These three horror stories are an hors d'oeuvre before the main course that is Some Will Not Sleep: Selected Horrors, my first collection of horror short stories, written between 1995 and 2011, and published in September 2016. These three terrors offer an insight into the other ghost stories, supernatural and occult horror stories, weird tales, and folk horror themes that abound in the Some Will Not Sleep anthology.
A list of my horror novels is included at the back of this book, and there is an offer front and back for horror readers to collect a second free book from me, Cries from the Crypt: Selected Writings. This is a full, seventy thousand word book compiled from my rare and uncollected short fiction, various articles featuring advice for writers of horror, some of my favourite interviews that I have given about horror and my own novels, features on horror, and unpublished scenes and chapters from many of my novels. It's absolutely free and a companion piece to both my work and modern horror culture. Register and grab your copy at my home page www.adamlgnevill.com. Meanwhile, thank you for checking out Before You Sleep and I hope that you enjoy these stories.
Manes exite paterni Adam L. G. Nevill June, 2016.
Where Angels Come In
One side of my body is full of toothache. Right in the middle of the bones. The skin and muscles of one arm and one leg have a chilly pins-and-needles tingle. They’ll never be warm again. That’s why Nana Alice is here; sitting on the chair at the foot of my bed, her crumpled face in shadow. But the milky light that comes through the net curtains still finds a sparkle in her quick eyes, and gleams on the yellowish grin that hasn’t changed since my mother let her into the house, made her a cup of tea and showed her into my room. Nana Alice smells like the inside of overflow pipes at the back of the council houses.
‘Least you still got one half,’ she says. She has a metal brace on her thin leg. The foot at the end of the caliper is inside a baby’s shoe. Even though it’s rude, I can’t stop staring. Her normal leg is fat. ‘They took me leg and one arm too.’ Using her normal fingers, she picks the dead hand from a pocket in her cardigan and plops it onto her lap. Small and grey, the hand reminds me of a doll’s hand. I don’t look for long.
She leans forward in her chair, and I can smell the tea on her breath as she says, ‘Show me where you was touched, luv.’
I unbutton my pyjama top and roll onto my good side. At the sight of the scar, Nana Alice wastes no time and her podgy fingertips press around the shrivelled skin at the top of my arm, but she doesn’t touch the see-through parts where the hand once held me. Nana Alice’s eyes go big and her lips pull back to show gums more black than purple. Against her thigh, her doll hand shakes. Cradling the tiny hand and rubbing it with living fingers, she coughs and sits back in the chair. When I’ve covered my shoulder, Nana Alice still watches that part of me without blinking and seems disappointed to see it covered so soon. She wets her lips. ‘Tell us what happened, luv.’
Propping myself up in the pillows, I peer out the window and swallow the big lump in my throat. Feeling a bit sickish, I don’t want to remember what happened. Not ever.
Across the street, inside the spiky metal fence built around the park, I can see the usual circle of mothers. Huddled into their coats and sitting on benches beside pushchairs, or holding the leads of tugging dogs, they watch the children play. Upon the climbing frames and on the wet grass, the kids race about and shriek and laugh and fall and cry. Wrapped up in scarves and padded coats, they swarm among hungry pigeons and seagulls; thousands of small white and grey shapes, pecking around their stamping feet. Eventually, the birds all panic and rise in a curving squadron, raising their plump bodies into the air with flap-cracky wings. And the children are blind with their own fear and excitement in brief tornadoes of dusty feathers, red feet, cruel beaks and startled eyes. But they are safe here – the children and the birds – and closely watched by their tense mothers, and are kept inside the stockade of iron railings: the only place outdoors the children are allowed to play since I came back, alone. A lot of things go missing in our town: cats, dogs, children. And they never come back. Except for me and Nana Alice. We came home, or at least half of us did.