Silverlink Writing Group: The Writers


Gerald Pawsey


Here are some examples of my work:

Page last up dated 10 January 2011


SWG December 2010 Competition. Your first line is: It was raining again... You only have 1,500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 1,499



The Turning of Shaker’s End

It was raining again, and a murky mist swathed the lake just like any other summer’s dawn at Shaker’s End. The surrounding rugged peaks trapped thick, grey billowing clouds that hung and swirled in the updraft like a heavy blanket threatening a storm over what was a paradise of nature, tucked away from prying eyes and accessed only by boat across the crystal water to the tiny hamlet perched precariously on the gradient of the northern end.

In the heat of the midday sun the lake bed would glisten and shimmer the reflections of lush greens and blues of forests and sky, as though millions of gemstones were jostling with brilliance, beckoning to be gathered from the crystal depths. But, not today. This day was special.

The menacing sky warned against evil, and the water was dark and ravaged as the wind forced up a current that lashed against the grassy banks, vigorously swaying the floating jetty at Shaker’s End where the cluster of weathered, wooden farmhouses had defied the pace of time and things were just as they were centuries before; following the old ways.

The little craft bobbed its way through the mist as LeVay rowed tirelessly against the waves, gradually making progress toward the haven from the elements.

Eleanor watched him thoughtfully, returning his friendly contentment with a tender smile. His expression revealed the gratification that his trip had been much easier than in past years, and her smile gave an inward acknowledgement that she had deliberately made it so. But both kept their thoughts to themselves and gave nothing away.

Nearing the jetty, Eleanor pushed back the hood of her cape, listening above the patter of rain on the water and rustle of wind in the reeds and nearby bushes, awaiting a sign from behind; but there was nothing. The warm moisture quickly dampened her golden hair, trickling down the fair skin of her cheeks as LeVay looked on, cherishing her perfection; he had chosen wisely...she would be exceptional.

He questioned her without speaking, and she shook her head, ‘No, everything’s just fine.’ But she knew it wasn’t. There was a force tugging at the boat, drawing, dragging hard, trying to prevent it reaching the jetty, but Levay had only to exert a little more pressure on the oars to counter it. Eleanor knew her task ahead would be difficult...nature was telling her so...and the unplanned quiet of the mist behind worried her. Everything must be ready for the change.

LeVay wiped a space for Eleanor to sit on an oak seat by the jetty while she rested and he pulled the boat into the shelter of the boathouse.

She studied his movements and the shape of his youthfulness as he eased the vessel against the draw of the lake. She longed to touch his black matted hair, dripping with the purity that wetted the black satin shirt adorning his broad shoulders but knew it was all part of the guile in his lure for her yearning. This was no casual or flippant acquaintance; both had planned for it well and she fought against the lustful images he planted in her mind. His deliberate enticements and seductions were as alluring now as when they had first met in the city, and she had to overcome them now as she had done then, placing a hand into her pocket and clutching the silver coin that she always carried for protection. It was not just her lucky charm, but held a special meaning and enhancing ability that once clutched tightly in her palm generated a strength that flowed over her whole body until she felt an invisible shield of safe keeping, and her mortality became immortality.

LeVay returned from the shadows of the boathouse and tenderly took her hand.

“Special, isn’t it?” He said. His voice was deep and mellow against the harshness of the elements. She felt the emotion pass from his hand as she looked sideways toward him. A mysterious honey tone accentuated his bone structure and there was cobalt shining in the depths of his eyes that was alien to the setting of the day. She caught his scent of musk and felt herself slip under his spell, but subconsciously squeezed the coin even tighter, and although his will was robust, the throb that pulsed from her charm kept her mind alert to its cause.

“Which is Hallows Cottage?” She pulled away. His chiselled features imprinted in her mind as she closed her eyes to gather her thoughts. But there was a frown of rejection in his image that worried her. Had she let her guard down? Had she declared too much interest in Shaker’s End?

