Short Stories

William McKechnie

It was a cold winter's night; the shutters on the window had broken loose and were crashing against the wall. Trees swished from side to side, almost breaking in half from the power of the howling gale-force winds, rain pounding mercilessly against every south-facing window. A bright flash of lightning illuminated each room casting shadows in every corner.

Peter who was only six years old pulled the quilt over his head then nervously began to count, "one thousand, two thousand, three thou" almighty crack of thunder that was so loud it caused the whole room to shake. Poor Peter's jerked like 50,000 volts of electricity had passed through his tiny little body. He started screaming at the top of his voice.

Peter's bedroom was the last bedroom of a very long hallway; it was an old rugged creepy house that had been left to Tom by his grandfather in his will. Unfortunately, Tom was not a wealthy man so there were no spare funds available to decorate it.

His parents' bedroom was three doors away but Peter's screams woke them up almost instantly. Peters mum and dad threw back their covers and jumped out of bed, at this point they had no idea what was going on. Tom ran to the door in his pinstriped pajamas and reached for his baseball bat that was leaning against the side of the wardrobe.

Julie nervously put on her heavy beige woollen dressing gown tying the cord in a bow at the front. Julie raised her hands to either side of her face "Oh my God be careful Tom" he held out his hand with his finger raised "Shhh" he pushed down on the black metal door handle and pulled open the door. He popped his head out looking right then left just in case there was anyone there then they both stepped out of the doorway and ran towards Peter's room.

They took a moment to gather their thoughts then Tom opened the door pushing in back fully against the wall just then a big flash of lightning followed almost immediately by a huge rumble of thunder. Julie rushed over to Peter who was hidden underneath the quilt, she threw back the quilt and got hold of him pulling him onto her lap rocking him backward and forwards whispering "its okay sweetheart, it's ok mummy and daddy are here now shhh there's no need to be frightened anymore, shhh it's ok, it's ok." Peter soon calmed down but was still sobbing a little as he held onto his mummy really tight. "its ok baby there is nothing to be scared of, mummy's here you are alright, you're safe now"

Tom who was still half asleep rubbed his eyes then combed his hand through his thick wavy jet black hair said, "What time is it?" Julie glanced over to the digital clock on the white bedside cabinet and said "it's quarter past three" "urgh are you okay with him? I need to get back to bed sweetheart I have a busy day and I have an important board meeting" "Yes," said Julie "you get back to bed, I'll sit with him for a while." "Ok I'll see you in the morning, he walked over to Peter and gave him a kiss on his forehead then kissed Julie and said goodnight son" Peter did not reply he was too busy focusing all of his attention on his mummy making sure she was not going anywhere.

Tom turned and headed off back to his own room. As he reached his bedroom the door opposite opened and there stood an old grey-haired lady in a big heavy bright red dressing gown with matching slippers. It was Molly; Tom's mother who was staying for a few months whilst her own house in London was being repaired after a burst pipe caused a lot of damage.

"Is everything alright? I thought I heard someone screaming" said Molly, "yes everything is fine mum it was just Peter, the thunder scared him but he's alight now Julie is with him you get back to bed" Tom went into the bedroom and closed the door behind him.

Molly walked along the landing till she got to Peter's room as she opened the door Peter shouted "Grandma" he leaped off Julie's lap and ran over giving her a big hug. Julie said "Hi Molly I" before she had the chance to finish her sentence Molly said "Why don't you go back to bed with Tom? I'll sit with Peter, we'll be alright, off you go and winked at Julie" Julie stood up from the bed and walked over to Peter who still had his arms around his grandma. He turned to look at his mummy, she kissed her two closed fingers and the then placed them on Peter's lips and said, "Love you, looked at Molly and said if you need me?" "We'll be fine," said Molly.

Molly got Peter by the hand and led him back to bed "In you go then patting her hand on his bottom" Peter got into bed and pulled the quilt up. "Budge over a bit then," said Molly she got in alongside Peter and sat with her back against the headboard and put her arm around Peter's shoulder "Now then what is all the fuss about my little treasure? She brushed his blonde straight hair away from his forehead with her hand. Peter was still sobbing slightly, "Aren't you frightened Grandma?" he asked "I used to be," she said in a gentle soothing voice, "I used to be terrified just like you but then I was given the blue cloak" Peter's eyes lit up, "blue cloak Grandma?" he asked inquisitively, his eyes transfixed on her, "what blue cloak?" She made herself a little more comfortable on the bed and began to tell the tale.

