The Tub

The Tub

We found the tub in the wastes out back of the Kwik Fit tyre place. A dark overgrown no-man’s-land of dirt and weeds between the back gardens and spiked fences of Richmond Road, and the mountains of bare, burst or burnt-out tyres in the Kwik Fit yard. Ivy, crab apple and cow parsley grew wild in that narrow space, unowned and shut off from the world. But me and Dave knew a way in—a secret way—down in the corner of the neighbourhood recreation ground.

We was bored and summer-holiday aimless, hungry for distraction. Some kid in Dave’s class swore blind his brother found a stash of Reader’s Wives in a Tesco’s bag somewhere off the rec. So we was sort of on a quest for porno mags, but also not really—just happy to be out of the house, out in the sun, with purpose enough to make an adventure of it. We’d skirted the bushes behind the little-kid’s playground, climbed the spiked iron railings and trampled the clumps of bramble and stingers what grew up against the tyre yard’s high tin fence. There, at the corner, was a sheet of tin curled up at the edge. Under this we’d crawled into the dank wonderland beyond, that shady in-between place with its weird smell of creosote and compost, of sunshine and rubber. From one side, blackbirds and Radio 4. From the other, workshop clangour and the distant hum of main-road traffic. We didn’t find no porno. What we found was the tub.

It was one of them old-fashioned bathtubs, with feet like a lion. The legs was ornate, clawed paws wrapped round with snakes. The base was ringed with designs: grape bunches, vine leaves and the like. White enamel it was—or were. It was so dingy with grime you couldn’t imagine it’d ever truly gleamed. It lay askew, one foot inches off the ground, the other corner sunk in the dirt. Ivy’d grown all over and through, tangled between the legs and half covering one side. Must’ve been there an age.

But the tub was nothing compared to what was inside…

Read more in Issue 16 of Midnight Echo

Free stories

Free stories

Below you’ll find links to short stories and novelettes that are available online to read or listen to for free. Enjoy!

 

The Black Massive

The Black Massive

It was a banging scene, back in the day. Before Cadman came out of the shadows, touting his weird black shit.

Our Last Meal

Our Last Meal

It used to be our favourite lookout. Our hangover lookout, Sallie called it…

Old Growth

Old Growth

“Look, Dad,” says Mika from the back. “Look at the faces!”

The Black Massive

The Black Massive

It was a banging scene, back in the day. Before Cadman came out of the shadows, touting his weird black shit.

Back then it was all colour and sound. Everyone off their bone, grinning like nutters, sweating and gurning and losing it to the lights and the tunes. Lasers slicing the dark. Bass beats kicking up from the floor. Fractal lead lines like living things, like creatures of light that danced the sound, that danced the rush that was all of us. It was like another world. A magic kingdom.

Fucking La La Land.

I’d tell Mum I was staying round Dog’s, then we’d catch the bus out to Tescos carpark. The warehouse was always this big secret—the flyer in my pocket didn’t say nothing more than a time and a place for all the ravers to meet. No one knew where they was going ’til the lead car pulled in and everyone drove in convoy to the night.

Me and Dog was too young to drive, so we had to be there in time to cadge a lift. We’d go early and slip into the bog before the supermarket closed. Sometimes we’d roll one. Other nights we’d sniff whizz off the bog seat, come out sipping Strawberry Ribena, breaking the seal on a brand new pack of Benson & Hedges. Then we’d strut out between the cars, looking for mates or a friendly face, grinning and bobbing, blowing smoke rings into the cold, still night…

 

Read the full story for free in Issue 21 of Dimension6.

In Memoriam

In Memoriam

All that is left are memories.

Like that time on the shingle beach at Aldeburgh. The ocean grey as slate, crests ruffled like white frosting. The thump of waves and rasp of small stones and, everywhere, the seashell roar like an endless breath. No horizon where the sky meets the sea, only the blur of cloud banks gathering. A tang in the air, of salt and electric tension, of the storm that will hit that afternoon.

We are at the beach, John and I, but it is cold; British summertime and I am wrapped in a woollen overcoat, shivering. I have my chin on my knees and hug them to keep warm. One hand is beside me, caressing the uneven ground. Part of this memory is in my fingertips, the sensation of touching the pebbles, of their roundness, their smoothness, of a kind of perfection that exists only in the feel of things.

John is behind me, pitching stones into the ocean. I cannot see him, but hear with each throw the rumple of his jacket, the distant plop, the scrabbling at his feet for another perfect skimmer. Everything about this irritates me. I do not remember why I am angry, only the crackle of it in my belly and spine.

Later, the storm will break. We will run, drenched, through the dark streets to the bed and breakfast, up to John’s room and the smell of pot pourri and the fish and chips we sneak inside. We will eat on the bed, right out of the newspaper, drink Adnams from the can. Our daughter is conceived to the sound of water hammering against the windowpane, sluicing down the narrow laneway.

This is the first memory I give to Dymphna. The first Dymphna, that is. Dymphna 1.0

Read more in Issue 131 of Aurealis Magazine. Illustration by Nick Stath.

The Face God Gave

The Face God Gave

They were somewhere between LAX and Sydney, way out over the Pacific Ocean, when the plane hit rough air. The boys were both asleep, finally, and Karen lay in a waking doze, drained of all energy yet too wired to submit to sleep.

It was a relief to see them unconscious. They’d been awake so long, passed through so many time zones, that both boys had lost it completely. They had become so feral that even the endless loop of movies and TV no longer subdued them. But now Dylan was curled beside her with his head in her lap, snuggled under the airline blanket, one small, sock-less foot poking out from beneath. Torin lay rigid as a plank, mouth wide, with his head against the window-blind. The arm of Karen’s seat was up and dug painfully into her shoulder with the sudden dip and shudder of the plane.

Karen had never before confessed this to herself, but she was terrified of flying. For the sake of the boys, she had pressed down her true feelings, wore a brave expression she hoped concealed how tightly she gripped the armrest as the plane peeled from the runway, how her belly churned each time, as now, they hit a bad patch of turbulence…

Read more in the anthology Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, edited by Sarah Read. Illustrations by Carrion House.

The Moth Tapes

The Moth Tapes

So here we are, little one. Our new home sweet home.

Not that I’ve fixed up your bedroom yet, but there’s still time. And it’ll be lovely, Noodle, I promise. We’ll go down to the shop tomorrow and look at colours. I’ll paint you a mural, get one of those things that dangles over your bed. When you look out your window, you’ll see the garden and the trees and the mountain behind. When you’re big you can walk out the back gate and spend all day up there, among the shinglebacks and roos and galahs. I’ll blow a whistle when dinner’s ready and you’ll come running back.

I found something out there today, out near the back gate where the veggie patch will go. It was poking out of the dirt and at first I thought it was a loose cable or something. When I looked closer though it wasn’t anything like that.

It took a bit of wiggling to get out of the ground, but I’m glad I made the effort because it’s just so unusual. I’ll put it somewhere safe for when you’re older; you can keep it in a box with all your other treasures. A sort of hollow leather cigar, all plump and shiny and rippled, the end’s torn like something burst out from inside, and I guess that’s exactly what happened. Perhaps it’s some kind of cocoon. But of what, though?
I have no idea…

The Moth Tapes was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story in 2019.

Read more in Aurealis Magazine issue 117.

Or listen to the full story on the Tales To Terrify podcast, read by Josie Babin: