Tuesday 31 October 2023


 The priest stared from the church door into the night. Clouds obscured the moon and stars. The lamp from the street beyond showed trees as spiky silhouettes. The priest squinted. Surely not, he thought. The hairs on the back of his neck bristled and his heart beat faster. He braved himself to take a further look. His throat was dry, and he swallowed to wet it.

A shriek broke into the silence making him jump. His heart thumped. It’s just an owl, he told himself.

Father Connolly wasn’t used to the country. He’d been appointed to this East Anglian village from Salford, a bustling, vibrant city. He’d enjoyed it there. He liked helping the down and outs and the families in need. That was his forte. Why had he been sent here to this nowhere village, where all the old men needed was a pint in the only pub on the green, and what all the old women needed was a good gossip in each other’s houses on a Friday night.

Some folk said the old women were part of a coven, meeting to share spells and do harm, and that he’d been sent here to destroy it. He knew that was utter rubbish and said so. He knew why he was here… it was a rhetorical question he asked himself on more than one occasion.

The priest sighed into the air. His breath cooled and he could see it hanging in front of his face. Nights were so much colder in the country. He rubbed his arms. A rustling in the churchyard bushes caught his attention. Rats. It would be rats. What’s that saying, you’re never more than ten feet from a rat. The father shivered.

He went into the church and closed the door behind him. He fished in his cassock pocket for a tissue. His top lip was sweating. He took a few deep breaths and leaned against the oak panels of the door. Looking towards the altar, he crossed himself.

A light appeared outside one of the stained glassed windows to the right of the nave. It lit up the sinister picture - St Michael, his armour shining, held a huge sword and he was intent on slaying a snake with a dragon’s head -representing - the Devil.

Father Connolly stared.

 It was starting.

 It was 31st October. He’d given his sermon this very morning and the church was full. Unusually full. In the four months he’d been here, he’d only ever seen the pews at the front of the small Norman church occupied. That was the elderly of the village. The people who knew no different. The women who had been turning up Sunday after Sunday, since they were little because that’s what happened. The men, who went along because their wives told them to, and they wanted a quiet life and a good hot Sunday dinner.

Not like the younger villagers. They worshipped elsewhere. Usually on their computers and in the nearest big town, driving home in their four-by-four vehicles, drunk from alcohol and cocaine-fueled binges. They wanted to live like townies but had so much money, they could oust local people by buying up the homes in the village, having their debauchery in the town, and returning home to respectability.

 But they were there in the church today, bringing lighted pumpkins and sharing sweets. In a church! What were they thinking? Are they pagans with no respect? Father Connolly was sure they watched too much American TV. He was in despair. They weren’t genuine, like the people of Salford. People who needed him. Father Connolly detested the young villagers. And he told whoever was listening at this morning’s service. He vented his angst by blowing out all the pumpkin candles.

Some of the children cried.

His service was about Jesus throwing the merchants out of the temple and he likened it to the ways of the young villagers, warning them of the things to come if they didn’t change them. There were murmurings, and a couple of people left before the end of the sermon.

‘Be careful,’ villager Mary Blythe said to him that morning. ‘It’s All Hallows’ Eve tonight.’ And with that she left him standing there, her charcoal cloak flowing behind her as she strode away through the graveyard.

Few people were keen to shake the priest’s hand after the service. He had clearly hit a nerve. Well, he was glad. Hypocrites. He couldn’t stand hypocrites.

Father Connolly looked towards the glow outside the church window. It was clearly a flame on a tall staff. It flickered menacingly, casting shadows across the altar cloth. He switched off the lights and turned the huge key in the door lock.

There were two pillar candles on the altar that lit up the gold cross hanging on the wall. It comforted him. His God will protect him from whatever was out there. He didn’t believe in the myth of Hallowe’en anyway.

People had told him that the village was haunted by the dead. The witch trials of the seventeenth century still hung around this part of England like a bad smell. Mary Lakeland, burnt in Ipswich in sixteen-forty-five, has a whole section of the tiny village museum dedicated to her.

 The Landlord of the Lamb Inn had told him that she, Mary, always walked abroad on All Hallows’ Eve. Looking for the men who put her to death.

‘She made a pact with the devil,’ said Landlord Jim.

