Special Room


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My uncle Wilson lived in a very old house that he’d inherited from his grandfather. Sometimes we’d visit around Christmas time because mother said he was lonely.

“He always was, even as a boy” she said with mix of fondness and sadness for her sibling. “And now I think his inheritance has swallowed him up into that part of his nature and he hides in it. It’s only right we try to draw him out, at least at Christmas. Even Wilson should have some time in the sun.”

So we visited the old, dark, quiet house. Wilson would greet us but then lurk, out of reach, day upon day, until my formidable mother dragged him to the Christmas dinner table and ordered he do the honours carving the turkey. Then we’d see him smile and sometimes he’d even joke a bit. Under everything he was as human as any of us.

“Not that you’d know it,” my father would growl when my mother couldn’t hear him.

The thing is, I think both my parents were right. Uncle Wilson could be very normal sometimes and even seemed to enjoy our company eventually, like it seeped into him over the days each time we stayed. But he was also so full of secrets. And the biggest one of all was his special room.

Down the hallway from all the bedrooms was one room with a perpetually locked orange door. Uncle Wilson never told us what was inside and said no-one but he could enter. My mother didn’t remember there being such a room when they visited their grandfather as children.

“It’s like it sprung up out of nowhere after grandpa died,” my mother would marvel. “I don’t remember a room being here at all.”

Uncle Wilson wouldn’t be drawn on the subject, no matter how I tried. I developed the theory that my great grandfather morphed into the room on his death, just so he could remain in the house. If so, Uncle Wilson was the only one welcome in his company.

But I noticed something else, after a few years of Christmas visits. Every time Uncle Wilson looked thinner, frailer, and less substantial. It was really like looking at someone turn into a ghost. And every year the orange of the door turned brighter, like it drank him in.

So I reckon one day we’ll visit and he won’t be there. Not as himself, anyway. He’ll be part of the house and merged with his Grandfather.

And I bet you anything on that day the orange door will be so bright it will almost be red. Just like the life-force itself, like blood.

Helen M Valentina (c) 2019

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They say never go to where the trees meet in that forest. Where their branches and roots clasp to one another like some silent, waiting web.

If you go there, they say, you don’t return. The trees are hungry, they say. They consume. Those that venture, not believing, disappear.

The oldest woman in our town even says she saw this once, the greedy roots clasping the poor foolish brave one, dragging them down so swiftly it was but a blink of an eye, an instant, of fear and knowledge, then nothing. The trees again content, still and satiated.

I’ve gone close many times, on the edge of twilight, lurking just out of their reach. I’ve thought about grabbing an animal – something wild, and throwing it into their circle and seeing what happens. It could be a thing, I reason and not just an old town myth. You never see any animals in there, after all, so maybe they know.

It’s tempting, but it also seems cruel. I’m not a cruel person, not really, and I love my pet dog Trish, and I’d hate to see her consumed. So who am I to grab some other living thing and give it to them?

But still, I wait and watch. Maybe one day an animal will be foolish and try the pathway over the roots, and I will see. So I sit, far enough for safety, and wait.

One day maybe, I’ll see it’s all rubbish, and the wild thing goes past uncaptured and free. Or one day maybe I’ll see it’s all true. That’s what I really yearn for, if I’m honest, to see something that extraordinary. And if so, if that day ever comes, I’ll see them for what they are, those trees. I’ll see them consume.

Helen M Valentina (c ) 2019

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Lucy, Lucy


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Lucy, Lucy hear my call
I would give my love to all
Heard you weeping on the stair
Know that you are hiding there
In your room, beside your bed
Can’t fool me just ’cause you’re dead
Lucy, Lucy take my hand
Promise that I’ll understand

Lucy, Lucy though you hide
I know how you feel inside
Just like you I felt the whip
Where the crueler parents slip
Under cover of the night
Thinking that they’re safe from sight
Lucy, Lucy we both know
Where the darker people go

Lucy, Lucy I’ve a plan
Something that you’ll understand
In their rooms we can both creep
Find them when they’re fast asleep
Cut the thread that gives them life
Give them back their share of strife
Lucy, Lucy be my friend
We’ll avenge you at the end

Lucy, Lucy hear my call
Children should be loved by all

Helen M Valentina (c ) 2019

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The Wild One

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They called her ‘the Wild One’. It might have been her red eyes, peering out from the room in which she was held. It might have been the groans and growls she emitted anytime someone passed by. It might have been the savagery of her tastes in food and how her left overs looked each time. It might have been any of these things.

For me, the name was wrong. She wasn’t wild. She was no animal, any more than she was truly human. Not anymore at least, after whatever they did to her in that other place.

No, she was transformed, an evolutionary oddity, a mistake perhaps. But she was still something, she was still someone. They forgot that. All their experiments, all their aims and desires, overcame the one simple truth: what she was before was like them, and what they made her was something entirely other.

So they locked her up each night after cruel days of study during the sunlight hours. They’d test her, prod and poke and provoke. How could she be anything but wild? They’d be the same in her position.

No, they’d be worse.

