Master of the Macabre (Part 2)
By mark p
Ash stopped in the Prince of Wales, one of his favourite places. It was unusually quiet for a Thursday night; maybe late-night shopping had brought folk to the shops and not to the pub. He bought a pint of Old Peculiar and sat down in a corner to read from a Neil Gaiman novel, amused at the sticker on the cover that read "As good as Stephen King or your money back!!" His amusement was by a voice behind him, a cackled—slightly camp voice, was addressing him. The stranger sounded like Kenneth Williams, the actor in the Carry-On films, except he did not say "Oooh Matron", he was calling Ash a "fucking bastard". Ash looked round, the guy who delivered the insult looked like the vampire on one of the covers of Stephen King's "Salem's Lot," a guy with a shaved head, pale bloodless looking skin and a pointed chin, he leered exhibiting the pointed teeth that vampires are reputed to have. Ash got into the Gaiman novel, American Gods, it was not really his thing, but the Oxfam bookshop had a copy and he needed to have something to read if he was going for a solitary pint or two in the Prince, prior to returning home to a pile of ironing and unwashed dishes. He ignored the "vampire" and read a few more pages, maybe Gaiman wasn't that bad after all, mind you it might have been the Peculiar going to his head-as he'd eaten little since lunch. Feeling an ache in his bladder, an urgent need to piss, he left his pint and book, and made for the Gents.
Behind the door was the man from earlier.
Eyewitness accounts said that "Mr Ash had left with a weird looking man with a shiny bald head and cadaverous appearance". Ash's body was found later that night in a nearby graveyard, his body seemingly exsanguinated".
Shand snickered quietly at that one. He imagined that Ash himself would have probably savaged his episode saying that vampires did not come out in the light, but what would it matter?
The following day, he did not check the newspapers, listen to the news on the radio, or watch it on TV, had he done so, he would have discovered that "A body, had been found in St Nicholas Kirkyard, seemingly drained of blood.
Shand, oblivious to this, was focused on his third story.
Denning' s Last Case.
"Denning entered the court buildings, walked past security and the sniffer dogs. He had his head in the air in his usual manner and ignored the staff as they inquired what court he was appearing in. Did they not know that he, William Edwin Denning of Denning, Denning and Smith, the best solicitor in the city, was appearing for Willie Rankin again?. Rankin looked certain to go to jail, given his extensive list of previous convictions, his spiralling drug habit, not to mention his chaotic lifestyle -the social worker's conclusion of the report indicated that a custodial sentence was "The only disposal Rankin could realistically hope for”.
Rankin was a bad bastard, there was no doubt about that but, Bill would get him off, and he knew it. He had swung cases like this before, and had written about them as his fictional alter ego, Matthews The first case seemed to take forever, as neither agent nor fiscal seemed to be prepared- the clerk had said that he would call his case third if possible.
Dennings' mind started wandering. He gazed vacantly around the room, taking in the faces of the spectators, some fellow solicitors, some accused who were waiting also, some wives and girlfriends who had come to support their loved ones, and at the end of the row, near the-. door, Shand. Was it really Shand, the speccy git from the Writers Group? Sure, enough the checked shirt and white T-shirt, his usual uniform, was much in evidence, as wrinkled and probably stinking as always, and his John Lennon glasses. He mouthed something towards Denning as he caught his eye. Denning ignored it. Denning was not going to let the geek spoil his day; he would likely be here to see one of his deadbeat, junkie mates appearing in court.
The second case was called and as the accused had not turned up the sheriff granted a warrant to apprehend the accused, despite the protestations of the fiscal.
The clerk called Denning's case, “The diet of Her Majesty's Advocate against William Rankin." Denning moved forward as Rankin shuffled in from custody cuffed to a security guard. The fiscal narrated the facts of the case to the court. It was a bleak and sorry tale. Ten charges of Theft by Housebreaking, one from the house of an 80-year-old woman, whom he had also beaten up in the process.
Denning was rifling through his files when Shand caught his eye again. He was giving him the finger and mouthing the words "F-u-c-k-i-n-g B-a-s-t-a-r-d," none of the court officials even saw. What had Denning ever done to Shand apart- from slag off a couple of his stories? - They were crap anyway, surely, he was not as sensitive as that, to come and stalk him during working hours, because of something as trivial as that.
The fiscal sat down and took her place. Denning then launched into one of his legendary (in his mind) mitigation speeches.
He began to tell the court how his client's early life had been plagued by his alcoholic father's domestic abuse of his mother, his sister's descent into living on the streets as a prostitute, his grandmothers recent death from cancer and how these factors when added together had driven him to a drug habit and his catalogue of thefts over the years to fund and fuel the said habit, not to mention the fact that his lifestyle was descending into a maelstrom of chaos.
