Soul Asylum Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Soul Asylum C L RavenA thunderous crash shook the asylum’s ancient bones. The candles extinguished with a soundless flourish. The tendrils of their dying breath snaked through the air, slithering over the guests’ faces and coiling around their heads.

“Anyone got a lighter?” Someone asked, their voice trembling.

There was a spark and a tiny flame appeared. I could make out the guests’ stricken faces in the meagre orange glow. I approached the candles lining the corridor and they ignited. Someone stifled a scream. I ran my fingers through the flames, not feeling the blazing kisses they sprinkled across my skin. The flames danced and bent to my will. I led the way to the next room. The guests stared at the candles as though they held the answer to the blackout. The half-naked man with wrist bandages stood facing the wall, his head lowered. He was crying. My fingers danced across his back as I passed. Some torments were too powerful to be buried with the body.

Ominous shadows stalked us, accompanied by the sizzling of the lights. A bedside cabinet was overturned and sheets were scattered over the floor. I picked them up and draped them on the bed before righting the cabinet. One of the cabinet doors opened so I kicked it shut. Some guests jumped. Shrieking echoed towards us. A small girl ran in, screaming. The guests looked nervous. She sobbed; a chilling noise that grew louder as a nurse ran in and shut the door. The guests glanced towards it. The nurse picked the kicking child up and laid her on the bed, strapping her down. She writhed and screamed like she was possessed. The guests photographed the room, immortalising the dead on film. Excitement had surrendered to apprehension. They wanted to see ghosts, but they wanted Casper the Friendly Ghost, not the disturbed, dangerous spirits that wandered the old mental asylum.

I let them investigate the other dorms and wards alone.

Thunder boomed as though the gates of Hell were banging shut. Lightning illuminated the darkened room. The group passed me down the stairs. I gripped the banister in case someone pushed me. I led them through the kitchen and wiggled the door handle. I released it, flexing my fingers. The lock clicked and the door swung open. The light fizzed, blinking malevolently. The group edged down the steps. This was the coldest area, as though the heat from the living couldn’t banish the chill of the afterlife. I took them under a large archway. The cold stone floor kissed my bare feet. I stopped outside a door then opened it.

“Welcome to the morgue.”

A slab stood in the centre of the room. A tall fridge with four numbered doors was in the far corner. A lonely sink stood below shelves with various bottles and jars.

“Can you hear whispering?” A woman asked.

“There’s probably a tape recorder.” Mason’s voice was disrespectfully loud in the hush.

I opened the fridge door and pulled out one of the trolleys, revealing a dead woman. Her toe tag identified her as Charlotte. Dried blood matted her hair, her glassy gaze fixed on me.

Shadows lurked in the corner, whispering my name. I pivoted, but could see only darkness – their shroud. I could feel their many eyes, their seeping hatred and iniquitous intentions.

I stepped aside as the mortician appeared beside me. He lifted the woman up and placed her on the slab. Clattering filled the silence as he gathered his wicked implements and moved them to a small table. The group hurried out and rushed to the steps, fear silencing them. I brushed past the guests and felt the iciness of the poltergeist beside me. As the group climbed the stairs, the light bulb exploded. Shards of glass cascaded and the stairway was plunged into darkness. The group’s breaths appeared in silver mists. They clung to each other, terrified of the dark now they knew the dead inhabited it. The shadows could glide unnoticed in the blackness’s arms and strike before I was even aware they lurked. When the lights came back on, all that would be left would be my bloody remains.

Something crawled over my skin. The shadows. I lashed out, loath to touch them, but desperate to be rid of their repulsive touch before they seeped inside me. Mason’s bloody machine buzzed loudly, the red light glowing like a hellacious flame.

A piercing scream punctured the suffocating silence. A thud followed and the scream died. A lighter’s tiny orange flare danced in the darkness. I snatched it from the man and carried it down, my feet crunching on the broken glass. A young brunette woman was sprawled on the bottom step and floor. Blood splattered the step and stained her hair. A large pool of it congealed beneath her head. Her neck was twisted at a suicidal angle. Terror stained her eyes as she glimpsed a world too horrifying for the living to comprehend. I stared into her eyes but I couldn’t even see my own reflection. She’d crossed the veil of mortality and entered the asylum’s second life.

Mason’s fingers touched her neck, his camera pointing straight into her death mask.

“She’s dead.”

***

I sat at the head of the dining table. The shaken guests were seated. They’d aged. Witnessing somebody’s death takes a part of your soul you’ll never get back. They’d come to see the dead. They got what they desired. Soft crying filled the silence. A young female patient sat on a chair against the far wall, her head in her hands, weeping.

“Is this your first ghost tour?” Mason asked the woman’s companions, placing his recorder on the table.

“Do you come here often?” I mocked. He ignored me.

“Yes. Danielle wanted to do something different for her birthday,” one of the men answered.

“Do you believe in the paranormal?”

“Not until tonight.”

“Did you experience anything supernatural during the evening?”

“I thought I saw someone dressed as a patient, but when I looked again, he’d gone.”

The front door opened then closed. The dining room door opened and two non-uniformed police officers entered. One was older, creased, and jaded. The other was young, alert. Untainted.

“I’m DS Ifans, this is DC Ripley. We’ll need to interview you all separately.”

“I was filming at the bottom of the steps,” Mason said. “You can have the SD card, as long as I can have it back.”

“That would be a great help,” Ifans said. “We’ll talk to you first.”

He’d only been here a couple of hours and he was leading the police investigation. No doubt he’d try to shut this place down. Perhaps he’d watched too many episodes of Murder She Wrote and believed every writer was allowed to solve murders, purely because they wrote about them. I wished the poltergeist had got him. Perhaps the poltergeist pushed the woman, hoping she’d take Mason out with her.

Mason ejected the SD card from his camera and shadowed them from the room. I wondered whether I’d be arrested before the night was out. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d left this place. I couldn’t even be sure the outside world still existed.

“Just because she screamed, doesn’t mean she was pushed,” I said. They ignored me.

I mumbled about making drinks and headed for the kitchen. I stood at the door. Tape cordoned it off. Lights had been erected, revealing the gruesome scene. The corridor looked wrong under so many lights. It was a place of gloomy fear, not the bright welcoming tunnel they were turning it into. Glass littered the steps. Blood stained the bottom. A uniformed officer stood guard while men in white suits collected evidence and someone tended to the body. They didn’t belong here. Nobody noticed me. The dead were more alluring than the living.

I moved away. The fire ignited and the cauldron water bubbled. I wasn’t alone. I was never alone.

“We’re ready for you now,” Ripley said, looking at the kitchen table.

I followed him into the social room and sat before the fire. It ignited. Dr. Lambert sat beside me. I slid sideways.

“How many do you usually have on the tour?” Ifans asked.

“Ten to twenty people. I run them twice a week. Four times a week in October then every day of Halloweek.”

“Have there ever been any accidents? Fatalities?”

“No fatalities.”

“The reporter said on your website people give this place a five-star rating for paranormal activity. Some guests left comments stating they’d been hurt on a tour. Tripped up, pushed into the wall, had objects thrown at them. One guest claimed he received a black eye after being hit in the face with a book.”

I stared at them. “People come here at their own risk. No-one’s holding a gun to their heads. If they get hurt, that’s not my fault.”

“Where were you when she fell?”

“Near the top.”

“Have you met Miss Bailey before tonight?”

“No.”

“Did you see her fall?”

“No. I heard her scream. And a thud. Then the screaming stopped.”

Lambert spoke. “I think that’s enough questions. It’s been a long night. I will medicate the patients and if you have any more questions, you can come back tomorrow. I’m sure Mr. Soul did not intend for anyone to get hurt.”

He was looking behind the officers but there was no-one there. Maybe it wasn’t just the patients who were crazy. Lambert looked straight at me. I froze.

“That will be all for now,” Ifans said.

Footsteps clumped across the floor. The door opened then closed then Ripley got up and fetched one of the guests.

I headed outside. Wind nipped my feet and danced around me, tugging at my clothes like an insatiable lover. It rippled through my short dark hair. The moon’s silvery light guided me to the graveyard. I walked among the graves, reading the names of the deceased, though I knew them by heart. Reaching the skeletal tree, I traced my fingers along its rough skin. The branches’ gnarled, bony fingers probed my head. The tree always tried to implant memories into my mind, but I refused to surrender to its pressure. Some were good, others were so terrifying they poisoned my blood.

