You are on page 1of 415

viral e-books

This work is self-published. There isn’t a publishing house


behind this work and that means; no launch, no big
advertising campaign, no reviews in the press, and no
shelf-position at your local book shop or library.
Potentially this work could have a very limited readership.
If you are reading this then you have already increased
my readership by one, but YOU could help me increase
the audience for this work even further.
I am attempting a viral advertising campaign to promote
my work. If you haven’t heard of the term ‘viral’ in
relation to advertising it is simply the use of social
networks to promote a product.
After reading my work all I would like you to do is visit my
website and post a review of the title you have read, and
then recommend it to friends. Simple.
To find out more about me, my other titles, my future
projects, and how you can promote my work visit my
website:
www.wix.com/virale/books
Harvest

2
Harvest

for Rob
who encourages and supports me
in all that I do

3
Harvest

4
Harvest

HARVEST
Steve Merrifield

5
Harvest

Prologue: End of Days

The Year 60 CE

The centurion ran. Slipping and sliding in the mud that sucked at his
bare feet. His sandals had been claimed by the boggy ground at the start
of his race through the trees. He had sacrificed the shelter his tall shield
offered against the onslaught of rain for a burning stake to light his
pursuit through the darkness. The guttering orange light plucked twisted
trees clawing out of the dark. The branches were buffeted by the bitter
wind that drove the deluge of rain into his face. His frantic fingers
plucked at the clasp on his shoulder and he shrugged off the burden of
his waterlogged cape. Beyond his arena of light, the bold moonlight
became his ally and he picked out the shadowy shape of the white-
haired old man he hunted.
The armed natives that had defended the camp had largely been
unskilled in war, and had fallen easily to the centurion’s forces in a
short bloody battle. However, the remaining tribe had turned on the
raiders. In an unsettling nightmarish skirmish, the weak, the old, the
women – some with babes in their arms, and the children themselves,
had all flung themselves at the soldiers with wild eyes and chilling
screams. They had desperately grabbed and clung to his soldiers, giving
up their chance to flee; sheathing his men’s swords with their bodies, to
ensure the elder of their tribe could escape.
The centurion had not been so easily distracted; he had left his
men to slay the remaining natives while he chased the feeble old man.
“Feeble”, yet the old man had somehow overcome the miring mud that
was almost defeating him; a soldier of the empire in his athletic prime.
The soldier was stopped by the shock of icy water washing over
his bare feet, and he suddenly realised the rushing sound of a stream
beneath the constant hiss and drum of the rain. Angling his torch down
he could see the shallow stream driven into a wild race by the lashing
rain and the dark mounds that dammed and channelled its flow. The
shapes were corpses, boars, deer, horses, cattle – from what he could see
6
Harvest

each had a deep glistening rent in its throat or a dark puncture wound in
its head. Sacrifices. Offerings to the water of the earth, or whatever
Gods these people worshipped, exchanges for potency of power and
magic. Sacrifices that spread as far as he could see in either direction of
the stream. More offerings than he had seen before. He didn’t let the
sight stop him, but used the corpses as stepping-stones to cross to the
other side, as the elder had surely done. It hadn’t been the first
disturbing sight of the night – that had been when he and his men had
uncovered the bodies in the tribes’ camp. The seven scouts he had sent
out over the last week. Their heads missing.
The centurion found himself in a grove of oaks and sycamores
that lead to a broad dark clearing. The old man stood in the middle. The
soldier slowed his pace so that the sounds of the storm would hide his
approach.
Many of the resistant native tribes had been massacred in the
past months; those that remained were scattered and ineffective, their
leaders slain, their shamans and holy men fleeing their homes and lands
on the island to head across the sea into the west and exile. This elder
and his tribe were organised, and had headed away from the coast and a
chance of escape, so that they could travel to this place. There had been
whispers among prisoners taken in the lead-up to this raid, rumours that
this shaman was opposed to co-operation and to retreat and was set on a
course of action unsupported by the other mystics.
The soldier blinked the rain from his eyes and wrapped his
fingers around the wooden hilt of his weapon as he marched with
quickened determination. Whatever reason this elder had come to this
land so foolishly close to the port of Londinium, he would not escape.
The centurion would end his life and finish his mission: his part in the
completion of Governor Seutonius Paulinus’s plan to cleanse the land of
the barbarian native resistance. His senses focussed on the night air,
crisp around him, and the continual rapping fingers of rain on the
shoulders of his leather tunic and his helmet.

7
Harvest

Blue light flashed with magnesium brilliance from the sky and a
ribbon of energy dumped itself into one of three chest-height misshapen
standing stones positioned just paces from where the old man stood.
The soldier gathered himself from cowering, recovering from
the crater in his resolve that the sudden explosion of shock had left. The
old man was still there, unscathed and unmoved. The centurion returned
his grip to his weapon, withdrew the wide flat blade from its sheath, and
made his final approach with a quickened step. The old man’s foreign
lyrical tongue danced on the wild air.
The centurion’s torch guttered and crackled with the deluge,
weakly picking out the details of the man as its radius of light
encompassed him and gave away the soldiers approach, yet the frail
man made no attempt to escape.
Another blast of light hit the second stone in the triangle with a
similar spray of sparks, lighting up the area and revealing seven bloody
heads with wild eyes piled on a large fresh swelling in the soil that
seemed to move and undulate in the midst of the stones. The soldier
blinked away the blue vein of light from his eyes in time to see the old
man cast small items on to the swelling.
The old man’s poetic voice died abruptly, his tongue stilled in
his palette. The last breath he had drawn drifted out of him in a slow
exhalation. The shaman’s head lolled forward, staring at the foot of
bloodstained sword that jutted from his chest, its wickedly angled tip
pointing into the darkness. His legs buckled beneath him and a golden
sickle tumbled from a gnarled hand. The soldier angled his skewering
blade toward the ground and the elder slipped from the sword into a
bloody sprawl of robes at his feet.
The soldier had expected a third strike of lightning on the
remaining stone in as quick a succession as the other two, but was
grateful that it hadn’t – the two strikes had been unnerving enough. In
the flickering light of his torch the centurion cast an eye over the small
engraved tablets the elder had cast on the mound along with acorns and
sprigs of holly and mistletoe. The heads of his scouts were gone. The
soldier re-sheathed his blade, now cleaned by the rain.
8
Harvest

The swelling in the earth sagged and the broken clods were
quickly re-knitted by the flow of water chasing along the ground as the
downpour continued. Confused and unsure of what he had plundered
into, he flashed the standing stones with a cursory glance of his torch,
and saw that each monolith was marked with an identical trident-like
symbol that meant nothing to him. The soldier kicked and stamped the
old man’s tablets and offerings into the soft ground, and took
satisfaction in the completion of his mission.

The Present

The daytime sun had baked the concrete towers that reached up for
fourteen stories into the north London skyline. The communal gardens
and walkways between the three tower blocks had been cast in shadow
all day, but offered no relief from the unrelenting heat. The night
offered little change in temperature.
The night-time June air was thick with a heat and a heaviness
that weighed down upon everyone on the estate. It made sleeping
difficult and bedclothes impossible. All waited for the distantly
rumbling storm to clear the life-draining veil that had smothered the
residents for several days and nights.
The Heights had once stood proud among the typically low-level
buildings that surrounded it. It was to be the start of new life in the
community, offering a better standard of living, there to solve the
problem of a growing city population. Now, forty years old, the
buildings of the high-rise estate stood like depressed giants of a
forgotten time and abandoned ideals. The shops that had been built into
the base of the east tower had been gutted by fire and had never re-
opened. The boarded-up windows and sealed doors of the shops gave a
depressing view to those who headed to the flats themselves.
The Heights didn’t have the reputation of the local Somers Town
area for its social problems, nor did it have the desirability of the period
apartment buildings of Kentish Town and Highgate, or the more modern
purpose-built flats that had developed. For those new to seeing the
9
Harvest

estate it could easily share the stereotypical reputation of buildings of its


type as being dirty, dangerous, poverty-filled and rife with drugs.
However, there was a difference within the towers: there wasn’t a drug
problem on the estate, most residents had jobs and supported themselves
and its tower design ensured security; the only danger would be from
the residents themselves and those that were invited in, and as a result it
was more secure than most homes.
In the same way that the locals had lobbied to keep the
inadequate Camden Town Underground station for fear of changing the
character of their town, there was rumour that the three towers were
being considered for a preservation order. Their height afforded some of
the resident’s views and glimpses of the areas that drew people to
Camden, and if you were high enough, a panorama of the city basin,
important considerations in the growing gentrification of the City’s
more rundown suburbs, and for buyers not wanting to pay a fortune for
that always desirable view.
More importantly than all these aspects there was a sense of
community, a community of casual smiles of recognition, a general
familiarity with the people that shared floors or met regularly in the lifts
and stairwells.
Veins of brilliant white light chased each other down from the
sky, disappearing in the horizon, leaving a brief purple, red and blue
memory of its pattern in the eyes of those who watched. Thunder
creaked through the air like slowly splintering tree trunks before the
sound opened up into the shuddering booms of falling bombs. After a
short while a rushing noise and an uplifting cool breeze swept through
the estate, chased by a wall of rain that slammed against the parched
earth and paving and ran off in rapid currents.
The three towers stood amongst the dancing shafts of light that
ripped the sky asunder, conquering the local skyline solid and strong,
weathering the rage and power of nature. A bolt of energy lanced
through the sky with blinding light and fury, striking the east tower. The
raw power flashed through the narrow copper conductor running the
height of the building and pounded into the ground with a dull wet thud
10
Harvest

and a spray of sparks. The tower plunged into darkness. The full 20,000
volts passed harmlessly into the ground. The energy radiated out and
enriched the soil with its nitrogen, finding forgotten bones and ancient
flesh buried deep down. Completing a forgotten ritual and giving them
life.
It reached out from its flesh and bones with It’s mind and senses. The
air was thick with smells and tastes, and charged with noise and energy.
Altogether different from the world It had fleetingly experienced so long
ago. It could feel the minds of those above. The energy of so many lives.
The world was brimming with life, while It was so weak. Too weak to
reach them. It would grow stronger. The balance would change.

11
Harvest

Part One: The Reaping Begins

12
Harvest

One
Craig Digby checked his camera and adjusted the angle towards the
schoolchildren being corralled into place in the sports hall of the school
by their teachers. It was strange being back at the secondary school he
had left eight years previously. He concentrated on preparing his
equipment but he felt self-aware, caught by the flaws within himself that
high school had fleshed out. The headmaster strolled up to him.
“Digby? Digby, isn’t it?”
Craig couldn’t believe it – Benchman was still head teacher at
the school. Craig had maintained a dislike for him until the day he had
finished his final exam and left the secondary school. Benchman had put
on his final report that Craig was an under-achiever. The man still wore
cheap bland grey suits that emphasised the aura of falseness about him.
Yet now his hair matched his suit.
“That’s right,” Craig acknowledged. He remembered his
frustration in the fifth form at the contradiction of being expected to act
as an adult while being treated as a child. The hypocrisy burned him
now as it had back then because Benchman was the embodiment of it.
Except, he told himself, he was twenty-four had achieved good school
college and university grades and was unquestionably an adult, and
more satisfying than that Benchman had no power over him.
“Colin Digby. Thought I recognised the name – you haven’t
changed much.”
Craig suspected Benchman deliberately mistook his name and he
heard an underlying accusation in the last part of his sentence. Craig
hadn’t changed much in appearance, no more spots that had kept him
from being attractive, but he was still of average height with messy
unkempt blond hair and blue eyes, his shoulders broader but still lacking
the muscle behind his build. He stood unflinching as he had done at
school, unfazed by authority, a picture of rebellion with his shirt
untucked, but without the blazer that had been mandatory, and his tie
was now neater than it used to be. His redemption was that his
untidiness was now trendy. Craig didn’t want redemption though; he
wanted Benchman to see he was still a rebel and hadn’t conformed to
13
Harvest

what his headmaster had wanted for him.


Craig corrected him as casually as possible, wanting desperately
to end his sentence with “you wanker.”
“That’s right… Craig. How could I forget? Had you at my desk
a few times to push your studies in your final year if I remember.” He
winked.
Craig simply smiled. Benchman had been his form tutor in his
final year – no one wanted Benchman as their form tutor in the exam
year because he wanted their passes to reflect his influence on the
pupils, to be an example to the other teachers. The head had realised
Craig’s commitment to his Art, Media and Graphic Design lessons was
largely at the expense of his work within Maths English and Science,
subjects Benchman had been head of in his rise to the top. He had
pushed for Craig to work harder in those areas, forced him by restricting
his time in the art and design rooms. Craig had wished he could have
been rebel enough to flunk those exams just to infuriate Benchman.
Craig might be stubborn but he wasn’t stupid.
“So this is your line of work now, is it? You were always more
artistic than you were academic.” There was no malice in his tone but
the word “artistic” was emphasised as if it was taboo.
“Actually, I’m a freelance photographer for the local paper.”
“Freelance, eh? So you do this to make up the money?” He
nodded over his shoulder to the children who were now arranged and
seated in an order of height and symmetry.
Craig prepared his return and decided not to bite on the
assumption of how much he was paid. “Not really, I do a variety of
photographic work. I get some displays in galleries from time to time.”
The last bit was an exaggeration. It had been a while since he had had
the time to put together a portfolio and a display.
Benchman looked down at him through his glasses. He still
towered over Craig, even as an adult Benchman made him feel small.
He fixed Craig in his sights and drifted into that deliberating look he
gave his pupils for late homework excuses or if he disagreed with a
pupil’s opinion. Craig remembered the look, which was essentially an
14
Harvest

unanswerable last-judgement. He hated it even more because under the


glare of those eyes he found himself agreeing with what Benchman saw
and thought.
“You had a brother here too didn’t you? Darren?”
“Yeah.” Benchman got his name right first time. Typical.
“What’s he doing with himself now?”
“He’s running the family business with my dad.”
“Yes, did well in business studies and maths. I remember. He
had his head screwed on. I thought you had moved away after your final
year.”
Craig’s family had moved to London from Bath at the start of
his secondary education. Losing all his junior school pals in the process.
“Yes. We moved back to Bath as Mum wasn’t happy.” Losing him all
his mates from secondary school.
“And you returned to the big city to make your fortune.” Was he
scoffing?
“I returned for University actually. For a degree. Got a first.”
Craig corrected and boasted, scoring himself a point.
“Better let you get on with it, then.” Benchman flashed a grin
and strode away. He took his seat and folded his arms sternly and
produced a prepared smile, the same smile that had stared back from
Craig’s own school year-photos. He didn’t know how Benchman could
be so fucking smug, from what Craig had read the only notable Alumni
the school had produced were two serial killers.
Craig settled behind the camera, prepared the shot, saw
Benchman’s gaping trouser zip and the off-white triangle of underwear
it exposed and grinned wickedly.
“Smile!” Craig called to the assembly.
Flash.
“Prick!”

Kelly Mason walked around the east block of The Heights to get to the
main entrance. She smiled and nodded to people she passed. She knew
most of the faces she saw, and they knew her. She often wondered
15
Harvest

whether they feared her, with her uniform and what she represented, or
whether they hated her or resented her because of it. Perhaps they
respected it or got some security in seeing it, but more important than
other people’s perceptions was that it gave her something to hide behind
and devote herself to. She was sure they wouldn’t know it was her
crutch. They didn’t know her past and how much it now meant for her
to have something that she belonged to.
That’s why she wore her police uniform on her journey home
while others changed back into their civvies at the Kentish Town station
where she was based. She would hang it on the back of her bedroom
door in her flat so she could see it from her bed. When she couldn’t
sleep for the solitude of the night, she would look to it and what it
represented, to know that at thirty-four she was finally strong and in
control of her life. She was a lifetime away from what she used to be
like, which is where she wanted to be; as far from that time and that self
as possible.
She was startled from her thoughts by a muffled crash. She was
sure the sound came from the rubbish storage area, but it wasn’t due to
be collected until tomorrow, and she had just passed Alec the caretaker.
Kids? She didn’t not understand why anyone would want to be in there.
She looked at the double doors that clearly instructed ‘NO ENTRY’.
Her movements became cautious and quiet as she approached them.
She eased one open and peered in. Warm air assaulted her with
the pungent smell of rotting food and waste baked by the heat wave. She
put the back of her hand to her mouth and wrinkled up her nose against
the smell as she stepped in to the darkness. She plucked the large torch
from her belt and snapped it on. The torch light plucked a grizzled face
from the dark to startle her. Grime and dirt masked the pale and aged
flesh, his hair dishevelled and matted with thick grease.
“Harry!” she chastised. “Harry Crabb, come on out of there. You
know you aren’t meant to be in here.” She walked over to him and took
the old man gently by the arm. Harry was a resident of the tower, known
for his eccentric dementia. She looked down at a black plastic sack that
was ripped open with its contents strewn about and picked through.
16
Harvest

Slivers of greasy meat hung from his hand. “Oh, Harry!” She clumsily
brushed the slimy waste from his fingers as if cleaning a messy child.
“You have a home you know? It’s not like when you were on the street.
You get meals on wheels. You don’t have to keep doing this. Come on.
I’ll take you.” She hooked her hand under his arm and ignored the
feeling of grime, trying not to think about his unsanitary state. She
looked about the large room, which was full of bags from the chute
opening in the lobby; the damp-blackened concrete gave the ceiling a
cavernous depth that conspired with the dark. “How did you manage to
see a thing in here?” she mumbled incredulously.
Kelly got him to the doors and he turned awkwardly in her grip.
“Goodbye...” he called over his shoulder into the room.
Kelly frowned and scanned her torch through the darkness of the room
and then back into his face, his lower jaw was masked in thick stubble
that was stained and crusted in places. She was able to ignore the
morsels of food nestled at the sides of his mouth because his strange
expression of warm nostalgia was so distracting. She gave one last
hesitant and puzzled look into the void. “Harry, there’s nothing there
but bags of rubbish,” – and a terrible stench, although she decided that
Harry would be contributing to the ripe air himself. “Come on, Harry.”
She closed the door on the rank smell. The dark rushed in on the
shrinking rectangle of light falling through the doorway except for a
dull green glow on the far wall. Odd, she didn’t remember seeing a
green light bulb or anything that would have cast that light. Harry
squirmed in her grip. “Alright, Harry let’s get you home.”

Craig reached the door to his flat in the east block of The Heights, but
before he could enter it his neighbour called out to him. Virtue Kafar
sauntered along the corridor from the lift behind a pram. Craig faced the
slender young woman and said a quiet hello to her, his face flushing.
Her boyfriend had died six months previously. Craig had seen her soon
after, in passing as they were now, and he had blurted out his
condolences to which she gave him a flicker of a smile in thanks before
scurrying away with tears in her eyes. Since then he had only given her
17
Harvest

sheepish smiles of acknowledgement and had retreated hastily. “How


are you?”
“Okay…” She wrinkled her petite nose and tilted her head from
side to side as if considered the question. “…ish. You?”
“The same.” He inwardly cringed and thought he could kick
himself – it wasn’t the same at all. Her boyfriend had died. She was
only a few years older than him and had lost so much. He searched her
face for a reaction to his comment. Although her long black hair looked
tired and was roughly tied back from her face, the sallow appearance
from her grief had gone and the rich dark colour of her skin had
returned, the weight from her maternity had been lost and she was her
slender shapely self again. However, her dead boyfriend got in the way
of him finding her attractive.
She looked distracted, fortunately because he would have hated
for her to catch his appraisal of her. It felt wrong. She went through the
actions of retrieving her keys from a pocket in her sweatshirt and
pushing a stray band of hair behind her ear, but she was clearly
hesitating around saying something. He made the same play of
retrieving his keys.
“Craig, when you ask how I am, you mean, how am I coping
with Will not being around, don’t you?”
Craig was caught by her candidness. “I guess so…”
She smiled around perfect teeth. “That’s nice of you, that’s nice
of everyone, but can I ask you a favour?”
He would be more than happy to do anything for her. When
Craig had first moved in he couldn’t work out how to use the heating
and had decided to call on his neighbours for advice. Harry Crabb,
Craig’s other neighbour, had given him an absent stare then closed the
door on him – that was the first and last time Craig had called on Harry.
Calling on his other neighbour had been completely different. He had
received a warm hello from both Virtue and Will. Will had even come
in and showed him how to use it. He had told Craig that he was
welcome to join him and a few of his mates for a kick around on the
common ground on Sundays, Virtue had picked up that he lived alone
18
Harvest

and offered him round for dinner. Craig had never taken their offers up,
but it was a kindness he had needed being so far from home. Now Will
was gone. He felt a twinge in his chest like an old wound. “Sure.” He
nodded eagerly, hoping to move the conversation back to casual and
shallow pleasantries.
“When you ask me if I am okay,” she winced. “Can it be about
me, about my day, or how Billy is, or bypass that and just pass on the
gossip of the block? I don’t get as much of that as I used to since Will
died and Billy was born. Just get sympathy. Spend most of my day in
the parks or at home with Billy.”
“Er, yeah…” He was relieved to be let off from having to figure
out how to approach the elephant-in-the-room-boyfriend.
“I’m glad you didn’t take offence. I am not blocking out what
happened, just trying to move on from it and I don’t think I am going to
do that if everyone’s point of reference for me is Will.”
“I understand.”
“That was a bit heavy for a casual hello, wasn’t it?” Her eyes
flitted between his face and various locations in the corridor.
“A bit, but if it helped…” His face reddened and he shrugged,
mirroring her fleeting eye contact.
“I think it did.”
“If you don’t ask me how work is then we have a deal.”
“That bad?” She winced.
“Yup.” He didn’t make eye contact at all now as he found it
uncomfortable on top of their new level of familiarity.
“Sorry, hope it improves for you. And that’s the last you will
hear on the subject from me.” She plugged her keys in the door but left
them there. “I have seen that you’re around a bit during the day, so if
you ever fancy a cuppa and giving me some adult company and
conversation then feel free to give me a knock.”
“Ok, I will,” he lied. “Cheers.” He keyed his door open. They
said goodbye to each other and he entered his flat and stabbed the play
message button of his answer machine.
“Er, ’ello this is mum.” Silence. “This did go beep, didn’t it? Er,
19
Harvest

how are you? Me and your dad were wondering how you were. How’s
your job?” Dull and unfulfilling. “Taken any arty pictures?” Too busy
earning. “Have you heard from any of your friends from school or
university?” Sporadic emails and vague plans – none of them live in the
area, but thanks for the reminder, you nearly have a full list of my
shortcomings there, Mum. “Met a girl or anything?” Bingo! Cheers,
Mum, yep – don’t think you have missed out any sensitive area. “Your
brother tells us you ’ave ’ad a few problems with cash.” My mistake,
you had one last nail to hammer home. Craig cursed; he had told Darren
in confidence. Bastard! “Now don’t moan at ’im!” she continued with
her jovial west-country brogue that he missed so much, yet he still
couldn’t bring himself to call home on a regular basis. “He’s just
worried for his younger brother, that’s all. Not gloating, so don’t get on
your ’igh ’orse. If you can’t afford to keep yerself, you can’t afford an
’igh ’orse.” Thanks for that pearl of wisdom Mum. There was a heavy
breath forced by her plumpness then she continued. “’Enry, I mean your
dad, said he’s got some cash put aside for you. And there’s always a
place at ’ome. Just ’ow you left it – but tidier.” He could imagine the
sharp twinkle in her eye and the slant of her smile, and it forced him to
grin too. “Love you, darlin’. Call me back. Er... Bye, son.” A pause. “I
’ope that bloody machine works...” she tailed off as she hung up.
Thanks mum. Amused by her tightness with her ‘H’s’ but
irritated by the reminder of the things that depressed him.
The machine clicked and clunked again.
“Hiya, Craig, you reprobate! It’s Vicki. I know you’re off taking
pictures of little girls, you perve. But, I just thought I should return your
call. Sorry, there hasn’t been much work to go round the past week.
Don’t lose heart. You can count on me!”
Craig sank into his armchair dejectedly with the heavy reminder
of the lack of work. He exhaled a deep breath as the reality of his life
crushed down on him.
“Fuck.”

20
Harvest

Two
Cat Thorn struggled out of her bed and ran her hands down her slim
body, smoothing the creases out of her tee-shirt nightie. It was three in
the afternoon and she had been in bed since she had tried to rise that
morning. She steadied herself against what felt like a hangover, her
head feeling over-sized as her vision swam and swirled. Her
surroundings seemed unanchored, yet she hadn’t been drinking. Her
legs were weak at the knees and she was cold inside, as if her body was
hollowed out.
She staggered over to the full-length dress mirror, dresses and
tops hung from each side of it like curtains at a window. She brushed
her feathered auburn hair from her face and leaned close to the glass.
Her eyes showed little sign of illness. She looked pale, but then her
creamy complexion had never had much colour. The storm had woken
her up with its violence, and had left her with a distracting pressure in
her head that forced itself between her eyes, creating a disorientating
headiness. Her face had all the signs of disturbed sleep. She shuffled to
the lounge, gripping the doorframes and then her sideboard for support.
She couldn’t understand the feeling in her head and the sluggishness
that clung to her limbs.
Part of her experience of last night seemed absent from her
mind. The symptoms had come on too quick to be viral. She checked
her watch. She was due to cover the end of Ryan’s shift at the clothes
shop she worked at. She could make it to the railway arches in Camden
market where the shop was, but there was no way she felt fit enough.
She would have to call him and tell him that she wouldn’t be able to
make it in today.
Her memory of the night before was suddenly unlocked as
some-thing came through the air at her. She couldn’t see anything but
she knew it was there. Just as she had experienced in the night, as if the
storm that had raged outside had torn into her flat. Her terror took hold
of her again as it came like a wind blasting through her flat from a great
change in air pressure. It raked her hair into the air around her face like
wild flames that forced her to clench her eyes closed, yet a brilliant
21
Harvest

green light washed over her with a brilliance that filtered through her
lids. She dare not open her eyes, even as her feet began to tread the air
as she was swept from the floor, she didn’t want to see what raced
around her body yet pressed against every millimetre of her body as it
held her and lifted her.
Cat cupped her hands over her ears as a tortuous screech lanced
through the current and into her head with the sound of a hundred
infantile screams. Her instinct was to call for her mother – but her
mother was dead. The pressure from the air pressed against her body
and held her in place while a throbbing pain pounded in her head as the
lengthy wail seemed to crack her skull and press deep into her mind.
Her cry of pain joined the chorus as she called for the only person who
claimed to care for her – “RACHEL!”

Rachel Williams stood at the butcher’s window and stared. The sweet
musty smell of meat carried from the shop on the warm air. It never
smelt like that at the meat counter in the large metal Sainsbury’s she
worked in on Camden Road, it was too clinical there – just like the
service; they were discouraged from chatting to customers. Checkout
staff were told it affected the scan rate and delayed shoppers through the
queues it made. She preferred the independent retailers for her
shopping; the service was more personal and friendly. You could have a
good banter, you got to know people. You need that in a city the size of
London and you relied upon the people you saw in your travels for
company.
She found that her gaze was no longer on the succulent sides of
meat but her reflection. She realised her tights were sagging and pulled
at them as discretely as she could. Sadly it wasn’t only her tights that
had subsidence, like the loose skin at the top of her arms that her friends
down Mecca also had and called ‘bingo wings’ due to the way it hung
and wobbled when you thrust your hand in the air and shouted “House!”
if you won, or her belly button which was no longer a hole punched in a
taut navel but an eye squinting out of a puffy socket, or her rear that had
gotten dimpled and a little closer to the ground. At least her breasts were
22
Harvest

still full, even if they no longer stared ahead of her. What was it Linda
at work had said about her own breasts? More of an averted gaze. She
laughed to herself, being a bit of mutton staring in at the fresh meat,
some of which boasted about only being twenty-one days old. Twenty-
one was forty years ago now, when her hair had been long and a rich
chest-nut brown, not dull greying and forced into curls and waves
through a tired perm.
When she laughed and smiled her cheeks bunched up and the
lines around her eyes and lips smoothed out a little. accentuated her
expression. Shame she couldn’t claim they were laughter lines, just age.
In one of these rare moments of self-examination like this she marvelled
at how easily she could present a smile despite the pain that never
seemed much further away than the background. Her eyes were cast in
shadow in the reflection, but she had been told they shimmered like
grey opals. But that was a long time ago and she wouldn’t hear that
voice again.
She may be heading for the twilight years, she decided, but at
least she kept her eye on the fashion trends and tried to keep of with
whatever her age decided she could get away with. She hadn’t let
herself go. The heavy bottle in her shopping bag glanced off her shin in
a sharp accusation. Well, not entirely.
Reflected movement in the window attracted her and she saw a
small fluffy black and white kitten. It meowed gently at her from its
small pink mouth and sniffed her shopping bag gingerly before nuzzling
its head against the smooth plastic. Her face bloomed. “Aren’t you a
cutie?” her pleasure at the sight faltered when she looked from the
reflection and saw that there was no cat sitting at her feet. The stark
image of the Royal Free hospital came to her mind. She knew that place
too well. She looked back at the window and found the cat’s reflection
had also gone. “Hello, there – I wonder where you’re going to come
into things...”

Rachel arrived home, rattled her key in the lock and dragged herself and
the shopping bags through the door of her flat. She was greeted by
23
Harvest

Simon, a builder acquaintance who quickly apprised her of the jobs he


had managed to do for her while she was out. She thanked him and
ensured he had taken the money she had left him as he squeezed past
her and out onto the street.
“Got to dash, see you in church Saturday night.” He climbed
into his white van marked “M.I. Foreman & Son” and sat next to the old
man, Simon’s father; the father that only Rachel could see.
“Oh, by the way;” he called out the window as he started his
engine. “I’ve had the front door open to get bits from me van, and what
with the floorboards being up I shut your cat in the lounge.”
Rachel frowned. “But, I don’t have a cat!” she called after him
as he drove away. Puzzled, she closed the door behind her and sat her
shopping down on the battered burgundy chaise longue nestled amongst
the clutter of the gloomy hallway. She moved to the lounge and stood
before the door thoughtfully. She opened it. No cat.
There was a faint drumming sound on the floor and a familiar
black and white kitten trotted hesitantly up to her from behind her
armchair and rubbed its cold wet nose on her legs. She knelt down and
ran her hands through its soft fur, feeling the rapid beat of its little heart
and its reverberating purr. She beamed down at the fragile animal.
“Hello there, my little one! Looking for a home, are you?”

Jason Thompson lay on the floor with his control pad, sending his
character through to the next level on the X-box, when his mum burst
into the room. “Come on, honey. We better get a move on. Claire and
the twins are waiting.”
Jason leapt to his feet and shut the game down. They may be
girls but he was bored. Since his parents had separated, Jason and his
mum regularly went round to Claire’s for tea; they took it in turns to
cook for each other some nights. Claire and Jason’s mum were old
school friends. He hoped he would get a friend like that one day. Most
of the friends he had didn’t know how to be around him since his
parents had split, even though it was an uncommon situation for a class
mate to be in, they didn’t want a share of the bullying he received either.
24
Harvest

Jason let his mum take him by the hand as they went out the
front door, a habit she had gone back to since his dad had left them. He
knew his hand had replaced his dad’s. All through the storm the night
before last he wanted to run into his mum’s room, so he understood the
need for comfort, but it created uncomfortably deep feelings in him
where he felt sorry for his mum and missed his dad. Mischief welled up
within him and he used it as an excuse to shake loose from his mum’s
grip. He dashed to the stairs, calling after him, “Race you!” He heard his
mum’s feet skuffle into action as she flew after him.
“Not fair! You have a head start on me!” He heard her giggling
voice trail after him.
“You’ve got longer legs!” he shouted back, already two flights
down.
“Smart arse!”
Jason rang Claire’s doorbell and pushed past her as she
answered it, just as his mum came skidding down the corridor in second
place. Claire called after Jason, “She just can’t keep up with you, can
she? I could give you a run for your money though.” She winked at
Jenny. “Being a younger model and all!”
“Six months younger!” Jenny smirked, giving her friend a mock
slap. “Cheeky bitch!”
“All counts, darlin’.” Claire shut the door behind them. Jason
scrunched his eyes up as she rubbed his short black hair. “That new
haircut makes the world of difference! You know, he’s gonna be a right
looker when he gets older.” Jason could feel his face get hot.
“Are you saying my son is ugly now?” His mum laughed,
nudging Jason to say that it wasn’t so. “Made him have a French crop,
so he doesn’t look so much like his dad.” The discomfort returned to
Jason upon hearing his dad referred to negatively, it left his innards
feeling jumbled and cold.
“Well, at least you know he came from good-looking stock,
Grant was a looker. I just hope my girls take after me and not my
Brian,” Claire joked. Claire was the only one who didn’t avoid talking
about his dad as if he was some dark secret. Claire cocked her head
25
Harvest

towards the twins’ room. “Don’t you worry; I’ve got dibs on him for
one of my girls. I see wedding bells in the future. I’ve seen the way they
look at him. They adore him!” She laughed and his face burned more
fiercely. He didn’t think of the girls like that. He didn’t think of girl’s
like that full stop. Actually he did think of girls, but girls and the idea of
“going out with them” was a bit of a mystery to him. He could feel
Claire watching him fondly as he headed off down the hall to the twins’
bedroom.
“Yeah, but he will have to choose between them; who will he
pick?”
“Oh, my God, that’s a point. They argue about Barbie enough
now. Could be Jason next!”
“Hope not, I’ve seen their toys afterwards. They aren’t playing
tug of war with my kid’s arms!” Their laughter trailed out of clear
earshot as he headed into the girl’s bedroom.
Emily and Amy both looked up from their play and greeted him
enthusiastically. He was eleven – four years older than Emily and Amy.
He bothered to get on with the girls more than other boys his age
seemed to because Amy and Emily accepted him and he valued that, so
he happily joined in their games, even if it meant helping dress dolls and
playing “girly” games. They also had a different games console to his,
which was an added attraction. Jason didn’t have many friends – none
that he saw out of school; it was one of the reasons he didn’t go out – as
well as being frightened that he might bump into those that picked on
him. David Renshaw and Mikey Kent, two boys from school, lived in
his block a few floors down from his home. They hadn’t hit him or
anything, just taunted him about his dad leaving, and anything else they
could think of. He chose to avoid them. It made things easier.
He sat with Amy on the floor and idly joined her in some
drawing. He could hear Emily behind him on the other side of the room
talking firmly to herself or her doll.
Emily’s voice was suddenly harder and louder and in his ear.
“Stop it!”. He yelped as she thumped his back, more through surprise
than pain.
26
Harvest

“What was that for?”


“You started it. You kept calling my name!” She frowned
moodily.
“I didn’t call you, you idiot.”
“I’m not an idiot,” she sulked.
“He’s been helping me,” Amy defended.
Jason laughed as he frowned at Emily and shook his head
dismissively. “Idiot!”
“I’m not...” she mumbled. She looked about her room at the
piles of teddies and dolls. “Someone called me...”

27
Harvest

Three
Albert Taylor marched purposefully down the stairs. He didn’t like to
take the lift when he was in his undertaker’s uniform. It tended to make
people think the worst; that someone had died in the building. He also
disliked making pleasantries with people he knew or recognised. It
wasn’t becoming of a mourner, or indeed a chief undertaker. His very
job was to be discrete and create a solemn sense of mourning,
something he didn’t feel he could do while talking about the weather
with Mrs Jenson, the football results with Bob Chanter or listening to
Rose McCarthy’s gossiping, or whatever with whomever else he could
encounter in the lift. It just didn’t seem right.
Despite the fact he was on an early call and was unlikely to meet
anyone, he still descended the ten floors by foot in his heavy black suit,
well tailored to his broad towering build. Despite his sixty-three years
and the exertion of descending six flights of stairs, he still walked with a
stiff back and a regimental even step. He saved his cheer and his
slouching for when he was at home with his wife Iris. Two years more
and he could retire and be with her, for against his solemn dark look
when working, he was a warm sensitive man with a deep love of his
wife and cosy home and distant children, and maintained a jovial
outlook on life. He could handle the descent and the climb, but he was
glad the storm of a couple of nights ago had ended the heat wave; the
stairs had been hot and airless. The crepe wrap on his black top hat
trailed softly and ghost-like in his wake.
Slowly Albert’s pace lost its rhythm. At first he ignored it. He
was a stubborn man. He only wanted to weaken and take his medication
if it was necessary, not just at any twinge. A belt of pain cinched his
chest sharply and forced the air from him. It took both his hands to
steady himself on the banister. His hat came lose and fell from his head,
toppling down the middle of the stairwell with the black crepe trailing
and flapping gently behind as it disappeared. He fumbled for his spray.
He heard his hat hit the ground with a hollow slap that sounded out in
an ever-decreasing echo. He was scared, scared that this attack could be
the one that the doctor had warned him about. He didn’t want to die
28
Harvest

alone. He flipped the lid of the spray. He wasn’t going to go without his
Iris being there to be held. He gave two measured sprays under his
tongue and waited. He thought of her warm plump body in his arms.
Slowly the pain abated and his chest muscles loosened. He rested on the
step for ten minutes before attempting to retrieve his hat.
He wouldn’t let his condition beat him.
Albert reached the bottom but had decided to abandon the
regimented step and strolled casually down, cursing as he realised his
hat had missed the landing of the lobby on the ground level and gone
straight down into the basement level. He descended the last flight of
steps from the lobby area to the locked basement door and crouched
down steadily, scooping his hat up. He brushed the dust from it and
turned for the stairs, the hat had landed flat on its top but didn’t seem to
be damaged.
He was startled by the sudden clunk-click noise of a chunky lock
being turned.
From the corner of his eye Albert saw the heavy metal door to
the basement slowly opening. He gulped his discomfort down, but the
hairs on the nape of his neck tingled and stood despite his attempted
resolve. He turned to the large half-open metal door. The caretaker? he
reasoned, still unsure. “Alec? Is that you?” He moved towards the door,
rationalising the situation with every step. Who – what else could it be!
He laughed at himself as he went to open the door further.
The door ripped from his grip and slammed against the wall. A
blaze of green light burned from within the doorframe. Albert’s brief
scream reached the fifth floor landing as his body was yanked into the
basement and the door crashed shut behind him with a deafening echo
that rolled like thunder.

29
Harvest

Four
Craig gathered his camera and mobile phone before glancing at his
reflection in the hallway mirror and lazily tended his ruffled hair,
leaving it between messy and styled. Freshly shaven and with an air of
CK In2U aftershave around him he answered the door to Vicki.
“Hiya, babe,” Vicki greeted him cheerily. She looked him up
and down, lingering on his shirt and tie. “Hope you didn’t make that
effort for me, sexy boy.” She winked.
Didn’t she find him attractive at all? Craig had a realistic view
of his looks. He knew he wasn’t a stunner, but he knew what to wear
and brushed up reasonably well. He hadn’t had that much luck with the
girls to be cocky with them, but he had a good sense of humour and if
he felt relaxed he could really get a good rapport going. With Vicki their
whole time working together had been a rollercoaster of playfulness,
and at times it was like there really could be potential, yet as soon as he
thought seriously about his prospects she suddenly seemed out of reach.
He straightened his tie. “You’re a bit up yourself! I’m trying to look
presentable for the interview. Professional, understand?” he explained,
making a show of eying her casual clothes.
He found himself rewarded with a smile that broke across her
fresh smooth face. “Oooh, excuse me, ‘Mr Professional’. I just decided
to go for the tight jeans and slack jumper.” She did a twirl to model her
vintage jeans and faded rainbow-striped jumper. “It’s my respectful
look, my sympathetic look, my persistent look.” She put a pen to her
lower lip and beetled her brow as she acted out a mime of intense
thought. “And my suspicious-determined-reporter look: it suits all
occasions.” She stopped and beamed again, flicking a stray clump of
crimped blonde from her eye.
He smiled appreciatively. She neglected to mention the sexy-
arse-in-those-jeans look. “Yeah, well. Just leave the persistent and
suspicious-determined-reporter look here, okay?”
She held her hands up in mock surrender. “Tact is my middle
name.”
Craig closed his door. “That’s funny, I thought it was ‘shit
30
Harvest

stirrer’.”
“Ha-ha,” she returned flatly. She clutched her chest theatrically.
“You have wounded this poor journalist.”
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise you had feelings under that hard
exterior.” He laughed.
“That’s it. Mock me. Don’t know why I bother calling you...”
“Yeah, well, you didn’t have much choice. It would be well
harsh using some other photographer for a job two floors away from
me,” he joked as they headed to the lift.
“As if I would. You’re, my only photo boy: you’re my bitch.”
Craig was drawn into her playfulness. It was these times that
bemused him. “Yeah, just don’t you forget it!”
The doors squealed shut behind them and the lift jerked into life
shuddering up to the next floor. Craig watched Vicki stand close to the
doors, aware of her claustrophobia. As the lift slowed to a stop Vicki
bobbed on her toes impatiently and jumped into the safety of the
corridor before the doors had fully parted.
She quickly found her confidence again and nodded down to his
side. “Is that semen you got in your hand?” She smirked.
He looked down to the mobile phone she referred to and
laughed. “Siemens,” he corrected. “Yes it is. I told you I was getting this
phone.”
“And I told you I was going to wind you up about it, so we are
even. A word that is an ‘i’ away from being a reproductive fluid is a
dodgy product name.”
“Yeah? All this coming from the girl whose initials are VD.”
Vicki looked genuinely shocked. “Bitch!”
They reached the door to the Chambers’ flat and Craig quickly
pocketed his phone.
She prodded the doorbell. “You’ll get brain cancer putting it
down there.”
Craig cocked his head near to Vicki’s ear while they both stood
facing the door, waiting for it to be answered. “Ha-ha. Don’t – my balls
are like plums as it is. Haven’t had it for ages.” Years actually. He
31
Harvest

wasn’t into one night stands. He blushed at his own laddish posturing,
he wasn’t like that but he hoped she didn’t know just how unlucky he
had been.
“Ooh, big boy!” She smirked.
“Enough for a handful.” He winked playfully, riding the
yearning tension within him. He arched an eyebrow tauntingly. “Want
to test my theory?”
“If that’s a pass, it’s original.” She jumped back in before he
could answer. “Anyway. I’m every man’s dream.” She looked to him.
“Small hands.” She held them up and waved them in his frowning face.
“Makes everything I hold look bigger.”
Before Craig could pursue their verbal foreplay the door was
opened by a woman who appeared frail for her probable thirty-odd
years. Her bobbed brown hair was untidy as if she had been asleep
moments before their arrival. Her pink cardigan sagged from her frame,
like flesh that had been left behind from a severe loss of weight, her
white tee-shirt appeared creased and lived in, tucked into her jeans to
neaten her appearance. Her eyes were young, but they stared out from
lids puffy from crying and a face gaunt and exhausted, a face that was a
mask that added years to her. It was hard to believe she was the same
woman he had photographed at the press conference.
“Mrs Chambers.” Vicki greeted. “Hello, again. It’s Vicki Day,
we have been talking on the phone. This is my photographer, Craig
Digby. You called us the other day?” Vicki’s voice was pleasant but
professional.
“Oh,” the woman exclaimed as if it had slipped from her
memory. “Please, come in. I keep losing track of the days.” She let
Craig and Vicki pass her and then gave a cursory look of suspicion into
the corridor before shutting the door and joining them in the hall. She
asked them to call her Claire.
Craig looked about the hallway; it opened into the kitchen on the
left with the lounge ahead of them. To the right the hall travelled down
further to the second bedroom and was capped with a bathroom door.
The master bedroom was off the lounge. It was tidy but the curtains
32
Harvest

were still drawn on the large windows of the lounge leaving the room in
a gloomy yellowish haze and giving the flat a cramped stifled
atmosphere. It took him back to the oppressive days of the heat wave
several weeks earlier.
Claire pulled her cardigan around her like a comfort blanket and
weakly offered them a cup of tea as if it was a politeness that would be a
struggle. They accepted and she shuffled off into the open kitchen like a
frail old lady and started the tea-making ritual.
Craig called out to her. “I was at the press conference the other
week with all the other photographers and journalists. But now I am
here and it’s just us I had better tell you that I live in this building, a
couple of floors down, I hope you feel comfortable about that,” he
offered courteously and professionally.
“I thought I recognised the face. I guess I don’t mind; everyone
knows what’s been going on anyway,” she called back meekly from
round the corner in the kitchen.
When tea was made the three of them settled down into an
atmosphere of pregnant expectation, Claire in an armchair and Vicki
and Craig on the three-seater sofa. Vicki quickly cut off any chance of
the awkward quiet becoming a stifling silence. “So, Claire. You called
us the other day. It’s been...” Vicki looked at notes on her pad, checking
the facts, helping her to sterilise her next question. “Two weeks since
little Emily went missing?”
Claire nodded. “Yes, I wanted to make another appeal for any
information. Didn’t want people to forget.”
The national press had lost interest. They were waiting for a
conclusion. The Camden Gazette, through Vicki, was Claire’s only
voice. Vicki had been just another reporter at the conference, didn’t get
any question time as she was only with a local rag, but she would not let
go of a story that had the possibility of being national again. She had
managed to get Claire’s number of a source she had in the local police,
and had called vowing to keep her story in the papers. “Of course, we
have the facts of the story. I just need an update, a few lines, a quote or
two to go with it: How do you feel now that two weeks has passed? And
33
Harvest

with the police making no progress?”


Craig watched uncomfortably as Claire sighed under the weight
of Vicki’s journalistic angle that reinforced the pain and hopelessness of
the situation. “It’s terrible. I mean there’s just nothing to go on.” She
stared intently at Vicki as if measuring her for a moment. “It just
happened! She was asleep in her bed and then she was gone.”
“Do you feel the police haven’t done enough?” Vicki pushed.
“No, no.” She leapt in with her emphatic answer, despite her
general malaise. “There’s not much to go on. She disappeared, no one
has come forward with seeing anything, and she had no reason to run
away.” Her voice fractured into faltering tones forcing her to clear her
throat of thick emotion. “It just feels so useless.”
“Do you feel that some people close by are hiding things?”
“Someone must know something, mustn’t they? Emily has to be
somewhere. Someone knows where she is, or must have seen her.”
There was a pleading desperation to her reply. “Do you think it
could be someone in the building?” she rerouted after a little time.
“The police did a full search of all the flats. Everyone was very
co-operative. I’ve always found everyone here to be good people.”
Claire looked to Craig for some corroboration but Vicki blocked
her prompt to maintain the focus on Claire. “What are your feelings
regarding the disappearance of Mr Taylor?” She glanced at her notes for
his full name. “Albert Taylor.”
Claire’s eyes brimmed and she looked to the ceiling as if trying
to tip the tears back into her head. She sucked air into her chest and
faced Vicki again. “I don’t know. When he wasn’t working, he... he
always seemed such a friendly man, always had a joke for anyone who
cared to listen. He... he was great with kids.” She smiled but her resolve
broke apart around her last words and their possible naïve irony, her
eyes reddening as tears brimmed. She held her hand up to her mouth to
hide her quivering lips. “That’s what I hate about this. You have to start
looking at all your friends and your neighbours as suspects. The – the
police said don’t neglect anyone from your thoughts. Any hunch or
feeling has to be looked into... When – when there is as little evidence...
34
Harvest

as this.” She began to cry openly.


Craig watched Vicki study her pad, no attempt at comforting
her. He jumped up and gave Claire the box of tissues from the glass
coffee table and dashed back to Vicki’s side. Vicki gave Craig a firm
stare to catch his attention and then pointedly directed her eyes to his
camera on his lap. Craig looked at her in wide-eyed disbelief and shook
his head sternly in distaste. Vicki rolled her eyes at his sensibilities but
her look held an edge of genuine frustration with him.
“Sorry,” Claire apologised for her breakdown. “It’s just that this
has changed everything for us. We know a lot of people on the estate
and it’s so hard.”
“You are lucky you have a lot of support from the community.”
Craig knew as well as Vicki did that her statement was a lie, and
that while the community did offer its sympathy and outrage it also held
cynicism and suspicion. “Was there really no evidence left at the
scene?” Craig found himself asking, hoping his incredulity didn’t sound
like disbelief.
“Nothing. No fingerprints or anything. No... DNA.” She
grimaced at the foul taste the last part of her sentence left.
“Do you feel that people may suspect you or your husband?”
Vicki asked without flinching.
Craig sensed Claire look to him for an ally but he missed his
chance to support her as he was too preoccupied with trying to catch
Vicki’s eye with a disapproving look. It had already been reported that
Claire and her husband had been questioned concerning the
disappearance as police procedure, he didn’t see the need to revisit that.
Vicki had her own agenda.
“It scares me... that some people that don’t know me – or
Brian... would think that we could have... done something.” Claire
caved in physically, her shoulders dropping and she sagged in her chair
as if the thought defeated her. “But, then people always think the
worst... Even those that do know you. That’s what’s worse than
suspecting all your neighbours. Knowing... Knowing they suspect you.”
“What do you say to people who suspect you?”
35
Harvest

“Anyone that matters knows me and Brian give both our girls all
the love we can and we could never, ever hurt them.” Craig was pleased
Vicki had offered Claire the chance for a quote in her defence. Claire
looked over to a cluster of photographs of the twins on the opposite
wall. “How could we?” Her eyes glazed. “It’s destroying us.”
Craig tried to read some indication of whether Vicki believed
her, Claire’s resolve hadn’t broken once and Vicki looked impressed by
the conviction of her last answer. Vicki nodded a prompt for Craig to
prepare his camera before addressing Claire. “Would it be okay to take
a few photographs of you while we talk? Keeping your face in the paper
usually stirs up more support – Keeps the story in people’s minds.”
Claire nodded and Craig slid to his knees and prepared his
camera.
“How is your husband taking it?”
“Brian has been wonderful.” Claire smiled back at Brian. “It’s
killing him, but he still keeps it together. For my sake more than
anything, I think. I wish men could talk about things more. He cries
when he thinks I can’t see or when he thinks I’m asleep.”
Vicki allowed for a measured silence then spoke again. “How
about Emily’s sister?”
“Amy hasn’t spoken since that night... Doctors have tried to get
her to talk. She just won’t... They say its shock. They said to keep her to
a routine.... Keep her at school. It might bring her out. I don’t think she
knows how to cope with it, she has just shut herself down. The longer
Emily isn’t here, the more it feels like she isn’t coming home. When I
put Amy’s clothes away I see Emily’s identical things as if they were
just Amy’s. They would share their toys too. They have lost their
identity, as if they were always just Amy’s, as if there was always just
Amy. The more I see of Amy the less I see Emily. As if I only ever had
the one.” Claire wiped a tear from her face. Craig snatched the image
onto his camera in a cold flash of white light. “I only have memories
and photos and her empty bed. It sounds like I’ve given up hope,
doesn’t it?” She aimed a bitter accusatory look at Vicki and a broad
smile broke across her face that quivered in tormented anguish as she
36
Harvest

accepted her own rhetorical answer. “I’m just so scared that Emily isn’t
coming back.”
“Don’t give up hope,” Craig offered desperately in the
cavernous cold vacuum of Vicki’s silence.
“Do you fear for her? Amy, I mean?” Vicki asked cautiously.
She got a warning look from Craig as he set up a shot.
“What do you mean?” Claire frowned.
“Do you worry that Amy may be in danger?”
The camera flashed, forcing dark shadows into the room.
“Emily just vanished. I never thought that could happen.” She
stared vacantly at the floor, caught in her memories. “I never thought
people disappeared. Now I’m scared – Yes, I’m scared it could happen
again.”
Craig’s camera ignited the air and the light burned everything
briefly away in a brilliant white void.

Vicki explained she would rush the story through for her, and they said
their goodbyes to Claire on the doorstep leaving her to return to her
twilight den.
“I will get out at your floor and walk down. I hate being in lifts
on my own,” Vicki reminded him as she poked the button that would
summon the lift.
“Okay.” Craig sighed, deflated. “Well – that was awful,” he
summarised as they boarded the lift. He relaxed into a slouch, feeling
physically drained by the meeting.
“Yup, but it was hardly going to be a story I could get my teeth
into. Pays the bills though.”
Craig cocked his head to one side with a disdainful expression.
“That wasn’t what I meant. Tragedy isn’t there to serve your career. I
meant her story was terrible.”
Vicki punched the button for Craig’s floor. “You have too much
emotion to be a journalist.”
He restrained the urge to defend his ambitions and redirected his
bile into sarcasm. “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot I was talking to the ice queen.
37
Harvest

So, ‘Miss Objectivity’, what do you think?”


The lift slowed and stopped and the doors opened on to Craig’s
floor, he let Vicki out first.
“She did it.”
“The mother? I meant do you think the police will find some
leads or whether you think the little girl will be found. After what we
just sat through you think the mother did it?”
“You hear about it all the time: happy families… Kids are a pain
– the mum in the bedroom with a pillow… Twin sees it. It explains the
vow of silence the other kid has taken.”
Craig fixed her in wide-eyed disbelief. “You can say that after
seeing her grief?” He held his hands up in surrender to her cynicism. “I
am gonna let you go now. I’ll get the pics to you as soon as I can. Go
spread your sunshine somewhere else.”
“You’re just too innocent. Don’t worry.” She smiled
disarmingly. “It’s a sweet thing.”

38
Harvest

Five
Jason stood in Claire’s kitchen as his mum slid a covered plate of fish
fingers and chips and a casserole dish onto the worktop. He felt afraid to
move, like a time when he was in a china shop and he had been afraid
that any movement he might make would result in an accident, but in
this instance he was afraid of being noticed. It was difficult being
around Claire since Emily had gone. He didn’t know how to act around
her.
“Here you go, Claire; something for you and Brian to dip into –
plus a tea for Amy.”
“Thanks. It means a lot to me.”
“It’s only a casserole,” Jenny joked weakly.
Claire walked into the kitchen and squeezed Jason’s shoulder
affectionately as she passed. She had a strange smile on her face, as if
she didn’t know how to use her face for that anymore. Claire leaned
against Jenny in a lingering hug and he suddenly remembered being in a
school play and not knowing his lines or where he should be standing.
Claire’s flat seemed different now, as if Emily not being there
had changed the flat itself. It had always been like a second home; the
furniture and pictures were familiar and held memories, but the place
seemed alien and foreign now. Somehow little things like the grain on
the doors or the pattern of the carpet seemed new, as if he was seeing
them for the first time although they were the same doors he had hidden
behind and it was the same floor he had rolled about on in play. It
reminded him of how it his own home had felt after his dad had left.
Jason realised that it was the missing person and the feelings that he had
about them that changed the place. The two places where he could get
away from his fears of school and forget about the kids that picked on
him and have fun had been ruined. His world was getting smaller.
The embrace of the adults was disturbed as Amy stopped her
playing in the lounge and dashed into her bedroom. Jason watched his
mum give Claire a questioning look.
“I don’t know why she keeps doing that. She never seems to
settle. She runs from one room to the next a couple of times a day. More
39
Harvest

frequently lately though.”


Jenny rubbed Claire’s arms comfortingly.
“Jason, do you think you could stop for a bit, play with Amy?
Keep her company. Could be what she needs.” Claire’s voice sounded
strained – desperate.
He nodded, grateful for a chance to escape from the grief that
weighted the air between the two adults. His mum explained she would
go home and he could come down whenever he wanted tea. He headed
quickly to Amy’s room before his mum could join Claire in crying. He
didn’t know what to say or do when his mum cried, it left him feeling
powerless. She shouldn’t be allowed to cry in front of him, and his
insides twisted as soon as he had thought it, feeling guilty for needing
her to be strong for him.
He stood in the doorway to Amy’s room and found her sitting
cross-legged on Emily’s bed with her back to him as she coloured in a
picture. Emily’s absence left a gaping hole in the room, and it seemed
wrong to him that Amy had been left behind to play and sleep in what
was now a crime scene, although Jason was unsure of what crime had
been committed. It wasn’t talked about in front of him – and on some
level that he would never admit to anyone, he was glad of the
protection. But, it was still her room.
What must Amy be feeling? He could hear his mum and Claire
crying openly together as they parted on the doorstep. It made him think
of all those nights when his parents had argued. Even now when he was
trying to sleep at night he could hear his mum sobbing through the thin
walls. Lately Jason didn’t know if it was because she missed his dad or
because of what had happened to Emily. His mind strayed into a place
in his imagination that he avoided going, where he imagined what life
would be like without his mum: his dad hadn’t been back or called since
he had left; they didn’t even know where he was now. Jason’s granddad
was old and had cancer and was in and out of hospital, and every time
he was admitted his mum told Jason how long happy and full a life his
granddad had had, but his life now was painful and unhappy – preparing
Jason for when he didn’t come back from hospital. So Jason knew that
40
Harvest

if something happened to his mum, he would be alone. Amy and her


mum and dad must be realising something that Jason had lived with for
months; that family and the love and protection it gave was fragile and
could be broken at any time.
He thought it odd how something missing could change things
so drastically, like when he was younger and had seen the fairground
with its bright attractive colours, madcap clowns and entertainers and its
rushing and soaring rides. He had begged his dad to take him, and that
night he had. The sun had gone down. The lights of the fair flashed and
raced causing the shadows and the dark (which he had been frightened
of back then) to leap out at him. The dark made the clowns look sinister
with their blood red mouths, and it hid the ground from view making the
high rides seem higher and more frightening than he could cope with.
Now he was older, but he had other fears.
There were so many bad things in the world, bullies, hoodies,
war, perverts, murderers, bombs, fighting. They had always been there,
at school, in the street as he walked with his mum, on the TV in the
background while he did his homework or played, but since his dad and
Emily had gone they all seemed so much more real and frightening.
He took advantage of Amy being oblivious to him and tried to
be the Jason he had always been with her. She didn’t need someone else
talking slowly and clearly to her like she was deaf, as adults had seemed
to do with him about his dad. Jason stepped into the room and soft-
footed over to the bed and ventured a natural, “Hello.”
Amy looked up and gave him a half-smile, her face puffy and
flushed, then returned to her drawing. Seeing she had been crying, and
having heard his mum and Claire’s grief in the other room, stirred
something overwhelmingly sad within him. All the people he loved
were hurting and he couldn’t think of a word or a gesture that could
make them happy. He was powerless and wanted to crawl away and get
lost in games, but he knew he couldn’t escape the worries in his head
and the heaviness in his chest.
He sat beside Amy on the bed and put his arm round her. She
was shaking a little. She snuggled into him, resting her head under his
41
Harvest

neck while she scribbled on a dog-eared sheet of paper. Jason’s eyes


grew hot and moist and he swallowed against the emotions he felt for
his mum, Amy, Claire and missing Emily – even for his dad. Hoping
Amy didn’t sense his weakening.
“What you drawing?” Jason asked meekly, knowing she
wouldn’t reply, but just needing something to say to break the quiet.
She carried on with her idle work. Jason picked up some other
scattered drawings and leafed through them. They were all of her room
and her toys, but one of them featured a little girl. That’s when Amy’s
reality hit Jason, without her having to speak. Whenever the girls put
themselves in pictures, it was always both of them. This crayon girl was
alone. He squeezed her tight.
“You like the green and yellow crayons, don’t ya?” he remarked
at the colours that swirled within most of the pictures. Behind the girl in
the picture was a green scribble with yellow splodges that had some
symmetry within the spirals and swirls that threatened to swamp her.
Somehow there was something in that picture that teased the hairs on
the nape of his neck. She scribed two words next to it. Two words that
labelled the thing that was in her picture, and she looked up at him, not
with tears in her eyes, but fear.
Jason jolted when Claire’s voice broke the moment as she called
for him to collect some drinks for them from the kitchen. He slipped
from the bed to collect them and tried to understand what Amy had
shown him in her picture and what it meant. He hesitated in the
doorway and turned back to her. Amy had stopped her drawing now and
was sitting bolt upright looking warily around her with awkward jerks
of her head like a dog that had heard a sound only it could tune into.
Claire called him again before he had a chance to ask Amy what was
wrong. Reluctantly he left Amy to collect their refreshments from her
mum.
Claire passed him two large glasses of cola with lively frothing
heads. She slipped a chocolate bar into the gaping pocket of his combat
trousers. “Don’t tell your mum.” She winked at him in an impression of
her former self.
42
Harvest

A door slammed shut with a terrible bang.


Claire pushed past him and ran towards Amy’s room. Jason was
so startled by the noise, the rough treatment and Claire’s fearful shouts
for Amy that he didn’t have to time to think or put down his cola, but
followed as fast as he could without slopping his drink all over the floor.
He rounded the corner and found Claire standing at Amy’s closed door.
The handle jumped up and down and urgent little thumps sound from
inside the room.
Claire grabbed the handle and plunged it down and leaned into
the door. It opened a few millimetres, meeting strong resistance. A soft
green light spilled out from the narrow crack before the door was
sharply forced closed.
Claire jumped back from the door in confused surprise and Jason
staggered away a few shuffled paces in a defensive instinct. Amy wasn’t
strong enough to force the door shut against Claire, and by the sounds of
it Amy wanted out just much as Claire wanted in. His limbs felt like
rubber and he crossed his legs against an urgent tingling in his bladder.
The green light frightened him.
Claire promptly regained a strong hold on the handle with one
hand and spread another against the door, then leapt at it, throwing all
her weight against the wood. The door cracked open under her exertion
and Amy escaped through it. She tangled into her mum’s legs,
clambering around her and frantically pulling her away. Claire instantly
dropped into a crouch and swept Amy into her arms. Jason watched the
door swinging smoothly and idly open on its hinges in the wake of
being released from Claire’s efforts, now that Amy had escaped it didn’t
seem stubborn at all. The green light was gone.

On the twelfth floor Craig hesitated outside Kelly Mason’s front door
for a moment then knocked and waited, trying to ignore a dull anxiety
that squirmed uncomfortably in his stomach and tickled his throat. Craig
had sat at home for an hour with Vicki’s judgement of him burning in
his chest and festering in his thoughts.
He disagreed with her; he could make an objective journalist.
43
Harvest

The things that Claire had said were fact, and the content of what she
said would conjure emotion in most people. He was sure that as cynical
as Vicki was, even she was only half-joking about the mother killing her
daughter, and despite Vicki’s dislike of children, the human side of this
story couldn’t be lost on her personally. He reminded himself that he
had given up trying to work out Vicki’s mind a few weeks after they
had met.
Craig knew he could handle interviews better, but while he was
a photographer he wouldn’t get the opportunity, he wasn’t qualified to
approach any paper but his local rag, and Vicki’s boss, the editor of The
Camden Gazette, wanted to keep him where he was; easier to employ a
new writer rather than possibly lose a photographer. The Hampstead
and Highgate News had shown little interest beyond their regular
writers and contributions from established freelancers.
After returning to his flat Craig had looked about his home
knowing that two floors above him in another flat, a family was falling
apart and a mother was losing her heart and mind. This story was too
close to home for him to pass up. He had always enjoyed writing, he
had poured over short stories as a kid, never really finishing anything,
and even when his love of photography had taken over his writing had
been knocking around in the background. He accepted he was a
photographer now, but if he was to get into writing, he reasoned he had
to do something sometime. If writing news was part of that then with
something happening on his doorstep he had just the opportunity and
the unique perspective to understand how this hit those around him. He
needed an outlet for his creativity – he certainly wasn’t getting from his
photography.
Kelly Mason was a local policewoman. He didn’t know her, but
he had seen her in the lift and collecting her post on the ground floor.
He had found her flat number easily enough from her mailbox in the
lobby. Perhaps she had a perspective, possibly some thoughts of her
own from a resident’s point of view. She might even be involved in the
case. Now he stood at her door, unsure and wondering how far his
charm would get him.
44
Harvest

The door opened suddenly and Craig gave the woman that stood
there an obvious second look. The Kelly he knew looked dowdy, plain,
her uniform being her defining feature. The woman in the doorway was
a youthful woman looking to be on the verge of thirty with dark amber
eyes and faint freckles dusting her flushed cheeks, while her brunette
hair, normally in an efficient tight bun behind her hat, now fell about
her face in long chocolate waves. She usually seemed shapeless, almost
devoid of sex under her layers of uniform and the baggy luminous
yellow jacket, but now in black trousers and a tight roll-neck jumper,
slack at her neck, she had a figure.
Kelly frowned uncertainly at him as if she never had visitors,
and now she did her neck and cheeks burned in a creeping red blush. “I
think you have the wrong flat,” she said.
“Kelly?” He stared at her, almost seeking reassurance that it was
really the plain woman he had seen before. “Sorry – let me explain...
I’m a journalist...”
“Haven’t I seen you about before?” she said, trying to place him.
“The photographer for the Gazette?”
“Yeah,” Craig admitted, surprised she knew him. “I do some
work for the Gazette when I get it. I’m trying to get into the writing
side.” He shook his head in frustration with himself; she didn’t need his
life story. “You don’t know me. I live in this block. Craig Digby”
“I thought that was it. I have seen you coming and going.”
He held his hands up in surrender and cut in. “Yeah, don’t
worry. You haven’t arrested me before.”
She laughed pleasantly. “What brings you to me?”
He dared himself to ask what he wanted. “It’s just that I’ve
heard a lot about the Chambers case. I’ve interviewed the mother and
was wondering if you had any dealings in the case, and if you could
spare me a few minutes for some questions yourself?”
Kelly looked strangely dejected and apologetic. “I’m sorry, Mr
Digby,” she said with authority. “I am a liaison for the Chambers and
the station as I am local, but I can’t talk to you about any details. It’s
more than my job’s worth – and I don’t think it’s right. The family
45
Harvest

needs time and space to themselves.”


“I’m not asking for anything confidential. Just an interview on
the police aspect, that’s all,” he tried hopefully.
A shrill pinging from within her flat interrupted their
conversation; Kelly briefly cast a distracted look over her shoulder, and
relaxed her tone. “That’s my dinner… I don’t think there’s much I can
actually tell you that’s not already been in the papers.”
“Well, how about another time?” he persisted. “From the
perspective of a person living in the block with the duties you have at
the station and what it’s like with this on your doorstep? Nothing about
the case specifically, and I wouldn’t do anything with it until after
you’ve read through whatever I have written.”
She seemed to be in pained thought for a moment and looked at
him awkwardly, her decision apparently made more difficult by the
urgent pings of her waiting microwave meal. “Oh, okay. But some other
time – I have a frozen curry calling me!” She smiled humbly and closed
the door on him without saying goodbye.

46
Harvest

Six
Rachel rested on her recliner within the cosy half-light of her lounge
and used her remote control to flick through the television channels. She
munched on cheese and crackers with a glass of sherry at her side while
she searched for something to watch. The kitten perched on her leg,
leaning over to the table and lapped from a glass of water. The cold
light from the television flickered and broke into the corners of the room
where the standard lamp didn’t reach.
She thought of her phone, and didn’t know why. She wondered
at the randomness of the thought until it rang abruptly.
Startled, she dropped part of her cracker on to her chest. Rachel
pulled the kitten close to her so she didn’t tip it from her lap as she
reached for the handset. The kitten crawled up her and began picking at
the cracker from under her chin, oblivious to the difficulty Rachel had
in guiding the phone cable around the animal so she could get the phone
to her ear.
“Hello?” she said. Before the person could speak she was
distracted by the sound of ruffled paper from beside her chair, and
strained over the arm of the chair to investigate. A pile of newspapers
that had been stacked there had tumbled onto their side and she was
greeted with the headline that had been within the middle of the pile:
“CHILD MISSING FROM BED.”
“Hello, you don’t know me but my name is Claire Chambers...”
the voice on the phone started.
Rachel pulled the paper up on to her lap and scanned the page,
seeing the woman’s name in print before her.
“The little girl’s mother?”
There was a hesitation as Claire adjusted to her name being
recognised. “Yes... That’s right.”
“I’m so very sorry to read about all that’s happened.” Rachel
winced at the banality of her words. She could hear Claire swallow.
“The spiritualist church you attend recommended I talk with
you. No one has come forward with anything, no one saw anything. It’s
been nearly three weeks. I don’t know what made me call. It’s just we
47
Harvest

are so desperate. I don’t know what you can do, or even what you do.
We were... I was just wondering...”
Rachel looked about her room, squinting briefly into the gloom
at the television as her programme came back on. She knew what Claire
wanted to know. “Don’t worry, dear. I could come and see you
tomorrow if you like. However, you must understand in this
circumstance I won’t undertake any attempt at contact and I don’t give
certainties. I can come and see what I can feel, see if I can offer any
other insight around what has happened. It won’t help you with the
police though, as I am sure you know; all I can give you is a little faith
and hope. If that’s enough for you then I will gladly visit you.”
Claire gushed gratefully and began to arrange a time to go and
see her the next day. Rachel turned the folded paper over to see the
bottom of the front page and the cat licked her cheek for more crumbs.
Rachel gave a sad smile at the school picture of the happy-looking girl
presented on the page. Although she couldn’t see it in the thick shadows
of the room, Rachel’s thoughts focussed on the framed birth certificate
on the mantelpiece and the darkness closed in around her in a great
swell at the thought of the aged piece of paper.

Rachel’s eyes travelled up the body of the east tower that grew from the
ground before her. Looking at the top drained her sense of balance and
a brief glance to the summit was all she could manage without her
vision swimming. The sun blazed from behind the building, melting the
rigid horizon of the roof and casting the face of the building into
shadow. She looked back down sharply and blinked away the
disorientation before taking the steps up to the main door above the
abandoned arcade of shops at the tower’s base.
Rachel had been to this building once before, but she hadn’t got
past the front door that day. She had been turned away by a
disconnected voice over the intercom – told not to come back. The
rejection was still a fresh knife wound. All Rachel had wanted to do was
tell her that she was here for her if she had need of her, but she had
wanted nothing from Rachel.
48
Harvest

She slipped her bifocals on and studied the entry system closely
before she typed in the flat number for Claire Chambers and introduced
herself to the crackling voice that responded. The voice cut out and the
door buzzed, Rachel pushed but it refused to open. She pressed for
Claire’s flat, “Sorry, me and technology, I can’t get it to open.”
The intercom gave a muffled reply, apologising for the problem.
“You just wait there and I’ll come and get you, you’ll never find the flat
anyway. I’ll be down in a second.”
Rachel looked about her. The thick shadow of the building
reached across the small grassy area surrounding the flats and across the
road, blanketing the houses beyond in a dark shroud. She turned back to
the glass of the door and was startled by a set of eyes staring back at
her. Greying eyes, tinged with yellow, but soft and watery like melting
ice. The skin around them hung pink and sagging. The man’s hair was
thick with grease and scruffily side-parted; his beard was short and
greying, the bristly curls matted with saliva slug-trails glistening around
withered lips that grimaced around yellow and black teeth. His breath
clouded the glass between them; breath she was sure would be foul and
made her glad of the barrier. His long coat hung from multiple layers of
clothing, a heavy burden in spite of the summer warmth that made him
look bigger than he probably was.
Rachel smiled at him as gently and as genuinely as she could
and pointed to the handle. “Could you let me in?” she mouthed
hopefully.
He stared back at her. Not even following the direction of her
pointing finger. “Go away...” he barked, bowing his head forward and
glaring up at her with menace in his eyes. She half-expected him to
growl and bare his teeth like a wild dog. His eyes were rich with a
hatred she didn’t understand. Rachel was routed by his threatening glare
and retreated a few steps.
She was relieved when a young man peered over the older man’s
shoulder, frowned and appeared to start questioning his behaviour. The
old man didn’t flinch from his posturing stand-off. Feeling her
confidence return with the arrival of the lad she stepped back towards
49
Harvest

the glass and motioned to him that she was trying to get in.
He said something with humour to the old man, and when that
failed to move him he leaned closer to the glass and called through it;
“Have you been buzzed in?”
“Yes, Claire Chambers buzzed me in but it didn’t work. She’s
coming down now.” Her mention of the Chambers seemed to spur him
on in getting rid of the glaring old man. He approached the situation
with humour and when that failed he resorted to a firmness of face and
probably tone which he looked uncomfortable with. Finally the old man
stepped away but his eyes remained on Rachel. She avoided them and
scanned the rows of letterboxes in the lobby, knowing that Catherine’s
would be one of them. Perhaps she could leave a note? No, she had
written letters before to Cat and had yet to receive a reply.
The young man rolled his eyes at her and pressed the buzzer.
Rachel stepped back up and pushed at it but it remained firm and rattled
in its place. It refused to budge even when the young man pulled it from
inside. He dug deep into his trouser pocket and pulled out his keys to
the building, he signalled to the letterbox and poked them through for
Rachel. She tried several keys until she found the right one and
unlocked the door and the man yanked it open for her.
“There you go,” he announced, stepping aside for her to enter.
Rachel smiled appreciatively and stepped in. As her foot crossed
the threshold she thought how odd it was that she had come here a year
ago only to be turned away, and now her “gift” had brought her here. To
anyone else it might be dismissed as coincidence, but she lived in a
different world, with different explanations.
The intercom rasped viciously and a growl of angry static grated
harshly on her ears, startling her. Sparks flew from the metal speaker
grille in an angry flare and Rachel cowered away and stumbled against
the doorframe. The young man caught her arm, supported her into the
building and sheltered her from any other possible sparks. She thanked
him and stared back at the smoking intercom that increased her sense of
being unwelcome.

