Ghosts is a collection of ghost stories, some of them little more than short vignettes. As a child I liked to read ghost stories, things like The Red Room by H G Wells, having first encountered that particular scary tale in 1st Armada Ghost Book.
When I first began writing, I think that I spent more time writing short stories rather than beavering away on my novels. A lot of the stories which I wrote dealt with ghosts, for the simple matter that I used to like reading such tales. Soon I realised that if I only wrote a few more I would have enough for a collection: that was the genesis of Ghosts.
In this collection you will find short stories about a ghoul, a fisherman, magnetism, and other things vaguely connected with the Undead.
Here follows one of the stories from that collection.
Complete short story: Horses
They ran across the plain, the plain that had been there for ten thousand years, since the end of the last Ice Age. They ran under the light of the full moon, its midnight sheen reflecting off their sweat-soaked hides. They ran across grass and over brook, through heather and below mighty tors.
It was the first time that Julia had seen the horses. She had seen horses before, of course – just not these horses. It was only by accident that she was seeing them now – her car had broken down, out here, in the middle of nowhere, and she had been stretching her legs while waiting for the AA man to arrive.
Julia stood beside the road. Apart from her old brown Morris Minor, there was not a car in sight. A cool wind blew across the moor, rustling her long skirt around her legs. The wind was the only sound. She watched the horses; and she realised that although she could see the horses, she could not hear them. They were galloping around, oblivious to her presence, but although they were no more than thirty yards away now, Julia could not hear a sound. She could see one of the horses, a great black stallion, lift his head back and neigh; but no sound came forth. yet the wind was blowing in Julia’s direction – it could not be carrying the sound away. For a moment, Julia could not understand what was happening. Then, as comprehension began to dawn, Julia heard the sound of a car horn. Her train of thought broken, she turned to see that the man from the AA had arrived. Julia walked back to her broken down car.
In the days that followed, Julia thought of what she had seen, and of what she had not heard. She resolved to return to the moor, to solve the mystery, even though she had an inkling as to the true nature of what she had witnessed. A fortnight passed before she had the chance to go back. She drove to the spot where her Morris Minor had broken down before, but the horses were nowhere to be seen. Disappointed, she got back into her car and drove off, trying to put the strange event out of her mind, and concentrate on her job as a librarian.
One day, while at work, on a day when it was particularly quiet in her library, she looked through the local records. As she had thought, there were not supposed to be any horses on the moor. The local records went back as far as the early Victorian times, but no horses had ever been there. Perhaps Julia had imagined what she had seen. But she knew that was not true. She managed to put the horses out of her mind for another few days.
Another boring day came, sunshine outside, and nobody but Julia in the library. They only came in when it rained. Julia picked up a book on the palaeontological history of the are – it was a self-published, small press work, by a local author. The book covered the prehistoric flora and fauna of the area, from the times of the Ice Age until the start of written history. And yes, as Julia had suspected, horses had once roamed the land, along with cave bears, smilodon, and prehistoric men. But the horses in the area had died out a long time ago, not being re-introduced until the time of the Celts and the Romans. Were these the horses that she had seen? Julia shook her head. She did not believe in ghosts. Definitely not in the ghosts of prehistoric horses, either.
A few more days passed, and it was the next full moon. Julia found herself in her Morris Minor, heading out to the moor. She told herself that she was only going for a walk, and to get some fresh air. She lied that it had anything to do with the horses.
She parked her car beside the road, in the exact place where she had broken down before. No one else was about. She doubted if there was anybody else about within miles. The night air was cool and still. There was not the sound of a single animal to be heard. No insects, no birds, no foxes in the distance. There was only Julia’s heartbeat.
Then she saw them again, the horses, exactly as she had seen them four weeks before. They ran and galloped with the same movements, across the same area of land, their manes ruffled by a non-existent wind. And yes, the black stallion lifted his head back to neigh, and no sound came forth: no sound that Julia could hear, anyway. The horses were ghosts of horses who had roamed the land thousands of years ago.
Julia stayed and watched the horses until dawn. They faded with the coming of the morning light.
Julia asked about the moor and its history in some of the pubs nearby, whether anybody had ever seen anything strange up there. But no one had. She did not tell people what she had seen. The horses were her secret.
Whenever she was depressed, or upset about anything, Julia would wait until the next full moon, and go to the moor and watch the horses. She tried coming on other nights, but the horses only appeared when the moon was full.
Through the years that followed, the horses were the one constant in her life. Two husbands came, and went, neither of them all that memorable. Her daughter grew up, and moved out of home. The library closed down, and Julia was forced to take early retirement. But the horses never let her down. They were always there for her. She never found out why they still appeared: she had read up on ghosts, and spectres, and apparitions, and they all always faded away over a certain period of time. But while other ghosts had faded away, the horses had remained.
The years continued passing. Julia had become old, and grey. The horses were still as young as they had ever been, a moment captured in time. Eventually, Julia began to die, her family gathered around her death bed. Julia had no regrets, she had lived a good life. No regrets, except for one.
“I would have liked to have heard the horses.” Julia said, the last words that she ever did. Her daughter, now grown old herself, looked across to her husband, but he looked back blankly. Nobody there understood what Julia had meant.
Perhaps now, Julia would finally hear the horses, after all.
Ghosts is available as an e-book on the Amazon Kindle store.