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Authors: Graham Masterton

Faces of Fear

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Faces of Fear

Graham Masterton

Introduction

Fear comes in many guises. It can wear the face of a stranger, watching you with unnatural interest. It can wear the face of a long-lost friend. Sometimes its face can be imaginary – a glowering beast who appears in your wallpaper, or in the whorls of woodwork in your closet, when you're trying to sleep. At other times, it can press itself pale and horrified right against your window.

In this new collection of stories. I have brought together many different faces of fear, from many different parts of the world. Some of the faces are subtle. Some are erotic. Others are out-and-out horrific.

I wanted to show that life always has more than one face to it – that there are other existences and other realities some of them terrifying, but some of them magical and irresistibly alluring. I wanted to show how people from all kinds of different cultures share the same fundamental fear – the fear of parallel worlds where the dead still walk, and any kind of horror is conceivable.

I wanted to show that not everything in life is what it appears to be, and that we should always be wary of taking things on face value. Very wary indeed.

In
Faces of Fear
, you will find stories of Celtic terrors – sinister strangers who can entrap you with guile and charm, and by offering you your heart's desire. Fathers
and brothers from Wales – long dead, but walking through the foggy valleys.

You will find stories set in rural England, where the face that pursues you through the woods is too terrible to look at. You will visit France, too, where even the face that you adore will frighten you to death.

In America, you will meet the faces of hideous greed and the faces of terrible self-destruction. You will also confront one of the most malevolent faces of Native American magic.

Even in Scotland, you will come across a miraculous face that embodies the greatest fear of all – the fear of God.

Before you read these stories, take a long look at your own face in the mirror. This, too, will become a face of fear.

And when you've finished, take another look – not just to see how much you've changed, but also to make sure that there is no other face beside you … that you're really alone.

The danger is not so much that you will forget the faces of fear. The danger is that they will never forget
you.

Graham Masterton.

Contents

Evidence of Angels

The Hungry Moon

Grief

The Secret Shih-Tan

Men of Maes

Fairy Story

Suffer Kate

Spirit-Jump

A Note on the Author

Evidence of Angels

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is my family birthplace, so of course I always feel a great affinity for it, quite apart from the fact that it is one of the finest and most ancient cities in Europe. The rock of Edinburgh has been a fortress since Roman times, and its imposing castle is still an essential tourist attraction, especially for its wide views over Leith, the Firth of Forth and the hills of Fife.

The backbone of old Edinburgh is the street which runs along the steep ridge from the castle to Holyrood Palace – variously called Canongate. Netherbow, High Street, Lawnmarket and Castle Hill – but together known as the ‘Royal Mile'. The houses along this street are very old and lofty, arranged in a series of closes. A close which is wide enough to admit a carriage (2 m) is called a ‘wynd'.

Apart from its political and social history as Scotland's capital, Edinburgh is also the seat of Scotland's presbyterian religion. And it is religion – with all of its glory, and all of its awesome trappings – that brings us into confrontation with our first face of fear.

EVIDENCE OF ANGELS

Before he was born she loved him with a fierce and sisterly love, and called him Alice. Her mother let her rest her head against her stomach to hear his heart beating inside her, and sometimes she felt the strong fleshy ripple of his kicking. With some of the money that her parents had given her for her thirteenth birthday, she went to Jenner's and bought him a little lace-collared dress in the Stewart tartan, and kept it hidden to surprise him on the day that he was due to be born.

She was so sure that he was going to be a girl that she played out imaginary scenes in her head, in which she taught Alice her first ballet steps; and in which they danced the opening scenes of
La Fille Mal Gardée
to amuse their mother and father. And she imagined taking her for walks on winter mornings up to the Castle Mound, where strangers would stop and coo at Alice and think that Gillie was Alice's mother, instead of her older sister.

But one January morning she heard her mother crying out; and there was a lot of running up and downstairs. And father drove mother off to the Morningside Clinic, while the snow swarmed around them like white bees, and eventually swallowed them up.

She spent the day with Mrs McPhail, who was their cleaner, in her neat cold house in Rankeillor Street, with its ticking clocks and its strong smell of lavender-polish. Mrs
McPhail was tiny and disagreeable, and kept twitching her head like a chicken. She gave Gillie a bowl of greyish stew for lunch, with onions in it, and watched and twitched while Gillie miserably pushed it around and around, and the snow on the kitchen windowsill heaped higher and higher.

Mrs McPhail's rotary washing-line stood at an angle in the centre of her back-yard, and that was clogged up with snow, too. It looked to Gillie like a seraph, with its wings spread; and as she looked, the sun suddenly broke out from behind the clouds, and the seraph shone, dazzling and stately, yet tragic, too, because it was earthbound now, and now could never hope to return to heaven.

“Do you no care for your dinner?” asked Mrs McPhail. She wore a beige sweater covered with pills of worn wool, and a brown beret, even indoors. Her face made Gillie think of a plate of lukewarm porage, with skin on, into which somebody had dropped two raisins for eyes, and drawn a downward curve with the edge of their spoon, for a mouth.

“I'm sorry Mrs McPhail. I suppose I'm not very hungry.”