LeVay pointed to a quaint lakeside house two hundred yards from the main cluster, which itself was quiet as a grave; not even a dog barked as they walked from the seat, through the centre and along the stony footpath to the cottage.

The sweet scent of jasmine and honeysuckle filled the air, and her heart longed hard for the solitude this paradise could afford, and yet a fear was also unfolding in her head; a nagging voice that warned her this place had secrets best undisturbed. ‘Go back...go back!’ But of equal strength to the desperate warning came a flooding sensation of desire.

She realised LeVay was still holding her hand, and it felt both most natural and unnatural at the same time...if only things were different.

As they reached the cottage, Eleanor noticed the sun beginning to break through the clouds at the other end of the lake, opening a shaft of light that struck the crystal gemstones below, bringing her renewed hope of success.

Though, on entering the narrow hallway of Hallows Cottage, Eleanor gasped at the sound of piercing screams and howls of anguish. LeVay slammed the door shut, the only light being that which broke through the cracks where mortar had fallen from between the logs. She moved toward him to make an escape as the voices shouted louder, ‘Go back, go back!” Had she made a dreadful mistake?

His physical strength was greater as he pushed and shoved her, as she scraped and clawed in defiance at their ascent of the stairway.

Faces appeared in the gloom at either side. Torn, withered and pained faces that twisted and writhed as Eleanor brushed past. There were so many faces that she could hardly distinguish one from another. Then, finally she tumbled through the pine door to an open space as a density of cloaked figures immediately moved in on her like a rush of limbs reaching out, grabbing and dragging her to an altar in the centre on which she was trussed.

This was not as she had planned it, but through the open doors beyond that led onto a balcony, she saw a shaft of sunlight emanating upwards from the gemstones, moving slowly toward them the length of the lake, splicing through the cloud and rain, gaining strength at every inch of its progress.

Amidst the hastened drone of evil incantations, LeVay opened a black leather notebook and chanted a passage of the devil’s work as a jewel encrusted knife was proffered by one of the gleeful, reeking cronies beside him.

Eleanor, still clasping the coin and as if summoning all the force that may be within it, screamed out with every ounce of energy she could muster and kicked the book from LeVay’s hands causing it to fly high in the air as the roaring light struck the cottage with full force.

The lake’s edge bubbled and raged as decaying remains of those who had lay on the altar before Eleanor surfaced and slithered up the bank, entering the cottage from all angles as the light of rainbows filled the room with thunderous booming and shards of sparkling, circling gemstones.

The cloaked figures froze in their own fear at the brilliance that enveloped them, as each in turn they disintegrated into a shrill of dust until only LeVay remained, standing strong against the surging power that now encircled him, blazing and swirling as though emanating from the earth’s core.

He fought to raise the knife above his head and thrust it with vengeance deep into Eleanor’s chest, but a mass of rotting flesh surged from behind, breaking the curtain of light and dragged him backwards over the balcony, plunging into the water as he screamed in terror.

The notebook settled on the altar, flicking over page by page as one by one the apparitions from the stairway passed by her like gossamer kisses, descending over the balcony to join their physical remains and secure the evil of LeVay for always.

Finally, Eleanor stepped out onto the balcony herself as the storm clouds cleared, and she looked out across the lake where her coven was emerging from the lifting fog in a flotilla of tiny boats.

The balance of white magic had been restored to Shaker’s End, and the change was complete.

Your story is set in or around a DOLL'S HOUSE.  You only have 500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 501



The Doll’s House


Billy’s stepfather was a nasty, cruel, unloving piece of work. He never understood why a lad of Billy’s age should hold such a fascination for the girlie doll’s house in Jenny’s bedroom; the bedroom that hadn’t altered since she died a year ago.

          First there was Billy’s father, James, who broke his neck falling down the stairs, then Jill, Billy’s mother inexplicably drowned in the bath. Then there was Jenny who slipped on the wet kitchen floor and smashed her head on the corner of the table.

          Finally, his dog, Jack suspiciously died of natural causes.

          But Billy knew none of the deaths were accidents, and he knew he might be next.

          “What are you doing up there, you little brat?” Billy’s stepfather called up. “Playing with that damned doll’s house again?” Billy held his breath, expecting him to thunder up the stairs and drag him out with a clip round the ear, locking Jenny’s door closed behind them. “It isn’t natural. You hear me boy?!”

          With relief, the front door slammed shut, the car engine revved and stones sprayed from under the wheels as his stepfather sped noisily onto the busy street.

          Billy sat at the open doll’s house, thinking, wondering. He lovingly touched the printed red tiled roof and wooden chimney as he leaned forward to look into the familiar rooms, likenesses of his real home in every sense.

          Billy kept plasticine figures of his father, mother, sister and dog; they all looked so sad, sat on the settee. He had one for his stepfather too, but he never placed it in the doll’s house; that man would never, ever be allowed in. The doll’s house was a special place.

          He pulled a tattered picture from his trouser pocket and looked at the happy faces of his family as a tear trickled down his cheek.

          “What should I do?” He asked, sobbing.

          He wasn’t surprised to see that the figures had moved. James was lying at the bottom of the stairs, Jill was in the bath, Jenny was on the kitchen floor and Jack...where was Jack? Jack was on the narrow hardboard path that ran alongside the house, where he had been found.

          Even though he always left the figures in the lounge, watching TV, whenever he returned to the doll’s house, they were always where they had died.

          Then the photo seemed to speak to him through the smiling, loving faces and Billy knew what he had to do.

          As the coroner’s van drove off, the lady from social services hugged Billy warmly. He asked if he could have a last look at the doll’s house before leaving.

          The family sat on the settee, Jack by their feet, all watching TV. His stepfather was in the house too, but he didn’t mind. He was lying on his bed in a pool of raspberry jam. Apparently he committed suicide by slitting his throat.           

         Billy winked at his family, their sadness now turned to smiles.

          “Bye Billy!”

Your characters have been entombed in an underground bunker.  You can have as many characters as you like and the story can be set in the past, present or the future.  You only have 500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 495 




After hours of anxious waiting, a heavy iron shutter finally rolled noisily overhead, closing itself securely with a sickening hiss and thud as it slotted down into position.

Eyes looked up to the ceiling in horror as the final link with the surface ended. An electric bell sounded within the huge bunker and a mechanical clunk reverberated around the eerie darkness announcing the withdrawal of the transit cage as it started its ascent to the surface.

All hope of reprieve was extinguished as the noise of the cage gradually faded to silence on its journey up the shaft.

A crescendo of frenzied chatter filled the bunker until an automated switch clicked loudly, echoing around the cold concrete walls, and the extractor pump powered up.  Then, silence as terror was replaced by a glimmer of optimism when the engine faltered, but their hopes were easily dashed as the motor recovered almost immediately, rattling up to full power.

The hapless occupants shuffled blindly to one side of the bunker, huddled with fear in their vulnerable nakedness.

This was bunker 2347. There were scores of others just like it in every major city on the planet; built for the purpose of aiding survival in crisis, but now to serve a different role; all of them, simultaneously. Each bunker was identical in size, shape, capability and now totally devoid of all furnishings, rations, light and power. Fifteen thousand tombs strategically placed across the planet, originally designed to save just one select percent of the population; the leaders and keepers.

But now the use of the bunkers had been reversed.

The mechanical drone of the extractor continued, monotonous and deliberate in its reconfiguration, to stop only when sensors detected a lifeless, sterile and airless vacuum; a blackness that gradually stole away every sign of life from the poor wretches sent down by their captors to be entombed.

The stench of urine and excrement hung in the thinning air as the weaker lost control in their fear, and the sound of groaning and whining gradually increased in strength as sweaty, grimy bodies clung together in their filth.

The planet had seen isolated pockets of similar actions carried out by radicals during its recent history and leaders vowed never to repeat the atrocities. But, options had become few and decisions had to be made; needs must.

