Jenny of the Road

Written by Alex McCarron

It was late and dim when I saw her coming up the road. An old path, absent of passers-by save for a wandering peddler and his wares. Waving a crooked finger at me, he said, “Robbers down that way, or used to be.”

“There are robbers down every road,” I said, in a hurry. With nought worth stealing, I had nothing to fear.

It was then that I saw a girl approaching in the distance behind me, a pretty thing – slim and pale. The low sun caught my eye, blinding me for a moment, and I lost sight of her. A cuckoo called in a copse of trees. I’d been traveling long and hard, but a devil got into me – it always does when I spot a pretty girl – and I thought, I’ll just scare her a bit, make her jump. So I slipped off the road and into the copse, crouching behind the trees until I heard footsteps. They passed right by and I leaped out, roaring, my arms spread to grab her.

There was nobody there.

While I stood gaping like a fool, a wind sprang up in the trees. Their branches whipped together, chattering in low whispers. “Jenny,” it whispered. “Jenny, Jenny.”

The only footprints in the dust were my own. I squared my shoulders. “You have nothing to fear,” I reminded myself, and kept walking.

As I went the trees thickened, growing taller and more grotesque. The wind followed me, sometimes in hard gusts, sometimes as soft as a pattering pair of feet. More than once I looked back. Were the footsteps following me, too?

After a mile or so, I passed a house crouched far back in the trees. Its windows were broken and its roof stooped. The sky had darkened to a burnt orange, but I didn’t think of stopping.

“That was the robber’s house,” the wind hissed much like a person walking by my side. “She was a robber’s daughter, wasn’t she? Sweet Jenny.”

The trees sighed, “Sweet Jenny.”

“Keep going.” I told myself. “There’s nothing to fear.”

The wind nipped and pinched me. “Sweet Jenny with her sweetheart; that sweet boy with hair as black as coal.”

The house gaped at me, eyeless and empty. I hurried past, and the wind and the footsteps followed. It was no more than half a mile from the house when I came to a tree taller and darker than all the rest. Its branches whipped together in haste of the setting sun, urging the darkness on.

“You have nothing to fear,” I whispered.

The tall branches groaned, speaking from the heart of the tree itself. “Her father killed him here. Killed her sweet boy, but Jenny took his knife, she slipped his own knife into his back. And Jenny took his knife. Jenny ran.”

The road grew harder, thinner. It reared up with rocks and roots. I walked faster. My breath cut across my ribs like a cold knife. “It’s just the wind,” I whispered. “You fool, it’s only the wind.”

Finally, when the sky was black, I reached a small bridge over a large river. The water frothed under it like a hungry mouth, but a bridge meant new roads and people near. I started to cross. The bridge creaked as I stepped on it; it creaked and the waters spoke. “Jenny stabbed herself. Jenny put the knife in her pretty white throat.”

My toe caught a knot, and I stumbled. The river laughed, licking the boards beneath me.

“Jenny bled out.”

And didn’t I feel a cold hand in mine, pulling me to my feet? Didn’t I feel thin, cold lips pressed to my forehead?

“Jenny flowed into me.”

A tree has no voice, and the wind has no voice, and the water has no voice. And none of these things speaks with the voice of a girl. I ran.

“Kissing Jenny,” the man behind the bar laughed as if he didn’t believe me. “Everyone who comes up that way has a story to tell.”

I’d ran until the trees parted and spat me back up on the main road, ran until I saw the lighted windows of the inn. It was so loud, so full of warmth and light that I slammed through the door like a madman, shrugging off the cold draft that followed me in. I shouted for a drink, something strong. I didn’t speak again until I’d downed two pints of beer.

The man rattled my coins in his palm. “Only one room left,” he told me. “Right at the top.”

It was ready for me when I climbed up, with a candle on the windowsill and a fire in the hearth. “There now,” I told myself, warmed to the bone with drink, “you have nothing to fear.”

I locked my door. I shrugged off my coat and turned down my bed sheets. I climbed in and blew out my candle.

“Well then,” she said, “it’s just the two of us tonight, my dear.”

