Had he captured it? The sun descended below the horizon and the sky turned purple as Marty urgently scrambled in the direction of Crooked Cottage clutching his camera. Running at full speed through the town, Marty startled a man on a bike and a woman walking a dog. The dog barked with the excitement as Marty hurtled past.

          “Good evening,” called Marty.

          “Ach, nice to see yer keepin’ fit there Marty from Cram Tay -isn’t it?” said the dog walker.

The dog yapped again.

           “Doughnut, it’s just a runner – now there’s no need for fuss is there?”

Doughnut wagged her tail, licked her lips and with a mad look in her eye panted with excitement.

          Marty had only a steep hill to negotiate before he reached the cottage. He jumped two fences that led to the back warren. Aromas of barbecues, baking and smoke wafted from the cobbled cottage yards. The neighbours heard something, paused for a moment, but continued chatting whilst Marty dashed past.

          With a loud thud, Marty burst through the front door, darted across the kitchen and climbed the stairs two at a time. On the landing, he disappeared into his digital darkroom without a word.


          “What went on there?” asked Johnny glancing at Shana who was sprawled on the sofa. Danny sat in the armchair opposite him, in prime position in front of the fire.

          The pair shrugged and continued to sip their instant hot chocolates.

          “Maybe he needs a pee,” said Johnny Boy stirring his tea thoughtfully.

          “Since when has Marty peed in the digital darkroom?” asked Danny.

          “Who knows what he does in there? Anything’s possible,” said Johnny Boy flatly.

          “Are yer serious now?” asked Shana studying Johnny Boy’s face.

Johnny stood up and gestured for Shana to follow.

          “Leave him Johnny, he’ll tell us what’s going on when he’s good ‘n’ ready,” said Danny.

          “Ach – I’m not bloody waiting… He could be all night! So… since when has Marty ever ran up the stairs?” asked Johnny.

          “Ach, you’re so impatient ,” said Danny with a huff.

Shana stood up, gazed at Danny and smiled seductively. She took a step closer, leant forward and examined his necklace. It was a silver circle containing a runic sign resembling a seven with a dot. “Nice, I never noticed it before… what does it mean?” she asked gazing into his eyes.

          “All the villagers have them, even Johnny Boy. They are… part of our history,” answered Danny with a blush.

          “Are yer coming or what?” demanded Johnny signalling for Shana to follow.

          On the landing, the pair placed their ears against the digital darkroom wall and listened. A closed door meant keep out! Marty had made that very clear on the first day.

          Inside the digital darkroom Marty downloaded his memory card. It was a crisp, white room full of orb style lighting and white or transparent equipment. It was clean, pristine and in perfect order.

          “You got some dirty pictures Marty?” called Johnny.

          “Marty you perv!” said Shana joining the taunt.


Danny sat silently, goosebumps rose on his neck. Something felt odd – the atmosphere was static. As a distraction, Danny studied the nineteen thirties bed and breakfast style wallpaper with three ornamental flying pigs. After deciding it was hideous, he reached for his surf magazine, but it was gone. He glanced around; it was nowhere to be found.

          “Did any of youse guys move my magazine?” called Danny knowing how Johnny loved to hide things.

With her head against the wall, Shana stared accusingly at Johnny.

          “I did ney do anything – all right?”

          “No. Danny you were the last in the room,” called Shana. 

          “Oh,” replied Danny searching the room and noticing that it was on top of a bookshelf. “How on earth did it get there?” He jumped, grabbed the magazine and returned to his seat.

A cutting from a newspaper floated past and landed on the floor with some grey fluff attached. After wiping the paper off, he read the headline. ‘Freak of Nature!’ The article carried an etching of a small, deformed child submerged in a circus tank.  


Inside the digital darkroom, Marty stood up and knocked some rulers from his desk.

          “Marty what are yer doing?” shouted Johnny.

          “Ah leave him to it – he will tell us what he’s up to when he’s ready,” said Shana losing interest.

Johnny turned to face the wall again. “Come on, we haven’t seen you that excited since… in fact Marty, I’ve nort ever seen you that excited before. You’re not having a wank are yer?”