‘Codswallop,’ the father had replied. He knew that Mary Lakeland was put to death in the guise of being a witch but that she also murdered her husband. And that was just cause for her death. ‘Well in those days anyway,’ he added feeling contrite after Jim’s wife shot him daggers over the bar.

A thump on the door sent Father Connolly running up the nave towards the cross. Another thump, followed by another, echoed around the walls of the church. The father clutched the small cross hanging on his neck and knelt before the altar.

He felt the same as he did that time six months ago when called in front of the bishop. That time he was told he had to leave his beloved Salford.

 Sleeping with his verger’s wife was no longer a secret. His parishioners were not to be told but he was to leave forthwith. There was to be a short period away from the church, in which to reassess his commitment. There was no discussion.

 He was scared then, and he was scared now.

Lucinda didn’t even leave with him. She stayed with her boring verger husband, Samuel. ‘He needs me,’ she said.

 ‘I need you,’ Connolly had replied but Lucinda had already walked away.

The father was disturbed. He turned his head round to the huge oak door. Music seeped under it and through the cold grey walls. It was eerie. A kind of dirge. Like nothing else he’d ever heard. It wrapped itself around his head and worked its way into his ears. The slow beat of drums, haunting woodwind, and… voices. Yes, it was voices. Low, wailing sounds – a lament.

More horrifying flames flickered outside the stained-glass windows. Now on both sides of the church. He was surrounded.

 The Christ child was illuminated. The picture showed the anointment by his cousin John.

 Father Connolly began to pray to the image, as the music became louder. The thumping on the door began again. This time not only three thumps but a continuous banging. The door was being forced.

The priest put his hands over his ears.

‘Dear God, help me,’ he said towards the window.

One by one the flames went out. Father Connolly followed them with his eyes. He swallowed hard in anticipation. His stomach hurt. He felt sick.

 The banging on the door stopped and the music began to fade to silence as if the people outside were leaving.

The priest crossed himself.

The altar candles continued to gently flicker, throwing a wave of light on the gold cross. Jesus, his saviour, looked down. Father Connolly turned and lay prone on the floor before Him.

‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered. ‘I did wrong.’

 The church was silent. He began to feel in a state of grace.

‘Father Connolly!’ rasped a deep voice.

The priest jerked his head up. The altar candle flames were dancing maniacally. The father stared at the mesmerizing lights. There was a draught fanning them. Someone had got into the church.

‘Father Connolly!’

The priest slowly turned towards the voice. It was coming from the chancel.

It couldn’t be. His eyes were deceiving him again, like when he was outside the church.

 A black hood and cloak clothed the beast. He held a long stick in his - what looked like a claw.

Father Connolly blinked hard. His head pounded and a rushing sound filled his ears.

The beast raised its arm and at the same time, the altar candles were extinguished.

The priest’s scream was penetrating.

 Then, he blacked out.



Mary Blythe bathed the father’s brow, and he opened his eyes.

‘Are you feeling better now?’ she asked.

Father Connolly couldn’t speak; his mouth was too dry.

‘Here, have some water,’ Mary said, holding a glass with a straw up to his lips.

The father looked into the mirror on the dressing table opposite his bed.

How did he get here? What had happened?

He looked at his reflection. His eyes widened. A white streak of hair ran through the middle of his thick, curly black thatch. He touched it.

‘Shock,’ stated Mary Blythe.

‘What happened?’ said the father.

‘Least said soonest mended,’ said Mary.

She tucked his bedclothes around him.

‘I’ll be back later today,’ she said, pulling on her charcoal cloak and heading out of the bedroom. Quietly she turned the key in the lock and slipped it into her pocket.


Mary felt her mobile phone buzz. She closed the rectory gate and answered the call.

‘Oh, he’s okay,’ she said into the device. ‘He’ll live.’

The voice on the other end chuckled.

‘Aye, but lesson learned, I hope. He’ll not do it again, I’ll be bound.’

‘No indeed, Samuel. That will teach him to mess about with my brother’s wife! He’ll not be doing it again.’

‘Thank the old women from the coven for me – they helped tremendously.’

‘I’ll see them at our meeting later. We’ve got plans in place. I’ll pass on your good wishes,’ said Mary Blythe with a smirk.

She clicked the phone off.


