WRITTEN BY LIN SILVER
The figure of death she’d seen was just a costume… wasn’t it?
“You are coming, aren’t you? Don’t back out on me now…” Trina begged.
“I don’t know. I don’t really want to. I’ve a funny feeling about it,” Marissa replied.
“You and your funny feelings!” Trina scoffed. “We can’t go anywhere without you getting them. OK, so you see dead people. Very handy at Hallowe’en. Now, come on, this is going to be the best party we’ve ever been to!”
“I don’t see dead people!” Marissa grumbled. She didn’t bother trying to explain. Trina was already sorting through her wardrobe, looking for something suitably spooky to wear.
“We need to look absolutely great. It’s at Burnwood Hall, remember,” she said happily.
Burnwood Hall had been the home of aristocratic wealthy landowners for decades, but the present incumbent liked hiring the grand hall out for parties. To celebrate their centenary year, the financial company Marissa and Trina worked for had hired the Hall for a Hallowe’en extravaganza.
“Shall I go as a witch? It’s the easiest thing,” Trina murmured as Marissa stood by, wishing she could shake the ominous feeling creeping through her veins. “Come on, Marissa, you’re the one who studied history. Suggest some scary old characters for me!”
“How about one of Jack the Ripper’s gory victims?”
Trina pulled a long dress with a tight bodice out of the cupboard.
“Would this do?” she asked.
Marissa nodded. “Fine. Make it look a bit grubby though. Victorian ladies of the night did not have dry cleaners!”
Marissa tried to shake her gloomy mood
Trina laughed happily and Marissa tried to shake her gloomy mood.
Why did she get these feelings? She remembered being taken house-hunting with her parents when she was little – one place had sent her running down the road crying, another had a bedroom she refused to enter because there was “something” in it. What a pain she’d been. But the feelings of forboding were strong, and twenty years on she still couldn’t stop them.
“What about Bride of Frankenstein for you?” Trina suggested.
“Because you’re already halfway there, with that streak in your hair.”
Marissa gave her friend a playful slap.
“Hey, that’s my only outstanding feature, you know!”
“Outstanding is right,” Trina chuckled. “It’s cool, though,” she added.
Marissa automatically touched her hair. It was strange, the pale stripe she’d always had in her dark brown hair. At school she’d been called Skunk, Badger or Humbug. But despite the teasing she liked her stripe and was secretly rather proud of it. It did make her a bit special, and as she was otherwise quite ordinary. It was the one thing that made her stand out from the crowd.
“I’m going to play safe and go as a witch after all,” Trina finally decided. “But I’ll make sure I’m a damn sexy one, and if Connor Leatherby doesn’t notice me I’ll burn myself at the stake!”
“If you’re lucky, he might go as the Witchfinder General,” Marissa grinned. Trina went all dreamy-eyed.
“Ooooh, yes – and he’s welcome to do whatever he likes to make me confess!” she purred.
Later, smearing fake blood around her neckline, Marissa did her best to shake the feeling of forboding that had been sitting in her stomach all day.
Trina was driving them to Burnwood Hall. “Hey, you look great!” she said as Marissa clambered into her small car.
The first part of the journey was fine, but when they hit the country roads Marissa’s creepy feeling started again.
The skeletal branches of trees rising out of the gloom looked exceptionally scary
With few streetlights, the skeletal branches of trees rising out of the gloom looked exceptionally scary.
“Now what?” Trina exclaimed. “Are you getting jumpy again?”
“I – I just… nothing,” Marissa muttered despondently.
They were on their way now, and there was no dropping out at this stage. She certainly didn’t want to spoil the evening for her friend, who was relying on the party to snare hearthrob Connor.
Soon Marissa realised they were not the only travellers on that lonely stretch of road. The headlights from another car flashed in Trina’s mirrors.
“More party-goers,” said Trina. Marissa supposed she was right. There wasn’t much else to be heading for out this way. They came to a junction and Trina slowed cautiously to a halt.
“Well, you never know,” she murmured. “It’d be typical of some boy racer to tear in front of me doing a hundred plus.”
At that moment the car behind them caught up with them. As it drew alongside, Marissa glanced casually over – and promptly let out an ear-splitting scream of pure terror!
“Oh my God!” Their car shot forward as Trina’s foot slipped off the clutch. “What’s wrong?”
Marissa’s scream had died to a frightened whimper.
“That car!” she stammered. “There’s a hideous cowled skeleton at the wheel!”
Trina gave a mirthless snort of derisive laughter.
“You total idiot! It was just someone dressed up on their way to the party!”
Marissa had calmed down, but that didn’t lessen the fear.
“No, it wasn’t someone in costume,” she said. “It was awful – sitting there grinning.” She shuddered.
“It was someone dressed as the Grim Reaper – or Grin Reaper, if you like – get over it,” Trina said crossly. “Look what you’ve made me do, screaming so loud. We nearly ended up in the ditch.”
“I’m really sorry. Where did that other car go?” Marissa muttered.
“I was too busy trying to control my own to notice,” Trina huffed. “But you’ll see it again soon, no doubt – parked up at Burnwood Hall.”
What had she seen? Bony fingers clutching the steering wheel?