          Sitting at his computer, Marty opened up the digital file and zoomed in. He smugly sat back in his chair, the digital darkroom was his territory and they could wait. He was allowed a maximum of two hours a day on the computer and only had only forty minutes remaining.

          “For Christ’s sake… Will you tell us what the excitement’s about Marty?” Johnny insisted. “If you don’t I’ll break something… right here and you can explain that to the landlord!”

Marty considered Malcolm’s strangeness and the potential repercussions…

          “I have a picture of a rare bird. I don’t know if I got it or not – all right?”

          “Is that all?” shouted Johnny.

          “Now there’s a let-down,” said Shana folding her arms.

Shana started to walk away but Johnny grabbed her arm. “Marty I don’t believe you. You’d never get that excited about a bird. Not one with feathers. It must be something more…” he said with a wink.

          “You’re right Johnny.”

          “I told you,” whispered Johnny.

          “I think I saw it’s nest,” said Marty smirking.

          “ACH! You’re turning into a twitcher!” said Johnny with a small stamp. “You’re losing it Marty. One minute yer talking to yourself and the next yer photographing birds. Next you’ll be stamp collecting!”

          “Yeh, I’m a philatelist. I have an album and I want to start. I have some rare ones on order. Oh and coins are good too Johnny… You might want to start collecting with me.”

Shana and Johnny Boy said nothing. Instead, they glanced at each other in a disturbed manner.

          “What’s a philatelist?” Johnny finally whispered.

Shana shrugged, she then gestured for Johnny to follow her to the art studio to show him Marty’s canvas.

          “Have you noticed Marty seems to be a bit – well…”

          “Loopy?” Johnny replied.

          “I wasn’t going to say that exactly. I just think he is having a hard time dealing with his dad,” she said admiring the canvas.

          “You mean he’s having a breakdown?”

          “I think he’s going through a phase. He’s just finding ways to process what happened… but keeps distracting himself,” she said in her best psychoanalytical tone.

          “How is he distracting?”

          “The naked girl in the sea works…” she said.

          “Well that’s the best distraction a man could have.” Johnny stared at the canvas; he didn’t like emotional stuff – that was for girls. 

          “That’s her you know.”

Johnny peered closer and smirked. “Hmm, she’s hot – but her boobs aren’t big enough!” he said sifting through Marty’s toolbox.

          “Johnny, what are you doing?”

Johnny grinned mischievously as he took a pencil and drew additional bosoms.

          “They can go from a B cup to an E. That will teach him!” Johnny stood back and nodded. He appeared pleased with himself. “See Marty isn’t the only artist around here!”

          “You wanker Johnny! That is wrong drawing on someone else’s sketches. Boundaries Johnny! Anyway, if those are the shape of women’s breasts then I am definitely a man… Johnny they look like bananas for God’s sake,” she said, folding her arms.

          “Nothing that a good uplift bra won’t sort out… Anyway we’d better get out of here otherwise we’ll be in trouble!”         

When the pair returned to the front room they found Danny sitting in silence, staring at the wall.

          “Danny? What’s wrong with yer? Why are you acting all weird now?” asked Shana.

The atmosphere in the room felt electric.

          “Danny?” Shana said a little louder.

Danny did not reply. He trembled with glazed eyes fixed on one solitary spot on the wall.

          “Bloody attention seeker,” said Johnny Boy. “Come on mate yer scaring Shana here.”

Danny clasped the article and stared into space.

With a side-glance, Johnny looked to Shana for direction.     


He followed Danny’s gaze to a point on the wall where his Surf magazine was stuck.

          “I think this may have something to do with it. Danny did that … make you go weird?” said Shana noticing the article in Danny’s hand.

The pair crouched down and studied the picture of the girl in the tank. 

          “Freak of Nature. Is this the future? Will our children develop webbed feet? This woman was born of a human. So how was this creature ever conceived? There have been numerous reports of mutated creatures luring our women to the sea, to their deaths. How are we going to stop this phenomenon? How can we stop these freaks of nature ruling the earth?” read Shana.