About the author

Lynn is a regular writer for Cafelit. Her first flash fiction collection, The City of Stories,' is published by Chapeltown Books. See 5-star reviews - #amazonthecityofstorieslynnclement 


Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

Monday 30 October 2023

Revenge by Maxine Flam, latte

 It was hard to fathom being put out to pasture days before my sixtieth birthday. I was a good employee for thirty years. However, the powers that be decided on some random spreadsheet full of numbers and not the names of hard working individuals to cut from the workforce. Oh, I was lucky to have skated by the last three layoffs but it hasn’t been any picnic. The company made the remaining people pick up the slack so no one person does the work of those who left. Now that it has happened to me, I am devastated. I can’t apply for Social Security or take my pension and no one wants to hire a person my age.


What I need to do is re-invent myself.


I think back to what I survived in my life. I was born five years before the stock market crash of ’29. I survived the depression, WWII, a bad marriage, and the death of my only child. I will survive the loss of a job. I remember my mother telling me I had an IQ of 141. I was bored in school because I had a photographic memory and didn’t have to study. Now was the time I put this ability to work.




I decided to start small. I studied to be a locksmith.  It wasn’t hard. I read every manual I could find. I practiced taking apart and putting together as many locks as I could get my hands on but the moment of truth was when I answered a want ad.


I walked in and it wasn’t long before I charmed the man at the counter. I was in. It was my first job since the layoff. And I did well. I could impression keys faster than anyone in the place.  I opened locked cars with a slim Jim in the blink of an eye. I regained my confidence. It was time to move on to another job: Something harder.


I decided to go for a white collar job this time. Not a large company job being a cog in a wheel behind a desk. No sir. Not unless I was CEO. I ran it though my mind a few times… yes…CEO…a distinct possibility.


But first, I needed capital. Fast money. I decided to be a professional gambler. Not just a professional gambler but the best stud card player around.




I went to the library and checked out several books on the ins and outs of poker playing. Reading the players and playing the game was half the strategy. I learned the rules, when to hold, when to fold, and I was ready to give it whirl. I went to the card clubs in Gardena, California.


My first experience lasted four hours and I walked away with $600.  My second encounter lasted eight hours and I walked away with $2000. I went to different clubs at different times to get a better feel of the competition. After a few more times, I decided to enter a tournament in Las Vegas. I came in fifth and walked away with five thousand dollars.


It was time to go back and take over the company that changed my life forever. I knew it would take time and money. The card playing would provide the cash. The time away from cards and studying the latest in corporate leveraging and take-overs would provide the knowledge to buy out my old company.


I worked hard and read every business magazine I laid my hands on. I was patient. I mean a person doesn’t buy a company right away. It took five years but the time came. I formed one dummy corporation after another dummy corporation, layered one on top of the other so the paper trail as to who owned the company was buried. The day came when I made my offer and it was accepted. Topper Inc. was mine. A Board of Directors meeting was called. The CEO was there. I walked in wearing my $500 suit, $200 shoes, and smoking the largest, most expensive Havana cigar I could find. These people didn’t even know who I was. They were the ones who changed my life forever with the check of a pen against a ledger sheet and they didn’t even have a clue.


“Gentlemen,” I began. “It gives me great pleasure to take control of Topper Inc. Now, you’re all fired. Get out.”


The men looked at each other. Blood drained from of their faces. One man looked like he was about to pass out; kind of like me the day I was told to pack up my desk and leave.


“Okay, I guess I have to repeat what I said because all of you must have wax in your ears. LEAVE! GET OUT! AND DON’T COME BACK. What part of you’re fired don’t you understand?


One by one they picked up from their chairs and headed for the door.


I couldn’t help but scream, “Don’t let the door hit you in the butt when you leave the building! Ha Ha Ha Ha.”


I sat in the empty conference room for twenty minutes staring out the large bay window. It was time to call my stock broker. I owned 100% of the company so it was easy to sell it. I immediately put it up for sale, received 10% more than what I paid for it, and sold it with the clause that none of the clowns that ran the company before could be rehired and that all of the underlings were to keep their jobs.


I had my vindication. And the expression, “Revenge is a dish best served cold” rang true.