This short horror story by new contributor Alex McCarron chills us to the very bone – nevermind the narrator! Though we won’t need any alcohol to settle our fears, we may just reach out for a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate to send us off to sleep instead. Inspired by her love of old ghost stories and tales of the supernatural, Alex penned this piece in order to bring back the classic horror narrative. If you enjoyed her piece, make sure you let us know by leaving a like or a comment below. 

Featured Image CC // Nathan O’Nions

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Lift Girl – Part 1

Written by Fantasy Girl

My white shirt was stained crimson as I held her dying body in my arms. I didn’t know her – not directly anyway. She worked in the same office block as me. We would pull up in our cars at 8.45 every morning. We would park our cars next to each other every morning. We would walk in and get the lift together every morning; I was on the third floor, she was on the fifth. We would see each other in the lift down as we left at 17.05 every evening, and so on.

Her name was Shiv, short for Siobhan, or whatever variation of the spelling she used. I didn’t know this because I’d spoken to her, I’d never spoken to her apart from a polite ‘hello’ on a morning other than today, I knew it because I saw it on the front of one of her birthday cards one Monday morning a few months after I started working there. Did she know my name? I guess not. How would she? It’d never come up in our ‘hello’s’ on a morning.

She doesn’t even know my name, and I sat there, cradling her head in my lap as she lay dying on the floor before me.

The day stated as any other did: my alarm went off at six am (I snoozed until half past) and dragged my arse out of bed. I brushed my teeth and stumbled downstairs to the back door to have a cigarette. I ironed my shirt and trousers, got changed, wolfed a bowl of Rice Crispies down, and strode out of the door at 8.15.

Chris Moyles was doing his last breakfast show on Radio 1 as I climbed into the car, and ‘Star-boy’ was playing – the remake of the McFly song ‘Star-girl’ that the band did to say bye to Chris. And by the end of it, both Chris and the boys from McFly were in tears. It was a painful half hour drive; just listening to the goodbyes, the celebrities’ goodbyes, as well as the fans. I was sick of the whole charade by the time I pulled up to work. Yeah, I get it, he was a good DJ, but he didn’t deserve that much of a send-off.

I wondered where Shiv was as I walked into the office reception, but heard her shout, “Hold the lift!” as I stepped inside. As she slid in beside me, I noticed her dark hair, usually pulled back into a neat bun, was falling elegantly about her shoulders. And I soon saw why; as she pulled the sleeve of her shirt up to scratch her shoulder, I saw a bruise blossoming on her collar-bone – the purples and the blues of hurt and anguish.

Thinking back on it, I could have stopped this from happening – maybe I should have invited her out for coffee, asked her to come over to my place and look over some of the finance stuff I’ve been working on for the company, or something. It’s my fault it happened. I’d seen the signs. Most of all, I’d seen the bruises and the low self-esteem. Her seemingly irrational fear of most of the men we worked with. I should have stopped it. I could have stopped it. I could have stopped her going home… but hindsight is a wonderful thing. How was I supposed to know how that night was going to end? But somehow, I can still only blame myself.

Written on behalf of the Fiction Frenzy with the theme ‘Just One Day’, Fantasy Girl’s short story fits perfectly into the theme of beginnings. Starting at the end and gradually hooking us with a dark tale, reeling in all the raw emotion from a sudden death. It’s gut-wrenching but, still, a wonderfully told story – and this is just the first part! If you enjoyed Fantasy Girl’s short fiction, why not consider reading some of her other fine pieces including, ‘Commune‘ and ‘I’m a Slug, Get Over It‘. 

Featured Image CC / Chris Chabot

The Game – Part 1

Written by Dice

Both opponents have met and are in place. The stage is set. One side sets up the trap to lure his or her opponent in. But the Game is never completed so easily.

The newest weapon in the Game is SMS. Opponents can make challenges or counter their opponent by sending text messages or ‘texts.’

A ‘text’ bout is dependent on the player’s wit and composure. The player must be able to think quickly – a text takes seconds to reach its destination so delaying tactics are not available to the player.

The man is on the offensive, the woman on the defence. The man thinks he’s being social with his text chat with the typical, ‘How are you?’ and ‘What are you up to?’. This is all very friendly, a neutral stage of the Game if you like. But the Game cannot stay quiet for too long. The woman is most likely to make the first move, since they are known to want to test their opponent. One of the strongest moves a woman has is the ‘Suggestion Tactic.’ Women are experts at applying the ‘Why don’t you do this?’ move.