The sky was midnight blue, the stars silver bullets piercing the night’s flesh. The moon was large and full, hanging low like a giant spotlight exposing the evil that lurked below. Its eerie glow cast shadows in the graveyard. My shadow was entwined with the tree’s. A raven flapped its wings in the branch above my head.

“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” He cawed twice and shook his feathers. Other ravens in the tree stared towards the asylum. I watched the police cars parked outside it. A blue light revolved, spilling its light on the walls. “I hope they won’t be here all night.”

I heard the door opening and moved behind the tree, our bodies pressed together. I inhaled the charred scent lingering in its bark. From the security of its shadow, I watched the tour group climb into their cars and drive towards the gates, escaping from the asylum with their lives. The gates opened then clanged shut behind them.

The front door opened again and I ducked behind the tree. Mason climbed into his Beetle and drove away. This would be reported in all the papers tomorrow. Reporters would camp outside. I’d have to get rid of them. This was his fault. He’d failed to expose me as a fraud so decided to frame me for murder instead. Then I remembered he’d been at the bottom. Maybe he and the poltergeist plotted my downfall between them. Joining forces to create their own little murder club.

I waited, but nobody else left. I sneaked over and peeked in through the dining room windows at the intruders. Ifans and Ripley were seated. Ripley glanced up, looking startled. I hid behind a curtain, counted to one hundred then risked another look. The room was empty. The front door opened and voices filtered through the frigid air.

“We’ll look at this tape tomorrow, Dylan,” Ifans spoke. “It’s been a weird night. Suspicious death in a supposedly haunted asylum during a ghost hunting tour. I need a good night’s sleep before I can face watching the tour on tape.”

“There’s something peculiar about this place,” Ripley replied. “Like we’re trespassing. Somebody doesn’t want us here.”

“You don’t seriously believe in ghosts do you?”

“A woman died here today. Someone said they saw a patient push her. Ghosts or no ghosts, that will haunt everyone who was here for the rest of their lives.”

***

I hid until the police cars left then returned inside. I glanced at the clock in the hall. The eternal midnight. Upstairs, floorboards creaked and music played. Green Day’s ‘Know Your Enemy.’

He was taunting me.

I locked the front door then crept up the stairs. I entered my bedroom without turning on the light and sat on the bed. I left the music on. I undressed then crawled into bed. The curtains were closed. A sliver of moonlight stole in where the curtains didn’t join. The hall clock ticked, counting off each lifeless second.

I rolled onto my left side, facing the window. The bedroom door closed quietly. I could hear him moving around the room. The bed dipped as he lowered his invisible frame onto it. It grew cold as his body slid in next to mine. I stayed still, my back to him. His breathing was even.

“Sleep somewhere else. You know this is my room.” His crying echoed around the room. Tears for the dead. “Shut up. She’s one of you now. Yet another murdered soul to join your legion against me.”

I’d be the prime suspect. Pushing a woman down the stairs to gain notoriety for my tour. People would flock to see where she died. It would be especially popular each anniversary of her death. My very own museum of death. I should sell postcards of the crime scene. Make a killing.

The bed moved then footsteps padded across the wooden floor. The light flicked on and the window edged open. Cool breeze filtered in and the curtains gently billowed. An owl hooted. Fury knotted my stomach. My fists clenched. I took deep breaths, but anger burned inside me until I crossed to the window and shut it.

The window swung open and a gust of wind rushed in, biting my naked flesh. I wrenched the window shut. It swung out then slammed, shattering the glass. I pushed him. The curtains writhed as he tried saving himself. I stared at the blood staining the broken glass in the window. It glistened in the flickering light. I touched it.

“The dead can bleed.”

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Soul Asylum Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Soul Asylum C L RavenWeeping echoed around the room. Self-pitying tears for the sanity she’d lost and no longer remembered. I stared out at the rain. I didn’t need to be haunted by their madness.

Mason asked if he could have a tour of the asylum before everyone arrived. No doubt to check I hadn’t rigged anything before the lights died and the macabre performance began. Not even the most brilliantly malevolent mind could create the horrors in this haunted house of nightmares. Reality was far crueller. I didn’t know why he was here. I hadn’t invited him. I hadn’t invited any of them.

Everything that happened here was beyond my control.

I sighed and opened the door to the corridor. He gathered his equipment and followed. He switched on a small black box. It started making strange noises and lighting up.

“What’s that?”

“This is a K2 meter. It measures disturbances in the electrical or magnetic fields. Some say that means there are ghosts.”

“Since when were ghosts comparable to faulty wiring?”

The corridors were endless, with curved arches high in the ceiling. The large, chilly kitchen welcomed us. The bricks at the bottom third of the wall were painted black, with white bricks stretching to the excessively high ceiling. There were windows near the ceiling on one wall. Light could enter but no-one could see out. A large picnic table stood in the centre. An Aga stove was to the left, crouched beneath a single window, beside the large rectangular sink. It was filled with broken plates – disposable victims of a fractured mind. A lot of things had changed here over the years. I wished everything had been left alone. People thought they could improve things by redecorating. It didn’t eradicate the past, just pushed it further into the shadows.

Through the window, I spied two people wandering the grounds. They passed through headstones then vanished.

The stone tiles tormented my bare feet with a cold burn, like Hell was freezing. A fire with a large cauldron was to the right. I passed through a wide arch and opened a door. Stone steps were swallowed by the blackness. Icy air swept up, caressing me. Memories of tortured screams echoed through the realms of the living and the dead. I switched on the light. The bare bulb flickered then died, darkness smothering the passage and concealing its nefarious secrets.

“What do you keep in the cellar? Wine?” Mason asked.

“You can’t bottle what’s down there.”

“The cellar isn’t mentioned in the history books.”

“There are some things history doesn’t want you knowing. It’s not a cellar.”

“What is it then?” Mason edged closer.

“The morgue.”

“This place has a morgue?”

“Even the insane die. They just don’t stay dead.” I switched the light off and closed the door.

The kitchen door swung open. Mason shivered. I edged past him and led him through the corridor into the social room. Mocking voices whispered to me. I moved towards the fire. Out of the corner of my eye I saw three women standing together. They looked in my direction then whispered furtively, giggling. Raspy murmuring tantalised my ears as an icy finger glided down my face. I closed my eyes, shivers stroking my body. The fire ignited and I reached into it, the flames dancing over my fingers before I withdrew my hand and touched my face. My hands remained cold.

“Don’t you have heating?” Mason rubbed his arms, glancing towards the settee. His K2 lit up.

“Have you never heard of the temperature dropping when the dead are near?”

I’d spent so long amongst the dead I’d forgotten what it was like to be around the living. Those who’d tried living here soon discovered the novelty of living in an old asylum was far removed from the horrifying reality.

He opened another door, which led to the psychiatrist’s office. An old desk faced away from the window to the right of the door with a captain’s chair behind it. A chaise longue was in the left corner in front of a bookcase. I read some of the books’ titles. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life by Sigmund Freud, Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard Von Krafft-Ebbing. On Double Consciousness and Alterations of Personality by Alfred Binet. Fact and Fable in Psychology by Joseph Jastrow I picked up a book, flicked through it then replaced it. A tall brown haired man with a moustache selected a book called Multiple Personality: An Experimental Investigation into Human Individuality by Boris Sidis. I shot sideways. Dr. Lambert. He carried the book to the desk and sat down. An uncontrollable urge to grab the book and beat Lambert until he stopped living consumed me.

Sometimes their madness was contagious.

Sometimes I could control it.

Sometimes I chose not to.

“What’s through there?” Mason pointed to a door, nearly walking right through me. His electrical toy buzzed loudly, the lights turning red. It was starting to get on my nerves.

I opened the door and let him pass through, spying goose pimples on his flesh as I closed the door behind us. I edged down the corridor and opened another door. He stared in shock. A stretcher with ankle, wrist, torso and head restraints stood to the right. A table with a crude black box was positioned behind the head of the bed. The rest of the room was barren.

“Is this a music box?” He raised the lid, revealing brass knobs and a cylindrical battery.

“Only if you find the sound of screaming musical.”

He picked up the two wires leading to circular pads. “Early defibrillator?”