This was the only solution to use existing resources to guarantee protection from the mob; a different threat than which the bunkers were intended – the elimination of the growing criminal contingent that threatened the balance. The ultimate conclusion was simple; taken by committee to which no one leader should take sole ownership.

However, the enforcers had miscalculated the strength of the underworld that surprised and overpowered them.  Captured, stripped, tortured, abused, publicly humiliated, and ultimately sent down to the bunkers was now their fate. A satirical twist of justice.

Finally, the motor chugged to a halt. Extermination was complete. Evil had control of the planet.

Silverlink Writing Group June 2010 Competition: 500 words:Two objects: A wallet and a box. Location: A museum.

Word count = 499

WINNER of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition May 2010


Gerald Pawsey



Quiet Please!


“Mohican” Mike stared impatiently at the oak cased clock above the antiquated timecard machine, waiting for the last seconds to tick by to catch the last quarter of an hour in full.

He was the first to clock in and the last to clock out, dead keen, but not as much as old Albert, the curator, who was always there. In fact, no one ever saw Albert come or go. Neither had anyone ever been up to his flat above the museum, locked tight against intrusion from prying eyes.

Beyond the staff lobby, Mike could hear the switches shut down automatically, section by section, clunk by clunk as the museum fell into darkness; just the hue of blue security lighting remained.

Mike and Albert had spent the whole day checking the library inventory. They were like chalk and cheese, and yet they got on well, like grandfather and grandson, even though Mike did not meet the personal specification set for the job.

Despite the odd looks of surprise from the public, Mike fitted in well, liked the job, even old Albert and his quiet ways, the smells of time that hung in the air and countless grimy artefact's that filled every dusty corner, nook and cranny of the old building.

The jobcentre had warned that Albert specifically wanted someone quiet, unlike “Spiky” Sam, Mike’s predecessor. Before him there was “Crew Cut” Curtis, “Afro” Ali, “Duck Tale” Dave and “Teddy Boy” Terry, all in within a very short space of time.

“Mohican” Mike was sure he would be next. He couldn’t help singing, whistling and cracking jokes.

As Mike held his timecard, ready for the final clunk, he remembered his wallet was still in the overall he had left hanging on the end of a book case in the library, ready for when he resumed in the morning. There was not much cash, but he did need the bus ticket.

He tip-toed nervously and strangely frightened along a long corridor, passed the stairs to Albert’s flat, then on to the library door. Everything seemed spooky as busts and portraits glared at him in passing, every creek and groan of the old building exaggerated.

He approached a corner when a hunched figure appeared carrying something square, like a box with a pineapple sticking out of the top. Mike hid unseen as the figure passed by and went up the stairs.

“I told you to keep quiet, but you wouldn’t, would you, you naughty boy?” Albert sniggered at the box tauntingly.

“Shit!” Mike thought. “That’s ’Spiky’ Sam!”

Mike scarpered quickly, along the great hallway and out of the staff exit without stamping his card, and ran the two miles home. “It couldn’t have been...could it?” He thought. “No...Not old Albert.” but he couldn’t be sure.

Albert smiled to himself, as he spoke into the telephone, crunching pineapple. “I think this one will be alright. He’s a willing and likeable lad, a bit noisy, but I think he’ll quieten down from now on.”


 Silverlink Writing Group Competition November / December 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The man in the red suit...

Word Count = 502


WINNER of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition November / December 2009


The Pit


The man in the red suit scratched his balding head in bewilderment at the black pit in front of him, keeping his weight away from the edge, even though it looked firm enough to bare his outsized frame.

The orange flashing from his truck threw an eerie glow over the frosty landscape of early dawn.

“Any idea what caused it, dear?” Ella asked, as she manoeuvred gingerly along the slippery path in her slippers, carrying a mug of steaming tea. Skipper waddled behind her as his tail wagged excitedly at the scent of some fresh attention.

Lloyd gratefully took the hot mug between the palms of his freezing hands.