In this turn of events the man can have a selfish attitude, but to win he must appear as the ‘Gentleman’ and so if faced with this attack, a man has got to think fast. Through wishing to win over the woman, he must admit that he is under the mercy of her needs and must comply or counter with an excuse. Excuses for not complying with the Suggestion Tactic are difficult to design and, with the lack of time between moves in a text war, the man has little time to plan his next move, usually admitting defeat within the current battle.

This move is quick and decisive and, though it is considered the woman’s victory, it comes at a cost. The man does receive a form of point that is mentally recorded by the woman. These can be cashed in by the man, usually at the woman’s leisure in order to win the Game.

Every time we read this short satirical piece, we can’t help but chuckle. Dice’s matter-of-fact storytelling gives it such depth despite its surface context. Texting is such an intricate part of our lives now that we can’t help but be influenced by certain emoticons, the amount of kisses to pop on the end of a text, and so on. The relationship between men and women has never been so complicated. If you enjoyed Dice’s satire, check out some of his other pieces including, ‘The Writer’s Block‘ and ‘The Paper is a Stage‘.

Featured Image CC, woohoo_megoo

Gabe The Dreamwalker

Written by Lilith

Heart in his throat, he ran. The pounding of his increased pulse thumped through his frame, tightening at his chest like the start of a heart attack; his breath was ragged and painful and his legs ached, but he was hardly aware of any of these sensations second to the fear that gripped him. Never looking back, he plunged through the darkened streets in a direction that he hoped was homewards. Somewhere off in the distance, four paws skittered towards him.

His sprint faded to a stagger as he reached the crest of a hill. The roads were lined with streetlights, but all were extinguished and the only light he had to guide him was that of a low moon, almost full, and a few twinkling stars clinging to the heavens. The road ahead forked and he had a split second to choose a direction, but the right felt more familiar. He plunged down the street, his momentum increasing as gravity picked up the slack.

The breeze tasted of salt and the chill of the sea. To his right, trees whispered in the wind – a park, perhaps? Home was nearby, he knew it, and after a few more panicked paces he veered left. The quiet back street before him was barely any more than an alleyway, and he stared at the faded doors lining the way with confusion. They all seemed the same; peeling paint and rusted hinges, and the numbers engraved nailed just above the door knockers meant nothing to him.

He shoved his hands into his pockets, searching frantically until his thumb scraped across something sharp. A key! He grabbed it and stared at it in the near darkness, trying to make out the number scratched onto the surface. Was that a 10? A 20?

At the end of the street, the paws scrabbled to a stop, and something in the darkness snarled.

The key fell from his hands as he turned to run. Home was forgotten. What he needed was to get away, anywhere that was away from that monster. The burn returned to his lungs within seconds, and his legs screamed in pain, but he didn’t care so long as he could stay at least a few steps ahead.

The thing was on his heels already, he could hear its ragged breathing close behind him. He didn’t dare look, instead keeping his eyes on the street ahead of him, tasting the sea air and wondering if maybe, just maybe, he could make it to the cliffs before it got to him.

Up ahead, a dark figure stepped out onto the street.

He could barely see it in the pale moonlight, but he could see enough to know that it was human, and before he knew he’d opened his mouth he was yelling at it, screaming for help.

“Please! Help me! It’s going to-“

A streetlight flickered on. The woman stepped into its light and smiled gently.

“Gabe, it’s OK. It’s just a dream.”

“Help me! I can’t run any-“

“Shush…”

The breathing behind him had stopped, but he ran on towards her.

“You’ll be OK, honey. Come on, come back to me. Wake up.”

Her face was almost glowing under the streetlight. She was somehow familiar, and so, so beautiful…

He woke in a cold sweat, with Rosa stroking his hair and shushing him, and for a moment he really believed that everything would be alright, until he remembered the truth – that the same thing would happen again tomorrow night.

Perfectly suited to our theme of Beginnings, Lilith’s prologue for Gabe the Dreamwalker is an intriguing start. A recurring nightmare, of being chased, of fearing the unknown. It’s scary but familiar since we all feel it, we all encounter it at some point in our lives. Sometimes the dream world is safe, but sometimes it’s the root of our deepest fears. If you enjoyed Lilith’s introduction here, feel free to check out her other shorts such as, ‘A Hedgehog Named Barry‘ and ‘Rain Men‘. 