The car had gone and everything had returned to normal, and Marissa started to question what she thought she’d seen. A grinning skull leering out from a hood, hollows where eyes should have been and bony fingers clutching the steering wheel. Death.
Surely Trina was right. It was Hallowe’en and they were heading to a party where everyone would be dressed ghoulishly. What were the chances that she’d seen a real apparition? Marissa began to feel rather stupid. She really had to try to curb her over-active imagination a little better.
The party was already in full swing when they arrived. The place looked like the set of a Hammer Horror film. Trina was delighted when Connor Leatherby, in the guise of Dr Crippen, came straight up to her and asked if he could get her anything.
“As long as it’s not a bath,” Trina chuckled happily.
Marissa laughed too, warming to the theme. Strangely, now they were there the spooky feeling had completely disappeared. She wasn’t getting any vibes from the old building at all. It looked fantastic, decorated with pumpkins and fake cobwebs. At least, she assumed they were fake!
Marissa had a quick look round for the car that had pulled up alongside them. She thought it was a Clio, but she couldn’t be sure.
She started searching the guests for a Grim Reaper
She made her way to the bar and buffet and began searching the guests for a Grim Reaper. There were plenty to choose from, but the uneasy feeling began to surface again as she realised none of them looked as terrifyingly authentic as the one in the car.
“Are you still fretting about that silly thing you thought you saw?” Trina asked, as she glided past on Connor’s arm. “Because Lucy Flanagan just mentioned she saw us on Pond Road. It was her.”
“What’s she dressed as?” Marissa asked suspiciously.
“What d’you think?” Trina replied. Then Connor whisked her onto the dance floor, where corny classics like There’s A Ghost In My House and Monster Mash were belting out.
Marissa started looking for Lucy Flanagan. She was by the bar, indeed dressed as a skeleton, but minus the headgear which she’d obviously removed in case it blighted her chances with a handsome zombie or vampire. Without the mask, it was hard to tell if she was what Marissa had seen.
Forboding began to creep back into her gut
The nasty, cold feeling of forboding began to creep back into her gut.
“Hello, you look rough. Had too much already?” Lucy asked, spotting her and coming over. A chill shot down Marissa’s spine.
“No,” she mumbled anxiously, “Actually, I just–” And at that point she was violently sick, all over her dress and the floor, but thankfully managing to miss Lucy.
“Eurgh!” Lucy screamed.
Marissa was immediately the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons.
“I told you not to eat the prawns!” Trina hissed, feeling sorry for her friend but acutely embarrassed to have all this going on in front of Connor.
“It’s not the prawns,” Marissa mumbled as she mopped her face with tissues and gulped down half a pint of water. “I think I’d better go home. I don’t feel at all well.”
Trina, obviously not wanting to risk further embarrassment, handed Marissa her keys. “Take my car, then, if you’re all right to drive. You’ll wait ages for a cab otherwise.”
“Thanks, but how will you get home?” Marissa mumbled.
“I’m sure someone will give me a lift,” Trina replied confidently, looking pointedly at Connor.
Only too glad to escape, Marissa made her way outside into the chilly night air. She found Trina’s car, feeling better now her head was clearing.
She started adjusting the rear view mirror, Trina being much taller than her, and then noticed the car parked behind.
An icy chill gripped her.
It was no illusion, there was a shadowy, hooded figure behind the wheel
That was the car. She froze, fixated, staring into the mirror. It was no illusion. There was a shadowy, hooded figure behind the wheel.
Marissa slammed Trina’s car into gear and stamped down hard on the accelerator. Only, in her fear and panic, she put it in reverse instead of first.
The car jack-knifed backwards and she heard the sound of buckling metal as the impact threw her forward and the air-bag activated, saving her from serious injury.
What happened next was a blur… shocked party-goers raced out of Burnwood Hall, Trina was hammering on the window and Lucy Flannagan was yelling that her car had been written off.
They dragged Marissa out and she fell into Trina’s arms, Trina repeatedly saying thank God she was OK and never mind about the stupid car.
Lucy was less sympathetic, not letting anyone take Marissa home until she’d got full details for the insurance. Finally they left in Connor’s car, with Trina sitting loyally in the back hugging her friend.
“Were you sick again?” she asked concernedly.
Marissa nodded, too weary to tell Trina it was the sight of the spectre in Lucy’s car that had triggered her loss of control.
Lucy called round three days later. Luckily Trina was there, ready to stand up for Marissa if Lucy started getting aggressive. She was known for her fiery temper, and Connor had said that her car was her pride and joy, bought to mark her promotion to Middle Management. Trina and Marissa moved closer together, closing ranks, but the tirade they were expecting didn’t come. In fact, Lucy looked apologetic.
“I’m sorry about the way I kicked off,” she said. “I hope you’re OK.”
Trina and Marissa exchanged looks
“But your car” – Marissa said.
“Was a death trap,” Lucy replied bluntly. “A fatal accident waiting to happen. When the garage looked it over, they discovered a defect and said if I’d driven it just one mile further it would have gone up in smoke. So I’m here to thank you for trashing my car. You actually saved my life.”
Stunned speechless, Marissa turned white as a sheet and clamped a hand over her mouth.
“Oh, heck,” Trina said. “You haven’t eaten prawns again, have you..?”