The Draytons

Edward Drayton. He stared at the name on the file.  Another one. This job never got any easier. Edward Drayton had no doubt taken his wife’s name after marriage. Not unusual in these parts. Drayton was an old name, one from the time when Europeans first came here.

He breathed in. Sighed it out. Prepared himself. He knew what was coming. He buzzed Drayton in.

Drayton came in, sat down. Drayton was the usual. Embarrassed. Agitated. Desperate.

Drayton started speaking almost straight away, ‘Nobody in my wife’s family has ever died.’

Even before Drayton said it, he recognised the look on that face. His heart sank. It was common in these parts. Locals called it the vamps.

‘Nobody?’ he said calmly.

He knew Drayton had chosen him as a therapist because he was from out of town. Deliberately chosen him, no doubt Drayton had done some research. Someone with no connection to the family that he knew of, but there were so very many Draytons. How could anyone be sure?

His surname was different, but he had taken his wife’s name on marriage too. He had tried to distance himself from the stories. Drayton had come here, taken a chance, looking for a kindred spirit. Who was he to judge?

‘Well there was Cousin Lola.’ Drayton continued. He remembered cousin Lola, quite sad. He showed no emotion though and Drayton ploughed on.

 ‘Impaled on a fence, but I went there. Wooden fence!’  Drayton said this with finality as if there was only one explanation.

He tried to maintain a professional composure. There was the rest of the family to consider.

‘And they don’t like garlic. I once made a chilli with a lot of garlic for my wife and her sisters and their kids, whole family. They all sat there, barely ate it.’

Drayton was on a roll now. He tried to remain calm, neutral, professional. Even as the saliva was pooling in his mouth.

‘And my wife, sometimes she sleeps during the day and haunts the house at night. She says its menopause.’

‘And she hates silver.’

He wanted to put up a hand and stop it then and there. Drayton was looking for answers but none of the behaviours he described were unusual. Some people preferred gold. Garlic was relatively new in this part of the world when his wife was growing up. Someone died in a random accident on a wooden fence.

He knew the conclusion Drayton wanted to draw. It was sad. Always sad. He prescribed something random, told Drayton to think about it, come back in a week. He wanted to add ‘but only if you see your wife howling at the moon.’ He didn’t. Sarcasm was not professional in these situations. His was a difficult job. He had some sympathy. The women out west were odd sometimes.

He knew as Drayton opened the door to leave, he would have to make that phone call.  

He called his mother. To tell her to call her cousin. To tell her cousin to call her sister. To tell her to call her daughter. To tell her,

‘It’s time to eat your husband.’

The hand

I never went outside. Much as a child. I grew up inside. Afraid of the outside. A manor house. Big old stone thing. Creaking walls. Lots of indoor space. Perfectly manicured lawns. I think in half sentences.  

The hand.

I remember everything about it. It is the mark of. My childhood, that patch of lawn. Perfectly Cut. A square. Part of a bigger rectangle. Intersected  by a path. It sat right next to the driveway.

The hand.

I can’t remember how old I was. When it first happened. I was simply standing on the lawn. That lawn. A hand. Green and covered in grass, came up out of ground and grabbed my ankle. I was terrified. Frozen. Rooted to the spot. I looked down. I could see it had hold of my ankle. Then it let go. I examined that grass. Minutely. There was nothing there.

No hand.

A few months later the same thing. Again. It happened intermittently, as I grew up. The hand out of the lawn. I tried never to go out. Grasping my ankle. I stayed very still. It let go. I had an older cousin, Maisie. Her daughter strayed on to that patch of grass. They found her playing on it. But they never found Maisie. There was simply no trace of her. The police investigated. There was nothing.

No hand.

I could see the patch of grass from my window. Sometimes in the semi darkness it seemed to heave itself upward. Roll and then settle again. I never went on the grass. Not after Maisie. Then an even odder thing happened. The grass seemed to grow. In a neat line. Across the driveway. The gardener kept killing it off. It kept growing back.