50
Harvest

In the lift Rachel struggled to compose herself and focus on the small
talk that Claire Chambers was making with her. Claire was talking
about the building, about tower blocks in general, giving examples of
how different The Heights were to the stereotypes of high-rise flats,
selling her the community and the views. It struck Rachel as rehearsed,
something she did with new guests to make them feel at ease, or to ease
her own discomfort with the stereotype, but her pained grin and
glistening eyes that accompanied her description of the friendly
community within the tower told a different story. Rachel didn’t
normally like colluding with the games people play. Beyond her ability
to talk to the dead and see the past she had developed a keen
psychological insight from spending so much time with people in pain.
It wasn’t a psychology you might find in a text book, it was a mix of the
otherworld intuition, keen observation and listening and a first hand
understanding of grief, pain and hopelessness. Rachel didn’t need a text
book to understand those things. After a short while of talking with
someone she could imagine things from their perspective and quickly
spot inconsistencies in what they said or how they acted. She would sow
her conversation with musings and wonderings from her perspective,
inviting the other person to own the thoughts as their own, to encourage
them to challenge themselves, to be honest with themselves. However,
Rachel could see that Claire was desperate to believe in the community
spirit of the building, and still shaken from the incident at the door
Rachel also needed to believe it was a safe place to be.
Catherine had demanded that Rachel stay away from her and the
building, and as much as Rachel wanted a reunion she didn’t want it to
happen in front of Claire, Cat had so much resentment for her. If the
dread of that hadn’t been enough to unsettle her, when Claire had
emerged from the lift, the old man, Harry as she now knew he was
called had retreated but hissed a final warning in her face; “Your type
aren’t welcome here.” What did he mean? How could he know about
her abilities? She could also sense something, some presence in the air,
but the emotions the building conjured within her and the shock of her
encounter at the main door made it impossible to concentrate. She was
51
Harvest

also distracted by the large mosaic panel that took up almost an entire
wall of the lobby. It was a crude gaudy display of rich colours, it
reminded her of the mosaics at Tottenham Court Road Underground
Station, yet there weren’t any individual pictures, just patterns of colour
that weaved in and out. She had examined it further while she had
chatted with the young man that had come to her aide. She had seen
something in the mosaic. Areas of the mosaic where the colours
deviated by subtle degrees creating a discrete shape. When she walked
to the lift with Claire she had tried to take in the mosaic as a whole, to
see the shape for what it was but lost the image within the twists and
angles of the pattern.
The lift stopped and her thoughts, like the ghostly image within
the mosaic, were lost to concentrate more on Claire as they walked to
her flat.
Rachel wiped her feet on the mat as Claire shut the door behind
them.
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Lovely! Milk, three sugars. Thank you.”
Claire walked over to the kitchen.
A man’s voice greeted Rachel from the lounge. “Sweet tooth.”
She found the man sitting on a sofa leaning forward on his knees
so he could see her more clearly round the doorway. He looked her over
warily.
“I need all the energy rushes I can get,” she puffed and smiled
disarmingly. “You must be Mr Chambers.” She navigated the coffee
table and extended her hand.
He stood to his full height, which was several inches over
Rachel’s, and took her hand. She was unsure if she was meant to feel
intimidated.
“Call me Brian.”
She let his hand go and looked about her. The flat was bright and
airy and very clean, almost too clean. “It’s a lovely home you both
have.” She looked to Brian as he sat down. He didn’t say anything. He
was a big man, not fat but stocky, judging by the heavy pads she had
52
Harvest

felt on his hand, a manual worker. He offered a smile from a fresh


smooth face, he looked to be a youthful thirty-something, but his eyes
looked switched off. They were the eyes of an old man hardened to
everything the world could throw at him and judging by his solid
posture and his strained body language he had a hardened attitude
towards her, and these niceties was just politeness.
Rachel turned on her heels as she heard the welcome
interruption of rattling crockery. Claire entered with a tray of tea and
biscuits, shooting her husband a disapproving look.
“Please, Rachel, take a seat.” Claire’s tone berated Brian for not
offering earlier.
Rachel sat in the armchair opposite the sofa.
Claire settled next to Brian and served the drinks. Rachel took
the cup and saucer and stirred the drink before resting the spoon gently
at the side.
Brian was the first to speak. “This was Claire’s idea, not mine.
To be quite frank I don’t believe in mumbo-jumbo.”
Claire shot him a killing look.
Rachel ignored him momentarily and took a sip of her tea. “I am
glad you don’t believe in mumbo-jumbo. Nor do I. I’m not a witch –
although I can have a temper on me.” She smiled. “I do believe in spirits
and that there is an after-life if you want to call it that. It is just a view
that physical death isn’t the end, that sometimes, for whatever reason or
science behind it an aspect of us remains after the body dies, and some
of us are fortunate enough to be able to communicate with these
essences, these spirits. And we use that ability to help those left behind.
So, I won’t be chanting and lighting incense and you will be quite
pleased that I left my broomstick at home.” She finished her matter-of-
fact statement with a nod to Claire. “Lovely tea.”
“I didn’t mean to be rude, it’s just that it’s been a hard time for
us.” Brian took Claire’s hand in his. “I don’t want anything that is going
to make life harder for us.”
Rachel rested her cup on its saucer. “I understand entirely. It’s
very good of you to support your wife in something that you don’t
53
Harvest

really believe in, especially at a time as painful as this. I’m not a


charlatan though, Brian. I don’t ask for any money for what I do. All I
ask is for you to suspend any criticism and preconceptions for just a
while and believe for just a moment.” Rachel watched Brian nod and
smile and his frame sank slightly as he disarmed himself. She knew now
was the time to lay her cards on the table. She settled her cup on its
saucer and held it still on her lap as she approached a difficult subject.
“I have to say one thing. I am here to help you find some kind of lead
for the ongoing investigation. However, I would appreciate it if you
didn’t ask me to try and contact Emily.” Rachel smiled weakly. Death
sat uncomfortably on her shoulder as she prepared to elaborate. “If I
disclosed that I could contact her, I imagine non-believers would judge
me as being cruel in taking away your hope of her being alive. I also
suspect that any scepticism you have about my abilities would be
reinforced by your need to believe that she is alive, and you would
doubt what I say until there was tangible earth-bound evidence. If I
found that I couldn’t contact her, you might take what could simply be a
limitation of my ability as reinforcement of your hope of her being
alive. Disclosure either way would ultimately offer you little comfort.”
She watched them both wilt guiltily, as if uncovered in some crime.
After the weight of the expectations had lifted, the three chatted
for a quarter of an hour about Rachel’s beliefs, the twins, life in the
flats and did a complete circle back to how they still had no leads
towards finding little Emily, and how the Chambers’ prayed that she
was alive. The conversation ran out as the emotions took hold of Claire
and Brian. To escape the awkwardness, Rachel asked where Emily was
last known to be before she went missing. Claire stood up and led the
way to the bedroom while Brian remained on the sofa, his head in his
hands.
Rachel stood with Claire before the children’s bedroom door.
With no window to provide natural light, it was dark at that end of the
hall. Claire put her hand on the door handle, but turned hesitantly to
Rachel and chewed at her bottom lip.
“There’s something I haven’t told anyone. Only Brian, and he
54
Harvest

says it’s silly. Some funny things have happened lately. We used to
have fish in our tank in the lounge. The night Emily went missing they
all went crazy, flitting erratically, flinging themselves around the tank. I
could hear the fish hitting the glass. The fluorescent light was flickering
too. That’s the moment I heard one of the girls scream and I found
Emily had gone. Afterwards, when the police had gone and we were
alone again, that was when I noticed… The fish. They were all dead,
floating on the surface.”
Rachel then listened to Claire explain how Amy had been stuck
in her room. Claire nudged the door to the bedroom and it drifted off its
catch and opened effortlessly without the need for the handle to be
turned. “It was as if Amy had been holding it shut; but she wouldn’t
have been able to stop me opening it. I’m sure there was light in here –
not from the light bulb. It was green. I got Amy out and she was
terrified. What should she be terrified of?
“There is something else we hadn’t told the police,” she
whispered conspiratorially.
“Go on,” Rachel urged as the hairs on her neck tingled.
“The night Emily went missing, me and Brian had settled for
the evening...”
“Don’t, Claire,” Brian interrupted pleadingly, announcing his
presence in the hall.
“The front door was locked.” Claire looked at Rachel for a
reaction. “We are nine floors up.”
Rachel looked from Claire to Brian who couldn’t hold her gaze,
then to the children’s room before returning to Claire, giving herself
time to absorb this new information. Claire was putting voice to
something she had only dared to share with her husband, and it was
clear that even in that limited audience it created conflict. Brian was
obviously uneasy that Claire had told Rachel, knowing how outlandish
it sounded. “You believe Emily just vanished: into thin air?”
Brian withdrew to the lounge and she heard him drop heavily on
to the sofa in resignation. Claire shied away from Rachel’s searching
gaze.
55
Harvest

“I don’t know what to believe any more,” Claire said, not really
giving the definite answer Rachel wanted.
“I’m hardly going to criticise what you believe, Claire: I’m the
one that talks with those that have passed on.” She half-laughed trying
to lighten the situation but stepping round the dreaded catchphrase “I
see dead people”. The Sixth Sense film had a lot to answer for. “Some of
what you have described could be related to poltergeist activity. I’m
sure you know about those, thanks to the movies. You have young
children, and poltergeist activity tends to centre on them. They are
hypothesised to be manifestations of psychic energy, or mischievous
spirits drawn to a child, depends on your beliefs as it’s hardly a science
that can be empirically tested either way. What doesn’t fit is what you
haven’t said, but only hinted at and I have never heard of that outside of
books and films. However, your daughter is missing and I’m not here to
dispute the facts. I’m here to give some insight if I can.” She draped a
comforting arm around Claire, which she hoped went some way in
softening the impact of her non-commitment towards Claire’s belief.
“Why don’t you show me where Emily used to sleep,” Rachel
said, hoping to escape the obstacle before them. “That’s the last place
you saw her, yes? Tucked up in bed?”
Claire nodded and pointed to the bare mattress. “The police took
the sheets and covers. I can’t bring myself to remake it.”
Rachel glanced around the pink room scattered with dolls and
fluffy toys. She looked back to the bed. The little girl who had slept
there should have still been there, sleeping her dreams, playing with her
toys. She should be with her family, not missing, not away from the
family and the mother who loves her and misses her and wants her. Not
taken from her bed. The empathy welled within her and she coughed
gently to clear her throat.
Rachel looked up from the bed into the eyes of an old woman in
a purple polyester housecoat sitting on the edge of the opposite bed. She
was in her late sixties, with tightly curled grey hair and large glasses.
She held a bunch of white roses out before her. She looked at Rachel
and then pointed to a spot in the middle of the floor with grim concern.
56
Harvest

As Rachel looked back to the woman she found she had gone.
“Brian’s mother is still with you, isn’t she..? I mean she is still
alive.” Rachel barely waited for Claire to agree. “You named Emily
after your mother, didn’t you? She died before the twins were born.”
Claire nodded, perplexed and speechless. Brian appeared in the
doorway, his eyes red and raw from his crying, listening stoically to
Rachel’s words. “Your mother is looking after the family, you know
that, Claire? She loves you both and she has brought you some white
roses. She said you like them.” Tears ran down Claire’s face and she
nodded in acceptance of what had been said. “For some reason she
indicated that point on the floor.”
Claire struggled to concentrate on the present, and focussed on
the carpet. She coughed to clear her throat. “Amy was pointing to that
spot when I found Emily had gone. I don’t know why – or what she
saw.”
Rachel got up and surveyed her surroundings. Even without the
guidance of a spirit there was a sense of loss in the room. The emotion
hung in the atmosphere like mist. Her ability did not bring her total
recall of events from the past, but she had found she could sense
empathic feelings from things. She could glimpse the past from sensing
the strong emotions and thoughts that anchored a moment or an event in
space. Things that could help identify what had happened in this room,
and who it was that might have been involved.
“Did Emily have a favourite toy?”
Claire picked up a large doll from a chair by the door. “Miss
Daisy. They both played with it.”
Rachel was glad to be back on track in her involvement but her
mood plummeted at the thought of sensing if Emily actually had passed.
She hated the thought of being burdened with that knowledge. She
reached out for the doll and took hold of it.
An overwhelming sensation of nothingness swept through
Rachel’s senses, as if her mind’s eye had suddenly rushed through a
maze into a dead end. She turned away from Claire, uncomfortable with
her desperately searching stare. The doll had a past connection with
57
Harvest

Emily, she could sense how it was valued and cherished by the girls, but
the connection felt cold.
It signalled an ending.
Curiosity suddenly rushed into her, but it felt displaced, not her
own emotion: as if she could observe the sensation outside of
experiencing it. The feeling was quickly replaced with terror and this
time Rachel did experience the emotion. The feelings weren’t coming
from the doll. She looked down to her feet and found she had wandered
into the middle of the room where the apparition had pointed to and she
instantly understood the feeling: Emily had been on this spot and she
had seen something that night – something that had caught her interest
then terrified her.
It took all of Rachel’s control not to scream, not at the feeling
she experienced, but at what was there with her – somehow within the
residue of emotions from that night something was looking back into
her mind.
It dragged its presence through her head like glass raking her
flesh as it reached into her.
The attack tore viciously at her psyche sending her reeling,
staggering to one side. The instant she left the space that had been
indicated by Claire’s mum and Amy, the emotions and the presence
were gone.
Emily had been on this spot, moments before she had
disappeared. Someone else had been there too. Yet Rachel thought that
to call it a person wasn't right; it wasn’t a “someone”, but a
“something”’. Whatever “It” was, and whatever had happened, Amy
had seen it all.
In her lifetime, Rachel had sensed more spirits than she could
count or recall, even those spirits whose humanity had been whittled
away by their torment and anger, but she had never experienced
anything like the “thing” she had just encountered. Whatever it was, it
was powerful, like a thundering avalanche of raw undeveloped emotion.
There was also no language to the thoughts. It had been animal-like.
Purely primal.
58
Harvest

It had felt malevolent... Evil.


“You got something didn’t you!” Claire leaned close and looked
about her as if she too would see something, some new clue that had
been imperceptible until Rachel had unlocked it. “What did you see? Is
she...”
Claire’s words trailed off. Rachel knew what Claire couldn’t ask
but longed to know. Rachel was glad to have set her boundaries, for the
detachment she had felt from the doll told her that Emily’s connection
to this world had ended. She couldn’t find her words or gather herself
from her experience and was relieved at the stupor she found herself in.
Claire’s face sharpened into concern at Rachel’s bloodless appearance.
Rachel’s focus widened as the numbness of the shock subsided and she
became aware of a cold clammy veil on her body, and her arms and her
legs became rooting weights. She allowed Claire to support her arm and
guide her stumbling feet down the hall into the lounge.
Despite being seated, Rachel swayed slightly and Claire
embraced her to support her. The care and intimacy of the action left
Rachel uneasy considering the knowledge she had about her daughter
but couldn’t share. “I’m sorry, Claire.” She decided to escape with a
broad truth. “I couldn’t get any idea of what happened.” Rachel felt
Claire’s arm slide from her shoulder as she moved to crouch at her feet,
but any relief at being free of Claire’s kind gesture was short lived.
Rachel knew from what Claire had said that the phenomenon
had occurred around Amy after Emily’s disappearance. Rachel now
knew from her experience that something unnatural had been present
during Emily’s disappearance. Did the connection indicate a pattern?
Did that mean this wasn’t over? Did that mean Amy wasn’t safe, and
might share her sister’s fate? They were questions that she couldn’t
share with the family yet she imagined they were also Claire’s fears and
nightmares.
If Claire’s idea that it was a spirit that had “taken” the child were
to be believed, then how was it possible? Where had she gone? Rachel’s
defiant inner self was riled, how could “it” be stopped from doing it
again? Rachel shrugged off her fear and anger for Amy’s safety, what
59
Harvest

Claire believed went against everything Rachel understood. It bordered


on Hollywood fiction – if not the beliefs of insanity.
“I think you were right, something was here with Emily,” Rachel
reluctantly and diplomatically conceded before the tug-of-war in her
head could drag her in another direction. “I can’t say what happened
that night. I don’t know how to believe,” she stumbled to change her
words, “don’t know how to understand it – how this could happen as
you believe it has. But I feel there is something more to this…” Rachel
hesitated as if the words were too difficult to speak. “Perhaps a
malignant spirit or some paranormal activity that I have not experienced
or heard of before.” She could not help sounding doubtful, but Claire
didn’t respond to her tone.
“If something happened to Emily that’s related to the lights and
strange things that have been happening, then these things are still
happening. So where does that leave Amy?”
Rachel found the responsibility was back firmly with her again,
but couldn’t answer. There was so much uncertainty, and so much she
couldn’t accept. “I don’t know,” she stated simply, once again relying
on the truth in the face of an awkward question. “I don’t have any
explanations for you.” Claire and Brian shared looks again over the
same response they had from the police. They didn’t need to hear it
again.
“I am uncomfortable with what I am going to suggest.” She
paused as she considered the enormous demand it made of their family
at an emotional time. “With what you have been through, I don’t want
to be intrusive on you –” she stepped around what she wanted to
suggest. “But what you have described warrants investigation.”
Rachel observed Claire search Brian for his opinion and support
but received a blank stare in return. Rachel understood that this was
being left for Claire to deal with.
“I’m going to lay my cards on the table.” Rachel made eye
contact with both of them and held their gazes a moment. “I have a
friend at a university; a technical boffin. He has access – well, unofficial
access – to university equipment: cameras, motion detectors,
60
Harvest

temperature sensors and lots of other things I couldn’t hope to explain to


you – I have to ask him to set the timer on my video so don’t even get
me started on what other things he may have.” She laughed flippantly.
“Friends have used him before to set up investigations on supposed
hauntings. However, this is a difficult time for you and I know everyone
values privacy. That’s where the investigation might be unwelcome. It
involves cameras being in nearly every room...” she paused allowing
what she was saying to sink in. “Usually everyone stays over in the
place under investigation, but the last thing you want at the moment is a
group of people sitting around your lounge. I think it can be done by
remote though; I will have to ask Dave about all the technical side. It all
tends to go over my head you see.” She passed a hand over her head in a
mime of her inability to understand.
Claire laughed and Rachel was pleased to disarm any tension
within her, but Claire’s laughter subsided abruptly and her mood was
abandoned in mid-air as if she had forgotten what laughter was and its
sound and presence startled her. Rachel thought how lonely and empty
that laughter had seemed in the home where the family’s loss echoed so
cavernously.
Brian frowned and cut in. “Have you ever seen anything on your
investigations?”
His question stumped her; she was unsure if it was genuine
interest or bare-faced scepticism. “I see things all the time, Brian.
However, I doubt my experiences will convince you of the spiritual
world. I can be just as sceptical as you when I hear second-hand
accounts or see an unexplainable image in a photo that I have had no
part in taking. After all, you have to rely on someone else’s word that
it’s genuine. Even I have the sceptical voice inside me. The day
someone finds something that’s conclusive proof is the day it will be on
the news and front page of every paper. Even then there will be doubt. I
have seen film footage that has passed tests at photo labs and been
unexplainable, but is unlikely it will make it to the attention of the
general public or create a rethinking of what we think we understand.
You will always get people that will say it was set up at the time the
61
Harvest

picture was taken – all lighting, mirrors and wires. You can do so much
these days with modern technology.” She wanted him to know that she
wasn’t blind to understanding scepticism and she wasn’t beyond having
her own doubts when it came to the paranormal, his wife’s claims were
a perfect example of that.
“So it helps to be a believer?”
“Yes, quite. And I don’t mind from a spiritual or religious
perspective, just simply that in the absence of conclusive tangible
evidence, it helps to be open-minded. People with open-minds are at a
greater advantage at explaining things that are ambiguous or difficult to
understand. What’s different here is that whether we want to believe or
not, ‘something’ is happening and if we can get some evidence of
activity, it isn’t going to help with the police or anyone else, but it might
go some way towards confirming your suspicion that something
unnatural is going on here. That might take you closer to the truth,
whether that truth lies more in my field or has more of a rational
explanation. Enlightenment is not much to offer you. But at the moment
all you and I have are questions.”
For a few minutes there was silence. Claire sat back with her
husband and searched his eyes for any sign that might indicate what
path his thoughts were on. Rachel could only see the cloud of loss that
glazed his eyes.
Brian broke away from her gaze and cleared his throat. “I trust
my wife. I love her and if she says she believes something beyond our
comprehension and understanding has happened then I can only agree,
because I have lost a daughter and I don’t have any way to explain her
disappearance. I have to trust her.”
Rachel realised that all he had to do to draw strength to believe,
was to ask himself how a seven-year-old-girl, his daughter, could vanish
with no trace and no leads from a locked ninth-floor flat.

62
Harvest

Seven
Craig stepped out of the lift on the twelfth floor and headed for Kelly’s
flat. Kelly had been reluctant to share any information on the Chambers’
case with him, but he reasoned that giving her a heads up on the
Chambers calling on a medium might serve to gain her trust and favour.
If it was suspected that Emily was dead, it certainly hadn’t been leaked
to the press. Kelly might even think Craig could have a lead that hadn’t
been released, and that would provide him with leverage to bargain for a
little more information from Kelly. ‘It’s not what you know, it’s what
others think you know,’ that’s what Vicki said. He would have to
become a little more like Vicki if he wanted to get stories; hard,
unrelenting, able to read between the lines and put words into mouths
that don’t or won’t speak when you want them to; although he doubted
whether he could be that person and wasn’t sure if he wanted to be.
After helping the older woman get past Harry and in to the building, and
continuing his good deed by keeping her company until Claire
Chambers had arrived, he felt mean running straight to Kelly to use her
presence as a bargaining chip, but it could be his way in to a story.
Craig reached for the knocker at the same time the door opened
and Kelly rushed out. His hand landed on her chest with a soft pat. They
both stared at it. Craig retracted it, but not as quickly as he would have
liked.
“Sorry, I meant to get your...” He decided not to finish his
sentence and added another flustered apology, frowning at himself and
the embarrassment of the situation, wanting the world to instantly snuff
him out of existence.
“You scared the life out of me.” She said, politely ignoring his
discomfort.
Craig stepped away to let her out of her flat and he eyed her up
and down discretely. She was stiffly uniformed with her hair drawn
back into a tight bun, her small glasses hiding her eyes; this was the
Kelly he was used to seeing.
“I can’t stop too long; have to start my shift...” She closed her
door behind her and stood before him expectantly.
63
Harvest

“Sorry, it’s just that – well, I was downstairs earlier checking my


mail and it would appear that the Chambers have a guest.”
Kelly motioned for him to continue their conversation while she
walked. “They aren’t under arrest, Mr Digby.” She clipped on her
weighty utility belt as she walked.
“Craig,” he interrupted, smiling disarmingly, trying to get onto a
more personal level; formality felt uncomfortable and he wanted her
onside.
“They can have as many people as they like to come and visit
them. I don’t know what you have heard but they aren’t prime
suspects.”
Of course they were. “Who are?” Craig challenged firmly and
saw her instant frustration with him.
“Where are you going with this? You didn’t come all the way up
here to tell me they had visitors, surely?” Kelly opened the lift and they
both stepped in.
“I spoke to the woman.” He related what had happened in the
lobby, and Harry’s strange comment about her ‘type’ not being
welcome, the woman had assumed he knew her from ‘the hall’, Craig
had taken that as meaning she worked at town hall but she had corrected
him. “She’s from a local spiritualist hall. It seems she’s a medium.”
Kelly’s attention was full on him. “I thought that might get your
attention. Thought I should tell you because I didn’t know how
vulnerable they could be at this time.”
Kelly glanced away thoughtfully as the lift doors rattled shut.
She hadn’t selected the floor she wanted and for a moment they stood in
the blanching strip lighting of the lift, going nowhere. “Strange…”
Strange? Strange had been Harry not wanting the woman to
come in, then the door itself had fritzed, although when the woman had
gone up in the lift with Claire another resident used the door without
any problems. He didn’t mention this – it was bad enough being seen as
a mercenary journalist circling around a story without being a kook as
well.
“Thanks for letting me know about this. I could stop by, see how
64
Harvest

they are doing,” Kelly conceded, pressing the button for the ninth floor
and the lift car rumbled downwards towards the Chambers’ level. “Not
sure how I am going to approach them though.”
“So you got anything for me in return then?” Craig beamed.
Kelly shot him a look of disappointment. “I should have known
you didn’t have their vulnerability in mind. You’re all the same, you
people.” She stepped to the doors as the lift slowed down, distancing
herself from him.
Craig deflated as her spike of anger and disappointment lanced
him. He tried to cover the wound by rationalising that negative reactions
came with being a journalist, but the wound ached all the more as he
was defending himself against the very criticism he often levelled at
Vicki. He cared about what people thought of him and he didn’t want to
be hard, tactless and relentless as so many people saw journalists. “I’m
sorry, it’s just I need a story – I’m looking for my first story. I kind of
hoped...”
Kelly stepped out of the lift and her frame stiffened and filled
out her uniform. Especially where his hand had been. “This isn’t a
trade-off. It might mean the start of your career, but who do you think
would be under suspicion if I gave you insider info? That wouldn’t do
my career much good.” Craig looked to his shoes in a display of boyish
guilt, and her indignation softened. “Besides, you probably know just as
much as me.”
Craig jumped out in front of her with a renewed enthusiasm, but
she didn’t stop walking, forcing him to hop and dance back from her
determined step as he tried another approach. “Hey, I’m sorry. Perhaps
there’s another answer to this: We could work together.” The suggestion
received a flash furrow of her brow, joined with an “as if” cock of her
head. He wasn’t perturbed. “It’s not as one-sided as it sounds! After all,
I did just bring you some information. Hear me out. We are both going
to be following leads – granted we have different motives, but beyond
our jobs we both have personal motivations; we want to know what’s
happening on our doorstep. So – we could do it together.”
“I won’t be investigating leads – I’m not a detective.”
65
Harvest

“I know that – but the chances are that just by living here on top
of this you could pick up a lead, and you wouldn’t let that go, would
you?”
“You’re suggesting a partnership of information?”
“Quid pro quo – just like Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling.”
“I’m not sure I like the analogy…”
“Yeah, okay,” he conceded. “You could be Scully, me Mulder,
or... You Buffy, me Angel...”
Kelly laughed at his comparison and he was pleased he had
humoured her. “More like Abbott and Costello...”
“Clouseau and Kato?” Craig stopped in his tracks beside the
door to the Chambers’ flat. “Come on; what do you say?” he goaded.
“I can’t take you around with me on police business.”
“I know that, but we can help each other out. Come on!”
“We can trade information, but only at my discretion.” Kelly
continued in response to the grin that curled his lips tightly: “And if you
risk my record at work I will be serving you up with a nice warm
Chianti.”

Kelly took her hat off out of respect as Brian appeared at the door. She
saw the breathless dance of fear in his eyes, his uncertainty at her
presence. Wondering if this visit would change his world; either with
news of his daughter or that he and his wife were under arrest. Plenty of
her colleagues suspected the parents. Until the girl turned up or a body
was found there was little to go on other than what had been presented,
and given time and consideration of the fact that there was no evidence
of forced entry, and any intruder would have been in full view of the
parents in the lounge, the parents’ grief and fear for their missing
daughter would not distract from them being suspected. The Chambers
were fortunate that Albert Taylor the undertaker had gone missing just
before Emily, as it stopped the case pointing solely at the Chambers.
After brief friendly greetings Brian lingered, visibly agitated
around an expectant pause.
“I’m sorry to call on you like this, especially as I haven’t come
66
Harvest

with any news Brian. I actually came to check on you. See if you and
Claire were alright…” Kelly checked Craig was still by her side at the
door. “To be honest, Mr Digby here was worried for you,” she
explained, placing the onus firmly on him. He had after all, been the one
to talk her into this. He had such a happy face she imagined it was hard
to say no to him when the pay-off was the wide curled smile and the
sparkling excitement in his eyes. Although she felt a stab of guilt
knowing she wouldn’t follow through on her part if this proved to be a
lead on the case.
Brian frowned, obviously puzzled as to where this was leading
and looked guiltily over his shoulder to a woman in the lounge.
Craig was quick to jump in. “It’s nothing sinister, Mr Chambers.
I just spoke to the person you invited up and I wasn’t sure if she was
genuine or not. I was concerned.”
Brian stood aside and Kelly led Craig through while Brian
closed the door behind them. “I’ve been calling on you since all this
happened,” she said, “so I hope you don’t mind the intrusion. It’s not
being nosy – I just wanted to make sure you are okay.” Kelly saw Claire
and Rachel rise into full view in the lounge, drawn from conversation
by their intrusion. Their expectant eyes were upon Kelly and the ground
shifted beneath her with the weakness of her excuse. She shouldn’t have
come. It was outside her role. Why had she allowed herself to be talked
into this?
Brian’s mouth twitched towards explaining but was interrupted
by the doorknocker rattling again; he leaned past them and answered it
in a fluster.
All eyes turned to the door and there was silence.
Amy stood in the doorway in her school uniform, looking
diminutive, and scared by all those standing before her. She retreated
but the legs of the woman that accompanied her blocked her exit so she
pulled her friend close to her for protection. Kelly recognised the
woman and the boy as residents but didn’t know their name. She had
seen them at the Chambers’ place before.
Claire left Rachel’s side and pushed through Craig and Kelly to
67
Harvest

get to Amy. She crouched before her, brushed a stray swathe of hazelnut
hair from her face and kissed her forehead. She looked up into the
woman’s face and thanked her for looking after Amy, she called her
Jenny and the boy was Jason. She reassured both Amy and Jenny that
things were okay and that she would call her later. Brian shepherded a
questioning Amy to her room.
As Amy disappeared from view, the atmosphere of the room
changed abruptly as if a great build-up of pressure had been released,
and their bodies could relax and acclimatize in her absence. Amy was
the embodiment of Brian and Claire’s loss.
Claire appeared momentarily torn between her daughter and
their visitors. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I just want to see if Amy is okay.
Strangers tend to make her uncomfortable at the moment.”
With that, Claire abandoned Kelly and Craig in the hallway with
the woman they had been suspicious of. Kelly sought distraction
through looking around the room, anywhere but in Rachel’s vicinity,
while Craig hugged himself and rocked back and forth on his heels.
After some time she flashed a pained smile at Rachel, who returned the
gesture but without the discomfort.
“I hope you know I don’t mean the Chamber’s any harm,”
Rachel hushed across the room.
Kelly’s suspicion of Rachel was suddenly uncomfortable, now
she was face to face with her it felt accusatory. She left Craig’s side and
walked over to Rachel in the lounge. “I’m sorry,” she whispered before
lying, “it’s just a formality.”
Rachel’s grey diamond eyes studied her. “It’s not formality;
you’re here because you were concerned for the Chambers.”
“Is that why you’re here?” Kelly deflected with a carefully
loaded challenge.
If Rachel felt challenged she didn’t express it within the gentle
smile and quick answer. “I do care, yes. But it was Claire that contacted
me.”
Craig moved stiffly to Kelly’s side and leaned over her shoulder,
as if he was hiding behind her. “I’m sorry, Rachel. I hope you aren’t
68
Harvest

taking offence.” His eyes flicking between Rachel and the floor like a
guilty kid. It struck Kelly as quite sweet.
Rachel’s waved his apology away and her smile didn’t falter.
“No. Don’t worry yourself.”
Kelly chastised herself for intruding on the Chambers; it was
none of her concern. However, the Chambers calling Rachel signified a
possibility Kelly hadn’t thought they would be considering, urging her
on to suspicions of the parents she had been actively trying not to
contemplate. Perhaps the Chambers had given up hope? They were
entitled to approach anyone they wanted to for comfort. Personally she
didn’t believe in spirits – even God. If there was any truth in nonsense
like the paranormal then there would be more evidence and less
scepticism. She was more concerned this medium might be some crank
trying to get in on the press attention or get money by playing on the
family’s hopes. What if the parents already knew Emily was dead
because they had played a part in her death? She shrugged the thoughts
away.
“I don’t want to pry, Rachel, but does this mean they have given
up hope?”
Rachel appeared caught and unsure how to answer. “I think we
all need help to get through things like this. When you don’t have the
answers you look to others to help fill in the blanks.”
Despite Kelly’s lack of faith in Rachel’s talents she strangely
yearned to ask if Emily was dead, but knew that any answer would
leave her dissatisfied. Kelly would only accept tangible evidence; it was
her training. Procedure. She had had seventeen weeks of procedure in
her training at Hendon. She needed more than probabilities and
hunches, she had those already and they were buried in the back of her
mind, although they refused to decay into a lessening presence. Maybe
it was the sentimental optimist within her, but she couldn’t come to a
conclusion that meant snuffing out a life without concrete evidence to
support it, even though the cold fact was that Emily had now been
missing for three weeks. Although Rachel seemed nice enough, there
was something about clairvoyance and spiritualism that she disliked;
69
Harvest

someone offering you a fabric of lies that you desperately want to


believe because the truth is more painful. She thought of Ian telling her
that he loved her. What fantasy had she weaved for the Chambers?
“Have you? Filled in the blanks, I mean?”
“Whatever answer I give you, you wouldn’t believe me, would
you?”
“I might,” Craig jumped in.
Kelly held back a knowing smirk at Craig’s attempts to get an
angle on a story. An aspect of her was envious that he could get away
with following any line of thought. He could present a story or idea and
let the public come to their own conclusions, whereas the police had to
justify the plot with the intricacies of its causality fully explored and
explained.
“I don’t think any good can come from an answer either way
when it comes to Emily. As I explained to the Chambers, the blanks are
not going to be filled by me. Which, I’m afraid, gives little comfort to
them.”
The three stopped their discussion dead as Claire and Brian
returned from Amy’s room. Brian smiled uneasily at Kelly and hugged
himself. She became sensitive to the awkwardness of her presence as
her purpose for being there weakened the longer they stayed. Kelly
nudged Craig, wanting him to be aware of her intention of retreat as she
addressed the others. “Well, again, I hope I haven’t disturbed you all. I
was just looking out for your well-being and hope you see it that way.”
Claire smiled at her appreciatively. “It’s nice to know we have
people looking out for us in this block. It can be easy to forget.”
“If you’re going I don’t suppose you would show me out?”
Rachel looked back to the Chambers. “I think I’ve done all I can for
now. Have a think about it and if you feel you want to go ahead we can
get that equipment sorted.” Rachel closed in on Claire, seeming to
decide against a hug and simply placed her hand on her shoulder. Kelly
listened as Rachel thanked the Chambers for inviting her into their
home, and specifically thanked Claire for trusting her with her story.
She gave Claire the number of a Priest who would bless their home, the
70
Harvest

idea of another person using the Chambers torment and need for hope
riled Kelly until Rachel also passed Claire the number of a counsellor.
That was what the Chambers needed, real help to get past the ambiguity
of their daughters disappearance, something to help them live with the
uncertainty of Emily’s fate, not the mystification of faith with it’s’ own
ambiguities. She liked the way that Rachel gave them the choice of
which avenue to pursue.
Outside the flat Kelly felt a sense of relief wash through her, and
saw the same refreshment at being free of the smothering grief and
desperation in Craig, and more surprising to her she also saw it in
Rachel.
“I hope you didn’t mind me having you as an escort, Claire and
Brian had such expectations of me I was grateful for an opportunity to
make my departure.” Kelly accepted her sincerity and relaxed her
judgement. “It is hard, isn’t it? I hate being in there. It feels so
intrusive.”
“I could see how torn Claire was between us and wanting to be
with Amy. They must be terrified of leaving her.”
Kelly thought Rachel’s comment was odd. Surely the Chambers
would not fear their second daughter going missing? It was highly
unlikely that her abductor would return to the original crime scene and
victims now that everyone’s awareness and vigilance was so
heightened. “Really?”
Rachel balked at her questioning and Kelly conceded to how
fearful for Amy the Chambers would be. “Yes, of course.” Yet Kelly
shook off the lingering idea that Rachel knew more than she was saying
and quickly introduced herself to Rachel within their new situation. “I
didn’t really start out on the right footing with you back there...”
Rachel accepted Kelly’s hand and shook it. The three headed
down the hall and rode the lift together.
“What was that you said back there about equipment?” Craig
fired directly.
Rachel appeared caught and avoided his stare, glancing to the
floor of the lift, busying herself by unnecessarily adjusting the strap of
71
Harvest

her handbag on her shoulder before looking ahead to the door. Kelly
spoke a silent thank you to Craig in her head.
“The Chambers have had some activity in their flat...” Rachel
gave in and faced them both. “I’m pretty sure I am talking to sceptics,
so I won’t bore us all by wasting explanations that you won’t accept…”
There was a twinkle in her eye that softened her snipe.
“Hey, I’m the believer, she’s the sceptic...” he defended light-
heartedly.
Kelly cocked her head to one side, shrugged and flashed a smile
in acceptance of her title. “Comes with the job.”
“They have had some strange events centred on Amy. It can
happen in times of stress, especially with children. That’s why they
asked me to come and offer them some insight.”
“So back there you suggested a priest for purposes other than
spiritual comfort,” Kelly concluded, now feeling even more
uncomfortable with Rachel and the priest’s involvement.
“Yes, quite. Probably not in the manner that you imagine
though. A blessing of the property can help sometimes, but in my
opinion it is not through the power of the priest or his religion, but the
psychological effect it can have through the beliefs of the spirits or
those experiencing phenomenon. The Chambers have agreed to let us
hold a bit of a stake-out with some equipment, to try and prove they
aren’t going mad.”
“Don’t you think it’s’ poor timing...” Kelly had intended a
breezy challenge but her abruptness betrayed her distaste.
“Yes, I did explain to them that it does mean taking over the flat,
which I don’t think is fair on the little girl. My technical boy can sort
something out so the only imposition will be the presence of the
cameras, and we can record and watch the footage from a distance, but I
am not sure of the range.”
“You mean transmitting the image remotely?” Craig jumped in,
to which Rachel nodded. “I did a lot of work with different cameras
when I was at university, nothing too high-tech, but I know my way
around.”
72
Harvest

Kelly spotted that Craig had suddenly become fidgety; preparing


himself another angle for involvement?
“So there you go; that’s my explanation.” Rachel smiled at them
both in turn before returning her gaze to the doors.
Kelly found some amusement in Rachel not taking Craig’s bait
and the briefest expression of disappointment on his young face.
He wasn’t deterred; “I wouldn’t mind helping. I am only two
floors up from Claire so you wouldn’t have to worry too much about
boosting the frequencies. You could do your little stake-out in my flat.
Make up for me thinking you might be a crank and dragging the law
down on you.”
“Don’t make me out to be your ogre!” Kelly laughed, but her
face was burning.
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to be any inconvenience to you.” Rachel
waved his offer away.
“Seriously, it’s no worry,” Craig said dismissively with an open-
handed gesture. “Could be fun.”
Rachel rooted around in her voluminous bag. “That’s very nice
of you.” She broke her concentration and paused briefly in her search.
“It’s also nice to know you don’t think I am mad...” Her arm rooted
through her hoarded belongings. “We should exchange phone
numbers.” She pulled out her purse and a chunky mobile phone and
after some fumbling and balancing of the items she carried she
produced a scrap of paper from her purse. “I have a pen here
somewhere...”
“Why don’t you put me on your mobile?” Craig suggested after
some time passed in Rachel’s search.
“If I knew how to switch the blasted thing on, that would be a
very good idea.” She produced a pen and beamed triumphantly. “Aha!”
The lift came to a halt and Rachel stepped out onto the ground
floor, folded the piece of paper with Craig’s phone number scrawled on
it, and stuffed it into her purse. “Well, thank you both for showing me
down, and thank you again for the offer of your flat. I will call you
tonight.”
73
Harvest

Rachel made her goodbyes and Craig activated the buzzer that released
the door, which now worked. He held the door open for Kelly, but she
held back and when Rachel was out of earshot she spoke. “You’re
buying into what Rachel said?” she asked him incredulously.
Craig shrugged innocently. “I have an open mind.”
His motive was obvious. “You’re a crafty basta–” She abruptly
stopped her playful abuse; the familiarity was alien and uncomfortable.
She hadn’t been as relaxed with a man since Ian. She was shocked that
after all this time of being self-restrained she had slipped past her own
defences; it felt dangerous but frighteningly seductive.
Craig shrugged. “Well – as odd as the whole situation is, it’s
about as close to the story as I’m likely to get.”
Despite her own reservations that screamed against being
involved, Kelly experienced a sudden flush of disappointment, feeling
left out. “So, do I get mixed up in your obvious ploy to be at the heart of
the action?”
“Ask me nicely and you can come too.” Craig winked, obviously
happy to have turned the tables and have her fishing for involvement.
“Of course, I wouldn’t want to interfere with your police
professionalism...”
Kelly bit her tongue. He had a cheeky streak. “All right then.
Thank you. But if you end up printing anything I wasn’t even there,
okay?”
“Hey, you still haven’t actually asked me if you can come to my
place yet.”
There was flirtation in his tone. Kelly observed Craig warily. His
smiling bravado, the coy swagger of his head as he spoke, the shameless
twinkle in his blue eyes and his flirtatious tone complimented by his
lilting west-country accent stirred a warmth deep within her that
frightened her. A fluttering heat she hadn’t allowed herself. She was
swimming out of her depth and in panic she lashed out to recover a
stroke towards a more manageable depth. “Look, I’m not going to beg
you, Craig. If you don’t want to do this partner –” the word “partner”
stung her like an angry wasp and caused her to fluster, “partner-thing
74
Harvest

then just say.”


Craig apologised and stepped back defensively, obviously
thrown by her sudden frustration. “Okay! Okay. Come along. And if I
get anything out of this I won’t mention you.”
The panic was evident on Craig’s face as he tried to fathom
where he had gone wrong. It wasn’t his wrong at all. She shamefully
realised her outburst had probably sabotaged yet another possible friend,
and she experienced a bruising anguish for actually caring. Could men
and women just be friends anyway? However, the status quo had been
restored and the anxiety caused by her familiarity had subsided.
“How about we go for a coffee after you finish your shift, get to
know each other so we don’t rub each other the wrong way? My treat.
How does that sound? The Ice Wharf is nice. Do you know it?”
She knew it. It was a large glass fronted bar in the centre of
Camden beside the canal, between the green iron Chalk Farm bridge
loaded with tourists and the hump-backed coble bridge that reached into
Camden’s famous bustling market. The pubs terrace looked out over the
locks, you could sit and watch the narrow boats come and go, or watch
the crowds passing by. A good venue for a date.
Kelly stared impassively through him, as if her eyes were on
glass, then she looked away. She couldn’t. “Sorry, I have plans tonight,”
she lied apologetically. Her feet flinched, caught between two opposing
urges; to go and escape, or to stay in this moment and see where it led.
To tempt him and herself. “I’d better go. I have work and I’m already
late.” She walked away, apologising blandly over her shoulder.

75
Harvest

Eight
Craig approached the door of his flat mulling over the new things the
day had brought him. He felt some satisfaction with getting a little
closer to a story, yet what the story was he couldn’t be sure. He prayed
it wasn’t a story suited to the National Enquirer or Daily Sport.
The mystery of Kelly’s abrupt hostility still troubled him. He
had replayed the scene over and over again in his head. He had been
himself, maybe familiar and playful, but as far as he could see he hadn’t
said anything she could take objection to. He mourned the lost
opportunity of being with someone. He had always thought the Ice
Wharf would make a great spot for a date. Camden had some great bars
and restaurants for a date, and he had always wanted to go to the Round
House and see a gig, or catch a comedy show.
The last time he had sat down for a drink with a girl was with
Vicki at the Devonshire Arms. The Dev was a goth/alternative pub, full
of waiflike moonfaced people with thick black eye makeup, faces
glinting with piercings and clothes ranging from Victoriana to Matrix
punk, the thrashing music louder than the rainbow range of hair colours
of the punters. It had been an excuse for Vicki to check out the drug
scene for a potential story. A story that didn’t even make it onto her PC
as the drug scene was hardly news in Camden, and ended up with Vicki
drinking him under the table after seven pints of Snakebite. Not the
experience he had hoped for with Vicki.
Keying the door open, he pushed his way into his flat, but before
he could make it inside he was distracted by the sound of steps closing
in on him in the corridor. A man, giant in all directions, dressed in
brown cord trousers and a tweed jacket came to a pause near his door.
The man, who appeared to be in his late thirties, caught Craig’s eye with
a nod. “Sorry,” he said, then rested his second chin heavily on his open
collar and nudged his black-rimmed glasses back into place on his
podgy ursine face and checked through a fat diary brimming with a
clutter of notes. He closed it and held it close to his extended belly. “Do
you live here? Do you know your neighbour Harry Crabb?”
Craig paused, half-in his flat, thinking it was obvious that Craig
76
Harvest

lived there as the man had just seen him use his key. “Er – Yeah.”
“Oh, good,” he breathed heavily, swiping beads of sweat from
his brow. “I was meant to meet him. I was buzzing him from outside but
he doesn’t seem to be in. Have you seen him today?”
Craig carefully looked over the man whose very clothes exuded
the same dampness that gave his skin its clammy unhealthy appearance.
“Yeah, he was in the lobby earlier. Why?”
“Oh, I’m Scott Bray, his social worker. I don’t suppose you
know how he is getting on?”
Craig shrugged nonchalantly. “I don’t really see him about very
much, but he was being a bit weird today.” Craig related Rachel’s
trouble with Harry. “Is he care in the community?”
“No, no. I’m just checking that he is looking after himself and
his flat that’s all. I will have to catch him another time then. Listen, Mr
Crabb tends to avoid me, so if you ever have reason for concern or
complaint for Mr Crabb I would appreciate it if you would give me a
call.” He pulled a card out of his pocket, his large hand turning his
pocket inside out in the process, scattering cotton lint and sweet
wrappers.
Craig nodded his goodbye and closed the door on him, trying to
shake the sticky calling card from his fingers.
He might not have managed to get Kelly to go for a drink with
him, but at least she would be coming round later for the stake-out, and
he might get to know her better. Suddenly, Benchman his headmaster at
secondary school came into his mind at the thought of the stake-out, and
his mood plummeted. Why was he playing around with a stakeout for
ghosts? He needed serious work. He made himself a mug of tea and sat
down at his kitchen table. He did some mental maths, working out the
incoming cash he would be getting against his outgoings. It was okay, it
would be tight but he could get through for the next couple of months.
His calculations didn’t cheer him and in the quiet of his flat he felt the
need for company to comfort him, unsure of what to do with himself.
He thought of Vicki, but remembered she would be working. His
brother Darren would be working, but he didn’t really want to speak to
77
Harvest

him anyway, he would only echo their parent’s advice for him to give
up on his London life and go home. He considered checking MSN, but
he wanted to physically be with someone. His neighbour Virtue might
be home with her little boy, she had said to call in anytime, but he didn’t
fancy it. And the list of people came to an abrupt end. More fed up, he
decided to trawl through the Internet for some free porn.

Deborah Symmonds was stretched out on the bed, propped upright by


the adjustable bed facing the ultrasound equipment. Waiting. She held
on to her husband’s hand in the subdued quiet of the room at the Royal
Free hospital. The noise of the corridor outside the private room was
muted in her distraction.
“Ouch – Honey! I think you’re breaking my hand...” Gary
smiled in sympathy of her anxiety.
“Sorry, babe...” Deborah released her grip and shifted her weight
on the firm mattress, the disposable paper sheet beneath her crackled
noisily. The memory of her nightmare was vivid in her mind. Waking in
her dream she had been unable to move, a weight had been pressing
down on her chest, something invisible pressing her down. A green light
played across the ceiling, something was in the glow, something solid
and moving. Only able to move her eyes she hadn’t been able to see
whatever it was, although she knew if she had she might have lost her
mind. It had been a nightmare, but all day the memory of the thing that
had visited her, just out of sight around her bump, had haunted her. “I’m
just nervous.” She rubbed her free hand over the naked bump of her
abdomen. The skin was tight and distended. “I’ve been five months and
it has felt right up until now – but now there’s something wrong...” She
frowned at the frustration of not being able to explain the feeling she
had inside of her since she had awoken that morning.
“You haven’t miscarried this time.” Gary’s hand joined hers
affectionately over her stomach.
Deborah sighed with hurt. “What do you mean, ‘this time’?” She
snatched her hands free of his in protest.
“Darlin’!” he placated as he retook her hand in a tight reassuring
78
Harvest

grip. Before he could explain himself the door to the cluttered white
room sprung open.
The young oriental nurse returned, stretching latex gloves onto
her hands and pinching bangs of black hair behind her ears. “I got the
gel...” She waved a hefty tube before them and rolled her eyes. “Wish
people would replace this stuff when they use it.” The nurse came close
and squeezed the tube hard. “This’ll be cold; but I’m sure you know that
by now.” The clear gel oozed onto her stomach in a glistening lump.
Pulling the screen around to face her, the nurse pulled the
scanner probe from the trolley and trailed the thick coiled wire over her
shoulder to avoid dragging it across her patient. She pushed the bulbous
lens of the probe into the gel and spread it out firmly in a circling
motion. “You might feel a little discomfort. It won’t hurt the baby
though.”
The nurse looked to her monitor and frowned as she worked.
She pushed the probe harder, more determinedly. “Okay...” she
announced, distracted, her dark narrow eyes transfixed on the screen.
“I’m just going to get someone to come and take a look...”
“What’s wrong?” Deborah shifted on the bed. Raising herself
forward over her bump as far as she could. “Is the baby okay?” she
yelped.
The nurse looked awkwardly from Deborah to the monitor,
unsure what to say but trying to look reassuring despite her ochre skin
going blotchy pink on her cheeks. “Probably just a problem with the
machine...” the nurse explained as she backed out of the room.
“What do you think it is? I knew there was something wrong. It
just feels wrong... All wrong,” Deborah’s speech raced, tears forming in
her eyes while her voice struggled for clarity. “I’m so sorry, Gary.”
Gary put his arm round her and pulled her head to his. “Babe,
don’t worry, it’s never been your fault. Come on, don’t cry – things will
be okay, it might be the machine.”
Deborah stared at the back of the monitor, the screen ominously
hidden from them. The fear climbed up inside her chest in crushing
handholds. Half of her resolve wanted to turn the screen round, while
79
Harvest

the other half restrained her anxious curiosity, fearful of what she might
see.
The nurse came in with a male Asian doctor, who seemed
anxious to deal with the problem and be gone, only giving Deborah a
cursory acknowledgement. The nurse picked up the probe and repeated
the procedure to demonstrate for the doctor.
The doctor groaned impatiently, obviously wanting to return to
whatever he had been dragged from, and snatched the probe from her.
He ran it roughly over Deborah, seemingly with a mentality of if it is
not working then be forceful with it until it does.
Puzzled, he sighed and flicked a few switches on the monitor
and re-applied the probe more diligently, with even less respect for
comfort. His face wrinkled then smoothed out into blankness. He looked
Deborah in the face warily and applied his stethoscope to her stomach
and then re-applied it, and then again. The doctor looked from the probe
to the screen that held the grainy black and white view of her pulsing
insides and the dark cavernous space where the baby boy should have
been.

Rachel hesitated on the path to the Heights main entrance as David


stopped. He put the two large cases of technical equipment on the
ground and lit up another roll-up. He had had six cigarettes on their way
to the tower. He had the ability to roll one one-handed whilst driving
that caused Rachel to sink her fingernails into the upholstery, terrified.
She watched him brush his wild mop of dark hair from his eyes
as he scanned the drab body of the towering flats. He turned to her and
shoved his thick bifocals back onto the bridge of his nose. “Are you sure
this isn’t some elaborate scheme for them to get satellite TV installed?
There are a distinct lack of satellite dishes here,” he wondered dryly,
rubbing the thick stubble of his neck.
“Is that snobbery I hear?” Rachel raised a warning eyebrow at
him and grinned. David shrugged his body in a half-laugh before
dragging from his painfully thin roll-up cigarette pinched between his
nicotine stained finger and thumb. He smoked them down to a stub that
80
Harvest

he had to hold with precision.


“Actually, this building is being considered for preservation by
the National Heritage.”
“Prince Charles is at it again.”
Rachel dismissed his mutterings with a humouring grin. “I think
we might actually stand a chance of catching something on film this
time.” Rachel looked about them as they got closer to the entrance.
“Apparently they had two unusual activities yesterday, one just after I
left, and another in the evening. A door slamming in an empty room and
then later, a flash of green light in the lounge. Claire rang me last night,
terrified.”
“Even if we do catch anything on camera, will anyone ever
believe it?” David replied cynically. David flicked the remainder of his
cigarette sparking onto the path and he hefted the boxes back up into his
arms and they resumed the short journey to the main entrance.
Rachel operated the intercom to Claire’s flat. She looked
through the glass door and her eyes settled upon Catherine’s letter box.
On her previous visit Rachel had managed to resist the strong urge to
hunt Cat down. She hoped that her visits would result in a chance
meeting, she fantasised of it leading to a reunion. “You weren’t a
believer. You haven’t seen or heard anything that couldn’t be explained
rationally, yet you have done a lot of these stakeouts now.” She smiled
smugly. “Now look at you, you’re a spook junky! Maybe all it needs is
a willingness to believe, and then if we do find something you will
accept it.”
Claire’s voice crackled out of the intercom over David’s
chuckle. “I’ll buzz you up, Rachel.”
Perhaps no word from Cat meant she really didn’t need Rachel
after all, just like Cat had told her so spitefully the last time they had
spoken. The rejection didn’t alleviate the overbearing weight of her
unfulfilled responsibility. She didn’t dwell on that, it was too painful.
The door buzzed loudly and Rachel took the cue and pushed it. It rattled
in its place but remained firmly closed. She tried again before the
buzzer cut out, but it refused. Rachel sagged and rolled her eyes and she
81
Harvest

languidly stabbed the intercom once more. “Claire, it’s not working
again...”

Maggie Riley headed toward the lift from her flat on the fifth floor.
Squeezing past the pram she prodded the buttons to summon the lift
then bobbed her head down into the hood of the pram. “Hullo, baby
boy!” she cooed. She looked above the lift doors to see where the lifts
were. One was on the twelfth floor while the other was on the
fourteenth. Neither of them seemed to be moving. Maggie looked back
to the baby. “Nana’s gonna take you shopping!” She pressed the call
buttons again but frowned as she noticed they didn’t light up. She
stabbed them repeatedly just to make sure. She smiled broadly down at
her grandson but spoke through gritted teeth. “Nanna’s got to take you
down the bloody stairs. Won’t that be fun?” she cooed sarcastically.
“This is where Nanna gets her hip replacement...”
She pushed the pram down the corridor, leaned on the heavy fire
door to open it onto the stairs and stepped backwards onto the concrete
landing. There were no lights within the stairwell in the day as the large
windows that ran the height of the building were meant to provide all
the required light. However, the morning sun was the other side of the
building, which left the stairs overcast and the corners of the landings
blanketed with hazy webs of cloying grey shadow. Stepping back
further to pull the pram through the door, she met the banister with her
back and caught a view of the sheer vertical drop over the side into the
echoing depths. Her instinctual fear of heights made demands on her
danger sense, but she quickly and strictly dismissed them.
Her bones and weak muscles groaned and stretched inside her as
she struggled awkwardly with the weight of the fire door with one hand,
sacrificing her balance to keep a steadying grip on the pram as she
dragged it through the gap.
A blaze of light streamed screaming past her, leaving a green
stain on her retina. Something rushed through the light and the pram
was slammed from her grip. The force of it yanked her from her feet
and she smashed into the floor. Her jaw impacted on the concrete
82
Harvest

sending hot blood spurting from between her lips as the blow jarred her
teeth loose. The arm that had trailed after the pram failed to break her
fall and the cartilage in her socket made a sickening grinding sound.
Maggie’s fear overrode the physical pain at the sound of the heart-
stopping clatter of the pram crashing down the flight of stairs ahead of
her. She screamed for God’s help and dragged her head up in time to
see the pram upturn scattering the blankets and stuffed toys on the
landing below.
With her numb arm Maggie pushed herself upright and dragged
her legs round onto the stairs, then pulled painfully on the banister until
she stood on her shaking withered pin legs. She hobbled down the steps
as quickly as she could, leaning heavily on the banister rail, more
sliding and stumbling than actually running. She dropped awkwardly to
the floor, diving into the bundle of covers, praying she wouldn’t find the
warmth and wet of spilt blood.
“Jamie... Oh, my God; Jamie!” she sobbed as she searched.
Blood from her broken nose ran from her face, patting onto the concrete
and the pram, blotting into the fibres of the soft pastel blankets. She
pulled at the covers frantically but found nothing. She stopped her
search abruptly; fear washed over her like an icy plunge, the hairs
bristled on the back of her neck in a tingling wave of realisation that
chased up onto her scalp. She twisted on her seat to the banisters beside
her and the killer drop beyond. Her body gave up on her.
The fire door closed gently on her plight, carried home by the
automatic hydraulic arm. Before it closed, the sound of the lift arriving
echoed tauntingly down the corridor into the stairwell.

83
Harvest

Nine
Claire pressed the door buzzer and pulled the door open for Rachel and
David. Claire appeared beyond pale with the lack of sleep and worry,
looking almost translucent with faint blue veins below the surface of her
skin giving her the appearance of fragile marble. A strained smile
chiselled and cracked her face into lines she shouldn’t have.
“I’m starting to think this door doesn’t like you.”
Rachel stepped through, closely followed by David struggling
up the steps with his load. Rachel noticed Claire studying David; the
new addition. Rachel knew that his unshaven appearance with his
unkempt locks, scruffy black jeans and tee-shirt with its gaudy zombie
thrashing at a Stratocaster, presented him more like a middle-aged
heavy metal fan than the professional boffin he was. He added the final
touch to his first impression by setting his load down and roughly
thumbing his faded jeans up over his partly bared underwear and beer
belly. Rachel smiled as encouragingly as she could manage in Claire’s
direction whilst making a mental note to buy David a belt.
The second lift at the back of the lobby opened and Craig
strolled out. “Not late, am I?”
“Just in time!” Rachel hurried through the introductions then
addressed Craig. “Just in time to take these boxes up for David, Dave
can start dragging the rest of his equipment up while Claire and I get the
kettle on.”
Dave dumped the boxes into Craig’s arms in a deadpan gesture
of “welcome to my world”. Rachel stood, her attention once again
caught by the mosaic on the lobby wall. She ignored the twisting maze
of colours, and the sweeping curls and spirals that lured her away from
its secret image and tried to search for the shape again. Her eyes
strained to blink free of the stare, but she focussed all her willpower into
ignoring the uncomfortable tingling of her eyes drying so that she could
continue to try and unlock its visual encryption. She locked onto a
subtle change of shade and followed it. The picture suddenly opened
itself up under her study and she quickly allowed herself to blink and
lubricate her eyes. The shape she had found was immediately lost again,
84
Harvest

but she already recognised the large trident-like symbol. It was a Runic
letter. The rune of “Algiz”.
Now she knew what she was looking for it was easy to find the
symbol again. Rachel discretely caught David’s arm before he could
leave to collect more equipment and pointed out her discovery. “Look,
that’s odd, seems the person who did this mural had a bit of the spiritual
about them. That’s a runic symbol. Thought to be a symbol of
protection.”
“If you say so,” he shrugged and waited for Craig to waddle past
with his inherited load, then leaned in close to Rachel. “Not really
working so well though, is it?”

Rachel took four mugs from the mug tree and dragged the tea caddy
towards her while Claire filled the kettle. Rachel stopped herself,
suddenly conscious of making herself comfortable in someone else’s
home, she said, “I hope you don’t mind... It’s just I’m used to playing
mum.”
“Don’t worry; it’s just what Jen does. We treat each other’s
places as home from home. You’re very easy to warm to,” Claire said as
she clicked the kettle on. “I want to thank you for not thinking I was
some kind of nut, you know – me thinking that I have ghosts and stuff?”
“I’m hardly one to criticise you for seeing spooks, am I.”
“No. Not just that, but you made a good impression on Brian,
and that isn’t easy considering. What you said last night on the phone –
when I called you. You really comforted me. Very… motherly!”
While Rachel had talked to Claire on the phone Claire’s mother
had appeared to her again, and somehow with her there the right words
had come easily. Rachel sugared the teas as far as she could, unsure of
what Craig took in his, if he liked tea at all. “Don’t worry. I like to listen
and help if I can, so you just call when you need an ear.”
Claire smiled weakly. “You know it’s odd. For three weeks all I
could think and worry about was Emily. Now I worry about whether a
door is going to slam or something is going to terrify Amy again. I just
wish Amy would speak to me.”
85
Harvest

“Still not talking? Poor child. It’s the one thing that would help
her come to terms with Emily not being here.”
“She just looks so scared and beaten down. Defeated.” Claire
stared off into the rushing steam of the boiling kettle. “She looks how
me and Brian are feeling inside.”
“Children can’t hide their feelings very well and I think that's a
good thing really. At least you know there is something wrong and you
can try and help them. You or I can keep our feelings hidden, which
probably does us more harm.” Rachel hesitated as she considered the
hypocrisy of her philosophy, its barb digging deep within her. “She
might not be talking about it but she is expressing her feelings. The love
I’m sure she gets from you and Brian will only help.” Rachel took the
kettle from its cradle and poured the hot water into the mugs.
“Do you have children?”
The question caught Rachel like a sharp slap to her senses. She
hadn’t been asked that in years, and it burned into her composure. “Er,
no. No, I don’t.” She didn’t want to talk about it, not with Claire; Rachel
needed to remain the rock Claire obviously needed.
“Well, I am surprised; you sound like a perfect mum.” Claire
pulled the fridge door open to get the milk. “A child would have been
very lucky to come to you.”
Before Rachel’s mind could dwell on the painful memories
Claire’s words raised, she saw Claire’s mum standing next to her. She
eyed Rachel and pointed to a drawer in the kitchen unit.
Claire closed the fridge door and started as she watched Rachel
squeezing the life out of the tea bags. “Oh, you found the spoons then.”
“The mothering side with its kitchen compass...”

Craig knocked on Kelly’s door unsure how she would greet him after
her change of mood with him in the lobby earlier that day. After a
moment she answered, and he was grateful that she was out of uniform,
not only because she looked good in the fitted top and tight black
Levi’s, but he hoped it would mean she would be more relaxed.
She greeted him lightly enough and with a smile that spoke of
86
Harvest

being glad to see him, but her face was pale and set. Despite her hair
being free and the masking glasses gone, her casual state was betrayed
by a look of distraction.
“Come in.” She winced a smile at him.
He was surprised to get an invite, he had only come to say “hi”
and invite her down to join Rachel and David in his flat. He didn’t have
her phone number. He had been working up to getting it just before she
had turned cold on him in the lobby and he had decided against asking.
Her flat had an identical layout to his, and although he had recently
gone through the flat giving it a paint, hers seemed fresher and cleaner
than his. It was the neutral colours she had chosen that gave the place its
light and airy feel, even the hall which tended to be shadowy from the
lack of windows seemed brighter. The muted colours continued in the
lounge but were accompanied by simple pieces of maple furniture. The
plainness of the lounge was softened by colourful modern art prints and
soft furnishings.
Her flat was quite a contrast to his. He liked all his stuff, but he
had picked it up at boot sales and second-hand shops and his place had
more of a lived in look. With a brother three years older than him he
was used to hand-me-downs. He had resented it as a kid, but had come
to accept it now; Darren had good taste and he went through clothes like
a girl or a gay so it saved Craig some cash. There were worst aspects of
living in your big bro’s shadow, like him having a better job, a
mortgage, a car, a girlfriend... Darren’s place was more like Kelly’s, but
then Darren had a steady job and could afford nicer things. Maybe when
Darren bought a place with his fiancé he would get some of Darren’s
gear. Living in Darren’s shadow might pay off after all.
There were two plump terracotta sofas with plush furry brown
and beige cushions and throws, it looked cosy. Kelly didn’t take a seat
or offer him one though, she paced a little, seemingly lost at what to say
or do.
“What’s wrong, Kelly?”
She looked away momentarily, apparently caught off guard by
his observation. She pulled herself together. “Sorry.” She smiled, but he
87
Harvest

saw through it.


“No need to be, but what’s wrong?” he persisted.
Kelly sighed, grimaced and shrugged to herself. “Sorry. Craig,
can we talk off the record?”
“Hey, I am not gonna use every chat we have... I’m not that
dedicated to being a journalist,” Craig joked, he hoped disarmingly.
Kelly hugged herself, looking awkward. “It could be story
related, but it can’t go any further than this room.”
Just his luck to get a lead only to be sworn to secrecy, but he
knew he wouldn’t do anything that might jeopardise a trust in any
relationship he had. Although Kelly was new to him, and she had been a
bit off with him, he liked her. He didn’t ever imagine feeling
comfortable with a copper, but he felt relaxed enough to tease her
professionalism and could imagine some good laughs winding her up
and messing with her, like he did with Vicki. He could imagine Vicki
groaning at him putting someone’s feelings over a story. “Don’t even
worry about that, Kelly. Just tell me whatever it is that’s eating you up.”
“I mean it though. If what I say gets in print I’ll throttle you.”
She pointed at him under a fixed glare. She could be quite scary when
she wanted to be. He liked that too – although now was probably not the
time to joke about that.
Craig gave a half-smile. “Threats of physical violence... You
know how to treat a boy.” Sometimes he couldn’t help himself, but he
was rewarded by Kelly’s resolve relaxing into a brief laugh. Maybe she
wasn’t as sensitive as he had thought.
“Just before you got here I got a call from a friend from work.
She wondered what was going on over here. She told me that the
investigation into the Chamber’s case might be taking a new twist:
Sarah Muller, a fifteen-year-old girl, went missing last night. Her mum
sent her off to meet friends on the estate and told her to be home by ten.
Her friends were waiting outside for her. She never made it out of the
building, Craig.” She let the fact sink in. He didn’t know the girl but the
story was sinister enough to have effect. “Yesterday, another resident
was five months pregnant, she miscarried and she is hysterical, saying
88
Harvest

the baby has been ‘taken’; they had to sedate her. Obviously they don’t
believe her, but the thing is they don’t know what she did with the baby.
She lives here – in this block.” Kelly’s flat tone was rising with what he
imagined was her own incredulity. “And then about two hours ago in
the stairwell down the hall on the fifth floor, Maggie Riley had a fall in
the stairwell and the pram fell down a flight. She’s in hospital with
injuries and shock. Little Jamie, the baby, was nowhere to be found.”
Craig swore and gave up waiting to be offered a seat and planted
himself next to her on the comforting looking sofa as he tried to process
the information. The Chambers’ situation was no longer an isolated
case. “What’s going on?”
Kelly sat down beside him. “That’s what I’m trying to
understand. You can’t tell anyone you heard this from me,” she urged.
“The stories are going to get in print, they will come out and you can do
what you like with your angle after that. I just don’t want it coming
back to me.”
Craig waved her down. “Don’t worry about it,” he offered
distantly. Strangely the news story, his motive for befriending Kelly and
offering out his flat to Rachel, had almost been forgotten against the
new information and disappearances; people he would probably
recognise if he saw pictures of them. He could hear Vicki tutting at him
in his head. “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t know what to do with these
stories anyway,” he reassured her flippantly, and instantly regretted his
tone. Sometimes he wished he could say exactly what he was thinking
and not joke about it. “Is this becoming a serial snatcher or something?
One of those psychotic ‘collectors’? Satanists? – I dunno!” He gave up
on his movie psychology and ruffled a hand through his scruffy hair as
if it would somehow make his thoughts clearer. “Can’t all be unrelated.
The miscarriage one might be just… Well, you know, natural. But
surely she would have a body – or something at least.”
“Don’t, Craig. It’s only what has been going through my head
since I got the call. My friend told me that they’re all joking about it
down the station, calling the estate ‘The Camden Town Triangle’ and
are saying it’s ‘Zone Two of the Twilight Zone ’. Can you believe it?
89
Harvest

Always count on sick bastards, can’t you.” She grimaced in distaste. “I


never understand the sick camaraderie down the station when things like
this happen.”
“It’s how people so close to these things cope, I guess. Look,
what you just told me stays with me. It’s just nice to know that you trust
me.” He smiled reassuringly, trying not to let his gaze linger on her. It
felt good to know she trusted him but he didn’t want his statement to
seem like a pathetic pass, he had tried that earlier and it hadn’t panned
out.
He was pleased to see that she gave him a measured look, maybe
reclassifying him in her head?
“It’s just knowing that this is happening in this building; where
you live, the corridors and stairs you use, neighbours, the whole lot. It
all feels wrong, feels different now.” She rubbed her face, apparently
resigned to the frustration of the situation. “Last year we were called to
a flat, there had been a murder. A boy, well I say a boy but he was about
twenty, he had been murdered in his own home. At the scene I was told
to sit with the boyfriend – he had returned from popping out for a bottle
of wine for their dinner and found him. I sat there and watched his
breakdown. The boy’s blood was everywhere, I mean literally
everywhere – it was on the ceiling. Imagine what it would be like seeing
the blood of someone you cared about. After all this time I have spent at
Kentish Town Station and all the crimes I have come across I still don’t
understand how your life can just be turned inside out like that. That
was the hardest day on the job, yet at the end of the shift I went home
and it was distant again. It was someone else’s story from another place;
like changing the channel on TV from one story to another. This
though… You don’t think about something bad happening at your front
door. It brings it home to you, and it doesn’t go away.”
Craig allowed himself to stare at her, into her distant amber
eyes, watched her quiver uncomfortably with her fear and openness.
“You care a lot about other people or you wouldn’t do what you do.
That’s a good thing. Maybe that’s the antidote to the world you despair
at. Sometimes things don’t affect you unless you can relate to them, and
90
Harvest

I would think with your job you must need to switch off as self-
preservation.” He surprised himself with his sentimentality and prayed
she wouldn’t laugh at him.
Kelly just smiled.
“When this dies down things will return to normal.” Craig
sighed. “At times like this it just makes you glad you don’t have kids to
worry about.” Craig instantly regretted his comment as he saw the
hardness return to Kelly’s face.

Rachel gratefully accepted Claire’s aid as she struggled with a hefty


metal box crate.
“Did they let you carry that?”
“Craig shot off to go and get Kelly for later. Dave is the one to
have a go at.”
“Me?” David frowned as he walked in with his own burden of
equipment.
“Yes. He is such a gent. Last of the true romantics,” Rachel
announced to Claire, cocking a shrewd look in his direction as they both
lowered the box to the ground.
“You women, you protest that; ‘I want to be my own woman, I
want to be the one to call you, I want independence.’ – Don’t open a
door for you and its World-War-bloody-Three...”
Claire gave a dispassionate laugh that seemed to darken her
mood as it died in her throat.
“Right then, I’m gonna check that we have everything we need
and make sure there isn’t anything left in the van, because I really
‘want’ to have to go nine flights down again for something else,” Dave
groaned.
Rachel led Claire into the kitchen. “Don’t worry, he’s always
like this. Probably had a row with Kim last night – on and off
girlfriend,” she quickly explained. “He obviously hasn’t been ‘on’ her in
sometime. Fancy another cuppa?” she breezed, ignoring the ever-
present pressure of Claire’s expectation of something to happen. It made
Rachel anxious.
91
Harvest

“I didn’t have a chance to tell you earlier, as the boys came up


with their load and then you went to give a hand, the priest friend of
yours came round this morning. Did his bit and went. He was very
nice.”
Rachel turned. “Oh, good. Jeremy is lovely. Do you feel it
helped you?”
“Yes...” Claire’s voice wavered hesitantly before forming words.
“But, nothing happened…” she said carefully, trying not to sound naïve.
“No flying crockery, unearthly groans and bleeding walls?”
Rachel said raising an eyebrow. “Don’t worry; Hollywood has rather
jazzed it up. I have never known a blessing to have any visible effect.
Thankfully, I guess – I don’t think I would be so willing to suggest them
if they did! But, it might have had some effect.”
David entered the flat, grunting with his load. “A blessing?
Great. You could have scared the spooks off after I carried twelve boxes
up from my van.”
“Keep moaning and you will end up a spook!” Rachel threatened
playfully, prodding his chest. “Anyway, we’ve been using the bloody
lift so what are you complaining about? Just drink your tea and get
working.”
“Yes boss. I love dominant women.” He growled, without a
giving away any glimmer of humour.
Rachel slapped him in retaliation for the deep shade of red that
burned up from her chest into her face. She soon forgot her
embarrassment as the front door rattled open and Brian herded Amy
through.
Her presence drew the walls in around Rachel, pressing the
atmosphere against her chest. Rachel had suggested the stake-out and
essentially that made Amy bait.
Amy looked at David and Rachel in turn. Rachel saw David fold
under the pressure of her questioning innocent face and he turned away
and searched out his mug of tea in the kitchen, Rachel did not waver
under those eyes, but smiled warmly and said hello to her. Amy bolted
to Claire.
92
Harvest

Claire caught her joyfully, crouched down to her height and


kissed her forehead. Amy hugged herself close to her mother, in the
safety of her embrace she twisted to look at Rachel and David, puzzled
by their presence. “It’s okay, baby. Rachel and David are going to put
some cameras and things around the house to try and see what funny
things have been happening. Have you had a good day with Daddy?”
Amy nodded. “Park, Maccy D’s and the shops?”
Claire smiled at Rachel from this moment of normality, and
Rachel took it as her Cue. “Hello Amy.” She held out her hand and
Amy took it, and Rachel shook it gently. “I am Rachel. I am here with
my friend David, and like your mum said, we are here to try and find
out what is going on. If you show me your room you can help us find
the best places to put our equipment so we can watch over you,” she
said gently. Rachel reached out for her hand again, but before she took
it Amy looked to her mum, ensuring that she would follow.
Amy led Rachel through to her room and entered her bedroom
with cautious hesitation as if she was walking into a lion’s den.
“She has been like that since... Well, you know,” Claire
explained protectively.
“Plug sockets,” David broke in. “Most of the equipment has
back-up batteries but a few spare plug sockets wouldn’t go a miss.”
“Take your pick,” Claire offered.
Rachel caught the discomfort in Claire’s stare as David pulled
furniture away from the walls in his search; she was obviously
struggling with seeing another stranger roaming over the sanctity of her
daughter’s room like a burglar in action. “I told you it was intrusive.”
“It’s okay; just reminded me of the police that night,” Claire said
distantly.
Rachel nodded grimly before turning her attention to an
uncomfortable-looking Amy. “Are those your drawings?” She pointed
at sheets of paper on the floor at the end of the bed. Amy nodded. “Can
I look at them?” Rachel sank to the floor and sat cross-legged. Amy left
her mum’s side and began handing them to her one at a time. Having
distracted Amy from David’s intrusion Rachel winked to Claire
93
Harvest

collusively. “They are very good,” she said enthusiastically as she


fingered through them and then back to the beginning again. Her face
became focussed as her attention was taken to the recurrent green
scribbles. She looked about the room trying to see what they
represented. “What’s the green?”
Amy sat mimicking Rachel’s crossed legs and studied her
seriously, measuring Rachel’s character as if it could be read in her face.
“Mr Sparky.”
Amy’s sudden and unexpected answer punctuated the air
innocently, leaving Claire and Rachel silenced in their wake.
Rachel’s attention passed over Claire’s stream of praise of the
fact that Amy had spoken. She was focussed on the actual words Amy
had used, words that stiffened the hairs on the nape of her neck; sure
that Amy’s new words were an epiphany. Rachel tried to keep her voice
calm and even despite the urgency that welled within her and caused her
jaw to quiver. She prepared the tone of her question carefully and
precisely as if cornering a wild animal that she feared would bolt and
escape should she fail to approach it with enough caution. “Amy – What
is ‘Mr Sparky?’”
Rachel delivered her question, but averted her eyes and the
pressure she thought they might add to her question. She concentrated
on the pictures scrawled around her, leaving Amy to decide how to
answer. Amy broke free from her mother’s grip and cautiously lifted the
valance sheet of her bed, and looked hesitantly into the darkness,
seemingly fearful of what she might find there. She put her comforting
teddy bear to one side and leaned into the space under the bed, grunting
with the exertion of an extended reach, then clambered out and
produced a folded sheet of paper. She passed it slowly to Rachel who
noticed this action had earned a frown and a smile from her mother,
clearly puzzled at the ceremonious transaction of trust she was
witnessing. Rachel accepted the thick sheet of paper and thanked her
with as much awe and reverence as she thought Amy would expect.
“Mr Sparky is the name of some invisible friend the girls
conjured up a month or two ago. I thought it was sweet; they’d never
94
Harvest

done anything like that before. I had forgotten about it,” Claire blurted,
her face reddening, possibly realising the disturbing relevance it might
have.
Rachel unfolded it carefully and found a scrawled crayon picture
caked onto it. The image was chilling. She glanced to Claire and found
the same uncertainty reflected in her eyes. Claire instinctively pulled
Amy close to her protectively, as if the very picture posed a threat. The
cold realisation of what Amy had seen, or thought she had seen, rushed
in upon Rachel faster than she could process. Was this what had taken
Emily? She asked of herself. Was this what they were going to be
waiting for tonight?
“What does it mean?” Claire whined at the verge of
disintegrating.
Rachel didn’t answer but continued looking over the picture,
following the thick lines of crayon and felt tip that smothered the middle
of the tattered page in forming the crude image of a pink girl with
brown hair, she stared out of the page with wonky wide eyes. A
scribbled round green spiral curled threateningly around her, at the
centre of the pattern there was a green skull-like head with a vicious
black zigzagging crocodile maw and dark eyes, its overly long arms
reaching out for the girl who was sobbing thick blue tears around a
circular screaming mouth.
Amy pointed at the picture and her crude handwriting that
spelled out its name, her voice chilled the air as she read it: “Mr
Sparky...”

95
Harvest

Ten
Scott Bray knocked at Harry’s door. “Harry? It’s Scott, your social
worker,” he repeated close to the door. His lips brushed the cold sticky
paintwork, and he recoiled sharply, scrubbing his mouth with his sleeve
as he thought about the vile residue that might be lurking there on the
grubby door. He was sure he had heard movement within the flat. Scott
unofficially held keys to save the cost and hassle of calling out a
locksmith if Harry lost his set, yet again. Although he had used it to get
past the lobby door he would be infringing on Harry’s privacy if he used
it to check on Harry in his flat. He knelt before the door and levered the
letter box open, took a breath to announce himself but only produced a
hacking splutter as his throat and lungs were lined by a pungent cloying
smell of decay stale urine and faeces from within the flat.
Scott retched and slumped onto his generous posterior, dragging
a handkerchief from his pocket to his mouth to stifle whooping coughs
as his body tried to disperse the evil from his throat. Nausea gripped
him as the rank smell reached down into his guts forcing him to
swallow stirred-up bile. He stumbled back on to his feet. That was not a
good sign. Harry had let his old house fall into a squalid condition; the
state of it had forced him into wandering the streets, often sleeping
rough too. Scott had managed to get him a flat at the Heights in the hope
that a smaller property would be easier for him to cope with. It now
looked like a care home would be the next step. “Alright then, I will call
back another time.” Scott headed to the end of the corridor and waited
round the corner out of sight.
Five minutes passed before he heard Harry’s door creak open, as
he had predicted it would. After the door closed Scott listened to the
rustle of a bag and footfalls heading in the opposite direction. He waited
until he thought Harry would be at the lift then stepped out and saw
Harry walking away from him, hunched around a weighty black bin bag
that he cradled in his arms. Harry walked past the lift doors and slipped
through the fire escape at the end of the corridor.
Scott frowned and followed, perhaps the bin bag meant Harry
was attempting to tidy the place; maybe all Harry needed was home
96
Harvest

help. Although the rank stink suggested the flat needed more than a
light clean. The stealthy furtive way Harry made his exit also led Scott
to think the black sack was nothing to do with house work. Harry
definitely had something to hide, which fuelled Scott’s suspicion
further. Scott reached the door and found himself walking in Harry’s
cruel wake. He screwed his nose up against the smell that was more
than the ammonia of urine and the copper of stale faeces. Rotting flesh.
Scott stifled a cough to clear his throat of the nauseating odour and eyed
the large printed sign on the door:
‘PLEASE USE OTHER STAIRCASE, THIS DOOR TO BE KEPT
SHUT AND LOCKED AT ALL TIMES DUE TO THE HEALTH &
SAFETY RISK.’
Harry! Scott chastised in his thoughts. He chuckled to himself
with the thought that the health risk the sign warned of had probably
doubled now Harry had gone in there. He eased the door open. There
were no lights working in the stairwell and the windows were masked
with grilled slits, casting thick ghostly bands of light onto each landing.
He leaned over the banister and was surprised to see Harry was already
two floors down. “Fast bastard!” he marvelled quietly. Scott padded
after him, careful not to give away his pursuit.
Seven floors down he thought Harry might turn out of the
stairwell into the lobby but, like all the doors between Harry’s level and
the ground floor, they each had thick bolts drawn across them from
inside the stairwell to stop people from disregarding the health and
safety notice. If Harry had left the stairs Scott would have found a door
unbolted. He surmised that Harry must have gone further down – to the
basement. He peered over the banisters and down into the darkness, he
was starting to not like this, and he was feeling more than a little
claustrophobic. The chute for the rubbish was in the ground floor lobby
and Scott was sure there wouldn’t be access to the rubbish storage area
in the basement – a place the residents were not meant to go. He
wondered where Harry was going with his rubbish sack. What was
Harry trying to hide?
Scott swallowed his crawling uncertainties and continued to
97
Harvest

follow Harry down. The last landing was below ground level with no
slit windows to cast any light, and what lighting might have been in
place didn’t appear to be working. Scott took the banister in his hand
and walked carefully down into the graduating gloom until he reached
the all-consuming blackness of the landing. His mind turned the tables
on his determination. He could wait for Harry upstairs. Before he could
turn on his heels he hesitated, clutching at his fleeting courage. It was
only darkness after all. It was best to see what Harry was up to; it was
his duty – the flat was Harry’s last chance of independence. Scott had to
ensure that Harry could integrate and cope alone. He was a stubborn old
bugger but he had a little-boy-lost look about him that made Scott want
to look out for him, to do his best by him. Despite Scott’s help Harry
resented his visits so he couldn’t rely on Harry for honesty. He decided
he would have to catch Harry in whatever odd activities he was doing if
he was to get any idea of how he was living.
Scott soft footed after Harry until he reached a large door that
was slowly drifting closed on its automatic arm. It identified itself by a
sign containing bold letters:
‘BASEMENT. STRICTLY NO UNAUTHORIZED
ADMITTANCE.’
Scott caught the door and hesitantly pulled it wide and
considered the consequences of disobeying the sign. Scott rationalised
that his minor trespass would be wavered considering he was on
Council business.
The basement was large and gloomily lit by emergency lights,
some of the fluorescent tubes blinked and flickered creating a gentle
strobe effect in their need to be changed. Scott found the light switch in
the murkiness but decided the main lights would ruin his attempt at
stealthy discretion. The dim light gave vague definition to the large
room and the chain link lockers that ran the walls, securing the supplies
and tools required in maintaining the building. The lifts were to his right
and directly ahead of him on the far wall was another door leading to
the main stairwell that the residents used. In the gloom ahead of him
Scott could see one of the lockers was pulled out from the wall at an
98
Harvest

angle, as if it had been dragged aside.


