A Song for Autumn.
By Andrew Cull
The day Autumn Solomon’s husband was lost at sea was the day she stopped making memories. There was nothing in her life that she wished to remember after that.
For fifty years she stood, night after night, on the cliff edge behind her solitary house, looking out at the sea that stole her love. Her heart was as good as a stone, a cold, heavy rock that hung useless in her chest. For fifty years Autumn thought about throwing herself from the cliff. But, in truth, she was too scared to jump.
She owned the large, empty house. Her father had left it to her. She owned that cliff, and the cove, along with the strip of beach below it. A mile of shingle beach, only accessible by boat or down the winding path that curled from a gate at the back of her house. She’d first kissed her husband on that beach. She remembered how his beard tickled, but the fifty years he’d been gone had stolen his face from her mind.
Some nights Autumn thought she heard him calling to her from the sea. She wished that the rock in her chest would stop beating so that she might see him again.
Thomas Solomon had been a fisherman. It’d been his calling, and he’d loved it. Almost as much as he loved Autumn. He was an experienced sailor with an experienced crew. But one calm day, they’d sailed out to sea and never returned. A week later, their boat had been spotted, driven on to the rocks, dashed to driftwood. None of their bodies were ever found.
It made no sense. Superstitious voices in the village blamed dark forces. They whispered of curses, of mermaids calling the men to their deaths.
Although she’d wished for her own death for many years, Autumn remained strong and healthy. She had to acknowledge the irony that it might be the power of her grief that was keeping her alive.
As Autumn grew older, her house seemed to grow larger. She moved into a room downstairs. She seldom had cause to climb to the upper levels of the house. As long as she could walk along the cliff edge at night and listen for her beloved Thomas, she had little use of a mansion. She cared none for her considerable wealth. What good was antique jewellery without someone to wear it for? What good was a huge house, if you were all alone?
It had been on one of her nightly walks, as she listened to the sea singing on the wind, that the idea came to her. For the first time in many years Autumn felt hope.
She rode the five miles to the village and posted a sign. Housekeeper and companion required.
Autumn knew how the villagers spoke of her. She might have been old, but her faculties were intact. She knew that some pitied her, others considered her the crazy old woman from the haunted mansion. She also knew that some might try to take advantage of a rich, old widow. She knew she could easily become the victim of thieves.
Despite the villagers’ opinions of her, the list of young ladies who applied to be Autumn’s housekeeper was long. She spent a full day interviewing potential employees. Most of the girls were unsuitable. Some couldn’t hide their contempt for the rich witch. One lovely girl tried to warn Autumn about leaving so many clearly valuable objects lying around. She would not do at all. In the end, Autumn settled on Maude Eustace.
Maude didn’t smile very much. She wasn’t much of one for conversation either. But while she’d been waiting for her interview, Autumn had overheard Maude quietly singing. She had a wonderful voice. Yes! Yes! She was perfect!
Maude couldn’t believe her luck. Within a few days of arriving at Autumn’s mansion she’d taken a rough inventory of the old witch’s wealth. Autumn was surely a millionaire. In time, all of it could be Maude’s.
Maybe one night, when the old bird was out on the cliff edge, she’d push her off. Maybe one night she’d hold a pillow over the old dear’s face. How much fight could she have in her? It’d be years, if ever, that anyone would venture up to the house and find the old woman gone. By then she’d have sold off anything of value from the place.
Maude was right, no one ever came to the Solomon mansion. No one ever walked the shingle beach below the cliff. Autumn was counting on that.
It took all of Autumn’s strength not to lose control as she rolled the wheelbarrow down the narrow path to the beach.
Maude snored. She snored every night, but she snored more than ever after Autumn had crept up behind her and held the chloroform soaked rag over her face.
Once they were far enough down the beach Autumn upended the barrow, spilling the large rock, and Maude, out onto the shingle. Even then, Maude snored on.
When Maude did finally wake, it took her a moment to realise what was happening. To take in the chain wrapped tightly around her ankles. To follow the chain to the rock Autumn had anchored it to. Maude screamed and wrestled to get free. Only Autumn could hear her, and only Autumn watched her vain attempts.
“You’ll sing. Do you understand?” Autumn instructed her. “When the tide rises, it’ll raise you up. You’ll become my mermaid. You’ll call my Thomas back to me. Those sea witches lured him away. You’ll bring him home.”
As the tide rose high Autumn walked the cliff behind her house. If it didn’t work this time, she had a long list of greedy girls from the village to choose from next. She listened to Maude screaming below, and then singing, singing in the desperate hope Autumn might free her. That’s it. That’s it, my girl! Lure him back to me.
Andrew Cull is an award-winning horror writer and director. He’s the author of the acclaimed story collection Bones. His debut novel Remains is due out later this year.
Please visit Andrew’s Official website at: http://www.andrewcull.com/
Andrew’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialAndrewCull/
Andrew’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/andrewcull
Andrew’s Amazon Author page can be found here
‘Bones’ brings together four chilling ghost stories by award winning writer-director Andrew Cull. Four monsters collected in paperback for the first time.
‘Did You Forget About Me?’
“He had written to me a month or so before he died. I’d ignored the letter the same way I’d ignored all the others.”
When Cam Miller returns to the town he grew up in he’s heading to clear his estranged father’s farmhouse. He’s also returning to the house he fled 23 years before. There, among the nicotine stained keepsakes and remnants of a broken life, he’ll come face to face with a horror that has waited all those years for his return.
“It’s you he wants.”
‘Hope and Walker’
“We were both 10. But he was dead. And I sat drawing him.”
Em Walker is just like any other 10-year-old girl growing up in the small, outback town of Hope. That is, except for the fact that her Dad runs one of the town’s two funeral parlours, and the dead have just started speaking to her…
When Hope is rocked by a terrible crime, Em, stubborn, scared of spiders, and with a temper that’s likely to get her into trouble, will find herself thrust into the middle of a dangerous hunt for the truth.
“Being scared’s good,” Grandpa Walker had told me once. “Stops us from doing stupid things.”
It hadn’t stopped me.
That summer should have been filled with laughter, with slip n’ slides in the yard, lazy afternoons lying watching ice cream clouds swirling through the blue sky, melting in slow motion. I watched a plane rising high above our house. From the ground it looked completely still, as if it hung suspended in the air, a model on a string. I wished I was on it, I wished I could escape. I was seven and that was the summer death stalked our home.
It began with the offerings…
‘Knock and You Will See Me’
“We buried Dad in the winter. It wasn’t until the spring that we heard from him again.”
When grieving Ellie Ray finds a crumpled, handwritten note from her recently deceased father, hidden behind the couch, she assumes that her middle boy, Max, left it there. It has a single word written on it: WHY. But, as more and more letters begin to appear throughout the house, Ellie and her three boys will find themselves dragged into a deeply sinister mystery surrounding her father’s death.
“Dad? I looked down at the scribbled note in my hand, at the words torn into the paper. What had started as a whisper had grown louder, more desperate. The words had been screamed onto the page. Dad? Please. What’s going on?”
‘Bones’ Four Stories. Four Monsters.