“I’ve no idea, love.” He replied. “It’s a deep one...I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“627? ... Come in... Over.” Lloyd chose to ignore the call as he had not yet managed to assess the problem adequately.

Ella’s cottage stood back from the country lane, on the outskirts of the village of Churchfield, where nothing extraordinary like this had happened in all the fifty years that she had lived there.

“What the hell is that awful stench?” Lloyd thought he heard something, but put it down to an over active imagination.

They stood for a moment, deliberating the darkness below as Lloyd sipped the tea and stamped his feet to keep the circulation going.

“You say it just appeared from nowhere?”

“Overnight....I noticed it when Skipper scrapped to go out.”

“627?” An agitated radio voice broke the silence. “Lloyd are you there? What’s the situation? ... Over.” 

He handed the empty mug back to Ella, who promptly scuttled back up to the house, only too glad to get back into the warm and leave him to it. Skipper was far too interested in the smelly hole and his new friend to leave.

“Deep. Very deep... Over.”

“Any thoughts?... Over.”

“I was about to lower my ladders into it and take a look...Over.”

“No sign of the gas or electricity boys? ...Over.”

“It’s in the middle of bloody nowhere, Mike... There’ll be nothing underground...Over.”

Lloyd had lowered the full extent of his ladders into the pit before it stood firm in the rank darkness below. It was a tight fit, but by the light from his helmet he began his decent as Ella watched from the window. 

The morning sun had crept just above the tree line by the time there was movement at the pit, and Ella could barely make out the shape as she squinted at the silhouetted figure that approached the cottage along the path.

Skipper’s frantic barking had ended suddenly. 

Inexplicably, Ella felt her blood race. Something was not right. She sensed something terrible was about to happen. It was not Lloyd’s stature, but she had instinctively opened the door before she saw the distorted, grinning features of a face that only vaguely resembled the man in the red suit she had met earlier.

It was too late.

The creature raised from the Otherworld clawed at her throat before she could scream.

“627? Situation update? ... Over.


Silverlink Writing Group Competition October 2009:- 500 words starting with:- A bunch of flowers and a box lay on the doorstep...

Word Count =494

A Moment of Pleasure


       A bunch of flowers and a box lay on the doorstep.

              If only Mike had seen them before he actually started his customary early morning leap of enthusiasm over the threshold to greet the new day, he could have prevented his embarrassing crash landing on the pavement below. As it was, he had to make a split second adjustment to his trajectory to avoid kicking the two foot square obstacle down the half dozen steps outside the student accommodation block.

              A cyclist twanged his bell and looked back over his shoulder to see if Mike was alright? He obviously had no intention of slowing down, yet alone stopping; too much in a rush to interrupt his tight schedule. Mike just gave a slight hand gesture. No problem.

              Mike quickly surveyed the full extent of his humiliation, as he rubbed a sore knee and brushed off the dead leaves and muck that had clung to his clothes. Fortunately the required damage limitation was minimal in that the only threat to his dignity the twat of a delivery man who had just deposited the offending obstacles.

              “Sorry mate!” He shouted, just a bit too jubilantly for someone who had any genuine remorse. “I did ring the bell.” Mike could tell he was taking the piss.

              “It’s OK.” Mike replied shamefacedly. He felt his face redden with suppressed anger. “No harm done.” Twonk, you only nearly fecking killed me! But the perpetrator looked a bit physical in his muscle t-shirt and could have proved an unfair match. “The bell doesn’t work.” He added. Try knocking next time!

            The bloke began to climb into the cab to make his getaway.

              “Shouldn’t you get a signature for those?” Mike nodded toward the doorstep, as he stood up, leaning back onto the iron railing for support while rolling up the leg of his jeans to check for blood. Hell, it stings!

              Although he did not want to provoke a confrontation, Mike thought he could not let the incident pass without some token challenge, even just to satisfy his self esteem.

              “I can’t hang around, mate.” The driver realised he was taking a risk though, especially as his lack of diligence had been duly noted. He would have no case for defence if the items went missing, and it would not be the first time. So, he put on a bit of a huff, picked up his delivery sheet from the dashboard and stepped back into the street.

