Naomi’s Room–A Terrifying Ghost Story by Jonathan Aycliffe (Continued) … Chapter 13…

imagesNaomi’s Room, Chapter 13…

Dear God, the clock has stopped. I wound it yesterday, it has no reason to stop now. Of course, it may mean nothing. But the silence feels charged. How I wish I could leave this house. How I wish I could leave.

***

I found Laura in Naomi’s room. She was playing with the doll’s house, one that my father had made in his spare time for Naomi. She had been three and a little young for the house, but he had wanted her to have it. He had modelled it on one he had seen in the toy museum at Wallington Hall in Northumberland, modifying the design of the original to make his version a more or less exact replica of the house in which we lived.

Laura was speaking to herself in a low voice. At least, I thought then that her whispers were intended for herself. I know better now, of course. They were meant for Naomi. And quite possibly Caroline and Victoria, though I cannot be certain. Not that it matters now.

She held little dolls in her hands and with great exactitude was disposing them through the rooms of the tiny house. Naomi had long ago named the dolls. I did not then know with what precognition. Charles and Laura and Naomi, of course. And Caroline and Victoria, ordinary names that had signified nothing. And Dr and Mrs Liddley, which had made us laugh. Sweet Jesus, made us laugh! We wondered where on earth she had dreamed up such names.

I took the dolls from Laura and led her from the little house. She followed me without protest, like an obedient child whose playtime has ended. We went back to bed, but neither of us slept for the rest of that night. There were no further sounds from the attic, nor did I tell Laura that I had heard any. On the floor by the dressing-table, fragments of glass lay glinting in the cold electric light.

***

The next morning, Lewis arrived shortly after nine o’clock. I introduced him to Laura. There seemed little point in continuing the charade. I told him that Laura had seen the photographs. That was later, when she was out of the room. I mentioned to him that there had been some I had kept back. It was then that he told me quickly what he had seen in the shots developed the day before, the ones he had telephoned about.

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Naomi’s Room–A Terrifying Ghost Story by Jonathan Aycliffe (Continued) … Chapter 12…

imagesNaomi’s Room, Chapter 12…

Laura did not want to leave. She was frightened, of course she was; who wouldn’t have been? But not in the way that Lewis and I were frightened. I think she wanted . . . I think that, having met the little girls, she guessed about Naomi. So I showed her the photograph, the one of her and myself, and Naomi in the background, watching us walking down the path. I wonder now, if I had not shown her that photograph, might things have turned out differently? I might have persuaded her to leave, if not that night, then the next day or the next. But I showed her the photograph and she said she wanted to stay.

The rest of that evening was spent leafing through old family photographs. We started with the snaps of our honeymoon, but that led to others, and finally to the photographs taken the previous Christmas. Instead of upsetting her, those last pictures of Naomi seemed to give Laura a sort of peace. Not even the presence in them of the man and woman or the two girls could alter the fact that Naomi appeared, laughing, smiling, happy. I think Laura would have accepted anything just to see Naomi again.

We went to bed late and, for the first time in over two months, we made love. It was the saddest lovemaking we had ever known, an affirmation of the flesh, an unmaking of Naomi’s death. It lasted a long time. Afterwards, Laura wept, the first time she had cried properly since hearing of Naomi’s murder. I held her until she fell asleep. Then I fell asleep myself, still holding her, drifting into darkness, naked, unable to dream.

I was wakened by Laura shaking me by the shoulder.

‘Wake up, Charles. Wake up for God’s sake.’

‘What is it?’

It was pitch-dark. I remember feeling groggy, as though I had had too much to drink. Laura was sitting bolt upright on the bed beside me.

‘Listen,’ she whispered. ‘Listen.’

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Naomi’s Room–A Terrifying Ghost Story by Jonathan Aycliffe (Continued) … Chapter 11…

imagesNaomi’s Room, Chapter 11…

Lewis left shortly afterwards. He took with him the rolls of Egyptian film, as well as those he had himself taken in the house that afternoon. In spite of his strange panic in the attic, he was more than ever determined to dig to the bottom of the mystery. Almost as soon as he had left the attic and returned downstairs, his mood had changed. Two large glasses of calvados had restored to us both something of our former equanimity and composure. I laughed a little, trying to make light of how we had suddenly turned tail and fled precipitately down those dark steep stairs, like children who have spooked themselves in the night. But Lewis remained sombre.

‘I felt it,’ he said. ‘That menace you spoke about. Felt it as soon as I set foot in the attic. Well, it wasn’t so much menace as a feeling of being menaced, if you see what I’m driving at.’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I suppose that’s it. As though someone else wished ill of you.’

‘Oh, yes,’ he said. ‘Undoubtedly. But more than that.’ He sipped his brandy slowly, less to savour it than to bring his mood down the more gradually. The yellow liquid turned in the glass. ‘As though they wished you harm,’ he continued, ‘physical harm. As though they meant to do you some mischief. Hatred it is, I suppose. Terrible hatred. And resentment, I could feel that too. And something else. Jealousy, I think.’

‘Is that what you meant back there when you said you felt compelled to relive your death? That someone wished to kill you? Out of jealousy?’

He shook his head with an air of reluctance, as though he wished he could say ‘yes’ and leave it at that. It took a while and several sips from the glass to bring him to it.

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Naomi’s Room–A Terrifying Ghost Story by Jonathan Aycliffe (Continued) … Chapter 9…

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Naomi’s Room, Chapter 9…

Lewis telephoned later that day to say he had something else to show me, something important. I hung up on him. He tried again, several times, until I left the receiver off the hook. By then, of course, I knew he was telling the truth, that his photographs were not impostures, but images of people no longer living. No longer living, that is, in any proper sense of the word. But I wanted things to end there, I wanted the dead to stay dead. I could not bear to think that they might mingle with the living. More than anything, I now perceive, I wanted to give my own feelings a decent burial. Left above ground, they could only be an abiding torment to me.

