Ciao Bella

It was drizzling that Tuesday, a sullen, persistent skin-soaker that matched the mood of the funeral taking place in Liberton Kirk’s municipal cemetery. Everything was going to plan until Aunt Bella gave an unearthly shriek and threw herself into the open grave of her husband, trying frantically to prise the lid of the coffin open with bloodied nails. The rest of us gaped and stupidly looked on, struggling to come to grips with this one and only show of the closest thing to affection that we’d witnessed in their twenty-five year stretch together. You could have called it a loveless marriage on a good day but only if you were prepared to concede that it was a prison sentence on all the others.

She scrabbled uselessly at the coffin lid leaving bloody smears, her blonde hair loose from its chignon, mascara free-ranging all over her face. The too short, too tight skirt she’d been wearing had become rucked up in the fall and a hint of dark red underwear contrasted starkly with the black suit and rich brown of the freshly dug earth: a wound in tender flesh. It was the most tender side to Bella that I’d ever seen.

Uncle Monty looked like he was about to scramble down after her and paused as though thinking better of it when she started writhing where she sprawled, clutching her stomach and gagging as though she was about to vomit. I wondered for an irrational moment if we were going to be treated to an Alien type scene going on with Bella bursting open on the grave of her beloved.

But as always truth was stranger than fiction.

Two young guys I’d never seen before but would have been more than happy to meet later at the reception leapt down into the grave, manhandling the apparently stricken widow out of the grave and sat her down on a flat gravestone talking quietly to her, while she nodded and sobbed.

My mother gave me that look, rolling her eyes and twisting her face as she usually did when confronted with the excesses of others’ emotions.

So engrossed were we in this latest little family drama, that at first the muffled roars of rage from the coffin went unnoticed.

There was a loud snapping sound and the lid of the box sprang open…

Tollcross Terror

A shadow flitted towards the Tollcross area of Edinburgh. Not unusual during the day you might think and you’d be right.


The problem was that it was just after midnight and the shadow was a vicious parasite looking for a new home.

A late February slurry began to fall despite the best efforts of a chill arctic wind to keep it airborne. The shadow paused, raising a head narrower than a child’s grave as though sniffing the air. Apparently satisfied, it stood where the old clock used to be and began, almost imperceptibly to sink down below the ground.

There it would wait until the right conduit came along, preferably human, but in truth anything living would do.

Crossroads were always places of power. If you hanged a man on a gibbet on a crossroad at midnight and hacked his hand off at the point of death, you had just made yourself a Hand of Glory: one of the most potent weapons of death in this world or any other.

But this shadow was not concerned with such trivia, it knew that the magic of the spot would give it the ability to inhabit a living being and reduce it to the status of a mere vessel. Deep down beneath the road’s surface it smiled and curled into a tight ball, content for now to wait….

All You Can Eat

A morning mist hung low over frost slimed grass. A weak, diffused light fought to prise the grip of night from the landscape, resulting in a grey gloom from which the twisted trunks of trees reared like petrified beasts long dead.

The Meadows, slap bang in the middle of the city, felt torn from it as though committed to forming a little world of its own for some slight real or imagined. And in a way that was true enough, because the red-eyed creature I was hunting had padded this way on taloned feet stirring up some of the old presences that haunted this sacred grove.

In the bad old days the Meadows had been submerged under a body of water that stretched from Hope Park Terrace to Brougham Street. Nameless ancient things had lurked in its depths and even when the loch had been drained, they’d refused to take the hint and hung around just for the sheer hell of it.

Unfortunately for me it looked like some of that hell had decided to drag me down with it.

I nearly walked into the vast trunk of an old elm and cursed my clumsiness aloud. A bad move as it turned out because it drew the attention of another predator out on the prowl this fine Sunday morning. A low, throaty laugh, a caress of light breath on the back of my neck and I knew I had much more to worry about than the minor demon I’d been trying to trap.

“Well,” it said stepping out in front of me. “looks like breakfast is served.”