Short post today: When I wrote the first book in the Haunted Minds series, The Ghost of Normandy Road, and indeed, many of my books are enhanced by musical compositions that I reference throughout the stories.
For 'Ghost', the song that stayed in my head was released some twenty years ago. As I write this blog post, I cannot quite believe so much time has passed. But life has a way of doing that. Anyway why not play the music whilst you read short excerpt from the story. Maybe you will want to give the full book a try.
Every time I go to the house on Normandy Road, I think it will be the last. No matter how many times I do this, I find myself shaking uncontrollably. Perhaps it is understandable. I do this to myself, time and again. Because, I want to feel the excitement, the exhilaration, the fear. Okay, I admit it.
I want to see her.
I know she’s there. I’ve been told about her before. Only in ghost stories, they are just stories, they don’t mean anything, nor should they, to you or I. When I am not anywhere near that house on Normandy Road, that’s all it is. A house. Nothing more, nothing less.
I want to believe in her. I want to believe in the existence of ghosts.
Oh, I know you will think I’m being silly. Your questions? I’m sure you have many. I bet you have the answers to them all as well.
Do the floorboards creak? Of course they do. Does the door open slowly, making a sound only those on the other side of the grave could possibly make? You bet.
Do the windows rattle? Yeah, for real.
All houses do this, don’t they?
Yes they do. Pretty much all of them.
Come on. Rationalise this. Everyone knows why I shake uncontrollably when I go there. It’s because she is real. She exists, and she will not rest in her grave. Why? Because she belongs there, belongs in the house on Normandy Road. She’s never going to leave, because she can’t. But I can. I tease her every time I go, daring her to scare the living daylights out of me.
Sometimes, I can swear she responds to my dare. But no-one will believe me. No-one believes in ghosts, where I live.
Perhaps they don’t believe because I have not followed through on the dare, and lived to tell the tale. I hear them say ‘you should spend a night in the house then’, or they put it in the rules of threes, you know, like saying ‘you should go there, three nights in a row. Whatever is in that place, sure won’t like that.’
Of course, it’s my own fault. I say I will go and stay the three nights, but I never do. I can’t, really. I have to be home soon after school, otherwise Mum will be mad.
To understand, you’d really have to see the world through my eyes. That’s the problem with convincing people of the truth. They are only ever willing to accept their version of it.
Everything else, is a lie.
“Came in from a rainy Thursday
On the avenue
Thought I heard you talking softly
I turned on the lights, the TV
And the radio
Still I can't escape the ghost of you.”
Ordinary World – Duran Duran
Act One: The Witch of Hill-Top Green
The route from my school to home takes about fifteen minutes to walk, maybe ten if I run. On the days that I dare to pass the house on Normandy Road that stands so tall, foreboding, and yes, terrifying to me, I go quicker. Much quicker. On those days, I don’t think Jesus himself could catch me.
It’s something my mum would term as ‘he’s got the fear of God put into him.’ That would be a pretty accurate way to describe it. My heart would beat fast as I would approach it, and even faster as I passed it. As to what happened to my heart as I ran alongside it, maybe, just maybe it stopped beating for a few moments.
I know you won’t believe me, and think that it is the overactive imagination of a child. I’m only ten years old, and I will soon be eleven. I think I might just be growing up, but I know for a fact that the adults think differently when they look at me.
They think I am scared of my own shadow, and well – they’re probably right.
I do have a genuine reason for being scared, I really do. I’ve been nervous for as long as I can remember. Maybe it is a case of genetics, and my parents have passed their fears on to me.
Every time I pass that house on Normandy Road, I refuse to believe my fears are anything to do with genetics. The fear – the one psychiatrists would say is not real or rational, nor one that could hurt me, takes on a life and persona all of its own.
I believe an entity that is the embodiment of all I fear resides in that house.
Now I know I’m being irrational.
At school, we are always trying to scare each other. Sometimes, it’s a dare like going into the girls toilets, even though it’s five minutes after hometime and only the teachers remain in the school.
Oh, and the caretaker. He’s always there.
And the ghost.
Well. We don’t know for sure. There’s an old story that the girls failed to confirm or deny, but it is said that a girl died after being locked in the toilets one night.
