Dying Embers by M.R. Cosby

Dying Embers

I have a recommendation for you all.

Dying Embers, the first collection of strange stories by M.R.Cosby, is out now!

Amazon (for Kindle) – http://goo.gl/kv4IwR
Satalyte Publishing (paperback) – http://goo.gl/tKmn1l

These are superbly crafted tales of dark fiction that are guaranteed to keep you on edge; a collection that manages to be at once unsettling, disorientating and bracing in its variety.

“An inspiring, exhilarating collection of haunting tales…”
James Everington, author of Falling Over

“These are powerful, energetically written tales that are some of the finest I’ve read in the genre of dark fiction. The language is wonderfully imaginative and instantly thrusts the reader into the realms of slowly revealed decay. A must-read!”
P.J. Hodge, author of Ghosts and other Supernatural Guests

In that sleep of death—

in that dream of death

To mark Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and St. George’s Day, I have written a little tale of death and dreaming…

23rd April 1924

I had settled down for the night in the porch of a small church near Alveston, on the road from Stratford, with the words of the great bard heavy on my mind: but, alas! they were far more As You Like It‘travellers must be content’— than Henry V and St. George— when I was awoken suddenly by a sensation that I shall never forget.

A wave of sheer physical horror seemed to engulf my body. I sat up and looked around. Only the brook and the stars were there. I lay down again and once more that wave of horror swept over my consciousness. It was when fear began to obtrude that I got off the bench and went outside. The Pole Star had nearly completed its great sweep across the north, and I judged the time to be about four in the morning. Once outside in the porch in the keen air the fear and the horror departed, but I knew another feeling, this time one of expectation.

Something impelled me to go along the side of the little lane on the hill towards the rear, where earlier I had seen half a dozen headstones.

I must have stood there for quite a while, when I heard voices. They seemed low, and I could scarcely separate them from the voice of the brook. But they were voices. Then I saw a little group of people standing in the darkness less than fifty yards away. They appeared to be talking amongst themselves.

The strangeness, much less the weirdness, of the scene held me to the spot. Then, as I peered at them, I saw a figure coming towards me. Ten feet from me the figure was plain and I saw it was a girl, possibly 20 years old, who wore a long white garment and whose feet, to my utter astonishment, were bare.

I find it very hard to describe my sensation at that moment. But the predominant one was that I was not afraid. Instead of clearing out, I stood there waiting— for what?

She was the first to speak.

“Won’t you stay with us?” she asked, and her voice was the softest voice I’d ever heard.

“Me?” I stammered, completely amazed. And again: “Me?”

“You see,” she said, “you have nowhere to go and we like company. Stay with us

My balance was returning and I took a long look at her. She didn’t seem real somehow. I couldn’t make out any part of her clearly. And those others—

“But where do you live?” I asked. “Who are they?”

She laughed and I jumped. For her laugh was the babble of the brook. Then she pointed to her companions. And now it seemed as though a light came from somewhere, for I could see them plainly. They were men and women, all young, all dressed in white, and all looking at us.

“You are tired,” said the girl. “You have nowhere to go. Stay here and you will never be cold or hungry or tired again.”

Then I got her meaning. She— and those others— the headstones— the lonely hillside— the light. Why, she was dead— they were dead— I was dying— “Never to be cold or hungry again.” Was I mad? There she stood, smiling at me.

I know I must have cried out, and the next thing I knew I was running down that hillside as fast as I could, with my things held anyhow in my arms. With each breath I sensed something black and formless closing in on me, and, arriving at the foot of the hill, icy hands writhing against the back of my head and neck, trying to gain hold.

I continued to run. Only once did I stop to catch my breath; and, in that moment, I chose to look back— for I wished to see it— whether it proved my undoing or not, I wished to know the form of my pursuer.

It was still moving down the hill. The face was featureless— apart from a mouth, identifiable more from position than shape— existing only as a patch of shadow.

As the luminous figure, drew silently, nearer, it was apparent that it carried something in its arms. On came the ghost— 40 yards, and every luminous detail was clear. It was a baby, wrapped in soft white flannel.

With my scalp twitching, I ran across the neighbouring field and out through a gate. I was a long way from that church when I lit a great fire of logs and sat down to collect myself.

To this day I do not know whether I dreamt that scene, whether I went through delirium, or — or — but the alternative surely could not be. But as I sat at the fire I remembered the words of the hospital sister when she urged me to stay there, and told me I had nowhere to go. And the smile— a thing of radiant beauty from the young mother sat beside the bed alongside me.

Sleep was far from me that morning as I sat and waited impatiently for the dawn.

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.

ghost stories

P.J. Hodge is the author of GHOSTS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL GUESTS, 12 tales of supernatural terror available from Amazon as ebook and Kindle:

http://mybook.to/ghosts

Winner of Gothic Reader Book of the Year

UNDER THE IVY, a haunting tale of a love lost

graveyard ghost

A ghost story inspired by the lyrics of Under The Ivy by Kate Bush

I contend that enjoyment of churchyards in no way indicates morbidity of mind. Indeed I find pleasantly absorbing these testimonies to the qualities of the unknown dead — generations of beloved husbands and devoted wives, of men who were people’s sons, of names that were mothers to men.

Which all goes to explain how I came to be wandering round the churchyard of a hamlet named — I think — White Rose Hill one spring evening. And there I found the perfect tomb, a monument so unusual that it took away my breath.