“Electroconvulsive therapy. Electric shock treatment. It looks dated now but it was high tech when it was introduced in 1941.” I tightened the straps on the bed. “Initially it was administered without anaesthetic or muscle relaxants. The spasms from the current were so powerful, patients could suffer dislocated limbs or fractured spines and pelvises. The after-effects are…mind-numbing.”

He photographed it then filmed it.

I led him back into the hall and glanced at the large clock positioned beside the stairs. There were no numbers on the clock’s ebony face. The time said midnight. It was always midnight. Even time had died, leaving a ghost to mark its existence. There used to be a receptionist’s desk near the door. One of the “improvements” by a resident was to demolish it. Probably so no more patients could be admitted. That resident fled after two months. It wasn’t new patients he had to worry about. I headed upstairs. Mason hesitated and glanced behind him.

“For someone who doesn’t believe in the paranormal, you’re extremely jumpy.” I stopped halfway up and faced him. Images of him falling to his death invaded my mind. I heard the thud as his skull cracked, saw the blood escaping and the life in his eyes dying.

The stairs creaked near him. I narrowed my eyes before continuing up. Mason followed. The doors were identical—white wood with portholes—and bolt locks on the outside. I showed him the bathroom, the first bedroom, then my bedroom. The only bedroom that had been converted for modern use. He crossed to the window and gazed out over the graveyard. The lights fizzed.

“You need this place rewired. Though I like the authenticity – helps scare the public.”

I picked up my hat and sat it on my head while he took photos. The camera was pointed at me and the flash exploded, blinding me. The room next door was cold. I shut the open window. Mason jumped. The door slammed. I yanked it open and left the room. Mason shadowed me. All the rooms were sombre grey and contained between four and six beds. Dignity and luxury were only allowed to those sane enough to appreciate it.

“These were the patients’ rooms. They were originally converted from wards. Everything is bolted to the floor. The mad can’t be trusted. Throwing things is a hobby of theirs.”

I led him to one of the wards that hadn’t been converted. A row of beds flanked each wall. Some of the beds contained patients. Their vacant eyes tracked me as I moved around the room. I turned my back on them. The K2 buzzed and lit up. He frowned at it.

“These used to be locked at night. You can imagine the terror of an unmarried pregnant woman locked in with a paranoid schizophrenic.”

“I read they would lock unmarried pregnant women in here with the crazies. They didn’t segregate them?”

“Not until the Second World War.”

“That’s like putting someone with a broken leg in the cancer ward.”

No it wasn’t.

“Those with mental illness are cursed by society’s misconceptions. Is it any different today?”

I returned downstairs and sat in the dining room at the head of the table. A large stage dominated the other end of the room. Mason moved around upstairs, investigating the rooms. I heard laughter echoing. Mason and the poltergeist thought they were comedians. I glanced out the window. Darkness was wrapping its funereal cloak around the asylum. A man wearing the standard military-style uniform escorted someone away from the graves. A raven cawed.

Mason returned and asked if there was somewhere he could leave his bag. I carried it to the ECT room and bolted the door. When I returned, Mason was watching the windows as though they contained the answers to the afterlife. He spoke into his voice recorder.

“While investigating the rest of the rooms upstairs, the K2 was finally silent. I’d almost stopped noticing its incessant buzzing. Perhaps the batteries are faulty.”

“Or the ghosts decided reliving their deaths was more entertaining than following you.”

The curtains billowed in my wake. A chair toppled. I stopped and picked it up. Mason looked at his watch.

“Bloody thing’s stopped. Why are the tours at night? Atmosphere? Or so they can’t see the strings?”

“Night is when the screaming starts.”

I drummed my fingers on the polished wood. I could see my reflection in it. I looked away. I hated the way it distorted me. Mason’s gaze shifted towards me. I exhaled deeply, my breath escaping in a silver cloud. The clock in the hall ticked, a heart that thundered towards death with each beat, yet the hands remained frozen. The witching hour.

“How long’s the poltergeist been here?” Mason asked the chair beside me.

“Which one? There have been poltergeists for as long as I can remember. Some are easier to get rid of than others.”

“So, since you moved in. How long ago was that?”

“I don’t remember exactly. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime.”

A knock reverberated around the asylum. I glided to the front door, unbolted it and eased it open. A couple stood between the gargoyles. They looked scared. A bitter breeze rippled past. Footsteps padded behind me then stopped. I heard them walking away. The guests followed them to the dining room. A silver Mercedes was parked beside the green Beetle.

I followed the long driveway down to the imposing gates. The gravel surrendered to cracked tarmac. Beside the house by the gates, HALT was written on the left side of the drive. The porch lanterns either side of the house’s door were lit, offering hope of salvation in the gloom. The stone ravens guarding the gate glared at anyone daring to approach. I gripped the bars and stared down the sepulchral winding road. It ran horizontally past the gates. For now, the road was deserted. The highway to Hell.

I rested my back against the gates. In the distance a lone figure stood beneath the black tree, staring towards where the East Wing once stood. A thick grey shroud concealed the graves. Curtains swished upstairs. The asylum was bathed in darkness except for one light glowing in the hall, an unblinking eye to ward off vampires.

I heard a noise and threw a look over my shoulder. A car drove towards me so I parted the gates and stepped aside allowing them access. An uneasy look passed between the passengers. I could slip out when nobody was looking. Hide in the nearby farm or castle. Maybe I’d make it to town. I took a step. The gates banged shut. The passenger turned around in his seat. I stalked them to the asylum and opened the front door. The two men and a woman entered cautiously so I locked the door behind them before showing them to the dining room. Mason and the couple were seated. I took my place at the head of the table, wondering whether Mason’s sceptical words were poisoning them against me.

“This place is creepy,” the woman who’d just arrived whispered.

“Every old house is creepy in the dark,” Mason replied. “Creaks, bangs, strange noises. It’s the charm of old properties. This place more so because it’s isolated. You’re here for a ghost tour in an old asylum. You’re predisposed to be afraid.”

He’d only been here an hour and already he was plotting to destroy everything I had.

The door opened and more guests entered. They gave their names and I watched a pen mark them off on a sheet.

I slid my chair backwards and everyone turned to look at me. “The electricity needs rewiring, hence the candles.” I closed the curtains to block out the night. “Welcome to Ravens Retreat. Where we are now is the surviving West Wing. The East Wing burned down in 1904. A lot of patients died. Staff, too. This place was a pioneer in the treatment of the mentally ill in Wales.”

I made my way to the kitchen. The fire ignited with an unearthly sigh and the water in the cauldron began bubbling. I tried the door to the morgue. It was locked. I rattled the handle but the door refused to reveal the passage’s dark secrets.

“Patients would be given jobs around the asylum, even in the kitchen.”

I took them to the social room. The fire danced mesmerisingly. Footsteps echoed around the room yet everyone was standing still. I recounted the spooky tales they longed to hear. I didn’t tell them this place was sometimes happy, with the staff trying their best to care for their growing number of patients and always introducing new ways to improve their quality of life. That wasn’t what these people wanted. They craved the terrifying stories that would rival Bedlam in their cruelty, depravity and misery.

Sometimes I wondered whether society locked up the wrong people.

Suddenly the room was crowded with expressionless people. An old man sat in the corner playing chess with someone who didn’t exist. Mason was photographing and filming the room. The guests also took photos, but nobody commented on the scene before them. I was knocked aside as a nurse hurried past, opened the door to the corridor and vanished. One of the young women who’d giggled at me earlier sat alone on the settee.

“She shouldn’t be in here,” I pointed. “Men only.”

She shrank back into the settee, her eyes wide. I stepped forwards. She fled. The door slammed after her. The guests jumped.

“This is the social room, where the staff relaxed when everyone was asleep or sedated. The patients were allowed in here if they behaved themselves. Until the 1940s, male and female patients and staff weren’t allowed to mix.”

The fire died and I led the way into the psychiatrist’s office. I noticed a book lying on the desk and returned it to the bookcase. Lambert watched me suspiciously. I’d lived with these people for so long, fear no longer commanded me. He was the only one who still possessed the power to reduce me to a gibbering wreck. The human mind wasn’t meant to be understood. He probed in the darkest chambers where strangers had no right to pry. A sullen patient sat in the chair opposite Lambert, his head lowered.