The next day Superintendent Ruthven turned up on our doorstep. There had been no disturbances during the night. At my insistence, we kept to our bedroom, though neither of us slept. Laura was keyed up, expecting the sound of prowling footsteps from the room above. Just before three o’clock was the worst time, for we both expected to hear that scream again. When the moment passed and all remained silent, we relaxed somewhat. I fell into a light doze, but Laura–so she told me later–remained wakeful until dawn. No footsteps sounded above our heads. In the morning, I ventured into Naomi’s room. Nothing more had been touched.

Ruthven brought with him a large plastic bag containing Naomi’s coat. Unlike her other clothes, this was not stained with blood. We confirmed the identification for him and he replaced it in its bag for return to his forensic laboratory.

‘Where was it found?’ I asked.

‘In a church,’ he said. ‘An Anglican church called St Botolph’s. It’s in Spitalfields, off Brick Lane–not far from the spot we found Naomi herself. We’ve got people going over the place now, but we don’t expect to come up with anything. It’s an old church, hardly used. A curate from another parish comes in to do a weekly service. That’s about all. A few old folk attend. Some vagrants. Anybody could have left your daughter’s things there.’

‘Whereabouts?’ I asked.

‘I told you . . .’

‘No, in the church, I mean. Whereabouts in the church?’ For some reason I could not explain, it was important to know.

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Naomi’s Room–A Terrifying Ghost Story by Jonathan Aycliffe (Continued) … Chapter 10…

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Naomi’s Room, Chapter 10…

‘What happened?’

Lewis and I were sitting in the study, facing one another across a low table on which I had placed a small folder.

‘His throat was cut. Savage, according to the report we had at the office. Nobody at Old Jewry knows why he went down to the church. They’d finished there, done all their forensic business, and given up. Seems they haven’t found anything yet. They think the coat got there by chance, nothing more. A vagrant may have come across it, taken it to the church.’

‘But why leave it in the crypt? What would be the point?’

‘The caretaker says vagrants go down there sometimes, the clever ones that know there’s a boiler. They don’t last long, though. The place spooks them. Nobody’s ever spent a night there, as far as he knows.’

‘Could they be related?’

‘Who?’

‘No, not who: I mean the murders. Naomi’s and Ruthven’s. Could there be a link? Could Ruthven have been on to something? Panicked the murderer into attacking him, perhaps?’

Lewis shrugged.

‘It’s too early to say. There’s no record of a lead. They only shut down their operation at the church yesterday.’

‘When was he found?’

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Naomi’s Room–A Terrifying Ghost Story by Jonathan Aycliffe (Continued) … Chapter 8…

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Naomi’s Room, Chapter 8…

We spent the rest of that night downstairs, I in an armchair, Laura on the sofa. I switched the lights on, every light I could find, and left them burning brightly. Looking back, I am grateful for the fear or circumspection or simple instinct that prevented me going up to the attic that night. What I might have found – what I know I would have found – I would not then have been ready to face. Even now I shake to think of it.

We passed a dreadful night, most of all in the literal sense. Sleeplessness had given way to outright fear. That terrible scream had chilled our blood. And the steady, pacing feet in the attic, the attic that had been shut up long before we came to live in the house, that had always been empty, had further shaken Laura’s already frayed nerves. She asked me what I had found in Laura’s bedroom. I told her about the presents, but kept to myself the business of the drawing and my understanding of what the three figures represented.

In the morning, when it was fully light, we took courage from the fading of darkness and made our way upstairs again. There had been no further sounds during the night, no screams, no dark footsteps, not even a creaking floorboard. In the cool morning light, our fears seemed foolish. Warmth was creeping through the house as the central heating took effect.

The light on the bedroom landing was still lit. On the right, the door of the nursery lay open as I had left it. A faint shaft of light came through the doorway. Up here, where the natural light was less evident, I felt uneasy again.

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On This, the Day of the Pig, a New Horror Novel by Josh Malerman (Bird Box, Unbury Carol)

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On This, the Day of the Pig by Josh Malerman


About the Book

Jeff looked over his shoulder back to the hidden pigpen. Pearl was all he could see. Pearl. Sitting on its ass like a person might, it’s front hooves limp at the sides of its belly, head was cocked slightly to the side, pink ears straight high above its head. Its bad eye looked dark, hidden; its good eye was fixed on Jeff. In it, Jeff saw an intelligence that scared him.

A half smile appeared under the pig’s snout, or maybe it was just the way its lips naturally curled up at their ends. Jeff fingered the latch. Pearl watched. Staring. Assessing. Planning? He pulled his fingers away. A streak of shame ran down his back, like he’d come close to letting something very bad out of the pen…

Special Cemetery Dance Hardcover Signed, Limited Edition

• Limited to just 1,000 signed copies
• Personally signed by the author on a unique signature page
• Printed on 60# acid-free paper
• Featuring a high-end binding with colored head and tail bands
• Printed and bound with full-color marbled endpapers
• Sewn-in ribbon page marker
• Featuring hot foil stamping on the front boards and spine
• Smyth sewn to create a more durable binding
• Limited ONE TIME printing of this special edition
• Retail price just $40!

Get the book, here…

https://www.cemeterydance.com/on-this-the-day-of-the-pig.html?mc_cid=3cb26fcdc9&mc_eid=3fe9b7a2a5