When I moved into my new flat in Home Street, the first thing I did was to make peace with the spirits who haunted it – or so I thought. It was just routine, the first rule of good house-keeping and something I always did in a new place.
But I hadn’t reckoned on the thing that haunted the small cupboard in the stairwell, not then.
I had laid out my offerings as usual, consisting of supermarket own brand cognac accompanied by some slices of Madeira which for some reason was always a favourite. The spiritual under-class who refused to pass on, choosing instead to crowd this world with their unwanted presences and unseemly demands had a very sweet, and undeniably alcoholic, tooth.
It was Wednesday lunchtime in a drear and dreich July and I still hadn’t fully unpacked. But some things were more important than settling in.
The flat was poky and dark with loose windows through which the dull roar of the midday traffic and a seeping damp insinuated themselves. I remember I had lit a few candles to get me in the mood and was nibbling absent-mindedly on some cake when they came.
I was aware of the grey smog before I saw it, death sense pinging its presence back to me like a bat’s sonar. And of course I smelt it too, damp and mildew underlaid with that sickly-sweet scent of decay.
They came flowing towards me, men women and children, some whole, more not. The dead soon forgot their appearance in life and evolved into other forms most of which were often not recognisably human. A dark blur raced around the walls of the cramped living-room while a group of children in Edwardian clothes gaped at me, teeth sharp, eyes bright.
The cuckoo clock chimed the half hour and that’s when I became of the presence outside the door.
It wanted in. Not like the ghosts of those who had died appeased by stale sweets and cheap booze, no, this wanted in. A crushing pressure on my chest made it difficult to breath and I fell to floor with the realisation that what was waiting for me outside wasn’t going to be bought off or bargained with.
I didn’t understand, it had never gone like this before. What the hell was waiting for me on the other side of the door? I reached up to the pine coffee table scrabbling for my mobile, but either it wasn’t there or I was unable to reach it.
A click of the lock and then a slow wet, slither in the hall told me my guest had arrived….