About the author 

Since becoming disabled in 2015, Maxine took up her passion for writing. She has been published several times in the Los Angeles Daily News op-ed section, The Epoch Times, Nail Polish Stories, DarkWinterLit, BrightFlashLiterary Review, OtherwiseEngagedLit, and CafeLit.
Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

Sunday 29 October 2023

Sunday Serial: The Story Weaver and Other Tales, by Sally Zigmond, spolit wine, The Wreck of the Victoria Anne


The moon’s silver path beckons me across the water but I am not so addled by misery that I wish to follow it nor am I so short of wit not to know that, were I to do so, I would sink beneath the ocean and there join my John in his cold, watery grave. Besides, the moon will soon be gone, swallowed by the rising sun and another day will roll in with the rising tide, whether I wish it or not.

A ragged skein of geese cross the lightening sky, gossiping like Whitby fishwives, their wing tips snatching the first bite of the rising sun.

The man is here again, too, hugging the shadows. He watches and he waits as I watch and wait. But when I rise to leave, he will be gone as he has done for the past week. Time means nothing to me now. All I can think of is my old life before it was wrecked.

John and I locked our cottage door and gave the key to Minister Sheldon. He then helped us up into his carriage for the journey across the moor. He had raised the money for our passage on the Victoria Anne bound for Canada. I should write to him to say that his good wishes have come to naught and his money wasted. But I have neither the wit nor the want to do anything now. A new world goes on around me now.  I do not belong to it.  All I do now is rise betimes and sit on the far rim of the ocean and wait for the day to begin and when it does I go back to my lodging and wait for night to fall.

Mr Sheldon stopped the carriage when we came in sight of the sea. Although not thirty miles from where I had spent my two and twenty years, I had never seen it. It gleamed softly blue like Mrs Winthrop’s best sateen sheets beneath my flat-iron. The wind sang gently and sweetly. The scent of heather, the murmuring diligence of the bees filled our hearts. He led us in prayer and we added our amens.

‘The Victoria Anne,’ he said when we had reached the wharf at Whitby and gazed upon the vessel sitting proud as a nesting swan in its berth.

‘We are most obliged,’ said John stepping back to avoid the throng of people pushing past us. There were more carts, carriages and wagons clattering across the cobbles than I had ever seen in one place. It struck me then that there would have been plenty of work for us in such a bustling place so close to where we were born and I nearly said to Mr Sheldon that we would try our luck there.

But I dared not. He had been so good to us. His eyes were fixed on the horizon that drew us towards a new life. Maybe he yearned for a new start himself, sick to death of his moorland parish and his flock of desperate faces, hungry eyes and broken spirits. But duty kept him bound there so he laid his dreams on our shoulders and sent us forth to a new land weighed down with his burden.

I could see that my husband had filled his basket brimful with the minister’s dream. He gazed on the ship’s bulk in awe. ‘And a grand name, too,’ he said, taking my hand but avoiding my eye lest my apprehension should find a home in his. ‘It bears your name, my love. It is a portent that our luck is about to change.’

A curse more like.

Was it my fault then that our married life started with misfortune and never recovered: indeed dipped further? Was his death because he married his Victoria Anne? We had not been wed a week when John shattered his leg. A prop collapsed in Sheriff’s Pit. It did not heal straight and then fever set in, after which he hadn’t the strength to dig or load the railway wagons with ironstone and send them on their way clanging and screeching down to the furnaces in Middleborough.

People were good to us. Mrs Winthrop, for whom I still worked, bought me six fat Swaledales from Malton Market, even though we did not worship at her church. She also fetched us a loom and I remember how proud John was when he sold our first length of fine wool in Kirkby Market.

Our first and our last.

The winter was wet and raw when our flock caught the black tongue and perished, one by one, as did my benefactress herself of the coughing disease the following spring. Her daughter-in-law then brought her own maid with her from Guisborough who had learned fancy ways in Newcastle. I was no longer needed.

‘Indeed, God smiles on you,’ said Mr Sheldon, brushing off talk of luck and portents like dust from his collar. But I ask myself. Does the Lord not punish us for turning our back on the church and following, instead, the teaching of John Wesley? The church was dedicated to St Lawrence and it is the Saint Lawrence River on whose black depths I now gaze that swallowed John so very near our journey’s end? Did my husband smile because we so nearly—oh so nearly—reached land that we could taste its sweetness in the air and smell the grass of that vast new land awaiting us.