Scott neared it cautiously. The shelves carried dusty mildewed
boxes, abandoned tools and several bottles of cleaning fluids. The fluids
were gently lapping the sides of the bottles that contained them,
snatching at the dim light in their movement. They had only recently
been disturbed. Scott peered behind the shelving into a wall of
blackness. The lockers seemed to cover a disused doorway. Scott
scanned the shelves and was relieved to find a club-like torch. He
snapped it on and blinded himself momentarily. He angled the torch
away from his face, blinking away the painful white ghost of light
lodged in his eyes.
Scott shone the torch into the gap and squeezed himself in. On
the other side of the shelving was a double doorway with its heavy
metal doors flung open wide into the space beyond. He found himself in
a large room, the walls charred and blackened with thick soot while
damp mould filled any crevice and corner. The floor was cluttered with
debris and what seemed to be cremated furniture. The room was a black
hole of melted shelving units and twisted carnage. Shadows danced and
leapt in the air from the torches beam like scattering bats. Scott
surmised that it was one of the basements for the shops in the parade
within the base of the high-rise. The shops having been burnt out about
a decade or so ago, never reopening.
There was a large hole in one wall and before it there was a large
pickaxe half-buried in rubble but untouched by dust or the shroud of
soot from the fire, suggesting that this was a new addition to the room,
and that the hole was recent. Scott approached the hole warily, knowing
there was no other place in the room Harry could have gone.
The hole was over a metre round and where the concrete had
been chipped and cracked with the axe, its fresh grey and chiselled
white exposure resembled teeth around the large black mouth. There
was movement within, accompanied by the rustling of a bag, a brown
object barely discernable from the darkness, moving up and down like a
thick brown tongue hungrily writhing in the black maw.
Scott leaned closer and shone the torch into the void. The torch
99
Harvest

ignited the tongue-shape and lit Harry up like a flare, his face snapped
round and he snarled viciously through a mask of grease and grime, the
crust flaking as his face erupted in an angrily startled sneer. Scott started
and the beam bounced around the hole and strobed aspects of the room
into view. Scott glimpsed something behind Harry in a crater, a
gelatinous mass that he couldn’t identify, but seemed to radiate a faint
green glow, before he could dwell on the strange shape he was sure was
writhing or pulsating, his attention was drawn to the refuse sack that
Harry was shaking vigorously despite being disturbed.
The beam of light darted to chunks and slithers of putrefying
flesh and carcasses that fell and flopped to the ground from the bag,
landing on a larger pile of scavenged flesh. The maggots squirmed and
the flies roared as the rain of dead meat fell through the air onto black
fabric. Scott picked out the details of the material with the torch and
found it was a pair of trousers topped with a large black tail coat. At the
hem of the trouser legs he saw shoes. He tracked the thin frame that
held the items of clothing together and was met by the consuming
empty sockets of a blanched white skull, crowned with a black top hat
draped with matching black crepe.
Unable to formulate words to address the scene he instinctively
grabbed Harry and yanked him roughly out of the hole. Harry stumbled
back into the main room with him and Scott sent the beam of light back
to the mound of rank meat which rested on the skeleton dressed as an
undertaker, trying to understand what he had walked into and what
responsibility Harry might have for the body. The grim skull grinned
mockingly and inanely through a misaligned jaw. Completely stripped
of flesh the light reflected off the polished yellowy bone, burning the
overexposed image of the ghostly face into his mind.
Harry turned and bolted while Scott coughed on bile as the
stench of the rancid meat hit the back of his throat and choked him.
Scott broke into a run, half in chase and half in retreat from what he had
seen.

Kelly walked by Craig’s side from the lift towards his flat. She took one
100
Harvest

of his two shopping laden bags while he rooted in his pocket to get his
key.
Both turned sharply in unison as Harry crashed out of the fire
door at the end of the corridor, panting and jogging shabbily to his own
door beside Craig’s. Having only ever seen him in a slow meditative
dawdle they both looked at each other in a mixture of surprise and
bafflement at Harry’s haste. Craig asked if he was okay but received no
reply. “There was a Scott something looking for you, a social worker...”
Harry dived into his flat and slammed the door.
“‘Really? Oh, thanks for telling me, Craig.’ – No problem Harry,
any time...” Craig shot Kelly a wry smile. She shook her head frowning
and laughing in return and they both dismissed the encounter. Craig
gestured for Kelly to go ahead of him into the flat and he closed the
door behind them. “I would give you the tour, Miss Mason,” Craig
started in a clipped posh voice, before finishing in an exaggerated
common swagger. “But being that my flat has the same layout to yours
it aint worth it.” Craig kicked off his trainers in the hall. “Hi kids,” he
called to David and Rachel in his lounge. “We’re home... Sorry about
the wait for munchies, there was a big queue down the shops – must be
lots of people planning a long night ghost hunting and nibbles tonight.”
Kelly watched as Craig breezed into the lounge and broke
Rachel from a serious stare at nothing. Since Rachel had come back
from the Chambers Kelly had watched her drift in and out of what
appeared to be very distracting thoughts. She was worried, but only ever
said she was okay if Kelly asked.
“I hope you have chocolate!” Rachel chirped enthusiastically.
The introspection gone.
“Chocolate? I believe that is the major food group I purchased: I
have caramel and chocolate, mint-chocolate, and the best: Chocolate
and hazelnut.” Craig shook the bags in the air. “Oh, and chocolate and
chocolate for the purists among us.”
“Right then, I’m with the boy with the chocolate...” Rachel
marched him through to the kitchen opposite the lounge and helped him
unpack and make the first of many mugs of tea for the night.
101
Harvest

Kelly found herself abandoned in Craig’s lounge. She had been


there earlier after Craig had called in to walk her round, but she had
been busy helping move equipment to take in the new environment
properly. There were two sofas draped with tie-dyed and Celtic
patterned throw-overs and scattered with mismatched cushions; the
room had a student feel to it but seemed homely. It was hard to get an
idea of what the room would normally look like with the a bank of
uniform monitors on the coffee table and thick wires trailing to what
seemed to be a small transmitter aerial, beside that there were five other
smaller boxes of varying shades of grey and different sizes with flashing
LED’s and displays with quivering metronome needles. “Looks like
mission control on a bad day in here...”
David looked up at her. They had been introduced earlier over a
tangled mess of cables. “It’s all pretty technical, but basically I have set
cameras up in every room of the flat except the toilet and the master
bedroom... This isn’t Big Brother, we want to leave them some place to
go and have ‘rumpy and dumpy’ in privacy.” Kelly would have like him
to smirk or wink to dispel his crudeness but he didn’t. She couldn’t
work out whether he was humourless or he had a Jack Dee deadpan
face. “The images all get transmitted to this receiver – hopefully without
broadcasting it to every TV in the building. All the cameras have
switchable or alternative spectrums like thermal and infra red as we are
doing dark filming. Then we got all these little boxes of tricks... They
measure temperature of the air – signal any cold spots, hot spots. This
one detects air movement or displacement to check for small
movements or breezes. This little baby triggers when there is large
movement and we have more sensitive ones for the lounge and kitchen
which will be unused in the night. We have other sensors for EM (sorry;
electro magnetic fields), and a few other tricks.”
Kelly took it all in, not quite remembering the purposes of the
individual boxes, but impressed at the technical side. It really wasn’t all
just sitting in the dark eagle-eyed in the hope of catching something
elusive. That was if they would actually catch something. Now it wasn’t
just the Chamber’s that were affected she could see even less point to
102
Harvest

this whole exercise, but then she couldn’t tell Rachel and David about
the other disappearances. Despite that Kelly still couldn’t quite work out
if she could bring herself to believe in ‘ghosts’.

Scott lumbered up the last few steps, his heart pounding in his throat,
the rush of blood coursing through his veins making a hollow sound in
his head. He staggered through the fire door and panted to Harry’s flat.
He rattled the door-knocker, but decided not to wait for Harry to ignore
him. Scott’s thoughts tumbled like a rock slide in his head as his mind
tried to figure out what Harry had been doing with all the rotten flesh,
and what the corpse was doing hidden in the basement. Harry could be
in a lot more trouble than Scott could deal with. Scott produced the key
for Harry’s flat and rammed it home.

Harry stood in his kitchen pacing. His mind focused on his actions with
a clarity he hadn’t experienced for weeks; the meat, the body, the
scavenging of bin bags, the skeleton, the strange husk that had gradually
become moist and alive with his visits and deliveries of rancid meat. It
all lurched at him from the foggy dream world that had somehow
separated him from what he had been doing. ‘Why? Why did he do it?’
He knuckled his forehead, his fingers sliding in the grease that coated
his face. Tears welled in his eyes as he desperately tried to regain
control of his thoughts and think what had been happening to him...
It stared at the man-creature that answered to the name of
Harry, circling around him, knowing that this agitated him further. It
had lost control of Harry in the basement. Harry’s shock of being
discovered had fractured his thoughts and It had lost its control; lost its
ability to strike back at the intruder through Harry. Too weak to attack
directly, It needed Harry: Needed to get back inside him, inside his
mind.
The focus of Harry’s mind shattered with the sound of the door-
knocker rattling... Harry looked down, startled to find his arm had
moved without his volition and had grasped a large carving knife. He
dropped it onto the work-top in fright. He could feel the soft voice
103
Harvest

teasing at his mind again; Deirdra’s voice, his loving wife’s voice. It
didn’t seem to matter that she had died ten long years ago. Just that she
was there with him, speaking to him again. The voice carried him off to
a time before the forgetfulness and the apathy for his own life and his
surroundings, before he started thinking like a child lost without love,
before he forgot how to live like a human and started living like an
animal, scavenging and foraging for food.
“Pick up the knife, Harry” she asked. “To carve the roast,” the
voice whispered – Deirdra’s voice. For a moment he slipped into the
past. It would be a Sunday if she was asking him to do that ritual. They
would have been to church and he would have just woken from a light
afternoon sleep in his armchair in the lounge of his home. She would
wake him, and in his Sunday suit he would head to the kitchen
following the aroma of chicken or beef, to the large carving knife.

The key noisily chewed into the door and it flew open.

Scott fell into the room panting, the smell of bodily waste and decay
crammed his nose and squirmed in his belly as he gulped down
sickening mouthfuls of vile air in his exertion, he gagged on his own
bile as his gut rejected the atmosphere dragged into his stomach by his
heavy breaths. Suddenly Harry filled his vision and he was startled by a
flash of silver between them. Scott gagged again as his throat closed in
reaction to something hard striking his neck. Instinctively his hands
leapt to his mouth to stifle an expected surge of vomit. Hot liquid
gushed onto his hands before he could reach his mouth. Darkness closed
in around his vision as the nerves in his mouth and lips told him nothing
had passed that way. In that moment within his panic he knew
something was wrong. He wasn’t being sick; it wasn’t vomit. His
crimson covered hands suspended him within a sickeningly enlightened
moment. He tried to scream but his voice didn’t come from his lips,
instead it gargled from his exposed larynx in a prolonged stridor from
his slashed windpipe filling with blood like a submerged snorkel.
Scott fell against the door drowning in himself. His bloodied
104
Harvest

fingers grasped the door-frame behind him for support but failed to gain
purchase. Another glint of silver flashed as Harry punched into Scott’s
stomach. A spike of pain burned intensely in his guts, reaching a
blinding white hot zenith until something gave up in his head so the
only sensation was Harry’s fist kneading his belly roughly as he
rummaged the wide flat knife inside him. Rasping for breath, bubbling
blood sprayed from his lips and throat as his lungs pumped for air.
Gently the colour in his vision began to fade into blackness and the grim
room was no more.

Harry looked to the table and the freshly sliced hulk of Beef, which
looked strangely the size of half a cow, far too large for them to get
through alone. Deirdra stood behind him; she would probably be
wearing her housecoat that she usually donned for cooking. He knew
she was there for she had talked him through the slices he had just
made. The beef smelt good. Mouth-watering. “Now,” she breathed.
“Section the meat. That’s it. We can portion it for later. Cut right to the
bone... Waste not, want not Harry.” Harry felt her smile although he
couldn’t see her. He was glad to be home again, with his wife, having
the perfect Sunday afternoon.

105
Harvest

Eleven
Rachel took hold of the steaming mugs of hot chocolate and headed
from the kitchen, walking carefully with her load in the gloomy
hallway, guided by the light of the lounge ahead, her eyes fixed on the
steaming liquid that lapped close to spilling over the rim of the mugs.
She approached Craig’s lounge and stopped abruptly as the light was
obstructed by someone in the doorway, she prepared a smile for
whoever stood in her way but her expression migrated into a puzzled
frown as she saw the figure was holding out a palm as if expecting
payment to pass.
She expected it to be David or Craig and prepared to dismiss the
playful gesture. The figure was in a cowl of dark roughly woven robes,
staring back at her with crystal blue eyes set in deeply age-engraved
sockets. His face was chiselled from the darkness of the hood like a pale
withered cadaver, bearing a crown-like coronet of weaved mistletoe and
a wispy pointed tongue of white beard that flicked out from the hood.
Shocked, Rachel’s eyes leapt back to the hand that now bore a
rune, the rune of protection she had seen within the mosaic in the lobby.
The twig-like fingers wrapped closed around the tablet then reopened
again in one smooth motion, revealing the engraving of the rune
changed to that of the interlocking chevrons of the ‘Jera’ rune: The rune
of the harvest.
She looked back to the face of the old man for answers to the
symbolism, but saw only the lounge and Kelly waiting expectantly for
her drink with a puzzled look at Rachel’s hesitation. He had gone.
Rachel gathered her concentration that had been scattered by the old
man, and summoned a dismissive smile against Kelly’s questioning
looks.
Rachel settled on the floor next to Kelly and joined her in
leaning up against the sofa before the coffee table and its monitors
opposite Craig and David. Seeking distraction from the startling
apparition Rachel motioned with her head to Craig and David who sat
on the second sofa. David’s head was resting at an unnatural angle on
the back of the sofa his mouth agape with shallow breaths that
106
Harvest

occasionally snorted, beside him Craig slept lightly with his head slowly
sliding towards David’s shoulder. “Lovely couple aren’t they...”
Kelly smiled. It had been four hours since they had found
themselves together. There had been a smattering of conversation within
the group, then awkward moments of quiet. Rachel cupped the hot mug
in her hands and saw Kelly wince at a sip from her own mug.
“What is in this?”
“Oh, that would be mine,” Rachel said rolling her eyes in playful
innocence as a cover for her embarrassment.
“Oh, no;” Kelly stopped her in mock indignation. “I think I’ll
keep this one unless you want to share the joy?”
Rachel grinned back at her and dragged her large bag to her side.
She reached in several times and lined up three miniature bottles of
alcohol, one after the other on the table in front of them. “Pick your
poison.”
Kelly returned Rachel’s drink then picked a bottle of dark rum
and laced her own drink. “I feel like a teenager, trying to hide what were
drinking,” Kelly giggled conspiratorially. She shivered. “Is this cold
snap the first of tonight’s spooky goings on or do you think Craig is
having trouble paying his heating?” she whispered.
Rachel laughed and she draped her own thick woolly cardigan
over Kelly’s shoulder, watching her shift under the gesture with obvious
awkwardness. “I will be okay. I have more fat to insulate me than you
have.” Rachel settled again. She accepted Kelly’s thanks as she pulled
the cardigan round her more comfortably.
Kelly suddenly leaned closer to the screen that displayed the
Chambers lounge and stabbed a finger at a luminous dot drifting
through the air. “So is that an orb then?”
“No, dear. It’s a spec of dust.” Kelly looked disappointed with
the answer. “Maybe if it was seen on Most Haunted they might be
considering it as an orb, but not by me or anyone that has genuine
experiences with spirits. Of all the spirits I have seen in my time, none
of them have resembled specs of dust. As far as I know orbs have only
been found since digital cameras have been around, before then ghost
107
Harvest

pictures on 35mm film used to be of figures, people – something to get


excited about. I think it’s the sensitivity of these modern cameras to
light that causes the problem as it catches the light reflected by dust.”
“You truly believe there is something ghostly in their flat
though?” Kelly reinforced bluntly.
“Well that was very leading…” Rachel cast her hand across all
the equipment. “All this would be a lot of effort if I didn’t believe in the
possibility of some paranormal activity. It’s quite obvious you don’t
believe.” She broke her look and paused thoughtfully over her mug. “I
don’t need all this to believe what I see every day, all this technology
and nights like this are for people like you: The sceptics.”
“I’ve never had to believe in them. I have never encountered
anything paranormal and nor has anyone I know. I used to be scared of
monsters – I just guess I grew up and they went away.” She shrugged.
Rachel rested her mug on her knee and held it there and
considered whether she had already seen a crude representation of a
monster in Amy’s precious drawing. Up until that defining moment
Rachel thought the investigation was an exercise in futility, as it
wouldn’t lead to evidence to support Claire’s belief of what had
happened to little Emily. Yes there was a presence; a powerful one, but
Rachel couldn’t make that leap between what she understood of the
paranormal and what she understood as fiction, or more kindly; the
troubled conclusion of a grieving mother desperate for answers. And
possibly a way of escaping suspicion? No that was too calculated.
That crayon creature had haunted Rachel ever since with the
possibilities it could represent. Sickeningly Rachel realised she had
unknowingly prepared a trap for a monster – using Amy as bait.
“There are monsters,” Rachel said grimly, her thoughts gripping
her throat with the long fingers of the creature within the drawing.
“Bullies, murderers, rapists; everywhere. When they die,” she paused
trying to shake free of the beast and the dark thoughts it used to
consume her. “Sometimes they stay monsters.”
“You mean ‘evil’ ghosts.”
“Without starting on the subject of the nature of evil; yes you get
108
Harvest

bad ghosts. I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I say that
everybody has good and bad aspects of their personality. That can
remain the same in spirit. In the same way that a picture can fade over
time leaving only trace images, in spirit form a predominant emotion or
aspect of character will be all that remains of a person’s essence. I saw
the spirit of a murderer once. I couldn’t possibly tell you who the victim
was or where it had happened, but I saw the act through him and all I
could feel was his hate and loathing in that moment, that’s all that was
left of him. You understand when I see a spirit it’s not always like
seeing you, or another living person.”
“You mean you can partly see through them?”
“It’s more than that,” she took a deep drag of air with the
difficulty of explaining. “They can look solid like you or I, or they can
seem faded, blurry – like a memory where detail seems evasive. More
than that though; you don’t just see them, you feel them, even to the
point of experiencing their memories and thoughts. Sometimes, if they
speak, it’s almost as if your ears have been bypassed and they are
speaking in to you. Your head fills with words and you know; you just
know what they are thinking or saying. You can feel the intense love
they have for those they have left behind, or sadness that they have had
to leave. Or because they are cut off from their loved ones they can feel
loneliness. They can use your emotions to paint a picture of how they
feel so you often experience their feelings.”
“And with the killer?”
“I experienced his primal feelings as I said. But, he hated people
being in ‘his’ house. He was shouting and screaming at the top of his
voice, and flashes of his crime would cut in and out of my
consciousness, when I eventually saw him he was pacing in all different
directions like a caged animal and he was all blurred and smudged and
parts of him moved and shuddered at unnatural speeds. To feel his bile
and hate for life was sickening. I hated that,” Rachel’s words lingered
on her lips like a bad taste as she drifted into uncomfortable memories
“Nasty. So would you say that most of them are the lonely
benign kind?” She said, sounding hopeful.
109
Harvest

Rachel laughed. “Yes, don’t worry. Some spirits just can’t leave
the living they have left behind. Of course, only a very few people seem
to be able to see ghosts, so the spirit has to watch their families living
their lives completely oblivious to them. Their friends or relatives
eventually leave, or die and the spirit is left behind: alone. Then new
people move in.”
Kelly grimaced. “Then the trouble starts...”
“Occasionally. Yes. Some spirits seem to get anchored to certain
places or rooms, they carry on as they had, not seeming to know they
are dead. As if they see the house as it was when they lived there; they
carry on unaware of us, using doors and moving furniture that might not
be there anymore.”
“How can they interact with things that aren’t there anymore?”
“Maybe the spirits memory of the past shapes their spiritual
world. If the spirits are aware of us and our world they might not be
able to understand what’s happened or why their house has changed or
why there are people and different belongings in their house. Imagine
how disorientating or frightening that might be?”
“Hence the disturbance?”
“They tend to be mischievous more than anything; spiteful at the
worst. I hardly think hiding ornaments or moving furniture around is
evil intent. Maybe spirits don’t have enough potency or energy to
engage with the world of the living to have any serious impact on us.
But it isn’t usually the action of a spirit that’s frightening; it’s the fear of
things that upset our general consensus of understanding.” Rachel
cupped the hot drink to her lips before carrying on her hushed
explanations.
“But ghosts are souls, right?”
“That’s an interpretation. Souls, psychic imprints, nonsense,
hallucinations, residue of biological energy, depending upon whether
you ask a person of religious faith, a new-ager, a sceptic, psychologist
or an open-minded scientist – their philosophy for understanding the
world will govern their interpretation of their experience. Whatever
ghosts are countless people have had experiences they can’t explain,
110
Harvest

there are photographs and films that have captured strange apparitions
and phenomenon so there is a wealth of evidence to support the
existence of things happening that we can’t currently understand or
explain.”
“Yeah, but it can’t be conclusive evidence or opinions and the
willingness to believe would have changed.”
“Would they? As I said opinion is dictated by the philosophy
that you ascribe to. Science dominates now, which is a good thing in my
opinion; more good has come out of science than has ever come out of
religion. However, it’s when science tries to explain everything from
our current level of understanding that I have an issue; if something
defies science’s current level of understanding then its possibility is
dismissed or denied. Scientific arrogance.”
“So you think there might be a scientific explanation for
ghosts?”
“Quite. It’s just that science hasn’t reached a level where such
phenomenon can be studied or understood. It’s like a medieval
alchemist, or whatever their equivalent of a scientist might have been,
trying to understand electricity. They might think it magic or
witchcraft.”
Kelly shrugged. “How do you explain ghosts then?”
“I like to keep an open mind. It will make it easier for me to
accept any explanations when this phenomenon is finally understood.
Not that I think that will happen in my lifetime, or yours. The theory
that I like and that I like to think is most probable, (because it fits what
we already know of human biology and chemistry) is that ghosts are a
residue of the energy that we all have inside us.”
“So ghosts are like radiation?”
Rachel turned her mouth down at the corners in an impression of
sadness. “Yes, not very romantic is it. Our energies, biological,
chemical and psychic make us who we are in the spirit world, giving us
our appearance, memory and personality in the spirit world. And just
like when they were living, the spirits like to be somewhere familiar and
around the people they love, so their energy might be focussed on
111
Harvest

homes or workplaces and around the people they have left behind, or
like the living they might find it difficult to let go of the past and are
haunted by the experiences they had in life, and they replay those events
over and over as we do now in our heads. This energy might linger for a
long time or it might dissipate over time.”
Kelly had a look of concentration her face like that of a child
that had just been captivated by a bed-time story. “Dissipate? And
where do you think that energy go?” She said with a renewed scepticism
edging her voice, as if her mind had suddenly realised she was going
along with it and switched into denial.
“I hope for them that they go wherever their faith sends them.”
Rachel shrugged. “Then we get onto the biggy don’t we... Afterlife! If
there is one I will come back and tell you about that when or if I get
there.”
They both laughed and turned to the soft light from the monitors
that flickered ahead of them. They had two views of every room in the
Chambers flat, except the parents’ bedroom and the bathroom. One
monitor showed normal view, while the other showed the green screen
of infrared.
Rachel operated the zoom on Amy. Her sleeping face filled the
screen as the close up settled on her, and they watched her as she lazily
brushed hair away from her eyes in her sleep.
“She’s a cutie...” Rachel whispered broodily.
“I know. She looks so peaceful.”
“Peaceful dreams.”
“I hope they are.”
Rachel caught her forlorn gaze at the monitor. “You don’t have
children?” she skirted cautiously.
Kelly smiled grimly. “No, afraid not.”
“Not met the right man yet?”
“Hmmm. Thought I had. I was wrong.”
Rachel sympathetically patted Kelly’s hand that supported her
upright where she sat. “There’s a Mr Right out there for everyone.”
“So what about you?” she deflected, her voice sounded choked.
112
Harvest

“Kids?”
“Once, yes...” Rachel answered, shifting her eyes from the
sleeping girl to the surface of her drink. “That was a long time ago.”
Kelly didn’t probe further. “How about Mr Right, then?”
Rachel’s spirit lifted slightly and a dry smile drew across her
lips. “Okay; blow my reassuring advice out of the water!” She took a
deep breath, thick with sadness. “Mr Right, turned into Mr Wrong and
he left.”
“Bastard. Leaving you with a kid.”
“Don’t judge him. It turned out that neither of us could give each
other what we wanted. We saw each other from time to time but the
situation gradually made meeting up awkward,” Rachel spoke kindly,
remembering how Malcolm had found himself the family that Rachel
had been unable to provide, and Rachel had found Helen.
“Sounds sad.”
Rachel nodded. “Oh, I think we both have a sad story to tell.
You don’t see your Mr Wrong anymore?”
She shook her head. “He wouldn’t know me now. I have
changed a lot since then.”
“As long as you haven’t changed so much and become Mrs
Wrong for any Mr Right that comes along...”
Kelly looked away and Rachel saw that she had hit a nerve, but
Rachel was instantly distracted by the monitor: “Do you see that?”
Staring at the screen she reached out with her drink for where she hoped
the table was, not daring to take her eyes from the image. “The lamp has
just come on in the lounge...” Rachel whispered pointing to the lamp
that burned like a flare on the green screen, overexposing an area of the
light sensitive infra-red feed. “There you go; first possible sign of
activity. Classic sign!” she stated excitedly and with a measure of
triumph.
Rachel turned her attention to Amy’s bedroom monitors, seeing
the pitch-black normal feed, she turned to the revealing infra-red
screens that replaced the darkness with a grainy green image. She used
the joystick to move the camera out from the close up on Amy to view
113
Harvest

the rest of the room. Then she operated the camera in the lounge and
made it pan 360 degrees. There was no one in the lounge to have turned
on the lamp.
Amy was still asleep, and the door from the lounge into the
master bedroom was still shut. There didn’t seem to be anyone else on
the monitors, nor any movement or shadow – nothing to explain the
lamp now being on. The family slept on unaware of the strange activity.
The hairs on her neck prickled.
Kelly caught Rachel’s operating arm and jerked the camera’s
attention back to Amy who was now sitting up in bed scanning the
darkness, her iris’s glowing like floating bright white orbs in the hazy
green infra-red image. Eyes wide and burning with fear.
A soft voice crackled shakily through the tinny speakers. “Mr
Sparky’s coming!” It was a voice choked with terror, a level of fear
Rachel never thought she would hear from a child: The fear of death.
There was a sound of susurration from the speakers that built
into a roar of a thousand tormented infants. The noise broke down into a
lancing squeal of static feedback. Amy reacted to the noise in her room
by swinging her legs over the side of the bed and diving out from under
the covers seconds before a bright light overexposed the green infra-red
screen with its intensity. The normal feed monitor showed a burst of
bright green light glaring out of the darkness of the room, briefly
blotting out the view on the screen.

114
Harvest

Twelve
Craig struggled in the depths of sleep. A noise disturbed him, disrupted
his slumber. He became aware of the lack of dreams, the emptiness of
his unconscious world as he balanced on the brink of waking. The
blackness that surrounded him shifted in the wake of an undefined
shape that snaked past him. A shape that, as he focussed on it, became a
hazy green ribbon of diffused light, an entropic pattern barely
distinguished from the void around him. It stayed ahead of his search,
writhing slowly, haunting him from the edge of his perception. Sleep
tugged at him as he swam after the shape, pulling him into a descent
towards a deeper rest, one he knew would claim him for hours. It was as
if the light was trying to lead him to that state; luring him back to sleep.
He pulled away and for a moment he was sure it screamed with a
multitude of infantile voices, but the voices faltered and merged and
became one monotonous sound; the high-pitched whining noise that had
first infringed on his physical senses. The ghostly green tendril faded
and his eyes fluttered open and his dream world collapsed. In that brief
moment of transition into the waking world an anonymous spike of
anger lashed out from within his dream world in frustration that Craig
had woken.
The motion sensors sounded the high-pitched wail that had
pulled Craig from sleep, he opened and closed his eyes in exaggerated
blinks and lay motionless for a few seconds. He watched David
smacking away the taste of sleep from his lips and roughly shoving his
glasses on as he lurched forward to the bank of monitors and controls.
Craig followed as he tuned into the rising anxiety within the room.
The camera view in Amy’s room panned automatically to face
the disturbance and movement. The noise built to a howl over the
speakers, the voices Craig recognised from his sleep. At the zenith of
the blaze of light the sound was abruptly stopped. As quick as it
appeared the light was gone and the infra red view was restored,
showing the grainy green image of the beds blankets and pillows
tumbling back onto the bed as if swept up and dropped by an unseen
force. Amy scrambled hurriedly across the floor sobbing and whining.
115
Harvest

Craig dived down beside Kelly at the monitor while David


blearily began examining the equipment, switching off the sharp noise
of the bedroom motion detector with trembling hands.
“Where are the parents? What are they doing?” Kelly raced
urgently.
The lounge sound sensor registered a noise and directed the
camera, focussing in on the source of the sound. The parent’s bedroom
door filled the screen as the creaking of stressed wood crackled and
groaned through the speaker.
The hall motion detector wailed, activated by Amy’s flight from
her room. The camera attempted to track her but she overtook its slowly
panning lens, clipping the camera in her haste, causing the picture to
flicker and shudder as the camera staggered on its tripod.
The lounge motion detector sprang into life, grating the air in a
shrill monotone before Amy’s arrival could trigger it. The camera
panned toward the ceiling in search of the stirring in the air that had
activated it. David cursed trying to keep up with the multiple reactions
of his equipment and quickly silenced the sounds of the hallway and
lounge motion detectors that jarred their nerves, clearly struggling to
keep up with the action unfolding on the monitors.
On one of the green infra-red screens Amy rounded the corner
into the lounge, looking about her warily as the unearthly sound started
again. The image rolled and broke up as Amy crashed into the camera
and it fell roughly onto its side. The picture restored itself, offering a
ground level view of the room before the camera adjusted and used the
motion sensor to focus back on the disturbance in the room. Amy stood
in full view, still framed by the lens, her hair wild around her face in an
impossible gale. Thuds from the parent’s room sounded like distant
thunder as Brian and Claire called desperately for Amy and hammered
at the door that refused them access to their screaming daughter. The
camera jerked, caught between the commands of its sound and motion
sensors.
A flash of bright light blanched the infra-red camera’s
transmission and Craig’s eyes flicked to the monitor with the normal
116
Harvest

view. Amy recoiled from the brilliant light, stepping closer to the lens of
the camera that rested on the floor behind her, her lower legs and ankles
filling the screen. The light receded as suddenly as it had appeared and
Amy’s feet jerked up out of sight with it. Amy’s scream joined the cries
that haunted the influx of rushing air and then all sound ended with the
dying light, as if the camera had entered into the eerily calm eye of a
storm.
“Where’s she gone? – Where’s she gone!” Kelly gasped
hysterically.
Each of them glanced from monitor to monitor, before
desperately returning to the picture of the lounge. Amy didn’t appear in
any of the views. With the absence of any movement the cameras stare
was drawn to the parent’s bedroom door by the sound of Claire and
Brian pounding frantically on the wood and calling with increasing
desperation and futility for their daughter.

In the basement the black hole glowed with a dim throbbing green. The
dull but energetic light cast the thick chips and carved teeth around the
mouth of the hole in soft light and shadow, giving the impression of
movement that made it appear the hole was gnawing at the blackness
within.
The mound of rancid meat and flesh within began to move slug-
like across the ground. Slither by slither, strip by strip, it crawled in its
decay, carried by the writhing bodies of the maggot’s as they burrowed
into the meat in gluttonous feasting.
The carcasses and waste crossed the uneven scorched ground
and rubble towards the skeletal remains of the undertaker, Albert
Taylor. The ragged white and dark meats reached his bones, crawling
and weaving, wrapping his exposed skeleton, sliding up the shafts of his
legs, filling the cracks of his finger joints, spreading in to cover his
wrists, and knees. A tide of flesh moving relentlessly inward, knitting
together through his ribs and curling around the spine like some
grotesque crawling ivy. Tendrils of decomposing flesh took hold of the
entire skeleton.
117
Harvest

It watched from the corner of the room feeling stronger from its
weeks of feeding, but not yet sated – not yet ready... It allowed part of
its consciousness to divide and brake away in a crude shape of light that
rushed forward to the ragged blob of congealed fats and festering meats
that clung to the skull, and channelled that part of itself into the empty
eye sockets.
The cadaver of carcasses lurched violently into a sitting position.
Its jaw wrenched open crudely as an inhuman scream howled out from
its maggot ridden lips. Its screech cut the air like ragged glass, the
echoing shrill scream chasing up the stairwells and along corridors,
hauntingly teasing those that heard it. A cry of new life from the
darkness in the depths of the concrete tower.

118
Harvest

Part Two: The Threat Grows

119
Harvest

Thirteen
Craig drifted from the depths of sleep and became lucid mid-dream,
aware that he only needed to flick open his eyes to wake, but the
slumber was comforting and he recognised the situation playing out
around him. The images on the monitors were shaky and unidentifiable,
and Rachel and Kelly’s panic was a contagion. Before he knew what he
was responding to he was acting on the rush in his blood and his jack
hammering heart, all he knew was that Amy was in trouble.
Craig took comfort that this replay was only his subconscious
trying to make sense of the night. He drifted from sleep, dimly aware of
the uncomfortable hospital bed and his surroundings. Although the
dream would have inevitably become a nightmare as the evening had,
the sleep that drained out of him was strangely more wholesome and
satisfying than the one he had back at his flat before the disturbance of
the monitors had roused him. That sleep had been deep – so deep that he
had thought he wouldn’t find his way out. Something hadn’t wanted
him to leave. Something had needed him to stay.
He lay there in his curtained cubicle with nothing to look at,
resting his eyes but guarded against sleep, listening to the sounds of the
hospital, the sobbing cries and angry shouts at pain, bed wheels
squeaking past his cubicle, footsteps and voices. He filtered through the
voices trying to tune into a conversation. He could hear a heavy
Jamaican accent mumbling and another very polite voice explaining
something in response. Probably a nurse. Then there were two female
voices, clear but distant from him.
“It’s Chloe isn’t it?”
“Close; it’s Zoe. Zoe Sampson – like it says on my badge.”
“Sorry. Guess that’s why I won’t make detective.” It was Kelly.
“That’s okay, it’s Kylie isn’t?”
“Kylie?” Kelly laughed and Craig found himself smiling with
her. “It’s K…”
“Kelly – I know. Only pulling your leg.”
“Listen, I’m not on duty but a friend of mine is here somewhere.
I was hoping I could see him.”
120
Harvest

‘Friend’? It was what she needed to describe him as, but the
idea that she might class him as a friend warmed him.
“The guy from The Heights? He mentioned a Kelly.”
“Craig – I don’t remember his surname.”
That jarred Craig. They barely knew each but here they were.
“The ones from The Heights tend to stick in my memory at the
moment. We have had a few through our doors. I do agency work at one
of the flats in that block; I take an old guy out and about for a bit of
respite for his wife, she tells me there’s been some weird stuff going on.
I wouldn’t want to be living there at the moment…”
“I know – I live in the same building.”
“Oh, right. Sorry. Don’t know what he was involved in but your
people have been all over him.” She stopped abruptly before speaking
again in a quicker pace. “You were with him weren’t you – right O-
KAY not sure there’s any other way I can put my foot in it! He’s in
here.”
The curtain parted, he saw Kelly and he recognised the nurse as
one of the ones who had treated him. “It always works in the movies...”
He greeted Kelly feebly, trying to hide his embarrassment at his
injuries.
“You nob. A heroic nob I guess though.”
“They shouldn’t make battering a door down look so easy.”
Craig eased himself up in the bed on his left arm, careful not to move
his other arm in its padded sling.
“They fixed your shoulder then?”
Craig winced at the thought. “Yup. They relocated it – and just
where I like it.” The nurse checked over his sling, her lips curled at the
edges. The little red head had a wicked smile. He imagined that nurse
Zoe Sampson was a bit of a handful outside of her job.
Kelly stepped into the nurse’s place as she moved away to jot
some notes on some paperwork on the bedside unit. Kelly fingered his
blonde hair away from his forehead and found the thin ragged gash that
was knitted together by three adhesive stitches. “I didn’t realise you cut
your head.” Craig pretended not to notice her sudden discomfort with
121
Harvest

the familiarity of the gesture as she tentatively withdrew her touch.


Craig grimaced sheepishly. “I didn’t... I er, passed out when
they popped my shoulder back in and I hit my head on a trolley.”
“Yeah he’s a regular hero alright.” Zoe added, tipping him a
wink.
Kelly laughed then covered her mouth and apologised to Craig.
She jumped as if she remembered something. “Oh... It’s as near to
grapes as I could get you at this time of night...” She pulled a bundle of
greasy paper out from under her arm.
He savoured the sharp mouth-watering smell of salt and vinegar.
“You are magic.” He beamed and sat the bag of chips on his lap,
fingering it open with his good hand and with some help from Kelly.
“Great. Now I fancy a Kebab and I don’t get off for hours.” The
nurse smirked. “I will leave you two to it.” She said goodbye to Kelly.
“I take it you had the interview from the Police too?” Craig blew
on a chip before popping it in his mouth.
“I wasn’t spared, they interviewed me and Rachel at your flat
just after you was taken by the paramedics. God, what must they be
thinking down the station? They took all of Rachel’s equipment.”
“Has there been any news?”
Kelly sat on the bed. “No.” She confessed shamefully. “No
Amy.”
Craig put a poised chip back into the pile, suddenly losing his
appetite despite how good the food smelt. “What happened? I just don’t
understand. She was snatched off her feet. She was just...gone!”
Kelly nodded blankly, hugging herself against the gutting guilt.
“I don’t understand it. Rachel’s at a loss.”
“How about the parents?”
“I spoke with a colleague – they are scraping Claire off the
ceiling. She’s hysterical. Brian has just shut himself down. Don’t think
he can cope or understand.”
“I feel the same.”
“It took them ten minutes to get them out of the bedroom.”
Craig paused in mid-expression of a frown as he deliberated
122
Harvest

over this statement. “How come?”


“My friend said the door had wedged. Well; more than wedged.
It was as if the door and the jamb had become one lump of wood: Fused
together! The team had to hack it open with an axe. They were at a loss
to explain how it had happened.” Kelly frowned and then rubbed her
eyes and groaned aloud. “I’m so tired.”
“What time is it?
“Almost five I think,” Kelly guessed without checking her
watch.
“What you still doing here then? Get home...” Not actually
wanting her to go anywhere.
“Thought I would wait for you, give you a lift home.” Kelly’s
face flushed.
Craig thanked her. Touched by the fact she had waited around
for him considering they barely knew each other.
They both picked through the chips and ran through each others
experience of what had happened at the flat, looking for inconsistencies
between the two that might offer a chance of rational reasoning for
Amy’s disappearance. They quickly lost their appetites.
Although Craig was reluctant to head back to his flat, he
admitted he was at least fit enough to leave A&E. Kelly helped him off
the bed and found Zoe to let her know they were leaving.
The early morning air was chilled and smelled fresh. It was
raining and the tarmac was glossed black except for the puddles of
orange light below the car park lighting. Craig squinted against the
drizzle that speckled his face. The glare of passing headlights and
ambulance blues glittered in the rain.
“Oh, I hope you don’t mind, but Rachel was worried about you
and a bit upset about the whole thing and didn’t want to go back to her
empty flat. So after her turn to be interviewed by the police she crashed
at yours.”
“That’s okay.” Craig pointed at the gold Yugo that Kelly hurried
to. “This is – your car?” He eyed the piece-of-junk-car warily.
“Yeah, she makes the speed limit,” she justified. “She may not
123
Harvest

look like much, but she gets me about.”


He looked over the small car. “I can see that they are right about
the Police needing pay rises.”
“Ha, bloody, ha! Don’t insult ‘Goldie’.” She stood poised half-in
the car. “You could always walk.”
Craig dived awkwardly into the cramp interior and settled
himself into the passenger seat. “No, no. I’m always up for new
experiences. Of course walking could be quicker”
Kelly cocked her head and rolled her eyes disdainfully with a
wide warning smile as she plugged her seat belt in. “I could have bought
a better car, but I save a lot. I don’t want to be stuck at the Heights for
the rest of my life.”
Her goal was like a punch in the gut. Was he going to be stuck
there for the rest of his life? It was unlikely he could afford to be there
for the rest of the year. “Don’t you need me to get out and crank this
thing up?”
She turned the engine over and the car came to life. “That won’t
be necessary, thank you. Back home then?”
The shadows within the car seemed to thicken and smother him
with the prospect of having to return to the tower block. The tower
block that was home to something they did not understand.

124
Harvest

Fourteen
Jason slipped out of his bed and padded from his room, barely awake,
his eyes half-open as he stood using the toilet. He headed back to his
room on autopilot until something unfamiliar snapped him from his
trance and his pace slowed.
He stopped dead.
For a moment he challenged what caught his eye through the
lounge doorway. A smudge of light picked out the shapes of the
furniture in the lounge before it faded into blackness. A chill wrapped
around him as he stood and stared into the black doorway.
The light had been green.
The same colour he had seen in Amy’s scribbled drawings. The
crayon that had been thickly scrawled on the dog-eared pages in spirals
and swirls, with a creature sat in the centre like a spider with a crocodile
maw grinning and long skinny arms ready to grab.
He had glimpsed the same colour light glowing from within
Amy’s room when she had been briefly trapped behind the door. The
fear on her face stayed with him. Emily was gone. He knew to fear the
coloured light.
His mum’s room was off of the lounge. She was all he had now
and the thought of losing his mum terrified him more than the light. He
needed to see her. If he woke in the night he often needed to check she
was still there. Now, seeing the light near her room the urge was even
stronger. More selfishly he wanted the safety of his mum.
Jason hesitated on one foot, poised on the brink of stepping into
the darkness. He launched himself forward, charging into the blackness.
His legs pounded the floor. The air hushed in his ears, joining the sound
of his own racing blood as he ran. His heart and fear powered him the
short distance through the lounge. He burst through the bedroom door,
slammed it behind him and dived into the bed, his arms snaking across
the sheets until he found the reassuring warmth of his mother’s body.
Safe.

Police Officer Stewart Balin shone the thick beam of his torch around
125
Harvest

the large room that faced him at the bottom of the tower-block stairs.
The air was thick with dust and heavy with the smell of age and damp.
He flashed the beam at his feet to secure his path into the basement as
he conducted his part of the coordinated sweep through the building.
Stewart started his journey into the large basement room with a
casual confidence, not bothering to hunt down the light switch. His
search took him deeper into the room and the darkness swept around
him. The lance of light from his torch cut and sliced at the black tendrils
of shadow that clung to the borders of any relief. The black smothering
monster that surrounded him ate at his resolve to move forward,
devouring his choice of direction except for the steps that would lead
him back out of the basement and up and away into the safety of light
and his colleagues.
The spot of light from his torch slid across the cabinets and
shelving before him, jumping the cracks and seams of the doors. He
rested it on a black gap behind a cabinet that had been pulled aside. The
inky black strip swallowed the light from his torch as if nothing existed
beyond.
Leave... There’s nothing down here... Go back up... No one will
know...
Stewart’s fear marshalled as he heard the strong spontaneous
and desperate thoughts in his head. Were those his thoughts? It had
sounded like his mental-voice... Yet there was something in the
irrational thoughts that was too loud, too clear, too commanding. Not
quite him. He tried to shrug the thoughts off, but the doubt teased his
fears. He spun on his heels, and clasped his radio at his lapel and
squeezed the buttons, launching a rake of static at the silence.
“Basement clear. Nothing down here...” Stewart jogged the last
distance to the stairs feeling the blackness at his back like a rearing
beast. His jog broke into a run as he hit the first step. With each footfall
away from the basement the fear receded and reason regained its reign,
a growing confidence slowing his pace. The voice in his head now his
own again.

126
Harvest

Frank Harbuck lay back in the steamy warmth of the bath. The water
washed over him, rising up his sagging pigeon chest and into the
crevices of his collarbones as his bony hands held the rails on the bath.
He lowered himself into the comforting heat. Cupping the water in his
clawed hands he bathed his face and ran his fingers through his thinning
hair, plastering it to his prominent shiny scalp of liver spots and broken
purple capillaries. He heard his wife padding toward the room, and with
bleary eyes he saw her silhouette fill the doorway.
“Don’t turn the light on...” he grumbled blandly. Not wanting
the drone of the extractor fan to shred the peace.
“I know, I know. After forty six years of being married to you,
you would think I don’t need telling.” Phyllis chastised absently as she
started to brush her remaining teeth in the gloom.
These days she did need reminding. In the last two years she had
started forgetting the little understandings and rituals they had
developed over the decades together. Frank lay back and sighed as the
heat relaxed his stiffened limbs that felt hollow and brittle. He closed
his eyes and thought of the days when his body had been toned, strong
and light, not scrawny, sinewy and the dragging weight it had now
become.
He eyed his wife covertly and wondered if the confusion that
occasionally flitted across her face was actually her wonder at who this
old man was that claimed to be her husband. Although they had both
watched each other age through the years, the shrivelled old woman that
he lived with now was totally irreconcilable to the young woman he had
courted and married. How jarring it must be for her to have her mental
slips into the past, only to be confronted by him how he is now, or by
her own aged reflection. He scoured through photograph albums with
her from time to time, reminding her of the time line of their
relationship and their physical appearance. Hoping it would keep her
grounded for longer.
His insistence upon routine despite being retired probably made
it easier for her to keep her anchor in the present: up early, breakfast –
full English at the weekends, reading the daily paper together, shopping.
127
Harvest

Then he went for an afternoon drink down the Labour club with the
lads, except there were no lads anymore, only Robbie Peters and James
Mckerny were left from the crowd that he regularly drank with. Robbie
lived with his son and his family now that his pins didn’t work so well
and he needed wheeling around. It meant that whenever Robbie was
brought down the club he was surrounded by his family. He couldn’t
chew the cud over a pint with Robbie’s grandchildren hanging off him
or racing him unceremoniously around the bar. James Mckerny didn’t
recognise Frank anymore. James didn’t recognise anyone anymore. The
others had disappeared, or were in rest homes or dead he guessed. The
afternoon consisted of a nap with a book then dinner, and television in
the evening while rubbing Phyllis’s feet or bony back.
In the last year he regretted choosing not to have a family. The
financial struggle would have been worth it to have people around him,
people that knew and loved him. Old Father-Time and the Reaper were
whittling his world, his life, away. Eventually the two old boys down
the club would be gone, and his wife would slip further into the past.
Then it would be just him. There would be no one around that had
shared in his past, only those that knew him as the old boy to say a
polite hello to. They wouldn’t give any thought to the life he had had.
He opened his eyes. Phyllis smiled at him before replacing her
toothbrush and left the bathroom.
Frank closed his eyes again and took a deep breath which
strained at his dry lungs as he sunk his face under the water. The heat
flooded his ears, deafening him to his wife working at breakfast in the
kitchen. The water flowed over his cheeks, floating the hair from around
his head like a halo. Filling the recesses of his closed eyes and
threatening his nostrils. He slowly released the air in slaloming bubbles
and surfaced. Keeping his eyes closed he sucked in a fresh supply of air
and sunk back into the quiet womb-like world. After exhausting his
lungs he rose again. The surface didn’t break but stretched across his
face in a warm and flexible film.
Frank panicked with the urgency of needing to breathe. His
eye’s flicked open and the heat of the water washed over his naked eyes.
128
Harvest

He could make out the gloomy details of the bathroom from his
underwater world but no obstacle other than the surface itself. Frank’s
hands leapt for the rails of the bath to draw himself up but they struck
the same restraint that kept him under. His fingers scrambled at the
smooth malleable skin unable to gain a grip or to break it. The surface
of the water had become like polythene. His lungs desperately clung to
the last of his air, begging his body for more.
His thick nails clipped to stubs, scraped the surface in an attempt
to tear through. He bashed his fists against it with all his strength, but
only created slow ripples that radiated to the edge of the supple surface
that sealed seamlessly with the bath. Finally the pressure forced him to
gulp. Water flooded his mouth and he willed himself not to swallow, but
the vacuum in his chest overpowered him. He gulped again and the first
mouthful of water forced itself painfully into his lungs like a balled fist.
The instinct to draw breath grew. He choked and gulped more down,
then another choke and another intake, each mouthful like gobstoppers
in his lungs. His fists bounded on the pliable but unforgiving surface,
his feet slid frantically on the bottom of the bath, his whole body
thrashed in the watery grave. His body stilled as his mouth opened wide
in one final swallowing gesture. His wide eyes stared through the
surface. One of his legs gave a last twitch. His face pressed gently
against the translucent skin as he floated naked and lifeless.
It watched from above, hovering just above the surface. It
changed the surface back to normal. Answers acquired, It drifted away.

129
Harvest

Fifteen
Craig let Kelly in. She was back in uniform but she hadn’t tied her hair
up, it was a good look. Uniformed and sultry. He fantasised that that
was her intended look, then panicked that it was. No, now that was
wishful thinking. Besides, it would be some time before he found
women in Police uniforms sexy after the previous nights grilling.
Heading past the lounge on the way to the kitchen he saw that Rachel
had stirred from her sleep on the sofa.
“You’re back.” Rachel roughly pulled a brush through her
flattened hair.
“We were back hours ago – just didn’t want to wake you. We
both went to bed and agreed to meet up for a cuppa before Kelly had to
go to work.”
“Tea sounds bliss.”
Craig thought coffee would probably be better for Rachel. He
had found Rachel asleep on the sofa, a pile of empty miniature bottles of
alcohol nestled in the top of her large bag. The bottle of vodka he kept
on his book case was still in place but the level had dropped
considerably. He didn’t judge her on it. If it hadn’t been for the pain
killers he would have considered a vodka induced blackout to block out
the fear that crouched in his mind as he struggled to get to sleep.
Craig switched the kettle on in the kitchen and the two women
sat at the small battered table butted up to the blank wall.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“A little worse for falling asleep on the couch. Can’t say I slept
peacefully though. I had nightmares like I have never had before – and
believe me with the visitations I receive I have had some pretty awful
nightmares in my time.”
“Same here. Wasn’t just nightmares – sleeping was like
wrestling with a crocodile or something. I feel shattered.” He knew he
looked it too, but then none of them had had much sleep.
Rachel popped open a compact mirror. “I look a mess.”
“I don’t know, I think pillow hair is underrated.”
Rachel began to cleanse her face with some round waifer-like
130
Harvest

pads. “Thank you.”


“It works for you, Craig after all.”
“Thank you Kelly, I thought so,” he replied sarcastically.
“Did you put the blanket around me?”
Craig nodded to Rachel as he prepared their drinks and she
freshened up her make-up.
“Thanks, I didn’t even hear you come in. She nodded to his
sling. “Is your arm okay now?”
“It doesn’t feel too bad. I’m gonna keep the sling on for a bit
though. I never want to see my arm in that position again.” Craig gave a
mock shudder. “Very unnerving. Oh, and I have a nice mottled yellow-
purple-and-black-bruise thing going on which is, y’ know; colourful at
the least.” He spooned the tea bags into the bin.
Rachel nodded her head to Kelly’s uniform. “You haven’t got
work? Not after last night.”
“Tell me about it! I have to go in though. Craig invited me in for
a bit before my shift so the three of us could talk.”
Craig delivered the teas to the table. “Breakfast isn’t up to much
– bread is green and only enough milk for tea.” He roughly deposited
the bags onto the table from his shopping trip with Kelly the night
before. “So – chocolate anyone?”
The two women laughed at him and delved into the bag.
Kelly pulled a Galaxy bar out of the bag. “Not my breakfast of
choice but I need the comfort of chocolate.”
“The energy rush would be helpful too.” Craig sat his bar of
Dairy Milk before him.
“Are you both alright after your interviews with the police?”
Kelly looked uncomfortable and a little guilty, as if the grilling was
somehow her fault.
“Well he didn’t get his truncheon out, so I’m quite glad of that.”
Craig battled to unwrap a chocolate bar with one hand.
Without word Rachel took it away from him opened it and broke
it into chunks and slid it back to him. “It made me feel so guilty. As if
we had done… Well, as if we had played some part in Amy’s
131
Harvest

disappearance.” Rachel shook her head grimly as she took the wrapper
from a Kit-Kat.
“I don’t think they can really suspect any of us. They only have
to look at our alibi’s for the other disappearances, and I guess even the
tapes from last night go a little way to show that we didn’t enter the flat
at the time of the disappearance.”
Rachel bowed her head. “Poor David’s equipment. The
university will be so cross with him.”
“They won’t keep hold of it for too long. We might get more
interviews, but that’s just normal procedure. They will be just as baffled
as anyone, though they won’t admit it. They will search the building and
local area but it’s a time consuming exercise,” Kelly explained.
Craig swallowed a melted mouthful of chocolate. “An exercise
that didn’t turn up anything before with Emily. I can go along with the
baffled feeling – have either of you got any idea what happened to
Amy?”
Silence descended and Rachel shifted, suddenly looking
uncomfortable in her seat. “I have never experienced anything like this
before.” She broke off a piece of chocolate for herself and held it poised
before her lips, her eyes were evasive. “I saw just as much as you did on
that monitor,” she popped the chocolate into her mouth and brought her
contribution to a momentary close, creating a quiet to be filled; fielding
the theorizing out.
Craig quickly took his tea up and allowed the baton of
explanations to pass to Kelly, who realised this with a physical jolt. She
stammered and started; “Amy was on the screen, she heard or saw
something, then there was a terrible noise, a flash and the next moment
she was gone.”
Now that Kelly had stated what he, and probably Rachel, had
assumed Kelly wouldn’t acknowledge he stepped in. “So to clarify – we
are saying that she… Amy, was snatched into thin air. The flat door was
locked from the inside when I went down there and tried my heroics.
The monitor’s feed showed she was alone. If the windows had been
unlocked I would have been reasonably happy to entertain someone
132
Harvest

entering and leaving that way, despite it involving Spiderman abilities.”


Rachel took her turn again. Craig imagined that now he and
Kelly had shown they were willing to stand at the edge of scepticism
and reason, Rachel was more willing to commit her ideas. “The only
experience I have that’s remotely like this is with poltergeist activities;
if that’s what that was last night. On occasion I am convinced they can
result in some minor scratches and bruises, but never abductions. I leave
all ideas like that to Hollywood and fiction.”
Craig was disappointed that she couldn’t explain it further and
frustrated that she wasn’t more willing to hypothesize more from her
own unique perspective and corner of knowledge, but settled himself by
thinking that of all the strange stories and occurrences that he knew
none of the famous disappearances, ghost and monster stories he knew
of came close to what they had experienced. He blew on his tea,
although there was no need, the ritual was just strangely comforting.
“But where does that leave us?” Craig’s motive for involvement was in
wanting a story. That’s what had pulled him into this; but he had a sense
that things had gone beyond that now. The story he had been chasing
had turned on him and it had evolved into something no one would
believe within a newspaper. Even though for Craig the story was
chillingly real and threatening, and demanded to be resolved.
“More importantly where does that leave Amy?” Kelly asked,
helpless despair riding and distorting her voice.
Rachel leaned forward decisively. “We don’t have the answers, I
agree. But, we saw that whatever was responsible for what happened to
Amy, and most likely Emily too, is beyond the realms of natural
explanation. Accepting that fact makes us a damn sight closer to facing
up to this than the police or anyone else that is puzzling this out.”
Rachel’s conclusion bulldozed purposefully through any thought
of denial that Craig or Kelly could dare to challenge her with. He knew
she was right, they had to accept what had happened if they hoped to
understand it. Craig could see the same vulnerability in Kelly’s eyes that
he had seen at her flat when she had related her worries about what was
happening on their doorsteps. He wasn’t naïve, he knew the Police had
133
Harvest

their limitations in the community, but he had always been reassured by


seeing a uniformed copper or a police car, felt safe knowing they were
about. He was surprised at how seeing someone in uniform look so lost
impotent and so human could be so unnerving for him. For Kelly, he
could imagine the discomfort was far worse. How much security and
comfort did she get from her uniform and her job now?
As if his thoughts had connected him to Kelly, she looked up
into his face, silently questioning if he was willing to commit to the
uncomfortable direction that Rachel was corralling them into accepting.
He gave her a strong confident smile and shrugged. He looked to
Rachel. “I guess you’re right. Now we have that out the way - what
next?”
Kelly interrupted Rachel before she could begin. “It isn’t just
Amy and Emily...” she admitted to Rachel before explaining about the
other disappearances. “Sorry, Rachel. I didn’t tell you before. It was a
police thing. I couldn’t let it out,” she paused awkwardly. “I only
confided in Craig as I needed someone to talk to. You understand don’t
you?”
Rachel flagged her apology down and nodded. “Of course, dear.
So this is not an isolated case. There could possibly be more to come.”
His skin crawled at the possibility of being defenceless against
an unseen force that could evidently strike anywhere and at anytime.
“While we are revealing withheld truths, I have to make a
confession myself. When Claire called on me, I thought it was a cry for
help. Desperation. If there were to be any activity I would have thought
it more brought on by their troubles at losing Emily, not the cause of
losing Emily. Emotional turmoil, especially with children, seems to be
the basis of poltergeist events, whether they are psychological episodes
or paranormal events.” Rachel’s stared into her empty mug. “Claire
suspected there was something paranormal behind Emily’s
disappearance, but I didn’t believe her until it was too late, and now
Amy is gone too.”
“There is no blame to be taken Rachel. You can’t take any
responsibility. What could we have done to make any difference?”
134
Harvest

Kelly hastily reasoned.


Rachel thanked her for the pardon too quickly to believe it.
“If it’s something paranormal what do we do about something
we don’t even understand? If it is a ghost, then how do we fight against
a ghost?” Craig urged.
“Yes. And how do we get those children back? Where have they
gone? What does ‘it’, if it is an ‘it’, want with them?” Kelly hugged
herself.
“It seems that at the moment, all we have are questions,” Craig
summarised.
Craig’s landline phone rang. Craig was relieved to be grounded
by the mundane until dread crept upon him. The police calling him
back? Irrational misplaced guilt and fear embraced him in a crushing
hold. His relief returned at hearing Vicki’s cheerfully abusive voice. She
explained she had a job for him. They made plans to meet and said their
goodbyes. He returned to the table but didn’t sit.
“So what do you think we should do? – What can we do?” Kelly
entreated.
Rachel slumped back in her chair looking drained by the plea;
Craig saw the burden of having her insight, although in this situation it
offered little help. She returned to the table, seemingly marshalled, and
spoke firmly and as decisively. “Usually with a haunting, there is
history. David and I might be able to go to the library and do some
research, his girlfriend Kim is a librarian so she will most likely help us
too. Of course, that’s if David is still speaking to me after last night.
Maybe we can uncover any previous disturbances if there have been
any. I can have a walk through the flats and see if I can sense anything
unusual anywhere else.”
Kelly looked inspired by Rachel’s decisiveness. “I can keep my
ears open for any other strange occurrences... So I guess that’s my
contribution.” With the reminder of her job she glanced at her watch
before downing her remaining tea. “I had better run, get myself out
there for work.” She stood up. “Let me know what you find out will
you?”
135
Harvest

Kelly arranged to call him later and said her goodbyes. Looking
surprised at the hug that Rachel gave her.
“Not being rude,” Craig started with a wince, “Just got a job
come up... And I need to take it so I can buy bread that isn’t green and
furry.” It felt strange that their normal lives were filtering back in, he
was sure that by the afternoon the events of last night would seem like a
dream or a delusion.
Rachel stood sharply. “Don’t worry, I should get home and
freshen up and do a bit of research; try and find out what’s happening
here. I will call you later”
Craig stood aside as she headed in to his lounge to retrieve her
bag. “Yeah, sure. Call me this afternoon, I probably won’t be out long
on this job but I am gonna try and get some sleep afterwards, I’m
shattered. You should do the same.” Although the thought of sleep and
the bad dreams that waited there, was far from comforting.

136
Harvest

Sixteen
Jason stirred from sleep, slowly becoming aware of his surroundings.
The mattress felt firm and level, as if his mum’s weight had gone from
the bed. He snapped his eyes open and found he was alone. He sprung
into a sitting position, the monster from Amy’s drawing rushing into his
imagination. The terror switched instantly into embarrassment at the
sight of his mum leaning against the frame of the open door sipping a
cup of tea and watching him.
“Bad dream?”
He nodded.
“Is that what made you come into my bed last night? You
haven’t done that for years.”
Jason hesitated, unsure of how to explain what he had seen and
sensed. “I – saw something...”
She rolled her eyes at him and she gestured for him to get up.
She made the bed behind him as he clambered out. “Nightmares.
Probably all those computer games you keep playing,” she breezed
before her face became serious. “It has been difficult lately. Don’t
worry, we all need comfort and reassurance from time to time.”
In a moment the look had passed and she strolled from the room,
leaving him wanting more from the moment of openness, although he
knew her understanding would only go so far. He couldn’t explain what
had disturbed the darkness in the lounge, and even if he could his
mother wouldn’t believe him. No one would. He was alone with his
fear. Suddenly he realised that he was actually alone. Jason rushed after
his mother and the security of being in company. Somehow he was sure
that monsters would only come if he was alone. Maybe that was how
monsters kept their existence secret – the monsters could hide within the
conspiracy of disbelief that adults and parents relied upon to reassure
children. He understood Amy’s silence. How could she talk about the
things she had seen? Or explain about the things that frightened her? He
decided that when he saw her again he would reassure her that she
wasn’t alone.
Jason entered the lounge and kitchen area and the chatter of the
137
Harvest

morning radio show greeted him. The morning was bright and the smell
of toast and sugary cereal stirred his appetite. He paused by the window
and shared the view with pigeons perched on the ledge beyond the
glass. Traffic filtered through the streets below, people came and went –
but monsters existed! and the world carried on. He wanted to shout out
to the neighbourhood, warn them, say it out loud to prove it again to
himself. The Foundations started singing from the radio ‘Why do you
build me up’.
“It’s the start of your summer break – you have the whole day
ahead of you. What are you going to do with yourself?”
He didn’t know. What do you do when you have a realisation
that changes the world? He had imagined a summer of X-box to numb
the memories of his primary school anxieties and his more recent
worries about secondary school. He couldn’t imagine his X-box
providing much distraction from what he had seen in the night. He
shrugged in reply and sat down to the breakfast his mum had prepared
for him at the small kitchen table. The phone rang, heading off his
mum’s predictable ineffectual warning about how she didn’t want him
playing on the X-box all day.
He was hungry and taking in the food felt good. Even his body
carried on its demands as normal despite his experiences, despite the
danger he felt he was still in. He became aware of his mum on the
phone, her sentences starting and breaking around whatever was said in
her ear, stammering, her hand raised to her mouth, her eyes looking
anywhere but at Jason. A diamond sparkling tear clung to one of her eye
lids before falling onto her cheek. She snapped the radio off and
suddenly the world seemed serious.
“Brian... Okay – I will come up straight away. Just try and calm
her down... I’m so sorry, Brian. I’m coming now...” His mum absently
slid the handset back and forth across the phone until it hooked back in
place.
Jason slipped from the table before he could swallow his
mouthful of toast and ask what was wrong. His mum dropped to her
haunches before him and held his arms to his side, holding him in place
138
Harvest

like she had before when she had told him something he would find
difficult to hear. Her lips pulled tight around her words as she struggled
to talk through her tears. “I have to go and see Claire. Something has
happened. Amy has... Gone.” Jason couldn’t blink, couldn’t swallow the
pulped toast in his mouth, all he could do was try and process what he
had been told.
“I need you to entertain yourself. I er... Don’t know how long I
will be. If you need anything just call my mobile. Don’t worry if I don’t
answer straight away. I might be talking with Claire.”
He stood dumb and allowed his mum to pull him close.
“I love you... Don’t you worry too much, okay honey?” she
whispered through hot moist lips at his ear. Jason heard her ask if he
was alright and he nodded distantly. Losing Emily was impossible to
understand, but now Amy too… With his dad also gone his world was
being eaten away, as if parts of it were being systematically erased. He
wanted to scream and give into the grief that always seemed to be in the
back of his mind and the bottom of his heart. He needed to be strong for
his mum, be strong for himself. She kissed him, pulled away, grabbed
her bag and headed for the door. He knew his mum needed to be with
Claire, but he wanted her too. The door slammed behind her and he
listened to her hurried steps fading into the quiet of the corridor.
Silence.
Fears stirred in the dark corners of his mind. Terrors hid behind
the furniture and the closed doors of the flat, slinking out from behind
thoughts of distraction in music, cartoons or Xbox. The crayon creature
from Amy’s picture haunted him. First the safety of his family had
gone, and now he no longer felt safe within the walls and comforts of
his home.

Rachel’s lift rattled up to the fourteenth floor and the doors slid open
onto the communal corridor. Rachel stepped out hesitantly. She
swallowed her apprehension that nagged her incessantly. She had
wanted to make this visit the first time she had been invited into the
high-rise building, a building that seemed like a fortress to the
139
Harvest

uninvited, but after last night there was no guarantee she would be in the
position to gain access to the flats again. The doors squealed shut
behind her and the lift rumbled downwards and away, stranding her
should she need a hasty retreat.
On this uppermost level the air howled around the corners of the
hard concrete tower and whistled through a crack in the far window that
framed a square of cool blue sky at the end of the corridor. At the
opposite end a window panel rattled with the scrabbling fingers of air
that pulled upon any relief on the buildings surface. From that window
the morning sun pushed its bright warm yellow light almost half the
way up the hall, far brighter than the other floors she had been on.
Beneath the sound of the whispering currents of air there was a quiet
that lent this floor an atmosphere of being deserted and isolated.
She stood before Cat’s door and didn’t give herself the chance to
change her mind. She rapped the knocker. The sound echoed outwards,
clattering and resounding off all the other doors, reaching the end of the
corridor before being choked and silenced. Rachel became aware of the
spy hole that faced her, staring with its beady cyclopean eye, lit from
the light within the flat. She waited for the eye to blink as Cat came to
the door. It was a bold move for Rachel, but she accepted it was
possibly futile as it was unlikely Cat would open the door to her.
She wasn’t purely indulging her painful longing for
reconciliation and closure on an issue that haunted her, Rachel knew Cat
had talents like her own. To her knowledge she had never used them but
if this activity had spread out within the building, then Cat might have
experienced something similar to that strange dark entity of energy and
raw emotion that Rachel had encountered in Amy and Emily’s
bedroom. Rachel shook the memory of that experience from her mind,
for it seemed to squirm within her mind as if the remembered event had
a life of its own.
The eye in the door had yet to blink, or the door to pull open.
Rachel knocked again, concern dawning on her as she noticed
six inches of splintered wood running along the edge of the door where
the lock met the doorjamb. Rachel fingered the raw chewed wood that
140
Harvest

was exposed from the white gloss of the doorframe.


“Can I help you?”
Rachel spun round to the short, older stern looking woman, who
leaned from a neighbouring doorway. “Just calling for a friend...”
Rachel carefully eyed the who looked decidedly odd in a knee length
cardigan and a colourful crocheted hat. She looked dark, scruffy and
dishevelled against the crisp clinical creams and whites of the corridor.
“There’s no one there...” The old woman eyed her in return with
an arched eyebrow. “You a friend? You know where the girl is, don’t
you?” She asked accusingly.
“I was hoping she would be here. She hasn’t moved?”
“You aren’t close then... If you don’t know where she is...
Unless no one has contacted you? Doesn’t seem like she had much in
the way of friends or family...” The woman openly weighed the level of
trust she could place upon Rachel. Her thin puckered lips pursed as she
stopped, apparently unfinished in making her judgement.
Rachel decided to step in and tilt the balance in her favour. “I am
as close as she has to family. I was checking in on her. We haven’t
spoken in a while.” She delivered the bare truth and waited for the
woman’s verdict.
The rag-like lady seemed to warm slightly, her sharp expression
softening. She emerged from her flat and leaned on the wall. “I hate to
tell you. The girl had to go to hospital.”
Rachel suddenly thought of Helen, the promise she had made to
her and her heart became a lead weight in her chest.
The older woman seemed to pick up on Rachel’s shock and
shifted uncomfortably on her feet, bringing herself out from the wall. “I
have heard that she stabilised. She hasn’t woken yet though, that was
what I last heard from the hospital.”
Her face flushed with the shame in claiming to be as close as
family, yet not knowing what had happened to the girl. The girl she had
said that she would care for as if she were her own child. “What
happened?”
“I remember; it happened in the morning. I heard all this
141
Harvest

crashing and bashing around. I came out to see what was going on. I
could hear the girl screaming. She wouldn’t answer her door. So I called
the police. She must have had some kind of ‘mental episode’. Or
drugs…” The small lady paused, but Rachel suspected she was fishing
for gossip. “She ruined her flat. She was out cold when they found her.
She’s in a private room at the hospital if you want to visit her. Actually,
you could do the girl a favour,” the woman resolved as she fished a
small bunch of keys from her pocket. “And it would be helping me too.
I don’t get out much you see, legs aint what they used to be now, nor
my head for the outside either. You could take her some things?” She
smiled hopefully, revealing a maw of black and yellow teeth eroded into
pins. She held up the key. “Alec, the caretaker, changed the locks for
her ‘coz the police busted her door in. He fixed it up well though. She
has been in hospital for three weeks now and I’m sure she could do with
some fresh things.” Taking Rachel’s smile as acceptance of the job, she
rattled a key in the lock. “Shame I haven’t been able to help more.
Don’t know her really, kept herself to herself, but she seemed nice
enough.”
The woman pushed the door open but it momentarily resisted
her, a rush of air hit against them as if the door had been hermetically
sealed and the air pressure had changed with its opening. The woman
managed to force the door from the grip of the wind that howled louder
from within the flat now the door had opened. The cold air bit viciously
at them both while the noise of flapping plastic lashed at their ears like
the flapping of some dread bird. Rachel followed the old woman’s
example of pulling her clothes close to her as she entered. She let
Rachel enter first; herding her through the flats claustrophobic hall with
its doors off to the bedroom, and the bathroom, and into the lounge.
The lounge walls were a crisp lime green, while the furniture
seemed to be an ash colour, but it was hard to gauge what kind of home
Cat had made for herself since she had left Rachel’s because the room
looked like a tornado had swept through and shredded the room into
debris and a scene of carnage.
“Looks like a bomb hit it, doesn’t it...?” the woman clicked
142
Harvest

disapprovingly. She smelt of pear-drops.


Rachel dared to take a few steps through the mess. There was a
crushed sideboard to her left, the sides pulped with its chipboard bared
from beneath the wood grain-laminate in ragged cracks and splits. The
contents of the draws; papers, bills and letters were spread about the
room like confetti. The wall behind the remains of the furniture was
indented, the centre of it caved inwards to reveal the back of the
plasterboard wall for the bedroom beyond. The couch that looked as
though it had originally been arranged further out into the room, was
sagging with it’s back broken and the hard wooden frame pressed
against the green fabric, the bulk of the sofa now rammed into what was
left of a large bookcase with an impact that had demolished several of
the shelves, spilling their burden.
Rachel was puzzled at the extreme extent of the damage.
“You’re saying Cat did this?”
The lady shrugged. “I didn’t see anyone else come out. There
was no one else in here when they came in.”
Rachel focussed her attention to the sideboard with its back
forced through the plasterboard wall. On the wall leading away from her
a picture-frame was embedded flush with the plaster, the glass fractured
into a splintered web. She noticed other items of debris embedded into
the walls as if pressed in by a great expanding force. She looked to the
jagged yawning spaces that were once windows, their glass gone
leaving sharp sparkling teeth. The holes were taped over with clear
plastic that rippled and flapped in the wind. “It’s hard to believe that one
person could do...” Rachel surveyed the devastation in incredulous
shock, “all this.”
The woman grunted in a disdainful way communicating that she
believed anyone capable of anything.
Rachel stepped closer to the middle of the room, it was from this
vantage point she observed that the debris radiated out around her in a
blast pattern, as if a bomb truly had gone off in the middle of the room,
blowing everything outwards. Rachel made a full 360-degree turn in
surveying the pattern of the damage.
143
Harvest

A psychic blast slammed violently into her mind. Her


perspective shifted from the middle of the lounge where she stood to a
view from the edge of the room, looking in at the area where she should
have been. The room was restored to its original undamaged state.
A noise forced itself into her head like a train whistle exploding
in a tunnel, screaming through her mind, its crescendo lashing her
senses with hot pain. Green light blazed into the room with albescent
intensity at its core that paled her surroundings into obscurity. Her eyes
adjusted to the light in her mind’s eye and within that fire she saw the
slender figure of Cat in her nightclothes. Cat was snapped from her feet
and suspended mid-air at the heart of the light over the very spot where
Rachel had stood.
Cat’s face was a contortion of pain and defiance as if the very air
about her menaced and tortured her. The fall of her shoulder length red
hair was disturbed into wild writhing Medusa strands. Light exploded
from Cat’s head in a shockwave that rippled through the air, blasting the
contents of the room to the walls. Rachel cowered from the vision of the
powerful blast that played within her mind. The anguish faded from
Cat’s face and she sank to the floor as if time itself had slowed to a
torturously lethargic crawl. Cat sprawled, crumpled and motionless on
the floor like a discarded marionette.
“You alright, love?” the lady asked with a distrustful tone and
puzzled expression. “You should be careful in here, could do yourself
an injury with all this stuff.”
The vision of Cats assault was over and she found herself staring
at the beige cord carpet glittering with its sprinkling of broken glass, Cat
was gone and Rachel was restored to her physical position in the middle
of the room. Rachel tried to reassure the woman with a smile despite the
sting of hot tears pressed into her eyes by the wrench of seeing and
feeling Cat in so much distress. She dabbed a balled up tissue against
her face as she fought to contain her shaken will. “Cold in here...” she
excused her watering eyes and nose. Rachel clambered to make sense of
what had just happened. The flash of emotion and power had been
similar to the experience within Amy and Emily’s room, except this
144
Harvest

time there had been a defined image of the event that had occurred.
Once again her clairsentience had helped her pick up the trace or
the memory that the burst of psychic energy had left within the room at
the point she had stepped into. Rachel was well aware that
concentrations of electrical conduits, bad rewiring or faulty electrical
equipment could create powerful electromagnetic fields that could
subliminally affect the senses, inducing nausea and hallucinations, it
was thought to be the most common cause of suspected paranormal
activity, but mostly it was mild, nothing as overwhelmingly powerful or
clear as the potent nightmare she had just experienced. It was quite
evident that something had happened to Cat far beyond a ‘mental
episode’, but there had been something else beyond her senses of sight
and sound… The wordless-screaming-noise seemed to leave a wake
echoing within her mind, like an unformed thought lacking clarity or
mental voice; primal, raw and aggressive. A residue of a sentient entity,
just as there had been at the Chamber’s flat, only this time it had been
more intense and powerful. Within this anonymous thing she had sensed
in the lounge there had been a caldera of emotions, fear, curiosity,
confusion; a madness of jumbled intense feelings that were at once
satisfied and harmonized into menace and intent.
Rachel crunched back across the debris but before she could
agree to the old lady’s request of taking Cat some belongings she
noticed a glint of silver behind the open door. She crouched and found
three photo frames protruding from the debris. She pulled at the buckled
silver frame that had drawn her attention, careful of the blades of glass
that flowered outwards, and studied it, recognising the picture instantly.
Helen.
Rachel had the same photograph on her mantle-piece at home.
She liberated the second frame. It held a photo of Helen holding
a six-year-old-Cat’s hand on a pebbly beach, the breaking surf frozen in
time. Rachel remembered the daytrip to Brighton. The edge of the
photograph ran close to Helen’s shoulder disturbing the symmetry and
balance within the framing of the image. Helen had once been the centre
of the picture, flanked by Cat and Rachel. Rachel fingered the edge of
145
Harvest

the photograph where it had been trimmed. Rachel had been holding
Helen’s other hand before a blade had sheared through the photograph.
The reminder of the hate and bitterness that Cat held for her cut her
deeply.
The last frame was in two pieces. With a trembling hand Rachel
slipped the photograph from the pile of broken glass and shook the
glittering slithers from it. It was a more recent one of Cat taken within
the flat when it had been in order. It confirmed the accuracy of her
vision. More significant was that in the photograph Cat was holding a
kitten nuzzled to her face.
A small black and white cat.
The old lady interrupted her as she saw the picture. “Oh, Lord! I
clean forgot about that. She had a cat. It ran out when the police bashed
in. I took it in and cared for it. I like cats, but haven’t had one for a
while. The poor thing must have had the scare of its life in here when all
this happened. The thing ran off when I opened my door one day. I tried
to chase it. But – well. Needless to say, it moved faster than I could. I
hope the little thing didn’t come to any harm. Cat’s are quite
independent though, I’m sure it has found itself a few homes by now.”
The black and white kitten was the likeness of the cat that had
come to Rachel’s flat all those days ago. Grim realisation planted its
chilled spindly fingers on her skin. Three weeks ago Catherine had been
assaulted by some ‘thing’ in her flat. Three weeks ago a cat found it’s
way to her... An omen?
Catherine’s cat?
Cat? – Catherine?