"When I was a little girl, just about your age, I was terrified to go to sleep with the light out, I used to cry myself to sleep every night, I imagined there were big scary monsters in the dark that hid in my wardrobe and under my bed. One night, just like this one a great storm hit the village where I lived. There was a huge rumble of thunder and everything in my bedroom shook so hard I screamed for help but no one could hear me. My mummy and daddy were outside making sure the animals were safe and secure in the barn. Then a bolt of lightning shot across the night sky causing my room to be all lit up. I dived under the covers, I was crying so much my sides were aching, it was then it happened" Peter jumped out from underneath the quilt sitting on his knees excitedly saying "what Grandma? What happened?" "Come Peter back into bed as she patted the quilt and I'll tell you" Peter hurriedly got under the quilt and looked at Grandma and said again "What happened Grandma?"

"Ok! There I was shaking underneath the covers when all of a sudden I felt a tug on the quilt, I peeped from beneath my bedclothes and there sitting on my bedside chair was a little funny looking man with a little green suit and matching hat, he was wearing a little red belt with a big black buckle and tiny black pointy shoes that curled up at the toes. He smiled at me and said" "Hello Molly, there's no need to be afraid" 

I could not believe what I saw, at first I thought it was my eyes and ears playing tricks but then he leaped onto my bed and pulled back my covers stood up right here in front of me just where you are sitting now bowed down removing his tiny green peaked hat and said "I am Shellon at your service" He was smiling at me and suddenly I did not feel afraid anymore.

He sat down and crossed his leg and said, "You know who I am but do you know who you are?" "Yes, of course, I know who I am! What a silly question to ask? I am Molly, Molly Green" "Yes" he replied "but not just any Molly Green! You are the great, great, great, great-granddaughter of Anthony Stalwart! He was a very brave and kind man who befriended an elf just like me who was in grave danger. As a token of gratitude Anthony was granted one wish."

"What was the wish Grandma?" Peter asked excitedly. "Well, he wished for an invisible magic cloak that when summoned would wrap itself around the person who asks for it. His wish was granted but he was told in order for the cloak to work the person who summoned it had to believe in its power otherwise it was just a useless cloak." "Whoa," said Peter. Molly carried on "For many generations, the tale of the cloak was passed on but everyone laughed saying it was just a made-up story.

One day I was with my parents at the beach, it was mostly rocks and I found myself trapped by the fast approaching tide. I could hear everyone shouting for me to get back but I was rigid with fear. The biggest wave you could ever imagine came right over my head but I remembered the story of the cloak. I quickly closed my eyes tight and summoned the cloak to protect me. When the wave dispersed I was gone, they say the coastguard found me floating face down in the sea 4 hours later; but when they got me onto their boat! I opened my eyes. I told everyone it was the cloak with its magical power but no one believed me, there were many different speculations why I was still alive but I knew the truth.

"Peter's eyes were open wide and asked "Where is the cloak now Grandma? Can I have it, please... please Grandma." "Now hush and let me finish," she whispered. "The elf who granted the wish made the cloak invisible! An invisible cloak made out of elfin stardust. This invisible cloak would only protect members of Anthony Stalwart's family if they believed! Do you believe Peter?" she asked, "Yes I do Grandma, I really do believe! Have I got it really and truly?" Molly covered him up, "Now you try to get some sleep" she leaned over kissed Peter on his forehead and whispered "Yes my little treasure, you have the magic cloak. Remember now! Always believe! Now go to sleep and you have nothing to worry about ever again" Peter all smiles turned over and looked at the mirror on the wall and seeing his reflection he said, "I believe"

The next morning Peter ran downstairs excitedly, "Mummy, Daddy" shouting at the top of his voice "I've got it, I've got it" "Got what sweetheart? What have you got?" asked his mother, "I've got the magic cloak to protect me and you and daddy and Grandma and" Julie stopped him mid-conversation "What magic cloak? What are you talking about?" "The elf gave it to Grandma," Julie turned and drew Molly a disgusted look. Peter carried on "it has an invisible force field and Grandma said if I believe in its power it will work and will protect me" "Stop it Peter" said Julie "But mummy I" "I said stop it" Julie yelled at the top of her voice, she was not impressed and told Peter to be quiet and sit at the table. "Now listen," said Julie "There is no such thing as elves or a magic cloak" "But mummy! Grandma said" "It's ok Peter," said Grandma we believe" Julie again looked at Molly and said "I don't ever want you to fill his head with nonsense like this again. He is at an impressionable age, for Heaven's sake Molly what were you thinking? What if he were to tell the other children at school? He would be a laughing stock and God knows! Where would it end?" Julie slammed the wooden spoon down onto the breakfast bar, yanked off her apron and shouted at Tom "She's your mother don't just sit there do something" before running out of the kitchen.

