Tuesday 7 January 2014

Once it flew

... a short story dedicated to Joanne Harris.

Once it flew

She found the Small Thing in the old glasshouse.

She hadn't meant to go poking around the wrecked square of Victoriana but a scent enticed her. A sharp, almost lemony scent, such as coriander seed or the first squirt of oil from the skin of a satsuma. It sang in a bright tremolo.

'Help me.'

Her nostrils pulled to the rectangle of rotted wood and scant grey panes. The smell soared above the expected ground of mould, fern-seed and neglected terracotta. Ghost odours lingered. Canna lily and those puffed-up blooms with gaudy spots that should have been the coxcombs of dragons. She tasted galvanised watering can and frog breath in the chord, and the soft harmony of pigeon nests.

But it was that sharp scent that stung her sinuses, that caught her attention like licking across a battery top.

Spiderwebs rounded the corners of the few remaining panes in grey and sagging lace.The weavers squatted in tunnels: wary dark blotches, waiting. Along a flagged path, and across a brick-lined sump, curtainy threads twisted on a window-ledge. The smell pinched her septum and dragged her like a small bull.

She skirted the shrunken boards over the rainwater store and narrowed herself away from the splintered shelving. Pot shards ground beneath her boots and squealed with burnt orange voices. But the urgent panicky reek tugged her forwards. Some harsh and wild tone like the songs of the Northern Dales called her.

The web ahead rippled. At the edge, black and hairy legs twitched, eager and percussive. In the middle, wings fluttered. Scales, more precious than begonia seed, danced to the vibrato of the air.

She tore away the gluey skeins. Too late. The antennae of the Small Thing drooped and its scent faded to a sad musk.

It blinked its bilberry eyes at her and pleaded with notes of bergamot.

'I can no longer fly - learn my song.'

She bent her head and let the amber music in.

Tuesday 17 December 2013


A short story for the Christmas season.

Mr Aloysuis Greaves fondles a long slender glove. The satin catches on the rough skin of his fingers. His nose draws in the leftover evening scent and his breathing halts. Over watery pupils, his eyelids close, thick with lashes. The tufted eyebrows lift with pleasure.

      With trembling lips, he kisses the smooth fabric, then lays it down on the cheap second-hand bedside cabinet. He smooths out the glove with his palms, makes it into a flat black shadow of his Julianna. Wiping his brilliantined hair back from his forehead, Mr Aloysuis says good night to his first love as he has for thirty years.

       He switches off the light and waits to hear her footsteps again.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


A review of Kate Mosse's  supernatural short story collection.

My more frequent readers and friends probably know I have a soft spot for any variation of the Mistletoe Bride legend ( see a previous post here.) So when a book came out with two re-tellings, I had to have it - or to be precise, to hear it. I listened to THE MISTLETOE BRIDE AND OTHER HAUNTING TALES on a long dark and bleak journey to Yorkshire and back. Ideal.

This collection  is on the gentler, more lyrical side of creepy - more eerie than horrific . There is one psychological tale I found more disturbing - but I can't say much without spoilers. There's a wide range of historical settings - and as you might expect from Kate Mosse, a strong sense of place.

These are strongly visual stories. There are black and white illustrations by Rohan Eason in the hardback edition (which sadly I don't have yet) some of which I have included here. I could easily imagine many as rather arty animations accompanied with weird little waltzes and whatnot in a minor key.

If you enjoy Susan Hill's supernatural tales, and own a few by M. R. James and Edith Wharton, this will sit well on your shelves. The stories mostly deliver pleasurable chills rather than shudders of distaste and horror. They are definitely not for fans of the gorefest.

The Wedding Ghost approves.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Hallowtide Apples

I had to mark Hallowe'en itself with something following on from Olivia Keirnan's fascinating post last week. I loved how these are living traditions in Ireland. 

Mine is more historical - but it still features apples. Perhaps it's something to do with Eve, but they do reoccur in ways of divining your future in love in many parts of the British Isles.

Lots of Hallowe'en traditions were social. One involved all the unmarried young people tying their apple onto a string and twirling it close to the fire. The quicker the apple came off the string, the sooner you would be married. Pity the poor girl whose apple stayed on till last.