146
Harvest

Seventeen
Craig swiped his camera up and shoved it in his padded shoulder bag
and jogged to the door. Vicki waited, dressed in her familiar baggy
jumper and tight fitting jeans.
“You took your time? Haven’t gone and got yourself a babe
have you?” Vicki teased.
“If I did I would break it to you over coffee; not just tell you on
my doorstep like this.” He down turned the corners of his mouth and
gave her puppy dog eyes. “Wouldn’t want to shatter your hopes and
wishes.”
“Sod, the coffee, we could celebrate with a pint of Snakebite that
my stalker is finally getting a life.” The mention of snakebite recalled
unpleasant memories of a night with Vicki drinking him into a stupor.
“What’s the job then gov?”
“A source in the council has told me a councillor makes a
weekly trip to a gay sauna on Chalk Farm Road.”
“Really? Is being gay still news?”
“I think it would be news to his wife and three kids.”
“The front page of the local rag isn’t the best way to find that
out.”
“He should have thought about that before he started getting his
jollies in the steam rooms.”
News is news and that was it for Vicki. She was right, he didn’t
have what it took to be a journalist. “So we watch and take pictures of
him going in.”
“That’s the plan so far.”
“Not sure I like the ‘so far’ part of that but I’m in. I need the
money.” This really was cheapening his talent. He was glad there was a
distance between them and the west end, all he needed was Vicki
pimping him as paparazzi. If his career led to him making a living from
snapping some heartthrobs sweat patches or some pop-star going
commando he might just end it all now.
“So, come on then, you gonna tell me how you really busted
your arm or are you sticking with the ‘I fell running up the stairs’ story,
147
Harvest

when we all know you wouldn’t dream of taking stairs when there’s a
perfectly good, if not scary, lift?”
Craig flushed at having to lie to her as they headed to the lift.
“Well if you want the truth. I was looking through those photo’s of you
and I couldn’t control myself – in all the frenzy my arm popped its
socket.”
“You sick bunny.” She closed her eyes tightly shut and shook
her curly mop of honey blonde hair as if her mind was a snow-globe.
“I’m just erasing that image from my head.” Vicki allowed for a pause
that was pregnant with a change of tact. “So you weren’t disturbed in
the night? What with the police running around here in their size
twelve’s…”
He fingered the button for the lift, acutely aware of Vicki’s
intense gaze boring into him, searching for a reaction. He didn’t give in
to it. “Police? Didn’t notice. Had an early night. Slept like a baby.”
Without looking he sensed Vicki had raised her brow at his denial, as if
the movement had created displacement in the air. She could see what
he had seen in the mirror that morning as he fixed his tie and styled his
hair, his frame was sagging with the weight of his lethargy, he looked
withered and wasted within his clothes, his youthful face was pale and
sullen with his eyes puffed and vacant.
“Why do you look like shit then?” she joked but with a voice
edged with concern.
He allowed a measure of his frustration at her doggedness into
his voice. “I dislocated my arm yesterday. What’s your excuse?” He
quickly covered his emotions with a grin, but hoped it had been enough
to make her back off. Part of his bitterness was the fact that over the last
couple of years Vicki had become the closest thing he had to a good
friend, but he couldn’t trust her with what had happened last night
without it being opportunistically used for story. He relaxed from his
defensive posturing, but any thought of finding sanctuary in their usual
playful humour was quickly suppressed by his mood and guilt for
lashing out at her. “Actually, I had lots of nightmares. Not nice,” he
confessed, although ‘nightmares’ didn’t adequately describe the things
148
Harvest

his unconscious had been subjected to. The things he had seen had been
so vivid and disturbingly real they had been more like traumatic
memories than dreams.
“Could this nightmare be a guilt complex? Because of
something you’re keeping from a good friend maybe?”
Craig allowed himself to go with the wave of humour she
offered. “Hmmm, let me think? Now, Miss Freud do you think my
dream of an old man being drowned in his bath is a guilt thing?” Craig
rubbed his chin miming thought.
Vicki’s face soured briefly as Craig elaborated on his dream and
gave a vivid description of the old man in his dream had died. “Ooh...
Nasty.” Vicki folded her arms and turned to Craig in a motion of defeat.
“Okay, you win! You have foiled my oh-so subtle manipulation. But,
seriously what happened last night? I know the Chambers other kid has
gone missing; got a friend in the force. Your name popped up, but no
details. He didn’t divulge anymore. So give it up”
Craig panicked at the revelation that his name had come up in
connection with what had happened. His guilt caused a rising nausea
from being found out and for the culpability of his part in Amy’s
disappearance. “I can’t.” He admitted reluctantly. “I have been told not
to talk to the press.”
Vicki scrutinised him, squinting her eyes as if that would focus
her deeper into his mind to get to the information she sought. “You are
the press,” Vicki scolded with equal humour and frustration.
“Oh, I am when you want me to be!” He laughed as a distraction
from the chord that reverberated jarringly at her statement. “I thought it
was stick to what you know best?” He held the camera up as a prop.
Craig could see that Vicki felt the sting of his words and instantly
understood the mistake of her hypocrisy.
They stood in tense silence for a while. She flicked him
playfully. “Sorry. Just scared of competition I guess,” she skulked
forlornly. “Putting my own insecurity aside, you know that if I had any
influence at all I would get you onboard somehow.”
Craig didn’t look at her, but just grunted in acknowledgement.
149
Harvest

After the overwhelming events of the previous night he was surprised


by the selfish resurgence of his mundane resentment towards the
stunted, unsatisfying direction his career and life had taken since
university. Before university he had thought his passion and talent for
photography would be the realisation of his aspirations. In reality he
hadn’t achieved the distinction needed to compete with his art-house
peers, and his freelance work was hardly satisfying his creativity,
merely serving the function of paying his bills. It offered him little
money or time to improve his portfolio. He was envious of Vicki having
a fulfilling outlet for her creativity, and that increased the power of
gravity that her profession had on him, although without the necessary
qualifications he could be chasing up a dead end.
Craig ignored a second flick from Vicki meant to prompt him
into his normal self. “Oiy!” she shouted coarsely in his ear. “Don’t
blank me out Mr!”
He squirmed, trying not to react as Vicki danced about him
poking the flesh of his sides. He surrendered to laughter and told her to
leave him alone, but she didn’t relent. “Right, you cow. You’ve asked
for it.” He jumped up and down causing the car to shudder each time he
hit the floor, Vicki’s face blanched and she clutched at the handrails,
glancing uncomfortably about her.
“Okay, okay. You win,” she conceded.
The lift stopped and the doors opened to two female paramedics
as Craig landed from a jump. He froze, caught out, with his arms curled
towards his sides and his hands knuckled into loose fists. In what must
have looked like a monkey impression. He snapped his arms to his side
and relaxed against the wall.
“Oh, very smooth.”
“I thought so,” he returned to Vicki. “Ladies.” He said to the
paramedics, puzzled by their expectant stares until he saw the trolley
chair between them. It was smothered with a red blanket and beneath it
were the awkward jutting angles of a body.
Vicki acted first, stepping from the lift to offer them the space
they needed, and using Craig’s sling as a reign she guided him after her
150
Harvest

as if he were a distracted child. Craig dawdled after her onto the second
floor, his head craning after the ambulance crew as they took their
places in the lift.
“What happened?” Vicki fished instinctively.
The two paramedics didn’t look up, but one of them announced
without emotion; “Drowned in his bath.”
One of the medics left the side of the trolley for the lift controls
and a bare arm flopped from beneath the cover on the trolley. Its skin
was shrivelled with age and pale, clammy like plucked chicken flesh. A
drop of water dripped from its withered curled fingers as the doors
closed shut and the lift trundled away.
Down the corridor he saw a female police officer comforting an
old woman that he recognised from his dreams. She was the wife of the
drowned man. A rush of dread from the disconcerting manifestation of
his nightmare was followed quickly by grimy guilt when he saw that the
police officer was one of the officers that had arrived at the Chambers
when Amy vanished. He looked away and straight into the face of a
visibly shaken and accusatory Vicki.
“Drowned in the bath? Just like your dream. Now, you are
scaring me.”

151
Harvest

Eighteen
Rachel put her arm through the small handle of her handbag and tucked
the body of it awkwardly under her arm, freeing her hands to carry the
small sports bag she had taken from Cat’s and packed with a change of
clothes and toiletries. Rachel’s mind was still awash with questions and
concern for Cat and the threat that lingered within the Heights. The lift
doors parted and Rachel was surprised to see a young boy standing
within. She recognised him as Amy’s friend, he eyed her with a
questioning concentration as she joined him and smiled consciously at
him; did he know Amy – his friend was now gone? Did he know of her
involvement? Rachel was no stranger to the grief-fuelled spite of
children.
Rachel nodded a polite greeting to the boy as he said a distracted
“hello” to her. She frowned curiously as she noticed that none of the lift
buttons were lit. She prodded the ground floor button and turned back to
the boy who had no apparent destination. “What floor did you want?”
“Ground floor.”
“Oh.” She nodded, wondering why that button hadn’t been
selected and he had ridden the lift to the very top of the building instead.
“What’s a medium?”
If she wasn’t suspended in a metal box over ten storeys off the
ground she would quite happily have had the ground to open up
underneath her feet. Although she wanted him to understand, she was
not in the mood to explain and justify her abilities, and she felt too
vulnerable herself to deal with his questions about the twins and deal
with the boy’s grief. The guilt was instant but she was thankful for him
cutting in and saved her from having to answer.
“Mum said you think you know things that other people don’t,
and that you can help find people who are lost. Tell if they are alive?”
Rachel shifted uncomfortably. She wasn’t going to be able to
escape. “I have an ability which lets me see, and sometimes
communicate with people that have passed away.”
He eyed her cautiously as if she offered tempting sweets under
some condition he was reluctant to accept. “You mean, like the woman
152
Harvest

in that old film Poltergeist?”


Rachel closed her eyes under a frown. She hoped there was
nothing about her that resembled the diminutive dwarf-sized medium,
Tangina Barrons with her nasal southern American twang. She wished
she could send that character into the light. “Yes, but I’m a bit taller and
not so dramatic.”
“Emily and Amy disappeared just like the girl in that film.”
Rachel had strongly denied any belief in that theory when Claire
had suggested it but it was now the case. “Yes, I think they did.” She
watched him receive this confirmation, hoping she hadn’t been too
honest with him. He took it into some inner consideration.
“Are Amy or Emily still alive?”
The question was gently delivered, but from a child it struck her
with the force of an axe. “I don’t know,” she lied. She was sure from her
experience on the nexus in the twins’ bedroom that Emily was dead, and
now she could only assume that Amy had shared the same fate. Despite
her attempt to save him from grief he looked to the floor with a grim
face. He had a strange knowing look and there was fear in his dark eyes.
“Claire told my mum they have ghosts, and they took Emily and
Amy.”
“Oh? And what does your mum think?”
“It’s weird because mum and Claire have been best friends since
before I was born, they have known each other since they were at junior
school together, but mum doesn’t believe her, she thinks Claire isn’t
thinking right, she’s worried about her. I thought that coming from
Claire she would believe her.”
“People have different ideas about things. Different beliefs.
Sometimes people just don’t agree with each other. It doesn’t mean they
care any less for each other though. People find it difficult to believe in
some things until they experience it themselves.”
“So ghosts are real?”
There was a hopefulness riding the end of his question. “To me
they are, yes.”
“Don’t you get frightened of them?”
153
Harvest

“No.” She lied. They never used to, her ability and her
understanding of the spirit world had led her to believe that danger only
existed in the living world, but now she wasn’t sure. Although she
didn’t want to admit it to herself.
He frowned. “and monsters are real too?” His question burned
intensely in his eyes.
She now knew that in the land of the dead that existed alongside
the land of the living there were undead monsters to fear and her talent
suddenly frightened her for the first time. “Yes.” It felt wrong to admit
it to a child and she felt guilty instantly, but she could see from the relief
on his face that her answer had somehow relaxed him from some inner
turmoil.
“You were there last night weren’t you?”
“Yes.”
“Claire told my mum that at first even you weren’t sure whether
to believe her. I heard mum tell her friend that she thinks you were only
there to keep Claire happy, or you were there to make money out of
them.”
Rachel sensed a deep adult vein through his physical youth from
his gentle coercion for her to justify her involvement. “I couldn’t accept
payment for my time on this occasion, and I certainly wasn’t humouring
her.” He shrugged off her reasons and she suppressed some frustration
with him; she wanted him to believe her. “Claire simply needed
someone else to experience what she had experienced.”
“Did you? Experience or see anything?”
She bit her lip. He was good, getting her hot under the collar by
challenging her character and motives, weakening her for a question he
must surely know she would be reluctant to answer honestly to him. She
had already said more than his mother would be happy with; maybe
children needed the comfort of their parents’ institutional disbelief in
the irrational. “No. Nothing,” the lie sat uncomfortably between them.
“If it makes you feel any better I think my mum was wrong. I
think you were there to find out what was happening and you wanted to
help.”
154
Harvest

“Thank you.”
To Rachel’s relief the lift landed with a gentle bump and the
doors opened onto the lobby of the ground floor. “Well this is our
floor.” She said as a prompt to bring on the goodbyes. She wanted out
of this awkward conversation, but more than that, since she had woken
up that morning in Craig’s flat she had experienced an underlying
urgency to get away from the building. Somehow the place seemed
different, smaller, and claustrophobic – suffocating; as if the very
building was looming in around her, intimidating her into leaving as
Harry had attempted when she had first arrived. Being so close to the
main door and the safety and freedom beyond, the feeling intensified,
hounding her resolve.
The boy held his hand out and Rachel looked at the adult gesture
for the oddity that it was. She took it gently and Jason introduced
himself. She gave her name in return and left the lift expecting the boy
to follow, but instead he lunged for the button of another floor and
flopped back against the wall. His eyes were sad. Before the doors could
close fully he called after her: “Please help.”
The lift whined away leaving her alone in the lobby but for his
oppressive words. She was distracted from her misery by an intense
sense that she was being watched. Instinctively she knew where to look
and found a shadow cast face staring back at her from behind the
reinforced glass of a fire escape door marked “NO ENTRY”. Harry
watched her intently from the gloom.
Unnerved by his determined stare Rachel turned away and rifled
through her bag in a play of distraction while surreptitiously keeping the
door in her periphery vision should it open. She walked quickly to the
main door, breaking her wary surveillance to focus on opening it, his
unknown intent pressed menacingly against her back.
Rachel was certain she heard the fire door pull open in her wake.
The hairs on the nape of her neck bristled in alarm and she hastily
clamped her bags under her arms to free her hands to open the main
door. She yanked the door open as Harry’s presence bore down on her.
He felt so close she expected the door to be forced from her grip and
155
Harvest

slammed shut before she could escape. She prematurely dived through
the gap that was barely wide enough for her, bashing both elbows
painfully in her clumsy desperation to escape. She slammed the door
closed against Harry.
Seized by the euphoric reassurance of public exposure Rachel
gulped her hammering heart back into her chest, and with the safety of
the heavy door firmly shut between them she dared herself to pause in
her escape and study her stalker through the glass, but found the lobby
was empty.

Rachel had been so absorbed with thoughts of Amy, Harry, the boy she
had met in the lifts, and all the strange and disturbing encounters she
had experienced at the Heights, that she found it hard to recall her bus
journey to the Royal Free hospital, but upon entering the hospital her
thoughts had concentrated upon seeing Cat again and her worry for her
condition. Anxiety at this reunion, even when Cat would be unaware of
her, heightened Rachel’s awareness of the world around her and the
corridors of the hospital provided a bewildering array of stimulus.
The vending machine coffee that she held in her hand had a rich
pungent wake, some of the patients that passed her were stale and
unwashed, and occasionally there was the faint but noxious smell of
urine and faeces from clinical waste areas. The bright fluorescent lights
pressed down their glare on her tired and sensitive eyes and splashed
back at her from distortions and depressions in the glossy linoleum
flooring. The clusters of bold coloured signs crowded in on her like
insistent railway signals jutting into the corridors and jostling for her
attention and direction, each new sign threatening to derail her memory
of the directions given to her by the reception staff. She leapfrogged
from one landmark to the next trying in vain not to hinder visitors,
porters, doctors and nurses who travelled with her or intersected her
path or came at her from opposite directions in a bewildering demand
on her concentration, coordination and awareness. Normally her senses
could have been selective in what they processed, but in this place the
dread in her head and the remembered grief in her heart left her at the
156
Harvest

mercy of her environment.


This drab concrete building, with its high-rise design that was
just as brutal and hard in appearance as The Heights, had been the last
place Rachel had seen Helen alive.
It had borne silent dispassionate witness to their last words
together and the promise that Rachel had been unable to keep. That time
and Rachel’s failure teetered on the brink of memory, but she couldn’t
allow it to descend upon her as each pertinent sign shortened her path to
Cat.
Rachel cautiously headed into the ward. She stopped and gave
way to two porters manoeuvring a bed that held a sleeping patient. A
nurse walked alongside wheeling the patients intravenous drip stand
before her. Rachel stood fixed, stalled by the tragic youth of the girl on
the bed. An elderly couple accompanied in her wake like pallbearers.
Rachel was unsure if they were living or spirit. The man flashed Rachel
a pained smile of empathy as they followed their relative who, whether
they were dead or alive, couldn’t be reached.
That’s what Cat will be like. Despite being in the same room
together, Cat would still be out of reach.
Her resolve broke momentarily and a sob wracked her body in
one jarring spasm. She dowsed her sudden surge of emotion and
regained control. She swiped an errant tear from her face and shakily
filled her lungs with air that was too warm and stiflingly thick with
clinical smells to provide any refreshment for her spirit. She followed
the wards corridor through the soft noise of people and hospital
equipment until she reached the nurses station.
As she spoke to the short stout female nurse she became
disembodied, experiencing reality from the depths of a muffling fugue.
The bright-eyed nurse’s cheerily bobbing voice writhed sluggishly in
her ears as the woman acknowledged her request to see Cat, but warned
her that although she was breathing independently she might be startled
by the sight of Cat being nourished and hydrated by intravenous drip
and toileted by her catheterization. She reassured Rachel that Cat was
receiving physiotherapy to maintain her joints, muscles and skin.
157
Harvest

“The tests of her blood chemistry came back normal, and the
EEG scan showed no trauma to the brain; nothing that currently
indicates why Cat is in a coma.”
The world moved at half-speed as Rachel processed the
information. The nurse pointed down the corridor ahead of them to
Cat’s private room. Rachel’s consciousness snapped dizzyingly back to
reality at the sight of a tall man staring into her room through its glass
wall. Most of the figure was wrapped in a large dark and unseasonable
winter coat, while his head was topped by a broad brimmed black hat
that shadowed his features. He stood a dark shape, almost a silhouette in
contrast to the sun exposed room beyond the glass.
“In fact Cat has curiously high brain activity for someone in a
coma.”
The nurse failed to register her prompting expression of
curiosity regarding the watcher and Rachel was forced to stop her and
mouth her question to her. “Who is that?”
The nurse leaned closer to Rachel and whispered discretely.
“Vicar or priest; says he’s watching over her. Been here every day since
she arrived I think. He says he’s praying for her. He must be a good
friend of hers to spend all his time here. I’m starting to wonder if he
ever leaves!” She widened her eyes theatrically and used up the last of
her breath from her talking in a fleeting laugh of exclamation, but it
failed to distract Rachel from this man’s discomforting devotion to his
vigil.
Rachel studied his back as they approached and considered the
nurses words: A good friend? She wondered if she could claim to know
Cat anymore than this stranger might. Did he have more right to be with
Cat than Rachel did? If he was a priest then it was unlikely. Cat and
God? Cat had hardly been the kind to turn to religion, but then it had
been over a year since she had seen Cat – she could have changed; God
knows she had needed to. Cat had been against religion since Helen
had... died. It was still difficult putting Helen in the same sentence with
death.
Rachel squinted through the slats of the Venetian blind, trying to
158
Harvest

glimpse Cat beyond the glass wall. The nurse opened the door for her
and Rachel thanked her. As she crossed the threshold she stole a
sideways glance at the man who kept vigil. She started at finding his
attention had shifted onto her with eyes glaring hard and penetrating
from a jaundiced bone-tight face. With her subtle glance exposed
Rachel tried to smile at him, but the gesture withered and died under the
repellent stare of his waxy feverish face. She shut the door behind her
and deliberately avoided looking back at the glass wall, knowing his
eyes were still bearing in on her.
The July sunshine broke through the window and into the plain
white room and fell as an ethereal dust hazed spotlight on the bed that
dominated the room. The light was blindingly scintillant along the large
chrome cot-sides and the sunlight’s brightness over-exposed the colour
of the wires that led into the bed from the equipment mounted on a
trolley. Rachel registered the sound of the heart monitor with its
reassuringly steady rhythm as she followed the cables toward Cat, but
she found she couldn’t complete the journey and her eyes ran a
coward’s retreat to the bedside cabinet. It was clear of well-wishing
cards and the vase was empty of water or flowers. There was no
sanctuary at the cabinet; it only served as a reminder that without
Rachel Cat only had the concern of the strange man outside her room.
Rachel allowed her eyes to fall upon the small frame within the
covers. Cat looked slight against the large bed, almost obscured by the
sheets neatly pulled up to her shoulders. The shock of auburn hair
fanned out on her pillow like a fall of autumn leaves swept around a
tree. Her alabaster arms were laid by her side on top of the sheets, one
was fed with the intravenous drip while a finger on the other hand was
clipped to the heart monitor. Rachel blanked out the instruments and
apparatus and focussed on the fresh smooth skin of her face that was
blank of expression like virgin snow. She was beautiful. Rachel gripped
Cat’s bag and fought from crying. She knew that had Cat been
conscious Rachel would not be standing there but would have been
retreating from a torrent of abuse. Despite Cat being comatose there
somehow seemed to be a disturbed atmosphere of enmity between them
159
Harvest

that left Rachel believing that even now her presence offended Cat and
was unwelcome.
With Cat before her the wounds she had inflicted on Rachel’s
heart were meticulously remembered as a fresh experience. The regrets
poured out of her with an arterial energy: If only things had been
different, to have only been there when Cat needed her, to have been
able to fulfil the promise to Helen, to care for Cat as only Helen had
done.
“Cat,” she announced, conscious that there would be no reply. “I
know you don’t want me around. But I heard you were here and I was
scared for you. I brought you some things.”
Announcing her presence made a hole in the silence which
began to yawn uncomfortably without a reply. Rachel stepped to the bed
and set the cup of hot coffee down on the bedside cabinet, imagining
Cat’s rage and abuse flailing and thrashing in the depths, trying to free
herself from the coma’s overpowering gravity to respond. She hesitantly
placed the bag on the bed wondering if her presence would be the shock
that would wake a sleeper. She unzipped the bag and started to empty it
and decided to fill the gaping silence with a commentary of the items
she had brought.
As her fingers found the plush body of the next item in the bag
she bit her lip against the emotion that strummed it into a quiver. She
brushed the battered cuddly toy against Cat’s hand. “Remember
Terrence Ted?” She disguised the fluctuation of her voice with a throaty
shallow laugh. “You kept him all this time. I saw him on your bed at the
flat. He must be nearly twenty years old!” Rachel braced herself against
the determination of her emotion by scrunching her grip on the bear’s
body. “I bought him for you from the gift shop in this very hospital.
When Helen... When your mum – when she went into labour with you.”
The weight of misery for Helen and Cat crushed her resolve. “Why did
you push me away? All I ever wanted was to be there for you. Your
mother wanted to know someone was looking out for you. It’s what she
wanted.”
A deep personal need for atonement sobered her from her
160
Harvest

indulgent grief. Ignoring the tears cooling on her cheeks she drew a
chair to the side of the bed. “Well. I guess I had better make the most of
you not fighting me.” She grinned falsely with a determined old-school
hockey sticks stoicism bolstering her words. “I’m here for you until you
wake. So that gives you incentive to open your eyes and tell me to
bugger off.” Putting any thought of rejection aside she gripped Cat’s
hand firmly in hers. “So don’t be stubborn. Wake up!”
Cat declined the order like an obstinate top hat failing to produce
a rabbit after an abracadabra. The exclamation of silence gave way to
the calm of the back-ground noise of the ward and brought with it a
heightened awareness of the watcher on the other side of the glass wall.
She refrained from looking in his direction but the thought of him and
his constant glare wore down the barricade she had erected against his
presence. Something about him ate at her instincts; the way he looked at
her... There was a familiarity in his stare: A menace she felt acquainted
with.
Rachel sought her coffee to distract her senses only to have her
fingers gnashed at by bitter coldness. Her hand recoiled and the radiance
of the cold burn subsided as quickly as it had ignited, studying her
fingers she found there were slithers of delicate ice dissolving and
sliding from her finger tips. She wiped the water on her sleeve before
tentatively poking the drink. It was heavier than it had been when she
had put it there, inexplicably weighted down.
Rachel peered into the cup and discovered a glistening fractured
black crystalline surface. Needing confirmation that the drink was
indeed unexplainably frozen she poked the cup harder, but with a
caution reserved for retrieving something from a venomous snake.
She jumped as Cat’s heart monitor panicked with a pernicious
squeal that crammed its jagged sound into her ears. Rachel’s shock
jogged her cautious touch into a shove and the cup tipped over, she
instinctively righted the cup only to be scaled by a slop of coffee that
was hot and fluid again. She turned her attention to the heart monitor
machine, its electronic blurt had lasted only a second or two and left a
buzzer droning in its place. Cat’s eyes flickered as if she would wake
161
Harvest

and Rachel sat forward and grasped her hand, despite the eerily strange
change to her coffee her focus narrowed to following the sporadic
twitches of life that played across her face.
Rachel’s concentration was shattered by a resonating bang and
she snapped round to see the wall of windows reverberating from the
strike of the man’s palms on the glass. He glared intensely at Cat.
Rachel followed his stare and found Cat’s face was motionless, her
apparent struggle to break from the murky surface of her coma had been
defeated by determined undercurrents dragging her back into the depths
of sleep. Rachel sagged back into her chair exhausted from the white-
knuckle shocks and waited for the flickering charge of energy in her
chest to dissipate.
A swarthy dishevelled porter entered the room with a machine
on a trolley, his loose blue tunic and trousers sailed about him as he
glided purposefully to the bed and apologised for his intrusion,
seemingly having missed the disturbance Cat’s spectator had made.
“Don’t worry.” He nodded his head to the heart monitor. “The noise just
indicates the equipment is playing up.” Which seemed good enough
reason to worry. He casually groomed a lock of his shoulder length hair
away from his face before silencing the machine. He unplugged it and
disconnected Cat from it with the same casual efficiency he held for the
other sockets and connections.
Rachel half-listened to his further explanation, more concerned
with what had just happened to Cat and her coffee.
The porter persisted. “She have trouble with electrical gear at
home?”
A silence pressed itself insistently against her thoughts and
Rachel suddenly realised the porter’s unanswered question. She quickly
constructed the half-perceived sentence and politely asked him to
elaborate.
“Well, this is the twelfth machine she has had. There’s never
anything wrong with them. They work again after a few hours. At first
we thought it was the electrics in her room.”
“But?”
162
Harvest

“But... This is her third room. Now we just keep swapping the
machines over.”
The porter connected Cat up to the replacement machine he had
brought in and wheeled the faulty machine out. As she watched him
leave Cat’s watcher dominated her field of vision from the frame of the
glass wall. Her skin tensed from an icy plunge of realisation as the mask
of the man fell away and she recognised his glare of grim purpose that
had haunted her with its familiarity. It was the same fierce intensity she
had seen in Harry’s face.

163
Harvest

Nineteen
The door to Craig’s flat opened and Kelly was surprised by the gloom.
“Are you budgeting?”
Craig studied her blankly for a few moments before appearing to
register her meaning. “Oh... I just woke up. It was light when I nodded
off.” He snapped the light on but Craig still looked grey. “You just
woke me up actually.”
“Sorry. I had to work late and Rachel hadn’t called so I thought I
would pop in on the way up and see if she had called you.”
Craig rubbed his eyes slovenly and stepped aside for her to enter
and shut it behind her.
“Still sleeping off last night then?” She held her ground, pressed
against the wall in the hall waiting for him to take the lead and move
into the flat. He didn’t. “Has Rachel called you?”
“No, I haven’t heard from her yet. You worried?”
“A little I guess, although I am not even sure what I should be
worried about.”
“You heard from your people, the police, at all?”
“No, but I’m on edge the whole time expecting them to call.”
“How is the arm?” She needlessly pointed to his injury and
wished that asking after his injury had been her first question. “By the
way…” She added rolling her eyes at her thoughtlessness.
“That’s okay. It’s actually not too bad,” Craig huffed his words
on the tail of a yawn. “Might try without the sling tomorrow. Fancy a
tea?”
Kelly deliberated over the offer, and realised she had taken a
discomforting amount of time to decide. “Yeah, that sounds good.” It
might be the first time they spent any time alone together socially but it
wasn’t a marriage proposal. “I’ve had a rough day. I need a good
cuppa!” The events of the previous night had changed things; they had
experienced something disturbing together, an event that she only
accepted as fact due to it actually being a shared experience. She needed
to be around Craig and Rachel to help her make sense of things. She
didn’t dare to call him a friend, but he was no longer a stranger to her,
164
Harvest

or a predatory threat. They walked through to the kitchen, which still


caught a little of the dying light of the day.
Craig stood at the sink filling the kettle. “They gave you a
difficult time about last night didn’t they?”
Kelly sagged against the doorframe, slouching within her
uniform that had been uncomfortable all day after the lecture she had
received from a fraught Bill Harris, her sergeant, over her involvement
with the Chambers. She released her hair from its tight knot and let it
fall where it wanted to. “I got a dressing down. I got ribbed. But, I think
I have been my own worst critic. Been beating myself up all day for
getting involved – for what happened.”
“Don’t.”
“Easily said, I have a monopoly on neurosis. Why did I get
myself involved?”
Craig shrugged. “Well, I would blame me.”
“I might just do that.” Strangely, it had been because of him. She
rubbed her face confounded by how it was most likely her own agenda
to get involved with Craig, but she didn’t want to dwell on that. That
conflicted dramatically with some very conscious life decisions
regarding involvement with men. “So weird... Ugh! Things are so
weird!”
Craig flicked the kettle on. “I know – I keep trying to sort it all
out in my head. I mean where do you go with a train of thought that
involves kids going missing and ghosts? How do you possibly follow
that up?”
“I know. I know. I would doubt it too if I hadn’t seen it and been
half-terrified myself. Accepting it at face value doesn’t even help,
because what do we do now? Get a mad medium like Derek Acorah or
an Indian spirit guide…” her words raced to keep up with her
outpouring of frustration, “…or the bloody Ghostbusters!”
Craig sat at the table and he motioned for her to join him. “Well
we already have the mad medium.”
Kelly laughed, but felt slightly defensive of Rachel. “She is nice
though.”
165
Harvest

“Yeah, I know. She’s harmless enough. I feel bad about


doubting her intentions now.” Craig looked at her searchingly. “You
still worrying something has happened to her?”
Kelly fingered the edge of the wooden tabletop. “No. I don’t
know. Just after last night, not knowing what happened or how, it makes
it hard to know if we or others are safe or not.”
He seemed to recognise her discomfort with her openness and
got up to make their drinks. “It’s hard to feel safe. Whatever is going on
is happening here, so Rachel is probably okay. Although I guess we
don’t even know what we are dealing or whether it is confined to this
place, let alone how to deal with it.”
“Are you suggesting we do nothing?” She bit her lip as soon as
she heard the bite in her tone.
“Hey, I’m all up for getting to the bottom of this thing, but
unless you know what’s going down, there isn’t much we can do.”
Craig met her gaze and held it until his reason overpowered her
misdirected frustration. “Sorry… I wasn’t getting at you.” Kelly raked
her hair from her face. “‘Going down?’ ” she quoted him with an arched
eyebrow.
“Yeah, that was a bit street wasn’t it?” he conceded as he
returned to his seat and slid her drink over to her.
“Maybe for the nineties.” She rested her face in her hands.
“You don’t like feeling out of control do you?”
She wrestled with not wanting to be understood, especially by a
man. “No, but then who does?” She admitted reluctantly as she looked
up.
“Yeah, but it seems that more frightening to you. The uniform
you wear… What you stand for in the force must make you feel a sense
of security. Yet now the Police can’t deal with what’s happening.”
“I know… Did you sugar this?” she avoided.
“One and a half just as you like it.”
Talking with Rachel the night before had been the closest she
had come to talking about her past, and here she was with her fragile
nature exposed again. “I seem to be very transparent lately.”
166
Harvest

“I only remembered how many sugars you took…”


Kelly grinned. “That’s not what I mean.”
“I know. Well you might be questioning your effectiveness as a
police officer in this situation, but if it helps, you do look very good in
the uniform.”
Kelly’s face reddened but surprisingly to her his cheesy
compliment dissolved her frustration and she was glad of it. “Tea’s
lovely. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.”
“So, your photography job. How did it go?”
“Three hours opposite a gay sauna waiting for a straight married
councillor to turn up.”
“Is there something you want to tell me?”
Craig cocked his head to one side. “Haha. No. That was the
problem. He was a no show.”
“Shame.”
“Not really. Knowing Vicki she would have sent me in there
after him in a towel to get the money shot.”
“Pretty boy like you? You wouldn’t get out of there alive.” Kelly
craned around her. “Don’t see where you would work. You have a
studio elsewhere?”
“Nah, mainly I work from home. In the grotto.” Craig got to his
feet cupping the hot mug in his hands. “Prepare to step into my
parlour.”
Kelly followed him to a door in the hall and from the similar
layout to her own flat she knew where it led. “Your bedroom?” She was
surprised that she didn’t feel more discomfort, but then judging from the
rubbish compliment he had given her in the kitchen she didn’t imagine
he was much of a smooth operator. She was quite safe.
Craig opened the door. The room was gloomy thanks to some
drawn blackout curtains and a net of red LED lights that almost covered
one wall. Craig switched the main light on, but the light from the red
bulb only intensified the depths of the shadows and the dark walls. The
other dark blue walls were barely visible from beneath a mess of black
167
Harvest

and white photographs that covered them. Kelly stepped towards the
nearest pictures for a closer inspection. They were gritty casual shots of
people that didn’t seem composed, just glimpses into frozen moments
from people’s lives who seemed unaware of being captured in film.
“They’re good.”
“Thank you. They are not going to earn me a successful gallery
space, but I like them.”
Kelly pointed to one of the photographs. A large built woman,
middle-aged with a beaming smile, her hand a blur in trying to push the
camera away. “I like this one.”
“It’s my mum. She hates having her photo taken. She’s great.”
The room had all the typical bedroom furniture, but set out on
top of the chest of drawers and a desk was equipment for developing,
and the shelves behind them were stacked with film and bottled fluids.
Hanging across the room was a line with pictures pegged to it. The bed
was dishevelled and lived in. The air was ripe, a soothing warm scent of
manliness which she had forgotten could be so comforting.
“This is my office.”
“It’s nice to hear someone say that about their bedroom without
me having to arrest them.”
“Yeah, however my profession is probably the second career to
need a red light though. It’s in my bedroom too. Doesn’t really draw the
same attention when you are seven storeys up though.” Craig let Kelly
step out past him and he turned the light out and shut the door on the
room. “I’m still doing things the old fashioned way for my personal
projects, but I have to hire space at a developing studio for my
commercial stuff, I have started off on digital photography, but I can’t
afford the really decent equipment.”
“Your work looks good.” She said as Craig led her back to the
kitchen. She drained the last of her tea and he took her mug. They both
stood in the kitchen, he didn’t sit back down, and she didn’t know
whether he wanted her to. “I’m glad you are feeling okay. If I don’t hear
from Rachel I will give her a call and let you know what’s going on, see
if she has managed to find anything out.”
168
Harvest

“You off then?” Craig frowned.


She didn’t understand his surprise; he hadn’t acted like he
wanted her to stay. “Er, yeah, I had better get something to eat. It’s been
a long day.”
“Okay, keep me posted.”
Craig deflated into a visible slouch that caused Kelly to hesitate
in the hallway. She found herself speaking, and wondered if she was
possessed. “Well, I’m only having a microwave thing. Dinner I mean.
So if you want to join me it wouldn’t be a problem. Sorry – I mean
that’s if you’re not busy or got plans.” Definitely possessed, she
decided.
“You really don’t know me. Irradiated food stuffs prepared by
someone else sounds great to me.” Craig wagged his injured arm in the
sling. “Didn’t fancy the struggle, I’m still trying to keep it rested.
Anyway, if I had plans that would insinuate I have a life – which would
be nice, now I come to think of it…” He smiled.
Kelly nodded toward the direction of the front door and Craig
grabbed his keys and followed her. She experienced a feeling of
wholeness that she found uplifting, as if she had soldiered on with a
wound she had only just realised and dinner with Craig was an act of
triage that would help her recover a pleasure that her injury had kept
from her, an enjoyment she had forgotten. Kelly thought she could run
up the stairs to her floor with the underlying teenage excitement. She
savoured the feeling as they travelled the six floors up to her flat in the
lift.

Rachel’s head lulled and she nodded briefly into sleep. She opened her
eyes, clenched them and then opened them again whilst stretching her
arms up. She stifled a yawn and checked her watch. Seven-thirty.
Her muscles were saturated with an aching tiredness from her
lack of sleep. Six hours had passed in her vigil at the hospital and
redundancy had settled into her resolve, she toyed with the idea of
leaving. It was clear that little could be resolved or accomplished at
Cat’s side. The crushing silences that punctuated her lessening and more
169
Harvest

desperate monologues were wearing tides that carried with them all the
unanswered questions she had from the hospital and The Heights.
There were too many happenings and not enough connections or
answers: the poltergeist activity in the Chambers flat; Emily and now
Amy gone, Harry’s antagonism towards her, the unknown significance
of the rune symbols Rachel had seen at The Heights, the coincidence of
Cat’s kitten arriving at Rachel’s flat around the time Cat had entered her
coma, the impossible destruction at Cat’s flat, the intense and
mysterious experiences she had encountered in the twins room and
Cat’s lounge, and now the mysterious watcher at the hospital.
Rachel leaned one arm on the bed and relaxed her overloaded
head on it. Every fibre of her body called like a siren’s chorus for rest.
The carousel of questions in her mind slowed, the sounds of the ward
drifted away and the rhythm of her blinking slowed. Rachel forced
herself to sit up and she stretched her eyelids wide cramming visual
information between her lids to keep them open a little longer.
Cat snapped bolt upright from her prostate position and snatched
Rachel by her coat collar and dragged her forcefully onto the bed. Her
young face split into a frantic scream that howled through the air in a
banshee cry of rage and torment that grated against Rachel’s ears.
Tongues of Cat’s flame orange hair flickered wildly about her face from
a vortex of rushing atmosphere while her wide and desperately pleading
eyes pierced Rachel like javelins.
The flesh of Cat’s face became malleable putty sculpted by
unseen hands into a skeletal face. A face with dark hollows for eyes, a
nose pinched against its cartilage and thin lips tightly sheathed against a
mouth brimming with yellow teeth. The face of the watching stranger
stared out from the fiery halo of Cat’s hair with wild venom filled eyes
that demanded Rachel to leave.
Rachel snapped awake.
She leapt back from the vision as if it had crossed the threshold
into reality. An uncoordinated hand flailed and dashed her coffee from
the side unit to the floor. Cat and her bedding were undisturbed; a
picture of tranquillity. A sobering contradiction of her nightmare.
170
Harvest

She fought to calm her racing heart and chastised herself for her
fear. It was just a nightmare. The wet of cold coffee registered against
her legs as it sank through her skirt. She groaned at her clumsiness and
at the mess she had made, and wiped at the stains with a balled up
tissue. She climbed to her feet and dragged her chair to one side to
assess the extent of her spillage.
The black tendrils of coffee stretched out at her feet and formed
six crude capital letters; ‘HELP ME’. As soon as she registered
them they were consumed within the widening spread of coffee.
Rachel wondered whether it was another vision, whether she
was still asleep when a voice from outside the room grounded Rachel in
reality: “Every shift I have to turf you out don’t I?” Although Rachel
had angled the Venetian blinds closed she knew it was a nurse
addressing the watcher outside the room. She moved to the glass wall
and listened.
“She must have been a very good friend...” the nurse’s sentiment
was empathic enough but her tone was challenging.
With the vision of a tormented Cat and her plea for help,
Rachel’s unease with the watcher had increased. Rachel crept to the
door and dared herself to turn the knob that angled the blind encased
within the doors narrow window. The gap didn’t afford her a direct
view of the nurse or the watcher, but she could see their ghostly
reflections in glass wall of the opposite room. The watcher was not
standing passively in the corridor as she had expected him to be since
his view had been obscured, but was pressed flat against the glass;
listening. His hands caressing the surface of the window with his fingers
probing and pressing at various points in slow precise movements, as if
it was a ritual that afforded him some mystical presence or perception of
the room within.
The nurse shuffled on her feet obviously uncomfortable with his
actions and his silence. “I’m sorry,” the nurse’s voice came with a
determined force. “Visiting time is over. Time to go home Mr…?”
A silence followed and dominated the foreground noise of the
ward in a challenge of the nurse’s authority. The man eased himself
171
Harvest

away from the glass wall and Rachel snapped the blinds shut so he
couldn’t see her. Rachel could clearly hear the quiet shrink away from a
hissing voice, heavy with a rolling Polish accent that was uncomfortably
close to her. “Yshor Malik... And I-am go-ing.”
“Well... I imagine I will see you next shift,” the nurse’s reply
clipped the air like a parting clout round the ear.
There was a slow hissing exhalation of defeat from beyond the
glass followed by a measured pace of hard shoes sounding slowly away.
Rachel relaxed and released a breath she hadn’t realised she was
holding.

172
Harvest

Twenty
The heavy burgundy heightened Kelly’s mood, relaxed her body and
fogged her mind, forcing her to concentrate on the simplest of actions.
Kelly found comfort in the meal inside her, the warmth of her snug
jumper and the security of having company. It was in this experience
that she found more contentment than her cherished job had ever given
her. Having a moment like this with a friend or acquaintance – or
whatever Craig was to her, gave her a sense of completeness even if it
might only be for a stolen evening. It was wholesome and fulfilling. She
catalogued the tastes, the smells, the feel of her clothes, the pieces of
small talk and imprinted them in her mind as a reminder of what she
only now realised she had been missing. She would save them for the
nights when there was no company, although she was sure that
memories would be of little comfort now she had tasted the reality
again.
She had been fooling herself that she was content being alone.
Camden had colluded with her sense that she wasn’t keeping
herself to herself and was living her life. On a Friday or a Saturday it
was difficult to feel alone and hard not to feel alive while walking the
streets of Camden Town, the energy of the crowds that choked the
Chalk Farm Road and the Market was infectious. Tourists visiting
another landmark the city had to offer, Goths, Mods, New-Agers, Gays,
all manner of races and cultures, all making pilgrimage to the market
and shops that would offer them coffee-culture, exotic foods, herbs,
outlandish clothes, handmade novelties and crafts, S&M gear and drugs.
A place that would support your lifestyle and a place where you could
pretty much be who you wanted. Perfect for Kelly trying to start over
and find herself.
Kelly would go for a coffee, eat at the market’s food court, drift
round the shops, but always with her Discman playing, and a thick book
in her bag; props that would immerse her in a world of her own making
when she felt she was growing too close to being in the real world
around her, or someone wanted to share her table in an overcrowded
coffee shop, or was showing her more interest than she wanted. She
173
Harvest

loved the long walk out of Camden along the canal to Little Venice, but
that served the same purpose as her Discman and book as an escape
route into isolation. Camden had supported Kelly’s illusion of living
life.
Craig strained forward with his good hand to slide the empty
plate from his lap to the table, Kelly steadied it for him and guided it the
rest of the way. She slumped back into her corner of the sofa and looked
at him studiously over the rim of her wineglass, a little too long to be
discrete. She was surprised at how much the recent events had aged
him; he looked haggard, pale, his skin almost translucent, as if the
vitality of his youth had been drained somehow – more than a disturbed
night could do.
Craig shifted under her observation and tentatively met her gaze
before snapping away self-consciously. “What?” His face melted into a
puzzled laugh.
“Well, I have heard all about your yo-yo childhood of living in
Bath, your family’s decision to move here, then their decision to move
back to Bath when they didn’t settle and they missed the rest of the
family. Then your return to London for university… I know how well
you did at your exams and you have talked about work…”
“Work didn’t take long did it? Jobs are few and far between at
the moment,” he grunted grimly, gulping a mouthful of wine.
“Don’t get all maudlin. I just wondered what happens after
university. After you get home from work. What you do with your spare
time.”
“Is this the police side of your aspect coming out? Well, officer.
If I have a full day of work I might get home at 1700 hours, I shower at
1705, start preparing a meal at 1725, it takes about half-an-hour. None
of that five-minute microwave stuff.”
Loosened by alcohol Kelly jabbed his good arm. “Cheeky
Bastard.” She blurted round a mouthful of wine.
Craig rubbed his arm. “I’m sorry, do you know me well enough to
slap me around? You aren’t a screw you know? I’m not your bitch.”
“Sorry.” Kelly’s face flushed as he recognised her familiarity. “I
174
Harvest

just wondered about you, what you do in your spare time and…” she
felt so out of touch with being with someone socially. “Stuff.”
“Just pulling your leg. Truth is there isn’t much to say.”
“What do you mean?”
He shrugged. “What with all the moving around I kind of didn’t
make any lifelong mates. When I left university all the really good
friends I made went back to their own homes and stuff. I keep in touch
with a few on email; always promising to meet up. We haven’t yet. Like
I said, work is a bit short so money can be tight, it’s enough work
balancing paying my bills and buying food; if I travelled across the
country to meet up with my mates I would be in need of a UN food
parcel to survive.”
“Could you go home? To live I mean. Until your finances are
better.”
“Yeah…” Craig stared down into his wine and swirled it around
the large bell of his glass. “Bath feels like my home town to me, but
London feels like my grown up life. Mum would love me home I think;
where she could look out for me. I just don’t want to go back. I want to
be independent. I chose this career, kind of against school and family
advice, going back home would make it look like its not going to work
or they would see me struggling. The fact I had tried it my way, and am
either struggling or failing would lead them back into trying to get me
into the family business.”
“The print business? I thought that would be in the right area for
you.”
“It’s the equivalent of working in a factory. Not much of a
creative outlet. Plus my parent’s world extends as far as the front door
or a trip to the social club or bingo…Bless them. After being at uni,
moving out and having my freedom and a different set of friends and
my own life and views, going home and facing a morning with mum
and dad over the tabloid and a killer fry-up with their opinion of how
well my brother was doing, and how the country should be run and what
the youth of today should be doing, and how the refugee’s should be
going to another country. Ugh! That road just leads to the dark side.
175
Harvest

Now I sound like a spoilt kid don’t I?”


“No. We all grow away from our parents. It would be hard to
move back in with your parents when you have been living
independently.” This was the kind of conversation she wanted to have
with Craig, she wanted to get to know him. “Do you get lonely then?”
“That was leading!” Craig laughed easily. “No. I like my own
company. I get on very well with myself. Are you looking for emotional
baggage?”
Kelly swallowed her sip of wine quickly so she could answer
and it went down her throat uncomfortably like a marble. “No! It’s nice
to hear someone happy with their life.”
“Happy might be pushing it, but I think I travel light concerning
emotional baggage. I was with a girl for a little over a year, on and off,
while I was at university, but she ditched me in our final year. Probably
just as well as our homes were quite far apart. I haven’t really had a
relationship or anything since then, just a few sad attempts: not met the
right person so far.”
“That doesn’t bother you?”
Craig shook his head. “Nah. Mrs Right is out there somewhere.
She’ll get tired of running from me one day and then we will see what
happens.”
She smiled. “You’re a joker?”
“Humour is the best defence… If you can’t solve a problem,
avoid it and mock it from a distance.”
“What about if the problem can’t be avoided?”
“That’s easy –,” he adopted a squeaky Monty Python tone.
“RUNAWAY!”
They both descended into laughter.
“So what about you? What brings you so far from the suburbs of
the seaside of Essex? What about you before the uniform?” Craig
countered.
The fun of the moment ground to a halt like a fairground
carousel making an emergency stop. She hadn’t talked about her life in
Southend since she had started her new life in Camden. Ordinarily her
176
Harvest

defences would slam into place at the prospect of self-disclosure or the


risk of emotional exposure with a man, yet with Craig her defences had
relaxed, and she was drawn in to taking a leap of faith.
“I was very different back then,” she tested the statement as
someone might test a limb of a tree before climbing on it.
“This sounds interesting,” Craig arched an eyebrow. “Were you
a nun or an international drug runner?”
“No, I was married.”
“Oh right,” Craig gawped, his response of surprise delivered
unchecked. “Wasn’t expecting that,” he covered.
“Well, us divorcees don’t tend to get branded and dragged
through town these days,” she joked incredulously.
“I didn’t mean anything by it. Just when you first meet someone
you kind of fill in the blanks yourself a bit.”
“Hence, the nun and the international drug running?”
“Exactly,” Craig nodded sagely.
“I was a local government worker. Probation services.”
“So is your marriage the skeleton in your closet then?”
Kelly shifted uncomfortably. “Yes.”
“Didn’t go too well then?”
“The divorce bit gave me away didn’t it?” Her mood sobered.
“Well, things were good at the start. I guess they always are though. I
met Ian about nine years ago. We fell in love. Started sharing our life
together. Wanted all the same things together, marriage, house,
travelling, babies. Pretty typical stuff. Things were perfect for quite a
while.” It was surprisingly easy to talk; she eyed her glass of wine,
suspicious of its influence on her tongue. “Have you ever been in love?”
“Yes, the uni girl but on reflection I am pretty sure it was
unrequited.”
“Unrequited,” Kelly mulled the word over in her mind. “I can
understand how that feels!”
“But, you were married?” Craig questioned, as if love and
marriage were symbiotic. She wasn’t sure that that was her experience.

177
Harvest

“I know. I don’t know whether my feelings were unrequited, or


he just got lazy, he just seemed to give up on ‘us’ as a couple. He lost
interest in building our home together; I practically decorated the home
all by myself. All the aspirations he had for work, the promotion he had
worked towards (the whole reason we had moved away from our home-
town of Southend to Romford was for his career) – he just gave up on it
all and didn’t go for the positions when they came up. All without any
explanation or discussion. He didn’t want to travel, go on holiday or
even want to get away for a day trip even. He had stopped telling me
how he felt…”
“What changed?”
“Oh, I’m not sure I know.” Kelly threw a hand up in dismay.
The confusion and despair was still emotive in her memory. “I never got
any answers. We got on well, were able to have a laugh when the issues
in our relationship weren’t choking us. We were still good mates right
up until the end. But that seemed like all we were: mates. He even
stopped demonstrating how he felt…”
“Oh.” Craig exclaimed as they both stepped around the
insinuated conversational landmine of sex.
“Yeah,” Kelly played with the base of her glass, uncomfortably
considering how to phrase the continuation of her sentence without
straying onto a subject too intimate to be comfortable. She remembered
the shame of wanting a satisfying love-life. “We had been passionate for
each other at the beginning. Enthusiastic companions – really
connected, then we got married and it was like he just switched off
emotionally.” Kelly felt her face colour with her disclosure.
“People change, people grow apart.”
She agreed but it was too simplistic a truth to explain something
so heart-breaking. Kelly breezed on with a flippancy she hoped would
ease any awkwardness. “I know about ruts, I know you can expect
relationships to lose their intensity over time, but we had always wanted
a family of our own – and let’s just say – that was not going to happen
without some kind of miracle,” Kelly arched her eyebrows theatrically,
masking her discomfort.
178
Harvest

“Did he still want kids?”


“He said he still did, but he avoided talking about the details,
eventually he admitted he had changed his mind and wanted to leave it
until we were older and make the most of our time alone together. I’m
not sure what we would have done with that time as we didn’t exactly
have any plans left at that point. We had always wanted a young family
and he had changed his mind without even telling me!”
“Harsh.”
“Yeah. I can accept people changing, I guess, but he made a
decision about our life – my life without even telling me.” It had felt like
a betrayal. “That was a catalyst for my decision to leave him.”
“But it wasn’t what ended it?”
“No he said he still wanted a family, so I hung on in there. I
convinced myself that in a way I understood his decision even though I
did not like the way he had made it without talking it through with me.
Yet with his lack of affection and the complete absence of any intimacy
I couldn’t see it happening at all…” Ian’s abstinence had already
defused the spark and the tingling thrill from his touch. “I didn’t want to
wait until we decided to start our family before we… you know?”
“Exactly. It’s not a means to an end!”
Kelly nodded in agreement, she hadn’t wanted biology she had
wanted passion. “I just got more and more unhappy; one night I had
prepared a big night in for our anniversary. Three course meal…”
“How did your microwave cope?”
Kelly winced a smile at him. “Made from scratch. I bought a
killer dress.” Although Ian didn’t see the point of Christmas, birthdays
or anniversaries as they could afford to buy the things they wanted
throughout the year, she had clung to celebrations as confirmation of his
love for her. She had hoped that a bottle of champagne and his favourite
wine might aide in him opening up to her about who he was now and
what he wanted – to seducing him; even though such attempts had failed
in the past. She needn’t have worried because when he eventually
stumbled in from work she could smell the cloud of alcohol and smoke
that clung to him from the bar he had been in since he had finished his
179
Harvest

shift. A residual atmosphere of good times he had had while she had
been waiting; waiting and sinking into a depression.
“He had completely forgotten about our anniversary. I know
most couples moan about things like that,” she laughed but her humour
hung weakly on her lips. “He was apologetic enough,” she remembered
how his slurring words had washed over her in potent waves of alcohol
as he held her. She had been the only one working to maintain their
relationship, and she didn’t have the strength to do it any longer. “I just
knew then that I couldn’t be with him anymore.” Kelly often wondered
if Ian had read her resignation in her face and the reluctance in her share
of their embrace, for he changed in that moment and held her at arms
length studying her face.
“I told him I wanted out.”
“How did he take that?”
“Oh, swimmingly. He rushed up stairs, dragged our suitcases out
from under the bed, threw our clothes at them told me to go and book a
last minute deal on the internet for a holiday, charged into the third
bedroom, which I had been decorating, cracked open a pot of paint and
threw it up the wall, said that he was decorating now, and was I happy?”
“Oh my god. He lost the plot.”
“He was drunk. Fed up with what he saw as nagging.” She had
fled from him at that point, scared he might slip further out of character
and get violent, he had caught up with her at the bottom of the stairs and
then Ian had taken their relationship beyond the point of no return and
beyond the comfort zone of disclosure with Craig. Despite the physical
tussles and taunting she had encountered through work, Kelly was still
jarred and shaken by the memory of Ian’s fluid but brutal clutch at her
dress that broke the stitching of its seams as he yanked it from her
shoulders in a cruel parody of her fantasies. ‘You want sex? You want
to be fucked? It’s all you fucking care about isn’t it?’ He snapped from
shouting hatefully, to kissing her roughly and spitefully pawing her
naked flesh through her destroyed dress, transferring his self-loathing
for his own inadequacies and failure in maintaining the relationship he
had always longed for.
180
Harvest

His violence had been out of character, he had never raised his
voice before, but the decay of their relationship had created a festering
resentment within both of them and Ian had realised he had missed his
chance to change. There was no physical intention in his attack and
Kelly had easily fought him off with a simple shove. “When I told him I
couldn’t be with him anymore he cried, but said or did nothing to
persuade me otherwise.”
“Was he gay and depressed or something?”
Kelly broke into a brief laugh. “No. I think that he needed the
security of someone in his life – a companion – a safety net for his
insecurities, I don’t know. The Ian I met, and the magic I fell for was
just a lure, a way to get what he wanted. Maybe when he got someone
that wanted him and needed him he got comfortable and relaxed his
efforts.”
“And now you’re here?”
“Yup. My mum died a few years before I married, I wasn’t very
close to my dad, and I lost touch with my friends before and after Ian
and I moved from Southend to Romford for his job, so I didn’t have
much left after we broke up. I felt – isolated. I needed a sense of
belonging. So here I am with my TV dinners, cheap wine, a library of
books and a very unpopular public position.” Kelly had emerged from
her relationship disillusioned and alone. She had been neglected, and
she felt she had been betrayed, but some nights when she was alone she
regretted her decision and worried that maybe she had had unrealistic
demands and expectations from love and life.
“Hmmm, you beat up men with your truncheon don’t you?”
Kelly grinned and the serious air around her lifted. She leaned
forward for the bottle of wine and wiggled it, sloshing the last of the
liquid around to tempt Craig. He offered up his glass and she filled it.
“Well, I headed into the police, mainly because I felt a huge hole in my
life and I needed a focus. And I guess I have an admission to make… I
also like the uniform,” she smirked and held up a warning finger to shut
Craig up. Enrolling in the police, living and breathing the police for
seventeen weeks at the halls of residence at the Peel centre in Hendon,
181
Harvest

had been like being re-born. “People tend to notice the uniform before
they notice you. Actually they see the uniform and most people avoid
even looking in your direction!” Kelly took a sip. “I know it must seem
like I have hidden myself away, but it wasn’t an easy route. I had to
work hard to get where I am with my job and…”
“You don’t need to convince me! I’ve just heard your back-
story. You had it rough. It’s sad.”
“It was, but it’s just a relationship break-up story. Not as bad as
some people’s stories,” Kelly thought of the missing twins. “So, you
have heard everything about me…” she said quickly before the
conversation could darken. “No skeletons in your cupboard then?
You’re lucky; must be nice having nothing to haunt you in the small
hours.”
Kelly watched the last flicker of his twinkling blue eyes give
way to a dark contemplation that drained the last of the brightness and
youth from his face.

182
Harvest

Twenty One
Craig swam through the blank black void of sleep that pressed itself
against his conscious self in a cloying mire. It seemed hopeless to
escape the green light. It had grown from a diluted patch in the dark to a
brilliant luminance that threatened to overwhelm him. It was useless to
resist. He was lost in his dreams and he couldn’t surface. The colour
consumed the darkness until everything was green. He would have to
endure the tormenting visions that would come with the light. The light
washed over him and left the image of a room in his mind.
In the gloom Craig could make out that it was a bedroom, a man
lay prostrate in bed, sleeping. Craig’s heart thudded in his chest, his
mind raced, desperate not to be discovered in this stranger’s room, yet
he could not turn away from the sleeping man. The room was lit up
briefly by lightning storming beyond his window. He could see the man
more clearly; he appeared to be middle-aged, his face rough dark and
wrinkled, weathered by sun and life. Thick black stubble reached high
up his cheeks joining the close-cropped fuzz of his hair, glittering grey
and silver strands caught the flickering light. Craig suddenly realised
that the details were easier to see as he was now suddenly closer to the
man, his panic increased, unsure how or why he would act against his
instinct to get out of the room and actually move closer to him. His
movement hadn’t disturbed him, the man did not move, he slept
peacefully enough except for the twitching ticks that played across his
face. A nightmare? Craig wondered if the man dreamt of Craig
approaching him in his sleep. The sheets, valance and top sheet, were
creased and untucked so that they barely covered his body and legs,
exposing his sweat drenched tee-shirt and shorts. The covers were
clenched in the man’s fist, it looked as if at some point he had wrestled
with something in his dreams. Craig thought he recognised him as a
random face from the flats, he could picture him in a labourers
fluorescents, his dark tan, thick limbs and stout body suggestive of
outdoors heavy manual work.
Craig was startled from his observation by the man’s eyes
flicking open. Craig’s instinct was to run to the door he was sure was
183
Harvest

behind him, but he couldn’t move. The man’s eyes found Craig in the
dark. How would he explain being there to the man? How would he
explain watching the man sleep? The man’s eyes fixed upon him, they
sharpened, then widened in terror. Craig was distracted by movement at
his side. A hand reached past him. A cruel twisted and decayed hand, its
emaciated fingers wrapped round the handle of a vicious looking saw.
Craig turned sharply, his position in the room shifted
unnaturally, as if he had changed vantage points and the arm and its
owner were further away from him. He glimpsed a figure standing tall
and as black as the shadows, a relief in the dark, the creatures face was
grey skeletal and ragged. Its eyes, black holes in the shadow of its top
hat, were on Craig.
In a moment the room changed and the figure was crouching at
the bed, the man was writhing and screaming silently, the sheets dark
and glossy with blood, the saw stained and snagged with gristly morsels
of glistening flesh. The creature snapped its head sharply towards the
man, its rotting skeletal face lurching into clarity with the white light
flaring through the window, its jaw dropped open in a silent mocking
laugh. Its other hand held up the man’s severed left leg like a trophy.
Craig awoke to the sound of screaming He realised it was his
voice and stopped himself. His breathing was heavy, his blood racing.
Lightning flickered and lit up his room for the briefest of seconds, he
knew it should be an irrational connection to make, but realising there
was a storm tearing up the night just like in his nightmare he knew that
somewhere in the building a man was being dismantled in his bed. Who
and where Craig couldn’t know. He couldn’t rush to his aide, and a call
to the police would only be treated as a crank call. All Craig could do
would be to spend the last few hours of the night convincing himself it
was just a nightmare.

Mary Korben reached for the butcher’s knife. The seconds of the clock
over the arch-way to the lounge clacked towards 8am. Any moment
Roger, dressed smartly in trousers, shirt and tie, would take his seat at
the dining table in the lounge as was routine. She smiled as she heard
184
Harvest

the dining chair scuffing the carpet as it was moved out from the table
and he took his seat to wait for his breakfast with a comforting
predictability. Twenty-two years of marriage and life followed the same
path today as it did yesterday and almost every preceding day.
Mary had woken and been strangely distracted by thoughts of
her environment. Community spirit had dissolved. Friendly
conversation had fallen into suspicious and fearful whispers, while
casual nods and smiles of recognition had become wary glances and
false gestures of friendly acknowledgement. The older generation no
longer lingered on the hall in the hope of conversation, and the sounds
of children playing or the bravado of teenagers in the grounds or the
stairwells no longer rode the breeze or lashed at the quiet summer air.
However, she found comfort in the rituals and routines of their marriage
as she always did when something outside of their relationship troubled
her.
For her and Roger the honeymoon elation and mutual promises
to each other had never faded and they lived to share, nurture and
enhance each other’s lives. Even down to the little things, like chores,
they shared them equally. They spoiled each other with gifts and
attention, but equally they had made it through some financially limited
times when Roger had been off work. They enjoyed mutual friends as
well as their own. They were close but didn’t live in each other’s
pockets, both free to go out when they wanted without any pettiness or
jealousy. Even old flames and temptations hadn’t caused them tension.
There was trust and with that: Security. Mary knew it was pride, but she
couldn’t escape comparing their marriage to her friend’s relationships
where she just hadn’t seen such openness and co-operation.
Even when the storm had awoken her in the night from a
nightmare she couldn’t remember, and she had felt as scared of the dark
and of storms as she had as a child, thinking about Roger and their
relationship had helped her slip back to sleep. Mary cleaved a grapefruit
in two and the sound of the slicing blade rang out in the quiet of the flat
with an abruptness and noise that startled her even though it had been
caused through her action. The juice glistened in the bright morning
185
Harvest

light that angled through the window and she found her gaze lingering
curiously, as if the fruit in her firm grip was the intense focus for some
art house short film. She was brought back to real time by Roger’s paper
rustling.
Mary took the two halves of fruit and served them to Roger and
he smiled back at her and pushed his paper to one side. She returned to
the kitchen and reached for her own grapefruit from the bowl. Sliding
the knife from the work-top, the metal sang in her ears in a protracted
note that resonated with an unnatural lingering of detail. She glanced at
the clock: 8.04 am. On time – as always, except for those mornings
where passion delayed them. She heard the rattle of his spoon and plate
as he worked at the fruit.
The only things they kept from each other were their own
thoughts.
A cold film of sweat formed on her forehead, under her arms
and breasts. Was that her thought? Why did it matter that they had
separate unreadable thoughts? You could never know someone
completely – she had no reason to doubt him. She did know him
completely! Why was she thinking like this? She cleaved the Grapefruit
sharply, frustrated with herself and her sour turn of thoughts. No one
could ever know what makes a person tick – Did that mean she didn’t
truly understand him? That her comfortable security could be on the
verge of destruction and she would be completely unaware? She
chastised herself, almost in disbelief of her paranoid line of thought. It
was uncharacteristic of her. She bit her lip in guilty punishment for her
negative thoughts. It was possessive nonsense! There was no way to get
inside someone, to see how a person worked.
Mary’s hands suddenly burned. The grapefruit juice found the
cracks in her dry skin with wasp stinging fire. She would have to
moisturise. Her thoughts collapsed in upon herself, her mind a ruin as
she found her hands were gloved in crimson blood. Tiny nicks and cuts
to her knuckles and fingers announced their presence beneath the blood
with flaring pain.
Too much blood. More than to be expected for her sudden small
186
Harvest

flesh wounds. The knife was gripped in her hand with a firmness that
crushed all sensation of its presence, as if it was a part of her, an illusion
supported by her hand and knife being a solid colour of red.
She dropped the knife, its clatter dulled as the knife fell into a
slick of blood on the worktop. Mary jumped back from the alien
grotesque before her, and her feet kicked out from underneath her as she
failed to grip the tiled surface. She clutched at the sink to steady herself
and her awareness expanded, discovering her feet were planted in
puddles of red with her slips tracked into them from her averted slide.
Mary gingerly transferred her weight back to her feet and heaved dryly,
gagging for a moment but not being sick, she watched thick blood ooze
from her soaked fleecy slippers as if squeezed from a sponge. She tried
to understand her situation, to understand what would cause the
nightmare, unable to offer herself any sense or action.
The large archway into the lounge crisply framed the view of
Roger lying supine on the table. His arms and legs hanging limp from
each side of the table. He stared emptily at the ceiling, his jaw part-open
as if in speechless shock. The oblivious morning brilliance streamed
into the flat with tactless promise of a beautiful day, the brightness
burned the details into her mind with crisp clarity the second it was
processed. The blood streaked down the bright white tablecloth. His
chair overturned. Rogers’ chest wrenched open. The grapefruit squashed
on the floor, as if underfoot. The gaping hole travelling from gullet to
groin. The plate unbroken and upturned on the floor. Shattered ribs
pried open like double doors. Mary stumbled forward and the light
glittered on Rogers’ staring still eyes, and dazzled on the pool of blood
within the empty cavity. He lay spread-eagled like a star hollowed out at
its centre.
Mary Collapsed backwards against the wall and slipped clumsily
to the floor scattering picture frames and clutter from the sideboard
beside her, her mouth open in a silent wail, her voice absent with shock.
She seated herself roughly and the wetness instantly soaked through her
pin-stripe skirt and lacy underwear onto her skin in a sickening syrupy
touch. Her voice broke free in a howl of revulsion and horror as she
187
Harvest

scrambled to the kitchen to escape the blood filled carpet, only to slip
and slide in the trails of blood in the kitchen that led to the first puddle
she had found herself in.
The pain of her hands, the discarded knife, the wash of blood
and Roger’s butchered body coalesced into a realisation that crashed
down on Mary. She thrashed and writhed on the floor, fighting against
the very world for the cruel reality that had fallen upon their perfect
relationship. The clock ticked apathetically: 9.16am.
It watched from above, circling her, predatory, observing, not
just understanding the body, but also the mind. Satisfied.

188
Harvest

Twenty Two
Jason reached the top floor. His legs ached from the long climb, yet he
wanted to keep moving, so he drifted aimlessly down the corridor. The
bright sun streaked through the window at the end of the hall, igniting
the white walls in the warm yellow glow of morning. The hazy light
made him think of lazy summer days that promised to stretch endlessly
before him, and he hoped today would be one of those days. He wanted
a long distance between him and nighttime. ‘It’ would come for him in
the night while he slept and was vulnerable. That was when monsters
came out. He was sure It would wait until then, but fear was still with
him, haunting him when he lingered in any one place.
His mum had left early that morning after telling him that his
granddad had been taken ill and she would have to go and see him in
hospital. Alone. Her insistence on going alone told him his granddad’s
condition had deteriorated and this hospital admission was serious, but
Jason had pushed this from his mind, he couldn’t take in this new
anxiety with fear stalking his every moment.
He was grateful for her having to leave him, if she had been
home all day at the flat she would not have allowed him to loiter and
wander the corridors, and without the twins he had little excuse to leave
home. He would have gone crazy being cooped up in the flat, waiting
for the some-thing to come for him.
After the events of the last few days his paranoia had
heightened. He couldn’t feel safe at home. He had seen the lights, the
lights he had recognised from within Amy’s drawings. Pictures she had
labelled eerily and simply as ‘Mr Sparky’. That ‘thing’ had come to
Emily and Amy and now they had both gone. Jason had glimpsed
enough of the mysterious lights or auras around his home to convince
him that whatever It was, was now looking for him. Mr Sparky would
come for him.
Only fear provided answers as to what It was, and why the thing
would want him. All the monsters that had ever haunted his imagination
and nightmares had been flesh and blood; not made of lights. And more
importantly, as frightening as they were, they had never been real. As
189
Harvest

the thing was light, he toyed with the idea of a mirror being able to
reflect any attack, yet he doubted it would work as he knew solid things
like doors and walls were no barrier. Facing the light was not something
he wanted to think about either.
He had noticed something strange seemed to happen to lights
and electrical equipment before the appearance of the dancing light,
maybe as it reached invisibly into his home looking for him its energy
affected electrical things? He had to be aware of these signs, a lamp
switching itself on, the picture on the TV going snowy or his X-box
controller rumbling when a game wasn’t being played. Maybe this was
a sign that it may take time for it to build up enough energy to
physically attack. If he kept moving then perhaps he could outrun it. Yet
night was inevitable, and he would have to return home unable to
explain his fears, and eventually he would have to sleep, and that would
make him easy prey.
Jason used the lift button, and the car rumbled up the shaft at his
calling. Brilliant light glared painfully in one of his eyes, he turned
sharply, shielding his eyes from the blaze that came from the other end
of the corridor. The light lost some of its intensity and Jason saw that it
was reflected sunlight in the square of glass within the out-of-bounds
fire escape door. The door opened further and the reflection reduced. He
was relieved that the light had a natural cause, but there was a dark
ragged shape beyond the door, motionless and poised for some
unknown purpose half-in view between the door and the doorjamb.
Watching.
Wind howled from the staircase Jason had scaled, and rattled at
the window that capped the corridor behind him. The hairs on his body
bristled and icy dread anticipation settled upon him. He fingered the lift
button again as calmly as he could manage. The fire door moved in the
shape’s grip.
The lift arrived with a sharp squeal and Jason darted between the
two doors and randomly stabbed a floor button, he didn’t risk waiting
for the doors to close automatically but pressed the door close button.
He pressed himself flat against the rear wall as far out of reach as
190
Harvest

possible, he had seen enough scary TV programmes and movies to


know that something could still get at him while the doors wobbled
shut. They closed, but the films had also shown him that he still might
not be safe.
At least in the lift he could rest in one place and use the lift car
to keep moving.
Jason didn’t see or hear the roof panel lift open above his head.
He attempted to regulate his breathing to calm himself, only to
have his breath knocked out of him by a great weight slamming into his
shoulders and back sending him crashing to the floor. The car shuddered
under the impact. He instantly realised his prone position and struck out
as viciously as he could against his attacker. His flailing fist swung out
to full extent but failed to hit a target. Mikey Kent sat in a crumpled
heap at his feet. Although Mikey was one of the kids from school that
picked on him Jason was relieved it wasn’t the ‘thing'. A strange smell
accompanied Mikey like engine grease and burnt dust at the back of the
TV set.
“Sorry about that,” Mikey said, although it was clear from his
tone that he wasn’t.
Mikey was in his year, although he was twelve, a year older than
Jason. He had the same slim build as Jason but muscles flexed in his
arms as he pushed himself into a sitting position against the wall of
metal and plastic panelling. Muscles Jason didn’t have. Mikey ran
nimble fingers through his messy brown hair and wiped a veil of sweat
from his forehead. He eyed Jason with a look of wariness and surprise.
“That was a good swing.” He suddenly smiled with a menace that Jason
recognised from the playground at school. “Lucky you didn’t catch me
with that punch or I might have had to plant one or two back on you.”
Jason was glad he had failed to make contact. He had been at the
end of Mikey's shoves and general buffeting. The thought of an actual
aimed punch was a painful thought. Although some of the fear that
Mikey had represented seemed lost. It failed to come as it should in
such an enclosed space with no witness or person to call to. He and
David Renshaw were partners in bullying and had both made the
191
Harvest

playground, the corridors, dining hall and assembly room at school a


place of jibes threats and embarrassment, and because they lived in his
building he normally dreaded bumping into them, but fear was reserved
for monsters now – not playground bullies. There was another
expression on Mikey’s face that was hard to read. An edge of respect for
his instinctive defence of himself?
The lift came to a halt and the doors opened. Mikey raised
himself to his full height. He was tall for his age, an intimidating four
inches taller than Jason. The second lift car rolled noisily past and came
to an abrupt stop a few floors above their heads. Mikey strolled the
small distance to the lift control and closed the doors before punching a
button that took the car back up two levels to the eighth floor.
The lift lurched abruptly as something slammed against the roof
of the car. The cables slapped together with a twang and a shivering
echo as the sound of the impact ricocheted through the shaft. Jason
scrambled across the floor that trembled beneath him. His stomach
flipped, sickeningly aware of being suspended eight floors up. As the
vibrations subsided he dragged himself cautiously to his feet as if he
didn’t trust the ground he was on and shot a wide-eyed stare at Mikey,
who braced himself against the wall but seemed unconcerned by the
impact.
The lift shuddered again as a second body fell from the open lift
hatch. David Renshaw landed awkwardly on his feet in the corner. He
wiped sweat from his forehead leaving streaks of dark grease in its place
on his tanned skin. He also smelled of the warm dusty engine smell.
David was Jason’s age but Mikey’s height. He let out a whoop and
shook his head as if his unfashionable curtain cut hair was wet. “That
was fun.” he commented breathlessly. David’s voice trailed off and his
face tightened as he saw Jason. “What’s he doing here?”
“He was riding the lift when I came in.”
“Not at home with mummy?” He taunted. “She aint left you too
has she?” David’s soft blonde hair and innocent blue-eyes masked the
cruelty of his mind and tongue. While Mikey was the muscle, David
could inflict verbal wounds with ease.
192
Harvest

Jason ignored the sting from David’s lash of spite. Jason remembered
the day he had cried in class because he knew that his dad had left. His
dad had thrown his mum across the room in a blind-rage; the climax of
weeks of discrete rows and unhappiness when they thought Jason was
asleep or out of sight and ear-shot. The morning after his mum had an
unusually made-up face, but it didn’t cover the cracked lip or puffy eye.
His mum and dad had yet to get back together and Jason doubted they
would. David and Mikey had always aimed jibes at him, he didn’t know
why, maybe it was because he was quieter and more studious than most.
After the day he had cried in class David and Mikey had focussed and
stepped up their torment of him. As if they had sensed his weakness that
he was easy prey. He had been. It didn’t take too many comments about
his mum and dad to get him close to tears or into a state of stupefied
numbness.
“Aw, that’s right; you don’t have your little girlfriends to play
with.”
David was a master at torment, only his second comment had
found a weakness in Jason’s resolve. Jason simmered with his fists
clenched while twitching on his toes as if he were loaded in a catapult
straining to launch him at David. David’s height dropped a few inches
as his body sagged into a springy defensive stance that would prepare
him to counter any move Jason might make. Jason knew he didn’t stand
much chance in a fight and he had hesitated too long, losing the element
of surprise that might have afforded him at least one blow.
Mikey moved between them. “Leave it! That’s not called for.
Don’t bring them girls into it.”
David maintained his glower and his boxing posture throughout
Mikey’s intervention. He curled his lips up into a cruel smile. “Brave
aint ya.” David lowered his defences but his muscles stayed firm and
threatening compared with Jason’s wiry frame. “Why you defending
him anyway? You’re not going queer on me are you?”
“Fuck you!” Mikey beamed, joining in with David’s laughter
and shoving him playfully. “We need someone to push the buttons don’t
we? Save waiting for someone else to come in.”
193
Harvest

David’s smile mirrored Mikey’s conspiratorially before he


addressed Jason. “You hear that? All you gotta do is press the buttons,
up and down,” he pointed to the ceiling and then to the floor in
emphasis of the directions. “You think you can manage that fuckwit?”
The lift came to a stop, and the doors rolled aside. Jason was a
fast runner; he could make a break for it. He could probably get back
home too, but then he would have to stay there and face being trapped
in the flat where that ‘thing’ knew to find him. If he stayed with Mikey
and David there was a sense of safety in not being alone. They would
probably be satisfied that they had bullied him into doing something he
didn’t want to do, and Jason got to continue his constant moving around
within the lift. Jason nodded that he would do it.
David’s face flushed with a menacing darkness. “Homo-geek
thought he had a fucking choice.” David shoved Jason roughly to the
controls and stepped up on the handrail and sprung himself up, he
caught the lip of the lift hatch, grabbed at it with his other hand and
hauled himself up into the dusty blackness beyond. Mikey followed in a
similar fashion and Jason soon heard their footsteps scuffing heavily on
the roof of the car and echoing through the shaft.
David shouted down a command to send the lift upwards and
Jason responded by pushing the button for the fourteenth floor. The
machinery squealed high above, and the lift roared upward. The air
washed over Jason’s face from the hatch and he breathed in the warm
dusty smell like that of the underground and found himself taking grim
comfort in the familiar role of being bullied.

194
Harvest

Twenty Three
Sixteen-year old Danny Jenkins strode into the room he shared with his
younger brother Kevin, who sprawled on the top bunk listening to music
through his headphones. Danny nodded a greeting to him then swept his
sports cap off and flung it on the swivel chair at the computer before he
crashed out on his own bunk.
He ruffled his hair that had been flattened by his hat and closed
his eyes and let his body relax into the softness of his bed. He heard the
springs of the bunk above him vibrate and tense as the weight of his
brother shifted, telling him that Kevin was staring down at him over the
edge. Danny kicked his foot hard against the underneath of his mattress.
“Fuck off you cunt,” Kevin laughed.
Danny asked where their parents were, and found they had gone
shopping.
“So what you been doing? You came home well late last night –
then you shot off out really early?”
“I know I got a bollocking from mum last night.” Danny opened
his eyes and tried to control a wild smile. “I was with Leah last night.”
“Dirty bastard.”
Danny flinched as Kevin reached down to thump him playfully
but found he couldn’t reach. Danny swatted his hand away.
“What happened?”
Danny couldn’t control his smile any longer and it curled his
cheeks so tightly they ached. “We did it.” He ducked away as Kevin
cursed at him and tried to hit him again. Kevin clung to the side of the
bed waiting for the details. Danny closed his eyes and thought back to
it. “Leah didn’t want to be on her own last night, so we stayed out as
long as we could. Her family’s having loads of trouble with her younger
brother; he’s gone a bit nutty by the sounds of it, says he’s been seeing
things in their flat, I think he’s like it ‘cause people have been going
missing.”
“Yeah, that’s why mum and dad were freaked out last night; I
think they were worried something had happened to you too.”
“Shit, yeah,” Danny gave into his mistake of not even calling
195
Harvest

home. When they had called him he hadn’t answered. He had been
doing other things. “Anyway, we just walked, all round the green
outside, then when it got colder we came back and just wondered the
corridors. We ended up at the very top of the staircase, outside the door
to the roof. It was locked so we just huddled up there. She got really
upset, started crying about everything, especially about Sarah going
missing,” he thought of the girl that had somehow gone missing on her
way from her flat to meet up with her friends outside. “I mean we
weren’t great mates with her but she was in our crowd.” He didn’t
mention that he had cried too, didn’t admit the fear to his brother. He
focussed on what came next, the burning heat, his fantasies that were
unexpectedly made real. “We were kissing and cuddling, just playing
about and then things started getting hot.”
Danny saw Kevin’s eyes sparkle with anticipation and
excitement clearly getting off on his story. “Cool.”
“Before long we were both topless, and she let me unhook her
bra.” Danny remembered the infinite smoothness of her breasts and how
they tensed under his hesitant touch and his kisses. “Then she was
kissing my chest and stomach.” He remembered the feathery touch of
her breath and the heat of her tongue on his smooth stomach. “Then she
went down on me. Ah fuck, it was so good bro!” Danny felt himself go
stiff, but Kevin had retreated out of sight so he didn’t care. “Better than
any wank!” He laughed and played with himself idly in his tracksuit
bottoms. “Then she asked me to do her. We were naked in no time,” he
remembered how cold and hard the floor was, but it had helped delay
his excitement to something he hoped was acceptable. “Then I did her, I
just let her have it and she loved it,” he lied. He had been slow and
hesitant and worried each time she groaned and grimaced, not knowing
if he was hurting or pleasuring her. “I came loads!” he was horny again;
he would have to go to the privacy of the bathroom in a moment. There
was another feeling mingled with his arousal, unformed and anonymous
but definitely there. He tried to ignore it.
“I went to look for her this morning. See if she was up for
seconds,” he lied again. He loved her, and she had been so worried the
196
Harvest

previous night he wanted to make sure she didn’t regret doing what they
had done, wanted to check they were still together, that she loved him.
His thoughts darkened. “She wasn’t home. Parents said she had gone
out early.” He had rung and text everyone on his mobile but no one had
seen her. He didn’t know what that meant for them both, but he didn’t
want to think that it meant she had gone missing like Sarah had.
His lust stifled him, leaving him agitated and uncomfortable the
longer he prolonged any response. He wanted to revisit the hot memory
of being inside Leah but there was something distracting him.
Something wriggled in his mind beyond the dim possibility and fear that
she could be missing. An elusive feeling that frustrated him and teased
him, as if his emotions were trying to take a shape beyond the mould of
his lust. Suddenly he breached the gap and the feeling had an identity
that seized him. Anger. It washed over him with a scalding heat. He
couldn’t explain why, but somehow everything that annoyed and
frustrated him about his fourteen-year old brother came to his mind one
memory after another, goading him to respond to it, to lose his control.