I’m just the admin assistant. I just record their outcomes and file them away, putting order into the chaos they create every day. Nobody sees me, I’m invisible to them. But I see truer than they do, I see her.

And one day I’ll gain her trust. I work on it, each day, and now when her eyes watch me I can see a recognition. I can see something glitter, the birth of belief. And one day, when I’m sure she understands, I’m going to set her free.

And if she attacks them, takes them down, I don’t care. That’s what Wild Ones do, after all, and they made her. No, I won’t give a damn. I’ll just watch it all, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Helen M Valentina ( c) 2019

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Reggie was never a normal boy, let’s be honest.

He was hopeless at school. Bright enough, but never in sync with the other kids. A loner they said, though you could see him sometimes, sitting on his own, gazing at the groups of children with a kind of longing that would break your heart.

But what can you do with childhood gangs and groups? They have their own rules and if adults tried to force someone on them they’d move pretty quickly from just being outcast to being the target of bullying.

No, it was best to leave it all be and hope for Reggie’s sake it would pass. These things have their time, we’d tell ourselves, watching from the teacher’s lunchroom. In time he’ll find his groove and be accepted. Just leave it aloe.

Except, this time, he just never did. And I watched him through middle school, his fear and anger and rage growing. By the time he was going to high school he’d started acting up in class, but not in a way that brought him friends. I think if any of the children had tried by then he’d have rejected them anyway. He wore his strangeness like a cloak, like the big dark coats he always wore as he reached teenage years.

They say he’d skip school a lot by high school. His parents gave up on him, or as I suspected had never really been that interested. Surely that social isolation, that dislocation, he evidenced had to have begun at home? No real intimate relationships, no real caring, no normal interactions to model his behaviour on?

That’s my theory anyway.

Now he lurks in the forest, and I’ve heard stories of people going missing there. People whisper its him, but if it is, the police haven’t gotten anything on him yet.

I like to think it’s because he hasn’t done anything to them. That if something dark happens to them in that forest it has nothing to do with the strange, dark loner Reggie has become. Yes he seems angry. Yes, sometimes if you get physically close to him he shakes, like rage is just about to explode out of him. But still, I like to think that lonely little boy hasn’t gone that bad.

It’s ok not to be normal. That’s all I’m saying. Being different doesn’t make you bad. It’s not enough, is it?

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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In Those Days


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In those days the children went missing
In the cornfields the scarecrows would weep
As darker angels rocked the children to their deeper sleep
And we would search across the lands
Nothing but hope in our trembling hands
All the things we could never understand
In those days

In those days the dark ones met
In abandoned houses along forgotten byways
Like the flotsam and jetsam running wild
Up and down the broken highways
And they said that in those rooms
They cried and screamed and bled
In those days

In those days we followed gods without names
That danced in bonfire flames
Or formed as clouds above our weary heads
As we prayed for rain to feed the crops
And blessed every single watery drop and promised
To sacrifice and pay the price
For food and shelter
In those days

In those days we made such deals
That in the light of day we would conceal
Even from ourselves as beggars might
Pretend they are kings beneath the shadows of night
And when the children were all gone
The sky was so empty
Not a star left to wish upon
In those days

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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The Shrink


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“What do you see?” I asked the shrink, just like he’d ask me with all those damned Rorschach tests in his cold clinic rooms.

I held up my art, my handiwork. The creativity of it thrills me just to think of it. How clever, I flatter myself, to make these versions of the world I inhabit and turn it back on him now. Learn what this unlocks in his dark little fevered mind.

Because it will be dark, I’m sure. All those hours sitting in his chair, talking to people like me, pretending he’s different. Pretending he’s trying to help, to heal, when really he’s just a little pervert onlooker wanting to live vicariously in all our much braver, freer minds.

I hold up the sheet with the first blood spatter pattern from my last kill. I can see him processing what this is, and what it means.

“Yes Richard,” I say. “This is blood and I have killed, so I guess that shows how good your therapy is. But no matter, what I want to know is what goes on in your head. What you see in the patterns. Just tell me the first thing that comes into your head.”

He struggles in his bonds. He peers at the sheet I’m holding up to him. I guess the light is a bit dark in this abandoned warehouse I’ve re-purposed for my therapy room. I turn the little lamp on the table near him more fully on to the paper so he can see more clearly. I don’t want anything stopping the truth of these revelations.

“Let me go Gary. We can make sure no-one knows about this. I can help you with what this all means.”

“But what does this mean?” I ask again, patient, holding the sheet closer to him. “What do you see?”

He actually recoils. So squeamish. No wonder he has to dive into minds like mine. He doesn’t have the balls for what people like me do. He’d probably faint or throw up or piss himself at a kill site. Look, even now, the blood on the paper – even though it’s congealed and days old – it actually scares him.

Like it’s his blood. Well, that could be arranged, if he doesn’t cooperate.

He tries to stop shaking and looks at the sheet more fully for the first time. I think he’s realised the best thing to do is play along.

“Um..I..see…an eagle swopping in the sky.”

“Oh?” I say, looking at the page myself. “Interesting. How very predatory of you Richard. And this one?”

I hold up another, and then another. He responds, his voice weaker with each.