Every day, I sit here to wait for the dawn on the edge of a creek that turns its back on the open river, the haunt of the lost and discarded, where the washed-up flotsam of the tide slaps against the rotten piers. I savour the sun’s rising because it makes sense to me. Sunrise is the same everywhere; the demons of strange darkness falling back and reshaping into familiarity. 

We were not headed for this city of Quebec. We were only to disembark briefly here to a wait another vessel to carry us farther upstream where we had letters of introduction for a dissenters’ community of farmers and loggers. It wasn’t that I hadn’t expected to feel strange at the beginning of our new life in the New World. We had talked about it, John and I, as we walked the stone track above the cottage we rented from the Winthrops but we had always thought we would have each other and our fellows in God to help guide us through the strangeness towards the light.

Now I am cut adrift, the thread is broken. The river is wider than any I have ever seen and the moon above it is a big as a cartwheel spilling its path of silver medallions. If I did ever reach the moon and walk across its mountains it would feel no less alien than what surrounds me now.

The man has stepped out of the shadows and leans against a fence, his face splashed with the dawn’s light. He smokes a cigar as if it were a religion. I will stay my departure until he goes. But it would seem that he wishes to speak to me. I do not wish it. I turn from him and watch the stain of night above the deep river being rinsed clean by the eastern sky. Will my heart ever be rid of its stain of loss however hard the rubbing?

One of the Victoria Anne’s boilers exploded. We were all crowded on one side of the deck as the land rose towards us. Sheets of fire rose and showered the water. I was lucky, they said. A bulwark shielded me from the full force of the blast. God was smiling on me, they said. I was flung clear of the carnage and then hauled from the river, water streaming from my sodden skirts and hair. I was taken I know not where, sobbing for John and all I knew. The people who care for me say I am lucky but despise me because I have failed to acknowledge my good fortune. They would send me into the wilderness alone if they knew how much I would curse God had I the strength or will to do so.

Once I was dried, rested and fed, I was taken to make a deposition to the authorities and then to a lodging house where I was told my rent would be paid for two weeks. I now have one day left to me with no thought in my head of where to go or what to do after that. John was my anchor, my loom, my stave. The warp and weft of existence has unravelled for me.  I am deaf to its rhythms. They dance to a different melody here from the one I once knew.

The man approaches me at last. Had I been sitting with my spinning-wheel outside my cottage in Rosedale I would have bade him good day and no more. I knew who I was there and my place in it. Here I am as blank as the night sky, as a book with no words printed within its pages. Yet there is something about his bearing that reminds me of John when he asked me to walk home with him from haymaking; the bold, yet shy, stance of a young stag, the eye wary, the sudden backwards leap at the snap of a twig. But as he nears I see he is nothing like John. He is taller but narrower in the shoulder. He stops in front of me and removes his hat.

‘Ma’am?’ He is an English-speaker; no trace of the French gabble that surrounds me here although his way of talking is still strange to me. He offers me a cigarette from a silver case although he still holds his cigar between his thumb and forefinger. This is a land of fancy cigarettes in silver cases, of vast skies and expectations. Perhaps there are cigarettes in York or London or other cities that I have never seen but they were unknown in our dale. The only man I ever saw smoke a cigarette before was a pedlar who arrived one day with a scarlet cloth about his neck, leading a dappled horse got up in ribbons which he sold for a penny each. We chased him from our midst when chickens began to go missing from the coops and Mrs Sheldon lost a pie from her larder and my mistress a ring from her dressing-table.  

But we suspected him before that. He did not belong to us as I do not belong to this place where people smoke cigarettes from silver cases. This is a new land where the emptiness I wear like a scarlet cloth about my neck is not welcome. They do not like people who sit and mourn. This is a land of doing and getting.

God helps those who help themselves, they say. So I no longer care for God. And yet I live. The sun rises and the sun sets and I am here and John is gone.

The man cocks his head towards the tethered boat in the shimmering moonlight’s path heaped with wreaths that marks the place where the Victoria Anne foundered. ‘You were on it.’

It is not a question. He hands me his card. So he’s a newspaper man. But that’s not what catches my eye. It is the name. Anthony Peirson. Its spelling: the ‘e’ before the ‘i’.