“This is the psychiatrist’s office. In the 1800s they were experimenting with new ideas. They didn’t have medication in the early years. They’re experimenting even today. The mind is one of the few places that however well explored, will never be fully conquered. I’m not sure if the poltergeist was a patient, but he’s clearly not happy about being dead. He’s very angry and at times is hard to live with. He’s an eternal teenager.” Nobody laughed. Sometimes they acted like I was invisible.

I led them out to the hall and the clock chimed, its bongs echoing. One person jumped. Finally, something drowned out Mason’s damn machine. The front door crashed open, a rush of cold air sweeping through the asylum and killing the candlelight as four people entered. The guests jumped, a woman stifled a scream. Footsteps thundered up the stairs as the intruders raced each other to the top. I took the group over to them, Mason filming. The tour guests shadowed me quickly up the stairs, ignoring the young nurse carrying a tray of medical equipment. Her name was Estelle. She was too friendly. Thought she could help the patients. She didn’t seem to realise some were beyond helping and some didn’t want to be helped. She wanted a sainthood. Shame she’d have to die to get one. She passed straight through one of the women.

“Someone just walked over my grave.” She laughed nervously, shivering.

“A nurse just moved through you.”

She didn’t hear me. I hurried down the stairs and shoved Estelle. She flew to the bottom, her tray crashing to the floor. Everyone whirled around, frantically scanning the gloom. The lights stayed on long enough for them to see a small blood puddle forming at the bottom of the stairs. Somebody screamed. I ran back up the stairs and stood at the top, watching as Estelle hurriedly wiped her eyes and straightened her uniform. She rose, plucked glass from her hand and collected the spilled equipment. She entered the dining room, kicking the door shut. The asylum shook. I stared in her direction, hearing her muffled sniffles from the other side.

The group cautiously followed me upstairs. I started with my bedroom. The window was open so I yanked it shut. The curtains billowed around the bed.

“This is the master bedroom, where I sleep.” The radio switched on, Meatloaf’s ‘Razor’s Edge’ started. I folded my arms. “He plays music constantly. I think he believes it will silence the voices.” I switched it off as the guests took photos. “Nothing does.” The music played again, the volume increasing. I switched it off. “I’ll show you the patients’ cells.” The radio clicked on and the music grew louder. I laid it face down and removed the batteries.

I stalked the guests and we entered the room next door. A young man sat on a bed, dressed in pyjama bottoms, his torso bare and scarred. White bandages encased his wrists. Silent tears streaked his vacant face. His eyes were hollow, haunted by the things he’d seen. Things no one else would ever understand. They couldn’t contemplate something that wasn’t in their reality.

The guests watched, captivated as the radio dragged itself across the floor then levitated and rested on the bedside cabinet. I watched Mason filming it, then picked the radio up and dropped it back down. The young man’s gaze shifted to me. I stared straight back. The window opened. The poltergeist was antagonising me. Maybe he hoped the nurses would sedate me. I knew all his tricks. I closed the window and locked it. The bed springs creaked as the young man got up and left the room. Faint sounds of screaming filtered in his wake. Outside, the storm raged on.

Soul Asylum’s book trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL-qpYBAU3c

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B009JYLC7I/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d4_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=07P13G5AGHP72P60F4NJ&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=317828027&pf_rd_i=468294

http://www.amazon.com/Soul-Asylum-ebook/dp/B009JYLC7I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351607797&sr=8-1&keywords=soul+asylum+c+l+raven

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/241093

Soul Asylum Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Soul Asylum C L RavenThe screams of the damned penetrated his tortured mind. Black smoke choked him, stinging his eyes until scalding tears left tracks through his grimy skin. Gasping for oxygen only caused him to inhale more of the smoke until his throat was raw, as though Satan’s talons were gripping it. He stumbled blindly on. He could hear the fire crackling nearby, but the fiery threat remained invisible. Like a nightmare hiding just beyond the veil of consciousness. Glass shattered around him as windows exploded like souls fleeing their hosts. A place once so familiar was now a terrifying labyrinth of darkness and smoke, each corridor leading to death. More screams pierced the gloom. Somebody crashed into him and he plummeted down the stairs, falling deeper into the abyss. Here, the heat was intense, suffocating. His broken body fought for breath as the fire caressed his skin.

I wrenched my hand from the headstone and opened my eyes. Rain danced on my skin, kissing my face and bouncing off the gravestone.

CYNFAEL SMITH

1864-1904

My fingers traced the weathered letters of his name. I closed my eyes. He lay curled up on the burning stairs, his lungs filled with deadly smoke as the fire consumed his body. Screaming and sobbing failed to drown the fire’s roar as it raced through the corridors, its need for life insatiable.

I lowered my hand. The clouds wept invisible tears for another life lost. I scanned the graveyard; every grave was old and forgotten. I walked among them, my black trilby hat keeping the rain from my pale grey eyes. As I passed the headstones, my hands remained by my sides. Today, I didn’t crave death. They could keep their play of horrors.

The ground was soft beneath my bare feet, my toes sinking into the slick mud, the grass pricking my frigid skin. I was careful not to step on any of the graves. Time had merged them with the ground like one plague pit and nobody cared enough to stop it. Least of all me. Smoke embraced the graves. The headstones and the black skeleton of a tree were the only objects visible.

I reached a black and silver Rover P4 and ran my fingers over its sleek body. Rain drops bounced off its glistening paint. My feet crunched on the wet gravel. Sixty years ago there had been a well-tended grass and flower patch in the centre of the drive. Now it was overgrown with trees. I glanced back towards the graves. They were shrouded by the smoke, but I could still see the skeletal tree.

The chapel stood forlorn in the distance. Phantom organ music haunted the graveyard. A large stone asylum rose majestically to greet me. It couldn’t decide whether it was brown or grey. Two large gargoyles guarded either side of the double oak doors. Above the door was a worn stone sign that used to proudly declare “Ravens Retreat.” I ascended the wide steps, flanked by peeling wrought iron. Decades ago, flowers had separated the steps into two stairways. Now they had been combined. I walked up another three steps and pushed the left door. It creaked open, revealing darkness.

The lights flickered and sizzled. The dark wooden floor gleamed in the meagre light. I ran my toes over it, liking the smoothness against my skin. A grand staircase to my left beckoned and I obeyed, my hand gliding up the banister. The stairs creaked. I stopped. The lights continued to flicker. The front door opened slowly, the old iron hinges protesting. It slammed shut. I scanned the hall.

I was alone.

I hurried down and slid the bolt locks in place. A door upstairs closed, keys jangling as it was locked.

I shivered and continued upstairs. Squeaking wheels echoed along the corridor. I turned the corner, but saw nothing. The squeaking stopped. I edged forward, fingertips brushing the brown and white tiles on the walls. Squeak, squeak, squeak. I stopped. So did the noise. I closed my eyes. When I opened them, an old wheelchair sat in the middle of the corridor. I looked around but I was alone. The wheelchair trundled towards me. I stepped aside to let it pass. As it reached me, it vanished.

I made my way to the master bedroom. The black four-poster bed stood in the red room. Thick black curtains danced in the breeze. I crossed to the window and shut it. I didn’t remember opening it. I stared out over the graveyard, the graves almost invisible beneath the smoke’s cold cloak.

Downstairs another door slammed. Running footsteps on the stairs. I tensed. A door banged. I snuck from the room and heard the sound of running water. Edging a short way down the corridor, I hesitated at the bathroom door, gripping the cool handle. The gushing water was taunting me. I tried the doorknob. The door swung open. The shower was running. I leaned over the bath and switched it off. As I reached the door, the tap squeaked as it switched back on. I turned it off then gripped it.

I would not lose this fight.

I released the tap and left the room, waiting outside the door. Nothing. A smile played on my lips as I returned to my bedroom. I sat on the bed and removed my hat, tossing it towards the throne on the other side of the room. It landed on one of the tall sides and spun around before coming to a rest. Music started. Muse’s ‘Hysteria’ blared through the asylum, shattering the silence. I closed my eyes. The music grew louder. I covered my ears, my ear drums pounding. I shot off the bed, ran down the landing, flung open one of the doors and entered another bedroom. It was almost barren, painted grey with a single metal bed and a bedside cabinet. There used to be two other beds in here. They wouldn’t allow the male staff to sleep two to a room. I guess if the patients couldn’t control themselves, why should the staff?