Featured Image CC // Clement127

Short Poetry Spotlight – Duality In The Beginning

Written by Rivers of Tarmac

It falls from my tongue
It slips past my teeth
Not familiar
But safe and warm
Like your hand
So new and worn
In mine


Written by Blue-Eyed Devil 

Sad beauty, stillborn.
The call of despair sweeps out
Slicing souls to shreds.


Raising the concept of duality, these two pieces of poetry lay in stark contrast with one another. Rivers of Tarmac lies in the beginning of something new, it embodies the warmth of a new memory. But Blue-Eyed Devil’s Haiku cuts to the core, delivering a beginning which has come to such an abrupt end. We hope you enjoy both poems and take a moment to think on them. For more of our short poetry selections, you can check out Mattress and Graffiti, and our writers’ Haiku Selection.

Featured Image CC // Andre Lima

Sinners – A Brief Introduction

Written by Dizzy Dazzle

The nightmare starts like it does every night.

Dad’s hands, white as ice on the steering wheel. His fingers drum impatiently, while the crackle of the radio lapses into stony silence. The misty morning snakes in through the window, spreading like silk over the glass. I can almost feel the sharp breath of winter through my bones. Outside, the wind is playing its own song and the trees dance and writhe to the rhythm in syncopated harmony.

Tap, tap, tap.

The roads are alive. I can feel the tension and confusion in the air, clogging up the road. I can tell dad feels it too.

Tap, tap, tap.

There’s an opening in the roundabout and dad rams his foot hard on the pedal.
“Dad, I have something to tell you…”

The car rockets forward, and he glances over at me for a split second, his eyes wide and dark like two river stones.

“Willow.”

And that’s when the truck hits us.

There’s a real hushing moment that drifts over us whenever we read this story excerpt from Dizzy Dazzle. Though it’s a very brief introduction to her story, it’s such a remarkable beginning that we’re a little taken aback. Her piece just seems to lull us in and then throw us into the fog with no bearing on what may come. If you enjoyed Dizzy Dazzle’s excerpt from Sinners, make sure you check out her other notable work including poems, “Rain” and “The Humanitarian“. 

Featured Image CC // April Mo

 

January Editorial – The Year Ahead and Welcome to 2015!

Hey Inkblotters,

Welcome to 2015 and a very happy new year to all our readers, writers and followers. By now, you’ll have likely noticed a couple of changes to our site. First of all, we’ve got a new (but not so new) domain name – now you can find us without the wordpress.com on the end!

We’ve also changed our main theme and layout to reflect the magazine’s content and overall feel. On the left side bar you’ll find all our pages, including the Submissions page which is much easier to access now. Plus, there’s also a small pin, clicking on this will take you to our featured content – these are the best posts from our authors around the world, so we take care in picking them out. And on the final tab is a folder, that’s where you’ll find our social output and where you can subscribe to us. Hopefully you’ll love the new theme just as much as I do!

With a new year brings lots of new content, but this time we’re on the hunt for a few more regular or guest contributors. Usually, we select content based on a pool that we receive in every month to a particular month. While the themes are sticking, we’re changing how we select content. So if you’d like your writing to be featured or published on Inkblots, please take a look at January to May’s themes below, which have been pre-selected.

  • January – Beginnings
  • February – Of Love and Other Drugs
  • March – Reflection
  • April – The Sweetest Thing
  • May – Strength

And don’t worry if you forget the themes above, as you’ll find them over at the submissions page throughout the year. Submissions for January’s theme is open until the 10th, but for all other months the closing date will be the last day of the previous month. So that means if you would like to submit content for March’s theme “Reflection”, you’ll need to send it us by February 28th to be considered for publication. You can send us submissions at theinkwellwriting@gmail.com.

While we have a few new works lined up for January’s content (you won’t be disappointed) with poetry and fiction, the Half Hour Challenge theme for January is Of Prologues and Other Such Beginnings. 

I hope you’ve had a great start to the year and I look forward to the year ahead! 🙂

– Silver, Inkblots Editor

Featured Image // Kalyan Chakravarthy