I grasp a tenuous thread that links my life now to my life before, tie it to my heart. ‘There are Peirsons where I come from. Many more lie in the graveyard.’

I look at him more closely and see nothing else that reminds me of what I have left behind; only his sun-cracked face, his clear eyes, his embroidered waistcoat, his shiny shoes and his city suit with its velvet buttons.

‘My father was a Rosedale man, an iron miner, until an accident prevented him from working underground. He made his way here fifty years before.’

‘It was the same for my John,’ I say.

Together we follow another slack rope of geese squabbling overhead until they are pulled over the horizon into the golden arc of the sun.

‘I read your deposition,’ he said. ‘It was very brief and said little. If you tell me the full story I will pay you handsomely.’

‘I don’t want your money,’ I say. ‘I would not wish to profit from my husband’s death.’

He flings the spent butt of his cigar into a corner of oily water where it bobs like a cork in the scum.

‘Fair enough,’ he says. ‘They serve a fine breakfast at Duckett’s. As much as you can eat for a dollar. That’s where I’m bound.’

‘That would be fine if I had a dollar to my name,’ I say, testing the unfamiliar word beneath my tongue.

He thrusts his hands in his pockets and begins to walk away. ‘I have two dollars and plenty more where that came from,’ he calls over his shoulder.

His steps are long and the gap between us widens. He is something I do not know and yet he has our dale within him. Nothing remains of John, where we came from and what we came for. Gone like the moon, outshone by the sun climbing strongly above the river. The rules have been rewritten, the loom rethreaded, the rhythms re-set. What have I to lose when I have lost everything that was of me and is me?

I stand up and hasten after him. I quicken my English steps to match his New World strides. Then and now. Warp and weft. Two singular threads making one cloth.


Friday 27 October 2023

Agnes Moor by Amy Dickens, spiced pumpkin latte


‘Whoever shall dare to speak her name, I say to thee - good luck and fare ye well! For here is a wretched soul that will not be laid to rest.’



The tale of Agnes Moor was well known amongst the villagers of Warbling Mill. I heard it first from my brother, Thomas, when I was seven years old. As we passed by the village graveyard one day on our way to school, I asked him, ‘Are there really dead people in there, Thomas?’ 

       Spotting an opportunity for education, a wicked smile flashed across his face. I was his little sister, after all. Taking my hand, he led me through the graveyard’s iron gates.  

     ‘Thomas. I’m not sure...’ I tried, hopping gingerly between gravestones. 

      Stopping in the furthest corner of the yard, Thomas pointed to a small gravestone. An epitaph, barely visible beneath the moss, read: 


       Here Lies Agnes Moor. 1765-1785.


       ‘Are you ready for the tale of the graveyard’s oldest resident, Hattie?’ he asked. I nodded though my heart thumped in protest. Thomas told me of the young woman who fell from the church spire one hundred years ago. ‘Folk say that being unmarried and with child, Agnes Moor threw herself from the church spire. Others say she was pushed by a jealous lover. One thing is certain – Agnes Moor is a most malevolent spirit.’

       I stepped back, my mouth agape. Thomas moved toward me, his smile widening. ‘If you say the name Agnes Moor three times at midnight during a full moon, she will appear at your bedroom window. The foulest ghost you’ll ever see. And she may want to take you with her!’

       ‘Oh!’ I cried, charging toward the graveyard gates. Thomas’ laughter filled the air.

       ‘I’ll never say it! Never!’ I cried, all the way to school.  

       Above me, in the clear morning sky, a full moon looked on. 




The church spire, visible from my bedroom window, towered above the village. Obscured by a collection of houses, its graveyard lay below. At bedtime, I asked my mother to shut the curtains tight. ‘The moon is so bright tonight,’ I told her. She kissed me goodnight and left the room. In the silence, a flurry of thoughts took hold.

      I must not think upon Agnes Moor! I told myself, but then, could the tale be true?

      I will never summon Agnes Moor! I continued, but would she hear me if I did?

       My thoughts persisted as the church bell chimed nine o’ clock, ten o’ clock, eleven o’ clock. Sleep eluded me, such was the rising mix of terror and curiosity that stirred within. As the church bell struck a quarter to midnight, my curiosity surged.