A girl with several suitors might name an apple pip for each one and then put them on her cheek. They would fall off as they dried and the last one left would be for the faithful lover. You could do a similar rite with the pips on the fire grate saying this spell:
If you love me, bounce and fly,
If you hate me, lie and die .
 In Sussex where I live now, it was the other way round: a burst pip meant marrying that person would be a disaster.

A solitary way of finding your true love's name was for the brave, I think. You stood alone in your room at midnight and peeled an apple by the light of one candle. You had to stand  in front of a mirror without looking round.  You made the longest peel that you could so the marriage would last - and then threw the peel over your shoulder. Some traditions say it would spell out your true love's initials - others that their spirit would appear.

In Cornwall it was known as Allantide - and children were given Allan apples for luck. A girl might put one under her pillow to see if she would dream of her future husband.

A young man would need a lot of apples pips for this last one - or ashes from the Halloween Bonfire. He would find a path often used by girls he liked and lay a trail. The first girl to follow it would be his sweetheart.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Irish Halloween traditions: Wedding Rings, Apples and Barm Brack

A special guest post from the talented Irish writer, Olivia Kiernan
Halloween is upon us and the veil that keeps the non-living from the living has been lifted. Halloween is a Celtic and pagan tradition. Known in Ireland as OĆ­che Shamhna, it is a chance for the flesh and blood among us to ask those who have passed, to foretell our fortunes. So how does one ask the otherworld whom they might marry or what life might hold for us. These are a few games to while away the dark and spooky hours on All Hallow’s Eve.

Bobbing apples was one of my favourite games as a child, possibly not the most hygienic but great fun. The aim was to try and grab an apple from a tub of water, hands behind the back and using only the mouth. Once the wayward apple was caught, it was then used as an object to predict your future wife or husband. The skin was peeled and thrown over the left shoulder; the shape it formed on the ground was seen to represent the first initial of your true love.

As with most children at Halloween, I was particularly drawn to the macabre. The following method of fortune telling both thrilled and terrified me, but I was never too scared not to want to take part. Five saucers were laid on the kitchen table. Each one containing a single ingredient: water (meaning a journey overseas), clay (meaning death, hence my terror!), ring (meaning marriage), rag (meaning poverty) and finally coins (meaning riches). The participant would be blindfolded, spun three times and then was directed to reach out to one of the saucers and so discovering what fate awaited them in their future.
Image from Erin Darcy photography

And of course, no Irish Halloween would be complete with the Barm Brack. This was a light, yeast bread studded with sultanas and raisins. It’s something of a ritual in most Irish households at Halloween. At the end of the evening the brack, is sliced, to be shared out among the guests where one lucky person will find a ring buried in the dough. Of course, this indicated that person would soon be married.

A big thank you to KM Lockwood for giving me the opportunity to post on The Wedding Ghost. Wishing you all a great Halloween!

Olivia Kiernan is author of Dawn Solstice.
Blog: www.oliviakiernan.wordpress.com
Twitter: @LivKiernan
On facebook: Olivia Kiernan (Author)

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Tangled webs

Webs are fascinating in an eerie way. The delicacy of construction - and the strength of the silk.

The meticulous order of some - elegant, regular and meant for death.

The exuberant chaos of others - messy and changeable whichever way you look at them.

Is it the spinner that worries us - the spider, fungus or creeping caterpillar that made such gruesome beauty?

Or the small fear still lurking in our hearts from childhood that somehow we could get stuck, become a victim transfixed by threads we cannot escape?

Friday 27 September 2013

The Return

Sunrise comes in a smear of blood red. Trees make black shadows against the low light. There's a hint of cold in the breeze as it moans over the window ledge. Autumn.

Outside bulging spiders hang on cobwebs. Some days drops of mist dangle on the thin strands instead. The first dead leaves gather under hedges.

Haws make clots of dark red on the field edges and the pheasants stalk amongst the stubble. Dusty asters bloom in neglected gardens. There has been mist rising from the rifes, the ditches that drain this low-lying land.

Mildew coats the marrow leaves with grey. Neither a bloom nor a leaf remains without a spot, a ragged edge or a stain of decaying colour.

The Wedding Ghost stirs in the cooling soil. The lengthening nights call to her.

Time to come back.