Peter ran to his Grandma who was sitting at the breakfast table looking rather disappointed with Julie's sudden outburst, "Peter go to your room," said Tom "But daddy" "No buts Peter just go to your room now I want to speak to your Grandma. Off you go" Peter looking sad and head down left the kitchen and went to his room.

"Mum! What were you thinking? Not that stupid force field story" "Molly said, "Just because you don't believe Tom! But Peter does and as long as he believes then the cloak will work and will protect him" "Stop it, mum! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!" bashing both fists onto the table in despair "There is no cloak there is no elf and, if you carry on with this you will leave me no option but to ask you to leave, I'm sorry but I can't have you upsetting Julie or Peter again I mean it mum not another word" 

Tom turned around and walked briskly out of the kitchen. Molly could see a frightened Peter peeking through the banister upstairs and gave him a big smile and a wink. Peter stood up quickly and ran into his room. After that morning Molly never mentioned the cloak again to Peter and Peter didn't dare ask about it, as he did not want to get his Grandma in trouble. Years went past and Peter never gave up his belief about the elf or the invisible magic cloak with its magic power. He was mocked and ridiculed by everyone, during his school years other children used to dance around him chanting cruel rhymes and even some teachers poked fun but he believed and no amount of teasing would make him change his mind.

When Peter left school he started work at a plastic factory not far from his home Town but on his first day, some workers who went to the same school subjected him to an initiation ceremony. Four of them asked if he could help them to stretch a piece of fabric? As it stretched they all shouted, "Quick take cover under the magic cloak the roof is going to collapse ha ha ha. Peter was left standing there holding the fabric on his own after being made a laughing stock.

There was a young girl called Fiona who worked in the office as a receptionist she felt sorry for Peter and did not like the other workers poking fun at him. Fiona went to Peter and took the fabric from him giving a big smile and said "welcome to Coders, you must be Peter, I've heard so much about you, have you had a tour of the factory yet?" "Err no" replied Peter "Come on then put on this coat and I'll show you around" as they were walking through the shop floor Fiona said "can I offer you a piece of advice without you taking it the wrong way" "That depends on the advice" said Peter.

"This is a safe factory, it was opened 23 years ago and touch wood till this very day, and we have never had an accident. So I was thinking perhaps you might want to leave your magic cloak at home? What do you say, Peter?" "Ok," he said smiling.

Peter worked very hard at the factory and three years, two months later management were so impressed with his work they asked Fiona if she thought he would make a good foreman? "Fiona had a soft spot for Peter but never made her feelings known but she thought this was a great idea as part of the foreman's duties was to help in the office with some paperwork. "Yes, I think he would make an excellent foreman." Peter was summoned to the office, at first he thought he was in trouble but couldn't think of a reason why or whether he had done something wrong. His fears were soon relieved when Fiona gave him a big smile along with the thumbs up as he was walking into their office. When Peter came out he went to Fiona and said, "Why did you do that?" "Do what?" she said, "You know! Tell Mr. Jacobs and the rest of the board I would make an excellent foreman" "Oh that! Well, I believe in you, Peter! Have you taken it?" "Yes I have and thanks" he leaned over and kissed her gently on her cheek. She looked at him in admiration.

Days rolled into weeks, weeks into months Fiona and Peter were spending lots of time together going through various plans and paperwork one day she said "How would you like to come to my house for your tea one night? I mean only if you want to? I mean you don't have to come if" "I'd like that very much," said Peter "You would?" "Yes! I would" "Oh right, great err when? I mean would you like to come over tonight? Oh maybe not I mean I know it's a bit short notice" "No tonight would be lovely Fiona, what time?" "You would? Oh err right err say seven o'clock or is that too late?" "Seven is lovely," said Peter "I best get back on the shop floor, I'll see you later then!

