As he scrolled down the page, he felt more and more unnerved, as if the story he was reading was somehow about him. He could foretell the words before he had even read them, dreading that they would be exactly what his mind was racing towards. He knew he shouldn’t have tried reading a ghost story on this dark October night, especially living alone where his mind could conjure them from every shadow and shifting light.
As he moved further down the page the reading lamp flickered behind him. The story was about a man who thought he was being haunted by a presence. In the story, he was reading beneath what had just been described as a traditional banker’s lamp with a green shade. And in the story, as the man read, a strong scent of coal came upon him which took him back to an afternoon he had long forgotten about.
This too invoked a memory in the reader, that took him back to that windy evening when he squeezed through a gap in the boarded-up window of the desolate station house by the side of the old rail line. He remembered that it smelt of coal. This sent a beetle scuttling up his spine as he began to feel the same presence he had experienced when he had been alone in that station house. The same presence the man in the story was experiencing. He remembered how he felt as he climbed the creaking staircase. How, the further he climbed, the more he felt a heaviness on his shoulders. When he reached the top, he saw a shadow shift from a crack in the door. He had wanted to inspect what was behind the door but the heaviness on his shoulders prevented him from moving, holding him to the spot. The door looked as if it were opening wider. He had to muster the strength to shake off the weight on his shoulders so he could escape back down the stairs and out into the night.
At this point in the story the reader went to close the laptop down, disturbed by the similarity of the presence that it invoked, thinking that he would return to the story when it was light, but, feeling compelled to continue the story and conquer his fear, he told himself he was being stupid and pushed back the screen.
The refrigerator groaned from the kitchen making the reader feel more tense as his eyes travelled across the page. He’d heard it groan many times but now it sounded more discomforting. In the story, the man heard a clatter from upstairs as the reader heard a thud of something dropping from outside the back door which made him jump. He had heard it every night without paying it much mind, though he had never determined the cause. The man in the story went to investigate, turning on the upstairs light and defiantly ascending the stairs to put his mind at rest. Though his mind was not at rest when he noticed the dark crack in the bedroom door as he approached the landing. As he entered the bedroom, he saw what appeared to be a dark figure sitting on the bed, but once he had thrown on the light, it disappeared. He stood suspiciously surveying the room then stared hard at the spot on the bed where he had imagined the figure. The sound of a tap dripping made him head towards the bathroom where he startled himself at the sudden gushing of water after turning the tap in the wrong direction.
Suddenly, just as the reader had finished that paragraph in the story, he too was startled by a clattering sound from upstairs, though he shrugged it off as his mind imagined what was happening in the story and continued to read on- unwilling to move.
In the story, the man had descended the stairs and returned to his reading. The reader shuddered at a sudden movement, just as, in the story, a spider scuttled across the floor. The smoke alarm peeped, which made the reader put his hand to his face despite consoling himself that it was just the battery that needed changing. He now started to feel tingly, imagining the terror he would feel if the radio were to suddenly jump to life. Or if the bulb would just happen to ping out in the lamp.
It was at this moment that he noticed the light in the hall was on. Had he left it on? He couldn’t remember. He was sure he had turned it off. This sent a chill running through him, just as the man in the story began to feel cold. Studying the goosebumps on his arms where the hairs started to rise, he rubbed them slowly, before feeling a cold breath on the back of his neck as he tried to shake off the feeling of the insidious presence leaning in behind.
Anthony chooses to write because he has no choice. He writes to get rid of himself and lay his thoughts to rest. He derives most of his inspiration from listening to Classical Music and Jazz since it is often the mood which invokes him. He has recently been published in Streetcake, Shot Glass Journal, Mad Swirl, Flash Fiction North and The Cabinet of Heed.