Craig opened his front door and Vicki beamed in at him. The smiled
vanished and she momentarily paused in chewing her gum. “You look
like shit…”
Craig rubbed his pallid face with his good hand and it trembled
slightly with weakness. “Cheers Vicki, your making me feel so much
better. I was only saying to myself this morning that all I needed was a
verbal kick-in-the-teeth observation from Vicki to raise my self-
esteem.”
“Babe, if I was trying to raise your self-esteem I’d shag you.”
Vicki moved in close to him, prodded her finger at his chin and trailed it
down his neck and chest to his navel in a play of seduction.
Craig pushed himself forward from the doorway of his flat,
forcing Vicki and her pointing finger back into the corridor. He cocked
his head to one side and spoke through a false grin. “How would giving
me something that you give away so freely, make me feel special?” He
had attempted to make his words cheerful play, but for a brief moment
197
Harvest

he had meant to hurt her, he had had enough of the teasing. He needed
comfort not games, someone to be there for him. Craig liked Vicki a lot,
he had been quick enough to work out that she wasn’t interested, so he
was sure she knew how he felt. They took turns to chase and run, a
holding pattern of endless moves into stalemate that kept their
friendship fun without it ending in an awkward rejection. However at a
time like this he needed someone he could really sit down and talk to.
Vicki was not that person, outside of her work she would bolt at the first
sign of a meaningful conversation, not out of a lack of any intellectual
or emotional intelligence, but because she seemed genuinely
uncomfortable with them.
“Ouch… Are you on the Joan Collins bitch slapping course or
something?”
“Sorry mate.” He rested his head on the white glossed-wood and
sagged against the door. “Not much patience. I just feel so drained all
the time.”
“You wish! I think that’s what you need… A good draining.”
Craig gave in to her humour. “I haven’t even got the energy for
sex.”
Vicki briefly placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“Awww!” She gave him puppy dog eyes and spoke in a coquettish
Marilyn Monroe voice. “Not even for me…”
“Fuck off.” Craig laughed and realised she had turned his mood
around. “Cheers…” he conceded.
“So come on then. What’s making you look like you need your
mum taking care of you?” She leaned towards him and straightened his
collar. “You were looking a bit shagged-through-a-hedge-backwards
yesterday too.”
“You always bring things back to sex.”
She raised her eyes skyward in an angelic gesture. “It’s a gift,
what can I say? Nah, seriously. You don’t look too good.”
Craig rubbed his face. “I know. I just want to sleep all the time
though. It’s so bad. One consolation though is that I think I should be
able to take this sling off after today, my shoulder has loosened up.”
198
Harvest

“Well, try and sleep. It’s not like you have a full day. You might
be going down with something.” Vicki slid her fingers through his hair
and felt his forehead. “You don’t feel feverish.”
“I sleep alright, but I wake up feeling as if I have been down the
gym.”
“Is not having a full day worrying you? I recommend you to
everyone on the team, you know?”
“It’s not getting me down anymore than it normally does, and I
know you do. Cheers. I just keep having those bad dreams. They are
fucking my head up.”
“Jesus, Craig. You freaked me out enough with the drowned
geriatric. Look, we can leave it for today if you want.”
Craig stood away from the door and drew himself into a solid
stature. He couldn’t afford to turn down a job. Despite Vicki’s apathy
concerning his desire to get into journalism she had been good to him
and got him on board any story she could. “Nah, you can look after me.
Anyway you sounded pretty keen on getting here sharpish. I thought we
were meeting later to go down the pub to do something on underage
drinking. Even though it means you’re probably getting me barred from
my local…”
She flashed a smile at him. “No, that can wait. I got a call from
my contact in the local police. What is going on in your flats mate?”
His heart trembled, not knowing how to answer her. He was
revisited by his guilt at denying any knowledge of what had happened at
the Chamber’s flat, even though she knew he had been there and been
involved. Craig’s panic subsided when Vicki didn’t wait for an answer.
“It’s just the weirdest stuff seems to be happening here. You
know another couple of kids went missing last night?”
Craig shook his head and his skin chilled, the walls seemed to
draw sickeningly in around him. He imagined Vicki’s direction of
potential headlines: CHILD SMUGGLERS, CULT ABDUCTIONS,
and SERIAL KILLER SLAYINGS. None would come close to a
bearing on reality – whatever that reality was.
“Turns out a couple of people have done a bunk too. Not shown
199
Harvest

up for work for a few days, relatives unable to get hold of them.
Nothing confirmed yet but ‘am starting to wonder what’s going on. Got
a frantic call from my contact about five minutes ago on the way to pick
you up and told me to get here ASAP.”
Vicki walked backwards to the lift as she explained. “Floor four.
I said we would be there five minutes ago.” Craig caught up with her at
the lift. “He wouldn’t tell me what was going on. Just to get my butt
into gear and get here before CID arrive.”
The journey three floors down seemed slower with the
anticipation and mystery of what they would find. When the lift did
arrive Vicki prized her way through the opening doors in her eagerness
to escape the lift and to get to the story. She was like a kid at Christmas;
he could imagine the excitement of possibly being on top of a story
before anyone else. He followed on her quickening heals and readied
the camera. He knew they would need to be quick if CID were going to
be coming. He imagined a mother and father grieving, sobbing over a
child inexplicably missing from his or her bed. Craig was uneasy with
the prospect of Vicki blundering into the midst of it all with a front of
concern aimed at getting her to the story, to ingratiate herself with the
parents so they relied upon her as their link to the public mind, at the
best it would get her exclusives, or at the least some great information
or quotes to build a story around.
Vicki strode down the corridor and addressed the waiting police
officer as Stuart Balin. Craig eyed him, a sheen of clammy sweat shone
from the man’s pale drawn skin, its whiteness intensified the colour of
his carrot coloured hair. Vicki’s tone was brief and familiar before it
became distant as her attention was clearly hijacked by the open door to
the flat that he stood guard at.
Balin held his hat limply in his hand and studied it awkwardly.
“Vicki, there’s no one here you can talk to. I called you in when I got
the call to come here but this isn’t another disappearance, it’s a murder.
No grieving relatives for you to interview.” He plucked his shirt from
his body where the long dark wet patches were clinging to his sides.
“You got who did it?” Vicki bobbed her head from side to side
200
Harvest

peering beyond the doorway, as if she could see around corners if she
swayed enough.
“Yeah, but we called for back up when we got here and you just
missed her being taken away. We couldn’t let you talk to her anyway.”
“Her?” Vicki nudged Craig and nodded to the doorway.
Craig prepared his camera but wasn’t sure what she wanted him
to capture. She pulled him to her vantage point and pointed into the hall
at a bloody handprint smeared on the wall. Craig started shooting.
Balin swallowed uncomfortably as if he was holding back from
being ill, sickly mucous splayed from his mouth as he spoke. “It’s
fucked up. Wife just gutted her husband over breakfast. Groin to gullet.”
Craig’s breakfast made a sudden lurch to exit and he ran a few
steps from the flat and leant close to a wall before vomiting violently. A
chill slashed through him. He didn’t need to see the crime scene; he had
already seen it in a nightmare. Vicki snatched the camera from Craig
and everything blanched in and out of existence in a strobe of flickering
white light as Vicki framed him mid-hurl with a succession of shots. He
hacked up the last contents of his stomach. Doubled-over bracing
himself on his legs as he let the ache subside from his guts. He stared at
his second-hand food cooling and seeping into the carpet.
Balin retched and put a hand over his mouth for a while before
passing Vicki a page plucked from his notebook. “This is all we know,
names of the victim and the suspected murderer. Details of the crime in
graphic detail. I will call you and get you some more background when
we have talked to the neighbours.” He retched again.
“I guess this will have to do.”
The officer held his stomach with one hand and his mouth with
the other. “Don’t be too fucking grateful Vicki.”
“Thanks Stu. Sorry. You have given me all I need for a front
page. Call me when you get off duty and I will buy you a pint.”
Craig wiped cold strings of saliva from his mouth with the back
of his hand, too shocked and drained to snap at Vicki for what she had
done. Balin suddenly lost his battle with the horror of the crime scene
and seeing Craig vomit and threw up himself.
201
Harvest

Vicki turned the cameras focus in his direction as he was ill in a


projectile manner. “Sorry Stu. I don’t need pictures of a crime scene or
an interview if I have a picture of a copper seeing something so
gruesome he losies his breakfast” She made a play of staring at his puke
and pointed at it, “or is that lunch?” She laughed to herself and guided
Craig onto the stairs at the end of the corridor while Balin struggled to
be coherent and swear at her, only to end up heaving another load onto
the floor.
Craig found himself bundled onto the staircase as the lift arrived
with CID officers. A deep voice echoed after them. “Fuck, Balin! I just
stepped in that! Jeezus. Hope you didn’t do that in the crime scene
you…” the inevitable insult was censured as the fire door drifted closed.
Vicki eyed Craig sympathetically and wiped at his mouth with a
balled up tissue then shoved it in his hand and ruffled his hair. “You
need a stronger stomach.” Vicki passed the camera back. “I want the
pictures of you and Stu losing your breakfast by tonight – don’t worry,
the pics of you were just for giggles. You got a great shot of a bloody
hand print on the wall, and I got the shots of a ‘man of the force’ doing
a Linda Blair – that will have enough impact without resorting to the
money shot of a body.” She winked, basking in her own opportune
brilliance. “This is front page, baby!”
That meant his pictures would be front page too, but it is
difficult to find any satisfaction from that. Reality was something
distant and intangible that swirled around him, still reeling from his
nightmares being born into reality.

202
Harvest

Twenty Four
Danny puzzled at the images in his head, the things he could do with his
anger, how he could make Kevin pay for all the times he had annoyed
him, yet he struggled against them. He didn’t understand why he was
thinking like that. They hadn’t had a big falling out for a couple of
months and he couldn’t even remember what that war had been over.
The silly stuff they snapped and bickered over didn’t seem to warrant
the punishments Danny wrestled with in his head.
Kevin leapt from his bunk, and lunged at him with an onslaught
of slaps. Danny shielded himself easily, he wanted to laugh the attack
off as play fighting, but it took all his effort to bite his lip and hold back
the dark feeling inside him. Although such fighting was a game they
had played out many times in the past with each other it felt different
this time, the attack was fierce and Kevin’s face was full of hate while
his eyes were hard and glassy. Danny could see the same anger that he
struggled with burning in his brother’s eyes. The slaps turned into
thumps and Kevin grunted and hissed from behind his flailing arms like
a wild thing.
He battered through Danny’s blocking arms and his fists
pounded against Danny’s chest, one strike caught his face in a stinging
blow. Danny’s patience fell under the hit and his control of the
mysterious anger faltered. He struck back with a single swift precise jab
that caught Kevin hard and square in the stomach and sent him
coughing to the floor gagging for air. With Kevin no longer provoking
him Danny took some deep breaths and tried to bring his rage back
under control.
Kevin leapt from the floor quicker than Danny had expected and
punched down into Danny’s groin that was somehow still aroused from
his thoughts of Leah. He rolled from the bed with the crippling pain,
gagging and choking on air, winded from the blow. Kevin was
determined to keep fighting so Danny decided to ignore his discomfort
and put him down again. He charged at his brother headfirst, bulldozing
into his body and hooking him on a shoulder, body-slamming him
against the wardrobe doors before dropping to his haunches from the
203
Harvest

agony of his balls.


In a matter of seconds Kevin had recovered and scrambled over
Danny, raining down punches and flinging his knees into the fray in a
squirming writhing attack. Danny wrestled with the anger that didn’t
want to be channelled into brief fits, but wanted to be unleashed.
Kevin’s knee found Danny’s face and the cartilage of his nose crunched
loudly as gristle rubbed on bone. A flash of pain exploded across his
face making his vision go dark.
Danny lost control.
The rage gripped his mind and his anger and hate was all that he
could feel. In that moment the fact they were brothers, that they were
children was lost in the red rage that engorged every vein and demanded
for retaliation.
Danny bit hard into the soft skin of Kevin’s shoulder as if it
were an apple, a bite that didn’t stop until he felt the heat of blood on
his lips and its coppery taste on his tongue, he growled and screamed
through his mouthful and shook his head, ripping the flesh. Kevin’s
attack faltered and Danny’s arms were freed from shielding himself and
became weapons again. He snatched at the headphone cables that hung
around Kevin’s neck and yanked them tight around his throat. Kevin’s
smaller weaker fingers raked at the thin wire that dug itself a trench in
his tender neck, he rasped and choked and screamed a low growl
through a white froth of saliva as the cable restricted his air and stilled
the blood in his head, sending the skin of his face pink, then red before
turning an eye bulging purple.
Danny’s face twisted in pain as Kevin somehow struck him in
the face with something scavenged from the clutter of their floor.
Everything went black then red, and then a strobe between the two
colours before every move Danny made became disorientated and
uncoordinated. He grabbed at the object jutting from his face, sending
another white-hot shaft of pain lancing through his eye into his head,
seemingly reverberating off the back of his skull, ricocheting off of
nerves he never knew existed. Danny gagged and let go of the object,
nearly vomiting. The hand that he had used to reach for his face was
204
Harvest

slick with sticky crimson blood. He scrambled away from Kevin who
was now free of him and sat pulling the headphone cable from his
throat, gasping for air.
Danny leapt up woozily not wanting to let the shock settle in and
leave him feeble, knowing Kevin would return to the fight. The
adrenaline charged in his veins giving him a high that urged him to push
his body to the limits. Danny ran forward ignoring the blood that ran
and dripped from his face and patted to the carpet, and aimed a kick at
Kevin’s head, hoping to keep him down, but somehow his judgement
was off and his foot only clipped the front of his face, enough to send
him scuttling across the floor, but not enough to do any serious damage.
Again they locked in battle, pushing, struggling, kicking,
punching, head-butting, biting, and throwing, in a dervish that destroyed
their bedroom in their efforts to beat the other. Danny’s body rushed
with the burning heat of his violent blood, pumped by a furious heart; a
runaway engine beyond his control that refused to allow any pause in
the fight to become an end. He could see the same determination in his
brother’s face, could feel it in his attack, they were both pushing their
young scrawny bodies on, prepared to run their machines of flesh and
bone into broken shredded wrecks to meet their raging hearts demands.
Danny suddenly found himself fighting the air as Kevin had
been sent to the floor from a punch to the face. He turned for the door
from the bedroom; his sanity offered the option of fleeing the fight and
end it before it became any worse, but his crippling anger suggested
finding a weapon to finish the fight. Danny slammed into the door and
the doorframe, unable to judge distances since the blow to his head; he
groped his way into the hall. Kevin was suddenly on him again
delivering a rain of stabs from a compass salvaged from the carnage.
Each sting of the thick needle punched through his slim triceps into the
bone beneath with hollow digs. Danny punched Kevin with a rock of a
fist, sending him crashing up against the bathroom door. Instinctively
Danny improvised a weapon by snatching a round mirror with a metal
vine-work frame from the wall and swung it downward.
Danny saw his own reflection in the mirror as he delivered it as
205
Harvest

a weapon, his own face staring back like a mask he barely recognised
from the bloody mess left by a biro jammed firmly in his left eye.
Before the gut-churning vision could sink in with its devastating
consequences to his sight, Kevin’s face and head erupted through the
mirror in a glittering explosion of glass and blood as the shards raked
the soft flesh of his face, slicing open the muscle of his left cheek and
leaving thorny gashes on his forehead. Danny ran as Kevin screamed
and wailed in agony as he battled to get the jagged ring off his head,
flaying himself as he wrenched it free, seemingly unperturbed by the
pain.
Danny waited for Kevin in the lounge, his breathing wracked his
body while his heart danced between racing rage and throat wrenching
flutters of guilt with the knowledge that things had somehow gone very
wrong for them both, but he was unable to stand-down. He knew Kevin
would be scarred for life from the mirror, and he himself might never
see with his wounded eye, but it was too late, the damage had been done
and the fight wasn’t over. He thought of his parents, what they would
say, how they would feel, what would happen to him and his brother.
The consequences tugged at his insides like fishhooks in flesh but they
failed to quench the fire in his chest and the wrath that ached in his
head. He stood defensively, the blood burning in his limbs, brandishing
a large carving knife he had snatched from the kitchen. He stood
holding the vicious blade out before him, steadying it with both hands
against his adrenaline quakes, a determination deep inside him that
overrode the consequences, the injuries he had inflicted and received,
and his love for his brother and his want to give Kevin mercy, pushing
Danny to finish the fight.
A blur of motion surged through the air from round the corner in
a screaming voice that cracked into a childish battle-cry as Kevin
appeared faster than expected; racing at him. Danny’s hand and knife
was cracked aside in a bone-fracturing swat, and then his kneecaps were
shattered with a solid blow that felled Danny to the carpet in agony.
Kevin swung his cricket bat down and smashed the edge sharply into
Danny’s ribs, shattering three in one blow.
206
Harvest

Danny’s breath wrenched from his chest and hot liquid bubbled
in the back of his throat in a gurgling rasp. Strings of vibrant oxygen
rich red drained from his mouth blotting into the carpet as he knelt
double on the floor. With the last energy his ragged lungs could offer
Danny punched upward with his fist at Kevin and collapsed on his side,
broken and exhausted, his chest wheezing from his punctured lung. The
anger now gone as quickly as it had formed as if he had been switched
on and turned off like a rampaging toy robot, only the guilt and the fear
remained for within his paralysed and shattered body.
Kevin dropped his bat instantly and staggered briefly, his arms
flailed about his head from the blow that left his brain in shock and
panic, searching for the injury that had caused the surge of pain and now
the sudden numbness. His arms dropped from their writhing
involuntary spasm and he toppled backwards to the floor. Danny’s knife
impaled through the flesh of his jaw, splitting his tongue, the tip of the
blade protruding from his soft scalp.
It stared down coldly at Danny and Kevin, invisible, intangible,
emotionless, with its new understanding of the limits and tolerance of
flesh and bone. It would return later to witness the return of the parents
and monitor the strength of the mind.

Virtue Kafar stood in her kitchen with the phone wedged between her
shoulder and her ear so she could continue preparing her son’s lunch,
while Billy himself screamed his constant cry over the top of her
conversation with her boss. “No Ken, everyone asks but really, you
have already done enough. Unless you know where the volume controls
are on babies, I am okay.”
“No, but Sinatra used to work wonders on my boys.” She could
picture Ken in his immaculate tailored suit with his well-groomed shock
of white hair, as if he was standing before her at work. She could tell by
his voice that he was grinning.
“I do have a speaker phone, but I’m not sure the partners would
appreciate you crooning in the middle of a conference call.”
“Possibly not.” His smooth voice melted within a warm laugh.
207
Harvest

“Ken, you have been really supportive of me since Will, and


now Billy… I just want you to know that I will still be dedicated to my
job when I return. And I will be returning. When my maternity leave is
over my mum is going to look after Billy.” Ken had always been
supportive of her and Will. Despite the age there was still some discrete
bigotry in the private insurance firm they all worked within. Although
Will might have been as British as fish and chips, he was black, and his
knowledge and efficiency wasn’t being recognised until Ken had him
transferred to his team and worked on a pathway of promotion for him.
They had been firm work colleagues and their relationship had become
social too through their love of football.
“Vi – you don’t need to be worrying about things like that. You
take your time to come to terms with Will being gone. I have to add that
you are perfectly entitled to maternity leave, so you don’t owe anyone
anything.”
“But after Will – I know you kept the partners off my back.” She
had been off for three months after Will had died.
“You’re a young woman starting a family and you have had the
rug yanked from beneath you. Work is not for you to worry about, that’s
my role as your manager. You just come back when you are ready –
your position will be here for you.”
“Thanks Ken.” Ken’s wife had suffered with breast cancer ten
years previously and it had nearly killed her, Ken was the only person
she knew that had come close to experiencing what she was going
through.
“Marjory sends her love and she is looking forward to seeing
Billy again soon.”
“When Billy has stopped screaming I will call her and sort it
out.”
“We have had three boys remember?”
“I’m sure they didn’t scream like this.” To emphasise the point,
the pitch of Billy’s cry reached a level that scored through her head.
“Thanks for calling, but I better go and feed him.”
“Okay then Virtue. Take care.”
208
Harvest

She said goodbye and hung up. The conversation had made her
feel alive, it had been the first time she had spoken to an adult that day,
before that she had only made baby talk; she was sure she would get
stuck in baby talk mode one day if she didn’t get more adult company.
She raked her fingers through a bang of black hair that had fallen over
her eye, and tucked it behind her ear. The tiredness was returning,
drawing on her limbs like weights. Billy’s crying through the night had
kept her awake. Even when she did give into the aching lethargy she
languished within nightmares. Nightmares about things happening to
people that lived in the building. People she barely saw since things
started happening at The Heights. She supposed it was a reaction to
losing Will, imagining the people around her, the people ‘closest’ to her
dying. She busied herself against the tiredness that now crept into her
eyes. The fresh vegetables she had steamed were reduced to a brightly
coloured sludge from the hand mixer. She scraped it into Billy’s bold
red bowl while his screams dragged through her psyche like fingernails
on a black board.
“Hush Billy!”
He did. Only to inhale for a fresh wail. Virtue gripped the bowl
tightly in both hands, only relaxing her fingers when his scream died
down into a sob. Days of crying: he woke up crying and he cried
himself into an exhausted sleep. Even his sleep was fitful and his pattern
was broken. Which meant her pattern was broken also.
She had felt foolish to take her baby to the nurse at the surgery;
she didn’t want to be seen as an incompetent or fussy mother that went
for help every time her baby cried, but over a few days his whingeing
had become desperate screams and he seemed weak and tired a lot more
than usual. After her visit she was embarrassed for another reason: the
nurse had questioned whether she was feeding Billy enough as he
seemed malnourished, and his tummy tight and bloated.
Billy was a gift from her Will – she wouldn’t neglect him. Will
was ravaged by cancer that had been discovered too late, yet at some
point in that desperate time they had conceived. Billy had been the hope
that got her through the grief. Will hadn’t lived to see their son, he had
209
Harvest

died three months before the birth, but during those three months she
waited to get a part of Will back. She gave Billy all her love and the
love that Will would have given their boy had he been there. Billy was
precious to her. She laboured over nutritious home made food for Billy
and interacted with him as much as she could to engage his mind. The
suggestion of neglect had disturbed her, she had seen Craig in passing,
and the policewoman that lived in the building had been with him.
Seeing her and what she represented had summoned a miring guilt that
kept reoccurring. The idea that she could be accused of neglecting her
child sickened her.
She sat before Billy and the sight of food seemed to placate him,
he gurgled eagerly from under the tears and snot of his screams and
reached clasping fingers out. Virtue gave him time to calm down so that
he wouldn’t choke on the food, before scooping a mouthful of food onto
the chunky spoon that matched his bowl. “This is what you want isn’t
it?” she cooed. “Nice vegetables to make you strong and fit like your
daddy.” Fitter than his dad. Healthier. She wouldn’t – couldn’t lose
Billy too.
From beyond the window It watched Virtue lift the spoon from
the bowl.
Virtue leaned forward in her chair and prepared for the
mechanical routine of feeding him.
It made her think she leaned forward and planted the spoon in
Billy’s mouth. Made her think that Billy took the food and moved it
around his gums and then swallowed, leaving a ring of food around his
dribble slick lips.
Virtue scooped the spoon into the food.
She served the mouthful into Billy’s mouth.
She dragged the spoon round the slop in the bowl.
The mouthful she scooped into his mouth was rewarded with a
giggling coo.
She dragged the spoon against the edge of the bowl and wiped
away the food that clung to the underneath.
Billy sucked the food from the spoon.
210
Harvest

Billy screamed his lungs into his throat in rasping despair at his
mother who sat before him, unaware that a single mouthful had yet to
reach him. He snatched for the spoon even though he did not know how
the bright object took away the agonizing hunger from his belly.
“Hey, hey – don’t snatch honey,” Virtue instructed in a sunny
voice as she moved the spoon beyond his reach and beamed back at him
from behind a wagging finger.
Billy made a dive for the bowl that was still full of food, only for
Virtue to take it from the tray onto her lap. “You’re eager! You have
your dad’s appetite.” She scraped the spoon round the edge of the dish.
She collected the last of the food and spooned it into his mouth
and when he smacked it around his mouth and swallowed she wiped his
lips and cheeks.
She got up and emptied all the food into the bin and popped the
dish and spoon into the washing up bowl, satisfied that he had eaten his
fill as he always did. What did Doctor’s know?
It allowed her to hear the screams of her starving son. It
reached into the baby and experienced its pain and the weakness of its
life force, It realised the dangers of not having this need met. It
understood and empathised with the call of flesh for sustenance.

MURDER AT THE HEIGHTS – Vicki wasn’t sure. The headline


mentioned the tower, and people would be following those stories but
Vicki rejected it; it might be mistaken with old news and it didn’t really
do justice to the shocking nature of the crime. GUTTED AT
BREAKFAST. She liked it, but it would be better to emphasise the
killers and victim’s relationship. WIFE EVISCERATES HUSBAND.
‘Eviscerates’? She wondered what percentage of the Camden Gazette’s
readership would know what ‘eviscerated’ meant. WIFE
SLAUGHTERS HUSBAND. No. WIFE GUTS HUSBAND. Yes.
WIFE GUTS HUSBAND. In the latest occurrence at The Heights, Mary
Korben gutted her husband at the breakfast table… Yes, she wouldn’t
have much say in the headline, but she could make her suggestions. She
couldn’t wait to get into the office and get the details down. This was
211
Harvest

going to be a national story and another front-page story for her at the
Camden Gazette. This building was excellent for her portfolio.
They arrived at Craig’s flat and he shrugged off her support and
steadied himself against the wall.
“No need to get all macho. You wouldn’t be the first to lose your
lunch at a crime scene.”
Craig closed his eyes and held up a cautioning hand. “Could you
say something that doesn’t involve you mentioning. Ugh… You know
what.”
“Vomit exclusion noted. I just meant to say don’t sweat it you’re
still my man, and we got a story out of it.”
“You coming in?” He pitched his thumb towards his door.
“No way, haven’t got time to stop and have a laugh. You need to
get those pics done and I need to write my story.” She grabbed handfuls
of his shirtfront and gave him a little shake in a gesture of excitement. “I
can’t believe this. A murder! Front page here I come.” Craig propped
himself up against his door and he was suddenly framing her in the lens
of his camera. She quickly looked away and her face went hot. “What
are you doing?”
“Face me. Face me.” He cajoled.
“No.” She stood firm, her arms crossed, her stare fixed away
from him. There was nowhere to hide from him in the corridor, no
activity to distract herself in. “I need these pictures today. I am not
going to wait around for you to treat them and edit them. I am going to
shoot off now so I can write this piece, and you can email them to me at
the office.” She faced him, saw the camera was still trained on her and
looked away again.
“Face me and you get the pics.”
“Stop dicking around you fuckwit.” Her voice sounded angrier
than she had intended. Guiltily she faced him. Her eyes evasive at first,
trying not to look at him, she relaxed her stance a little and managed to
keep her eyes on him for a while.
“That’s it.”
She shrugged. “What?”
212
Harvest

Still staring at her through the view-finder he told her. “You.


You have a filter between you and the outside world that turns things
into stories. Truncated column inches. First line tags. Sound bites.
Headlines. I sometimes wonder whether things actually get through, or
whether there’s anything beyond that for things to get through to.”
“That’s a bit personal. Aren’t you the same? Framing things.
Composing pictures in what’s going on around you?” She was hurt, but
he was painfully astute. “I thought we were friends?”
“We are. You know we are. Friends tell each other these things.
They can say things like that to each other. I only have my filter when I
have my camera set up for a shot. Do you ever lower your filter?” He
waited for an answer but gave up. “Doesn’t matter. My lens can see
through it. I think this is the first time I have really seen you.”
She shifted on her feet. “What do I look like?”
“You look raw, vulnerable. Natural. It would be nice to see that
more often.”
She couldn’t remember ever being vulnerable. She never really
let anyone in; she didn’t allow herself to get close to people just in case.
“You know you’re beautiful, don’t you?”
She was instantly flummoxed by Craig’s question and then
startled by the intense flicker of the camera flash as he preserved her
expression.
He studied the image in the small LCD screen. “Got it. The
perfect picture of you.”
“I’m going to hate it.” She didn’t want to see it. She hated
pictures of herself. She never kept still long enough to think about
herself and what she was doing. A photo always forced her to examine
herself.
“No you won’t. You will love it.”
She gave in and held her hands up in surrender but still didn’t
look at the illuminated screen. “You really need to get some sleep. But
not on my money. Get me those pictures, Craig and you can watch me
all you want with your magic lens.”
“I am tired.” He agreed.
213
Harvest

“Don’t sleep now, Craig, pictures. Pictures!” She patted both his
cheeks and began to walk away as he keyed open his door. She stopped
and turned back to him. “What you said.” He popped his head back out
from inside the flat. “About being beautiful.” He stepped back out into
the corridor and she walked backwards so she could still talk, it would
have been easier to say what she wanted to say with him half-in his flat.
“Thanks. No-one has ever told me that without a motive. It was – nice.
You’re a good kid.” She smiled, and turned her back to him and
continued walking away. Her smile felt like a different smile. She
hadn’t smiled that way since she was fourteen and been going out with
Gavin Parker, her first crush.
Vicki heard Craig shout “KID!” objectionably after her as she
popped her ear phones into her ears. She half-skipped to a dance-tune
from her MP3 player as she headed to the fire door for the stairs. She
had liked to think she understood men, what they wanted, what they
wanted from her when they looked at her the way Craig did.
At university she had noticed that guys seemed happiest when
they were with other guys, and what they really wanted was a best
friend they could shag and love. She had watched blokes change around
women, adapt to what they thought women wanted and Vicki had never
wanted that, she wanted a man to be genuine with her. At university she
had learnt to drink like a man, chow down a kebab in the early hours of
the morning, occasionally shag without feeling. Although she didn’t
have sex like that anymore. After the first couple of times she had learnt
it didn’t lead to anything. She wanted a boyfriend. Instead she had
mastered making guys she liked content with the possibility that sex
could happen some time. Yet Craig’s eyes wanted something different
from her.
She was sure there was mutual attraction between them. She had
often thought that it was their sibling-like chemistry and also her idea
that he was somehow a kid because he was two years younger, that had
stopped anything from happening, but something in Craig’s eyes when
they had bantered with each other back at the door made her realise that
he was the one that was holding back, waiting. She could see what he
214
Harvest

wanted from her and it frightened her. He wanted her to be genuine with
him, he wanted the real Vicki. Only she wasn’t sure how to be that
person.
She could kick herself; she hadn’t wanted guys to change who
they were for her, but she had gone and changed for them and lost touch
with herself in the process. The Gavin Parker smile she had just
experienced was the real her, he had made her stomach flutter, her heart
soar. That was love before she got her heart broken a couple of times,
before sex would change love into something else, something less
simple and innocent. Craig had helped her find it again.
She laughed at herself. All this time she had treated Craig as a
kid brother, the sad naïve softy, when she had yet to grow up since
university herself. She had been right, blokes loved the way she was,
her mix of easy company and unpredictable wildness, but although she
had a phone with numbers of guys she could go for a drink and have a
laugh with she was still single. Maybe it was Craig’s innocence that
drew her to him. She swung the fire door open and stepped onto the
landing of the stairwell, letting the techno beat in her head carry her
blindly forward in the routine of leaving the building. She wondered
how long Craig would wait for her to let her defences down, even
though she didn’t understand herself enough to know if that was what
she wanted.
She heard the squeal over the electronic tunes in her ears and she
stopped dead as she found she wasn’t alone in the stairwell. A ragged
stain of a man stood on the landing, a contrast to the stark white and
grey of the stairs with his drab clothes smothered in stains of varying
shades of evil. His face a mask of grease and drool beyond what was
probably a living beard. He stood motionless, startled by her intrusion.
Vicki froze in disgust, not at the foulness of his being, but
because of the cat that he held in his hands by its tail. It was limp and
motionless and there was a brownish red impact smudge on the wall.
She gagged and stepped backwards into a cloud of buzzing fat black
flies and clutching hands. She turned sharply, breaking away from their
grip.
215
Harvest

The dark figure stood tall before her, black crepe hanging over
the brim of its top hat, a veil of flies darted in energetic flight around a
craggy face of fat and flesh, dried, cooked and raw, fused and knitted to
a skeletal face that squirmed with pockets of bloated maggots. Before
she could let loose a scream at the grotesque that confronted her, the
creature grabbed her arms with sinewy fingers and rammed her
backwards.
Vicki yelped with the force and braced herself to be winded
against the wall, but instead she was cushioned by a softness that
moulded to the shape of her body and pressed against her bare neck
with a cold wet touch. The boggy surface, where the wall should have
been, matted her hair and crawled across her scalp. The ‘thing’ that
scarred her sight pushed against her, its face emotionless.
She kicked her feet furiously at the ground in an attempt to keep
her balance and resist the direction she was being forced in. She
clenched her eyes against the face that made her want to fold and wretch
and managed a scream as the cool viscous sensation crept over her ears
onto her cheeks. The substance took hold of her in an unrelenting grip
and the creature leaned against her, forcing her further into the seeming
depths that consumed her.
The sides of her head became lost in the thickness that engulfed
her. The refined crispness of her MP3 played a thrashing Techno beat
through her head. Vicki pursed her eyes and mouth shut tight as the
lumpy cold concrete oozed over her cheeks and forehead and it
smothered her completely. It set solid, fixing her limbs and body in
place and pressing snug to her face in a tight gritty mask that bit at her
soft flesh with the smallest flex or twitch of her muscles. The heavy
oppression of her black surroundings pressed against her psyche with a
crushing claustrophobia.
Devoid of the choice between fight or flight Vicki’s terror and
panic ached in every muscle and tendon that strained in futile resistance
at her incarceration. Rage and frustration erupted from her constricted
chest in a scream forced into a muted groan through the gritted teeth of
her clamped jaw. She exercised the only movement available to her and
216
Harvest

wrenched her eyes open. The grit scratched her lids and the displaced
dust burnt like white-hot needles against the exposed surface of her
eyes. Dust irritated the sensitive lining of her nose and lungs and
crunched between her teeth and gritted her tongue, soaking up her
saliva. Her music was joined by the only other sounds; the rush of her
own blood and the beats of her frantic heart.
The undertaker stood sentinel, its head cocked as it inspected its
work.
It watched through the undertakers eyes. What had been a
perfect white wall was now an area of grey cement marbled with white
paint where the female had been. It had left a small hole, no more than
a centimetre to filter air to her nose, curious at how long her mature
body could last without sustenance, how long her mind could withstand
her ordeal.

217
Harvest

Twenty Five
Craig awoke with a start, flailing from the sofa as if he had physically
fought himself free from sleep. He stood wearily in the middle of his
lounge, his heart pounding and adrenaline surging redundantly and
uncomfortably. He rubbed at his eyes; they ached with the effort of
defining his surroundings.
He felt shaken.
In his nightmare there had been an attack; someone was being
pushed; smothered. It had all been so vague, just sensations, yet
somehow he had been in the thick of the struggle with… With what? In
the waking world his nightmares, that had been so vivid, had degraded
into shadows and uncertain images and sounds.
He needed a cuppa to wake him up. He stumbled through to the
kitchen and flicked the kettle on. He leaned against the kitchen
cupboards, aware of his groin aching distractingly against the tight
crotch of his jeans. That part of himself always woke up before the rest
of him. He ignored it, the play would be joyless anyway with the shame
that somewhere someone else might have suffered through his
nightmares.
The nightmare victim’s fear and terror still lingered, quivering in
his chest. He was sure in previous dreams he had even experienced the
savageness of their pain – as if he had been there; been the victim. His
thoughts stalled with a sudden acuity he had not reached before.
He had not just been the victim.
The ache in his jeans subsided.
He was reluctant to confess it even in thought, but in his
nightmares he had felt a fascination, a curiosity and a pleasure from
knowledge acquired through the application of terror, pain, amputation,
murder and dissection. The feeling of curiosity summoned a memory
from childhood. When he was young he had dismantled his first camera,
his mum had been furious that he had ruined it and in his defence he had
explained that he had done it because he wanted to see how it worked.
Back then his curiosity had overcome his consideration of the outcome
for something he cherished. Was that disregarding curiosity still within
218
Harvest

him?
Had his disregard increased? No. He wasn’t capable of any of
the things he had dreamt. He felt sick. Just bad dreams. That’s all it was.
Except that he had long subscribed to the idea that dreams were the
window into the subconscious; the suppressed or unprocessed urges and
tastes. No, if he had a fascination with biology and psychology it would
have manifested itself in his waking life. He would be hooked on
medical procedure programmes, be getting books from the library, not
resorting to extreme violence and messing with people’s heads.
Making himself a tea he remembered Vicki and the pictures she
needed, he checked his watch for the time and found he had been asleep
for two hours. She would be livid. Careful not to spill his tea he headed
into his bedroom set his tea down and popped his camera’s memory
card into the port on his PC. He was grateful for the mundane routine of
work, it anchored him in sanity. The sickening guilt yawned in his gut at
the thought of Vicki, it seemed out of proportion, he had only been
delayed a couple of hours. She would be pissed at him for making her
wait but she would still be pouring her story into her keyboard about
now, obsessing about every sentence and word.
He opened his photo software and the file from his camera on
his own computer. He jumped as his mobile rang out. He answered it
while he flicked through the files. He frowned. “Is that you, Kelly? Why
are you whispering?”
“Rachel called in on me. I’m calling you from my room so she
can’t hear me.”
“Okay… I think.” The first picture he opened was of him
doubled over with motion blurred vomit caught mid-descent. Attractive,
he commented to himself before dragging it to the Recycle Bin and
dumping it. Vicki wasn’t going to have that one.
“Rachel has an acquaintance that lives at The Heights, but for
some reason she is in a coma at hospital and Rachel is concerned about
someone who is hanging around watching over her friend. She wants
me to encourage him to move on.”
“And you’re okay with that?” Several of the images were of PC
219
Harvest

Balin in a similar pose to the one Craig had been in. With several clicks
and drags of the mouse he prepared several versions of the better
pictures by composing them, re-cropping them and increasing their
brightness.
“Not really, I said I wouldn’t abuse my power as a police officer,
such as it is, but Rachel is really worried for her friend. Only there have
been some happenings at the hospital which she thinks are connected to
whatever is going on here.”
“Happenings?”
“Rachel will fill you in.”
“She will? When?” Suddenly concerned she might be on her
way up to him. He didn’t fancy her company unless Kelly was going to
be with her.
“In about ten minutes when you meet us downstairs. Please
come with us. I know I have seen things now, but you know I am
having a hard time getting my head around all of this. I am scared that if
I go with her on my own she will have me believing that Elvis is alive
and kicking or believing in leprechauns or something.”
“In the lobby in ten minutes?” He confirmed checking his watch
for no reason except habit.
“If you are not busy. Did I wake you?”
“No, I am just finishing up some work.”
“You sound tired. You didn’t have too much wine last night did
you?”
He smiled. “No. No. The wine and last night was nice, thanks.
Just bad dreams.” The smile faded and he rubbed his face. “I will come
with you. It gets me out of this place. I need to clear my head.”
Kelly’s tone became conspiratorial. “Did you hear about the
murder? It’s awful. I didn’t know them but I had seen them around. She
always seemed so normal.”
Craig decided not to mention he had been to their floor to get
pictures. “I didn’t know them either.” Yet he could see glimpses of the
butchery. He didn’t know if it was imagination or memory of a
nightmare, or something he had seen firsthand. No, that was ridiculous.
220
Harvest

The officer at the door, Craig’s vomit partner, had described the scene
and the crime. Craig’s imagination had done the rest. He opened the
photographs of the bloody handprint that Vicki had taken. With a quick
bit of editing they were ready. He attached them to an email with a brief
note, decided on a kiss after his name, deleted it then punched it back in
again and sent it. That would be Vicki happy.
“Ok then, I better go and freshen up and meet you in the lobby.”
“Thanks, Craig.”
“See you in a minute.” Craig put the phone down. Sprayed some
deodorant, changed his shirt for a tee-shirt, brushed his teeth, fiddled
with his hair, ignored how haggard he looked in the mirror and was
ready to go. He suddenly remembered the picture he had taken of Vicki
in the hallway and rushed back to his PC to check it.
He couldn’t help but grin, Vicki’s discomfort was almost
tangible, but she looked perfect. She looked so natural. Shame she
didn’t share that side of her too often. He could love her like that, but
that wasn’t going to happen. He suppressed a wave of disappointment.
Not meant to be. He moved to close the image window when he saw
something in the background. In the small window of the fire escape
door at the end of the corridor there was a shadowy figure. He
magnified the area but there was no detail, just a silhouette of shoulders
and a head – the head was elongated. The hairs on the nape of his neck
tingled. It was like the figure was wearing a top hat. The undertaker.
His phone rang. He saw it was Kelly, checked his watch and
cursed. He closed the image and headed for the front door. “Sorry,
Kelly I am on my way. See you in minute.”
Craig hurried down the corridor to the lift and stabbed the call
button several times. He could hear the lift stop above him then the
machinery kick in again for it to come down to him. It was followed by
some hollow sounding thuds echoing from the shaft as if there was a
scuffle in the lift. There was a shout and a piercing shriek that so
startled him he leapt back. The cry started above him then rapidly
trailed away into a dull crash far below his feet.
The lift door opened and a young boy of about ten or eleven
221
Harvest

scrambled out, his face white and his eyes rheumy and wet. Craig
dropped to his haunches and helped him clear of the doors that were
trying to close on his legs. He recognised the boy but couldn’t think
where from.
The boy looked up into Craig’s face, his eyes cold and hard. “It
– it came for me. I saw it. I saw it.”

After Craig had quietened the hysterical boy down he had found out that
his name was Jason and he took him back to his flat and settled him
down on the sofa. He called Kelly, who had also heard the cry from the
lift shaft and had called for the police and an ambulance. Kelly and
Rachel arrived at his flat with a paramedic and a police officer. The
paramedic checked Jason over and told them the obvious, that he was in
shock and should rest, and the police officer had taken his statement.
“I was in the lift, David and Mikey made me ride it while they
were on top. I didn’t see what happened because I was inside the lift,
but I heard them shouting at each other, arguing over something then it
sounded like it had turned into a fight and that’s when I heard one of
them fall.”
They had opened the lift doors in the basement and found
Michael Kent’s twisted body at the bottom of the shaft. David Renshaw
was missing. The police officer’s conclusion was that David hadn’t
hung around to get in trouble. Craig stood by the doorway of his lounge
and watched the police officer say a few discrete words to Kelly while
Rachel pulled Jason to her side on the sofa. Craig then showed the
police officer out and rejoined the others.
Kelly crouched down to Jason’s height. “The officer says they
have chatted with the headmaster of your primary school and he has
vouched for your character, said how sensible you are and that you have
never been in trouble before. Whereas the other two had a record of
detentions the length of my arm, mainly for backchat, bunking and
bullying, and had received a few cautions from us for the odd bit of
truancy and anti-social behaviour.” She rubbed his knee. “They believe
you, and you aren’t in any trouble.”
222
Harvest

“No news on the missing lad, dear?” Rachel asked.


Kelly shook her head and Rachel tutted.
“They aren’t going to find him either are they Jason?”
Kelly and Rachel turned to Craig but Jason stared into nothing
and answered flatly. “No.”
Kelly and Rachel looked puzzled, their attention drifting back to
Jason.
“Jason, you gave that police officer a statement that would be
easiest for him to accept, didn’t you?”
This time Jason looked up. “I couldn’t tell him what happened. I
couldn’t, he wouldn’t have believed me.”
Craig sat on the sofa across from him and Kelly got up from her
uncomfortable looking crouch and joined him. “You said ‘it took them’.
Tell us about ‘it’, tell us what happened.”
Jason pulled away from Rachel and sat up, looked at each of
them in turn and took a deep breath. “It was like I said. They made me
use the lift while they were on top, and I was too scared to fight back,
but there was no argument. There is something going on here.” He
stared into Rachel and his tone became agitated, desperate. “You know
there is too. Something took Emily and Amy. It has taken others as well.
It’s behind other disappearances, maybe the few deaths that have
happened too.”
Rachel rubbed Jason’s shoulder. “It’s okay. We know. We
believe you.”
“It has been after me too.”
“You have seen it?” Kelly asked urgently.
“Not at first. Electrical equipment would play up, or I would see
flashes of green light. I know that means it’s near, that it’s coming.
That’s why I was in the lift. I didn’t want to stay in one place; I thought
that if I kept moving it wouldn’t find me. When I was in the lift the
lights flickered and there was this noise, like whistling but it got louder
like singing or screaming. The lights went out but the lift filled with
green light, like someone had opened up the back of the lift and there
was a green sun back there, it was so bright. There was something in the
223
Harvest

light, it was horrible, it’s body and face didn’t have any skin, just bone
and muscles. It flew at me with long skinny arms and fingers. It was all
ready to grab me. But I had pressed the button for the next floor and the
lift went down. The roof passed through it. It went through the roof like
some kind of ghost! It couldn’t get me, so instead of grabbing me it
must have grabbed David. The green light went and the lights came
back on. It took him instead of me.” His eyes were wet and his lip
quivered but he didn’t cry. He was one tough kid, Craig decided.
“And Mikey?” Kelly prompted.
“I don’t know. I heard his scream go past me. He must have
gotten scared and taken a wrong step, or it knocked him off so it could
get to David.”
“You poor boy.” Rachel sidled up to him again and stretched her
arm around him.
“You believe me?”
“Of course we do.” Rachel answered. Craig saw Kelly nod so he
threw Jason a wink of reassurance.
Kelly leaned forward, her hands folded on her knees, her tone
soft but even. “The authorities are having trouble getting hold of your
mum.”
“She’s in hospital, like I said, visiting my granddad. Whittington
hospital.”
Kelly nodded. “So, I said I would take responsibility for getting
you to her. I think after what you have been through that’s the best place
for you. We were all going to the Royal Free hospital together, so we
can take a detour and go to the Whittington. One more passenger won’t
hurt. You okay with that?”
“Yeah, great.” Jason was already on his feet. “Anything to get
me out of this building. I never want to come back here.”

224
Harvest

Twenty Six
Jason allowed himself to be shepherded through the corridors of the
hospital by Kelly Rachel and Craig, following the directions that Kelly
had been given in the reception area. Being in the middle of the adults
and in the large busy corridors he felt small. He felt even smaller as they
got closer to the private room that his granddad had been moved to. The
fear and worry he had lived with at The Heights had distracted him from
other worries, ones about his granddad dying and how when he did die
he would join his dad, Emily and Amy as another person Jason had lost.
He would only have his mum left. Suddenly he realised that it wasn’t he
that seemed smaller, but the world and the people in it. If he lost his
mum he would have nothing left.
His mum could not go home. He had to make sure that they
didn’t go back to The Heights even if it meant telling her the truth, or at
least something like it. Craig’s hand, that had been clamped to Jason’s
shoulder since they had arrived in the hospital, steered him into a
quieter narrow corridor. The grip was strong but gentle, and Jason felt
some of that transfer into him. He was glad to be with this group of
adults, Rachel accepted his story and was quick to comfort him, Craig
spoke to him like an adult and seemed protective over him; how he day-
dreamed a big brother would be, and Kelly had authority that was
respected by others and shielded him. With these three he felt protected,
and most importantly he trusted them and they believed him.
Kelly, who had taken the lead, held up her hand and they all
stopped. “Your granddad’s room is up ahead, I am going to go and talk
to your mum first, tell her about the incident you were involved in.”
Jason nodded and Kelly walked further down the corridor and
hesitated at a doorway and knocked on the door jamb, his mum
appeared and met Kelly without looking his way. Both Kelly and his
mum spoke quietly, and although he couldn’t hear what was being said,
he saw his mum raise a hand to her mouth the way he had seen
countless people do on TV when they had received bad news, she
closed the door to granddad’s room so that he couldn’t hear. Kelly put
her hands on his mum’s shoulders and he knew she was telling her that
225
Harvest

Jason was okay and he wasn’t in any trouble. Kelly beckoned for him to
join them and he could see the relief on his mum’s face. Craig’s hand
fell away and Jason found himself rushing to his mum. She crouched to
his height and wrapped her arms around him. He fitted in his mum’s
arms perfectly and it was so much more comforting than the hugs
Rachel had given him. The embrace was tight, strong and long. Hugs
had become like this since dad had left.
“I am so sorry I left you, Jay.” The hug tightened. “I didn’t want
you to be here. Sorry I left you.”
“It’s okay.” He could hear her breath catching in her throat and
he knew she was going to cry. He spoke more firmly. “It’s okay, mum.”
“Your granddad isn’t going to be with us long.”
“I know.” He admitted after a little while.
She pulled away but stayed on her knees at his height and wiped
at her red eyes. “I don’t want you to see him the way he is now. He
wouldn’t want you to see him that way. He would want you to
remember him the way he was.”
Granddad had been a military man when he was younger, and he
had remained tall and broad and strong. As fun and loving as granddad
could be he didn’t do emotions, he had always relied upon nanny to do
that for him. When Jason had stayed with his grandparents he had
always gone to his nan for comforting any grazes, frustrations or
sadness. It was always her that made a fuss of him and gave him sweets,
treats and pocket money, maybe that was why granddad held back –
didn’t want to spoil him. Granddad did answers to questions, rough and
tumble games, learning to ride bikes and swim, and disapproval.
No. Granddad would not want to be seen vulnerable and
frightened. Frightened? The only time he had seen granddad sad and
scared was when nan had died, it had frightened Jason to see him that
way, but he had reassured Jason that as strong as men were there were
times they all needed to cry like children. “I don’t want to go home.”
“Oh, you have had a terrible day, honey. I’m so sorry. I don’t
know what to do.” She struggled back onto her feet and pulled him to

226
Harvest

her side. “Thank you so much for bringing him to me Kelly. It was
really nice of you…”
“It was nothing really.”
Rachel stepped forward. “Have you got any family or friends
that perhaps Jason could stay with for a few days? Give you one less
thing to trouble you.”
Jason knew there was only Claire and they hadn’t heard from
her since Amy.
His mum shrugged. “There isn’t really anyone. He will have to
stay here.”
“I wonder if Kelly and myself can help out. I realise you don’t
know me, but I would be more than willing to have him over at mine for
the night, or even a few days if it helps.”
Jason knew he would be safe at Rachel’s, but his mum looked
surprised and uncomfortable and she made shapes with her mouth but
couldn’t find the words, he leapt in before she could say no. “Mum,
really it would be okay, Rachel’s local and she’s really nice, and a
friend of Kelly’s, and she’s a policeman.” Jason yelped and clutched his
ear that was suddenly sore and realised Kelly had flicked it.
“I am not a police man: just because you have a truncheon it
doesn’t mean you are a man. I know several men that would benefit
from that advice.” The last part she said directly to his mum.
She laughed at this and seemed to relax. “I can second that.”
“Seriously though, I’m spending the day and possibly the
evening with Rachel and I drive, so I am more than happy to fetch him
back and forth for you. He has said a few times that he didn’t want to go
back home, I think what happened on top of everything else that’s been
happening at The Heights really shook him up.”
He watched his mum stare down at him, and she rubbed her
forehead and chewed her lip. “It’s very kind of you, but I don’t
know…”
“Mum! Please! I don’t want to go home. I want to stay at
Rachel’s.”
“I don’t know you…”
227
Harvest

Rachel’s mouth briefly turned down at the corners. “It’s because


I’m a kook…”
His mum looked surprised and lost for words for a few
moments. “I don’t know what Jason has told you about what I said, but I
never said those exact words.”
“It’s okay you were only concerned for your friend. You might
not agree with my methods, but my motives are that I care and I want to
help and I can do both in this situation. And I can do it without any
spirits by just rustling up some tea for your boy and getting some use
out of my spare room.”
She held her hands up in surrender. “You got me. You all make
perfect sense, and Jason seems more than happy with the idea. If he’s
happy then I am happy. Are you sure it’s okay with you Rachel?”
With a fizz of excitement in him he wrapped himself around his
mum again and thanked her.
Rachel rummaged in her bag. “I have a mobile, but I have to
confess my knowledge ends at the power button. I’m sure Jason will
work it out though, so if you need to contact me…” She leafed through
her address book. “I believe this is the number. I’m sure they make all
this technology to make me feel more senile.”
“I have my own phone.” Rachel looked surprised at Jason.
“Mum can call me on that.”
Jason listened as Rachel, Kelly and Craig said goodbye to his
mum and offered awkward sympathies. “I will catch you up at the lift.”
The three nodded at Jason and headed for the lift.
His mum smiled down at him. “You need to run along, honey. I
need to get back into granddad.”
“I know.” He was safe, but he had to make sure she was safe
too. “Mum, there was another murder at The Heights today. I don’t
want us to live there anymore.”
She sighed heavily. “It’s our home… Claire and Brian are
there…”
“I know that, but the building has changed, Claire and Brian
have changed. Dad’s gone so our home is different too. Nothing is the
228
Harvest

same.”
His mum looked into space and after some time she looked back
at him. “I know.”
That had been easier than he had thought. “Do you like
granddad’s home?”
“Of course I do, it was my home, remember?”
“Let’s move in there then.” He said brightly and shrugged to
show how obvious the answer was.
“Okay.” She said slowly. She thought about it and answered
more firmly. “Okay, we can do that.”
“Thank you, mum.” He couldn’t have stopped his Dad leaving,
he couldn’t have stopped Emily and Amy being taken, and he couldn’t
stop his granddad from dying, but just maybe he could keep his mum
safe. “Promise me, promise me one thing. Stay with granddad all night.
Don’t go home. Even when granddad …” He couldn’t say the word
‘dead’, talking about someone you loved as dead always struck him as
having some kind of magical influence on events. “Even when granddad
isn’t here don’t go home.”
“What?” She frowned. “Where do you want me to go?”
“I’m serious. Look at all the things that have happened at The
Heights, I don’t want you going there on your own.”
She smirked and poked him. “Hey, monkey. I’m the parent,
remember.”
It was nice to see her be like that with him, it felt normal. How
he wanted things to be normal again! “I know that.” His face went hot
and he knew he had gone red. “You are the only parent I have. That’s
why I’m asking you not to go to that place on your own.” His throat got
tighter and choked his voice and his eyes were hot, and he knew he was
close to crying. It wasn’t easy to keep himself under control as he spoke
his feelings. “You think I am being silly, but you are all I have and I
don’t want to lose you.”
Near to tears herself his mum dropped back down to his height
and pulled him close again. “I’m sorry. Of course I won’t go home
without you. I love you.”
229
Harvest

“I love you too.” Over her shoulder he saw into the private room
his granddad was in. His granddad no longer looked tall, broad, proud
and strong. In the large bed and surrounded by instruments he looked
small, his illness made him bony and frail looking, and the hospital
gown that was too small for him looked like a dress. It showed too
much of his granddad’s naked body where it didn’t fit him properly. His
insides knotted up at seeing his granddad that way, angry at the hospital
for ruining how he saw his granddad in his head and angry for his
granddad, who if he was aware of his situation would be suffering
humiliation as well as a painful death. “I love you mum.”
Jason ran to the lift just as it arrived for the others, satisfied he
was out of sight of his mum he cried openly with relief at his mum and
him being safe, and sorrow for his granddad, his mum and himself. Not
caring at being seen as a child. Because he had seen his granddad
become a child once and he knew there was no shame in it, especially
when the world had made him grow up too fast.

230
Harvest

Twenty Seven
Kelly glanced over her shoulder at Craig and Jason trailing behind her
and Rachel in the corridor of the Royal Free. The boy had stopped
crying during the journey from the Whittington and Craig was now
speaking softly to him. Craig was good with Jason, he was caring but he
didn’t wade in with the smothering sympathy that Rachel gave the boy,
he offered a quiet strength and reassurance and was more likely to
cajole him with a joke or a nudge to tease out a smile.
Rachel caught onto Kelly’s direction of attention. “I think we
did quite well getting young Jason out of harms way. It feels good
knowing we can at least keep him safe from whatever is happening.”
“It does feel good. I just wish I understood what we were
keeping him safe from.” Kelly tossed her hands up in the air in a gesture
of despair.
“So do I, dear. In time. But judging by Jason’s description I
won’t be wishing that to be any time soon.”
Kelly’s mood joined Rachel’s grave tone. “No. I guess not.”
“Now that we are nearly there I feel very awkward.”
“I think it’s me that should feel awkward; I’m here to heavy
someone I don’t know, to leave someone else I don’t know, alone.”
“Yes, quite. Thank you again. But what I meant was that I am
afraid that my relationship with Cat is complicated. Even with her being
in a coma I find it difficult being around her. I am ashamed to say, that
we parted on bad terms.”
Kelly glanced at Rachel expecting an explanation but it didn’t
come. “You are here now. I’m sure if Cat knows that you are here it will
go some way to bridge the gap between you after whatever happened.”
“You don’t know Cat…” As they turned the corner Rachel
stepped close to the wall and jerked Kelly after her, and discretely
pointed down the corridor. “That’s him. At Cat’s room. Dreadful man.
He troubles me.”
Kelly recognised Mr Malik from The Heights, he wasn’t an easy
man to miss with his drab grey clothes only fitting him where his shirt
buttoned tight to his neck, and his trousers were belted to his waist, the
231
Harvest

rest of the material hung and flapped around his rakish frame. He was
standing and staring through the large wall of windows into Cat’s room.
She had seen him plenty of times in the lift and lobby, fetching
shopping or going about his day with his wife. “I know him. If you take
everyone in to your friend’s room I will talk with him.” He struck her as
a pleasant man, nothing out of the ordinary, harmless enough.
Craig and Jason caught them up and Rachel whispered for them
both to follow her through to Cat’s room. Rachel closed the door behind
them. Malik broke his stare to watch the newcomers enter, he ignored
Rachel’s curt nod in his direction and returned to his transfixed gaze in
at Cat.
Kelly waited a few moments before walking up to him and stood
her ground a good arms length out of reach from him. “Mr Malik?” He
didn’t respond and she shifted uncomfortably where she stood. “It is Mr
Malik, isn’t it?”
He turned his head slowly in her direction like a planet’s surface
rotating its features into the sun. His face was as skeletal as she had
remembered it but it shone with an unhealthy clamminess, while his
eyes were slimy and yellowed like raw eggs that might run from their
sockets. He looked sickly, diseased. He breathed a slow hiss. “I know
you…” he spoke as if he was wrestling with control of his memory.
“Kelly Mason. PC Mason. I live in The Heights. We have met
before. In passing.” She offered him a guarded smile from a place
between diplomatic openness and formal authority. He made no sign of
acknowledgment. “I have been asked to speak to you.” Without the
weight of her uniform behind her approach she felt like she was on
weak ground, bringing back memories of questioning Rachel the first
time they had met back at the Chambers. “I have been asked to speak to
you about the amount of time you have been spending here.”
His top lip curdled at one side in a grimace of distaste. “It is a
free country. Is it not?” The words rolled from his tongue with a barely
concealed edge of hostility within his silky polish drawl. He returned to
staring into the room.
The dark tone that thickened his voice with a threatening
232
Harvest

strength convinced her that he was capable of being a very different


person to what she had previously imagined. “Her relatives don’t
remember her ever mentioning you before, and not having seen you
with her, or having anything to do with you it struck them as odd. They
are unsettled that you are always here. The relatives want their privacy.”
She stood her ground in the silence that followed, but he did not
defer to her authority as she imagined. He didn’t even return to face her.
She floundered for something to say, but her actions were restricted and
it was clear that Malik was not going to speak to her any further. She
tried to ignore an uncomfortable anxiety dancing at the nape of her
neck. He was odd and it unsettled her. Kelly decided that any rephrasing
or change of approach was futile in the face of being ignored. “Okay,
Mr Malik. I am not here on any official capacity at the moment, but I
will be reporting you to security and I will be making sure there are
some uniformed officers stopping in regularly so that you observe
visiting hours.” He didn’t answer but continued to stare. She stepped
into the room, shut the door behind her and began snapping all the
blinds shut against him.
“How creepy is he?” She hushed to the others over her shoulder
as she finished making sure the blinds were secure. “He always seemed
to be a bit eccentric before, but now he seems totally unlike how I
remember him.” Facing the others she suddenly found herself replacing
one uncomfortable scene with another. Tucked neatly into smooth
undisturbed covers was a girl in her late teens or very early twenties,
who lay before her trapped in sleep and dreams. Craig and Jason looked
equally uncomfortable.
“Please don’t feel awkward.” Rachel asked from a chair at Cat’s
side. “It’s actually nice to have people here with me. Cat, this is Kelly,
Craig and Jason. They all live at The Heights. The people I told you
about.” Rachel addressed the others again. “This is Cat. I’m sorry I
dragged all of you here, but at least you can see my concern. If
anything, Cat was a loner. I know I have been out of her life for a while
but… but some people don’t change, and one of the many things Cat is,
is consistent. She pushed everyone away from her after her mother died,
233
Harvest

and if that Malik is a little heavy on the religious side then I just can’t
place her having a relationship of any kind with him, especially one that
inspires someone to stand on vigil for her.”
“Oh, don’t worry! I understand your uncertainty now. But he’s
not going to be easily persuaded. At least not by me it seems. You could
make a complaint. Get the hospital to get some uniformed officers in. I
would rather not be involved in an official capacity. I want to keep my
head down for a bit after being involved with everything at the
Chambers. I can’t get over how he is acting though.”
“Oh, the strangeness doesn’t stop there.” There was a twinkle in
Rachel’s eye as though she relished a mystery. “I told you about the
equipment in here playing up regularly. Oh, and when I visited Cat’s
flat the devastation seemed far more than she could have made alone…”
“You think she was attacked?” Kelly interjected wanting to be
clear on where Rachel was taking them.
“Yes.” She held up a warning finger. “But not in the sense that
you will be happy with. Have you ever heard how hurricanes can do
things that seem to deny physics, such as perforate metal with pieces of
straw? Well there were anomalies like that in Cat’s flat – picture frames
pushed into the plaster board, but largely intact, furniture that was not
just broken but pulverised. It was said that Cat had some kind of fit or
episode that resulted in her ransacking her flat. Whether it was a
physical or a mental episode the damage was beyond her capabilities.”
Rachel allowed a few moments for what she was saying to sink
in. “I also found that Cat had a cat. I saw it in a photograph at her flat,
and it was identical to a cat that turned up at my flat weeks before. You
have to understand that I have been out of Cat’s life for some time. I
never knew she had a pet, and it certainly shouldn’t have been able to
find its way to me.”
Coincidence. Kelly needed to say but couldn’t bring herself to.
“The most disturbing was a vision that I experienced here, Cat’s
face screaming at me, then her face changed into that man’s, Malik’s,
face. It gave me the idea that he has some kind of hold over her. It
startled me so much that I spilt my coffee and it spelled out ‘HELP ME’
234
Harvest

as it ran and made a puddle.”


Ridiculous. If it wasn’t for other people being affected by
equally strange events, and witnessing one herself then she would be
questioning Rachel’s mental health. Unless it was folie à deux?
Rachel’s university friend David had recorded what she had
seen, when he eventually got his recordings back there would at least be
physical evidence to support the strange lights she had seen at the
Chambers. Even though her instinct was to dismiss Rachel there was a
nagging insecurity behind it. If only it was mass hysteria. There was
something happening at The Heights and Kelly could not dismiss that so
easily.
As if realising Kelly’s struggle Rachel deflated and sunk
resignedly in her chair. “Oh, I know how much this is to take in, but it
happened. I was definitely awake. I don’t expect you to be able to
explain any of this but you must see why I think there’s more than mere
coincidence at work here. There is a connection!”
Kelly was distracted from Rachel’s delivery of yet more mystery
by stern voices muffled by the wall of glass. She shushed everyone and
scooped a curtain of her hair away from her ear and listened close to the
blinds. After a few minutes she looked up and whispered what she had
heard to the others. “A nurse has just got security to remove Malik… I
think he’s gone…”
The door burst open an inch from Kelly’s face. A petite blonde
nurse stood in the doorway looking as startled by Kelly as Kelly was by
her.
With a hand on her flat chest to steady her nerves, the nurses
questioning eyes flicked over each of them. “We do try to limit visitors
to one or two… Are you all relatives?” she sounded cautious, but Kelly
had just heard her being firm with Malik, and she could see red blotches
on her face and neck from her frustration.
Rachel stood up. “I am a relative of Cat’s, not blood, but I am
the closest she has to family.”
The nurse seemed to step down her wariness. “Even so we do
prefer just two visitors per patient at any one time.”
235
Harvest

“These are some people that know her from where she lived.”
Rachel flustered. “I hoped that familiar voices might get a reaction…
Silly really.”
The nurses resolve softened fully. “No of course not, the hearing
is thought to stay receptive.” She winced, “you’re probably appealing to
the only sense available to her at the moment. I was just taken aback by
there being so many people in here. Do you know the man that was
outside this room a moment ago?”
Rachel shook her head. “I’m glad you mentioned it. I felt a little
uncomfortable with him always being here, I’m quite sure Cat didn’t
know him, and you hear such grim stories these days.”
Rachel could think on her feet, Kelly was impressed.
“Well, rest assured, we take the security of patients very
seriously,” the nurse pressed. “I will leave you to it.” She withdrew and
closed the door behind her.
“Well Malik’s gone now anyway,” Kelly stated. “My ‘I’m-a-
police-officer’ line installed no leverage in that situation. I would have
thought Malik would have bolted.”
“Perhaps you need the uniform. Yes. Definitely the uniform.”
Kelly laughed, blushed and was flattered and conscious of
herself all in one go at Craig’s remark.
“Well, that proves it. If describing myself as being the closest
Cat has to family doesn’t wake her, then nothing will.”
“She really has no one else?” Jason’s quiet voice seemed to
surprise everyone.
Rachel pursed her lips. “No. It was only Cat and her mum, and
then her mum died.”
Rachel yelped, and Kelly found herself startled again. At first
glance Kelly didn’t register what had happened, but then she saw the
pale hand clamped to Rachel’s wrist. Cat’s hand.
Rachel was momentarily transfixed by it and then composed
herself and looked up at the others as if to check that they saw what she
saw. “Cat? I’m talking about your mum. Think about your mum.
Remember your mum. You had each other. She loved you so very
236
Harvest

much.”
Rachel continued to talk to Cat about her mum and their
affection for each other and Cat’s eyelids fluttered in response, as if her
very words were teasing her out of the coma’s mire.
Cat sprung upright from the bed, her eyes snapped open and she
drew in a deep wheezing breathe, she registered Kelly and the others
and scrambled up to the head of the bed. She saw Rachel at her side and
released her arm the instant she realised she had it in her grip. Kelly
found the blinds at her back and realised that in her surprise at the
sudden eruption of activity she had leapt backwards. The lads looked
equally startled, but none so much as Rachel who had slumped back in
her chair and was nursing the arm that Cat had snatched at from her
deep sleep.
Suddenly registering the flimsiness of the gown and her
nakedness beneath, Cat tugged at its hem to cover her legs before
making a grab for the bedcovers, pulling them around her and up to her
chin. Her attention darted from face to face in wild panic. “What the
fuck are you doing here?” She stared at Rachel then snapped back to
Kelly and the others. “Who the fuck are you?” Her voice had been slow
to form but the word ‘fuck’ and the anger behind it seemed to help her
voice return. “What the FUCK am I doing here?” She screeched like a
mad dog yapping at the moon before her mouth snapped shut, animal
fear wild in her eyes.
The look of sheer terror on Rachel’s face was greater than it had
been when they had watched Amy disappear off of the monitors, it was
clear she wasn’t going to be able to pull herself together quick enough
to settle Cat down. Kelly stepped forward, patting the air before her in a
gesture for Cat to calm down. “Hey, hey. You are okay. Just settle
yourself down. You are okay.” Cat fixed Kelly with a vicious stare that
left her wondering if she should be holding a chair before her lion-
tamer-style to fend her off. Kelly halted and held her hands up in
surrender. “You are okay. You are in hospital…”
“No shit, Sherlock! I kind of fucking got that!” Cat hissed. She
yelped as she snatched the IV needle out of her hand, it was followed by
237
Harvest

a pulse of blood that leapt onto the white sheets. She pulled the heart
monitor clip off her finger and a shrill alarm lanced from the bedside
monitors.
“You had some kind of episode at your flat. You have been here
for a few weeks. In a kind of coma. You can hear that alarm…” She
pointed to the unknown instrument on the trolley making the noise.
“Well, I’m sure a nurse will be coming in any minute. So let us just
relax.”
The door of the room ripped open and slammed against the wall,
fracturing a glass panel opaque with a crunch. She saw the large butcher
knife first, then saw that it was Malik who brandished it. He ran at
Kelly, but somehow Kelly knew she wasn’t the intended victim, and he
was taking the most direct route to Cat – through her. He was on Kelly
before she could rush at him and cancel out his force with her own
momentum, and she staggered backwards under his charge. Her trainers
squeaked against the linoleum. She gripped at his scrawny arms and
forced them up, keeping the knife away from her and shoved him away.
Craig cautiously sheltered Jason in the corner and from there he
made a move to tackle Malik, but stopped himself as Malik’s knife arm
flailed out in his direction as he stumbled backwards from Kelly’s push.
She didn’t allow Malik to recover but charged in with a jab from her
right fist that connected hard with the ridge of his bony cheek. His face
snapped away from the blow and cast a ribbon of blood from his mouth
that dashed against the blinds. She lifted her foot for a kick at Malik’s
shins, but in mid-swing Kelly’s head rocked and the side of her face
erupted in a storm of pain as Malik lashed out an arm to balance himself
and caught Kelly fully in the face.
The force of the blow and the shock of it coming unbalanced her
and sent her following the swing of her leg. Instead of a kick she had to
stamp that foot to the ground to stabilise herself, but Malik had
recovered and shoved at the back of her head pitching her into Craig.
Craig caught her with one arm, yelped then let go of her and she
realised he had caught her with his bad arm. She fell against Craig and
he went down with her in what must have been an attempt to cushion
238
Harvest

her fall. She ended up draped against Craig, leaving the whole of her
back prone to Malik’s knife.
The knife didn’t come.
Despite her face being mushed uncomfortably into Craig’s
shoulder, she saw from the corner of one eye that Malik had decided to
press on with his attack, and was advancing on Cat, his knife raised. Cat
squealed and floundered, apparently caught up in the sheets she had
cocooned around herself only moments ago. Kelly regained her bearings
and balance, pressed her hands flat to the ground, sprang herself from
Craig and flopped to the floor bridging the gap between her and Malik.
He shifted his weight to one leg so that he could pitch his weight into a
stabbing arc. Kelly kept herself low, and she hoped out of striking
distance of the knife, and tugged sharply at his other leg. Unbalanced,
his swing broke from a strike into another flail. Cat’s legs found their
way free of the covers and bunny-kicked over the side of the bed,
connecting forcefully with Malik’s side sending him careening across
the room and crashing against the Venetian blinds. Jason took his
chance to escape and dashed past him through the door, and hung back
in the corridor shouting for help.
Kelly clambered onto all fours and Craig was at her side helping
her up, shakily she stepped one foot then the other to the ground and
stood up herself, she briefly took her eyes off Malik to check on the two
women and found that Rachel was the other side of the bed, still in her
chair but with a blank stunned look, while Cat was half-standing and
half-propped against the wall several feet away from her. Suddenly a
dark shape charged into Kelly’s peripheral vision, Rachel cried out from
her stupor and Cat went rigid as Malik charged across the room with his
knife ready to thrust.
A sound split the air in a tone that cancelled out the whine of the
heart monitors alarm. It was like the choral wail of inhuman voices that
built and peaked uncomfortably in Kelly’s ears, and in a second it was
gone leaving only a ringing wake. A current of air followed on the last
dying note of the cry, and the briefest of seconds later it was followed
by a crash so loud that Kelly felt the room shake beneath her feet.
239
Harvest

Cat was still propped up against the wall. Rachel was still
seated. But no Malik. Kelly thought it strange that she could see all of
Rachel instead of just the view of Rachel’s torso as she had had
moments ago, then she realised that the hospital bed that had obscured
her view was now gone. Craig staggered away in an uncoordinated
fashion, clearly startled by the wail and the crash, but it was only as he
moved away that she gained a clear view of the other side of the room.
Malik was pressed against the glass wall with blood bubbling
from his mouth. A Venetian blind had come loose from the window and
hung off one of his shoulders, and it revealed the toughened safety glass
fractured into a fine sparkling web. The whole glass wall and its
splintered wooden frame seemed to bow into the corridor from behind
Malik. It was then that Kelly registered the hospital bed jutting out from
Malik’s middle. Seeing the scene as a whole it appeared that somehow
and with some-force the bed had been sent across the room with enough
momentum to sweep Malik off his feet and slam him into, and very
nearly through, the glass wall at the opposite side of the room.
The petite nurse skidded back into the doorway flanked by two
rakish porters. She froze and blinked as she took in the scene of
impossible devastation. A broken Malik slumped forward onto the bed
and one of the blinds punctuated the quiet by falling noisily from the
wall and onto the bed before clattering to the ground.
The nurse said it for everyone: “What the fuck…”

Kelly rested on a bench several doors down from the room where the
two porters were sweeping up glass from the aftermath of the skirmish.
While she waited with Craig and Jason for Rachel to emerge from Cat’s
room they had watched Malik being carefully removed from the room.
Taken away for emergency treatment for his mangled legs. Even with
her distance from Cat’s private room she could still hear Cat shriek the
occasional obscenity at the Doctor and nurse that were probably
attempting to persuade her to stay for observation and tests. She
couldn’t hear Rachel, but then Rachel had withdrawn within herself
since the fight, although Kelly suspected it was the shock of the return
240
Harvest

of Cat’s spite and not the sudden outbreak of violence that numbed her:
Rachel was enduring a crushing rejection from Cat.
Craig dropped to his haunches before her. “Let’s see what the
damage is.”
“It’s nothing.” She shrugged.
It didn’t deter him and he held a wave of her hair from her face
and studied her. She was instantly uncomfortable and conscious of their
prolonged look into each others face and she averted her eyes. She was
grateful to have Jason sitting beside her. With him there the touch
couldn’t possibly be anything more than a demonstration of concern.
She probed the inside of her mouth with her tongue and found stinging
lumps on the inside of her cheek where her teeth had raked at the flesh.
“It’s okay.” His fingers passed gently down her cheek. “Your
eye’s a bit blood shot, but you don’t have any cuts. He gave you quite a
whack.” He let her hair fall back into place, maybe realising the
lingering touch seemed longer than it needed to be. “You might get a
nice shiner as a trophy though.”
“Joy! Typical. I never even got punched out on duty.” She held
her face as her smile was met with stiff resistance from her cheek
muscles and a brief sharp pain lanced into her eye and jaw. Her pride
ached more, she was feeling sorry for herself because once again she
had been involved in an incident outside work that needed police
involvement, and she had had to give a statement to an officer she
knew. At least she hadn’t done anything wrong and PC Sharon Ellis had
been informal enough with her, she didn’t even seem to write down
much of the details that she had given her, and closed the interview by
asking her if she was coming out with the girls Friday night.
Sharon had said it was a services night out, she recognised the
names of those going from her station but had only recognised Zoe
Sampson’s name from those that worked in A&E, the nurse that had led
her to Craig when he had dislocated his arm. Kelly was surprised to
have been asked after declining so many similar invites before, and
when she made her excuses again there had been genuine
disappointment on Sharon’s face that almost made her consider taking
241
Harvest

the offer up in the future, until her discomfort at the prospect had settled
in and convinced she had made the right decision.
“You got a good hit in there. I don’t think I will be challenging
you to an arm wrestle any time soon.” Craig hauled himself into the
chair beside her and his tone grew more serious. “I wasn’t much help in
there. Sorry.”
“Hey, you did okay. You gave me something soft to land on.”
She dodged a playful jab. “No. I saw you keeping Jason safe, you were
doing your bit. I hope this isn’t some macho reaction to having a ‘little
woman’ to protect you is it?”
“No. Even if it was I wouldn’t tell you, you might use that right-
hook on me.”
“I wouldn’t need to bother with the right-hook, just a girly slap.”
She laughed as he flashed a sarcastic smile in retaliation. “Seriously, it
all happened so quickly I am surprised I managed to do as much as I
did. I have training for situations like that but I had my defences down, I
guess. I wasn’t prepared for a fight.” She couldn’t talk around the
outcome any longer. “And what happened in there? Things went all
‘Carrie’ for a moment. I didn’t see it, but the bed. That flew across the
room didn’t it?” She asked hesitantly.
“Yes, it did. I wouldn’t believe it unless I hadn’t have seen it
with my own eyes. It just shot out from in front of Cat, slammed into
Malik and drove him into the wall. It’s not every day you see a bed used
as a weapon,” he joked nervously.
“That noise.” Jason broke his silence, his face ashen and his eyes
glazed and lost. “The singing-screaming sound. It was the same noise I
heard when that thing in the lift tried to snatch me.”
Rachel was right; there was a connection with what was
happening at The Heights, but what that was remained a mystery.
Craig frowned. “If Malik was somehow involved with what’s
happening back at The Heights, then I would have thought any
paranormal or supernatural events, or whatever you want to call them,
would have worked for him against us, not the other way around.”
Kelly had been quick to dismiss Rachel’s recounting of the
242
Harvest

strange things that had occurred around Cat, but now Kelly experienced
an unease that wormed under her skin.