       I slipped from my bed, I tip-toed to the window and parted the curtains. The full moon beamed a knowing smile. Upon the stroke of midnight, I began, ‘Agnes Moor. Agnes Moor. Agnes...” 


       A noise from inside the house caught my attention. 

       She’s here! I thought. Oh, please forgive me! I closed my eyes and prayed that my parents would come and offer their reassurance.

        Blessed with the ignorance of slumber, my parents did not come.

       Click clunk. A noise from the garden this time! Instinctively, I peered down at it. In the moonlight, I saw a crooked figure creep from our back door. A rugged fellow, all whiskers and rags. To his breast he clutched the silver candlestick from my father’s study and a painting from the parlour.

      A burglar!

       ‘Mother. Father...’ I whimpered, but to no avail. We were alone, this burglar and I. Then he spotted me. 

       ‘Thomas...’ I breathed. 

       Lifting his finger to his lips, the burglar bid me to hush. Then he drew that finger along the width of his throat and flashed a toothless grin.  

       In desperation I whispered the only other name that was utmost in my mind. 

       ‘Agnes Moor, Agnes Moor, Agnes Moor.’

       At once, a great flash of light pierced the night sky! The burglar averted his eyes.  

       Then. At my window. A face.

Agnes Moor!

She looked at me, but her face was not foul. I felt no fear as I looked upon it. Instead, Agnes Moor glowed, translucent and serene, drawing her lips into a gentle smile. She reached her arm through my window. I gasped. With a cool and delicate stroke, she wiped the tears from my cheeks.  

       Then she flew at the burglar, her hair a stream of white! He tumbled backwards, dropping his loot. ‘Our Father who art in Heaven,’ he began, scrambling to his feet. She hovered a moment like a luminous bird of prey. I could not see her face, but I knew from the terror in his eyes that it was not the gentle face that I had seen.

Then she swooped and she scooped him high into the air!

‘Hallowed be thy name!’ he screamed, kicking his legs. But she carried him away, to where, I’ll never know. Up toward the moon she flew, waving as she went.

       ‘G-Goodbye!’ I said.

The night was silent once more. With much relief, I smiled at the moon. Succumbing at last to the pull of sleep, I returned to bed. 



 ‘It worked, Thomas!’


       ‘Last night. I met Agnes Moor!’

     ‘Poppycock, Hattie.’

      I recounted events to Thomas as we walked to school the next day. He acknowledged that our parents had found items strewn across the garden, and yet he dismissed my encounter. He did, however, watch in astonishment, as I strode through the graveyard gates and up to the grave of Agnes Moor.  

       ‘Thank you,’ I said, taking a cloth from my pocket and cleaning the headstone. On the ground, I placed a doll. ‘For company,’ I added. 


 You may not believe the tale of Agnes Moor. Some days I can hardly believe it myself. Nevertheless, I implore you to visit your local graveyard and get to know its residents. 

       You never know when you might need their help.

About the author 

Amy lives in the U.K. with her family. When she's not writing she can usually be heard trying to play the violin. Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

Thursday 26 October 2023

The Last Night by Penny Rogers, a bottle of single malt whisky

The long day ended. The promised call didn’t come. He fiddled with the ring on the third finger of his left hand. In the twilight he walked three times around the garden. Night fell and still he waited. His phone remained silent. He poured a drink, scotch and water. It tasted of iron and misery. A text arrived, reminding him of a dental appointment. Silent phone, silent night. He took off his ring. Held it to a lamp and read the inscription around the inside. Amor Vincit Omnia. No, he mused, love does not conquer all. With neglect it atrophies and dies. Until 2.00 a.m. he dozed in the chair. Still no call. Whisky bottle empty. Fingers of grey in the eastern sky told him dawn was approaching. He put the ring back on his finger. Charged the phone. Still no call. In the growing light he walked around the garden. Once. Sounds of Big Ben on next door’s radio. Seven chimes. The phone jangled in his hand. He put it down. Took off the ring. Put that in a drawer. Walked away. The jangling ceased. It was over.


About the author

Penny Rogers writes mostly short stories, flash fiction and poetry. She has been published in print and online and had some success in literary competitions. She is a member of the management team for SOUTH poetry magazine and facilitates a very informal writing group in her home town.
Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)