The official record of her death (say the girls) is that she died from a severe anxiety attack. The news had reported she was found with her eyes sewn up, and her tongue had been ripped out to stop her screaming.
The boys that heard this added something to it.
“She was killed by the Ghost of Normandy Road.”
Prior to them saying anything, I never believed there was a ghost on Normandy Road. Our school was in the next street, called Bayswater Road.
There was a church beyond it, and a football stadium on the other side of the road that stands to this day.
Normandy Road had tall houses back then, and it’s fair to say that adults were sure to be dwarfed by that big old house.
It stood alone, you see. Every other house was semidetached or part of a terraced block – all except that one. Why, I did not know, but I was intrigued to find out.
That’s what we kids do. We like to look around – if there’s a side entry, a dark alleyway, a broken window or an abandoned house, you can bet we want to check it out.
Not for its historical significance, if it had any, and not because we are without any sense of right and wrong. Don’t let anyone just say ‘oh, they’re kids.’
We know what we are doing – we just happen to rely on the foolishness of society to let us off the hook. I know for a fact that there are some children at the school who play the ‘I’m only a child, I didn’t know it was wrong’ card on purpose.
As for me, I probably had one of those faces that looked innocent in one way, only to be ratted out by my guilty as charged expression.
Sometimes, it was innocent enough. I would be unable to wait to open at least one Christmas or birthday present. I would sneak down the stairs, placing one foot, then another on the far side of the stairwell.
Life was very simple back then. We had a bit of blue carpet that covered the stairs, except for the edges where I now depended on keeping my balance, my safety and my secret. In fact, falling down the stairs and breaking my neck would have been preferable to my mum or anyone else in the family catching me.
I wasn’t supposed to be out of bed. Young children were supposed to go to bed early, quietly, and stay there until the right time to get up for school.
School itself was fine. Looking back, it’s hard to know exactly what we learned in class. I think we had fun for the most part. There was Miss McManus, who would teach us almost every lesson.
Maths, English, Music, she’d do it all.
Sometimes, we’d get Miss Oakley, who was a Nazi in a twinset. Okay, I’m being a little unkind. That sort of title was better reserved for Mrs Pearson (or Mizz Pearson, we were never quite sure and she was unlikely to explain her married status, or otherwise, to a class of school children) whose contempt for us was barely concealed.
Mr Flanagan would teach us Maths too, along with Geography.
P.E class would involve having to change with the other schoolchildren, which I disliked intensely. Not for the bizarre communal situation, no, it was just that certain boys would take it upon themselves to talk when they weren’t supposed to, and our class would be harder as a result.
“Today, we’ll be doing cross-country running.”
The teacher was probably going to let us play football, but decided on a change of lesson content just because one boy was sniggering or had been playing another boy up.
Now we would all pay for it.
“Hey,” they’d say to me, as we would go for the hated run in the mud, the rain, and the cold, “you had better keep up with the pack. The Witch of Hill Top Green is just behind one of the trees, waiting for you to pass.”
I’d fight back with words. “Witches wouldn’t hide in trees. They wouldn’t have to. And it’s you who needs to keep up with the pack, not me. You watch out for the bleedin’ witch!”
Ah yes, the Witch of Hill Top Green.
We’d all seen her, though no-one admits to it, at least, not openly.
We would run, and it would be pleasant enough. The September sun grazed our shoulders gently, unlike the harsh glare of early July. Honestly – two weeks before breaking up for the summer holidays, and they are making us run in blistering heat.
In contrast, I almost found myself enjoying the September run. Then, they’d start their annoying tales again.
“Roy’s gone missing,” said one of them. “I’ve lapped you lot twice now, and there’s no sign of Roy. She must have got him, her bony fingers must be gutting him out right about now.”
I would get a poke in the back when I’d attempt to ignore them, and continue on my run.
“Are you listening? She’s out there! Out here.”
No. I am not listening. I’m running, and will keep running until we get back to the school.
Usually, we would see the teacher over the course of the run. Where was he?
The Witch of Hill Top Green has got him, and Roy. Best be happy she hasn’t got you.
END OF EXCERPT
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