Strange Tales at Christmas – An extract from the new book
Alan Peters’ new collection of four strange and disturbing stories each containing a hint, or more, of truth.
From ‘On Liscombe Ground’, featured in Strange Tales at Christmas
A story based on a true village haunting
Mr Mulligan drops his arms, brings his hands in like an elderly Tyrannosaurus, leans forward, head extended on his chubby neck. The twenty strong choir lean forward too, responding to his gesture, hunching over their black covered carol folders. Barely a whisper:
‘Oh come let us adore Him,’
‘Oh Come Let Us Adore Him’
Then, as the teacher waves his arms upwards, leaning back, stealing the show, they throw their heads up, blast out:
‘OH COME LET US ADO-OO-ORE HIM
CHRI-I-IST THE LORD!’
‘Magnificent, what a way to send people off to Christmas. We finish. Now. Go home. See you Sunday, sharply at 4.30. Best Uniform. Enjoy.’
The burble of noise races ahead of Ally. What to do? She has no phone to call her mum. They are not permitted. Does she stand here for twenty, thirty minutes, outside in the cold? What if mum is late? Who knows how cooperative John will be about coming out into the cold, the dark, the foggy late afternoon? She knows that what he promises one moment may not materialise the next. Even, sometimes, for her.
‘You hanging on for more practice, Alice?’ Mr Mulligan likes a joke.
‘No sir, I’m waiting for my mum.’
‘Then you have to go to the library. I’m locking the chapel. Now. Off you go. Early night. Not too much exertion tomorrow. Not that Saturday School gets any of us too excited.’
‘Then all ready for Sunday. The best one of the year.’
‘I’ll walk home, sir.’
‘That sounds sensible. It’s not like you’ve got far to go, now is it?’
Her words surprise even Ally. ‘I’ll be fine,’ she smiles. But for goodness sake. The drive will be lively with cars. The main road, at this time of night, full of drivers taking the short cut through the village. And it is five minutes’ walk at the most.
She collects her bag, wraps her coat around her shoulders and heads off, the long path lit with orange lights. Each a small balloon barely visible in the gloom. She is passed by several cars, most carrying a choir member or two. But by half way along the drive, with the school lit like a nightmare behind her, and darkness in front, she is alone. She remembers. Last day of term, bar tomorrow’s half-day tedium and Sunday’s concert. No clubs. Everybody has gone home early, the boarders are out on their end of term trip, the teachers have left an hour back. Only Mr Mulligan and the choir had stayed behind this end of term night. She shivers.
Light flashes in front of her, above the low cloud, a lighter grey. Short, sharp, but lingering in the mist. Then again. She stops, looks back at the school building still with some lights showing. A flash again, like a storm high in the sky. Too distant for the rumble of thunder to follow. A silent storm.
Flash again. Should she head back to the school, wait for mum and John? Or hurry home. The flashes return, increasing their frequency. Ally listens for the thunder which will put her mind at rest.
It does not come.
There are cars on the main road, but they seem such a long way off.
She huddles deeper inside her coat, speeds up her footsteps. Heads for the end of the drive. Looks down at the gravel. Another flash lights the sky, hangs on the mist. Ally whimpers. So far to go.
Ally looks up, to see how far before she reaches the end of the drive. She has no intention to pass through the dark entrance which leads to the Manor House. That will be pitch black by now, the darkness made deeper by the grey fog. Not a chance. Not after the stories she has heard and the lights haunting her now. There it is again. She stops, looks up, and speeds up again.
The junction ahead is invisible. No cars using the cut through. It makes her shiver. Even when another flash lights the mist, the junction remains unseen. She tightens even more as a new light approaches from the left this time. Different. Weirder still. Green, almost.
Ally stops. Stares. The green light sharpens, and there is the figure. White face, green dress, red eyes. Crying. It sees Ally and pauses. Then white teeth show, and a smile draws across its feature. A hand, pale and drawn, stretches out. The figure is distant and close all in one. Ally feels rather than hears or sees the other one approach. Flash above, once more, and the green figure momentarily disappears in the change of light. Then, as the flash’s residue fades, the green returns with greater clarity than before. A woman. Youngish. Blanched face above the green. A deeper coldness fights away the welcoming chill of the evening, and Ally hears the clip, clip on the path beside her. Flash above again. What is happening in the heavens? What is happening in the hell she is enduring on her own school drive?
The new figure draws level, almost running. Black cloak waves in the wind, black hat square on its head. But the face. The face. White, screaming, and blood crimson scabbed on its torso. Ally puts her hand to her face, but no sound comes out. The black figure does not pause, but the Green figure comes closer, closer.
The two meet, turn back towards the manor house. A pair of bright, white circles, smudged in their clarity, brighter and burning into Ally’s eyes. They will have to pass her to reach there. Pass right by her on the path.
The light turns left, the car accelerates down the hill and all that remains for Ally is the last twenty yards of the school drive, and the church, grey beneath the fog, and orange beneath the street light. Another flash in the sky, the brightest yet, but still shadowy grey and lingering on the moist air. The figures are gone. Rain pitter patters on her upturned face, and a rumble of thunder sounds, long and almost pained, as though the heavens are distraut.
Strange Tales at Christmas by Alan Peters
Published beginning of November 2022
Available direct from Amazon £6.00 (paperback) £4.00 eBook
Or for signed copies of Strange Tales at Christmas, including handwritten message of your choice, contact Alan on firstname.lastname@example.org
£10.00 including packaging and posting to the UK.
In Strange Tales at Christmas
A Scilly Christmas: A novella collecting together some of the maritime disasters which have occurred off the coast of these incredible islands, a touch of life in Bronze age Britain, and a young lad who has been brushed by death. All comes together as Christmas approaches and a special holiday is planned.
Neptune Arising: A short story based on a true event. A stranger is discovered hanging in a barn. But the question arises – is he really dead? As Christmas dawns, the villagers must reach a decision.
Jeremiah’s Stone: The Old House is a magnificent edifice, worthy to be named after the village it graces. The new builds a blight on the beautiful hamlet. Strange happenings are about to bring the two together, with terrible consequences. A short story – Jeremiah’s gravestone is pictured at the beginning of this blog.
In Liscombe Ground: A short story. The small Buckinghamshire village is haunted. There have been too many accounts of sightings for any other conclusion to be reached.