Authors: John Hennessy
Other Books by the same author
The Essence of Martial Arts
Copyright © 2013 by John Hennessy
Cover and internal design © Claudia McKinney of www.phatpuppyart.com
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems – except in the case of brief quotations in articles or reviews – without the permission in writing from its publisher, John Hennessy.
All brand names and product names used in this book are trademarks, registered trademarks, or trade names of their respective holders. The author is not associated with any product or vendor in this book.
John Hennessy is a martial arts teacher, and to date, has authored two works,
The Essence of Martial Arts
, a novel.
To readers of this story:-
Thanks very much for purchasing Dark Winter. I hope you enjoy the story, and do let me know, as I love to hear from fellow readers.
You can contact me here:-
Whilst Romilly doesn’t have a cat, I do,three in fact, and I thank Angel, Gui-Gui and Java for the many smiles and purrs that they give me.
I will never forget Tabby, Yi-Shara and Coco.
Cola, where-ever you are, keep safe.
For Xuyi, who has dealt with my many mood swings during the creation of this story. For my mum, Mary Hennessy, who introduced me to stories in the first place. Romilly’s Nan is loosely based on my own Nan and godmother, Ita Finn, who did indeed tell me many ghost stories, all of which were true.
Where would I be without my friends, some of which are my readers too, so my thanks go to Dave Ranford, Seth Ranford and Jonathan Bradbury, for the great nights out that helped kept me grounded. To Malcolm Pagan, whose endless music playlists got me through the noisy neighbours and allowed me the sanity to finish the book. To Bez, Daryl, Mozzy, and the rest of the Moss Side crew.
To, Vanessa Calvo,
, Jeni Mullins, Rachel Gold. and Kendare Blake, whose support kept me going when I badly needed it. Readers and writers must stick together!
My eternal thanks to you all for reading. We need more of you out there.
John Hennessy wrote Dark Winter between September 2012-2013.
I like being on my own, but this is not one of those times.
I was only fourteen years old when my Nan gave me a family heirloom. A simple looking hand mirror, that was to change my life forever. I didn’t want it, I never did. All I wanted, was to leave school with good enough grades to go to college, or maybe get a job. Or marry Troy Jackson, if he’d ever notice me.
I just wanted the simple things in life. The mirror, which my Nan bequeathed to me, was supposed to keep a very specific evil at bay. I hadn’t come up against such devilry yet, but my Nan warned me that I would face it on my sixteenth birthday nonetheless.
She told me that her destiny was to pass it to me, that she would not be able to fight such evils in the twilight of her life.
If I could protect it for even half of that time, I would be happy. I didn’t even know what I was supposed to be protecting. Here, the wood-cabin our family called Rosewinter was my sanctuary. I believed that both myself and the mirror would be safe here.
At least, that is what I hoped. I should have been excited to be reaching my sixteenth birthday in a matter of days. Instead, as it drew near, I became more disturbed that Nan’s prophecy really would come to pass.
The weather acted like it knew this too. Outside, the blue sky faded, the wind got up and howled throughout the forest. It was the middle of October, so I suppose the summer, such as it was, had to pass. I didn’t know it just yet, but this was going to be the longest, darkest winter I would ever know.
Every summer after school, I would spend a lot of my time with my parents, but around my birthday, at least since becoming fourteen, I would get to stay in Rosewinter, the family summer house and well, prepare to be a bit more grown-up. Our regular home, was simple – a three bedroomed semi-detached in the neighbourhood. Whenever I stayed at Rosewinter, I felt more grown-up, and it was good to be away from the
for a while.
I noticed a change over the last few years. The seasons were shifting, and it seemed to me that winter came earlier every year, and outstayed its welcome too, eroding a good part of what should have been our spring. As I grew older, it seemed that the safety I enjoyed at Rosewinter was fading. It just didn’t seem as safe as it used to feel to me. Maybe it was me – but the older I got, the more un-nerved I felt about Rosewinter. Perhaps Nan’s ghost stories were getting to me after all.
One summer, the whole family stayed at Rosewinter. I was just twelve years old, when the scariest thing happened to me and Nan.
My father was surprised Nan joined us. After all, it had been thirteen years since she had last been to Rosewinter. Whilst my father went fishing at Gorswood Lakes, my mother went rambling through the Forest with our neighbours, the Dawsons.
Nan and I sat across each other at the table in the main room. There was a bowl on the table which was full to bursting with apples.
She seemed agitated, distracted. Not her usual self at all. She got up and went into one of the bedrooms, and because she had been gone awhile, I thought she had gone to sleep. I got up out of my chair, and saw a blue light, ethereal in its composition, emanating from the bedroom.
I rushed in, to see my Nan looking transfixed at a mirror she held in her hands.
I shouted her name, but I couldn’t reach her. Eventually I grabbed her by the arm and squeezed hard.
“Nan! Whatever’s the matter with you?”
She looked at me in the most odd way.
“Nan, what’s wrong? You’re scaring me.”
Nan came out of the trance like state she had been in. “It’s alright, Milly.”
“I saw a blue light.”
“I could have bet you’d have seen that. There are many who can’t, Milly.”
Nan’s hands were old and wizened, but holding that mirror had made things much worse. The markings on her hands twisted like angry roots from the oldest trees in Gorswood Forest. The colours were strange. An indigo blue, mixing with a wine coloured red, to a chocolate brown.
Holding the mirror towards me, she said “Do you know what this is?”
Without waiting for an answer, she opened a drawer on her dresser, and put the mirror back inside, then locked the drawer securely.