One thing led to another and they carried on dating for a few years. Fiona had always been curious about the story of the elf and the cloak and one night he sat her down and told her all what his Grandma told him all those years ago during that stormy night. Of course, Fiona did not believe in it but she never stopped Peter from telling it. Soon after they were married Fiona told Peter she was pregnant and 9 months on gave birth to a smashing 7lbs. 7oz little girl. They named her Chantelle, she was beautiful and every night when she lay in her cot, Peter would bend down beside her and tell her the story his Grandma told him. As Chantelle grew up she too started to believe as he did. Every night Peter would kneel down by her bed and say "Magic cloak protect my family, this night as we sleep," By the time Chantelle was eight she was telling everyone the story.

Fiona got a call from Chantelle's schoolteacher Mrs. Drywall who said, "Chantelle was being picked on by the other children because of her belief in an 'elf some magic cloak!" "I'm sorry," said Fiona I will have a word with Peter tonight and I'm sure we can stop this from happening again." "I hope so for Chantelle's sake," said Mrs. Drywall.

When Peter got in from work he noticed Fiona had been crying, "What's the matter? Is everything all right? Has something happened to Chantelle? Please tell me!" "Nothing has happened Peter! I just need to talk to you." Mrs. Drywall rang today to say Chantelle is being picked on because of her telling silly make-believe stories about a magic cloak. I put up with this Peter before we were married and I didn't say anything because I thought one day you would grow out of it and you would stop, but now we have a beautiful daughter and I don't want her to suffer the way you did! I want this nonsense to stop! I want you to tell Chantelle in the morning, that it is just a make-believe story so she would never feel frightened but there is no truth in it"

"I can't do that Fiona, because I believe and so does Chantelle and one day that cloak may save" Fiona stopped him "There is no elf! No cloak! No invisible force field! It's all in your head Peter! Come and live in the real world! Please for Chantelle" Peter sat shaking his head "I can't Fiona I'm sorry I cannot lie to her" "You cannot lie to her? Have you heard yourself? It's not true Peter, it's a made-up story passed on by a nutty old woman! Well if you don't tell her Peter I am leaving you and taking Chantelle with me because she needs to be protected" 

"I know the cloak will protect her" Fiona stood up and said, "That's it! I'm going to my Aunt's tonight think hard about what I've said, tomorrow if you haven't told her we're leaving you for good" she went to her room and packed an overnight bag on her way back Peter still sitting on the sofa staring blankly into space. Fiona said, "I'm going it is your choice! I cannot make you do it! If you love me, Peter? If you love Chantelle? She burst into tears and ran out of the house and down the street, her aunt's house was just around the corner.

Peter found it hard to get to sleep that night, he knew he would always believe in the story his Grandma told him and he also knew Chantelle believed in it too. He thought perhaps Fiona would come back in a couple of hours after she calmed down, he lay in bed waiting for the door to open and for her to walk in but it was not to be. The clock struck 2 am and he was still wide-awake so he got up and walked along the landing stopping outside Chantelle's room. He opened the door for a quick peek and she was fast asleep. He went over to her bed and knelt down beside her.

It was 4:30 am when Fiona's aunt rushed into the bedroom "Fiona! Sweetheart wake up" Fiona woke and was quite startled "What time?" "Fiona the police are outside! They are saying your house is on fire they want to know if anyone is in the house? Where is Chantelle & Peter?" Fiona shook her head to make sure she wasn't dreaming, and then she got her senses "What? Fire? Oh no! Please no! There has to be a mistake it's not my house! Peter and Chantelle are in the house! No, it can't be!" she ran to the front door and could see the sky lit up, she screamed at the top of her voice "Oh my God no, please no" She ran out of the house and up the street only wearing her pajama's never stopped to put anything on her feet tears rolling down her cheeks repeating over and over again "Please no Lord please no"

By the time she arrived at the house it was engulfed in forty-foot flames, with inflamed anger lurching from every window. Bert Harrison the local policeman and a close personal friend caught sight of Fiona running towards the house and quickly grabbed her but she fought hard to break free from his hold screaming "My baby! Chantelle! Peter! No! Get off me!" A few neighbours ran across to help keep hold of her to stop her going any further. 

