The writer sat at the small table she used as a desk. She hunched over her laptop, conscious of the dull ache in her lower back. The Word file was open, calling to her every few minutes or so. She tried to ignore it – she had missions to complete on Frontierville, and blog posts to write, not to mention knitting patterns to track down. Besides, she couldn’t possibly write now – she was listening to Skid Row and she could never write while listening to glam. No, she would get to her work in progress when she was done. The stuffed dog on her table seemed to adopt a look of reproach.
“Oh great, even Aston is a critic. Look, I said I’d write 2000 words this week and I’ve already done half of that!” said the writer.
Aston said nothing.
“I’m going to the loo. I promise I’ll do some actual writing when I come back.”
The writer left the room.
The writer pushed open the door, one hand curled into a ready fist. She’d left her laptop playing Youth Gone Wild and now it was midway through Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D. She looked around the studio flat but saw no intruder.
“Don’t be daft, who is going to let themselves into your flat just to change the music?” she asked aloud. Aston held his own counsel.
She realised she’d left Facebook open, but now the screen displayed her work in progress. Only it wasn’t quite her work in progress. A line of text interrupted the sixth chapter of the supernatural YA novel.
“My dear, you know that I admire your eccentricities, but would you kindly cease procrastinating and GET SOME WORK DONE?”
The writer gasped, before bellowing a single name.
I’m in the process of rewriting my Fowlis Westerby novel and I get the impression that one day, he will actually do this to me. I’ve already written the story of my editor, Aston, which you can find here.
The paranormal investigators clustered in the corridor. The writer and her team leader stood in the doorway.
“Now you sure you’re okay to do a lone vigil?” asked Brian.
The writer looked around the room again, and nodded. Brian couldn’t decide if her shivers were down to the cold, or nerves. Still, she’d volunteered to do the lone vigil in the nursery. It was her decision.
The writer plumped for a spot on the floor opposite the door. She sat cross-legged, her back straight against the peeling wallpaper. Her eyes flicked between the empty cot in the corner, and the abandoned toy box on the floor. Neither of them came with the decrepit manor, but the trust bought them at an antiques fair three years ago to furnish the room.
“You know how to use the EMF meter, don’t you? Just hold that button down on the side…yes, that’s it,” said Brian. The meter crackled into life, whining at the electric light overhead. “Obviously, that light will be off, and there’s nothing going on downstairs so if that goes off…you’ve got a visitor. You’ve switched your phone off, haven’t you?”
The writer nodded.
“Will this set it off?” She held up the digital Dictaphone.
“Only if you hold the meter right next to it. If you get a background click, it’s probably the dictaphone, so you can ignore that. Anything stronger and…well, you know the deal,” replied Brian.
“OK. I’m only in here for ten minutes, right?”
“Yep. We’ll come and get you when the time’s up, but feel free to leave the room if you get uncomfortable, and shout if you need me. I’m just down the hall in the master bedroom.”
The writer offered a weak smile, and looked over the list of suggested questions. She handed it back to Brian without a word. He felt guilty about leaving her alone, but it’s what she’d asked to do.
“OK. Well, relax, have fun, and remember, they can’t hurt you.”
Brian snapped off the light and closed the door.
The writer blinked hard as Brian opened the door, flooding the nursery with harsh electric light. She clutched the EMF meter in her right hand, still ticking over its steady metronome click. Brian brought the other six group members into the room, and they sat on the floor with the writer.
“So how was that?” asked Brian.
“Well, I didn’t see or hear anything, but the temperature dropped at one point and it felt like I was back outside, but when I said it was too cold, the temperature went back up again. The EMF meter went crazy then, and again later on,” replied the writer.
“Let’s have a listen to the recording then.”
Brian picked up the Dictaphone and pressed stop on the recording. He selected the beginning of the track and pressed play. The writer’s hoarse voice filled the room.
“OK, so this is Electronic Voice Phenomenon test 1. Icy Sedgwick in the nursery. I…um…well I can’t see a sodding thing at the moment, so spirits, if you’re in here with me, you’re probably better off doing something I can hear instead of see, unless you fancy flicking the lights on for me.”
The group sat forward, straining to listen for a reply.
“Right, well, I don’t half feel stupid talking to myself so if there’s something in here with me, do you want to say hello?”
A faint metallic ping cut through the slow EMF meter click. Two of the women gasped at each other.
“If that was just the metal in the mattress springs contracting because it’s getting colder now the heating has gone off, then fine. If that was a spirit, can you do it again?”
“That’s good, you’ve tried to think of a rational explanation too. If you can debunk the rational, then what you’re left with is the truth,” said Brian. The writer nodded and the two gasping women looked disappointed.
“Are there any children in the nursery? If there are, there’s a box of toys by the cot. Do you want to play with them? Would you like to play a game with me?” The voice on the recording cracked slightly.
Nothing. The group listened to the silence between questions, pausing at six minutes in. The EMF meter screamed on the recording. The writer’s voice cut across the insistent whine.
“Flaming heck, it’s sodding cold in here. Spirit, if you’re there, do you fancy warming things up a bit? It’s like pissing January now,” said the writer’s voice, followed by “Aw, cheers very much. That’s a lot better.”
Brian raised one eyebrow but the writer refused to meet his gaze. Two more minutes of the writer’s questions and silent replies followed, until the meter screamed again.
“OK, spirit, I know you’re there, and this might sound like a daft question, the type you don’t usually get asked but…Fowlis Westerby, is that you?” asked the writer’s voice.
“Yes, Icy. It’s me.”
Now you can also listen to this story as an audio version, by clicking below. Apologies in advance for how strong my accent is when I’m doing dialogue!
Due to disagreements with the company that conducted this investigation, I have taken down this post as I do not wish to maintain any associations with them.
I have a confesson to make. I have had a character living in my head for almost four years. If you’re familiar with my work, then you will have already met him – he’s my dashing Cavalier ghost, Fowlis Westerby. He’s made an appearance in three of my Friday Flashes so far – First Impressions, back in May last year, The Priest Hole, in October last year, and The Duel in March.
Way back in August 2007, I was on holiday in Scotland. It’s a beautiful country, and I highly recommend it as a destination. I’d heard the reputation of Glamis Castle as one of the most haunted places in the British Isles, and I really wanted to go. My parents are suckers for history and hauntings, so off we went on a day trip. On the way there, I spotted a road sign for a tiny village named Fowlis Wester. The name struck me, and before I knew what was going on, a cavalier ghost had walked straight into my head, introduced himself as Fowlis Westerby, and asked me to write him a story. I duly did so, writing a flash about him that I promptly forgot about. However, he didn’t forget about me, so by the time NaNoWriMo rolled around in 2008, I found I had an idea for a novel starring Fowlis. I wrote it, and in true NaNo style, I didn’t do anything with it. Until now.
Fowlis prods me every now and then to write stories about him, and I’ve found that I really enjoy writing him. So I bought this domain and set up this blog to inspire me to finish rewriting the first novel, and also to finally get started on the second! Here’s where the mission statement comes in. I intend to use this blog not only to post Fowlis stories, as well as snippets from the book, but I’ll also be looking at ghost stories, local history and other paranormal shenanigans.
Fowlis and I would like to invite you to join us for the ride…