By Andrew Cull
Grief is a black house. How far would you go?
What horrors would you endure if it meant you might see the son you thought you’d lost forever?
Driven to a breakdown by the brutal murder of her young son, Lucy Campbell had locked herself away, fallen deep inside herself, become a ghost haunting room 23b of the William Tuke Psychiatric Hospital. There she’d remained, until the whispering pulled her back, until she found herself once more sitting in her car, calling to the son she had lost, staring into the black panes of the now abandoned house where Alex had died.
Tonight, someone is watching her back.
- Paperback: 214 pages
- Publisher: Ifwg Publishing International (16 Sept. 2019)
Remains (An Excerpt)
By Andrew Cull
Silence. The soundless corridor put Lucy on edge. Coming from the overwhelming noise of the Chronicle’s newsroom, it felt out of place, almost surreal. As if stepping through the door from the Chronicle had transported her to some mute, alien realm. Lucy felt her skin prickle. She looked up and down the windowless, grey corridor. She was completely alone.
Trying to hold Mal Anderson’s disintegrating folder together, Lucy made her way along the corridor towards the elevator.
An ajar door that should have led to the welcoming offices of a portrait photographer now led only into darkness. Abandoned, like so many offices after the financial crash, prints and paperwork had been scattered across the floor. A telephone cord, picked out by the light from the corridor, the shattered smile of a broken advertising board… A giant eye seemed to follow Lucy as she passed.
Lucy pressed the elevator’s call button.
Something had shifted in the atmosphere in the corridor. Lucy suddenly felt absolutely certain that someone else was going to appear in the hallway at any moment. Maybe pulling themselves from one of the dark offices, or by tearing around the corner at either end of the corridor. Either way, she felt they were approaching fast, rushing towards her. Lucy hit the call button again.
And then a third time. Harder.
She looked for a sign to the stairwell. She could feel her body tightening, getting ready to bolt. Loudly, above her, the elevator’s cables snapped taut and it began to grind and creak its descent towards her floor.
As soon as the doors were wide enough for her to pass through, Lucy slipped between them. She found the button for the basement and hit it. Once, twice… The elevator doors continued to open. Three, four times. Come on! Come on! The doors locked at their widest point. The silence returned. And with it, the ever-growing sense that something was coming. Lucy backed up until she felt the cold metal of the elevator’s wall pressing into her spine. Still the doors remained wide open.
She had to get out of there. She forced herself forward, inching across the stained steel floor, straining to see around the edges of the car. Her anxiety had grown to real fear now. Fear that had wrapped its black arms tightly around her chest, squeezing her lungs, making it hard to catch her breath. Lucy took another tentative step forward. The heavy doors jerked backwards, bucking against their rails, before finally starting to slowly close. The corridor shrank until it was only a glimpse, and then it was gone. Lucy’s stomach turned over as the elevator sank towards the basement.
She tried to calm down; convince herself it was all in her head. Like she’d done in the hospital, like Doctor Bachman had taught her, she searched for a memory, an image to cling to, but all she found inside herself was darkness.
An unmanned CCTV camera covered the elevator. The camera recorded Lucy pacing by the door at the front of the car. It also recorded the deep shadow that stretched across the rear of the elevator.
Lucy focussed on the discolored, numbered lights blinking on and blinking out as each floor passed. Eventually the elevator came to a stop. She waited for the doors to open. She could feel her chest tightening again. The cold that she’d felt at the back of the elevator had stretched forward to find her.
And then the doors began to part. Lucy barged through the gap, slamming her shoulder into the opening door with such force that it almost tore Mal Anderson’s folder from her hands. Without stopping or looking back, she hurried into the basement archive.
Behind her, the elevator doors yawned wide. Once more they locked open, motors grinding, tightening, before angrily jolting back and finally beginning to close. This time, however, just before the doors were about to meet, they stopped. A foot or so away from closing, the doors froze and then quickly retreated.
The pool of shadow that spread across the back of the elevator car seemed to have grown darker, thicker.
After a long moment, the doors began to close once more. This time they met, metal pressing against metal, locking tight. Whatever they had caught on last time had gone.