There in a quiet corner was the headstone whose story I shall never forget. It was unusual because it bore lettering not only upon its face, but also upon its back. And the words were oddly contradictory. Let me quote them straight away. “Here Lies,” read the inscription upon the stone’s face, “all that is mortal of Mary Gray, who passed away on May 3rd, 1890. In gentleness and virtue, in kindliness and calm, there breathed none like her. Pious, charitable and meek, she moved among those who loved her with tolerance and mercy. She never spoke an unkind word or did an unjust act. In lowliness and humility she passed her days, beloved by all, an example to everyone who crossed her path.” There followed the Initials, “G.T.”

* * * * *

On passing behind the stone I saw the other inscription, which ran as follows: “To the memory of Mary Gray from. A.T. She was free as a linnet, happy as a lark. Her world was laughter, and laughter was Mary. May these qualities never lie forgotten, the virtue of gay carelessness, the delight of her changing day.”

“You’ll be wondering about Mary Gray, I daresay,” said a voice, and there he stood, a greybeard with a scythe, the very spirit of all graveyard tidiers. Continue reading

The Woman Who Floated, a ghostly tale for Mothering Sunday

mothering sunday story

Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday, time for a little Simnel cake, perhaps?…

I had overheard conversation on the topic but felt unable to examine the rumours from any rational point of view. Ultimately, the villain would be unmasked; more so, all my instincts pointed to the revelation of a scoundrel no more than a child or simple-minded adult (perhaps more than one) intent on concocting mischief!

But no matter my opinion; for it is the past. Instead, I will keep to the facts, simply told, and begin with the events of the afternoon of Mothering Sunday, two years before.

We had returned from church, the sky a bitter shade of grey; and at the margins of the unploughed fields surrounding us, dark clouds threatened with torpid heaviness. I passed my hand behind her back to support her frame and she, in turn, shrank further into my side, taking pitiful shelter from the bracing winds. It was the first time in many months I had seen her looking this frail.

Beside us, and looking nearly to be doubled-over by the strength of the gales, were Mrs Bentley and her son. He too was doing his utmost to support his mother and make some headway upon the path.

Finally, having negotiated such inclemency, we arrived at the front porch of our cottage, the middle of a nestled set of three.

I bid good afternoon to the Bentleys and stepped through the iron gate, at the same time removing a few veins of ivy that had made their way through from the adjacent hedgerow. Here, I made a commitment to spend time remedying matters at the front of the house having just spent a season behind it.

A few hours passed in drinking tea and conversation, when at half past three we were alarmed to hear an awful banging at the front door.

My mother indicated that she would rise to answer it, but I insisted that she should remain at rest and I should attend to the caller; though I was at a complete loss as to whom would be visiting at such an inconvenient time.

When I opened the door, I was surprised to see Mrs Bentley’s son and immediately I took note of his rather confused and distressed state. Holding his chest, he managed to find his voice and told me that I should come quickly to the house. I seized my coat and we rushed there immediately. Inside, upon the kitchen floor, I found Mrs Bentley, lying in a most unusual position, as if she had fallen backwards although, somehow, her arms had remained directly by her sides. With all the finesse of a well-read scholar I set about searching for signs of life upon the unfortunate woman’s body. But there was little I could do, as I soon became aware of a great coldness that had set into her. I recall having seen only one deceased person in my life, and I can assure you that I felt decidedly queasy despite deference in the duties I had in assisting her poor son.

A doctor was duly dispatched to the house and thereupon confirmation came that Mrs Bentley had suffered heart failure. It was a shocking circumstance despite Mrs Bentley’s advancing years; and on such a day, too!

That evening we invited Thomas, Mrs Bentley’s son, to stay with us. The situation was made all the more heartfelt by his insistence on persistently thanking us for our help in dealing with the day’s unfortunate events. Each time, I reminded him that it was the very least we could do considering the circumstances.

It was only through this close-hand hospitality did Thomas reveal a curious happening but an hour or so before his mother’s death. Continue reading

INNOCENT’S SONG, a ghost story

innocent's song

It led her to the bushes, and deep into its centre — such was its enchantment —whereupon she came across a little grave, nothing more than a headstone, but one that had been entirely hidden from view, consumed by the thick growth of gorse several feet in height. In all her years of living in the house she had never before stumbled across it. Stranger still was the inscription upon the headstone:—

‘Twas sweetness that cut you down,
As mild a song as Heaven found;
And turning from the face of day,
You softly sigh’d your soul away.
So happy infant, early blest,
In peaceful slumbers now you rest.

When she reached the house, and had related her tale, her aunt told her another story, one of a little girl who had been buried and forgotten:

Read the entire story here: Innocent’s Song

A Darker Shade of Spring

ghosts of spring

“Not half a bad yarn,” remarked Reynolds, as Lewis finished the thrilling ghost story he had been narrating. “Only the worst of all these sort of lies, to my mind, is the finale. You get something beautifully weird and thrilling, then comes the explanation — tame and unconvincing — and spoils the lot. “What’s your opinion, John?”

Thatcher, who had been gazing dreamily into the fire, stretched himself out full length in his chair and blew a big cloud of smoke ceilingwards.

“My opinion,” said he, brusquely, “is that it’s easy to sit and scoff surrounded by lights and friends. But I fancy that a night passed in a certain room I know of would be likely to make you modify your views on these things.”

“Where is this room?”

“In the suburbs. I lodged there in my younger days— for one night only.”

“Did you see anything?” asked Reynolds.

“No,” replied Thatcher, slowly.

“But there was something in that room— ”

“Well,” put in Reynolds, “show me this room, and I’m game to spend a night alone in it.”

Thatcher merely glanced at his watch, and said:

“Very good. We’ll start at once then.”

“All right,” replied Reynolds, coolly, although he was somewhat taken aback at this sudden acceptance of his offer.

“I’m ready.” Continue reading