              Mike was in the process of rolling down his trouser leg when he heard the blazing horn. He looked up just as the van door was being ripped off its hinges and sent crashing and spinning noisily along the tarmac as the bus screeched to a halt several metres on.

              “Are you alright, mate?” Mike enquired, disguising his smugness.

              The delivery man stood quiet, ashen and not quite as threatening an opponent as had appeared just a few moments before.

              Isn’t life grand?


Silverlink Writing Group Competition September 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The weapons hung on one wall of the room...  

Word Count =502

Ultimate Sacrifice


 The weapons hung on one wall of the room, behind the only chair, rocking backwards and forwards, facing the door and farthest away from unwelcome visitors; not that Luke ever had any visitors. Even so, his senses were constantly alert to the slightest sound, change in light or smell... just in case.

Villagers below knew him only as “English”, the recluse who lived on what nature could provide high on the upper slopes beyond the tree line. No one was interested in his secrets or why he was there, as they had troubles enough of their own.

When Luke was not hunting in the depths of the forest, fishing in the crystal clear glazier lake, or going about the routine chores of self sufficiency, he would be sat, staring at the door, rocking, wondering to what extent he would protect his freedom when the time came.

He had hoped that the search for him might be called off, presumed dead, his body deemed lost after having leapt from the military jeep into the dirty, fast flowing water of the Vadaar at Skopje .

But, the forest had changed in sound and he had seen evidence of human activity nearby. He knew he had not long and instinctively should have moved on to some other remote sanctuary, but he had lost the bite of survival.

“We know you’re in there, Packham!” Harsh, threatening words bellowed across the clearing as he simultaneously detected movement to the sides and above.

During his solitude over the past year, Luke had rerun over and over, the days leading up to the incident and knew that no court would question the integrity of his adversaries. The skilful trail would surely see him unjustly behind bars. There could be no escape.

Even his Sandhurst training had not prepared him for the possibility of such betrayal, and his decorated career and reputation now stood in ruin.

Suddenly the throbbing motion of helicopter blades closed in from the grey autumn sky, shaking the flimsy wooden structure and making the weapons rattle noisily in their fixings.

Then the sound of rattling in the chimney was followed by thick, toxic gas which quickly engulfed the cabin as Luke tried to shield his face with his sleeve.

“Come out and lay flat on the ground. Now!”

Why couldn’t anyone believe in him? He could never have deliberately set the device to kill all those innocent people, but someone had to be held accountable for the government’s political distraction. He was the loner, no wife, no family, no one to stand up and vouch for him. He was senior enough to be a worthy offering.

Did they really think he would not be prepared for this moment?

He studied the grenade in his hand. For all his deliberation during his time in the cabin, he knew that, even in innocence he could never cope with the shame, the degradation and stigma of the charge.

They had won. He would not be grieved.



Silverlink Writing Group Competition June 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The heat haze shimmered above the road, it had not rained in weeks...

Word Count = 493

Runner Up of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition August 2009

Ormeron of Tark


The heat haze shimmered above the road, it had not rained in weeks, or months. The crystal rock sparkled endlessly, day and night; casting a piercing glow through the quivering wall of rising heat by day, and illuminating itself like a winding beacon stretching the length of the valleys at night.

Ormeran had begun to wonder if the rains would ever return to Tark. Once a land of plenty, extending the vast region between the mountains of the North and South, with lush green carpets of woodland and rolling meadow, abundant in wild flowers and grazing animals. The air was exhilarating and full with the smell of a million scents. Clear, cool rivers combed the landscape breathing life within and around them.

The elders would tell of sorcerers, the Orchers of the North, a brutal race, skilled in mystic arts, and who had used their magic to create a merchant passage built of crystal from the depths of the Orcherian mines; crystal with the ability to repair and regenerate, and to create light in darkness.

From time immemorial, Tarkians had lived in harmony with this paradise, hunting, gathering and trading with travelling merchants for spices, tools and cloth.