The radio looked out of place on the cabinet. I switched it off. It immediately turned back on.

A figure huddled in the corner of the room, rocking back and forth and whimpering. Footsteps echoed through the room and a young male attendant entered, dressed in black. Trousers, waistcoat and a coat, which only had the top brass button done up. The collar of a white shirt peeked out. His peaked hat was askew.

“You shouldn’t be in here, John. These are the staff’s quarters.” The key chain from his pocket clanked. They looked more like prison warders than attendants.

“Get away from me!” John shoved him over then bolted from the room.

He swiftly rose and shadowed him. They ran down the corridor towards the end wall. They ran straight through it and disappeared.

Leaving me alone with the asylum’s memory.

I heard a car approaching. I hurried downstairs. I slid back the bolt and opened the door. An old bright green Beetle parked beside the Rover. I watched a young man exiting the car carrying a rucksack. He peered through the Rover’s windows. He seemed to sense me watching him because he whirled around, startled. I closed the door. The gravel betrayed his footsteps. His knock echoed around the asylum. I waited then opened it.

I looked past him to the falling rain. His Beetle was the only source of colour in the dismal surroundings. The driveway stretched on forever, the black gates barely visible in the gloom. Just inside the gates, a grey building, newer than this one, was partially concealed by a hedge. A light shone in the downstairs window. I hadn’t switched it on.

Thunder rumbled in the bowels of the clouds. Lightning flashed once like a dying bulb. I heard a flap of wings as a raven landed on one of the gargoyles. The lantern above it had gone out. The raven cawed a warning, its round black eyes fixated on this stranger. It shook its wet feathers then took flight, its wings beating the air. From the roof, another raven answered, sparking a fierce debate with the ravens guarding the tree. I listened, but their plotting remained a secret. Inside the asylum I heard footsteps in the corridor upstairs. The wood creaked. Footsteps ran down the stairs and I shivered.

“I’m here for the tour,” the stranger spoke, looking past me. “I’m from the paper. Mason Strider. We spoke on the phone. Thank you for fitting me in at such short notice.”

I read his ID card. He was twenty-five, two years older than me. He adjusted his rucksack, his clothes soaking.

“You’re not on my list. And we’ve never spoken. I didn’t invite you.”

“Is it alright if I come in? I need to sort my equipment out. It’s freezing out here.”

I opened the door further and allowed him to enter. He surveyed the hall uneasily. A door up ahead opened and I gestured for him to follow me through it, into the dining room. A long table stood in the centre with ten chairs surrounding it. He placed his rucksack on the table and unzipped it. The chair to my right scraped back. I seated myself at the head of the table, watching him empty his bag: a digital voice recorder, camera, a video camera, notebook, pen and a torch. A nurse dragged the voice recorder towards her. I reached out and stopped it. Mason looked alarmed then laughed.

“That was good. Did you use magnets?” He checked under the table.

“No.”

“I know you claim this place is haunted.” He was looking at the empty chair to my right.

“I didn’t use magnets.” I resented his accusing tone.

“You can save the tricks for the tour. You don’t have to entertain me.”

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who doubt, no proof is enough.”

I watched him intently and released the DVR. It stayed put. Upstairs a floorboard groaned. Mason glanced up. A door shut. Keys locked it.

“You live alone?” He asked.

“The living don’t stay here very long.”

I stood up and closed the black curtains, blocking out the light. Mason began writing in his notebook. After a few minutes, he asked if I had anything to drink. I fetched him some water then retreated to my seat. He asked how to spell my name so I took his notebook and pen, making him jump. I wrote Phineas Soul on his page and handed it back. I watched a lady collect a bowl from the other end of the table and carry it behind me into the kitchen. The door opened and closed soundlessly, swallowing her into its silence.

“When my editor told me he wanted me to write a piece on Soul Searching, I thought he meant inner peace rubbish, not a ghost hunting tour. When does it start?”

I exhaled deeply. “One hour.”

“When was this place built?”

“Building started in 1844. It opened 1848. It was the only asylum for North Wales. Before, patients were sent to England. Which wasn’t helpful since most of them couldn’t speak English.”

The overhead lights flickered. Mason blinked as they came on. Voices. Whispering. He crossed to the door and opened it. The hall was deserted. He closed it and returned to the table. The kitchen door opened. Faint sweeping footsteps passed behind him. He jumped at the noise of cutlery being dropped on the table. He glanced at the end of the table. Empty.

First impressions – the asylum is huge and creepy. Lights flicker, there seems to be someone else in the house. Footsteps, doors opening and closing, standard stuff, the DVR moved but I didn’t see any magnets. Thought I heard whispering. There’re strange noises like someone preparing the table for dinner, could be a recording. Tour is in 1 hr but there seems to be no preparation.

I watched Mason write. The nurse at the end of the table was laying cutlery in front of the chairs. Dinnertime in the house of wolves. Mason glanced up as the lights flickered then died. Sighing, I opened the curtains. The rain was reflected on the table in large drops. I could feel the storm as though it was brewing in my mind. The thunder comforted me.

“If it wasn’t raining, I’d take you to see the graveyard,” I murmured. “It’s very beautiful.”

He glanced out the window. “You have a graveyard! It’s not an ancient Indian burial ground is it?”

“This is North Wales, not America.”

“Who supposedly haunts this place? The people in the graveyard?”

“Everyone who died in this asylum.”

“I was told there’s a poltergeist.”

I could see the staff and patients but not the poltergeist he referred to. Maybe some things weren’t meant to be seen.

“He’s not a poltergeist. He’s an unwanted guest who refuses to leave.”

Running footsteps upstairs. Somewhere in the asylum’s twisted heart, someone screamed.

Soul Asylum’s book trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKUWT7rr_FU

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Soul-Asylum-ebook/dp/B009JYLC7I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351544710&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/Soul-Asylum-ebook/dp/B009JYLC7I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351544780&sr=8-1&keywords=soul+asylum+cl+raven

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/241093

Beyond the Grave

the Skirrid InnLast night we spent the night ghost hunting at the Skirrid Inn with Beyond the Grave Tours. It was a return to our roots episode as it was during the Beyond the Grave tour of Ruthin Gaol that kickstarted the abysmal show that is Calamityville Horror. We only nearly got lost a couple of times but made it there with plenty of time to spare. For the record, the blame lies entirely with AA route planner. It told us to take the first exit at one roundabout, sending us to police headquarters. Can’t help thinking this was planned. What it actually meant was second exit. At the final roundabout, it told us to take the fourth exit. But what it meant was third exit. What fools to misunderstand!

We arrived early then Cat embarrassed herself by being unable to open the door that led to the room where all the guests were gathered. So we stayed outside for a bit, sitting in the corner of the Inn like naughty children. We eventually walked in and the tour guides immediately recognised us from Ruthin Gaol. Guess showing up half an hour late in a cloud of rage sticks in people’s minds.

We started the night with a group vigil in bedroom one. There were 19 other guests and 4 tour guides. Some of the guests claimed to be sensitive and were doing the whole Derek Acorah thing of ‘I’m getting a…’ then giving a name. Where were they getting these names? Wikipedia? Lance was one. Lance? Really? We’re in WALES, love. They don’t name people Lance here. Strange how the ones who claimed to be sensitive were also the only ones getting ‘harassed’ by the spirits. Some girls beside us kept complaining their legs were cold, like someone was sitting on them. We were sitting perfectly still for an hour. Of course your legs were cold! The blood flow had  stopped and the room wasn’t heated! Someone else complained they were itchy. Buy a flea collar. We itch all the time. It’s not ghosts harassing us, it’s the cats letting us know we’ve forgotten their Frontline. Ryan said at one point he felt like crying. Guess we should lay off the teasing. One guest said she was feeling angry. We were annoyed but that was nothing to do with picking up on the spirits’ energy, it was just the other guests getting on our nerves. If there was a child spirit touching the girls beside us, why didn’t it come to us? If you look up  ‘child-friendly’ in the dictionary, you’d find our scowling faces with a speech bubble “tell your kids to shut up.”