It was the hand, I know it was the hand.

I knew even then what had happened to Maisie. One day I simply packed my suitcase. And left. I remember stepping over that errant grass on the driveway. Knowing I had won. I took one of my mothers best jewels. I watched from afar. A pariah. A thief. As the house opened to the public. It shut again after a few years. A young woman went missing. No trace was found.

It was the hand, I know it was the hand.

I married. Had a daughter. Then she had a daughter. It is all too painful, even as I think of it now. They were in an accident. A terrible accident. My husband. My daughter. My grand daughter. Not me.  In the days afterwards, that became months and years, I contacted my brother. He invited me home. To the house.

I wondered about the hand.

Back to that house. I would go. To live out my final days. He seemed to think there was some justice in what had happened. I still had that suitcase that I took with me when I first went. Tatty old thing. I took it down. Opened it. Empty. Except for a tuft of green grass in the bottom. I sat on the bed.

I wondered about the hand.

There it was, I went home. When I got there. The patch of grass had been fenced. First by wrought iron then clear plastic panelling put up. The gardeners struggled to keep it under control. I watched the grass grow, big and tall. I knew it was coming. Coming for me. It would snake out across the driveway no matter what I did. It was patient.

The hand.

Late one afternoon. After tea and cake, I put on my best dress. I went down to that piece of lawn. I opened the gate. It creaked. Clanked. As if announcing my arrival. I stepped inside. All this time, that bleak dark thing-whatever it was- had waited. I did not wait. I walked onto the lawn.

The hand.

It’s about the blanket

I am distracted by the idea of ghouls in the bath, of serpentine creatures seeping up through the plug hole and devouring my children. I need help. I can’t sleep. It’s ridiculous I know. I’ts about the blanket. I know how silly that sounds. It’s a throw, not a blanket, what is the difference-where you put it? IDK.  It’s all the same.

He has been ill so I have slept on the couch, whole nights under its soft, warm comfort. But sometimes I wake in the night and it’s like there is someone lying next to me. An arm thrown over me, a leg along side mine. I don’t move. Horrified, there is someone there. But when I finally do move, there is only me and the blanket and the couch.  And then I can’t sleep.

I look at it during the day, examine it. It is just a blanket, there is nothing special.

I nestle under it each evening to watch the television. But some nights it just feels more ‘aware’.  One night I spilled something on it and I swear it jumped sideways. Or did I throw it?  It’s the way it slips off me or doesn’t slip off me when it should. I can’t explain it.

When I lie in bed at night, I picture it stretching itself out on my couch. The thing is, it never seems to be in quite the position I left it. I get up in the night and try to catch it out. I folded it neatly one night, and got up at 3am to see if it had moved. It hadn’t. Well at least not in a big way. It had sorted of slipped as if it had just folded itself back into position. I know it can’t be the case. Its not real.

I am getting paranoid, I think the blanket is real, I think there are sea serpents down the plug hole, the kitchen is going to be covered in mould every morning when I wake up. I need more sleep.

And tonight I am tired and I need to go to bed. I brush my teeth, put the children to bed. I am so tired.

I take one last look out through the door that leads into the lounge, into the darkness. And there on the couch is the blanket. I daren’t switch the light on. It is there in the darkness sitting on my couch. It is sitting there as if it is a person. It is somehow draped over the cushion and it looks like it has a head. Like a shrouded body. I need more sleep.

I go to bed. I can’t get it off my mind. I can’t sleep. I get up again and peek through the door. It is still sitting there.

I go back to bed.

No I can’t sleep. Just knowing it is sitting there. I know it’s not real. It’s a blanket, it’s a throw, it is some kind of blanket throw combination which doesn’t matter.

I am bewildered, tired. I can’t sleep just knowing it is sitting there, human like, with form and shape.

 I get up, go out into the lounge. I don’t switch on the light. Why don’t I switch on the light? I make my way through the murky darkness. I reach out my hand to smooth it down in the darkness and as I do…

It turns to face me.