The journey back to the flats had been an awkward one. Before Rachel
and Jason had been dropped off at her flat, they had shared the cramped
back seat with a spiky Cat. Cat had looked considerably more relaxed
after Rachel’s departure but was quiet and clearly happier to not be
spoken to. Despite Cat being weak from the inactivity of her coma, back
at the hospital she had been determined to make her own arrangements
to get home. She had soon found she had no money with her for a taxi,
and had adamantly declined Rachel’s charity. Much to Kelly’s chagrin
Rachel had leapt on the offer of her car with only a cursory check to ask
if that was okay. Faced with hours of waiting for hospital transport Cat
had accepted without realising that Rachel would be travelling with
them. When she did she looked too tired to rant and just quietly resigned
herself to the idea. Despite everything that had happened at the hospital
Craig’s mood had been strangely jubilant, and he had been enjoying the
journey as if it were a daytrip, when the physical tension between Cat
and Rachel had been just inches behind them his buoyancy seemed as
inappropriate as making jokes at a funeral.
The car had barely been parked when Cat had said her thanks
and goodbyes in one curt sentence as she climbed out of the passenger
seat. As Craig and Kelly made their long climb of the stairs to their
respective flats they could hear Cat treading away the stairs ahead of
them to the top floor, an act that must have been a real trial after her
coma. Cat had listened to Rachel’s recital of what had been happening,
aided by the occasional contribution of the others at Rachel’s
prompting, but had been non-committal or dismissive, yet she had
clearly listened to Jason’s warning not to use the lifts.
Craig’s mood had seemed to sour as soon as The Heights came
into view, and she could guess at what he was feeling through her own
reluctance to return there. Half-way to his floor, it was not only his
spirit that had waned, but apparently his energy too. His pace had
slowed and he looked pale and tired.
243
Harvest

She had attempted to engage him in conversation since they left


Cat but Craig’s answers were short and limiting. “If you have changed
your mind about inviting me in for a cuppa I understand.”
“Hmm? Oh, I’m tired, that’s all. Sorry.” He flashed her a smile
and he seemed to force some energy into his eyes. “I will try and be
more entertaining for you. I guess I’m not quite sure what happens now.
Despite everything that just happened, Cat is a dead end.”
“I know. Even if she does have some kind of understanding her
hatred for Rachel is so strong I doubt she would tell her anything any
way. Rachel said she would call her later, but I doubt Cat will even take
her call.”
“Do you think she might talk to one of us.”
If he thought Kelly was going to volunteer he could think again.
“After you.”
“Yeah, maybe not.”
“I think she is likely to treat us the way she treated Rachel. I
imagine we are guilty by association.”
They arrived at the landing for Craig’s floor and they both
nodded a greeting to Alec the caretaker who was busy painting out an
area of the wall that was mottled grey. He gave a distracted nod in
return as he fingered a small hole in the masonry before attempting to
paint it over.
Craig hesitated in the doorway to his corridor and glanced back
at Alec working at the wall.
“What?”
He shook his head. “Déjà vu that’s all.” He rubbed his face
vigorously and carried on down the corridor.
“You’re not okay are you? What is it?”
“It’s just I kind of know how Jason feels, I don’t wanna be here
anymore either. Is that stupid?”
“You know it isn’t.” She took a deep breath. “How about we
have a cuppa at yours as planned, then you get some things together and
come to mine, you can mooch around for the afternoon and do your own
thing, then we could have some dinner, watch a bit of TV and you can
244
Harvest

crash on the sofa. No point us being alone with all this.” Being alone
far-outweighed the discomfort of making such a suggestion.
Craig nodded enthusiastically. “That would be great. Yeah, I’m
up for that.” Kelly and Craig were approaching the lift when the doors
opened and Harry stepped out. Panic chased across his face at seeing
Kelly and Craig and a black refuse sack slipped from his grip, slid down
his body, fell heavily to the floor and slumped to one side. Kelly’s
hands instinctively reached down to help and beat Harry’s fumbled
scramble to retake possession of his load. She lifted it to him but her
gesture faltered with the bag’s unexpected weight and bulk. “What you
got here.” She rolled her eyes at him. “Not been bringing stuff up from
the garbage bins have you?”
“It’s my business if I have,” Harry’s voice snapped uneasily
from his thick greasy mask of a beard.
Something flopped heavily to one side within the bag and she
pulled the untied refuse sack open to peek in. The wide cold black eyes
of a Labrador stared at her from its bloodied face, its thick dry tongue
hung from its mouth, bent unnaturally backwards, almost into its ear.
Kelly dropped the bag and wiped her hands down her jeans in disgust.
Suddenly the full weight of Harry pushed into her, sending her
staggering back into Craig, who once again cried out through catching
her with his bad arm.
Craig rubbed at his shoulder. “I do it every time…”
Kelly didn’t waste any time on sympathy, and from her position
of being propped up against Craig she made a snatch at Harry’s
raincoat. The grime in the material slicked her fingers and caused her
grip to flinch which Harry took advantage of and shrugged her off and
ran. She gave chase, but in the few seconds it took her to regain her
balance and realise she hadn’t caught Harry he had gained enough lead
to key open his door.
She called after him as she bounded to his closing door and leapt
at it, thrusting her foot between the door and the jamb, but in her haste
she overstepped and the door bit and chewed at her ankle instead of the
protection of her trainers. She cried out with the pain that shot up her
245
Harvest

leg and tugged her leg out, tumbling back onto her rear with a jarring
shock. Harry yanked the door open, snarled angrily at her and slammed
it closed. The sound rolled over her, pained her ears and fanned a blast
of pungent air at her. In the brief moment his door had been opened, she
had glimpsed walls, ceiling and light-shade flecked and streaked with
dark browns and reds. She gagged and coughed on the smothering smell
of decay that helped her understand, with dread and revulsion, what she
had seen of the inside of Harry’s flat.

246
Harvest

Twenty Eight
Yshor Malik dragged himself from the boggy depths of a dark
swamping sleep. Every fibre of his muscle ached. His mouth was dry
and his tongue was glass paper against his lips as he tried to moisten
them. He lifted his head and the hospital room blurred and faded while
nausea rose in him and lingered. He propped himself up on the firm
mattress with his elbows, and would have yelped at the sight of his legs
could he find a sound in his throat. His legs were a swollen mass of
yellow and purple bruising, with deep dark glistening splits in the flesh
that ran great lengths down his limbs. Each leg was contained within
silver cages that had pins puncturing the fronts of his legs holding his
bones together. His legs looked pulped.
He lowered himself back to the bed, trying to block out thoughts
of his legs in case it brought on the wild pain he was sure his legs would
be filled with. His voice lulled in the back of his throat for anyone that
might hear but it was nonsensical even to him as it crossed between his
native Polish and his adopted English. He couldn’t understand how he
had got where he was. Perhaps he had been hit by a car, it explained his
injuries. Would he walk again? Hot tears gathered in his eyes. Where
was Ruth? He could see her in his mind, his beloved wife with her long
grey hair with its natural kink framing her delicate face and the blue
eyes that had faded over the years. Eyes he had loved to lose himself in
when he had met her in his youth. It seemed like weeks since he had
seen her, which was an alien feeling to him as they had been brought up
in the same neighbourhood together, were schooled together, worked
together and retired together, they had barely been apart since they had
wed all those years ago. It must have been whatever drugs the hospital
had given him. He tried to think of the last time he had seen her, but all
he could see was darkness.
That’s when Yshor remembered.
The darkness had been the last time he had seen Ruth. He had
told her he had something to show her in the basement. He couldn’t
think what it was at the time as he had never been down there before,
but he had woken up that morning knowing that there was something
247
Harvest

she needed to see down there. He had asked her in a state of detachment
and delirium, as if somehow he still dreamt. She had called him a daft
old fool in their native tongue as she jauntily headed down the stairs
ahead of him to the basement and into the blackness.
There had been a hole in a wall, and beyond that a hole in the
floor, both appearing to be freshly excavated. She walked ahead of him,
her voice uneasy as the visibility grew weaker until the only light was
the soft green throbbing of a gelatinous sack of skin resting in the hole.
Then she had been scared.
Yshor’s lungs inflated in a deep inhalation dragging air that
scraped like a flurry of dried leaves through his dehydrated larynx as the
moment played through his mind and he screamed. The air around Ruth
erupted in a blaze of light and hands that plucked her out of the gloom,
after which the sack was suddenly swollen and distended by a writhing
mass within. Yet somehow Ruth’s voice had stayed with him, she had
laughed at his folly of dragging her to the basement for nothing, and
carried on in her usual chatter about their neighbours and her friends at
the over sixties club. She talked him into voluntary work at the hospital,
standing vigil for a lost soul.
On one of his visits Ruth had asked him to do something bad,
and when he had refused, it was as if she hadn’t asked at all, but it was
another voice. Because of what it asked he had ignored that voice too,
until he came to realise that it spoke in scripture, and it was the voice of
God. He was a child of God and he could only obey, even if the
abomination it demanded dead was just a girl in a coma.

Harry knuckled his forehead and paced back and forth in frantic
confusion. Why had he run? He could have explained the dog as
something he had found. He stumbled over his own feet and struck his
shin against the toppled coffee table. He yelped but it was lost in his
manic sobs of fear and madness. Tears tracked through the grime of his
face as if his very skin was running away.
He could hear his Deirdra talking to him; her soft voice was
sweet to his ears but like a memory of something lost that could never
248
Harvest

be had again. Harry punched the air as he saw her coffin in his mind. It
had been so small. All that had been Deirdra, all that had been that
loving woman, that wife, that companion of forty-four years ended in a
wooden box. Yet she had been talking to him? Now; just then. Hadn’t
she?
She had been talking to him for weeks, and despite the
strangeness of the things she had asked him to do, or the ideas he had in
her presence, he did them. He had made the hole in the wall in the
basement, and dug up the ground beyond even though the exertion had
nearly killed him, he had unearthed the dried up leathery sack beneath.
That thing scared him, because when he touched it with his bare hands it
had felt like a layer of his skin had been burned away, but strangely his
fear and anger had been smothered. Deirdra took all the pain, fear and
confusion away. The strange rigid cocoon of unrecognisable bones and
calcified organs had engendered nurturing feelings within him, and with
the encouragement of Deirdra’s voice he had brought it food. He would
shower the thing with decaying animal waste scavenged from the
rubbish, and when he returned with more the previous supply would be
gone and the sack would be more supple and bloated.
Deirdra had made him feel like a king again and that overrode
every contradictory feeling. Oh, she had worshipped him, and he had
loved her so much. So much. She had been everything to him, and she
did everything for him. When she had gone he couldn’t function without
her. When she had gone? She had gone.
She was dead, it couldn’t have been her. Could it? Was this
madness? Everyone he met thought he was already mad; perhaps his
mind had given in to popular opinion? He could see something rushing
round him, just out of his vision it flickered and darted, like a movement
in the air. He flailed his arms as if repelling a swarm and cursed the air
about him. He cursed Deirdra’s voice and then silenced himself. He had
never said such words in front of her – to her! Never! Anger swelled
within him and he clawed at his face as his reason crashed against his
mind. “She’s DEAD!”
Suddenly he experienced an overwhelming sense of freedom,
249
Harvest

but he had the unnerving feeling of something standing behind him,


always just out of view no matter how much he turned and span. It
made his skin bristle. As if something had released him and was now
watching the results. He became still, and without the blinkering soft
voice of his Deirdra and the vivid memories of a life he no longer had,
reality descended upon him. The fantasy-memory of the old house with
its gay floral wallpaper and well-kept furnishings was suddenly gone.
The marriage house was gone and he was back in his flat. He froze. He
hardly recognised the charnel house room as his own. The walls were
stained and lost in streaks of red and brown, the carpet was mushy and
seeped a black red sticky sludge underfoot. Blood. So much blood!
Harry remembered. His eyes widened. The sights and sounds of
the last few weeks came rushing in like water on a sinking vessel: the
nauseating soft popping of a cats spine being twisted and broken, the
feel of the sweaty warm knife handle in his hand that had worn blisters
into his palm from so much work, the heat from blood up to his wrists,
the smell of evacuated bowels and the gasses from a ruptured stomach,
the tension in his arms as his blade dragged between resistant muscle.
The look in his social workers eyes as he gagged on his own blood and
slid to the ground dying.
He remembered the silent man in the top hat with the ragged
face. Harry lured those foolish enough to trust him to this undead
undertaker. Harry had accepted that thing so easily within his illusion,
his fear masked it, his fear of the monster and his stronger fear that if he
didn’t accept the creature then reality would return and deprive him of
Deirdra.
The guilt writhed in his guts like the maggots that lived in the
undertakers face and he vomited suddenly and violently in reaction to
his own sins. It was so sudden he barely shielded himself and he caught
a handful of acrid smelling oil and digested sludge. It was red, blood
red, with scraps of raw flesh sliding through the liquid. He realised that
by vomiting he hadn’t separated himself from his actions but produced a
product of his work to haunt him. “What have I been doing?” he cried.
He didn’t understand. Didn’t understand why and how this was all
250
Harvest

happening; as if it was all some nightmare that he couldn’t wake from.


Harry wailed loudly and knuckled his head again, his pounding
fists seemed to boom like explosions until he realised the sounds were
from the front door. The door with the bloody handprints that his social
worker had left shook with each crashing sound. They were coming for
him. That policewoman. They knew. They would arrest him. A voice
filled his ears and his fear allowed him to believe it was Deirdra; “They
are going to take you away. You can’t explain your way out of this. The
monster told me to do it? The voices in my head told me to do it? They
think that this is all your fault. They won’t just think you are a criminal
they will think you are mad too. They will lock you up and throw away
the key.”
The door creaked, and with a loud snap the wood of the
doorjamb split from top to bottom, but the door held. “What shall I do,
love?”
“Run, Harry. They will take you away from me and I will be all
alone. You know how painful it is to be alone, don’t you? You don’t
want that for me do you? Don’t let them take you away from me. Run.
Run away with me.”
A split-second after she had answered him his attention was
snatched by the large carving knife at rest on the grimy worktop as if it
had been thrust in his face as a suggestion. She didn’t ask, she never
would, but these ideas always came when she was with him. Before he
could decline, the doorjamb broke free of the wall and clattered to the
floor and in fright he snatched the knife up. “Run,” Deirdra cried.
“RUN!”
Between the first and second plea he had broken into a stride
with the knife held before him. The plain-clothes policewoman, her
companion and a uniformed colleague, tumbled through the door then
stumbled back over each other as Harry charged at them with an
anguished cry. With every step he took he expected to be tackled and
pulled to the ground, and it was with disbelief that he reached the fire
exit. The only sensible direction was down, to get out and away to
escape his captors, and it was this clear understanding in the chaos of
251
Harvest

his situation that made his choice to go up so disturbing to him. In the


same way that the knife hadn’t been a conscious thought, going up had
not been a consideration, he seemed to be under the influence of some
other will. Although it had Deirdra’s voice, her feel, it was not her force
of persuasion. It was not his Deirdra, it never had been. “I’m so sorry,
Deirdra.” He sobbed to the memory of his Deirdra, the real Deirdra that
would never have asked for any of the things he had done. “I’m so
sorry. What have I done. What have I done!”
He couldn’t afford to turn back, he could hear heavy footfalls
behind him, so he pressed on and committed himself to his direction,
knowing that when he broke back onto a corridor he could make his
way to the other fire escape and down, if his body would allow him to
maintain his pace and his lead.
His feet punched the stairs away one after the other like pistons
pumping him further and further away from the carnage of his ruined
life. Tears streamed down his face and he howled apologies to his
Deirdra as he ran, his voice growing to a crescendo as his speed
increased.
He passed landings, determined he would turn into a corridor at
the next one, but each time he would let it go. Panting, his heart a jack-
hammer at his ribs, his feet numb, his legs burning with the fire of his
exertion, he arrived at the final landing and to his horror he didn’t even
break pace and pressed on. He accepted that in his weakened state there
was only a slim chance of escape, but he didn’t want to give up and be
caught, which is why his choice of heading to the roof where there was
no escape whatsoever terrified him.
Harry burst through the fire exit door and onto the roof, and was
instantly dazzled by the brilliant sun low in the sky ahead of him. The
tarmac roof was soft underfoot from the suns heat and the different
terrain broke his pace, seeming to reflect the doughy feeling he now
realised in his trembling leg muscles. The breeze was wild around him,
pulling him in different directions, while the panorama of Camden
spread out around him far below and dizzied him further. The blood
raced tangibly around his body from the shock of running up seven
252
Harvest

floors and his exhaustion caused flickers of light to play in his eyes.
Except the light was green and he had seen that before. It was the
illusive ‘thing’ at his back. The sense of Deirdra being with him was
even stronger, and although she didn’t say anything, her presence
increased his awareness of the knife in his hand.
The two police officers piled through the fire exit and stopped.
The man looked angry while the woman looked scared. Harry thought it
strange that she didn’t appear scared of him, but scared for him. Despite
the courage of their arrival on the roof they were both cautious in their
approach, holding out placating hands. Speaking quietly and calmly,
although the male officer called him names, called him names that were
true. Harry must be sick. Harry was a psycho. The woman told the man
to shut up. Harry remembered her; Kelly had been kind to him many
times, cautioned him when his sense hadn’t kept up with his actions and
taken him home when he had been lost. She spoke to him softly,
pleading with him to give up, to put the knife down. He was startled to
find he was holding the carving knife before him, stabbing it
threateningly in the policeman’s direction and then in hers.
Images cascaded into his mind, mental pictures of him flashing
his knife at the two officers, not just to get back to the door, but to
wound them so much they wouldn’t be able to follow. To wound them
so much they wouldn’t survive.
Pain. White-hot pain cleared the images from his mind. He
pulled the tip of the knife from his palm and watched the blood run from
the wound. The images were gone. Deirdra’s voice was gone. The
puppeteer was still at the back of his mind. It had driven him up here. It
didn’t want Harry to escape, he had been found out by the police, he
was no use to the thing at his back. It didn’t want him to talk. It didn’t
want him anymore.
He would do part of what he knew it wanted, not to please the
thing, but to be with Deirdra. The real Deirdra. He ran his legs that were
crooked with exhaustion. Ploughed them back into work. Racing
forwards, the knife held forth. The air rushed around Harry as his legs
still pumped away uselessly with no ground to pedal like he had seen an
253
Harvest

outsmarted Wil E. Coyote do so many times. The feeling of someone


watching over him was gone. The thing had left him. He had been
released.
“DEIRDRA, I’M COMING! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!” His
tears were like ice on his face, sobered and chilled by the updraft of air
that whipped at his skin and ripped at his clothes. Wild panic gripped
him and shook him into madness as he saw the landscape of buildings
rush into a blur about him. The communal green below widened rapidly
to catch him. The path grew from obscurity into gritty concrete detail. “I
LOVE YOU DEIRD – .” Harry’s head split open like a melon. He lay
there for a few moments, wondering if he could move anything, he was
sure his fingers were flexing. He thought it funny that he couldn’t feel
any pain. Then he stopped thinking.

Alec Jacobs trudged across the basement and fumbled with a cluster of
keys and unlocked a metal cabinet. He squinted in the half-light that the
few remaining flickering strip lights offered and found the tube of filler
and clattered the door shut and locked it. He flicked the lights off and
felt his way back towards the lifts, he fingered the lift call button and
waited in the dark, only it wasn’t as dark as it should have been.
There was a dull green glow to the darkness that lingered
between two lockers that blocked access to the basements of the
abandoned shops. The lift doors opened and the stark light of its interior
was enough to cancel out the weak green light. It was his eyes fooling
him; some residue of light on his cornea, possibly imagination, but
uncertainty fluttered in the back of his mind. He let the lift doors slide
shut and again the darkness rushed in on him and claimed the room
except for the green ghost light. Alec moved hesitantly to the gap
in the lockers. He unlocked one of them and pulled a torch out then
stepped through the opening. The darkness had the musty sour smell of
damp, dust and expired meat. He snapped the torch on and waved the
shaft of light around the room beyond, thick shadows danced around the
beam of light like black amorphous moths as it travelled the walls and

254
Harvest

debris, until the coronet of light vanished. Panic took hold of Alec with
the thought of his torch failing him in a part of the building he had never
thought to venture, but he felt instant relief as he jerked the torch and
the spotlight returned to the wall. With his senses settled he realised that
he hadn’t lost sight of the dust motes lit up by the torches shaft of light,
but had only lost the spot of light at the end of the beam. He passed the
torch back across the same part of wall and once again the circle of light
vanished.
Alec stepped slowly forward across broken masonry towards the
black hole that absorbed the spotlight from his weak torch. He flicked
the light from side to side, and lit up the jagged teeth of the large gaping
hole. He approached the maw and fingered the chalky dusty teeth of the
broken concrete wall. It swallowed him as he stepped within.
For a brief second his eyes offered no respite from the darkness.
Then he saw it, a faint glowing shape barely distinguished from the
dark, Alec marvelled at how he had seen this weak light from the main
part of the basement: a ghostly green shape among the black ocean that
he now swam in. There was an uncomfortable softness under foot, a
thick cloying surface that pulled on his shoes as he took his steps. He
didn’t want to think about what was underfoot, all his attention was
drawn to the shape, he levelled the shaft of his light and the green ghost
was given form.
A green misshapen clumsy obelisk stood before him, an opaque
fleshy membrane of translucent veins and capillaries stretched over a
skeletal structure of thick crude bone which reached up from the floor to
the ceiling like gnarled branches. The shock of the alien sight struck
him as if it was a physical blow, Alec dropped his torch; the detail that it
patted to the ground as if it had landed in something soft and thick was
lost to him. The nightmare in his vision overpowered his other senses.
The obelisk seemed to keep some memory of the light his torch
had cast upon it, as if it was somehow absorbed within. Something
moved in that glow; great cramped limbs, human-like, but too many of
them to belong to just one single person. The limbs twitched and slid
slowly, one over the other, surrounded by a thick viscous fluid.
255
Harvest

Suspended in the gelatinous slime were shapes he couldn’t recognise,


and shapes that were clearly vital organs that were no longer internal to
anyone. Suddenly in a moment of sickening clarity of vision some of
the shapes had faces; one by one they appeared like stars in the night
sky. Some were clear while others appeared half-dissolved, either by
shadow or eaten away by something else, making them ragged and
hideous to look upon, or soft and borderless as the flesh became one
with the liquid within the obelisk. Then there were the faces he
recognised. Their eyes, or empty sockets, were upon him.
The ghostly light at the heart of the shape intensified then dulled,
and suddenly an arc of green light flashed through the air and deposited
itself into the darkness between him and his exit. Alec heard the buzz of
flies disturbed by the strange lightning, and they pelted his clothes and
face in their erratic flight. A man stepped into the half-light from Alec’s
floored torch. A man dressed as Albert Taylor the undertaker used to
dress, except his face was not Albert’s, it was dead and rotten and the
green light throbbed within it’s skull, bleeding out through its eyes,
mouth and nose. It spoke with Alec’s mother’s voice, except she had
emigrated to Canada eight years ago to marry, and neither she or Alec
could afford to visit the other. Despite the monster he knew was before
him and the living obelisk he knew was behind him, he didn’t feel fear,
he only had the emptiness he experienced whenever he needed his
mother and the longing it created. He could see only his mother, and
Alec didn’t run.

256
Harvest

Twenty Nine
Craig stared up at the tower block through the windscreen of Kelly’s
small car as she pulled the vehicle into its space in the car park. The fact
that the building was home had always softened his perception of the
place, but now that it felt far from homely all he could see was its grey,
stark ugliness. What was he doing here? Separated from his family,
living in a grotty building, struggling to make ends meet. Lonely.
He was distracted from his despair by the sharp creak of the
handbrake as Kelly finished parking and rattled the key out of the
ignition. He took his seat belt off but didn’t make any effort to leave the
car. He didn’t feel any urge to go inside and Kelly seemed to share his
lack of motivation as she joined him in listening to the tick of the engine
cooling down. He glanced over at her and she looked at him, he broke
eye contact and she did the same. He looked in her direction out of the
corner of his eye and found she was doing the same and was attempting
to stifle a grin. Ever since they had left A&E he had caught sight of that
little smile of hers. Despite his unhappiness he found his own cheeks
aching with a broad grin too. “Go on then. Say it.”
“You are going to have to stop picking on doors.”
“Aha! I have been waiting for this. In my defence…”
“Oh this should be good.” Kelly cut in.
“When you me and Balin lined up to kick Harry’s door in I
thought you said to Balin that we would all kick the door on a count of
three.”
“I meant after three.”
“I realise that now.”
Kelly bit her lip and nodded. Still smirking.
“Strained tendon! I never realised how fragile I was.” Craig
shook his head. “Thanks for taking me. If it wasn’t for you being with
me in A&E I would have been waiting hours.”
“At least with me at your side my being in the service gets you
seen quicker.”
“I can’t believe I got seen by the same nurse who strapped up
my dislocated shoulder. That was embarrassing. You know her don’t
257
Harvest

you? Chloe wasn’t it?”


“Zoe. At weekends we get called to A&E quite often, you get to
know some of the nurses and porters a bit.”
“Yeah.” He cut in. “She seem different to you though?”
“Colder? Distrusting?”
So Kelly had noticed it too. “It’s because of all the stuff that’s
happened here isn’t it?”
“She has seen us involved with it twice now.”
“I have seen it in the faces of other residents in the building.
Weeks ago, my neighbour Vi wanted me to pop in for a cuppa from
time to time, but I saw her in the lobby when we brought Cat back from
hospital and she had that same look in her eyes. I doubt I would be so
welcome now.”
Kelly leaned forward in her seat, folded her arms on the steering
wheel and rested her chin on them and joined Craig in staring up at the
tower. “I guess it’s hard for people to trust anyone with all that is
happening on their doorsteps. It can’t just be us that are experiencing
the suspicious looks – or the strange experiences. I know we seem to be
experiencing a lot of bad things, but it’s not like we are looking very
hard to find them.” Kelly slumped back in her seat, shrugged and
gestured in the air with open hands. “We are just trying to understand
what’s happening. To figure out how to stop it. We aren’t causing any
of it.”
When he considered how his nightmares seemed to predict each
terrible happening at the building her defence sounded hollow. He had
got past his fear that his dreams were repressed memories of things he
had actually done or intentions he didn’t want to admit to, those
explanations didn’t make any sense, but his dreams somehow did
connect him to what was happening. With every nightmare he had
someone would suffer a horrific fate. He couldn’t help but feel
responsible for whatever might happen when he slept.
Kelly let out a deep sigh. “I guess we have to go in.”
Craig leaned against the cool glass of the passenger window as
he contemplated returning. “I’m glad you invited me over tonight.
258
Harvest

Forensics will be all over Harry’s place next door.” Kelly turned sharply
to her side window, hiding her face from him. They had shared their
disbelief at what had happened, but they hadn’t spoken about the events
on the roof. Craig wanted to sweep his arm around her and pull her
close and tell her it was okay and that it wasn’t her fault. In the confines
of Kelly’s little car the gesture could easily be blundered. She might
think it was a cheap pass.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go to your parents?” Whatever
trouble the mention of Harry had caused her it was gone from her face,
yet he doubted it had left her mind. “I don’t mind driving you.”
“No.” Craig realised his knee-jerk reaction to her offer and
softened his voice. “No, it feels like running away.”
“I don’t think anyone would blame you.”
“I know, but this place was my home and I don’t want to be
driven out of it by whatever is going on. Besides taking me to Bath
would involve a four-hour round trip for you and that’s not fair.”
“I was thinking. Let’s see what tomorrow’s like but I imagine
the forensic boys will be in Harry’s flat for days, so you could always
stay over at mine until things have blown over. You can come and go as
you please, just use the place as a base so you don’t have to get
confronted with whatever they will be doing on your doorstep.”
“Yeah? Okay yeah.” She was clear that this was one friend
doing another friend a favour but he was still surprised, this was not the
woman who had treated his offer of a coffee as an indecent proposal a
few days ago. Things had changed since then. They had been through so
much together in such a short period of time and it connected them so
much more than the coffee on the canal could have done. “We will see
how it goes then, and yeah that would be really great, thanks.” Craig
suspected that she wasn’t just being kind, but wanted some company
herself with everything that was happening, he didn’t care though
because she wanted him and that felt good.
After collecting some things from his flat he had walked up with
Kelly to her place, practicing his strides with the crutch he had been
given at the hospital so he could get around without hobbling. Craig had
259
Harvest

accepted Kelly’s offer of a shower, he towelled down, thought against


aftershave but decided to spray enough deodorant to give him an
attractive scent instead. He didn’t want to scare Kelly by making too
much effort. In the bathroom he changed into fresh clothes, dark blue
Ben Sherman denims that hugged his rear and his front nicely, and a
pale blue fashion tee-shirt that was intentionally faded and distressed on
the shoulders.
Kelly showered straight after him and she emerged from the
steamy bathroom while he was sorting through his bag in the hall, she
gave him a sheepish smile and held her towel tight around her, clearly
regretting not changing into her clothes in the bathroom as he had. Craig
had spared her a lingering look but he had caught sight of her fantastic
slender legs, his glance had only been brief but in his mind the journey
his eyes had taken along the contours of her smooth glistening legs, to
the hem of that towel at mini-skirt length, had been leisurely.
He had made himself comfortable tucked into one corner of the
larger sofa with his legs crossed beneath him, drinking the white wine
Kelly had opened for them while he waited for her company. Some time
later Kelly had gotten herself ready and joined him, he had been
mistaken in thinking that the highlight of the night had been glimpsing
her bare legs because they looked just as shapely in the snug dark
denims she wore. He was glad she hadn’t worn a dress because the
memory of her bare legs was a tease in itself.
She wore a brown tee-shirt, the bottom-half detailed in amber
bronze and gold beads and stitched through with some kind of elastic
that pulled the material close to her abdomen, it drew attention to her
slim figure and the plain-half of the top clung to the fullness of her
breasts. Her hair had volume from being blow dried and hung in kinked
plump swathes against her chest and shoulders. She wasn’t wearing
make-up, he was glad because that would have meant she was trying to
look attractive for him and his nerves at being around a woman he
didn’t know that well would have gotten to him. Besides she didn’t need
make-up.
They had laughed their way through a couple of episodes of The
260
Harvest

Simpsons and Friends that they had stumbled across on TV while they
devoured a tube of Pringles together. Part way through the evening the
wine had mingled with his painkillers to create a warm numbness
through his whole body. They had rung a few local Chinese restaurants
before they had found one willing to brave their building and its new-
found notoriety and they had tipped the edgy looking delivery boy a
fiver for his trouble. It was in this moment Craig had realised that they
could have opened the guy to real risk and five pounds didn’t cover that.
It had been the first point of the evening Craig had thought about the
dangers beyond the front door, and despite his enjoyment of chilling out
with Kelly he hadn’t been able to shake the thought of it from his mind.
With their meal finished they flicked the TV through its many
channels trying to find something to watch. “I wish I could get satellite.
I only have terrestrial.”
“Yet despite the hundreds of channels I have we still can’t find
something to watch.” Kelly flicked the channel to a programme with
four women sitting around a restaurant table bitching about men. “What
about this?”
“Sex and the City? Vetoed.” Craig shook his head and Kelly
flicked the channel over to three men standing around a car and
bickering. “Topgear!”
“Almost worth it for Richard Hammond, but no. Vetoed.”
Craig groaned. “We might have to do a trade-off soon or we
won’t settle on anything.”
They both jumped as The A-Team ring tone of his phone rang
out.
“The A-Team?”
Craig struggled to get his phone out of his jeans pockets. “It’s
my brother. Sorry. And don’t mock ‘The Team’.” He leaned forward
and took the call.
Darren cheered down the phone as Craig answered it. “How are
you, bruv?”
“I’m okay, you?” Craig replied.
“Yeah, I’m good.”
261
Harvest

“You get mum’s messages?”


Craig slouched and sighed, his irritation edging his tone. “Yeah,
yeah I called her earlier.”
There was a pause. “You did?” There was surprise in his tone.
“Yes.” Craig snapped bluntly.
“Alright, cut her some slack. She is worried about you. Maybe if
you called her a little more often to put her mind at rest…” Darren must
have sensed Craig switch off, because his brother’s tone changed from
nagging to conspiratorial. “Just be thankful she can’t get your local
news on the internet.”
“You been looking at it?”
“Yeah. I got an RSS news feed for London scrolling across my
PC the whole time I am at work.”
Craig tipped his head back and rolled his eyes into his eyelids.
“Not you worrying about me too.” He nodded his head back onto his
chest and slumped back into his seat.
“It’s natural for families to worry about each other, isn’t it?”
He couldn’t argue with that. “Yes, of course, I know that.” He
admitted quietly. He hated it when his brother was right.
“Don’t worry I haven’t been telling mum about it all. She would
lasso you with her apron strings and drag you back home.”
Craig grunted, Darren might think it was funny but he didn’t.
Darren picked up on his mood straight away. “Jeez, you have a
real stick up your arse about being helped. I remember as a kid you
would bust your knee open and you wouldn’t let yourself cry or let
mum or dad clean you up. You had to do it yourself.”
“You were the same.”
“I’m three years older than you; you probably didn’t remember
my skinning-my-knee age back then. And even though I’m older I have
asked you for help in the past.”
“When have you ever wanted my help for anything?” Craig
realised his voice had climbed with his disbelief and he added a laugh to
soften it.
“When I first moved out I had you stay with me for ages,
262
Harvest

remember?”
“Yeah.” Craig admitted sombrely. “I thought that was just you
being cool.”
“Well it was, because I am the cool older brother, but it was also
because I missed you guys and I was homesick. I missed you geeking
off while I was trying to get ready for work, or trying to watch TV and
stuff.”
Darren sounded serious. Craig hadn’t admitted it but it had taken
him a while to adjust to Darren not being at home. Craig felt bad. “Sorry
I didn’t realise.”
“Just check in with mum a couple of times a week will you. Call
or text. Just while all this is happening in your building.”
“Yeah, sure. Anyway there isn’t much you guys can do about a
spike in the crime rate.”
“Spike in the crime rate?” Darren repeated incredulously.
“Seems a little more than that bro. I thought your building was pretty
safe. It’s weird that it’s all happening at your place. The news are
treating it like a bit of a novelty.”
“I know. But seriously I’m okay down here; I keep my wits
about me.”
“I’m your older brother, not someone you have to impress or put
on a brave face with. I don’t have any expectations you have to meet to
qualify as my brother.”
Craig’s face got hot and his eyes moist. “Shut up. Dick.”
“You’re the dick. I was thinking; I could take some leave and
come down and stay with you for a bit. I can keep you company, and
you can show your country-brother the city night-life.”
Darren couldn’t come down. It was hard enough dealing with
the strangeness of events as it was without having to convince him of
what was happening. He couldn’t leave Kelly on her own either. “What
about your girlfriend?”
“Were engaged and gonna be married in a couple of years time
so I’m sure she will be grateful for a bit of space from me. We could
geek off together. Treat it as a practice run for my stag night. It’s been a
263
Harvest

while since we had a night out together.” Craig could imagine it now,
their dance versions of eighties boys programmes like the A-team,
Knightrider, and Streethawk blaring from the stereo while they boozed
and got ready to hit the town. He was surprised to find that for the first
time he actually missed home. The realisation was nearly enough to
floor him. It would be a good laugh. Yet it was too dangerous. There
was no excuse he could think of except for a version of the truth. “It has
been ages and that would be great, but I don’t want you down here with
all that’s happening because then I would be worrying about you too.
I’m ok anyway; I’m staying with someone tonight.”
“Someone?”
“Yes.”
“A female someone?”
“Yes.”
“That Vicki girl?”
“No.”
“Hello, Craig’s got someone else. Who?” Darren was in take the
piss mode.
“Fuck off.”
“She there?”
“Yes.” Craig said bluntly.
“Put her on.”
“Fuck off.”
“You like her?”
“Fuck off.”
“Aw, okay. I’m fucking off. Speak soon Mr.”
Craig said goodbye, hung up on him and apologised to Kelly for
the interruption. He saw that she was still flicking through the channels.
“Okay, stick Sex and the City back on and then after that we can watch
Topgear on catch-up TV, and I will show you what real cars look like.”
He actually didn’t care what they watched; it was just nice being with
Kelly.
“It’s a deal.”
Craig swung his legs back up on the sofa and got comfy again.
264
Harvest

He saw that as Kelly was now sitting with her legs pulled up onto the
cushions too, his feet were about an inch from hers. Sod it, she had told
him to make himself comfortable and he was. If she felt uncomfortable
with him being so close to her then he was sure she would move. She
didn’t. They both laughed at the character of Samantha brazenly
returning a faulty neck-massager she had been using to massage
something else.
“It’s nice to see you laugh.”
“Thanks. I think. Does that mean you think I am normally a
miserable cow?”
“No. Not at all. A bit frosty to start with.” He saw Kelly’s mouth
drop and he jumped in to put his comment back in the context he had
meant it to be in. “I mean after today I’m surprised, and pleased to see
you laughing. After what happened I was worried about you.”
Kelly cast her eyes down to the large glass of wine she cradled
in her lap.
“You told me what happened up there,” Craig looked gravely at
the ceiling thinking about Kelly’s chase to the roof way above their
heads. “But you haven’t said how you feel. About Harry. About what
happened.”
Kelly swilled the wine around her glass. “Pretty shitty. It was the
last thing I expected. I thought he might lash out at me or Balin when
we cornered him, I was prepared for that. When he disappeared over the
edge it was all so quick. Like I had missed something. Missed him
getting past us, or something. I didn’t look over the edge, Balin did, but
I couldn’t and yet I can see him in my head sprawled in a tangled mess
at the bottom.”
Craig could see the slush of Harry’s brain and blood spread out
from his head in a splatter. “Imagination filling in the blanks.”
“Yeah. Great. I dunno, I can’t believe any of it. That Harry was
capable of doing anything like what he must have been doing. It all
seems so out of character.”
“I lived next door to him for about two years. He didn’t smell
too good and was a bit of an odd character but I would never have said
265
Harvest

he was anything but harmless.” Craig shivered at the thought of the


grim events that had been taking place next to his home, sleeping with
only a foot separating his head from the blood and carnage of Harry’s
charnel house flat.
“The same goes for Malik, I mean he was a bible-basher and
liked a few brandies more than he should, but he was a nice old guy, a
bit hail and brimstone but not a stalker or someone you would think
would try and knife someone.”
“Or give you a black eye…”
Kelly fingered the blemishes on her face. “Yeah.”
“You didn’t seem to want to talk about it earlier so I didn’t
mention this to you, but when you went down to get Balin to do the
arrest, and you left me watching over Harry’s door Cat appeared at the
fire escape at the end of the corridor.”
“What did she want?”
“To freak me out, I think.” Craig’s skin tightened on his arms
and he felt their hairs bristle as he recalled what she had told him. “She
looked scared. She pointed at me, at Harry’s flat and said ‘It is in there
with Harry’. I don’t understand and I’m not sure I want to. Nothing
came past me when you left to chase Harry. I wonder if there is still
something in there.” He shivered visibly but didn’t care because Kelly
was rubbing her arms too.
“Cat might not be so coherent after her coma.” Kelly cautioned
with little conviction. “But then, who knows. I certainly don’t
anymore.”
Craig became aware of their vulnerability again. Sitting in the
pool of light that the standard lamp cast down on them, the rest of the
room seemed like some featureless void that held only shadows. He
imagined what the Blitz was like, sitting in the dark, waiting for
something that could rip through the home that was usually a sanctuary
against danger. Waiting for something they were seemingly defenceless
against to take one or both of them.
“There is another thing that bugs me. The station has been trying
to get more police presence on the streets, the local bobby walking the
266
Harvest

pavements getting to know people. I thought it was a shame that our


community having the intercom controlled door between us and the
world, and being up in the sky and not in the streets, wouldn’t really get
that relationship with the police. So when I got off work I would
sometimes walk around this place in uniform, chat with old dears who
spend most of their days here, say ‘hi’ to the teens, chat with the
caretaker. You get to know the building that way, and that door to the
roof is always locked. I mean always. There are no railings up there,
there’s barely even a lip between the roof and a big fall. It is always
kept locked, except today. The one time when someone is seemingly
and deliberately heading up there to throw himself off the building.”
“It was probably an oversight. Alec may have been doing some
work up there. I didn’t even know you could get onto the roof to be
honest.”
“Alec was in the crowd that gathered around outside. I asked if
he had been working up there, if someone could have gotten the key. He
had the keys on him.”
“You think Alec unlocked it for Harry to get up there and top
himself?”
“I don’t know what I think, we stumbled across Harry and it was
a fluke. Harry wouldn’t have known he was going to have to do what he
did today. He chose to run up instead of down, and for the first time I
know of, the door to the roof was left unlocked. I just feel like were on a
playing board and someone is moving the pieces around, keeping ahead
of us in some game where we don’t even understand the rules.”
“That’s it. You need a dose of sanity. You’re starting to sound
like Rachel now!”
Kelly laughed with him but their noise was silenced as the
intercom buzzer sounded from the wall and startled them both. Kelly
choked a mouthful of wine down in a spluttering cough and got to her
feet laughing once again. “Oh my God, that’s probably Rachel now!
Freaky timing.”
Kelly pressed the door release at hearing Rachel crackle
hesitantly onto the intercom. Rachel had rung while they had been
267
Harvest

waiting for their Chinese to arrive, she had called Cat several times to
press for information but she was not picking up, Rachel had said that if
she didn’t get an answer she was coming over. She was convinced that
Cat had some link or may have seen something that could offer an
insight into what might be happening. Jason didn’t want Rachel to come
back to the tower, but at least he was settled at hers and safe, even if
something happened to her.
Twenty minutes later a flushed and sweaty looking Rachel
disturbed the cosiness that had been just Kelly and him. Kelly got a
glass from the kitchen and offered Rachel some wine, but Rachel
declined and slugged back the contents of a miniature bottle of spirits
instead.
“Just think of me as a self-treating St Bernard.” Rachel replied to
Craig’s arched eyebrow. “Despite fourteen floors to Cat’s flat,” she
swallowed a breath. “The lift didn’t appeal.” Rachel eyed Craig and his
new injury. “I see you have traded in your sling for a crutch. You might
want to stop throwing yourself at things!”
“You’re a couple of hours too late; all the jokes have been had.”
“Oh that is a shame.” Rcahel’s face became serious. “And how
are you, dear?”
Kelly nodded. “I’m okay. It shook me up like I said to you
earlier on the phone, but I’m okay.”
Kelly prompted Craig to tell Rachel about his experience with
Cat outside Harry’s flat. When he did Rachel looked grave and sombre.
“It would seem that I am right to push Cat for answers. I had
better go to it. I don’t want to leave Jason too long. Not fair to leave him
worrying about me. I better get this over and done with and climb the
rest of the way up there.”
Kelly’s mouth briefly drew down at the corners. “Well, good
luck. She has a spy hole in her door like everyone else here so she might
not even answer to you.”
“I know, but I have to try.”
“Yeah, because if Cat doesn’t help, or doesn’t have any
information then we are just back to waiting for something else to
268
Harvest

happen. The only way I can see us getting answers at the moment is for
something to happen to us.” Neither women answered him and he
realised that they hadn’t thought of that.
“Yes, quite. It’s late, I better go. I don’t want to leave Jason too
long so I won’t call in on the way back down. Going down is easier
anyway. I will ring you when I’m safe at home and fill you in or arrange
to meet up with you tomorrow or something.”
Kelly agreed and saw Rachel out and then returned to Craig’s
side. “Are you okay?”
“Me?” Craig felt his face flush.
“You gave a grim summation of our situation a second ago. I
didn’t quite realise it was like that until then.”
He thought of Vicki and his frustrations poured out. “What has
been happening in this building. What happened at the hospital. The
thing with Harry. None of it makes any sense. There’s no explanation to
be found in any of it. When are we going to get some answers?”
Kelly glanced down into her glass, clearly unsure at how to
respond to his outburst. “We are closer to anyone else on this. Hell, we
are on top of it. We will work something out.”
Craig sighed and rested his head on the back of the sofa and
closed his eyes.
He felt the leg of his jeans being tugged at the hem. “You want
to sleep?” Kelly whispered.
“No.”
“You were asleep.”
“I was?”
“I thought you were thinking then your breathing changed.”
Craig liked the idea of someone watching him sleep. He would
prefer watching Kelly sleep though. That was one of the things he had
liked about being in a relationship when he had been with Lisa back at
uni; someone feeling comfortable enough with you to fall asleep beside
you. “I’m sorry, it’s nothing personal. Sleep has a way of sneaking up
on me lately.” He widened his eyes as if he could prop them open with
everything he could see, but he could feel the tiredness like some
269
Harvest

invisible creature squatting on his chest. “Yeah, maybe I should call it a


night. Sad, isn’t it. I’ve been tired for days, maybe weeks.”
“Not sleeping?” Kelly asked as she dragged a quilt from behind
the sofa. She perched on the arm of the chair and looked down on him.
“It’s not surprising really after all that’s been happening.”
Craig looked up into Kelly’s face as he considered his words,
unsure if he wanted to tell her what he had been experiencing. “I sleep,
but I dream a lot.”
“Bad dreams?”
“The worst. Not like any nightmares I have had before. They are
so vivid, so graphic.” He watched Kelly’s face as he considered telling
her more. Her concentration hadn’t faltered. “There are really intense
emotions; pain and terror. It’s all so raw and real.”
Kelly slipped from the arm of the sofa onto the seat. “I have had
dreams I thought were real before.” Kelly read Craig’s discomfort and
prompted him. “What?”
Silence crept in around them in the gloom before Craig could
say what he needed. “You don’t understand. The things I dream about –
They feel intense and real…” He paused. “Because they are real.” Craig
emptied his glass into his mouth and was relieved at having told
someone.
“Memories?”
He cringed at having to spell it out to her. “I have had some
dreams of quite specific events. Then later, hours or days later, I hear
about something that has happened or I find myself coming across
something and I find that what I dreamt has happened for real.”
Kelly looked a little scared. Of him? “Coincidence?” She
suggested.
“I have been down that road too. I dreamt that old guy that
drowned in his bath. I dreamt the woman gutting her husband at
breakfast.” It was clear Kelly didn’t know what to say. “I have dreamt
other things too; people I don’t know about. Horrible things that I
haven’t heard about yet. Things that haven’t been discovered maybe. I
dreamt something about Vicki that I can’t or don’t want to remember
270
Harvest

and now I can’t get hold of her, and no one at her office has seen her
even though she had a hot story from here.” Kelly took his hand, and
although her touch felt good he had to pull his hand away and move to
the edge of the sofa to break the connection between them as her
kindness might cause him to break down. “When I sleep I worry that
someone will die.”
“Craig, I don’t know what to say. I don’t understand any of
what’s happening, my brain just isn’t wired that way, but I have relied
on you to help me believe, so I believe you. What I can believe though
is that you can’t look to yourself for any blame for what’s happening
here.”
“I know. But I can’t get away from the fact that if I sleep
something might happen to someone.” He could feel the tiredness draw
on his words, as if talking about his dreams was an incantation that
summoned him into that world. “Do you dream?” He asked quickly,
desperate to avoid falling asleep again.
Kelly swept a swathe of hair from her face and looked away for
a moment. “Yeah, I used to. After I left Ian I had bad dreams all the
times. I would dream that I went back to him, or I hadn’t left and things
were better. Or I would dream that I end up alone. Not quite like your
nightmares but as you can imagine it created a lot of doubt, fear and
anxiety when I didn’t need it.”
“There are lots of things to be frightened of. You don’t need
monsters for a nightmare.”
“Yeah. So I don’t dream anymore. Not since I started taking
sleeping tablets anyhow.” She shrugged.
“Ungh! Uninterrupted sleep! I could do with that. I just don’t
want to dream anymore.” he murmured, losing his battle against the
darkness behind his eyes.
“I don’t know that you should take any of my sleeping tablets.”
“No, best not to.”
He was woken up by the rolled up quilt slamming into him.
“Hey! I could keep hitting you with this to keep you awake.”
“You could.” She swatted him with it again. “Yes. That could do
271
Harvest

the trick.”
“Craig.” Her tone was serious. “You are going to fall asleep, you
already have. You aren’t going to be able to avoid it. I’m going to get
myself ready for bed and read in my room, if Rachel calls me with any
news I will come and wake you. Even if she doesn’t I will come and
check on you in a bit and see if you are okay.”
“It’s not me that I’m worried about.” Craig cuddled the quilt
sausage. “Yeah, you’re right I know. Okay then.” He thanked her for
letting him stay and began arranging a bed on the sofa. “Twenty four
and I’m going to bed at ten. Sad,” he harrumphed.
Kelly looked caught by something but he didn’t know what. His
age? Or was she just as disappointed by the end of their evening
together as he was?
“No stamina obviously.” She had recovered from whatever it
was.
If Vicki had made a comment like that he would have made a
crude comeback, but he held back with Kelly as he wasn’t sure how she
would take it, yet somehow that buzz of anxiety that came with daring
himself to say something was just as exciting as flirting itself. They said
goodnight to each other. He slipped out of his top and jeans and pulled
on a pair of jersey pyjama bottoms and climbed in under the duvet. He
checked his phone in the hope that he had missed a text from Vicki. He
hadn’t. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stay awake long and it was the
end of the evening but he didn’t want to be on his own. The electricity
was back in his stomach. He tossed the cover aside, got up and went to
Kelly’s door. He hesitated for what felt like forever in the darkness,
willing himself to knock.
He was startled when the door opened and he could see his
shock mirrored in Kelly’s face.
“What are you doing!” Kelly gasped.
“Not what it looked like!”
“Listening at my door you mean?”
“I was going to knock, but you beat me to it.”
“I guess I can be grateful you didn’t grab one of my breasts like
272
Harvest

you nearly did when we first met.”


All Craig could do was laugh and burn up. “Seriously, you said
something back there and it got me thinking. You said you could check
on me, well this is going to sound very much like a line from Nightmare
on Elm Street but I was thinking if you were going to read for a bit you
could sit in the lounge and watch over me too. If you see me looking a
bit restless you could wake me up.”
Kelly looked everywhere but at him and took her time to answer,
probably recovering her wits from his scaring her, and seemingly doing
everything not to look at his bare chest. Would she even like what she
saw? “You are going to have to sleep properly sometime, but yeah, sure
I can do that.” She turned back into her room and the door drifted open
fully. It was lit by two small table lamps, each on a bedside table. Craig
didn’t get much of a look at the room before Kelly returned to the door
with her quilt bundled into her arms, but he noticed the surfaces were
neat and uncluttered while the furnishings, the velvet headboard, the
scatter cushions, the fur rug, were plush and cosy looking.
“Where were you heading when you caught me lurking
anyway.”
If she picked up on his flirtatious insinuation she ignored it. “I
had left my book in the lounge and was coming to get it.” Her face
flushed. She wasn’t going to bite, but at least he had got her heart racing
a bit. They didn’t talk much more after this except for another
goodnight, but snuggled under his quilt he took comfort in having Kelly
in the same room watching over him as he waited for the nightmares to
begin.

273
Harvest

Thirty
Rachel entered the staircase and glanced upwards at the remaining four
flights of stairs that zigzagged from landing to landing to the fourteenth
floor. Cat’s floor. She glanced over the glossy black banister looking for
encouragement from the floors she had already conquered, but the sheer
drop that yawned below her seemed to stretch and the landing retract,
pitching her forward, as if the great throat of the building had
swallowed.
A dull ting of metal on concrete grounded her vertigo.
She held her position and listened intently, her senses chasing
the memory of the sound while she looked about her for a visual clue to
its cause. Nothing. Rachel swallowed the discomfort that had gripped
her chest from peering over the banister. “Don’t look down.” She
instructed herself. She glanced around her warily then continued her
ascent.
Scraaaatch. The sound of metal dragging lightly across stone
rang out again, and was then silenced. Rachel’s head snapped upwards,
and instantly homed in on the direction of the sound. The shadowy
angles of the stairs offered no sign of movement, but whatever had
made the sound was above her and out of sight, and her journey to the
top would take her to it.

On the fourteenth floor at the end of the corridor seven doors down
from Cat’s flat, a fluorescent tube fluttered winked then blinked out,
casting Neil Harris’ door into darkness. Within the flat Neil stood in his
kitchen and sloshed hot water onto the coffee granules in the two mugs
on the worktop. The rich smell of the coffee gave no comfort. All he
could think of was Jane in the other room and what he could say to her.
He stirred a sugar into each mug, and then cursed – Karen liked sugar,
Jane didn’t. He quickly tipped it away and poured another cup. As he
tucked a flank of his shoulder length hair behind his ear he found his
hands were shaking with apprehension. He heard her voice call to him.
“Are you growing that coffee?”
He quickly explained his mistake, but didn’t mention Karen.
274
Harvest

“Typical, two years and you can’t remember what I take in my


drink!”
Neil winced at her statement and poured another mug. Jane was
cool, he reasoned. She was good looking, curvy, funny, pretty-smart and
gave great head. He lingered on that last thought and his jeans tightened
on his hardening groin. Karen was all that too, but there was more.
There was a spark. Fuck that, there was an inferno when they got
together. If Jane was like a comforting open fire, then Karen was
napalm. Anytime he thought of her (which was a lot) his groin burned.
Neil smirked to himself; his firmness became an uncomfortable brick in
his jeans. He tried to think of something else to make it subside, but it
was the kind of aching excitement that needed relief to quench it. He
took the two mugs through to the lounge where Jane lounged on the
sofa, lit gently by a single standard lamp and the flicker of the TV. She
unfurled and took the proffered mug from him. “Thanks, love” She took
a brief sip and laughed. “God, you got a bit horny out there didn’t you!”
Neil felt her rub at his crotch before he could sit down. It felt
good. She stealthily slid his fly open and her hand started working him.
He stood there, paralysed with the sensation as she rubbed within his
jeans. He closed his eyes and thought of Karen.
Neil pulled away gently and put his mug down. He looked into
her round confused face and tried to give a convincing smile but it was
strained and weak. It sapped the life from his erection and his groin
crawled with cold receding blood. He zipped his fly back up. “There’s
something I want to say to you.” He tried harder to smile but thought he
might look insane. The door knocker rattled and he sighed with relief at
the interruption.
“Who would call at this time of night?” Jane asked.
Her face didn’t show frustration but concern. He knew why. He
told her not to worry, but he had lost his erection the moment he had
heard the door go. He straightened himself out in his jeans and headed
out of the room. “It will be nothing.” He didn’t know if he was
reassuring her or himself.
By the time Neil had reached the hall he had reasoned that it
275
Harvest

wouldn’t be anything to do with the craziness of the building. That kind


of thing happened to other people. His heart pounded in his chest like
the heavy bass of a nightclub. What if it was Karen? She had been
pushing for him to end things with Jane so that they could be together.
No. No, Karen didn’t want Jane to know about her, she wouldn’t come
and force the issue. Whoever would be at the door Neil was glad of the
break, it gave him more time to find the words that would end their
relationship. Whatever he said he would probably end up wearing the
coffee he had just made – just as well he made it extra milky; didn’t
want a burn. He laughed inside but then felt kind of sad that he was
going to lose Jane; he had become comfortable with her.
He stared through the spy hole, but couldn’t see anything.
Strangely it seemed to be dark in the corridor. He opened the door and a
part of the dark broke away and lunged into the hall, too quick for his
eyes to register any detail. Something hard swiped across his throat and
he stumbled back with an explosion of white-hot pain in his throat. He
fought to draw a breath and a fluid red line lashed out from below his
line of sight. He pulled his open hands up to it and watched the pulsing
line break upon his fingers in a splashing spray of vivid red. He lost his
balance and fell backward onto the carpet, scrabbling along the floor
panicking and dying.
Jane blew on her coffee and took a sip. It was already drinkable.
Bit milky but it was nice. A thought danced in the back of her mind at
why Neil had been so strange this evening. He was nervous, no doubt
about it. It couldn’t be anything bad. They hadn’t even had a row the
whole time they had been dating. Perhaps he was going to do what she
hoped he would do, after all they had practically been living together at
each others flats the last year or so. She reached for her mobile and
quickly thumbed a text into the screen: “I FINK HES GONNA POP DA
Q!” Would he? She had talked about it with her best friend the day
before, her friend had been doubtful of his intentions of commitment
towards her. She would show her! She laughed quietly and girlishly to
herself as she called up Karen’s name and sent the text to her.
Jane watched the shifting images on the TV. She was anxious
276
Harvest

for Neil to return and ask the question that she wanted and hoped to
hear. A fat black fly bumped into her face, she swatted it away and
watched it land on the coffee table where another one crawled lazily.
She swatted at them with her magazine. “You coming back, Neil?”
There was no answer, it might have been one of his mates calling round
and Neil was trying to get rid of him. The television held her attention
until his absence began to eat at her. “Neil? Neil?” She waved away
another fly. There was one crawling across the TV too. She saw the
handle of the door turn slowly downward, as if the door was being
opened with the intention of her not noticing it. “Stop mucking around
and get yourself back in here.” She laughed, but it came uneasily. Neil
should know not to creep around like that what with everything that had
been happening. She didn’t know why he had been so insistent at being
at his flat tonight; they had spent most of the week at hers because of
everything that had been happening at The Heights. She wouldn’t let
him bring her here again until everything had settled down. She turned
back to the television and let Neil do his thing, whatever that was going
to be. The door swung slowly open and death, in a cloud of bloated
flies, took three lightning swift strides to her side.

The sound of a tip of metal being scored across concrete dragged itself
into the perimeter of Rachel’s senses. Her nerve faltered and she
stopped her ascent a few flights short of Cat’s floor. Sharp but fleeting,
the noise caught her attention before slithering quickly and illusively
away. She stood there, alone in the isolated enclosed stairwell, her
thoughts dashed to her mobile phone in her bag. She could call Kelly.
She dismissed her anxiety with a stiff-upper-lip gusto. What would she
say? That she could here a sound?
She scoffed dismissively at herself, but the humour trembled on
a foundation of weak resolve as she hauled herself up the banister. An
unsettling awareness of not being alone crowded in on her and slowed
her steps. The sense was quickly followed by a new sound in the
shadows. A soft shuffling on the stairs above her.
Rachel held her ground as step by step a slow stubbed footfall
277
Harvest

sounded, each step bringing the source of the sound closer to her. On
the landing ahead of her a shadow moved. The pace of the staggered
noise changed as the drawn out scuffing steps moved from the stairs and
onto the landing ahead of her.
A meek woman around Rachel’s age stepped into view,
shambling onto the staircase with Rachel in pink fluffy slippers. Rachel
caught her breath and tried her best to restrain the pull of an inane grin
of relief. The woman’s face was ashen and drawn, her hair tired and
fragile looking. Her body huddled over with her arms folded under her
chest in a cowering walk. Her eyes were evasive but aware as she
walked around Rachel. Rachel managed to turn her self-amused grin
into a pleasantry toward the grey woman as she shuffled past her in the
direction Rachel had just come from.
Rachel’s wrist jerked, snatched into a strong grip by the woman
who was now impossibly in front of her again, as if time had leapt
backward like a needle on a scratched record. The woman held Rachel
in place and shook her head slowly from side to side, her face and eyes
hard and expressionless. Rachel swallowed the shock and allowed her
eyes to stray from her face toward Cat’s landing, as if she instinctively
knew that was the direction the woman warned her against. She glanced
back to the woman and found that she was gone.
Rachel looked down and caught sight of the woman, impossibly
further down the stairs withdrawing backwards, sliding along the wall
with a sickening slithering noise as her cardigan dragged along the
smooth white concrete. She was still shaking her head in warning. Her
eyes, grey and haunted, stared up into Rachel’s face. She slinked across
the landing below until she was out of sight. From experience and
intuition Rachel knew that if she went after her she would find the
landing empty.
The sound of concrete being scraped snatched her attention back
to her original heading. Her heart was quivering from the apparitions
unnerving warning, and her mind teetered on fearful imagination of
what could be waiting for her. She bolstered herself to discover the
source of the haunting noise. One measured foot after another she
278
Harvest

climbed the final approach to Cat’s landing.


The light on the wall above the door was dead, and the square of
light from the window set into the fire escape door only served to
deepen the shadows around it. For seconds that seemed like
uncomfortable minutes she waited for her eyes to find whatever made
the noise while the gloom pressed forebodingly against her.
The landing was empty.
With a sigh of relief Rachel clutched the handle and pulled the
heavy door open, light from the sanctuary of the bright corridor spilled
over her.
Scraaaaatch.
Sharp metal scratched across gritty concrete at a volume that
raked at her ears and her nerves with its proximity. Rachel froze. The
sound was on the landing with her, it had come from floor level from
behind the door she held open. Her palm became slick and her grip on
the handle faltered. Her hand was very near whatever was making that
noise.
She stilled her quavering breaths. All she had to do was walk
forward. Three quick measured steps and she would be in the apparent
safety of the bright corridor, near people’s homes and the help the safety
they represented.
There had been nothing behind the door only a moment before.
If there was something there now then it had to be spiritual. The woman
on the stairs had unnerved her and her trust in the safety of the spiritual
world had been shaken by events in the building. Despite her fears she
had to see what was tormenting her. She let go of the handle.
The door drifted closed on her escape route and the gloom crept
back out of the shadows. What was she doing? The spirit world wasn’t
the benign plane that she understood. Not in this building anyway. She
had already received a warning. She didn’t have any defence against
whatever was at work here. Whatever lurked in this building was
beyond anything she had ever experienced. Every supernatural horror
film that had ever frightened her strobed through her mind. She was
doing what the stupid heroine would do! Rachel’s heart leapt into her
279
Harvest

throat and she fumbled for the door.


Scraaaaatch, came the noise. She froze within the quiet that
followed. It had been just to her right. She only had to turn her head to
the right and whatever made that noise would be at her feet. Dread
paralyzed her. The noise punctured the quiet then left her dangling in
silence again, seemingly daring her to look. She could feel a presence
by her side; a ‘something’ at the perimeter of that other sense beyond
sight and sound. Whatever it was hadn’t done anything to her. Yet.
Maybe it liked to taunt it’s victims before… She waited for the noise as
someone might wait for the next heart stopping drop on a rollercoaster.
It didn’t come. She hesitantly lowered her gaze towards the ground.
Scraaaaatch.
She lurched in fright as the sound leapt out at her from the tip of
a golden sickle being scored along the ground in a wide arc by a figure
sitting hunched on crossed legs in a dark hooded robe, seemingly
dressed in the shadow that he sat within. The figures face was hidden
but the narrow tongue of white beard that hung out from the dark hood
told her it was the same phantom that had appeared to her at Craig’s flat
the night Amy had been taken. The figure let the sickle rest on the floor
and held its hand up to Rachel, offering her something.
She eyed the familiar figure warily, her confidence returning as
she fell back on her old belief that the spirit world was benign. She
reached out and found a small object deposited into her palm. The old
man’s cold rough fingers withdrew leaving a single small stone in her
hand. The stone was engraved with the ‘Jera’ rune. She could see that
the rune that represented the harvest was symbolic of what was
happening. “But why? Why are children – people being taken?” The
figure didn’t answer.
The engraving changed before her eyes, the two separate
symbols ran smoothly together like beads of mercury joining as one and
formed a line with a triangular shape jutting fin-like from one side. She
recognised the symbol as ‘Thurisaz’ and its significance branded itself
upon her. The rune symbolised destiny through suffering, the endurance
of chaos and the confrontation with the monster. The monster. Her hand
280
Harvest

burned in a wild flash-fire of pain, as if the rune itself was evil and
reacted against Rachel’s innocence and purity. She let the hot rune fall
and it passed seamlessly into the ground like a ghost. Shaken, she turned
sharply to the sage for an answer, but he had followed the rune and she
was alone once again but for the dread prophecy of ‘Thurisaz’. That she
would face the monster.

281
Harvest

Thirty One
Five doors down from Cat’s flat the fluorescent tube of the corridor
flickered, buzzed and died, plunging the section of corridor outside Liz
Dancey’s flat into thick darkness.
Moll Dancey tiptoed on her red plastic step bringing her level
with the bathroom sink and stared at her cold fluorescent lit reflection in
the mirror. She brushed her teeth thoroughly with her Disney
toothbrush, Mickey Mouse’s plastic head dug into her small pale
coloured palm. She pulled at the flannel of her pyjama bottoms that
were riding uncomfortably high after going to the toilet. The fluorescent
on the mirror flickered and for uncomfortable seconds the darkness stole
all the detail of the bathroom and an alternative room where everything
was painted black replaced it. All Molly could see of her dark face were
her white eyes and the toothpaste spit around her mouth. She left the
brush in her mouth and slapped the mirror mounted light. It buzzed
lazily and came back to life leaving Molly staring around her, uncertain
if she could trust the light to stay with her. She didn’t like the dark.
Uncomfortably, she began to think her mum should have come
to hurry her along into her bed by now. She had left her to dry herself
and get herself ready after her bath while her mum had gone to see who
had called at the front door. With the brush in her mouth she opened the
bathroom door and peeked out. The hallway was dark with only a shaft
of light from the lounge giving away any details from the gloom. The
front door was open and it was dark in the corridor outside. She
frowned. Why was the front door open? Why were the lights outside
out? Where was mum? Something was wrong. Mum never left the door
open at night. Just lately she never left it unlocked, even in the daytime.
A thick drop of white Colgate saliva fell from her mouth to the
carpet. Moll slurped the toothpaste from her lips and stepped back from
the mess soaking into the carpet, she wiped at her mouth crudely; mum
would be mad.
Except mum was lying on the floor.
She didn’t look mad, she looked asleep, but Moll knew she
couldn’t be. Mum would never sleep on the floor, and the way she was
282
Harvest

laying looked too uncomfortable to sleep, and her eyes were wide open
and staring out from her dark face. They weren’t blinking. More
toothpaste spit splattered the carpet. “Mum?” Something moved in the
dark behind her mum.
Moll saw that they were the black grubby toes of men’s shoes
picked out by the dim light from the lounge. The shoes were wrong.
Daddy didn’t live there anymore. Even if he did they wouldn’t be dirty
like that. Even though they didn’t love each other any more daddy
would not be standing there while mum was lying funny on the floor.
There was a shape above the shoes that she couldn’t make out. The
shadows were too dark. “MUM!”
The shoes suddenly moved. The stepped over her mum towards
Moll, the buzz of flies filled the air. She turned back into the bathroom,
slammed and locked the door and backed up towards the sink. The
fluorescent light on the mirror was flickering again. She found herself
whining, she wanted to pee again. She heard her whine grow louder.
Then she realised it wasn’t her voice at all; the sound was all around
her. She peed hot and freely down her legs as a sound built over her
shoulder and she knew there was something else impossibly behind her.
Her arms were snatched painfully behind her before she could turn. In
one tug Moll was yanked backwards off her feet into a green fire.
Mickey Mouse gagged her scream.

Rachel had decided to get the hell out of the building after the warnings
she had received on the stairs, but only two steps down she had stopped
herself. Cat was really the only source of information they had now. If
she gave up on pursuing Cat then Craig was right, all they could do was
wait for the next disappearances or attacks and hope that they might
offer some kind of answers. Rachel had pressed on with her original
direction and intention, but this time her bag was open and her mobile
phone was at the ready. If something was going to happen to her she
was going to call Kelly and shout out any details she could before she
could be taken.
Rachel faced Cat’s door hesitantly. She had been unsure of the
283
Harvest

reception she might receive on her last visit to Cat’s flat, but after the
hospital she had more of an idea. A cool blade of fear ran under every
inch of her skin at the thought of how Malik had been defeated at the
hospital. Just what had happened to Cat before or during that coma?
Cat had always been a special child but the ability she seemed to
demonstrate at the hospital was beyond seeing and talking to those that
had passed. Her own talent gave her a unique perspective but Cat’s
power was more than any ability Rachel had thought possible or dared
to believe in. What else could Cat be capable of? This new ability filled
her with an unease she didn’t want to admit to; especially concerning
someone she cared for. Malik had come close to killing Cat before she
had been able to retaliate, maybe Cat didn’t have much control over her
power. Rachel had heard theories that poltergeist activity and
paranormal mental abilities sometimes shared a symbiotic relationship
with strong emotion. Perhaps the power had been summoned by Cat’s
fear?
Cat resented Rachel. Hate was another strong emotion.
The warning Rachel had received on the staircase and the
symbolism of the rune grew more ominous. Cat hated Rachel, but she
couldn’t accept that Cat could harm her physically, yet the fear
remained. Cat couldn’t be the monster.
Rachel rattled the door knocker gently and waited. The end of
the corridor was dark. Strange that she couldn’t see the orange glow of
city’s night sky. In fact it was so dark it was hard to see where the
corridor actually finished. The fluorescent tube nearest that end of the
corridor flickered sporadically. It was so quiet on this level that she
could hear its ticking and rasping death rattle. Every time it dimmed or
winked out the corridor became shorter and the darkness stepped closer.
When it came back from nothing it was momentarily brighter and
Rachel could see further into the darkness beyond. She could see legs.
Someone was standing idly against a wall: waiting. Though she only
saw snatches of his profile in the bursts of light she was sure his eyes
were on her: watching. Probably someone was having a cigarette
outside their home. She couldn’t see the single red-eye of a cigarette
284
Harvest

burning from the dark. His presence after the warning woman and the
symbols of the runes on the stairs fed the sense of dread she carried
inside her.
The door tore open and Rachel’s world crashed suddenly into
focus on Cat. For several long moments they both stood in silence,
Rachel’s hands trembled and emotion tightened her throat and lips.
“How did you get in?” Cat demanded.
“Kelly let me in…” Rachel smiled as best as she could with her
face feeling like it was carved from stone.
“Shouldn’t you be at her door then and not mine?”
“I came to see you. I got Kelly to buzz me in because after this
afternoon I didn’t think you would let me in.”
“You expect it to be different now?”
Rachel dared to exert some attitude. “I just walked up fourteen
floors to get this far. I was hoping for a little respite.” If she could get
invited in then maybe half the battle would be won.
“I think you will find gravity makes it easier going down,” Cat
stated pointing in that direction.
Rachel’s resolve faltered and she slumped. Did Cat hate her so
much? “Cat. If it wasn’t for me and my friends being there at the
hospital this afternoon we most likely wouldn’t be having this
conversation at all.” Her tone held a balance of force and authority. She
watched Cat break eye-contact as her resolve seemed to wane and
consider Rachel’s point. Rachel wanted to keep her locked in the stand
off, hoping she could defeat her, but she took advantage of the break in
the stare-down for a brief look for the man that hung at the edge of the
shadow.
Cat caught her and followed her look, and when their eyes
locked again something had changed in her face; she appeared
uncertain. Cat glanced back into the shadows at the end of the corridor
and then, still looking distracted and transfixed by the dark she stood
close to her door to make room for Rachel to enter her flat. Rachel
didn’t bother to confirm if that was indeed what the gesture meant and
moved into the hall of Cat’s flat. After a few seconds Cat followed
285
Harvest

Rachel in and shut the door behind her, although the way her eyes
darted between Rachel and the door it was clear that she was still
distracted by the watcher. Cat folded her arms and sniffed coolly.
“Okay. You have five minutes to explain.”

One door down from Cat’s flat, Maureen Brooke clambered back into
her bed. She had just read her nightly ten pages of the good book when
she had heard the sound of a neighbour’s door knocker being rattled.
She heard the comings and goings in the corridor clearly because she
made sure all the doors between her and her front door were open. She
liked to listen out for people in the corridor. She had gotten out of bed to
see who might be calling on her neighbour Catherine – Catherine was
too nice a name to bastardise to Cat as Catherine liked to do). Maureen
recognised the visitor as the queer lady who came looking for Catherine
the day before. The woman had taken to a funny turn in the lounge. Not
only were the two women not close, but judging by the frosty reception
the woman received for Catherine they didn’t get on at all.
Maureen would call in on Catherine tomorrow and give her back
the key she had taken the night she had been taken ill. She would have
to explain about the cat running away. Was the poor lil kitten safe? It
would be in her prayers that it finds a loving home. Not with Catherine
though. It would be better off with someone who could give it a stable
home. Pets needed the same commitment from its owners as children
needed from their parents. Catherine was too young to be a responsible
owner. The day after Catherine had been admitted to hospital Maureen
had let herself into her flat, after all it wasn’t often you had the
opportunity to find out what your neighbours were truly like. She had
not found the drugs she suspected she would find, not that she needed
any evidence of drug taking beyond Catherine’s ‘episode’. She had,
however, found a packet of contraceptive sheaths in her bedside drawer.
Flavoured.
Yes. She would pray that the poor kitten would find a new
home. One that wouldn’t have men coming and going. A family home
or some lone person who was not looking to spend their affections
286
Harvest

elsewhere. She remembered the sweet smell of the contraceptives and


she suddenly wanted a pear-drop. She plucked one from the bag next to
her bed and sucked it with relish.
Maureen straightened her nightdress under her and smoothed the
blankets out on top of her. Neat bed, neat dreams. She turned her table
lamp off and settled into her pillow. She rattled the bulbous sweet
around her mouth and checked the time the red digits of her alarm clock
displayed. If she heard Catherine’s guest leave she would check the time
again, see how long the visit had been. The look on Catherine’s face
gave Maureen the impression her guest would not be staying long. She
would ask after Catherine’s late-caller when she returned the key and
see if she might elaborate.
She had always used the spy hole if she heard voices or
movement from beyond the confines of her flat, and after recent events
she didn’t like leaving her home and the distorted fish-eye lens on the
world had been visited more often. She had enough food for another day
but the milk was going sour. It was unlike Phyllis, who normally got her
groceries, to not come up from her floor and see if Maureen needed any
shopping brought in. She had been disappointed at being forgotten, but
now the sudden break of routine worried her, she might have taken to
hiding away like herself or… she didn’t want to think about it. Too
many bad things had happened in the flats without thinking the worst as
well. The prospect of having to go out into the corridors to search out
her friend out was daunting. She was now more focussed on the threat
within the building than the menace the outside world had once
represented.
The door knocker rattled firmly, and this time the noise
frightened her because this time it was her door knocker. She tutted to
herself around her sweet. There was no way she would open the door at
this time of night. The red digits of her clock trembled with her. She
slapped the clock gently but the display stopped flickering on its own.
The knocker sounded again, but harder this time, rattling the door and
her heart in her chest.
Her eyes suddenly stung, and she had to blink and squint against
287
Harvest

the light from her bedside lamp that had somehow switched on of its
own accord. She jolted and swallowed her pear-drop as the alarm clock
suddenly unleashed Classic FM much louder than she would ever
normally have it. The almost whole sweet made a slow and painful
descent down her windpipe with the funerary sweeps of Beethoven’s
Symphony No. 7 in A cramming itself in her ears. She fumbled with the
clocks controls with trembling hands and killed the music, her heart in
her throat and the pear-drop still sinking. She couldn’t help thinking the
light and the clock were trying to give away her presence to her
unwanted and persistent caller. She snapped the light off and pressed
herself back into her pillow, clamped her eyes shut, snatched breaths
through taut lips, and clasped the sheets up to her chin. She was
instantly still.
The door knocker didn’t sound again.
Maureen’s stomach writhed with unease. Something was out of
kilter. It wasn’t as dark behind her eyelids as it should have been. She
opened her eyes and could make out details of the room much more
clearly than she normally could. She turned sharply to the lamp. The
bulb was glowing like dull embers. She felt for the switch. It was off.
There was a hum. Not of electricity, but the sound of vibration. The
lamp was trembling, as was the alarm clock. She could feel it in the bed
also.
Maureen sat bolt upright as the lamp suddenly began to rattle
and then quake on the bedside cabinet. Her ears began to fill with the
sound of her blood rushing through her veins. The lamp became lifeless
again. What had caused that… that possession? Ol’ Nick at work?
Maureen surveyed the dark shapes within the room looking for
phantoms and beasts among the shrouded furniture and corners.
She wrestled with her anxiety; the sound of her blood was
growing in her ears, reaching a crescendo. Only it wasn’t her blood. It
was a faint howling. The wind, she dismissed. There was a broken
window at the end of the corridor outside. That was it. No – no it
wasn’t. It was in the room with her, coming from her headboard. A
glowing arm lanced up either side of her before she could investigate.
288
Harvest

She screamed a dry cracked scream as elongated fingers laced firmly


together around her mid-section, she quickly pulled at the gristly bones
but made little impression on them. The mattress gave way into
nothingness as if a trap door had opened and the arms snatched her
down into a swallowing blaze of green light.
The light bathed her, wrapping itself around her in a cloying
embrace that soaked through her nightclothes and became close and
warm against her skin leaving it tingling and itching. Maureen clenched
her eyes as her face became smothered by the pressure all around her
body. She pursed her thin lips against the softness that threatened to fill
her mouth and lungs. Her eyes flicked open and a cramped green world
of shadowy shapes pressed itself against her eyeballs. Maureen thrashed
to fight free, but the surrounding translucent liquid that suspended her
upright mired her movements while the itching of her skin progressed to
a distracting stinging irritation.
Her vision focussed while she struggled against the confines of
her new world and some of the shapes became sickeningly recognisable
as bones and limbs, then something infinitely more familiar; a child’s
face, her neighbours girl Moll Dancey, her eye sockets empty her face
slowly drifting away in the liquid like tendrils of slowly melting dark
ice. The girl twitched suddenly and Maureen withdrew in terror from
the child who seemed to still be alive, only to see the girls head
disintegrate abruptly, coming apart completely in a slow moving brown-
reddish murk in the wake of her sudden movement.
Maureen gave up the last of her held breath to scream, only to be
silenced as she sucked in mouthfuls of the viscous liquid that was
burning deep down into her skin. She swam as furiously as she could,
but barely moved within the tight claustrophobic embrace of her
surroundings. Desperate panic raced through her as she choked on the
thick environment that now reached inside her frail body and delicate
lungs and she found her nylon night dress breaking down, dissolving
around her body in coloured streaks in the liquid around her.
Maureen’s fingers finally found a firm boundary in her cramped
vertical enclosure and scrambled at it, panicking for release from the
289
Harvest

nightmare as her veins burned and a great pressure bore down on her
fragile chest with the lack of oxygen in her body. The pain pressed itself
deeper into every nerve ending and her vision began to darken. She
scratched at the pliable membrane that kept her sealed in.
Finally something gave way under her fingertips. With
excitement she carried on digging and squinted through a brown haze
that now filled her vision around her hands, her hopes turned to horror
as she saw her skeletal fingers at the centre of the murk as the swirling
tracks of her skin threaded away. Maureen withdrew her wasted hands
from her work, finally accepting her fate as her strength left her and she
gave into the consuming black vacuum within her chest as she starved
of oxygen. Thick clumps of her own flesh broke away, dissolving as it
drifted past her eyes as they closed to the world for the last time.