Two guides were heading out to the cemetery. We went with them. So did everyone else, much to our annoyance. We were hoping the freezing temperatures and midnight hour would scare them off. We left them standing round a gravestone while we explored the graveyard, hunting for the grave of Fanny Price, who supposedly haunts the Inn. Fanny Price's graveThen some girls started screaming and legged it. What did we do? Rush the spot that frightened them. Most Haunted have nothing on us. They claimed they saw a shadow by a tree. Ummmm Lynx had her big external camera light on and was moving around. The likelihood is she projected Cat or Ryan’s shadow onto the tree as we were skulking around the graves like Goth versions of Burke and Hare. It wasn’t a ghost, ladies, it was simple shadow play.

We shook off the group and ventured around the other side of the church. Cat found herself standing on a grave, turned around- Fanny Price’s grave! We decided to do an EVP session there but spent most of the time making jokes at the expense of her name. For our American friends, ‘fanny’ is slang for ‘vagina’. Yes, we are professionals 😀 In the Most Haunted episode we watched Thursday night, friend of the show, Derek Acorah, claimed to have a vision of 4 Price graves and a blank one. There were 4 Price graves, but the ‘blank’ one belong to Charles Warren. Come on Derek, that was clearer than Catherine Price’s engravings. What you should’ve said was “I know there are 4 Price graves but the production crew didn’t gibe me the name on the headstone next to them.”

Anyhoo, during our EVP session, we noticed how quiet the graveyard was. It was midnight, 0 degrees and everyone else had buggered off back to the Inn. We were completely alone. FINALLY! At one point we asked Fanny to give us a sign she was there and a huge gust of wind buffeted us. We’re putting it down to the weather conditions. That or she was  really fed up with the ‘Is Willy in here?’ jokes.

We returned to the Inn to find ourselves locked out. Guess Fanny wasn’t the only one who was sick of us 😀 We took one of the guides, Darran, back to the cemetery to show him the grave. Yes, we dragged a stranger into a pitch black cemetery at midnight. Hell, on Monday we got into a stranger’s car in a secluded wooded lay-by. We flaunt the horror film rules here at Casa Raven. Then we locked ourselves in the storeroom where the condemned prisoners were apparently kept. Nothing paranormal, unless you find boxes of cups terrifying, though Lynx did headbutt a candleholder. Then we headed up to the attic where Lynx knocked over a sign that squashed her toe. By now everyone else was doing a vigil in the bar. So we headed to room 2, apparently the most haunted room. A planchette was set up so we wanted to test our theory that it’s always someone in the group responsible for moving it. We all lightly touched it. As predicted, it didn’t move once, despite us willing it to spell out ‘Ryan is a jerk’. He just doesn’t believe us so spirit confirmation would’ve been epic. C.A.T.S using a planchetteWe then ended our vigil in that room with an impromptu dance session before moving on to room 3. Despite there being 19 other guests, we managed to spend the entire night alone. It was amazing! Room 3, which is supposedly haunted by Fanny, wasn’t very interesting so we headed back down for Red Bull. One of the guests asked us if we’d been bouncing on the beds as they could hear banging when they were downstairs doing their vigil. Bouncing on the beds? Did he think C.A.T.S would be that unprofessional? Excuse us, but we were doing Calamityville Horror, Gangnam style. Forgot they had cameras set up.

After the refreshments, everyone was supposed to gather upstairs for a last group vigil. We went to the bar to our own, using Ryan’s iOvilus. We put the iOvilus inside the tankard apparently used to offer ale to the devil. Sadly it didn’t offer to make us rulers of Hell but came out with a bunch of random words, our favourites being ‘their blood’. We were joined by Jason, who was helping out and when we were telling him about Fanny’s grave, one of the K2 meters started reacting. So we tried having a conversation with her, even resorting to taunting her about standing on her grave. It did react but not very strongly.

We returned upstairs and Ryan dared Cat to walk through the pitch black room one  by herself and go down to the bathroom where a woman claimed a spirit tried to drown her. Like that was a challenge! Shrugging, Cat set off by herself. Seconds later there was a thud followed by a ‘crap!’ as she fell down the top step of the bathroom stairs, much to Lynx and Ryan’s delight. We left the Inn at 3:20 and in true Calamityville style, took the wrong road home and ended up on a road we couldn’t get off, heading for England. Luckily it turned off to Raglan. We arrived home at 4. Ryan went straight to bed. We were up feeding the cats and telling our mum about our adventures (the Raven family don’t sleep much) so didn’t get to bed til 4:35. Still awake at 5:15 then were up at 8 (rare  lie in) to feed and clean out our pets, our neighbour’s pets and our  sisters’ pets. Everyone’s gone away! Ryan surfaced at 11:30. Lightweight.

We had an amazing time and would love to do it again. Though if Beyond the Grave see our dance off, this might be the last time we’re allowed on a vigil. *swinging lassos* Calamityville Gangnam style.noose at the Skirrid Inn

Stone Age

Yesterday we arranged to meet up with someone we met online and a stranger, at Chippenham train station. We then followed them to a secluded lay-by hidden from the road by a line of trees, where lorries usually stop. We then abandoned Ryan’s car and got into the stranger’s car. No, this wasn’t the beginning of a horror film murder plot, but the next episode of Calamityville Horror.

StonehengeOur lovely American FB friend, Janette, is doing a tour of Europe and Stonehenge was one of the destinations she had planned. She kindly invited us along. We’ve never been to Stonehenge. Lynx thought it was north England, Cat thought it was east, Ryan thought it was London way. Turned out it was 2 hours from Cardiff in a straight line. However did we pass Geography? Mum warned us to leave well in advance as Janette’s train was reaching Chippenham at 10:45. We left at 9:15, not considering the M4 traffic. We reached the station at 10:45. Perfecto! We met Janette and our tour guide for the day, Peter Knight of Stone Seekers Tours http://www.stoneseeker.net/, outside the train station. Janette gave us this beautiful black sequin and skull choker necklace she’d made. She makes stunning jewellery under the name Alchemy Divine. http://www.etsy.com/shop/AlchemyDivineLook her up, people. We followed them to the above mentioned lay-by and left Helena among the lorries as we got into Peter’s car for the tour. We had perfect weather – heavy mist. It made Stonehenge really atmospheric and it meant not a lot of people were around, which is always good. Calamityville is a budget operation and we can’t afford extras 😀

Cat and Janette both had a go at using Peter’s dowsing rods on one of the laylines around Stonehenge. They didn’t react with Cat at all. Though we are about as spiritual and sensitive as wooden shoes. Maybe the gods sensed Cat was a higher power and were hiding. Or they were terrified of her neon tights. Unfortunately we were kept at bay from the monument by ropes over a hundred foot away, which was a shame. They obviously knew Ryan was going and thought he’d trip over and sent the whole thing flying like dominoes. Boy would the ancestors be pissed! StonehengeWe bought a cute cuddly raven in the shop. We’ve named him Allan. He now sits on our ancient typewriter in our summerhouse next to our crow with the light up eyes, Draven. The K2 didn’t react at all in Stonehenge, but maybe we weren’t close enough to it. There was a priestess there with a staff which apparently gives people visions. A lady was holding it, eyes shut. Then her phone started ringing. And ringing. And ringing. Maybe it was the spirits communicating using modern technology, though we suspect it was her husband.

Next we moved onto Avebury and found a cafe that did vegan chocolate cake! We were brave and tried some, for the first time. It was lovely so we bought an extra two slices to bring home for our mum, who was babysitting the Animal Army. We moved on to the ancient stones in a field surrounded by sheep. They ignored us. According to our fancy new thermometer gun, the stones were exactly one degree colder than the ground. Interesting…if only we knew why. Probably the stones can’t retain heat. We crossed the road to more stones. AveburyThese ones had faces, which were cool, especially the skull stone. There were a lot of phallic shaped stones. Clearly the goddesses had a sense of humour. Then three people joined us. One guy moved far to our left, one stood in front of us and the woman stood right behind us. Cat and Ryan became convinced we were about to become the targets of a pickpocket gang. Cat protected her bags and turned so she could see the two people by us and Lynx, who was filming & completely oblivious. Cat was preparing herself for a superhero style take down with fancy moves and inventive use of the K2 and temperature gun should they move in and Ryan gripped his Steadicam to ready it as an anti-pickpocket weapon. Turned out they just wanted to join in our tour. Whoops.