But, since the great ground shake when more than half the tribe were swallowed by gaping crevasses, the daily rains had stopped and everything in Tark had changed. Cracks and blemishes started to appear in the road, and the glow of life had begun to fade.

Day by day, fierce suns burnt down from the crimson, cloudless heavens, sapping life away from the Tarkian lands, whilst the cool blue glow of the aqua moon brought the night temperature plummeting to a freeze. Tarkians could no longer survive and their paradise was lost. The air had become stagnant and heavy with the stench of death.

The tribe had left for the South, beyond the mountains, long ago, leaving only Ormeran. He, being the strongest of the youngers, was elected guard and defender of Tark for one hundred days, and, if no one returned within that time, he would know all was lost.

One hundred days had passed, and Ormeran put his ear to the road for the last time, listening in hope for advancing sound, but as usual, his efforts proved futile. He stared intently through the shimmering haze for the shapes of scouts bringing word of new lands, but no one came.

As the day turned to purple dusk, and the crystal shed its weary glow over the eerie landscape, Ormeran realised that he must decide his future path. He could not remain, living by the crystal road, to grow old and weak. His skin had become scabby and sore under the increasing scorch of each day, and his diet reduced to bugs and roots. Submitting to death was not the Tarkian way.

He must journey North in search of the land of the Orchers.

And so it was that the adventures of Ormeran began.


 Silverlink Writing Group Competition June 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The house on the hill had stood there longer than anyone could remember...

Word Count = 498

WINNER of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition July 2009


Hell’s gate


              The house on the hill stood there longer than anyone could remember. Even the old innkeeper, Quinn, whose acquaintance I had suffered these past two days could only rely on superstition and legend.

              I had arrived at my seedy lodging in accordance with my instruction, where I was to wait until duly summoned.

              I was to tell no one of the note’s existence, informing the butler that I was embarking on a merchant voyage and that he was to keep to the orderly running of the establishment with upmost diligence. Nanny was to look after Edward and continue his education in my absence.

              Had it not been for the crested seal, I would have discarded the unwelcome message to the hearth. I sensed urgency in the words, a tone of despair.

              The Inn door swung open with such force. Roaches and saw dust were swept by the rush of cold, and candles flickered angrily before being prematurely extinguished.

              A tall hooded figure stood silhouetted by the murky moonlight as it extended a long sinewy figure toward me, beckoning me toward it.

              “Remember what I told you,” Quinn said in a deathly whisper, with the smell of fear on his shallow breath, “Go, and it will be the last this world sees of you.”

              Quinn’s tales of ear-piercing screams that echoed down from the hill, the smell of death that hung around its slopes and ghostly creatures that hovered excitedly over the high turrets in the darkened sky, all told me not to go. But I knew I must.

              The frequent visitors before had been none but poor beggars, the failed society of stench filled city gutters, glad to accept any purpose, no matter from whom or why.

              Was I so witless as to obey such an inexplicable instruction without knowing its origin or cause?

              The air was damp and heavy as wisps of cloud dimmed the moon’s glow. A gathering of ravens squawked noisily overhead as my guide led my pony up the stony track toward the house - the manor - the dark fortress above. My trust recklessly placed in this unearthly soul.

              The toll of the bell announcing my arrival shattered the sound of the crashing waves as they smashed against the rocks below. The smell of salt was strong in my nostrils.

              The grey stone portal of the court yard was suddenly upon us, its heavy tarred door illuminated by a hurricane lamp swinging in the wind, lighting a weathered worn name chiselled into the keystone. It was my family name.

              What could possibly be the link between my family and this place; this dark, God forsaken outpost on the earth’s edge?

              I realised my fate as I heard the door slam close behind me, with my father stood, stooping, old and grey before me; worn, used and expiring.

              “Welcome, Gatekeeper.” My guide exclaimed with reverence, as he placed a large iron key in my hand.

              My father smiled, slumped, dead and relieved.

              My prison.

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