International Writers Magazine:
the sixties beige-tiled fireplace with a frayed brush and a frayed
temper, I discovered my younger sibling had beaten me to the last
pair of clean socks. Now I would have to suffer the indignity of
sweat-stiff socks as well as the outsize uniform inherited from
my elder sister.
are naturally cruel. They only adopt the veneer of politeness as they
grow older and learn to manipulate feelings to their own advantage.
They called me Michelin X. Because I resembled the tyre advert in my
rolled and bunched uniform, chained around the middle with a three inch
wide elastic belt with snap locks. It fitted someone whose father worked
in a garage.
'Why it's the MX girl herself.' Lady Honoria Tatton-Jones pinched her
delicate snout and lifted it high into the perfumed air. Chanel No.
5. Her 'mater' had bought it for her birthday. It was ages before I
realised 'mater' had nothing to do with the procreation of animals but
was what the toffs used for mum. When she flaunted her pedigree, which
was most days, I realised I was correct.
'Can anyone smell something vile around here?'
I blushed. She knew about my socks.
It was cold in the World War II Nissen hut which was our classroom.
The favoured few occupied the front row desks next to the pot-bellied
boiler; the rest of us froze. I hurried into the cloakroom to find my
hand-knitted gloves. I needed some warmth to flow back into my numbed
fingers. An arm barred the door.
'No trash in here.' Katherine Lynn-Evans with a double 'n' stared down
at me with her brilliant blue eyes and pouted her cupid mouth.
'Excuse me please, I need my gloves.' My voice was pitched just below
menace. Inside I was melting like a jelly on a hot window-sill. A high-pitched
chuckle tinkled around the concrete floor.
'Let her in,' Leticia Makepiece trilled, 'it will be good for her education!'
Katherine's eyes narrowed. I found myself ushered into a circle of gawping
girls kneeling around a circle of cards. Not the type that I was used
to. Clubs, diamonds, spades, hearts. These had letters on, arranged
alphabetically and in the centre, upside down, was a thick glass beaker,
purloined from the chemistry lab.
'Well Mitchelin, what are you staring at, never seen a ouija board before?'
I hadn't the faintest idea what they were on about, but would I admit
'I'm not interested thanks; I've just come for my gloves.' I turned
to find my exit blocked by Katherine, now glaring with thinly veiled
'Who's a miss prissy then? No-one admitted to our secrets gets to tell
them elsewhere.' She pinched my arm with her immaculately painted nails,
twisting their filed points into my flesh. I yelped. Feigning acceptance
I squatted down.
'Okaaay' breathed Leticia, let the fun begin.' She invited several of
us to put our fingers on the glass and began to intone in a hypnotic
'We call on all spirits present, come to us.'
I stifled a giggle.
'We call on all spirits present, come to us.'
Then I noticed their trancelike faces. All the hairs on my neck stood
up. The glass began to scrape across the floor, rasping towards the
letter S. My mouth parched. I watched it spell out my nickname. No-one
knew this! I had always thought this psychic stuff was a con trick.
A shiver rippled down my back. Suddenly the glass stopped, the silence
shattered by a hysterical cackle.
'Well it looks as if our little scol-o is a natural,' glittered Katherine.
I leapt to my feet. This was weird and I wanted no part of it.
'You're not thinking of leaving us now, it's just getting exciting?'
Leticia, stood menacingly behind me, 'We've been waiting for someone
For the next half hour the glass jarred across the roughened concrete
floor, expelling its pent up fury. I had the satisfaction of seeing
Leticia blanch as it revealed a long dead twin sister. And things which
even now choke me with fear. Revealing his name as Sir Roger de Courcey,
the spirit amazed and tormented us all in turn. Then we made the mistake
of asking when he died. The glass flew, spinning crazily in all directions
until, without any of us touching it; it exploded into a thousand fragments.
The stench that accompanied this was like a rotting corpse.
Waking from terrifying nightmares drenched in sweat for weeks afterwards,
we realised we had to tell someone. Leticia offered to confide in the
school chaplain. We were summoned to his study. Doused in Holy Water
and a cloud of humility we had to swear on the Holy Bible never to indulge
in dark deeds again. Not that any of us wanted to.
Katherine left the school shortly after. Leticia and I became best friends,
shared experience and all that. But I never owned up to the research
session I had conducted one rainy afternoon a few weeks later in my
Sir Roger De Courcey was hanged at Tyburn Hill for the murder of his
wife and two young daughters. Hated women apparently.
M.J. is studying for her Masters in Creative Writing at the University
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