Next was West Kennet Barrow – a burial chamber on top of a hill. Peter brought his drum with him – he does trance drumming evenings at these places with groups of people – and apparently the last time, 2 ladies brought a K2 and it reacted during the drumming. The burial chamber was really cool, with little chambers leading off it. West Kennet BarrowAt the far end, we put the K2 on the floor against the skull stone while Peter drummed. The K2 didn’t react. There were 2 couples there who joined us to listen to the drumming. Think they were meditating. We told them our K2 was professional because it had ‘The Ghost Meter’ written on it. Don’t think this convinced them. Clearly, once again, the spirits were avoiding us as no amount of drumming convinced them to come forwards. Then he stopped and stood in the corner with his back to us in complete silence. Think he might’ve been willing the spirits through. The K2 was still silent. It was the machine’s equivalent to a person folding their arms and saying ‘make me’. The whole chamber was in total silence for what felt like forever but might have been five minutes. It was…awkward. Painful, almost. Even we were willing the K2 to flash or bleep, just the once to break the heavy atmosphere. Did it come to our rescue? No it didn’t. It seemed to be enjoying the uncomfortable situation. Peter suggested maybe because the last time happened at night that there were different energies. Maybe. But our K2 does work in the dark. As we investigated the other chambers, we could hear some unearthly noises and thought maybe the spirits had made an appearance after all. Turned out one of the couples were chanting and playing some sort of instrument. The spirits were obviously out to lunch.

We learned so much – Peter was a great guide who certainly knew his stuff. Had we gone alone, it would’ve been an episode filled with us wandering around groping some stones. Actually, that did happen. One stone had carvings that represented a clitoris. We have photos of Ryan stroking it. Hell, we all touched it. First time for everything. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting Janette – she is one of the nicest, kindest people we’ve met in real life and we’re so glad she invited us. We never thought we’d get to fulfil our ambition to meet some of our American FB friends but now we have 🙂 We returned to the lay-by to find Helena in one piece so us and Janette found a nice pub in Chippenham for a meal and a lively discussion about British and American politics. And you thought we were just idiots with a camera 😉

Calamityville Horror at Stonehenge

The Next Big Thing 2

We’ve been tagged in The Next Big Thing again! Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to answer the questions then tag some other bloggers. This post will self-destruct in 5…4…3…2…1 and like all action films, we’ve diffused it at one second remaining.

What is the working title of your book?

Scott the Zombie. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Plus we couldn’t think of a better one. Hell it worked for Jane Eyre.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
We were watching 28 Weeks Later a couple of years ago and although we thought it was a great film, we couldn’t help thinking that all zombie films are the same. Zombies go on the rampage, a group of survivors band together, lock themselves in somewhere and try to survive, usually by making their way to a safe haven. We thought ‘what if there was a functioning zombie?’ So we wrote a short story, Parliament of Monsters, which is about a talk show for supernatural creatures. There’s a zombie, Scott, a vampire, Vincent, a shapeshifter, Lola, a werepanther, Ethan, a ghost, Ceri and Frankenstein’s Monster, Mike. The host, Delilah, is a succubus. We loved the story and Scott so much we turned it into a novel. Ceri is actually a cross over character from another short story & novel, Field of Screams.
What genre does your book fall under?
The new, exciting and probably made up genre, ZomCom.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Michael Trevino

Michael Trevino for Tyler

Scott’s best mate, Tyler,could be played by Michael Trevino, who plays Tyler in the Vampire Diaries. Ethan is six foot five, muscly with very short dark hair and is gorgeous. Maybe Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He’s hot.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Jonathan Rhys Meyers for Ethan

As for Scott, it’d have to be someone who isn’t bad looking, but maybe a bit funny looking. Scott’s not a drop dead hotty, despite what he thinks.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Life doesn’t stop just because you’re dead.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published. Our recent foray into self-publishing has resulted in The Big Six fighting to sign us. The bidding was into 7 figures last time we heard and we’re terrible at making decisions so we’re going to stick with self-publishing while they battle it out in a death match.
If you want a more honest answer, self-published. We’re control freaks and self-publishing means we can have everything our own way. That and there’s no way a publisher would take this novel. It’s too different.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Six weeks.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Twenty Eight Weeks Later.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Although Scott is a functioning zombie, he still eats brains – not flesh like modern zombies. So there’s none of that ‘vegetarian vampire’ crap. When he realised he’d have to eat people to survive he made a list of everyone he hated enough to eat. He was surprised how long it was. Some he never saw coming! But he believes he’s civilized because he cooks his brains in a microwave and has them with meals. He also sets traps to catch his prey and likes the brains of intelligent or creative people. He hates people who watch mindless reality TV shows because it makes their brains taste like cardboard. The vampire in our story does sparkle, BUT only because Tyler plays a prank on him & covers him in glitter. Scott works in a supermarket and dreams of having a franchise created for him with comics, films, merchandise and crazed fans. But he’s a bit of a loser, though he’s the only one who doesn’t see that. He believes he’s the best thing to happen to zombies since George A Romero started making films. Shame he can’t tie his laces.
our victims, uh, chosen ones to accept this mission are:
Ryan Burt
Cinta Garcia de la Rosa
Gena Mantz
Deborah Dalton
Lacey Wolfe

American Idiot

Green Day's American Idiot musicalLast night we went to see Green Day’s American Idiot musical. It was amazing! Beyond amazing! It’s the best thing we’ve done all year. And we’ve done a LOT. We thought there would be loads of goth/punk types there and were prepared to death stare them into oblivion for out gothing us. No. There were a couple but we were the most dressed up, as usual. Our chunky knuckleduster and chain boots put everyone’s to SHAME! 😀

We’d never been to the Millennium Centre before so were really nervous. Inside it was stunning. We couldn’t stop stroking all the different textures and art displays. Everyone else was in the bar or the foyer, acting like they were in an airport. We were wandering around, mouths open like gasping fish. At one point we discovered the ridged door pads sounded like washboards when you ran your nails up and down them so we stood there for a bit making music. Then some guy walked past and stared at us. Move on, nothing to see here. Then we discovered a mirror with patterns over it so were stroking it to see if we could feel the ridges. The same guy walked past. Seriously? Can’t we stroke a building in peace? Beginning to see why Ryan is embarrassed by us…

We’d forgotten which tickets we’d booked, as we bought them in December. Turned out, it was front row centre. We got all excited when the usher told us that. She must’ve thought we were mad. We were trying to persuade Ryan to get up and do his pelvic thrust dance to entertain the masses before the show started. Think he was tempted. Especially in the interval. We were hoping he’d get up on stage, start dancing then the curtain would go up & he’d be stuck in the performance. No such luck. Turned out, one of the guys did Ryan’s dance. Ryan was gutted at his missed opportunity. We didn’t know what to expect as our only experience of musicals is Rocky Horror. We somehow doubted the cast would be dancing around in basques and suspenders. Though it was close.

The whole show was incredible. As huge Green Day fans, we were worried about them doing the songs justice but bloody hell, they did. The cast were amazing, full credit to them. We’ve never been more in love with the American Idiot album than we were last night. The choreography was brilliant! Especially where they were using fire escapes and scaffolding to dance on and didn’t fall off. And they were even playing their own guitars (we watched the strings). Alyssa DiPalma who played Whatsername even dressed like us 😀 It was amazing how much Alex Nee, who played Johnny looked like Billie Joe Armstrong. And we got to see him in just his pants! Which was very nice of him. Ryan wasn’t too keen on him standing right up front in his just his grey shorts but Johnny was just giving the people what they wanted. And if we ever have the fortune to meet him, the ice is already broken. We can be like ‘we’ve already seen you in your pants, you have nothing to worry about.’ C L Raven, making hotties uncomfortable since records began.Green Day's American Idiot musical

The set was fantastic. We particularly loved the way they lowered the scaffolding while Johnny and Tunney (Thomas Hettrick) were top of it and turned it into their bus. The storyline was superb, you really feel the characters’ pain and disillusionment as their lives fall apart in front of them and they begin to lose not only their friends, but their dreams and even themselves. We couldn’t pick a favourite scene, it was all brilliant. Normally our attentions spans are quite short, we get bored and fidget. We sat there, completely rigid for the whole thing. Which just proves how good it was. We had to resist the urge to air guitar to American Idiot. It was the first song and we weren’t fully comfortable in our surroundings. Had it come at the end, we would’ve been air guitaring and head banging with the best of them.