Shand stood up, cheering and clapping." As good as one of your stories, Mr Denning" he jeered.
Again, nobody seemed to see or hear Shand.
Was it being just that this was a busy court, and nobody bothered about things like this as they wanted to be out of the room as soon as possible?
Denning continued, indicating that his client was at the core, a decent man, who has not had his troubles to seek and that he would benefit from a Community Payback Order, the maximum number of hours being appropriate in this case.
Shand was right beside him, whispering in his ear, “Ye Fucker. ..... ye don't really believe that they're going to fall for that one again, you used that one last week".
Can nobody see this nutter standing next to me? thought Denning.
"Mr Denning, you're slurring your words, have you been drinking?" said a voice, which turned out to be that of the Sheriff.
He hadn't been drinking, he'd maybe been daydreaming. Looking around, he could see that the court was waiting for him, to give his mitigation on behalf of Rankin.
Mr Denning, the court is waiting, your mitigation please!"
I have just given it, in, my usual inimitable way, thought Denning, he thought he must have daydreamed Shand and the mitigation. A look around the courtroom seemed to confirm this. Shand was nowhere to be seen if he ever even been there.
Denning spoke, briefly saying that he concurred with the social work report, and that Mr Rankin, would benefit from a custodial sentence, and that he had nothing that he could usefully add.
The clerk read out the sentence indicating that it would be one year's imprisonment.
Denning turned to find that Rankin had jumped the dock and held a blade at his throat. He then proceeded to plunge it into Denning' s neck. Police and custody officers clamoured to restrain Rankin, but the sound of Denning' s dying gurgle, his drowning in his own blood, punctuated by the gasps of the spectators, filled the silent courtroom. As life ebbed from him, he was sure he saw Shand' s face melt and merge into Rankin' s, swimming in and out of focus as they became one then separated as all became darkness."
Shand saved the document and laughed. The story of Denning was a little different. The Shand creation in this tale was an idealised version of him, a menacing malevolent version. It wasn't until he went to the local shop to buy some groceries that he discovered that "the court had been disrupted by the murder of a prominent local solicitor", the headline went into detail about how “William Denning, of Messrs Denning, Denning and Smith had been appearing for William Rankin, age 34. The court's press office indicated that the conclusion of the case had not gone in Mr Rankin 's favour and he took it out on Mr Denning, no comment -was given regarding the weapon "
A smaller article, on the same page told that the authorities had finally been able to identify the body found in St Nicholas Kirkyard as Robert Ash, a local lecturer. The story also re-hashed the grisly details of his demise.
Shand read on in disbelief, first Fiona's death, now Ash, in the same paper as Denning's death. He couldn’t avoid the obvious conclusion any longer. His stories had a power. They were not just scary or thrilling, was he some sort of psychic, with powers to kill others who crossed him in any way?
He had thought of himself as "Master of the Macabre" like Stephen King, but was he master of something far more sinister than that.
Shand swallowed hard. Evidently, the police were following a line of enquiry, didn't they always say that?
Sitting in his front room, watching the raindrops run down the pane as he had done earlier in the month and tried to make some sense out of recent events.
He had written a story about each of the folk in the group who had slagged off his work; each story had become fact in what he hoped was a series of macabre coincidences. Each of the subjects of the stories had died as a result of these fictions, was it him, his computer, or the power of his fiction that had caused the deaths? His thoughts descended into the world of the paranoid, he unplugged the phone, shut the blinds, firstly looking down to the street to make sure that no police cars with armed police were not waiting to make their move, like he had often seen on TV Cop shows.
He sat at his desk and switched the laptop on. It whirred into action and he opened the folder he kept the supernatural tales in, opened a new file and typed in the words "Redemption", thinking that by rewriting the stories in a more positive light, he felt he could redeem himself, and turn back time.
If he had written these adversaries to death, was it not possible to write them back to life and redeem himself in the process? That sort of thing happened in things like 'Twilight Zone', why the hell couldn't it happen in the Grey, rainy zone of Aberdeen?
Typing in a new tale about Fiona Sinclair, he noticed that every time he typed a word, nothing seemed to appear on the screen.
Looking around to see that everything was in order, he checked that everything was plugged in where it should be, all seemed to be fine. However, it was when he started typing again that he noticed that the words were making their way from the keyboard and crawling their way up his hands, wrists, arms...
He shut his eyes and opened them again in the vain hope that this was a nightmare, and he was still asleep, this hope dissolved completely when the words, which now spilled from the keyboard like a thousand flies, a black swarm, forcing their way into his mouth and ears,
His last sight, from word blinded eyes, was an image on the screen. It was the title of a story. "He Choked on His Own Words ", another Supernatural Tale by "Shand," there was laughter coming from the computer .as Shand gasped and coughed, fighting for his last breath.