the man on the moor
Last Saturday I sat in a meeting room in Halifax and counted out in my head how many novels I'd written to a conclusion. The answer, which shocked me as much as anyone else, was eight. Even my wife when asked guessed five. Don't get me wrong four/five of these are either first or second drafts, but never the less they are there as large as life. I have to say it's been quite a cathartic experience rereading through them and coming across pieces I have no recollection of ever writing. In many ways it's been like meeting a long lost best friend all over again. The first of these novels is a paranormal thriller with the working title The Man on the Moor. I have to admit rereading it has come at the right time and reignited my enthusiasm to write which a combination of my underlying illness and Long Covid had all but killed off. Maybe I'll even get my backside into gear and try and get something published, I mean eight novels - I can't leave them all on the shelf gathering dust... or can I?
As an aside the opening chapters of two of these novels are already on this blog, these are:-
- Leaving Ladywell - A historical novel set in World War One and the immediate aftermath.
- Ice House - An Erotic thriller.
- A Ghost in Time - Paranormal/ thriller
- Of Trains and Games and Little Red Stains - Crime Fiction
- The Watcher in the Woods - Erotic thriller
- The Janitor - Crime fiction
- The Man on the Moor - Paranormal thriller
- The Knight Of Kathir - Fantasy
With a heavy heart the old man turned the key and wound the Victorian mantle clock up for what he knew would be the very last time. Once he had wound it to his satisfaction he gently shut its glass face and took a step or two back to admire it, something he had done almost every morning since he was twelve years old.
It wasn’t anything special as clocks went and certainly had little or no monetary value, but to him it was priceless. Priceless in that it was the last tenuous link he had to his mother. Everything else had gone now, her jewelry, her silk scarves, even her fur coat; once her most prized possession. He had disposed of everything over the previous six months and the sum total of his worldly possessions amounted to the clothes he was wearing, a camel-colored Mackintosh and roughly six hundred pounds in cash tucked away in a dog-eared wallet.
He sighed and placed the key back on the mantelpiece. When he had sold the house it had been with the proviso the new owners kept the clock in the house. They had seemed like decent people and promised they would although he doubted it would be in such a prominent position and would probably end up languishing in the back of a cupboard. Even so the knowledge it would still be within these walls would give him some comfort for what little remaining time he had left.
He turned away and quietly, almost reverently walked out of the spacious front room and continued down the central hallway with the intention of retrieving his Mackintosh from a cupboard under the stairs. Before doing so he inhaled deeply, savoring the familiar smells which hadn’t changed since he was a child. There were a lifetime of memories woven into the fabric of these four walls, memories which, just like his ashes, would soon be scattered to the four winds.
With his Mackintosh folded over his right arm he reached for the front door handle which was when he heard a light tapping noise coming from upstairs reminding him he had left a bedroom window open. He didn’t really want to go back up there having already said his goodbyes, only common decency told him he couldn’t leave the window open to the elements. The new owners weren’t moving in for another three days.
He closed his eyes and steeled himself before ascending the ancient staircase, its tired wooden boards groaning every bit as much as his cancerous lungs. If ever he thought he was doing the wrong thing when he threw his medication into the bin he didn’t doubt it now. What was the point in prolonging the inevitable? This was a far better idea. Not only would he avoid a cancerous death he would also be free of him, the demon, the shadow rider, who had defined his life for far too long.
Gasping and wheezing for breath he finally reached the top of the stairs and made a right turn into what days before had been his bedroom. It wasn’t the biggest bedroom in the house by any means, but it had been his from the age of four and he’d never had any inclination to change it for one of the larger rooms. He shuffled across the bare floorboards brushing aside a tattered curtain which was aimlessly flailing around in front of an open window. Beyond the window stretched a long-overgrown garden, only he didn’t see the waist high grass and out of control bushes which engulfed its once pristine borders, instead he saw it as the picture of perfection it used to be when his mother was alive.
He snorted and shook his head at the overwhelming sense of sadness which weighed so heavily upon his tortured soul. Sadness and betrayal, they never were two of the pleasantest of emotions. Taking hold of the long metal window latch he felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle in conjunction with a sudden drop in room temperature. The sensation wasn't unfamiliar to him having experienced it many times in the past. He had hoped in these final hours he would be spared and wouldn’t have to endure it again. With a slow deliberation he fastened the window latch in place and turned to face him. The Shadow rider was right there behind him of course, just as the old man had suspected, it would have been naive of him to think otherwise really. They glowered at each other for what seemed an age, neither wanting to be the first to look away. It was a game they had played many times over the last sixty years; the old man wasn’t going to miss it that was for sure.
The old man knew why he was here though, reminding him he had one last unenviable task to perform before his body succumbed to the inevitable. Nobody was going to die, not today and not tomorrow. Doubtless it would come later but by that time he would be long gone and oblivious to it all. He felt for the two envelopes he had secreted away in a hidden pocket. The demon’s face twisting into a contemptuous sneer, mocking him for his sentimentality and burning desire to right so many wrongs. The old man averted his gaze and looked out of the window, thinking back to that fateful day in the summer of 1949 when old Percy had passed the demon onto him seconds before he slit his throat.
“I knew you would come one day” Percy had said in a voice which sounded far too happy for a man who was safe in the knowledge he was about to die. “I knew it from the very moment you were born.” They were the last words Percy ever spoke. Words which at the time meant nothing, or at least they didn’t until the demon revealed himself some days later. The old man shuddered at the memory of seeing that odiously evil face staring back at him from the mirror for the very first time. Was it really sixty years ago? It seemed as if it was only yesterday. He turned to face his nemesis once more only to find his image had dissipated into the ether.
Without further ado he made his way back down stairs picking up his Mackintosh and casting a sideways glance at his reflection in the hallway mirror as he did so. “Who are we going to be today?” he asked himself out loud. “Shall we be John or Len, or how about Barry?” He hadn’t been Barry for a while not since… the image of a contorted, twisted face screaming in agony floated before his eyes. Perhaps it would be better if he left Barry where he was.
He smiled to himself ruing the recent difficulty the name issue had caused when it came to selling his house. The subterfuge he had put into place fifty years or so ago to hide the true identity of its owner almost being his undoing. Still, all’s well that ends well he thought swinging open the heavy front door and breathing in the fresh morning air which lifted his spirits no end.
Prior to leaving he'd made a conscious decision not to look back when he walked away from the house, only he couldn’t help himself and stopped to take one last lingering look. All the memories, good and bad along with the ghosts of those he had loved and lost raced through his mind. A sudden gust of wind blew up from nowhere interrupting his thoughts and scattering the first of the autumn leaves across the gravel driveway. It was time to go and much like an old alley cat who knew his time had come, he set off in search of a place to die.