“It’s a mirror,” I said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Yes, yes, that’s one way to put it,” said Nan. She spoke in such a dry, deadpan way, that I said no more. At a time like this, Mum would be saying to my father,
Get her more pills, Ron, before she has one of her turns
Nan got into her bed, and went into a deep sleep.
I must have dozed off on the sofa too, but I was awoken by the window latch, which had unhooked itself and the pane smacked angrily against its frame. I noticed that the sun had been particularly bright that day, glistening piercingly through the trees, and had disappeared all of a sudden.
I stood at the foot of the stairs, felt compelled to look upwards, and I could have sworn I saw a shadow glide up the stairs, and out of the window at the top.
I ran outside, and in the fading light, the shape seemed to be in sharper focus. I didn’t like the way it glided. All the same, I forgot about it when my parents returned, and prepared quite a supper for us all. As soon as I ate, I fell asleep.
On waking the next day, I found my parents had already gotten up. They’d left a note for me, saying ‘We’re walking around the Big Gorswood Lake’.
I was fine going around the wood-cabin, until I approached the stairs again. How can I explain it? As I ascended slowly, the oxygen around me seemed to have been removed from the air.
I felt unable to breathe, and having climbed only seven steps, turned abruptly and made my way down again. I felt its breath on my neck before it punched me in the back of my head. I fell forward, and my chin connected hard with the rather unforgiving floorboards. I tasted blood in my mouth, but managed to get to my feet. One of my teeth came out with the impact. I went to pick it up, but it fell through a gap in the floorboards.
Being young and rather naïve, I turned to see what the hell had hit me. I could see nothing that could have done this, and I wasn’t quite tall enough to hit my head on the beam above, which my father had to duck under when navigating his way up and down the staircase.
When I came to, I saw that blue light from my Nan’s bedroom again.
Nan appeared from the room, saw me on the floor, and kept saying
Milly, what happened?
ver and over again until I told her tripped and fell down the stairs. Mum was always saying,
Don’t worry your Nan now.
“I really hope you’re not bringing the demons into the real world, Milly. The spirits get angry if one disturbed their slumber.”
“I’m really not doing anything like that, Nan.”
“It’s not to be messed with.”
My Nan went quiet, as if she wanted to tell me something, but could not, or would not. Her reasons were her own. As I stood up to go to my room, she grabbed my arm.
“Milly, sit down. I have to tell you something.”
Nan didn’t look well. “Maybe you should rest Nan. The story can wait.”
“No it can’t,” she said. “Look around you Milly. What do you see?”
“I see the wood-cabin.”
“What about outside?”
I didn’t want to play another round of
State The Bleeding Obvious
but here we are.
“The woods, Nan, the trees…I don’t know.”
“What about the sky?”
I was about to say
Yeah it’s big and blue
when it did seem to look very dark in one area, and an ominous red in another.
“It’s getting darker, earlier. But that’s because winter’s coming.”
“You could say that, yes,” said Nan. “I keep having these feelings of er…déjà vu, like I have been here before. At this moment. With you. And yet I know that’s not the case. But you were wearing the same clothes in the ‘feeling’ that you are now.”
She continued. “The thing that….hit you. It knows you are here, it knows I have chosen you, it wants to to harm you, and harm me.”
How did you know about that Nan? I never told you.
At that moment, the window banged hard again, and we both jumped.
We laughed nervously, because we were together. Had we been on our own, we would have been much more scared. We scolded Dad for not fixing the window latch, and Nan continued with her story.
“The sky…it’s just like this. I’m here, you’re here, and you are wearing that top and jeans. That feeling you got when that demon went up the stairs, I have it now. All joy has gone from me, been
“You and I are acting like we are now, trying to laugh off the scares. At some point, you stand near that back door, like you want to go outside for some reason.”
Nan looked back at the door, then smiled nervously at me.
“There’s something out the back. With all my heart, I don’t want to see it, because if I do, it’ll be the death of me. And you’re not ready yet. I need more time to show you what you need to do.”
This wasn’t like the usual ghost story Nan peddled out to me. There was no grins, no wicked glee in her eyes when she talked. Not this time.
“So you came to Rosewinter because you want to see if that thing is really out there.” As I spoke, my knee knocked against the table, and an apple fell from the bowl.
My Nan was about to say ‘Don’t’ but I had already left the sofa to pick it up.
She looked at me in a Godawful pained way when she realised I was standing near the back door.
“No, it’s not that,” said Nan. “I just want to get rid of this joyless feeling inside of me.”
“Fine, Nan. We go.”
I was convinced nothing was out there. There had to be a reasonable explanation for what had happened the last few days.
We went around the back of the wood-cabin, and down the three steps into the heathland. Nan got increasingly agitated.
Suddenly, she stopped moving.
She mouthed to me
and put a finger to her lips, shushing me from replying.
Something did pass by us at that moment. A shadow. I felt it. We both did.
Nan’s grip on my arm threatened to stop the blood flowing to my hand.
I watched in horror as she collapsed to the ground, and clutched her chest. She freed an arm, and hid her face, turning her head into the dirt.
Then, I saw It. Just for a second. A figure, hovered over Nan, with long back hair, wet with blood. Her skin was all cracked, and she had no lips. Her teeth gnashed angrily, and what looked like blood, spat out. She had no legs below her knees. Her eyes were an orb-like blue, like the light I saw when Nan held the mirror.
Just like that, she was gone.
My parents heard me screaming and returned moments later. Nan was okay after a short stay in hospital. She’d had a mild heart attack. To some extent, I felt to blame. I resolved to find out whatever it was that had tried to hurt her.
A week later, I left school and instead of going straight home, decided to return on my own to Rosewinter. I looked around. Nothing unusual at first.