed allies, someone who had experienced this kind of harassment and knew what to do. But she had not yet introduced herself to her neighbours, and the harridan in the flat below had complained about the noise of Josie dragging suitcases up the stairs.
Dusk descended, but the gulls did not retire to roost.
Klackedekackedeklcackedeklack, they hammered at the window. Josie blessed the double glazing. Even if they cracked one pane, the second would resist, wouldn't it?
Josie scanned the other buildings in the evening mist. No seagulls were attacking the mock-Georgian retirement homes, the Victorian gothics, the concrete monstrosities from the seventies. Why had they picked her?
Maybe because she was at home when most residents were out at work. Maybe the absence of net curtains had lured them with a tempting view inside. Maybe they'd tried all the other windows, and learnt that they'd not get fodder there. She cursed her weakness of giving them muesli. Now they would not go away.
A soft, prolonged scratch. And another.
One gull was scratching along the edge of the window; the other two pecked at the putty that held the glass in the wooden frame. Josie had heard that great-tits and other songbirds sometimes nibbled at window-frame putty because they loved the flavour of the linseed oil it contained. Since seagulls didn't eat putty, what was their plan? If they pecked the stuff to loosen the glass from its frame, she would be trapped in a room with three violent seagulls hacking their beaks at her. What then?
With her pulse thumping in her throat and ears, Josie put her door on the latch, and tried the flat next to hers, and the ones above, but nobody replied. The flats on the ground and first floors were still unoccupied after refurbishment. That left the one on the floor below.
Josie knocked and waited. A toilet flushed inside. At last, the door squealed open. "You." The sharp-nosed woman, with grey hair clinging like a steel helmet to her skull, stabbed a finger at Josie. "Do you know what the time is?"
"I, ahem…I know it's late, but..."
"Nine o'clock. Nine o'clock, do you hear?" Her voice whined like a dentist's drill, shrill, painful, persistent. "A time when decent people expect to be left in peace."
"My name is Josie Miller. I've just moved into flat six." Josie held out her hand.
The woman kept one arm locked across her chest, and with the second led a cigarette to her mouth for short angry puffs. "This is a respectable house. Or it used to be, until they refurbished and let the riffraff in."
"I assure you, I'm respectable, Mrs..." When the harridan did not supply a name, Josie said, "I'm a PA secretary at Lloyds TSB Bank, and the letting agent has my references. I'm sorry to bother you, but there are herring gulls by my window."
"In case you haven't noticed, this is the coast. Gulls live here."
"I'm just wondering how to treat them. I know they're a protected species..."
"Pests, that's what they are," the woman snapped. "Vile vermin, so don't feed them. Now excuse me. It's nine o'clock, and decent people have a right to peace."
The door clicked shut.
Josie checked her watch: eight forty-five.
She had to build a barrier. If she had furniture, she would push it in front of the window, and if she had tools, she would nail her blanket across. She managed to stand a suitcase on the inner windowsill, balancing her rucksack on top of it, filling the gaps with her still-wet towel and her winter coat.
Unless she held her hand very still, the pain was burrowing through her flesh. Holding the sponge for stencilling would be difficult tomorrow.
At least she no longer had to see the gulls. She lay on the carpeted floor, wrapped in her blanket, fantasising about a four-poster bed hung with drapes of rose-pink satin.
She turned on her CD player to drown out the seagull sounds. Thada-thada-doum-thad. The steady beat gave an excuse to her racing heart.
From below came outraged banging. The neighbour disapproved of the music. Josie plugged her ears with the ipod, but for once, the audio recording of Pride and Prejudice failed to absorb her. The fear in her stomach kept rising to her chest and throat, and she lay awake for a long, long time.
On waking, Josie's head ached and her throat scratched with thirst. She groped for the familiar lamp switch, and found only rough carpeted floor. Ah, yes, the new flat, and St Leonards, and the new job which had come up so suddenly.
Her brain felt like it had been boil-washed and tumble-dried. She stretched her aching limbs, scrambled up and stumbled to the window to pull the curtains back and let the dawn light in. No curtains, just a suitcase. Now she remembered: Seagulls.
When she undid the knotted hankie, she found the wound already healed over, the only slight discomfort coming from the tightness of the encrusted skin.
She lifted the suitcase away from the window. Sunlight bathed the room. Outside, cool dawn changed into a golden morning, and the distant sea sparkled like diamond-sprinkled satin. Nobody had ever been killed by a wild bird. A breath of the fresh, salt-laden morning air would drive the last of the childish scares from her over-tired head.
On the other side of the road, three white-feathered, silver-winged gulls sat squatting on chimney-pots, haloed by the morning sun, a picture of romantic innocence.
Josie turned the squeaking handle and threw the window wide open.
They rose, fluttered, soared...and then they were upon her.
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what to read next: if you read and liked this book...
Other books by Rayne Hall (more)
• Book Review: Six Scary Tales Vol. 3 - Creepy Horror Stories by Rayne Hall|
• Book Review: Thirty Scary Tales - Creepy Horror Stories by Rayne Hall|
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