“Good food going to waste. That's best lamb, and barley.”

“I'm sorry,” she said.

But then, unexpectedly, the disagreeable Mrs McPhail smiled at her, and said, “Don't fash yourself, darling. It's not every day that you get a new baby, now, is it? Now what do you think it'll be? A boy or a girl?”

The thought of it being a boy had never entered Gillie's head. “We're going to call her Alice,” she said.

“But what if she's a he?”

Gillie put down her fork. The surface of her stew was floating with small globules of fat. But it wasn't the stew
that made her feel nauseous. It was the unexpected idea that her mother might have been harbouring a brother, instead of a sister. A brother! A son and heir! Wasn't that what grandma had always complained about, every time that they visited her? “Such a pity you never had a son and heir, Donald, to carry on your father's name.”

A son and heir wouldn't want to learn ballet-steps. A son and heir wouldn't want to play with her doll's house, which she had carefully brought down from the attic, and fitted with new carpets, and a dining table, and three plates of tiny plaster cast meals with sausages and fried eggs.

She had saved for so long for that tartan dress. Supposing the baby was a boy? She flushed at her own stupidity.

“You look feverish, pet,” said Mrs McPhail. “Don't eat your dinner if you don't feel like it. I'll warm it up for later. How about some nice pandowdie?”

Gillie shook her head. “No, thank you,” she whispered, and tried to smile. In the backyard, the sun had vanished, and the sky was growing grim; but the rotary clothes-line looked more like a wrecked angel than ever. She could hardly bear to think of it standing there, throughout the night, unloved, and abandoned, and unable to fly.

“Let's watch telly,” said Mrs McPhail. “I can't miss
Take The High Road.
I wouldnie have a thing to talk about tomorrow, doon the bingo.”

They sat on the clumpy brown sofa and watched television on Mrs McPhail's blurry ex-rental television set. But every now and then, Gillie would look over her shoulder at the seraph in the backyard, watching his wings grow larger and thicker as the snow fell faster still. Perhaps he would fly, after all.

Mrs McPhail was noisily sucking a humbug. “What do you keep keekin' at, pet?”

Gillie was embarrassed at first. But somehow she felt that she could tell Mrs McPhail almost anything, and it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't get ‘reported back', the way that her grandma had once reported her comments about school back to her mother and father.

“It's your clothesline. It looks like an angel.”

Mrs McPhail twisted herself around and stared at it. “With wings, you mean?”

“It's only the snow.”

“But you're right, pet. That's just what it looks like. An angel. Seraphim and cherubim. But they always arrive, don't you know, when a baby arrives. It's their duty to take good care of them, those little ones, until they can stand on their own two feet.”

Gillie smiled and shook her head. She didn't understand what Mrs McPhail was talking about, although she didn't like to say so.

“Every child has a guardian angel. You have yours; your new baby has hers. Or his. Whatever it's turned to be.”

It has to be Alice
, thought Gillie, desperately.
It cant be a son and heir.

“Would you like a sweetie?” asked Mrs McPhail, and offered her the sticky, crumpled bag.

Gillie shook her head. She was trying to give up sweeties. If she couldn't make the grade as a ballerina, she wanted to be a supermodel.

By four o'clock it was dark. Her father came at five o'clock and stood in the porch of Mrs McPhail's house with snow on his shoulders and whisky on his breath. He was very tall and thin, with a tiny sandy mustache and bright grey eyes like the shells you could find on Portobello Beach before they went dry. His hair was thinning on top and it was all sprigged up.

“I've come to take you home,” he said. “Your mum's well and the baby's well and everything's fine.”

“You've been celebrating, Mr Drummond,” said Mrs McPhail, with mock disapproval. “But you've every right. Now tell us what it was and how much it weighed.”

Dad laid both his hands on Gillie's shoulders and looked right into her eyes. “You've a baby brother, Gillie. He weighed seven pounds six ounces and we're going to call him Toby.”

Gillie opened her mouth but she couldn't speak. Toby? Who was Toby? And what had happened to Alice? She felt as if Alice had been secretly spirited away, and her warm place in her mother's womb given to some strange and awful boy-baby whom she didn't know at all, the human equivalent of a cuckoo.

“That's grand!” said Mrs McPhail. “No wonder you've been taking the malt, Mr Drummond! And a cigar, too, I shouldn't be surprised!”

“Well, Gillie?” asked her father. “Isn't it exciting! Think of all the fun you'll be able to have, with a baby brother!”

Gillie was shaking with a genuine feeling of grief. Her eyes filled with tears and they ran down her cheeks into her tartan scarf.
Alice! They've taken you away! They never let you live
! She had thought of Alice so often that she even knew what she looked like, and what they were going to play together, and what they would talk about. But now there was no Alice, and there never would be.

“Gillie, what's the matter?” her father asked her. “Are you feeling all right?”

Gillie's throat felt as if she'd swallowed one of Mrs McPhail's humbugs without sucking it. “I bought—” she began, and then she had to stop because her lungs hurt and every breath was a painful sob. “I
bought – I bought her a dress! I spent my birthday money on it!”

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