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

The Cult of the Banshee, a supernatural tale for St Patrick’s Day

cult_of_the_banshee2

Do you believe in the supernatural? Do you accept that there is something unseen in ourselves, in our thoughts, in our inner consciousness, which Nature will not allow us to entirely ignore?

With some the supernatural takes the form of luck, of a blind belief in Fate, while the particular brand of others is ghosts pure and simple. Between those two, luck and ghosts, there is a wide range of speculation and assertion.

Without doubt, the supernatural exists to a large extent in the imagination. I do not say that it exists only or entirely in the imagination, but I do consider that the imagination has a great influence upon the existence of the supernatural. A highly strung, nervous, imaginative temperament is more susceptible to, and receptive of the supernatural; it is what I may term a good medium; it catches and retains a sensation without attempting or wishing to analyse the wherefore or the wherefrom. In the Irish this temperament is more fully developed than in any other people. Their fancy has led their belief, or rather their power of reception, to concentrate in one particular form, namely, the Banshee.

There was a time I should have laughed to scorn anyone who dared predict that I should ever make such a statement, but now it is my firm and unalterable belief that the Banshee is a reality. There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind as to its actual existence. I am an Englishman not an Irishman; I am not superstitious, and I certainly do not believe in ghosts, for I have never seen or in any way come in contact with one. Why this impression should have gained such a hold upon me I am entirely without explanation!

But now, the story of my conversion to the cult of the Banshee. Continue reading

The Ghost of Alan Mophant

Victorian ghost

I am dying; the solid world, that once was so much to me and in which I held a great place, is slipping fast away like the ending of a dream. I have faith that I may wake in a brighter one. I look about me at the whitewashed walls of the prison infirmary, and am glad that this is at an end; I tell this story to one who has been a good friend to me and who will write it down, so that all men may know what my life has been, and may understand the ruin that fell upon me.

So many tales have got about, as to the crime I committed, that it is just and right that the truth should be told; as I hope for mercy I lay my hand upon my heart and look at the white ceiling above me and swear this is the truth.

I was said to be wild as a young man; I do not think it can ever be claimed I was vicious. The world seemed very full of wonderful things and I longed to see them; life stretched out before me like a great panorama, and I wanted to examine every corner of the picture. So, at an age when most boys are still in the home-nest, I had started out to make my fortune in what fashion I could.

I made that fortune somewhat more rapidly than most men have done. That was a day of new countries, when fortunes were to be picked out of the solid earth; when cities rose in a night, as it were; and when a man who rose a beggar in the morning might lie down at night a millionaire —or something very near it, at all events. I was one of the lucky ones; everything seemed to prosper with me; and I looked forward to returning, within a very short time, back to the old country a rich man. Then, in an evil hour, I thought I saw a chance to take a bigger stride even than before; and I arranged a partnership with Alan Mophant. Mophant was one of those bright, bold, dashing sort of creatures, who seem to twine their way into the hearts of their fellows, and who are always ready with a smile and a jest for good or ill fortune. I liked him; trusted him utterly. He repaid my trust by robbing me of all I had in a desolate part of Mexico, and leaving me penniless and almost starving. The crime was blacker when I remember that I was lying ill of a fever and could not help myself.

My fortune was gone; I had to begin all over again. A kindly woman nursed me back to life and health; and I set out with one bitter hope in my mind: to find Alan Mophant and take my revenge for the wrong he had done me. I couldn’t begin to make another fortune until I had found him —until I had met him face to face.

I was prospecting a little later in a place hundreds of miles from where he had deserted me and had practically given up all hope of finding him, when I suddenly came upon him — almost walked into his arms, as it were. We were all alone, as it happened; and, almost before he knew what had occurred, I was upon him, and we were grappling together like tigers.

I swear I did not mean to kill him; I don’t think I knew what my real intention was at that moment. All I thought of was the fact that the man who had robbed me of all I had toiled so hard to get, and who had deserted me when I was almost dying, was in my clutches. So we gripped each other and swayed about, breathing hard and not speaking a word. Continue reading

THE HOUSE WITH BLACK SHUTTERS, a Gothic tale

gothic tales

“When I was a boy almost all the folk, especially in Romsey, where I was brought up, believed in ghosts. Those that worked the breweries, the corn mills, the iron and jam makers’ works, the leather board and paper mills all had stories to tell. My mother believed in them; I believed in them; everybody believed in them. I have run many a mile from my own shadow and returned home with a certainty that I was followed the entire way.”

Read the whole story here: THE HOUSE WITH BLACK SHUTTERS

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.