The cast which includes Casey o’Farrell as Will, Kennedy Caughell as his girlfriend, Heather and the rest of the cast, Aurie Ceylon, Carson Higgins, Antwaun Holley, Daniel C. Jackson,  Brandon Kalm, John Krause, Alison Morooney, Turner Rouse Jr, Jamal Shuriah, Dustin Harris Smith, Ashley Tobias, Chelsea Turbin and Jared Young all deserved the  standing ovation we gave them. St Jimmy (Trent Saunders) looked directly at us two and did devil horns! \m/ \m/ yes we got devil horned by St Jimmy himself! Sadly, we were so enraptured, our response was too slow and we didn’t devil horn him back. Bugger! THEN after the encore, the girl who played Tunney’s girlfriend – Extraordinary Girl (Jenna Rubii) (who did an amazing flying dance routine) came right to the front of the stage and gave Cat her plectrum! Then St Jimmy tossed his to Lynx! We got plectrums off the cast! Haven’t stopped smiling about that. They’re on our bedside cabinets, where they’ll stay forever. The only bad thing about the musical? That we don’t have tickets for every night. 

plectrums from American Idiot musical

Decent Exposure

We are VERY excited today. Fangirl excited because for the first time, the lovely, witty, awesome Anya Breton is visiting Ravens Retreat! We’ve got the fancy chocolate and orange soda ready. We’ve followed Anya for a while now on Twitter and we love her. She’s always entertaining us with funny tweets, conversations she has with her guy, and not to mention her wonderful blog, which hosts Monday Beauties, Friday Hotties, cover reveals and plenty more great stuff. She only has one fault – she rarely promotes her excellent work. In fact, it wasn’t ’til we saw her review of GDR on Goodreads that we found out she was a writer. With ten novels published. We bought the first one – Lore vs the Summoning and LOVED it. Since then, she’s also released her fabulous erotic series, Randy’s Diner and now she has the Hex Appeal series. The first book is Alpha Exposed. We bought it immediately. She also has another book out this month, which we’re very excited about.

In order to win a copy of Alpha Exposed, all you have to do is caption this pic of the hottie (who is the inspiration behind Dion in Alpha Exposed). You can enter multiple times and you have a week to come up with the best caption.

Alpha Exposed Anya BretonHere’s the blurb for Alpha Exposed:
When Samantha’s sister goes missing, all signs point to supernatural
foul play. Her fellow Air witches won’t help, leaving her with one
miserable choice—to beg for assistance from Dion Hebert, the odious
weretiger Alpha she shot down months ago. In front of his pack. What’s
a witch to do?

Dion can’t believe Samantha has the nerve to come begging after she
humiliated him in front of half the supernatural Underground. He
agrees to help in exchange for the one thing he’s always
wanted—Samantha Avira. Naked. Wrapped around him in every delectable
position he can imagine. But since the witch humiliated him
publically, Dion wants the sex to be public too.

The thought of getting naked with Dion turns Samantha on, as much as
she tries to deny it. The thought of getting naked with him in front
of everyone leaves her part aroused and part horrified. When Dion
makes good on his end of the bargain, Samantha’s deepest, darkest
desires are unleashed. And the result is pure, sexy magic that can’t
be tamed.

Excerpt is here: http://www.jasminejade.com/productspecs/9781419941016.htm

Buy links:
Ellora’s Cave http://www.jasminejade.com/p-10416-alpha-exposed.aspx
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alpha-Exposed-Hex-Appeal-ebook/dp/B009M4YYZW/
Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Alpha-Exposed-Hex-Appeal-ebook/dp/B009M4YYZW/

My links:
Web site – http://blog.anyabreton.com/
Twitter – http://twitter.com/AnyaBreton
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/anyabretonauthor

Click on the books below to buy

Time's Daughter Anya BretonLore vs the Summoning Anya BretonRandy's Diner K's Awakening Anya Breton

The Price Isn’t Right

We were going to do a blog post about how it feels to be published novelists, now Soul Asylum’s been out a week, but something else has cropped up, so we’ll just sum up the feelings now. Nothing’s changed. The paper spread hasn’t increased sales AT ALL and we were in two papers with a combined circulation of 50,000 and online. So that hasn’t worked. We’ve had fun doing a mini blog tour that stretched from England to America to Spain. You can read them all in our shiny new section, Visiting Times. Has our life changed? Not at all. Have we been stopped in Tescos? No. We usually are – old ladies love us and always stop us to tell us how fantastic we look 😀 Have we been given star treatment? No. In fact, we received rather shoddy treatment in Cardiff Library by one member of staff who felt the genealogy she was helping a woman with, was more important than helping us. She didn’t even ask us what we wanted and we were standing in front of her for a good few minutes. At one point, she looked up then went back to her project. We were brought up not to interrupt, so we waited. In the end, a guy from another desk at the other end of the floor, saw us and came to help. All we wanted was some newspapers which were only four feet away from the woman. It wouldn’t have taken much for her to get up, fetch the papers and hand them to us. Then when we had the nerve to ask for another one, she made us wait then summoned the guy to fetch it for us. Thank god she wasn’t wearing a ‘happy to help’ badge, or we could’ve sued her under the Trades Description Act.

On to the real topic – Createspace. On Thursday, we received our proof print copy of Disenchanted. We were so excited, we immediately photographed it and texted it to our lovely cover artist, Lizzie Rose. We couldn’t stop hugging it all day. We read it to check for mistakes then approved the proof. But our issue is with the pricing. Createspace tell you the least you’re allowed to sell it for, which for Disenchanted was £4 odd then they calculate your royalties depending on the price you set – the list price. If you sell directly through the Createspace store, they only take a 20% cut off your list price. Amazon takes 40%. If you opt for Extended Distribution, which is some bookshops and libraries in the USA, they take 60% and you have to pay $25/£15 for the privilege. We opted out. Especially after the announcement that Barnes and Noble won’t stock books by Amazon and we would’ve only received 8 cents. We’ve set the price for £5.99, which is higher than we wanted to charge, but it only gives us a royalty of 60p per copy. We weren’t too bothered, as we figured if we were with a traditional publisher, that’s the price it would be in bookshops and that’s the royalty we’d receive.

The problem is Soul Asylum. In bookshops, novels are £7.99. However, Createspace say the least we can sell it for is £7.77. Setting the price for £7.99 earns us the princely sum of 13p per copy. That’s not even 10%. Quite frankly, it’s insulting. However to get a royalty of 73p per copy, we’d have to set the price at £8.99. Which is higher than you’d pay in a bookshop. We don’t feel comfortable about charging this much.

Createspace work out your royalties like this: list price – cost to produce book + their share = your royalties. Their share includes a fixed charge + a price per page charge, which varies according to book size. Obviously they have to make money too, but really, where’s the harm in splitting it as list price – cost to produce book then split the remainder 50/50? After all, we’re the ones who’ve done all the work. They’ve done nothing except provide the templates. Ryan and Lizzie have done the covers and we’ve typeset the interior. Soul Asylum’s was a pain. They only provide you with ten chapters. Soul Asylum has 50. So it screwed up all the page numbers and took us hours to correct it. We deserve more than 13p for that stress alone.

But we have a way around this. Most of our readers/Facebook & Twitter friends are in America and several have said they want signed copies.  So we’ve ordered a batch of Disenchanted that we can sign and ship over. As authors, if we buy direct from Createspace, we only pay the cost of producing the book, plus shipping fees. The more you order, the cheaper per copy it is to ship. So we figured if we do this then sell the books ourselves, we can then sell it cheaper than the list price, yet earn more than the royalty we’d receive from Createspace. Is this making sense? Also the bigger royalties are in ebooks, providing you set your price above $2.99 then you earn 70%. There’s no reason why Createspace can’t do this. After all, we’re basically just using them to print the books and sell them on Amazon.

So do we set Soul Asylum at £7.99 to gain readers, yet only earn 13p? Or do we overcharge at £8.99 to earn 73p? If the jump in royalties wasn’t so great, we’d happily set it at £7.99. But it’s a hell of a leap. After all, as much as we love writing, we want to make a living from it. Yet we also want readers. We think we’re going to have to go with pricing it at £7.99. We don’t want to apologise to our buyers for pricing it higher than a bookshop would. We can make up the difference by selling the books ourselves. As for making a living…does anyone need seating arrangements for meetings? We also do buffets, parties and funerals.