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William McKechnie

The sun was shining through the window into my daughter's bedroom. What a mess, I thought to myself as I busily tidied up. I was about to turn the Hoover on when the doorbell rang. I went downstairs and opened the door to find a very strange looking man standing on my doorstep. He was dressed in a very odd tunic and his long, grey, beard glistened in the sunlight. "Can I help you?" I asked?, he looked at me and uttered the words "JOKAR MA AHRESHA," taken back by this I said, "I beg your pardon?" again he said the words, "JOKAR MA AHRESHA." For some unknown reason, I felt cold inside and a shiver ran down my spine, I began to shake and asked him "to go away," I closed the door almost slamming it. I leaned with my back against it and tried to compose myself.

After a few moments I slowly crept to the side window to see if he had gone away, I gingerly pulled back the curtain to take a peep but thankfully he was gone. I went back to the door and opened it and looked around, he was definitely no-where to be seen, again I felt a shiver almost like someone had just stepped over my grave. I went to the gate but he had completely disappeared from sight. This was most odd, but I felt relieved and I didn't care where he had gone, as long as he had. It was as if he had just vanished into thin air. As I made my way back into the house, I kept looking over my shoulder, I shivered as the words "JOKAR MA AHRESHA" swam around in my head.

By tea-time, I had almost forgotten about the strange little man. I did not mention it to my family, but as the night drew near, a terrible feeling of insecurity came over me, Who was he? What did he want? Perhaps he was selling something. I tried very hard to put it all out of my mind.

That night I didn't sleep much, every time I closed my eyes I saw him standing on the doorstep chanting "JOKAR MA AHRESHA."

The next morning I felt ill. My husband left for work at his usual time and my daughters, Lisa and Samantha were sitting at the table eating their breakfast. The radio was on low and Lisa was humming to one of the tunes that was playing. It was school holidays and the girls had been on a pony trekking holiday. Samantha was the eldest and she doted on Lisa, they went everywhere together. "Can Lisa and I go on a picnic today mum?" she asked, I told them "that they could as long as they didn't go too far away." Samantha replied, "that they would go to the local stables and picnic on the field where they could see the horses and their friends."

They were sensible girls so I agreed. We packed a basket and the girls left holding hands, "see you later mum" they shouted. I cleared the breakfast dishes up and went upstairs to take a shower. I felt drained and tired. Perhaps I would ask the neighbours if the strange old man had knocked on their door, I was determined to make some sense of it all.

As I came downstairs I heard a noise. I thought the girls had forgotten something. I walked into the hall and something caught my eye in the lounge, I went in and there he was sitting at the table, the little old man in the tunic. I panicked "GET OUT! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" he sat very still, "I'LL CALL THE POLICE" I screamed at him, still, he did not move. Then he turned and stared straight into my eyes. "JOKAR MA AHRESHA" he whispered. I ran to the telephone to call the police, but the telephone disappeared before my very eyes. I jumped back and said to myself, "now steady on girl, this must be just a dream, it is not really happening." I closed my eyes and turned around, I counted to three and opened my eyes but there he was, sitting at the table this time he had cards laid out all around him.

In a quiet voice, he told me to "come, come and see" as if in a trance I felt a power drawing me towards him, "I am going to show you your future" I rubbed my eyes but he was still there. I felt a strange force within me and I was unable to stop myself from sitting beside him. "JOKAR MA AHRESHA" he chanted, the room began to move, the furniture and all the ornaments lifted into the air and swayed from side to side, slowly at first then faster and faster, I felt intoxicated. I couldn't breathe. I wanted to scream for help but the words would not come out. Then everything disappeared, it was all gone, the house, the living room, everything. I could hear birds singing, and a cool breeze on my face. I was still sitting at the table but we were outside by a lake. Suddenly I saw my children leaning over trying to pull something out of the water. I screamed at them to come back from the edge, "LISA!, SAMANTHA! COME AWAY YOU'LL FALL IN, STOP!" they did not answer, I tried to get up from the chair but my legs could not move, I started to panic, they were leaning too far over, "Oh my God!" I yelled, "somebody do something please! somebody help!"

At that moment Lisa fell in Samantha started screaming for help, she was crying uncontrollably, "HELP HELP! MY SISTER IS IN THE WATER AND SHE CAN'T SWIM, PLEASE ANYBODY HELP" she collapsed by the side of the river shouting her sister's name.

I was bound by invisible chains, the old man by now was shaking violently at the table. With tears running down my face I watched Lisa go under the water for the last time. I wailed "NO! OH MY GOD NO! PLEASE NOT MY BABY, PLEASE! PLEASE!" I covered my face with my hands.

When I took them away I was back in my living room, I could feel the tears running down my cheeks, I looked around for the old man but he had

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