Rachel realised that although Cat had invited her into her flat she wasn’t
going to be invited beyond the hall. Considering the damage the lounge
had taken there probably wasn’t anywhere comfortable to sit anyway.
The hall was narrow and it was hard being so close to Cat and not be
able to pull her into a hug and have the reunion she desperately dreamed
about. Cat’s sharp eyes, stern face and tightly crossed arms
compensated for any closeness their proximity created. Rachel coughed
through strangling emotions, knowing that any weakness of tears would
be scorned. “You have been in a coma for a little over three weeks –.”
“Yeah I know. Old news.”
“While you have been in hospital a lot of bad things have been
happening. People have been going missing with no explanation – from
behind locked doors in some cases. Children,” she paused searching for
a reaction, but if there was one she hid it well. “There have been strange
happenings, with the lights and tricks of perception. Some violent
deaths too.” Rachel rushed an explanation of how she had been drawn
into the events. “But some weeks before Claire Chambers even called
me and I found out about you being in hospital, a stray kitten made its
home with me. When your neighbour let me in I realised it was your
cat.”
290
Harvest

“Psychic-fucking-lassie?”
Cat’s invective caused Rachel to blink. “I thought it might be a
sign that you needed me.” Rachel added.
“But, I don’t need you.”
Rachel tried to swallow against the constriction of her throat
from Cat’s words but they didn’t go away. “You wanted help.” Rachel
justified her conclusion by relaying the events at the hospital with the
plea for help within the coffee and the waking nightmare she had
experienced. “You may not need me on a terrestrial level, but on a
spiritual level, whether that was subconscious or not I think you were
willing to take any help you could get. Because what happened to you
seems to be linked to what is happening in this building I wanted to talk
to you to find out if you had any insight that could help us in our
investigation.” Cat stared at her, apparently waiting to see if Rachel had
finished.
“I don’t have any insight,” she said roughly. “I could check the
tea leaves or look at chicken entrails a bit later and get back to you.”
Rachel studied her loafers. Cat’s damage and bitterness wouldn’t
allow her to help even if she could. Rachel was surprised she didn’t feel
anger; just pity: here was a girl selfish enough to put her own petty
position in an ongoing standoff in the way of helping others. “You
heard about Harry I take it,” she found herself saying, purely for
something to say. She saw the sudden change of direction confused Cat.
Cat grinned spitefully and pointed through the lounge doorway
to the large plastic covered windows. “Yeah, he ran about twenty feet in
that direction.”
Rachel could play her game. She adopted the clipped tone she
reserved for disciplining children. “Yes, that’s right. He jumped off the
roof. About five minutes after you told Craig that there was something
in the flat with Harry.” Rachel saw she had struck Cat’s guard aside.
Cat looked everywhere but in Rachel’s direction. “I don’t
remember that happening.”
“Crap,” Rachel stated bluntly. Cat looked stunned by her
uncharacteristic curse and her comfort in its delivery. It was good for
291
Harvest

Cat to see that she had a hard side. Rachel took full advantage of Cat
being dumbfounded by Rachel’s change of tact. “We have established
your antagonism towards me. Now get over it for the moment. I’m not
here to ask for reconciliation. I just want to talk to you about what’s
been going on and if you have any insight. If not we can sort out
returning your cat and key and I will go.” It was agony to be so firm
when all she wanted to do was repair the rift between them, but despite
the guilt she had stayed strong.
Cat’s mouth was open, her jaw set forward and firm, her eyes
staring away at an angle. “When… When I got back here after the
hospital I could feel something was wrong with the building. Something
bad. I didn’t know where or what it was, but as I walked I just knew I
was getting close to whatever it was.” Cat uncrossed her arms and
planted her hands on her hips. She looked unhappy with herself for
talking to Rachel. Close to tears. “I went to Harry and Craig’s floor and
I just knew that whatever that badness was it was with Harry in the flat,
playing with him – Taunting him. I think Harry was like the guy at the
hospital, being controlled by something. Except this time Harry was
being Harry again, fighting back. It knew Harry was lost, so it made
Harry run – and he kept running, until he ran out of ground. Then it let
him go…”
Rachel needed time to process what she had heard but she knew
she couldn’t lose Cat. “And what of you Cat? What happened to you for
you to end up in the hospital? Do you know that?”
Cat turned away, she knew.
Rachel pointed at the carnage of the lounge. “You’re one angry
girl, but even you couldn’t do that much damage. It came for you. A
ball of green light. It lifted you up and then it poured itself into your
head. Why did it do that? Do you know?”
“How do you know what happened?” There was fear in Cat’s
jade eyes, but also a renewed anger that burned like green fires.
“I had a vision when I was here. I sensed something like it in the
Chambers’ homes.”
“What happened? Do you know?”
292
Harvest

“No.”
“You do. What happened at the hospital, with Malik? Please tell
me.” She realised her voice had been desperately insistent and as Cat
stiffened and disengaged she knew she had pushed too hard. She could
hear the desperation in her voice, and realised the depth of her own
despair; what was happening in this building had turned her world
upside down – she needed Cat to tell her anything she could so she
could rebuild her understanding and confidence in the spiritual world.
Without the spirit world what would she be? A lonely old woman? Most
of her friends were from the spiritual church she attended and
communed for or were linked to her paranormal interests. If she found
that world too frightening to engage with, even on an investigation level
what would she have? Her part-time job at Sainsbury’s and her tipples.
How small and lonely life would get. She would have to start out again.
“Please Catherine.”
“I don’t remember and I don’t know anything.” Cat stated
bluntly.
Rachel channelled a frustrated sigh into a slow exhalation and
spoke calmly. “I think you do, and I think what you do know frightens
you.”

293
Harvest

Thirty Two
Kelly strained to read the lines of her book with aching eyes. They felt
small and deeply set as tiredness tightened the muscles around them.
She leaned forward out of her warm duvet cocoon and sat the
unsatisfying book down on the table and rubbed at her weary eyes that
were ready to give in to sleep. She ran her fingers through her hair and
let it fall about her head and face. How long had it been since she had
felt someone else’s fingers in her hair?
Craig groaned lightly in his sleep and Kelly squinted at Craig’s
huddled form on the sofa in the darkness. He moved. Maybe he was
uncomfortable? Kelly stepped out of the duvet and padded over to
Craig.
She had always thought that people looked younger when they
slept, but strangely Craig looked older than his twenty-four years.
Twenty-four! His age didn’t bare thinking about.
His face was pale and drawn. Something wasn’t right; it was like
looking at the face of a corpse. Fear ran like spider-legs scuttling across
her pounding heart. Was he breathing? She wanted to shake him, shout
at him, get him to react to show he was alive, but also didn’t want to
panic him, or make him think she was a crazy woman. She withered
down onto her knees and felt the form of his still body through the duvet
and gently nudged him.
Craig’s body snapped upright into a sitting position, and she
yelped and fell away from his wide and mad eyes. The spark was back
and he had the glow of life about him, but his reaction to her waking
him was as if she had brought him back from the brink. The wildness
faded from his eyes as he tore his way back into consciousness and
became aware of his surroundings and Kelly. He cursed several times,
ran his hands up over his face and back down again, he looked panicked
and uncertain.
“Craig? Craig what’s wrong? Did you have a nightmare?”
“People being killed and taken. Lots of them.” Craig leapt up
and climbed into his tee-shirt and jeans, threw on his trainers and began
thumbing through his mobile. “Kelly, get dressed we have to get out of
294
Harvest

here.”
Kelly could only mouth the start of several different sentences.
What was going on?
“Quick, go get some clothes on. I’m calling Rachel. I have to
warn her. She and Cat are in danger.”

“Get out. Get out, Rachel.”


Rachel ended the phone call, her stomach lined with lead.
Shaken by Craig’s warning she fumbled to end the call, placed the
phone back in her bag and tidied the contents around it, giving herself
time to process his demand and decide how to explain it to Cat who
strangely looked scared and ready to break into a run already. “Cat, that
was Craig. I know you aren’t going to believe me, but I ask you to think
back to the time when you did trust me. He has told us to get out of the
building. He thinks were in danger…”
“Danger?” her tone was incredulous, her eyes wild, but only a
moment ago she had looked scared.
“Yes. Please trust in me. Let’s leave. Now. Quickly.”
“Go? I’m not going anywhere…” she reiterated with less
conviction. “Not with you.”
“I will happily give you a head start if it gets you out that door
and away from danger.” Rachel bit back her angry humour and
attempted to calm her voice. She was trembling, torn between Cat and
the door, aware that every second wasted in argument could be a second
closer to being taken and whatever fate that may lead to. Could she
leave her? “I know it sounds stupid… Can’t you just humour an old
woman? If it’s nothing then – then it probably confirms that I’m a silly
old bitch and you can laugh at me! or…”
“Or what!” Cat objected defiantly in a contrary hysterical half-
laugh.
“Or maybe, the thing you’re afraid of in this building won’t stop
at putting you in a coma this time!”
Cat’s hand was suddenly in hers and the contact created an
overwhelming mixture of grief, gratitude and hope swell within her, but
295
Harvest

she was distracted from the moment and any meaning it might have for
her by Cat tugging her to the front door. Cat pulled the door open,
losing her grip of the door several times in her clumsy panicked haste. It
seemed that she needed no more convincing.
Outside the door the corridor had been replaced by a fluttering
darkness. The fluorescent light that lit Cat’s section of the corridor was
going the same way as the one Rachel had noticed earlier. Standing in
the doorway she saw that all the lights to the right of Catherine’s door
had failed, the whole corridor in that direction was lost to shadow and
blackness. Rachel’s instinct was to turn back and shut the door, but what
good were doors and walls now?
There was something standing in that deep black well, less than
two metres from them, just out of reach from the intermittent flashes of
light from the fluorescent line above them. Rachel found herself yanked
into the corridor and pulled after Cat who was breaking into a run for
the lit section of corridor.
“The stairs…” Cat instructed firmly.
The line of light over their head failed as they ran, and Rachel
heard herself yelp in fear as the great darkness hauled itself on to their
heals. The idea of the blackness being on top of them was all Rachel
needed to spur her into matching Cat’s speed, and seconds later they
made it into the light of the next fluorescent.
Around twelve metres away at the other end of the corridor the
opening to the stairs was suddenly replaced by a closed door. It snapped
shut with an ear-jarring boom that rolled down the corridor and back
several times. Rachel could hear creaking coming from its direction and
could see the square of glass twitching and scattering its reflections and
didn’t understand what was happening, but the fluorescent that had just
passed overhead became her prime concern when it began to flicker and
dull. If that went then there would only be five lights between them and
the dark.
In a cacophony of trampling footfalls they reached the fire
escape door, and as Rachel feared; it would not move. She ran her
fingers to the seams and found the door was bloated to the jamb, and
296
Harvest

she then understood the creaking noise that she had just heard. “It’s
jammed. It’s fused shut!”
Rachel and Cat exchanged desperate glances then in unison they
both worked at pushing the door, banging their fists, kicking it. The
safety glass in the door was toughened and laced with metal mesh and
offered no weakness. The noise was terrible but that could draw people
out of their homes to help them. Although, with everything that had
been happening maybe they wouldn’t come. The residents might be too
scared. Might not want to get involved. Some might already have been
taken. She screamed and balled and punched and slumped against the
door in fits of fear, frustration and resignation.
A light died, and the darkness swallowed another section of
corridor, leaving only eight metres of light between them and the dark.
The fourth light began to flicker almost immediately. Rachel grabbed
Cat and spun her round to witness it.
“We can’t get back to my flat. I’m not going through that.”
“Walls are useless against it anyway; it can just come through
them and get you.” Cat looked like the terrified little girl Rachel had
read stories to during thunderstorms. The light flashed and died. Three
lights and six metres of light. Rachel stepped back and became flush
with the door. Cat balled her fists up ready, like a boxer ready to spar.
Rachel heard something. She hushed her body, and over the
sound of her rushing blood and pounding heart was a sound. Footfalls.
Slow even footsteps coming from the darkness. Something was walking
slowly towards them within the encroaching dark.
Two lights and four metres of light. Doorframes and walls
disappeared into the void. The light from the stairs the other side of the
door dimmed flickered and fizzled out, robbing them of any light that
might permeate the encroaching wall and help them see what might be
coming for them.
One light and two metres of light. Utter uselessness descended
upon Rachel. The world flickered, faltering in and out of existence, and
then the last few metres of corridor collapsed into nothing and the
darkness consumed them.
297
Harvest

Thirty Three
Craig had quickly found a routine for climbing the stairs that involved
leaning heavily onto the banister and pushing himself forward, using his
bad leg for a little spring and his good leg for some serious leverage. It
was uncomfortable, but the sound of a door being frantically pounded
drove him on. Someone was in trouble, and from his nightmare he just
knew that it was going to be Rachel and Cat.
Craig had decided it would have been impossible to use the
crutch the hospital had given him to climb the stairs so he had left it at
Kelly’s as he rushed to Rachel and Cat. Fortunately rushing as best as
he could meant his foot had less time on the ground and his tendons
spent less time extended which didn’t seem to cause as much discomfort
as walking.
The lights on his flight of the stairs suddenly failed and he was
pitching himself into complete blackness. He should have been able to
see some light from the corridor of Cat’s floor but there was none. He
didn’t like the idea of searching Rachel and Cat out in the darkness, but
he was getting closer to the terrible desperate banging. He reached the
landing and the banging pounded into his ears.
He gave his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark, and was
able to pick out the details of the landing from what little light soaked
into the dark from the lights on the staircase below him. He hobbled
forwards, his hands held before him and just discernable from the dark,
and felt his way to the door. The door trembled under his hands with the
fists that were pounding it. His eyes adjusted as best as they could to the
dark and he could see the door and the wall it was set within, and could
just make out the window in the fire escape door, and through it the
grey shapes of the people at the door.
“Rachel? Rachel is that you?”
“Craig? Craig. Help us! Oh God, Craig help us!”
Craig shielded himself from a blast of air and a storm of
shrapnel. The wooden door disintegrated in a roar of splintering twisting
timber that echoed and screeched as the fire door shredded and
concertinaed unnaturally against the wall. Cat fell through the hole with
298
Harvest

Rachel stumbling after her attempting to break her fall. Craig dove to
Cat’s side and could tell by her weight and he limpness that she was out
cold. Rachel was tugging at her and pulling at him, throwing terrified
glances over her shoulder at the darkness she had just escaped from.
There was no need for words. He dragged Cat up his kneeling
body then, slumping against the wall for balance, he forced all his
strength into his good leg and pushed himself up. Now standing he
scooped a limp Cat into his arms and hobbled for the stairs.
The pain in his leg was excruciating and blotted out the feel of
its movement or the feel of the floor beneath his step, but he pressed on.
Rachel jogged at his side with a hand rested on Cat’s leg, splitting her
looks between the stairs ahead and the dark behind. Craig’s
manoeuvrability was seriously impaired by his leg and by Cat. He
couldn’t see what he had seen in his nightmare, but he knew it was
there, and they had to keep running. They stumbled down the darkened
steps into the light of the landing below. A wide-eyed Kelly waited with
shock and confusion written upon her face.
She shouted above their echoing scuffing footsteps. “What was
that noise?”
Craig didn’t know what had just happened with the door and he
didn’t have the wits or breath to answer, he was a pull-back car fully
charged and committed to on one action and direction.
A shape lunged from the darkness of the landing above them and
a wide flat blade caught the light as it flashed violently across Rachel’s
face. She fell away and slammed Craig against the wall and Cat’s
weight dug into his chest and winded him. He stumbled and lost his
footing and was left grounded before their attacker.
The undertaker from his nightmares lanced seamlessly from the
darkness and his blade flashed again in a downward stab. The blade
snagged on Craig’s cradled load, hitting home with a force that pushed
him scrambling further down onto the steps, the jerky flexion of his leg
sent fresh bouts of pain into his groin and gut.
The elongated angle of metal snapped sharply back into the
shadows as soon as it struck, reflecting a flicker of light under the brim
299
Harvest

of the dark top hat, giving detail to the skeletal face of sinew and raw
muscle, split in a silently-laughing death’s-head grin. The knife lashed
out again at Kelly, and Craig witnessed her slide clumsily down the
stairs to the landing below.
The ambush was sudden and in seconds Rachel and Kelly had
been sent to the floor and Cat had been struck leaving Craig prone for
the next stab. Riding a wave of desperate adrenaline Craig pushed
himself upright and charged forward using Cats limp prostrate body to
force the stunned Rachel scrabbling down the stairs to where Kelly was
drawing to her feet. Craig’s legs continued to stamp at the stairs,
corralling Kelly and Rachel down flight after flight, pushing Kelly
passed her own landing (there was no safety there) to escape the
building.
Kelly and Rachel didn’t seem to be slowing, or show any
obvious wounds, their only concern was running. Craig knew Cat had
been struck, but he had no idea to what degree and he couldn’t alter his
hold of Cat for fear of dropping her or falling himself. No matter how
injured she was, or how uncomfortable and awkward his hold, he had to
keep his grip and pace. With the noise of their footsteps it was
impossible to hear if they were being followed, and he wasn’t going to
stop, in his mind that grisly undertaker was on his heels. The steps and
landings blurred by as they focussed on getting to the bottom of the
stairs.
On the ground floor landing it seemed to Craig that they all
unconsciously agreed to break from the fury of their escape. With the
kill switch thrown on the frantic workings of his body, he sucked in
gasps of air to counter the smothering humid heat in his chest. His legs
swam as they adjusted to being immobile, like sea legs on land, and his
bad leg burned as if he could feel he friction in his tendon. A slick of
sweat formed all over his body. Craig’s underdeveloped biceps and
triceps were strained to what felt like a painful ripping point with the
constant dead weight of Cat in his arms. He lowered her to the ground
and allowed himself to feel the pain from his injured shoulder and leg.
Rachel and Kelly hugged briefly for comfort. Kelly craned
300
Harvest

upwards to try and catch some sight or sound of their pursuer on the
silent stairwell above them. “I think it’s stopped,” she panted. She
looked down at her top and fingered the puncture in the fabric at her
belly.
She had been close to being badly injured. Craig felt sick at the
thought of Kelly being injured. He remembered Cat had been struck so
he sank down to her side and ran his hands over her body in a crude
pawing, searching for any injuries. He found the rip in Cat’s tee-shirt
where the knife had cut and he probed some fingers within but didn’t
find a wound, just the soft climb of her breast.
His head rang with a blow to the side of his face from a suddenly
animated Cat.
Cat struggled awkwardly onto her elbows. “What the FUCK!”
she barked viciously.
Craig’s hands leapt from her body into an open-handed gesture
of surrender. “Whoa! Calm down! I was checking for injuries!”
Cat fingered the tear in her top and nodded her understanding
without apology. She looked around at who was with her. “How did we
get away…?” Cat climbed onto her feet but her legs buckled beneath
her. Craig braced her instinctively and she leaned into the support.
“You’re quick with your hands.” He withdrew his hands reflexively but
there was a fleeting panic in her eyes and she snatched hold of him
before she could fall. “No. Really. It’s appreciated…”
A sourceless breeze swept across Craig and Cat. She looked into
his face, deathly pale with her lips trembling with despair, and in the
intimacy of the moment he could feel her fear. “It’s coming for me
again.”
The lights of the stairwell began to flicker. Rachel and Kelly
drew closer to Craig and Cat. The landings above them broke abruptly
away into nothing as the landings blacked out one after another sending
the darkness collapsing down upon them.
The ground floor lights failed and they were buried in the
darkness.
Craig heard Kelly shout that she would get the door to the lobby.
301
Harvest

The door sprang open and a coruscating green light flooded in, bringing
with it a shrieking displacement of the atmosphere and two unnaturally
long arms flailing through the air. They swatted Kelly aside, slamming
her into a wall, while the hands reached into the landing to snatch at
Cat.
The hands wrapped their elongated fingers around Cat’s arms
and Craig could feel her being tugged away from him. He was
completely startled by the suddenness of the attack and tottered on his
toes, unprepared for the tug of war. Despite the shock he locked his
muscles and fought to keep his grip and balance against the luminescent
creatures pull. He became Cat’s anchor, locked into close quarters with
the creature, staring into its six hauntingly human eyes divided between
two gash-like sockets, its jaws gnashed and snapped like a wild dog
from behind a muzzle of thin bones, which resembled a chicken carcass
fused to its face. Craig cursed in shock and exertion.
Rachel lunged forward in wide-eyed horror and snatched
instinctively at the creature’s arms to free Cat. Its cadaverous face
snapped in her direction and creased into a vicious leer at her
interference. It shrugged its arms out and slapped Rachel down onto the
punishing concrete steps.
Craig’s grip slipped as Cat thrashed in the manacle hands of the
creature, squirming against its hold. Rachel sprung back to her feet and
clutched at Cat’s ankles and legs to aid him in stopping Cat being
dragged away. The creature snarled and yanked harder, loosening Craig
and Rachel’s hold on Cat and stretching her prone and defenceless
between them, the aura grew around her as she was drawn further into
its swallowing maw. The creature walked its grip down to a more secure
hold under her arms, pulling her snug to its legless body. Her face
inches from its bared internal organs braced against its fleshy cage of
ribs. Craig panicked as his grip slid from her thighs to a weaker
purchase on her knees.
Kelly lunged into the skirmish with a fire extinguisher and
smashed it into the creature’s face. It ignored the blow and yanked Cat
further into the light, leaving Craig and Rachel with a foot each. Kelly
302
Harvest

returned with a second strike, but it effortlessly batted the blow aside
and snatched its hand back to Cat again.
Craig watched Kelly reel with the creatures parry, then turn her
momentum into a one-hundred-and-eighty degree swing that brought
the metal extinguisher slamming down on the creatures head and the
arm that had just returned to secure Cat.
The creature lost its grip and Cat swung to the floor striking her
head on the concrete. Rachel and Craig stumbled backwards in the
direction they had both been pulling, dragging Cat sprawling across
them. The heavy extinguisher tumbled into the light and disappeared.
With a mournful howl the creature swatted Kelly back against the wall
and receded back into the light.
Without words the four picked themselves up and fled from the
building.

It watched them disappear into the night and the world. It did not feel
frustration or anger at losing the thing called Cat to the others that
were now becoming aware of It, for at the exact same time It watched
them escape It was in other places. It was in Vicki Day’s thoughts,
riding her madness. It stood before Alec Jacob’s in the guise of his
distant mother pleading for him to accept her as real – and he spoke
back. It controlled the undertaker that carried the body of Neil Harris
down the stairs, one of many bodies It would fetch down to the
basement. It was in the mind of the father who scrubbed at the pool of
blood that had drained from his two teenage sons that had killed each
other. It understood so much about flesh, what would be painful, what
would cripple, what would kill. It knew as much about their minds, what
they feared, what hurt, what would break one of these things, what
could drive one to kill. It got the mother of the two sons to speak to the
scrubbing father “I’m glad they’re dead.” It watched the violence
unfold, and It had only used four words of their language. It could feel
the Billy-infants gnawing hunger, a wanting and a need that It also
understood, but unlike the Billy-infant It was not weakening, but
growing stronger. Stronger from the flesh of Clive Jenkins, Maureen
303
Harvest

Brooke, Jim and Sylvia Smith, Moll Dancey and all the others It had
just taken, and was now dissolving and merging together in a shape that
It willed. Their life-forces flowed into It, increasing Its power and Its
hunger. There were so many to feed upon in the tower, and so many
more beyond.

304
Harvest

Part Three: Facing the Monster

305
Harvest

Thirty Four
Craig found the forced quiet at Rachel’s dining table unbearable; he was
regretting joining Kelly and Cat there and wished he had sat with Jason
on the armchair. He could feel Jason’s eyes burning into his back and
could sense the boy’s stifled urgency to know what had happened, it
was emanating from him like radioactivity from a power plant on
meltdown. The others shared Craig’s shock from their encounters and
none of them had wanted to recount their experiences to Jason upon
returning. Jason had seemed to accept Craig flagging down his racing
questions and he had sat watching the silent group, waiting for answers.
At least there were answers now.
Craig and the others had finally seen what was behind the
disappearances and violence. He had only seen fleeting glimpses of the
undertaker-thing on the stairs and had spent most of the struggle with
the other creature with his eyes closed against its light, but he could
recall every grisly detail of both creatures into his head with the clarity
of one of his photographs, and although those things were terrifying and
their reality nauseating he experienced euphoric relief whenever he
thought of them. The fact that they were real, and could exist outside of
his nightmares, completely exorcised his self-doubt and fear that
somehow he was responsible for their actions.
With undeniable confirmation of there being something
supernatural or paranormal behind things they now needed to decide on
what the next step was. He looked over at Kelly propped up at the table
on her elbows with her head in her hands and the fall of her dark hair
hiding her face from him. Her belief system was probably in tatters.
Cat sat slumped in the dining chair nearest the door, securing her
exit, he doubted she wanted to be there with them at all, but she was
probably too much in shock to be alone. She divided her attention
between petting the kitten that nestled comfortably on her lap and
scratching at the reddish splotches that trailed from her wrists in pink
veins. She had bluntly refused any concern or offer of aide from Rachel
with a heavy dose of contempt that had sent her scurrying to the kitchen
to prepare drinks for everyone, and probably to fall apart in private. He
306
Harvest

wasn’t sure what to make of Cat, or what she felt, she seemed to spend
most of her time in anger. The rash looked painful and he hesitated
around asking. “Looks sore…” Craig braved nodding to Cat’s wrists.
Cat smiled wanly and stopped scratching. “I said I’m okay. It’s
just like an allergy I think.”
Her tone was softer than he had expected. When the creature had
let her go she had hit her head on the concrete floor, but he decided not
to ask about her head in case he should lose his in return. The rash was
all up her arms where the creature had held her. In places he could make
out the welts where the creatures’ fingers had been. Rachel appeared in
the doorway bearing a tray of hot drinks and set it down on the table and
handed them out. She gingerly sat a hot chocolate down in front of Cat.
“You said you didn’t want anything, but it’s there if you want it.
I remembered that you will only drink a hot drink if it’s hot chocolate.”
Cat looked up and fixed Rachel in a firm stare. “Things change.
I prefer coffee now.” Cat raised her eyes at Rachel’s flustered apology
and her offer to make a coffee, and shooed her away with a wave of a
hand.
Rachel looked dejected, and then hesitant when she saw that the
only seat available was next to Cat. Craig realised that he and Kelly
should have put more thought into where they had sat. Cautiously,
Rachel took it, and Cat shuffled her chair a few inches away from her.
There was a frosty exchange of looks that Kelly caught as she emerged
from behind her hair to claim her drink, she responded with a look of
disgust at Cat. Craig silently took in a deep breath and held it, but
fortunately Kelly’s face softened before Cat could notice her expression.
Three volatile women sat around the table. Craig joined everyone else in
nursing their drinks and decided he would take the first opportunity to
join Jason at the sidelines.
After an awkward silence he looked up, just as Cat raised her
mug in a toast to the table and a spiteful grin twisted her face. “Get the
marshmallows out! Anyone know any good camping songs?”
Craig looked down at his drink again. Focus on your drink.
Don’t look up, don’t make eye-contact with anyone.
307
Harvest

“Having a tea party is hardly pro-active,” Cat pushed.


“How would you prefer to react to what’s happening?” Kelly’s
response was quick but calm and even, while the question was
challenging, and Craig hoped it was sobering. He was relieved at having
a negotiator at the table and he dared to look up again from his mug and
found Cat glaring back at Kelly, her vivid green eyes as hard and sharp
as emeralds. Kelly didn’t appear shaken and didn’t seem to need to
posture in return, just held her gaze. He was sure Kelly had faced off
against much more intimidating girls than her.
“You wanted to escape that thing and you had a choice in where
you escaped to. That choice is still open to you any time you would like
to take it.”
One-point to Kelly! Craig called out in his head, careful to not
let any of his satisfaction be read in his face. An uncomfortable brace of
tension had settled across the table between the two women. He felt a
pang of guilt at leaving all the peace making to Kelly. He decided to
jump on the grenade of a situation, and hope it wouldn’t go off. “Maybe
we should all just chill out a bit? A lot’s happened. Hopefully I’m not
the only one in shock. Maybe we can just focus and work out what’s
going on?”
He was rewarded by a weak smile of gratitude from a beaten and
vulnerable looking Rachel, and Kelly softened her steely glare and
allowed it to drift from Cat to the others.
“How about something to calm our nerves?” Kelly slid hers and
Craig’s mug to Rachel.
Rachel looked caught, then left her seat and retrieved a bottle of
brandy from beside the armchair. With a trembling hand she sloshed a
shot into Kelly’s mug then his. Cat slid her mug over and Rachel looked
unsure whether to dose her, but gave in. “Good for shock,” she
colluded, it was clear that Rachel saw the opportunity as some kind of
inroad to Cat.
“If you say so. I just think there’s always an excuse for alcohol –
don’t you?” Cat took a deep slug.

308
Harvest

The comment felt pointed but Craig didn’t have a clue what
about. “I’m with you on that one,” and he took a swig.
Cat ignored him and kept her focus on Rachel. “Aren’t you
going to top your own up?”
Rachel hesitated in sitting back down. “I… er, yes. Of course.”
She finished seating herself and poured a meagre shot into her own
mug.
“That wasn’t much. Or are you just topping up on what you
added in the kitchen?”
A little voice from over Craig’s shoulder cut in insistently. “So,
what happened?”
Craig wanted to twist round and thank Jason for the timely
interruption. The three women looked surprised, as if they had forgotten
Jason was even in the room. Rachel and Kelly shared a look of
uncertainty with each other that Craig understood. Jason was young,
how much should they tell him?
“It came for me.” Cat stated, deciding for them.
“The same thing that came for me?”
“A creature that reaches out from a burst of green light to grab
you. Sounds like it.”
“There was a skeleton thing too,” Kelly offered reluctantly.
Craig could see that Kelly and Rachel were uncomfortable
sharing this with Jason, but he had already encountered the thing that
had tried to take Cat, it had come for Jason and he had faced it alone.
Craig twisted round in his chair so that he could see Jason too. “It was
more like a zombie, actually.”
“Is there a difference?” Kelly asked incredulously. “It was dead
and it shouldn’t be walking-around-dead.”
“Actually, he’s right.” Cat played with the handle of her mug as
if she couldn’t be bothered to impart her insight, Craig guessed that it
was the lure of pointing out that Kelly was wrong that drew her in. “It
had flesh; so that makes it a zombie.”
“Oh. So it is a zombie. I feel so much better now.” Kelly shook
her head and took a long drink.
309
Harvest

Rachel grinned fondly at Cat. “You always did know your


horror stuff.”
“This isn’t a bonding moment.” Cat snapped.
“It looked like it was dressed as an undertaker. Albert Taylor
was the first to disappear and he was an undertaker.” Craig cut in, he
didn’t want their debriefing to be derailed, it felt good to be talking
about what had happened, it might even help to piece together a better
understanding of what was going on. “Kelly, his absence made him a
suspect when the first Chamber’s girl went missing didn’t he?”
Kelly hesitated, and he guessed it was some left over resistance
at sharing what was confidential police information, but when she did
answer him her tone was easy. “Yes, but it can’t be Albert though, I
mean, not any more.”
Rachel nodded. “Whatever it is it’s not Albert anymore. It was
emaciated… Dead and rotting.”
“And there was the other thing – that came for Jason and you
Cat.” Craig added.
“Yeah.” Cat avoided eye-contact and sought her mug in
distraction, but her hand quaked, and she returned the mug to the table
and hugged herself in a play of being cold. “It was different to the
undertaker.”
“We’re told as kids that there are no monsters, but not only do
we have to accept that mum and dad were talking bollocks, but were
actually up against two monsters.” The reality tainted the humour in the
irony for him.
Cat frowned. “How did you know me and Rachel were in
trouble anyway?”
Craig and Kelly shared an uneasy look, which Kelly broke from,
“Craig dreamt it.” Kelly stated flatly, she looked back at him and this
time it was apologetic. “I think anyway. I don’t quite understand it.” She
said, clearly trying to distance herself from the absurdity of the
explanation, even though it was in a conversation where monsters where
being discussed.

310
Harvest

Craig sighed and shrugged. “In light of what just happened at the
flats I guess I don’t have to feel stupid about how that sounds,” Craig
defended, although the uneasiness remained. “I keep dreaming about
things at The Heights – and they happen. Horrible things.” The heat of
his embarrassment washed away with an icy quicksilver as the
memories returned to him. “It messed my head up for a bit. I kind of felt
responsible for what was happening.” Kelly’s hand rested reassuringly
on his arm, but the touch grew hot, it fidgeted and was quickly
withdrawn. “Each nightmare seems to drain me, making me physically
weaker and weaker.”
Cat leaned closer, her face furrowed with interest. “I had
terrifying dreams when I was in my coma. I saw horrifying things
happening at The Heights too. Even though I was in my coma, I was
always fighting to become conscious, but after each nightmare I was
always weaker and the struggle was always that more difficult. What
was going on in your dreams? Did you actually see me and Rachel?”
Suddenly her keen interest vanished at realising she had become more
involved than she had wanted, and she dropped back on her chair and
folded her arms tightly as if she had given up on the question.
“No – I saw it; the undertaker. It came from the abandoned fire
escape onto your floor. Moving down flat by flat under the cover of
darkness. Killing people.” Craig stared into the dark still surface of his
drink seeking distraction in its depths. “And that other thing, taking
people.” He took a swig of his drink and let his words sink in while the
alcohol took its numbing affect, “If my dreams are right then maybe
everyone on your floor is dead or gone now.”
After what Kelly must have considered a suitable wake she
spoke. “The staircase is meant to be locked; it’s a fire escape that led
down into the old shopping arcade at the base of the flats and out onto
the street, it also goes down into the basement where the shops had
stock rooms. It’s been locked since the shops were burnt out and went
out of business. The undertaker-thing could be using those doors to
travel between floors unseen.”

311
Harvest

Rachel joined in. “Or maybe it can just appear out of nowhere
like that creature that came for Cat.”
“Mr Sparky.” Jason said.
He sounded distant and Craig knew it was because it was the
name that the twins, Jason’s best friends, had used for the creature that
had taken them away. Craig thought of Vicki. “I took a photo earlier – I
looked at it after I developed it and there was someone in the
background; just a silhouette, but I think it was that undertaker, lurking
on the stairwell.” Helplessness weighed upon him at the uncertainty of
Vicki’s safety or fate.
“So maybe the thing that tried to snatch Cat can just appear then
disappear. That would certainly fit with what happened to Jason, and
from what we have seen the undertaker walks about stalking its
victims.” Rachel made sense to Craig and it felt good to be talking about
their experiences and possibly piecing things together, even if it was just
guess work, but Rachel’s confidence seemed to wane. “There’s so much
I don’t understand – like how we got out of that corridor back there.
That door was locked: stuck solid. Yet it disintegrated and folded away
as if a hurricane had swept through.”
Cat didn’t volunteer any ideas or answers but stared intently at
the mug she cupped in her hands, although through the blankness of her
stare Craig could tell she wasn’t seeing the mug or her hands, she was
lost in memory. Undeterred, Rachel pursed her lips and folded her arms
on the table as she leaned forward into Cat’s line of sight. “There’s a lot
we don’t know here. Maybe you could share your insight?”
Cat snapped out of her thoughts, glanced briefly at Rachel
before returning to stare at her mug. Fortunately Rachel didn’t allow
herself to be riled by her and ignored the behaviour. “What happened to
you at the flat that led to you being in a coma? We never got the chance
to finish that conversation. You started to talk before we had to make
our escape.” She smiled pleadingly. “Now we are away from that place
and we are safe will you tell us?”
“I didn’t ask to be here!” Cat exploded like a jack in the box,
startling to kitten on her lap. “You turn up at the hospital, and fair
312
Harvest

enough, you saved my skin by getting Malik sent away, but then you
bowl up to my flat as if I owe you something.”
Rachel slumped dejectedly in her chair with a hand to her face as
if she was pained.
Kelly jumped in. “Yeah, like you said. We saved your skin, so
maybe you do owe us a little something.”
Craig winced and braced himself.
“I don’t want to talk about it!” Cat barked back at her.
Kelly threw her hands up in frustration. “Oh that’s okay, why
don’t you go home and give us a call when you’re ready. I’m sure if
anyone should go missing in between that time they will understand!”
Cat shoved her chair back and stood up sharply, the kitten
yelped and leapt to the floor as the lap was whipped away from under
her. “I didn’t ask to be here! Thanks very much for saving me but I
don’t have to stay you know.”
Kelly made a play of being confused. “I think that was my
reminder to you earlier.”
Craig got up from the table and sat on the armchair next to a
very worried looking Jason. “Don’t worry, mate. They’re just letting off
a bit of steam,” he whispered to the boy.
“Cat, why won’t you talk to us?” Rachel appealed.
“Because I don’t want to be here with YOU!” Cat stabbed a
finger in Rachel’s direction, her face torn up in hate. “You’re loving all
this aren’t you? I told you to stay away and ever since you’ve been
waiting for a time or a way to get into my life again.” Cat’s eyes
narrowed. “You must have been so glad when you saw your chance.”
Rachel jumped up and dashed to the kitchen. “Go on, avoid hearing the
truth!” she called after her with satisfaction reinforcing her tone. “– you
were glad to get back in again you’re so sad and lonely.”
Although Rachel had fled Cat’s eyes remained wild, she jerked
her attention between Craig and Kelly and continued her tirade, but
louder so that Rachel would be able to hear from the kitchen. “She’s a
sad old woman, who’s just glad of the attention because she spends
most of her time with dead people.”
313
Harvest

Kelly got up and waved Cat down. “Hey, come on. Settle
down.”
“She lost her own baby and she thinks I can take its place. Well
she’s not my mum.”
Kelly rounded the table to Cat, and Cat responded by retreating a
few paces, Craig realised he was holding his breath. He had an
unsettling intuition that things could easily get out of hand.
“None of this is about you and Rachel, it’s about kids going
missing, about people being murdered and killed in horrific ways!”
Kelly offered a placating hand to Cat’s arm but she shrugged it
roughly away. “It might be for you, but she’s just using this as an
opportunity. She was always hanging around my mum, trying to be a
second mum to me.” Cat’s voice rose higher. “My mum’s gone and
Rachel is not taking her place! Rachel’s just a sad old dyke who needs a
crutch in life – and it’s not going to be me!”
Craig blinked in surprise as Kelly met Cat’s hysteria with a slap
across the face. He could see that Kelly was just as shocked by her
reaction and was instantly regretting the decision, moving closer to Cat
to comfort and apologise to her.
Cat recoiled from the slap and snapped her head back to face
Kelly, and suddenly Kelly was thrown away, toppling over a dining
chair and onto the floor. Momentarily stunned and unsure what had
happened, Craig dashed to Kelly’s side and helped her into a more
comfortable position; she looked dazed and nodded that she was okay.
The kitten pressed itself to the floor before Cat, its fur bristled
and its ears angled back, and it unleashed a protracted rolling mewl that
ended in a spiteful rasp and hiss.

314
Harvest

Thirty Five
Craig held up a hand, warning Cat from coming any nearer to Kelly.
“Cat, back off. Come on, leave it.”
“I just wanted to see if she was ok.” Her face was ashen. Was it
concern or fear that Craig saw there? It was quickly replaced with angry
indignation. “She hit me!”
“I know, and she shouldn’t have. I am not taking sides, but we
are all under stress and I think it would be good to take five and just
chill out. We are meant to be here to help each other understand what is
going on, not slap each other around.”
Kelly struggled to her feet, wincing with obvious discomfort.
“It’s okay Craig. Cat I am sorry. I shouldn’t have slapped you.”
Cat postured and stabbed a finger in her direction, and spat her
words out vehemently, “Yeah, too right you shouldn’t have!”
“I have said sorry and that’s it. Done. You have your issues with
Rachel, but we don’t. It’s not important to us. You and Rachel might be
the only ones that can help us figure out what is going on, and that is all
I care about. And to be honest considering people have gone missing
and died, and hundreds of others could be at risk of the same fate in that
building I hoped you might feel the same.” She smiled a thank you at
Craig and limped towards the doorway and a distraught looking Rachel,
who helped her through to the kitchen.
With both older women gone Craig returned to Jason’s side and
asked if he was okay. Jason nodded looking a little scared and Craig sat
on the arm of the chair and draped an arm across the lad’s shoulders.
“Sorry you had to be around for all that mate.” The kid shrugged under
his arm.
The kitten had retreated away from Cat cowering on its belly but
still wild. It unleashed another whine and hiss, sensing something from
her that terrified the animal, and that unnerved Craig. When Kelly had
been knocked to the ground Craig had felt a phantom spike of
otherworldliness that had teased the hairs on the back of his neck and
goosed his skin. He was sure that Cat had made no contact with Kelly,
but for Kelly to be thrown from her feet there had to have been some
315
Harvest

kind of blow. It had all happened so quickly it was easy to think that he
had missed a part of the action, yet he had already seen the man at the
hospital crushed by a bed with a force that Cat could not have
physically summoned. No, Cat had not physically lifted a finger against
Kelly for her to end up on the floor. It had not been a hurricane that had
torn down the doors for Cat and Rachel to escape. Cat was more than a
nineteen-year old girl with a chip on her shoulder.
Cat snapped at the hissing kitten. “What?” she stamped her foot
in its direction, it turned tail and clawed its way out the room, and Cat
appeared to instantly regret the action and swore. “Oh, come back Girl.”
She pleaded.
Craig thought she looked as if she would cry. “You okay?” he
broached warily.
“What do you think?” She snapped back.
“You know I don’t think Kelly meant to hit you. She was trying
to bring you round. You were getting a bit hysterical,” Craig dared.
Cat shrugged scowled, and tightened her crossed arms stoically,
looking anywhere but at him. The tears had gone.
“You were really giving Rachel a hard time there. We have only
known her a short while and it’s hard for us to hear that when she has
been so good to us. Especially with what we have been through together
lately.”
Cat snapped at Craig. “You don’t have to explain. Don’t go all
‘Mr Sensitive’ knowing your girlfriend is in earshot. Don’t try and use
me to score points.”
“She’s not my girlfriend. It’s not like that; she’s just a friend,”
he shot back, floundering and flushed, very aware Kelly was only in the
other room.
Cat broke eye-contact and raised an eyebrow in contempt.
“Whatever! I didn’t ask for your life story.”
Craig shook his head and flopped back against the support of the
armchair, she clearly wasn’t going to be responsive to any attempts to
restore the status quo and he gave up trying, it wasn’t worth the hassle.

316
Harvest

“You call your cat Girl?” Craig was just as surprised by Jason’s
question as Cat looked to be.
Cat’s face wrinkled up in a frown. “Huh?”
“You called the kitten Girl earlier.”
Her face softened into blankness. “That’s her name. I’m a girl
and everyone calls me Cat, so I called my cat Girl.”
“That’s funny,” but Jason didn’t laugh. “Seems like you have
pushed her away too.”
Cat dropped back in her chair and studied her arms with a blank
face. After a time she spoke. “Yeah I know.”
“In a way I have lost a parent too. My granddad is terminally ill
and he’s going to die. My best friends have been taken by the monsters,
and they are probably dead. I can’t tell my mum about the danger we
are in living at The Heights. Rachel, Kelly and Craig have taken me in
to keep me safe. You people are the only people I know that believe me
or have any idea what is really happening so I need you all to work
together. Because at some point I am going to have to go home with
mum, and we both might go missing and end up dead like the others.”
Craig watched Cat wilt with shame. Even he had forgotten about
the degree of Jason’s predicament, at least Kelly and Craig had a choice
about whether they stayed at The Heights. They had the freedom and
the resources to run away and no one else to convince to do the same.
Jason couldn’t just run and abandon his mum, and even though bad
things had happened at the tower he was unlikely to convince her to
leave their home. Crag squeezed the boys shoulder as he continued
undeterred, his tone firm and even.
“We get the idea that you and Rachel don’t get on, but what do
you want to hurt more? Her or the ‘thing’ that tried to get at you?”
She doubled forward on her seat as if his words had caused her
to fold in on herself, and she rubbed her face roughly with her hands as
if she could re-arrange the thoughts and feelings within like a Rubix
cube.
In the brief time since Craig had met Cat, he had seen her
terrified, hysterical, angry, attacked several times, and come in contact
317
Harvest

with someone she clearly wanted nothing to do with because of


childhood issues, she could easily breakdown any moment and that
wasn’t going to help them or her. “Look, Cat, try not to worry about
anything that’s happened here. You got it off your chest, but like Jay
said. We are all trying to work to the same aim, if you could put any
differences aside just for now, maybe the quicker you can get away
from us.” Craig got up and reclaimed his seat at the table and offered
her a disarming smile. She didn’t rip his throat out so it seemed Jason
had had some effect. “You can kill each other later, on your own time,”
he joked unable to help himself, but he was surprised that he got a half-
laugh from her, even though she tried to hide it by looking into her lap.
While she picked at her rashes he gave a discrete nod to Jason as
recognition for his intervention. Rachel and Kelly must have gathered
from whatever they could hear from the kitchen that this would be a
good time to return to the group.
Cat stated an apology with little depth, but Kelly took it, she
seemed grateful for the absolution and apologised herself, while Rachel
simply delivered a curt nod in Cat’s direction, her eyes were red and
swollen from crying. They all took back their seats and Jason dragged a
footstool to the table this time so he could join them, probably assuming
(and rightfully) that after his intervention he deserved to be in the thick
of whatever was going to be discussed and decided.
Cat flashed Craig a grin as everyone settled back down around
them. “About what you said earlier: I’m glad to hear you’re single,” she
whispered for everyone to hear and gave him a playful wink.
While the apologies had been made this was clearly only a
momentary truce on Cat’s behalf and she was still up for playing more
games. He couldn’t help but like her though, she had Vicki’s mischief in
her. Fortunately Craig didn’t have to think how to respond because she
carried straight on. “Jason is right. Smart kid,” she complimented with
warmth that dissolved before she addressed the others. “I am grateful
that you have helped me out, but I’m just not usually a team player. It
has been just me for quite a while and I have gotten used to that.”

318
Harvest

Kelly gave an exaggerated nod. “That’s accepted.” Although


Rachel looked momentarily saddened before she could hide her
reaction. “No one is expecting us all to get along. We just need to get
some idea of what’s happening. You can tell us what you know and go,
or stick around and see what we can do with whatever information you
can give us.”
Cat shrugged, “It got in my head, it feels like it has rooted
around in everything, none of my thoughts feel private anymore. Like I
have spoken all my secrets. But, as much as it looked into me I think I
have sensed something of ‘it’. You know, like when you look into an
old person’s face, you can see their age in their eyes, and it’s like they
are looking back at you from another time? Well, I got that feeling from
whatever was in my head. I think it is old. Very old.”
“Yes, I wondered whether it might be something ancient. With
all the excitement of today I forgot to mention that David and his
girlfriend Kim have been at the library all night doing research for us.
Kim’s a librarian. They haven’t turned up anything from the news
archives or anything, but they have found an interesting pattern from
some books on local history and maps – it would seem the land the
towers are on has been influenced by the number three; it has three
towers now, before that there were three pubs in that part of the
neighbourhood, before that there were three farm buildings, and before
that when the area was wild there was a pub on a stage route named The
Three Oaks, apparently after three oak trees that had stood on the land.”
Kelly frowned. “Coincidence. Surely?”
Craig was a little disappointed in Kelly, they had been through
so much together, seen so much, yet she was still digging her heels in at
accepting anything outside of her rational ordered world. “It’s quite a
big coincidence though, don’t you think?” He laughed in the hope that
Kelly would be more likely to agree but she just shrugged and fingered
the edge of the table. “That is interesting, Rachel, but I guess it doesn’t
tell us much though, does it?” Craig added encouraging Rachel to
elaborate, and hopefully make it easier for Kelly to accept.

319
Harvest

“It does suggest that there could have been some influence on
this land for some time. Also, in support of what were facing being old,
I have noticed several Runic symbols; one in the lobby at the flats, in
fact looking through the windows of the other two towers I noticed they
seem to have the same mural and I imagine the same mark hidden
within; the rune for protection – I wondered whether those symbols
repeated three times, served some unknown ritualistic purpose. I have
also seen a figure who has cast runes that seem to be representative of
what’s been happening at the flats. That goes some way in supporting
the possibility of it being very old as runes are an ancient language.
Actually, and its just conjecture, but I wondered if the cowled figure I
have seen with the runes might have a pagan or Druidic connection, its
just I have seen him bearing a golden sickle and mistletoe, both are
known to be Druid icons of ceremony.”
“Mistletoe?” Kelly raised her brow questioningly. “Druids? You
mean Stonehenge-and-human-sacrifice-druids?” Her face sharpened
warily.
Rachel was very matter-of-fact with her explanations, but Craig
knew that Kelly was not going to accept ghostly druids and rune power.
He was willing to believe because without any of this background and
these esoteric theories and explanations they would be no closer to an
understanding.
“Actually I believe there are some thoughts that Stonehenge
predates the Druids, but I don’t know about the human sacrifices as very
little is known about them as a culture, which is why you have the
romanticised-spirituality view of modern day pagans, and the perception
of demonised-rituality by people that, well; aren’t pagans.
“Druidic traditions are thought to have been passed on orally, so
their traditions died with them. The only written accounts are through
the Romans, and their perspective could just be propaganda; human
sacrifices, secret practices in caves, decapitating prisoners, drawing
spirits from severed heads...”
“Heads? In one of my dreams I saw heads.” The memory
frightened him, he didn’t want to recognise any of the faces. “Floating
320
Harvest

in some kind of gunk. With severed limbs. Like they had been harvested
and stored away.”
“Like you say though, the Druid connection is only conjecture.”
Kelly reinforced.
“I think we left the yellow-brick road of reason a while back.”
Craig joked and Kelly held her hands up in surrender and was able to
laugh at herself. “I remember the caretaker, Alec, telling me about the
problems he had keeping the grounds under control, he said the holly
bushes grew like wild-fire around the building, but he got his Christmas
bonus by using his ladders to get at the mistletoe that grew on most of
the trees, and he would sell it on to the local florists. So maybe that
Druid influence does play a part.”
“Yes, but Kelly is right to question, because the Druids predated
the Futhark.”
Kelly raised her eyebrows again. “I know I am going to regret
this, but Futhark?”
“Futhark is the runic alphabet. The Vikings would have brought
it to Britain, but not until after the Druids had been expelled into exile.”
“Maybe some of the Druids headed to Norway when they were
forced out. Maybe it was the Druids that introduced the Futhark to
them?” Craig suggested.
“As Kelly reminded us, all of this is just conjecture. Even if
there were a Druid connection it wouldn’t really help us. We probably
won’t ever know anything of this creatures heritage, and it’s not like we
have a tome of ancient Druid beasts lying around.” Rachel placated
lightly.
Cat jumped in. “Whatever it is; I think it was learning about us,
testing its powers at first, experimenting, physically and mentally:
seeing if it could use us or control us.”
“If it is an ancient creature or power, wouldn’t it know us? Why
would it need to experiment with us? If anything that sounds more like
alien motives.” Kelly laughed and gave a mock surrender again, “Not
that I am in any way suggesting this to be aliens.”

321
Harvest

Rachel shrugged. “If it were Druids that were originally behind


this then a lot of their magic is thought to be around manipulating the
forces of creation, the power of nature and life; ensuring the health of
coming crops, turning weather against the enemy. Maybe they created
this force or this thing for some reason. If it is created, then perhaps it is
trying to understand the world it now finds itself in.”
“That is how it felt to me. It got in my head the day I went into
the coma. I think it put part of itself in my head, seeing if it could use its
power through our minds. It worked and I think that might be how my
flat got trashed; the first test of using its power through me. Somehow, I
resisted, or it didn’t go to plan and I think it shut me down and put me
out of the way.”
“In a coma?”
Cat answered Jason with a nod. “Maybe it didn’t have the power
to kill me at that point. Or it was keeping me for something else.”
“It was using Malik to watch over you, it probably had the
power to kill you at any point. It only tried to take you out of the picture
when we arrived,” Craig surmised.
“Yeah, it must have been keeping me alive for some reason.
Maybe it was monitoring me, like a scientist does with an experiment. It
seems to use people, Malik and that old guy you told me about, Harry.
Maybe it’s incorporeal, and it uses people to interact with the
environment. If it is linked to the land, where the towers are, then
perhaps it uses people it controls as relays to further its range and
influence to other locations. Malik was a relay for the thing to extend its
range to watch over me in the hospital and get in my head and keep me
under and out of the way.”
“If you somehow have some of its power, which I think it is
apparent that you do, I think Malik turned on you because it lost its
control over you and you could possibly use your power against it,”
Rachel proposed.
“It’s in my head, this pressure, a force that feels too big for my
skull to hold, and I have to concentrate, think really hard about things to
distract it, like when your really trying to keep something in your head
322
Harvest

so you can remember it for later. But when I have had a strong emotion
or my concentration slips the pressure goes, and that feels worse, like
everything in my head is going to pour out and drag me after it into
some hole I won’t be able to get out of.”
“And that’s when things happen? Malik getting crushed by the
hospital bed, the fire doors being torn aside, Kelly being knocked across
the room?” Rachel was answered by a nod from Cat. Craig had been
right to question what had happened when Kelly had been tossed to the
floor.
“So Harry wasn’t a killer. He was forced to kill by whatever this
‘thing’ is? It wasn’t his fault at all?”
Craig reached across the table, hesitated, and then committed to
placing his hand over Kelly’s. “Don’t do that to yourself, Kelly.” She
nodded, but her face was tight and she couldn’t speak.
Rachel sighed. “Oh, my dear. I don’t think we can be certain of
any of the answers that we may think we have.”
Kelly cleared her throat several times before she could talk
through her emotions. “If it can control people like that then it could be
using anyone at The Heights…”
‘Even us’ went unsaid, but Craig saw Cat shift uncomfortably
nonetheless. Craig spoke quickly, “So; it can get in people’s heads, it is
possibly controlling the undertaker-corpse. The thing that came for Cat,
was that ‘it’? Was that the monster?”
Cat shook her head. “No, I er, don’t think so, no. I can’t say for
certain, but I got a different feeling when it was in my head, it was a
strong feeling like a presence, I didn’t get that feeling of a presence at
all with Malik. I did a little bit with the two creatures but not to the
same degree. When that creature had me and was pulling me into the
light I felt that presence emanating from wherever the light was coming
from. Like it was in the light, waiting for that creature to take me to
‘it’.”
Craig grew conscious of his hand still resting on Kelly’s, and it
grew hot and clammy. He withdrew it casually, but it still seemed to jar
Kelly. “So we haven’t seen this creature at all then really. The people
323
Harvest

under its control, the undertaker, the snatcher thing, they are just under
its control.”
“How can it be controlling different people and things at the
same time?” Kelly asked incredulously.
“Maybe its consciousness can divide itself up; like bacteria or
cells. One mind that can divide itself; expanding its awareness. Like a
hive mind.” Cat offered.
“A hive mind?” Kelly asked.
“A mind that is a collection of minds. Like the Borg?” Rachel’s
knowledge of science-fiction threw Craig and he could see it had the
same effect on Cat and Jason.
“Star Trek. The Borg.” Rachel elaborated, her face reddening.
“I know what it is I’m just a little surprised you know about all
that stuff, that’s all,” Craig laughed.
Rachel’s words tumbled out in a fluster. “I have cable. I don’t
spend all my time talking with those that have passed away you know!
My TV time is my time. They all know that.”
“You just didn’t strike me as a science-fiction person,” Craig
admitted.
“I guess X-files is a little too much like everyday life for you.”
Cat commented sourly.
“Don’t tell me – it’s because of Captain Kirk isn’t it?” Kelly
goaded.
“Oh, Lord no. Kirk didn’t age well did he? Expanding ‘frontier’
and bad wig. Oh, no I like Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain
Jean Luc Picard.” Rachel clapped her hands together. “Now that’s a
man that is comfortable with his age and has matured well.”
“Ooh no. I like the leader in the other series, you know? The guy
from Quantum Leap,” Kelly offered.
“‘Leader’,” Cat scoffed. “Anyway, no one likes him as a captain
it’s too weird, I keep expecting to see Al from Quantum Leap appear on
the bridge of the Enterprise.”

324
Harvest

Craig was quick to jump in and cover the way Cat had butted
Kelly out of the conversation. “Captain Janeway’s the one for me:
tough bird,” he announced.
“And that had nothing to do with Seven-of-Nine in her skin tight
one-piece costume of course,” Cat teased with a raised eye-brow.
Craig laughed at his own transparency. “Okay, guilty as
charged.”
“I’m more of a Star Wars fan personally,” Cat Stated.
“I haven’t seen Star Wars. Is it any good?” Jason asked.
“First…” Craig paused to address Jason. “Shut up! I’m only
twenty-four but you’re making me feel old! You’ve obviously had a
deprived childhood. Yes it’s brilliant.” He turned back to Cat. “And
second - Marry me!”
Kelly abruptly redirected the banter. “Okay, abstract
conversation aside. What do we know? We know we are dealing with
something that isn’t human. A monster. It’s killing and taking people.”
“It could be using the abandoned stairs to move about relatively
unseen as we said,” Craig reminded.
“Maybe it’s living in the basement – I mean it could be the only
place to hide. Hardly anyone goes down there,” Jason snappily
suggested.
“Except for the caretaker. If it was down there then Alec would
have surely seen something.” Kelly countered.
“Maybe he can’t be trusted – you were suspicious that the door
to the roof had been left unlocked when you chased Harry up there,”
Craig suggested, conscious of the topic of Harry’s death. Kelly nodded
in agreement and didn’t seem fazed by the mention of Harry.
“The building had been searched by the police a few times and
nothing had been found. Maybe ‘it’ can influence people’s perception.”
Craig was surprised and reassured by Kelly’s imaginative
suggestion. “So it could be in the basement then.” Craig clarified. “If it
has some kind of connection with people’s minds does that explain my
nightmares? What are they about and how do they fit it?”

325
Harvest

Cat answered him. “I kind of have an idea about that. This thing,
if it is an entity then it must be some kind of energy. You all tell me that
this whole thing started with Albert Taylor going missing, followed by a
girl going missing. A few weeks later more children vanish and then
strange deaths and now violent murders, it seems there is an escalation,
as if this things power or hold is growing. We both said that after our
nightmares we felt physically weaker and I was thinking that it’s
drawing energy from us while we sleep so it can go off and do the
things it is doing. When it draws energy from us, we are connected to it
and maybe we see where that energy is being directed to.” Cat looked at
everyone to see if they accepted her idea.
It made sense to Craig and it reassured him further because it
was an explanation of why he found himself experiencing the
nightmares from the attacker’s perspective.
“Feeding off our biochemical energy?” Rachel elaborated. “Our
body runs on pulses of energy in our nervous system.”
“At night, with everyone asleep the high-rise flats would be like
a battery pack, with us being the power cells,” Cat concluded darkly.
“But I haven’t had any nightmares.” Kelly countered. “Sorry,
but I haven’t.”
Craig’s thoughts rambled out of his head. “What if it’s only
some of us then – or what if it’s the sleeping tablets you use; they might
stop it getting in your head. Or the tablets might stop you remembering
any of the dreams.”
“Well I haven’t suffered the lethargy you and Cat say you have
experienced after sleeping, so it could be the tablets stop it happening.”
“I haven’t slept properly since the twins went missing. Too
scared to sleep properly.” Jason added.
“It also has the ability to change things – like the door in the
Chambers flat, and the fire door when we left Cat’s; they were both
fused to their frames,” Rachel reminded.
“So we have to be careful of confined spaces, and doors between
us and exits,” Kelly considered strategically.
“Why is it taking people,” Jason stated.
326
Harvest

“Why?” Kelly repeated with a shrug.


“I think it’s harvesting,” Cat answered swiftly.
Rachel nodded in agreement. “One of the runes I saw
represented the Harvest.”
“Harvesting what?”
“People, bodies, flesh, blood, bones.” Cat answered Kelly. “It
might need people’s flesh and minds the way we need food and water.”
“That’s horrible.”
“I don’t know.” Craig was sure there was more to it. “It’s gone
to a lot of trouble to get into our heads, to experiment on us, only to just
eat us. I was thinking if this thing is an incorporeal entity contained in
one space and its range of influence is limited, then it wants to
overcome that limitation. You said earlier that the undertaker and the
snatcher looked as though it had been pieced together, it could be they
were created from the raw materials it’s harvesting. It could be that it is
creating itself bodies so it can move around. That might explain why
Cat thinks we haven’t seen the main creature yet – it hasn’t got a main
form yet.”
“That’s horrible too.” Kelly stated. “What will it do when it has
a body then?”
Craig didn’t know if he was letting his imagination run away
with him or if he had something, either way his ideas frightened him.
“Probably much of the same, but somewhere else, it’s going to run out
of people in that building eventually. There are two more towers. Then
the whole neighbourhood, if it can divide itself up like we think, it could
spread out.”
“Go forth and multiply.” Rachel stated quietly and sombrely.
“It will be stopped though,” Kelly announced matter-of-factly. “I
mean the more it spreads the more people will believe or see it –
someone will have to act.”
Cat raised her eyes incredulously. “You mean your precious
police? The things that have been happening have made front page news
in most of the nationals and the police haven’t even found a walking-

327
Harvest

dead undertaker in the flats yet. If it can control peoples perception how
do we know its influence won’t grow with it?”
“We are possibly the only few people that have survived seeing
what we have seen and actually dared to talk to each other about it.
Even I was sceptical to begin with, and it has taken losses for us to
consider something supernatural, let alone believe it. There will be
many people who will be on their own with their experiences simply
because they are too scared of ridicule or think they just won’t be
believed,” Rachel reinforced.
“Or the army.”
Craig winced at Kelly’s persistence. “That is counting on some
very important people staking their reputations on mobilising the army
to combat a monster.”
“Yes, and by that time how many will have died?” Rachel said
concerned.
“Then we have to act now,” Kelly concluded.
“Now she’s going all Buffy,” Cat remarked caustically.
“If we aren’t going to involve the authorities what other choice
do we have?”
“How can we? That thing is dangerous?” Jason despaired.
Craig was pretty convinced Kelly hadn’t included Jason in the
idea of striking back, but the lad was only voicing what he and the
others were probably thinking.
“I have a feeling I can be dangerous too.” Cat grinned darkly.
Craig didn’t doubt that at all.
“Then we move against it,” Rachel declared resolutely.
“What with?” Jason insisted.
Rachel got up from the table and disappeared out into the
hallway and rummaged through a large ottoman. Craig puzzled at her
before answering Jason. “There’s weapons all around us everyday.
Think of all the harmful things you’re told not to play with; dangerous
liquids, flammables and pointed things.”
“We need a plan then,” Kelly suggested.

328
Harvest

Rachel returned to the group and delivered a large two-handed


sword crashing onto the table. “Seize the day…”
Craig was emboldened by the strength of Rachel’s conviction,
but he finished her quote in his head: “For tomorrow we die…”

329
Harvest

Thirty Six
Kelly rested against the quilted headboard of Rachel’s bed, her seat
parked on the pillow, her knees hugged up to her chest. In the orange
gloom the little tasselled table lamp gave out from the bedside table she
waited for Rachel to return. The others would be moving about the flat
and turning in now too, Cat had refused to take up her old bedroom so
Craig had taken it, Kelly had wanted to join him but the idea frightened
her, and things were different between them now. Cat and Jason were
going to share the sofa cushions laid out on the floor. Rachel’s room
was like the rest of the flat, dated décor furnished with old furniture, not
antiques but pieces that were made about fifty of sixty years ago and
required craftsmanship – not a flat-pack in sight. It reminded her of how
her grandparent’s house had looked. Well-decorated and furnished, but
lived in and not maintained for several decades.
It had been a harrowing day, and the evening had presented its
own difficulties through the five of them discussing, mostly arguing,
what they should do and who should do it. She could feel the physical
and psychological exhaustion drawing on her weary body and mind.
The option of doing nothing and waiting the storm out had seemed an
easy and rational option considering they were seemingly safe and
hidden from the reach of the tower and the threat of its stalkers. Yet the
knowledge that others were in danger and that the five of them alone
had faced what others would consider fantasy or madness, had fuelled
them and left them with a burden of responsibility and the sense that
they were the only ones that would be prepared to do what needed to be
done.
Craig had shared Kelly’s unease, but had objected little to the
risks of their ideas and seemed to be happy to go along with everything
considered or decided. Kelly had been unsure of Rachel’s thoughts and
feelings because although Rachel had taken the initial lead her
composure had gradually been eroded under the wear of Cat’s arbitrary
digs and attacks, and she had grown quiet and distant. Her natural
authority had diminished and she had flinched warily each time Cat

330
Harvest

spoke, a shadow or resignation in her grey eyes. Cat was fully aware of
her deference and had taken advantage of it.
Kelly tried to bolster Rachel as much as possible, but acting
outside of the law and the possibility of endangering anyone but herself
was uncomfortable, and she found it impossible not to be the grounded
rational voice in their brainstorming session, which meant the cohesion
of the group was left to a fraying Rachel. Especially when Cat had been
irresponsibly supportive of Jason’s wish, a child’s wish, to be involved
in their dangerous plans. Rachel’s protests were weak in her subdued
state, and Craig’s lack of standing and seeming unwillingness to rock
the boat had left Kelly fighting alone, aware that the strength of her
argument had alienated her into a lonely no-man’s land. The frustration
and anger still knotted Kelly’s insides, however despite the danger and
the madness of it all, they had eventually settled on a plan.
The door nudged open and Rachel stepped around it with two
mugs held in front of her. She closed the door behind her by walking
backwards and pressing herself against it. Dressed in a fleecy dressing
gown buttoned up to her neck, and with a floor length flannel night
gown beneath, Rachel looked older than Kelly had thought she was.
Kelly took the drink that was offered to her and Rachel rounded the bed
and set her mug amongst the clutter on her bedside cabinet. She peeled
back her side of the quilted nylon bed cover as much as she could with
Kelly sitting on it and got under the covers. “You turning in?”
“In a bit. Thanks for the drink.” Kelly raised her mug to Rachel
in a silent toast of thanks.
It had only been the middle of the evening when they had all
finished discussing what they would do about the things at The Heights,
and no one had been keen on the idea of going to bed, it was the kind of
night you would only sleep if you were really tired, the wild ideas they
had had and the dangerous plans they had made were enough to keep
sleep at bay. Kelly was thankful to Rachel for suggesting playing poker,
it had proved a good distraction and kept their interactions with each
other focussed around the game. Cat did manage to get some snipes at
Rachel, but for the most part she shared her cards with Jason, teaching
331
Harvest

him the rules and joking with him as if they had been long-time friends
and not the practical strangers they were. Cat and Craig were
competitive with each other, teasing each other with their tells whenever
they thought the other was bluffing, one would lord it when they won,
while the loser would demand another chance to win and get vengeance.
Strangely, after the unusual things they had discussed and the
outrageous things she had agreed to go along with that evening, it was
Cat and Craig’s banter that Kelly kept returning to. She had tried to join
in with them on the game, but although she played well, where she was
in the turn sequence limited her interaction with Craig, and the hands
they were dealt kept them out of the game with each other, as if the
game had conspired against them. She had felt a little like an outsider,
when tonight of all nights Kelly needed to feel included. Even the
casual conversation about science fiction in the early evening had left
Kelly out of her depth and seemingly cut off from Craig, reinforcing her
awareness of their tenuous relationship and age difference.
Cat had entered their group like a brick through a window. Kelly
no longer felt as connected to Rachel and Craig as she had before and
she knew that feeling was a reaction to Cat’s actions: Cat had made
casual flirts with Craig but with her eyes on Kelly watching for a
response, she made jibes at the police that scored some brief laughs with
Craig and Jason, attacked her reluctance at breaking the law by labelling
her ‘PC Goodie’ and ‘PC Jobsworth’ and challenged her self-imposed
authority during Rachel’s impotency. Cat clearly felt threatened by
Kelly and had systematically dealt with her.
Craig had retreated from playing an active role in the plans,
clearly intimidated by Cat, he had stopped trying to reassure her while
she eased herself into accepting the madness. When Cat wasn’t being
hostile he seemed to get on quite well with Cat. Kelly had less of a share
of Craig now.
The way that insecurity felt was identical to the way it had felt
when she had been married to Ian, and it scared her that she could feel
that way again when she had put so much distance between him, her and
that time, and the way she had been back then. She had become human
332
Harvest

again through Craig, she had allowed herself to trust, to desire again,
she had started a journey that she had thought she wouldn’t or couldn’t
make again and now she had lost him to Cat. Even if she could compete
she didn’t how to. She didn't have the fight in her. She was angry at
herself for letting her defences down and being so pathetic when so
much was at stake, her defences were back now and so strong it was
hard to even talk to him. Kelly knew she was pushing him away,
backing off quietly and undoubtedly unnoticed.
“Are you okay, dear?”
Kelly rested her head on her knees and faced Rachel. “It depends
how you define ‘okay’.”
“Yes, quite.” Rachel admitted grimly, pursing her lips.
“If okay is the numbed state that comes from learning that
monsters are real, and then making plans to destroy them, then I’m there
in that feeling.”
Rachel wrinkled her nose up. “Yes, I think that will have to be
tonight’s definition of ‘okay’.”
“What if we are making a huge mistake?” Kelly leaned her head
back against the wall. Resigning herself to all the doubts that lingered
off-stage in her head. Rachel turned away, her eyes averted to the floor.
“I’m sorry, I know I have said this several times tonight. It’s just that
even if there are things in the basement of that building we could get
hurt. And if there isn’t, then someone could still end up getting hurt
doing what we are going to do.” She couldn’t even bring herself to
speak directly of what they planned. Monsters or no monsters,
tomorrow was going to be terrifying and dangerous. She found herself
hoping they would find something, because she stood a chance of
getting arrested and losing her job going along with all that they had
decided. “Where did you get that sword from anyway?” Kelly changed
tact to get away from the subject that would only distance her from
Rachel and she didn’t want that.
“Oh that!” Rachel took Kelly’s lead appreciatively. “Well, I
went to a Pagan wedding once, a good thirty odd years ago now, when I
could pull off being in a forest in the middle of the night with nothing
333
Harvest

on but my knickers and goose-fat. The sword was part of the ceremony I
think. I don’t remember much of the affair as it was freezing in the
woods, the goose-fat was not as insulating as I was told, and I had drunk
lots of brandy to keep me warm. I don’t know how, and I suspect the
brandy had a little to play in this, but somehow I ended up coming home
with the thing. I hope it’s the real article and won’t just break should I
get to use it. Mind you, even if it does, it outlasted the marriage it was
used within. I wonder what happened to them?”
“You don’t see them anymore?”
“No, dear. That was back when I thought my talent was a way of
life. A lifestyle. It was short-lived. I have never felt too comfortable
with religion, with all its dictates and ceremony.”
“I’m surprised. I would have thought your talent and spirituality
would go hand in hand.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I am a spiritual person, my ability which
is currently beyond scientific explanation makes it hard for me to
reconcile myself with the cold logic of atheism, but I don’t see how my
ability particularly connects me with religion either, especially how
religion has so many different opinions on the afterlife, and some of
them actually quite critical of people like myself.”
“What do you believe in then?”
“I guess that I believe in people, I have faith in the potential for
goodness and greatness in all people. A humanist.”
Kelly raised her eyebrows. “A day in my job might ruin that for
you.”
“Quite possibly, but I think it is what I see with my other vision
that maintains my faith. Spirits that are aware of their passing are often
changed with the experience, the living people that I am connecting
them to often find it difficult to equate them with the one they lost.
Those spirits are released from their material and psychological
trappings and are just themselves, honest and open to those they have
left behind. Something us mortals hardly ever are. No one (including
ourselves sometimes) truly knows the real us.”

334
Harvest

“The openness and honesty sounds nice.” If not a little


frightening. It had been some time since Kelly had been honest with
herself, but she was trying to get to know herself again. “This faith you
have in people, is that why you let Cat say the things she does?”
“Yes.” Rachel lowered the mug into her lap and her voice
softened. “Yes, it is.”
“Did you hear what she…” Kelly stopped herself; of course
Rachel had heard what had been said about her, Cat had made sure she
did. “You shouldn’t put up with that.”
“She’s emotional.”
“Just because she’s emotional it doesn’t give her the right to
attack you like that.”
“She lost her mother. The only thing she had.” Rachel snapped.
Tears gathered in her eyes and her face took on an instant expression of
guilt for her tone.
Kelly gave her time to collect her emotions. “She has you.”
“I’m not her mother.” It sounded like a confession to herself as
much as an explanation. “I have wanted to reach her on some level for
eighteen months now. She doesn’t want me.”
“Perhaps you should leave her to it. After what she came out
with I don’t know why you bother.”
“I bother.” Rachel took a deep breath, wiped her tears away and
faced Kelly with a renewed strength of resolve. “I bother because I
believe there is some good in ninety-nine percent of all people. That’s
one thing I have learnt talking to my ‘friends’, they always have regrets
when they pass. That’s why I take it. I won’t let her drive me away.
She’s an angry child, angry at losing her mother. She’s lost one person
that cares for her; I won’t let her lose another one. I have to be here if
she needs me.”
Kelly felt a pull of shame in her stomach and looked away into
the shadows of the room.
Rachel chuckled to herself. “I just hope she isn’t a complete
bitch until I drop dead.”
“I’m sorry I hit Cat.”
335
Harvest

“Don’t worry,” Rachel waved the apology away. “Just


something I could only ever think of doing. Might have done her some
good. Just as long as you are okay.”
Kelly nodded and waited to see if Rachel would talk about how
Kelly had ended up on the floor. It didn’t look like she would. “The way
she retaliated. I find it frightening.”
Rachel fixed Kelly in a long stare. “She could be the key to
stopping this. An otherworldly power against an otherworldly threat.”
Kelly nodded.
“As frightening as that may be.” Rachel agreed after some time.
“How did you two ever end up with the relationship you have?”
“Oh, it wasn’t always like this. Until her mother died it was
nothing like this. I was a family friend. No, that sounds too distant; a
good friend of Catherine’s mother and like an unofficial aunt to
Catherine. We were always doing things together, just the three of us.”
Rachel looked lost in fond memory. “I loved her mother,” she hastened
to correct herself: “I love her mother so much. Her death didn’t end
that.”
“We met in hospital in the maternity ward, Helen and I. We
were in beds next to each other. I was a little old to be having a baby
and there was a worry of complications, so I had been sent to hospital a
week prior to my due date. Helen was on the ward early too, for
monitoring due to complications. It can be very boring in hospital but
we got on so well, I can honestly saw there wasn’t a dull moment while
I was in her company. She could laugh easy and hard but she had a
touching maturity, most definitely brought about by Cat’s father ending
their relationship as soon as she got pregnant. He decided he didn’t want
the responsibility of fatherhood. Didn’t want the commitment. Cat is of
the understanding that they fell out while she was still a baby. Truth is
he did a bunk as soon as Helen started to show signs of being pregnant.
I went into labour two days before Helen. Helen’s father was estranged
and her mother had died a few years before. She was alone. So I stood
by Helen for the birth and pretty much in raising Cat too. You see

336
Harvest

although my delivery went well my baby didn’t make it through its first
night. I had a little girl.”
Rachel sensed Kelly’s well of sympathy and waved her down
before she could talk or attempt to offer comfort.
“I was there for Helen when it was her big day. It seemed
important to me somehow. She had a girl. Helen asked what I had called
my baby – and she asked if she could use the name so that I would
know there was still a little Catherine out there that owed something to
me.”
“I understand why you keep trying to reach her.”
“My partner left a little while after we found it would be too
dangerous for me to attempt to bear children. He desperately wanted
something I couldn’t give him. Adoption wouldn’t have been enough
for him. It was painful but I let him go. I had Helen, and I had Cat and
they filled the gap left by my Catherine and my partner. Helen and I
stayed friends until cancer took her from us nearly two years ago.”
Rachel fixed Kelly with a look of desperation. “I did love her though –
Helen that is. I don’t know what that makes me.” Rachel finally broke
eye-contact. “Perhaps it’s as Cat says,” she stated dismissively.
“Not everything needs to be labelled. And what Cat said and the
way she said it doesn’t describe the love you felt for Helen. It’s just
spite and resentment at what you and Helen had. Cruel words for
something beautiful.” This time Kelly didn’t let Rachel wave her
comforting away and she put an arm around her and pulled her close
and let her cry her wracking sobs against her chest.