“A man with a knife approaching someone….a child running from a car….the angel of death.”

“Wow Rich, we are stuck on a theme. Why do you suppose that is? I might do a thesis on the impact of immediate circumstances and the impressions from such art work. What do you think? Would that make me a doctor, like you?”

“Gary, please?”

I stand up, taking the syringe from my pocket, holding it up to him.

“This will make you sleepy I think, make you calm down, then we can try again. See if a calmer Rich sees something different next time.”

“My god Gary..that blood..please..you need help..”

He struggles as I hold his head, baring his neck for me to administer the medicine.

“Shh, shh,” I tell him, almost kindly,. “It will hurt less if you struggle. Just a little sting, nothing more. In a little while, we can begin again.”

Who ever knew psychiatry could be such fun?

(c) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Little Light


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She followed the little light into the forest.

At first it was a glow into distance, down a pleasant, welcoming track. It beckoned her with a promise of light and warmth, and the night was very cold and very dark, and she knew she should not venture so far from home. But now, now, as she saw the light, all the fears melted away, snowflakes kissed by the moonlight, accepting a gentle dissolution.

But as she drew nearer, the light became more distant again.

I am sure it was only this far, she thought with confusion, as the light now glowed ever deeper in the forest. I am sure my eye could not have tricked me so!

But the moonlight shone down from a darkening canopy of night and told her no truths, betrayed no secrets, and she presumed she had been mistaken.

A trick of the light, she thought, quite literally. But still, it is so pretty, I must follow.

Three times it teased her and she followed, ever deeper into the forest, convinced each time she had been mistaken but would surely soon be in the warmth of its glow. But after the third time, doubt crept within her soul, twining itself around her inner thoughts, making her little body tremble with more than just the increasing cold of the night.

And for the first time she turned, sure she must abandon her quest, and return home.

But behind her the path had disappeared, as though the sheer effort of her footsteps had eroded its sureness and its clarity. Where once she had walked freely, now there were messy, dangerous entanglements of forestry and bushes, their sepulchral branches and twigs twisting before her like wicked arms and hands eager to grab her, drag her down.

It cannot be, she thought. And yet it was.

Then I must continue to the light, she thought, there is nothing else for it.

But on turning again, only a similar threatening darkness of forest was found. Darkness behind, darkness before, and only in her small space any light.

How can that be, she thought, how can I see anything at all now?

And she looked up, wondering, to see the lantern just above her, lighting the small enclave where she now stood, trapped.

She finally understood. She screamed.

But the night was dank and dark and silent, and no-one would hear. No-one would ever hear her again.

(c. ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Darkness Castle


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The tour guide promised a visit to an historic site ‘steeped in blood and mystery.’

They called it the ‘Darkness Castle’. It was abandoned now, and ruined by centuries of weather and the indifferent cruelty of time. Still, that seemed fitting, for if history was to be believed, cruelty was as much a part of this place as the bricks and mortor that held its remaining ramparts high.

In those walls sacrifices were made, at every harvest and before every war. They say a queen lived here who, like Countess Bathory, believed in the restorative properties of young blood – young blood consumed, young blood bathed in, young blood taken in the most horrendous and frightening, traumatic ways imaginable.

In one destroyed large room of the castle it is said the long gone roof had many openings to allow the moonlight to seep in, like a thousand stars, on a floor bathed in blood. And it is said they danced there and revelled, and were wanton in their cruelty.

Now, it’s just ruins, just an old place. We walk through the rooms and hallways still safe enough to visit and touch the walls as though to feel the ghosts of time cry out to us. I hear nothing, I feel nothing. I don’t believe in ghosts.

But I do believe in the cruelty of mankind. I do believe the stories are true. Just as I believe the other rumours, that somewhere now in this city, in the places where the modern rich meet, that the rituals continue.

That’s why I travel with friends and I never let myself be alone in this city, in this place. For the Darkness Castle may be fallen, but something just as bad has risen in its wake.

And I do not intend to be its sacrifice. I’m just a tourist, passing through. It is not my time to die.

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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Last Thing They’ll See


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Remember little one I told you
As I hung above your crib
Those many years ago
That angels come in many forms
So many you might know
Not only kindness, sweetness
We are warriors
We are kings
We are many, many things

Remember how I promised
To watch over you my child
Even as you grow
I see the onslaught of the storms
Your parents here bestow
Not only kindness, sweetness
They are torment
Terror brings
So many, many things

I will come when you most need it
When their battles reach your door
When they scream you are unwanted
When they shove you to the floor
When they think that little children
Can never fight and win
When such cowards bring brutality
To fragile, growing skin
Just remember that we angels
Are many, many things

When you need me most
You’re crying
And their wickedness is here
When you say the words
That anger them
And they answer you with fear
I will come with bow and arrow
Like pure vengeance to your room
I will show them all the corners
Where the darker flowers bloom
Not just a token above a crib now
Twisting, turning innocently
I promise my dear child how
I’m the last thing they will see
And they’ll understand
When they feel the fury of my wings
That angels are not just kindness
We are many, many things

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2019

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