          “Well, that’s a load of bollocks! I bet it’s from one of those weird aliens rule the earth magazines,” said Johnny in his most dismissive tone. “When was it written anyway?”

Shana searched the page for the date. “1837.”

          “Wo!” said Johnny pulling the magazine off the wall and laying it on Danny’s lap.

          “I think Marty should see this,” said Shana smoothing out the article.

          On the way back to the digital darkroom, the pair glanced back at Danny. The magazine had returned to its original position in the corner but Danny hadn’t moved. Johnny glanced at Danny questioningly and noticed tears trickling down his cheeks. Every so often he trembled.  


Inside the rather bright darkroom Marty zoomed in on one of the images using the program’s magnify glass. “Yes! I…”

          “Marty there’s something that you need to see,” called Shana impatiently.

“I’m just coming,” shouted Marty fumbling about for paper to make a printout. Once he had clicked print, he made his way to the entrance of the darkroom.

          “Danny found this,” said Shana thrusting the article at him.

          “Danny’s acting real weird Marty. I’ve never seen him like it before. Not even when he got his head jammed in the wok stand. Or when he knocked himself out when he jumped too high on that trampet.”

          “Something must have taken place in the 1830s?” said Marty reflectively as he handed the article back to Shana.

          “Is that all you can say? Aren’t you even going to take a look at him?” asked Shana.

          “Danny is responsible for himself and it’s just an article,” he said dismissively.

          “You’re not taking this seriously now are you? There really is something wrong with him. You have to see him now Marty. I’ve never seen him like this – really!”

          “But I only have thirty minutes left with the computer… He’s probably been smoking banana skins or tomato skins knowing him…”

          “No – he’s given that up,” said Shana. “Now come on just have a look,” she said dragging Marty by the sleeve.

          When the three of them returned to the front room, they found the fire ablaze and Danny was now sitting facing the fire. As warm as the fire was, Danny shivered with his hair standing on end.

          “Are yer having a breakdown or something, Danny?” asked Johnny in his most concerned tone.

          With a shake of the head Danny gestured towards the corner.

Johnny followed his gaze, retrieved the magazine and placed it on Danny’s lap. He stared at the magazine, remained silent and trembled. The group pulled their chairs close to the now raging fire.

          “What’s wrong there Danny? You can tell us we’re your friends,” said Shana taking hold of Danny’s hand.

          Danny glanced towards the magazine. The group followed his gaze.

          “What? What the bloody hell’s so exciting about that magazine?” Johnny demanded.

Silence. The magazine flew past Johnny’s face and landed back in its original position, on the wall.

          “Shit!” shouted Johnny.

Shana and Marty instinctively forced their chairs backwards.



          “Shit… What the…” said Johnny shaking his head.

          “I think we should leave the room,” said Shana.

Marty shook his head. “No! We live here. We need to demonstrate that we’re not scared.”

          “So you think there’s something here then?” asked Shana.

          “So we’re haunted? Great! Hooray we’re haunted, maybe we can do a ‘we’re haunted dance’, that will scare whatever it is!” gestured Johnny as he moved erratically about the room flapping his arms.

          “Malcolm said something about the house today,” said Marty. “It has some kind of imprints on it.”

Johnny continued waving his arms in the haunted dance. He resembled a bulky ballet dancer. “Who the hell’s Malcolm when he’s at home?” asked Johnny mid-bounce.

          “That would be our landlord Johnny,” said Marty. “You know… the one I pay to live here. Malcolm’s a normal kind of fellow – came round today with a shotgun.”

          “And that can be considered normal?” asked Johnny, catching his breath. 

          “What did he say?” wondered Shana. 

          “Just about the fact this house has carried tragedy. Not really much else,” he said. “Oh and this cottage has carried all manner of story. The good thing is the house apparently likes us. We made it through a week.”

          “Whoopee,” shouted Johnny as he leapt into the air. “Yep, it’s really showing that it likes us.”

          “It seems that we woke something up today. We need to find out the history of the house,” said Shana thoughtfully.

