RunawayI knew someone was watching me. I always knew.

It was dark, except for the light of the fire I had made with bits of wood broken off the old fence that was already falling down. That fire made violent shadows like ancient slaves waving on the outside wall of the house, wanting to be free.

I had to escape from the house and that girl who screamed in the attic. I had to escape from my sister who beat me every day and told me tales of the thing that was inside her head and soon would be inside my own, always telling her to kill herself or to kill us all. I had to escape from the man who hanged himself in the toilet, eyes bulging out like my big green marbles.

That’s why I was sleeping in the old coalbunker at the back of the house. It was safe in there, even if there was someone watching me. I glanced over at our neighbor’s house and just for a moment I saw that long white nightshirt, floating slowly towards the dividing fence. That’s what happens when you stare too long at the flames, in the blackness of the night. You see things that are not there.

And it made the woman in the white nightshirt, who was not there, look like she had a yellow face and long grey hair.  If she was there, she wouldn’t be able to see me because I was inside the old coalbunker, looking out.  It looked like she was watching the sparks from the campfire as they floated up into the dark night sky. If she was there.

Then she floated towards me, howling like a dog as she came up to the low fence and moved right over it. She reached out her arms, the way that people do when they pretend to be a ghost. And her long yellow fingers twitched like she was trying to hold onto something.

I ran, of course. Mum said I had an overactive imagination. That’s what mothers always say to small boys who have seen something that was not there. It was the following day that Joan from next door came to tell us that her mother had died. It was to be expected. She had been dying for a long time. But now she was finally dead in the back bedroom, arms folded across her chest and pennies on her eyelids. She died that previous afternoon, Joan by her side saying the Lord’s Prayer, for it was the only prayer she knew.

If I were to run away again, I would need a different plan. The coalbunker was now no different from the attic or the toilet. And I knew that sooner or later something bad would happen if I stayed, something really terrible.

And I learned right there that I could run away but it didn’t mean I could escape. Some of our ghosts stay with us forever.


  1. Great story! You obviously have a gift for horror…I actually got shivers reading your story!

  2. I found this story to be a descriptive one- especially the second paragraph. And at the end, we have a lesson: “… Some of our ghosts stay with us forever.” Kudos to those that detach themselves from it. So I say, this is a short story and you the writer went straight to the point. Good!

  3. Really looking forward tot he book coming out this looks a great read. Totally agree withthe sentiment “some of our ghosts stay for ever”. Also know what it’s like to feel you’re always being watched by those who have gone before you. Currently am dealing with my father’s brother who is afflicted with end stage dementia and not eating, but always feeling my dad and my aunt are watching me and I find myself talking to them. Just hope I’m doing the right things. It’s been difficult he has accused a former private carer he employed at home of abusing him and I’ve had to get social services and the police involved, everything has got very messy.

    • We spend so much of our lives living with a background anxiety that was created in our childhoods. The key to everything is living with a background happiness. That’s where I’m trying to get! John

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