Halloween Flash Fiction with Mark Towse #FlashFiction #HalloweenFlashFiction

Under the moonlight this Halloween day, the raven’s feathers gleam like fresh paintwork. It watches curiously as my hands claw at the ground. I am getting nowhere. A single tear spills down my cheek, and the cool breeze accentuates its path but never reaches the earth beneath.
I only have myself to blame.

The bird lifts its head, and its beady eyes offer no consolation for my guilt. I sit back on the damp ground and reflect on how it came to this. 

She used to be so good with the children. It’s hard to watch them struggle and hurt in the way they do. Lucy is having nightmares again, and the words I offer do little to comfort her. She’s always been a worrier, asking questions that should never be on a young child’s mind: “Do you still love Mummy?” “Why do you get sad?” “Why does Mummy cry sometimes?”

It’s Tom I worry about most, though. He is not talking at all. I walked in on him a few days ago and caught him crying into his pillow. On his drawing pad on the bedside table was a picture of the four of us holding hands and smiling.

I feel helpless, even more so sat here in the middle of the cemetery when I should be at home with the children. I bid farewell to the raven atop the stonework and set off home. 

I want her back. I want to hold her and have another go at making her happy. We used to be. 
The first time I saw her, I knew I wanted to be with her—intelligent, altruistic, complex, generous, and very stubborn—my ever-so-stubborn English Rose. I loved her.

Our friends were shocked at how we would speak to each other at times, but I don’t think they ever truly understood how comfortable we felt in each other’s presence. We would joke and roast like best friends, love like adulterers and talk all night about anything under the sun. That seems like such a long time ago now.

A Streetlight casts its warm glow on our house, but inside, the light dwindles and only makes it up the first three steps of the staircase. I creep up the boards slowly, half expecting a loud creak and subsequent cry from Lucy, but the house remains mute.

I pass the photo on the wall that portrays a lie. It is a recent one of Anne on her fortieth, trying to smile as though she had forgotten how. Depression had finally rooted itself. Pangs of guilt wash over me again as I run my finger over her forced smile. The make-up helps disguise the sleepless nights and taut face, but the eyes offer nothing but despondence.

The isolation was unbearable, and I know that comes across as selfish, but I was trying to hold everything together. After a while, I felt the cracks appear. My work was suffering, I was snappy at Lucy and Tom, and I used to get so frustrated with Anne. On occasions, I felt so rigid with rage; I feared what might happen. Those times I would drive to the beach and cry or scream or both.

She seemed so adamant on self-destruction. I tried, but there is only so much you can do on your own. Admittedly, I was afraid to tap into that part of her mind—it would be like trying to defuse a bomb and if you didn’t know which wires to cut… boom! 

She had battled waves of it over the years. Sometimes, it would last days and sometimes weeks, but she had always managed to fight her way out in the end. It was exhausting for both of us, and I couldn’t help but feel that sometimes I made it worse. I used to think perhaps if she was with someone else, they could help her unlock the unshakable sadness that I couldn’t. 

My patience grew thin over time, and I shamefully started to throw around desperate ultimatums, threatening to leave and take the kids. I couldn’t reach her. She would happily take the drugs, but not the advice, and the pills she had started taking encouraged even more disconnect. 

Gently, I stroke Lucy’s cheek. She looks peaceful now, and I hope some light is getting through to her dreams. I want to scoop her up and squeeze her. She kept me going through many hard times, and I feel I have let her down, too.

I peek into Tom’s room and see the drawing of the four of us still sitting on his table. He is curled up in a ball as though in self-protection mode. He looks so small and vulnerable. I want to wake him up and tell him everything will be okay. I kiss him on the forehead and whisper I love him before moving to our room.

I wanted a happy ending, back to where we used to be—I begged her countless times to see someone.

I had nothing left to give at the end. 

The dresser that used to be packed to the brim with bottles of colourful tablets is now almost empty, apart from the ripped-open envelope and letter cast aside. I have read that first line so many times now.

Dear Mrs Jones

This is to confirm your booking with psychologist Dr. Lauper on September 17th at 10 am.
There is a small groan behind me. I turn to look at my wife in bed and watch her until she settles once again. 

The envelope is postmarked September 4th, the day before I locked myself in the garage with the engine running. She never said a word. Maybe she was frightened of failure.

I will never forgive myself. The raven has watched me helplessly claw at my grave many times—punishment enough, perhaps.

Happy Halloween.

Chasing The Dragon
Mark Towse

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Crime, Fantasy, Romance, Comedy
Publisher: Eerie River Publishing
Date of Publication: 23rd March 2024
ISBN: 1998112268
Number of pages: 234
Word Count: 68,650

Cover Artist: Tom Brown

Tagline: The town needed a hero… it got Reformo.

Book Description: 

A town on its knees, dread's bony fingers wrapping around its throat and squeezing, death rattles soon to follow.

Drugs, filth, and a lack of human decency are starving it of hope.

Introducing Simon Dooley, our trauma-driven wannabe superhero, the relentless voice of his dead mother pleading with him to "end the chaos." Dressed in a leotard and armed only with a dozen dog poop bags, Simon's plight will find him falling in love and going head to head with the seediest characters walking the streets.

The town needed a hero... it got Reformo.

About the Author: 

Mark Towse is an English horror writer living in Australia. He would sell his soul to the devil or anyone buying if it meant he could write full-time. Alas, he left it very late to begin this journey, penning his first story since primary school at the ripe old age of forty-five. Since then, he's been published in over two hundred journals and anthologies, had his work made into full theatrical productions for shows such as The No Sleep Podcast and Tales to Terrify, and has penned fourteen novellas, including Nana, Gone to the Dogs, 3:33, and Crows. Chasing The Dragon is his debut novel.

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