          “Can’t wait-” says Johnny kicking his leg in the air. “Probably was owned by someone mental!”

Unexpectedly the fire erupted.

          “Be careful what you say there Johnny,” said Shana flinching.

          “Oh I have to be careful of something that’s not alive? Sorry I forgot that!” called Johnny mid-pirouette. “Who makes these rules anyway Shana? The ghost should be scared of us. We’re alive – it’s dead!” said Johnny with his own special logic.

          “What’s going on?” asked Shana studying Danny.

Danny shook his head with his lips tightly sealed.

          “I’m going to take him to his room,” said Shana gently helping Danny up.


          Once in Danny’s room Shana guided Danny to the bed and sat stroking his hair. “Don’t be afraid there Danny,” she said in a comforting voice. “Whatever it is, she’s just trying to get attention like a small child crying.”

          “I wasn’t scared until I saw her with…”

          “With what?” Shana demanded.

Danny fell silent, shook his head sadly as his lip trembled.


In the front room, Johnny plonked down on an armchair. “I’m nort scared you know Marty…”

          “I know. Anyway… It’s just something in an old house. It happens all the time,” Marty replied.

          “I’ll hit it. That’s what I’ll do,” said Johnny gesturing. You can’t hit a ghost – you prick!” said Marty.

          “Why not?” said Johnny folding his arms.

          “Err, maybe because it’s not solid?”

          “Right, I’ll hoover it up!”

          “Johnny really…  hoovering a ghost? Where did you get that idea from?”  

          “Scooby Doo… They did, they hoovered the ghost. It got rid of it too and Scrappy…”

          “Johnny, Scooby Doo isn’t a point of reference to use with a spectre,” said Marty.

          “Well, what do we do then?” he said.

          “It hasn’t hurt anyone, has it?” said Marty.

          “Well… no… not yet…”

          “And it’s not definite anyway,” said Marty pushing himself to standing. “Well, I think I’ll go and print then. I have twenty-five minutes left.”

“I’m coming too,” said Johnny desperately.

          “I thought you weren’t scared,” said Marty with a smirk. 

          “I’m not! I like birds, all kinds of birds – a lot,” he said.

          “Marty don’t tell anyone, it’s my secret,” said Johnny winking.

          The old pipes creaked with the motion of water in the corner of the room. Johnny jumped up and looked around. 

          “Go to your room you giant wuss!” said Marty.

          “But if I’m alone, she can get me,” he replied.

          “It seems she’s only on this floor and won’t go upstairs,” said Marty.

          “How do you know that for sure?” asked Johnny.        

Marty didn’t know that for sure. “For such a big man… Don’t worry about it,” said Marty. “Right I’m going to print alone, notice the alone, by myself thing? Anyway, there’s not enough room for two of us. As much as I would love to hear all your bird stories,” he replied.

          “I’m going to find Shana. She can keep me company.” Johnny trudged out of the room. “Anyway, we’re going to the cove tonight so we’ll be out.”

He climbed the stairs to Shana’s room. It was empty. He stood anticipating the worst…

          “No… Don’t let it be Danny.” Slowly Johnny Boy turned towards Danny’s room. He didn’t knock but barged in. Shana and Danny kissed passionately on the bed. The pair didn’t notice.

          “I see… Yer wet fart! Get scared and kiss the girl,” he said not knowing where to place his hands.

The pair looked up, startled.

          “Could you keep me company too Shana? I’m scared,” Johnny said in a high-pitched voice. “You sneaky shit Danny! It’s all a set up to get laid!”

          “Excuse me! I am here!” said Shana sharply.

Johnny was not impressed and stormed out knocking ornaments and lamps on the way.

          “What an arse!” she said glancing at Danny. “Where were we?”

          Next door, Johnny stomped into his room, launched himself onto his bed and stared at the ceiling. “I am a fanny magnet – yep Johnny Boy is a fanny magnet – yes I am. Effortlessly and easily I attract a nympho!” he repeated. He had read positive affirmation made things happen in a person’s life.





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