337
Harvest

Thirty Seven
Craig glanced furtively over the bushes while Kelly crouched by a pile
of gas cylinders waiting for his help in lifting one, she let out a sigh, but
he ignored her. The denuded land was between a row of shops that were
heavily armoured with metal security grills and a playground
surrounded by a pen of chain-link fencing. Kelly had told him there had
been houses there that had been pulled down for a new development but
it had fallen through and nothing had been done with it, so it had
become over-grown and collected derelicts and fly-tipped waste. The
gas cylinders had been dumped there but the Council had yet to do
anything with them, Kelly had suggested they procure them.
“Come on,” she huffed with little tolerance.
“We don’t want to get caught.”
“No we don’t, but you standing there like a meerkat peering over
the only cover we have is only going to draw attention to us.”
He dropped to his haunches and took hold of the cylinder and
they hauled it over to the car. “Considering we are strapping gas
cylinders to a Yugo I didn’t think we were worrying about being
conspicuous.”
“Let’s just get this done shall we.”
He limped after her back to the cylinders and they repeated their
chore until they got all four in the car and strapped on top. “I don’t think
she can take anymore Cap’n.” Craig announced in a bad impression of
Scotty from Star Trek. She agreed, but didn’t laugh which left him
feeling like a prick. He leaned against the side of the small car and
flexed his foot at the ankle and winced as he set it back on the ground.
“Still hurting?” Kelly’s tone was cold and flat.
“I’m okay, thanks.”
“Shall we go?” She started to walk around to the driver’s side.
“What’s up?”
She stopped in front of the car. “I am worried about Jason.”
Her tone implied it should have been obvious. When they had
woken up that morning they had found that Jason and Cat were gone. It
was a worry, but Kelly had been in this frame of mood since last night.
338
Harvest

“Me too. Cat seemed to get on really well with him last night, so I can’t
imagine she would let anything happen to him.”
“You’re not worried about her?” Kelly threw her hands in the
air, her tone of voice incredulous. “I find it weird that Cat causes so
much trouble for us and you and Rachel won’t even consider that Jason
might be at risk being with Cat. Wherever they are.”
“Not as much risk as he will be in later.”
“Oh, you are willing to acknowledge that now?” Her voice was
thick with sarcasm.
“I agreed with your concern.” He kept his tone steady despite the
anger that swelled in his chest. He didn’t want to fall out with anyone,
especially Kelly and especially on a day like today.
She folded her arms and cocked her head to one side. “It didn’t
feel like it last night.”
Craig held his hands up, and some of his anger bled into his
voice. “A lot happened last night, Kelly. We got attacked by that thing,
then there was all that arguing between Cat and Rachel, I was trying to
comfort Jason, yeah I didn’t take a lead but I didn’t really know what to
say or do during a lot of that but I contributed, I took part.”
She looked away and down, and leaned her weight onto one leg.
“I know I’m sorry.”
Craig decided that Kelly was hard to get close to. He would have
thought their friendship, which although was very new, would have
stood up against last night. If anything he thought they would be even
closer today. “That’s ok. Everyone needs to blow off a bit of steam.
Especially at times like this.”
“I just don’t trust Cat.” She squeezed her hands into the pockets
of her tight jeans. “Jason says he was being stalked by that thing, and
now he has gone missing with Cat. What if she is under the things
influence like Harry or Malik?”
Craig nodded. “It’s possible, yeah. But we had to fight pretty
hard to get her out of that building last night so I can’t imagine that was
all a stunt for us to take Cat in. Plus she’s pretty much been a bitch since
we met her so she wasn’t making the best job of getting in with us. I
339
Harvest

can’t imagine that Jason is all that important to the thing in the
basement either. There are plenty of other victims left for it to take. We
don’t know why they have both gone missing, but they both took part in
figuring out what we are doing today, so I can’t believe they won’t be
coming back to do their part.”
“What if they were both taken?”
“By the thing? We all agreed it was possible, but if it could take
them it would have probably taken all of us. No, I think they just went
out. Maybe Jason was scared and Cat took him out to comfort him. I
don’t know.”
“It would have only taken them to leave a note to stop us
worrying.” Kelly shook her head disapprovingly. “If they don’t come
back?”
“I think we need Cat, but we go ahead as planned, I guess.”
“You are right. You’re right. I’m sorry.”
He kicked a chunk of rubble into the thick weeds that sprung up
all over the site. “Is that why you have been so short with me since last
night?”
“I’m sorry.”
He shrugged, although it bothered him more than a shrug could
express. Despite what they had been going through they had had some
nice times chatting together. He had been more open and intimate than
he had been with anyone for a long time. He wondered if that meant
anything to her. Meant as much as it now did to him. “Just save all that
defensiveness up for when Cat comes back or we get down in that
basement.” He offered her an awkward smile and got one back in return.
They both climbed into the car. The engine professed and turned
over wheezily as Kelly turned the key in the ignition. “It does this now
and again. Just got to give it a few minutes and she usually starts up
okay.” Kelly let the keys hang and rested her head on her side window.
A light drizzle of rain spotted the windows and pattered sparsely
on the roof of the car as they sat quietly. “Lets hope we don’t have to
make a horror-film-exit by car at The Heights.”
“Don’t start mocking the car again.”
340
Harvest

Craig briefly held his hands up and widened his eyes in mock
fright.
“I bet I know how you are feeling at the moment.” She looked at
him blankly. “I will admit I’m scared if you do too.”
She turned back to the window and stared at a fleck of rain,
barely enough to form a running rivulet. “Before this the most I was
ever scared was when my marriage broke down with Ian. I was
frightened of losing him; absolutely terrified of losing what we had,
losing someone’s love, and what life would be like without it. I thought
that was it for me. I thought life was over for me. Now, facing this all
that feels so stupid!” She slammed her palms against the steering wheel.
“God, I love angry women.” She smiled back at him, and
blushed and he knew he had the old Kelly back again.
“I wish I could go back and tell myself to lighten up and not see
the end of a relationship as the end of the world. Doing what we are
going to do today, and the consequences of that: that’s real fear.”
“It certainly puts things in perspective,” Craig admitted.
“Anything you wish you could change?”
“Renting a flat in The Heights.” They both laughed. “I wish I
had achieved something. All I have is a rented flat I can barely afford,
debts I keep moving around but never reduce, no love life and a half-
arsed attempt to go it alone. Not much of a life.”
“I’m the other way round, after Ian I have just focussed on me.
It’s about all I can manage – and just lately I have come to realise I
haven’t done a very good job of that.”
The grey cloud was passing over and returning the blue sky to
them, there would be a rainbow somewhere. He remembered a drunken
Sunday afternoon at his flat with Vicki when she had spotted a rainbow
over the city, and she had dragged him off of the sofa to watch it. He
had thought they might kiss that day. She had belched loudly instead
sending them both into giggles. “I think my friend Vicki is dead.” Craig
found himself saying, feeling instant relief, like getting a splinter out
after a good few days digging at it.
Kelly was quiet for some time. “What makes you say that?”
341
Harvest

Craig explained the photograph and that Vicki hadn’t answered


her phone or responded to his texts. “She hasn’t even showed up at the
office. No one has seen her since she came to see me yesterday.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s okay. Maybe I’m thinking the worst.” Craig provided his
own unsatisfying platitude.
He flinched at her hand suddenly being on his leg and she took
the gesture back. “Sorry, I wasn’t expecting it. Put it back.” He knew it
was a stupid thing to say, but she did it and the connection felt good.
For a few moments they sat together, deliberately not looking at each
other and stared out of the windscreen watching the grey cloud scroll
away. When there was only blue sky she reached for the keys and the
engine came to life as her hand left his leg.

342
Harvest

Thirty Eight
Cat stood in the street and stared up at the three high-rise towers. Other
than the boarded up shops at the base of her building all three towers
were physically identical, although through her eyes she could see that
her building was different. It was darker, as if in shadow. It was like a
twisted twin tower had taken its place. She had noticed the difference
when she first returned to her flat; the walls in the corridors, stairwells
and even her own home were tainted. No, she corrected herself, she
couldn’t see the difference she could sense it. She had thought it was her
experience before her coma and the stories that Rachel and the others
had related to her that coloured her perception, but it wasn’t.
Cat knew the difference between imagination and the
supernatural. She could just about remember the times when she had
been a kid and had talked to people that were not there. Rachel had
picked up on it straight away and encouraged her, but she had seen the
look on her mum’s face. It scared her. Her mum would never have said
how she felt, but Cat knew it had worried her so Cat ignored the dead. It
seemed the dead soon get tired of not being listened to because she
couldn’t remember seeing or hearing anything after the age of about
eight or nine.
Those experiences were so long ago she almost doubted them.
She couldn’t remember feeling any different, just she could see and hear
things that others couldn’t or maybe didn’t want to see. It was different
now. Since she had been awakened from her coma she was different.
Changed somehow. The thing in the tower that had come to her that
stormy night, a night that only seemed like yesterday but incredibly was
three weeks ago, had left something of itself within her head. It wasn’t
physical, she didn’t have any scars on her scalp; it wasn’t in her brain.
Whatever it was it was in her mind, the intangible part of herself. She
had seen a documentary on parasites on the Discovery Channel, things
that invaded the body and influenced the mind using chemicals, this was
the psychological version. Now her mind was awakened to another level
of consciousness.
It enabled her to see that the building had cancer in its fabric, her
343
Harvest

sense was like x-ray and she could see that the walls and the floors were
all run through with malignant shadowy veins that crawled with
blackness, like bugs in fast flowing slime or spiders scurrying in
shadows, radiating out and rushing back in on themselves. She had
sensed it converge on Malik at the hospital, then on Harry before he had
died, and on her floor during Rachel’s visit last night. She daren’t look
at herself, for she knew she would see that same dark energy flowing
through her too. The source was below the ground in the basement. Her
destination.
In Parasites Attack or whatever it had been called, the narrator
had explained how the parasite influenced the host to do things that put
them in danger, making snails go up high where they would be prone to
being eaten by birds, just so the parasite could spread. Was she going to
get eaten? The thing in her head seemed to swell with her fear and she
focussed on her breathing. In and out. Calming and relaxing. The way
she had dealt with the panic attacks after mum had died and she had
moved out of Rachel’s.
As her fear subsided a little, the thing in her mind settled too, but
it didn’t go. It stayed, ready to pounce. She couldn’t put this off any
longer. She crossed the road, passed through the lobby and headed
down the stairs to the sepulchral basement.
Cat looked over the large metal door to the basement. She
pushed at it but it refused to move. That strange alien presence brooding
in her head clung to her rising anger and fear, riding it; begging to be
remembered, urging her to use its power to rip the obstructing door
from the wall as she had when she had reduced the fire door to kindling
the previous night; but she couldn’t risk wasting her only weapon. She
was unsure if any use of it would deplete it and she planned to use her
power to destroy the evil within the flats. The power recoiled then
strained in her head at the very idea, causing a dull ache behind her
eyes. It was as if the power had a separate intelligence that worked
against her, urging her to release it, to spend its strength, leaving her
defenceless before the ‘thing’ in the basement she planned to face.

344
Harvest

She clenched her eyes and took a deep breath, calming herself
and bracing her concentration against the force in her head as if denying
the discomfort of a migraine. It squirmed and became still. She opened
her eyes and smiled to herself, that’s it. Behave yourself. There was so
much she didn’t know and couldn’t hope to understand about the thing
in her head, only last night it had chased her anger and struck Kelly
down. How much of that action had been her will and how much of it
had been the will of the thing in her head? Just how much control did
she have over this? No matter, she dismissed. She had to face the evil
that had turned her life upside down and forced her into a group she
wanted no part of.
Bitterness at being made to ‘belong’ festered within her, fuelling
her resolve. She fought and kept her mind contracted against the raw,
squirming presence. She was not going to be able to open the door, but
if the group’s guesses were right there was another way into the
basement. Cat mounted the stairs with a determined pace and crossed
the lobby to the unused staircase marked with a strict sign ruling that the
door be kept locked. It opened freely. Cat slipped inside. The landing
beyond was dark and cool. Shafts of hazy dust-filled light cut through
the air above her from the out of view windows on the landings above.
The charcoal gloom forced her to take careful steps and feel her way
along the smooth cold handrail until the stairs finished and she had
descended as far as she could.
Hell was quieter and colder than she had imagined.
The small window in the door before her was a vacant void of
black. She peered through. In the barely definable light she could see
dust and scraps of litter and what looked like a battered fire extinguisher
congealed in slime. Kelly had fought off the thing that had attempted to
snatch Cat at the foot of the stairs, when it had retreated and receded
into the light the extinguisher Kelly had used for a club had gone with
it. Was this proof that the portal of light led somewhere down here?
Strangely Cat didn’t need a discarded extinguisher to tell her this was
where it was: She knew.

345
Harvest

The door was a heavy fire door but it opened easily. She
fumbled for a light switch as the quicksand darkness swamped around
her. Her courage retreated from the dark and hid behind the tense
concentration of her mind and the force it held back, as if it was a totem
of faith that could ward off whatever might be lingering in the dark that
surrounded her. Her fingers fumbled, desperate for a switch that would
banish the dark, while her mind was poised, ready to relinquish her
control of the power in her mind. Doubts soaked into her from the dark.
If she held a splinter of the entity, then would part of this power be
enough against the whole?
The lights snapped on and exposed the crisp white hospital room
around her.
The aggressive determination that she had brought to the
basement seemed alien now she stood in the brightly lit private ward.
She blinked rapidly as she adjusted to the light and received snippets of
information from her surroundings; the scuffs on the floor, drooping
daffodils in the vase, battered Venetian blinds against the windows, the
high back chair upholstered in a dusty-pink leatherette. Each image not
only built a picture of the room, but shaped her thoughts and emotions
even though she felt like an ill-fitting jigsaw puzzle piece that couldn’t
be placed. Cat’s eyes acclimated to the glare of her new environment,
and although she recognised the room, it was the fear and grief that
helped her recognise the moment.
She allowed herself to look upon the final image that would
complete the room. The hospital bed that held her mum. Rachel pulled
Cat close to her. The gesture and the feel of Rachel’s clothes, the
warmth of her body, even her scent was familiar and welcome. This was
a time when she would have readily accepted Rachel and her embrace.
The fear-stoked anger and determination that had fuelled her into the
basement subsided within the seductive comfort. They stood together
for sometime, wordlessly sharing the view of her mother.
Cat remembered the tiredness of that day, and the memory of it
spread from her psyche into her body and bones. The months of waiting
had left her emotionally numb and physically broken. She had spent all
346
Harvest

that time being strong for her mum to make it easier for her, and now
the journey was almost over she could feel her defences against the grief
falling. The desperate agonising sorrow and twisted anger frightened
her.
Rachel must have sensed her wilt within the embrace. “Cat, she
needs rest. She’s weak. You need to rest too.”
Rachel had found Cat at college that morning before her first
class had even started and told her that the hospital had called and they
expected it to be today. Cat had left college with Rachel and they had
watched over her in turns. It was now late, the early hours of the next
day, but there was nothing they could do but wait. Each barely
discernible breath that her mother took, each protracted sigh was the
cocking of the gun and the snap of its trigger in the Russian roulette
guessing game of which breath would be her last, Cat being desperate
for it not to happen on her vigil.
Although Cat knew it was coming, she was still startled by the
weak gravelly rattle that wheezed weakly from her mother. Rachel’s
grip on her shoulder tightened.
“Come on, you need to rest or you will be asleep on your feet.”
Rachel’s tone was light but there was a sense of urgency about her.
Eighteen months ago Cat had allowed herself to be shepherded
to the door, she let the adult take over, gave Rachel responsibility of the
vigil. She had known what the change of breathing meant and she had
been grateful for Rachel sparing her from it. There was a row of seats in
the corridor which both Rachel and herself had taken turns in using as a
bed. That’s where Cat had retreated to. She had even managed to sleep.
She must have slept deeply because when she awoke she had found that
her head was on Rachel’s lap and she didn’t remember her joining her
on the seats.
Rachel had stroked her hair then whispered. “She’s gone.”
Her mother had been alive, then dead and Cat had been spared
the pain of what had happened in between. The grief and anger she had
hidden from had possessed her so completely and with such strength
and suddenness it had frightened her, she remembered hearing a terrible
347
Harvest

shrieking and finding it was her own hysteria. The hatred for Rachel had
been instantaneous but she hadn’t fathomed why until many months
later.
Cat wrenched free of Rachel’s arm that once again shepherded
her towards the seats and the sleep that she had taken eighteen months
ago. She wouldn’t let Rachel take away her last moments with her
mother. Not this time. Cat should be the one to say the final goodbye.
“I will stay with her. I want to be with her.” Cat stepped away
from Rachel, and stood defensively between Rachel and her mother. “I
want to say goodbye.”
The muscles in Rachel’s face twitched and flickered with the
confused thoughts that must have been playing through her mind. She
emitted several sounds before forming hesitant words. “Of course.”
Rachel hugged Cat but the embrace stiffened when Cat just stood in her
arms and made no effort to return the gesture. Rachel waked backwards
to the door, looking reluctant to leave. “I’m going to get a coffee and
stretch my legs. Just down the hall. I’m not going far. Come and get me
if…” She hesitated in the doorway. “I know! I will get you a hot
chocolate while I get a coffee. I will bring it straight back. I won’t be
long. Please, please get me if… Please call for me.”
This was all new. Cat had changed how things had happened.
The script of the past was discarded and the memories stopped here.
Rachel was gone and now Cat would be the one to say goodbye. These
would be her mum’s last moments and she would no longer have to rely
on Rachel’s description of them. She could feel the despair ball in her
stomach like a smooth hard boulder in her gut that weighted her insides
down to ripping point. Something wet touched her hand and when she
held her hand up she found a clear rivulet, it was joined by another and
another until she realised she was crying. She touched her face and was
shocked by the stiff and contorted mask that creased up around her
tears. Until the sobs wracked her body it seemed her grief was just a
torture of the flesh with the cramps, spasms and seizures that took hold
of her body, but as she approached the bed to watch her mum die she
knew her the pain would come.
348
Harvest

She found her mothers hand in the bed covers, it felt like a
bundle of sticks. The cancer had eaten her away. Her face had changed
so much from what she had known before; her cheeks shallow and her
eyes sunken; her hair dry and pale like sun scorched grass. She was
unrecognisable as the woman that had played with her, told her off,
laughed with her, taken her to school, made her packed lunch, sent her
to her room, taken her to the park, sung to her. She had loved to sing.
She could barely whisper now. This was it. Her mother was dying and
there was nothing she could do.
“Mum,” she managed to croak. “Mum.” The tears came hard
and fast, streaming down her face. This was the first time she had cried
so wildly in front of her mother since her mother had asked her to be
strong for her. She surrendered now. She didn’t care. “Oh, mum...”
There was the tiniest pressure on her hand and her mothers deep
eyes flickered open. “Kitten – my head feels empty,” her voice flashed
into a stunted giggle that her body couldn’t maintain. It was the
morphine; they had been increasing it. The drug would be poisoning her
by now, killing her quicker than the Cancer. Sucking her into a painless
sleep. ‘Sleep?’ She laughed bitterly at her romantic sentimentalism –
Not sleep. Death!
“You shouldn’t be here,” Cat’s mother whispered.
It was true, she hadn’t been there, and she had lived with guilt
and torment ever since. Now it would be different. She would have
closure and Rachel would be the one to miss saying goodbye. “You
have always been here for me.” She managed over the tightness of her
throat. “I want to be here for you.”
Her mother turned away from her. “I’m so sorry I’m not going
to be here… I don’t want to leave you.” A tear tobogganed down the
crease of her cheek and caught like a crystal in the hairline at the side of
her face.
“Don’t,” Cat pleaded softly.
“Rachel is going to be here for you,” she breathed weakly. “Let
her be your mother. She has so much love for me and you – you
couldn’t want for anyone else.”
349
Harvest

“I don’t want anyone else. I want you.”


“Don’t.” Her weakened state reduced her conviction to a fragile
plea. “I didn’t have to ask her to be there for you, she cares so much.
You know you’re the daughter she never had. It came so naturally to her
to be there for you when I couldn’t.”
Cat stood over her mother and watched the gentle rise and fall of
her chest. She was right; Rachel had always been there for her, it had
been like having a second mum in replacement for the dad she had
never known. It had always been her mother and Rachel for as long as
she could remember. All Rachel had in the world was Helen and Cat,
and all Cat ever had was her mum and Rachel. She experienced a
sickening plunge of guilt at the thought of taking Rachel away from her
mother’s side. “Do you want me to get Rachel?” It had to be close now.
3.40 am had been the time. She probably had minutes at that. The clock
ticked, hacking the seconds away. She knew things were different this
time, but she felt that death would still be punctual and be the constant
that endured in this alternate experience.
“Get her and then come to me,” her words seemed strangely
surreal, as if there was a conspiratorial motive beyond wanting to say
goodbye.
Cat frowned at her own sudden inappropriate suspicion and
dismissed her paranoia. Rachel appeared in the doorway, sentinel,
waiting – waiting or guarding? Guarding what? The insecurity
clambered heavily up her body like some zombie from the earth. Rachel
seemed to fill the door, blocking her exit – but why would Cat think of
escape? Why should she? Cat wanted this moment with her mother. She
had played this fantasy of events in her head a dozen times every day
since her mother died. She wanted nothing more than to say goodbye.
The underlying menace that writhed in her gut was out of place,
as if her head was firing false signals to all her senses. Rachel moved to
the bedside and her warm smile disarmed her. Cat couldn’t hate her
anymore. They could share this. She saw Rachel’s open hand reaching
out for her. She could take it, face her mother’s death with Rachel and
let the transition of losing one mother and gaining another be seamless.
350
Harvest

Smother pain with comfort, douse grief with love. Let go and move on.
All she had to do was lower her defences.
A fire extinguisher ripped through the air before Cat and struck
Rachel full in the chest. The white of the hospital room shattered with
the impact of the extinguisher as if the room was a reflection on a mirror
fracturing into a spider web of darkness, its black strands expanding
until the white hospital room and Rachel and her mother were replaced
with blackness.
Cat found herself surrounded by disorientating darkness. Her
eyes adjusted to the gloom in time to see the undertaker folding into the
shadows under a blow to its chest from the extinguisher that Jason had
swung into its chest. The extinguisher clattered to the floor and Jason
snatched Cat’s hand and tugged it roughly.
Startled and confused Cat held her ground, she searched the
patch of shadow where the undertaker had toppled but couldn’t see any
sign of movement. Her head raced with confused thoughts. Jason tugged
at her, pulling her away, his face desperate and full of fear, wincing in
the undertaker’s direction, expecting another attack. She was drunk
from the vision of her mother and Rachel, and living the memory of a
time when it was easy to love Rachel. She took some staggered steps
with Jason before she understood that ‘it’ had gotten into her head. The
thing that lived in the fabric of the dark knew her hidden desires,
wishes, fears, and most crippling memories, and had used them against
her, leading her to betray herself to it. The realisation stunned her and
she relaxed into Jason’s persistent direction.
As she tumbled through the dark a gradient in the colour of the
shadows became apparent. In the direction the undertaker had been
luring her there was a broad circular patch of darkness infused with a
faint shade of green. The association of that colour with the thing that
stalked them lashed her into matching Jason’s deliberate pace. The
encounter Jason had saved her from had shaken her determination to
face the thing alone, yet the fighter inside her needed to see it, to see
what ‘it’ truly was, to finally see the true face of the enemy that toyed
with them and tormented them from beyond the veil.
351
Harvest

Cat slowed her pace and twisted her wrist from Jason’s grip. She
ran toward the pool of green that seemed to hover unanchored in the
dark. She realised it was a hole in the wall and leaned into the void
looking for the source of the light.
She saw it.
The diffusion emanated from a luminescent green mass, crudely
angular like an obelisk, it was difficult to gauge the scale in the gloom,
but it looked at least three feet taller than her.
The breath was forced from her as Cat was yanked roughly
backwards. Jason had returned for her and was determined to escape
with her. She had seen enough. The obelisk, despite its crude
architectural shape was strangely organic, with a frame of gnarled bone
under a stretched covering of fleshy translucent skin. Some-thing
unrecognisable incubated within.
Her mind strained to extract more details from what she had
glimpsed but she hadn’t lingered long enough and her concentration was
dominated by navigating the uneven floor of broken masonry. That was
until suddenly she could see the floor in detail as it was lit by a surge of
green light that sent shadows scurrying into hiding amongst the
recesses, and flickering and writhing from place to place from an
oscillating light.
The light drove the pair to a narrow gap that Jason darted
through while Cat staggered to sidestep through. In her half-turn she
saw that the hole in the wall had become a caldera of fierce green light
split by the jagged blade of the undertaker’s silhouette rising from the
ground. Its shape was blunted as it repositioned its tall flat-topped hat,
then lurched towards her in lunging strides, a splinter of the green
energy that controlled the undertaker filtered from its eyes and ragged
mouth like a possessed Jack-o’-lantern.
Leaving its chrysalis and incubating form, the entity boiled out
of the hole with a rush of pungent air, taking the form of a symmetrical
Rorschach of perpetually moving swirls and eddies of power, urging its
undead stalker in for the kill. The undertaker drew its blade while the

352
Harvest

light blazed around the marionette corpse in a threatening irreverent


aureole as the entity in both its forms closed in.
Poised mid-motion Cat hesitated between the lockers that
narrowed the doorway. She was on the threshold of retreat but her hate
of this thing fortified her resolve into belligerent defiance of the thing
that had infected her mind, imprisoned her in a coma, and toyed with
her most painful memories. Her longing to make a stand against this
thing ached in her chest, yet the seamless way it had put her in a fantasy
world frightened her.
Cursing the thing and her fear, she complied with Jason’s
desperate tugs and they raced across the residential basement of The
Heights. The shadowy gloom was dispersed by the green light pouring
itself through the gap in the lockers, and she could hear the undertaker’s
even steps at their backs as it stalked after them. The fire door was dead
ahead, but it didn’t take much of a calculation for her to realise that by
the time they reached it, stopped to pull the door open and take their
turn to dash through it, the things would be on them.
She wouldn’t make it through the door.
Her hesitation at the lockers had cost Cat her escape, and if
Jason wouldn’t let her go then it would undoubtedly cost him his too.
She cursed herself for her recklessness and at the futility of their escape
attempt, but her impotence collapsed under the weight of a desperate
anger and hatred within her skull for the thing that would claim them at
any moment, for the thing that altered her, imprisoned her, tormented
her; used her mother! For the thing that would kill them.
The mental sphincter around the thing in her head relaxed, eager
and wide, and the power within exploded out of her in a volcanic release
of rage, radiating invisibly out from her as a shockwave.
Jason pulled the door open and with euphoric disbelief they both
made it through. In her haste to escape she shook off the brief wild stab
of pain in her head. Cat and Jason didn’t stop running until they reached
the sanctuary of the small grassy common in the middle of the three
high-rise towers and the seeming safety of daylight life. She pulled
Jason to her, as much for relief and comfort as for thanking him.
353
Harvest

Shaking and panting heavily she thanked him. “You’re a little. Short for
a. Stormtrooper. Aren’t you?” she joked as she tried to compose herself.
She read his baffled expression at her Star Wars quote and she waved it
away. “Don’t worry. I’m mad. With shock!”
She let go of him and dropped to her knees while she tried to
regain her breath, Jason sat in the grass with her. “Did you. Follow
me?” She panted.
He struggled to breath and talk. “Yeah, I saw you sneak out this
morning. So I gave you a head start and followed you.”
“Why?”
He frowned and angrily shoved her shoulders. “I told you I need
all of your help, but I think we need you the most, I wasn’t going to let
you walk out on us.”
She pushed him away and he fell onto his rear and didn’t return
to his attack. “I’m sorry.” The disappointment in herself swamped her.
It was a feeling she had felt often since her mum had died, usually when
her thoughts strayed to Rachel. “How come you didn’t stop me from
going down into the basement?”
“I thought it was a stupid thing to do, but I didn’t know whether
you were going down there to try and kill it by yourself, or whether you
were reporting to it or something.”
She shoved him in the chest this time. “You thought I might be
in with that thing?”
“You don’t even understand what it did to you, what it is that
you can do. I saw your face at the hospital when you used your powers
on Malik and again at Rachel’s last night when you turned them on
Kelly, it didn’t seem like you had much control and you looked just as
frightened of your powers as everyone else was. It’s hard to trust
something, or someone, you don’t understand.”
Cat nodded, she had only met him yesterday but it was the
second time she found herself questioning whether he was a very small
adult or an adult in disguise as a kid. “Either way you took a big risk in
following me down there.”
“I had to know.”
354
Harvest

“And now?”
“I trust you.” There was conviction in his voice. “But I still don’t
think you know whether to trust yourself or the power you have.” Jason
looked up into her face questioningly, but his smile faltered and his face
adopted a worried expression.
Following his stare at her face, her fingers felt for the focus of
his concern. There was a warm wet slick under her nose and she found
her fingers were wet with bright crimson blood. She remembered the
pain in her head after releasing the thing in her mind, the adrenaline of
her escape had masked it, but the aching discomfort was still there. She
had only let go of the power for an instant, and that had only stalled the
things in the basement, yet it had done this to her. How much would she
have to let go to release enough power to kill the thing, and what would
be left of her afterwards?

355
Harvest

Thirty Nine
Zoe Sampson wheeled the elderly Peter Sinclair down the ramp from
the high rise in his wheel chair.
“Where do you want to go today?”
“Go?”
Peter had moments of vagueness because of his dementia. “Yes,
where would you like to go; what would you like to do.”
“Where are all the children?”
Any other time it might have been just a random statement from
a misconnection in his disorganized brain, but his observation was
chillingly appropriate. “I don’t know. That’s what a lot of parents round
here have been asking themselves lately.” She frowned at the drama of
what she said; she was meant to take him out and give him a good time,
not depress the poor bastard. “Probably got bored with the common and
they are off playing somewhere else.” Probably playing somewhere
safer than the shadow of a building where kids go missing. “Where
would you like to go? What would you like to do?”
“I am sorry, are we friends? Are we courting? No… No… I am
married.” He started, and seemed to suddenly become conscious of
being in the wheelchair. He studied his hands, tracing the prominent
veins that clung to the bones beneath his paper thin skin with a
quivering finger. “No. I am old. Old and married. And you’re my
nurse.”
“Come on then. What’s my name?”
“Zoe.”
“Ooh! Showing off now today, Mr Sinclair.” She patted him
affectionately on the shoulder of his tweed jacket with her spare hand.
“I woke up the other morning and I couldn’t remember my own name –
I think you just recovered quicker than I did.”
“Hung-over?” he scoffed.
She laughed. “You guessed it.” She liked him. He was polite,
and didn’t treat her like a Red Coat that should be entertaining him
every second of their little jaunts. He was often quite content to watch
the world go by from a café, and only talk when something came to
356
Harvest

him, or when he slipped into confusion. That wasn’t to say that she
didn’t make the effort, she might be worlds apart from girls he might
have known when he was her age, but he didn’t criticize. He always
seemed to accept her the way she was, whether she cursed, lit up a fag
or talked about a mental night out, there was no nod of disgrace or tut of
disapproval which she would have gotten from her grandparents.
Grandparents she didn’t bother with anymore.
“Girls drink too much these days,” he observed.
“Yup. Everyone does too much of everything these days.” She
stopped the wheelchair and pushed the breaks on. She fished her packet
of cigarettes out of her bag and walked in front of him to talk with him.
“I expect you are right.” He watched her light up. “I think Eadie
had a hang over the other morning.”
Her eyes widened. “No! Mrs Sinclair?” In her exclamation she
missed her mouth and her cigarette fell. It bounced off her Nurses dress
in an angry display of orange embers before it hit the floor.
He broke into a wheezing Muttley guffaw. “She made a sherry
trifle and then we had a few glasses when dinner was finished.”
“I didn’t know she had it in her.” Zoe giggled. With her chin on
her collar bone she looked down her front and brushed the grey ash
marks from her chest. She wondered whether she would be knocking
back vodka shots when her tits dropped (even the pierced one) and her
face shrivelled. She could imagine herself up the over- sixties club
smoking a joint with her blue rinse and playing poker with the girls.
Except most of her mates would probably be like the Sinclair’s; at home
with each other, while she would be living on her own with her
vibrating friend in one bedside drawer for the lonely nights and a stash
of Viagra in another drawer for when she got lucky.
“Your parents must worry.”
She glanced up before getting back to her clean up; “Don’t all
parents?” Dad didn’t say much, but mum rang regularly, asking when
her next visit would be, cautiously asking what she had been up to, but
not really wanting the worry of knowing.
“Yes.” He went quiet and still.
357
Harvest

She patted her dress back into place against her body. “Right.
Shall we go through the market and walk along the canal for a bit? We
can double back and grab something to eat in the market.”
“You have perfect breasts.”
She blurted a laugh. “What did you just say?”
“I am not sure…” He stared through her with his jaw trembling.
“Don’t tell my mum.”
“Your mum? I think it’s your wife you need to worry about.”
“Yes… Yes. My wife.” He was back with her, he looked her in
the eye vacantly. “Why do I need to worry about my wife? Is she
okay?”
She squeezed his shoulder on her way back round behind his
chair. “She is fine, and you don’t need to worry about anything. I just
didn’t know you had it in you either.” Everyone had thoughts they
wouldn’t want broadcasted, she wouldn’t embarrass him by dwelling on
them. Besides, her breasts were perfect. She laughed to herself. They
had their fans. “So you up for the market?”
“Yes that sounds nice, Zoe.”
In dementia the ability of the brain amazed her with how it could
rewrite time and transport its owner to different places and the different
phases or stages of development of who they were. Shame it was so
painful for the relative when the person became lost in their time travels
within their own lives. Mr Sinclair wasn’t lost yet though. She was
grateful for that – and in that moment she realized she was getting
attached to the old bugger. She would swap shifts with someone before
she had to deal with him losing his way. She walked him forwards along
the path. The caretaker was ahead of them to the side of the path tending
to a large sit down mower.
“What have you been up to then?” Mr Sinclair called over his
shoulder.
“I have been out with the girls – went clubbing the other night.”
In her memory the night was a blur of flashing colourful lights and
thumping dance sounds, visits to the bar and giggling wickedly. The rest

358
Harvest

of the night was narrated to her by her mates the next day and the bloke
she woke up next to. “It was good fun.”
“You have an emotionally demanding job; its good that you get
to let your hair down and relax.”
“Yeah.” It was. She had invested her time, money and effort in
her nurse training and she worked hard – A&E didn’t allow for slackers.
“Have you met any nice men?”
The man she woke up next to was called Simon, she knew him.
They had woken up together enough times to be at ease with sharing the
morning after and not making any plans to see each other. It was just a
casual thing. They might see each other out and about, and spend the
evening mucking about, talking, having a laugh and getting slaughtered,
then going home together at the end of their night for some safe fun.
She might enjoy sex, but she lived to enjoy life, and she didn’t want an
S.T.I or B.A.B.Y to spoil that. She had a few good friends that she could
trust like that. “Yeah I have met a few… Nothing serious.”
“Don’t worry – someone will snap you up.”
She wasn’t worried. If it was anyone but Mr Sinclair the
reassurance would irritate her – why should she worry if no bloke took
the bait? She was happy enough being single. “Doubt there’s anyone
worthy enough.” She couldn’t imagine anyone would be worth
sacrificing the fun and friendships she had for something serious and
life changing like a relationship. “Maybe I am happy being single.”
“You don’t want to settle down with someone at the moment.”
“It sounds weird, and I might change my mind when I hit thirty
or forty and the scene isn’t so forgiving, but I don’t think I want to settle
down at all.” She slowed his chair to a stop and popped the break on as
she remembered her craving for nicotine and to replace the cigarette she
had dropped.
“You don’t want children then?”
“No. Not at all. Never even used to play with baby dolls when I
was a child.”
“How do your parents feel about that?”

359
Harvest

She pursed her lips on her cigarette and stood poised with her
lighter at its end. She sniffed and wrinkled her nose against a noxious
odour of petrol, and decided against striking the flint of her lighter. The
caretaker was besides her filling the large mower with fuel. “I think my
sister is making up for that, she’s two years younger than me and has
one kid already and another on the way…” The caretaker had stopped
what he was doing and was staring at her. She smiled around the
cigarette in a communication of “What the fuck are you staring at?”. His
stare didn’t break and he didn’t smile back. Freak. She walked on with
the unlit cigarette between her lips, the smell of petrol, her potential
flame and her earlier clumsiness with a cigarette, and his stare, putting
her off loitering and lighting up so close to the mower and the caretaker.
“Are you a lesbian?”
The cigarette bobbed as she laughed. “No I am not!”
He laughed with her. “You shouldn’t be offended. There’s is
nothing wrong with being homosexual in your generation.”
“Jeez. You sound just like my mates. No I am not gay, and I am
not going to have a flat full of cats or become a vegan hippy. I am a card
carrying straight girl who can barely keep a houseplant let alone look
after a pet, and I love a bit of meat.” If she was having this conversation
with her mates the word ‘meat’ would be substituted with ‘cock’. An
image of the petrol can appeared in her mind. She puzzled at it and then
dismissed it. “I have plans to get a place with some friends.”
“Don’t they want to settle down either?”
“They are enjoying themselves like me, but yeah they do want
to. They said that when they meet fella’s they will move out and rent
their rooms out. There’s always a demand for nursing accommodation,
and I will be there to keep an eye on the place and be the live-in-
landlady.” Happy she had put some distance between her lighter and the
fuel, she stopped. The caretaker had gone, leaving the can of petrol
beside the mower, she scanned the common but couldn’t see where he
was.
Zoe applied the flame to the cigarette and sucked its heat into the
tobacco. Her mind dwelt on the image of the petrol can. She didn’t
360
Harvest

understand why she would give it any more thought. It was a safe
distance away from Mr Sinclair and herself. Why was she worried? She
wrinkled her brow at her self-questioning. Okay, she admitted to
herself, she may have been overcautious earlier; there wasn’t much
chance of her lighter being the cause of a fire but she had a healthy
respect for danger – she enjoyed life too much. Fire was dangerous. She
blew out a puff of smoke and carried on walking Mr Sinclair in the
direction of the heart of Camden.
The petrol can.
Zoe frowned. Maybe the petrol can was like when she was on a
course about mental health and obsessive thinking; the lecturer used her
in an example of how hard it is to control thoughts, she asked Zoe to
think about pink elephants for thirty seconds, then to think about
anything but pink elephants for thirty seconds. In that second set of
thirty seconds she couldn’t shake pink elephants; they were in her
memories all over the place, having dinner with her and her family
when she was a teenager, in the bedroom of her flat with her and Paul
Maguire – the best sex she had ever had, pink elephants mooching
around the dance floor in some of the more memorable nights out she
had at that time. The more you try to think about something else the
more you think about the thing your trying to avoid.
Petrol can.
The petrol can danced into her head on the back of a pink
elephant. She laughed and shrugged it off.
Zoe held the lighter before her and thumbed the striking wheel.
It rubbed, but there was no spark. She pursed her lips on her cigarette.
Scratch. No flame. Mr Sinclair blustered, shivered and coughed. She
pressed her thumb down on the lighter. “What the bloody hell did you
do that for? I’m soaked!” Zoe frowned at the shock and anger in his
voice, and averted her gaze from the quivering flame of her lighter and
found that Mr Sinclair was squirming in his wheelchair in an attempt to
twist his body round so he could look at her. His grey hair was no
longer neatly combed, but dark, wet and plastered to his head. There
was a strong smell coming from him. Her eyes crossed to the end of the
361
Harvest

cigarette protruding from her mouth. It was already lit. She had lit it
earlier.
Petrol.
An orange light flared, cramming itself into her eyes, blotting
out her vision. She screwed her eyes tightly shut, not against the light
but against the wall of heat that slammed into her. Her eyebrows
tightened as they singed, the fine ends of her fringe vaporised, her body
became awash with sweat that evaporated as quickly as it emerged from
her pores. She staggered away, reeling from the heat. Mr Sinclair
screamed and thrashed from within a quivering field of fierce yellowy
orange light that tore around him twisting into great forks that stabbed at
the tail of a great black snake of cloud pouring itself into the sky.
Zoe stared at the lighter clutched in her hand.
She saw the petrol can lying discarded on its side a few feet
from them.
There wasn’t a pink elephant in sight.
Hands grabbed at her, a scrawny boy of about twelve shouted in
horror at her, and pulled her away from the burning heat, but she didn’t
hear his words. He fell to the floor, his nose spread across his face in a
bloodied mess, his face blanked by shock. Only then did she realise she
had punched him out. She stared at her fist, speckled with his blood and
watched the boy scrabble away and a burly man run towards her, his
gruff face snarled up in anger. She didn’t hear him but read his lips as
he shouted; “FUCKING BITCH.” Then he was running away from her
and she found that she had the pink elephant of a petrol can in one hand
and her lit lighter in the other, brandishing them both after him as a
deterrent. She dropped them both, not understanding the slips in time
and her trips in and out of awareness. Mr Sinclair was motionless within
his smouldering prison, all colour and detail burnt into blackness.
It seeped out of the thing that called itself Zoe Sampson and
drifted into the head of the creature called Peter Sinclair. The bonding
was different – difficult. After all the trials It had put flesh through It
had found that It could soak back into the flesh, even when flesh was
dead. It could become one with it, control it, animate it, create with it or
362
Harvest

give it life again. This time It could not enter the flesh. The skin was ash.
The flesh and muscle carbonised charcoal. The habitat that was Peter
Sinclair had been destroyed.
Zoe spun round, surveying the wide ring of terrified and angry
people that drew close to her with their hands gesturing for her to be
calm, or pulling people back that got too close to her.
“Don’t do it!” A kind looking man begged her before terror
spread from face to face among the onlookers and the circle of people
broke and fled. Don’t do it? She already had – she had torched Mr
Sinclair. She didn’t understand what the man had meant until she
watched herself ignite her lighter and apply the flame to the chest of her
uniform. The pain was instant and winded the air from her lungs as heat
dug itself into every millimetre of her body. Zoe Sampson bucked and
thrashed within the suit of flame and heat that clung to her and
devoured.
It abandoned her. Unable to stay within the flesh as the flame
consumed it. It watched them both burn. It felt diminished – part of itself
trapped within the burning flesh. It understood the limits of the flesh It
needed for form, but now It understood and shared her fear of fire.
The smoke rolled up into the air and broke against the face of
the East Tower of The Heights. On the seventh floor Mrs Sinclair
cursed the youths she suspected for the bonfire and shut the window
against her husband and his nurse drifting into her home.

363
Harvest

Forty
Kelly walked up the path behind Craig and shook her head at him and
the way he coveted the nail gun like a baby. He had opened it and
assembled it in the car, but she had insisted that he kept it unloaded
while she was driving. All she needed was a nail in her foot. Rachel
answered her door and appeared a little wary of the heavy-duty power
tool. Kelly nodded to Rachel. “You would think he saw this as his
chance to satisfy his inner child.” Kelly followed Craig into Rachel’s
flat. He seemed his usual self, she joked with him to get out of the mood
she had with him, but she was sure her attitude had ruined things
between them.
Craig passed the nail gun from one hand to the other, inspecting
it and testing its weight. “I know, but I saw it used in a few films.”
“I would think you would avoid trying anything from films after
your track record of shoulder barging doors,” Rachel teased.
“Ha-de-ha-ha.” Craig responded flatly before shaking the gun in
the air and adopting a more up-beat tone. “Argos. Cost me a bit, but if it
does help slay our monster then I can take it back on the sixteen-day no
questions asked money back guarantee. God, bless Argos and my
statutory rights. Flippancy aside though, we can’t get our hands on
anything like proper guns, so this could be the next best thing.”
Kelly winced as the guns nail-spitting eye pointed in her
direction, she pushed it aside. “Well, I wouldn’t like to be on the
receiving end of that.”
“Hopefully ‘it’ won’t want to be on the receiving end either.”
“Surprised you didn’t go for a chainsaw; Evil Dead style.” Cat
gave a smile that attempted to be as genuine and friendly as her tone,
but just looked awkward and anxious as she entered the lounge from the
kitchen with two mugs of tea.
“I love those films,” Craig enthused.
“Me too,” Kelly lied weakly. She had only seen one of them.
Her comment drew no attention from Craig, only a curious glance from
Cat. What was the point. Kelly had lost that competition.

364
Harvest

“Yeah, but a chainsaw or something like that would involve


getting up close and personal, I don’t like that idea – I want to be able to
bring it down from a distance!”
“Tough guy,” Cat said playfully.
“Not quite.” Craig answered quietly.
Kelly decided to address the elephant in the room that was being
ignored. “Cat, you’re back?”
“Yeah; me and the kid just went out to clear our heads before…”
Cat widened her eyes in mock drama; “the big showdown.
“Yes. We went for a walk together,” Jason jumped in quickly
but sounded like he was reading from a script.
Cat put the mugs down heavily on the table as an audible full-
stop on Jason’s explanation. He was a bad liar, he was clearly covering
up for Cat but Kelly couldn’t be bothered to play Cat’s games.
Rachel wrung her hands as she watched Cat take a seat with
Jason. “Yes, I went out to get some breakfast stuff and they were here
when I got back.”
Jason pointed to an array of different empty bottles on the coffee
table. “I found plenty of bottles to use for the Molotov’s.”
Rachel smiled sourly. “I don’t know what frightens me more, the
fact that this is a twelve year old talking about Molotov’s, or that I
found he had tipped a bottle of my fifteen-year old single malt down the
sink. I had thought that he would apprise himself of milk bottles from
the neighbours, but no; he’s far more resourceful.”
“You guys get any other stuff?” Jason cut in.
“We got the gas cylinders earlier; ‘Goldie’ has been dragging
her arse all the way here. We will have to meet you down there.” With
everyone’s attention momentarily upon her Kelly felt a coldness in her
gut. She felt like an outsider in the group again now that Cat had
returned.
Craig deposited the nail gun on the table, “Our version of a
gun.” He pulled the carrier bag that he had tucked into his jeans and
from the bag he produced a compact red plastic gun. It looked like a toy

365
Harvest

gun, but it was a flare gun they had picked up from an army and navy
surplus store on Chalk Farm Road. “Something a bit more explosive.”
“That should pack a punch!” Jason whooped.
Craig nodded. “And we have Rachel’s hefty sword, and there’s
an axe we can pinch from the fire point in the lobby.”
“Which one do I get?” Jason asked excitedly.
“Er! – None of them,” Kelly was quick to counter.
“I’m not just saying this to be argumentative; you have put him
out of the way of the action in our little gunpowder plot and I’m fine
with that, but he’s still gonna be on his own,” Cat’s objection actually
sounded diplomatic, and reasonable.
“Well, you are going to be safely locked away.” Kelly watched
his face turn down with disappointment and Cat bristle. Kelly pulled the
heavy crow-bar from under her arm and gave it to Jason. “Only, and I
repeat only if someone is clearly under the influence of the thing in the
basement or you are in danger from someone do you use this. If you
need to you swing it as hard as you can and they won’t be messing with
you for long.”
“Only if they deserve it, of course.” Cat added quickly.
The smile that Cat flashed at Kelly wasn’t smug, sarcastic or
cruel. The only interpretation Kelly could make of it was that it was to
show Kelly she was on her side, that she didn’t want Jason hurt either. It
was too little too late. Kelly didn’t bother smiling back. Jason shouldn’t
be involved. Cat’s face hardened and she folded her arms as she too
gave up.

366
Harvest

Forty One
Craig stood in the lobby of The Heights alongside Kelly, Jason, Cat and
Rachel. Rachel’s secret army. This was it. They stood for what seemed
like forever, listening to the silence of the building. The quiet was so
strong it was almost tangible like white-noise. The emptiness of the
lobby drew in around him; its familiarity reminded them of the normal
lives they had once led in contrast with the disturbing memory of their
escape the night before. Even on the quietest days you usually heard
some background noises; kids on the green, the whir of the lifts, fire
doors banging, footsteps echoing down the stairs. Today the green was
empty. He had noticed that two patches of the grass were scorched and
smoked. He had never known anyone to have a bonfire there before.
There were no sounds of movement from the floors above. No sounds at
all.
When they had been making their plans they had reasoned that it
could be watching them and they wouldn’t know, that it could strike
anywhere and at anytime. He realised they were all waiting because
they expected to be repelled by an instant confrontation. The
anticipation was horrible; it felt like he was holding his breath
constantly, although he could feel his breathing alongside the pounding
of his heart.
Kelly was the first to act, dragging her cylinder to the lift in a
prolonged eruption of noise as the cylinder sang out its hollow ring. Cat,
Craig and Rachel followed with theirs while Kelly called both lifts to
the ground floor, she motioned to Rachel and Cat and then at the
cylinders. “You two okay with this bit?”
They both nodded and started following the plans they had made
the previous night. Craig wordlessly followed Kelly as she headed to the
caretaker’s office behind the lifts, and Jason followed him. They were
confident that Alec had finished his daily duties an hour ago and would
be in his flat for lunch. Kelly reached without looking and Jason knew
to pass her the crowbar then stand further down the corridor as lookout
into the lobby.

367
Harvest

The door opened with a deep crunch as the crowbar did its work
and chewed the fibres of the wood into ragged splinters. Kelly leaned
heavily into the lever and the door gave up it’s resistance in a loud crack
and swung abruptly inwards. The crowbar fell clanging to the floor but
the noise that gave them away didn’t seem to faze Kelly and she just
swiped it back up from the floor. Craig moved past her and gave the
cluttered room a cursory inspection before searching out the keys they
needed. Finding them clearly labelled and hanging on the wall he
snatched them and called Jason back from his look-out duty to the lift
maintenance cupboard behind the lifts.
Hastily unlocking the cupboard he found there was no light
within. He grabbed the torch that stuck out from his jeans pocket and
shone its puddle of light into the small room, scanning it over the grey
concrete walls run with a black wash of damp and mould. He settled the
torch light on the trip switches and fuses for the lifts. He listened to the
lift doors shut on the ground floor and waited until Cat and Rachel
appeared in the doorway of the cupboard.
“It’s done,” Rachel hushed, flushed from the exertion of moving
the payload into the lift with Cat.
With that confirmation Kelly reached past Craig and tripped the
switches, cutting the power to the lifts. Jason got his mobile phone out
and made a show of checking that Cat’s, Craig’s and Kelly’s mobile
number was stored safely, demonstrating he knew what he was doing.
“I’m all ready.” He stated confidently.
Cat ruffled his hair. “Hey, I know you know what you’re doing.
You’ve come through for me before. I trust you. I’m sure my back’s
safe with you watching it.”
Craig felt a panic rise in him. What did Cat mean? He looked to
Kelly hoping she wouldn’t bite at the comment. He couldn’t face them
all having a row now; he just wanted to get this done and over with one
way or another.
Kelly spoke directly to Jason. “As soon as one of us calls just
send the first lift down, don’t answer the phone I doubt we will have

368
Harvest

any time to answer or talk, then once you have sent that lift down count
for thirty seconds and send the second lift down.”
“Proper seconds too, I want a Mississippi between each one. Cat
does not want you sending that second lift down while she is still on that
floor.” Craig added.
No one seemed to mind hearing Jason’s part of the plan again.
Kelly handed Jason the long silver key to the cupboard. “Lock it behind
you. Don’t open it to anyone but us,” she instructed firmly.
Craig felt a surge of protectiveness towards Jason and nudged
him playfully. “I hope you’re not claustrophobic, kid.”
Jason flashed a tight smile, but there was no humour in his pale
face. He looked scared. He stepped into the cupboard and shut the door
behind him. Craig heard the raw bite of the key securing the door. Brave
kid.
Craig exchanged glances with everyone. This was the point of
no return.
“Guess this is it.” Cat spoke Craig’s own thoughts aloud.
Craig knelt down and retrieved the red plastic flare gun from a
hold-all Rachel had sorted out for them. He passed it to Cat and then
removed the nail gun for himself. He slung the empty bag in front of the
broken door of the caretaker’s room.
Craig handled the heavy awkward tool and stared at it strangely.
He imagined it working, punching nails into flesh. Could he do that? He
had never hurt anything in his life and today he had set out to kill
something. “I can’t believe that we’re doing this.” The others nodded in
agreement.
“Give me a five minute head start,” Kelly instructed. She headed
to the restricted fire door they had decided the stalker had been using,
Craig followed her through to the staircase. She stopped and gave him a
quizzical look. “You’re meant to be with the others – we talked about
this, we need more of us in the basement if that’s where ‘it’ is…”
Craig cut her off. “I’m scared.”

369
Harvest

She looked caught, unsure how to answer. “Yeah, I know. I feel


the same,” she admitted grimly. “Course, this could end up with a no-
show.”
“Yeah – this could end up with us just looking stupid.”
“On top of facing charges of breaking an entry, trespass and a
rather large act of arson.”
“So are we hoping there is a monster down there?”
“Would give us a bit of justification...” Nerves distorted her
brief laugh.
“Cat has pulled herself together, but you still don’t seem
yourself. Is it just the fear?”
“Yes, ‘just’ the fear of dying.” She teased before taking his
question seriously. “Yeah, it’s all a bit daunting.”
He knew it wasn’t just fear. “Yeah, same here. I guess I just like
all my parts where they are!” He watched Kelly nod in agreement
before cutting in with his real reason for intercepting her, his heart in his
throat. “I was kind of hoping that if we get out of here… You might
fancy going out, or having another one of them microwave meals?”
Kelly flushed and looked to be struggling to restrain a broad
smile. “I have a lot of baggage – it might be easier to not come back
from whatever’s in the basement.”
“I don’t think so.”
“But, Cat…”
Craig arched his eyebrows. “Cat, what?!”
“Nothing. It sounds great – I would love to.” She stumbled and
refocused. “You better get yourself out of there in one piece. I like your
parts the way they are too.” She looked embarrassed and she turned
away sharply and jogged up the stairs.
Cute and cheesy, but he liked her even more for it. He just hoped
they wouldn’t all be dead within the next ten minutes.
Craig left the stairwell and nodded to the others and stood before
the fire alarm point. He checked his watch and waited. None of them
spoke in that time. He guessed there was nothing to say. Five-minutes
seemed like five hours but they had passed. He wiped a sweaty palm on
370
Harvest

the seat of his jeans and prepared a palm strike to the glass of the small
red alarm.
“Can I?”
Rachel suddenly speaking made him jump.
“The idea of unleashing chaos is quite appealing.”
Craig fixed her with a grin and stepped to one side. “Knock
yourself out.”
She hit the box and the shrill bells rang out.
Rachel clamped a hand over the ear that faced the bell. “It’s all
very exciting.”
According to Kelly’s estimation they would have fifteen minutes
before the emergency services arrived through the throng of Camden’s
market crowds and the boroughs lunch-time traffic. She had suggested
lunch-time in the theory that most of the tower’s resident’s would be at
work and out of danger, and the roads would be at their busiest.
The three of them took their cue and hurried through the door of
the disused fire exit, locking it behind them so the undertaker stalker or
anyone else couldn’t block their exit. With a secure grip on the nail gun
Craig led the descent.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs he gingerly pushed the heavy
fire door open and stepped through into the basement. Cat and Rachel
followed him through and stood each side of him. The fire door drifted
shut and stifled much of the ear-aching din of the fire-bells. Cat and
Rachel shrugged their back-packs off and began carefully removing
their bottles of petrol while Craig stood over them and cautiously
scanned their surroundings for any movement.
As far as he could tell they were alone. He began to gather up
material from around the basement that would be flammable and with
Cat and Rachel he piled it up in the corners and in front of the second
set of lift doors according to their plan. They doused them with one of
the bottles of petrol. The three of them took a pile each and stood poised
with their matches. Monster or no monster they were creating their own
danger by starting a fire. What kind of prison sentence did you get for
arson these days? Craig stared at both women in turn and he could see
371
Harvest

the uncomfortable anxiety and indecision that gripped him etched on


their faces. “Fuck it.” He struck his match and tossed it. With a
whoomph his pile was a column of writhing flames as tall as he was.
“Fuck it.” Cat did the same.
“Yes, fuck it indeed.” Rachel stated and ignited her pile.
Craig and Cat set fire to the remaining two piles and returned to
Rachel’s side. The gloom was chased away by a shifting orange glow
that sent the shadows darting from place to place, and the cool basement
air was consumed by a violent heat. Craig could already feel a film of
slick sweat over his entire body.
The ceiling was a black shifting mass of smoke that rolled to the
edges of the room and gradually lowered itself upon them. They hadn’t
factored that into their plan. Craig hunkered down so as not breath any
of it in and he rushed back to the fire door and propped it open. After a
few minutes the smoke lifted and flowed steadily through the door like a
fast flowing black river. He returned to Cat and Rachel and stood with
them, poised with their weapons waiting for the monster.

372
Harvest

Forty Two
Jason tried to focus on his computer game Halo as he guided his
character through the corridors of an alien building. He could hear the
muffled voices beyond his door. The tone was heated and it boiled the
blood in his veins. He was worried about his mum and angry at his dad,
but he channelled it all into his fingers on the X-box controller and the
Masterchief character on the screen loosed a barrage of bright blue
weapon-fire at the horde of creatures he charged amongst. The aliens
responded with a mixture of terrified yelps and defiant ‘Wart, wart,
wart’ laughs. The controllers rumble pack vibrated as enemy fire
splashed against his character and coincided with two heavy knocks
rapping sharply on his bedroom door. The knocks rattled him more than
the controller.
His concentration shattered and his sharp aim faltered and he
took several avoidable hits. Jason heard his name called through the
door. He paused the game and tossed the chunky controller roughly to
the floor. He couldn’t ignore his father’s voice any longer. His hate for
his dad burned, but the guilt chilled him. It was his dad. What about
mum? After what dad had done to mum how could he accept dad?
“Jason?” the voice asked gently. “Jason – I know you are in
there…” It persisted with another two knocks.
Jason’s need for his dad was in conflict with his fierce loyalty to
his mum.
“Me and mum have chatted. I – I guess you heard that,” it said
apologetically. The voice attempted being whimsical but failed and
changed tact. “I didn’t come here to argue – that’s not what I wanted.”
There was an aching honesty to the words and Jason wanted to
forgive him. The guilt was like a weight on his back.
“I just want to talk to you,” the voice faltered. “Please…”
Let me in…
The tug of war pull on his feelings was painful. Tears stung at
his eyes.
“Are you scared of me?”

373
Harvest

Standing with the door between him and his dad, Jason strangely
remembered the story of the big bad wolf calling on the three pigs; he
frowned at the random memory and shrugged it off. Jason had been
scared – scared for his mum that night. He knew it was the drink that
had made him violent, but the frustration and anger had been brewing
between his parents for months. There was no excuse for what his dad
did but Jason accepted that things like that happened. He had seen
families on TV move on from moments like that. There was no fear of
his dad, pity maybe – as his dad had lost everything of value because he
didn’t keep control of his emotions that one time. The only fear Jason
harboured was for his mum being hurt by letting his dad be part of his
life again. Jason wanted his mum to take comfort in knowing that
although dad had let her down, he wouldn’t, he wasn’t his dad.
“Don’t be scared of me. I know I did a bad thing that night,
there’s no excuse for that. I just want to see you… Talk to you for a few
minutes.” Let me in…
Jason’s instinct told him his dad wanted to be a part of his life –
more than that he wanted forgiveness. That wasn’t for Jason to give;
that was for his mum to decide and deal, she was the only fit judge.
However, she had already punished his dad, and where did that leave
Jason? He would never complain about his mum’s decision, but he had
lost his dad.
“Talk then,” Jason said bitterly.
“Not through the door, Jason,” the voice reasoned.
“I know you only want to apologise.” Jason turned to the door,
there was quiet. “Words are easy dad.”
“I don’t just want to apologise. I missed you. I want to see you.
Regularly.” Let me in…
Jason’s blood rushed with excitement but drained away into the
pit of guilt in his gut.
“I’ve spoken to your mum and she doesn’t want you to be
without a dad. Me and your mum are going to stay friends so I can come
and see you, go out and stuff – if you want that? Open the door.”

374
Harvest

His mum’s permission made things easier. He did want to see


his dad. But would she still be disappointed in him somehow?
“You do want that don’t you? Open the door.” Little piggy…
Yes.
He did want that. Jason slipped the long silver key from his
pocket. Suddenly there was a strange feeling of unreality, like Déjà vu,
a sudden awareness that something was out of place. He didn’t have a
lock on his bedroom door. He stared at the key then at the dark key
hole. Strange. Then the moment passed and he accepted it. His door was
locked and to get to his dad he had to unlock it. What was so
problematic about that? Yet he couldn’t shake the sickness that fluttered
in his stomach.
“Open the door.” Little piggy! Or I will huff and I’ll puff…
Jason slipped the head of the key into the hole, the gritty teeth
biting sharply into the barrels combination. Something was wrong. He
dismissed it roughly. It was dad. Dad had only been frightening that one
time. There was nothing to fear.
He turned the key in the lock.
The door was forced inwards, twisting Jason’s hand back at an
awkward angle and pushing him to the back of the cramped room. He
clutched at his aching wrist, suddenly aware he was no longer in his
room but back in the lifts electrical cupboard. His dad wasn’t in the
doorway, it was another man, Jason recognised the man with the short
solid build as Alec the caretaker. Jason’s responsibility pressed in on
him. He had opened the door!
Alec smiled disarmingly from his familiar round face, but Jason
knew this was bad, knew Sparky – the entity could control people, knew
Alec couldn’t be trusted. Alec smiled, but his voice was hard, like the
tone of a teacher telling him off. “You shouldn’t be in here. It’s
trespassing.” The smile went. The face was blank. Eyes cold. “You
better run along.” Little piggy, or I’ll eat you all up…
Did Alec have a set of ragged wolf teeth in his mouth? Jason’s
eyes switched to the crowbar on the shelf between them. If he made a
grab for it Alec would be able to reach him. He needed to pee. Leaving
375
Harvest

his feet planted to the ground, he lunged forward, snatched at the tool
and hauled himself back on his heels.
His grip was clumsy, made worse by the pain in his wrist from
where the door had been forced open. His awkward snatch at the
weapon swept the vital mobile phone from the shelf. It clattered onto
the concrete, and the phones plastic case splintered in all directions. The
phone was essential. Without the phone the others couldn’t give him the
signal. Without the signal he didn’t know when to send the lifts down.
His fingers winced with the phones impact and caused the crowbar to
slip out of his grip. Jason’s hand frantically clapped the air trying to
catch the weighty tool. He caught it and fumbled to secure his grip.
Alec lunged strong hands out to restrain him.
Although Jason’s grip of the tool was awkward he swung it
upward wildly between him and Alec in an attempt to ward him off.
Alec stepped away, startled by Jason proving that he was willing to
fight.
With the extra space and time his swing had afforded him Jason
took a better grip of the crowbar, blood rushed in his ears and his heart
pounded uncomfortably in his throat. Poised to strike and inflict an
injury, Jason was suddenly detached from himself. A misplaced blow
from the crowbar could kill. This was Alec! Someone his mum always
had a hello for. A sense of doing wrong slithered in his gut. Jason knew
he shouldn’t be in the lift maintenance cupboard and it was Alec’s job
to look after the building. To stop vandals. That’s what Jason was in this
moment, a vandal. Alec had the right to be there and to evict anyone
that trespassed or damaged things, he was the caretaker – the adult. The
others in the basement were relying on him, he had already failed by
opening the door he wasn’t going to fail by losing control of the lifts.
Alec took advantage of Jason’s confusion and took a sudden step
into the cupboard. “I told you to get out.” He snarled.
Jason had no choice. He swung the crowbar wild.

376
Harvest

Forty Three
The noise of Kelly’s jog up the stairs was masked by the shrill alarm
bells that echoed and chased up and down the shaft of the stairwell. She
stepped onto another darkened landing and peeked cautiously through
the glass panel of the fire-door, saw the corridor was clear and quickly
checked the bolt; it was unlocked as the previous six floors had been. It
seemed clear to her that this was how the thing stalked the building
unseen. She quickly slid the bolt home as she had with the others and
would with any more she might find unlocked, hopefully ensuring that
if the undertaker was stalking the corridors it couldn’t get back to cut
off the others retreat. Her heart skipped a beat and she nearly lost her
grip on her axe as something snagged at her jeans.
Her heart fell into a tremble as her phone vibrated again in her
hip pocket. She pressed the phone to her ear and took the call, not taking
her eyes off of the landing ahead in case the undertaker or whatever-else
might suddenly step into view.
“You okay?” Craig asked, barely audible above the bells.
“Yeah. I’m half-way up. Nothing to tell you yet, though. I take it
it’s not with you?”
“No,” there was a pause before his tone turned grim. “Not yet.
We have set the fires. There is lots of smoke, but nothing has come out
to investigate or challenge us yet.”
“Yeah the smoke is coming up the middle of the stairwell. It’s
not affecting me, just makes it a bit difficult to see if anything is on the
landings or stair cases ahead until I get on top of them. We won’t have
long before the services get here. Maybe it knows that. If there’s
nothing up here it looks like it will be down to you guys. When I’m
done I will move straight to the bottom and guard the escape route as we
planned. I’m going now, I don’t like standing still too long.” Kelly
wasn’t sure how to end the call after Craig had asked her out so she
wished him luck and ended the call.
Kelly looked past the shifting column of black smoke that
flowed upwards to the landing at the top of the stairs ahead of her. A
dark silhouette was standing against the frosted glass window making it
377
Harvest

hazy and indiscernible at first, but then she recognised the shape. She
looked down to the rose in her hands and she knew the night, the time
and the place. She immediately felt the comfort and familiarity of being
home, the feel of the carpet under her bare feet, the paint colour she had
chosen for the hallway walls. This wasn’t her flat, it was her house.
“I am so sorry I missed the meal you made for me,” Ian
apologised sensitively from within the black silhouette.
Kelly remembered the words and could feel the frustration of the
moment rise within her. She knew the anniversary meal would be sitting
on the table in the dining room behind her. It was spoilt. She had kept it
heated for as long as she could but it had dried up.
“Things have just been so busy, what with work.” She saw his
shape move as he put a hand over his face in shame. “There’s no
excuse; I’m sorry I forgot our anniversary.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she found herself repeating words she had
spoken before. The words lacked conviction and seemed ill-fitting and
squirmed within the mould of her past statement. She marvelled at how
weak she had been. Of course it mattered!
“I haven’t been a very good husband have I?”
Something was wrong with Ian’s words: Ian had admitted his
failings that night, but now there was a depth of emotion to his voice
which hadn’t been present before. “You don’t think I have been a very
good husband do you?” There was no drunken slur, no spite. Memory
suddenly seemed useless, not preparing her for the turn in her memories
and his heartfelt tone.
“Are you staying?” she said, following the script in her head
despite the anomaly. Her emotions formed into a hard smooth snooker
ball in the back of her throat.
“Yes – if you want me to.”
Her heart tightened and she almost forgot to breath. Her
thoughts scrambled over these new words. He was meant to turn her
down, say his friends were waiting for him. What was happening? She
had never played with ‘what ifs’ around that night, too much had
happened for her to consider staying with him. That night had been the
378
Harvest

latest unhappy times in a chain of unhappiness that ran through the last
two years of their time together. His words and actions had been her
closure that night, but now there was no descent into inevitable finality.
The lingering flicker of hope, which she had desperately nurtured until
that night returned with its warm glow. She found herself yearning for
something she thought was lost.
He rubbed his face in defeat. “I don’t even know where things
started to go wrong. I always wanted someone – someone to be with, to
love, to love me back.”
“You changed.”
“I know. I can’t believe I have let this all go wrong – That I
could forget what made us work. I’m so sorry…” his voice strained to
word his realisation.
Kelly watched him fall apart in front of her under the weight of
his own self-awareness.
“I always knew relationships had the years where things are
stagnant; I guess I thought they righted themselves. I got lazy. I guess I
was so happy with what I had; I didn’t realise I had to keep working at a
relationship. I forgot about the things that made us happy; the things
that we planned for. I let it all slide and I don’t know why because I
love you so much. I love us so much.”
Kelly couldn’t see his eyes but she knew that he fixed them on
her, trying to read her face for some response he could cling to as a sign
that he could save their relationship and himself. It didn’t make sense to
her but the nervous anxiety at the thought of being able to save what
they once had was building around her.
“I’m so fucking stupid. All I had to do was take an interest in
our life together, do things I know I enjoy. Hold you now and again,
show you how much I want to keep you by taking hold of you; to keep
you wanting me.”
I always wanted you! I never stopped! The thoughts nearly
escaped to her lips but she held them back. Things weren’t so clear now.
He started to walk slowly down the stairs towards her. “Is it too
late?”
379
Harvest

Was it too late? Her mind had been led down a path she hadn’t
thought possible and now the way back seemed lost to her; she had a
purpose that now evaded her. She looked to the rose in her hands, its
presence nagged at her. The labyrinth of confusion sprawled suddenly
endless around her and she knew that if she wanted what Ian offered she
had to accept it now – if she hesitated, it could all be lost again.
She stood frozen in motion as her mind drifted with the direction
of the moment. It had been so hard since she had left Ian, selling the
house, trying to find a future for herself. She could get her dreams back.
She had loved Ian so much.
Ian closed in on her, his outstretched hand ready to slide over
her shoulder. She knew his touch and she yearned for the feel of his
hands on her flesh. It had been so long since she had been lost in the
comforting familiar passion Ian’s body offered.
The silhouette stepped on to the landing and drew a knife from
within its borders. The undertaker reached out with one hand towards
Kelly, its gnarled fingers closing on the soft flesh of her throat.

380
Harvest

Forty Four
Rachel stood in the whirl of flame that lapped at the walls of the
basement, her skin tightening with the heat while fine fibrous tendrils of
black smoke teased the sensitive interior of her throat. The acrid air that
stung at her nose and eyes suddenly sweetened and became like sherbet
as the choking smell became a hauntingly familiar scent; the scent
Helen had always used. The flickering gloom of the basement was
replaced by the grey light of an overcast day. The wall before her had
been replaced with the view down into the basin of the city from
parliament hill. As if a cinema screen had been lowered in front of her.
The sky was a cool grey and a cool breeze stirred the golden brown
trees before filtering down over her in a welcome relief from the heat of
the fires.
Helen’s scent grew stronger and Rachel felt her presence at her
side.
Rachel couldn’t be shocked by the dead. She had always hoped
and wished, but never thought, she would see Helen in this way. Rachel
turned to her calmly, aware that the others may clearly see her talking to
something they could not see, but she would not let embarrassment
restrain her. She scanned Helen from her autumn red hair that fell
around her delicate face of snow, to the slim figure wrapped in her large
chunky-knit grey jumper, and jeans.
They would often take walks together, Parliament Hill. Highgate
cemetery, Primrose Hill, Little Venice. Autumn was their preferred time
of year. They both loved the colours, but for Rachel it was a time when
Helen became one with the colours of nature and while everyone else
was drained of colour Helen glowed. She was always a warm fire on a
cold day. She missed those times, being alone together, laughter, tears,
long comfortable silences in which she always wanted to tell Helen how
she felt about her.
“There’s so much I haven’t told you…” Somehow Rachel was
no longer in the basement but wading her way through the leaves with
Helen.

381
Harvest

Helen took her hand. “I know,” her tone was comforting and
reassuring. “I know now. I only wish I had realised in time.”
The ache that had lived with Rachel since she had met Helen
built into an abrupt pain as she gave in to all the regrets and
chastisement she had for her unsaid words, but then the pain was gone
and there was only a feeling of completion and satisfaction. Helen
finally knew.
“We all have regrets. I shouldn’t have been so blind,” Helen said
kicking lazily at the autumn leaves as they walked.
“It all feels so real,” Rachel said remotely, feeling the sadness
that this perfect moment couldn’t last.
“In here…” Helen turned and put a hand on Rachel’s chest, “It’s
real enough. The heart and the mind can work magic; we just let reality
ground us. All our dreams and hopes are stored here. We can recreate
any moment past or any future you wish with a single thought. You are
luckier than most because you can actually see and interact with what
would normally be gone and be in the past.”
Rachel smiled with the sentiment, wishing the tears away. Helen
had a gift of saying poetic things and making life seem magical.
Helen turned around and Rachel followed her, they faced a large
screen and they could see into the basement. Rachel could see herself
standing with Cat and Craig, waiting for the beast to emerge.
“I’m sorry Cat has been so painful for you.”
“I wanted to be there for her, for you. To help her. To grieve
together.”
Helen stroked the image of Cat. “There is a future for you and
Cat. A future where she can let herself love you as she does me.”
Rachel’s eyes brimmed with tears. She put a hand to her mouth
to stifle a sob and spoke through her faces rigor. “There is?”
“You have a hole in your heart since I left.”
“The hole is for Cat. I kept it for her. Plenty of room for her
when she is ready. I’m patient.” Helen looked distracted. The same face
Helen she had seen when Helen had told Rachel of the cancer, and then
the day she had told her she wouldn’t win her battle.
382
Harvest

“That hole might devour you.” Helen breathed. “You have


always given everything to me and Cat – so much so you may have little
left should anything happen to Cat.”
Rachel looked to Cat with alarm. “What are you saying?”
Helen turned away from the image of the basement and stood
between Rachel and Cat. She took Rachel’s hands in hers as she had
when she had told her she was dying. “If you follow the path you have
chosen, Cat will die.”
“We are all at risk down there.”
“But if you face the beast. Cat will not survive.”
“Don’t say that.” Rachel sagged in Helen’s grip her legs
buckling beneath her. “It can’t be – you can’t know for sure.”
“Don’t let fear turn you against an ability that you have always
trusted and relied upon. It’s why I am here. I have never needed to come
back before, but I saw the future and I had to come.”
“No. You said Cat and I had a future together?”
Helen smiled warmly. “There is a future for you both. What you
have chosen to do is noble and brave – what I would expect of you, but
it will lead to death and pain.”
A guilty selfishness crawled within Rachel. She could say to the
others that she couldn’t sense the thing, that they had got it wrong that
they should leave before they got caught by the fire-fighters and police.
She could get Cat out.
“Rachel, it is your decision but the course you have chosen has
consequences, I will be here for Cat when the time comes as I will be
here for you in the future when it is your time.”
Rachel had accepted that what they were doing could be the end
for all of them, but she had never considered that she might survive and
lose Cat. Cat was all she had left in her life.
“But all the people in this tower… What should we do about
them? We can’t abandon – .”
Helen shook her head sagely. “I didn’t mention abandoning the
others, but not all battles have to be fought by you or fought alone. Let

383
Harvest

others fight this one. You are in control of your actions. If you warn
them they will listen. If you leave; they will follow.”

384
Harvest

Forty Five
Craig maintained the aim of the nail gun at the locker despite the ache in
his arms at holding the weighty tool before him. He glanced around him
at the fires that continued to burn steady. He felt vulnerable having the
open fire door to the stairs behind him, but Kelly had their backs. But
the thing could appear behind them… His nerve went and he craned
over his shoulder. Nothing.
Rachel shrieked “Craig!”
Startled he glanced at her, saw the panic in her eyes, her finger
stabbing insistently for him to look back at the lockers. The gap was no
longer empty. A gaunt pale woman, her blonde hair dirty with grime
and dust, matted in places and plastered to her face in others with sweat
and blood, stumbled out from between the lockers. Her clothes were
filthy with dust and dirt and her staggering exhausted movements all
made her appear as if she had crawled out of the ground itself. It wasn’t
her presence that startled Craig, but the voice that issued from the dry
cracked lips. “Craig. Craig, help me.”
Vicki fell to the floor but continued to crawl away from the
lockers. Craig went to lunge towards her when he was halted by Rachel
screaming at him.
“No Craig! Look out!”
The undertaker appeared in the gap. Its mouth hung open in a
cruel grin.
“Shoot it, Craig!” Cat hissed in his ear from behind him.
Vicki, rolled onto her side and seeing the undertaker behind her,
her crawl became a scramble.
This was it. It was starting. Craig looped his fingers round the
trigger and felt the cold metal in his sweaty grip. It was strange to think
that all he had to do was pull the trigger and he would most likely kill
the thing. It was going to be over quicker than he thought. He was glad
too. He wanted this over. Wanted to kill the creatures and get Vicki and
himself out. There was gnawing doubt in his gut. Why did he hesitate?
“Craig –shoot it!” Cat demanded, her voice losing it’s steadiness
in his ear.
385
Harvest

Craig’s finger tightened against the resistance of the trigger, but


the figure of the undertaker was suddenly replaced by Cat. He
remembered Cat had said it might try and get into their heads. Don’t
trust your senses. Craig closed his eyes hoping his eyelids would wipe
the image of Cat away and reveal the undertaker, he opened them again
and found it had worked, the undertaker stood before him raising its
knife threateningly at Vicki as it advanced.
Suddenly it was Cat again. “Don’t point that at me!”
Cat’s voice from behind him urged him on. “It’s not me. Shoot
it.”
It was using Cat’s appearance to get around him. He channelled
all his hate for the trickster-stalker that tried to confuse his mind and
focussed it into the finger on the trigger to loose a stream of nails into
its face.

“Don’t point that at me!” Cat snapped at Craig as she stared into the eye
of Craig’s nail gun. This was no time to be mucking around. Especially
not with that thing. Cat shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the
other, and the nail gun tracked her movements. “Craig, what are you
doing?” He didn’t answer. Her voice only seemed to anger him more.
He didn’t trust her. Kelly had made it quite clear she didn’t trust her, as
had Jason, and Rachel had no reason to trust her after the way she had
treated her. The wait for something to happen must have gotten to
Craig’s nerve and turned him paranoid.
“Craig it’s me, Cat.” She stepped towards Rachel hoping that he
might not risk firing if there was a chance he might hit Rachel. “It’s me
I’m on your side.”
Rachel wasn’t stepping in. She still fixed her stare into the gap.
Suddenly Cat understood. She could sense tenebrous tendrils reaching
out from the gap in the lockers into Craig and Rachel, another snaked its
way through the fire escape door and up the stairs with the smoke. To
Kelly? It was controlling their minds. Distracting them. Dividing them.
Turning them against each other.

386
Harvest

“Cat we need to get out of here. The emergency services will be


here any minute, and I don’t sense anything down here. I think we were
wrong.” Rachel said urgently, oblivious to Cat’s predicament.
Cat turned to her. “Oh, I think were in the right place.”
Rachel pulled at Cat’s arm. “Come on, we are going to get in
trouble, and that won’t help anyone.”
“Don’t move! You stay away from her.” Craig shouted at Cat.
The thing was distorting his perception of her struggle with
Rachel, but she couldn’t break away from the older woman’s grip.
“Craig it’s me.” It was no use.
She closed her eyes and conjured the faces of Craig, Rachel and
Kelly, their clothes, the way they stood and moved; every detail that she
could imagine. She felt for the muscular portal in her mind and centred
on it as she had during her earlier visit to the basement. This time she
knew what to expect from loosening the muscle and she channelled as
much mental concentration as she could into controlling the volatile
power straining within.
Suddenly Cat was the epicentre of a swell in the atmosphere,
then the pressure broke and rushed away from her, and the atmosphere
became calm and still once more.

387
Harvest

Forty Six
Kelly could feel Ian’s hands on her neck, he was staring into her eyes,
his lip was trembling with sadness at what he had done to their
relationship or fear at how she might react to him kissing her. Kiss me.
Her thought shocked her. Is this what she wanted? She wanted Craig.
That meant trusting someone new. It would be so easy to kiss Ian, to
give in to him. She closed her eyes. His grip on her throat was firm, if it
was anyone else it would be uncomfortable, but with the electric
promise of a kiss, of their love being rekindled it only made her want
him more.
A sobering gale forced itself over her, except she didn’t feel it
disturb her clothes or hair, didn’t feel it on her skin but in her mind.
Something rushed through her thoughts, and the tingling anticipation of
Ian’s kiss was swept away with it leaving only the sensation of her
throat being gripped too tightly.
The shrill sound of the fire bells crashed back in on her senses in
a jarring tumble of noise that reverberated through her head and into her
teeth. There was no longer carpet underfoot, no longer a rose in her
hands. She opened her eyes and stared into twin wells of green light
glowing from a rotting face inches from her own. Its noxious stench in
her mouth and its slick fingers at her throat, the undertaker stood close
to her with its knife drawn back ready to stab. From beneath the shadow
of its tall hat, its dark rotten grimace drew over its teeth in a wicked
grin.
She squirmed and squealed, but couldn’t break free from its
hold. From abject panic she pitched herself into anger. She brought the
head of her axe up sharply under the creature’s chin, with its
concentration shattered its knife arm flailed wildly and the creatures
grip on Kelly’s throat flinched. It was all she needed. She pushed herself
backwards and broke free.
The undead creature recovered and stabbed at her. She ducked to
one side and swung her axe back at the undertaker. Its grimace didn’t
break as its head and hat tumbled over the banisters and into the smoke,

388
Harvest

it ricocheted noisily as it fell to the basement and landed with a muted


crash.
The creature’s knife slashed down at her. Somehow the thing
was still being directed. Unprepared for the creature to still be fighting,
she was slow to react, the blade missing her by millimetres. She hacked
again and the knife clattered to the floor, the hand still holding the blade
but the arm no longer attached to the body. With all the power and
bitterness she could summon from the nightmare she had just
experienced she pitched the axe behind her and swung it forward,
hacking at the twitching body that stood before her in denial of its own
mortality.
Its remaining arm dropped to the ground. Another hit cleaved
down through its neck into its chest and the cadaver fell clumsily to its
knees. She stepped aside letting it fall onto its front. It was motionless.
She had seen too many horror films to be fooled by that. She hailed
down six more blows, almost quartering its body. She rested on the hilt
of her axe and swiped a slick of sweat from her face allowing her
aggression to subside into satisfaction that the creature would not be
resurrected any time soon.

“Craig it’s me.” And this time it was Cat. Vicki was gone and there was
no disturbance of the dust and dirt of the floor that suggested she had
ever been there. He dropped the nail-gun to his side and rubbed his head
with his other hand. “I’m sorry.” He was suddenly certain that Vicki had
been a victim of this thing. His finger ached from his sustained draw of
the tools trigger. “Cat, I’m so sorry.” He clenched his eyes against his
grief for Vicki and the thought of nails slamming into Cat’s head,
shredding her face. He had come so close to pulling the trigger. His
stomach lurched and he doubled over and wretched, but couldn’t be
sick. He could feel Cat rub his back.
“It’s ok